Strength or Dex Kensai for my next campaign.


Advice

Dark Archive

Okay in my upcoming RotRL campaign we are in dire need of some focused damage so instead of going full bab in your face Barbarian I decided to play a class I've wanted to run since release, a kensai magus. Currently my party is going to be an Arcanist, Sacred Shield Pally/Samurai who wants to focus of AC and tanking, a War priest or cleric of some kind, and a Zen Archer. This party composition has changed a good 4 times in 2 weeks but now it's time to lock in characters so now I don't know which route with my kensai I should go. With the introduction of the ACG you can now achieve Dex to damage at level 1 going with a dueling sword which is awesome though I am afraid I might miss that 15-20 crit range by going this route over a strength katana build. Since I will be front lining I also worry about my survivability in the early game. I know it becomes less of a problem later but I might not even make it to later. So I come to ask advice of those who have weighed all the options of early dex damage/higher AC/worse crit range or the same damage scale via strength/higher crit/lower AC.


A 1 level dip of Swashbuckler will get you Dex to Dmg and Hit with a Katana. at level 2. (Level 1 as Human.)

Dark Archive

That is right. Well another issue I have is blowing all of my feats at the start to make this happen. Then again in my head I'm trying to pull off shocking Grasp, rime frostbite, and maybe even part of a bodyguard build if possible. I think my problem is I am taking on too many role options and tricks to use for a single character.


You might be spreading yourself too thin role-wise with all of that. A bard has that issue if you try to play up the Jack-of-all-Trades aspect and don't pick a focus.

My suggestion would be pick the one thing you want to do really well (Shocking Grasp, debuff, etc.) and then pick a secondary role. Don't try for too much. Shocking grasp focus with the bodyguard build or demoralize build might be the way to go. You can pick up Bruising Intellect as a trait to use your Intelligence for Intimidate.

I haven't had a chance to really play around with the Swashbuckler, but I think LessPopMoreFizz is right on with the Swashbuckler dip. You already have diminished spellcasting, but a Kensai is supposed to be more capable with their chosen weapons and less capable with their spells. The delay will hurt a bit, but you'll just focus yourself on weapon damage instead of spell damage.

As a Kensai, I definitely would go the Dex route. You can't use your abilities with armor, which means you need all the defenses you can get. It doesn't really give you the luxury to build for Strength.


what is that nonsense about dipping swashbuckler. Use the dervish dancing feat with a scimitar. At lvl 3 you can get dex to damage and it only costed you 2 feat and didn't require a dip in another class. While katan requires 1 feat and a dip. Is 1 damage worth delaying all your class abilities? The only other thing you would get from swash is panache, but you would need to get some charisma, making your build quite mad.

Dark Archive

Oh I forgot to mention I was focusing on either katana or dueling sword for RD reasons. Our tank paladin want to learn the way of the sword so for RD the kensai will be his master in that sense, otherwise a cookie cutter scimitar build would have been fine with me.


KrythePhreak wrote:
Okay in my upcoming RotRL campaign we are in dire need of some focused damage so instead of going full bab in your face Barbarian I decided to play a class I've wanted to run since release, a kensai magus. Currently my party is going to be an Arcanist, Sacred Shield Pally/Samurai who wants to focus of AC and tanking, a War priest or cleric of some kind, and a Zen Archer. This party composition has changed a good 4 times in 2 weeks but now it's time to lock in characters so now I don't know which route with my kensai I should go. With the introduction of the ACG you can now achieve Dex to damage at level 1 going with a dueling sword which is awesome though I am afraid I might miss that 15-20 crit range by going this route over a strength katana build. Since I will be front lining I also worry about my survivability in the early game. I know it becomes less of a problem later but I might not even make it to later. So I come to ask advice of those who have weighed all the options of early dex damage/higher AC/worse crit range or the same damage scale via strength/higher crit/lower AC.

To be honest the Wizard can work just fine here.

