PACG Core Set Class Strategy #6: Lem the Bard

Friday, June 12, 2020

Lem is always going to be my character in PACG. That’s because I played him through the entirety of my first Pathfinder Adventure Card Game journey in Rise of the Runelords. When we finished that up, we followed Mike Selinker’s recommendation for using Wrath of the Righteous as a continuation of Rise, and so I played Lem for another three boxes of adventures! So, I’ve gotten pretty used to fighting with a d4 and constantly emptying my hand to help my fellows. It’s a pleasure to finally write about it!

And as usual, I suggest reading the matching Core Design article.

Core Set Character Lem, front and back

Core Set Lem

Best Skill: Charisma (d10)
Character Type: Healer, Arcane, Divine

Skills. What does one do with a d10 Charisma? In Lem’s case, he uses it to cast his spells, whether they be Arcane or Divine... and it’s this access to both magic types that makes Lem the most versatile character in the Core Set. Beyond that, in a world with lots of Charisma characters, Lem’s d10+3 stands out. His Dexterity of d8 is also notable, as it lets him use Ranged weapons, sort of, and his Acrobatics of d8+1 is a nice fourth skill—mainly for its rarity, as it’s shared only with Merisiel and Sajan.

Weaknesses. Lem is really not good at combat, and that flaw will come up more often than most any other character weakness in the game. He gets to roll just a d4 if he gets caught weaponless, and even if he has a missile weapon, he’s still rolling only a d8 (plus the weapon) because he doesn’t have the Ranged skill. The answer is obviously to use combat spells, which at least gives him a d10+1, but you’re going to want utility and healing spells too, so you won’t have too many Attacks. Worst of all, Lem’s helper feat doesn’t help his own combat! Overall, Lem needs to be careful to always have a combat card in hand, and even then he’ll do better if he can avoid fighting.

Cards. Lem’s strength is obviously his selection of spells (4), which he can use to fill any gaps in a party’s niches. Beyond that he’s got a pretty average sampling of cards, other than the fact that he’s very low on both weapons (1) and armors (0), pointing straight back to his weakness in combat.

Allies: As a Diplomacy-oriented character who starts with 4 allies, Lem is well positioned to take advantage of the new Core Set baseline of allies boosting local checks. This gives him another option for helping out his friends as well as himself. He can feed these boons to his character power, use them instead of his power, and when really needed, he can use both. Which specific ally cards you’ll want for Lem will depend on your particular group makeup; they can fill in gaps and/or enhance party strengths in equal measure.

Armor. Though Lem doesn’t have armor at start, it’s sort of important, because he needs to hold onto his cards to help people. Any armor that doesn’t depend on proficiencies, and that can be recharged to help a little or buried to help a lot is a great choice, with Leather Armor being an example.

Core armor Leather Armor card Core blessing Shelyns Song card Core blessing Pharasma's Knowing card Core blessing Sarenrae's Light card

Cards Left to Right: Core armor Leather Armor, Core blessing Shelyn's Song, Core blessing Pharasma's Knowing, Core blessing Sarenrae's Light

Blessings. Shelyn should be Lem’s god of choice, because her blessings can boost Dexterity and Charisma. However, as a generalist, Lem can get benefit from almost anyone, with Pharasma being a nice choice if Lem focuses on Attack spells, and Sarenrae if he focuses on healing.

Items. Unfortunately, the Core Set has no cards that take advantage of Lem’s Instrument proficiency. (There are a few such cards in Curse of the Crimson Throne.) There aren’t many wands either, which should be a go-to item for his Arcane proficiency. Still, Lem can pick up Core Set items like the Wand of Flame and the ever-popular Token of Remembrance. Because of his cycling powers, he might also choose items that discard when played.

Core item Wand of Flame Core item Token of Remembrance

Core item Wand of Flame and Core item Token of Remembrance

Spells. Lem can use any spell in the game, so he’ll tend toward whatever your party needs (or what they’re not using). It’s usually good for him to have at least one healing spell, making it even easier to cycle his deck. And since his combat is so weak, he’ll probably want an Attack spell or two. But his bread and butter will always be utility spells. These might be generic help spells such as Aid; they might be Attack cards designed to also help others such as Acid Arrow; or they might be disabler spells such as Heat Metal. Aspect of the Monkey is also a great choice (and a lot of fun) because it improves Lem’s most important skills.

Core spell Aid Core spell Acid Arrow Core spell Heat Metal card Core blessing Sarenrae's Light card

Cards Left to Right: Core spell Aid, Core spell Acid Arrow, Core spell Heat Metal, Core spell Aspect of the Monkey

Weapons. So what do you fight with when you just have one weapon slot? Obviously, something that you’re not going to need to discard. or even recharge, and something Dexterity-based so you can roll a d8 rather than a measly d4. Crossbows are the most likely choice. Light Crossbow and Deathbane Light Crossbow are both good options because they can be used without having to get rid of the card. Though the Heavy Crossbow is tempting, if you reload it you can’t fight with it a second time in the same round, which is a problem while you have only one weapon slot.

