The why do guides ignore the utility caster?


Advice

Scarab Sages

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So I was looking around the psychic guides the other day to see what second-level Spell I should get next for my self-perfection psychic, and a thought hit me as I looked at all the guides.

Everything was based towards building a psychic that could just end combat with one or two failed saves. Hold person, dominate person, stuff like that. One guide even mentioned not needing freedom of movement once you get the ring. And I was like “Uhhh, what about the REST of the party?”

Lots of guides promote color spray and sleep and other spells that will just END a low-level fight in one roll, something I never really cared for. Heck, there is a wizard guide out there that advocates nothing but spells that will end combats in one or two rounds.

So, why aren’t there guides focusing on utility builds? Things with buffs and debuff removers. I mean, I get that not everyone likes that style of play, but most guides for spellcasters don’t see it as an option. I personally like utility builds and would like to see more representation in guides.


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cause those don't end fight?
Like which is "better" a spell that instantly ends the fight thus preventing all the damage the party may have received and saving other resources so that the party may have a longer work day OR a spell that adds +2 to attack and damage to someone so that they'll maybe hit a few extra times and all their hits will be a bit stronger?

Like the ending the fight spell is the clear winner.

Also look at the approach of you just levels up for a new spell tier and can learn 1 or 2 spells. Which do you pick? Like an oracle that grabbed remove blindness or restoration as their 1 spell now may not use that spell tier at all that day if those conditionally needed condition removers aren't needed. So spells that are generally applicable are rated as better than spells that are more niche.

As to your Freedom of movement example. Why cast that on someone when you can just daze/sleep/kill the creature grappling them (and maybe some of the other enemies too)? Both use up 1 spell and free your friend. One has additional side effects on the enemy the other doesn't.

And since the guides are all about recommending the "best" options you get spell that are generally usable that end fights. It should be fairly easy to see why this is.


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Well, one of the issues is that the psychic is a spontaneous caster, and with limited spells known, it's perhaps better to focus on "winning" than "helping". Utility spells that will only be needed a few times can be handled by scrolls (they are still on your list even if you don't know them). Spontaneous casters are generally best built for being really good at one or two things, with spells known devoted to those utility spells that will come up a lot.

Another thing worth considering is "the order in which we take things" since if you're a psychic and you just got your first 4th level spell, Freedom of Movement, while a good spell, is not going to be a first pick over something like black tentacles or confusion. Building to spell perfection with a spell like Freedom of Movement is perhaps not the best use of resources, and 14 classes get that spell whereas only 3 get Etheric Shards.

Probably the missing guide for a swiss army knife utility caster is better suited as a cleric or wizard guide, but people tend not to want to write those since going through all the spells again is kind of a pain.


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Agreed with PossibleCabbage. Prep casters make good utility casters because they can leave slots open to fill on the fly, or easily craft scrolls with utility spells on them. Spontaneous casters need to make every spell selection count; if you can't imagine casting that spell multiple times in any 'adventuring day', you shouldn't take it.


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The idea of "better" isn't as cut and dried as some make it out to be.

Sure, a spell that ends the combat in one roll on round one of the combat may be great if you're playing a computer RPG where you're running all the characters, or if all the rest of the players don't mind doing nothing for that combat (being more purely focused on winning the fight above other concerns).

But, if you're in a group where everyone would like to be able to participate in each combat in a meaningful fashion, ending the combat by yourself in one action doesn't add to the overall fun of the group. Sure, it might be cool to the rest of the party the first couple of times it happens, but they'll start to find it less amusing the more often it happens.

Honestly, that's the idea behind the "God Wizard." The "God Wizards" doesn't end every combat on his own, but magnifies the effectiveness of every other party member through buffing, control, de-buffing, SoS, damage, etc., as needed.

But, to each his-or-her own.


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I get the impression this is based on a discussion you had with one guy because this is in no way true, haste is one of the most heavily recommended spells in the game if not considered thee best.

