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RPG Superstar 2015

Axe's Guide to PFS Clerics (Optimization)


Advice

Shadow Lodge

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Well today I decided I was tired of Treantmonk being the only game in town for Pathfinder optimization so I wrote up a guide for clerics.

Here is my first draft, it's done with the same color coding and general style of treantmonks. It's
Axe's Cleric Guide

Some things to note:

While I agree with most of what Treantmonk says there are some things I value differently quite differently. The items that immediately come to mind are damage over time effects and fogs. In my experience damage over time effects never get anywhere near to running their course, instead the fighter wanders by and slaughters your target. As for the fogs I find them generally to be limited utility spells that are not commonly useful.

Once again this is my first draft so it still needs some work but I thought I'd go ahead and share what I have so far. Feel free to comment, especially on judgments I've made that you disagree with, while in the end it's my guide I'm curious as to others opinions.


First impression:
Str 7 is very, very low. Even if you use mithral fullplate and darkwood shield, you only have 40 lbs to your maximum capacity. Any kind of strength penalty (whether poison, ray of enfeeblement, or anything else) and you're out of the game. With heavy encumbrance, running will be impossible - not only will you be slow, but any kind of difficult terrain will have you flat on the ground instantly, with your -6 acrobatics.

EDIT: GAH! Forum ate my edit.

I'm in favor of a more balanced approach to the stats. Even when optimizing, we must take some consideration of role-playing. Int 7 makes for a really stupid person, and it's not that expensive to have it higher than that. A cleric is first and foremost a support caster, with a lot of good buffs, debuff removal and such. Dropping Wis to 17 you can increase Int to 10, so you can max perception and get a decent stat in both knowledge religion and sense motive.

Con and Dex don't seem like big needs, though. You get good fort, decent hit dice, you have heavy armor, healing and resistance capabilities. I think con 10 is fine, especially if you take the toughness feat.
Dex is nice for initiative, but you won't be in melee so I don't think the armor bonus will be that important. At low levels, armor and shield will keep you hard to hit, and at higher levels AC isn't worth that much anyway.

Personally, I'd drop Con to 10 and Wis to 17, and raise Str to 9 and Int to 10.

EDIT2:
Also, no heavy armor proficiency means any kind of spell that relies on a ranged touch will be worthless. Those aren't that many, but they include Energy Drain.

Dark Archive

I'm not sure what you intend to do with this Cleric. The strength and dex are too low to have a character that's viable in melee or ranged combat. The Cleric's spell list doesn't have that much in the way of offensive magic compared to the arcane list. So what, you're a buffing and healing machine?

I also think that you are overvaluing channel. While great, it's not so needed that you can't drop your Cha down to something lower. Before too long, you'll be using Wands and low level spells for your healing, especially if you have a secondary healer like a Paladin, Inquisitor, Druid, Bard, or Oracle. Even if you want more channels it seems easier to take the Extra Channel feat.

I'd look at stats more like this

Str 16 Dex 10 Con 10 Int 7 Wis 17 Cha 11

That's without the benefit of any racial adjustment. Picking a human will give you a + 2 that you could add to really pump your Wisdom or you could lower it from 17 to 16 and pump Cha and Con a bit. Then, with your two first level feats you could get both selective channeling and extra channels. You don't need Dex because you've got a shield, though, you could switch out str and dex to make a decent archer.

I think it's a mistake to focus too much on the idea of healing wounds and forgetting that one of the best ways to heal is to never have the damage happen in the first place. By making your Cleric an active participant in battles you'll kill enemies faster so they can't hurt your allies.


YuenglingDragon wrote:
I'm not sure what you intend to do with this Cleric. The strength and dex are too low to have a character that's viable in melee or ranged combat. The Cleric's spell list doesn't have that much in the way of offensive magic compared to the arcane list. So what, you're a buffing and healing machine?

