Mostly the kitchen sink - a country for each theme - approach, that makes the various regions seem disconnected, with clear borders between the orc and monster federation, the gothic horror people, the high tech robots and the medieval Russians and so on...
It's gets a bit better further south, where there are actual relationships detailed between the various - clearly political - entities, including a history and all that.
This extends to throwing in the Cthulhu Mythos and other such inclusions, it makes it all feel inorganic and unfocused, a patchwork without a real history and net of relationships to hold it all together.
Have combat scenarios that affect combat mechanically, such that there are more tactical concerns than just doing damage to the opponent. It can be simple, such as "break the crystal of zombie awakening to stop the from coming back the round after you killed them" to complex such as fighting on a teeter totter above a lava pit.
The first "boss battle" of Shards of Sin (Shattered Star 1) is another example where the location contributes a lot to the battle, making it interesting.
You can also combine Crane Style with Tiger Style. In particular, a two level MoMS dip can get you both Crane Riposte and Tiger Pounce, which let's you shift the penalty from Power Attack to AC, which is compensated by Crane Wing.
This is compatible with both a Dex and a Str focus, just remember to use a one handed weapon for your ripostes, which you two-hand while attacking regularly. This makes a fighter almost as powerful a melee combatant as a barbarian.
Dex focused Kensai can get pretty high AC. Between dex, int, shield and mage armor (via spell blending arcana) that part of defense is fine. Add spells like blur and mirror image.
Finally, a Kensai is better off focusing on buffing, since your diminished spellcasting will make it more difficult to blast out one direct damage touch spell per round. Spells like frostbite, which allow for several touch attacks also helps in this regard.
1) In general feats that have to be activated can be activated each round.2) Simply having a feat active is no benefit, the feat must contribute.
3) Improved Initiative kicks in in the first round only. After that it's just actions in sequence.
Moreover, any feat that allows you to endure more saving throws than any NPC ever would deserves much consideration. Thus, Lightning Reflexes is one of those that should be taken by everyone who has a poor class Reflex save.
The math I have presented goes for saves as well as for AC. All things being equal your benefit is almost always greater, the higher your reflex save is before adding LR. Anyone who has a high reflex save has a better reason to take Lightning Reflexes (all else being equal) than anyone with a low save.
Mobility does in fact help extensively in setting up flanking. Ever notice that when you are surrounded, if you want to flank someone you usually end up provoking attacks? I have. Happens all the time.
Mobility helps, but it's not worth a feat.
It seems to me that BtDD can basically be dropped into any campaign almost "as is". Just replace the shard with some other McGuffin (or nothing at all) and add a hook.
Am I mistaken in that conclusion? If so, what have I missed?
True, but you misrepresented my point. Everyone benefits from going first, but, ceteris paribus, fighters (and melee classes in general) profit less than caster classes. Add to this the particular dynamics of in-party initiative order. As a fighter, you generally want to move after the battlefield has been controlled and the buffs have come up. Compared to this, going before the enemy goes is less important, as long as the control and buffs have been laid down before it's their turn.So, improved initiative is not absolutely bad, but there are many better options to spend your feats as a melee character.
Usually, traps are rare and many offer saves vs. fortitude and will in addition to reflex in many cases, symbols and poison being most prominent. Reflex helps against some battlefield control (the pit spells, entangle, web, grease) but in general is mostly used for area of effect attacks to half damage.Again, the point is not that Lightning Reflexes is useless (it isn't), but that you have better options at almost every instance of selecting a feat.
Dodge is particularly useful for 2 handed Fighters, as they are down 2 points of AC anyway from not using a shield. Mobility is even better, since that flanking bonus is one of the few increases to attack rolls in the game. One can always find bonuses to damage, but just TRY to do the same with bonuses to attack! Plus, flanking helps out the Rogue and other classes to actually connect, seeing as how they don't get the +1 BAB each level.
