Thaliak's page

Organized Play Member. 179 posts (760 including aliases). No reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Organized Play character. 2 aliases.

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The summoned creature gets to act immediately. From page 195:



A creature called by way of a conjuration spell or effect
gains the summoned trait. A summoned creature can’t
summon other creatures, create things of value, or cast
spells that require an expensive material component
or special focus. It can take only 2 actions on its turn,
and can’t take reactions. Otherwise, it uses the standard
abilities for a creature of its kind.
When you finish casting the spell and when you spend
an action to Concentrate on the Spell, the summoned
creature then takes its 2 actions.
After its actions, you
continue with the rest of your turn. You can direct a given
summoned creature only once per turn; Concentrating on
a Spell for a summoned monster more than once on the
same turn doesn’t give that monster any more actions. If
you don’t Concentrate on the Spell during your turn, the
creature takes no actions, assuming it isn’t dismissed due
to the spell having a duration of concentration.
Summoned creatures can be banished by various spells
and effects and are automatically banished if reduced to
0 Hit Points, or if the spell that calls them is dismissed.

You could argue that the text in Summon Monster overrides the general rule, but because it's parenthetical, it seems more likely to be an incomplete reminder of how the rules work.

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I'm not sure I like the idea of tying class feat effectiveness to skill proficiency. One of the theoretical strengths of the current feat paradigm is that it separates combat capabilities from narrative capabilities. This means wizards or fighters can focus on stealth, crafting, or diplomacy rather than arcane lore or athletic prowess based on their desired role and backstory. If combat capabilities depend on skills (outside combat maneuvers, which are generally weak), that freedom goes away, a shame given how few skill increases most classes get.

Having said that, boosting feats based on skill proficiency would make increasing proficiency more exciting. I can see value in that, but the developers would need to work to make sure the skill-powered feats are appealing but not mandatory. Otherwise, optimizers will feel constrained by the system and non-optimizers will underperform to the point of frustration.

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Doktor Weasel wrote:
Xenocrat wrote:
It's not uncommon for Paizo to use terms in their rules a way that are wrong or even directly contradictory to their real world meanings.
Like Inflammable (same thing as flammable), Bolstered (supported) and Sea Legs (the ability to walk on a moving ship). All are being used incorrectly in the playtest. And I'm still annoyed by he Dragoon in Ultimate Combat being some spear user that does silly spin and jump attacks and not a proper mounted, firearm using infantry. That same book even introduced the Dragon pistol that they were named after, but misused the name anyway.

I suspect Ultimate Combat's Dragoon is a reference to Kain, a character from Final Fantasy II (or IV, if you prefer) who could jump off-screen to land a delayed but more powerful attack.

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I assumed it was intentional. The Dappler likes to keep people on their toes. If they know he's a "dabbler" up front, they'll expect a wide variety of tricks, but if he introduces himself (or herself) as _THE_ Dappler, they'll assume he's amazing at...something. While they're wracking their brain and critically failing their Society (Recall Knowledge) checks trying to figure out what that something is, he can:
1. Fascinate them with bardic music;
2. Pickpocket them with Rogue-like skill;
3. Pretend that the carpet counts as natural difficult terrain so he can count them as flat-footed with Ranger-like power;
4. Smack them with his fists or a nearby chair with a Monk or Fighter's might;
5. Charm them with magic drawn from his blood (because he's a master of Charisma, clearly) or a well-decorated tome (because he's also a genius); or
6. Smite them with Druidic lightning!

The Dappler is a man of many talents. He doesn't always play Pathfinder, but when he does, he does it well.

On a more serious note, I wish classes or multiclass feats had more built into them. When I multiclass, I often feel like my base class provides nothing more than a few +1s and a hitpoint pool, because I have so few feats left over for base class feats.

On a more relevant note, the Dappler should have class feats that allow him to temporarily gain training or greater expertise in a skill, provide stances that change the attribute governing an activity in exchange for a penalty, or allow him to break the level cap on multiclassing feats.

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Tusk, that is incorrect. Page 7 of the Multiclass Archetype document gives us:



Prerequisite: Basic Bloodline Spellcasting
Your repertoire expands, and you can cast more spells of your bloodline’s tradition each day. Increase the number of spells in your repertoire and
number of spell slots you gain from sorcerer archetype feats by 1 for
each spell level other than your two highest spell levels.

Personally, it doesn't bother me that sorcerers have less flexibility than wizards. If I'm taking Sorcerer Dedication over a prepared caster dedication, it's likely because I enjoy spontaneous casting, value Charisma more than Intelligence or Wisdom, or want the skills the Bloodline provides. I've also considered taking it to give a martial access to the Demonic bloodline's life-draining bite.

Having said that, I find Bloodline Breadth's progress extremely slow. It feels silly to spend a feat at 8th level for a single Level 1 spell slot when I could get an action I can use every round. But that is true for the prepared casters as well. I wish all the breadth feats gave more slots, but they can't give too many or dabblers would overshadow full-class casters.

