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I need my group to transport several (8-10) gem scarabs across a great distance of ~800 miles from a desert. These are from the Monster Manual V, and for the record, they have a spell like ability (acid splash) usable 6/day, their carapace (shell) is "metalic & iridescent," & they have int 1. The group has access to their own magic as well as the ability to purchase whatever they need prior to setting out to capture the scarabs.

It sounds simple enough, but enough of a pain that I can't find a legitimate, reliable method to do this.

The group can't simply tie/cage the beetles as they'll eat through the containers, the rest of their gear & try to eat the PCs. Glass containers could work if I could find a way to squeeze 10 of these 2-1/2 ft creatures into a container large enough to contain them & still be able to travel with them... not likely.

Solutions that failed:

  • Bag of Holding/Portable Hole: These are living creatures that need to breath. There's not enough air to support 10 of these things for this long of a journey.

  • Flesh to stone: This would negate the breathing problem. However, Scarabs are beetles and possess no "flesh" as required by spell description.

  • Sleep: obviously easy to control creatures but at 1 min/lvl they don't have enough spells per day even if they had no other encounters on their trip.

  • Teleport: Combimed with sleep/bag of holding this will enable them to cover most of the travel time problems but they still can't Teleport exactly where they need to "plant" these creatures and will have to spend a fair amount of time walking there.

Restrictions:

  • Books: hardback official 3.5 books only (Pathfinder pre-3.75 also ok)
  • Items/magic needs to be reasonablly attainable by 5-6 lvl characters. (If only a 7th level spell will work the answer will be accepted but preference will be given to lower level magic.)
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do not argue in comments. Post your own answer if you strongly disagree with someone else. Incorporate any useful clarification from comments into your answer and flag the comments for deletion. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 12 '15 at 4:14

12 Answers 12

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Intelligence Damage

Intelligence 0 means that the character cannot think and is unconscious in a coma-like stupor, helpless.

This, combined with the fact that the beetles only have Intelligence 1 suggests an immediate method of control: reduce them to 0 intelligence. Ability damage (as opposed to ability drain) heals naturally at a rate of 1 point per day, which is good and bad: it means you don't need to do anything to "reactivate" the beetles, just wait a day, but it means you'll need to reapply the damage every day.

There are a variety of fairly stupid and complicated methods for inflicting Intelligence damage upon targets, including psionics, summoning certain high-level monsters, and tricking them into reading a vacuous grimoire. But far more easily acquired (both in terms of time and money) is id moss. Id moss is an ingested poison found in the DMG; it costs just 125 gp/dose and deals intelligence damage with a DC 14 Fortitude save. You may wish to use a spell that gives penalties to saving throws (e.g, crushing despair) or just repeatedly apply doses until the creature fails its save. Feed each beetle a dose of id moss with its food each day (for a total cost of 125 gp per beetle per day).

Possible drawback: every time you feed the beetles, you have a 5% chance of accidentally eating a dose of the moss yourself. Keep a cleric on hand to cast neutralise poison and/or lesser restoration.

Cheaper methods

With ten beetles, this does admittedly run you at least 1250 gp/day minimum. There are a few other poisons (most of which affect other stats) that are also possibly usable - but none of them are appreciably cheaper. A different source of poison is clearly required.

Summon Monster I is capable of summoning fiendish monstrous spiders and centipedes for several rounds at 6th level. Spiders have a venom that deals Strength damage; centipedes have one that deals Dexterity damage. On the first day, use id moss or another method of your choice to render the beetles unconscious. Then, summon a spider and a centipede; have the spider and centipede repeatedly bite the unconscious beetles until their Strength and Dexterity scores are also 0. For the initial application you may need to also use a wand of cure light wounds or similiar measures to prevent your spider and centipede from accidentally killing the beetles - they presumably have reasonable Str and Dex scores and so may require many many bites.

