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Oh yes, I should have listed sources as well.
Arrowsong Minstrel is Arcane Anthology, Spell Sage is Advanced Class Guide and Spirit Dancer is Occult Adventures.
Nice to see your suggestions as well, there are some I weren't familiar with.
I really like archetypes that changes or adds spellcasting, too. Like the Psychic Detective (Investigator) from Occult Adventures, which completely transforms the class by giving it psyschic spells instead of extracts.
I really like this. I always thought Spell Kenning was the coolest feature of the Skald, even though people mostly focus on the Rage Song.
I also like the idea of a 6th level caster that sacrifices higher level spells to gain dramatically increased versatility.
I think it should be a tad more spontaneous, though. I'm not sure it would be broken to let the abstract slots be spontaneous as well (but keeping the "gradual access to more lists" restriction). It may sound really powerful, but since you don't get any music this is basically what you have instead of level 7-9 spells. Besides, having some slots prepared and some slots spontaneous seems like it might get a little unwieldy, mechanics-wise.
If you want a middle ground, you could perhaps let Abstracted Kenning change the prepared spell when you regain them?
Finally, I feel that a 6th level caster that gets a pile of free metamagic feats ought to have some way to use them more easily. Maybe allow an option to burn an abstracted slot to apply a free metamagic feat to another spell a few times per day. I'm not sure you'd get that much use out of 6 free Metamagic Feats otherwise (I know you can also take crafting feats, but those don't really work for all campaigns).
With all the new releases, it can be hard to keep track of the amount of archetypes available for each class.
The purpose of this thread is to highlight any archetypes you find especially interesting. Not necessarily the power options, but those you feel offer interesting powers or transform the base class in interesting ways.
Here's a few to start with:
Arrowsong Minstrel (Bard): A recent addition from a relatively obscure supplement, this is still one of the most interesting bard archetypes I've seen. It's basically an Arcane Archer in a can. I've always been a fan of bardic archers, and this one has many tools to help make it work. Precise Shot at level 2 and what almost amounts to Improved Precise Shot at level 6, as well as the power to attach spells to your arrows and the ability to borrow evocation spells from the wiz/sorc list.
Diminished Spellcasting is admittedly a major drawback, but I feel this could still work pretty well for bards with archer/blaster aspirations.
Spell Sage (Wizard): Losing both arcane bond and arcane school hurts, but this gives some really interesting powers in return. The ability to throw a +4 CL bonus onto a spell a few times per day benefits everyone - it's a potent nova power in the early game, but even later on it can help you by scaling up your spells and perhaps unlock level-based benefits 4 levels early (Phanton Steed comes to mind).
The real gem is the power to spontaneously cast *anything* from the bard, cleric or druid list. This is strictly an out-of-combat trick because of the extra casting time, but this still offers an unparallelled amount of versatility. You can dig up any obscure utility spell you might need from these 3 lists, and you can cure pretty much any condition, up to and including death by disintegration.
Spirit Dancer (Medium): I like this much better than the base Medium, because it lets you mix and match powers through the day instead of being stuck with a single spirit. You still don't get to switch within single encounters until very late, but you can at least pick appropriate spirits for each encounter.
The limited rounds are a drawback, but you'll usually have enough to last the combat rounds in a given day, at least. I still wish there was an Extra Spirit Dance feat, though.
Its capstone ability is also hilarious, even if it makes you hemorrage spirit dance rounds. Enjoy getting your spirit bonus to practically everything and making use of all six legendary powers.
I've never seen damage listed as a flat number. Where did you come across it?
Take a look at the raven. Yes, it will always deal 1 damage, but its damage is still listed as 1d3-4, and is therefore still a roll and benefits from bonuses to rolls.
The same should apply to your example character, I think.
Paladin's are great in CC. Even when not facing undead, most opposition is still evil-aligned. I played an archer paladin in the last half of the campaign, and it was really powerful. Not broken, though, there were still plenty of challenges, but certainly viable.
I also GM'd the campaign later with PCs consisting of an Oracle of Life, an Inquisitor, a Sorceror and a Druid and they also did really well.
The favored class bonus for Half-elf Occultists gives a bonus on checks to identify magic items, but at 2nd level when you'd start getting first +1, the class gains the ability to identify without any skill check.
