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Ranger archer is very good, but so is zen archer. But there's no real reason to abandon ranger if you like the idea of playing one - an archery ranger is very good. Fighter archer is worse than ranger archer at levels 6-10, because rangers can get improved precise shot at level 6, and fighters only at 11. That feat is really important, as cover is a big deal to archers. So I'd just stick with the ranger, if I were you.

Your ability scores are also decent, but you ought to swap your mental scores around: make it wis 14, int 12, cha 10. That lets you cast all your spells, and improves the all important will save.

Choosing feats is pretty easy for an archer, as there is a clear set of feats that strongly improve archery. You want point blank shot, precise shot, rapid shot, manyshot, deadly aim, improved precise shot and clustered shots as soon as possible, plus boon companion to make your animal companion full strength. That's lots of feats, so its easiest to pick human as your race for the bonus feat. It's still one feat more than you can have at level 8, so delay clustered shots until 9, and you have all the tools of a very efficient and deadly archer.

As for equipment: boots of speed is a very good plan, as extra attacks are invaluable, and you don't have anyone who can cast haste in your party (yet). Beyond that, just get a +2 adaptive longbow, a +2 belt of dexterity, a cloak of resistance, and some light or medium armor. Plus a handy haversack off course, and some quivers and lots of arrows. Make them cold iron arrows (because it hardly costs anything extra), and buy weapon blanch to deal with other types of DR.

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Inquisitor isn't that complicated. You get a couple of fairly straightforward combat abilities (bane and judgement - just pick to hit and damage for your judgements), some nice skill bonuses, and a manageable selection of spells. Just get a lot of strength, a two-handed weapon, and decent constitution and wisdom. Pick up heavy armor proficiency, and you're basically playing a cross between a combat cleric and a straight forward fighter, but with a lot more skills. The spells may take a while to pick, but if you've played a 3.5 cleric you'll recognize a fair few of them. Just pick some good buffs (divine favor, heroism), some combat utility (see invisibility, freedom of movement) and anything that sound like fun to you. Give the litany spells a second look, as they're swift actions.

I wouldn't recommend it to a total newbie, but you have played RPGs before, and even 3.5, so it's not as if you will continually be confused about what die to roll, what numbers to add, and how power attack works (by the way: you want power attack). As a combat inquisitor you can play a straightforward game in that the only thing you really have to do is cast a buff spell before the fight or on the first round, fight and choose when to activate your combat abilities, but the spells and skills mean you can do a lot more once you get into it.

It is not your job to keep your players alive if they've willfully ignored their defenses. Just balance your encounters like you would for the rest of your party, and make sure your enemies use varied tactics. Your glass cannon will overpower 3/4 encounters, then die in the 4th. He can be raised, but not trivially, so after a couple of deaths he might want to discuss an alternate character with you.

Also, if you have any type of ongoing reasonably intelligent bad guys in your campaign, they are probably going to hear about this guy. After all, he is huge most of the time, and does ridiculous damage, so his reputation should precede him. At level 10, mounted (or even flying) archers will be pretty easy to come by for your bad guy. And even enemies that haven't heard of your party before encountering them will be pretty scared of a huge humanoid wielding something more sophisticated than a club, as those are pretty much always bad news, so they should try to stay out of his reach and shoot arrows at him.

If the player complains that you're targeting him, make it clear that it's entirely down to the fact that his character has made himself a huge target in game, and that what's happening is exactly what one should expect to happen in an organic environment.

A faerie dragon (available as an improved familiar) has a charisma of 16 and levels in sorcerer, which gives it intimidate as a class skill. So that's another way to get a decent intimidate score by spending a feat.

This could be a lot of fun, iI think. Damage-wise you won't match up to a regular eidolon (although haste helps), but you can make a pretty nasty controller. Just add everything available to the bite: energy damage, reach, grab, trip, poison. Don't forget to take combat reflexes, and possibly weapon focus. Frightful presence is an interesting option for a higher level evolution.

I'm not sure I'd bother with vital strike. As a summoner one of your most useful contributions to your party is casting haste, and any time you have haste on a full attack beats vital strike (as well as improved vital strike, probably).

To me it just doesn't make sense that it's easier to hit something with your eyes closed, whatever the circumstances. There may be circumstances where you want to disregard what your eyes tell you, but swinging into a square that has to have an enemy somewhere in it shouldn't get easier by closing your eyes, in my opinion.

But I guess the problem with that is actually in the mirror image spell itself: it doesn't make sense that mirror image makes it more difficult to be hit than invisibility, since in both cases you're just trying to hit an enemy that you know to be somewhere in a 5 foot square (and in the mirror image case you at least know what size your enemy is).

I still feel it's a bit matagamey though: since mirror image is clearly intended to be different from concealment, it feels a bit cheap to me to change it into concealment by closing your eyes, especially when you just 'happen' to have a magical ability that overcomes concealment. And it also doesn't make any sense that a heartseeker weapon works against mirror image when you close your eyes and not when you keep them open. Either the enchantment can find the heart or it can't, the enchantment shouldn't care about whether you've closed your eyes. So that's why I'll stick with metagaming: it looks to me like it's against the intended rules, and it doesn't follow common sense either.

edit: I know a magical world isn't supposed to follow 'common' sense, but it doesn't make 'magical fantasyworld sense' either.