Every day from then on, you summon a new spider or centipede and have it bite each beetle down to 0 in Str or Dex respectively. For optimal results, use a spider every even day and a centipede every odd day - this way you can begin biting a beetle to make it Dexterity-drained before the Strength-drain wears off, thus avoiding the risk of the beetle waking up and killing your spider or centipede.

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan The Ego Whip power deals charisma damage, which will work fine if you have a Psion with enough PP. The Psychic Vampire power is much better, but requires a much higher level character as well. Alternatively, ghosts deal Int drain. Human slaves sell for much cheaper than 27 K and with a few dozen horrific atrocities I'm sure you can get one with the Draining Touch ability. Rebuke Undead makes them yours. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Feb 2 '15 at 10:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think getting int to 0 & using a scroll of teleport will work best. Minimum CL of scroll is 9 allowing caster & 3 passengers (+gear) to travel 900 miles. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Feb 2 '15 at 15:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Pun, you may want to discuss the price differential of buying a djore of psionic minor creation to create your id moss daily. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Feb 5 '15 at 0:35
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Use Flesh to Stone

Beetles do indeed have flesh, and Flesh to Stone will work on them.

Depending on which definition of the word "flesh" you prefer it may only stone-ify the beetle's non-carapace innards ("muscular and fatty tissues") or it may stone-ify the whole beetle ("the body"), but either way it has the kind of flesh the spell cares about and it will be un-alived and incapacitated by the spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ See also: The tasty flesh of lobster. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Feb 2 '15 at 1:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Beetles are every bit as fleshy as humans, they just have their skeletons on the outside. So, if you allow flesh to stone to work on humans, there's no reason to disallow it on beetles. The 80% water argument isn't sound because flesh isn't some microscopic homogeneous ingredient of a beetle in the manner you're describing. I.e., you can cut a piece of flesh off a beetle but you can't cut a piece of water off a person. \$\endgroup\$ – Alex Howansky Feb 3 '15 at 20:24
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Stone Cage

According to the burrow rules,

A creature with a burrow speed can tunnel through dirt, but not through rock unless the descriptive text says otherwise.

The Gem Scarab description says nothing about being able to burrow through rock, and several references to burrowing through sand and grit. It's pretty likely, then, that Gem Scarabs can't burrow through a box of stone. In addition, none of their attacks do enough damage to get through the Hardness 8 of the wall of stone spell.

One solution using this information would be to cast wall of stone and fabricate to create stone cages that have enough gaps to provide air circulation. This would be heavy, but would be pretty secure.

Honestly, with the low damage that these things do, you could probably just make a wood cage and have it work. Wood has a hardness of 5, and their bites do 1d4-1 damage. Even with their spell-likes, they can do a maximum of 4 at a time, which doesn't penetrate hardness. A simple wooden box with a metal lock would work just fine.

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Use Animate Dead on a group of Light Horses. Gem scarabs have a fly speed of 60ft. Light Horse skeletons have a run speed of 60 ft and don't need to stop, slow down, eat, drink, or otherwise rest. Use some form of attractive bait to keep the scarabs chasing you. "Gemstone Scarabs are tenacious and refuse to give up the fight until they are all killed" (MM V), so they should chase you without too much trouble until they pass out from exhaustion after 6 hours (and 72 miles) of hustling, with nonlethal damage exactly 14 points in excess of their total hp.

Damage per hour:

==================================
|hour|total damage|total distance|  
==================================
| 1  |     0      |      12      |  
================================== 
| 2  |     1      |      24      |  
==================================
| 3  |     3      |      36      |
==================================
| 4  |     7      |      48      |
==================================
| 5  |    15      |      60      |
==================================
| 6  |    31      |      72      |
==================================

Once the creatures are unconscious, bag and tag 'em and increase speed to a run. Make sure to give a couple good whacks before you tie them up; you need to deliver another 17 nonlethal damage before reaching your destination (it will take you another 30 hours, 20 minutes to get there) to each scarab or they'll be waking up prematurely.