Core weapon Light Crossbow card Core weapon Deathbane Light Crossbow card

Core weapon Light Crossbow and Core weapon Deathbane Light Crossbow

The Power of Helping

Lem’s main powers focus on helping other people.

Help, Help, Help Your Friends. Like Valeros, Lem is a social animal. He should hang out with his fellows so he can continually aid their non-combat tasks. The only caveat is that Lem should make sure that the game remains fun for him: he shouldn’t empty his hand helping others—he needs to make sure that he still has some cards for his own turn. (A power feat in the Poet Laureate role can help.)

Close, Close, Close the Locations. Lem’s local non-combat bonus is particularly useful for closing locations. In many games, you seem to get stuck with a location whose closing requirement just isn’t suited to your party. Send in the most suitable character you have, then have Lem tag along to throw in a +1d4.

Take +1d6 Help as Your First Power Feat. Since Lem’s focus is on helping other people, you really want to improve that ability, so taking the power feat that increases his help to +1d6 is an obvious first choice.

Choose Support Spells, Allies, and Items. Because Lem will constantly be around other people, he should pick allies, items, and spells that can help other local characters. (And as noted before, these can even be more powerful if they’re discarded, because Lem can get them back.)

Avoid, Avoid, Avoid the Combat! While he’s doing all of this helping, Lem should also do his best to avoid combat unless he’s got his weapon and/or Attack spells in his hand. OK, that’s easier said than done in PACG, but he can certainly work toward a combat-light strategy. To start with, he should always explore the locations with the fewest monsters first. Meanwhile, he should stock up on cards that can allow him to avoid monsters that are too tough. Sleep is a nice evasion spell, but Confusion and Twisted Space are even better because they can hand off Lem’s combat to other local characters. Down the road, if Lem is still having problems with combat, take a look at the Busker role, which has a power feat that allows him to give his combat bonus to others. (Given all of this, Valeros is an obvious companion for Lem: he can give Lem bonuses in combat and in the worst case, he can avenge Lem if the bard fails.)

Core spell Sleep card Core spell Confusion card Core spell Twisted Space card

Cards Left to Right: Core spell Sleep, Core spell Confusion, Core spell Twisted Space

The Power of Cycling

Lem is one of the best cyclers in the Core Set, able to quickly and easily move through his deck, primarily by recharging cards to give bonuses, but also by cycling what’s in his discards.

Choose Your Recharges Well. Think carefully about what cards Lem recharges. They should typically be those rarely used items that give a bonus for a specific situation. Maybe he’ll get lucky and have a use for them while they’re in his hand, but otherwise, they can go to the bottom of his deck, hopefully giving him something more immediately useful. But if Lem ends up with too much of anything, he might cycle that instead, especially if he ends up with his weapon and all of his Attack spells in his hand.

Choose Your Recharges Well. Think carefully about what cards Lem recharges. They should typically be those rarely used items that give a bonus for a specific situation. Maybe he’ll get lucky and have a use for them while they’re in his hand, but otherwise, they can go to the bottom of his deck, hopefully giving him something more immediately useful. But if Lem ends up with too much of anything, he might cycle that instead, especially if he ends up with his weapon and all of his Attack spells in his hand.

The Lem Roles

The powers of the two Lem roles are hodge-podges of different powers, but they each have some fun element; choose the one that suits your own sense of fun and fills the gaps in your party the best.

Core weapon Light Crossbow card Core weapon Deathbane Light Crossbow card

Core Set Role Lem Busker & Poet Laureate

Busker. This role simultaneously empowers Lem personally and lets him work better in concert with others. He gets a lot better in Urban locations, adding dice, blessing rolls, and avoiding damage. He also can pass off his banes to other local characters, while in turn he gets to make the ally acquisition rolls they failed. If your adventure path is Urban-focused, this is the obvious choice.

Poet Laureate. This role also makes Lem more of a team player, but it does so by focusing on card cycling. Lem can draw cards at the start of his turn, bury discards for bonuses after the fact, and even heal characters by discarding. If you particularly like Lem’s cycling powers, or if he’s always a team player, this is the role to choose.

Shannon Appelcline
Game Historian

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Lem is also near and dear to me, having played OG Lem through Rise of the Runelords, and Class Deck Lem through Season of the Shackles. I've just played Core Lem through #6-1: City of Sails and Shrouds at PaizoCon. I agree with most of the suggestions offered. However, I wanted to mention that in Core/Curse, there are Melee weapons that use Acrobatics. Much like Skull & Shackles Lem, Core Lem can use use a Raper to great effect. Well, at least good effect.


I’ve really enjoyed these strategy guides, particularly for the characters I’ve never played.


AJCarrington wrote:
I’ve really enjoyed these strategy guides, particularly for the characters I’ve never played.

Thanks! Always great to hear they're of use!


Lem was m first character, too! Even though I always want to try new characters, this look at Lem has made me consider revisiting him!

Grand Lodge

What would be the best way to build him using 3 of the Adventurer's Packs as detailed here?

My initial thought was the obvious Arcane+Divine+Support, but then I thought Occult+Support+Divine gave a lot of interesting options. But without Finesse, he doesn't have access to the good weapons that First World Bard mentioned.

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