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Fairly New, trying to create a specific character, Help?


Advice


Hi. I've been lurking around for a bit, studying for an upcoming campaign that my friend is running, and I've thought up of a character that I've wanted to use for a while in an RP.

I won't give too much detail, mostly because I don't think people are interested in the specifics, but the basic gist of it is this; my character is a human female Magus, who is a former criminal trying to redeem themselves. The reason I make this thread is I have no idea how to build her.

For reference, I'm not trying to be a power player, here. I'm trying to do the most optimal shocking grasp build that crits for 20d6 or something like that. I'm just trying to create a character who is fast and nimble, able to use a one handed sword fairly well, and slowly become more accustomed their abilities over the campaign. All I know about the stats of the campaign is that we start a level 1, use a 20 point buy system at the very least, and we are using just the Pathfinder Core Supplements through PCGen (at the current moment.)

tl:dr I'm creating a human Magus, formerly a thief, and am having trouble with the stats and feats. So, what do you all suggest?


For a somewhat magical, former thief with a sward you might look at the arcane duelist arcbetype for bard, it strips out the singing and dancing for blade magic. The increased number of skill points and tyoes of class skills would lend themselves to bolstering your "thief" anilities, if you want that aspect more prevalent.

I don't know the magus class very well, but there are excellent guides for it available, although they are mostly geared toward optimization you will get more sense of options available and possibilities by reading them.


Just going to post this here for anyone else who wants to give advice. These are the list of sources included in "Pathfinder Core Supplements" in PCGen:

Core Rulebook, Bestiary, Bestiary 2, Bestiary 3, Advanced Player's Guide, Advanced Race Guide, Ultimate Combat, Ultimate Magic, Ultimate Equipment, Ultimate Campaign, & Advanced Class Guide.

So, the first question up is whether you want to be strength-base or dexterity-based. Strength-based characters have the advantage of being able to use their strength score both for accuracy and damage, and as a result tend to have better overall damage output. Dexterity-based builds deal significantly less damage and require an additional feat, weapon finesse, to get off the ground. There is no way, given the sources available to you (which, in case anyone mentions it, does not include the Agile weapon property), to consistently apply your dexterity score to damage. While dexterity has a lot of pluses, including better initiative and AC, for sheer offenses it falls sharply behind strength.

The second question is whether you want to spring for the Spell Specialization feat at the 1st level. Spell Specialization allows you to add +2 to your caster level for one spell. If applied to shocking grasp, this raises the damage from 1d6 to 3d6 - basically instant death to whatever is hit by it. However, this bonus becomes less and less important at higher levels. While you can retrain it to a different spell for free every time you level up, the relative benefit becomes much less substantial. This feat goes from being nearly broken at 1st level to nearly irrelevant by the 10th. If retraining is available then it's a no-brainer to use it early and get rid of it later, but if not it's a major tradeoff.

Long-term, the combo you want is the Magical Lineage trait together with the Intensify Spell metamagic. This raises the damage cap on shocking grasp from 5d6 to 10d6 damage, but keeps Shocking Grasp a 1st level spell. You can then apply other metamagic on top of this for even better performance, but for the most part you don't need to since this is really solid coming off a 1st level spell slot. Combine this with either a Keen weapon or the Improved Critical feat (they don't stack; go for one or the other) and your critical hits are going to hurt.

If you want more details and options, you can refer to this guide. Just be mindful to check the sources that these options come from, as many of the options mention come from sourcebooks that aren't included in the core supplements package you're using.


Do bards have offensive spells in their list? If so I could try checking that out, though I had wanted the source of my characters magical powers to be more arcane, which is why I had picked Magus.

I had seen plenty of guides, but from what I can gather, more dexterous builds require either Dervish Dance, which isn't in the core rules, or slashing grace from the swashbuckler, which means I need to dip into another class. I could simply just use weapon finesse, but that would mean I would completely rely on weapon damage for damage rolls, right?

EDIT:I see. This might mean I have to go for a strength build, even if I am trying to go for a more agile character. Though I suppose I am willing to make that sacrifice if it means I can consistently deal good damage with my weapons.

As for spells, I appreciate it, but I think I'm going to skip out on magical lineage as my character doesn't have the in-universe criteria that meats that.


To build this kind of character you have the basic options:

Use a standard finesse weapon, rapier or kukri are your best bet, and not do much damage without spells. You would have an easy time fishing for crits, just keep a decent strength and get an agile weapon when you have the cash.

