Naughty Words: A Repository of Dirty Tricks
This section contains a bunch of stuff that, well, may or may not fly at any given table. Some of it is broken. Some of it is abusive. Some of it is merely interesting. Most of it is, I would venture, totally unintended. Let me be clear: I may or may not agree with any given tactic mentioned here, and I don't recommend necessarily using them in any game. There are some that are only mildly abusive, there are some that I'm not totally convinced work, and there are some that unambiguously work and unambiguously shouldn't. None of it will let you measure up in power to any T1 or T2 caster who knows what they're doing, but it's here mostly so that I can give it a token nod. With each one, I will include a “cheese rating,” which represents my opinion and my opinion alone. Ask your GM before you try to use any of this stuff, and do NOT expect “well, some guy on the Internet gave it a cheese rating of only 2/5!” to fly as a defense. Use with caution, and DON'T complain if your GM bans or nixes any of this stuff.
I will note that not all of this stuff is really that bad. This section basically boils down to “anything that I could see a GM raising an eyebrow over” or worse. You shouldn't have to feel ashamed after using all of these. Just after using some of them. You'll know them when you see them.
The Extraplanar Bouncer
Check out the utterance Incarnation of Angels. There's nothing saying that the target must be willing, and there's no saving throw. If you head over to the Monster Manual and look at what the Celestial and Fiendish templates do, you see that they grant the target the [Extraplanar] subtype . . . which means you can pull out a scroll of Dismissal or Banishment (or nudge your Wizard/Cleric buddy and have them do the dirty work) and just get rid of whoever you cast Incarnation of Angels on. Where do they go? It doesn't say, but it's unambiguous that they have the [Extraplanar] tag and thus will be no longer your problem, at least not for a while.
Cheese Rating: 2/5. Incarnation of Angels is a pretty sucky utterance other than this, and it's not like Dismissal is guaranteed to work, especially if you're scrolling it. There are plenty of ways to say “if you fail a Will save, you're not my problem anymore,” and this one is pretty elaborate for what it does. The real problem with it is that there's no indication of where Dismissal actually sends them.
Broken? Naw, I Rebuilt It
In Complete Arcane, there are rules for making “potion-tiles,” which are basically refluffed potions that you snap in half instead of drinking. The utterance Rebuild Item lets you repair items that have been broken within the last turn, leaving their magic wholly intact. Combined, you can basically get infinitely reusable potions, at least as long as you can succeed on the utterance (which isn't hard). This gets mildly abusive if you demand or have access to higher-level potion-tiles, such as those a Master Alchemist (Magic of Faerun) might make. I wouldn't count on that flying, by the way, but it's there. You might also be interested in Skull Talismans (Frostburn), Gems of Night (Tome of Magic), Essentia Jewels (Magic of Incarnum), or any other magic items that say that you break or crush them to activate them. (Do be careful with ones that say that they end up as dust, since that might not work.) Since you have to touch the item within one round of it breaking, I don't recommend being close enough to use this on a Staff of the Magi.
Cheese Rating: 2/5 on basic potions, 4/5 on more elaborate stuff. The fact that it takes an action to rebuild the item, that action MUST be within 1 round, and you must be close enough to touch the item is enough of a balancing factor, for me, to say that this isn't a problem if you're just rebuilding normal potions. (If I'm not mistaken, the PF Alchemist gets a spell that does pretty much exactly that.) Since Rebuild Item comes online at level 11, having reusable 3rd level spells isn't going to hurt anything . . . especially since doing so gives you really poor action economy. Now, when you start using it on Skull Talismans and Gems of Night, that's a fair bit worse, just because you're getting a much more powerful effect from it (hell, Skull Talismans can hold up to 9th level spells, and I'm wary of anything that can give you that). You're definitely going against the intent of the item in the first place (the fact that it's not reusable is intended to be a balancing factor), and not everyone is going to be OK with that.
This Truename Sounds Like “Iron Heart Sur . . .”
