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Another thread Wizard vs Arcanist


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

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I'm reading around a lot about Arcanist is considered a weaker class than Wizard. I don't really understand why, except for the fact that the Wizard gains new spell levels earlier... That is not enough, in my opinion, since from level 10 or 12 the Arcanist seems (to me) quite stronger at even levels.

Since I'd like to make a convincing argument about this, I'll make two comparable builds. Same race, same abilities. I'll just make an Arcanist that dumps Charisma as any wizard can do.
I'll make a level 12 build. A wizard is considered the strongest class at "higher" levels. I don't want to have any gods here since it is quite rare to get to very high levels. 12 seems a good compromise.
I'm not taking archetypes into account, just the base classes.

First: spell comparison.
Arcanist: 4 4 4 4 4 2
Wizard: 4 4 4 3 3 2 + school spells
The Wizard have a few more spells but some of them have to ben of her specialized school. The Arcanist has less "spells known", since he can only prepare less different spells.
Arcanist spells known: 5 5 4 3 2 1
More than a Wizard at low levels, less at higher levels. But any self-respecting Arcanist has Quick Study by now and can change her "prepared spells" at any time outside combat by spending 1 point of her Arcane Reservoir. I think it's enough, since you can expect to have more than a single encounter in an adventuring day, especially if you are in a dungeon. At this level you will have 9 points; you can afford to spend 3 or 4 in changing your spells, and this gives you flexibility.

Other class abilities: Same BAB, same saving throw. What about arcane bond, arcane school, and discoveries? A level 12 Wizard will have a familiar, an arcane school, Scribe Scrolls, and two bonus feats.
An Arcanist will have her arcane reservoir pool, and six arcanist explots. One will have to be Quick study. The second will have to be a Familiar - that's arguably better than a bonded object, especially if it is an Improved one. The third is Scribe Scroll. The fourth and the fifth can be any metamagic feat or item creation feat. She qualifies late for Arcane Discoveries and can't take Spell Mastery as an exploit.
Is it a big deal? I think not.
The Arcanist still has one arcane exploit free: she can take Potent Magic, IMHO better than the arcane school powers.

So based on this analysis, it seems to me that the Arcanist can do most thing as well as a Wizard does, at even levels. Maybe better, since the arcane exploits give her more versatility - and versatility is where the Wizard shines.

Am I missing someting? Are arcane schools, discoveries and maybe archetypes so strong that the arcanist does seriously lag behind? Or the difference lies in the few more spells per day that a wizard can cast (not even 1 more per spell level)?

Please enlighten me. I should be preparing a new character after the TPK in our Hell's Vengeance campaign and - if I don't have to take the role of the support-healer again - I might consider one of these two classes, so I'm really interested in what REALLY makes the wizard stronger more than half of the time, meaning at odd levels.


Wizard's bonus feats, earlier spellcasting access, and ease of play (and lack of MAD-ness) give them an edge. Combined with Exploiter Wizard archetype, gives them some of the best Arcanist tools, and realizes the ever-so-famous Schrodinger Wizard.

Arcanists have other useful tools, and are actually better at certain spellcasting playstyles than Wizard's are, most notably blasting and save or suck/die spells, due to Arcane Reservoir. The Blood Arcanist gives them powerful Sorcerer goodies that Wizards would have to dip in order to get them.


Comparing at an even level misses one of the biggest strengths of the wizard.


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Wizard and Arcanist are both exceptionally good classes, and a direct comparison just gets into how strong these classes really are. Arcane schools are exceptionally useful - divination, teleportion, and void immediately come to mind. Combined with the extra spells they offer, they are considered roughly on par with exploits (as evidenced by the Exploiter Wizard being considered a good archetype). Overall I think Wizards and Arcanists are well balanced against each other at even levels, perhaps even with a slight Arcanist advantage. However, at odd levels the Wizard is decisively superior due to his higher spell level access. This means the overall comparison is in favor of the Wizard.

You're also over-estimating quick study quite a bit. Don't get me wrong, it's a great ability, but it does take a full round action (plus you need to retrieve your spellbook if it's stowed) so it has a very high opportunity cost in combat situations. Out of combat, Wizards get the Fast Study arcane discovery that allows them to prepare a spell in an unused slot in only 1 minute.

The bottom line, however, is that we're talking about two of the most powerful classes in the game. If one of them looks like it would be more appealing for you to play, don't even hesitate to go for that.


Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
(and lack of MAD-ness)

Arcanists are no more MAD than wizards, pretty much none of the charisma based exploits are worth taking and the stat points you would invest to get extra uses of consume spells are almost certainly better spent elsewhere.


The major issue is at the top of the spells known. Your hypothetical 12th level arcanist is carrying around 2 uses of 1 spell known (6th level spells). Your 12th level wizard (assuming specialization) has 3 different 6th level spells. Similarly with the 5th level spells. The wizard has more top-level options, and these are the ones that really break challenging encounters. Obviously, it's worse and odd levels.

The Occultist archetype (for Arcanist) can keep up though, with the ability to use SM* (a better version than normal SM! Standard Action and 1 min/level), at a level that matches the Wizards progression, at least 1/day, and more using things like consume spells/items...


conjuration (teleportation subschool) grants perhaps the best defensive power in the game, in shift. The ability to swift action teleport, from level one, and get an extra movement in a turn is almost certainly the best power in the game. And you get it, in part, from level one.

Foresight is not bad either.

Earlier access and lack of MAD-ness would be enough of an edge alone.


Thank you all very much, your answers are really appreciated!


Create Mr. Pitt wrote:

conjuration (teleportation subschool) grants perhaps the best defensive power in the game, in shift. The ability to swift action teleport, from level one, and get an extra movement in a turn is almost certainly the best power in the game. And you get it, in part, from level one.

{. . .}

Arcanist can get Dimensional Slide, and you don't need the Dimensional Agility feat to be able to use actions later during your turn.


Dimensional Slide has one huge flaw over Shift: it can only be used as part of a move action. If you're prevented from taking a move action (for instance, due to being grappled) then you cannot use Dimensional Slide. It also requires line of sight, so you can't just pass through solid barriers with it. Shift may have a feat tax to fully benefit from it, but it works in situations where Dimensional Slide doesn't.


Dasrak wrote:
Dimensional Slide has one huge flaw over Shift: it can only be used as part of a move action. If you're prevented from taking a move action (for instance, due to being grappled) then you cannot use Dimensional Slide. It also requires line of sight, so you can't just pass through solid barriers with it. Shift may have a feat tax to fully benefit from it, but it works in situations where Dimensional Slide doesn't.

If you're getting grappled as a Wizard, you're doing it wrong, and you deserve it.


Not even close.

Wizards and Arcanists are glass cannons. Going first is key, and the divination specialist will be going first. Game over.

But even beyond that, the lack of spells known constrains an Arcanist subtlely. A wizard is going to memorize ablating sphere, or emergency force sphere. He can afford to put a quickened 6th level spell.

Bottom line: an Arcanist is more narrowly (sharply) focused.


The spells known limit is pretty meaningless because of quick study. That's also probably the first exploit that exploiter wizards grab, because it's amazing.


Dasrak wrote:
Dimensional Slide has one huge flaw over Shift: it can only be used as part of a move action. If you're prevented from taking a move action (for instance, due to being grappled) then you cannot use Dimensional Slide. It also requires line of sight, so you can't just pass through solid barriers with it. Shift may have a feat tax to fully benefit from it, but it works in situations where Dimensional Slide doesn't.

Looks to me like you can use Dimensional Slide to go through a solid barrier as long as you have a way to see through the barrier (glass, bars, or you are using Clarvoyance, Arcane Eye, or something similar).

I see Dimensional Slide as being more offense-oriented, while Shift is more defense-oriented. With some investment, either can be made to work for the other purpose.

Perfect Tommy wrote:

{. . .}

But even beyond that, the lack of spells known constrains an Arcanist subtlely. A wizard is going to memorize ablating sphere, or emergency force sphere. He can afford to put a quickened 6th level spell.
{. . .}

And a Wizard that prepared only one of these and unexpectedly needs a second casting is in trouble. Bonded Object helps you with this once per day; beyond that (or if you have a Familiar or are of an archetype that trades out Arcane Bond), you will need to shell out for Pearls of Power (they start getting expensive at high levels, even if you make them yourself).


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Really there is no way to determine with 100% certainty which is better. I think the wizard has a higher ceiling, but also a lower floor, but the margin is razor thin. Having played both I can say the table will be a large factor. I definitely give the wizard the edge at odd levels, and at even levels the arcanist may pull even.

Not having the "right" spell is not really a problem for a wizard or arcanist if the player is at least average. I say that because most people think in terms of "you must use spell X" during these debates, but the reality is that in most games many spells could help, some more than others.