I agree that it would make sense for multiclass sorcerers and bards, like their full-class counterparts, to be able to swap out spells as they level.

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Perhaps Monks will have a class feature similar to Studied Resonance that allows them to key their focus points off Wisdom. If it's optional, Dragon Style adherents could stick with Charisma to give their intimidation-based feat more punchkick.

I'm disappointed to hear the survey responses pointed toward mandatory magic weapons rather than inherent damage dice growth. However, I can understand the desire for magic weapons to be powerful. As much as I dislike in theory the connection between items and effectiveness in combat and with skills, it does make finding treasure and shopping more fun.

People often say it's possible to keep item acquisition fun by making magic items interesting, but that often comes at the cost of complexity in the form of item-specific actions, situational bonuses, and charges. Although I'm only building Level 9 characters, I'm already at a point where I want to ignore the one-a-day powers attached to certain items, such as the Phylactery of Faithfulness's augury effect, and the situational bonuses attached to others, such as the Staff of Evocation's +2 circumstance bonus to identifying evocation magic. If all items had such bonuses, using them (and creating comprehensive character sheets) would be a headache.

Having said that, I hope the core books ship with official variants that provide the expected bonuses not through magic items but through leveling or gold-gated training. That wouldn't help in organized play, which is where I'm most likely to play. But it would make running the game easier on GMs who like low-magic settings, use a slow format such as play-by-post, or want to tell stories where handing out magic items wouldn't make sense (such as a poor town being invaded by man-eating ants or an enemy nation that takes a 'quantity over quality' approach to equipping its troops). Such a system might also help players understand the bonuses the base system expects them to get through items at specific levels.

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"Highest spell level you can cast" only includes spell slots from the archetype for which you're taking the Breadth feat. Take a look at Wizard Dedication:

You can cast more arcane spells each day. Increase the spell slots you gain from wizard archetype feats by 1 for each spell level other than your two highest spell levels. For example, at 8th level you could prepare two level 1 spells, one level 2 spell, and one level 3 spell.

The "from your wizard archetype feats" is meant to apply to everything, including "your two highest spell levels." The example supports this interpretation, for it lacks any explanation of what happens if you're able to cast higher spell levels because of your class or another multiclass chain.

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I want to say "I don't mind a few damage dice, because if they ever become overwhelming, I can pull out my phone and have it do the math for me." But unless I'm looking up spell descriptions, I prefer not to have my phone out during games for fear I'll succumb to the temptation to check my e-mail, Facebook, this forum, the Star Wars: The Card Game forum, get the idea.

(Besides, I only got a smart phone recently. Even in the modern era, I don't think they should be assumed.)

That makes me want to say "I'd prefer fewer dice so I don't feel tired at the end of five consecutive combats." But while that may be true in a given session, it'd make character progression feel slow. I may not want to roll six dice for every hit at Level 20 (or 11 dice if I play rogue, before considering runes), but I'm glad I get to roll two dice instead of one at Level 5.

So, do I like dice? No! But yes.

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While creating a sorcerer who specializes in hunting undead for a one-shot that requires us to be members of the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, I initially thought it would be a good idea to select Ghostly Weapon so I could give my more martial allies the ability to bypass the damage reduction on ghosts. Unfortunately, the spell can only target non-magic weapons. Since it is a third level spell, by the time a player gets it, they're likely to have access to potency runes, which make their weapons magical and therefore ineligible for Ghostly Weapon.

Looking at the Bestiary, casting Ghostly Weapon might still be worthwhile in corner cases. The damage resistances that Ghostly Weapon bypasses range from 5 to 10, which means a d4 weapon would need a +2 rune for its average bonus damage to match the weakest resistance and a +4 rune for its average bonus damage to match the strongest.

Of course, that's a d4 weapon, which few players will use. A d6 weapon would only be 1.5 damage behind the weakest resistance with a +1 rune or 3 damage behind the strongest resistance with a +2 rune, and a d8 weapon would only be 0.5 damage behind the weakest resistance with a +1 rune and 1 damage behind the strongest with a +2 weapon.

Even if the resistances were stronger, Ghostly Weapon should still be able to affect magical weapons. It's silly to picture a spellcaster saying, "That's an undead, boy! Put away your grandfather's magic sword and draw your backup so I can give you the power to strike our foe effectively!"

Please let Ghost Touch affect magic weapons. If I'm spending a third-level spell slot to make someone else more effective, it needs to make them noticeably more effective. Especially since the spell's one-minute duration means I'll likely need to go into melee or take Reach Spell to grant its benefit.

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I was surprised as well, but keeping the penalty makes sense to me. If characters could make every attack at their full bonus, they'd rarely use any of the other actions.

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Like many, I dislike tying damage progression to runes rather than skill. While I enjoy finding and acquiring powerful items, I'd prefer to pretend to be a character who survives through skill, not wealth. There's also a fair chance I'll only play Pathfinder 2E through forum games, which move so slowly that it's easy for characters to outlevel their equipment.