If your DM decides the scarabs aren't quite so tenacious after all, you can just beat them down with nonlethal damage whenever they break off. If you don't want to use the awesomeness that is light horse skeleton steeds, you could just engage the scarabs with nonlethal weapons in the first place, beat them into several hundred hit points of nonlethal damage deficit, and carry their bodies back as loot.

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I see a lot of magical and poison-based solutions here, which is a bit surprising, as there's a far easier solution to the problem that does not require any expenses whatsoever; simply bash it over the head. The bits of information you are looking for are:

When your nonlethal damage exceeds your current hit points, you fall unconscious. While unconscious, you are helpless.

and

You heal nonlethal damage at the rate of 1 hit point per hour per character level.

There is, however, no limit to the amount of nonlethal damage you can accrue. Simply punch your scarabs once every day to keep them far past their healthpoints in non-lethal damage and they will never wake up.

This has the added bonus of not having to go jump through hoops to gift your scarabs, as nobody is going to be particularly worried about a gem encrusted thing that isn't moving, it's clearly a neat little trophy of sorts.

That is, until a few days later, it finally recovers from all its non-lethal damage and starts eating all their treasure.

Note: I am not responsible if this solution gets you into trouble with your campaign's variation of PETA.

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This is exactly the sort of answer my meta-gaming players would choose. Someone would be placed on concussion duty and just continually whack the creatures with a sap. While this is the cheapest and most straightforward way to deal with the rules problem, it's not really a great role-playing solution. \$\endgroup\$ – Dane Feb 4 '15 at 15:46
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Use Baleful Polymorph to turn them into turtles. (The duration of that spell is "Permanent".) When you reach your destination, use area Dispel Magic -- you always succeed at dispelling your own spells.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting. I considered Baleful Polymorph but discarded it due to the "permanent" duration. Never thought about dispelling it. While paying a caster to cast 10 level 5 spells (& 10 lvl 3 spells to remove) even via scrolls will get pricey it is an interesting option. +1 \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Feb 4 '15 at 20:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ With the area version of Dispel Magic, you can hit all the turtles with one spell. Assuming it's the original caster, a single Dispel Magic will clear all the spells. Otherwise, you can get your party wizard or cleric to cast the Dispel, which will probably take several tries to clear all the polymorphs, but will at least be free. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Feb 5 '15 at 2:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point on the dispel. Like I said I didn't even consider that as an option originally. Still have 10 lvl 5 spells initially but aside from that it works pretty well \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Feb 5 '15 at 3:54
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Just get ten glass jars, each large enough for one scarab.

Club the scarabs unconscious and stick them in individual jars, with breathing holes on the lid.

Load the jars onto a cart.

Stick food into the jars occasionally.

Cost - however much it costs to get the jars, one cart, a bit of feed.

Depending on how heat-resistant the scarabs are you might want to rig up a sun-shade over the cart too. It's gonna get pretty hot inside the bottles otherwise.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes but I imagine 10 jars big enough to hold a small dog would be hard to come by And would be extremely difficult to travel with. To say nothing of needing a lid they can't eat through \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Feb 2 '15 at 17:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ To my knowledge no amount of subdual damage kills a creature. If these scarabs are living, 1000 subdual damage a day should do the trick. Close enough to @Tim B's answer I will not dup. \$\endgroup\$ – joedragons Feb 2 '15 at 23:17
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Sleep + Sovereign Glue:

Use sleep to incapacitate them, then use sovereign glue to glue a stick to their backs. Two people pick up the stick, the scarabs can't do anything about it.

If you don't have enough porters you can have multiple scarabs per stick.

When you reach your destination, sleep them again and break the sticks off as close the scarabs as possible.

You can safely store the scarabs at night by hanging their stick from trees or the like.

