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The gate spell may be used for calling a extraplanar creature up to 39 HD for your service, e.g. Solar. That creature may be commanded to use wish spell for raising your attributes or for creating a magic item (that has gate spell itself).

Abuse of this spell by PCs and NPCs alike has game-wrecking potential.

What strategies can a group employ to limit or prevent abuse of the gate spell? I have heard of making lists of creatures that the spell cannot summon; if this is the best strategy, where can I find comprehensive lists of this kind?


For non-D&D players: The gate spell is a spell only accessible at the highest caster level, and casting it consumes experience points. There is also Summon Monster IX at the same caster level, which consumes no experience points, and has the same outcome other than the HD limit for the creature you summon is lower, and you can only summon from a list of specific monsters supplied with the spell.


I had formulated question too short and that gave birth to some misunderstandings about backgrounds of this case and my goal. I'm placing more information into the question to clear answers comments from discussions.

Most interesting: I'm a player not a DM. I play under DM whom are very easy to bargain about rules with. His most ultimate argument about this cast was "do what your want, but remember that NPC would do the same". So he effectively shifted responsibility to me and I began searching ways to repair that spell.

Second: I'm really know only a bit of game internals, including monsters and magic items. Our party had an agreement with DM not to browse information intended for master so I have no clue if more powerful (in ways of item creation, spell casting, wiping dungeons and so on) creatures than solar are available through the gate spell. I don't know if there are items that grants gate spell effect without EXP fee as well.

Challenging fights and well thought out character build are things that attracts me mostly in a tabletop RPG. Communication with buddies also means a lot for me, but it is irrelevant with rules. I've come to D&D from wargames and still have fun in "winning" RPG. Ridiculously powerful builds such as pun-pun are absolute winners but they gives no challenges for player and therefore are boring. I delight casual optimized builds such as Sublime Ur Lyrist

So leave spell as is is not an option because wrecked game is not interesting to play. Completely ban the spell or subparagraph from the spell is not the option because it steals power from player, some variety from game and gives work for adopting known casts list for classes that have fixed spell list.

I need to separate nicely powerful part of the spell from absurdly powerful part with maximum precision. This cut I named "best way" in the question header.

Knowledge of game data, monsters and items is essential for providing correct answer. If there was only solar who can be summoned with the gate spell and there were no items, SLA and other ways of XP free usage of the spell, I would just suggest to leavs spell as is: your wish still costs XP with a good discount but you gain bad fame in upper planes. But DM with his rich knowledge in game internals assured me that there are much nastier beings in the D&D universe with less than 39 HD and there are means that he would not reveal to me for casting the gate spell without XP loss. For now we just excluded all epic monsters from being commanded, although you may cast the gate spell to communicate with them. It is just ad-hoc solution and it doesn't work well, since it do nothing about second part of problem: magic items for casting gate spell.

Reverse rule about controlling twice HD of your caster level in case of summoning multiple creatures over than single, seems good, but Pit Fiend has only 18 HD base and ability to cast wish spells too. Now you may summon two of them for your service at once. And there are many other beings that I'm not heard of that may break this rule again. So as I sad knowledge of game data is essential to solve this problem. And I may not attain this knowledge without spoiling all game.

Each suggested amendment produce two new questions: what is the least powerful spell usage that was banned and what is the most powerful usage still allowed. When answers to this questions would perfectly match difference between 9 lvl spell power and epic spells than we may consider the answer is correct for original problem.

"Just restrict your action" is a bad choice also. I'd like to win in D&D and there should be strict rules for it. I should do my best inside this rules to achieve character goals and environment may push me back to its best too. And I enjoy game lawyering a lot both in inventing rules and in searching best available use scenarios and exploits. I've just found one and now need to fix it.