Use a scimitar and set yourself up to get yourself set up for dervish dance at level 3, which costs two skill points.

Dip three levels of unchained rogue for dex to damage. This would cost a bunch of spell casting progression, but might fit for your character.

Personally I'm not a huge fan of the dervish dance fluff, unless it really fits the character. So, even though it's not ideal is probably go the full magus standard finesse weapon route, even though it's not the best damage wise.


Dandragon01 wrote:

EDIT:I see. This might mean I have to go for a strength build, even if I am trying to go for a more agile character. Though I suppose I am willing to make that sacrifice if it means I can consistently deal good damage with my weapons.

It is a shame you don't have access to the Unchained book. An unchained Rogue (Eldritch Scoundrel archetype) with the Magus Variant multiclass would be right your alley. Gets magus spell progression, wizard spell access, rogue skills, talents, sneak attack, dex to hit and damage. You'd even get Magus Arcanas (7th level) and spellstrike (11th level). No spell combat though.


Bards have offensive spells, but not the kind that do damage, more the type that disables the enemy, puts them to sleep, knocks them prone, etc... They also have strong buffing spells.


DeathlessOne wrote:
Dandragon01 wrote:

EDIT:I see. This might mean I have to go for a strength build, even if I am trying to go for a more agile character. Though I suppose I am willing to make that sacrifice if it means I can consistently deal good damage with my weapons.

It is a shame you don't have access to the Unchained book. An unchained Rogue (Eldritch Scoundrel archetype) with the Magus Variant multiclass would be right your alley. Gets magus spell progression, wizard spell access, rogue skills, talents, sneak attack, dex to hit and damage. You'd even get Magus Arcanas (7th level) and spellstrike (11th level). No spell combat though.

How exactly would this work, if you could elaborate on that?


Bards main damage spells are sonic. They do get a decent handful. But I agree the main strength of bard spells is trickery and debuffing.

They also get a lot of helpful skill points that could be used to buff out a thief in the reforming, and several spells that are geared towards sneaky stuff in general too.

I agree maybe check out bards. You'll have a lot more skills to tailor to your past, and some interesting tricks that allow for some nifty role-playing links.

Some others you may want to check out for bards archetypes that are thief like...
Investigator
Sandman
Archeologist.

That last one may be right up your alley. No songs, luck type boosts and a few rogue talents.

All of which could be used to say "I'm using my old life in a better way"


Human Bladebound Kensai Magus

str: 11
dex: 17
con: 14
int: 15
wis: 12
cha: 8

Traits: reactionary, seeker, trap finder, two world magic (Touch of Fatigue)

Feats: weapon finesse, weapon focus: scimitar, weapon proficiency: scimitar, additional traits

Skills: climb 1, knowledge: local 1, perception 1, perform: dance 1, stealth 1

Diversify your secondary skills as you level. Keep primary skills capped.

At third level take Dervish Dance

At 4th level, raise either strength or dex. Raise the other stat at 8th, all remaining attribute increases into dex.

Prioritize stat increasing items. You'll want a dex belt and str headband. Consider getting +2 str on an implanted ioun stone so you eventually qualify for power attack.

Consider taking Fast Learner at 5th for extra skill points.

Arcane Strike at 5th

Weapon Specialization at 7th


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Bards have some offensive magic, although where they really shine is utility and buffing. What they don't have that the magus has is spell combat, which lets you both cast and fight in the same round.

As for damage for a dex character, I'm not sure if it is in your resources, but the agile weapon enchantment give dex to damage, you could just live with a bit lower damage until you can afford that. Alternatively, you can have a higher dex, but still not dump str, giving you at least some bonus. A stat array like STR 13 DEX 16 (18 with human racial bonus) CON 12 INT 14 WIS 10 CHR 10 is perfectly viable without dumping anything and would give you a +1 damage bonus, +2 counting your arcane pool at first level. That isn't anything horribly exciting, but it is workable.


Dandragon01 wrote:
How exactly would this work, if you could elaborate on that?

This requires two sourcebooks that aren't available to you, Pathfinder Uncahined and Arcane Anthology.

Pathfinder Unchained introduced four "Unchained" classes, basically rewrites that attempted to fix problems with the original renditions. The Unchained Rogue was just a straight buff, adding class features without removing or nerfing anything. In particular the Unchained Rogue gets the ability to apply their dexterity bonus to damage at the 3rd level, and at the 4th level can debuff enemies with sneak attacks.