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    \$\begingroup\$ At 2400 gp per beetle (assuming you can even find that many sovereign glues), this might not be the best solution. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Feb 2 '15 at 3:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ You might be able to halve that by gluing the beetles to each other, belly-to-belly, and carrying the resulting double-beetles into a cart. Feeding them could be problematic, though... \$\endgroup\$ – minnmass Feb 2 '15 at 3:19
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The spells you're looking for are "Avoid Planar Effects" (Planar Handbook, cleric/druid 2, sor/wis 3) or Water Breathing

Which explicitly allows for a "temporary respite from the natural effects of a specific plane. These effects include ... lack of air." And it's reasonable to expect that a magical demi-plane counts as a plane.

The downside of this spell, is that while it can target one creature per level (which is almost enough for one casting of this to handle 8-10 scarabs at your level), it only lasts for one minute per level.

At cleric/2, it's cheap enough to get this invested in a custom magical device (or two) which can be emplaced into the bottom of the portable hole (and would make a quite decent long term investment, to be honest.)

Alternatively, a bottle of air per set of scarabs (depending on specific breathing rules and size adjudications) could work with a sufficiently complex bellows/clockwork mechanism. They are a touch pricey alone though.

You could also do something with filling a portable hole with enough water and casting water breathing on the scarabs, which, if organised correctly, should work quite well.

A specific working through for a level 6 group:

Let's work through this for your specific group. We'll assume the budget of 13,000 gp. (An important party goal, that everyone's prepared to tithe 1/5th of their wealth by level to).

It should last for a week.

We'll presume that the scarabs can count as "willing" for spells through some combination of wild empathy, charm monster, bribing with food, handle animal, etc.

A single wand of water breathing will provide 50*6 creature hours of water breathing at 4500 gp. Or, 30 hours for your entire group of "pets". Much worse for avoid planar effects.

Thinking about "the dream of metal" lead me to the thought of quintessence, which can take objects and living creatures outside the time stream. (Some amount can.... ::handwave::) We'll equate "extremely small" with the size category "fine", just as a pessimistic choice. Therefore, using the standard doubling rules, 2 oz for diminutive, 4 oz for Tiny, and 8 oz for small. That's 8 castings (total though, no recasting necessary) per creature. Hiring 4th level spells is 7*40 gp each, or 8*7*40 = 2240 gp to preserve a scarab. (You can get significant savings with metamagic, but I'm doing the most pessimistic view here.). Therefore, for 10 creatures, 22400 is out of budget, but close enough to be viewable from a distance. Also, for that many castings, it's probably "questing time" for the Shaper who's making all this stuff, so I would certainly consider it a viable option.

Or, if the party has enough time and ranks in handle animal:

Handle animal has an important clause: "You can use this skill on a creature with an Intelligence score of 1 or 2 that is not an animal, but the DC of any such check increases by 5. Such creatures have the same limit on tricks known as animals do." Therefore, so long as the group has someone with ranks in handle animal, they can spend a month or two teaching the group: "Seek (DC 20), Attack (DC 25), and Heel (DC 20) At level 6, with max skill ranks in handle animal, these dcs are quite reasonable.

Poisons

Looking at Arsenic and Old Lace we're interested in a cost-effective multi-day poison.

First, if you have someone (either psionic or otherwise) with Minor Creation and the craft:posionmaking skill, you're completely set, for free. Otherwise, there are some useful cost efficiencies. Here you want to grow a field of striped toadstools:

"Craft DC 15/None: Striped Toadstool (DMG). Ingested: DC 11, deals 1 Wis/2d6 Wis and 1d4 Int. Presumably no craft check necessary for just the raw toadstool."

Therefore, with psionic minor creation, or access to the right biome, you can get a whole bunch of striped toadstools to keep your "patients" sedated for the duration of the trip.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Planar Effects sounds like a good possibility, if I can somehow incorporate it into an item...maybe a sack/aquarium I put them into and put that into BoH. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Feb 2 '15 at 0:46
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I think most solutions are cool... but way too complicated. Those scarabs are the size of a cat. They spit acid and they can eat through minerals and dirt.

You do what you do with any animal that's dangerous: you tie them up. Use something acid-proof like steel and you are good.

But, you will say, they eat steel. They will escape in no time! You would never tie up a Tiger so it can gnaw through it's bonds. That would be stupid, right? Why would you tie up beetles so they can gnaw on theirs? Just don't.

