Getting Weird for Return of the Runelords


Advice


Hey folks,

I'm trying to come up with a fun, interesting concept for my group's upcoming run of Return of the Runelords. Things to know in advance (Short Wall of Text incoming):

  • Because we are going to 20, it would be awesome (not mandatory, but cool) to take advantage of a sweet class capstone ability.
  • We have all of the "bases" covered - An Arcanist to handle Arcane utility, someone with Trapfinding, and a beefy Battle Oracle to sort out condition removal and healing/frontlining.
  • I have recently played an Arcane Duelist TWF Shooting Star/Starknife Bard, a Dark Tapestry Buff/Support/Caster Oracle, a Grenadier Archer Alchemist, and a Diviner Utility/Debuff Wizard, so I'd rather not duplicate those classes unless they "feel" different.
  • 20-Point Buy, house ban-list includes a heavy nerf to crafting, but very likely using The World Is Square Feat Tax Rules (will find link later for those unaware of them - essentially eliminates Combat Expertise, Weapon Finesse, and Point-Blank Shot, and condenses Combat Maneuver, TWF, and Dodge/Mobility Feat Chains).
  • I'm quite familiar with the game, and want to get weird/interesting, but not broken.
  • Probably want to stick with Core and Uncommon Races, unless something really hinges upon something else. I'm flexible in that regard.
  • No 3rd Party Publisher material, no old 3.5 material (even Paizo), and ideally sticking to hardcovers rather than dredging up material from adventure modules or softcover splatbooks.

/Wall of Text

One idea that I've been kicking around is a Bladebound Whip Kensai, focusing on Combat Maneuvers, Bodyguard, and maybe some Enforcer shenanigans, but I'm not entirely sure how I want it to look, since it's mostly trash until like level 7. I'm open to any suggestion, though. Thank you all in advance!


I should also add, I generally like casters, but don't want to step on any toes. The Oracle is going to have a lot of the self-buff stuff and healing/condition removal under control. The Arcanist is likely going full-on blaster.

My thoughts on the Magus build are as follows:

CG Human Magus (Bladebound, Kensai) 1

Str 8
Dex 17
Con 14
Int 16
Wis 12
Cha 8

Feats:
Weapon Focus (Whip)
Arcane Strike
Slashing Grace
Weapon Finesse (free with Feat Tax Rules)

Attack:
Whip +4 (1d3+3 or 4 with Arcane Strike)

Level 3: Whip Mastery
Level 5: Combat Reflexes, Bodyguard
Level 7: Improved Whip Mastery
Level 9: Enforcer (w/ Frostbite or Whip attacks)
Level 11: Deft Maneuvers (Improved Trip/Disarm/Steal all in one, per Feat Tax Rules)
Level 11: Greater Whip Mastery
Level 13: Greater Trip
Level 15: Pin Down
Level 17: FREE SLOT
Level 19: FREE SLOT


Why don't you try a Warlock Vigilante. You'll be able to be the face and skill monkey while still having decent dps.


That’s actually a pretty rad idea! I’d never really looked at Vigilante, but Warlock looks like it could be fun! Thanks for the suggestion. I’m still open to others, though. :D


One wonders how “weird” you want to get, as well as what you define weird as. I am not sure how your frontline is going to look, aside from the Oracle (who/what is the Trapfinder?) but your damage dealing and utility all seems covered... Situations like this get my interests peaked.

Personally, I’d look towards the kineticist sector. Namely a monk archetype called the Water Dancer (you do start near the ocean), with a two level dip into the Elemental Ascetic kineticist (water focus, naturally, with water blast). This gets you up close and personal as a frontline fighter (or flanking assistant) and gives you a constant damage boost to your strikes. If you are allowed to use a variant multiclass, and are amicable towards the Paladin class, some lay on hands and smite evil will combine well with the Charisma focus. If not, simply spend your feats on extra wild talents.

The build has a LARGE number of options available to it, especially with the Quiggong powers available to the normal Monk.


Interesting. I like that the Kineticist dip gets you Wis in addition to Cha to AC, and gets your Flurry of Blows back. I generally like something with at least some spells, but this is kinda neat. Thanks for the suggestion!


Oh, I certainly understand your preference towards some spellcasting. I too like versatile characters, preferring the 3/4 BAB and 6th level casting classes. But you did ask for “weird”, lol.

The Elemental Ascetic Water Dancer gets the choice of a number of spell-like abilities, wild talents, and Quiggong powers. From simple damage, to healing (including burst healing “channel”), to battlefield utility control through water focused talents. Even growing to Large and even Huge size. You can even get the ability to travel swiftly through the Shadow Walk Quiggong Power, or replicate combat feats.