Tying damage to runes also takes away unarmed combat's advantages in politically-oriented games. For example, I love building monks who act as assassins or bodyguards. I can't imagine them saying, "I'm sorry, my lord. I know you're in danger, but I need a moment to wrap this cloth around my hands before I can strike down your foes, for only when they feel the smooth touch of silk are my fists truly mighty."

I'd prefer not to tie weapon damage to proficiency unless there are ways for casters to increase their proficiency in a variety of weapons. I like gishes and have a hard time imagining a seasoned adventurer walking into a dragon's lair or even a bandit's camp without a backup weapon.

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Cyrad and I had a discussion about the archetype in the Product Discussion thread for Heroes of the Streets in which I tried to address his concern about combining battlefield control spells with ranged attacks as follows:

Thaliak wrote:

Cyrad, I'll admit it's a strong ability. However, as I tried to say in my original post, I don't know how much stronger it is than a Bard with a high enough Inspire Courage bonus to turn two or three hits into misses while casting [battlefield control] spells. In combat, the Bard may be even stronger, as those hits will come from martials who have damage-boosting class features and can invest more in strength than a Magus who needs strength, dexterity, and intelligence. Out of combat, a Bard should definitely outdo a Magus.

I could be off base. I'm not the most experienced player [and I'm new to PFS], and the game where I'm playing an Eldritch Archer [in] is already ridiculously overpowered [it's a gestalt game where we get a feat every level and roll stats using house rules that all but guarantee several stats above 16]. But I'm looking forward to seeing what the archetype can do.

Cyrad wrote:
I appreciate your honesty, Thaliak. Though, damage isn't just my concern. Archery and crowd control spells are some of the strongest combat contributions in the game. Giving the action economy to do both at the same time without putting much risk is insanely powerful.
Thaliak wrote:

For what it's worth, there already are several ways to combine movement-agnostic damage, the primary benefit of archery, and crowd control. Any caster can do it with Dazing Spell, summoning or combo spells such as Snowball and Blistering Invective. Summoners, Sylvan bloodline Sorcerers, Druids, Hunters, Sacred Huntmaster Inquisitors, Spiritualists, and any caster who is willing to invest feats in Nature Soul, Animal Ally and Boon Companion can come close through their companions.

Having said that, I agree that Ranged Spell Combat will be powerful. I just don't think it's strong enough to warrant too much concern unless the Magus knows what he's doing in a party with an otherwise low optimization ceiling. That will be a problem with almost any class, including the base Magus.

I still think my arguments are valid, so I'm reposting them here. If the other options that allow casters to combine damage and battlefield control are allowed in PFS, why ban the Eldritch Archer?

Part of the argument seems to be, "There is so little risk! This guy can do everything that the Magus can do, but he doesn't have to put himself in danger." I have four responses to that:
1. This is true of other classes as well. The aforementioned Bard doesn't need to be within five feet of an enemy to provide Inspire Courage while casting Glitterdust, Confusion and Silent Image.
2. If the Eldritch Archer demonstrates that he is a big threat, most enemies will try to counter him. In the case of intelligent enemies, that could mean focusing fire to take him out quickly, getting him into melee where he loses much of his power, or hitting him with spells such as Glitterdust or Dominate Person.
3. As Sebastian already mentioned, the Magus may be protecting himself at the expense of his allies. Unlike the normal Magus, he won't be providing flanking bonuses or standing between the enemies and the witch.
4. Other classes do it better. For example, the aforementioned Summoner has the freedom to spend points and feats boosting his spell DCs while offering a source of damage that can flank, guard the squishies, provide a second chance at critical rolls such as Perception and Spellcraft, and use wands if needed.

I suppose people could say, "Thaliak, you're comparing the Eldritch Archer to Summoners, one of the strongest class in the game even in its unchained incarnation. I don't want more options of that power level in PFS!" I don't agree with that sentiment. If I'm unfortunate enough to end up at a table where everyone cares only about power, I'd like to at least see several different character concepts rather than the Murder-Pounce Summoner, the One-Trick Zen Archer, and the Superstitious Two-Hand Barbarian I've seen or read about on the boards.

If I'm fortunate enough to end up at a table with people who try to build reasonable characters and share the spotlight, an Eldritch Archer would be a great ally. If the player notices he's steeling the spotlight, he has several options:
1. He can dial back by casting cantrips or buffs.
2. He can switch to a role that isn't covered. At a table with a wizard who focuses on battlefield control, he can prep damage spells. At a table full of melee monsters and ranged reapers, he can focus on battlefield control instead.

Of course, if his allies' dice go cold, he's still a Magus. When the enemy boss has his axe raised to finish off the prone fighter, the Eldritch Archer can pull out all the stops and kill the enemy before he can deliver the finishing blow. I think I'm okay with that.

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The Eldritch Archer has at least five minor downsides. He:
1. Has to have his weapon to cast spells without making concentration checks;
2. Can't use Spell Combat or Spell Strike with melee weapons;
3. Can't take a penalty while using Spell Combat to gain a bonus to concentration checks to cast defensively;
4. Loses access to archetypes that modify Spell Combat or Spell Strike; and
5. Loses Use Magic Device as a class skill.