The crafting idea is brilliant, I hadn't even though of that.
I don't think you'd necessarily have to focus on just one spirit to be effective. I do agree that Champion would perhaps benefit the most from such extreme focus, since that spirit requires specific stat and feat selections to be at peak efficiency.
On the other hand, it's quite easy to be good at both Hierophant and Archmage, since they both want high Cha. Most caster feats you might want to take would also be useful for both of them.
Marshall and Guardian don't care that much about your ability scores, so it's easy enough to make use of them too (although Guardian is perhaps most useful as a secondary spirit at lvl 15+, it doesn't give you that much to do by itself - yeah, you're hard to kill, but you have little offensive power.)
Trickster cares a bit about your stats if you want to make use of sneak attack, though, so that also requires investment to be of use in combat. On days without combat it can still be very handy for the skills and skill bonuses.
I could imagine a casting-focused spirit dancer swapping between Hierophant and Archmage depending on the encounter - throwing in Marshal (maybe with Spirit Focus) for group buffing in more trivial battles where you want to save spell slots. Trickster would be useful for out of combat stuff, and Guardian would be a nice secondary spirit at higher levels. Champion would perhaps see a bit of use at lower levels when you run out of spells, before Marshall gains its group buff, but otherwise the build would focus most on making use of the other five, keeping physical stats relatively low and staying focused on casting and buffing.
Relic Channeler loses a lot of flexibility, though. You're stuck with a fixed spell list for Hierophant and Archmage and fixed skills for Trickster. That takes away a lot of your ability to adapt from day to day (even if it does at least allow you to select two spells per level and three skills, as some consolation), which is what I like most about the class.
The more I look at it, the more I like the Spirit Dancer archetype. It also gets around favoured location because you don't truly bind any spirits in the morning.
Its main issue is of course that you're not very useful when you're out of Spirit Dance uses, but on a typical day you should have enough for most combat encounters and possibly some out of combat situations. At early levels when uses are most scarce, you can always burn influence to recover them, since you won't be using influence for much else at that point anyway.
The upside is added flexibility, allowing you to choose the appropriate spirit for each situation. You're sadly not going to be switching spirits in combat before very high levels, but at least you can change per encounter instead of per day. And if your Hierophant/Archmage runs out of spell uses, you can become a Marshal or Champion at the end of the day instead.
It become pretty crazy at high levels, when you gain the ability to nova and bind 2 spirits at once (or ALL OF THEM as the capstone - just think of all the spirit bonuses! Of course you're not likely to see this in actual play, sadly). I wonder if spirit bonuses to the same thing would stack?
Where do you get the idea that the Evocation bonus only works on rays? I don't see that anywhere, it should work with any damaging instantaneous evocation spell - so both burning hands and magic missile will benefit, for example.
I agree that Size Alteration seems like a somewhat lackluster power choice.
Consider getting Divination implements at some point, there are some incredibly useful powers in there (even if the spells themselves are a tad dull). Abjuration is also surprisingly useful for survival, especially the whole "Protection from Energy as an immediate action"-thing.
Yeah, it's really depressing that there are almost no feats or items for the Medium. Something that could allow reduction of influence under a certain condition, for example - I think the "influence economy" is pretty harsh as it is. If we compare to the Binder, there were a TON of feats that modified that class in 3.5.
As for locations, I'd probably houserule that bit away as a GM. Or turn it into some kind of optional bonus instead, so you don't have to find the locations to make the spirit work at all.
I don't think it's meant to beat the dedicated martial classes. You trade power for versatility, I think that's the design behind the class.
You may not be as great in combat as the Barbarian, but on the day your party has to visit the King's court, you can turn into a master of diplomacy and tact overnight. When your party needs to travel far, you can turn into a wizard who knows Teleport. When the group's full cleric tragically dies, you can know the Raise Dead spell next morning.
It's meant to be adaptable. I just wish it could do more ability- switching during a single day, that's my main issue with the class as it is.
That, and the favored locations thing, of course.
It *is* pretty hard to build because of the issue of stats and feats being set even if the class features are versatile. I wish it at least had something like the floating feat from the 3.5 Chameleon.