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This is actually three questions, two of which are the same general idea (limiting imbalance) and could probably do well together in their own question. The first topic, though, is far too subjective for any answer to be clearly "right," and would probably lead to interminable lists and debates. –  BESW May 24 '13 at 7:16
    
I've realized that question sound twisted. I just want list of monsters or monster classes to ban usage of gate towards them –  ayvango May 24 '13 at 7:22
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Ask for strategies to limit imbalance, and if the way to do it is to provide lists, then the community will answer in kind. As is, your question is phrased so that it a) prevents some kinds of useful answers (non-list-based strategies) from being provided, and b) asks for long lists subject to debate. Neither interminable lists nor debate are desirable here. –  BESW May 24 '13 at 7:29
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Not all game universes must contain ever creature every published, and that goes for planar creatures too. So it's not necessary to ban creatures, once you've got your list—if it doesn't exist, it can't be summoned. –  SevenSidedDie May 24 '13 at 17:34
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I'm afraid you're not going to find a satisfactory answer. D&D isn't designed to be won or lost, nor is its design so rigorous that strict rules can exist to balance its elements to the extent that you're hoping. The more we gain "deep insight" into the system, the more obvious this becomes: D&D isn't the system you wish it to be. It would like to be, and sometimes claims to be (frustratingly), but it's not. As in all situations where a group works together with agreed-upon assumptions, social solutions are often the only workable ones; rules cannot ever replace the social contract. –  BESW Jun 9 '13 at 12:31

8 Answers 8

Houserule out the "Control" aspect from the spell.

The problem with the spell isn't so much that it calls in powerful monsters, in my experience. It's that it instantly gives you powerful but obedient slaves.

Calling in a Solar or similarly powerful creature isn't something I would like to cut from my D&D experience. What I would like to cut out is that any random Wizard with 9th-level spells can call in a Solar, tell it to make a sandwich, and it goes "yes master". There's no defense against this mind-control for the Solar, no saving throw, no action requirement, just control by the caster as soon as the creature is through the Gate. And that allows shenanigans, increasing the caster's ability scores being the least of which.

Now, if that control were removed, it would remain a powerful and supremely useful spell. You can still call in a Solar when your party is fighting a Balor, I'm sure the celestial would be thrilled to join the fight. You could call on it for advice. You could even ask it to increase your ability scores, which it might, could you convince it your being slightly more intelligent/strong/quick/whatever is a worthy use of its Wish ability. You just can't make it do things it ordinarily wouldn't do, by virtue of the Gate alone.

As a bonus, I'd say the spell now has far more narrative potential. "YOU DARE SUMMON ME, MORTAL?"

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this is exactly the second way of using calling versions of gate - summon a monster and establish pact with it –  ayvango May 24 '13 at 12:17
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This is the way to do it. +1. More consistent with fantasy fiction and ideas, much more consistent with the world, still worthy of its spell level, still allows evil summoners to be evil. It is sufficient to allow the creature a will save vs mind control... if you make it roll instead of persuading it, you just made yourself an epic-level planehopping mortal enemy. With wish spells. –  Tynam May 24 '13 at 12:20
    
@ayvango, not exactly the same, but significantly more similar. You still don't need not know the point of destination, just a type of creature with the Calling aspect. –  Ernir May 24 '13 at 12:25
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Do not discuss things in comments. Really. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton May 24 '13 at 13:07

Put it in your players' hands.

I had a long-standing explicit arrangement with one of my groups:

"Anything you can break, NPCs can break better. But they won't until you do."

This put any potential "GM vs player" conflict firmly in the players' hands, gave them agency and responsibility, and made it clear that I was taking my cues from them in terms of the kind of game they wanted to play and the level of power it'd be played at.

That is, I didn't need to ban summoning solars. The players understood that they were free to summon solars and request reasonable services without repercussion. But while using gate in appropriate fashions would be fine, attempting to do silly overpowered things would result in silly overpowered responses from the game world. Thus if they used something like gate cheese, it was a conscious decision to escalate the power level and change the nature of the game experience.

You don't have to impose blanket bans if you're lucky enough to have a group that can exercise a little self-control. Just open communication with them about the idea that some uses of the rules are silly/overpowered, and some uses aren't: summoning a solar is reasonable; summoning a solar with particular game-breaking intentions is not. Crossing the line may result in the game world responding in kind.

