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Min / Maxing a controller sorcerer


So we're about to start a Pathfinder conversion of Return To The Temple Of Elemental Evil. The whole of the Pathfinder SRD is open to us for character creation, minus guns, psionics, and non-core races. I want to play a human arcane bloodline sorcerer.

So here's the setup:

We're starting at 3rd level with 1500 GP, but the only magic items we can start with are 1st level scrolls and potions.

Our stat generation method is to roll 4d6 and reroll 1s and 2s. Which is pretty beefy. And I just killed the numbers, 18, 17, 17, 16, 15, 12. That's way better than this roll method usually gets.

I'm thinking Cha: 18+2, Con: 17, Dex: 17, Int: 16 (for skills), Wis: 15, Str: 12

We've got 2 traits, and we're playing with Hero Points, but no other special rules.

Beyond the generous stats, the DM is a hard-ass. Encumbrance is in effect and monsters are out to kill. I don't want spoilers on the dungeon, but I hear it's a tough one. If all the extra abilities Pathfinder doles out make things too easy, I know he'll up the challenge level of the monsters.

The dungeon runs to level 15, but I'd be surprised if we get that far. Our last Pathfinder game ran for 6 months and we got from level 3 to 8. We have a 3-4 hour session and we drink beer and b&$!+&!!, so we only get so far.

My concept is a sorcerer that relies almost exclusively on save-or-disable and buff spells.

I'm going Human / Arcane bloodline

My min/maxing strategy is to take the absolutely insane Magical Lineage trait, which allows a spell to be cast with a metamagic feat at a spellslot 1 less than normal 4 times with the Extra Triats feat. Once each for a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th level save or disable spell, and then use the Persistent Spell feat to cast the spell at just 1 level above normal (forcing a reroll of a passed save and also adding 1 to the DC thanks to the arcane bloodline 3rd level ability). Combine that with Spell Focus and a 20 casting stat and knowing what monsters have what good saves, and I should be having success with disabling most of the time.

My follow-up min/maxing strategy is to eventually take Improved Familiar for something with hands and language (maybe an Imp), learn the Use Magic Device skill, and have my familiar use wands and scrolls.

So my traits / feat progression looks something like:
Starting Trait: Magical Lineage: 1st level spell
Starting Trait: Magical Lineage: 2nd level spell
Human Feat: Improved initiative
1st Level Feat: Combat Casting
3rd Level Feat: Spell Focus
5th Level Feat: Persistent Spell
7th Level Feat: Improved Familiar 7th level bloodline Feat: Spell Focus
9th Level Feat: Extra Traits (3rd and 4th level spell Magical Lineage)

At third level, with my extra Human spells known I will know
7 0 level spells
3 1st level spells
and Identify as my Arcane bonus spell.

I'm thinking my first 3 spells will be

Ear Piercing Scream (fortitude save and a little damage)
Color Spray (will save)
Grease (reflex save)

and probably Magic Weapon for my 4th level Human favored class spell. Then maybe Mage Armor and one of the debuff rays.

with Grease as my Magical Lineage spell for 1st level. Because Grease is the best.

I haven't decided where I'm going with my spell list beyond that. I haven't decided what my magical Lineage spell for level 2 should be (though I know it will be either a fortitude save or will save) and I haven't decided what my first Spell Focus should be (though I'm leaning Conjuration because conjuration has a lot of weird save spells and there's Augmented Summoning as a possibility later on).

As far as items go I know I'm going to want to start with about 10 scrolls of Mage Armor, a few potions of Cure Light and some basic dungeon supplies (50' of rope pre-knotted, a backpack, etc.)

I've got 5 skill ranks per level I'm thinking on focusing on
Use Magic Device
and 3 knowledges to identify Enemies and their good saves (open to suggestions as to which one, though Arcana, Planes, and Dungeoneering seem like the way to go)

Anyway, any suggestions, especially to the spell list would be appreciated. I have no interest in being a blaster, but I might pick up Fireball, because, eh, you gotta have Fireball, right?

cartel wrote:

My min/maxing strategy is to take the absolutely insane Magical Lineage trait, which allows a spell to be cast with a metamagic feat at a spellslot 1 less than normal 4 times with the Extra Triats feat. Once each for a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th level save or disable spell, and then use the Persistent Spell feat to cast the spell at just 1 level above normal (forcing a reroll of a passed save and also adding 1 to the DC thanks to the arcane bloodline 3rd level ability). Combine that with Spell Focus and a 20 casting stat and knowing what monsters have what good saves, and I should be having success with disabling most of the time.