Check out the utterance Spell Rebirth. Check out the reversed version. In its entirety: “This utterance dispels the spell with the highest caster level affecting the target.” That's it. That's the entire text of it. Prima facie, it's pretty nice. A dispel that doesn't roll a caster level check? Sign me up! Sure, it only gets one spell, but that's still pretty nice. In my experience, casters tend to be boss-encounters rather than mook-encounters, so their caster levels can be pretty high (and thus tricky to dispel). This will vary from group to group, of course, but the value of a dispel that doesn't need a caster level check should be obvious.
However, there's more to this utterance. In fact, a lot more.
The Truenamer chapter is notorious for having terribly lazy editing. Inconsistencies, omissions, and absurdities abound. This, I would say, is one of those omissions or absurdities. Look at it again. “Affecting the target.” Now, what does this mean, exactly? Well, there aren't a lot of limitations on it. You can Spell Rebirth away, say, an area of magical Silence affecting the target. Or an area of Reverse Gravity. (Do you want to tell me that lifting someone up and slamming them into the ceiling isn't "affecting" them?) Do you see where I'm going with this? Spell Rebirth is basically the Truenamer's Iron Heart Surge. Sure, "spell" is a lot more limited than "condition" (thankfully), so we can't Rebirth away some of the sillier examples of what IHS can theoretically be used for (such as Surging away the burning on the Plane of Fire... which I don't think actually works, but which the text is vague enough to kind of support), but we can still Rebirth away a hell of a lot. The point is that Spell Rebirth, as written, can dispel any area spell (short of AMF, since Rebirth is an SLA and thus can't get past AMF without a scroll of Invoke Magic and some dubious transparency shenanigans) that can "affect" someone. Furthermore, unlike IHS, Rebirth dispels the spell. Again, as written, it won't simply remove the effect from the target... it'll dispel the whole shebang, no questions asked. You don't even have to stretch the reading the way you do with IHS... it tells you straight up that the spell is dispelled.
This, of course, leads to some real shenanigans if you're not careful. Let's say a castle is warded with Dimensional Lock... well, if you can just get a single Truenamer spy to infiltrate the area, it doesn't matter how high the caster level is, that sucker's open to attack. It's a little bit dicier as to whether or not it can get past, say, Obscuring Mist or Cloudkill, but it seems likely. I won't bother to discuss any other specific examples, but surely you can see by now the power and the danger inherent in this utterance.
If you plan on using the spell like this, get yourself a pet bunny (or a similarly minimally-CRed critter). The spell may have been cast by Boccob himself, but the utterance targets the bunny, so it'll be something like a DC 16 Truespeak check. Bonus for style points, of course.
Cheese Rating: Unratable. It totally depends on what you're dispelling. As written, you can get rid of epic spells affecting your pet bunny with a DC 16 Truespeak check. Whether that's going to cause problems, and just what problems that causes, are totally dependent on the game.
My Level or Yours?
This is one of the big ones. Let the record show that I don't approve of this trick, but by god, it's there. Check out pg. 234 of Tome of Magic. There's a sentence there (under the “Law of Sequence” paragraph, started on the previous page) that says “It's also okay to use a higher-level version of an utterance while a lower-level version is still active, or vice versa, because these constitute different utterances.” Flip back a page and look at the “Effective Spell Level” paragraph, which says that you can increase the “effective spell level” of an utterance by adding 4 (per increase) to the Truespeak DC.
So yeah, you can see where this is going. There is an argument that changing the spell level triggers the “higher-level/lower-level version of the same utterance” clause from the LoS paragraph. So you can just twiddle your check DCs up and down and spit in the Law of Sequence's eye.
Cheese Rating: 5/5. I am no friend to the Law of Sequence. I believe that it needs to go away and die in a fire. However, I don't think that this is the way to deal with it. I believe that the intent of the “higher/lower” clause was to illustrate that Speed of the Zephyr and Greater Speed of the Zephyr are not, in fact, the same thing . . . but because no one bothered to look up “level” in the dictionary, you can make the argument that this works. Honestly, I'd rather just ask the GM to ignore the Law of Sequence altogether than try to sneak this in.