Enlarge person, bless, resist energy, fly, telekinetic charge, heroism and so on.

You are not going to get a "GOOD" guide based entirely around buffing anymore than you are going to get a "GOOD" guide based entirely around save or die spells because there is no reason for caster to limit themselves.

Grand Lodge

I would add that utility is also often covered by consumables and is better as a secondary role filled by several characters.

Because utility is often reactive this can be in response to darkness, concealment, incorporeals, flight, conditions, unconsciousness, death etc., if you spread the role out among the party there is a better chance that someone will be able to handle the issue as soon as it arises.

Scarab Sages

Saldivin was getting at what I was trying to say. If you have a dude who just turns off every combat with one or two spells, you are not only going to piss off your other players, but probably piss off your GM as well. I mean, it’s kinda the same thing with ye olde Gunslinger who can do 300 damage to the boss in one round.

“Well, Frank just took care of the BBEG in the first action of combat. Good campaign people, sorry it was a bit anticlimactic at the end!”

And I’m not saying you can’t play those builds, I’m saying. . . They tend to be all-or-nothing builds. Like Superman, they can’t be beat unless their kryptonite is introduced at which point they are useless. Your godly color spray heaven’s oracle build just ends all combats until you hit a golem, at which point you can’t help hardly at all (maybe some fire spells). Meanwhile a utility caster can still buff their party.

I’m not saying people can’t play turn off casters or blasters. I’m saying why do guides tend to ignore utility caster as a build? I get that not everyone wants to play one, but some of us do.


VampByDay wrote:

So I was looking around the psychic guides the other day to see what second-level Spell I should get next for my self-perfection psychic, and a thought hit me as I looked at all the guides.

Everything was based towards building a psychic that could just end combat with one or two failed saves. Hold person, dominate person, stuff like that. One guide even mentioned not needing freedom of movement once you get the ring. And I was like “Uhhh, what about the REST of the party?”

Lots of guides promote color spray and sleep and other spells that will just END a low-level fight in one roll, something I never really cared for. Heck, there is a wizard guide out there that advocates nothing but spells that will end combats in one or two rounds.

So, why aren’t there guides focusing on utility builds? Things with buffs and debuff removers. I mean, I get that not everyone likes that style of play, but most guides for spellcasters don’t see it as an option. I personally like utility builds and would like to see more representation in guides.

The only help you will ever get on this message board as regards full casters is continued exhortations to build in such a way that the only other people likely to have fun in your group are also full casters.

You aren't likely to find any help with builds that don't treat pathfinder like a video game to be crushed.


It's been mentioned that the measure of "utility" provided is often reactionary. Therefore, guides would have to be specific to certain campaign settings.

If a guide said to take a certain spell at a certain time to provide a certain function, the mechanism for that function to be useful may not be present in all campaigns.

To be a utility caster, you choose your spells based on what the party needs and your campaign is presenting you with.

There is no guide for do what is needed when it's needed.


VampByDay wrote:
I’m not saying people can’t play turn off casters or blasters. I’m saying why do guides tend to ignore utility caster as a build? I get that not everyone wants to play one, but some of us do.

Something that probably should be considered is that aside from the Wizard/Sorcerer and Cleric/Oracle lists, spell lists tend to be somewhat specialized for what the class is supposed to do. Even though the Witch is a 9th level caster there's a clear focus on debuffing and it can do okay at healing and battlefield control but it is awful at everything else. A Psychic is good at a lot of things but is absolutely woeful at blasting (particularly vs. crowds- you don't get fireball) and not great at buffing (you get haste and heroism and not a lot else.) Remember, knowing only 4-6ish 4th level spells for your whole career forces you to make tough choices -black tentacles, confusion, condensed ether, charm monster, dimension door, freedom of movement, greater invisibility, scrying,and summon monster IV are all great spells, and you might want mindscape door, break enchantment, or mindwipe depending on what you want to do. So anything that lets you rule something out, like "someone else can do this" or "I can get an item for this" is helpful.