It's not all bad, though. Hierophant and Archmage share the same casting stat, so you can build your caster to be good at both of those. You'll also be a better channeler than a cleric when you are a Hierophant, because Cha is both your casting and channeling stat. I really like that the Archmage gets to cast a 7-9th level spell in the end.
Even if you do a full martial build you can still make use of spells if a given day calls for it, you can just avoid the ones that depend on save DC. And as has been pointed out, the Champion gets slightly better than full BAB if you count its bonuses.
The Marshal can be a pretty good buffer at later levels. If you are level 12 and take spirit focus you can use a move action to hand out +5 to attack and damage for the entire party (on top of the +2 damage they can already get all day from your seance boon). And in dire situations you can throw them 1d8+4 on top of one of their rolls.
I do think the ability to blend powers of different spirits should come online earlier, it feels very restrictive to be confined to a single role all day for most of your career. That's one reason why I like the Spirit Dancer archetype.
But once you do hit level 15, you can do all sorts of cool stuff (like throwing the trickster's sneak attack dice on top of your Champion's full attack if the situation calls for it). The Guardian's power makes for a pretty good all-round defensive buff too.
I was upset when I first heard about the change, but then I realized they were just turning it into a 3.5 Chameleon instead of a 3.5 Binder.
I generally like the final result, though I wish the option to mix several spirits came online a little earlier (yeah, there's Spirit Dancer, but that still uses only one set of powers at a time in most cases).
It's annoying that the Medium really got shafted in the feat department, though. I could only find 1 Medium-specific feat in Spirit Focus (may have missed some, though), and it's not even all that exciting (maybe for Champion it'd be worth it).
An additional, really simple option is to just shuffle immunities and resistances for demons around a bit. Just make them immune to fire and resistant to lightning instead of the other way around. That's not particularly unbalanced (in general it amounts to a slight buff to demons since fire tends to have the best spells).
I think there are one or two mythic lightning spells that bypass immunity to electricity eventually. If you want to help the player make his build work, you could build on this precedent to design augmented mythic versions of some more of them (shocking grasp, lightning bolt, etc).
It doesn't negate the demons' abilities because he still has to spend a bit of mythic power to bypass their immunity, but it might help the player feel more awesome since he can now shoot electricity that's so mythically powerful that it even hurts demons.
Alternatively you could point him in the direction of ways to convert his damage to fire and fluff it as a special kind of lightning, though that's not really an elegant solution.
But ultimately I also think it's important to learn that if you build a sorceror that focuses on one specific thing (whether that's lightning, enchantment, SoD spells, etc...), you'd better have some backup options when that thing fails. That goes double if you make a lightning sorceror and know you will be playing a demon campaign.
Even though Leadership is allowed, I assume your GM retains its normal requirements of 7th level? Shouldn't be too hard to switch around.
I probably wouldn't put so much effort into summoning when the caster level, as you say, is delayed so much. If they're just meant to be momentary distractions you probably don't need augment summoning, for instance (and thus not spell focus (conjuration) either).
If you pick Wild Arcana for your archmage power, you have a great advantage in spell selection since you needn't bother with most of the more situational spells. So you should mainly pick stuff you'll cast a lot or stuff you'll want the mythic version of.
Mythic Heroism is a pretty nice buff, which you'll get full advantage of as a melee fighter (+4 to damage on top of everything else).
The main concern in CC is that you'll face a considerable amount of undead or otherwise mindless/mind-immune foes. Therefore an Enchantment specialist is probably not a great idea, but otherwise it's pretty hard to go wrong with arcane casters.
A necromancer will be powerful in CC, but be warned that there's an enormous stigma against necromancy among the superstitious populace of Ustalav, so you'll have to be discreet about some of your powers. And don't expect to do any kind of "undead-army" type stuff with a Paladin in the party, of course :-)
Knowledge skills are pretty useful in CC, so I guess I'd lean towards wizard over sorceror in your group. It's not a huge concern, however - you have enough group members to cover the important skills, so it really comes down to whether you prefer spontaneous or prepared casters.
I played a Diviner (Foresight) with a focus on battlefield control conjuration spells for the first chapters of the campaign (he died in Act III, though). That worked really well - and some of the divination magic came in handy for the more investigation-focused parts of chapter 2 and 3 in particular.