Aside from being an actual Spellcaster, I’m sure this build could fill just about any role you need in your particular group.


Umm...whip sounds like a bad idea.

WHIP

A whip deals no damage to any creature with an armor bonus of +1 or higher or a natural armor bonus of +3 or higher. The whip is treated as a melee weapon with a 15-foot reach, though you don't threaten the area into which you can make an attack. In addition, unlike most other weapons with reach, you can use it against foes anywhere within your reach (including adjacent foes).

Using a whip provokes an attack of opportunity, just as if you had used a ranged weapon.

So starting in Sandpoint against the Goblins the only thing your weapon can do is trip them, or deliver your severely limited ability to cast touch spells. Also if you get mobbed you're granting AoO every swing.

The whole AoO thing gets worse as the campaign progresses. I won't go into detail but at a certain point every encounter will have a reach of 10' or better. That means every swing your offering AoO!

Then in the later part of the campaign how are you going to deal with creatures that have DR? I'm going to assume you sacrifice a +1 to make the whip Deadly but that is still going to leave you with an anemic weapon that you can't trade out or improve. You'll be doing zero damage against most creatures until you hit 5th level and then stuck with a +1 weapon until 9th level. If you have access to Heart of Metal that will help, but access to an actual cold iron/adamantine/silver set of weapons is a lot easier to handle, especially since Kensai reduces your spells per level.

And you're giving up armor to get more combat feats? I was under the impression that the only good thing about Magus was you got to wear medium and heavy armor without spell failure chances? If you are going to give up armor you might as well have just gone for Eldrich Knight instead. You'd have more spells, better Bab, better spell list, and a lot more options for special abilities. Yeah, you won't be able to cast free spells as often but you'll be a hell of a lot more useful.

And seriously, why a whip?

And for the oddest Eldrich Knight build ever, 1st 2 level Magus, 3-7 wizard, 8+ Eldrich Knight, then finish out your last 3 levels in wizard. This makes you an Eldrich Knight with spell strike. Its...interesting. A 1 level dip in Magus might be better overall waiting until you get a touch spell that is worth casting before you take the second dip into Magus. Picking up that one trait that lets your CL raise by 2 would be effective with this build as well. Since crits are really good later for Eldrich Knight I'd suggest a crit build. Either a scimitar, rapier, or Nodachi. Since you want to do a dex build, rapier. Also light armor without spell failure chance is kind of nice.


Honestly, I was tinkering because the idea of a Bladebound Whip Magus just seems cool as all get-out to me, especially with the option to use one of the “Blade’s” Arcane pool to turn the whip into fire or electricity.

I’ve since reconsidered, because it just never does any damage, my AC is awful, and it’s feat-starved forever, but I really wanted to make it work. Alas, maybe in 2nd edition.

At this point I’m eyeballing some kind of crazy-buckets Qinggong Monk thing a la Deathless’ suggestion, or possible a Hooked Axe Str Magus - the Dueling enchantment (not the Initiative one, the other one) can get crazy good with Magus’ enhancement ability - +3 Dueling Hooked Axe with just Improved Trip adds +11, in addition to BAB and Str.

Also considering Warpriest or Spiritualist, since, like Deathless, I have a soft spot for 3/4 BAB 6-level casters.

Oh, I’ve also just found out our 4th party member is playing a Medium, so we’ll have all bases pretty much covered, and as the 5th member, I have carte blanche to do what I please.


It’s not like a whip build is impossible. A fighter or warpriest can be pretty good at it by middle-early levels. You just need bonus feats and a way to up the base damage. And at the very low levels you just rely on a more traditional weapon until your whip gets going.


Ratfolk Gulch Gunner with a level dip into Swashbuckler, and also the Imp Unarmed Strike and Snake Style feats

Attack an adjacent foe with your firearm. You provoke an attack of opportunity and gain a Grit point. Spend a Panache to trigger Opportune Parry and Riposte (your Grit and Panache pools are combined, so you're just spending the Grit you had just gained). With full BAB, a high Dex, and Weapon Finesse (your unarmed strikes count as piercing weapons, meaning Swashbuckler Finesse will apply), you have a great chance of parrying. You can Grit/Panache cycle all day with this, and really only need to worry about enemies that have Combat Reflexes. You'll also act as a Flank buddy (Dodging Panache can improve positioning), and spellcasters will actually need to worry about casting next to the Gunslinger. Take a second level of Swashbuckler to add your Cha to a save 3 times per day, which could help shore up your Will saves.

A bit of a high-risk build, but it's different.


If you're looking for spells and whips, though...