Pathfinder Unchained also introduced a concept called "variant multiclassing". In exchange for giving up half of your feats, you gain additional class features from another class. If you choose the Magus variant option you get the Spellstrike class feature at the 11th level (though notably you do not get spell combat).

The Eldritch Scoundrel archetype was introduced in the Arcane Anthology, a relatively recent softcover book. The Eldritch Scoundrel gives up half of its sneak attack dice, skill points and rogue talents, but in return gets spellcasting abilities. It gets the same number of spells per day as a Magus, but the superior Wizard spell list. However, it basically must be used with the Unchained Rogue otherwise it's just an inferior Bard.

The Eldritch Scoundrel is less about directly offensive magic, and tends to get more mileage out of defensive, support, and utility options. However, with the VMC Magus option mentioned earlier he can gain the spell strike class feature starting at the 11th level, which would let you pull off a shock grasp strike. It won't be as good as a Magus at it, since it doesn't get spell combat, but it does a lot of the roguish things on the side quite well.

However, as I mentioned, this requires two additional sourcebooks above what you're currently allowed. Speaking of which, it's amazing the number of people who are jumping on the Dervish Dance suggestion without reading the list of source material available to you. If Dervish Dance were available, a dex-based Magus would be easy to build.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Dandragon01 wrote:
EDIT:I see. This might mean I have to go for a strength build, even if I am trying to go for a more agile character. Though I suppose I am willing to make that sacrifice if it means I can consistently deal good damage with my weapons.

That is certainly an easier option. Switch the STR and DEX around in the stats above, and you are still fairly agile. If you use the feat you would have spent on weapon finesse on dodge or AC is only a couple points lower than it would have been otherwise, and your damage is 3 points better.


Dandragon01 wrote:
DeathlessOne wrote:
Dandragon01 wrote:

EDIT:I see. This might mean I have to go for a strength build, even if I am trying to go for a more agile character. Though I suppose I am willing to make that sacrifice if it means I can consistently deal good damage with my weapons.

It is a shame you don't have access to the Unchained book. An unchained Rogue (Eldritch Scoundrel archetype) with the Magus Variant multiclass would be right your alley. Gets magus spell progression, wizard spell access, rogue skills, talents, sneak attack, dex to hit and damage. You'd even get Magus Arcanas (7th level) and spellstrike (11th level). No spell combat though.
How exactly would this work, if you could elaborate on that?

Unchained Rogue (Eldritch Scoundrel) VMC Magus (linked for convenience)

I've been itching to play one myself. Like I said before, it is a shame you don't have the resources for them.


Kensai Magus as SnowLily posted sounds like exactly what you want. You are limited to Scimitar (or agile weapon, but that doesn't come online until you can afford a +2 weapon). Personally I don't take Bladebound, it takes too long to get an Arcana (6th level), but Bladebound does add some interesting abilites.


the problem with kensai is that it suffers from the spell failure chance with any type of armor, which makes magic less useful as an option for damage

also deathlessone, why does it have to be unchained rogue and not regular old rogue?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Dandragon01 wrote:
the problem with kensai is that it suffers from the spell failure chance with any type of armor, which makes magic less useful as an option for damage

I'm not sure I follow this, Kensai typically don't where armor (well, at least not armor with spell failure and an ACP, haramaki or ceremonial silk is your friend), but they get INT bonus (capped at level) to AC. After a couple of levels their AC is usually comparable (or better depending on build) than that of a regular magus and they certainly can cast spells. I would personally want to start with a higher INT than snowlilly's build, and not having access to dervish dance makes that build problematic anyway.

Also, personally I love the flavor of the blackblade, and played on and enjoyed it, but in truth it probably isn't the best mechanical choice, if for no other reason than you likely will want a weapon with spell storing. If you are expecting money to be tighter than normal, that equation could change.

Dandragon01 wrote:
also deathlessone, why does it have to be unchained rogue and not regular old rogue?

Unchained rogues are just flat out better.


Dandragon01 wrote:
also deathlessone, why does it have to be unchained rogue and not regular old rogue?

Well, Dave Justus hit the nail on the head. It just is better. You can still do it but ...

