Firstly I apologize if this isn't the right place for this thread. The name sounded fitting for my noob status.
I originally started back with D&D 3.5 by learning the rules and making a character, but the campaign fell apart before it ever started. I didn't pick D&D back up till halfway through college with 4E. When a friend brought up the idea of a Pathfinder campaign I said sure cause I've always been curious. Reading through the rules everything is hauntingly familiar yet still just different enough to be utterly frustrating. The fact that there are so many options and no retraining have put me in a paralyzed state of character creation. A lot of stuff is dependent on building up the right way so you almost have to have a character fully planned out from the beginning.
Coming from D&D 4E, I fell in love with the flavor of the Seeker but never got a chance to play one. So for the Pathfinder campaign I wanted to make a primal magic wielding archer. So I have been exploring two core classes, the Druid and the Ranger, as well as the Nature Warden Prestige class. From what I can figure out going the Nature Warden for 10 levels and 5 of each of Druid and Ranger I gain access to 6th level spells and a higher caster level, but a lower total number of spells per day. If I go 10 of each for Druid and Ranger I get more spells, but a max level of 5th level spells and a lower caster level. I don't know enough about Pathfinder game play to know which one sounds more beneficial. There will be two other casters of the arcane persuasion in my adventuring party as well. By going for the Nature Warden route I also give up wild shaping for anything more than once a day, which might be okay because I think I planned on using it mostly outside of combat purposes. I am just not sure how beneficial any of the Nature Warden's class features will be and if they are stronger options than the 10/10 Druid/Ranger ones.
TLDR: I am looking for advice from anyone who has built or played with a Druid/Ranger/Nature Warden or some combination there of.
well about pathfinder: There are more ways to optimize in pathfinder because there are more choices- but provided that you aren't playing in a "Min/Max or die" campaign you don't need to do all that planning ahead of time.
You don't NEED to take ranger levels to be a competent archer, though you won't be doing as much as a fighter/ranger archer you can still throw down some nasty arrows by 6th-10th level, the only thing that rangers get that a druid would want is a few extra feats and better base attack bonus. That with favored enemies and terrains, which can be taken from only 2-3 levels. I Personally would suggest a 2 level dip in ranger, this will get you access to 8th level spells as well as a bonus feat or two and a favored enemy. The problem with this is you loose out a lot of favored terrain bonuses, but i would personally rather have 8th level spells. you can drop 3 levels into ranger for a favored terrain but then you give up 8th level spells and wild shaping 3 times per day. i don't recommend more than a 3 level dip.
Dipping more heavily into ranger will give you vast negatives to your spellcasting for only minor benefits to your archery.
Depends on the campaign. If you'll be spending most of it within one or two terrain types and will have a lot of wilderness activity, Nature Warden has some interesting abilities. However, it's highly dependent on being within your terrain. If you're going to travel through a lot of terrain types, it's probably not worth it and you'll want to stick to Ranger/Druid.
If you do pick up Nature Warden, I'd go Druid 4/Ranger 3/Nature Warden X. That'll give you your prerequisites and Wild Shape. Even one use per day of the weakest form of Wild Shape is a very handy utility power.
If you don't pick up Nature Warden, I agree with VDZ that you'll probably want to favour the Druid. The spellcasting is very nice. Even if you don't cast in combat much, the pre-combat buffs and utility spells are great.
For a Ranger/Druid I highly recommend the feat Shapeshifting Hunter.
Prerequisite: Favored enemy class feature, wild shape class feature.
Benefit: Your levels of druid stack with your ranger levels for determining when you select your next favored enemy. Also, your ranger levels stack with your druid levels in determining the number of times per day you can use your wild shape class feature, up to a maximum of eight times per day.
I have an alternate suggestion, though. If you really like the concept of the wild magic archer but aren't set on Druid/Ranger, consider putting a few levels in Zen Archer instead. It runs off a high Wisdom score, which works great with Druid casting. You get a Wis-based AC boost that applies in Wild Shape, Wis to hit with your arrows, a few archery-based bonus feats (including Point Blank Master at level 3), and a few other goodies like Unarmed Strike and fast movement. You'll want 3-4 levels, rest Druid - and I'd pick up at least 3 of the Zen Archer levels early.
Either way, remember Boon Companion if you have an animal companion and want to give it more punch.
I really appreciate all of your advice! I really appreciate you pointing out those feats.
For Companion Bond (the Nature Warden level 1 class feature), would Ranger levels be added if I only took 3 levels of Ranger? Or would I have to have 4 levels in Ranger to get to the point where it could have an animal companion before the Ranger levels would add to it?
I believe the formula for your animal companion would be Effective Druid level (companion level) = Druid Level + (Ranger Level -3) + Nature Warden Level. Your animal companion levels from all three classes stack, but multiclassing doesn't improve the Ranger's contribution to the animal companion. A Ranger 4 (companion level 1) doesn't boost his companion's level to 5 by taking a level in Druid.
As a Druid 4/Ranger 3/ Nature Warden X your companion will be level 4+X.
As a Druid 4/Ranger 4/Nature Warden X your companion will be level 5+X.
If you take Boon Companion, your companion's level will match your character level.
Also something to keep in mind - Shapeshifting Hunter isn't as good if you're taking Nature Warden, since it only adds Druid and Ranger levels, not levels in the prestige class. It would give you one or two uses per day of Wild Shape and probably an extra favored enemy. Might still be worth it, but if all you want is a spare use of Wild Shape, Druid's Vestments are cheap.