Closing your eyes to have a better chance at hitting something with mirror image up is horrible metagaming, in my humble opinion. Note that my definition of horrible metagaming is 'anything that would make me feel really cheated if my GM used it against me,' which I feel is a pretty good guideline to judge what is or isn't acceptable in terms of rule-bending.

The comparison you're making in your first post is not to a fighter, or any full martial class, as they all have class abilities that help them hit and do damage. It's essentially a comparison to the Warrior NPC class: full base attack bonus, nothing else. And the result of that comparison is that you're at -2 to hit and the same for damage bonus (your +3 arcane strike vs their 3 better power attack bonus), while you always have to spend your first round buffing to not die horribly as soon as you're attacked. And while you somewhat make up for it in versatility, most parties probably wouldn't be too happy with an NPC class holding their front line.

That isn't to say the build is useless, and in a poorly optimized party it might well be fine, but it is a rather low-powered build.

EFS is from a rather obscure source as it turns out: Pathfinder Chronicles - Cheliax: Empire of Devils.

The reason I was recommending communal stoneskin over stoneskin is that the communal version is only 100 gp per target, whereas normal stoneskin costs 250 per casting. You make a good point about 5th being your highest spell level though, so for that reason the regular one might be preferable. You could also use the spell blood money (from rise of the runelords) to pay for the material component, which would casue you to take 1 point of strength damage and 1d6 regular damage, effectively costing you 105 gold once you've healed yourself back up with wands of cure light wounds and lesser restoration.

LazarX wrote:
Use of the armored kilt is specifically not allowed in PFS.

Ah, didn't know that. Good catch.

Beyond upgrading the items you already have the only easy way to improve your AC is adding an armored kilt to your mithral breastplate. That would make it heavy armor in terms of proficiency, which is fine, and medium in terms of penalties, which lowers your speed, without messing with armor check penalties or spell failure chance. You could also buy two second level pearls of power and a lesser rod of extend for your druid, to get them to have barkskin on you at all times. This comes at a cost of 11000 gold, most of which you can recoup by selling your +3 amulet of natural armor, and you end up with a +5 instead of +3 to NA.

To my mind though, the best defenses possible at your level are mirror image (prohibited school, but worth the double slot) and communal stoneskin. The 100 gp fee may seem annoying, but in the end you probably don't need to cast it more than about 10-15 times in your entire career to keep it up through all battles for the rest of your career, so that's a fairly minor fee. And if any party members want to be part of the casting, let them pay for it.

As for what else to spend your money on: boots of speed. It's most of your money, but it makes a huge difference, and if you're the main tank you don't have time to cast it yourself in combat. And I'm guessing the blasting wizard probably doesn't want to.

edit: As for spells: do you have sleet storm, emergency force sphere, wall of stone and some teleportation type stuff? Shrink item is also worthwhile, either for looting or for some serious surprises during combat. Nothing says 'battlefield control' like a 15-foot rock in a hallway. Preferably on top of some enemies (just throw the shrunken item at the ceiling above them).

As has been said before, these will saves are doomed to fail. So you need to make it easier for your party to keep you under control when you do fail, or the rest of your party will probably not want you around.

It's a shame lycanthropes don't seem to be particularly vulnerable to anything in pathfinder. I was thinking of something like wearing silver shackles that are fairly loose in human form but constrain you in werewolf form, but that doesn't really work with the rules. Maybe you can voluntarily lower one of your saves, a lot? If you can manage to contract some dexterity damage you might be able to lower your reflex save to 0, which would give your party casters a very easy time at catching you with a create pit spell, but still no guarantees. That same dexterity damage would also make it pretty easy for your barbarian to get you into a grapple, pinned and tied up, although that would expose said barbarian to a serious risk of being bitten, so he'd have to be confident of his fortitude save. So maybe trying to lower your dexterity to something like 2 would be a reasonable way to give your party a good chance at controlling you. It will weaken you in combat quite a bit in terms of defense, but your damage output will still be fine.

Brawler is excellent, I'd run with it. It's potentially very worthwhile to take a one or two level monk dip (to get improved unramed strike and some style feats for free), but it's not necessary.

You could consider getting your dex to 15 so you can take the two-weapon fighting feats for extra attacks. Basically, you'd want two-weapon fighting asap, improved two-weapon fighting around level 8 and two-weapon rend around level 11. The highest dexterity prerequisite you'd need for those is 17, so starting with a 15 (which is enough for the first feat) and getting a +2 item (either added to your strength belt or a different item, like a snakeskin tunic) would be all you need for some very useful extra attacks.

I wouldn't jump at the bite attack, as when combined with other attacks it's at -5 to hit and only gives str*0.5 in damage, and you don't get your brawler bonuses to it. I would consider the sacred tattoo alternate racial trait (also replaces orc ferocity) for a nice save bonus.

Having said all that, your current character is fine as it is. I'm just thinking up some ways to make it even better, but it's a perfectly good combatant right now.

It might actually be fun to just play them as 50 creatures, as long as you can deal with battle really quickly. Orcs don't sound like the types to coordinate themselves into one tight unit to me (like aiding another, or acting as a swarm), I'd expect them to just each do their own thing. If your orcs are all the same level they presumably all have the same stats. So you could get a computer to pre-roll attacks (both range and melee) and damage for you. You could then bring a printed sheet with 200 melee attacks and 200 ranged attacks on it, dump 50 tiny objects (some kind of candy works) on your battlefield, and just go "these 10 attack you with a javelin, what's your AC?" and the see how many of the first 10 ranged attacks on your sheet beat that AC (probably not many), and quickly add up the damage. Then put a line under those 10 attacks on your sheet and continue to the next phase. I like the suggestion of using a few different colors of candy for a few different initiative groups.