The utterance Preternatural Clarity looks like it's supposed to give an ally a floating +5 bonus to apply when needed, kind of like a much worse version of Moment of Prescience. However, the last sentence of the normal utterance says “The target can choose to apply the bonus after she has rerolled the d20, but before the Dungeon Master reveals the result of the check.” Back up a moment there. Rerolled the d20? Does Preternatural Clarity actually grant a reroll with a +5 bonus? Kinda looks that way to me.
Cheese Rating: 2/5. Yeah, it's horribly written, and it doesn't look like you were SUPPOSED to get a reroll out of it, but by the time you can get level 5 LEM utterances (that's ECL 14, by the way), letting an ally reroll something really isn't going to break the game, and I would in fact argue that it brings Preternatural Clarity up from “relatively insignificant” to “worth using.”
Cramming for the Test
Hidden Truth is one of my favorite utterances. This is no secret. This is something fun you can do with it. Note that the duration of the normal utterance is “instantaneous,” compared to the duration of one round on the reversed version. The utterance doesn't say when the bonus comes into play. I'm going to be gentle and assume that it applies to the next Knowledge check (though as written, that's not NECESSARILY the case) they make . . . but there's nothing saying that this check has to happen immediately. You can prime the party scout with it so that they can have a chance of knowing what it is that they find (sure, you're gambling that the next Knowledge check they make will be the big one, but it's not like it costs you much). You can cast it on every member of the party before they go to sleep (so the first Knowledge check everyone makes when they wake up will have the nice boost, without counting against you for that day). You can just use it while walking around in the hopes that the next Knowledge check you make will be useful. RAI? Unlikely. RAW? Probably!
Cheese Rating: 1/5. I really don't see how this can be abused. It's just bending RAI a little bit.
They really ought to have known better than to let this one slip through. Check out the Word of Nurturing line. I'll use Moderate as my example, but it applies equally to all of them.
Here's the text: “A nearly constant green tendril of energy moves up and down your target's body, healing any wounds it finds. You grant a creature fast healing 5.”
(Emphasis added.) So, as written, you don't have to heal the creature you used the utterance on. Your target, the one you actually made the Truespeak check against, is the one with the flashy green effects, but you can just grant any old creature fast healing. Stupid? Yes, very stupid, but that's how they wrote it.
Cheese Rating: 3/5. I can't see any real way to abuse this aside from the pet bunny trick (use it on your pet bunny, heal your friend instead, using the bunny's easier Truespeak DC), but it's so blatantly against what they meant that I can't really condone it.
This One's All You, WotC
Just go read Ether Reforged. Instantaneous duration? Really? You can just
permanently instantaneously shunt a target over to the Ethereal Plane and poke them with Magic Missiles until they leave you alone, since they have no way of getting back (unless they can Plane Shift themselves)? You can just cast the normal version on your party one time and give them the benefits forever? Really? That's not even a willful misreading. That's just what's there.
Cheese Rating: 2/5. Ether Reforged comes online at ECL 18. I'm totally cool with making the party have what amounts to an always-on Ghost Touch effect at ECL 18. Things that you're fighting at ECL 18 may or may not be inconvenienced by suddenly finding themselves ethereal (with no save), though it's annoying that you probably don't want to use it on yourself. This is niche enough that I don't see it causing too terribly many problems, but it's still bizarre as hell.
Unstoppable? We'll See About That
Go read Energy Negation. That's not what I'm talking about today, but I want it for a point of comparison. Go read Greater Energy Negation. Notice something missing from the greater version? That's right: a whitelist. The lesser version says that you can get resistance to acid, cold, electricity, fire, or sonic, but the greater version has no such restriction. You can become immune to positive energy, negative energy, force, or even the dreaded city damage (no, really. Check out Cityscape)!
Cheese Rating: 1/5. If being immune to city damage is going to break your game, you play a different kind of D&D than I do. You're still taking blatant advantage of sloppy writing, but I don't think it'll hurt anything.
Scanning, One Moment Please
This one's pretty simple. Analyze Item is basically an at-will Identify. There's not much reason that you couldn't use it on an item that you suspect is magically trapped. Not sure if you should open that book? Analyze it! Think that tile looks suspect? Analyze it! Wonder if there's more to that statue than meets the eye? Analyze it!