Remember, without an Arcana that is only available at level 12, Ranged Spellstrike's range is capped to the range of the spell. That might force the Eldritch Archer closer to the front lines than most archers would prefer to be.

Alternately, it could encourage Eldritch Archers to focus on battlefield control spells rather than burst damage. If so, the Eldritch Archer might be comparable to a bard, which can contribute damage through move action performances on the same round it casts spells.

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Illusions have a few problems:
1. People disagree on how they work, so if you frequently change GMs, your performance might be inconsistent.
2. Many of the Illusion spells require concentration.
3. Any character with ranks in spellcraft can identify the spell as you cast it, so they might not be effective against enemy spell casters.
4. Certain spells, such as True Seeing, negate illusions
5. Almost all Illusions allow Will saves.

But if you're creative, illusionists can be versatile and powerful. More importantly, because their signature spells are so open-ended, they're a blast to play.

The first problem is one you can deal with easily if you're in a home game. If your GM likes to reward creativity and focus on fun and story rather than strict adherence to the rule, you'll be fine.

If you play in Pathfinder Society and have a new GM each week, talk to the GM before you play to make sure his thoughts on illusions line up with yours. If case they don't, bring backup characters.

In either case, consider reading Rules of the Game: Illusions and its second, third and fourth parts. It was written in the 3.5 days, but it's probably the closest thing we've got to an official guideline on how to interpret the rules governing illusions.

The Need to Concentrate
But what about the reality that the signature illusion spells–Silent Image, Minor Image, and Major Image–require concentration if you want the effect to persist for more than a few rounds? This may not be much of a problem, for the rounds built into the higher-level spells might be enough in combat and it's unlikely you'll need to maintain concentration on more than one illusion outside combat.

If you dream of creating two illusions at once, a certain race with a knack for illusions has access to Effortless Trickery, which lets you concentrate on illusion spells as a swift action. If you don't want to be a gnome, you can play a human, half-elf, half-orc or Aasimar with the Scion of Humanity alternate racial trait and take Racial Heritage to qualify for Effortless Trickery.

If your concept calls for another race and you're comfortable playing a Bard–an amazing class with a spell list full of illusions–you can use the Spellsong feat to concentrate on an illusion as a move action by spending rounds of bardic performance. A Skald might be able to take the feat as well, but before you play one, make sure its buffs will be useful for your group.

Of course, you could always play a Wizard or School Savant Arcanist to make your "concentration" illusions last a number of rounds equal to half your level after you stop concentrating. In general, I prefer Arcanists for ease of play and their ability to boost the DCs of spells with Potent Magic. However, Wizards get access to the Resilient Illusions arcane discovery, which can make your illusions harder to disbelieve.

If mastering magic in all its forms isn't your cup of tea–or if you share my aversion to classes with 2 skill points a level–consider an Occultist with an illusion implement. They get a power that mimics Minor Image and lasts a round a level, or a minute a level once you hit 7. If that isn't long enough, the gnome favored class bonus can increase the duration by a minute a level (which means a gnome Occultist's implement-spawned figments persist for a minute and six seconds at level 1, a feat no other class can match).

If your GM dislikes Occultists or considers psychic magic inappropriate for his campaign, an Inquisitor with the Relic Hunter archetype can steal most of the Occultist's tricks. Personally, I love the idea of an Inquisitor who uses illusions to make the stories of his faith come alive.

Have a given you too many choices yet? No? Well, if your game allows Variant Multiclassing, you can pick any class with the right spells on its list and still add half your level bu taking the Wizard multiclass variant and choosing Illusion as your school!

If you don't want to concentrate yourself, get a familiar with the School Familiar archetype and have it concentrate for you.

Dealing with Spellcraft (by concealing your casting)
All of these strategies are great when you're facing uneducated fighters and thugs. If you trap them in a fake maze of stone or block their arrows with fake fog, they'll assume you cast the appropriate spells and react according. But what do you when you encounter someone who can use spellcraft to identify your spells and has enough common sense to think that whatever just appeared might not be real?

I know of three ways to prevent people from identifying your spells. The first is Spellsong, which I've already mentioned. In addition to letting you concentration on a spell while performing, it enables you to pass off your casting as part of a performance by spending a round of Bardic Performance and making a Perform check opposed by viewers' Sense Motive or Perception checks.

The second is Secret Signs, which allows you to conceal a spell by making a Sleight of Hand check if that spell only has somatic components. Most illusions have verbal components, so to benefit from the feat, you'll need Silent Spell in addition to Secret Signs.

The final option is Cunning Caster, a feat from the recently-released book Heroes of the Street that allows you to conceal your spellcasting with a Bluff check. Unfortunately, there's a catch: You get a huge penalty to the Bluff check if the spell has a material, somatic, verbal or focus component. All of the image spells have focus, verbal and somatic components, so you'd be making the check at a -12 penalty.

But don't worry! If you're a psychic caster, you use Thought and Emotion components rather than Verbal and Somatic components, so you would only take a -4 penalty. If you're a Mesmerist, a class billed as a master of illusion and enchantment spells, you'll even get a bonus to your Bluff checks equal to half your level and non-spell abilities that count as illusions!