A high attack bonus for a CR10 creature is +18, according to this useful table. So that typical CR10 creature will only hit you on an 18. That's a very difficult to hit, but then, in a gestalt game an equal CR creature is probably just a mook that you'll have to fight in groups. A big baddie might be more like CR14, with an attack bonus of +23, hitting you on a 13 or higher (or 40& of the time). Still very solid, but not unworkable for your GM, probably.

If none of your allies casts haste it's worth the round of casting. It almost doubles your damage, since you go from 0.55+0.3=0.85 hits to 2x0.6+0.35=1.55 hits per round, and that's before factoring in what it does for your allies, which will be significant as well. If you insist on making do without it: power attack does even worse without haste compared to improved critical. Also, I tried to show my math in the hope you could adapt it yourself to minor changes in assumptions. ;-)

The +1 luck bonus to attack thing may not actually exist. I was probably thinking of that ioun stone, but that's a competence bonus.

The best route to consistent sneak attack is the shatter defenses feat (in my humble opinion). That does have the prerequisite of making your target shaken first though. There are many ways to do so, but I'd say the nicest one is the enforcer feat, which requires you to do nonlethal damage. As a natural attack character, it's quite likely that you're going to want to get improved unarmed strike anyway, which solves the nonlethal damage problem for you (although you would have to spend the first round doing unarmed strikes instead of natural attacks). There's also the blade of mercy trait, which by the rules lets you do unarmed damage with bite and claw attacks (even though that makes no sense in terms of the flavor). Note that you don't need to hit for nonlethal all the time, just once to get enforcer to trigger. Also, if you don't like relying on nonlethal damage you could go for something like cornugon smash instead of enforcer to get your intimidate, but usually sneak attackers don't want to use power attack.

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Power attack is usually easily worth the penalty, especially in case of a single weapon used two-handed, but your attack bonus is indeed quite low. Let's do some quick damage calculations against AC 27, which is typical for CR12, assuming you're hasted (who isn't?).

Current: 1.1 [crit chance] x (2x0.6+0.35) [attacks at +18/+18/+13] x 19.5 [1d8+15] = 33.2
With power attack: 1.1 x (2x.45+.2) x 28.5 = 34.5
With improved critical instead of PA: 1.2 x (2x0.6+0.35) x 19.5 = 36.3
Power attack and heroism: 1.1 x (2x.55+.3) x 28.5 = 43.9
Improved critical and heroism: 1.2 x (2x0.7+0.45) x 19.5 = 43.3

So in your case, improved critical is going to buy you more damage than power attack, due to your low to-hit. But if you increase your to hit, power attack will win out and be a pretty good deal, especially when you consider it's also very useful against damage reduction. Are you sure you have exhausted the ways you could increase your to-hit? Just from the top of my head you ought have a base attack bonus of +9, a strength bonus of something like +6, weapon focus for +1, boots of speed or casting haste for another +1 and a +3 weapon, for a total of +20. That's before things like an item that gives a luck bonus, casting heroism, UMDing a wand of bless if you see a combat coming, casting a polymorph spell that increases your strength, summoning a monster with bard levels, or anything like that. If you can reliably get to +20 power attack will become the more worthwhile feat.

So my advice would be: get power attack, and try to use your spells and equipment to push your attack bonus up a bit. If the latter isn't possible, get improved critical instead, as you could definitely do with a feat that improves your damage either way.

If your switch hitter is just an archer with power attack instead of point blank master there is indeed no reason to put away your bow once you have point blank master. A switch hitter isn't an archer who can put away his bow to fight in melee, he's a melee fighter who gets full attacks with his bow in the first few rounds. So the build should be significantly different between the two.

As to which to be, I'd say it depends on your party. If you were playing a barbarian your party might become a bit light on the front lines if you play a full archer instead.

If I planned to make a multiclass character, I would provide motivations for both classes as well as training (where necessary) for both classes in my backstory. So for a fighter/wizard multiclass maybe you spend a little bit more time on fighter training than on wizard training, so the point where your competence 'clicks' for fighter level 1 happens to come a bit earlier than your wizard level 1. That doesn't have to mean you didn't spend any time training to be a wizard previously, so your competency in wizardry might reach 'level 1' soon after, or it might take a while longer, maybe after you reach fighter level 4, for example.

For 'organic' sort of multiclassing (so not planned in advance), it's presumably story-driven. So you'll only take a level in wizardry if either you've been studying with a wizard, or if some event has caused you to hugely desire magical power so you spent a lot of time studying it yourself. Or maybe you've discovered you have magical ancestry and as a result decided to experiment with doing simple magic tricks, and found yourself to be a bit of a sorcerer.

edit: I could also imagine someone who grew up as a barbarian (in a barbarian tribe?), but is studying wizardry. So at level one he/she could be a barbarian, but be working towards wizard levels, gaining those at subsequent levels.

It's a bit tricky, because in general casters suffer from dips, while martials will have better physical stats without a synthesist dip. So for a character to profit from a synthesist dip he'd have to be a martial whose main ability score is a mental one. So that might make it a solid dip for a zen archer monk (who doesn't need any help in the first place), or for a sensei monk. That one actually kinda makes sense, as the natural armor increase is super useful to a monk, as is the ability to cast or use wands of mage armor.