He says specifically that this is a casting cleric, and while the number of offensive spells on the lists isn't that high, you don't need that many of each level. There's quite a good number of debuffs and a few battlefield control spells:

1 - Bane, cause feat, command, doom, obscuring mist
2 - Darkness, enthrall, hold person, shatter, silence, sound burst
3 - Bestow curse, blindness/deafness
4 - Chaos Hammer & Co, lesser planer ally
5 - Greater command, insect plague, symbol of pain & sleep

and so on, topping of with energy drain and implosion. In addition to those, summon monster iii and higher are really useful.

EDIT: I agree with you on channel energy though. It's very useful if you fight a lot of undead, otherwise it's nice but not that good. Selective Channeling is worth considering though, because when you DO need to heal, it's quite nice not to heal the enemy.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

I'm also going to have to disagree pretty seriously with the stat array in here. Dex 12 is pretty unimportant, my current Cleric ended up taking a Dex of 9 and it has been a non issue. Strength 7 is way too low, a first level arcane caster hits you with a Ray of Enfeeblement and congratulations, you now lose your Dexterity bonus to AC and can only move 5 feet as a full round action (And depending on how your GM interprets the rules, nastier things like falling pone and being unable to get up...). I'm also not a fan of dumping Int like that, being decent at a couple knowledge skills is useful, especially Religion and Planes, since they cover undead and outsiders, the two things you should be good at handling.

YuenglingDragon's stat array seems much more reasonable for a melee capable cleric. For a more castery/control/support cleric these seem more reasonable:

STR: 10 DEX: 10 CON: 14 INT: 10 WIS: 17 CHA: 12

If you absolutely have to have that 20 in Wisdom at character creation,

STR: 9 DEX: 10 CON: 12 INT: 10 WIS: 18 CHA:12

But personally, I don't mind the wait until level 4 for the Wisdom bump, and like the extra Con for HP.

On something of a side note, I'm not convinced initiative is something for a Cleric to focus on. Most of your best debuffs/save or sucks are single target, especially at lower levels (Command, Cause Fear, Doom, Blindness/Deafness, Bestow Curse) so there can be an advantage to going later in the round and knowing which opponent to take out. No reason to make the mook Warrior 1 run away for a couple rounds while the class leveled, templated NPC goes to town on your front line because you didn't know who to Fear...

All of that said, I'm glad somebody is working on a guide for Clerics, I've thought about it a time or two but never got motivated enough :)


I went through the domains. What I did was that I first read the domains myself and rated them, and then compared with your ratings, and I must say that although we agree sometimes there's a lot of good domains that you don't give credit.

When you pick a domain for a spellcasting cleric, you have to keep in mind that what you need is first and foremost more offensive spells. While the cleric certainly has some, especially single target ones, he also has a limited amount of slots. It's important to be able to use that domain slot for an offensive spell, preferably a battlefield controller as the cleric has bad access to those generally.

For the second domain, this isn't as important. There I would pick something with great utility value, like knowledge or travel, or something with good abilities but bad spells (if the first domain has reaaally good spells). You don't want dead weight in your domain slots.

I think you overrate the abilities importance by a large margin - they are usually quite mediocre, with only a few that would heavily affect the choice of domain (animal and travel). Spells are far more important. It's a plus if the spell given isn't on the cleric's list, but it's not a huge one.

The ones I disagree most with are:

Animal. I'd put this as blue, no doubt. An animal companion is EXTREMELY useful, both offensively and defensively (and has utility value too). This is no doubt he best domain ability in the game. The spells aren't that good, decent summons but not much else. Should be combined with an offensive domain, but still really good.

Darkness - Also a blue one. While I agree that the feat and touch are bad, the buff is really nice IMO. It pierces all darkness, has no max range unlike darkvision, and is active long enough for in-combat value. The spells though, are wonderful. They're the best balanced list of all I think. It has great battlefield control, nice debuffs, a not-so nice summon, and shadow walk is nearly as nice as teleport.

Death - I'd put this as green unless you're in a good party (which is pretty common). The abilities aren't great, but the spells are really nice. And the Wail is simply cool as hell.