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Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
Dasrak wrote:
Dimensional Slide has one huge flaw over Shift: it can only be used as part of a move action. If you're prevented from taking a move action (for instance, due to being grappled) then you cannot use Dimensional Slide. It also requires line of sight, so you can't just pass through solid barriers with it. Shift may have a feat tax to fully benefit from it, but it works in situations where Dimensional Slide doesn't.
If you're getting grappled as a Wizard, you're doing it wrong, and you deserve it.

A) sometimes things are beyond your control, even for god wizards

B) sometimes people make mistakes

This attitude that you don't want to cover your weaknesses because you believe they'll never be exploited because you're simply too smart for that seems kind complacent to me.


Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
Dasrak wrote:
Dimensional Slide has one huge flaw over Shift: it can only be used as part of a move action. If you're prevented from taking a move action (for instance, due to being grappled) then you cannot use Dimensional Slide. It also requires line of sight, so you can't just pass through solid barriers with it. Shift may have a feat tax to fully benefit from it, but it works in situations where Dimensional Slide doesn't.
If you're getting grappled as a Wizard, you're doing it wrong, and you deserve it.

A) sometimes things are beyond your control, even for god wizards

B) sometimes people make mistakes

This attitude that you don't want to cover your weaknesses because you believe they'll never be exploited because you're simply too smart for that seems kind complacent to me.

If by "Beyond your control," you mean "GM Houserules nerfed my options," then yes. If by "beyond your control," you mean "I didn't cast XYZ," then no.

And the attitude doesn't stem from "I don't want to cover my weakness," it's from "That weakness should already be covered by the time the GM throws XYZ at me."


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
pad300 wrote:
The major issue is at the top of the spells known. Your hypothetical 12th level arcanist is carrying around 2 uses of 1 spell known (6th level spells). Your 12th level wizard (assuming specialization) has 3 different 6th level spells. Similarly with the 5th level spells. The wizard has more top-level options, and these are the ones that really break challenging encounters. Obviously, it's worse and odd levels.

The delay in spell access and the limited list can put you at a huge disadvantage-- especially if playing through an AP that has the ending battle at an odd level.

pad309 wrote:
The Occultist archetype (for Arcanist) can keep up though, with the ability to use SM* (a better version than normal SM! Standard Action and 1 min/level), at a level that matches the Wizards progression, at least 1/day, and more using things like consume spells/items...

In order to make the Occultist archetype work, you will need to invest in Charisma, which most likely means your DCs are one behind. It also means saving your AR points for the summons instead of using it for dimensional slide, potent magic, or other things.

You can do this, but it does change what exploits you want to concentrate on.

---

In the end, I believe that provided you don't get a lot of the boss fights at odd levels (which APs seem to like todo) the thing that will determine which is stronger is the play style of the player.


Darksol the Painbringer wrote:

If by "Beyond your control," you mean "GM Houserules nerfed my options," then yes. If by "beyond your control," you mean "I didn't cast XYZ," then no.

And the attitude doesn't stem from "I don't want to cover my weakness," it's from "That weakness should already be covered by the time the GM throws XYZ at me."

An opponent with high stealth and one bad set of perception roles could easily end in you being grappled.

There are spells that circumvent this issue, like tremor sense, but who actually has tremor sense up all the time?

EDIT: not to mention all those levels where those spells are
A) not available
B) a resource you need for the rest of the day, before you have access to enough slots than you burn a tone pre buffing

A wizard can shift at any level, he can't be prepared for anything at any level. Things can grapple you before you get access to your answer to a grapple.


BretI wrote:
In order to make the Occultist archetype work, you will need to invest in Charisma, which most likely means your DCs are one behind.

The archetype works fine with dumped cha, you just have to be picky about which fights you use your top summons.


The occultist doesn't have as strong of a need for intelligence though. He won't be casting a lot of DC based spells and his spells per day is virtually boosted by his Summon Monster ability.


Darksol the Painbringer wrote:

If by "Beyond your control," you mean "GM Houserules nerfed my options," then yes. If by "beyond your control," you mean "I didn't cast XYZ," then no.

And the attitude doesn't stem from "I don't want to cover my weakness," it's from "That weakness should already be covered by the time the GM throws XYZ at me."

I think you're vastly underestimating the creativity of GM's to beat a specific character's tactics fairly within the rules. You do know us GM's are allowed to use Wizard NPC's, and tend to adjust our own tactics and optimization level to match whatever our players are using?

