Here's my non-standard reach cleric build. Lvl 10.
STR 16 (+2belt)
Domains: Glory (Heroism), Good (Archon) (so, Serenrae is your God)
Here's how this rocks:
You confer a +2 bonus to an alliy's to-hit (as move) w combat advice
You debuff for -2 using Aura of menace multiple times /day (as std, but constant - which w the above create a +4 swing in the party's favor!)
You conjure ANY reach weapon made of force weapon (the best attack type in the game) that YOU ARE AUTOMATICALLY PROFICIENT WITH (so use a fauchard) does lots of dmg and knocks people down. More, you can trip or disarm with it without those feats because you are 10' away and provoking doesn't matter.
You save like a god.
You give out AC bonus as AoOs or generate AoOs when the baddies within 15' move.
The main reason this is awesome is that your crappy cleric action economy is now AMAZING. You can do multiple things per rd as AoO, as a swift, as a move, as a std and/or as a full, both for you, your party and your summons, plus you are a full caster. You will not find this in any guide, but it has great merit.
ranger/monk multiclass is good. zen archer plus infiltrator/divine tracker for archetypes. lots of feats (regular plus bonus class) w ability to bypass prerequisites, bow flurry, monk saves, access to war priest blessings from divine tracker, buff powers from infiltrator, good AC w or without armor, rangers spells, bonus archery feats from zen archer and favored enemy. I run him with clustered shot and the reckless aim feat, nobility and good blessings for uber to-hit and damage, but snapshot w air domain or pb master also viable to make the bow act like a melee weapon.
It is really a question for your GM.
I made an 8th level character with a potential AC of 36 in a 10th level party where the best other player had a 32. I was trying to make him survivable due to level disparity but the GM got irked and tossed me out of the game for over optimizing.
The issue is that GMs have different 1) expectation of encounter challenge level for you/the party, 2) level of rules mastery, 3) levels of creativity to address high AC. When any of these suffer,a perfect storm can happen where the GM feels like the players are winning to much. When you pass the GM's threshold of tolerance in any of these areas your risk backlash even if your character uses RAW. Same with archers, trip builds or any character concept that exploits some mechanic to be the best at it (AC, DPS, Control, etc). If the GM feels over taxed by your exploits you may end up fighting critters with psuedo-pod legs (untrippable), natural ranged touch attacks (to blast past AC) and DR (to reduce high DPR), or in my case, inadvertently create ill will.
I have a homebrew system (called Draconian) I have been running for 20+ yrs with ADR. Some text from the manual below. Now, before the lawyers and statisticians come out, please note some imbalance is 1) mitigated by other mechanics not listed below, and 2) intended by the designers to foster a high mortality grim-dark low magic setting.
The Evade action suffers against multiple attackers. Evade goes down by 1 for each attack made against a target in a round and 2 if the attack is from a flank. Evade does not reduce due to Attacks of Opportunity or by more than 1 due to multiple attacks from the same source. Evade also does not reduce when the target has cover or a solid surface on two or more sides (such as when in a corner).
Combat Maneuver Defense & Bonus
DEX replaces STR in the CMB formula if the attacker is using Weapon Finesse or a ranged combat maneuver. If a combat maneuver is being attempted with a weapon, the bonus of the weapon and any feats that add attack bonuses also apply to CMB. Any attack bonus that does not specify a weapon type as melee or ranged also adds to CMB (e.g., Ioun stones, spell affects).
Armor as Damage Reduction (ADR)
Draconian Combat - Offensive
Criticals & Critical Statuses
The GM determines the results of special circumstances resulting from critical status. Players may ignore any rolled status affect (such as if it is not advantageous).
Shock & Staggering Blows
If damage received exceeds Shock, roll a Fort save. DC = 10 + Damage over Shock. On fail, the character has received a Staggering Blow and is staggered for d4 rounds. A staggered creature retains his full Evade and ADR value but may only take a single move action or standard action each round (but not both, nor can he take full-round actions). A staggered creature can still take free, swift, and immediate actions. A target that is shocked again while in a shocked state adds 1 round to his remaining shock duration.