When I later GM'ed the campaign we had an UNdead bloodline sorcerors focused on Necromancy and some Evocaton blasting on the side. He became really powerful by the end, especially thanks to his ability to mind control undead creatures. But once again this may be pretty hard to pull off much in a good-aligned/paladin party.
If you run them like the AP tells you to, I think the Lopper is most dangerous. The Splatter has a crazy powerful touch attack, but he doesn't use it much "by the book". Instead he spends quite a bit of time summoning weak rats that are easily killed. HIs Magic Missile can still be quite dangerous, though.
Maybe I'm biased because my wizard got brutally murdered by the Lopper, though :-)
Flesh to Stone (specifically says that target does not die).
Baleful Polymporph, make sure you also fry her mind. Keep her in a cage.
Keep her perpetually unconscious somehow. This can be done with periodical applicatons of non-lethal damage, but most methods of doing this would probably be a bit problematic alignment-wise.
A low level sorceror whose only spells known were Mount, Feather Fall and an undisclosed third spell which was apparently even more situational, since he never once used it.
In fairness he actually did manage to get a lot of utility out of those spells - especially Mount, which he used both as a combat distraction and to pull off out of combat horse sale cons.
I'm not sure why you think a sorceror would have to go melee. You might not know as many different spells as a wizard, but you have more spells/day and it should be easy enough to have spells for any situation.
If you want some kind of compromise between Sorceror and Oracle try looking at the Ancient Lorekeeper archetype. It lets you handpick a few spells from the sorc/wiz list as you level up.
I play a Tier 4 Archmage right now in WotR. It's a Dragon Disciple gish build, though, but I can still try to give some general advice about the Path.
Wild Arcana has been VERY useful - even though our game is Core + Mythic only it has still given me some incredible versatility for dealing with the unexpected. I do see Fruian's argument for Arcane Surge, though, especially if combined with Rapid Preparation.
Even though Enduring BLessing is pretty awesome I'd probably advise against Dual-pathing into Hierophant. Path abilities are incredibly precious and you need to spend several on Enduring Blessing to really make it worthwhile.
Mythic spells are very useful and Mythic Spell lore might well be worth taking more than once. I've gotten very good mileage from Mythic Heroism (allround versatile buff, especially for your martial guys) and Mythic Magic Missile (AKA "I do damage. Period." - it even bypasses immunity to magic when augmented!) in particular. I don't have much experience with level 4+ mythic spells since we're still mid-level.
I don't know which type of Diviner you are, but if you have powerful school powers that are activated with a standard action Coupled Arcana + Wild Arcana can be a really nice combo for messing with action-economy. One of my own Archmage's signature moves is to combine spellcasting with his dragon breath power, for example. I imagine it would also be handy to cast a spell and activate a Diviner-aura with the same action.
About traits and feats:
Magical Knack is an amazing trait for most DD builds, since it exactly compensates for the lost caster levels from taking the first 8 levels of DD (you still lose spell progression, of course, but it's nice to keep CL current). The importance of a high CL does depend on which spells you intend to use, but if you take advantage of your arcana and use some blasting spells it will be a godsend.
Arcane Strike can be a decent feat if you have swift actions to spare. The bonus is relatively small but it can add up quite a bit as you get more and more attacks per round (initially from claws+bite, later on from Polymorph spells. The dragon forms in particular get an obscene number of attacks per round).
Extend Spell can be useful throughout your career (you'll be very reliant on buff spells when you fight) and Quicken spell will be a must at very high level if you have a casting-heavy build. Handily the latter is an option when you select draconic bonus feats.
Speaking of the bonus feats, Blind-Fight might also be worth it since it synergizes very well with the blindsense you gain from DD. I plan to take it with my own DD at the exact level I gain blindsense, since you get a bonus feat there as well.
You can actually fight in melee fairly well even at early levels with a draconic sorceror as long as you have good strength. Two attacks per round is very helpful and if you get both Mage Armor and Shield your AC can be respectable too. Your low BAB will also make the least difference early on, though it will become more painful later.