Unless your GM is houseruling this is not allowed. Not only are you not allowed to take the same trait more than once you're only allowed to take one trait from an entire category as well.

Lantern Lodge

What kind of "controlling" are you looking at?

Are you only going to use only debuff spells?
What about Terran affecting/wall/area spells? Or via Summoning monsters?

Cos.... if you start at level 3 and want to be a controller, I would suggest going with a Master Summoner and control the battlefield via summoning lots of monsters on to the battlefield.
Or a Cleric summoner via the Sacred Summons feat.

Damage, area denial and once you get elementals, debuff/grab attacks. All possible as a summoner.

Cos... I have been in games, where the controller bard or wizard can't do anything cos the monsters keep on saving on "save or die" spells.

I would not get Combat Casting. With your cha, concentration checks won't be too tough, and most times a 5 ft step works fine.

I would definitely not learn magic weapon at level 4, it's a very weak spell and works just as well on a scroll/wand.

And yeah, traits don't work like you think they do.

Have you considered doing Fey bloodline and using Eldritch Heritage to get a familiar instead? The spell list they get is slightly worse, but Entangle at 3rd level is quite nice, as is many of its bloodline powers.


i know anyone who speaks of optimization screams human but may i suggest

fey bloodline gnome. +1 to all illusions and +2 to enchantment.
focus on pattern spells and enchantment for you big KO's and id use conjuration for crowd control stuff. personally id even consider a 1 level dip into oracle for the "awesome display" revelation that allows you to subract your cha off everyones HD when determining the effects of your pattern spells. i just started playing this and am loving the effective aspect of it all. heighten spell and you are set. and if you are going to FOCUS on save or lose spells you really should take spell focus and greater but then you just need to pick which is more important. your single target dominates and holds or your multi target pattern spells.

also consider crossblooded to take serpent bloodline (mind effecting can now effect bestial creatures) or undead bloodline (may now effect corporeal undead that used to be humanoid.)

I must respectfully suggest you do nothing that Nephril advised other than fey bloodline, if you're looking to be optimized... Especially not the "be a non-human," "go crossblooded," and "lose a caster level by dipping" parts.

2 people marked this as a favorite.

When it comes to controller sorcerers, I must suggest that you don't focus entirely on Save-Or-Suck and buff spells. I would highly suggest investment in the Wall spells, any of the various Pits, and even some cloud/fog spells. The Protean bloodline is perfect for this, particularly it's level 1, 9, and 15 abilities. It's spell list is fairly good, and it's bloodline arcana is perfect for your Transmuation school buffs. I would also advise picking up summon spells, to provide yourself with some meat shields, trap bait, and of course extra muscle.

Beyond that, just be tactical. Go play some RTS or war games and hone your tactical skills. For this sort of build, proper target selection, and proper placement of AoEs, as well as proper timing, are required. I wish you luck!

Edit: I've decided to share my planned spell list from my Anarchic Bloodline Human Sorc. He's got a bit of a preference for Dispelling, since my GMs typically use a lot of humanoids, and a lot of spell casters.

0: Flare, Light, Spark, Ghost Sound, Haunted Fey Aspect, Touch of Fatigue, Mage Hand, Mending, Prestidigitation, Open/Close, Detect Magic, Message

1: Grease, Obscuring Mist, Hydraulic Push, Ray of Enfeeblement, Break, expeditious excavation, touch of gracelessness

2: Twisted Space, Create Pit, Fog Cloud, Haunting Mists, Pyrotechnics, eldritch conduit, frost fall

3: Dispel Magic, Spiked Pit, Shifting Sand, Battering Blast, force punch, ice spears

4: Acid Pit, Black Tentacles, Obsidian Flow, Volcanic Storm, Fleshworm Infestation, river of wind

5: Hungry Pit, Constricting Coils, Icy Prison, Echolocation, Hold Monster, Spell Absorption

6: Sirrocco, Tar Pool, Acid Fog, Greater Dispel Magic, greater eldritch conduit

7: Reverse Gravity, Mass Hold Person, Scouring Winds, Spell Turning, Hungry Darkness

8: Rift of Ruin, Polar Ray, Greater Shout, Wall of Lava, Greater Spell Absorption, (one free to pick)

9: Imprisonment, World Wave, Time Stop, Mages Disjunction (via Expanded Arcana)

Just some food for thought.

