Binders are one of three classes from Tome of Magic sourcebook for D&D 3.5e that is notable for being competently designed, mechanically balanced, thematically interesting, and fun to play. This is hard to appreciate unless you remember that it's in the same sourcebook as the failtastic Truenamer and the less-complex-and-versatile-than-it-appears Shadowcaster.
They contact beings from beyond the known universe (known as Vestiges) to inhabit their body for a while and experience the real world again in exchange for special powers. There's a binding check involved that determines whether the vestige can influence your actions. If they win, you have to act in a certain way in certain situations or get a stacking -1 penalty on pretty much everything that only goes away when the vestige leaves. If you win, they just sit nicely along for the ride, though they always cause some freakish alteration to your body as long as they're sharing your body. You can only have one Vestige possess you at a time, but as you gain levels you gain access to more powerful and more ancient Vestiges which give you access to more and more magical abilities depending on who you're contacting and who you've just used. Eventually you can mimic most of the effects of all the other casting classes without multi-classing or going into a prestige class, though the strongest Vestiges have severe restrictions on summoning them and can prevent you from taking some actions entirely even when not influencing you.
Religions are generally against binders because their gods don't really like it when a mortal chump can just doodle a seal on the ground and talk to things that the gods themselves know nothing about. They like it even less when a chump can actually talk to dead gods and things that shouldn't exist in the multiverse without serious consequences. Basically, Vestiges are the cast-off remnants of powerful gods and mortals who shouldn't still be around, and they strike fear into those that should be all-powerful.
The Medium was originally going to be a Binder inspired class in its playtest, but Paizo decided that stating up a double digit number of separate spirits was too much work and made it into a weak class that can't do anything well for the final version. Thankfully Binder received a port to Pathfinder by Radiance House, who previously published some extra vestiges for 3.5, as the Occultist. There are some relatively minor differences from the original version.
- Occultists multiclass better than Binders did, adding half their non-Occultist level to their EBL. This doesn't help them get higher level spirits, but it makes controlling the ones you can access easier.
- Each vestige, now called a spirit, belongs to a constellation. This gives the Occultist some minor abilities when binding a spirit based on their constellation, but more importantly determines the likes/dislikes of a spirit which can impact the ease binding multiple spirits (though spirits can still have special dislikes of their own).
- Each spirit also has a favored ally and favored enemy. While a few abilities interact with this, its primary purpose is making it easier or harder to bind a spirit if you meet the conditions.
- Radiance House published archetypes for several base classes that gave them access to limited binding, usually restricted to a few constellations.
|The Classes of Pathfinder|
|Core Classes:|| Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk |
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
| Alchemist - Antipaladin - Cavalier |
Inquisitor - Oracle - Summoner - Witch
| Arcanist - Bloodrager - Brawler - Hunter - Investigator |
Shaman - Skald - Slayer - Swashbuckler - Warpriest
| Kineticist - Medium - Mesmerist |
Occultist - Psychic - Spiritualist
|Ultimate X:||Gunslinger - Magus - Ninja - Samurai - Shifter - Vigilante|
The Binder returned in Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, as part of the Essentials line of Variant Classes. Debuting in the "Heroes of Shadow" splatbook, the Binder was a Charisma-based Arcane Controller, in contrast to its Warlock roots as an Arcane Striker. Thematically, it was a somewhat clumsy attempt to meld 4e warlock lore with 3e binder lore; unlike conventional warlocks of the Nentir Vale, who forge a pact with a singular patron as their instructor, binders treat with multiple individuals, borrowing, begging, bartering or stealing magic from many spirits and entities instead of forming a singular allegiance.
Mechanically, Binders function a lot like their Hexblade cousins.
At 1st level, they gain the features Pact Boon (two at-will powers, one Utility and one Attack, derived from their patron - their utility can only be triggered by dropping a creature to 0 HP or being adjacent to a creature dropped to 0 HP, just like a hexblade), Shadow Twist (+1 to ranged & area attack rolls against a creature with no other creatures adjacent), and Shadow Walk (as per the standard Warlock).
At 4th level, they gain the Pact Lore feature, which is an inherent bonus derived from their patron. At level 9, they gain the Summon Warlock's Ally power - as with the Hexblade, this is a Daily attack that summons a loyal ally based on the specific patron type the binder treaties with.
Level 11 gives them another pair of patron-derived features, in Binder's Action (a rider for spending action points) and Binder's Favor. Level 12 gives them Pact Keeper's Pledge, a daily utility that can be used to teleport 10 squares, end a "save ends" effect, or nullify all damage they take until the end of their next turn.