So, for a sensei with one level of synthesist, you could start with ability scores something like:
str 10, dex 10, con 12, int 10, wis 18+2, cha 11.
Then, wearing a bipedal eidolon suit with evolution points spend on strength increase and natural armor, you go to :
str 18, dex 12, con 13, int 10, wis 20, cha 11
So now you're a sensei with a +2 natural armor bonus who has the strength to do solid damage and the wisdom to be great at monk abilities like stunning fist. I'd possibly add the monk of the lotus archetype (and off course qinggong), and wield a temple sword in two hands.

Titania, the Summer Queen wrote:

Remember that it is about you having fun.

This is great advice in general. However, in the case of a difficult concept such as the OP's you need some level of optimization to get to the level the game expects you to be. If you want to play a shapeshifter, but you keep getting killed in one full attack you're not going to have fun. So for this particular concept, I think you really need to spend some feats on improving your defenses and hit points, rather than to just use them on fun stuff as you might with a paladin or barbarian, which are classes that work in melee pretty much regardless of feat choices.

Note that I think that a thassilonian specialist shapeshifter melee guy can definitely work, but I do think that if you don't go into eldritch knight after wizard 5 or 6 and don't spend some feats on defensive stuff you will be really disappointed in your survivability.

You're seeing eldritch knight and long term buffs as two different plans. I think you need both to be successful. Eldritch knight for hit dice and base attack bonus, and the buffs to make up for the attack bonus you lose and for the fact that your class abilities don't support melee.

I think you're currently using too many feats on casting and situational tricks, and too few on core survivability and damage. The dimensional dervish line is nice, but not as nice as not being killed in one full attack. You currently have toughness only coming in at level 11, d6 hit die, and you have no defenses beyond mage armor and your polymorph spell. That's just not going to cut it.

I've already outlined above what feats I would take. Looking at yours, I'd say spell focus transmutation is particularly useless, as you don't care about the save DCs. I also wouldn't take eschew materials, as I'd use the monstrous physique spells, which lets you cast and use all equipment, while still offering forms with 6 primary natural attacks.

I've spent a lot of time looking at the options of a shape-shifting wizard / eldritch knight, and I think the best spaheshifting spells are the monstrous physique spells. They let you use all your equipment and cast without any further investment, while offering pretty much the same offensive abilities as the beast shape spells (mainly: strength and natural armor bonuses, and lots of natural attacks). For your concept I'd go 1 guide ranger (you get so much more than a bonus feat, compared to fighter) / 6 wizard / 5 EK.

If you're set on thassilonian specialist, you're going to have a defensive problem. Mirror image is just such a key part of a melee eldritch knight's defenses. Probably the best way to get around it is to take the arcane armor training and arcane armor mastery feats. Since it's for PFS you'll never really use quicken spell much anyway, so the swift action isn't as much of a problem as it is for builds that go up to high levels.

As for feats, I don't think the whole dragon style chain is worth it when just going up to level 12, since qualifying for it either takes a monk level or eats up all your feats. Assuming you're human, I'd do something like this:
1. toughness, power attack
3. arcane armor training
5. arcane strike
7. arcane armor mastery
8. weapon focus claws
After level 8, I don't really see any standout feats. Weapon specialization is nice, you could take improved familiar, or you could shore up your weaker saves. An improved familiar might be especially nice because if you get the right one it can use wands and scrolls from your prohibited schools. I'd particularly want it to have a wand of vanish, and if you can fit it in your budget at all a wand of heroism.

I wouldn't go all in on fireball for a dazing specialist. Personally, I'd be tempted to use magical lineage on one of the second level evocations. Flaming sphere is probably my favorite, although frost fall is also cool, and dazing burning gaze is incredible to cast on your familiar (if you have one). That way, you can start dazing from level 8, rather than from level 10. Then move away from that spell once you reach higher levels, and probably pick ball lightning (or maybe chain lightning) for spell perfection at level 15. I don't think fireball is great for dazing at all - I'd say flaming sphere is usually better, and ball lightning is a lot better.

As for bloodlines, I'd probably go for arcane. If you do want to run with a signature spell I could see taking one of the elemental bloodlines, but I think you're better off using the arcane bloodline and a variety of different evocation spells. It already gives you +1 to the DC of anything metamagiced, and when full-round casting is impossible you have the bloodline power to circumvent that as well.

As for feats: spell focus evocation, greater spell focus evocation, spell penetration, greater spell penetration. Spell perfection is incredible, so you'll want the three prerequisite metamagic feats. Dazing and quicken seem obvious, persistent is very useful when you don't want to daze, since you're already taking the arcane bloodline, or you could take elemental spell: acid to boost your damage flexibility.

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Original question: no, not at all. It'd be nice to provide your players with a reason, but "it doesn't fit into my campaign world" or "it's third party" are both reasons that only a really entitled player would disagree with. Your player sounds like a trouble maker that you might be better off just not putting up with.

I don't blame the player for being somewhat upset by your ruling on planar ally though. Leaving is terrible form, but planar ally is suppposed to be somewhat less risky than planar binding. Quoting pfsrd:

Clerics and oracles find the job of summoning and binding outsiders much easier than arcane spellcasters do. A cleric calls upon her deity to send a like-minded creature by way of one of the planar ally spells. That outsider is in the service of the god, and its desires almost always align with the cleric’s goals, or at least run in parallel with them.