Unchained Rogue gets weapon finesse at first level. Rogue does not.
Unchained Rogue gets Dex to damage with one weapon at level 3, as a class feature. Rogue does not.
Unchained Rogue gets no save debuffs to things they hit with sneak attacks (for free). Rogues do not (or have to take talents, but do have saves).
Unchained Rogues get skill unlocks. Rogues do not.

Unchained Rogue is amazing. I don't like anything getting dexterity to damage, especially a class that already gets added sneak dice, but the designers (and other players) wanted it. If you can take it, do it and don't look back.


Okay. But what about a Magus with a VMC of Rogue? It fits more with the character trying to cast of their former thieving life, while still having some of the skills remaining?


Dandragon01 wrote:
Okay. But what about a Magus with a VMC of Rogue? It fits more with the character trying to cast of their former thieving life, while still having some of the skills remaining?

Because VMC Rogue isn't very good. It's okay, but there are better ways to get those abilities. You can still invest in feats and skill that are Roguish even if you're taking levels in Magus. VMC is very intensive on your feats, so you should only do it if you can't realistically get those abilities elsewhere.


Have some questions -

1) Are you planning on going 'pure' magus or multiclass, maybe with rogue?
If you're MCing you'll be loosing out on a fair amount of good magus class features and spells. Still MCing with a rogue can be a fun class to play.

2) Will traits be allowed in your game?
Traits can play a very big part in a magus's creation.

3) Stats - What stats are you using and do you want a STR or DEX base magus?
Both have their pluses and minuses.

4) What's the level range of campaign and access to magical gear?

What I've found that works for me, is that you want to either go as a 'pure' magus for the access to spells and spell casting or just a couple levels (two or three) dip into the magus for access to spell combat and the first level utility spells (also helps with saves).


I'm going to be going pure Magus, and trying not to multiclass. And, from the options given to me, I think I'll have to go STR rather than DEX. Traits will be allowed, but rather than using it to boost the potency of the Magus, I was going to choose 'Criminal' because...well my character was a criminal before the campaign. I don't know the answer to the last question.

Silver Crusade

My suggestion for you is two fold.
1: Don't count on any spell you cast that allows for save. To be effective past level 7. You are not a full caster and have not focused on your casting stat.
2: I recommend you have a long look at the bard class. After you realize part 1. Not saying the class is better over all. It fits you concept better then magus.

The hardest part will be the lack of class skills. I recommend you think on a two level dip in to rogue. To get two things first the class skills, second Evasion.
Human
Magus (Kensai)
Str 10
Dex 18
Con 12
Int 16
Wis 10
Cha 8
Skill Ranks Per Level: Class 2 + Human 1 + Favored Class 1 + Int Mod 3 = 7
Human: Fast Learner
Kensai: Weapon Focus: Scimitar
1: Weapon Finesses
3: Slashing Grace
5: Intensified Spell (Metamagic)
5 Magus Bonus: Improved Initiative
7: Weapon Specialization: Scimitar
9: Toughness
11: Improved Critical: Scimitar
11 Magus Bonus: Greater Weapon Focus: Scimitar

Scarab Sages

I'd take the class guides people are mentioning with a grain of salt, if I read them at all; they're really just editorials posing as authoritative sources. Just because they say a given option is really good/really bad doesn't make it true, and when it is, it's something you could judge for yourself just as easily. I strongly recommend giving yourself the mental space to develop your own unique perceptions of the game rather than cribbing someone else's. It doesn't help creative thought, which is the game's raison d'etre, after all.

Other than that:

What you want to create is actually not hard; high-Dexterity is one of the easier, less risky ways to play a Magus. You need Weapon Finesse, obviously, and a rapier will suit your character like a glove (or maybe a kukri, if you'd prefer Oriental/slashing to Occidental/piercing). Strength is good for such a character to have, but if you don't have the points/rolls available for it, an average score in that is fine for such a character. A good starting Intelligence could be anywhere from 14-18.

The Greensting Slayer Archetype would be great for your character concept - I thought it was restricted to Half-Elves, but it appears that might have been changed (or that it might never have actually been so).

The trickiest part is getting the thieving skills without multi-classing. If your DM permits it, the Gold Finger trait from Pathfinder Society Organized Play grants +1 to both Disable Device and Sleight of Hand, and makes one of them a class skill for you. Making the other a class skill for you can also be accomplished with a trait, like Criminal (which is appropriate for your character anyway, since most traits are specifically meant to represent prominent aspects of your character's background).