Halfling Mesmerist

Taunt Feat - use Bluff instead of Intimidate When Demoralizing.

Enforcer Feat - Make a free Demoralize attempt when dealing nonlethal damage (you'll need to waste a single rank in Intimidate)

Whip Mastery Feat chain

Mesmerist adds 1/2 level to Bluff checks (which are now used to Demoralize).

You now have spells, a slew of debuffs, Mesmerist Tricks and Touch Treatment to help allies, and you get to use a whip! The fact that the whip doesn't deal a lot of damage isn't a problem, since your main goal is throwing out debuffs with it.


Meirril wrote:

Umm...whip sounds like a bad idea.

WHIP

A whip deals no damage to any creature with an armor bonus of +1 or higher or a natural armor bonus of +3 or higher. The whip is treated as a melee weapon with a 15-foot reach, though you don't threaten the area into which you can make an attack. In addition, unlike most other weapons with reach, you can use it against foes anywhere within your reach (including adjacent foes).

Using a whip provokes an attack of opportunity, just as if you had used a ranged weapon.

So starting in Sandpoint against the Goblins the only thing your weapon can do is trip them, or deliver your severely limited ability to cast touch spells. Also if you get mobbed you're granting AoO every swing.

The whole AoO thing gets worse as the campaign progresses. I won't go into detail but at a certain point every encounter will have a reach of 10' or better. That means every swing your offering AoO!

Then in the later part of the campaign how are you going to deal with creatures that have DR? I'm going to assume you sacrifice a +1 to make the whip Deadly but that is still going to leave you with an anemic weapon that you can't trade out or improve. You'll be doing zero damage against most creatures until you hit 5th level and then stuck with a +1 weapon until 9th level. If you have access to Heart of Metal that will help, but access to an actual cold iron/adamantine/silver set of weapons is a lot easier to handle, especially since Kensai reduces your spells per level.

And you're giving up armor to get more combat feats? I was under the impression that the only good thing about Magus was you got to wear medium and heavy armor without spell failure chances? If you are going to give up armor you might as well have just gone for Eldrich Knight instead. You'd have more spells, better Bab, better spell list, and a lot more options for special abilities. Yeah, you won't be able to cast free spells as often but you'll be a hell of a lot more useful.

And seriously, why a whip?

And...

You do realize it takes a single feat to overcome most of your concerns here, right? And only a couple more to put everything you are worried about right to bed. The best way to go about it is with a warpriest IMHO. I happen to have one built as a backup character.

Zwarp
Human warpriest (molthuni arsenal chaplain) of Calistria 5 (Pathfinder RPG Advanced Class Guide 60, Weapon Master's Handbook 6)
Medium humanoid (human)
Init +5; Senses Perception +7
--------------------
Defense
--------------------
AC 24, touch 17, flat-footed 19 (+5 armor, +2 deflection, +5 Dex, +2 shield)
hp 48 (5d8+20)
Fort +7, Ref +6, Will +6
--------------------
Offense
--------------------
Speed 30 ft.
Melee +1 whip +12 (1d6+12 nonlethal)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft. (10 ft. with +1 whip)
Special Attacks blessings 5/day (War: war mind), fervor 4/day (2d6), sacred weapon (1d8, +1, 5 rounds/day), weapon training (sacred weapons)
Warpriest (Molthuni Arsenal Chaplain) Spells Prepared (CL 5th; concentration +7)
1st—divine favor, divine favor, shield of faith, shield of faith
0 (at will)—create water, light, mending, stabilize
--------------------
Statistics
--------------------
Str 7, Dex 20, Con 16, Int 14, Wis 14, Cha 7
Base Atk +3; CMB +10; CMD 18
Feats Agile Maneuvers, Piranha Strike, Slashing Grace[ACG], Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (whip), Whip Mastery[UC]
Traits fate's favored, whip specialist
Skills Acrobatics +10, Knowledge (religion) +10, Perception +7, Sense Motive +10, Stealth +10
Languages Common
Other Gear +1 mithral chain shirt, +1 buckler, +1 whip, belt of incredible dexterity +2
--------------------
Special Abilities
--------------------
Agile Maneuvers Use DEX instead of STR for CMB
Blessings (5/day) (Su) Pool of power used to activate Blessing abilities.
Fervor (2d6, 4/day) (Su) Standard action, touch channels positive/negative energy to heal or harm. Swift to cast spell on self.
Piranha Strike -1/+2 You can subtract from your attack roll to add to your damage with light weapons.
Sacred Weapon +1 (5 rounds/day) (Su) As a swift action, grant weapon enhancement bonus or certain powers.
Slashing Grace (Whip) Treat chosen weapon as 1-handed piercing weapon and can add Dex instead of Str to dam.
Weapon Training (Sacred Weapons) +1 (Ex) +1 to hit and damage with your sacred weapons.
Whip Mastery Using a whip does not provoke attacks of opportunity

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Well, if you don't mind being semi-useless for 3 levels and absolutely broken from 8th to 15th level trailing off to 'still over powered but acceptable' after that consider making a Cayden Cailean worshiping, Lawful Good Drunken Master Qinggon Monk (note: can't use Unchained Monk, must use base monk!).