So on the one hand, that shows that planar ally gives you no control over the type of thing you call - your god picks for you. On the other hand, it's also pretty clear that the outsider serves your god, and as such probably shouldn't be picking fights with you, unless you gravely insult it or your deity or something like that.

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Mystically Inclined wrote:

Two weapon fighting has the highest potential damage, but there are some problems. You'll do minimal damage on the first round while you're still positioning (minimal enough that it might become worth it to debuff by dirty tricking or something instead - keep it as an option) and absolutely murder them on round two. IF you're flanking, or otherwise have some trick to consistantly get damage... and IF you hit.

Or: you could use a double weapon. Two hand it when you get a single hit only, TWF otherwise. If I were building the slayer concept I outlined on the last page (solo sneak attack through blade of mercy, enforcer and devastating strike) I'd make him a half-orc, using an orc double axe, and picking up power attack as my first feat, so I'd have two-handed as a fallback option throughout my career.

The shatter defenses feat is an interesting way to get sneak attack, and is in my opinion more powerful and reliable than feinting. You need a way to get your opponent intimidated first though - the most reliable ways are the cornugon smash feat or the enforcer feat. The latter requires nonlethal damage, which you can do either by using a sap or with the blade of mercy trait. That might not be very assassin-y though. This approach combines very well with the thug archetype.

Skulking slayer also seems like a solid option to me. A high strength skulking slayer with a falchion and a bite attack should make for a solid character. I'd personally take the dirty trick feits over the feint feats, especially since the only way to feint without using an action is through two-weapon fighting, and that clashes a bit with skulking slayer.

If you go the dirty trick route, a single level of maneuver master monk lets you add a free dirty trick attempt to any full attack. It does cost you a point of base attack bonus though.

edit: Actually, I think what you want is probably best covered by the slayer. I'd go the two-weapon fighting route, picking up the TWF feats through slayer talent -> ranger combat style, so you don't need high dex and can have high strength instead. Get the blade of mercy trait, and the feats intimidating prowess, weapon focus, enforcer, dazzling display and shatter defenses. Now when you attack an opponent you declare your first attack as nonlethal. Assuming you hit and make the initimidation check (you should), enforcer makes your opponents shaken for a bunch of rounds. Your next hit (for lethal damage) and all consecutive hits will render your opponent flat-footed until the end of your next turn. So from the third hit in you're doing sneak attack damage, pretty much until the end of the fight since enforcer lasts a long time and shatter defenses keeps triggering. And you didn't have to give up any attacks for dirty tricks or feints or anything like that. Meanwhile, you have full baes attack bonus and an excellent bonus to hit and damage from favored target.

As for flavor, I could see this as an unassuming guy, who when in combat displays such skill that it terrifies his opponents. They're intimidated by his combat prowess, not his presence. The blade of mercy trait is hard to fit in thematically though, as is the Sarenrae worship. It's crucial to make it work though, unless you like your assassins to deal exclusively in nonlethal damage (using a sap).

Agreed with the above: bard into eldritch knight doesn't make sense, as bards get so much of their power through abilities that scale with class levels. Eldritch knight is really only for wizards and sorcerers.

If you want to play a bard, you should probably stay a bard. A bit of bard works very well with dragon disciple, but that's mostly a melee character with some spells, which doesn't seem to be what you want to play.

I think you have three options in the end:
- Play a magus. They're straightforward, and pretty powerful, but they are also clearly designed with the idea of casting offensive spells at your opponents. If you don't do that, I'm unconvinced that they're as good as an eldritch knight, as the latter does have a better spell list (the magus doesn't get false life or heroism, for example, and gets all level 4+ spells later than the eldritch knight).
- Play a bard. Bards can be solid melee combatants. The archaeologist archetype is an interesting option if you don't want the whole 'buffing others' thing. I think this is probably a better option than playing a magus who doesn't use offensive spells.
- Play an eldritch knight. If you don't want to use the early entry options, go for a 1 fighter, cavalier or ranger / 6 transmutation wizard / 10 eldritch knight. At low levels you're a bit behind the other options, because you lose 3 points of base attack bonus early, have crappy hit dice and your spells aren't any better than the bard's or magus's yet. Once you get to level 9 or so you should start to become close to the others in melee and better in spellcasting. You have some problems with defense, but putting the bonus from being a transmuter in con, picking up toughness and using false life a lot probably solves most of that problem.

As for arcane armor training: the trick is that you use it to reduce the arcane spell failure chance of your armor to zero as a swift action, then cast whatever spell you wanted to cast. Arcane armor training lets you reduce the ASF of a mithral chain shirt to 0, the mastery variety works with a mithral breastplate. So now you have a set of armor with an armor rating of 6 that can be easily enchanted to give a bigger bonus. The problem is that it consumes your swift action, which means it doesn't combine with the quicken spell feat, which you will want to use at high levels. There are some workarounds (using still spell, mostly), but it's not ideal. In the end, it's pretty much a toss up between arcane armor training and just relying on mage armor and mirror image, and it depends largely on at what levels you mostly expect to play.

Chris O'Reilly wrote:

If it just provides concealment to the square, which it seems it does, you cant sneak attack out of it without the ninjitsu headband thingy for 15k.