Edit 2: some of these spells come from Inner Sea Magic and arent on the srd yet

Thanks Artemis, that's the kind of suggestion I was looking for. I think I'm going with Arcane bloodline, because I want to try out a familiar with Use Magic Device, and I'm looking for that +1 DC with Persistent Spell, and the spell list is good with utility spells I never get around to picking up as a Sorcerer.

Hmm... bummer about the Traits, I'll admit we've never used them before and I skipped over the rules section assuming they were just straight up like minor feats. I'll see if the DM will let Extra Traits buy traits from the same category multiple times. So I'll have 1 or 2 spells available as Persistent spells at +1 DC at just 1 level above normal. What would you say the heaviest hitting Save based spell at levels 3 or 4 would be? Part of me wants to pick Grease, because in my experience, Grease is useful well beyond most level 1 spells and I'd have access to it quickly. The ability to trip or disarm anyone with a low reflex save is pretty potent. I should probably think a little bit more long term though.

If the extra trait doesn't work, I might hold off on Spell Focus and take Improved Initiative, Toughness, and Dodge as my first 3 feats. Then get Spell Focus at 5 and 9. That will give me a while to figure out what schools I'm really focusing on. I might skip toughness and just go ahead and take Spell Focus: Conjuration though. It helps with a number of good spells and it opens up Augmented Summoning.

And on the subject of summoning, what are the best summoned creatures at different levels. I don't think I'll get Summon Monster I, as the beasties just don't hit that hard starting at level 3, but based on a number of recommendations I'll be looking into summoning in the future.

I'm guessing Inner Sea Magic has Anarchic bloodline? What are the particulars?

Anarchic is from Ultimate Magic rcerer-archetypes/wildblooded/anarchic

Don't take Dodge - it's not a very good feat on its own. If you want to defer the choice of focused school you could get Spell Penetration or something.

Grease is nice, it has multiple uses and works on most things. It's not quite as devastating on a failed save as something like sleep or color spray, though (they do become redundant, but you can swap them out by then).

Once second level spells arrive Glitterdust is fantastic. Almost nothing is immune to blindness, and it's no-SR to boot. The save every round is kind of annoying, but with persistent spell you should have little trouble making it stick against most foes. Negating concealment is icing on the cake.
Pyrotechnics might be considered even better than Glitterdust, though I find it can be difficult to avoid having yourself or your allies inside the area of effect when casting the blinding version.

Ok, so my Level 3 Sorcerer is now looking like

Magical Lineage: Ray of Enfeeblement
Magical Lineage: Glitterdust (GM was feeling generous with bending the trait rules, he says he’ll see how it plays out as far as taking Extra Traits in the future goes)

Arcane bloodline with Compsognathus Familiar, looking toward UMD-using Faerie Dragon familiar at lvl 7

Improved Initiative
Spell Focus: Conjuration
Persistent Spell

Looking toward, Augmented Summoning and Improved Familiar, then maybe a second Spell Focus and Extend Spell

0 level spells:
Read Magic, Detect Magic, Prestidigitation, Mage Hand, Ghost Sound, Dancing Lights, Light

1st level spells:
Ray of enfeeblement, grease, ear piercing scream, identify

Looking toward adding Mage Armor, Hydrolic Push, and Enlarge Person

at 4th and 5th level taking 2nd level spells
Glitterdust, Summon Monster II, Invisibility and probably some Buff, maybe Communal Protection from Evil

with my starting $1500 i’m taking multiple scrolls of mage armor, shield, enlarge person, hydrolic push, floating disc, that spell that gives you a swim speed, and magic weapon. Plus a few potions of cure light.

Once again, tear this build apart and tell me what I’m doing wrong.

Why are you now focusing on summoning?