Up to 3rd level you'll be a weak melee character that hits decently, but like a wet noodle. This is a monk build made for AC, Saves, and heavy drinking. Heavy drinking leads to your level in temp hp and 2 temp ki points per round for a swift action starting at 3rd level.

Qinggon Monk with unlimited ki. At 4th level you scorching ray every round. Now you're doing blaster damage with a dex + BAB that says you can't miss. At 8th level you pick up Dragon Breath and you're doing 8-12d6 damage a very versatile AoE/energy type. Good enough it should be your default action every round.

Other than those 2 abilities, you can pick up any Qinggon ability. Sky is the limit and never worry about running out of Ki, just worry about running out of alcohol!

Must for this build is: A race with con bonus. Con and Dex would be great, but I used a Dwarf since Wis helps too. You need an 18 con by level 3 to qualify for Fast Drinker at 3rd level. Pick up Drunken Brawler at 1st level. Also Fortified Drinker trait since it helps.

Item wise, avoid all of the free drink items. All of them have bad action economy. Instead buy bottles/jugs of hard alcohol and fill a Handy Haversack with them. 1 move action to retrieve a bottle, 1 swift to drink. Absinthe is 10 drinks per bottle. Figuring from that the bottle is 2gp and 1 shot of whiskey is 1sp. So a bottle of extremely cheap whiskey or other distilled rotgut is 3gp for a bottle, refill at a distillery for 1gp each. I figure a Handy Haversack can hold 79 bottles between all 3 pockets.

Drawback from this build is you'll be constantly drunk. Just accept that you constantly are Sickened (-1 to everything). You're also addicted to alcohol but you never take the penalty because you're constantly drinking. Oh, and every time you get healed you lose your addiction and your drinks per day get reset. Neutralize poison does the same for drinks per day.


Cuup wrote:

If you're looking for spells and whips, though...

Halfling Mesmerist

Taunt Feat - use Bluff instead of Intimidate When Demoralizing.

Enforcer Feat - Make a free Demoralize attempt when dealing nonlethal damage (you'll need to waste a single rank in Intimidate)

Whip Mastery Feat chain

Mesmerist adds 1/2 level to Bluff checks (which are now used to Demoralize).

You now have spells, a slew of debuffs, Mesmerist Tricks and Touch Treatment to help allies, and you get to use a whip! The fact that the whip doesn't deal a lot of damage isn't a problem, since your main goal is throwing out debuffs with it.

Oooh, I didn't know about the Taunt feat! Sadly, Ratfolk aren't on our list of race options, or else the Gulch Gunner seems cute and hilarious, and I'd love to try and make that work. Mesmerist is really tempting, though.

Born_of_Fire, I think my issue is that I was biting off more than I could chew, trying to use a whip AND Bodyguard (which really wants Arcane Strike for those sweet sweet gloves) AND a bunch of combat maneuvers (Whips *can* be used for Steal, Disarm, Trip, and eventually Grapple...so why not?). I agree that a Warpriest solves a lot of problems, especially the Arsenal Chaplain flavor. It's really just my own aversion to Calistria that keeps me from exploring that route in greater detail.

Meirrill, my concern with that concept, amusing as it is, is that I imagine playing a surly drunken guy is fun for a couple of sessions, I just don't see it having the variety of options or staying power to make it through a year-long campaign. I generally want more variety in my options, which is why Kineticist is a hard sell for me, but something like, say, Occultist or Alchemist is right up my alley, because it's a bunch of fiddly little toggles and abilities.


Incidentally, I've asked about Bladed Brush's interaction with Slashing Grace and Spell Combat, and my GM has said that Bladed Brush allows the Glaive to behave in all ways as a 1-handed weapon, so it would get 1x Dex to damage with Slashing Grace, and can be used with Spell Combat.

At this point, I'm considering the following choices:

A more conventional Rapier/Dueling Sword Kensai w/Combat Reflexes, Bodyguard, Pin Down, Stand Still, and Flamboyant Arcana to abuse ALL of the AoOs, plus Enforcer/Frostbite if I can squeeze it in.

