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How can I get into Vermin Lord as soon as possible?

We are doing 45 pointbuy system, Three feats every third level, 2× the wealth per level. (132,000gp), starting at level 12 and cheese is allowed.

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The skill requirements are super-easy. Even cross-class, you get them all by 3rd, and if Hide and Move Silently are in class, you get them all at 1st.

The feat requirement isn’t a problem either, assuming you use the Book of Vile Darkness printing of the feat;1 it just requires some Charisma. This does imply that a Charisma-casting class would be nice, though since verminlord slaughters your casting ability you may not care.

Giant vermin is the difficult part: it’s a 4th-level spell, and it isn’t available to too many different classes (archivist, cleric, and druid are the only ones). It is, however, also part of the Spider domain—and that could be useful.

There are a variety of ways to get higher-level spells than you’re supposed to have. In fact, with enough cheese and some outside assistance, you can actually get to 10th-level spell slots as a 1st-level character, because 3.5 is kind of psychotic that way.

However, that’s a lot of cheese. For this, I think qualifying as a 3rd-level character reduces the cheese factor immensely: you meet the skill requirements naturally, you legitimately have your own 2nd-level spells to start with, you have another feat to work with, and so on.

So the trick is to get a 3rd-level character to count as having 4th-level spells, and then get that spell to be giant vermin.

For base class, cleric becomes a fairly obvious choice. It doesn’t cast off of Charisma,2 but it does use Charisma well for Turn or Rebuke Undead, which is one of the better features you get. Moreover, cleric is a phenomenal dip choice: domains get you tons of options, many of which are useful even when your cleric level is low. And, of course, it’s one of the classes that gets giant vermin, and uniquely among those classes, it can also get the Spider domain natively. You wouldn’t think that would matter much since giant vermin is also a cleric spell, but it does.

On that note, cloistered cleric is a good idea, just because more skill points are nice and the free Knowledge domain can be swapped to the Knowledge Devotion feat, per Complete Champion. Free castings of identify from 1st-level slots is also nifty. Doesn’t really do anything for qualifying for verminlord, but I still recommend it.

That’s because we aren’t going to get a generic 4th-level spell slot, to be filled with any spell we want. Instead, we’re going to use a dragonsblood pool3 to get a 3rd-level spell, and then use either the Sanctum Spell feat4 or the Improved Sigil (Krau) feat5 to get a free Heighten effect on that 3rd-level spell, so it counts as a 4th-level spell.

From there, we can use either the Domain Spontaneity feat6 or a domain icon magic item7 to spontaneously swap our 4th-level spell for the 4th-level spell from the Spider domain: giant vermin.

If you really want to keep your second domain free for another choice, you could instead use your free Heighten effect on a 2nd-level spell, so you now have two 3rd-level spells, and then use the Versatile Spellcaster feat8 to combine the two 3rd-level spells into a 4th-level spell of your choice. Since giant vermin is a cleric spell, that’s a valid option even if you do not have the Spider domain.

Finally, for the record, we can avoid having to wait until 3rd level by using the Mad Faith feat9 to get a 2nd-level spell at 1st; we would need moderate depravity for the 2nd-level spell. We would only have one, so from there we would need the Spider domain route. We could avoid Mad Faith (since depravity is bad for you, at least until you become a necropolitan,10 plus the feat has a hefty drawback of its own) by using the Earth spell feat11, but its large number of prerequisites is difficult even under your game’s incredibly generous rules. Combining all of the above (Mad Faith, Earth Spell, Sanctum Spell, Improved Sigil, dragonsblood pool) could just barely avoid the need for the Spider domain, but that would then require cheesing in lots and lots of extra feats. For skills, Hide can be made in-class from a number of different feats (I prefer the Martial Study feat12 for a Shadow Hand maneuver), but Move Silently is harder. The Halfling domain13 makes it a cleric skill, so that works, but then you’re (probably) losing both domains. The only other options that I’m aware of, though, are either race-locked and thus conflict with Improved Sigil,14 or the Nightbringer Initiate feat,15 which is rather difficult to use as a cleric.16

  1. Drow of the Underdark also printed a Verminfriend feat, and it requires that you be a drow—which is really bad, thanks to the LA +2 and the general fact that the race isn’t all that good. If you have to use the Drow of the Underdark version of the feat, half-drow from Races of Faerûn can at least avoid the level adjustment. Dragon Magic also has a deepwyrm half-drow race, which gets some alternate features that include the desirable Dragonblood subtype.

  2. Barring the Dynamic Priest feat from Legends of the Twins, a Dragonlance book, and even that leaves your DCs based on Wisdom.