So lets say I scrap the Nature Warden plans all together. Flavor wise I don't see too much difference between a Druid/Ranger and a Nature Warden and I never had my heart set on it or anything.
My question then becomes what is the best mix of Druid/Ranger in terms of levels of each. Especially with that Shape-shifting Hunter feat I'm not giving up any uses of wildshape. Combined with the Druid of the Society trait they would last decently long as well even though my druid level might not be that high. The question becomes what do I lose or gain by having 5 levels of Ranger with 15 levels of Druid or 10 levels of both? Is access to high level spells and a higher caster level more important than the bonus feats if I intend on being more of a combat druid than a caster druid? Do those high level spells bring a lot more utility to my group than me getting more skill points?
If you like Nature Warden, you don't need any levels of Ranger. World Walker Druid or Feral Child Druid 6 will qualify you on its own. Or one of those archetypes 4 and Ranger 1 (just so you can get Shapeshifting Hunter).
But what is it exactly that you want from this character? The Seeker is really cool in concept, I agree, but it covers so much ground, I'm not sure what you really want.
Archery, for example, is just a matter of five feats:
Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Many Shot, Clustered Shots
Anyone with those 5 feats will be a totally viable archer.
If you just want some nature magic on top of that, straight Druid works with that, as does a straight Oracle of Nature.
If you want an archer with some nature spells, pure Ranger does that.
If you want your magic and your archery to actually interact, however, well, that's much trickier.
For that, you kind of need Arcane Archer. The problem is that you need an arcane casting class to get it. The good news is that their main ability, Imbue Arrow, allows any spell to be cast through it. So, if you did an odd build like (any arcane caster) 1/Druid 8/Arcane Archer 2, you'd have the ability cast 4th level druid spells through your arrows. I don't know, this is a really tricky concept.
you are looking for the best of mix of druid and ranger, let me break it down for you as best i can:
Ask yourself these questions:
1) What types of animals/elementals/plants do you want to change into? If you are using it purely for utility? or do you want to be able to eat things on a regular basis when you run out of arrows
2) How quickly do you want to gain those archery feats?
3) How often will you be in a favored terrain?
4) How much combat magic do you want? Or are you just looking into utility magic?
Lets answer these questions:
1) Transformations generally can't use weapons, with the minor exception to weird humanoid like elementals (Which aren't covered in the beastiaries as far as i know) But for me its nice to turn into a huge T-rex and swallow kobolds. If you are ONLY looking for utility, 4 levels in druid will get you birds that can fly, fish that can swim. 6 level gets tiny animals that can sneak around and 8th level gets you diminutive animals that can REALLY hide and get underneath doors. Remember with the shapeshifting hunter, you will still get the number of uses
2) Like mplindustries said, it only takes 5 feats to be a good archer- so a pure druid CAN do archery, but you have to wait till level 9 to be fully able to do it (7 if you are a human) If you go a human ranger you can further reduce that time to 5th level, this lets you be a CRAZY powerful archer with almost no downsides other than lacking in the magic department, and a pretty weak animal companion unless you delay the archery feats for Boon companion.
3) If you guys travel all around the world, it may be more prudent to take more levels as a druid, you won't be in your favored terrain as much. but if you only use 2-3 terrains a ranger can really maximize his potential
4) Druid can get some really nasty spells at 8th level spell, at 8th level you are getting some seriously cool spells, Polymorphing all of your allies, reversing gravity, causing the forests to attack your allies. but in the way of actually helping archery? Not much.
End Summary: I suggest picking up 1st level in druid and then getting 2-6 levels in ranger. This will give you an early animal companion, nice utility spells, followed by a good boost in Base attack bonus. After picking up your major archery feats, finish pumping druid. Spells at end game are VASTLY more powerful than in 4e, in 4e everything is somewhat equal through out the game, in pathfinder spellcasters start off weak but sooner or later become unstoppable machines around 10th - 14th level (if you ever make it there) So in the end i suggest powering your druid levels so you can cast those powerful spells. Also druids have more flat utility with their spells, transformations, and immunities. Keep in mind though: My bias is towards druids, i love druids very much.
It depends a lot on what exactly you want out of this build. We can't say whether the levels in a given class are "worth it" unless we know what you want. There is no "best mix."
If you want to be an archer with nature-based abilities, pure Ranger will do that very well. A few levels of Druid will add useful special abilities, though I wouldn't expect to get much out of the casting. I recently played a druid with an archer cohort, Ranger 10/Druid 2 by campaign's end. She was a solid archer and on a lucky round put 5 arrows in a lich for 150 points of damage. You'll get more out of this if your party has a lot of casters but lacks damage dealers or nature skills.
If you want a solid helping of magic but plan on using a bow in combat instead of melee or spells, you can be a pure druid with the right feats, or put a few levels in Ranger to get the feats faster. Your arrows will be a little less strong, but still effective. And even if you never cast a spell in-combat, Druids get very good buffing and utility spells, and many of these (Barkskin, Greater Magic Fang, Resist Energy) scale with caster level. You'll get more out of this if your party has a lot of skilled characters and damage-dealers but not a lot of buffing, healing, or utility casters.
I personally dislike 50/50 multiclassing because I feel I miss out on too many of the high-level abilities of both classes, but YMMV.
There are also all sorts of options for making this concept that don't involve a Druid/Ranger multiclass, if you're feeling adventurous.
Thank you so much for all of your advice to all of you. I understand that figuring out what I want from the character is the most important step, I just feel like there so many options I could take 50 different takes on the same character and enjoy playing them all. For now I'm just planning on finishing first level as a Druid and getting a feel for Pathfinder in general as well as my party's dynamics.
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