Mobility does not help you set up flanking positions, it only helps against certain AoOs. Again, this is useful, but there are generally better options. Furthermore, there are cheaper alternatives to get the same benefit: the acrobatics skills, the five foot step, having high movement, teleportation effects once they become commonplace.
Secondly, in general the benefit derived from 1 point of AC increase is relative to the AC you start with. The extreme cases illustrate that. If your opponent needs a 19 to hit you and you push that to a twenty, you have reduced the number of attacks that will hit you by 50%, since instead of 10% (19-20) of attacks being successful, it's now only 5% (20). If on the other hand your opponent would need to roll a two to hit you and push that to a three, the frequency of hits goes from 95% to 90%, a decrease of about 5%.
From this we can conclude that Dodge is more worthwhile, the more other ways you have to increase your AC and less worthwhile, the lower your AC is without it. Dodge is a good feat for an AC focused build and a much less desirable feat for a less defensively oriented build. Since the OP's build is offensively oriented, I have recommended against it.
A Fighter is, if anything, the most "unoriented" class in the game, being able to be shaped into many different forms. It is entirely possible to build a strong AC using a fighter (using heavy armor, shields, combat expertise, the crane style series and, if your a halfling, the cautious fighter feat), but it is nowhere a foregone conclusion based on the class alone.
Never once by a player. Monsters do their special attacks of course.
As has been mentioned, maneuvers do no damage. Furthermore, they are difficult to land and require a lot of feat investment and specialization, making them undesirable for those classes, which could conceivably make good use of them: Anyone but casters and damage dealers. If you invest in a maneuver feat tree, you have basically invested most if not all of your feats in that maneuver, which often enough might not work against certain foes or face the quickly soaring CMD of creatures as they grow larger and their HD per CR increases.
There should have been one feat per maneuver or better yet, two feat each covering several maneuvers. That has been a general weakness of Pathfinder imho, spreading stuff that should have been one feat out over several.
Lightning Reflexes is pretty bad advice. A Fighter doesn't need to make reflex saves. He's got hit points for that. Iron Will is good advice. Failed will saves can turn you against your party.
Improved Initiative is also not very good advice. There are many classes which really profit from going first, but the fighter is not among them. There are better places to spend feats.
Dodge is good if you already have a high AC, which is not true for a two-handed fighter. If you want more resilience, get toughness. It also helps with your reflex save ;).
I wouldn't recommend Mobility unless you are going for spring attack.
I second Furious Focus. As longs as you have only one attack, it's basically free damage, since you have Power Attack anyway. Since you are a fighter, you can't really go wrong with Weapon Specialisation. +2 damage isn't huge, but it's always there.
Other feats to consider:
Lunge let's you attack with reach, if you really need to.
Step Up, Following Step & Step Up And Strike will become really useful once you have reliable iterative attacks.
IMHO the main reason to stay on beyond 4 is gaseous form and the flurry/fuse stlye upgrade at 8. But it does cost you another point of BAB and flurry is difficult to make efficient use of anyway.
2 levels gets you +3 to all saves, WIS to AC if you want it, up to 5 bonus feats, which, in particular for a master of many styles can allow you to skip prerequisites and give you very early access to stuff like crane riposte, tiger pounce or dragon ferocity. Even if you want to go unarmed, 2 levels give you all your really need. 4 levels get you another +1 to saves, fast movement, +1 AC, maybe still mind and a Ki-Pool, which might sometimes be useful. If you want to go unarmed, it also ups your unarmed damage to 1d8.
Now, crane stlye - riposte is a great defensive feat tree for builds willing to trade a 1d8 longsword for the 2d6 greatsword (or scimitar for falchion), tiger pounce is a crown jewels for all power attack users (in particular in combination with crane style helping to keep defenses stable). Dragon style & ferocity is a must have for unarmed damage builds and great for natural weapons builds, too.
And all of these things are opened up by only 2 levels of monk.
Being invisible when combat starts works usually, if you keep away from others. AoE is usually elemental damage, hence prebuffing for energy resistance can help. Just not standing around where everyone else is is probably the most low tech option, which can be improved if you have access to mobility enhancers such as fly.