Setting that aside, grappling is something you can face at 1st level. I'm not aware of any good anti-grapple spell options at the 1st level. The closest is the grease spell, but the opportunity cost for using it as a defensive buff spell is pretty onerous. The situation doesn't improve for some time, and for most of your career defending against grapple will be both imperfect and require non-negligible resource investment.

You have limited spell slots, so every defensive spell comes at the cost of something else you aren't preparing. Prebuffs have only limited duration (few spells last long enough to give all-day coverage) and even then can be dispelled. Ring of Freedom of Movement is a solid catch-all that's difficult to suppress and doesn't tap into your spellcasting resources, but 30k isn't cheap. Even the universal panic button known as Emergency Force Sphere locks you inside that barrier and can limit your ability to act on your next turn (a swift action teleportation ability would come in really handy there. Just saying).

What makes Shift so good as an anti-grapple measure is that it's a catch-all that requires no proactive effort or investment of resources (save the obligatory feat tax of Dimensional Agility). You don't need to anticipate what types of threats you will face to have the right spells prepared/cast ahead of time, and activating it as a counter-measure has a very low opportunity cost. Shift is a get-out-of-grapple-free card; you don't need to worry about protecting yourself from grapple because it's no longer a seriously detrimental effect to you. It just forces the expenditure of one use of a swift action 3+int/day ability. This allows you to use resources you might have used to defend against a grapple elsewhere, and the resource that is reserved for anti-grapple measures is still available for other purposes since it doesn't need to be used proactively. Even if you could have protected yourself from grapples another way, that's still very valuable.


Wand of Liberating command And a familiar with thummbs. First level solution to grapple. Or wrist sheaths.


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Welcome to the Schrodinger's Wizard argument, where simply being a God Wizard makes anything else invalid.


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A Wand of Liberating Command costs 750 gp, that is a masive investment at 1st level. Liberating Command also is unreliable, since you still must succeed on an escape artist check against the target's CMD and the spell only gives a +2 bonus on that check.


BretI wrote:
pad300 wrote:
The major issue is at the top of the spells known. Your hypothetical 12th level arcanist is carrying around 2 uses of 1 spell known (6th level spells). Your 12th level wizard (assuming specialization) has 3 different 6th level spells. Similarly with the 5th level spells. The wizard has more top-level options, and these are the ones that really break challenging encounters. Obviously, it's worse and odd levels.

The delay in spell access and the limited list can put you at a huge disadvantage-- especially if playing through an AP that has the ending battle at an odd level.

pad309 wrote:
The Occultist archetype (for Arcanist) can keep up though, with the ability to use SM* (a better version than normal SM! Standard Action and 1 min/level), at a level that matches the Wizards progression, at least 1/day, and more using things like consume spells/items...

In order to make the Occultist archetype work, you will need to invest in Charisma, which most likely means your DCs are one behind. It also means saving your AR points for the summons instead of using it for dimensional slide, potent magic, or other things.

You can do this, but it does change what exploits you want to concentrate on.

---

In the end, I believe that provided you don't get a lot of the boss fights at odd levels (which APs seem to like todo) the thing that will determine which is stronger is the play style of the player.

The build gets a bit specialized, but Ratfolk Arcanist (Occultist) with consume magic items, the ratfolk arcanist FCB from blood of the beast, and scribe scroll is not significantly in need of more charisma than any other arcanist.


wraithstrike wrote:

Really there is no way to determine with 100% certainty which is better. I think the wizard has a higher ceiling, but also a lower floor, but the margin is razor thin. Having played both I can say the table will be a large factor. I definitely give the wizard the edge at odd levels, and at even levels the arcanist may pull even.

Not having the "right" spell is not really a problem for a wizard or arcanist if the player is at least average. I say that because most people think in terms of "you must use spell X" during these debates, but the reality is that in most games many spells could help, some more than others.

I think at level 1 and 2 the arcanist is more powerful as both only have access to level 1 spells at maximum. I really liked using potent magic at low levels to boost save dc or caster level through the roof.

The wizard getting earlier acess to high level spells will help it a lot.