A Trip-Oriented Glaive Magus (still torn on Kensai or not) with Greater Trip, probably still Enforcer/Frostbite. If Kensai, then Combat Reflexes, if not, likely go Strength Magus and get some hefty armor.

A third option that I was toying with the other day, an Evangelist Cleric of Erastil/Hinterlander/Evangelist PrC. If I do it all right, I'd end up with Point-Blank Master (Hinterlander 3), Inspire Courage as a 15th-level Bard, Caster Level 17 (9th level spells!), and an Animal Companion as a 16th-level Druid. It would be a Half-Orc for free Endurance (for Hinterlander) Cleric 7/Evangelist 10/Hinterlander 3, or maybe Zen Archer 1/Cleric 6/Hinterlander 3/Evangelist 10.


There are a handful of other gods with whip as their favourite weapon. Calistria is just the most mainstream option and one of the few that isn't evil. I do understand where you're coming from as I am struggling to figure out why my warpriest would be adventuring to save the world instead of cutting themself, scribbling the names of their perceived transgressors in a little black book and plotting revenge.

There is also the option of going with any god you like and assigning whip as your favourite weapon except I think that will leave you a feat behind because you do that instead of getting free weapon focus with the deity's favourite weapon.

Wasn't bodyguard nerfed pretty hard with revised positioning requirements? I have never used it myself but I have seen grumblings to that effect around the board. Maybe someone else can confirm and/or clarify...


Isn't the point of using a whip as a magus for the ranged spellstrikes?


War priests are not limited to their deity's favored weapon for sacred weapon, it also applies to any weapon they have weapon focus in, which they get free at 1st level.

Edit: exotic weapon proficiency, that's the catch to a whip warpriest without it being favored, doh.

Second edit: also what I get for responding to upthread stuff without reading all of later posts.


Java Man wrote:
War priests are not limited to their deity's favored weapon for sacred weapon, it also applies to any weapon they have weapon focus in, which they get free at 1st level.

Thanks for clearing that up. Reading comprehension FTW.


Soooooooo I’ve been bouncing around with ideas for days, which I’m sure is annoying (low-key mania + a lack of work at my job WOO!), but I’m reaaaaally eyeing the Vine Leshy race from Ultimate Wilderness as a Reliquarian Occultist worshipping the Green Faith, collecting stuff from old trees and ancient mountains and such, and almost certainly raising Leshy cousins to go live in the woods as part of the Verdant Revolution.

....thoughts?

Likely roll with the generic Plant Domain to give the party Barkskin, although Growth and Leshy subdomains are also tempting. Heavy Armor proficiency at 1, Power Attack free (via Feat Tax rules), Furious Focus at 3, and after that, the world is my oyster. Transmutation school at 1, Abjuration at 2, Trappings of the Warrior at 6, and then some smattering of Divination/Illusion/Conjuration with the rest. No use for Necromancy/Enchantment/Evocation.


If you are still looking for ideas I'm going to second the Mesmerist. Just finished shattered Star with a Half-Orc Mesmerist and it was a blast. The last chapter was a little tough with it's construct focus for a psychic class but Psychic Inception helped quite a bit.

Your social skills are quite stellar and with built in condition removal you can help support your oracle and the implanted tricks can be quite helpful for everyone. Our party definitely enjoyed Mesmeric Mirror for pseudo mirror image on our Wild-Shape Druid and our fighter.

Half-Orc is a good pick for Overlooked Mastermind and the FCB of 1/2 damage extra per level on your stare target.

Eventually you will be able to stack two debuffs a round with a high save DC coupled with a base -3 to will saves and other debuffs from your stare. It's a little feat heavy with Manifold stare and Compounded pain + your choice of two stare debuff feats but it's great single target control with a bit of damage as well!

-----
If your still interested in the whip Warpriest going as a Half-elf should qualify you with ancestral arms giving proficiency and weapon focus then being free. As a half-elf you can also use the FCB from human or elf if the bonus to channel isn't your thing.
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Also just putting it out there your Kensai build with Bladed Brush and Bodyguard is a pretty genius sounding option for loads of shenanigans if your GM will allow it. You'll lose out on crit fishing with spells but a good reach build will excel at mid-tier content right around the time the Kensai starts to hit it's stride. Fair warning though if your going to level 20 a combat maneuver build often fairs poorly at level 15+ as monster defenses skyrocket as do the number of monsters with straight immunity to trip, disarm etc.


//weird comic relief on// a Goblin Druid/Oozamorph with Roll with it feat, if it ever misses an acrobatics check it simply goes splat...

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