I would not take Ray of Enfeeblement, it is pretty badly nerfed from 3E. Having to roll to hit touch AC (which is NOT easy at low levels) AND them getting a save for half for an effect that's fairly minor and only lasts round/level is just bad.

Likewise, Enlarge Person I would just get a wand of or have the melee guy buy you one. 1 min. is usually plenty good enough. (Mage Armor you should learn, though, since its a long duration buff, having the higher CL to protect against dispelling is nice)

I thought the spells in your first post were a solid selection, stick with those. Especially Color Spray, it's really good.

I’ve been convinced here and elsewhere at the versatility and utility of summoned monsters as a controller. They let you screw with the board, they draw blows, and they even do some damage. At higher levels, summoned monsters have useful and exploitable magical spells and attacks. As this is the Temple of Elemental Evil, I think that celestial creature Smite Evil attacks will be a boon.

I disagree about Ray of Enfeeblement, by level 10 you’re doing 8 points of STR damage on an average hit, and with Magical Lineage + Persistent Spell, it should get through fairly often. Color Spray is only so-so against enemies with decent hit dice, and if we’re complaining about what happens on a save, Color Spray does nothing. In my experience, enlarge person is good at any level, especially against Combat Maneuver based enemies. That said, I won’t be taking Enlarge Person for another couple of levels, so I have time to reconsider.

GM says Item Crafting and Ye Olde Magic Item Shoppe aren’t going to be big factors in this game, so I can’t rely totally on finding a wand of a needed spell.

you should consider using color spray at low levels imo

It isn't str damage, it's str penalty. So it doesn't stack and is a weaker effect than actual damage would be. And again, you have to roll to hit and they get a save for half and it barely lasts at all. But take it if you want.

If you can't get a wand of enlarge then learning it is good. It's a good spell. It's just that sorcs get so few spells known, I try to be greedy with them. If it's a spell I can get basically the same benefit from a cheap wand or scroll (like Enlarge or Obscuring Mist), I will not learn it; my spells known slots are too precious. They're great spells, certainly, but the fact that they're just as good at CL 1 makes them less desireable as spells known. At least in a game with normal wealth.

And Color Spray is still useful at higher levels. It's still an area affect save or lose your turn, even at level 20. It becomes less reliable and good, but it never ceases to be good.

OK, I'm convinced on Color Spray, I'll be taking my original choice of 3 spells + Identify when we start at 3rd level. That's Color Spray, Ear Piercing Scream (I'm excited about this one, it should be great against spellcasters), and Grease.

Then I'm thinking these spells for the next few levels:

Summon Monster II
Mage Armor
some level-0 spell

Glitterdust or Oppressive Boredom <- just saw this one, I like the possibilities, especially with Persistent Spell
Invisibility (Arcane Bloodline)
2 out of Enlarge Person, Ray of Enfeeblement, Hydrolic Push, or Shield

Summon Monster III
Communal Protection From Evil
some level-0 spell

Dispel Magic (Arcane Bloodline)
Create Pit
1 of the remaining spells from Enlarge Person, Ray of Enfeeblement, Hydrolic Push, or Shiled

Summon Monster IV
some level-0 spell

Dimension Door (Arcane Bloodline)
Black Tentacles (Spell from 9th level bloodline Arcana)
Charm Monster
Force Punch
Whichever of Glitterdust / Oppressive Boredom I don't have

I figure that it makes sense to take Summon Monster as the first spell of a new level. It's relevant to just about every fight. I might switch Haste and Summon Monster III though.

any good conjuration controlling spells to take advantage of Augment summoning's Feat tax?


Fey Bloodline.

Human, start with improved initiative, and throughout your career, get Spell Focus and Greater Spell Focus in Conjuration, Enchantment, and Transmutation.

Your money spells are the entire conjuration school, Confusion, and Slow.

Don't bother with spell penetration, just use conjurations against anything with SR. Summons do not scale well enough to be worth your spells.

And I'm serious about the conjuration school.

Glitterdust, Create Pit
Aqueous Orb, Stinking Cloud, Spiked Pit
Acid Pit, Dimension Door (although a relocation tool, not a control spell)
Hungry Pit

The best spells in conjuration are levels 2 and 3, so they work really well with metamagic. I'd recommend Persistent Spell and eventually Quicken Spell.