Round here at least GMs would let enemies pinpoint you by the sound of your gun or apply such a penalty to your (already -20 for sniping) stealth modifier that you would wish skills could auto succeed on a 20.

I think both of your assertions are wrong. The mistmail provides concealment to the square the wearer is in. The rules on concealment in combat state that to see if something has concealment against you, you pick any corner of your square, and draw lines to all the corners of your opponent's square, then see if any of those lines run through a square with concealment. That assures that you have concealment, but they do not.

The -20 stealth check for sniping shouldn't apply, I think. That penalty is for when you want to use stealth again immediately after a ranged attack, so that your opponents do not know where the attack came from. The OP intends to become stealthy again at the beginning of his next turn, before his next attack. So his opponents will be aware of his position during their turn (which is fine), though he'll still have concealment.

Having said that, I'm not sure this whole thing is terribly worthwhile in the end. The thundercloud image is very cool, but the damage doesn't seem to add up too well. You'll definitely want to go to gunslinger 5, as dex to damage adds a lot more than 1d6 of sneak attack, especially with vital strike. But the problem is just that sneak attack and one attack per round with vital strike don't combine well at all, because one sneak attack per round doesn't make up for not hitting multiple times per round. At level 10 you'll be shooting for something like 2d12+12+3d6 instead of 4x(1d12+12), that's 36 vs 74 damage per round. I've disregarded attack bonus there, but then, gunslingers generally hit with pretty much all their attacks anyway.

I think Eldritch Knight fits better with what you want. You want someone who fights with a weapon and uses magic for buffs and utility purposes. A magus tends to be a bit more focused on using his spells to deal damage as well, which is something you don't seem to be interested in.

The armor thing is a problem. The easy way around is the arcane armor training and arcane armor mastery feats, but that gets you in trouble at higher levels when you want to cast quickened spells. You can get around that with the still spell feat, but that raises the spell level by +1. You can also try to just use mirror image and the like and not worry about armor as much. You can get pretty solid hit points between a starting con of about 14, the toughness feat, the physical stat bonus from the transmutation wizard school (+2 con, assuming you go into EK as a 5th level wizard) and spells like false life and vampiric touch. Then there's (communal) stoneskin at higher levels.

This is a tough question. Personally, I think that once you have three levels of zen archer it's almost impossible to give it up. Improved precise shot is an incredibly useful feat, and if you don't get it from zen archer 6 you're not going to get it until level 15. Then it's just two more levels for an extra attack, then it's just 1 level for AoOs with a bow, and it just goes on and on.

In the end, I think you're best off either continuing as a zen archer all the way, or getting out after level 8. Getting out now and using manyshot and rapid shot sort of wastes the zen archer levels for me, and you end up with a somewhat strange inquisitor archer with a very high spellcasting stat (because you use wis instead of dex) who's three levels behind on spells. You'll also need to raise your dex anyway to qualify for archery feats, and you lose the 'full monk level to bab for flurry' thing.

Getting out after zen archer 8 is a decent option, as you've got almost all the flurry progression and most of the key feats. The other zen archer abilities are nice, but because you got so many bonus feats you can spare some feats for snap shot and improved snap shot, which will let you threaten at 10 ft range. And inquisitor abilities are a lot of fun as well.

I echo the recommendation for either inquisitor or evangelist cleric. Bane is an especially incredible combination with flurry of blows, as while an inquisitor will only get the bane damage on maybe 3 attacks (at mid levels) per round, you'll get it on 6 attacks per round.

If you go mounted, I'd always go for a small race. The strength penalty is more than made up for by the ability to actually use your mount everywhere. A mounted paladin/summoner (or barbarian/summoner?) is a good idea though. The eidolon can cover your lack of skills pretty well through the skilled evolution and the lesser evolution surge spell, and the damage potential of a mounted charger is just through the roof.

Lots of cool options. Personally, I'd be very tempted to go for a ranger / wizard, specifically a guide ranger (for the flexible killing) and a void wizard (for the amazing saves and save-or-sucks that stick. It's not as obviously incredible as some other options, but you get incredible saves, great flexibility in your spells and importantly, at least 8 skill points per level with all important skills on your class list. For a solo campaign, I think people tend to forget how many different skills you need over the course of an adventure, and how many possibilities you miss if you don't have a really solid set of skillpoints.

I'd build primarily for melee through the natural attack style and shapeshifting at low-mid levels (multiple primary attacks + mythic arcane strike is incredible), then add some focus on powerful save or suck spells at higher levels to get the most out of the void wizard abilities, abusing things like dazing ball lightning or spell perfected quickened icy prison.

666bender wrote:
soupturtle wrote:

. Aspect of the wolf and blessing of the salamander don't stack with wild shape, and the other spells are mostly once a day kind of things (communal air walk, tree stride, wall of thorns), or will have failry poor DCs for you. It's very worthwhile having, but not terrible to delay.

why do you think aspect of the wolf wont work in wild shape ? its... meant for it...

Because it's a transmutation (polymorph) spell and wild shape works as the beast shape spells, which are also transmutation (polymorph) spells. And the rules on polymorph spells state:

You can only be affected by one polymorph spell at a time. If a new polymorph spell is cast on you (or you activate a polymorph effect, such as wild shape), you can decide whether or not to allow it to affect you, taking the place of the old spell.

Also, you have full martial weapon proficiency. Even if you specialize in natural attacks, there's no reason not to carry an adamantine morningstar, especially at low levels.