The Adopted trait does not allow you to select a racial trait from the race descriptions. Instead, it gives you access to a trait (in the sense that Adopted is a trait) which could only be selected by a certain race.
The guide also lacks advice on feats and strategy advice.
There are rules for circumstantial modifiers. In particular there is a rule for how size effects intimidate. I would not advise going beyond these. After all, the power and experience of the Gorumite is already figured into the intimidate DC by including his hit dice. So is his ability to call a bluff by including his wisdom.
Traps are disarmed by Disable Device. Friends are made by diplomacy. Lies are told by Bluff. People are intimidated not by big people with big swords, but by charismatic people with Intimidate. That's how it works. You can throw anything out if you want to, but then do throw out the skill as well. If instead of the diplomacy skill, I can just rely on my college rhetoric course, the skill has not place in the game. Similarly, with disable device.
Do what every good fighter does: Multiclass.
2 levels of monk with the master of many styles and monk of the sacred mountain archetypes gets your no end of goodies. Not only do you get the monk's class skills, you also get a tremendous boost to your saves, 5 bonus feats, two of which can be style feats for which you do not need to have the prerequisites and one of which you probably wanted anyway (toughness).
Alternatively a level of rogue gives a little bonus incentive to flank and all the class skills you could ever want. Some of the archetypes are also really interesting. One level of thug is a great addition to any intimidating build, three give you the ability to make people sickened when you sneak them. A level of bard bumps your will in addition to giving you all the class skills. Take the dawnflower dervish archetype to get a battle dance for +2 to hit and damage, though you won't have many rounds. Or go archaeologist to get +1 to almost everything as a swift action. With even one level of bard, you can also use bard spells from wands without fear of failure.
Also consider finding some god or philosophy. Both cleric and oracle can provide you with useful class skills, get you access to clerical wands and a slew of first level spells and cantrips, that you can cast in armor. Cleric gives you two domains which can do some wonderful things for you, chief of which is the glorious gift of the travel domain, but there are many other useful abilities to be gained. Or pick just one domain and be a crusader cleric with a bonus feat from a small but not bad list. Oracles can customize their class skills to a degree and choose from among mysteries, some of which can be quite nice, depending on what you want for you character.
Now, all these options cost you a point of BAB. In my humble opinion a fair price to pay. But the full-BAB classes can also offer some rewarding multiclassing. The ranger gives extra skill points and a good selection of class skills, a favored enemy (non-racists need not apply, it seems) and, if you take the trapper archetype, which cost you nothing, you get trapfinding and disable device as a class skill. Two levels get you a bonus combat style feat (which you cannot use in heavy armor, though).
Multiclassing, it's classy.
Maneuver Master is almost mandatory for reasons of action economy.
Reward players for their choices more than for their dice rolls.Say a love letter with important information is hidden under the pillow in someone's bedroom. Instead of (or in addition to) a perception check, if some thinks to check under the pillow, give them the clue. And, as I said never lay out only one copy of an important piece of information.
At best, you can improvise clue placement in such as way as to leave the story coherent and logical, but that is very difficult and requires a great skill of keep the overview.
Right now I'm considering just having a fail-safe event occur after a period of time that points the investigators toward the final dungeon, where all questions will be answered. If they solved any previous mysteries, they will be better prepared and better informed about what they are facing, but they still get to go fight the Big Bad. Does that reduce the importance of their investigations to mere side quests? Am I being too nice here!?
Well, here is what shouldn't happen: The PCs don't achieve anything during the adventure and then suddenly there's the BBEG to fight. Such lack of context is not a good thing. So rather then just letting the adventure solve itself, drop in some events in order to nudge the PCs in the right direction or help them see something they've been missing. It would even be better to just point something out to them, rather then just dropping the hammer with no explanation or apparent reason.
Here is some things to keep in mind:
Vary combat: different terrain, enemies, goals.
Offer several choices to the players, which all lead to the goals you have in mind. If you need them to do several things, arrange it such that they can pick the sequence.
