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This discussion is carried over from a post in the advice forum as it was about to go off topic.

When I wrote my Guide on Wizards, one of the things I wrote that generated a lot of disagreement was when I suggested that a wizard who cast Elemental Form would be unable to meet the somatic component for casting spells (as I had always seen pictures of elementals without proper hands). I was linked many pictures of elementals with hands to show me the error of my ways. My opinion on elemental form interfering with spellcasting has become clouded since.

Now though, on another thread discussing Oracles, I suggested that an Oracle using Beast Shape would not be able to cast spells with Somatic components since none of the applicable forms have proper hands (of course Still Spell would work), nor are Oracles able to take the natural spell feat.

Here's my opinions on the topic, but please reply below with your own.

Just a Mort wrote:
I've always wondered what consists being able to use somatic components for casting.

Here's the appropriate snip from the polymorph spells rules: (bolding emphasis is mine)

When you cast a polymorph spell that changes you into a creature of the animal, dragon, elemental, magical beast, plant, or vermin type, all of your gear melds into your body. Items that provide constant bonuses and do not need to be activated continue to function while melded in this way (with the exception of armor and shield bonuses, which cease to function). Items that require activation cannot be used while you maintain that form. While in such a form, you cannot cast any spells that require material components (unless you have the Eschew Materials or Natural Spell feat), and can only cast spells with somatic or verbal components if the form you choose has the capability to make such movements or speak, such as a dragon.

I think the rules for Material components/Verbal components are pretty clear. With Material components you need a pouch, natural spell or eschew materials. For Verbal you need Natural Spell, Silent Spell or a form that can speak.

Somatic components are a bit more vague. Here's what the rules say about Somatic components:

Somatic: A somatic component is a measured and precise movement of the hand.

I've always thought that was clear, but am second guessing myself now as this is not the first time my interpretation of this has been challenged.

I've always interpreted it as you need a hand, and that hand must be free, unrestricted, and able to make specific and precise gestures.

That would mean a paw wouldn't work, nor would a tentacle, or an appendage, or a talon. It would need to be a hand, as in an appendage with a thumb and some fingers.

When I look at the Natural Spell feat, it allows you to: "substitute various noises and gestures for the normal verbal and somatic components" which suggests to me that making gestures with something that is not capable precise movements of a hand does not satisfy the requirement unless you have the feat.

The rules specifically say that a Dragon meets the requirements. Illustrations I've seen in Pathfinder sources seem to be pretty consistent on the front appendages. 1 thumb and 3 fingers (all clawed). This fits with my previous assumption on the requirements.

However, then the question goes to:

Just a Mort wrote:
If it is hands, or claws, how do royal nagas and coutals cast? Neither of them have hands, both are snakes.

If you look at the feats of these creatures, Natural Spell is notoriously absent. How indeed do these creatures cast? They clearly would be unable to meet the somatic components for their spells.

Personally, I would say it's because according to the entry in the appropriate Bestiary...they can.

I know that is not a particularly satisfying answer, but I strongly suspect it is the correct one. I would suggest that they wouldn't need the Natural Spell feat to get the effect of the feat because that IS their natural form.

Just a Mort wrote:
Quite a number of magical beasts (kamadan, catobepas, chimera) speak a language, so spell casting as a magical beast should not be a problem, even though lunar oracled can never take natural spell.

Certainly any creature that speaks a language is going to be able to meet the verbal requirement of spellcasting, but you've made the conclusion that Somatic Components are unnecessary.

Here's the conclusion where we must disagree, and I would ask others to weigh in on their opinions.

The logic here appears to be "because they can cast in that form without somatic component, so can my character..."

My opinion would be that if you make a character who IS a Royal Naga, your character can cast spells. If your character takes the form of a Royal Naga, you would not (unless using the Still Spell feat or a spell without Somatic components)

Within the last hour this thread (a post requesting advice from a player playing a Pathfinder wizard):


got moved from "Advice" to "Gamer Talk"

This is the third time I've seen this happen with similar posts in the past month.

Does anyone know why requests for advice on Pathfinder RPG posted in the "Advice" forum get moved? It seems to me requests for advice specifically regarding the Pathfinder RPG shouldn't be moved off the Pathfinder RPG forum.

Is the "advice" forum just for posts giving advice? Is asking advice not allowed there or something?


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This is a rant thread. If you can't stand a rant, then move on.

I know you've heard this one, "He doesn't optimize, he's a roleplayer"

There is also the reverse, "He doesn't role play, he's an optimizer."

Now we can probably agree that "Roleplaying" has a few different definitions. For example, if you play Pathfinder, then you are playing a roleplaying game, and are a role player by definition.

That's not the definition I think those who use the above statements are referring to though.

Role Playing would also be what you do with your character. Developing a personality for your character, a set of values, speech patterns, facial ticks, etc. This is likely the definition they are referring to.

There seems to be some kind of weird view that this is somehow no longer meaningful if your character is effective. I mean it's pretty obvious right? Look to fantasy literature, how many interesting character are also good at anything? Oh right...most of them.

Relating how well you roleplay a character with how well you optimize a character makes no more sense to me than comparing how well you optimize your character with how full is your mustache.

"He doesn't optimize, he's got a mustache"

Can anyone explain to me how this would be less relevant than comparing "Role playing" to optimization?

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Here's the link for Treantmonk's Guide to Monks

HAQ (Hypothetically asked questions)

Why are you forcing me to optimize?

I'm not, but if you choose to, then this guide can help you do it.

Why are you telling us that a "Treantmonked" monk is the only way to make a good Monk?

I'm not, and don't make me "Treantmonk" you.

I read your guide and Monks still suck. What do you think about that?

I disagree, but your entitled to your opinion. I certainly don't think Monks are all broken kinds of powerful, but I do think they can be offensively dangerous. My guides do not change the game mechanics, they only look at the game mechanics and make the best of what they are given.

At the end you give only generalities in regards to what a Monk should be capable of instead of giving actual build examples. Why?

Because apparently there is some confusion between "example" and "THIS IS THE ONLY BUILD MAKE YOUR CHARACTER COMPLETELY LIKE THIS OR YOU SUCK" so I've decided to only use examples where required.

If you need some help making your Monk so that it meets the promises in the end of the guide, reply on this thread and I'll help you out specifically.

Why can't you just enjoy roleplaying?

I love roleplaying, that's why I hang out here.

If you love roleplaying, then why do you optimize instead?

I love chocolate and I love my wife. I don't choose one or the other, instead I eat chocolate with my wife and I get the best of both worlds.

Optimization and roleplaying is not an either/or proposition.

Why must you be more powerful than everyone else? Doesn't that make the game less fun for them?

You are referring to "Powergaming", not "Optimizing" I don't want to lord over the rest of my group, however, I do want the character I play to be an effective member of a team.

What if I don't want a 7 Cha? Why do you force me to take a 7 Cha when it doesn't fit my character theme?

Read carefully: GUIDE to Monks. Last time I went to Vegas I used Frommer's Guide to Las Vegas, but I didn't read it like a Bible, I took the suggestions that appealed to me.

Please use my guides the same way.

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Whew...finally done. This handbook was pretty challenging. It appears in 3 chapters - all are interlinked so shouldn't be too hard to navigate. Link is at the bottom of this post.

This handbook is way overdue. While writing this I discovered a thread where someone claimed that Druids were the WEAKEST class in Pathfinder, and that they could PROVE it.

When asked to prove it, they related personal experience and this screamed to me "WE NEED A HANDBOOK!", so here it is.

As with the wizard handbook, I'll begin with a HAQ (Hypothetically asked questions)

I found a math error in your summoning stats, should I let you know?

Yes. If you find a math error in my summoning statistics, reply here and I'll correct the error. I'm pretty certain that there are some errors, as my eyes were going buggy as I did that part.

So I'm going to play a Druid, what do you think of my build? I've used the same strategy as a 3.5 Druid...

STOP! Druid is the one class in Pathfinder that you must use a different creation strategy for, or you will find yourself sorely dissapointed. You'll find yourself writing posts where you claim the Druid is the weakest class in Pathfinder!

What if I wanted to play a Druid that mixes Spellcasting and Melee combat? Can't I do that now?

You can't do it as easily. However, if that's what you're looking for, I would suggest the Spirit of the Beast build. Just make sure you pick up Augment Summoning. Avoid direct offense spells, stick to battlefield control, buff, healing and summmoning. You should be fine.

Where do I put suggested grammatical and spelling error corrections?

I have a suggestion...

...but what if spelling and grammatical errors are a pet peeve of mine?

Guess what my pet peeve is? I did the work. Write your own spelling error free and grammatically correct guide.

You rated a spell incorrectly. Will you change it?

Spell ratings are opinion based, so no, my rating is an exact and correct reflection of my opinion. Changing my opinion would be necessary to get me to change my rating, and I'm notoriously stubborn.

That said, I have changed spell ratings before, and will do so again. However, relating your own personal experience doesn't cut it.

SO without further ado:

Treantmonk's Guide to Druids

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So on the Summon Nature's Ally 3 list is the "Giant Lizard"

Now in the Bestiary, I can only find one "Giant Lizard" and that's the Giant Frilled Lizard.

I was assuming that was the right creature, until I started looking at the stats, and it seems pretty potent against the other creatures on the list.

That wouldn't suprise me too much, the Ant Drone is far more powerful than it's SNA II brethren, as is the Riding Dog at SNA I.

However, I am wondering if perhaps they meant the Monitor Lizard, which, although doesn't have "Giant" in the name at all, the abilities would fit more in line with the other SNA III creatures.

Or is there supposed to be another Giant Lizard entry in the Bestiary that maybe got edited out, like the camel.

Anyone have an opinion on this?

2 people marked this as FAQ candidate.

So when a Druid Wildshapes his equipment meld into his body, just as they do with a polymorph spell.

Specifically, the description for Polymorph spells is:

Items that provide constant bonuses and do not need to be activated continue to function while melded in this way (with the exception of armor bonuses, which cease to function).

So if your Druid is wearing Leather Armor (non-magical) it is clear that in Wildshape, he loses the +2 Armor bonus to AC that the leather armor provides.

If the Leather armor is magic, so lets say now the Leather Armor has +1 Enhancement bonus to AC and the Druid Wildshapes - is the +1 enhancement bonus lost as well (it is an "armor"" enhancement bonus)

Clearly, if the "wild" enchantment is added, both the armor bonus and the enhancement bonus are applicable, but the description of "Wild" does not indicate that the enhancement bonus is necessarily not applicable when the "Wild" enchantment is not there.

Finally, a Shield offers a "Shield" bonus, not an "Armor" bonus, and the two are specifically differentiated in the rules. Therefore, it seems a "Shield" bonus would tranlate to a wildshaped form and would not need the "wild" enchantment. Am I missing something there? I double checked the errata, no "shield" bonus restriction has been added to Polymorph spells.

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I've been putting plain text versions of my handbooks here, of course, the Google Document ends up looking nothing like the original text document after a little while. Furthermore, this guide is longer (there are a LOT of wizard spells, and whenever Wizards are the topic, I'm long winded).

Therefore, I've decided to put a mini-FAQ here, except, I haven't put up the guide yet, so there are no real guide questions yet, so I decided to put up a HAQ instead

First: The Guide:

Treantmonk's Guide to Pathfinder Wizards: Being a God

Second: The HAQ (Hypothetically asked questions)

You rated Spell X wrong, will you change the rating?

Probably not. Wrong is a subjective term since we are discussing opinion not fact. If you want me to change a spell rating you have to do better than tell me you have a different opinion (write your own handbook and you can rate them differently). Instead, in order to get a rating change you need to change my opinion. That's only done through convincing me.

You're sarcastic in this Guide. Why?

Mostly for a weak attempt at humour. Like?

I can tell that you're a Jerk because you insulted Fighters.

Not a question, but this comment I actually have recieved. No kidding! If anyone is offended because I've insulted a niche in a roleplaying game, or they feel that I may have insulted a fictional character of theirs, please take a deep breath, and adjust your views on reality in a way that makes you less of a creepy psycho.

Your spelling and grammar are bad, can I give you some corrections?

No. Not unless you are a proffessional publisher and offering a paying gig.

What if bad spelling and grammar are a pet peeve of mine?

You're Pat Peaves arr know konsern ov myne.

I noticed a mistake, logic error or contradiction, what should I do?

Let me know in the reply section and I'll take a look.

In your Bard guide you rated Spell X this way, but in your Wizard Guide you gave it a different rating. What gives?

Two options, first, maybe I consider certain spells better or worse depending on the niche of the character casting it. The other possibility is that I've been rating hundreds of spells over several weeks, and I rated it once in a good mood, and once in a bad mood.

Why do you tell me not to blast? I have fun blasting!

I'm not telling you what to do. I'm giving recommendations. I blast too sometimes with my Wizards. Do what makes you happy by all means.

Where's the Leadership Feat? It Roxx!

Certain options aren't listed because I think they are cheesy. The Leadership feat does rock, but it rocks so badly that every character would be foolish not to take it from an optimization standpoint. I recommend DM's make it an approval-only feat universally. Putting it in every guide under TAKE THIS isn't really on topic, since I'm making suggestions specifically good for Wizards over the other classes.

Where's the Sorcerer love?

I believe that MinstrelintheGallery says that he's bringing it soon.

You said Spell X is better than Spell Y. Can you prove it? If not, will you finally admit your opinion is wrong?

Nope and Nope. Proofs are for math. I'm just giving opinion. I can guarantee you however, that the rating is an accurate representation of my opinion.

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First a note about editing: I can't edit this document a few minutes after posting. However, this document isn't very pretty or easy to read either, not like the fancy "Google Document" that I'm linking right here:

Treantmonk's Guide to Rangers in Pathfinder

Which should be considered the official handbook, and I will update it when changes are warranted.