Your main concern at level 1 is HP, but even then you can get a decent amount if you invest a bit. My DD had 12 hp at first level (6+2 Con + 3 toughness + 1 favored class bonus), which is pretty decent. Since you can afford 16 Con with your excellent stat array you might not even need toughness that much.
You don't necessarily need to seek out melee combat, but if something closes in on you anyway you might as well grow claws and try to rip them apart instead of just screaming like a baby the way a normal caster would.
A longspear is a useful weapon for early levels since its reach helps you stay alive while you're squishy. It also works very well with claws since you can just drop the spear and grow your claws if something gets so close that you can't use the spear.
As for your general career I would also advise you never to take more than 8 levels in DD, as it's simply not worth the loss of a third caster level. Many would probably advise you to mix up your levels with some melee classes, but I personally think Sorceror 12/DD 8 can be quite potent as well. Your BAB will not be great, but between DD bonuses and Polymorph spells you'll hopefully have a ridiculously good strength score to compensate for this.
There's a video series called Pathfinder basics which explain things in great detail (as in 10+ videos of 30+ minutes). I haven't watched all of them but they start out fine.
Prison escape is admittedly almost as big a cliché as the tavern thing these days, but it still works pretty well. Unlike the tavern scenario, a common goal is immediately established by the setting and it's not a big stretch that the various characters would naturally want to work together in this scenario.
My most succesful start was actually when I simply told the players that they were all working for the church of Pelor (this was back in the days of 3.5). It made things so much simpler to just have them be part of a common organization from the beginning, but of course it requires that your players are willing to do this.
You should either get 4 or 8 levels in DD, depending on how much you wish to focus on spellcasting. The last two DD levels are almost never worth it, no matter what you want to do with your build.
My current Dragon Disciple is actually a pure sorceror/DD since I really want to get all the spells I can (even 9ths eventually) to make the hybrid playstyle viable. I rely heavily on having an obscene strength score to help offset low BAB when I fight in melee. It works pretty well so far (lvl 9), though that's partly due to our campaign being Mythic, which really has some powers that help the DD work.
I imagine it would still be possible to do a "pure" dragon disciple without mythic, though it would probably make spellcasting your primary trick and reduce melee to a backup option. You'd essentially trade two levels of spell progression for increased survivability, some dragon-themed tricks and a bit of melee proficiency. Not worth it from a pure optimization perspective, but still a quite viable build.
In a Warhammer Fantasy game we were trying to rescue a young girl who had been kidnapped by a local butcher whom we also suspected of being a Chaos cultist. Which lead one of our characters to exclaim:
"I think he plans to turn her into a demon or sausages!"
Minionmancer could perhaps work ok, but you'd really have to make sure that you can convince the rest of the party that it's a good idea (which will be very, very difficult if you have a typical goody, goody CC party).
It will of course be suicide to reveal to most NPCs in Ustalav that you practice that kind of necromancy, but having to be discreet about it could potentially give you some roleplaying opportunities. And when you are in civilized areas you still have the rest of your spell list to work with.
When I GMed CC the sorceror had the undead bloodline and did a bit of minionmancer necromancy and undead manipulation - but only when the party was far away from civilized areas. He also somehow managed to convince the rest of the party that his methods were ok, which frankly surprised me a little.
From a pure power perspective, spells like Command, Halt and Control Undead will be extremely useful for a lot of the campaign - the sorceror frequently managed to turn difficult encounters around by charming or dominating the opposition, so necromancy can certainly be a very useful school (though of course undead are also immune to a lot of the necromantic effects).
(Quickened) True Strike + the Combat Maneuver application of TK can be pretty potent. Good for bull-rushing people into pits/off cliffs/into prismatic walls, etc...
The combat maneuver feats should work for TK but might not be worth the investment since you can usually only attempt one per round anyway.
The pile of arrows + Flame arrow trick is nice, can be made even more potent with Greater Magic Weapon on top of that. DR is still a pain against this trick, though.
The Foresight school is good for certain applications of TK since it helps you know when you are likely to pull off a combat maneuver (or defeat SR). Transmutation is also a decent option, mostly because of the ridiculously awesome Annihilation Spectacles.
I picked Glitterdust for preferred spell with my own Foresight wizard.