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+1. But be careful; this will not work for all group dynamics. If it works for yours, it's a great answer. My group, however, have players who relish escalating the power level of their PCs, and thus campaign, and others who balk when everything is broken. –  dlras2 May 24 '13 at 20:31
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@DanRasmussen You're right, a group with fractured experience expectations wouldn't be right for this social engineering solution. I'd expect a lot of other problems to come up, too. Your group might benefit from trying the Same Page Tool (be sure the read and follow the instructions; it's not a survey). –  BESW May 24 '13 at 20:38
    
I'm actually a player who was given such choice. And I search for agreement that keep the spell being useful but not wrecked (idea of banning spell entirely does not seem appealing to me) –  ayvango May 27 '13 at 6:43
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@ayvango As a player in that situation, did you feel unable to restrict your own actions? Did you feel that any action the rules allowed should be a reasonable choice, and required the rules to actively prevent you from being capable of poorly-advised actions? –  BESW May 27 '13 at 7:10
    
@BESW answered in the question body –  ayvango May 29 '13 at 14:37

Another approach: You're calling actual creatures with a gate spell--creatures that are generally quite intelligent and nothing about the spell makes them forget what happened.

Sure you can summon that solar and tell him to make you a sandwich--but when he's done and goes home he'll remember the abusive wizard. Don't be surprised if you get a visit from some messenger of the upper planes telling you to knock it off. Next time it might not just be a messenger.

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it's really good idea and game may become way more interesting employing players use disguise and alter self and play on abjuration vs divination field –  ayvango May 27 '13 at 6:46
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Might be worth mentioning: Solar Angels know plane shift. Once your summon is finished, the very same Solar might be back to have a word with you... –  doppelgreener Nov 9 '13 at 7:29

[Edit] I was asked to clarify this post and clean it up, this is much more specific.

If we look at the 3.5 SRD, there are several features of gate that easily limit your players' abuse of its power.

If you want to use the rules as written, then we can't very well have the creature disobey orders.

You can call and control several creatures as long as their HD total does not exceed your caster level.

So by the book the person has control of the creature. Additionally, you can't necessarily stop them from asking the creature to fight a battle it doesn't necessarily agree with.

Fighting for you in a single battle or taking any other actions that can be accomplished within 1 round per caster level counts as an immediate task; you need not make any agreement or pay any reward for the creature’s help.

This also means that your players could easily request use of the Wish spell. But this is clearly where the service ends.

The creature departs at the end of the spell.

So what has just happened? Your player has yanked a creature out of their home forcibly, dragged them to the material plane to service them, and then tossed them back. Remember, this is a minimum of a 17th level caster. This is a high-level game and the complexity should reflect that.

By naming a particular being or kind of being as you cast the spell, you cause the gate to open in the immediate vicinity of the desired creature and pull the subject through, willing or unwilling

So you've dragged a very powerful being (in your case, you're referencing a creature approximately double the caster's level) unwillingly to you, so that you can gain a few extra stat points in intelligence, or whatever the abuse is. By the book, you can't end it with "and don't ever come back to exact revenge".

If you choose to exact a longer or more involved form of service from a called creature, you must offer some fair trade in return for that service.

So the spell ends, then the creature...just sits there? I very much doubt it doesn't come back and take your stat points away at the very least. "But it's a good creature" and you have the potential to commit evil, in fact, you've already done so by putting your self interest ahead of the creature's. Not only that, but now, it has a mental image of a location in the material plane. What's to stop it from creating a foothold there so that it can take over the material plane for its kind? Good or evil, both of those creature types (celestial/fiend) are in a never-ending war and holding the material plane could end thousands (or more) of years of countless losses. This is a 9th level spell. As such, it should have 9th level spell consequences.

OK fine. Your players decide that they might be better off grabbing a younger/weaker version of the creature (baby solar?). That way if it does come back to bite them, it won't be until it's much older/stronger. That's where part 2 of the spell comes in.

It creates an interdimensional connection between your plane of existence and a plane you specify, allowing travel between those two planes in either direction.