Please leave me your replies as to what you think.

Treantmonk's Guide to Rangers

Rangers were a class that struggled to find its place in 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons. In 3.0 the Ranger was a one level class, the quick way to give your rogue two weapon fighting. In 3.5 the Ranger gathered a bit of dignity, but still tended to have difficulty finding a place where he excelled. Yes, he was sneaky, and could shoot a bow, and spot things, but so could a Fighter/Rogue, and the Fighter/Rogue was the better combatant. The Ranger's spells weren't very good, his animal companion was a complete waste, and even Druids were better trackers.

However, come Pathfinder the Ranger has something exciting, actual options to be effective. The new Ranger is an effective melee combatant, an effective archer, unchallenged as the best tracker in any party, and finally can put aside his nostalgia for 1st and 2nd edition.

The Builds: A Pathfinder Ranger has two mechanical options, the "archery" path and the "Two weapon fighting" path, but when it comes to optimization, this actually aren't your best to build options. I think from an optimization standpoint there are two viable Ranger Styles if you aren't multiclassing, and neither are two weapon fighters. I will also suggest what to do if you are interested in a Two Weapon Fighting build, which in a nutshell, is don't be a straight Ranger.

The Guide to the Guide: In this Guide we will be discussing a lot of options, because Rangers have many choices. Therefore, in order to provide my advice on these choices, I'll be Color-coating and rating them.

ONE STAR * This is a choice I don't recommend - keep clear
TWO STARS ** This option is good, but not great
THREE STARS *** I recommend this option
FOUR STARS **** I highly recommend this option - practically a "must have"

Simple enough, like a movie review. So lets move into the Ranger skills and abilities:

Favored Enemy ***: Now a +2 bonus right from 1st level, also, now gives a bonus to hit (in addition to damage and a few skills). Favored enemy is tougher than ever, but, unfortunately, as always, it is circumstantial. It's very hard to pick what your favored enemy will be, because what you are going to be fighting all the time really depends on the campaign. If you have no idea, then these are the favored enemies I think are pretty safe bets: Humanoid (human), Undead, Outsider (evil), Magical Beast. These are all pretty common enemies, but if your DM will give you a suggestion, take it.

Track **: WOW, Rangers are once again the best trackers in the game. Add half your level to your survival for your tracking rolls, which means, really, nobody else in your party needs even bother taking survival.

Wild Empathy **: Diplomacy for animals. The great thing is you get this (basically maxed out) for free, the bad thing is that it is based on CHA (a dump stat). Nevertheless, it is handy to have, and a great ability to use in conjunction with Charm Animal, allowing you to move the animal from your worst enemy, to your loving companion forever.

Combat Style ****: 5 bonus feats over 18 levels, what's not to like? Much improved in that you can actually CHOOSE which feat to take, in addition, as always, you can avoid prerequisites, which means a Ranger with a moderate Dex score is still quite viable.

Endurance *: The Endurance feat as a bonus feat, yippee. This is the feat that nobody takes unless it's given, but nevertheless, I'll take it when it's given.

Favored Terrain **: A new ability for Rangers (we saw similar abilities in 3.5 Prestige Classes), you get this at 3rd level, and over your career you will get a total of 5. The bonus begins at +2, and like Favored Enemy, increases with each additional favored terrain. The bonus isn't to anything too impressive, but it does add to initiative (which is nice), and some other skills. Rangers leave no trail in favored terrain, but can still be tracked by scent we assume, so Pass Without Trace is still going to be a good spell.

Hunter's Bond ***: Now the Ranger gets a choice whether he wants an animal companion, or the ability to share his favored enemies with his allies. Here's the quick rundown for you. The bond with the companions gives 1/2 his favored enemy bonus against a single target only, as a move action, for as many rounds as his wisdom modifier (so likely 2 rounds). Yuck. The other is to get an animal companion far improved from Rangers of 3.5 (now it's your full level -3 advancement). Get the animal companion. I know, animal companions for Rangers have always sucked before. Not anymore, and the alternative really does suck. Get the animal companion every time.

Woodland Stride **: Move through overgrown terrain (as long as it is natural) at full speed. Very, very circumstantial, but hey, I'll take it. A good way to lose pursuers as well.

Swift Tracker **: Track at higher speeds. If you use track a lot, this is going to be quite helpful, especially if you are tracking something that specifically is trying to get away from you.

Evasion ***: A wonderful ability to have. You have to wait until 9th level, but a very handy ability to have. Enemy wizards love to blast.

Quarry *: Provides a small attack bonus and automatic critical confirming to one enemy per day (at 11th level). If he tries to run, god help him, because you can track him in your sleep. Not a huge ability, but basically an offensive output buff, which is always nice, however, it takes a standard action to activate, which means that quite often, this simply will not pay off in the long run. If your enemy attempts fleeing, slap this on, otherwise, not worth it most of the time.

Camouflage **: Granted at 12th level, this is basically Hide-In-Plain-Sight for all your favored terrains. Obviously this will be trumped when you get the real hide in plain sight, but until then, hide in plain sight is a nice ability to have.

Improved Evasion ***: Wade into fireballs and cones of cold without concern. Even a failed save means you will take reduced damage. If you happen to have Resist Energy up, you are all but immune to wizard blasting.

Hide in Plain Sight ***: Not granted until 17th level, Hide in Plain Sight means you can use stealth anywhere at any time. In an open field in daylight with a horde of guards specifically staring at you? No problem, goodbye.

Improved Quarry ***: You can now use your Quarry ability as a free action, which suddenly makes this ability quite a bit more useful. Also, his bonuses double, and he only has to wait 10 minutes between new quarries, which means probably one quarry for every combat.

Master Hunter ****: In most campaigns you will never see this ability, and in the few campaigns you do, you won't see it until the end. Yes, it's a great ability, as capstone abilities often are, but they are level 20 abilities for a Reason, to give you something you can always look forward to. Once you get this, there's nothing left.

Spells ***: For anybody who gets these, this is a big advantage. Naturally, if you multiclass, you should expect to give up the lion's share of this advantage. You can live without, but, when you do have it, you'll be glad for it. I have a detailed spell section after the builds.

Recommended Skills:

Handle Animal ***: If you get an animal companion, and as mentioned before, you should, handle animal is very necessary for proper training. Furthermore a Ranger who doesn't have Handle Animal simply can't be a Ranger anymore, sorry.

Intimidate **: Not 100% necessary, and based off a dump stat, but you don't have a lot of skills allowing you any advantage when interacting with humanoids, so you may find this useful for that. You can live without it, but nice to have.

Knowledge (nature) ***: Of the knowledge's you have, this will be the most useful. Lots of creatures are identified through the Knowledge (nature) skill. Knowledge (Dungeoneering) should be considered as a secondary option of you have the room.

Perception ****: Simply the most used skill in the game period. Also, what kind of scout doesn't have perception? This is absolutely the most useful skill, the most iconic skill, and your #1 priority. No Ranger should not have perception, are we clear?

Ride **: This is a definite maybe. If you plan on having your Ranger mounted (which is a viable option), then this is necessary, otherwise, it may be occasionally handy, but can be lived without, or with just a couple levels.

Stealth ****: I would max this out every time. Scouting requires you to be sneaky, so you have this as a class skill for a reason.

Survival ****: You use this for tracking, and you are a Ranger. It's also used for survival in the wilderness, and you are a Ranger. A must have.

Climb **: I would never max this out, but taking 1 rank at level 1 will give you a decent chance at modest climbing, a cheap investment for something that may come in handy

Swim **: I would never max this out, but like climb, 1 rank is a good investment. It will give you the ability to swim decently, which normally will be all you need.

Favored Class Bonus: For the archery build, you are probably OK with the extra skill point, but for any build entering melee, you probably want the extra HP.

Animal Companion Choices: Your bond should be an animal companion, here are your choices:

Badger **: Not a terrible combat option, gets Rage for 6 rounds/day. Doesn't have a great Str score, so until you get to 7th level, it will have a pretty light hit. Does get both burrow and climb which can be handy. Also has scent and low light vision, also both handy.

Bird **: The obvious advantage here is the ability to fly. The cost is the ability to fight. Birds are small, so large enough to threaten, which means large enough to flank, and they get 3 attacks per round, so they aren't entirely useless in combat, but without animal growth, you will likely find their hits to be pretty unimpressive. They will eventually have a high enough Str to qualify for Power Attack, this is a must have.

Camel *: Clearly a mount option for specific types of campaigns. Generally a worse choice than a horse, so even in a desert campaign, I would normally choose the latter.

Cheetah/leopard ****: Not any faster than a horse or camel, and the damage is poor. However, has a great Dex which means that you can get weapon finesse for a nice chance to hit. Also the sprint ability gives it short range bursts of speed that will be impressive. Agile maneuvers will allow you to use the dex modifier towards combat maneuvers, and these get a trip attack with a successful bite attack. Specifically an archer might find that handy to keep the enemies at distance. Gets scent as well, which is handy to have.

Dire rat: There aren't stats for the dire rat in the base book because Dire Rats appear to not be an option for Druids. I wouldn't expect much more than a potential disease attack (which tend not to be to great), so probably no big loss.

Dog *: One obvious advantage is that a dog is going to be welcome in pretty much any city, but otherwise this is purely a weaker option than the Cheetah or Leopard.

Horse ***: If you plan to be a mounted Ranger, this is likely your best choice. Horses are actually pretty tough in combat with decent STR scores and large size. At 7th level it will become war trained as well. The horse also has scent, making it just as good at tracking by scent as a dog. Horses, like dogs, are going to be welcome in any city. A good choice.

Pony *: Pretty much worse than the horse in almost every way. If you are small size, you may need a smaller mount, in which case this is an understandable choice, otherwise, there is no reason to go this route.

Shark: Aquatic campaigns only, in an aquatic campaign, it's really the only choice, in a non-aquatic campaign, it's a non-choice.

Snake, constrictor ***: The point of this guy is to grab and constrict, something he won't be doing on medium foes until 7th level, after that, he's OK at it. Note that the snake is also a swimmer, giving you that versatility as well. Snakes get the scent ability too.

Snake, viper *: Like the constrictor, but give up all the combat stuff for a poison bite, which won't cease to let you down. If you want a snake, go for the big one.

Wolf ***: Very iconic choice, and very competitive with the Cheetah/Leopard. Stats are very similar and both have the tripping ability. Both advance similarly at 7th level as well. The Wolf does not have the sprinting ability, and it uses the single attack rather than the triple attack, so in the end, probably slightly weaker.

The Archer Ranger ***

The Archer Ranger is a dedicated archer, and pretty darned Iconic too. He likely owns a melee weapon...somewhere, but make sure to wipe off the dust before you use it, he gave up using it by 3rd level. In reality the archer Ranger has several different weapon options: Enchanted, Cold Iron, Alchemical Silver etc. The Archer Ranger is best to stay out of melee, he doesn't aid the battle tactically, instead he simply fires arrows. If you make a character dedicated to firing arrows, he must deliver damage consistently and reliably, otherwise, he's just a spectator. This build concentrates on ensuring your Ranger does more than fire arrows, this build ensures those arrows are constantly dropping opponents.

Ability Scores:

Dexterity is the primary stat for archers for a reason. A Ranger can avoid several Feat required attribute levels, but Dexterity still determines your "to hit", your AC bonus, and your Initiative, all important. Strength allows you to deliver damage, which with archery, is very important since damage bonuses are a bit harder to get. Wisdom affects your ability to cast spells, as well as the duration on one of your potential abilities, so a bit is needed, Con affects your HP, which are less important since you wont be in melee most of the time, not a dump stat, but not all that important. Int affects your skill points, which is nice, but you have a decent amount of skills already, so not too important. Cha is your only true "dump stat".


When choosing Race you want something that is going to boost your Dexterity, or at least your Strength or Wisdom. A movement score of 30 is definitely a nice to have, though not primary. Expect to fight at range, so torchlight just won't cut it, making Low Light vision or Darkvision nearly a must have, or at least, a huge bonus. Remember that small size races will be using Shortbows, not the end of the world, but it will reduce both damage and range moderately.

Half Elf ***: The ability bonus can be put in DEX, and low light vision is good to have. The skill focus feat is nice for stealth or perception (if you put it in perception that will stack with the racial +2 bonus). The elven immunities are decent as well. The multiclass bonus may be helpful too depending on your build

Half Orc ***: The ability bonus can be put in DEX, and Darkvision is very helpful (better than low light in dungeons when scouting). Not much else specifically suited to the role, but that alone makes the Half Orc a decent choice.

Elf ***: +2 to Dex is great, while the Int and Con modifiers will likely cancel out. Low Light vision is very helpful, as are the bonuses to Perception and enchantment. The Spellcraft and Spell DC bonuses likely won't have much impact. Overall a strong choice, on par with the Half-elf.

Human ***: +2 goes into DEX, and the bonus feat is very handy, especially at low levels. The extra skill point will come in handy. Having no special vision type hurts, but it isn't the end of the world, eventually you can get spells that will do the job. At very high and very low levels, I think this is the best choice. At mid-later levels, but before you get the darkvision spell, you may find the lack of special vision to be a liability.


Well, naturally you are going the archery route, so some of your feats will come from that, but beyond the archery combat style feats, the rest of your feats need to also concentrate on archery. Fortunately, there are plenty of choices:

Point blank Shot **: The obvious first choice. A first level archery Bard needs to be willing to enter melee, but when firing his regular bow, that +1 to hit and damage will be significant.

Rapid Shot ***: Getting 2 arrows in the air is a big deal. Essentially you are doubling your offensive output. Once again, be prepared to draw a sword once everyone enters melee, but until then, twang twang!

