I've been putting together a build I'm calling the “Disney Princess”, inspired by the classic archetype — friend to all living things, sings to inspire their companions, can accomplish mundane tasks in a musical montage featuring adorable woodland creatures.

The build I've come up with is:

  • Bard 1
  • Druid 3
  • Bard 1
  • Green Whisperer 2 (Dragon 311 p.69)
  • Arcane Hierophant 3
  • Sublime Chord 1
  • Arcane Hierophant 7
  • Green Whisperer 2

This is an actual character I intend to play, if I can get it all to work correctly. (I'm planning to deliberately drop a couple of power tiers by trading away Wild Shape, picking on-theme spells, and writing a massive personal ban list.)

Anyway, as I understand it, I'd end up with a Bard caster level of 7 (Bard 2 + Green Whisperer 2 + Arcane Hierophant 3) and a Sublime Chord caster level of 17 (everything but Druid). I would like to take Practiced Spellcaster to improve this.

If I take Practiced Spellcaster (Bard), then I would end up with a Bard caster level of 11. If I take Practiced Spellcaster (Sublime Chord), then I would eventually have a Sublime Chord caster level of 20. But would Practiced Spellcaster (Bard) also improve my Sublime Chord caster level?

I've seen a dozen contradictory interpretations of how Sublime Chord combines with other things and all of them make my head hurt (and with the build I'm looking at, I probably deserve it). In the end, I might just propose a simplified rewrite to the DM. But if there is a clear-cut answer by the rules as written, then at the very least I would like to use that as a starting point.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You might want to look into the Fochlucan lyrist prestige class too for this. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 17 '17 at 18:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like that class in principle, but all of the ways to qualify are either very bad (losing even more caster levels), cheesy (I'd never allow one of my players to use them), or impractical for this character (because I need to advance both caster levels). The Incarnum solution is borderline... but IMO on the wrong side of the border. If it weren't for the Evasion requirement, I'd choose it in a heartbeat over Arcane Hierophant. \$\endgroup\$ – Thom Smith Jul 17 '17 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Officially, ring of evasion or impulse boots absolutely qualifies; it’s in no way ambiguous or unclear. Surprising, perhaps, but definitely supported. But in this case, the obvious solution for a DM who doesn’t like that is to waive the prerequisite—it has no business being there to begin with. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 17 '17 at 19:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that the class would be totally fair without the requirement, but it does seem to me to be deliberately (if needlessly) intended as an awkward cost. And in general, I wouldn't let a player of mine use an ability granted by an item or temporary spell(-ish) effect to meet a prerequisite. If it were my game, I'd waive the prerequisite in a heartbeat -- but I'm hesitant to impose further upon a new DM for a character who's already a total snowflake. Maybe I'll change my mind. It really does fit the character perfectly, and ditching Arcane Hierophant avoids some awkward interpretations. \$\endgroup\$ – Thom Smith Jul 17 '17 at 19:53

Unfortunately, sublime chord awkwardly based your caster level on your level in a chosen arcane spellcasting class—not your caster level in that class. Then other prestige classes claim to stack with some class for the purposes of determining caster level.

I think the easiest way to understand this is to imagine that sublime chord actually just stacks with some arcane spellcasting class for caster level, as a more normal prestige class does (but only for caster level), and then uses that class’s caster level for its own spells. If you think of things that way, the basic result is unchanged, and it allows for clear, reasonable adjudication of corner cases like Practiced Spellcaster.

Under this interpretation, your first level of sublime chord would bump your bard caster level up to 8th (2 from bard levels, 2 from green whisperer levels, 3 from arcane hierophant levels, 1 from the sublime chord level). Your sublime chord spells would also use your bard caster level, so those are also cast at caster level 8th. You could take Practiced Spellcaster (bard) to bump this up—for both classes—to 11th.

This “interpretation” of sublime chord, though, is really not technically accurate. Sublime chord does have a separate caster level of its own. However, there are interpretations of sublime chord caster level that work out mathematically-identical to this, and this interpretation is much easier to understand and reason about.

On the other hand, though, you could argue all sorts of other interpretations that would change things. You could argue that sublime chord specifies class levels, not caster levels, so your other prestige classes before sublime chord don't count—not even for that class, since sublime chord redefines how that class does its caster level. Bonuses may or may not even be applicable under such an interpretation. On the other hand, you could (and people have) argue crazy double-dipping, particularly with other things that mess with how caster level is determined (e.g. Nar demonbinder, Master Spellthief). I don’t think any of these is particularly helpful for practical play, however.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So under this reading, the result would be that after taking my first Sublime Chord level, I'd have a Sublime Chord caster level of 3? I suppose that locks me into “just rewrite the damn ability to work how the authors probably meant it to and hope my DM agrees”. Or, I suppose, spend my last ten levels as a glorified Mystic Theurge with even worse spellcasting. Sublime Chord giveth and Sublime Chord taketh away! \$\endgroup\$ – Thom Smith Jul 17 '17 at 1:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomSmith No, the reading I recommend is to treat sublime chord as stacking with bard for the sake of caster level (so a bard caster level of 9 on taking your first level of sublime chord), and then sublime chord uses that same bard caster level. You could argue for a reading wherein your sublime chord caster level is 3rd, but that’s an extremely obtuse reading that doesn’t quite square all of the relevant rules unless you squint really hard. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 17 '17 at 3:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ That makes sense. Is that equivalent to the following replacement wording? “Choose an arcane spellcasting class you belong to. You gain a bonus to your caster level for that class equal to your Sublime Chord level. Your caster level for Sublime Chord spells is equal to your caster level in that class.” \$\endgroup\$ – Thom Smith Jul 17 '17 at 3:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomSmith I wouldn’t word it as a bonus; arguably, you could say that bonus applies “after” Practiced Spellcaster and thereby allow exceeding the HD cap. I would just say that sublime chord level stacks with a chosen arcane spellcasting level for caster level, and then uses that caster level. But other than that quibble, yes, that’s the idea. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 17 '17 at 4:05

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