Scarab Sages

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Ryan Freire wrote:
VampByDay wrote:

So I was looking around the psychic guides the other day to see what second-level Spell I should get next for my self-perfection psychic, and a thought hit me as I looked at all the guides.

Everything was based towards building a psychic that could just end combat with one or two failed saves. Hold person, dominate person, stuff like that. One guide even mentioned not needing freedom of movement once you get the ring. And I was like “Uhhh, what about the REST of the party?”

Lots of guides promote color spray and sleep and other spells that will just END a low-level fight in one roll, something I never really cared for. Heck, there is a wizard guide out there that advocates nothing but spells that will end combats in one or two rounds.

So, why aren’t there guides focusing on utility builds? Things with buffs and debuff removers. I mean, I get that not everyone likes that style of play, but most guides for spellcasters don’t see it as an option. I personally like utility builds and would like to see more representation in guides.

The only help you will ever get on this message board as regards full casters is continued exhortations to build in such a way that the only other people likely to have fun in your group are also full casters.

You aren't likely to find any help with builds that don't treat pathfinder like a video game to be crushed.

Looks like I’ve got to make a guide to building utility casters then.


Ryan Freire wrote:
VampByDay wrote:

So I was looking around the psychic guides the other day to see what second-level Spell I should get next for my self-perfection psychic, and a thought hit me as I looked at all the guides.

Everything was based towards building a psychic that could just end combat with one or two failed saves. Hold person, dominate person, stuff like that. One guide even mentioned not needing freedom of movement once you get the ring. And I was like “Uhhh, what about the REST of the party?”

Lots of guides promote color spray and sleep and other spells that will just END a low-level fight in one roll, something I never really cared for. Heck, there is a wizard guide out there that advocates nothing but spells that will end combats in one or two rounds.

So, why aren’t there guides focusing on utility builds? Things with buffs and debuff removers. I mean, I get that not everyone likes that style of play, but most guides for spellcasters don’t see it as an option. I personally like utility builds and would like to see more representation in guides.

The only help you will ever get on this message board as regards full casters is continued exhortations to build in such a way that the only other people likely to have fun in your group are also full casters.

You aren't likely to find any help with builds that don't treat pathfinder like a video game to be crushed.

Literally one thread below this on the advice board is a thread debating which classes are the best buffers in the game, full casters have featured.

Grand Lodge

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Every caster discussion I have read contain advice similar to:

Keep spell slots open for utility spells.

Protection from evil is good to cast on the fighter.

Saving finale is a great spell for bards.

Carry scrolls of __________.

At high levels a wand a lesser restoration is really useful.

Even the basic premise that prepared casters being more powerful is partial based on the idea that they can access more utility spells. What people like about divine casters is that they have access to there whole list, most of the spells you will rarely need, which is perfect for utility.

The majority of the argument for the power of spells is having more solutions to more problems, so you are more useful.


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

First, I think it reasonable to expect that an Optimization Guide would guide you toward the most optimum results, typically as measured as resulting in the most damage / incapacitation for the least amount of actions. Expecting such a guide to be something else is probably a waste of time.

I expect that the reasons there aren't really 'fun' guides as opposed to 'optimization guides' is that 'fun' is so subjective and varied that few would agree on it, while there is more or less agreement on what optimization is at least.

All that being said, what you are calling a utility build is more frequently called a support build. There a numerous guides out there that do address this sort of build. Some are portions of other guides, others are more or less complete guides of their own. I'm not as familiar with the psychic classes, and perhaps they don't have guides optimizing that particular role, but in general their are plenty of pathfinder guides that do focus on it or at least address it.

Grand Lodge

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:

...

Literally one thread below this on the advice board is a thread debating which classes are the best buffers in the game, full casters have featured.