Precise Shot ***: Now you are a dedicated archer. Hopefully by this time you are using a mighty composite bow, and now you have no penalties for firing into melee, you should be able to deliver damage steadily and reliably

Deadly Aim ****: This is a great deal, -1 to hit for +2 damage is good, and it gets better as levels increase. Your arrows will be mighty painful at this point. You absolutely need this somewhere down the line. Certainly by 9th level if you haven't taken this yet, get it.

Manyshot ****: You can now put 2 arrows into the air with a standard attack, or at least one extra on a full attack, and they all should be delivering very nice damage.

Weapon Focus **: If you have a weakness in archery, it's all the to hit penalties, so even a +1 is handy

Improved Critical **: You are only improving the threat range by one, but Archery criticals are very nice (and all your bonuses multiply) so this is worth it

Improved Precise Shot ***: Cover bonuses come up all the time in archery (often by the positioning of your own allies), so eliminating them is terrific

Critical Focus *: By itself nothing special, but it opens up all the nice critical options

Staggering critical ***: Staggered is a devastating effect, and it also prevents enemies from charging you.

Other Feats you may want to consider:

Fleet **: Extra movement is good, it helps positioning, and gives you control over range. Even 5 feet is helpful

Mobility **: Allows retreat from adjacent foes with less chance of being pounded.

Mounted Archery **: Prerequisite: Mounted Combat. Mounted Rangers are a definite option, and it's great for maneuverability.


The Archer Ranger doesn't need to multiclass, but one option would be to take one level of rogue; That gives you not only a 1d6 sneak attack (for your first round of combat if you win initiative, which you often will), but also gives you the ability to detect traps. This can be a handy skill for a Ranger to have.

Prestige Classes:

The obvious choice is Arcane Archer. In order to qualify you are going to be an elf or half-elf (no problem, good choices anyways), and you are going to need to be able to cast 1st level arcane spells (oh.) Your best bet is to take a single level of Wizard to qualify. If you do this, your original build should favor Int over Wisdom. A 14 starting INT should suffice, and Wisdom of 10 will do you fine.

The Two Weapon Fighter * (Or "Help me make a 2xScimitar Drow Ranger, but he's not a Drizzt clone, his name is Drazzt")

Why the hate for the TWF Ranger? Glad you asked, because he isn't very good, that's why. At least as a single class he isn't. Allow me to explain:

A Ranger has full selection of Martial Weapons. Lets take paired short swords for a hypothetical Ranger, then let's take an Archer Ranger and give him a Greatsword. Lets say each Ranger has a Strength score of 18. Level 2 arrives, and the Two Weapon Fighting Ranger now has the feat. So who is better in melee?

The Two Weapon Fighting Ranger attacks twice per round of full attack. His final attack bonus is +4/+4 (2 BAB, -2 TWF, +4 STR). His damage with his primary weapon is 1d6+4. His damage with his secondary weapon is 1d6+2, if he hits with both, that's 2d6+6, assuming no DR.

The Archer Ranger attacks once per round with full attack. His final attack bonus is +6 (2 BAB, +4 STR). His damage with his primary weapon is 2d6+6 (sound familiar? In this case 2d6 for greatsword, + 1 1/2 Str bonus). So he does just as much damage, but hits more often.

It gets worse if there is movement involved. If a standard attack is taken, the TWF Ranger gets only one attack, while the Archer Ranger also gets one attack, but the Archer Ranger hits just as often and does nearly twice the damage.

Every time the TWF Ranger gets the next level of TWF (improved, greater), it basically gives him one attack with his off hand for every attack he had with his primary hand, at the same chance to hit. The Archer Ranger is still hitting more often, for the same overall damage, consistently. In the end, with all those feats, the TWF Ranger is actually WORSE than the Archer Ranger who took out a Greatsword.

Now Pathfinder has some options to make TWF a bit better. You can now power attack with small weapons, which gives a slight edge on damage to the TWF (+4 damage for every -1 to hit, instead of +3 damage for every -1 to hit.), and Double Slice, which will give you 2x str bonus to damage, rather than the 1.5. However, you are eating up feats like crazy, and considering the 2 handed Ranger didn't need to spend those feats, and had +2 to hit right from the beginning, the TWF Ranger is not faring well in comparison.

Finally, Two Weapon Rend should carry the Two Weapon Fighting Ranger's damage above the 2-handed weapon Archery Ranger. This is only after taking 5 feats to do so. Ugh.

So what do you do if you WANT a TWF Ranger? My suggestion is to multiclass with Rogue. A 1/2 Ranger, 1/2 Rogue TWF gets full sneak attack bonus on both weapons, and counts on that sneak attack for damage. Rogue skills mesh nicely with Ranger skills, so you will find yourself still an effective Ranger-type of character. I'm just going to breeze over this build, since it's not a dedicated Ranger...

If you do this, you can reduce your Wisdom stat requirement, a 12 will do you fine, even long term.

Race: My suggested race would be Half-Elf. Get the your full money's worth out of the multiclassing bonus, and skill focus acrobatics will be of use.

Attributes: I would make Dex the highest priority, followed by Wis, Con and Int. Str can be moderate, as can be CHA.

Feats: Weapon Finesse is a must. Then pump up your two weapon fighting and maneuverability options.

The Switch Hitter **** (Saving the best until last)

This brings me to my highest suggestion for a Pathfinder Ranger build, I was quite excited when I started to play around with some builds, and found to my surprise, "Hey! This actually works!!!". I would NEVER recommend this for a 3.5 build, there are just too few feats to pull this off, but for Pathfinder, this works nicely. The Switch hitter uses the bow at range, then switches to a single melee weapon for melee.

I know, I know, who ever heard of a Ranger doing that? Not what you picture when you think of an Iconic "Ranger"...

Ahh...right. Forgot about him.

The Switch Hitter isn't quite the Archer that the Archer Ranger is, but he's close. Furthermore, the switch hitter is a melee character, ready to wade into melee whenever the chance presents itself. You know those video games where you can switch between archery and melee fighting and be good at both? That's the Switch hitter in a nutshell. A fighter can pull this off too, but wouldn't you rather have all the skills, all the spells, the animal companion, the class abilities, excellence in archery, and excellence in melee? Sound too good to be true? It's not, and I'll prove it.

Tactics: At first level you are just a melee fighter. Grab a greatsword or a longsword and shield if you prefer and bash away. You'll find that high strength melee builds are always optimal at first level, and the switch hitter is no exception.

When you can afford a mighty composite longbow, get one. You should have quick draw early on, so you'll be firing a bow at range, and when the range drops, you drop the bow and draw your melee weapon. At this point don't be using a shield, you just don't have time to get it on. Therefore, your melee weapon at this point should be two handed, beyond that, whatever you like.

When you get to 6th level you will notice that your arrows are really quite deadly. With Deadly aim and manyshot, you can make a full move, then fire two arrows, both of which hit for very respectable damage. When you can make a full attack, use Rapid Shot as well for 4 arrows in one round. Then when you drop your bow and enter melee, you should be having a to hit and damage that rivals pure melee builds. This is in addition to all the skills and the spells you are starting to receive. The animal companion is just gravy in the mix.

By upper levels your arrows will continue to rival a dedicated archer's, and your melee ability should rival a dedicated meleer. The pure fighter will outshine you in melee eventually, and the Paladin will outshine you vs. evil, unless you are fighting a favored enemy, which will tilt the scale in your favor, but you will always be competitive, with the archery ability as a pure bonus.

Combat Style: The combat style of the Switch Hitter is Archery. The Switch Hitter doesn't use TWF, he uses a two handed weapon instead. His skill in archery is gained through the combat style class feature, while his skill in melee is gained through his regular feat selection.

Ability Scores:

Strength is the primary stat for the switch hitter. The Switch hitter doesn't need a high Dex to qualify for Archery Feats because combat style allows you to bypass stat requirements. Strength however will determine the strength of the mighty composite longbow (damage), and determine to hit and damage for a 2 handed weapon (utilizing a 1 and 1/2 bonus to damage on the weapon). Dexterity will affect your to hit with archery, as well as affect your AC. It's not as important as Str, because you've got a great BAB already, so those arrows will have a pretty good to hit anyways. That said, jump on Dex stat bonus items when they become available. Wisdom affects your ability to cast spells, as well as the duration on one of your potential abilities, so a bit is needed, Con affects your HP, which are nice to have, but you have a good base already. Int affects your skill points, which is nice, but you have a decent amount of skills already, so not too important. Cha is your only true "dump stat".

Combat Style Feats to choose:

2nd: Rapid Shot
6th: Manyshot (for a Ranger, this is just better than Rapid Shot)
10th: Improved Precise Shot
14th: Your Choice
18th: Your Choice

Why no precise shot? If you think about it, precise shot is worthless to the switch hitter, because when melee breaks out, he's in it, and you don't need it to qualify for Improved Precise Shot, because you are a Ranger...yay! Why no Point Blank Shot? Because he doesn't need it. Ranger's can avoid prerequisite feats for their combat style bonus feats. The only other archery feat you'll be taking is deadly aim, and Point Blank Shot isn't required for that either.

Regular Feat Selection:

Level 5: At level 5 you will select Deadly Aim. Its the one archery feat you will select with your regular feats, and it's absolutely a necessity, so just do it.

Quickdraw ****: In order to make the switch from Bow to Two Handed Weapon, this is a must. Level 3 at the latest.

Power Attack ****: An excellent deal with two handed weapons, grants +3 damage for -1 to hit. As a Ranger you have a great chance to hit, so this is a great deal

Cleave ***: This has become a nice skirmish feat. Move into position where you threaten two enemies, attack one, and if you hit, make an attack on the other. Nice.

Great Cleave **: Harder to set up than Cleave, but if you can, it's almost like pounce, except you don't need to charge.

Step Up **: A good way to hound archers and spellcasters who use the "5 foot step back and cast or fire arrows" tactic. Force them to give you an attack of opportunity instead.

Improved Sunder **: I like this feat for a two-handed weapon strength build. You have a really nice chance of destroying the weapon.

Lunge **: A handy feat for someone who is a skirmish meleer. Also works nicely with Cleave (to improve the reach for threatening foes).

Dodge **: Nice to have, just for the AC boost.

Heavy Armor Proficiency ***: A good expenditure of a feat so you can wear Mithril Full Plate

Improved Critical (Falchion) ***: Here's where you start to specialize in a specific weapon. The Falchion works very nicely with Improved Critical

Critical Focus (Falchion) **: Obviously just one in the chain...

Blinding Critical (Falchion) ****: Take advantage of the Falchion's nice crit range to blind foes. Rangers have full BAB, and mesh well with the critical feats.

So how does this turn out? Lets take an example build. Say a 10th level Switch Hitter Ranger, how good is he?

Human 15 point stat buy

Str (+2 racial): 18 (10)
Dex: 13 (3)
Con: 13 (3)
Wis: 13 (3)
Int: 10
Cha: 7 (-4)

Raise the Dex at level 4, the Con at level 8, the Wis at level 12, and Str at levels 16 and 20.

Level 1: Feats: Power attack/Cleave: At this level the character is a Greatsword Wielder. With a Breastplate he has a 17 AC, and 12 HP (for first level not too bad). His to hit with his Greatsword is +4, and damage is 2d6+9 (pretty good)

Level 6: Add feats: Great Cleave, Quick Draw, Deadly Aim, Manyshot, Rapid Shot Dex has been increased to 14 at level 4: Equipment: Now the character is using a Greatsword and a Mighty Composite Longbow (+4 str). When enemies are at range, the ranger can take his normal move and fire 2 arrows, each at +9 to hit (1 attack roll, both hit or miss), or take a 5 foot step and attack 3 times, each at +7 to hit. Damage with each is 1d8+8. This is without any magical bonuses. Not bad eh?

The enemies close, he drops his bow, quick draws a greatsword, and in Melee he is now doing 2d6+12 on two attacks, or even on three with a move action if he plans it well. Welcome to the switch hitter.

Keep those feats concentrating on melee, archery will take care of itself now. Rapid shot and Many Shot will ensure you get all kinds of arrows in the air, and Deadly Aim will ensure they hit with a deadly punch. When melee comes, drop the longbow, and switch to a two handed weapon. Eventually a Falchion may be your best bet to take the best advantage of critical feats.

The Switch Hitter and Multiclassing:

Really, the Switch Hitter is a single class character build. A single dip into Rogue is always a decent option for Ranger, but not required. Fighter dips are also possible, but in the long run, you aren't going to see the payoff for what you give up.

Your best Switch Hitter plans on 20 levels of Ranger.

The Switch Hitter and Prestige Classes:

Again, not really the way to go with a switch hitter. Keep him Ranger all the way, use the bonus feats to keep his archery top notch, and his regular feats to ensure his melee ability remains great.

The weaknesses of the build: There is only one that I can see, and only at lower levels. It is the Armor Class. The Switch Hitter needs to concentrate on Strength, which means his AC, considering he wears only a breastplate, will mean a moderately lower AC than a fighter two handed weapon build. Heavy Armor Proficiency plus Mithril Full Plate should eliminate this weakness entirely at higher levels. Otherwise you have a ranged capacity far better than a focused melee build, but aren't facing much disadvantage in melee, you have spells, skills, an animal companion, class special abilities galore, favored enemies, favored terrain...can't complain!

Rangers and Spellcasting:

Spellcasting is an important part of the Ranger package, but it is by no means the most important part. For a Ranger, spellcasting is a convenience, merely an enhancement of his current abilities (and many of the Rangers spells specifically work in this manner). There are a few things to remember when it comes to spellcasting as a Ranger:

1) Rangers no longer use 1/2 their level as their spellcasting level. Instead they use their level -3. This means that defeating SR is no longer an impossibility with a higher level Bard, and many spells you may find useful longer. Overall, this is an important powerup that needs to be considered when memorizing spells.

