Is the Sha'ir Occultist as underpowered as it seems to be?


Advice

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

So, the Sha'ir Occultist archetype, despite being one of the absolute coolest archetypes for one of the coolest classes, seems to me to be seriously lacking in power. Not only do they trade away many of their central class features, they really don't get a whole lot in return.

They have more spells known than a typical occultist (but the same lackluster number of spells per day), but in particular, the lack of a second implement at 2nd level (putting them at one implement school, one elemental school, and only one set of focus powers) puts them way behind the standard occultist in terms of flexibility.

The kicker though, the one thing I cannot stand, is that the Sha'ir Occultist only ever gets three of the four elements! Why make an archetype designed around collecting tiny magic genies (The Gameboy Advance game Golden Sun comes to mind) and not even let you collect them all?

It seems like it's designed to be a "more spellcastery occultist," but it fails at that by keeping you constrained to only four lists of spells (two schools of magic and two elemental schools) until level fourteen, which is the same level a Sorcerer gets limited wish. Meanwhile, you're just now learning your third school of magic. Of course, you can decide to take the source of half your class features, your fragile elemental pet, and send it into battle as a mediocre flanking partner. If it dies, no biggie! You just lose 50% of your spells. And your implement powers. A risky proposition, to say the least.

I want to love this archetype but I can't seem to get past its massive power deficit. Am I reading everything right? It's really this limited?


Losing the jin isn't that big a deal - 'The sha’ir can replace the slain jin the following morning by expending 1 point of mental focus in a special ritual that takes 1 hour to perform.', no expenditure of gold etc. as with a familiar, so using Augment Jin is actually an option. Not a powerful option, but valid in the right situation.

The variety of spells shouldn't be a problem if you choose your normal schools and elemental schools well - if you want spells from all 4 elements you can quite easily do that out of your normal schools.

That said, it's a primary spell caster which is a 6-level spell caster which lacks many of the resonant powers which a normal occultist gets to compensate them for that. I'd have a hard time recommending it & probably wouldn't play it if I thought others in the game might play a real primary caster.


It's certainly not impressive compared to the original Sha'ir.


The way I read the text, it actually doesn't get rid of focus powers. This makes it quite powerful. It says "The elemental schools don’t have focus powers or resonant powers." Note that it doesn't say that the jin don't have the focus powers, just that the elemental schools don't provide new ones. This is emphasised in implement mastery, when it refers to the DCs of focus powers, among other things. Unfortunately, implement mastery also gives your elementals hardness 20, so maybe they didn't read it too well. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong though.


You have it right, but since half of your schools are elemental schools, you have half the focus and resonant powers a normal occultist would have.


It was rated “-2/-2” in the archetype rating thread, which is the worst possible score for an archetype and generally indicates the archetype should not be used by PCs.


I'd bring it up in the archetype rating thread if you're interested to know why or get it changed. However, giving up half their focus powers, half their resonant powers, the ability to use panoplies, and having their class abilities vulnerable to aoe attacks, all make the archetype difficult to recommend. If there's some elemental school spell that balances out the exchange I didn't notice it in the list.


Lelomenia wrote:
It was rated “-2/-2” in the archetype rating thread, which is the worst possible score for an archetype and generally indicates the archetype should not be used by PCs.

There are WAY worse archetypes than Sha'ir. While not anywhere near optimal, Sha'ir is playable and has good flavour, and that's more than I can say for some.


I didn't write the review in the archetype rating thread and I'm not sure I'd give it the same numbers, but it is bad. I think my 4 year old post above holds up fairly well.


I really wish it wasn't so poor, since I LOVE the flavour of it (I can't really see myself playing an actual Occultist, juggling items about) and it's so close to being decent, but the small changes it would require would make a BIG difference. Something like getting 4 Jin over the course of your career instead of 3, which would make the archetype more powerful as well as pacing the rate you get spells at better. It would also mean you could have a Sha'ir that has one Jin of each element, which is just plain cool.
When I saw the Elemental Ally Druid, I thought "could this be a good version of Sha'ir?", but it's actually a bit worse, I think. You don't even get the functionality to have your Air Elemental use Whirlwind to increase the damage of Call Lightning/Call Lightning Storm until 20th level!