Glory - I don't think this one is that good. In an undead-heavy campaign it might be nice, but otherwise it isn't that interesting. To me, it's a clear orange (unless very undead-heavy campaign, but then it still wouldn't be the best). There are some decent buffs on the list, but you've got plenty of buffs on the normal cleric list so you don't really need them. The touch don't seem that useful becaue it only works once.

Repose - In an undead-heavy campaign, this is far better than glory. The high-level spells aren't mediocre, they're great and just the kind of spells that a cleric needs more of.

Rune - I think this is a nice domain. Scribe scroll is gotten at level 1 so you don't need no replacement feat. The trap is nice too, and the spells are good though they need to be combined with something more offensive.

Weather - This is a blue one for me. The blast is the best one of all, since it applies a debuff with no save, and I think it would often be used at low levels. The spell list is a combination of the best air and best water spells, they're great crowd control. It's a wonderful offensive domain.


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stringburka wrote:

I went through the domains. What I did was that I first read the domains myself and rated them, and then compared with your ratings, and I must say that although we agree sometimes there's a lot of good domains that you don't give credit.

You can check out my guide to cleric domains at d20pfsrd here.

AxeMurder0 wrote:
Well today I decided I was tired of Treantmonk being the only game in town for Pathfinder optimization so I wrote up a guide for clerics.

I dunno, I like Cryptic's Paladin Guide (and obviously I agree with my own guides to Rogues and Fighters). Plus 0gre has started a pretty solid Alchemist Guide.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I just wanna interject that Strength and Earth domains are probably better than rated (if only slightly) for the sole reason that Stoneskin is basically a free cast when coming from a Cleric. A mage or sorcerer has to spend 250 gold pieces per cast for a Stoneskin spell, but a Cleric's prayer just needs to flash his holy symbol... no expensive cost.

Shadow Lodge

Updated it a little bit with a few possible stat arrays. I need to give the domains a more through look and then figure out which combinations are possible based on deities since Pathfinder Society does not allow clerics of the pantheon.

I was poking fun at the surprisingly large number of players who didn't really follow any of the non-treantmonk guides. I meant no disrespect to writers of the many other fine guides here.

I had missed Rogue Eidolon's domain guide which looks quite good. I learned already about travel's hidden 10ft of movement and expect to learn more there as well.

Is stoneskin really a free cast for clerics? If so I'm definitely underrating it.
I know some spells such as Undeath to Death are listed as M/DF (Material/Divine Focus) but I don't see why stoneskin wouldn't incur the material costs for clerics, but I might be missing something.

Scarab Sages

I've just toyed around with a few cleric concepts for the Age of Worms campaign that we're likely to start after our Legacy of Fire concludes (one way or another). Although I'd like to try out something new, such as an Archer or a Summoner, as I know my co-players no-one will want to play a healing-capable character, so I might bite the bullet and play another cleric. We started out with a no-healer party in LoF and let me tell you, those were the longest three levels I've ever played before my Paladin got to 4th...

Anyway, I came up with three concepts for clerics with a distinctly different feel from my cleric of Desna two games back. I'd like to bounce them off you to see whether I'm gimping myself in any obvious way. I'm very interested in low-level playability, but since AoW theoretically runs up to 20th level, I don't want to build myself into any culs-de-sac either. In all cases, I'd like to be able to contribute meaningfully in combat, at least until my spells become useful and numerous enough to take over center stage.

1) Dwarf cleric of Gorum
Alignment: N
Domains: Ferocity and Rage
Stats: S 16 D 12 C 14 I 07 W 16 X 12
Starting feats: Power Attack, Heavy Armor Proficiency, Ferocious Focus, Steel Soul, Toughness...

The dwarven rager is quite a departure from my usual conscientious hey-do-we-really-wanna-do-that characters. I'm not sure I like the aesthetics much though.

2) Elven cleric of Calistria
Alignment: CN
Domains: Trickery, Curse
Stats: S 12 D 18 C 12 I 09 W 14 X 12
Starting feats: Point-Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Deadly Aim, Manyshot, Quicken Spell...

