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I've become interested in Salient Divine Abilities. This answer details some of the ways in which they can become absurdly imbalanced (even in comparison to an Epic level party). However, when I look through the prerequisites for the most absurd of these abilities (e.g. those that can easily affect multiple targets, allow no saves, or can rewrite reality), I find that they require very high levels or ability scores that I believe will be very hard for most PCs to achieve at a point where a normal 3.5e game would still be considered balanced (e.g. short of breaking the game, how would you get Cha 29 at level 10?). So for the sake of this question I will pick level 15 as an arbitrary point where we can assert that 3.5e is still a game that we need to worry about destroying the balance of.

This gives me my question: Prior to level 15, is there any way to give players access to Salient Divine Abilities that would not destroy game balance? An answer will ideally either give an example of a game-breaking Salient Divine Ability that is easy to access for most PCs or will, by means of several examples, show that the power of the Salient Divine Abilities that PCs can access do not greatly exceed the power of what they can realistically already access at their level. Finally, we will assume that the DM does not ban any particular abilities and that the players can gain any Salient Divine Ability that they qualify for.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What sources are allowed? What, besides having "too high" Charisma, counts as 'breaking the game'? Are T1 classes in general banned? Is chain-wishing banned? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2019 at 17:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer Anything short of Pun-Pun that can be achieved before the point that I've arbitrarily set at level 15. \$\endgroup\$
    – J. Mini
    Jul 6, 2019 at 17:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, Manipulate Form is okay as long as we leave, say, our strength score at a mere 30? What do you mean by "short of Pun-Pun"? I think "Is this balanced compared to X" or "Will this significantly alter the class tier structure?" or "will this make the game impossible to run without rewriting basically the entire rulebook?" might be easier questions to ask here. Balancing questions without a reference point are difficult to do well when they add new material to a game. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2019 at 18:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer My focus is on an otherwise usual game of 3.5e. Anything goes as long as a reasonable DM wouldn't be expected to disallow it. \$\endgroup\$
    – J. Mini
    Jul 6, 2019 at 18:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ That doesn't work. 'A reasonable DM' = 'Whatever I feel like at the time'. Without some sort of playstyle indication or cultural indication or something that is way too opinion-based to answer here. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2019 at 19:47

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They're nearly all impractical and not balanced for use by PCs.

Deities & Demigods, p.31, describes that salient divine abilities are intentionally beyond the range of abilities available to PCs of sub-20th level, and equivalent in some cases to Epic level abilities:

Salient divine abilities let the deities do things that mortal characters only wish they could do ... These tasks are simply beyond the capacity of player characters . . . until they pass 20th level.

Even divine abilities with no prerequisites or sub-epic prerequisites are exceedingly powerful. Alter Size lets you become Colossal, in which case the weapon damage of a longsword goes from 1d8 to 4d8. Arcane Mastery grants every single spell and the ability to invent new spells on the fly. Automatic Metamagic lets you apply a metamagic at will for free. Divine Weapon Focus adds +4, which is more powerful than any normal feat. Hand of Death gives destruction at will. Increased Spell Resistance would give a character with existing spell resistance, such as a drow, an additional +20, rendering them functionally invulnerable to spells. Lay Curse allows bestow curse without a save.

Only a handful of abilities are reasonable in the hands of a 15th-level character, but only because they are equivalent to existing magic items which a 15th-level character could reasonably own, usually because they replicate the effects of low-level spells. Speak with Creatures is not so powerful, Power of Truth is a permanencied discern lies, Mind of the Beast is really just awaken, and see magic is really just an unlimited-range arcane sight.

However, in those cases, it would still be much more reasonable to give the player character a magic item, or an innate ability which duplicates a magic item, than to attempt to bestow the actual Divine Salient Abilities, which are intentionally designed to be stronger than anything sub-Epic level PCs should have access to.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Lay Curse has some questionable limitations and Arcane Mastery has some high prerequisites. Otherwise, I've been easily convinced. I appear to have overlooked some serious power. \$\endgroup\$
    – J. Mini
    Jul 6, 2019 at 19:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ A 15th level character has access to Fabricate and thus arbitrarily large wealth. A 15th level character with access to custom magic item creation thus has access to all spells at-will anyways. Alter Size is legitimately beyond normal means, short of polymorph-like-effects, but the effects of being a larger size, other than actually being that size and having that space/reach without not being in your 'true form' are achievable. Divine Weapon Focus is bad, but you are right that it is unique. Increased Spell Resistance is a moderately big deal. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2019 at 19:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think Crat Artifact, Avatar (if Divine Rank gaining via Ice Assasin is allowed? Unclear from the question), and Divine Blast might be better examples. Also, 'only a handful of abilities' should maybe be changed to 'Most abilities are reasonable, but a handful of abilities are problematic'. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2019 at 19:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer I don't believe it's reasonable to justify the balance of divine salient abilities against an unlimited-wealth fabricate exploit, because that exploit is itself not balanced for players. DMG p.135 says 15th level characters should only have a total wealth of around 200,000 gp. A greater metamagic rod of Quicken costs 170,000 gp and can only be used three times per day. A character with the equivalent divine power can essentially cast two spells every single round at no cost. The divine abilities are still far more powerful than the items a 15th level character has access to. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2019 at 21:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @QuadraticWizard Yeah, if you take the question as primarily opinion-based, that's fair enough. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2019 at 22:11

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