If starting at people to make them believe your illusion isn't your thing, the Psychic, Occultist, and even Medium have access to illusion spells and psychic casting. So do Sorcerers with the Psychic Bloodline, Magi who take the Mindblade Archetype, and Investigators who become Psychic Detectives.

Of course, you could always hide your illusion-crafting the old-fashioned way: Turning yourself invisible and casting a Silent or Psychic spell. I gather there are people who would argue that doesn't work, but I think most GMs would allow it.

Dealing with True Seeing (otherwise known as "having a backup plan")
But what do you do when you roll a 49 on your Bluff check to hide your spellcasting as you conjure a fearsome dragon, only to have the enemy cleric cry, "Fool! I have True Seeing! That is nothing more than an illusion!" You could study the nuances of Shadow Conjuration or its brother Shadow Evocation to replicate a Conjuration or Evocation spell, but those spells can be a pain for the GM to adjudicate.

I hate to say this, but it might be time to show off your other skills. Illusions are amazing in the right hands, but sometimes they're not the right tool for the job. Make sure you have others at your disposal.

Or walk up to the Cleric, laugh, and say, "See this!" Then cast Color Spray and watch as he drops his mace and his holy symbol (we'll assume he rolled a 1 on his Will save).

Stopping Successful Saves
Speaking of saves, you might have noticed that most illusion spells allow a Will save. You could take Spell Focus to increase your illusion DCs, but that is often unnecessary. The spells that make illusionists fun, versatile and powerful only allow a save if someone interacts with them. If you create illusions people won't want to interact with, such as walls of flame, they might never get a save.

Having said that, there are ways to increase DCs that are unique to illusionists and enchanters. The most obvious is playing a gnome. The second is the Resilient Illusions Arcane Discovery, which I've already mentioned. The third is the Mesmerist's Bold Stare ability, which allows you reduce the Will save of single enemy by two and eventually three. The final option is the performance granted by the Negotiator Bard archetype, which eventually reduces saves against charm, figment, glamer, and shadow spells by -4.

One other thought: If you play an illusionist, consider investing in Knowledge skills. Being able to ask your GM what goblins fear more than anything before you decide what to create can be priceless.

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Lanitril wrote:
Does anybody have anything on the Skald? Please and thank you.

The Urban Skald replaces the standard raging song with one that can grant a morale bonus to strength, dexterity or constitution that starts at +2 and caps at +6. Unlike the regular raging song, it does not impose a penalty to AC or keep people from using Intelligence, Dexterity or Charisma-based skills. However, it provides no bonus to Will saves.

The Skald also replaces Song of Marching with Infuriating Mockery, which makes it harder for one or more targets to defend themselves or cast spells. He loses Dirge of Doom for Humiliating Defamation, which isolates a single target from its allies, disabling its teamwork feats and forcing it to save against friendly spells.

Finally, the Urban Skald loses medium armor proficiency and damage reduction but gains a scaling bonus to AC when adjacent to two or more allies.

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If you don't care about the bonus languages from Cosmopolitan, consider using the Additional Traits feat from Advanced Player's Guide.

Perception: Eyes and Ears of the City (religion)
Diplomacy: Ease of Faith (faith)
Sense Motive: Suspicious (social)
Perform: Unknown (but as noted above, you'll rarely need Perform)

Remember, Enchanters get a +2 bonus to Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Bluff that increases by 1 every five levels. The 8th-level power could also help you or the Bard land spells.

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Come forth, Earth Eidolon! Once, I had to pretend you had Improved Trip by giving you reach! But now, you are a Dirty Fighter (pun intended)! You may be a dumb brute, but you can trip with the best of them.

(I'm looking forward to this feat. It'll make it easier to create melee characters and pets who excel at battlefield control, the role I enjoy most. It'll also let people use situational maneuvers without investing all of their feats, which should add variety to combat.)

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Can a Relic Hunter take Extra Focus Power ("Prerequisite: Focus power class feature") or Extra Mental Focus ("Prerequisite: Mental focus class feature")? The Relic Hunter's equivalent class feature is called Deific Focus rather than Mental Focus, but the feature "acts like the occultist's focus powers and mental focus class features."

For context, here is that feature:


Deific Focus (Su): At 1st level, a relic hunter learns

to invest divine power into her chosen relics. This acts
like the occultist’s focus powers and mental focus class
(see pages 47 and 48, respectively), with the
following adjustments.
Each day, a relic hunter has a number of points of deific
focus equal to her inquisitor level + her Wisdom modifier,
and she must spend 1 hour in prayer with her relics to
invest them with divine power. These points refresh at
the start of each day.
At 1st level, the relic hunter learns the two base focus
powers from her chosen relic schools and can select one
more focus power from the list of those made available
by her chosen schools. Whenever she gains a new relic
school, she gains the base focus power of that school.
In addition, at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter,
she learns a new focus power selected from all of the
powers granted by all of the relic schools she knows.
She can use these focus powers only by expending
points of deif ic focus. Unless otherwise noted, the DC
for any saving throws against a focus power is equal
to 10 + 1/2 the inquisitor’s class level + the inquisitor’s
Wisdom modif ier. She cannot select a focus power more
than once. She uses her inquisitor level in place of an
occultist level to qualify for focus powers.
This ability replaces domain, bane, greater bane,
second judgment, and third judgment.