2) Rangers have no zero level spells, which means all their casting is limited in times/day. Rangers get few spells, even at high levels, so Spellcasting isn't going to be anything you do often

3) Rangers are Wisdom based casters, so you will eventually need a Wisdom of 14 to take advantage of the full spellcasting selection. Also note that Rangers get "0"'s on their spellcasting chart, which means, unless you have bonus spells of that level, you won't be able to cast that level spells. In most cases, that won't prevent 1st or 2nd level casting at the appropriate levels, but it is fairly likely you will be waiting until 11th level for 3rd level spells and 14th level for 4th level spells. This isn't a big deal, certainly not worth putting too many important stat points into Wisdom.

4) Rangers are divine prepared casters, so you can alter your spell selection daily. This means the most circumstantial spells are only a day away when needed.
1st-Level Ranger Spells
Alarm: I like this more for Rangers than for other casters. Who but a Ranger is going to be scouting alone, and need to take a rest without a rotating watch? Level 7 is when you can get a full 8 hours (Thank you new Ranger-caster level mechanics!).

Animal Messenger: I also like this more for Rangers than for other classes. The Animal Messenger spell again works specifically well for a scout getting information back to his allies quickly and efficiently. Also note this is early entry, Druids and Bards get this as a 2nd level spell.

Calm Animals: Rangers sometimes need to be sneaky, and I specifically see this as a helpful way to get past guard dogs quietly. Pretty circumstantial admittedly. Anyone else have handy uses for this one?

Charm Animal: Want a new pet? Maybe that Dire Bear over there...Start with Charm Animals to make it friendly, then Wild Empathy to make it helpful, and now it "woves you fowever". Handy enough? In addition, animals and high will saves just don't go together.

Delay Poison: Delay Poison, which in certain circumstances can be more useful than Neutralize Poison, and early entry as a first level spell. Very handy to have on short notice.

Detect Animals or Plants: Maybe if you're looking for Herb. "HERB! HERB?", I know, your sides are splitting. Sorry, trying to think of a good use for this spell...not succeeding.

Detect Poison: Forget the detecting, memorize Delay Poison instead. This spell is actually LATE entry for the Ranger. (Normally level 0)

Detect Snares and Pits: I'm kind of surprised this spell still exists. It was a way to give a Druid a kind of "natural" alternative to Clerics and Detect Traps. Who wants a spell that detects natural traps only? Seems like only getting half the job done to me.

Endure Elements: Allows you to endure hot or cold climate, but does not provide any energy resistance. Potentially useful in circumstantial circumstances. Good to have on the list, but something you won't want to memorize unless you know you'll need it.

Entangle: Probably the best Druid spell for its level. Not early entry, but still very handy. Excellent battlefield control, and can also be used for a quick getaway when scouting.

Hide from Animals: You can get the whole party past animals with this spell. I don't know how often you need to do that, but, when you do, this spell is on the list.

Jump: Gives a flat bonus to jump checks with acrobatics. Not the kind of bonus that has you leaping in a supernatural manner (you likely won't clear the high wall for example). Honestly, I can't see the point of using a memorization slot for the very off chance you'll need it, and by the time you could memorize it, the need will likely have passed or an alternative found.

Longstrider: Increase your base speed by 10 feet. Mechanically inferior to expeditious retreat? Nope, look at the duration, this is a hour per level kind of buff. Cast this when you begin your day of adventuring, and depending on level, it may last the whole day. By the way, extra movement for scouts and skirmishers is very handy to have.

Magic Fang: Turns one natural weapon magical (+1 enhancement) for 1 min/level. The main use is for your animal companion or a summoned animal to be able to bypass DR/magic. That is pretty circumstantial, but perhaps handy occasionally.

Pass without Trace: Get the whole party through an area without tracks, or even leaving a scent (the most important aspect in my opinion). Probably circumstantial, because lets face it, there's always one guy in the party determined for a head-on fight with anything, but I still think this is handy, and very Ranger-appropriate. Also, this can work for just you to sneak past anything that would normally detect you with a scent ability, not just animals.

Read Magic: Ranger scrolls may not be common, but they do exist, and you need this spell to read them. Fortunately, it's on the list, there if you need it. Don't memorize it regularly though.

Resist Energy: My personal favorite spell for dealing with energy attacks (because it has no limit before it disappears), and not only does the Ranger get it, they get it early entry. In addition, the new mechanics for caster level serve you well here.

Speak with Animals: Allows you to play Dr. Doolittle. Personally, unless you want to ask about the group of orcs that may have passed by the area, direct verbal communication with animals isn't required beyond the handle animal commands.

Summon Nature's Ally I: I do like summoning, but Rangers come too late in the game for this to provide much use in combat. Honestly, a Riding Dog when you are level 4 isn't much value in a fight. There are some utility uses to summoning, but they are reduced with the natures ally line, and more suited to the summon monster line.

2nd-Level Ranger Spells
Barkskin: A decent duration buff that's value will largely depend on the availability of magic items in your campaign. Natural Armor doesn't stack, so if you have magical items that provide the bonus, this isn't much use, if not, it's a valuable AC boost with a decent duration.

Bear's Endurance: I have the same problem with all the stat boost spells. They don't stack with the most common stat boost magic items in the game. If magic is rare in your campaign, these might be handy (but note a limited duration), otherwise they may be useless. Special note about Bear's Endurance is that it can also work as an emergency replacement for healing. Throw 4 points of Con on a wounded ally and they get 2 hp/level. It's not really healing, but it may provide the same benefit in regards to surviving the combat.

Cat's Grace: See Bear's Endurance.

Cure Light Wounds: This is late entry for the Ranger and not recommended for memorization. That said, whether 2nd level or 4th level, it's helpful for this to be on the spell list, because it makes you able to use the very cheap and immensely recommended Cure Light Wounds wands.

Hold Animal: With Animal Empathy, Pass Without Trace, and Charm Animal on the list, why are you still fighting animals? This has to be pretty rarely needed I would think.

Owl's Wisdom: See Bear's Endurance

Protection from Energy: This isn't my favorite energy protection (see Resist Energy above), but it does overlap with the latter for increased protection, and it is early entry.

Snare: Creates a snare trap. The upside is that it is permanent until triggered, therefore having this on your spell list is a boon. The downside is it's pretty circumstantial.

Speak with Plants: Me no likely. As the spell description points out, plants are stupid and have no reason to be friendly with you. Perhaps useful for getting some very basic information, though Speak with animals will probably serve as well for the same purpose.

Spike Growth: Ahhh...now we're talking. Intended as an inconvenient trap spell, in fact, this spell is battlefield control. Choose the squares to be affected, and those moving over make a saving throw or are slowed. Not as good as slowing like the spell slow, but still, halving their movement. There's some minor damage as well. Also, the squares you trap are DC 27 search check to reveal, and unless your enemies are using Search during a battle, that means they won't see what's coming. A good way to slow down fast moving enemies.

Summon Nature's Ally II: Still too weak for the level to be used in combat, but summoning elementals has utility purpose. The Earth Elemental can glide through the wall and let you know what's on the other side. Fire elementals can start fires, while Water elementals can put them out. Air elementals of course fly at perfect, so can be handy scouts as well. The duration isn't long, so small jobs only.

Wind Wall: Wind Wall is an effective battlefield control spell, even for Wizards who get this at 3rd level. However, also note that Wizards use this spell to block conventional weaponry while they fire spells through it. You however rely on conventional weaponry. Instead use this so the wizard doesn't have to, then leap into melee.

3rd-Level Ranger Spells
Command Plants: This is essentially "Charm Plants". Needs of course plant creatures to be effective (and they tend to be not all that common). Probably too circumstantial to ever memorize.

Cure Moderate Wounds: Late entry for one of the less impressive cure spells. Not a cheap wand either, so lacks the "good to have on the list" aspect of cure light wounds.

Darkvision: This is late entry, which hurts (and not sure why?). However, Ranger's can benefit greatly from this spell when scouting pure-darkness environments. The duration is good as well.

Diminish Plants: Very circumstantial. Can be used to dispel nasty plant spells like entangle, or cause a drought (you jerk!), or allow you to pass overgrown plants more easily. I'm not sure that this is worth a 3rd level spell, or even a 2nd level spell.

Magic Fang, Greater: This spell increases the value of the enhancement of Magic Fang, but even more importantly, has 60 times the duration. You probably want to memorize this every day (at least once) for your animal companions natural weaponry.

Neutralize Poison: I still wonder if this spell is actually better than Delay Poison most of the time, and furthermore, Ranger's get Delay Poison early entry, and this one isn't.

Plant Growth: Interesting how Pathfinder nerfed Solid Fog, but left the same mechanic alive with Plant Growth? As a battlefield control (when the plants are handy) this is absolutely amazing, and there is no spell resistance or saving throw.

Reduce Animal: Late entry spell that makes an animal smaller for a long duration. In most cases, making an animal smaller really isn't that useful. Perhaps if it is scouting...but how intelligent do you need to be to scout effectively? Probably smarter than most animals I would think...

Remove Disease: Pretty circumstantial, and not worth a memorization slot, but good to have on the list. Usually curing someone the next day will be good enough.

Repel Vermin: This is early entry for you, but is also circumstantial. If you are going somewhere where vermin are almost certain to be swarming (the sewer for example), then this is a good buff to have up (the duration is pretty decent). Keep in mind that you only repel 1/3 your CL, which means big swarms may just walk on through.

Summon Nature's Ally III: Pretty much all combat forms, and I've explained the problem with Rangers summoning for combat.

Tree Shape: Late entry for Rangers and works as advertised. Congrats...you're a tree. If you are in a forest and looking for a safe way to rest, there could be value in this, otherwise, really, what are you using it for?

Water Walk: Have you and your allies walk on water. The obvious use is to pretend to be Jesus, but beyond that, there is utility value as well.

4th-Level Ranger Spells
Animal Growth: This should not be confused to be "enlarge person" for animals. The bonuses an animal gets with this spell are pretty impressive. It will turn your animal companion from a slight boost to your combat ability, to the main attraction. At one minute/level, this isn't an all day buff, but it will last at least one combat, and maybe a few.

Commune with Nature: This divination spell gives you information about the surrounding natural area, including where there is water, what kind of life exists, etc. You can use this (with reduced range) in natural caverns as well, to find out if the cave in inhabited by Orcs or a Red Dragon. Potentially useful, and early entry for the Ranger.

Cure Serious Wounds: Your "best" healing spell. Late entry, and not worth memorizing in my opinion. Rangers just aren't magical healers beyond the cure light wounds wand.

Freedom of Movement: I'm wary about the wording of this spell, it's vague, and I've had arguments with my GM in the past whether things like an Air Elementals vortex, Gust of Wind, or other factors that technically could be considered to hinder movement. However, the value of this spell is certain regardless of the interpretation just from the examples given in the spell description alone.

Nondetection: I'm not a fan of using spell slots to try to evade scrying. If someone capable of scry wants you spied on, you are going to have trouble stopping them. This spell certainly won't on its own.

Summon Nature's Ally IV: Mephits occasionally have useful SLA's, but by the time you get this, not really. Too little, too late.

Tree Stride: First of all, this spell trumps "Tree Shape" giving you absolutely no reason to use that spell ever. However, the main purpose of this spell it to give you the ability to teleport short ranges. Alone, not all that great, but being able to do it as often as you like for 1 hour/level is all kinds of useful. Travel across the world in a couple days, scout out far distances, make quick escapes, unfortunately, you can't cast this on anyone else, which is the biggest drawback for actual gameplay use.

Equipment Choices for your Ranger:


Breastplate: Breastplate may not be full plate but it is a solid armor. Good AC bonus with decent Dex bonus and non-crippling ACP. Masterwork it, then Mithril it.

Mithril Full Plate: The great hope for the Switch Hitter

Animated Shield: You have shield proficiency, but will almost never use one, so an animated shield just means pure win. Get one if you can.

Shadow Armor: +5 competence bonus to stealth checks, a natural plus for Rangers

Shadow, Improved: The +5 becomes +10

Shadow, Greater: Now +15

Celestial Armor: For the Archer Ranger, this has to be pretty much the crown jewel.


Mighty Composite Longbow: The standard of the archer Ranger and the Switch Hitter

Holy: +2d6 damage to the most common enemies

Seeking: avoid concealment miss chance

Energy: Any energy bonus damage is really nice. Get it on the Bow and every arrow bursts for extra damage.


Cold Iron: Dirt cheap, always have them on hand

Silver, Alchemical: Also dirt cheap, no excuse for not having them. You do one less point of damage, but they are SOOO much cheaper than mithril

Adamantium: Super expensive. Buy some, and only use them when needed to bypass DR.

Melee: For the Switch hitter it can be any two handed melee weapon. Greatswords, Greataxes, and Falchions are all good choices.

Dancing: Let it go, quick draw another weapon, go to town

Holy: Most bad guys, are, well, bad.

Mighty Cleaving: Improve on your Cleaving ability. Might be overkill

Speed: An ability made for two handed weapons

Rapier of puncturing: Rapier isn't your weapon of choice, but I only mention this weapon as a warning to DM's. This is broken, broken, broken. Notice that there is no save DC for the Con damage ability? This is clearly an oversight, but I didn't see anything in errata for it either (and I looked). This item needs a DC to avoid the Con bleed, without it this simply shouldn't exist in any campaign...you've been warned.


Metamagic Rods, lesser: Will enhance all but your 4th level spells. Specifically the extend rod is an excellent deal and very useful for you.

Scrolls: Really only for those spells that you only need once in awhile, but when you need them, you need them: Remove Disease, Repel Vermin, that kind of spell

Wands: Cure light wounds. Super cheap, super good, especially because you don't want to memorize it.

Staves: What, you're a Druid now? Staves are a bit heavy hitting for a recreational caster


Protection: Obviously one of your two rings is protection, the more the better.