It's 2nd level so you can convert to it from most spell slots, it scales meaningfully with Heighten so you can use higher slots efficiently too, it works on most things, it bypasses SR and it cause a debuff that is crippling in most cases (with some extra utility for defeating concealment when that applies).
Drawbacks are a small area and the fact that they get a new save each round. But even with those drawbacks it's still a highly useful spells that can be applied in most combat situations if you are out of other options.
Focusing on debuffing and control is very effective, but you need to have some tools to deal with immunities. Very few enemies are straight up immune to damage spells (a few are immune to certain elements, of course), but with a focus on debuffs you have to keep immunities in mind when picking spells (constructs, undeads and plants are usually the big offenders, though constructs tend to be immune to many damage spells anyway).
Glitterdust and Slow are among the most excellent debuff spells because they have powerful effects and relatively few monsters are directly immune to them. My divination wizard had Preferred Spell: Glitterdust for this reason - whatever kind of enemy he faced, he could convert his 2+ level spells to Glitterdusts, which would usually work well against almost all creature types (barring extraordinary senses and/or natural blindness).
I agree with you that the PF DD could use a serious capstone, though in most other ways I think it's superior to the old DD.
As for your specific suggestion, I really like giving claws/bite at will - I know many GMs houserule that already, and I don't really think it's overpowered. It's just a way to enable the character to fight as a dragon should all the time instead of a few rounds per day.
I don't think the spellcasting nerf is needed. 3.5 DD was needlessly crippling in this area, and even with the buffs you suggested I don't see a need to reduce spellcasting further than DD already does. The idea of returning some of the levels at the very end just seems a bit wonky and odd to me, I'm not sure it would be very fun in practice.
The half-dragon template as capstone is interesting, but while the stat boosts are handy I am worried that the rest of it overlaps way too much with the capstone of the draconic bloodline. A "pure" dragon disciple (sorc+dd only) can get access to the Draconic capstone at level 16 with a robe of arcane heritage (which many sorcerors use), so just 1 level after getting these powers from the prc.
That seems needlessly redundant. I think it would be better to offer something that doesn't overlap with the bloodline capstone itself (or something that becomes further buffed when you also get the bloodline capstone). I don't know what it should be, exactly, but I agree that a meaningful capstone is sorely needed (as it is nobody takes the last two levels of DD).
A good basic principle is to always have the best Cloak of Resistance you can afford. Saves should not be underestimated, especially not for sorcerors, who tend to have weak saves.
Robe of Arcane Heritage is nice, as mentioned. For Draconic it will help your breath weapon and give you earlier access to Wings and better natural armor. Great value - but unfortunately won't stack with armor since it takes the same slot.
Rods of Quicken are extremely useful, and with the kind of cash you've got you should be able to afford a regular one (lvl 1-6 spells) which is guaranteed to be immensely helpful. Even a Lesser is a very good item.
I forget what they're called, but I think there are some boots in the Magic Item Compendium in 3.5 that gives you short-range teleportation with a move action a few times per day. Those could be quite handy for a caster to get out of trouble - and probably useful than many of the PF alternatives to the boot slot (which I always thought were a bit lackluster).
Ring of Freedom of Movement is an amazing, if slightly pricey, defensive item. Grappling is one of the worst things that can happen to a spellcaster, and this negates that completely - in addition to a range of other nasty effects.
It could also be useful for teaching various characteristics of the fantasy genre in a more interactive way (assuming genre studies is something they do when studying literature), in addition to all the useful stuff already posted.
I am also a high school teacher and I've often thought about using PF to help teach English as a second language - but that's probably not applicable in your case.
I don't think Magician is *that* horrible. It does have some nice stuff going for it, though I would agree that many of its powers are very badly designed.
The biggest attraction is the ability to pull spells from other lists. This is particularly potent with the Summoner list, since it can grant you early access to some relatively powerful spells. Unfortunately the truly powerful stuff is outside the range of PFS levels, but you can still get some nice things.
Ill Omen from the Witch list is probably a nice choice for an off-list 1st level - it's a very good spell that stays relevant, and it fits perfectly with your idea of making other spellcasters better at what they do.