During a surprise round:
Rushing up on an unaware target risks detection. An opposed Stealth check is required to close to melee range with the target for every 20’ the attacker must travel before he attacks. The attacker gets a +5 circumstance bonus to this check. If he is detected, the target is no longer unaware or surprised and may noise as a free action (if it is capable).
Death from Above
Strength based two weapon fighting is powerful in PF, second only to archery. By powerful I mean does lots of damage, but tends to have lower AC. Luckily two handing requires fewer feats. Some of these can be used to hit better, harder, or add manuevers to your bad of tricks. Personally, I like the crane style feat for this build for those tough moments when an AC buff is worth more than full BAB. With 3 ranks in Acrobatics, plus this feat, you get a +4 to AC for a -2 to hit. Not always useful, but a life saver in the right circumstances.
The knife throwing build is cool, especially if you use a lot of knives with poison on them. Just draw and throw and every attack is a poison threat. This build has a bit more feat tax than two handing.
Two weapon fighting is not so good. It has many feat traps and doesn't pay off on damage per round as much as ranged or TWF builds.
So I am doing an infiltrator divine tracker (the archetypes stack), with 2 levels of monk zen archer (monk2/ranger6 currently) for the flurry ability. this guy is a machine with the good and nobility domain, particularly against his favored enemies. luck and war blessing are okay - war let's you pick a different benefit per rd, so versatile. Air is good if you take snapshot and use a bow.
I looked at using covering fire and bodyguard feats with the community blessing and the benevolent armor trait whilst playing a dual class cavalier/ranger halfling with the helpful trait, but while racking up a +10 untyped aid another AC bonuses from the 2nd ranks of our battle lines as a AoO seems cool, it would probably drive my GM to result to nasty things - equal but opposite reaction and all that.
Hm. I think I would go another route.
Race is optional but I like Aasimar or halfling (for the halfling helpful trait). But yes, reach cleric with combat reflexes and body guard, ench armor w the benevolent trait to buff my AoO aid another actions. the Divine Protection feat to get CHA to saves and scroll making feat. Domain would be Glory and Good's Archon sub-domain to pass out heroism (buff) and menace (debuff) at 8th (so Serenrae). You want to pick up the Halfling helpful trait if halfling and the one that makes UMD a class skill. Aasimar is a cool race for cleric bu the free use of daylight is meh. I would take heavenly radiance feat to get 2 new uses of even better spells (wandering star motes!). Regardless of race, I'd also check out the Combat Advice feat, and pick up a toppling rod and rime rod asap to use with the 2nd level spells holy ice weapon (an auto entangling wp with your level as a dmg bonus!) and instant weapon (wp of force that knocks people down and you are automatically proficient with - falcata time!) Shout out to extra chanel, versatile channel, power attack and vital strike (with enlarge and lead blades up), but here is ultimately why I went with some of these non-std suggestions: action economy.
1. grant +4-6 AC bonus w aid another using Bodyguard, or threaten with reach (AoO)
The thrust here is that you have something to do at each strata of the action economy. Trust me, you want this. Else you are like "cast/swing, move 6 squares and hope someone moves into threat range of my longspear". Fine at low levels, but by 8th you need to be getting more out of your cleric or you will spend a lot of time building up buffs instead of hitting (and a cleric that hits w/o casting or buffs is just a fighter w 3/4 BAB).
My two cents. More important, have fun. Clerics are full of flavor.
I like the idea of waking up in this setting in a crypt where I and several others have lived for hundreds of years as a vampires until someone killed the master vampire who made us, freeing us from our curse, but leaving us at the center of a dungeon we've created over the years but now have to fight out of...
A metamagic rod of extend might help.