If you want them to find something out, place at least three independently accessible clues for them to find.
Keep NPCs in line. Don't let them overshadow the PCs, don't make them do the things the PC should be doing (in particular, don't do all exposition via one NPC, let the Players figure out stuff for themselves.) A prime offender in this regard is the Serpent Skull AP, where late in the campaign, an NPC appears and suddenly bringts the plot around by telling the PCs exactly what is going on and what they have to do about it.
Keep enemies at a manageable level. If you need some to survive, use failsaves rather then making them unbeatable.
Prepare some enemies with basic outlines of personalities such that if one of them should survive an encounter with the PCs, you can use them again but are still willing and able to let them die, if actual play makes that the outcome.
Look to include some opportunity to shine with they particular strength or special features for each PC. This can be based on the abilities (such as an otherwise powerful enemy that can be brought down with an ability) or the story background (e.g. the PCs are admitted into so place or group due to background, status or connections) of the character. Try to include at least one such opportunity per character and Main Part your adventure has. They don't all need to be big.
Consider the pacing of your adventure. To begin with a good and easy structure is:
The game would encourage planning far less if
a) the differences in power between high level characters and low level characters where less pronounced, relative to the challenges. Right now, the idea is that you level up and meet more powerful enemies. If you set it up so characters developed more horizontally than vertically with the challenge difficulties between enemies less pronounced and requiring less power and more tactics (in a broad sense).
b) the differences in power between optimized (playing to your strengths as defined by class) and unoptimized builds where less wide. The fault here lies with classes. Despite feats and other customization, classes still define how you can become powerful and exclude other ways. There are some feats e.g. that lack a class to make them good and some classes, that lack feats to make them good.
c) classes were more self contained and offered less customization or only class specific customization tailored to the classes and comparatively minor in impact.
Hence, I think that the combination of restraints by class and customization options unequal in that framework on the one hand and the "bigger bad guys" syndrome on the other encourage optimization and planning.
Not that feat trees don't play a part either, but compared to the way a class restricts character development and defines what is a powerful choice and what isn't, feat trees are a minor aspect of the game, in particular because more often than not, feat taxes are not worth the boon of the feat trees final element.
In their defense, they straight out say so in the FAQ on their website. Which isn't hidden or hard to find. It's an inside joke referring to a specific thread in a specific forum and one may resent set but they are obviously not trying to pass of their joke as actual history.
When it comes to things that being ignorant about is bad, the history of gaming is really low on the list of priorities.
I'd punch them in the mouth if I could get in the room with them.
That in particular is a highly unwarranted response.
I'm planning a revision and hopefully will present something with a lot less typos and grammar issues.
True, but there are guides for general spell selection for the respective classes and those of course still apply. The guide is more about a method than about a build. There are interesting, varied and unexpected options for benefiting from an animal companion not available to druids and that is what was to be pointed out and analyzed.
So to answer your first question: The spells are covered regarding whether they are useful to buff your animal companion. Even a non human sorcerer will have man more spells known than just those dedicated to improved the companion, but this is not a guide to those spells.
I'll admit, when I first saw that you wrote a guide on animal companions for non-druids, I rolled my eyes a bit, but I'm pleasantly surprised by your guide.
You're welcome. I was counting on some incredulous stares and mild surprise on the choice of theme ;).
Well done, and I'd like to thank you for opening my eyes to Mighty Strength, which I had never noticed before, and HOLY CRAP THAT'S AN AWESOME SPELL.
It is indeed. I guess it's borderline OP when used on a companion, but doesn't really cross that line imho.
Instead of bandying about sexual fears and loophole phobia here are two more rational thoughts:
First, a moral one: The product in question is for all intents and purposes the druid's child, and selling one's own offspring into slavery without need and in a rational calculation of economic profit is a good paradigm case for evil.
Second, a practical one: Breeding and raising livestock is made no less a full-time occupation by taking on the role of breeding bull oneself and hence certainly not compatible with another full time occupation, much less one requiring constant mobility, such as adventuring.