Web, glitterdust, grease, create pit, aqueous orb, stinkimg cloud.....

Glitterdust, Grease, Create Pit


There's Stinking Cloud, that's an old favorite, and probably worth taking over Force Punch. I guess it will depend on the style of the dungeon.

Acid Pit?

I don't think Acid Pit nor Spiked Pit are worth the level increase vs. the other pit spells, and aqueous orb is only really impressive w/ Dazing Spell feat (but Ball Lightning just 1 level higher is even better for that), but otherwise those were pretty good spell suggestions.

Stone Call is also amazing for its level (2). Does a no save no SR 2d6 damage and creates a 40 ft radius of difficult terrain! Since Cloudkill sinks due to being heavier than air, "trapping" it within a pit spell is a sweet combo...

I agree, the Summon spells go obsolete too fast to be worth pursuing much; you really don't want to waste all your spell swaps on those, you may find there's something else you wish you could change, too. I would just drop Augment Summoning and those spells from your line. Maybe just get SM I for the trap "detecting," if your party has no one for that and doesn't find such a thing repulsive. But definitely don't invest in it or anything.


StreamOfTheSky wrote:
I don't think Acid Pit nor Spiked Pit are worth the level increase vs. the other pit spells, and aqueous orb is only really impressive w/ Dazing Spell feat (but Ball Lightning just 1 level higher is even better for that)

I agree that Spiked Pit is not worth it. Acid Pit, though, comes in at 4th level, which is kind of a weak level for sorcerers/wizards.

Aqueous orb is fantastic, though. They may have to fail 2 saves, but you can take multiple shots at it per spell (or, if you're feeling aggressive, per round) and it can pin enemies out of melee reach while your party kills them from range. And, unlike Web, it's a reflex save to get out instead of a Combat Maneuver Check, which tend to scale a lot faster than monster saves.

I'm playing through Carrion Crown right now (level 10, almost 11) and aqueous orb+fighter with reach weapon has ended a LOT of combats.


The Aqueous Orb bit is from the perspective of a guy who played a wizard, though. At level 3, I'd make other choices first as a sorcerer. (The obvious ones being haste, followed by stinking cloud, then maybe slow and then dispel magic.) My wizard doesn't usually pack dispel magic because we've got an oracle and an inquisitor who know it.

My 9th-level sorcerer made great use of Stinking Cloud followed by a circular Wall of Fire (followed by Fireball, natch) to single-handedly trounce four 8th-level wizard/rogues -- Wall/Pit spells in conjuction with rounds/level area disabling spells are the way to go. Food for thought.

Even if all a summoned creature does is block a medium or large space and flank with the rogue for two sneak attacks, it does more damage than a powered up scorching ray. If a monster spends even one round attacking the summoned creature, it's effectively lost a standard or full action. I'm anticipating a lot of evil aligned enemies and having big critters with smite attacks is useful. Summons are versatile and there's nothing else in my planned spell list that's going to beg being swapped out at high levels. There are only so many worthwhile buffs, and if all I can do is make enemies save, I'm sort of one dimensional. There's enough good Conjuration spells to justify the Spell Focus on its own

I could be wrong though, since I'm actually going to run this guy through his levels and not just build a maxed out 15th level dude, if Summon Monster II underwhelms, I might change my plan. But the way I see it, if you're just going to take a single damage-dealing spell per level, Summon Monster gives a lot of bang for the buck, controls the board, and offers a nice swiss-army knife of abilities. Like riding a dire bat at 3rd, or even just holding onto a giant frog to cross a river without swimming.

I figure at Level 4, I'll already have a spell that attacks each save, and while Glitterdust or Oppressive Boredom are better than the 1st level control spells, they aren't fundamentally different. Summon Monster II is still an effective disable / control spell, especially against a dumb non-tactical enemy (my GM does a good job of roleplaying enemies, smart ones will aim for a Spellcaster or Rogue while animals and undead just swing at whoever hit last or hardest).

I want some versatility and that means I need something when enemies have no weak saves or are too numerous and inconveniently arranged to effectively target with save-or-disable spells. I think splitting my list between control spells, buff spells, and summons makes for a really well-rounded caster who isn't wasting his time with scorching rays.