Action economy management is something you have to do from level 1. For example I have a cleric that uses Bodyguard to generate untyped +6 aid another AC buffs (using the benevolent armor enchantment) as attack of opps, uses aura of heroism from the good domain as a swift to give everyone a +2 on all d20 rolls, and uses the combat advice feat as a move action to give out a +2 to-hit buff to a part member, then cast one debuff area spell as a std, usually giving a -2 to AC and d20 rolls (archon's aura).
So while I have effectively only cast one spell, which does vary, there is generally like 10 to 15 points shifting in the parties favor by finding something useful to do with every action type (AoO, swift, etc). You can do this will many classes, just have to plan your progression and pick things with action economy in mind.
A barbarian giant that dual wields ogres that dual wield dwarves who dual wield halfings that each dual wielding battleaxes.
A Quickling Rogue pervert who goes around flashing others and pulling their pants down at lightning speed.
A necromancer cleric skeletal champion who lives in his raised troll zombie's rib cage, casting negative channel heal from within it anytime the troll gets hurt in combat.
An Otyugh fighter martial master / mutation warrior specialized in poo flinging, trip and overrun.
Best is relative of course. I personally think reach cleric with trip feat chain and the crazy cheap Benevolent armor enchantment and the bodyguard feat is an AoO contender. W a fair UMD be can cast Blood Armor to get stacking bonuses on the benevolent enchantment. Make him a halfing with the helpful trait and he gets another +4 on aid another actions. Net, he is still an AoO attacker but can also throw out +10 AC buffs pretty much at will and only needs a Dex 14 to be effective (more is better of course).
The opti-use is like this (x is bad guy, c is cleric, o is other PCs:
[10 feet+ distance here, party readies actions below, X is advancing]
C readies attack and 5' step back, O1 and O2 ready attacks:
X [advances to within 10' reach of C]
OCO [C attacks w reach]
X [stands up, provokes from all, attacks]
Under normal circumstances everyone would get their attacks per usual but with this optimized action economy C has generated an addl 7 attacks for his party in 2 rounds, and potentially +10-20 in AC buffs. And this is just the base, spells (suggest Archon's Aura or Blessing of Fervor) and the aura's from either or both of the glory-heroism and good-archon domains could layers on another +2 to hit for C,O1,O2 and a -2H/AC/Saves for X. I mention this because if X is the BBEG or something hard to trip, instead of the first trip, C could have used an offensive aid another as a std to to debuff's X to-hit.
I have found that daredevil softpaw boots work good with this build. Honorable mention to the energy channel feat w fire domain for Serenrae fans.
One more thing, I haven't tried it, but an aasimar cleric with the channel force feats can push undead dudes back. If he were a reach build with combat reflexes it seems possible he could generate AoO against multiple foes when he channels and forces them out of threatened squares. Many abilities that move foes 5' say "does not provoke" but the channel force feats do not.
Another crazy aid another exploit with Bodyguard is the Blood Armor spell which confers a +1 enhancement bonus to armor per 5 HP dmg sustained, and which makes no provision for rolling back the bonus when the the target heals.
All fine until your player puts the Benevolent trait on his armor, allowing him to add his armor's enhancement bonus to Bodyguard's AoO aid another actions.
Consider the impact of all the AC bonuses by an opti-cavalier (easily another source of +1 to +3) halfing with the helpful trait (base aid another bonus increases from +2 to +4) and you quickly get a PC who can dole out 10+ AC buffs pretty much at will w little impact to his standard action, which may include using aid another to thwart attack bonus. So yeah, that means he can defuff enemy to-hit as a std for a hefty -5 to -7 while making his bodyguard recipients have godly AC.
Here's an idea I like.
Roll characters. Have them invent summary backgrounds. Then...
Have the players wake up in coffins in the middle of a dungeon wearing dated clothing/armor/gear. Crawling out they quickly discover that while their backstories are true, their memories are from 4d6x10 years ago during which time they have been vampires. Lucky for them, an adventuring party managed to barely penetrate to the heart of the dungeon and kill their maker, a vampire lord. Now they must fight their way out of the dungeon.
