The Half-Caster Dilemma.


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


After trying really hard to build a bunch of different half-caster classes, I noticed a fairly annoying trend:

Half Casters like to hit things, but in order to hit things well, they need to sacrifice their spellcasting stat to the point where the only spells worth casting are usually self or party buffs, movement/utility spells or spells that have no saves attached. You could choose to max your casting stat and sacrifice your offense, but at that point you are failing to leverage one of the biggest advantages of your class in order to still be a sub-par spellcaster compared to full casters, it sort of feels like that path is a trap.

Some classes might be able to get away with it more than others, the bard in particular due to inspire courage might be in the best position to sacrifice physical stats, but the bard's spell list isn't really built for being a battle-caster unless you take the Arrowsong Minstrel archetype, which gives up a lot of it's utility.

But the question is, is this a solvable problem? Giving Half-Casters their casting stat to hit and damage would let them use their spells to full effect, but also force them into the realm of SAD full casters inhabit and probably make them too strong. Smaller things like giving casting stat based health bumps, adding it to AC instead of dex or changing some saves to a casting stat might alleviate some of the MADness, but it's a delicate balance.

Or perhaps people think this isn't a problem at all, but simply how half-casters need to function in order to be balanced, I'm genuinely curious what people think about this issue and if there is a good solution to it.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

The half-casters usually have class features to help them along. Bards and Skalds have bard song to boost their attack and damage. Inquisitors have bane, judgments, teamwork feats, and possibly inquisitions. Summoners have their Eidolons which the player controls. Magi have their arcane talents and touch attacks. Hunters have their animal companions and teamwork feats.

Really the Warpriest is the only one who relies on his spells to boost attack and damage. They have fervor to make things easier. Their sacred weapon and armor does alleviate things but they're limited. However, after playing a Warpriest from lvls 12-16. I can say that I used spells outside self-buffing and had a fun time. I was valuable outside of combat.


Like Larkos said a lot of them have accuracy boosters, I would say the best 3/4 class at chucking physical scores is the Alchemist because bombs being splash weapons that hit touch they don't really need much Dex to hit and then they can tak on controller rider effects and boost damage and DCs with intelligence and give away infusions? Is that what they're called and in doing so have some interesting action economy for buffing.


Larkos wrote:

The half-casters usually have class features to help them along. Bards and Skalds have bard song to boost their attack and damage. Inquisitors have bane, judgments, teamwork feats, and possibly inquisitions. Summoners have their Eidolons which the player controls. Magi have their arcane talents and touch attacks. Hunters have their animal companions and teamwork feats.

Really the Warpriest is the only one who relies on his spells to boost attack and damage. They have fervor to make things easier. Their sacred weapon and armor does alleviate things but they're limited. However, after playing a Warpriest from lvls 12-16. I can say that I used spells outside self-buffing and had a fun time. I was valuable outside of combat.

None of those are 1/2 casters (4th level).

You are mentioning 3/4 casters (6th level)


Starbuck_II wrote:
Larkos wrote:

The half-casters usually have class features to help them along. Bards and Skalds have bard song to boost their attack and damage. Inquisitors have bane, judgments, teamwork feats, and possibly inquisitions. Summoners have their Eidolons which the player controls. Magi have their arcane talents and touch attacks. Hunters have their animal companions and teamwork feats.

Really the Warpriest is the only one who relies on his spells to boost attack and damage. They have fervor to make things easier. Their sacred weapon and armor does alleviate things but they're limited. However, after playing a Warpriest from lvls 12-16. I can say that I used spells outside self-buffing and had a fun time. I was valuable outside of combat.

None of those are 1/2 casters (4th level).

You are mentioning 3/4 casters (6th level)

At least in my experience, half caster was meant to refer to the classes that ostentatiously split their focus between hitting stuff and spellcasting which sums up the 6/9 guys to a t rather than the 4/9s who are just beatsticks with a sprinkling of spells.


Larkos wrote:

The half-casters usually have class features to help them along. Bards and Skalds have bard song to boost their attack and damage. Inquisitors have bane, judgments, teamwork feats, and possibly inquisitions. Summoners have their Eidolons which the player controls. Magi have their arcane talents and touch attacks. Hunters have their animal companions and teamwork feats.

Really the Warpriest is the only one who relies on his spells to boost attack and damage. They have fervor to make things easier. Their sacred weapon and armor does alleviate things but they're limited. However, after playing a Warpriest from lvls 12-16. I can say that I used spells outside self-buffing and had a fun time. I was valuable outside of combat.

but how many of them were offensive spells that required enemies to make saving throws? That's kind of the issue, there aren't any ways to make a viable offensive spell-using half-caster (except magus because they rarely use spells with saves) without potentially ignoring their physical combat focused abilities. The average half caster builds I see have a 14 in their casting stats, other than dex magus builds that try to split dex/int 18/18 or higher and dump str/cha. You're almost never going to get a failed save with that stat unless they're really bad at it.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Generally speaking you are correct. It is a rare build on a 6/9 caster that is going to be set up to throw the save-or-lose at the big bad, that is typically the job of the full casters.