Consider also taking the Focused Study alternate Human racial feature, which grants you 3 bonus Skill Focus feats, spread out over the course of your career. It might be worth it if you want to give a further edge to your skills. There's also the new Cunning feat, which is the long-awaited equivalent of Toughness for skill points!


Couple comments - my personal opinions.

I do not like any of the magus's archetypes that give up spell slots or spell recall (which might be all of them). Those spells are just too handy and spell recall gives you a bit of flexibility on which spells you choose to memorize for the day.

Have played both a Str and Dex based magus. Liked the Str overall a lot better then the Dex based magus. While Strength is more MAD for stat placements, it just seemed to open up more options and greater flexibility to me. While Dex is nice, you're going to be worthless the first couple of levels you play as you wont be doing damage and you'll have to wait till you burn a couple of feat slots to get that damage.

Spell of choice: (2nd level) Frigid Touch
Does decent damage, 4D6 cold the big thing is it staggers what you hit.
If you can pick up a wand of this and the wand arcana, go crazy.
Also works wonders if you put this spell in a spell storing armor. Some creature full attacking you with lots of attack? Trigger the armor on the first hit. Creature is now staggered and has to stop.

possible 20 point buy -
STR 16+2; DEX 12; CON 14; INT 14; WIS 12; CHA 7

I'd be very tempted to go Dual Talent (from Advance Race Guide) and give up that extra feat and extra skill point to go +2 Str & +2 Int (brings you up to 16 Int)

Silver Crusade

I'm Hiding In Your Closet wrote:
I'd take the class guides people are mentioning with a grain of salt, if I read them at all; they're really just editorials posing as authoritative sources. Just because they say a given option is really good/really bad doesn't make it true, and when it is, it's something you could judge for yourself just as easily. I strongly recommend giving yourself the mental space to develop your own unique perceptions of the game rather than cribbing someone else's. It doesn't help creative thought, which is the game's raison d'etre, after all.

You know guides are just that, right? They're guides, suggestions from people who'd like people to be able to build something to their perception of their character while being able to avoid options that don't actually do what they say on the box. Not sure where we claim to be an authoritative source rather than people who believe themselves to have enough system mastery to help players.

As for judging it for one's self, with the amount of options out there, that's a fool's errand, which is again, one of the reasons guides exist, as no one wants to have to look through 500+ feats/spells to be able to build a character when they can see helpful advice about what generally works and what doesn't.

The various guides can help you with what you're looking to do, as it seems you have a clear thematic and mechanical goal, so I'd suggest checking them myself.


Dandragon01 wrote:

the problem with kensai is that it suffers from the spell failure chance with any type of armor, which makes magic less useful as an option for damage

also deathlessone, why does it have to be unchained rogue and not regular old rogue?

I usually go with silken ceremonial armor, with either potions of Mage Armor or a wand of Mage Armor.

At 6th level I use my first arcana to add Mage Armor and another spell to my spell list.
's
Or, you can just keep enchanting the silken ceremonial armor. It's not bad for AC on a caster and can eventually pick up a few really nice properties.

Matt2VK wrote:
Have played both a Str and Dex based magus. Liked the Str overall a lot better then the Dex based magus. While Strength is more MAD for stat placements, it just seemed to open up more options and greater flexibility to me. While Dex is nice, you're going to be worthless the first couple of levels you play as you wont be doing damage and you'll have to wait till you burn a couple of feat slots to get that damage.

While I have nothing against a strength based magus, in this circumstance the OP was looking for a non-min/maxed former rouge. A high dexterity is important for most of the rouge themed skills, i.e. disable device, stealth, acrobatics.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Dasrak wrote:
Dandragon01 wrote:
Okay. But what about a Magus with a VMC of Rogue? It fits more with the character trying to cast of their former thieving life, while still having some of the skills remaining?
Because VMC Rogue isn't very good. It's okay, but there are better ways to get those abilities. You can still invest in feats and skill that are Roguish even if you're taking levels in Magus. VMC is very intensive on your feats, so you should only do it if you can't realistically get those abilities elsewhere.

The Rogue VMC is fine if you want the specific package of features that it offers. Its main weakness is that it does not grant you Disable Device and Perception as class skills, without which Trapfinding (the ability gained at 3rd level) is not particularly useful -- so classes that don't grant those class skills require expenditure of traits or something similar to make that 1st feature work.

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