Once they escape, they will find that the surrounding civilization knows their faces and has a long list of atonements for them to do to make up for years of vamping. As they work their way toward salvation, their master of their master learns of their deeds and becomes intrigued with reclaiming them.
Or something like that. Basically, I just liked the idea of waking up in the middle of a dungeon and having to fight out of it.
Unless your players are method actors, making NPCs morally grey is about playing off the players sensibilities rather than their characters. If you have either side do "good", but also a measure of "bad" to a couple of players sensibilities, it should sow a "both sides have a point, but also suck" kind of seed. Morally reprehensible things, of course, can span from breaking your word, to child murder to rape - depends how thick your player's skin is. Once you get each NPC under their skins it will tend to come down to whichever NPC speaks or treats them more fairly one-on-one, or they will hate both (careful). That's my experience anyway, and it boils down to your knowledge of your peeps.
As for the story - it's good, but be careful of your assumption that the characters will even care and get as emotionally involved as you want them to be.
Give the PCs a base of operations that is caught in the middle of the conflict; a castle, cave, manor - something like that.
Have the PCs save a village and have one of the faction destroy it for a unknown goo reason. That will make them mad but reveal that things aren't what they seem.
I don't personally think the whole spell focus tree is worth the feat tax. Increasing caster level increases DC and damage dice. Take a look at mage's tattoo feat, spell specialization and precocious spellcaster trait.
Check out spell perfection after level 13.
If you really want to have the best one trick pony in town, this is the way. Personally, I like throwing in some conjuration just in case my GM notices that I can only do one thing!
I hear you. Feel the same sometimes. You neglected to mention the party's level. Monsters and traps are just encounter design, the real character of dungeons are environmental.
A few corridors that are rivers instead of hallways.
Teleport pads to connect some rooms.
Some areas that require small size to enter, or confer squeezed condition.
Noxious gas pockets. Or flammable gases.
Mc escher stairs (upside down but still work)
Pockets of greater darkness.
Slick slanted tunnels.
Spores, molds and fungus (ghostbusters reference!)
Also good to consider all noise and light as "come and kill me" magnets.
I like the suggestions that have been made, but role-playing wise, she sounds like she'd make a great paladin or oracle (a serious but kind half-elf). if you mull over oracle, consider also the divine protection feat. ungody saves! (pun intended). paladin would be slightly better if your ranger is an archer. honorable mention to the alchemist - good class for h-elves and spamming bombs is fun.
I have done a similar build. The halfling Helpful trait rocks.
I concur that getting a trip capability is a great adjunct to this build - better than combat patrol IMO - but if the feat tax is too much, consider overrun and greater overrun off the power attack tree. Also generates AoO for you and your mates, and adding Spiked Destroyer later is bonus. In harm's way is a waste in my opinion - too circumstantial. Also, if you can fit in cleaving finish, definitely do. It's like cleave, but allows an attack to anyone in your threat range after a target drops - which for you is pretty much everyone. quickdraw can also help out for swapping to a one-hander when they get inside your reach.
If tricky is your end design, then many options you will find. At least one good offensive spell is needed, they say. For this there is none better than color spray. More, to avoid being gutted like fish, you may look into the spell called Vanish. Alternative to this in the defensive field, consider likewise the value of Shield. Only limited by you mind's creation, the best low level spell is probably Prestidigitation. A clever fellow could do much harm with judicious use of the cant called Charm. Versatility is of most import to a fellow playing the tricky sort. So also consider, if you would, the no save merits of Touch of Idiocy are truly good. Not every spell is good to memorize, as such, the Scribe Scroll feat may save some lives. To make this work you may see a need for some ranks in UMD. Last i'd mention metamagic rods, of which the Bouncing version is a true god. It sends a spell against which is saved coursing toward another knave. The value of this is fairly clear - a failed spell that turns successful is something to fear.
While this prosey prose has been rather fun, suggest you post again after level one.