Mind Shielding: Detect thoughts is a great way to detect the hidden, unless they have this ring

Invisibility: When you are a sneaky scout, sometimes invisibility is just another layer of stealth, but a welcome layer.

Freedom of Movement: An excellent effect to have, and a ring is always there when you need it.

Misc. Magic, minor:

Universal Solvent: One shot item that tends to find itself being very useful somewhere along the line. A cheap investment, get 2.

Feather Token, Tree: Instant ladder, Instant cover, Instant Tree Stride, cheap.

Cloak of Resistance: Kind of a staple...for a reason

Pearl of Power, 1st level: Use this to get extra Delay Poisons, Resist Elements, and they are cheap. A great deal.

Efficient Quiver: Get your Cold Iron arrow when you need a Cold Iron Arrow.

Amulet of Natural Armor: Not super important, as you can cast Barkskin, but, still worth it

Handy Haversack: If you don't know why you want this, you've obviously never played D&D before.

Boots and Cloak of elvenkind: Be sneaky, be real sneaky

Chime of opening: You can't pick locks, so this could be handy when on your own.

Belt, Stat bonus: For the switch hitter, Str is prime, Dex secondary. For the Archer, the reverse.

Headband, Stat bonus: Probably Wisdom is your best choice, for spellcasting, survival, and perception

Slippers of spider climbing: Exceptionally handy exceptionally often, shoot arrows down from a high ceiling for example.

Archery Bracers: Whether greater or lesser, a bonus to hit and damage with your bow is going to be a nice bonus.

Boots of striding and springing: +10 feet to movement is great, but note this does NOT stack with longstrider :(

Boots of Speed: Mainly for the Switch Hitter, all two-handed-weapon fighters should want this unless they have their own personal mage

Boots of Levitation: Mainly for the archer ranger, a great way to stay out of melee

Pathfinder doesn't seem to differentiate between different kinds of ability bonus (enhancement, etc.), and magic items that offer stat boosts are treated as "permanent" after 24 hours.

According to Page 555, a permanent bonus "actually increases the relevant ability..."

So the implications of this are pretty big, since it doesn't seem to have any restrictions:

1) Qualifying for casting higher level spells (for when you need a 19 INT to cast 9th level spells for example)

2) Qualifying for feats: For when a certain attribute is required to gain that feat

3) Qualifying for PrC's - for when a certain feat is required when that feat is only qualified for through the bonus.

Is there any official word as to whether this is how it works? If not, what are peoples opinions?

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Note to readers: Welcome to my first Pathfinder Handbook, the guide to Bards. I would like to remind all readers that I cannot edit this post. Mistakes, additions, or any other kind of edit will never be seen in this post.

However, please take a look at this Google Document of Treantmonk's Guide to Bards which not only has lots of nice pretty pictures, and different colors, but will also be edited as required, so, the longer this post is here, the more reason you have to click the link, rather than read the rest of this post here.

My only request to you the reader is to please comment. Do so by replying to this post. I will be checking replies regularly, and responding to any questions or comments regularly as well. If you like what I've done, let me know. If you don't, by all means let me know that as well. Let me know what you agree with, and what you don't (but don't forget to tell me why I'm wrong!). I appreciate all replies, whether positive or negative, so thank you in advance for replying.

So, without further ado:

Treantmonk's Guide to Bards: Pathfinder Core Rules

The Bard is often a class with misunderstood abilities. He is not a martial class, not a cannon, not a primary caster, not a primary healer. However, too often is the term "JoAT" used (Jack of All Trades), when in truth, the Bard's ability to do "fill any role required" in a party is also often overstated. If your Bard's job is to fill in for a missing party fighter, I recommend having your replacement character ready (probably a fighter type?). So exactly what is the Bard supposed to be doing? How is the Bard going to be a class that fills a meaningful role in the party? What role do you fill?

I hear the following comments often: "The Bard is good at what he does.", or "The Bard is an excellent 5th party member". The first comment of course leads to the question "Exactly what does he do? Are you suggesting he's good at sucking?", while the second comment is pure code for, "The Bard cannot fill a role in a four person party". If you want an effective Bard, it needs to be a Bard that is an effective party member in a 4 person party. We need to see and explore exactly what the Bard is good at, and how that fits into a four person party.

That is the purpose of this Handbook. Most class handbooks take a pretty standard approach, discuss race options, attribute priorities, feat choices, prestige class choices, then offer you some builds.

However, the difficulty with that for Bards is depending on your build, your race options, feat choices, and even attribute priority will change significantly. Therefore, this handbook will be a compilation of a few smaller handbooks, discussing the builds of each separately. The spell section and Bardic Music section will then be at the end, which will be advice for all builds.

Backwards Compatibility Note

OK, so Pathfinder has been officially declared backwards compatible. Personally, I've already had some issues with backwards compatibility, so our group plays core only (until Pathfinder specific support is published). I'm guessing there are many others in the same boat...this handbook is for them. If 3.5 material is allowed in your campaign, read no further, there is nothing I can offer in core Pathfinder that can compare with the various options in 3.5 splatbooks that allow casting comparable with wizards or pump your inspire courage to ungodly levels. This handbook is to help core Pathfinder players make an effective core Pathfinder Bard. My quick suggestion for players who have 3.5 options is I can't help think what excellent synergy there would be between the new Bardic Knowledge mechanics and Knowledge Devotion (Complete Champion)...

Types of Bard:

Really with a Bard, you have to accept that you are a secondary caster, you can't cast as often, know less spells, and are less specialized towards casting than any full caster. That said, spells are still your best ability, however, you need to spread your wings, because if you focus completely on spell casting, you will find yourself a pretty lousy sorcerer. So each Bard build I recommend will be showing one other combat viable option you can build your Bard towards to fill the gap that weaker spell casting represents. These options are the Archer Bard, the Melee Bard, and the Controller Bard. You can mix and match the ideas within these builds to create a bit of a hybrid if you like, but some specialization will ensure that you can fulfill the role. Even with specialization to their specialty, expect to find each of these styles to be fairly flexible.

Before getting into specifics for each type though, we all know that there is one skill that every Bard must have (probably multiple times), and that is Perform. In the case of the Bard, Perform not only is a requirement for your Bardic Music, but Versatile Performer allows you to use Perform to cover other skills. Every 4 levels you will be able to cover 2 more skills with one more perform type. This is a good deal, and every Bard should take advantage of it.

Perform styles that use instruments: These perform choices carry the obvious disadvantage that you need to use an instrument. This requires that a) you actually have the instrument available, and b) that you use your hands to play the instrument. These are some pretty significant disadvantages, so in general, I don't recommend this as your primary perform type. However, the advantage of this style of perform is that you can get a masterwork instrument, which gives a very nice +2 bonus that stacks with pretty much anything.

Perform styles that don't use instruments: These perform choices won't require an instrument, which provides the obvious benefit of using the perform skill whenever, even if you are using a sword and wearing a shield. Also, based on whether your perform skill is Oral (like Sing or Oratory), or Visual (Like Dance) will potentially allow you to use your perform without sound, or without being seen. I recommend your first perform skill be one that doesn't use an instrument, either visual or one that uses sound, and you will use this for both your first versatile performance and for Bardic Music. The last thing you want in the middle of combat is needing to draw or conjure and instrument, using up valuable actions.

Versatile Performance:
This ability must be considered before choosing your skills. It allows you at 2nd level to use your perform bonus in place of skill bonuses for other skills. The way it is worded, it seems you use your perform skill total, including any bonuses (presumably stat and masterwork instrument bonuses), this suggests that if you can get skills covered that would normally be based on a weaker stat (like Sense Motive), you are increasing the benefit of the ability.

It also suggests that your character is actually performing, which means if you are using Perform (Keyboard) to duplicate intimidate, this creates the obvious inconvenience of needing a keyboard instrument to do it. Once again, perform skills that do not require an instrument will be more convenient.

In general I think 2 perform skills is appropriate for a 1st level Bard. This will cover versatile performance for your first 9 levels. Around level 6 you need to start increasing a 3rd perform to prepare for your 3rd versatile performance at level 10. Naturally, you are best to plan ahead, and not waste skill ranks on skills which will eventually be replaced by perform. The Bard has no shortage of excellent skills to choose from, so this will not be difficult. Either leave these skills at 0 ranks, or, if you really want to use them in the first few levels, take 1 rank to activate your class skill bonus and you should be OK.

Also you need to avoid redundancy. Taking Acting and Comedy as your first 2 performances will give you Versatile Performances that each provide bluff. If the second perform skill is only covering one skill, it really isn't much of an advantage over just taking that skill instead.

My personal recommendation? I recommend Oratory as your first Performance skill, than either Act or Dance as your second, depending on your Bard's style. If my Bard is especially espionage centred, I would take Act first.

Act: Bluff and Disguise. Uses no instrument which is nice, and gives two skills that are both fairly useful. This will work best for the espionage style of character

Comedy: Bluff and Intimidate. Uses no instrument which is nice. Half Orcs should take note that they may be better off with their base Intimidate than through this ability

Dance: Acrobatics and Fly. Note that you never get a fly spell, but this will be especially useful for Bards who maybe don't have great Dex scores, so they can use CHA in place of DEX.

Keyboards: Diplomacy and Intimidate. Two good skills, but I have to consider keyboards the most inconvenient instrument possible. Make sure you have summon instrument!!!

Oratory: Diplomacy and Sense Motive: Sense motive is based of Wisdom normally, so this is a big bonus, and there is no instrument, and you get to be a storyteller!

Percussion: Handle animal and Intimidate: Handle Animal offers some skill versatility, Instrument based

Sing: Bluff and Diplomacy: Both strong skills and no instrument required, a good first choice

Wind: Diplomacy and Handle animal: Again, the Handle Animal is nice for versatility, and diplomacy is always a good option

Bardic Knowledge:
Now adds 1/2 your level to your Knowledge checks and lets you use Knowledges untrained. Past low levels, untrained really doesn't do you much good, as you're bonus will be too low. Investing one skill rank activates the Class Skill bonus, so every knowledge is probably worth one skill rank at some point. After that, raising your primary knowledges every other level should keep them at totals that will work nicely for you. Maxing out is not really required, unless you want to be "super" at one particular knowledge - certainly not something you can afford for more than one or two knowledges.

Lore Master:
Once you are level 5, you can take 10 on knowledge rolls if you like, and as a standard action you can take 20 on one knowledge roll per day, and you can do it more often as you increase levels. This is really nice, because it means even knowledges that you aren't really great with, you can take 20, and with your Bardic Knowledge added in, a lot of ranks in the skill will likely not be required. This ability truly turns all Bards into "Lore Masters"

Jack of all trades:
Not something you should put too much thought into at character creation. This ability will
let him use skills untrained at level 10 (an overrated ability), then at level 16 you consider all skills to be class skills, but unless pretrained in that skill (which you probably wont be) it's a bit late to get it up to par; Finally, at level 19, you can always take 10. An OK ability, but at that level, not a big deal.

The rest of your skill points:

If you are taking 2 kinds of perform right at level 1, then we usually will have 4 to 6 more skill points to spend. Here's some of the Bard Class skills that you likely won't cover with versatile performance, that you should consider:

Use Magic Device: You have a good CHA, and this is a great skill. There really is no excuse not to take this
Stealth: A very useful skill that is based on Dex, which you likely have a level from decent to good
Knowledge (any): Loremaster and Bardic Knowledge aren't going to do you much good without at least one rank in each of these to activate your class skill bonus. Putting one rank every other level will give you the same bonus as another class that maxed it out.
Spellcraft: How sad would it be to have a Bard that couldn't identify magic items? Pretty sad. Spellcraft is a good option.
Perception: It's wisdom based which hurts, but it is also the most used skill in the game by far, I would recommend taking this.
Acrobatics: If you are a halfling, you probably want to take advantage of your skill bonus, in addition, tumbling is very good for skirmishers, which you are

You are more than out of skill points now. I know, 6 per level sounds like a lot doesn't it? The 2 perform skills, use magic device and perception would be my first priorities - then go from there. One rank in each knowledge can make quite a difference as well, even if you can't afford to keep them up.

The Archer Bard

The Archer Bard uses arrows to pound away at enemies between spellcasting. The problem with a core archer build in 3.5 is the ability to do damage. It is one thing to put a bunch of arrows in the air that all hit, but if you are rolling d6 damage for those arrows, you are really not contributing much. An Archer Bard needs to contribute significant damage with his arrows, and although you cannot hope to compare with a Rogue or even a Fighter in this regard, Pathfinder creates some options that will make your arrows sting far worse than they did in core 3.5. Check the Feats section to see what options I'm talking about.

The Archer Bard is relatively balanced on attribute requirements. Any Bard eventually requires a 16 CHA (so they can use their highest level spells), but beyond a 16 is not really required. A 15 starting CHA works the Stat buy to best effect. Beyond that, you want a good Str (for damage), Dex (to hit and feat requirements), and you don't want to dump either Con or Int, but a 10-12 range is acceptable for either. Wisdom is truly a dump stat, so dump away.