  3. Dragonsblood pool is a magic location, which works kind of like treasure, from Complete Mage.

  4. Sanctum Spell is a metamagic feat from Complete Arcane. Requires another metamagic feat as a prerequisite.

  5. Improved Sigil is a feat from Races of Destiny. Requires that you be an illumian, from the same book, and you need one of your sigils to be Krau in order to pick it for this feat.

  6. Domain Spontaneity is a feat from Complete Divine. Requires that you have the domain that you want to spontaneously convert your spells to.

  7. Domain icon is a magic item from Faiths of Eberron, again only works for a domain you actually have. Costs 10,000 gp.

  8. Versatile Spellcaster is a feat from Races of the Dragon. It requires “Ability to spontaneously cast spells,” but cleric provides that thanks to the spontaneous cure or inflict spells that it offers. The actual Benefit of the feat is not restricted to spontaneous spells or spontaneous spellcasting classes, so once you have it you can apply it to any spellcasting.

  9. The Mad Faith feat is from Heroes of Horror.

  10. Necropolitan is an LA +0 template from Libris Mortis that makes you undead but otherwise leaves you alone, but getting it requires that you be at least 3rd level and it will drop you back to being 1st level, since you lose a level and a half. The undead type is very valuable in general, but here it’s particularly useful because undead are immune to the negative effects of depravity.

  11. Earth Spell is a feat from Races of Stone that provides a free Heighten effect, but it requires both the Heighten Spell feat and the Earth Sense feat to get it.

  12. Martial Study is a feat from Tome of Battle that gives you one of the maneuvers from that book to be used once per encounter, and makes the skill associated with that maneuver’s discipline a class skill for you no matter your class. Shadow Hand is associated with the Hide skill.

  13. The Halfling domain is in Spell Compendium. Weirdly, unlike alignment domains, racial domains don’t seem to be restricted in any way beyond finding a faith that includes them. None of the halfling deities who offer the domain also offer Spider, so officially you would have to be a cleric of some ideal. You could try to argue that Brandobaris (halfling god of thievery) or Urogalan (halfling god of death) might offer the domain, but they’re both pretty good-hearted forms of their respective portfolios, so they’re both a stretch. Then again, so is an ideal that includes both Halfling and Spider... If you’re really stuck, the Heretic of the Faith feat1 can help you.

    1. Oh god yes, this is happening, footnotes to footnotes. Heretic of the Faith is a feat from Powers of Faerûn, and among other things it allows you to swap a domain for one your faith doesn’t usually offer. Note that this has repercussions for you and may cause you trouble with your deity, other followers of your deity, or both.
  14. That would be the Aereni Focus feat from Player’s Guide to Eberron, which requires that you be an elf, and the viletooth lizard folk race from Dragon Magic.

  15. Nightbringer Initiate is a feat from Magic of Eberron that requires the spontaneous casting of summon nature’s ally.

  16. If you can avoid needing the Spider domain, just being a druid does work, though druid doesn’t offer nearly as much as cleric does in one level. As a cleric, you can spontaneously cast summon nature’s ally IV by using the Animal domain along with a 4th-level spell slot and either Domain Spontaneity or a domain icon, using the same kinds of tricks we used to cast giant vermin, but at that point you might as well just use Halfling domain and get the skill directly.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Huh. I would've thought dread necromancer would've been easier entry. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 26, 2016 at 16:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan If we read Arcane Disciple as being sufficient “access” to the domain to use Domain Spontaneity or a domain icon, or if we take both that and Versatile Spellcaster, we could get there as a dread necromancer, but that’s a feat or two extra and dread necromancer doesn’t offer nearly as much in 1-3 levels as cleric does. Doesn’t even help much on the ability score front, since Arcane Disciple forces us to have 14 Wisdom for giant vermin, so that only saves 1 on the 15 Charisma for Verminfriend. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 26, 2016 at 16:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @lithas You can qualify at 1st, allowing to start being a verminlord at 2nd, but I suggested waiting to qualify until 3rd, so you start at 4th, because it reduces just how cheesy you have to be and lets you use some of your (quite decent) cleric class features for their own sake rather than devoting them solely to qualifying for vermindlord. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 26, 2016 at 17:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ This entire post is the reason I no longer DM 3.5e without a lot of restrictions. Add in homebrew and it just gets worse. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 26, 2016 at 18:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarshallTigerus This entire post is why I don't play 3.5 at all anymore. I was hoping to not need to be qualified to work as the Librarian of Congress when I sit at the table. +1 for the post, though, just out of respect for those who are apparently qualified. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 26, 2016 at 20:53

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