Looking for items in the 15k and under range to protect from paralysis.
This player and DM also recommends and fully supports Ernir's Lists of Necessary Magic Items (hosted on the Giant in the Playground forums), a fantastic resource for improving any character's chances of survival. This DM's monsters frequently rely on the Lists' suggestion of the face slot item third eye freedom (Magic Item Compendium 141) (2,600 gp; 0 lbs.) that allows the wearer 1/day to take an immediate mental action (so the eye can be used while paralyzed) to gain for 1 round an effect like the spell freedom of movement, which specifically overcomes paralysis.1
Dumpster-diving yields a few additional possibilities unmentioned by the Lists, most preventative rather than curative and often requiring DM adjudication or approval.
An eternal wand (Magic Item Compendium 159–60) (460+ gp; 0 lbs.) is odd in that, while it has wand in its name, whether or not it's technically a wand or, in fact, a wondrous item is unclear, it, for example, having as prerequisites for its creation both the feat Craft Wand and the feat Craft Wondrous Item (Player's Handbook 92 and 92–3, respectively). This means the DM may or may not rule that an eternal wand can, for example, be put in a wand chamber (Dungeonscape 30, 34) (100 gp; 0 lbs.) and may or may not allow a user to make a Use Magic Device skill check to activate a wand (DC 20) to activate an eternal wand. In addition to these factors, an eternal wand is also activated via command word… so, for example, it's useless to the owner after the owner's paralyzed. This makes the spells below preventative, needing to be employed prior to an engagement with foes that can cause paralysis. Anyway, an eternal wand can be created to hold the following spells that defend against paralysis:
- The 2nd-level Sor-spell essence of the dragon [trans] (Races of the Dragon 112–13) for 1 min./level grants a touched subject the type dragon. The subject's new type grants it, among other traits possessed by the type dragon, immunity to paralysis. An eternal wand of essence of the dragon (2nd-level spell at caster level 3) has a price of 4,420 gp. (An identical yet non-eternal wand is 4,500 gp.)
- The 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell heart of water [trans] (Complete Mage 107) for 1 hour/level grants the caster bonuses about which he probably doesn't care. However, once during the spell's duration, the caster can take a swift action (that's probably mental but first confirm with the DM!) to end the spell's other effects and activate for 1 round/level an effect like the spell freedom of movement. An eternal wand of heart of water (3rd-level spell at caster level 5) has a price of 10,900 gp. (An identical yet non-eternal wand is 11,250 gp.)
A ready-drink helm (or, reskinned for steampunk, a dwarven injector) (Dragon #294 80-1) (150 gp; 2 lbs.) holds multiple potions, each of which can be consumed by the wearer as a free action. A (some would argue) unbalanced mundane item with game-changing implications, a DM that allows either item into the campaign probably shouldn't also allow the other. This is an alternative to the eternal wand for noncasters or those with low Use Magic Device skill modifiers. Also like the eternal wand, this is limited to preventing—rather than removing—paralysis.
In short, load up the fantasy beer hat with a potion of essence of the dragon (2nd-level spell at caster level 3) (300 gp; 0.1 lbs.), go first, take a free action (that's definitely not mental!) to chug the potion, and worry not about paralysis for the remainder of the encounter.2
A spellworm (Dragon #343 80) (cost as per potion; 0 lbs.) allows the user to take either a full-round action or a standard action (the text is contradictory) to use as a spell-like ability (at the creator's caster level but the user's ability modifier) the contained spell effect—which can be a spell of any level. Although a 1-use item (like a potion), as a spell-like ability, a spellworm is typically more versatile than a potion. (Even so, a spellworm still can't be used while paralyzed!) As a spellworm is an actual magical worm living inside your body, it's challenging to steal (take that, Sleight of Hand skill!) and difficult to destroy. (You've more pressing problems than paralysis if there's line of effect to your innards!)
A spellworm is unusually hard to create, requiring the feat Craft Wondrous Item and either the subtype wormspawn (described in the article) or the additional and apocryphal feat Wormbound Spellcaster, but the extraordinary ability item creation of a level 3 artificer can likely bypass the subtype prerequisite with a Use Magic Device skill check to emulate the race of a creature possessing the subtype.
This is another alternative to the eternal wand for noncasters or those with low Use Magic Device skill modifiers, except likely even harder to get approved than the fantasy beer hat, above. And, like some other options here, a spellworm of essence of the dragon, for example, doesn't do you any good after you're paralyzed. So, instead,—because it's dangerous to go alone,—plan ahead so folks can help each other out and have everyone get at least one spellworm of one (or all!) of these spells:
- The 2nd-level Clr spell remove paralysis [abjur] (PH 271) targets a subject within close range, ending any ongoing paralysis effects on the subject. A spellworm of remove paralysis (2nd-level spell at caster level 3) has a price of 300 gp.