I think the dip is a solid idea, and I don't agree at all with the above comment of '4 levels or none'. That would be reasonable if you wanted to use the huge elemental forms at some point, but since you're a saurian shaman I assume you want to use mostly dinosaur forms. And since you mostly do melee, your spells are mostly for buffs and utilityand most of the important buff spells are level 4 or below, so you also don't lose that much in terms of spellcasting with a one level dip. On the other hand, you'll gain a lot of melee power, especially if you have room for the extra rage feat. Rage is a better buff than pretty much anything else you can do.

It's true that there's a lot of cool stuff in level 5 spells, but as a wildshaping combatant it's mostly situational things, so delaying it a bit won't hurt too much. Aspect of the wolf and blessing of the salamander don't stack with wild shape, and the other spells are mostly once a day kind of things (communal air walk, tree stride, wall of thorns), or will have failry poor DCs for you. It's very worthwhile having, but not terrible to delay.

Archery could work, but the problem is that it's feat heavy, you're not even proficient with longbows, and you haven't taken any appropriate feats so far. It could be fixed with a two level fighter dip to get point blank shot, precise shot and rapid shot, then deadly aim at level 7. I would recommend against any more channeling feats in that case, just focus on the archery feats. You could do a similar thing to become a decent dex-based melee fighter, probably also easiest with a level of fighter. If you could get an agile weapon, taking a level of fighter at level 5 to grab weapon finesse and exotic weapon proficiency in the dueling sword or elven curve blade (finessable weapons that can be two-handed). Buy yourself a +1 agile weapon (well inside your budget), get power attack at level 7, and you are a pretty solid battle cleric.

Considering your domain and negative channeling, you could make an excellent undead commander. Get the command undead feat at level 5, make good use of the animate dead spell, get a staff of command undead, and quickly become pretty much as powerful as you want as you command your own small army of undead minions. Have a look at this guide, if you're interested. It's a lot of management during combat though, so you have to be efficient and your GM has to be willing to put up with you.

You could also just continue as you are. You can make a pretty good support cleric. You can summon, you can cast buff spells, you get some battlefield control spells. In that case, I'd recommend spell focus conjuration and augment summoning as your next feats. Your excellent initiative is useful here, as you want your summoning and control spells to come off quickly, and going first will usually allow you to cast a full round action summon spell before someone has the chance to interrupt you.

Off course, you could also combine the latter two options. Play a support cleric with a couple of undead minions who occasionally summons things. Something like that. If you stay a full caster, you'll be just fine for power. Your wisdom may not be good enough for awesome save DCs, but it is good enough for everything else, and there's a lot of power in spells without saves.

I completely missed that. You're right, it's pretty clear that it just gives +2 to a bunch of things. Shame.

Barbarians are hard to mess up in general. Get a solid strength bonus and power attack, and use rage whenever in combat. The rage powers are easy as well: the ones you want most for this character are also the ones that are best in general: superstition, witch hunter and spell sunder. As for feats, if you want to screw with spellcasters it's hard to beat the step up line of feats.

If I were to build this, I'd probably take 1-4 level dip in inquisitor, with the spellbreaker archetype and the spellkiller inquisition. That'll really ruin a spellcasters day.

You could also consider going dex-based. It's not as powerful as strength based, but could be interesting. Personally I'd stay away from the ever present scimitar, and go for exotic weapon proficiency with an elven curve blade or dueling sword, both of which can be two-handed for the higher power attack bonus.

It's probably intentionally left vague, so it's something to talk about with your GM. If I were your GM I'd say you would get the size increase and ability score and armor bonus if you transform more than half your body.

The giant template definitely does give you a size increase. You shouldn't just look at the quick rules: those are there so you can use the rules more or less correctly during a game when you don't have time to work it out properly. If you're wild shaping into a creature with the giant template you can prepare beforehand, and use the proper rebuild rules. So that's a size increase (with all the CMB/CMD and attack bonus changes that go with that, as well as increased reach), +4 strength and con, -2 dex, and +3 natural armor. Depending on the original size of the creature that means the attack bonus will probably only improve by 1, or not at all, but you'll do a lot more damage. And it is especially great for this kind of big hit build, as a giant arsinotherium will have an attack for 8d6 (or 6d8, depending on interpretation) instead of 4d8.

I don't see this working too well as a witch. Your attack bonus will just be plain terrible, which means you cannot use power attack, so your damage per hit will be really low. I'd personally make a ranger/wizard/eldritch knight using the alter self and monstrous physique spells to polymorph into humanoid forms with lots of natural attacks.

If you really want to make it work, you need to do some serious strength optimization to offset your poor base attack bonus. So I'd start by trying to get a racial strength bonus instead of a racial con bonus, and dropping some con to get the charisma required for the eldritch heritage feats (13 is enough, you can wear a headband to make it 15), so you can get yourself the orc bloodline strength bonus. Added benefit is that if you take one trait (optimistic gambler) the first level power of the orc bloodline (touch of rage) also becomes very useful. You can even take the quicken spell like ability feat to use touch of rage as a swift action 3 times per day, so in the end you'd get half your level minus one to attack and damage as a swift action 3 times a day for 1d4+1 rounds. And the bloodline is very thematically fitting for a scarred witch doctor.