A good set of custom made shackles should come at maybe 100gp or less if you are in a city that has a good market and an able smith.

Or even easier:

Actually, after thinking about the "fitting" comment, it seems to be even easier than the first solution. Buy a steel plate and steel wire mesh. Put the beetle on the steel plate with it's back and fix it there using the wire mesh. You may want to transport the plate in a way that the beetles head is looking in a direction where it cannot damage anything valuable with it's acid. Thinking about it... it's beetles. Not ninja-mutant-beetles. Real beetles. They have an exo-skeleton. They cannot even do most of the stunts cats or dogs could. They have no wiggle room in their shells. Use a huge stone. Bind them with their backs to the stone with a normal hemp rope. Make sure everyone is clear of their acid-spitting front and you are good.

Costs: 20 minutes to find a good stone and oppotunity costs for a hemp rope. The next orc or raider that's foolish enough to attack the party will probably have one for free.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the trouble is that making shackles that fit just right so that they can't just lift one to their mouths requires having a real scarab for fitting. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 2 '15 at 20:50
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Looks like there's a perfect spell for that available at spell level 5 (Druid able to cast it will be of 9th)

Spell Compendium, p.140

Memory Rot

Evocation
Level: Druid 5
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target: One living creature
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Fortitude negates

...1d6 points of Intelligence damage immediately ... 1 point of Intelligence drain each round thereafter at the beginning of your turn ... successful Fort save ends

It builds on the solution proposing to apply Int damage and substitutes it with a single application of the higher-level spell for drain as a permanent solution. Since the Druid able to cast this is outside the boundaries set by a question, we can hire one:

DMGII, p. 154

Typically, an adventurer’s daily fee in gold pieces equals her character level squared, plus a split of any treasure gained – usually a half share of the total loot. However, she charges ten times the normal asking price and demands a full share of treasure if her character level is equal to or greater than the average party character level.

So, 810gp per day for a 9th level Druid when the party is below that level. But he gets two casts of this spell on level 10 (1000gp/day), and three on 12th (1440/day)

Optimal choices if we want to capture:

  • 8 scarabs: 6480 - 4000 - 4320 (10th level Druid for 4 days)
  • 9 scarabs: 7290 - 5000 - 4320 (12th level for 3 days)
  • 10 scarabs: 8100 - 5000 - 5760 (10th level again, for 5 days)

Obviously, the rest of your party needs to chime in to somehow make sure the scarab fails that Fort save.


When you arrive to the destination, N casts of the Clr 4 spell Restoration (cleric of level 7 fits the boundaries) costing 100gp/cast brings scarabs back to life.

So for a total of 6000gp you can transport 10 scarabs for any distance you would like, with any detours, without wasting time or spell slots on the way.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Excellent way as well, although more expensive than poison it is beneficial for characters with a moral opposition to poison, even a non deadly one used against this type of enemy. a scroll might save u some money but RAW would incur risks for the level discrepancy \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Feb 2 '15 at 17:32
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For an expensive but relatively mundane solution, consider a chest full of gems and a wand of Floating Disk. The monster description already says that the bugs prefer gems as food, so as long as the PCs don't do anything to make them agitated, it should be safe. That's what the wand of Floating Disk is for: to keep the ride smoother than any wagon could manage.

As DM, it would be up to you to determine how quickly the bugs eat through the gems, which leads to the only dangerous part of the plan: every once in a while, the players are going to have to top off the chest with more gems. Astute players could turn this to their advantage, by using specific gem types to manipulate the bugs' attacks, turning them into a type that the PCs have good defenses against. But if they decide to do this, let them have fun with their artisan gem scarabs.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This technically could work, although quite counterproductive of feeding them all our treasure. I'm pretty sure these eating machines could out eat the party's available wealth before the end of the trip. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Feb 2 '15 at 15:54

protected by mxyzplk Feb 12 '15 at 4:14

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