The other nice feature is that you can rock a Dispel check higher than most other casters thanks to Dweomercraft. You might play on this strength further and get traits and feats to crank up the CL of Dispel Magic even more, which will make you pretty good at dispelling and counterspelling stuff.
Remember that while you lose Inspire Courage you DO get Inspire Greatness, so you still have some music to buff martial types when your anti-caster performances(ie: Dweomercraft. Spell Suppression is indeed useless!) aren't needed.
Mythic Arcane Strike is really, really good. That could help a bit with your damage in melee (hint: Bane is your go-to enchantment of choice in almost all cases - unless perhaps DR/alignment is involved or you're fighting a mix of enemies, then Holy (or equivalent) could be better).
+2 to hit and +2d6+2 damage on every attack is nothing to sneeze at.
You might also want to look at mythic versions of many of the traditional bard buff spells, so you can at least act as a force multiplier even though you lack individual optimization. For example, Mythic Heroism is pretty cool (+4 to almost everything!) and lasts a long time.
Yeah, Blessing of Fervor is almost Haste+.
Sure, you have to choose the benefits each round, but since you very rarely move and full-attack in the same round it doesn't matter that you can't get both speed and the extra attack at the same time. So all you really miss out on is +1 to attack and AC - and the benefits are well worth it (especially the option to stand up from prone with a swift action without provoking! Godsend against trip-happy monsters).
I would make an archaeologist. Since you want to be full-attacking a lot, being able to activate your luck with a swift action from level 1 is a big deal. On yourself it's even better than inspire courage because it also buffs saves and skills.
Sure, your party will be missing out on your music, but you still get all the juicy buff spells from the bard list to make them happy. You even get to use those buffs that have anti-synergy with Inspire Courage and don't work as well for a normal bard, such as the excellent Gallant Inspiration.
You also get Evasion, which is a very big deal. You have a good base Reflex save, Dex will be your highest stat, you'll have Luck active most of the time and you'll likely have Heroism/Good Hope as well. Your Reflex will be through the roof (and your other saves will be pretty good too), so you'll be spending all game laughing gleefully at fireballs and dragons' breath.
Finally, the rogue talents you get will help you counter the feat-starved nature of the archer bard.
Wizard/Cleric/Mystic Theurge. Not optimal in-game, but it gives me the best access to reality-twisting powers of all varieties, as well as a lot of buffs to keep myself alive.
Wizards of course get the coolest spell lists, but the ability to cure any disease, heal any wounds and even bring back the dead would be insanely valuable in real life, for obvious reasons. Though I'd try to keep my powers a secret, otherwise I imagine everyone on earth would constantly seek me out to make use of my powers.
Mythic would be dual Hierophant/Archmage. Immortality and the one where you don't need to eat, drink, breathe or sleep would be primary picks for powers. Otherwise mostly defensive stuff to help ensure my survival.
I play a Dragon Disciple in WotR right now, it's a lot of fun.
I'm going for a "pure" dragon disciple (sorceror 12/DD 8 - because no one takes the last two levels of DD) who is a hybrid between casting and melee, but I'm still going to max out my strength as much as possible.
My BAB won't really be a problem, especially since I intend to go for Shapeshifting Mastery (archmage path ability) to buff my BAB greatly when in Dragon Form.
If you lean towards the martial side Champion might seem tempting, but don't underestimate the power of Archmage even for a martial build. Look at Enduring Armor, for example, or the aforementioned Shapeshifting Mastery. Mage's Strike might also be useful, though I chose to pass it up because of the sheer awesomeness of Wild Arcana.
Also, Mythic Bloodline + Wild Arcana + Coupled arcana will give you a buffed breath weapon, extra uses of said breath weapon and the ability to cast a spell with the same action when you breathe fire at people. A neat little trick.
Mythic spellcasting might also be useful. Mythic Heroism will help cover your big weaknesses (low saves, few skill points - and low BAB early on) and at high levels the mythic versions of Form of the Dragon will make you even more potent. Mythic Fly (augmented) can also boost your AC and saves quite significantly at higher tiers.
Also, DO take Mythic Arcane Strike. It's ridiculously good - even at tier 1 it lets you apply Bane to all your natural weapons spontaneously.