Just searched utility/support and a number of class names, as well as wands, and scrolls. Hundreds of threads.


VampByDay wrote:
Looks like I’ve got to make a guide to building utility casters then.

I think the issue with 'utility' is that much of it is stuational to the party, what they are fighting at the time and the environment they are in. A water breathing spell can either be your best or worst utility spell depending if you are underwater or a desert. Or a ventriloquism may be awesome or useless depending on how your DM rules for illusions. There are so many moving parts and variables that it'd be a herculean feat to make a useful and coherent guide.


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Let's see... psychic guide, 2nd level spells, highest rating: Invisibility, Minor Image, Mirror Image, Placebo Effect, Resist Energy, See Invisibility, Silence, Spectral Hand.
Two "selfish" buffs (Mirror Image & Spectral Hand), everything else falls under what I'd call "utility".


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I wonder if the thing that would be appreciated is less "how to build a utility [specific class]" and more "A Magical Golfbag Caddy: Utility Magic and You" which discusses being a magical teammate in terms which spells are worth knowing (for spontaneous casters) or preparing, which are worth regularly devoting actions to during combat, which spells are sometimes spells that are best on scrolls, which are frequent spells but nonetheless belong on wands, how to leverage one's huge UMD bonus and which classes are good at which things.

Since the overwhelming majority of good utility spells that the Psychic gets, other classes get too the value of haste doesn't really change depending on which class is casting it.


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graystone wrote:
VampByDay wrote:
Looks like I’ve got to make a guide to building utility casters then.
I think the issue with 'utility' is that much of it is stuational to the party, what they are fighting at the time and the environment they are in. A water breathing spell can either be your best or worst utility spell depending if you are underwater or a desert. Or a ventriloquism may be awesome or useless depending on how your DM rules for illusions. There are so many moving parts and variables that it'd be a herculean feat to make a useful and coherent guide.

This is what I was getting at. It would be a guide with tons of alternatives based on the campaign. Or too vague to be really helpful. Take this depending on this, or this if... Which is basically no guide at all, just a list of possibilities, which already exists. It's called your class spell list.


PossibleCabbage wrote:

I wonder if the thing that would be appreciated is less "how to build a utility [specific class]" and more "A Magical Golfbag Caddy: Utility Magic and You" which discusses being a magical teammate in terms which spells are worth knowing (for spontaneous casters) or preparing, which are worth regularly devoting actions to during combat, which spells are sometimes spells that are best on scrolls, which are frequent spells but nonetheless belong on wands, how to leverage one's huge UMD bonus and which classes are good at which things.

Since the overwhelming majority of good utility spells that the Psychic gets, other classes get too the value of haste doesn't really change depending on which class is casting it.

That's a guide I'd read through. ;)

Grand Lodge

One last thing about utility casting. It requires little optimization. You need access to the spells, many of which are called out in guides as Derklord suggests (protection from, resist, remove, break enchantment, delay, etc). These spell only require minimum stat support, and not multiclassing for the ones that are caster level dependent.

If you want to get granular you could include alchemical reagents, items, and class abilities that can boost caster level to help.

There is not much more that that, but your left with the question, "what do you do the rest of the time in combat?" Like it or not pathfinder is a game designed with combat as a major aspect of the game.


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May I point you towards my Guide to the Spell Sage? That guy is pretty much the ultimate utility caster, and I say so right up front. You can find Part 1 of the Guide here, with links to Part 2 and Part 3 downthread. I really get deeply into the "utility" aspect in Part 3, which is basically just listing a hundred or so potentially useful spells this guy can cast.

(Tradeoff: the Spell Sage is an incredible utility caster AND a good blaster AND a better necromancer than the specialist necromancer. But they're oh, so starved for spell slots. That's the painful tradeoff. Works great if you have a 15 minute adventuring day, otherwise not always.)

Doug M.