Don't bother with the Dex to Damage feat, but instead pick up Weapon Finesse. You can apply Dex to Damage with the Agile enchantment when you can afford it.
So, Wizards, if you pick your weapon as a bound item you can apply item creation feats to said item, meaning you can make the item +1 and Agile for 1/2 the cost--the perk of being a Wizard, Harry--yet at the same time you suffer some fairly large penalties.
At level 1 you cannot stand on the front lines, which is problematic for you, but you could pick up an armored coat, which is a move action to put on or take off. Likewise you could use a shield to increase your AC to 19 (10 + 3 [max for armored coat] + 4 + 2) or 21 with Fighting Defensively, but you are made of glass unless you pointedly increase your Con.

If you try this make sure you go Transmutation: Enchantment, since that is going to maximize your defense. Leave int at 13, as you'll be using a headband for increased spell level casting.
While useless at level 1, Augment (for the natural armor bonus) is godly since it literally stacks with everything regardless of the origin per the description. Your AC can easily get to high 50s by late levels.

Still, however, you'll want to focus on using a race that can allow you to protect yourself and make up for weapon proficiency penalties for being a Wizard, and I honestly used a Drow since Rapier and Hand Crossbow. Not to forget, if you invest in it, being able to spam deeper darkness, levitate, and a ton of other spells by level 5. Deeper Darkness at your feet and levitate up 60 ft means you are pretty much immune to being targeted if you do get attacked. You can't make AOO against things you cannot see so Deeper Darkness followed by stumbling away gains no AOOs. Eventually you either replace the shield with a permanent shield spell or a Celestial Shield.

The wizard more or less gains his power by using his abilities to maximize his statistics.

Kensai can be fun, but the lack of a bonded item hurts them a little when that is a focus of the character. Agile for 4,000 gp is great, it means you can start being effective faster. It looks like you have some strong characters in the game, so you can probably be an AP Carry. =P


Dex handsdown. Forget about STR.


With the Advanced Class Guide out, I would definitely say Dex.

If you dip in the Inspired Blade Swashbuckler you get Weapon Finesse for prerequisite purposes and Weapon Focus (rapier). You could immediately retrain your Weapon Focus (rapier) to another feat you want, then regain Weapon Focus (rapier) when you take levels in Kensai, netting you two entire free feats for the dip. Then you could go for Fencing Grace, which adds dex-to-damage for rapiers.

Some further synergy: Assuming you dumped Cha, you'd also get a pool of (Int mod + 1) panache points and all the level-1 Swashbuckler deeds. If you take Flamboyant arcana you'd be able to supplement your derring-do and opportune parry/riposte deeds with arcane points, and if you take Arcane Deed arcana you could get to use higher-level deeds with your arcane points.

Last but not least. If you get an Ironwood Wyroot rapier, you'd gain an arcane point AND a panache point every time it critted.


Going DEX means you either a) use a Scimitar and can't do anything until 3rd level or b) use a Dueling Sword and use up all your feats at 1st level.

Slashing Grace strikes me as the most efficient route, though Dervish Dance is better overall because scimitar > dueling sword statistically.

No need for level dips.


I disagree on Slashing Grace. A level dip reduces the magus' caster level by 1, but using a Dueling Sword presents its own disadvantage because of the reduced critical threat range. With a Keen weapon or Improved Critical, we're talking about a difference of 30% vs 20% here, and magus touch spells delivered through Spellstrike on critical hits do x2 damage.

If you're going for Dex, your current options are

(1) Scimitar Dervish Dancer; 2 net feat tax, cannot be taken at level 1, scimitars only.
(2) Slashing Grace with a Dueling Sword; 2 net feat tax, 1H slashing selected weapon only.
(3) Dip in Inspired Blade (Swashbuckler) and retrain towards Fencing Grace; 0 net feat tax, rapiers only.

I can compensate for the caster level loss with Magical Knack (magus) and, outside of Pathfinder Society, Sacred Geometry.


Dex is a safer bet... Plus it's easier to get dex and int bonus races than strength and int.

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