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A Pathfinder Power Couple: Arcane Eye, and The Lyre of Building

A Pathfinder RPG Character Guide

By Neal LitherlandPublished about a month ago 5 min read
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When we think of magic in Pathfinder, we usually think of the big, showy spells. Things like fireball and lightning bolt are usually top of the list, followed by other classics like raise dead or spiritual weapon. However, knowledge is power when it comes to any dungeon delve, and what you do with that knowledge can have an outsized effect at the end of the adventuring day.

Which is why I would like to suggest an underutilized combination... the wondrous item lyre of building, combined with the spell arcane eye.

The Underappreciated Power Couple

Let's begin at the beginning with arcane eye. This is 4th-level spell, so it's not something you're going to have access to early on in the game. However, when you start hitting mid-level challenges, it's definitely something you should have on your sheet. Because if you have a safe, secure place to cast it from (the 10-minute casting time is no joke), you have the ability to scout out a relatively large dungeon. The spell lasts 1 minute per level, but with the ability to travel 30 feet per round if you aren't doing a detailed scan of every wall and ceiling tile, that lets you shoot through castle keeps and underground chambers, getting a sense of not just the layout, but also what threats may lurk inside.

You ever feel like somebody's watching you?

Once you have a general layout of a dungeon, along with threats that exist inside it, that's where the lyre of building comes in. Because as long as you have the ability to play it where it won't be heard and draw a commotion (which can be aided by a silence spell to stop the sound from carrying past a certain point) you have the ability to construct all kinds of holes, walls, and so on. So if you want to seal off a doorway, you can do that. If you want to alter a large room so that you and your allies have plenty of cover for an upcoming battle, you can do that. If you just want to bypass a threat entirely to construct a large bridge over a chasm instead of going on a long, dangerous, circuitous route, you can do that as well.

Let me give you two major examples.

In the current campaign I'm part of, there is a rather large fight scene where you have to invade an infernal church to stop an unholy ritual before time runs out. It's absolutely packed with enemies, traps, and challenges, and they're set up in such a way that a cock-up cascade (where one mistake leads to a domino effect of more and more enemies coming to see what's happening) is a very high risk. One of the very dangerous enemies, a named villain we've been going back and forth with for the whole campaign, is locked in his office handling the affairs of the church. With a scan of arcane eye to get a full rundown of what was happening, we were able to isolate particular threats, choose our targets carefully, and more importantly, wall the Big Bad into his office so that by the time he smashed through all the stone we had several rounds of not dealing with him to wreck the ritual going on in the church below.

Our second example happened last session, and it was rather hilarious.

The heroes are tasked with helping a community of merfolk who are being terrorized by a charybdis. Once the location of its lair is ascertained they approached stealthily. Arcane eye revealed that there is, in fact, a fiendish charybdis inside the tunnels, along with dozens of skum (relatively low-ranking underwater monsters), as well as a drowning devil who our heroes were certain was calling the shots. Now, if they entered the lair, it was likely their presence would trigger combat, and as soon as one entity was engaged, all of them would converge, thus creating an extremely target rich environment.

Instead, they chose to wall up the one way into the lair, and wait for the charybdis's hunger (especially since it was already approaching famished) to do the work for them.

This took some time, of course, and it wasn't a perfect solution. Because while the charybdis did attack and eat the skum, the drowning devil teleported out of the lair to figure out what was going on. While it got a surprise round off on the party, all of them fighting a single drowning devil was much easier than attempting to fight dozens of monsters with class levels, and a hungry infernal beast that was practically the same CR as the devil itself.

After the one fight, and waiting for the charybdis to be more interested in fleeing to find food rather than fighting, the heroes had conquered the dungeon, and dealt with the threat quite handily.

It Isn't a Perfect Strategy

While I have several examples of this strategy being very useful, it's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. First of all, a lyre of building is extremely expensive (13,000 gold), and even if you construct one yourself that's still 6,500 gold along with the feats to pull it off... not exactly chump change. Then there's the time it takes to cast arcane eye, along with its relatively short lifespan, and the fact that it doesn't always reveal every aspect of a space you see (or that the threats you saw with it are still in the same location by the time you physically get there).

Additionally, there are certain enemies who may detect the arcane eye, which will alert them that something is awry. Also, as we saw with the drowning devil, enemies may be able to bypass walls keeping them in either by teleportation, traveling through solid material, or just by smashing them down. You may also be on a time crunch, and not have the option to wait for the monsters to take care of each other for you.

As with any set of tools, there will be times, places, and situations where this strategy is really effective, and times, places, and situations where it really isn't. But if it's something you want to try at your table, this has been my experience with it!

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That's all for this week's Crunch topic! Don't forget to check out my full Vocal archive for more... or if you'd like to read some of my books, like my alley cat noir novels Marked Territory and Painted Cats, my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife or my latest short story collection The Rejects, head over to My Amazon Author Page!

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About the Creator

Neal Litherland

Neal Litherland is an author, freelance blogger, and RPG designer. A regular on the Chicago convention circuit, he works in a variety of genres.

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Blog: Improved Initiative and The Literary Mercenary

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