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I agree completely. I look at the archetype frequently trying to make it work, or justify playing it despite the downgrade. I think giving the them the wizard school powers as focus powers and resonant powers would help quite a bit. The creatures themselves could use familiar style defense increases at least. Classes that can lose a chunk of their class power, like summoner and spiritualist, tend to have some backup that's only available when their core power is down. They'd either need a quicker way to recover the things, or a backup power that came online when they lost an elemental.

I'm also unsure how they are meant to act, and whether or not their "insubstantial" description is meant to be incorporeal or just fluff.

I'd probably fix them like this.
Treat the jin in all ways as a familiar. Grant the base elemental school power as a resonant power and their per day abilities as focus powers. Allow allied players to treat the jin as a familiar if they are given the jin to use their focus/resonant powers. Put their implements back on the regular schedule allowing them to chose jin or teach one of their existing jin one implement's powers with no jin being able to learn more than one implement's powers.


Bloodrealm wrote:
Lelomenia wrote:
It was rated “-2/-2” in the archetype rating thread, which is the worst possible score for an archetype and generally indicates the archetype should not be used by PCs.
There are WAY worse archetypes than Sha'ir. While not anywhere near optimal, Sha'ir is playable and has good flavour, and that's more than I can say for some.

Sure there are worse archetypes than Sha'ir. But compared to the base class the Sha'ir is pretty much the worst Occultist archetype you can take.

Here's what you lose:
Four Implement Schools.
Up to four Base Focus Powers.
Access to Panoplies.
One set of spells known. (6 vs 7)
Magic Item Skill.
Object Reading.
Aura Sight.
Outside Contact.

Here's what you gain:
Access to spells a normal Occultist can't choose.
Almost full caster progression of a Summon Monster SLA, but it requires two Mental Focus to use and you must "summon" specific Elementals with it. The lesser version functions at a spell level lower but requires only one Mental Focus. It has the benefit of stacking with the Conjuration base focus power.

Here's why this is bad:
Your Jin are your actual implements. If one gets killed, you lose your invested Mental Focus and access to both Schools it had until the next day. The logical conclusion is to hide them, but the archetype actively wants you to put them in danger through the Augment Jin ability.

That's highly inadvisable because of two reasons. AC and HP.
If you're lv 12, you can throw a CR 7 Huge Elemental at your enemies by expending two Mental Focus. That CR 7 huge creature has really bad AC, which comes as a surprise to no-one. And even though your Jin gains the HP of its new form, the damage taken won't magically disappear when combat ends. When it reverts back to its half-your-HP form just a couple rounds later it goes poof unless you have burst healing. Which you don't.

Oh and the Jin Spy ability is worthless since you never want your Jin to move further away than 30 ft.

====

In short, you're paying a lot for two abilities you really don't want to use and have to constantly worry about keeping a couple low-AC low-HP creatures alive.
Does that sound like a fair trade at all?

Sovereign Court

Somewhat overlooked, but since your Jin are your implements they still work if you shapeshift into another form. I was considering it for my Kitsune Fox Shape 'fighter', but ended up using a polymorphic pouch and choosing implements that could be pinned to it.


Occultist has an astonishingly good array of archetypes, so being the worst of the bunch isn't too hard, but you're unfortunately correct.


Lelomenia wrote:
It was rated “-2/-2” in the archetype rating thread, which is the worst possible score for an archetype and generally indicates the archetype should not be used by PCs.
Wonderstell wrote:
Sure there are worse archetypes than Sha'ir. But compared to the base class the Sha'ir is pretty much the worst Occultist archetype you can take.

The base is still a 6/9 caster, and even though it's a vast downgrade, the end result still makes for a competent and competitive enough character. The archetype isn't even bad enough to drop down from tier 3 to tier 4.

Reminds me of a discussion in the "worst net result archetype" thread, when someone nominated Spellslinger Wizard, which was basically the same issue: Being a huge relative downgrade doesn't make you worst overall when your starting point is at the top.


I still can't fathom why sha'ir was implemented as an occultist archetype in the first place (as opposed to a full caster archetype).


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blahpers wrote:
I still can't fathom why sha'ir was implemented as an occultist archetype in the first place (as opposed to a full caster archetype).

Honestly seems like itd fit as a shaman archetype limited to the elemental spirits.

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