With my current Dragon Disciple I've chosen to prioritize strength over charisma, even though I intend to play him as a hybrid caster/melee. The logic is that if I buff Cha and skip Strength I won't be able to melee succesfully against bigger enemies at all(especially given relatively poor BAB), but if I buff strength and "skip" Cha (of course making sure I can meet minimum spell requirements) I can still be a fine spellcaster when I use spells that do not allow saving throws.
But if your plan is to be the magic dragon it's probably sensible enough to focus on Cha. My only worry is that it feels like many of the class features (like str boost and bite) are wasted if you don't play the melee aspect a little. Thus I wanted to be able to do both.
Mythic opens up some interesting new ways for arcane casters to stack armor bonuses - something that isn't normally viable for them.
Enduring Armor is the easy choice - mage armor that eventually scales up to 13.
Augmented Mythic Fly on top of that is another potential +10 Dodge bonus to AC (and +10 to reflex saves).
Add in the Mythic Paragon feat and both bonuses increase by 2.
That's +27 AC just using Dodge and Armor bonuses. Of course you can't have Fly active all day, but extended it can still last a good amount of time. Extend Spell actually becomes quite a bit better as a feat in Mythic because Mythic Power uses are much more precious than spell slots in most cases, so the tradeoff when extending Mythic buffs is very nice.
Arcane shapeshifters also love mythic.
Shapeshifting Mastery + Mythic Arcane Strike together negate some of the main drawbacks of polymorphing.
Your bad BAB is boosted to full, and you won't be in critical need of Amulet of Mighty Fists since you can buff all of your natural weapons with an enchantment of your choice with a swift action. This includes Bane, which is hilariously powerful when you have the power to apply it spontaneously as needed.
Your AC can also benefit fully from the aforementioned spells and powers while you are shapeshifted - in addition to the natural armor you get from polymorphing in the first place.
If you need to cast spells while polymorphed you can take component freedom a few times - or just be a dragon :-)
Archer Paladin is also incredibly solid if you like martial characters. You'll have nice AC and great saving throws, but also incredible offensive power. Especially when figting evil targets, of course.
Feats are easy, since most archers need some very specific. Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Manyshot. Probably deadly aim for extra damage. You'll miss out on Clustered Shots, but since you are a paladin you can usually just smite to bypass DR of key targets anyway.
The only real drawback to Paladin is the RP restrictions.
Otherwise any full caster will be powerful, even in Core only. Battlefield control wizard ala Treatmonk is always a potent build, for example. Druid is also a nice choice - tons of powerful class features and can work as both a caster and a melee hybrid.
Try to google The Celestial Aeon Project.
It's a great collection of purely instrumental music specifically designed for fantasy settings. It has calm and soothing tracks for quiter momemts, and upbeat stuff for combat and exploration. Perfect for background music, I've used it a lot for my campaigns.
Best of all, most of it is available legally and for free.
EDIT: Here's a link for it.
Your own ideas sound nice and balanced, I think.
You could perhaps also make a lower level version of Winds of Vengeance. It's an awesome spell fluffwise, but it's a bit weak for a 9th level spell so I think one could justify a lower level version (perhaps even without changing that much).
We're currently at the end of module 5 in CC, with a 4-man party (oracle, druid, sorceror and inquisitor).
At the end of this chapter Luvick will offer the players the reward of vampirism. I know the sorceror will take it, and it is possible the Inquisitor will go for it as well.
This will obviously give them a significant boost in power - especially the sorceror. I can always buff later encounters to compensate, but right now I mostly worry a bit about balance within the party.
I thought it might help if I came up with some other bonuses for the more good-aligned members of the party (druid and oracle). Perhaps some divinely granted reward for those who stay on the path of virtue instead of succumbing to the corruption of undeath. They have all been blessed by Desna at the stairs of the moon, but it could also be related to their individual deities (which I think are Sarenrae and Erastil).
So what I need is suggestions for mechanical benefits to give them that would fit divine fluff and be helpful to a wildshape druid and a healer oracle. Doesn't have to be as good as vampirism, necessarily, but just a little boost so they don't get left out. I thought about perhaps some kind of limited access to mythic power (which I plan to introduce fully at the very end of the adventure anyway), but beyond that I don't have specific ideas yet. Any suggestions are most welcome.