But if people have more experience with summons than me and they really are just are trash, I'll listen. I do think at Level 3 I'll take Haste before Summon III.

OK, if anyone still cares, here's my thoughts now (our first session is tomorrow)

Starting at Level 3, I'm taking
Improved Initiative
Spell Focus: Conjuration
and Persistent Spell

GM has ruled that taking non-stacking duplicate Traits is fair game. Powerful I know, but I'm going with it. So I'm taking Arcane Lineage for both Grease and Oppressive Boredom.

Starting Spells are
1 Color Spray (WILL), Illusion
1 Ear Piercing Scream (FORT), Evocation
1 Grease (REFLEX), Conjuration
1 Identify (Arcane)

and whatever level 0's I go with

I'm starting with some utility scrolls but mostly duplicates of Mage Armor, Summon Monster I, and Shield.

Level 4:
1 Hydraulic Push (CMD)
2 Summon Monster II

Level 5:
1 Mage Armor
1 Shield
2 Glitterdust (WILL), Conjuration
2 Invisibility (Arcane)

Augmented Summoning Feat

Level 6:
2 Oppressive Boredom (WILL) Enchantment
3 Haste
maybe switch out Color Spray for Ray of Enfeeblement (FORT)

Level 7:
1 Enlarge Person
2 Create Pit (REF) Conjuration
2 Communal Protection from Evil
3 Summon Monster III
3 Dispel Magic (Arcane)

Improved Familiar Feat for a Faerie Dragon, Spell Focus: Enchantment

Level 8:
3 Stinking Cloud (FORT) Conjuration
4 Summon Monster IV
switch out Summon Monster II for Eagle's Splendor

Level 9:
2 Fog Cloud
3 Suggestion (WILL) Enchantment
3 Fireball ... gotta have it, right? (REF) Evocation
4 Fear (WILL) Necromancy
4 Dimension Door (Arcane)

Feat: Extra Traits: Arcane Lineage Stinking Cloud and Arcane Lineage Fear, assuming the GM hasn't changed his mind.

Level 10:
4 Resilient Sphere (REF) Evocation
5 Summon Monster V
switch out Summon Monster III for Force Punch (FORT) Evocation

Level 11:
3 Aqueous Orb
4 Black Tentacles (CMD)
4 Acid Pit (REF) Conjuration
5 Overland Flight (Arcane)
5 Suffocate (FORT) Necromancy

Feat: Spell Focus: Necromancy or maybe Heighten Spell

Anyway, I'm feeling pretty good about this, and obviously the later levels are just preliminary ideas.

Silver Crusade

Don't take Persistent Spell at level 3. It adds 2 spell levels to whatever you're casting, so you can't use it on a 1st level spell until you hit level 6. Before that, it's a waste of a feat.

Fromper wrote:
Don't take Persistent Spell at level 3. It adds 2 spell levels to whatever you're casting, so you can't use it on a 1st level spell until you hit level 6. Before that, it's a waste of a feat.

Hence the Magical Lineage feat

I would probably rethink taking Magical Lineage on only 1st level spells. You can pick spells you are not yet able to cast, and even the best 1st level spells won't scale that well...

I took a 1st, a 2nd, a 3rd, and a 4th level spell, hitting each save at least once

cartel wrote:
I took a 1st, a 2nd, a 3rd, and a 4th level spell, hitting each save at least once

Remember, you can only select the trait once, thus only one spell gets it.

My GM is ruling we can take a non stacking trait more than once. So I'm at least getting it twice at first level. Whether he'll feel so generous come 9th level remains to be seen.

And this build is a pretty good example of why GMs shouldn't do that.

Ah... Well good luck showing your GM the problems with allowing non-stacking traits being taken more than once xD

You seem really focused on offense. That's nice, but consider defense as well. It will depend a little on group size, but the smaller the group, the more likely that you'll be in melee.

Since you're playing up from third level, something like Toughness or Defensive Combat Training could be really great to have. I would take Combat Casting myself. At third level, you'll have a +8 to cast defensively. You'll need a 17 for a first level spell, so you're only 50%.

Likewise, I understand why you might push the knowledge skills, but what happens if you need to swim, or climb, or get out of someone's threatened area? You've got a stellar charisma, but you're not investing in the charisma skills much. Even one rank in Bluff would give you a +9.