Once more, patron choice determines the positive effects of the Binder's Boon, gained at level 16. At level 20, they gain the universal binder attack Offering of Magic, a daily attack power that blasts one foe up to 20 squares away and inflicts 5d8 + Cha modifier Force damage, half on a miss, and lets them use their Pact Boon power.
The last of the unique class features for the Binder are level 22's Master of Magic (another daily utility, and literally identical to the Hexblade power of the same name) and level 25's Greater Summon Warlock's Ally, a more powerful version of the Summon Warlock's Ally power.
As one of the last classes to emerge from 4e before its demise, binders have the fewest Pact choices. Heroes of Shadow only features the Gloom and Star pacts; Dragon Magazine introduced a Fey pact in issue #406
Gloom Pact: A binder with the Gloom Pact gains the utility spell Echoing Dirge and the attack spell Shadow Warp as their pact boon. Gloom Pact Lore gives them Darvision and Resist Necrotic +5. Their Binder's Ally is a Shadow Lurk, a minor wraith-like creature. Gloom Pact Binder's Action means that an attack fueled by an action point grants you combat advantage on each of the attack's target. Gloom Binder's Favor lets you hit a third creature with a smaller amount of psychic damage when you use Echoing Dirge. Gloom Binder's Boon lets you use Shadow Warp to slide targets through enemy spaces and blocking terrain, although they must still end up in a space they could ordinarily occupy. Their Greater Binder's Ally is a Gloom Beast, a shadowy equivalent to a Displacer Beast.
Star Pact: A binder with the Star Pact gains the utility spell Hidden Lore and the attack spell Mind Shadows as their pact boon. Star Pact Lore gives them +2 to Arcana & Religion checks and +5 Psychic Resistance. Their Binder's Ally is a Soul Eater, a star-spawned horror that converts the essence of the dying into greater power for its master's spells. Star Pact Binder's Action means that when you spend an action point, you gain +4 to damage rolls with attacks that deal cold, necrotic and/or psychic damage ntil the end of your next turn. Star Binder's Favor means that when you hit with your Mind Shadows spell, all attacks made with combat advantage against that spell's target give you a +2 damage roll bonus until the end of your next turn. Star Binder's Boon means that casting Hidden Lore makes you insubstantial until the end of your next turn as well as invisible. Finally, their Greater Binder's Ally is a Doom Hulk, whose deadly touch is supplemented by a life-sapping aura.
Fey Pact: A binder with the Fey Pact gains the utility spell "Cloud Sight" and the attack spell Fascinating Shadows as their pact boon. Fey Pact Lore grants a +1 bonus to AC and to Will. Their Binder's Ally is a Satyr of the Night, an unseelie version of the common satyr. Fey Binder's Action means that an action-point fueled attack can daze one of its targets until the end of the binder's next turn. Fey Binder's Favor causes the binder's allies to have partial concealment against the targets of the binder's Fascinating Shadows power until the end of the binder's next turn. Fey Binder's Boon means they have combat advantage against targets of their Cloud Sight power until the end of their next turn. Finally, their Greater Binder's Ally is a Displacer Beast.
It is worth noting that the Warlock did also continue the tradition of vestiges in 4e, ironically without supporting the binder subclass with it. The Vestige Pact was introduced in Arcane Power and involved drawing power from various ancient and bound entities. Each has one bound at all times, but can switch between them by making a choice at certain times, or by activating a power that binds them temporarily to a new vestige (usually a daily power). The choice alters the Warlock's pact boon and pact at-will power, making the Vestige Warlock versatile but also forcing them to be strategic.
|Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Classes|
|Player's Handbook 1:||Cleric - Fighter - Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Warlock - Warlord - Wizard|
|Player's Handbook 2:||Avenger - Barbarian - Bard - Druid - Invoker - Shaman - Sorcerer - Warden|
|Player's Handbook 3:||Ardent - Battlemind - Monk - Psion - Runepriest - Seeker|
|Heroes of X:|| Blackguard - Binder - Cavalier - Elementalist - Hexblade - Hunter|
Mage - Knight - Protector - Scout - Sentinel - Skald - Slayer - Sha'ir - Thief
Vampire - Warpriest - Witch
|Settings Book:||Artificer - Bladesinger - Swordmage|
|Others:||Paragon Path - Epic Destiny|