The divine favor spell will also be key, since that helps your attack bonus and damage. You could optimize for it a bit by taking the trait fate's favored, or by taking the magical lineage trait and applying it to divine favor, as well as by getting the quicken spell feat. If you do all three then in the end you get +4/+4 to your attacks for one minute with a swift action 4th level spell.

edit: You're also in danger of having a defensive problem. Your hitpoints will be solid thanks to your con score, but not that great due to your small hit die. And while you get mage armor, you don't get shield or mirror image. Especially that last one is a blow, as that's what my Eldritch Knight relies on for protection. You could consider the arcane armor training and arcane armor mastery feats, but your AC will still be very subpar.

That is true, but only really relevant at levels 4 and 5. At level 6 you get wild shape for 2x6 hours per day, so unless you're in a huge dungeon crawl, you don't need any more. From level 8 you can remain in wild shape all the time. To me that benefit at levels 4 & 5 doesn't justify spending a mythic ability.

You're looking for problems with your build. I think you have several.
- Crap fort save. Lethal.
- Crap ref save with poor hitpoints. Lethal combination.
- No way to overcome spell resistance.
- Very few spells that help against single big enemies rather than groups.
- Nothing to make your blasting damage keep up. You have empower and maximize, but that doesn't cut it when you're not fighting groups of weak enemies.

- Drop some of the enormous collection of mediocre and situational metamagic feats. Heighten, widen, enlarge, still and silent? What do you think you'll be using those on?
- Get piercing spell and some save feats. If you don't want to get the save feats, definitely get heroism.
- Get some buffs and debuffs for single powerful enemies. Enervation is great, as is greater dispel magic. Haste and (greater) heroism for when you need your party to do the work.
- Get spell perfection and (greater) spell focus evocation. This makes your blasting (which you seem to want to do lots of) much more useful. If you really want to focus on blasting, you definitely also want spell specialization, and possibly a different bloodline.

I don't see why this shouldn't work, and work well. The speed penalty doesn't matter for a switch hitter - you're not supposed to move anyway, you're supposed to stand there and full attack. The only thing that's slightly annoying about being a dwarf is that you don't get a bonus feat at level 1 in a fairly feat hungry build.

I would recommend swapping your int and wis scores, as wis is your casting stat as a ranger. As for traits: armor expert doesn't seem like it gets you that much, and you could take reactionary instead of elven reflexes, although I'm not sure I'd bother with either. Personally, I'd opt for magical knack, because it's nice to have a higher caster level, and maybe a will save trait or something like that.

Covent wrote:
Dual path with heriophant's mythic wildshape, and guardian's partial transformation is quite good.

I'm not sure why you'd still want mythic wildshape if you have partial transformation. Instead of changing back and forth between human and animal for free, you can just use free actions to transform parts of yourself back and forth. There doesn't seem to be a limit on how much you have to shift, so you could just keep long sharp teeth all the time, or something similar that doesn't bother people too much in social interactions.

@Beholder: About Eldritch heritage: you forgot the touch of rage power. With the optimistic gambler trait, it's a standard action to give yourself +(level-2)/2 to attack, damage and will saves (so +5 at lvl 12), for 1d4+1 rounds. Spend another feat on quicken spell-like ability and it becomes a swift action 3 times a day. It's probably too many feats, but if you could fit it in it could be worthwhile.

Also, I'm an idiot. I didn't mean resolve subdomain, I meant ferocity subdomain! Half your level to damage 3+wis times per day.

For shapeshifting hunter with a level of ranger, your wild shape doesn't really improve after level 8 anyway (for animal forms). So take one level of ranger any time after that (level 9?) and it doesn't make much difference.

Finally, you could also decide not to be a druid for most of the time at all. Take 4 levels of druid and the shaping focus feat (to count as 8 levels of druid for wild shape), and you could spend all your other levels as a barbarian.

To add to the clarification: when you're giving a cat a bath, you're essentialy graplling with the cat. Hence, the cat is able to use it's rake (aka: rear claws) attack on you. When your cat isn't grappling something, it needs its rear legs to stand on, so can't attack with them.

With mythic vital strike, this should work very well. You don't need the ooze form if you can multiply your static bonuses as well - just rack up those statics. In general, it should be pretty simple. Get a high strength, use power attack all the time.

A couple of way to add damage that you may not have thought of yet:
- Dragon style and dragon ferocity, with weapon focus and feral combat training puts your damage bonus at strength x2. You probably require a monk dip, but that is great for your AC as well. Probably not worth it in the end though, as you need a lot of feats and lose some bab.
- The resolve subdomain. It's a subdomain of strength, which makes it a legal pick for a saurian shaman, and it lets you add 1/2 your level to damage 3+wis times a day. This is an easy option, and could definitely be worthwhile.
- The Eldritch Heritage feat line for the Orc bloodline. This requires a serious charisma bonus, which is annoying as that's usually your dump stat, but if you have the point buy/ magic item budget to make it work it's incredible. The first level power seems fairly useless, but add the optimistic gambler trait and it's suddenly a great buff. It's also a valid target for quicekn spell-like ability. The 9th level power is obviously amazing.
- Mythic arcane strike is pretty awesome. It's pretty easy to get a spell-like ability that qualifies you through arcane strike, lots of races have them and there are traits that give them as well.
- A ranger dip with the shapeshifting hunter feat gets you favored enemy as a ranger of your full level. You could then get a wand of favored enemy, or find some way to get it on your class spell list.

I haven't looked at mythic much, so I'll leave that advice to others.

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