This discussion makes me think that this game really needs some metaphysics.
But concerning the limitations of figments: Create the illusion of a wall or floor just a milimeter above the pit. The wall or floor should count as things.
Concerning pits as nothing: A similar argument can be made against any container or hollow thing being a thing. A pit is just walls surrounding a hollow on all but one side. But: where I want to create the pit, there is already something else (I guess "air" or even "water" do not count as something else in these cases, else illusions would not work at all.
Anything, the mere sight of it (without other senses required) would encourage a desired reaction and discourage any further interaction with it: Walls, Pits, Brambles, Razorwire, obviously plague infected corpses.
Also: false floors to make people jump down (into pits e.g.), thinking that it's only a 2 feet drop.
Anything that should make a sound or have a salient smell should be avoided.
The Aldori Swordlord PRC is very feat intensive. It's unlikely that you will be able to fit much of anything else in there.
But if you want to go that route, get yourself 2 levels of Cavalier or Samurai (Oder of the Cockatrice) and get that phenomenal intimidate score to good use.
It's the players who are interacting with the rules, not the characters, because it is the players who make the decisions and roll the dice. Beyond what defines them as rule constructs, the characters are pieces of fiction: Storythings which might be imagined as knowing about the rules or not. Just think of OotS.
In that sense, it is rather irrelevant whether or not the characters know about saves and classes, because it's not them who are playing the game. It's us, and we know the rules.
I cannot believe that some people complain about dipping from a point of realism and story telling. The very moment you get a class and level system, realism and story telling has been excluded from the system itself, relegated to non-rule areas of the game.
It's a rules abstraction, there because the game is a game, a rule based interaction with the goal of being fun and enjoyable and not a simulation. If it was, what exactly would it be a simulation of anyway?
And if the rules say I can dip crossblooded sorcerer to get +2 damage per die on all my damage spells, then that's what I can do, if I play that game. I don't need to make up any narrative explanation for it, my character would certainly never think of himself as a sorcerer/wizard multiclass, but maybe understand that he improved his innate magical talents by hard work and study and that there is something in him, that empowers his burning hands beyond what his co-students at Wizard U could do. But mainly he will think of himself as a Wizard.
There might be an issue with the rules, that such a thing is possible, but it is not an issue to employ it in character creation, once it has been agreed upon that it is a legal option. And if it turns out to be problematic while actually playing the game, there is nothing wrong with house ruling it. It's your game, you're supposed to enjoy it.
But to claim that, in effect, using dip options that gimp your character is fine and using ones that empower him is not I find problematic. Power gaming is not a weird fetish of evil men, but a simple result of the fact that some choices make it more probable and others less probable to succeed in the game's mechanics of conflict resolution. Live with it or improved the rules, but do not blame people simply because they chose to look left and right before crossing the street while you are a fan of running blindly with scissors.
Casters multiclass really badly, since their main power depends on their class level in their original class only.
A Fighter e.g. should almost always dip into Monk (in particular the Master of Many Styles and Maneuver mMster archetypes), as doing so will almost always be beneficial in excess of the delayed weapon training and BAB.
Simply put: For certain builds, it can be flavorful, for some highly specialised builds even profitable, but in general, it will make you weaker and less versatile by taking away from your main powers (spells, companion, wildshape) which are all class level based.
Here is an example of an off kilter build where such multi classing plays to its strengths.
Four levels of the Lion Shaman druid archetype give you wildshape into a Dire Tiger 2/d for 6 hours each. That's enough to last you a day. Add in 2 levels of Monk (Master of Many Styles and Monk of the Sacred Mountain) to get yourself access to Tiger Pounce and take the rest of your levels in Barbarian or Fighter or whatever full-bab class you prefer.
Note that this build is not really a druid, since he will have no profit from an animal companion and only very limited spell casting, but if the goal is to optimize turning into a Dire Tiger and mauling people, the multi classing can help with that.