Grandlounge wrote:

One last thing about utility casting. It requires little optimization. You need access to the spells, many of which are called out in guides as Derklord suggests (protection from, resist, remove, break enchantment, delay, etc). These spell only require minimum stat support, and not multiclassing for the ones that are caster level dependent.

If you want to get granular you could include alchemical reagents, items, and class abilities that can boost caster level to help.

There is not much more that that, but your left with the question, "what do you do the rest of the time in combat?" Like it or not pathfinder is a game designed with combat as a major aspect of the game.

And their feats... item creation? And? What if the game doesn’t allow item creation feats.

I’ve fantasised about making full utility characters before always got stuck when I was trying to work out how I’d advance beyond taking utility spells.

So it’s always ended up second fiddle to my main shtic
Sometimes I’ve made buff focused builds though.


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Most guides that I have read were written before the Psychic class existed. They favor unitily casting.

In the classic Treantmonk's Guide to Pathfinder Wizards: Being a God, Treantmonk has two main points:

Treantmonk wrote:

In combat, the God wizard doesn't have one job, or two, he's got three ... yippee! Remember these three jobs, and it will help you evaluate spells, pick memorization's, and fulfill your combat role effectively. None of these jobs is to do damage to the enemy. In fact, a Wizard can be very effective and powerful without ever "killing" anything.

The God Wizards three jobs are: Control the Battlefield, Debuff the enemy, Buff your allies.

Treantmonk wrote:

OUT OF COMBAT ROLES: ...

Utility Caster ("Everything else"): The party transporter, the party Diviner. One way or another - this is the casters' role - in other words - this is you.

The current caster I play is a bloodrager. She loves the few utility spells on the bloodrager list, such as Mount and Burrow. Combat is covered by her sword and feats.


Grandlounge wrote:
Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:

...

Literally one thread below this on the advice board is a thread debating which classes are the best buffers in the game, full casters have featured.

Just searched utility/support and a number of class names, as well as wands, and scrolls. Hundreds of threads.

Thread count doesn't take into account the% of "this is a sub-optimal build, build like this instead for effectiveness"

Silver Crusade

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We'll, there's a difference between buffing and utility casting.

There are some guides for buffing out there. For example, I've seen a guide to maximizing inspire courage. However, when you start talking about most buff spells, the amount of optimization available is pretty limited and mostly it boils down to, "do you have the spell or not?"

There is a further problem with spells like fly, feather fall, water breathing and freedom of movement which straddle the line between buffs and utility spells: they are highly situational. They are very useful if you need to melee a flying for or if you are traversing a narrow ledge along the side of the gorge of doom. But in a ten foot tall dungeon corridor, they won't see that much use. Since situations are very campaign specific, you won't find them discussed as much as things that come up all the time in nearly every campaign like reducing monsters to 0 hp.

Now if you go to non-combat utility spells, those have a further problem: modern (3.5 and later) adventure design philosophy. Read any of that and they'll talk about things like not gating the ability to continue behind a skill check or a spell. Don't assume the party will have x spell, etc. That's all for the good, but the point of most utility spells is to get past locked gates (literally in the case of knock or passwall). Sometimes they will be able to make an adventure easier (or break the adventure as some designers see it) but the closer adventures hew to that philosophy, the more likely you'll be able to get by without using out of combat utility spells (or that the writer will give you an item in case you don't have it). The role of utility caster is intentionally being written out of the game.

Grand Lodge

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Ryan Freire wrote:

...]

The only help you will ever get on this message board as regards full casters is continued exhortations to build in such a way that the only other people likely to have fun in your group are also full casters.

You aren't likely to find any help with builds that don't treat pathfinder like a video game to be crushed.

And what evidence do you have for a clearly hyperbolic statement above? Or proof of the subjective and unsustainable claim that people play pathfinder like video game? How would you even collect and present evidence for that? Nor, does that address the other numerous example of advice about utility given in this thread including quotes directly from guides.