Cheese Rating: 1/5. Knowing that there's a magical trap on something doesn't give you the ability to disable said trap (and no, Spell Rebirth won't work, since that targets creatures, not items). Plus, you have to touch the item in question, so it's only good for “explodes when you open the door” traps, as opposed to “explodes when you touch the knob” traps. What's more, it only works on magic traps. A good old-fashioned spring-loaded dart to the face will still get you. You're no Rogue, and don't you forget it.
404: Truename Not Found
I assume that you are aware when one of your utterances has succeeded or failed. There are a lot of things that just don't make sense at all if that assumption isn't in play. With that in mind, say that you're poking around in a dungeon and you see a statue, or a topiary, or something else that has a pretty good chance of coming to life and trying to kill you if you get too close to it. Take some kind of utterance (perhaps a reversed Word of Nurturing, if you're in hostile territory . . . or not reversed, if you don't want to risk offending something) and see if you can target the statue with it. If it's really just a statue and not a golem or a mimic or whatever, you won't be able to target it at all, since LEM utterances work on creatures, not objects. Depending on your GM, you might get an explicit “404, Truename not found” error, or you might just get “you fail.” Theoretically, if you are merely told that you fail and you aren't told why, it's possible that your check just wasn't good enough. That said, if your Truespeak mod is pretty solid, you can get a pretty good sense of whether or not that thing's alive. Note that the Law of Resistance doesn't kick in if your check isn't successful, so you have nothing to lose by trying.
Cheese Rating: 2/5. This isn't bad, but it can lead to paranoia lists if you abuse it (or, conversely, if your GM gives you REASONS to abuse it).
Truename Targeting Online
This one might actually be intentional. I'm merely assuming the worst, since the Truename chapter hasn't given me a reason not to.
To be brief, most things that allow you to ignore concealment say that they don't apply to total concealment. Archer's Eye merely says that you ignore penalties for concealment, with no mention made of being total or partial. Cast it on your friend, and they can fire with impunity at things that are invisible, or are 40' deep in a fog cloud, or whatever. Technically, the 50% miss chance from blindness stems from concealment as well, so you can even let someone ignore blindness (though only for ranged attacks). As I said, this may or may not actually be intentional, but I'd assume not.
Cheese Rating: 1/5. Just because it's unintended doesn't mean it's bad.
I Can See Forever
Sensory Focus gives the target blindsight and True Seeing for one round. The spell True Seeing has a range of 120 feet (and, since the utterance references the spell, we can safely assume that the same applies), but blindsight doesn't have a default range. Make of that what you will, but you're pretty keenly aware of everything you have line of effect to, since there's no reason to assume that there's a limit. Use this outdoors for the greatest effect (“exactly how many mice are in that field? I know they're there, after all”).
Cheese Rating: 1/5 in dungeons, 3/5 outdoors. Yeah, the difference between automatically detecting everything in a dungeon room and automatically detecting everything you have line of effect to from the top of a mountain is great enough that I'm going to give them different ratings. Note that I still don't think this is abusive . . . just a headache for the GM to deal with, at least if you push it to its limits.
Origami Sword of Death
The utterance Transmute Weapon can turn an enemy's weapon into whatever you want. How about, oh, ice? Or maybe paper? Note that the utterance does mention DMG pg. 283 and uses the term “special material,” so you could interpret that as being a restriction to only those special materials . . . but DMG pg. 283 itself does say something like “only a few special materials are listed here, and there are others.” Now you just have to convince your GM that whatever you're after is, in fact, a special material. (Bonus Points: Use this to make the enemy's sword into a metal with a low melting point, then use Agitate Metal. Very close to getting physics in D&D, which is very dangerous territory, but hilarious if it works.)
Cheese Rating: 2/5. This one has more room than most for the GM to legitimately say no, and it's hardly that abusive even if it works.
Hear My Words, O Dark Master!