This one sound like lots and lots of fun to play, and should be a decent shot with the longbow. Am I going too far with D 18 W 14 though? I figure I won't be using too many DC-heavy spells. Hold Person, probably, but does that +1 DC matter that much in the end...?
Very aesthetic character, no doubt. Might pick the Calistrian Temple Prostitute trait. ;)

I realize Human would be better for feats and stats, but I'd have to buy longbow proficiency, and it would just be less stylish...

3) Human cleric of Erastil
Alignment: NG
Domains: Plant, Feather
Stats: S 14 D 18 C 12 I 07 W 14 X 12
Starting feats: Point-Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, WF: Longbow, Deadly Aim, Manyshot, Quicken Spell...

Great combination of abilities and spells in those domains -- Entangle, Barkskin, FLY! --, and free longbow proficiency. What's not to love for an archer?

Too bad all my ideas are going to be horrible at skills, but hey, can't have everything.


Catharsis wrote:

1) Dwarf cleric of Gorum

Alignment: N
Domains: Ferocity and Rage
Stats: S 16 D 12 C 14 I 07 W 16 X 12
Starting feats: Power Attack, Heavy Armor Proficiency, Ferocious Focus, Steel Soul, Toughness...

I'm not sure if you're intending these feats to be in order, but you can't get Power Attack until level 3 because it requires BAB +1. Clerics only have BAB 0 at level 1 :(

Eric

Scarab Sages

Eric Mason 37 wrote:


I'm not sure if you're intending these feats to be in order, but you can't get Power Attack until level 3 because it requires BAB +1. Clerics only have BAB 0 at level 1 :(

D'oh! I thought they had fixed that in Pathfinder, but I must have been thinking of Finesse instead.

I guess I'll move up Armor Proficiency, then. Although I won't be able to afford full plate until level 3 or so, I can't wait till level 5 to get it... I think I'd be too squishy in a breastplate.

Also, I've been thinking of using the Holy Warrior option from the Pathfinder Campaign Setting. Sounds just like what a Gorum follower would do... don't know whether my DM would accept that, though. I'd guess not.

Liberty's Edge

I can't condone going weaponless for any character of any class like you recommend. Even if it's just a non-magical mace, especially at low levels, you WILL run out of spells. At higher levels, you WILL encounter a dead-magic area. It's unconscionable to refuse to pack a weapon and make yourself completely useless in these situations.


Catharsis wrote:
Eric Mason 37 wrote:


I'm not sure if you're intending these feats to be in order, but you can't get Power Attack until level 3 because it requires BAB +1. Clerics only have BAB 0 at level 1 :(

D'oh! I thought they had fixed that in Pathfinder, but I must have been thinking of Finesse instead.

I guess I'll move up Armor Proficiency, then. Although I won't be able to afford full plate until level 3 or so, I can't wait till level 5 to get it... I think I'd be too squishy in a breastplate.

Also, I've been thinking of using the Holy Warrior option from the Pathfinder Campaign Setting. Sounds just like what a Gorum follower would do... don't know whether my DM would accept that, though. I'd guess not.

Du de stick with the domains. Rage +2 rage powers (i like reckless abandon and moment of clarity) more than make up for the extra bab. Ferocious strike makes you standard attacks nice. The extra rage power feat is better than normal feats anyway so cherry pick the best ones.

THAT'S what a cleric of Gorum would do!


Labeling this as a cleric guide is slightly dangerous in my opinion. Rather, it is one players way of playing cleric. This guide is in my opinion a rather sub-optimal way of designing a cleric.

I believe low STR as a cleric is very sub-optimal. My stat preference for cleric is STR-WIS-CON-CHA-DEX-INT. If I was using a 20 point distribution, it might be something like STR 14+2 DEX 12 CON 14 INT 10 WIS 14 CHA 13

Of course this is my opionion of how I like to play cleric which is fine because this post is not a guide.