A claim like, advice on the forums slants toward in combat effectiveness or generally people recommend offensive casting as the primary role of a caster would be more accurate. Compared to what was written.


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Elder Basilisk wrote:
Now if you go to non-combat utility spells, those have a further problem: modern (3.5 and later) adventure design philosophy. Read any of that and they'll talk about things like not gating the ability to continue behind a skill check or a spell. Don't assume the party will have x spell, etc. That's all for the good, but the point of most utility spells is to get past locked gates (literally in the case of knock or passwall). Sometimes they will be able to make an adventure easier (or break the adventure as some designers see it) but the closer adventures hew to that philosophy, the more likely you'll be able to get by without using out of combat utility spells (or that the writer will give you an item in case you don't have it). The role of utility caster is intentionally being written out of the game.

I think this is a really good point, and one that touches on etiquette and expectations. Certainly there are some mysteries that the PCs are intended to solve by going somewhere, talking to people, and doing research or detective work. So if your GM has gone to a lot of trouble to set up a mystery that's supposed to have an involved solution, when a player can just magic it away instantly then there's a lot of work down the drain (so you have to do even more work beforehand to cut off all the magical solutions). On the other hand, sometimes in APs at higher levels there's some mystery where the writer just assumes the party has some spell that will give the answer immediately, which leaves the GM to have to try to figure out how the party might learn the key fact if they don't have any of those spells available.

So one of the things that perhaps should be discussed before the campaign starts is what sort of problems should we expect magic to be able to solve, and what sorts of problems we want there to be more involved solutions for. "How do we get the party to the top of this sheer cliff" seems like a thing we should just magic away (sorry anybody who invested heavily in the climb skill) but perhaps "who did the murder" isn't. So if you know what sorts of things you shouldn't expect to be able to do, you don't invest in them.

Grand Lodge

^ This is good advice. I like the idea of make sure your playing WITH your group not for them. I like playing casters a little in-their-own-head, so if there is a magic solution it often has to be suggested by someone else in the group.

Shadow Lodge

PossibleCabbage wrote:

I wonder if the thing that would be appreciated is less "how to build a utility [specific class]" and more "A Magical Golfbag Caddy: Utility Magic and You" which discusses being a magical teammate in terms which spells are worth knowing (for spontaneous casters) or preparing, which are worth regularly devoting actions to during combat, which spells are sometimes spells that are best on scrolls, which are frequent spells but nonetheless belong on wands, how to leverage one's huge UMD bonus and which classes are good at which things.

Since the overwhelming majority of good utility spells that the Psychic gets, other classes get too the value of haste doesn't really change depending on which class is casting it.

I agree - the existing guides do a pretty good job of discussing utility and buffing within their scope, but there could be some call for a general guide to utility. Maybe also include a few pointers about the classes (and possibly archetypes) to look at for superior buffing or utility options (bard is better than magus, spell sage is a good utility wizard).

Some guides discuss utility and support:

N Jolly's Alchemist guide mentions the Buffer and "Rogue Substitute" as sub-roles.

Dawar's guide to the arcanist describes the class as "the groups utility caster and knowledges textbook... arcanists have a huge bag of tricks to choose from and can answer almost any problem that arises. From locked door to a stringent king to an undead dragon, they have the answer somewhere in that spellbook"

There's a Guide to the buffer bard, and Treantmonk rates buff/utility spells like Invisibility, Heroism, and Minor Image pretty high.

Tark includes the support cleric and describes it as the "default" build.

Treantmonk describes buffing as part of the role of the "Wild Mystic" druid, and rates spells like Barkskin, Resist Energy, and Lesser Restoration favourably. Peterrco also mentions buffing as an option, and includes a section in the guide specifically for non-combat roles.