Your player has opened a rift into another dimension and dragged a creature to his aid. This creature is likely not alone, and it is likely protected, especially at the level we're talking about. Bodyguards, friends, family, heck even followers (see leadership) will be glad to join in to protect the creature. Sure, you summoned the creature to your aid, but you also invited all of his allies to come to his aid, which means you may now have yet another battle on your hands, one with hundreds of creatures (remember, they often have plane shift/gate also).

Ok ok. I've been pretty harsh here, but you asked for ways to limit it. Ultimately, by my description, the spell may seem unusable. It's not, as in the description, you can use it as an alternative "plane-shift". Additionally, your players are 17th level, they're not push-overs, and there may be times that they're willing to risk pissing off some great entity to request aid. Might be something they want to do with diplomats on hand though. And the way that I could see my characters using the spell is even simpler. Over the 17+ levels, they've garnered allies, and some of them may spend most of their time on other planes. This is an effective way to call upon those allies in times of emergencies. They might be a bit disgruntled by the method, but they are friends and they'd be willing to help.

Be creative. You're a DM, not a rule-book.

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The best (and the least effort-heavy) solution would be a metagame agreement.

Because see, NPCs can use tricks, too. So the PC tries to chain-gate solars and BLAM! - gets killed by the Omniscificer right before the invocation.

To prevent this double-edged game of rocket tag one can

  • Edit the rules so the undesirable tricks are not longer possible
  • Reach an agreement with his group in order not to go for the said tricks.

Guess what's easier.

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I think saying "no you can't summon that" kind of goes against the spirit of RPGs, I'd be inclined to mod the rules and build it in to the story instead. Just a few ideas:

  • Implement a usage limitation in the story; use of the spell creates a connection between you and the void that links the planes, each exposure heightens your risk of being permanently damaged/mutated by the connection.
  • Keep a count of uses and after a defined amount tear open the link and have a swarm of nasties come through.
  • Add a random risk of summoning something immensely hostile.
  • Add a "careful what you with for" factor; rolling to see if the wish is granted, or twisted against you.

Building it into the story will help make the experience for the players less antagonistic, and it lets them choose to push the limit and see what happens, while allowing you to keep control over the overall game/story.

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Comments are not for discussion. Please take this to chat. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton May 24 '13 at 11:15

I have limited summon spells in the past (Admittedly this was with Rolemaster, but the principal holds) here are my solutions for limiting summoning type spells such as Gate in 3.5 as well as some suggestions that I have not tried.

Used:

  • Require research Make Gate as it stands a useless spell without knowledge of the planes involved, you can therefore limit access to what beings the caster can summon by limiting what they know.
  • Revenge Any creature summoned and abused by the player will seek revenge once it's tenure with the character is up, and if it's a being that can cast Wish It can just as soon inflict some pretty nasty things on the character.
  • Capacities Restrict spellcasting capacities of creatures summoned.

Suggested:

  • XP Cost Gate has an XP Cost for summoning creatures (1000 xp) increase this for higher level creatures.
  • Ban hammer Ban the spell.
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Okay, in addition to the suggestions that include extraplanar beings having a memory of the uppity cleric forcing them to distasteful tasks (which is my initial impulse), I'm a personal fan of how Pathfinder updated the spell to limit this abuse. It's mostly the same as the 3.5 SRD—i.e. you call so many HD of creatures and can force them to certain kinds of action (broken into immediate vs. long-term and allowing negotiations for more than what is forced). The PFSRD Gate spell, however, adds this:

If you choose to call a kind of creature instead of a known individual, you may call either a single creature or several creatures. In either case, their total HD cannot exceed twice your caster level. In the case of a single creature, you can control it if its HD does not exceed your caster level. A creature with more HD than your caster level can't be controlled.

So if you're calling more than one, then their HD is already going to be less than your caster level and you can find easier ways to accomplish what you want for yourself. And if you call a single creature, either you'd better limit your arrogance to your caster level or lower, or be prepared to negotiate for what you want it to do for you. In other words, by all means, call that solar, but if your caster level isn't up to Solar level anyway, you're probably better off just casting your own wish/miracle.

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