That being said, that doesn't mean 6/9 casters are not extremely useful in a party and a whole lot of fun to play. Beyond the ability to actually fight, which you have noticed, most have really unique class features, and a level of versatility in play that the 9/9 casters or full BAB classes can't usually match.

As for their spells in particular, as you noted their are a whole lot of things where saves don't matter, or don't matter as much. Even the save required spells can be quite useful though, as an example, while succeeding against the big bad might be unlikely (say the enemy might make a save on a 13 or better against the wizard, he is likely looking at only needing a 10 or so for you) if you target a mook instead, you are likely back up to similar odds. While that isn't as huge as disabling the big bad, taking a mook out of combat can be nearly as useful, letting the wizard focus on the big bad and the beat sticks get to him.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Dave Justus wrote:

That being said, that doesn't mean 6/9 casters are not extremely useful in a party and a whole lot of fun to play.

certainly not going to debate that, if anything they were the most interesting classes I've had to theorycraft around

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Occultists do pretty well for this. They typically value Int more than Str/Dex as it fuels their mental focus - meaning more passive combat/utility buffs as well as more effective spells per day from Focus Powers.

Legacy Weapon's Bane effect and, if you're going that route, the Trappings of the Warrior panoply easily patch up your offences and you soon accumulate more spells known/spells per day than any other 6/9 caster due to Focus Powers and Implement Schools.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

If by half casters you mean paladins and rangers they are not designed for offensive spell casting. Their spell list simply do not have a lot of offensive spells and those that they do get are hampered by the fact their caster level is 3 lower than their class level. The reason they have spells is not to kill things with magic it is to support their roles.

Paladin spells are mostly combat buffs, defensive spells and healing. They already have good offensive (especially vs evil), and some of the best defenses in the game. They have no real offensive spells that are actual attacks. Almost all of their offensive spells are designed to work with normal combat not against it. Having a paladin use CHA to hit and damage would actually weaken the class. Smite evil allows you to use both STR and CHA to hit. Since you cannot apply the same stat twice to a roll this would decrease the value of smite evil. On the other hand allowing CHA to hit, damage and AC as well as saves would be completely unbalanced. Right now paladins don’t really require much in the way of INT , WIS or even DEX. All a paladin needs is a good STR and CHA with moderate CON and an average or slightly above average (12 or 13) DEX. They are one of the least MAD characters in the game.

Ranger spells are mostly utility spells, and buffs, with a few crowd control and summoning spells. They also lack any real attack spells. Many of their spells are designed to complement their fighting styles. Lead Blades and Gravity Bow are good examples of this. Spells like Pass without Trace and Endure elements allow a ranger to function in his role a lot better. Besides the best high level ranger spell is instant enemy. The ability to gain your highest favored enemy bonus on a target is almost overpowered. Getting +6 to hit and damage on the BBEG is a lot better than anything a 3rd level ranger spell can do.

Also consider that if you are going to change the lower powered spell casters to match the full casters you should be changing the full casters to match the lower powered casters in the area they are weak. That would mean giving wizards full BAB and d10 HP. Game balance may not be perfect but if a character is getting more in one area they should get less in another. So classes with less power in spells get more class abilities for reducing their spell casting abilities.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Half casters can make good enough casters if focused. Obviously they won't be as powerful as a full caster in that roll, but if you want to play a game without full casters, then half casters played as casters still make good contributing members to parties.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

The class that probably leans most toward the "more caster than martial" aspect of the half-casters is the Mesmerist. Their hypnotic stare penalty to enemy saving throws gives them roughly the same chance of making their spells stick as a full caster with similar spellcasting stats.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Summoners can get a good enough charisma to make create pit or glitterdust useful, since their eidolon or summons don't usually need them to hang around for close support.

Investigators plain can't use offensive spells - their method of spellcasting doesn't allow it.

Is there a particular 6-level caster which has this problem? I'm not seeing it.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Frogsplosion wrote:


but how many of them were offensive spells that required enemies to make saving throws? That's kind of the issue, there aren't any ways to make a viable offensive spell-using half-caster (except magus because they rarely use spells with saves) without potentially ignoring their physical combat focused abilities. The average half caster builds I see have a 14 in their casting stats, other than dex magus builds that try to split dex/int 18/18 or higher and dump str/cha. You're almost never going to get a failed save with that stat unless they're really bad at it.

Mesmerists and Silksworn Occultists can both pretty effectively focus on their casting. Mesmerists do struggle in the early levels with not enough spells though.

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Mesmerists can easily have good D.C.'s and can can lower saves with thier stare feature. It really allows them to effectively run a save or suck/debuff focused caster.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I would argue the only 4th level caster that honestly suffers is the Bloodrager.

They are loaded with offensive magic and suck at using it.

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Abraham spalding wrote:

I would argue the only 4th level caster that honestly suffers is the Bloodrager.

They are loaded with offensive magic and suck at using it.

Eh, they have more than enough buffs on the list to never take spells that need a save.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Imbicatus wrote:
Eh, they have more than enough buffs on the list to never take spells that need a save.