Pop open the Book of Vile Darkness and read the rules for sacrifices. Then remember just how good Truenamers are at getting their Knowledge checks up to stupidly high levels. Between the INT focus, the fact that you're likely to take little other than Knowledge skills, the Knowledge Focus class feature, Universal Aptitude, and Hidden Truth, you can get a terrifyingly high K: Religion check (that's the one used in sacrifices, of course) as early as level 3 or so. Consider a perfectly reasonable illumian Truenamer with 16 INT and the Naen sigil . . . for almost no investment, you get 6 (ranks) + 3 (INT) + 3 (Knowledge Focus) + 2 (Naen) + 5 (Universal Aptitude) + 10 (Hidden Truth) = +29 before you even roll. By the time you add all the little trappings listed on pg. 27 of the BoVD, you'll be almost guaranteed to hit the highest level of rewards. And that's at level 3, with the only real investment being maxed ranks in K: Religion (doesn't hurt) and putting your Knowledge Focus class feature into Religion (which, again, is not much of a loss). Even if you don't add all the trappings, just leave one critter you kill every day alive (but probably unconscious) long enough to whip out your dagger and chant the name of your vile master a few times, and you'll be guaranteed to roll high enough to get a free Planar Ally. How sweet is that? Sure, you have to be unrepentantly evil, and your GM has to go along with it, but all the rules are right there.
Cheese Rating: Unratable. There's just way too much variation here to even start. If your GM plays it totally by the book and just hands out whatever rewards you want once per day, that's clearly absurd (awesome, but absurd). If your GM says that your god gets bored with you and won't respond to sacrifices more than once a level or something, that's a lot less compelling, though it's still a great card to have up your sleeve. That said, assuming that you take an interest in Knowledge checks, ANY Truenamer in the deep end of the alignment pool can just decide to start doing this. Chances are very good that you were going to take Universal Aptitude and Hidden Truth anyway (let's face it, being the know-it-all is pretty much the only thing you can do with that level of competence, and those two boosts are among the only things you can sling around that are hard for other classes to match), so you really don't have to prep for this one or do much you weren't already going to do.
I Can't Read, but Boy, Can I Speak
If Unearthed Arcana is in play, you can take the Illiterate trait to gain a +1 typeless bonus to Truespeak in exchange for illiteracy (which you can buy back with 2 skill points.) No comment on how this works with illumians, which are always literate.
Cheese Rating: 3/5.
Is a +1 bonus for 2 skill points overpowered? Of course not. That said, this is so astoundingly against my idea of the flavor of a Truenamer that I'm going to frown at it. Right now.
It's Just Level 2, I Swear
Some SLA-boosting feats, like Empower SLA, Quicken SLA, and Maximize SLA, depend on the effective spell level of the SLA, with lower-level SLAs being easier to quicken/maximize/whatever than higher-level ones. ToM pg. 233 says that the effective spell level of an utterance is equal to its utterance level. LCT and LPM utterances, then, have abnormally low effective spell levels, making them particularly good targets for these feats. For example, Maximize is quite nice when combined with Mortalbane, especially if you take the "empower clause" to be a specific exception instead of a general rule. Energy Vortex's average of 7 damage a round (14 with Mortalbane) is forgettable at level 12, but 24 damage a round from a Maximized Mortalbane Energy Vortex does add up if you can keep them in the zone.
Cheese Rating: 2/5. This clearly isn't intended, but a feat is a big cost, so I really don't think that this is an issue. Besides, it's not like most LCT/LPM utterances are that good to begin with. If this makes them stronger, it's more likely to bring them up to a level where they're worth using than it is to bring them up to overpoweredness.
Soul Goes Where?
Transmute Weapon is an LCT utterance that can temporarily turn a weapon into a special material. One such special material is thinaun, from Complete Warrior. In short, thinaun weapons trap souls and make it very hard for them to come back, but destroying a thinaun weapon frees the soul. If you use Transmute Weapon to make a weapon into thinaun long enough to kill a creature and suck out its soul, it's entirely unclear what happens once Transmute Weapon wears off. It's pretty easy to argue that it's just gone, trapped forever in a weapon that no longer exists. Who needs Unname?
Cheese Rating: 2/5. This is hardly the only "you can't rez now, nyah" option you have by ECL 15, which is when Transmute Weapon comes online. I can also see some GMs ruling that the soul is freed when the utterance wears off, though I would personally contest that ruling.