- The 4th-level Clr spell freedom of movement [abjur] (PH 233) can be used either on oneself or another touched creature. Valuable here for obvious reasons. A spellworm of freedom of movement (4th-level spell at caster level 7) has a price of 1,400 gp.
- The 4th-level Clr spell panacea [conj] (Spell Compendium 152–3) allows the caster to touch a creature and remove, among other wide-ranging conditions, a creature's paralysis. A spellworm of panacea (4th-level spell at caster level 7) has a price of 1,400 gp.
The torso slot item vestments of ebonsilk (MIC 147) (5,000 gp; 1 lb.)—if the wearer can succeed on a Use Magic Device skill check to emulate the level 1 cleric class feature deity, domains, and domain spells (DC 21) and picks Lolth as the wearer's virtual deity and if the wearer can succeed on a Use Magic Device skill check to emulate the class feature spells of a level 13 cleric (DC 33) so the wearer can virtually sacrifice a spell that he doesn't have to activate the vestments (like the example has Lidda sacrificing a turn undead attempt she doesn't have to activate the magic chalice (PH 86))—grants the wearer for 1 hour, among other benefits, an effect like the spell freedom of movement. The wearer 1 hour later must repeat these skill checks to continue to reap the vestments' benefits.
Controversial because it just seems wrong—even to this liberal DM—to be able to deceive magic items like this, being able to make such a high Use Magic Device skill check consistently usually comes pretty late in the game anyway. But once the wearer can make such checks and if the wearer's allowed by the DM to make such checks against the vestments, the wearer saves at least 35,000 gp and gets extra benefits besides (cf. the cloak of arachnida (Dungeon Master's Guide 252) (14,000 gp; 1 lb.), the ring of freedom of movement (DMG 232) (40,000 gp; 0 lbs.)).
Honorable mention goes to the novice Iron Heart vest (Tome of Battle 149–50) (1,500 gp; 1 lb.) that is, if allowed, combined with a second novice Iron Heart vest into a lone item with a total price of 3,750 gp. When combined, the wearer should be able to pick two Iron Heart maneuvers for which he meets the prerequisites, like, for example, the 2nd-level Iron Heart maneuver disarming strike [strike] (ToB 67) then the 3rd-level Iron Heart maneuver Iron Heart surge [special] (ToB 68). The maneuver Iron Heart surge technically can't end a paralysis effect (a creature "must be able to move" (38) to initiate a martial maneuver), but—by Crom!—it totally should!
1 As an aside, this DM often finds himself combining the third eye freedom with the raptor's mask (MIC 210) (3,500 gp; 0 lbs.), adding 3,900 gp to the price of the mask. Seriously, if you're worried about paralysis, you're also probably worried about blindness, and the mask means not having to take actions to use an effect like the 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell vision of the omniscient eye [div] (Dragon Magic 74) or whatever. Just a friendly heads-up.
2 The DM may allow Gremma's cauldron (Expedition to Undermountain 217) (5,000 gp; 5 lbs.), in addition to its other effects, to, for example, transform a scroll of heart of water (3rd-level spell at caster level 5) (375 gp; 0 lbs.) into a potion of heart of water (3rd-level spell at caster level 5) (750 gp; 0.1 lbs.) by having the brewer expend raw materials and XP to make up the price difference between the scroll and potion (i.e. 375 gp and 15 XP). Thus the cauldron may allow the creation of potions of spells that have a range of personal (e.g. divine favor, shield) and, not inconsequentially, that have spell levels higher than 3rd (e.g. divine power, freedom of movement, righteous might), both normally impossible.
Your best resource for this kind of thing will always be Ernir’s Lists of Necessary Magic Items, the author of which goes by @Ernir around here.
One of the lists he mentions is for freedom of movement, because
Why you need it: Because of Solid Fog, because you can be insta-killed if you are paralyzed, and because monsters have ginormous grapple checks.
The three entries in the “cheap” section meet your price limit:
Third Eye Freedom (MIC). 2600GP, face slot. Once per day, as an immediate action, gain Freedom of Movement for one round. Excellent panic button.
Periapt of the Sullen Sea (MIC). 6000GP, throat slot. Allows you to spend a 4th level spell slot to cast Freedom of Movement. Useless if you don't have 4th level spell slots to spread around, but a nice backup otherwise.
Vest of Free Movement (MIC). 12000GP, torso slot. Freedom of Movement for 3 rounds, three times per day. What is good about the activation is that it's a swift action, what's bad is that it's a command activation, which means it won't work if you have already been paralyzed.
Note (as mentioned in the Why you need it section), freedom of movement protects against a whole lot more than just paralysis.