Bodhi describes the "Acolyte Inquisitor" as a well-rounded caster and that "you can focus on either curing or harming, utility spells or buffs to your allies." Well-rated spells include Bless, Protection from Evil, Heightened Awareness, and Lend Judgment.

N Jolly's Kineticist Guide includes a rating for each element on "Utility."

CockroachTeaParty’s guide to the Pathfinder Occultist talks up its utility roles (includind specifically calling out scouting, stealth, and information gathering) and suggests that the melee/ranged occultists buff their allies as well as themselves. Recommends CLW, Heal, Freedom of Movement, Enlarge Person ("to cast on melee allies"), and Greater Invisibility ("Great for you or your friends.")

Looking at the psychic guides in particular, since that's what OP was looking at, CTP's Guide to Psychics talks up the Psychic's ability to gather information and act as a party face (in both cases, partly using spells), and mentions general utility casting and buffing as acceptable ways to build, albeit not as much as they "specialize" in debuffing. Mentions Mindshield as "a decent amp for party buffers," recommends a variety of buff and utility spells, and as for Freedom of Movement, says "feel free to swap it out unless you’re buffing the party as well."

The other psychic guide advises "Remember to make sure that you can cover the basics of the different roles that can be expected of a caster to fulfill: buffing, debuffing, summoning, blasting, support and battlefield control." It also calls out Mindshield as a buffing amplification, recommends Extend Spell and Reach Spell for buffs, indicates that the Faith discipline is "definitely the better option for buffers and characters specializing in supporting their party," and includes an example Faith discipline support psychic. It does leave out the "buffing your allies" caveat on the Ring of Freedom of Movement, though.


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Grandlounge wrote:
Ryan Freire wrote:

...]

The only help you will ever get on this message board as regards full casters is continued exhortations to build in such a way that the only other people likely to have fun in your group are also full casters.

You aren't likely to find any help with builds that don't treat pathfinder like a video game to be crushed.

And what evidence do you have for a clearly hyperbolic statement above? Or proof of the subjective and unsustainable claim that people play pathfinder like video game? How would you even collect and present evidence for that? Nor, does that address the other numerous example of advice about utility given in this thread including quotes directly from guides.

A claim like, advice on the forums slants toward in combat effectiveness or generally people recommend offensive casting as the primary role of a caster would be more accurate. Compared to what was written.

My experience with Ryan is he never needs to support his claims, they’re implicitly always true unless you can provide a double blind study with a large sample size which produced mountains of empirical data to contradict him.


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Elder Basilisk wrote:
Well, there's a difference between buffing and utility casting.

I use a different definition of utility than the original poster, VampByDay. He said, "So, why aren’t there guides focusing on utility builds? Things with buffs and debuff removers." Because he said, "Lots of guides promote color spray and sleep and other spells that will just END a low-level fight in one roll, something I never really cared for," I think he is looking for teamwork builds rather than utility builds.

Teamwork means working more closely with fellow party members than, "I'll take out the foe on the right, if you handle the one on the left." Page 2 of CTP's guide to Psychics discusses the party roles for psychics: Information Retrieval (excellent), Party Face (excellent), Utility Caster (good), Battlefield Control (good), Buffer (good), Debuffer (excellent), and Blaster (poor). Save-or-die casting falls under debuffing in that guide. Healing and condition removal is an overlooked role, because few arcane casters can do anything in that category. Buffing, battlefield control, and utility are good teamwork roles. The other roles could be teamwork in the right team, but they could also be roleplayed as lone-PC interactions while the other PCs do their own thing.

The problem with writing a guide for teamwork is that it requires considering the team. A guide to a standalone character can safely assume the player has control over all the details mentioned in the guide. In contrast, Treantmonk's Guide to Pathfinder Wizards: Being a God, which focusses on buffing and battlefield control, presumes that the party is happy to let the wizard control the battlefield rather than attack foes. A wizard is so good at battlefield control that only an inexperienced group of players would shun that contribution, but the psychic does not claim that role so obviously. If the party has both a wizard and a psychic, the psychic is better off taking the debuffing role.