So for example, if I was playing a Human Bard with a 15 point stat buy my stats would look something like this:

Str: 14 (5)

Dex (+2 racial): 17 (7)

Con: 10

Int: 10

Wis: 7 (-4)

Cha: 15 (7)

So, by priority your requirements would be Dex, Cha, Str, Con, Int, Wis

Obviously, for this build a good Dex is key. Feats like Manyshot have Dex requirements that should be planned to meet at character creation, and Dex is directly affecting "To Hit" as well. Therefore, Dex bonuses are key in racial choices. The following races all serve the build well:

Elf: The Int and Con modifiers will cancel out equally in point buy, leaving you with a +2 Dexterity mod. Elves are proficient with Longbow, which is a slightly preferable weapon than the shortbow other Archer Bards will be using (expect +1 damage on average - the range won't come in to play often, but is a nice to have). Elves also get a +2 to perception roles (which will offset the Wisdom dump), and a +2 on defeating SR (mechanically the same as taking the spell penetration feat - not a huge priority for Bards, but for free we'll take it gladly). Also, if you want to go down the Arcane Archer route, Elf is a better option than Half Elf)

Halfling: The Cha and Dex bonuses are excellent. The strength minus hurts, and I recommend spending a bit extra to make sure that Strength is a 12 or 13 starting at least (if you go 13, use a stat increase to get to 14). Halflings small size gives a +1 to hit as well (and +1 AC). Stealth bonuses for size are also very nice. There are a few skill bonuses that are helpful (Stealth, Perception, Acrobatics, and perhaps Climb), and +1 to all saves is a welcome bonus. The big disadvantage of the Halfling is the 20 feet movement rate. Tactically this can really hurt, especially at lower levels when other movement options aren't really available (phantom steed will eventually end this problem for you). Overall, the Halfling is my favorite choice for the Archer Bard.

Human: The flexible stat bonus will hit Dex. The main purpose of taking a human is for the bonus feat. This will allow your character to make rapid shots right at level 1, and make no mistake, the Bard remains feat hungry even in Pathfinder, so a bonus feat is a good bonus. The extra skill point is also nice, as you will find your 6 skill points per level run out really fast (even with the concentration feat gone).

Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Gnome: These all make decent Archer Bards, but I would consider them secondary choices. The Dwarf is probably your weakest choice.

Favored Class Bonus: So, you can choose between the extra HP or Skill Point. I'm not going to suggest which is better for a Bard, because I think it really depends how your Con turned out (a lower Con will benefit from the extra HP, while a lower Int benefits more from the extra Skill Point). Nothing is wrong with switching off these bonuses each level either.


I recommend you take these feats in approximate order (alter for personal preference), starting at level 1. If you are a human, maybe switch Far Shot for Mounted Combat/Mounted Archery for your level 17 and 19 feat.

Naturally, if you need to qualify for a Prestige Class, consider your requirements. For Example, if you want to be an Arcane Archer, you need weapon focus.

Point Blank Shot: +1 to hit and damage within 30'. You aren't a long ranged archer, so this is workable. More importantly, Point Blank shot is a prerequisite for most of the archery feats. Take this at level 1

Rapid Shot: Fire an extra arrow with every full attack. The -2 to hit is well worth it. The 13 Dex requirement is no problem.

Precise Shot: Eliminate penalties to fire into melee. Hint: You will be firing into melee most of the time, so this is a good pick, since -4 to hit is pretty painful.

Arcane Strike: Use a swift action at the beginning of the round to add +1 damage to your attack and make your attack magical for the purpose of defeating DR. The +1 increases with level. This is just a really great ability for Bard's in general, but specifically for archers, note that the bonus is not restricted to "melee only" which makes it good for the Archer Bard. If you've played an archer before, you know how easy it is to run out of magical ammunition. This bonus isn't typed, so it's stackable with enhancement bonuses.

Deadly Aim: -1 to hit for +2 damage. Then -2/+4 etc as you level up. This feat alone makes archery a viable option in Pathfinder. Well done Paizo!

Manyshot: You need a 17 Dex, which you probably should be able to do. This makes your first arrow attack doubled on a full attack option. It seems you can use both Manyshot and Rapid shot on the same attack, which is pretty cool. Furthermore, your damage bonuses aren't precision based, so you'll be adding everything except critical bonus damage to both arrows.

Dodge: Is a requirement for mobility

Mobility: Is a requirement for shot on the run

Shot on the run: Specifically you want this at higher levels to use on your Phantom Steed. You can then attack at any point in your phantom steeds movement, and you can do a full attack for lots and lots of stingy arrows.

Far Shot: Not a huge priority, but can allow some very long range shots, especially with a longbow. Makes any range pain you are having with shortbow go away.

Prestige Class suggestion:

I'm not a big fan of prestige classes for the Bard. The reason is because Bardic Music isn't going to be advanced by any prestige class. However, there is one prestige class that meshes pretty good with this build if you want to focus more on archery than other aspects of your build, and that's the Arcane Archer. Elven Bards can qualify quite easily by level 8. Don't consider this a necessary PrC for your Archer Bard - but it's certainly a viable option, just remember that your focus moves more heavily to archery when you take this option, while spellcasting weakens, and Bardic Music doesn't progress at all. Also, you will be more skill hungry than ever.

Arcane Archer: If you haven't seen what Pathfinder did to this Prestige Class take a look. The Arcane Archer is a beast. Instead of the flat enhancement bonuses added to arrows, Arcane Archers are now enhancing with Flaming, Icy burst, Holy, etc with every arrow. This will not only vastly increase damage, it will also make almost any DR passable. In addition the Arcane Archer is now providing 7 levels of spellcasting progression. The "Special arrow" options are familiar from the 3.5 versions.

The Melee Bard

Don't make the mistake of thinking I'm suggesting turning your Bard into a front line fighter. That simply cannot be done effectively, Instead, the melee bard will skirmish, closer to the style of a Ranger. Does that mean I'm recommending TWF for a Bard? As a matter of fact...no. I wish I could, because I think the Melee Bard would be very effective with TWF, unfortunately, try as I might, the attribute requirements are too intensive as are the feat requirements. Instead, the Melee Bard is a bruiser, using Strength as it's primary tool to add melee support to the front liners.

Melee Bards that take the Combat Expertise chain want to carry a whip, in addition, a two handed weapon will make for a quick switch when tripping or disarming isn't your best choice. Longspear is a nice choice for most Bards giving you two handed damage with reach. Half Orcs may want to go with a Greataxe or Falchion instead.

Melee Bards that skip Combat Expertise (the main reason would be to avoid the Int requirement) then wearing a shield becomes a very real possibility. Classic Sword and Board works OK, though, I would recommend either rapier and shield or Falchion (if you are Half Orc) to get the most out of critical feats.

Any Bard eventually requires a 16 CHA (so they can use their highest level spells), but beyond a 16 is not really required. A 15 starting CHA works the Stat buy to best effect. Beyond that, you want a good Str (for damage), Dex (AC and initiative), Your Int should be 13 for feat requirements (alternatively, if you want to give up on tripping, you can take a 10), whatever you got left can go to Con. Wisdom is truly a dump stat, so dump away.

So for example, if I was playing a Human Bard with a 15 point stat buy my stats would look something like this:

Str (+2 racial): 16 (5)

Dex (+2 racial): 13 (3)

Con: 12 (2)

Int: 13 (3)

Wis: 7 (-4)

Cha: 15 (7)

(Use level 4 stat increase on STR, then your level 8 on CHA, then your level 12 on Dex)

So, by priority your requirements would be Str, Cha, Dex, Int, Con, Wis

Obviously, for this build a good Str is key. Your to-hit and damage will each rely on having a good Strength score. No race has a set Strength bonus, but 3 races have flexible stat bonuses. Small size is bad for Melee Bards, so Halflings and Gnomes along with their Str penalties aren't great choices.

Half-Elf: The flexible stat modifier can go into STR. Bonus skill focus naturally is a very nice bonus for Bards as they can put it into their primary perform skill at they are really getting skill focus for 3 skills. The bonus to perception helps cover the low Wisdom score. Unfortunately, the extra "favored class" ability is wasted since the best Bards don't multiclass with other base classes.

Half-Orc: The flexible stat modifier can go into STR (making you more traditional as a half orc as well). Personally, I enjoy having darkvision, and the intimidate bonus works nicely with a CHA strong class. Half Orcs start with a proficiency in Falchions and Greataxes, each an excellent choice for a melee Bard. Orc Ferocity may be very useful since you may find yourself in need of healing, and that standard action can allow you to get off that important healing spell. Yes, half orc is probably the best choice for the Melee Bard.

Human: The flexible stat bonus will hit Str. The main purpose of taking a human is for the bonus feat. Combat Expertise/Improved Trip are good options. Alternatively, Arcane Strike and Toughness are also good starting choices.

Elf, Gnome, Halfling and Dwarf: None make very good melee Bards.

Favored Class Bonus: With this build I would pretty much take the extra HP exclusively.


These feats are not listed in order they should be taken, since it really depends how you want to focus. If your character is going to be more of a tripper, start with the combat expertise chain. If you are going to be more of a hitter, then Start with Arcane Strike then enter the Power Attack chain.

Arcane Strike: Provides +1 damage and magic weapon for the purposes of defeating DR. The +1 increases with level. It's stackable damage as well. Makes up for a slightly lower Str score than a dedicated meleer would have.

The Power Attack Chain:

Power Attack: -1 to hit and +2 damage. +3 if the weapon is a two-hander. This penalty and bonus increase with level.
Cleave: For a -2 to AC, get an additional attack with a standard action attack against another adjacent enemy, who thought of Cleave as a skirmishers feat?
Improved Sunder: Help out the fighter by destroying his enemies weapon. Also good for enemy casters spell component pouches or spell focuses

The Combat Expertise Chain:

Combat Expertise: Trade to hit for AC. Try to avoid needing this, but it's a prerequisite, and there are times you may need an AC boost
Improved Trip: You are proficient with the whip, this gives a 15' reach trip weapon you are proficient in, and you are STR based build.
Greater Improved Trip: Have your trip of the enemy provoke attacks of opportunity. This means you trip the guy in melee with your party brute.
(The disarm and improved disarm feats are also options, though personally, I think trip is more often useful)

The Critical Chain:

Improved Critical: Double your threat range. This works best with 18-20 base crit ranges, like the rapier or the falchion
Critical Focus: +4 to confirm criticals, and more importantly, the prerequisite for some really sick feats
Sickening Critical: Available at level 15, causes sickened effect on victim

The Dodge Chain:

Dodge: +1 AC. Nothing great, but OK
Mobility: Skirmish more effectively with a +4 AC when your movement provokes attacks of opportunity
Spring Attack: Skirmish in and out of melee as you like.

Toughness: Probably a good consideration for a meleer. Essentially the same as a +2 Con in regards to HP

Prestige Class suggestion:

I'm not a big fan of prestige classes for the Bard. The reason is because Bardic Music isn't going to be advanced by any prestige class. However, there is one prestige class that meshes pretty good with this build if you want to focus more on your melee attacks than other aspects of your build, and that's the Dragon Disciple. Any Melee Bard can qualify in his sleep. I think for a Bard Meleer, this is a better choice than Eldritch Knight.

Dragon Disciple: Much improved from 3.5. 10 levels gets you 7 spellcasting levels, continues your moderate BAB and gives 2 fast save progressions. A nice HP boost is coming with a d12 per level. You get the Sorcerer "Draconic" bloodline powers at level 1 (not great, but OK), your natural armor will begin to improve from level 1, you get some nice ability boosts to Str, Con and Int - very nice. 3 bonus feats over the first 8 levels, a bite attack (which is pretty decent with a good str), a breath weapon at level 3, blindsense at level 5 (a very nice power), form of the dragon as a spell like ability, and eventually wings. Strongly consider breaking out at level 8, as the last 2 levels offer less than the first 8, and it will save you a caster level loss at level 9.

The Controller Bard

The Controller Bard refuses to be forced into the role of damage support. When it comes to melee, the Controller Bard is really a pretender. He lashes about a whip like an expert, but is all tricks and no bite. When the whip isn't out, then its other control options rather than damaging weapons. When the Bard doesn't have the right spell at hand, he debuffs and controls the battlefield in more contemporary ways. In my personal opinion, the Archer Bard is probably the most effective Bard build, but I have a special affection for this build, that is completely tactical.

The Controller Build needs some Str for combat maneuvers and net tug-of-wars, but it's more of a CHA intensive build than the others.

So for example, if I was playing a Human Bard with a 15 point stat buy my stats would look something like this:

Str: 14 (5)

Dex: 14 (5)

Con: 12 (2)

Int: 10

Wis: 7 (-4)

Cha (+2 Racial Mod): 17 (7)

So, by priority your requirements would be Cha, Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis

Small Size is not good with this build either. Combat Maneuvers will be at least part of your bag of tricks, and strength is a higher requirement, so really, the racial choices are pretty similar to the meleer build.

Half-Elf: The flexible stat modifier can go into CHA. Bonus skill focus naturally is a very nice bonus for Bards as they can put it into their primary perform skill at they are really getting skill focus for 3 skills, this is especially useful when applied to Intimidate so you might want Comedy as your primary performance type. The bonus to perception helps cover the low Wisdom score.  Unfortunately, the extra "favored class" ability is wasted since the best Bards don't multiclass with other base classes.

Half-Orc: The flexible stat modifier can go into CHA (I know - weird). Personally, I enjoy having darkvision, and the intimidate bonus works nicely with a CHA strong class, especially with this build. Orc Ferocity is OK, but not huge, and the weapon proficiencies really won't be in play.

Human: The flexible stat bonus will hit CHA. The main purpose of taking a human is for the bonus feat. You'll see in the Feat section that you have lots of options.

Others: Size is going to be an issue for Combat Maneuvers, and Elves are gaining stats in the wrong places, but nothing is off limits.


First off, you don't need to worry about qualifying for a prestige class with this build (the prestige class section is missing for a reason - just don't do it). Secondly, these feats don't need to be taken in any particular order, though I recommend exotic weapon proficiency at level 1.

Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Net. Interesting idea? I think so. With a touch attack (easy) you are entangling enemies which means -2 on attack rolls and -4 to Dexterity. Furthermore, movement is halved, charging is impossible, and movement beyond the net's reach require an opposed STR check (and your STR isn't bad). Casters need to make concentration checks when entangled as well. You'll never need a magical Net (unless you want to entangle incorporeal creatures - then you need ghost touch), but masterwork will be handy. Also, don't restrict yourself to one. Carry a couple folded nets handy at need.