There is a halfling trait called helpful and the bodyguard feat that are worth grabbing. Helpful increases aid another to grant a +4 on ally's attack or AC, and body guard let's you give this AC bonus to adjacent allies when they are attacked as an AoO. One of the cavalier orders would get this up to +6 within a few levels, which is sweet for a small PC because you can take your mount anywhere a medium person can go and your mount is a valid recipient of aid another.
Not quite in line with what you asked, but as an untyped bonus, since you will probably want Combat Reflexes with your AoO build anyway, it's too useful to pass up for a single feat/trait investment. It also gives you something to do with the high Dex when you are not using those AoOs.
Turning on water valves to float up impossible to climb slim covered causeways to access secret doors or intersecting tunnels is always fun. Or reverse, letting water out of a cistern to equalize levels with another chamber to go down or drain a water filled passage. Even goblins can grasp that and combinations make for good puzzle fodder.
A flammable substance on the top of sewage makes a good trap. The general best avoidance for which is diving into the sewage, incurring a stench you bad guys with scent can use to track the PCs, the sickened condition and/or disease.
The truth is the hag did this to both captives and replaced the herself with a real captive after changing into the first captive. Thus, the PCs must figure out which is the hag, while neither is in fact one.
Whatever happens, a withered hag in a dominatrix get-up (exposing many wrinkly parts), will uncloak from invisibility and cut the hostages throats, laughing gleefully at her clever game. A number of skeletons wearing bedroom role-playing costumes (ass-less chaps, little bo-peep, etc) wielding large vibrating rubber clubs will rush in, led by a Skeletal Champion with a +1 cod piece (adds a stacking +1 AC to anyone brave enough to loot and wear it). The skeletons always aim at genitals. The Hag dogs around the back of the ranks casting a modified form of Murderous Command to make the PCs "attack" one another if the fail DC 15 Will save, but instead of attacking they try to render very amorous kisses on one another, which if made as successful touch attacks, act as Aid Another granting a +2 to hit or AC in favor of the enemy. The hag is armed with a camera and will take pictures of PCs kissing each other. Also, the hag, being a hag, will try to escape with her blackmail photos rather than fight to the death.
Hopefully, some PCs end up getting kissed and vow to never speak of it or seek out the hag to retrieve the embarrassing pics. Oh, such fun!
Vestigial arms do not grant attacks, but can be used to assist-hold a two handed weapon. Thus, with 6 arms you could wield 3 two handed weapons. I am unsure how the TWF feat would be extrapolated to address this - probably just a further scaling to-hit adjustment on successive attacks. Alternately, you could just use 2 2H weapons and leave the other hands open for bombs/casting/applying poison.
Maybe talk your GM into letting you add mithral chain arms and skirting to your vest to convert it into a hybrid chain shirt with stats close to what you need.
Also, if your UMD skill is high enough, consider getting a wand of Stone Shield. You can throw this up as an immediate action for an untyped +4 AC bonus and +2 Reflex save. If you go with a buckler instead, you could have this in your shield hand during combat for a needed boost.
We use something we like to call a panoramic story for this. It's not just a solution but an amazing experience.
The GM designs the game around two to four static forces that are all questing against each other and decides which force is in-session depending on which players are available.
For example, we have a game that centers around aberrant underdark forces warring for control of a vast tunnel system with a ratkin species (that breeds like mad). Then we have a dwarven kingdom rallying forces and mercenaries to deal with a strange rise of activity in the underdark. Finally, we have a coastal region of fledgling towns being plagued by pirates because their standing mercenary defensive force has been hired away by dwarves.
It's all connected and a bit sand-boxy, but basically peoples schedules have sort of gelled around playing 1-2 characters in 1-2 of the scenarios - and each scenario - an evil campaign, a human/dwarf deep delver campaign, a pirate lords campaign, and a coastal base-of-operations campaign, rotating based on who shows up.
I have to say, it is incredibly fun to be in groups that create ramifications and story points for other characters. The guys who play in the wednesday group (as evil) have made it their mission to make the saturday group's life terribly uncomfortable.