Shadow Lodge

A teamwork guide sounds a bit like Tark's Forge of Combat.


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Weirdo wrote:
A teamwork guide sounds a bit like Tark's Forge of Combat.

That guide is too abstract and the roles do not have enough variety. The D&D 4th Edition roles of controller, defender, leader, and striker also come to mind, but they, too, don't have enough variety. Instead, we can define teamwork by what the characters can do for their fellow party members and what they need the other party members to do for them.

The Forge of Combat said, "Positioning is everything." How far a character should be from melee combat is a primary consideration. A typical wizard is squishy--he should never be in melee. A typical rogue is mercurial--he rushes into melee but soon has to rush out again. A typical fighter is frontline--he will be in melee. An archer, often a nontypical fighter, is backline--he works best out of melee but can handle melee if ambushed. Squishy characters need to be protected. Frontline characters do the protecting. A mercurial character needs some battlefield control or defensive buffing to be able to remain in melee. The backline characters are aloof from all this.

For example, let me simplify the interactions of the party in my Rise of the Runelords campaign, with two rogues, a battle oracle, a bard, an enchanter sorcerer, and a wizard. On the first round of combat, at high initiative, the two rogues would rush in to attack flatfooted enemies and the bard would start an Inspire Courage song and cast Haste. Later in that first round, the oracle would buff herself, the sorcerer would debuff an enemy, and the wizard, alas, would cast a fireball. On the next round, the rogues remained in melee, the oracle buffed herself again, both the bard and the sorcerer worked on debuffing, and the wizard cast a lower-level damage spell, such as Magic Missile. On the third round, the rogues withdrew to where they could protect the sorcerer and wizard, and the oracle stepped up and started killing opponents quickly.

The strength of the rogues was that they could deal massive damage to flatfooted and flanked opponents. They were strikers. Their weakness was their defenses. They could stay in melee for only two rounds. Fortunately, this complemented the weakness of the battle oracle, that she needed two rounds to buff herself to effective combat power. Rogue is considered a weak class, but in these circumstances, they earned their glory.

The wizard did not live up the his combat potential. The player was not tactical enough to control the battlefield with a well-placed Grease spell let alone a higher-level spell. His main role in the party was divination magic and utility magic outside of combat. The other players protected him during combat.

The sorcerer most resembled a generic psychic, so let me talk about a psychic's debuffing instead. (Disclaimer: I have never seen anyone play a psychic.) The extreme debuffs take foes out of combat, while the teamwork debuffs set foes up for defeat. Compare Sleep and Cause Fear. Sleep is extreme against a foe of the appropriate level. If the target fails the save, then the psychic himself could walk over and coup de grace the target. Such power has a price: a successful save nullifies the spell. Cause Fear benefits teamwork. If two foes are beating on the frontline martial character, then a successful Cause Fear evens the odds for a few rounds as the target runs away, and an unsuccessful Cause Fear evens the odds for one round as the target becomes too shaken to hit. In both cases, helping an overwhelmed frontliner is the reason to cast the spell. If the frontliner had only one foe, the psychic would cast a different spell for a different purpose, such as casting Vanish on the rogue. Tactics are more difficult than power.

Debuffs protect the martial characters and make their job easier. Buffs enhance the martial characters and make their job easier. That is the teamwork for a psychic.


Based upon my own attempts to go through and evaluate spells with out of combat utility, I'd have to say that it's a lot of work, even going through only a single class's spell list, so I can see why most people, when making a guide, would only call out some of the highlights.

If you want to make a guide, more power to you, just be aware that the easiest part will most likely be the philosophy and overview component.

Especially since so much of the best utility spells are open-ended and benefit from the use of lateral and creative thinking.


Mathmuse's logic on teamwork and the needs/capabilities of the party literally just became THE write up on utility casters.

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