Weapon Focus (Whip or net): +1 to hit with the whip. Doesn't sound like a very good feat, but with it you can then get...
Dazzling Display (whip or net): 30' radius intimidate effect. You rock at this, it is made for Bards. Also, lets face it, the flavor is great (The bard being more style than substance using his weapon...come on, perfect.) The Shaken effect is pretty much -2 on everything. The Bard can make this effect last multiple rounds with a good intimidate check, and it is going to ignore SR, and then you don't need to worry about things like hitting in combat, instead just use one of your best skills. This works especially well if other meleers in your party take shatter defenses and deadly strike. You shake the battlefield, they take advantage of it.

Skill Focus (Perform or Intimidate): Make your dazzling display more dazzling. Half Orcs will put this in intimidate, Humans will put it into perform (comedy), half-elves took it already.

Intimidating Prowess: Add your STR and CHA to intimidate rolls. Take this with your half orc

Combat Expertise: Sacrifice to hit for AC. Since your attacks will be touch attacks, I think this is a good deal.
Improved Trip: Put that whip to use. You don't have full BAB, but you've got a decent STR and a pretty good BAB
Greater Improved Trip: Another +2, and their fall provokes attacks of opportunity

Can you see how this works? If you aren't casting, then you are throwing a net, tripping or using dazzling display to debuff the enemy. Should keep you busy. Also, get wands. Wand of Silent Image very early, then some more impressive Battlefield Controls later. Staves are for higher levels (when you can use magic device more effectively). Black Tentacles, Glitterdust, Fogs are all terrific.


So now you have an idea of 3 different ways you can create your Bard to fill the holes when you aren't casting spells. All should work reasonably well, though they all do it in different ways.

So how does this fit into a 4 person party? Generally you mix between skirmisher and caster. Consider yourself similar to a Ranger for the niche you fill, except you can take some weight off the caster's shoulders as well. The exception is the Controller Bard who will be replacing the primary caster. With a controller bard, you really need 3 other party members who can do damage in combat. With any of these builds, the Bard is NOT the "best 5th party member", instead he becomes a viable and vibrant member of a 4 person party, leaving no notable holes in the role he fills.

Well Versed:
A very minor ability all Bards get at level 2. You get a +4 (untyped) bonus to save vs. Bardic Performance, Sonic, and Language Dependant effects. Pretty circumstantial stuff, but, hey, I'll take it.

Bardic Performance:

All Bards will be using Bardic Music increasingly as you increase levels. Generally, for a first level Bard, Bardic Music is basically a waste. The key is 7th level, when you can start Bardic Performance as a move action, and then 13th level, when you can engage it as a swift action.

Duration: Duration is very short, measured in rounds/day. This pretty much kills any attempt to add it to a skill where 20 is being taken. Also, it means if you are spending a standard action to activate it, it's often not going to be worth it (unless you can prepare for a combat beforehand). The Extra Performance Feat adds 6 rounds duration, honestly, for the feat starved Bard, this will seldom be worth it.

Countersong: Unless you KNOW that a language or sonic dependant attack is coming the way of you or your allies, I just can't see ever having this up. It's way too circumstantial for an ability with a rounds/day duration.

Distraction: If you read my reason why Countersong isn't great, you will see how it also relates to this ability, that requires you to KNOW that a vision dependant spell effect is coming. If you do know, then it's useful, but that is going to be a rare circumstance, potentially never through an entire campaign.

Fascinate: The DC is no longer based on your perform check, but a more standardized 1/2 level + CHA +10, which should be a bit better than your spell save DC's. This makes this ability less optimal, but still quite useful as the save is anything but a sure bet. As you gain levels the DC increases as does the number of targets, meaning this ability will remain useful as you increase levels. The main purpose of this ability will be to distract an opponent while your allies do something you don't want him to see, like sneaking up behind him, or buffing themselves like crazy...these penalties should stack with the lullaby cantrip as well.

Inspire Courage: The Iconic Bard ability. This will be a common use of Bardic Performance after level 7, though before it could be OK if you have a chance to prepare before combat. This ability improves with level. The bonuses are never huge, but they are significant, and will aid you as well. Being that the bonus affects attacks, and Combat Maneuvers are a "special attack", then I think the bonus will help you with your combat maneuvers as well, eliminating the penalty a non-full BAB gives you.

Inspire Competence: Available at 3rd level, this no longer is useful when your ally is taking 20 (because of your duration limits), but for skill checks where taking 20 isn't an option, it can be handy. According to Bardic Performance description, you can use this on yourself, which seems to me to be a very nice option if you are using your use magic device ability (which you can't take 20 on anyways)

Suggestion: Available at 6th level, this simulates a 2nd level Bard spell (or 3rd level Wiz/Sor), which alone makes it good for a 6th level ability. The target must first be fascinated for this ability to work. The DC will be higher than if you actually take the suggestion spell (which would be pretty redundant honestly).

Dirge of Doom: An 8th level ability. This creates the Shaken effect (with no save) for all opponents within 30 feet. If you are a controller bard, you can do this already in your sleep. For the other bards, this is a nice little debuff (-2 on pretty much everything). Nothing too special though.

Inspire Greatness: Available at 9th level. A bonus of 2 HD and a Fort save bonus to an ally (more allies with more levels). In the end, it's a few extra HP, nothing too special.

Soothing Performance: A 12th level ability. Creates a Mass Cure Serious Wounds effect, in addition it removes the conditions fatigued, shaken, and sickened. The problem (and it's a doozy) is that you need 4 rounds to complete this. That pretty much prevents it from being a reactive ability. Instead began 4 rounds ahead in a battle you might think you may need it 4 rounds later. Nah...you are probably better using inspire courage...now out of combat, if the party is low on healing, this may be a somewhat useful ability then.

Frightening Tune: 14th level ability. Much like Dirge of Doom except instead you are creating the frightened effect in your enemies. The Frightened effect is a battle ender, so this really is an amazing ability. It's like the Fear spell with a better AoE and no HD limits and an ever increasing DC. Nice.

Inspire Heroics: A 15th level ability. Gives a +4 to saves and AC (morale and dodge respectively). Considering the level that this becomes available, and that a single ally is affected (2 at level 18), I think this is a bit underwhelming.

Mass Suggestion: Available at 18th level. Really, Mass Suggestion doesn't do much for me when I'm 18th level. The spell was available 5 levels earlier. It's OK at best.

Deadly Performance: The 20th level ability. Basically a single target save or die. One nice aspect is a creature that saves is still staggered. Also, this is a supernatural ability, so SR doesn't help. Overall, a pretty decent ability, but you have to be level 20 before you get it, so I would hope so...


Whether you are an Archer, a Meleer or a Controller Bard, your spellcasting plays an important part of your character's role. Bards may not be on par with Sorcerers when it comes to casting, but it is important to remember that this isn't a minor ability for Bards. They get their full level as their caster level, as well they get early access to some very potent enchantment spells. Furthermore, their spell list is an extremely versatile list, containing Battlefield Control, Enchantment, Debuffing, Buffing, Illusion, Utility, and Healing.

However, a Bard will have less spells per day than a primary caster, significantly so. You simply will not be casting every round, you just don't have the staying power. In addition your spells known list is small, so its important to avoid redundancy or circumstantial spells and pick a list that serves your Bard type best. Spells that remain viable at higher levels need to be given preference. Spells like Sleep may be effective at low level, but at high level it is a wasted spell known. You can use "spell trading" to trade out these spells later, but never take them in the first place unless your trade out plan is already set. If in doubt, just avoid these spells entirely and pick spells that improve with your caster level, this is always a strong option.

Also, keep in mind that the Bard isn't just a spellcaster, but also a martial class, so when you can have your spells fulfill a different function than your attacks (target a specific enemy offensively), they build your versatility. Therefore, more so than with a Wizard or Sorcerer, area of effect or multi target spells have great value for Bards.

So, when looking at my "ratings" below, avoid just picking the highest ratings. I'm forcing you to put some thought into this and pick spells that a) accomplish tasks with a high level of versatility b) Target different saving throws if they require a save c) Compliment your other abilities and spells and avoid redundancy.

Cantrips are now a "cast as often as you please" effect, so pick carefully keeping this in mind. For other spells, realize beforehand that your castings are quite limited.

Ratings: I've rated all the spells, but please consider first of all, these are only recommendations, and secondly, these are based on my opinion only, by no means is this any form of official rating system. If you disagree with my rating, by all means let me know in the replies, but also, let me know why you disagree. Be aware that I don't make any guarantees that I will change my rating, but if you change my opinion, then I will.

One Star * This spell is probably one you shouldn't even consider
Two Stars ** On the weaker side, or is replaceable by a superior spell
Three Stars *** A strong option, worthy of consideration
Four Stars **** A very strong option. Don't wonder if you should take this, instead wonder if there is any reason not to.

0-Level Bard Spells

Dancing Lights: *** Can make the illusion of will-o-wisps or torches (the latter to be used in conjunction with "Ghost Sound" However, this isn't a very flexible illusion - we've all used this one right?), it also can replace a "Light" spell, except you can move it, like to make out that movement on the high ceiling (though maybe later you'll wished you hadn't!!!). The 1 min duration is the limitation, but after all, you can cast it over and over again.

Daze: *** Daze is a really just "lose a turn" for Pathfinder. The HD limit makes this a candidate for a swap-out later, but at low levels this is a decent spell, especially since you can use it as often as you like.

Detect Magic: **** Once upon a time this was a 1st level spell. Detect magic is super useful and will remain super useful forever. It is a "must have".

Flare: * Dazzled is pretty much the least impressive status you can give anyone. A -1 to hit to one person won't make a bit of difference in most combats, and that's only if they don't make their save. Throw a rock, intimidate, make a distraction, these are probably more useful things to do with your action than "Flare"

Ghost Sound: **** Used with Silent Image, you essentially make it "Minor Image", Ghost sound is a highly useful little illusion that is free to use.

Know Direction: ** This cantrip is your own personal compass. It will help you from wandering in circles in the wilderness, circumstantial, and probably pretty useless if you have a Ranger or Druid in the group.

Light: ** The standard spell to replace torchlight. The duration is pretty good. The standard strategy is to cast it on something light and small, like the feather in your cap, so you can move it around with Mage Hand or Prestidigitation at need, since it illuminates a relatively small area. Since You can only have one active at a time, light isn't entirely redundant with dancing lights - though in general you are probably better off picking one or the other.

Lullaby: * Creates a burst area where victims must make a will save or feel drowsy, giving a -5 perception penalty and a -2 save vs. sleep. I get the idea, but I'm not sure of the practical application, since Bards can't cast silently, making me think the victims are likely to figure out that they've been victimized, which I can't think works with any intention of this spell. Maybe someone else can think of a way this spell might be good.

Mage Hand: *** Like a minor Unseen Servant. Picking up and moving things at a distance can be very useful, and frankly, other than very heavy doors and chests, this spell can make the Open/Close spell kind of worthless.

Mending: *** Repair broken or sundered items to working condition. Surely its clear how this can be handy?

Message: *** Like a nerfed telepathy ability. The check to "listen in" is pretty difficult (DC 25), so most of the time this should allow at least semi-private conversations with your party members. Also useful if you are being sneaky and need to communicate with the other sneaky party members.

Open/Close: ** The purpose of this spell is to be able to open and close at a distance, thus to avoid poison gas traps, or ambushes on the other side, or those pesky mimics. Somewhat useful, though it can often be duplicated with the more versatile Mage Hand (though Open/Close can move up to 30 lbs)

Prestidigitation: *** I like Prestidigitation, not because anything it does is overly powerful, but because it can do so many things. It is a lightly powered mage hand (1 lb), it can clean you and your clothes (you are a Bard - no excuse being dirty or stinky), it can create small items (not useful as tools or weapons, but still there are various circumstantial uses). The duration is good, and I see no limitation on doing only one thing at a time with it.

Read Magic: **** Not 100% necessary, but if you want to use magical scrolls, you'll need this. (Unless you use the less reliable Use Magic Device)

Resistance: * +1 Resistance bonus for 1 minute. Of very moderate use at very low levels, then entirely useless once everyone has permanent resistance bonuses to saves.

Summon Instrument: ** One might call this a "must have" for Bards, but the more I think about it, the less certain I am that its necessary at all. If I'm playing a Bard with a performance that requires an instrument, then yes, by all means take this (but use your masterwork instrument instead whenever possible), and if Keyboards are your performance of choice, then you absolutely should take this. Singing, Dancing, Acting, Comedic, Oration Bards don't need this spell.

1st-Level Bard Spells

Alarm: ** A "camping" spell. Be aware that DM's know all kinds of ways to attack you without setting off the alarm spell. Bards really aren't going to be the best class for spells to keep your campsite safe. Even after the nerfing - Rope trick is really the best camping spell for its level in the game. That said, an alarm spell on the rope itself is probably a good tactic, but can't the wizard do that for you?

Animate Rope: * A so-so spell that really doesn't do much more for you than an unseen servant could do with the same rope.

Cause Fear: ** A decent spell at low level, but a 5HD limit means that this spell won't serve you for more than a few levels. Unless you have plans to swap it, skip it.

Charm Person: *** Only usable on Humanoids, which makes it circumstantial, but if they fail their save, you win. Often the strategy is to Charm the person to make them friendly, then use diplomacy to make them helpful.

Comprehend Languages: ** Circumstantial in use, though certainly appropriate for most Bard characters. Remember that the spell doesn't let you speak the language.

Confusion, Lesser: * Confuse 1 creature for 1 round. Even if they fail their save, there is a decent possibility that they will act normally for that one round. For this spell to be decent, it needed multiple round duration.

Cure Light Wounds: *** The standard base healing spell.  The wand is cheap and WAY cheaper than potions. Having the spell does improve the amount healed somewhat since the spell improves up to caster level 5.