And if you want your familiar to be good at UMD, then YOU need to be good at it. Which is an excellent idea.

Finally, your build doesn't take into account the other characters. If there's a monk in your party, Mage armor is a more valuable spell. If there's a barbarian with bull rush, then Create Pit is fantastic.

What would help THEM? If you can work well as a group, things are much easier.

Good thought Orkraus2. Spell wise, my defensive plan is Mage Armor, Shield, and Summon Monster. 5 foot step backwards followed by a summoned monster between me and an enemy is a powerful defensive move.

We've got a big group, 6 PCs including a Paladin and a Barbarian. We've got a Cleric and a Bard, so I'm avoiding all but the very best buff spells. My basic ideas for teamwork are to disable enemies to make them easy pickings for the Paladin and Barbarian, and summon flanking monsters to give the Rogue sneak attacks. I'm hoping to avoid the front lines. We'll see how the dungeon plays out, sometimes there's a lot of harassing of the rear-line folks and sometimes there isn't. I may very well sub out Augmented Summoning for Combat Casting.

We played our first session last night, which was just 3 hours of getting through the town of Homlet to the front door of the dungeon. There's a temple to Pelor, there's a keep we didn't go to, there's a tavern with a suspicious and Evil barmaid, there's stables and an armory. The only thing significant to my character was that there's a wizard in town who can make 1st-3rd level scrolls. We cut things a little short, since we didn't want to just do one or two rooms.

I made a few last-minute changes and here's what I've got at 3rd level:

Arcane Bloodline
Ear Piercing Scream
Color Spray

Persistent Spell
Spell Focus: Conjuration
Improved Initiative

I've got the following scrolls: 8x Mage Armor, 8x Shield, 4x Summon Monster I, 2x Magic Weapon, 4x Enlarge Person, 2x Touch of the Sea, 2x Floating Disk, and 4x Hydraulic Push.

3 ranks each in Bluff, Climb, Kn: Arcane, Spellcraft, and Linguistics (I'll just be taking 1 more rank in this, I want Celestial, Infernal, Abyssal, Terran, Ignan, Aquan, and Auran, what with the Elements and the Evil and all)

I'll be spreading points around in other skills in levels to come. I won't need UMD until level 7. My plan for swimming is to use a scroll of Touch of the Sea or summon a Giant Frog and hold on. I carry a grappling hook with a pre-knotted rope, that and a little bit of climb skill is enough in most cases. Using acrobatics in combat requires a commitment to the skill that I just don't want to invest.

Persistent Spell is an aggressive pick for a 3rd level feat, but it means that in just 1 level, I'll be able to cast Grease with DC 18 and a forced reroll, which is about as tough as a DC 21 or 22 single-roll save. And at level 6 I'll have Oppressive Boredom on a reroll as well. That's pretty darned powerful.

The way I figure for my 5th level feat is if I'm summoning a lot, Augmented Summoning means +10% to hit chance, 20% or more additional damage, and what amounts to a two step increase in hit die size. The magnitude of these bonuses relative to the summoned creature will taper off as the power level of Summon Monster spells increases, but +4 stat bumps are always good.

If I'm casting on the defensive a lot, Combat Casting means a 20% greater success rate at that. But my general feeling is that most casting on the defensive situations can be avoided by battlefield positioning and teamwork, but we'll see how it goes.

Defensive Combat Training is a feat that gets better the higher level you get. Its main utility for a spellcaster is defense against being grappled. My experience is that you see grappling opponents less than once a game session, oftentimes only once or not at all in a whole dungeon. I don't think a feat that comes into play that infrequently is worth a slot. If it turns out this dungeon is heavy enough on CMB based enemies that it becomes a frequent worry for a caster on the back rows, I might pick it, but probably not.

In general, defensive feats are only useful when you're being attacked, whereas offensive abilities get used in just about every combat. The best defense really is a good offense, I've got a +11 initiative bonus until I switch familiars. That combined with a focus on disabling and board control makes for a powerful set of defensive options.

But that's just my play style too. If I have better offensive abilities, I have more fun. Our group is pretty good at tactics and death of a rear-line guy is pretty rare. If that happens, I've been wanting to try out a Summoner or Inquisitor anyway.

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