Low level arcanists are my favorite method of breaking the CR system. Potent + favorite spell is +4 CL which allows 3rd level arcanists to whip out CL 7 spells. Potentially higher as you increase in levels. Makes them brutal foes, when they will blow all their spells in a single fight


ShroudedInLight wrote:
Low level arcanists are my favorite method of breaking the CR system. Potent + favorite spell is +4 CL which allows 3rd level arcanists to whip out CL 7 spells. Potentially higher as you increase in levels. Makes them brutal foes, when they will blow all their spells in a single fight

What is potent? Is it a feat?


Potent Magic is an arcanist exploit. Really good for blasters.


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Potent magic exploit as far as I can tell...but favorite spell search turns out Favored spell which doesn't do anything on an arcanist.


I have potent on my current arcanist. I had just forgotten the name of it. I can't find favored or favorite spell except as a 3rd party option.


You're right, AFAIC find, Favored Spell is a third party thing, and it's a game breaker... applies to one spell only, but potentially a lot more powerful than the old 'Practiced Spell Caster'


Klorox wrote:
You're right, AFAIC find, Favored Spell is a third party thing, and it's a game breaker... applies to one spell only, but potentially a lot more powerful than the old 'Practiced Spell Caster'

Don't really see it as I don't know any low level spell that has an enormous benefit from it's CL scaling to 20 with some other class. Also still don't see the application in the above example.


Favored spell is only useful when multiclassing. For a straight full caster it doesn't do anything. It only matches your caster level up to your character level similar to how boon companion works for people with animal companions.

Quote:

Despite exploring some non-casting endeavors, you remain a master of one spell.

Benefit: Choose one spell you can cast. Treat your character level as your caster level when casting this spell. For example, a Monk 9/Sorcerer 1 who chooses magic missile as her favored spell casts magic missile as a 10th level sorcerer.

Special: You can gain this feat multiple times. Its effects do not stack. Each time you take the feat, it applies to a new spell.


Perfect Tommy wrote:
Wand of Liberating command And a familiar with thummbs. First level solution to grapple. Or wrist sheaths.

A Wand of Grease is a better option for low levels.


Dasrak wrote:
Potent Magic is an arcanist exploit. Really good for blasters.

Potent magic is good, but I think it gets a little overvalued. You can already increase level or DC by 1, and potent magic just increases that by another 1. And at later levels, the extra level won't make a meaningful difference for most spells, so it's mostly about the DC increase. I'm not saying to not take it. It's good. It's just not as amazing as it is often made out to be.


Whoops, was away from my resources. I meant Potent Magic and spell specialization. Sorry for the confusion folks


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Melkiador wrote:
You can already increase level or DC by 1, and potent magic just increases that by another 1. And at later levels, the extra level won't make a meaningful difference for most spells, so it's mostly about the DC increase. I'm not saying to not take it. It's good. It's just not as amazing as it is often made out to be.

He's talking about low levels, and Potent Magic's CL bonus is exceedingly relevant at low levels. Presuming you're stacking it with spell specialization, it's still a 66% damage boost at the 1st level. By the 4th level it's fallen to a still respectable 33% damage boost. By 6th level it's a 25% damage boost. If you're playing at very high levels (it's a 9% boost at 20th, presuming your damage dice aren't capped) it's much more marginal given that it taps into your reservoir, but these sort of CL boosting options should not be under-estimated at lower levels.

Klorox wrote:
You're right, AFAIC find, Favored Spell is a third party thing, and it's a game breaker... applies to one spell only, but potentially a lot more powerful than the old 'Practiced Spell Caster'

He's describing a feat that gives a +2 caster level boost that stacks with potent magic, so he must have meant Spell Specialization.


Dasrak wrote:
Melkiador wrote:
You can already increase level or DC by 1, and potent magic just increases that by another 1. And at later levels, the extra level won't make a meaningful difference for most spells, so it's mostly about the DC increase. I'm not saying to not take it. It's good. It's just not as amazing as it is often made out to be.
He's talking about low levels, and Potent Magic's CL bonus is exceedingly relevant at low levels. Presuming you're stacking it with spell specialization, it's still a 66% damage boost at the 1st level. By the 4th level it's fallen to a still respectable 33% damage boost. By 6th level it's a 25% damage boost. If you're playing at very high levels (it's a 9% boost at 20th, presuming your damage dice aren't capped) it's much more marginal given that it taps into your reservoir, but these sort of CL boosting options should not be under-estimated at lower levels.

It sounds like you are falling for the same trap I was warning about. You're comparing the base to all modifiers, where you should be comparing all modifiers to the one modifier.