Detect Secret Doors: * Unfortunate truth #1: Bards will never replace the party rogue as a skill monkey. You don't have the castings to be casting spells like this.

Disguise Self: ** Creates a nice bonus to your disguise roll, and lets you disguise yourself instantly. The use of this spell really depends on the style of Bard you are playing. If you are playing a Bard who is going to be using disguise regularly, then this is a must.

Erase: * Erase magical writings, including the kind that blow up. However, extremely circumstantial, and if you are aware of the bad thing, then there are other ways to deal with it that don't require you to have a whole spell ready for it.

Expeditious Retreat: *** I do like this spell, despite the fact it is poorly named (since if you need to retreat, you usually don't want to spend a standard action casting a spell)

Feather Fall: ** Circumstantially extremely useful spell. The lower rating is because of how circumstantial it is. However, this is a good option for a swap-in later on, once you are flying around on phantom steeds and the like.

Grease: **** One of my favorite first level spells in the game. Targets Reflex which is a bonus, and gives you a chance to control the battlefield right from level one. Why trip someone when you can trip everyone? Also note that anyone who moves within a Grease spell (like those that get back onto their feet for example) is flat-footed, and therefore sneak attack bait. There is a save to avoid falling, but saving doesn't save you from the other controlling effects of grease. You can also cast this on a single item (if the one use wasn't enough) so that it is dropped...like someones weapon, or the Cleric's holy symbol. You can also cast this on your armor (or an ally's) to help them escape a grapple or ensure they don't get grappled in the first place. Sold yet?

Hideous Laughter: *** A reasonably effective spell that actually kind of reminds me of Hold Person. The victim of this spell is, and I quote, "can take no actions while laughing, but is not considered helpless", OK, so like daze. Good enough for me. There isn't a HD limit either, though animal Int or less won't be affected, and creatures of a different type get a considerable bonus to save. Nevertheless, potentially a combat ender.

Hypnotism: * Redundancy, your name is "Hypnotism". Very similar effect to your "Fascinate" ability (but the save doesn't go up). Not a carbon copy - but close enough that you are hindering your versatility if you take this.

Identify: ** Less important than in previous editions because you don't necessarily need the spell to identify items, but it helps.

Magic Aura: * Once again, a super circumstantial spell that I can't see using once in most campaigns.

Magic Mouth: * "Hey, don't steal me!!!" any other great uses for this spell? I can't think of any off the top of my head.

Obscure Object: * I have yet to successfully avoid being scryed by guessing what the target will be. In any case, this is going to be extremely circumstantial unless your campaign is based around one really important item in possession of the party (in which case, you still might want a wand instead because this spell would need cast 3 times every day).

Remove Fear: ** Usable as both a proactive (to grant +4 to fear saves) and reactive (to remove fear). A useful spell when you need it, though fairly circumstantial. The wand version is dirt cheap and provides nearly as good an effect (increased caster levels will eventually allow more than one target being the primary difference between taking this spell and using a wand)

Silent Image: **** One of the most versatile spells in the game. Silent Image gives NO save until you "test" it, which means a silent image wall for example, must be touched, or in some other way tested, to grant a saving throw at all. Mix with Ghost Sound as required. However, one thing I should mention before giving it "must have" status is to point out that a Silent Image wand is dirt cheap, and the duration is not level dependant, and if you avoid a saving throw then pretty much every disadvantage of using a wand is gone. Maybe instead Silent Image is the "must have" wand instead of the "must have" spell...

Sleep: ** At level 1 this spell is super awesome. At level 5 it's pretty much useless. Not a bad selection at level 1 as long as you have a plan to swap it out.

Summon Monster I: *** I've always been a fan of summoning for the sheer versatility of the spell. The lists in Pathfinder aren't quite as large, but one thing I can say, is if you are going to be a summoner, be neutral - it improves your versatility greatly. (then you can choose the celestial or fiendish template) Also a disappointment is the loss of my personal favorite trap detector...the celestial monkey.

Undetectable Alignment: ** Definitely not as useful as, say, disguise self. However, if that is your type of character, you may want this as well. Infiltrating the big bad guy's fortress is always easier if you aren't leaking good intentions out your ears.

Unseen Servant: ** Telekinesis minor. Definitely more useful than mage hand, but in the end, often mage hand will do the job, which would save you needing this spell at all. I like using an unseen servant to carry something heavy which I may need in haste

Ventriloquism: * 3 out of 4 times you think you need this spell, you will find ghost sound or message fill the bill. That one out of four times, comes very rarely.

2nd-Level Bard Spells

Alter Self: *** Grant yourself a quick disguise, gain darkvision, low light vision, scent or swim, and a small bonus to Str or Dex. Certainly a mere shadow of the 3.5 version (which was broken), but not anywhere near useless. Note that the Str or Dex bonus is a "size" bonus, which will pretty much stack with all your other stat boosts, making this spell, in many cases, a better stat boost than Bull's Str or Cat's grace.

Animal Messenger: * Use up a spell known and cast to operate a carrier pigeon. The advantage of this over an actual carrier pigeon would be that you can give directions. The use is very circumstantial, and in almost every case, Sending is just better.

Animal Trance: ** Like hypnotic pattern for animals. If you are in a campaign where you expect to fight lots of animals, this would be pretty good. If not, pretty circumstantial.

Blindness/Deafness: *** A bit redundant with Glitterdust (which you probably want instead), but the duration on this is permanent, which makes it superior against solo opponents. The save is a Fort save, which tends to be the easier save for most creatures. Since they target different saves, I can see the point to taking both, but be aware of some redundancy in effect.

Blur: *** Gives the subject concealment giving a 20% miss chance. Why so high a rating? It also makes you completely immune to sneak attacks (since you can't sneak attack a concealed target), which means your level of protection is better than it first appears.

Calm Emotions: *** Possibly better than you think. Calm emotions covers an area, and those affected cannot attack unless attacked first. This gives you a tactical advantage against enemies (getting in position, sneak attacking, buffing, etc). Also, it suppresses all kinds of buffs, but removes confusion, which is a condition that can otherwise destroy your party.

Cat's Grace: ** Grants a +4 enhancement bonus to Dex. The problem with this spell is it isn't going to stack with the primary attribute boosting magic items in the game. However, at lower levels it can be a nice little buff.

Cure Moderate Wounds: ** Bard's are useful as a secondary healer, but spells beyond cure light wounds really are more for "in combat" applications. My recommendation is to skip this and stick to out of combat healing with cure light wounds (By wand or spell)

Darkness: ** Reduces the level of light by one level. Nukes cantrips like light or dancing lights. Darkvision works in magical darkness now, so using this on creatures with darkvision is pretty useless. However, if you're party is the one with darkvision...potentially very useful.

Daze Monster: * Like the cantrip Daze. You know, the one you can cast every round all day? Except this one increases the HD limit by...wait for it...2 HD. Yep, now you can have that cantrip work on 6HD creatures instead of the normal limit of 4. Wow...that's awful.

Delay Poison: *** Not as good as neutralize poison, but not bad. You delay the effects of poison until later, or can be used proactively if you know that poison is a threat. Eventually, this will be a near all day buff that makes you basically immune to poison. Not bad at all.

Detect Thoughts: *** Fairly useful divination spell that creates a pretty big cone effect (that you can move) to detect the presence of intelligent creatures (detect the presence of hidden or invisible). Also useful to detect surface thoughts, though this provides a Will save. Conversations can be led through roleplaying to bring particular surface thoughts to mind...a decent use of this spell I've seen used.

Eagle's Splendor: ** Again, not going to stack with your magical items. For low levels, it will give a +2 save DC to your spellcasting in addition to some key skill boosts. That it is an enhancement bonus is why this is not more valuable, and should be swapped out later if taken at lower levels.

Enthrall: *** Pumps up your fascinate ability so that the fascinated creatures are not noticing anything happening around them. Any form of attack ends this effect for all involved. There are a number of restrictions and caveats, and in many ways I think Calm Emotions can achieve similar effects in tactical situations more simply, but the duration of enthrall is far superior, providing perhaps a greater number of circumstances it could be used for.

Fox's Cunning: ** Like all the Stat bonus spells, Fox's Cunning isn't going to stack with intelligence boosting magic items, and INT is only going to be useful for a select few party members. You can use it for boosts to your knowledges, or for the party Wizard to boost his spell DC's, but not much else.

Glitterdust: **** Nerfed in Pathfinder to give a save every round, but still potentially the best 2nd level spell. Reveals invisible creatures to everyone (unlike see invis), but in addition it blinds over an area. Blinded creatures are really pretty screwed. You can't take your time afterwards, but this is a devastating debuff, especially when you hit multiple creatures.

Heroism: *** A small bonus buff (+2) to attacks, saves and skill checks, the selling features are the decent duration and the stackability. In fact, it even stacks with the attack bonus from Inspire Courage, or the skill bonus with Inspire Competence which are both competence bonuses strangely enough.

Hold Person: ** Paralyzation on one humanoid for up to 1 round/level. This ability offers a Will save every round, so don't count on a full duration effect. Paralyzation can completely end a combat (Paralyzed creatures are helpless - can we say coup de gras?) - but the drawbacks are the restriction to Humanoids and that it is single target.

Hypnotic Pattern: * Two reasons I do not recommend this spell are 1) The ability is redundant with your Bardic Music fascinate ability, 2) There is a 10 HD limit - unlike your fascinate ability.

Invisibility: **** For anyone who has played this game, you surely already know that Invisibility is a very useful spell. The commonly held belief that it is only usable out of combat is often true, but not completely true. Try casting this on the party Druid while he summons up an army for example, or yourself while you buff up your party members. The point is, only direct attacks break the invisibility, and there are lots of combat actions that can be taken that are not attacks.

Locate Object: ** This is a fairly circumstantial divination spell. However, if you are looking for a specific item, the area it covers is very large which should help. Also, you can use it to detect general items, like gold for example.

Minor Image: ** I do think this is a good spell, but many times you might need an illusion, Silent Image will do the job just as well as this one (add Ghost Sound for audio if required). There is some undeniable added utility to this spell, and if for some weird reason you can't cast Silent Image, then this spell becomes a must have. I'm just reminding you to avoid redundancy.

Mirror Image: **** A fantastic self buff for defense. When this spell is first cast, the miss chance it provides dwarfs blur. Of course, as the mirror images get picked off, eventually this spell wears off entirely. However, during that time, you will have avoided several attacks directed at you.

Misdirection: ** Defeat scry spells that reveal auras (like detect good) by having you "take on" the aura of another creature or object (So you can not only mask being a goody-goody - you can even make your aura an evil one). Be aware that lots of divinations are not fooled by this spell (like detect thoughts), making it a spell that can't be entirely relied upon. Overall, OK but not great.

Pyrotechnics: **** Awesome, awesome, awesome. Disappointed that Glitterdust offers a save vs. blindness every round? Allow me to introduce Pyrotechnics that still offers a will save vs. blindness (in the "fireworks" application - the area on this is huge - so have your allies divert their eyes if possible if they are in range), but does not give any additional saves if the original is missed. Or perhaps you want the "Smoke cloud" effect that completely obscures vision (more effectively than fog cloud) and causes a -4 to Str and Dex to all within (Fort to negate), an effect that lasts 1d4+1 rounds after they leave the area. The range? Long. The lone downside to this spell is the requirement of a source of fire to originate the effect. This requires either lucky circumstance, or some pre-planning on your part. Flaming arrows or alchemist fire are some quick and dirty options.

Rage: * In general, an inferior buff to Heroism. It can affect more than one creature, though in honesty, you will probably be better off with Inspire Courage. This affect does not stack with a Barbarians Rage bonuses (and provides smaller bonuses). All affected also get a -2 AC penalty as well as all the other disadvantages of a Barbarian's rage (like the inability to use most skills for example).

Scare: * Like cause fear with a 2 HD boost to the limit. I don't like this spell for the same reason I don't like Daze Monster, though in fairness, at least this is a 2HD boost to a first level spell, instead of a boost to a cantrip.

Shatter: ** A fairly effective spell that shatters an object. Generally, the most effective application is the "single target" use, which can target any nonmagical object. A wizard's spell component pouch or a Cleric's holy symbol are examples of "non magical" objects to get your mind rolling. However, the item gets a save, and it is a single target effect, so I can't put a high recommendation on this spell.

Silence: *** If you've played this game for any period of time, you've had your party caster be a victim of this spell. If you target that caster, they get a save, so that's no good. If you target a point in space near the caster, it will work, but the caster can move out of the area, so, again not terrific. If you target a member of your party who is going to ensure to stay near the caster...now that works quite nicely. Hooray teamwork!

Sound Burst: *** A staple spell, and a decent one. Sound burst is an area of affect spell (10 ft radius) that stuns all within who fail a Fort save for one round. This can be a pretty effective, if not devastating debuff. Stunned creatures can't do much other than defend themselves (and casters can't do that very well either). Oh yeah, it does a d8 damage as well - not much, but I'll take it.

Suggestion: ** You know what I'm going to say about redundancy right? Suggestion however will be available as a spell befor

So, I had been waiting for an optimization board to pop up here, when a friend told me, "There is a huge argument going on the forums their regarding a CO board, it's the longest thread on the forum!"

Couldn't really figure that one out, so I checked it out and he was right. It seems the argument against a character optimization board is that it will foster negativity? (Correct me if I'm wrong).

Personally, I've been involved in character handbooks on the CO boards on other forums (for those who don't know, a class handbook will take either a class or a PrC and provide pointers on good options mechanically).

However, having switched to Pathfinder, it would be more worth the effort to create Pathfinder-specific handbooks if they were available on the Paizo boards (naturally).

My other option is to post this stuff on the General Discussion board, but I'm thinking some posters surely wouldn't want it there, and I would prefer it to be somewhere where people specifically looking for optimization hints could find it.