My belief is this - your character should be able to solo monsters on his own. What happens if everyone else in the party is disabled? Making a character based on this guide means TPK.

With the introduction of the APG, I looked at several concepts:

1) Cleric of Shelyn with Love and Defense domains. Defense is a pretty strong AC buff domain with the addition of Shield and Bark Skin as domain spells. Love has the ability to force a will save to prevent an attack. Shelyn gets glaive as a weapon, which synergizes with the shield spell.

2) Cleric (diety any) to go to level 7, then transition to holy vindicator. Takes advantage of holy vindicator's ability to get a large sacred bonus to AC on the shield.

3) I like the gorum cleric idea above. Sounds very interesting to play.

4) The old standby - Sarenrae healing (which can be upgraded to restoration) and fire. If you want your cleric to heal, having all cure spells empowered at level 6 is huge.


Where does it say that any animate dead are lost at the end of a PSF play, thus losing your expended onyx?

Liberty's Edge

I've been playing a cleric in PFS for 6 levels now, and I confess that I haven't given him Selective Channeling and haven't missed it at all.

I keep hearing how great it is, but combat healing is such an inefficient way to play your character actions-wise that taking this feat commits part of your character to something that really should rarely come up. I mean, sure, you could channel and pick up after a fireball, OR you could drop a wall of stone and cut that off entirely.

Selective Channel may be an alright feat for levels 1-3, when the 1d6 and 2d6 are significant, but at later levels, when the fighter is dealing tons of damage every time he hits, healing that one enemy for 17 points isn't going to have any meaningful impact on the battle. It's also a feat that hinges on what's a tertiary or a quaternary stat for a lot of clerics, so investing in said stat takes away from other stuff your character should have instead, meaning that building stats with this feat in mind will actually weaken you in the long haul.

The one argument I see for selective channel is that there aren't that many great feats for clerics. Here's my philosophy on optimal feat usage: Figure out what the most powerful thing your character does, and take feats that enable you to do that thing more often, or do it better. For clerics, their most powerful class feature is spellcasting, and how frequently you cast spells as a cleric is generally a function of how incapacitated your character is at the time - so feats that keep a cleric from being incapacitated would be feats I'd take before selective channeling. I'd even take extra channeling before selective channeling, because at least extra channeling could conceivably save you some spells you might have otherwise spontaneously turned into cures. Spellcasting better falls under the umbrella of spell focus and spell penetration, but a lot of the best cleric spells don't use those feats. Selective channeling doesn't let you cast spells more often or any better, it just means that, under some circumstances, you won't heal one monster when performing one very specific action for less damage than half of what the fighter does every time he swings his sword.


I'm not an expert on clerics, so thanks for making a second guide.
However is a cleric really a good caster? Wouldn't it be easier to be a witch? You don't use your BAB at all.

The 7 Str is a joke I hope, you don't mention +Str items, want to carry a full plate and heavy shield... okay if you are a dwarf then it's not that bad, only -6 penalty and max dex of 1 (you won't use that with caster build ok)
However you can carry 70 lbs (max heavy load) Full plate is 50 and heavy steel shield is 15. So you can carry 5 lbs of other stuff...

I'm not a stickler for rules, however any person I would see with such heavy equipment and 7 Str would have to keep track of it or isn't encumbrance of any importance in PFS?

Shadow Lodge Star Voter 2013

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Just a wuick glance through so far, but I wanted to point out a few things I noticed (and realize how old some of the responces are).

The guide if for PFS, which has slightly different rules and expectations than other games.

Undead creation is basically pointless, because it is costly and PFS do not get to keep the undead after the adventure. That makes the Death Domain very weak. Also Item creation is not allowed, so Rune Domain does not give you Scribe Scroll, but rather (I think) Skill Focus: spellcraft. Not so great.

In PFS, yo will never get Wail of the Banshee, so that's not great for the Death (or other Domains either).