Would I be correct in assuming the bolded text allows the class feature to count as the Mental Focus and Focus Power class features for the purpose of feat prerequisites?

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Since neither poster specified a level range or other restrictions, I'm going to answer this question with the assumption that the game will go to 12th level. I've only had one game go higher and I understand that to be the cap for PFS, so it seems reasonable.

Base HP
For both builds, I assume you only have access to one Favored Class, assign it to Ranger or Hunter, and use it to gain hit points.

Ranger 4/Druid 8: 74 (10+4.5*4+5.5*7+8)

Feral Hunter 12: 69 (8+4.5*11+12) (-5)

The Druid 4/Ranger 8 has more hit points, but I doubt the difference is big enough to matter in most situations.

Base Saves
Druid 4/Ranger 8
Fort: 10 (6 from Ranger + 4 from Druid)
Ref : 7 (6 from Ranger + 1 from Druid)
Will: 6 (2 from Ranger + 4 from Druid)

Feral Hunter 12
Fort: 8 (-2)
Ref : 8 (+1)
Will: 4 (-2)

The Druid 4/Ranger 8 has better saves, but again, I don't think the difference is huge.

Base BAB
Druid 4/Ranger 8: 11/6

Feral Hunter 12: 9/4 (-2)

Druid 4/Ranger 8: 64 points before intelligence

Feral Hunter 12: 72 points before intelligence (+8)

Both characters would have Climb, Craft, Handle Animal, Heal, Intimidate, Knowledge (dungeoneering), Knowledge (geography), Knowledge (nature), Perception, Profession, Ride, Spellcraft, Stealth, Survival, and Swim as class skills. The Druid 4/Ranger 8 would also have Fly.

At first glance, it might seem like the Feral Hunter has an advantage, because he gets more skill points a level and faster access to the bonus from Track. However, the Druid 4/Ranger 8 has Nature Sense, which negates the bonuses the bonus from accelerated Track progression and gives the build a 2-point advantage in Knowledge (nature).

The Ranger/Druid 4 can use Favored Enemy and Favored Terrain to get situational bonuses to several skills. However, the Feral Hunter has access to Animal Focus, which can boost several skills–including key skills like Stealth and Perception–through attribute and competence bonuses, so it should pull ahead in specific areas.

Druid 4/Ranger 8
Level 0: 4 Druid (CL 4)
Level 1: 1 Ranger (CL 5)/3 Druid (CL 8)
Level 2: 1 Ranger (CL 5)/2 Druid (CL 8)

Feral Hunter 12
Level 0: 6 Druid (+2, but fixed)
Level 1: 5 Ranger/Druid (CL 12; 6 known) (+1 slot)
Level 2: 5 Ranger/Druid (CL 12; 6 known) (+1 slot)
Level 3: 4 Ranger/Druid (CL 12; 5 known) (+4 slots)
Level 4: 3 Ranger/Druid (CL 12) 4 known) (+3 slots)

The Hunter knows Summon Nature’s Ally I-IV, but the Druid and Ranger have access to every spell on their list.

Needless to say, this category goes to the Hunter. He has higher level spells, a higher caster level, and more slots. He also has nice buffs to his Summon Nature’s Ally spells, but I’m not experienced enough with summoning to say how useful those are.

Wild Shape
Ranger 8/Druid 4
Forms Available: Diminutive, tiny, small, medium, and large animals; small and medium elementals; and small or medium plant creatures
Spells Emulated: Beast Shape III, Elemental Body II, or Plant Shape I
Uses: 5/day
Duration per use: 8 hours

Feral Hunter 12
Forms: Diminutive, tiny, small, medium, and large animals
Spell Emulated: Beast Shape III
Uses: 5/day
Duration per use: 12 hours

This category goes to the Druid 4/Ranger 8, because he has access to a wider variety of forms. His Wild Shape is shorter, but the difference is negligible unless you frequently change shape and have several combats throughout the day.

Other Class Features
Druid 4/Ranger 8
Access to Druidic
Nature’s Bond (level 9 if animal companion)
Nature Sense (+2 bonus on Nature and Survival checks)
Wild Empathy
Woodland Stride
Trackless Step
Resist Nature’s Lure
Track (+4)
Swift Tracker
Three favored enemies
Two favored terrains

Feral Hunter 12
Animal Focus
Nature Training
Track (+6)
Teamwork Feat
Precise Summoned Animal
Woodland Stride
Second Animal Focus
Swift Tracker

Druid 4/Ranger 8
If you choose the Natural Weapon Combat Style, you would have access to 1 feat from among Aspect of the Beast, Improved Natural Weapon, Rending Claws, and Weapon Focus. At Level 10, you could select a feat from the list above, as well as Eldritch Claws and Vital Strike.