A first level guy who skips potent magic and takes spell specialization, can cast spells at level 4. Or, a first level guy who takes potent magic and takes spell specialization, can cast spells at level 5. So in that case, taking potent spells only gives a 25% increase in the damage, at level 1. And then its benefit just gets worse from there. Its damage boost is actually more meaningful, if you didn't include spell specialization. Then you'd be going from level 2 to 3, which would be a 50% damage increase. But again, it still goes down from there.


Just to further explain, I've been at work and unable to ramble the way I normally like to post, I tend to use these spell specialized potent magic arcanists as low CR nukes. Great to add to a boss fight. The most basic is an level 1 NE human heroic NPC with spell focus, spell specialization, and potent magic. This guy costs little in terms of XP budget but can throw out 3d4+3 damage with magic missiles twice a day. That is dangerous free damage and they can easily burst down a single target. Burning hands and snowball are less reliable but other fun options. Each of these jerks is 1/2 CR and they make for dangerous fodder. Since each of them can be using a different spell the PCs will not be able to shield against all the damage as they try to cut through the underlings.

If you make your own monsters through adding class levels to existing creatures in the bestiaries, any creature with 2 or more HD can benefit from the same outfit of feats and potent magic. High Int, melee only, or d6 HD all can take advantage of having what amounts to a Sla they can use 2x day at 5th.


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I'm not seeing the benefit in that NPC. You're just trying to increase the difficulty of an encounter without raising the CR, meaning that your party will face bigger challenges without getting rewarded for overcoming them.


The benefit is dangerous but easily disposable mooks.

Having a situation where the enemy cultists are wall to wall, each a threat, and each murderable by 6 odd damage is a great way to make your cleavers, blasters, trappers, mass debuffers, battlefield controllers, and negative channelers feel awesome. It provides a legitimate threat to encourage sneaking, and discourages wanton murder. It also means I can outfit an enemy with a number of mooks worth killing (because now they are no longer contributing to the fight) but that are easily removed. This makes it so the boss fight isn't just a single evil man with either 2 folks a quarter his strength or more even weaker folks who pose the party no threat except as walls of meat

As for rewards, they are Mooks. The rewards are on their boss, in their hideout, given as gifts for a job well done, and etc. Not the 10 gold the guy brought to buy his lunch at villains mart and the party's 100th light crossbow. It's like expecting every bear in the wilderness or every pack of wolves have all eaten a purse of gold. Keeping the constant gold small and the payouts for completion big encourages folks to finish their objectives and cuts down on abandoned storylines/murderhoboing.


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Melkiador wrote:
It sounds like you are falling for the same trap I was warning about. You're comparing the base to all modifiers, where you should be comparing all modifiers to the one modifier.

I disagree; what you compare it against depends on what you view as the more significant cost. If you think the exploit is the most significant cost here, then yes you'd compare it against the regular +1 modifier. If you think the point of arcane reservoir is the greater limitation, then you should be looking against the base. I do believe the point of arcane reservoir is the greater limitation in this case, so I think the comparison is against the unboosted spell.

Even if we do only count the +1, it's still pretty significant well into your career. On a 6th level Arcanist you're going from CL 8 to CL 9, which is a 12% damage boost. Not great, but still decent.

Melkiador wrote:
I'm not seeing the benefit in that NPC. You're just trying to increase the difficulty of an encounter without raising the CR, meaning that your party will face bigger challenges without getting rewarded for overcoming them.

If you want to get technical, the GM can do anything they want in regards to XP awards and the strengths/abilities of the antagonists. However, not every GM likes playing that way. I personally find it most interesting to work within limitations, giving myself a CR budget and trying to craft an interesting and challenging encounter within the available rules. So yes, optimization tricks are useful to me for NPC design given the way I enjoy playing the game.

This doesn't mean you blindly follow the CR system. When you craft an NPC who substantially diverges from its CR in some way (such as exceptionally optimized damage) then you should be aware of that when you employ it. I find there are often cases where I want low-CR enemies to diverge from benchmarks on their attack and damage, so they can better act as threatening mooks when facing high-level PC's. Just using a higher-CR enemy might not be appropriate, as you might legitimately want the lesser durability of the lower-CR enemy.


I always find insanely optimised cheesie one trick NPCs a bit jarring, they kind of knock me out of my suspension of disbelief a little bit. When you have one guy whose clearly been built to be super effective at level 2 that's bad enough as it suggests he never envisioned himself going higher.
When you have 10 guys all with the same exact deeply specific one trick build it's just weird for me.