I think you overstate the power of Wis (and Cha/Channeling). Especially in PFS, where you don't know what sort of party you will be in, and will be frequently changing party make-ups, Channeling (both to heal and harm), is fairly weak past 3rd-5th level. That is even if you are pretty decently built for being a Channeler, it just doesn't keep up and fast becomes a trap. Secondly, Str, Dex, and Int are actually pretty useful for the Cleric, and the truth is, the Cleric doesn't have a dump stat. Of them all, I would say the Str OR Dex can take the hit the easiest, but none can really suffer that much before the Cleric becomes basically an NPC.

Shadow Lodge Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Minor dieties would be useful. Str is useful. Cleric is also fairly MAD, so I don't think any race is awful.

Basically, your guide needs work.


I think this guide should endeavor to include subdomains and clerics of lesser deities as stated before. I intentionally left the lesser deities and much of the gods and magic material out of my guide as I intended it to be somewhat more universal and included only the corebook gods.

I would also never completely dump strength ever. You want to wear thick armor, you want to carry a shield, you want to be able to hold a weapon, you want to be able to make touch attacks. If you can't carry armor you don't have a good armor class.

Some of the domain ratings have me scratching my head as well. Animal domain over chaos? Seriously? Did you actually read the touch of chaos power? It's a debuff to all d20 rolls for one round. That includes saves, attack, rolls, skill checks, everything and anything. It opens up the bad guy to all sorts of shenanigans. If you take Protean as opposed to pure chaos it gets even more hilarious.

Essentially the clerics I envision coming out of this guide would have the resident PFS guru Mike Schneider pulling his hair out. It advocates going skillless, and crawling on all fours to get to a place where the enemy calmly steps forward, trips them, then quickly murders them as they can't even make an attack of opportunity to discourage the brutal beating they're about to receive.


My 2 cents:

Clerics come in 2 flavors:

1) Caster centric, totally focused on wis and con with str at about 12.
high DCs, sac to heals as needed, desna as the god of choice.

2) Melee cleric, then follow cryptic's paladin [edit] guide modded for lack of certain abilities.


I've been having fun with a Cleric-as-Channeler build in PFS. Negative channeler at that.

Why I like Negative Channel:

1) It's a huge area of effect for a PFS module.
2) It's a Will save - generally the weakest save for beat-stick NPCs.
3) Even if they make it, it's still half damage.
4) You can take Command Undead; mindless undead are wonderful meat-sponges and something that seem to show up in 3/4 of the PFS modules out there. Having a zombie you can patch up after running ahead to find/trigger traps is sort of like the joke about Cleric Feather Fall:

"AAAAAAIIIIIIGH!"
*whump*
"Cure Moderate Wounds"
"Gorum says "Get the hell off the ground and fight.""

Liberty's Edge

Small races actually make the best clerics in PFS -- especially if they're mounted (which, in the case of PFS dungeon-crawls, will be full-time for halflings or gnomes). Additionally, you are penalized less for being weak than normal-sized creatures are -- because your gear weighs half as much to start with, while your load limits don't decline as sharply. You're AC+1 and attack+1 vs normal-size (important for delivering touch-attacks spells while avoiding feed-back), and receive an extra channel due to racial boost to CHA.

I would avoid low dexterity and heavy armor in any class which does not have Swim and Climb on their lists and have enough INT to put ranks in them -- nothing sucks worse than having awesome AC while you're drowning or plummeting to your death or sliding down some monster's gullet due to -8 armor-check penalties for skills you don't even have ranks in.


I can't believe I just read all that. Worst cleric optimization guide ever. I haven't played since 3rd edition and just reading some forums and the manuals I can make a more OP cleric than this crap guide. Your a worthless heal-bot what a boring class to play. "Weapon anything just don't bother" wow really man.

Star Voter 2014

I think the variety in clerics give them a huge advantage. I dipped one level in cleric to get the strength domain so my PFS fight could enlarge. I use a reach weapon with combat reflexes and threatenth 20 feet away.

Shadow Lodge

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Is this guide still around somewhere? The link is leading to a 404 error.

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