Strangely enough, the Natural Combat Combat Style seems awkward for this build. It might be more optimal to use the Two-Handed Weapon style. In that case, you could get Cleave, Power Attack, Pushing Assault, or Shield of Swings at 2nd level, with Furious Focus and Great Cleave added to the list at 6th. Personally, I’d recommend Power Attack and Furious Focus.

If you have access to the Faithful Combat Styles D20PFSRD mentions, you might have better options.

Feral Hunter 12
As a Feral Hunter 12, you’ll gain a single teamwork feat that you change a number of times each day equal to your Wisdom modifier as a standard action. Unless you have other party members with teamwork feats, this isn’t useful.

Since the Druid 4/Ranger 8 build requires two feats to function as intended, the Hunter appears to have a feat advantage at level 12. The Ranger has more BAB, which might allow him to select combat-related feats more quickly, but I suspect this won't matter until late in his career. The Hunter should eventually catch up, as the Ranger needs to spend his Level 5 and Level 7 feats on Shaping Focus and possibly Shapeshifting Hunter to function as intended. Feral Hunter

The Verdict
I’d go with the Hunter. It gets more spells, which can provide out-of-combat utility, buffs, mook-clearing blasts, and battlefield control. You might not be able to match a dedicated caster, but play intelligently, and you should get use out of the extra spells.

More importantly, the Feral Hunter gets access to Animal Focus and Greater Animal Focus, which he can use to buff his strength, dexterity or constitution in human or beast form; enhance his vision; gain Evasion and Improved Evasion; land attacks of opportunity; or improve Climb and Swim checks.

“But Thaliak,” my skeptical reader cries, “those bonuses can be replicated by items!” That’s true, but unless you’re playing in a game where wealth is easy to come by, I doubt you’ll have items to replicate all of the bonuses.

Even in a high-wealth game, Animal Focus can still save money. Consider the Mouse animal focus, which grants Evasion at first level (take that, Rogue!) and Improved Evasion at Level 12. A Ring of Evasion would cost 25,000 gold, a fair sum, and offer less benefit.

“I don’t care about saving money, Thaliak! I want to Wild Shape!" my imaginary reader replies. “The Druid 4/Ranger 8 is better at Wild Shape, because it has access to Elemental Body II and Plant Shape I, not just Beast Shape III!”

More power to you. I’m no expert on polymorph spells, so I can’t say how much Elemental Body and Plant Shape will help you. However, my limited experience with druids suggests that turning into a lion and pouncing is often good enough. The Hunter also has the advantage of access to buffs like Barkskin and Air Walk.

Even if the Druid 4/Ranger 8’s more versatile Shapeshifting made it a more powerful option, I might still consider the Hunter, because it looks much simpler to play. Instead of preparing spells from two separate lists, you select generally useful or thematically appropriate spells and have access to them at any time. Instead of selecting forms from three lists, you only need to worry about one. And instead of asking your GM whether your Favored Enemy or Favored Terrain bonus applies, you pick the Animal Focuses that seem most appropriate for the situation and add those bonuses.

You also don't need to worry about an animal companion. While that might be a hit in power, it'll make it much easier to play the character.

The Feral Hunter has one other advantage: It's a shapeshifter from level 1. You might not get Wild Shape until Level 4, but you will get the Feral Hunter's version of Animal Focus, which makes cosmetic changes to your character's form. That can be fun to roleplay.

Besides, if you play a Feral Hunter, you’ll be blazing new ground. The next time someone comes along and asks if they should play a Feral Hunter, you’ll be able to give them advice that is based on experience, not theorycrafting. I'm sure that will be appreciated.

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Let's look at the list of force spells. At level 1, we have:
Magic Missile, which deals damage to one to five targets;
Shield, which has a short duration but blocks Magic Missile and increases the casters' AC by 4;
Mage Armor, the spell most mages cast at least once a day; and
Floating Disk, the weak villain's favorite way to carry death ray machines and inconvenient corpses.

Level 2 has:
Admonishing Ray, a Scorching Ray imitator that deals nonletham damage; and
Pilfering Hand, which lets budding telekineticists steal opponents' weapons and items or disable devices from a distance;

Level 3 has:
Ablative Barrier, which surrounds the target with bands of force that increase his AC by 2 and turn five points of damage from each attack into nonlethal damage;
Battering Blast, which lets a vexed villain hurl balls of force that damage opponents and send them flying back;
Chain of Perdition, which creates a floating chain of force that can blind, entangle, drag, reposition or trip enemies; and
Force Punch, a melee touch attack that damages a single foe and pushes him away.

Level 4 has Telekinetic Charge, which can send an ally flying toward the white-robed wizard that thinks he's safe in the back row.

Level 5 gives you:
Interposing Hand, which creates a large hand that stays between you and your foe, granting cover; and
Wall of Force, which does exactly what its name suggests.

Level 6 presents Forceful Hand, an interposing hand that can also push opponents away.