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Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
When you have 10 guys all with the same exact deeply specific one trick build it's just weird for me.

Not really; if they're all part of the same organization or group and were explicitly trained in the same way then it makes sense. Also there is a degree of allowance for the GM in that they're not going to create unique stat-blocks for nameless mooks.

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
When you have one guy whose clearly been built to be super effective at level 2 that's bad enough as it suggests he never envisioned himself going higher.

This perspective only makes sense if you're a PC with plot armor. If you're an ordinary guy in this setting you probably don't expect to ever reach high levels, and if your profession is going to lead you into combat situations you probably are going to be optimized for maximum efficiency at low levels as a result.


Dasrak wrote:
Melkiador wrote:
It sounds like you are falling for the same trap I was warning about. You're comparing the base to all modifiers, where you should be comparing all modifiers to the one modifier.
I disagree; what you compare it against depends on what you view as the more significant cost. If you think the exploit is the most significant cost here, then yes you'd compare it against the regular +1 modifier. If you think the point of arcane reservoir is the greater limitation, then you should be looking against the base. I do believe the point of arcane reservoir is the greater limitation in this case, so I think the comparison is against the unboosted spell.

What do you mean by "greater limitation"? To me, it's still a greater limitation difference of 1. The exploit does nothing other than change the level by 1. Giving the exploit credit for things it's not doing is disingenuous.


Melkiador wrote:
What do you mean by "greater limitation"? To me, it's still a greater limitation difference of 1. The exploit does nothing other than change the level by 1. Giving the exploit credit for things it's not doing is disingenuous.

If the extra +1 is what makes the ability worth expending the cost in the first place, then ability would not have been used at all without Potent Magic.

Consider, hypothetically, that the option of using the +1 CL boost did not exist; you'd need the Potent Magic exploit to do it at all. If that were the case, there would be no argument that we count the full +2 bonus in our analysis. Now imagine that we subsequently add the +1 option. Did Potent Magic get any worse? No it didn't, there's just another option competing with it. To fully compare them we need to analyze both options. Potent Magic costs an exploit, but gives double the cost benefit. The baseline CL boost doesn't cost an exploit, but is half as efficient with your arcane reservoir. If our analysis indicates that the reservoir cost isn't worth paying for the baseline version, then this new option is irrelevant. The situation is functionally no different than if only the +2 Potent Magic option existed.

Or, as I put it, if the arcane reservoir cost is a greater limitation than the cost of the exploit, then we should count Potent Magic as a +2 bonus (because the +1 bonus alternative is functionally irrelevant anyways).


Sure, if you hypothetically, didn't have the ability to add a +1 and the exploit gave you the ability to add a +2, then you'd be getting +2 from that exploit. But in reality, you do already have the ability to add a +1 and the exploit only gives another +1. I still don't see what you are trying to imply.


Dasrak wrote:


Not really; if they're all part of the same organization or group and were explicitly trained in the same way then it makes sense. Also there is a degree of allowance for the GM in that they're not going to create unique stat-blocks for nameless mooks.

A dark organisation training Arcanist from a young age to all go into the same build seems far fetched with the end game being, slightly more impactful mooks.

Not to mention that they're all supposed to be very intelligent, yet are fully willing to all follow exactly the same build which suggests doing exactly the same thing in their academic study as everyone else they know. To an inquisitive mind that would surely be boring and I don't see why they'd willingly go along with it.

Honestly I'd need some pretty good fluff to justify these overly complex mooks. But hey that's just me.

I mean sure it's fine for DMs to do it I just think it's kinda cringe.

Also you don't actually need to make a build for a level 2 mook just give em a couple spells they can cast and boost a couple of em in different ways, toughness for some, Spell focus for some, maybe improved initiative. Mooks don't need a complex build they're mooks.

Quote:


This perspective only makes sense if you're a PC with plot armor. If you're an ordinary guy in this setting you probably don't expect to ever reach high levels, and if your profession is going to lead you into combat situations you probably are going to be optimized for maximum efficiency at low levels as a result.

Or they are aspirational, not to mention the idea of people in world on masses knowing the highest impact strategy is believable when it's a big sword held it two hands swung hard.

Everyone knowing to go Spell focus + spell specialisation + potent magic, when they aren't even benefitting from half of their build for their chosen strategy. (Magic missile doesn't need DC boosts)

Seems hinky

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