Level 7 has more options. They are:
Force Cage, which creates a 20-foot barred cage or a 10-foot prison so impenetrable its inmates might suffocate; and
Grasping Hand, a hand of force that can grapple or bull rush foes.

Level 8 gives us Clenched Fist, which summons a massive fist of force so strong it can stun foes.

Level 9 brings us:
Mage's Magnificent Enclosure, which creates an antimagic field and surrounds it with a sphere almost as strong as a wall of force, trapping would-be teleporters inside; and
Crushing Hand, an even stronger hand of force that can grapple and constrict squishy wizards with ease.

For a character focused on Telekinesis, the cantrip Mage Hand, the Level 1 spell Unseen Servant, the Level 2 spell Reloading Hands, the Level 3 spells Telikinetic Assembly and Phantom Driver, and the Level 5 spell Unseen Crew might also be of interest. Of course, you'll also want Telekinesis, the object-moving, maneuver-making spell that seems to be at the core of your character.

If you look at the spells above, you'll notice three things:
1. Only a few of them offer a save.
2. Many of them enable you to perform combat maneuvers.
3. Most of the spells that allow you to perform combat maneuvers use your caster level and casting stat as their combat maneuver bonus, so if you want to optimize them, you need to boost your caster level and charisma as high as possible.

If you're in a high level game, the third point needs to be stressed. Combat maneuvers are difficult to perform against high-level martials because CMD scales faster than CMB. Unlike a fighter, you won't be able to rely on magic weapons, enchantment bonuses and class features to boost your combat maneuver bonus.

Instead, you'll need to raise your caster level or CMB. I can think of seven ways to do that:
1. The Mage's Tattoo feat, which boosts the caster level for all spells from a school (evocation or transmutation) by 1;
2. Spell Specialization, which increases the caster level of a single spell by 2;
3. The Gifted Adept trait, which allows you to increase your caster level for a single spell;
4. Precocious Apprentice, another magic trait that grants the +1 caster level bonus to a first level spell (Magic Missile) and a cantrip;
5. Inspired by Greatness, a campaign trait that also offers a single-spell caster level bonus;
6. Secret of the Impossible, a region trait with the same effect;
7. The orange prism ioun stone, which gives the user +1 caster level; and
8. Spell Perfection, a level 15 plus feat that would double the numerical bonuses you gain from Spell Specialization.

The trait bonuses won't stack, so the most you can get from these ideas is a +7 bonus. However, I'm sure there are other ways to increase caster level.

Once your base attack bonus is high enough, you could also take combat maneuver feats such as Trip and Improved trip. You might also consider Toppling Spell, a +1 metamagic feat that causes force spells-including five-target Magic Missiles-to trip foes. If you take the Magical Lineage or Wayang Spellhunter traits, you'll be able to apply this feat to a single spell for free.

Combat maneuver checks generally count as attack rolls, so you might also benefit from spells like True Strike, Heroism and Bless. Your villain might also benefit from a friendly bard with Inspire Courage or a witch with the fortune hex, which would let him roll one check a round twice and take the higher result.

If you find the concept of a combat maneuver caster appealing, consider the Force Commander, a wizard archetype from Rite Publishing that specializes in moving his allies and hindering his foes with maneuvers.

If you focus on maneuvers, remember that they're designed to help other people, not to kill enemies outright. Tripping, blinding or grappling an enemy doesn't do much good unless someone else can finish the job and keep other enemies away, so your villain should try to fight when he has a numerical advantage. Ideally, the terrain (or some well-placed pit spells) should make pushing and pulling the players beneficial without making a single bull rush fatal.

Regarding bloodlines, consider taking one that will allow your villain to play a trickster, such as Shadow or Rakshasa. Alternately, pick one that represents the idea of leadership so he has a good reason to be surrounded by lackies that can strike the players when they're down. Or if you want something that offers more mechanical benefits, take the Sylvan alternate bloodline that grants an animal companion.

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They errata'd Harmonic Spell? That's gone from handy to pretty much pointless then (Lingering Performance all the way it is)... :(

I've seen at least one person mention using Harmonic Spell to activate Dirge of Doom, cast a spell on the shaken enemies, and switch back to Inspire Courage as a swift action. That's a neat trick. You could do it at Level 13 without a feat, but not every game gets that high.

... Also reduces the Masterpieces I'd be attracted to as well. The Inspire Courage buff is so good you generally either need something amazing to consider not running with it, or need someone else on the team to be running some sort of non-stacking buff (like several Cleric spells, or there simply being another Bard on the team) so you're looking for other uses for your bardic performance. The chance of doing 1d6 each round to all the bad guys is seldom going to compare to adding an extra +1 to +4 to the attack and damage rolls of you and all your buddies, after all.

According to this post, you can use Bardic Masterpieces in conjunction with regular performances. However, you'll burn through performance rounds faster. I can only see two masterpieces where I'd consider doing that (the songs that put enemies to sleep or force them to make concentration checks), but I've only played one Bard, and we are still at a low enough level for me to worry about conserving performance rounds.