You are terribly short on "spells per day" though. A level 9 Bloodrager with 16 CHA can cast 5 spells in a given day before they're out. That's likely not even one per combat (and a level 9 character ought to be fairly well established.)


Well if they're fighting more than 5 combats each day, I'd hope they don't need spells for each one


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Generally, I think half-casters need to decide whether they're weapon-based or magic-based, as most of the time they're simply not made for doing both at the same time (unless you rolled for stats and were incredibly lucky). If you try to do both you split the difference and suck at both. I've seen someone build a support Inquisitor and she barely packed any punch, but neither did she have a real presence on the battlemap and just kinda healed everyone with a wand.
Full-BAB classes are good at hitting things with their swords. Half-BAB classes are good at hitting things with magic. 3/4th-BAB classes need to choose one or the other to excel at, and most of them have innate ways of doing so. Alchemists have Mutagen and bombs versus touch attacks. Bards are buffing monsters. Druids have Wildshapes, and so on. By design, if you're boosting physical stats, you'll be lacking in your casting stat and vice versa. There's some tricks to alleviate that, but I think it's intentional that you'll never be good at both unless you cheese it. Clerics can be decent damage dealers and frontliners, but their full-casterness really shines when they focus on their spells. I've seen melee Bards before, and while they're not really made for outright damage output, they can be good thugs (via intimidation tactics). I think the Rogue is the only 2/3 class without any magic, and that really hurts him. That leaves them more stat points to play around with, but you really notice how they don't have an innate way of boosting their to-hit and damage output other than flanks and TWF.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Imbicatus wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:

I would argue the only 4th level caster that honestly suffers is the Bloodrager.

They are loaded with offensive magic and suck at using it.

Eh, they have more than enough buffs on the list to never take spells that need a save.

My argument isn't that they can't be another buffer, my argument is when I think"raging magic" with a spell list full of blasting spells using blasting magic shouldn't be a trap option.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

How badly MADness hurts also depends upon the point buy or roll system being used (and in the latter case, how lucky you get). For 15 point buy (standard expectation in APs), MADness starts to limit build options of most 6/9 casters(*) more than most 9/9 casters(**) or most martials (including some 4/9 casters, but not including Monk, which is MAD both pre-Unchained and Unchained). For 10 point buy (who does this?), this REALLY hurts(*). Going the other way, 20 point buy (PFS and in actual practice a decent fraction of non-PFS campaigns) lets the 6/9 casters (and other MAD classes such as Monk) breathe easier. At 25 point buy, they breathe even easier, but this is probably (further study needed to be sure) the point at which the really crazy 9/9 caster concepts(**) start to come online and overshadow them.

(*)The big exception is Summoner (even if forced to use all changes introduced by the Unchained version), which doesn't have to be MAD.

(**)Concepts for 9/9 casters that are seriously MAD include a Reach Cleric that is also good at Channeling, and a Shaman of Lore or Spirit Guide Oracle with the Lore Spirit with the Arcane Enlightenment Spirit option that is also good at combat.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
PossibleCabbage wrote:
Imbicatus wrote:
Eh, they have more than enough buffs on the list to never take spells that need a save.
You are terribly short on "spells per day" though. A level 9 Bloodrager with 16 CHA can cast 5 spells in a given day before they're out. That's likely not even one per combat (and a level 9 character ought to be fairly well established.)

So pick up some wondrous items that give you extra spell slots. The advantage of low-level slots is that they're very cheap to boost. At 9th level, a 2,000 gp runestone of power isn't quite pocket change, but you can certainly afford two or three of them out of your 46,000 gp wealth by level.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Hybrid builds can be quite good at both melee and spellcasting but it require a bit of sacrifice in other areas and focus to be successful at both. Generally expect to start with an 18 Strength and a solid score (at least 16 if not better) in your casting stat. Combine this with Power Attack and a two handed weapon and you are off to the races. You should have no problem keeping up with the martials in the damage department as you can self-buff with your spells. Clearly you will never be as good as a pure caster but you can still be good enough if you keep your casting stat high enough and invest in Spell Focus/Greater Spell Focus and use metamagic rods to your advantage.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Abraham spalding wrote:
Imbicatus wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:

I would argue the only 4th level caster that honestly suffers is the Bloodrager.

They are loaded with offensive magic and suck at using it.

Eh, they have more than enough buffs on the list to never take spells that need a save.
My argument isn't that they can't be another buffer, my argument is when I think"raging magic" with a spell list full of blasting spells using blasting magic shouldn't be a trap option.

I agree completely. The thing that I feel needs to be addressed is the spells that halfcasters have on their spell lists which have saving throws. I've played a Bloodrager from 1st-8th level so far, and my save DCs are so pitifully weak that I have to ignore half of the spells on my spell list.

Our party's Warpriest had similar frustrations when he tried to use offensive spells like Hold Person.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Bloodrager's have options to make their casting good. Bloodline mutations, metamagic by spending rage rounds, I think there's one that increases DC by giving you non-lethal. There's possible routes to make the bloodrager a caster.

Now the build probably still wont be the best, and it's a lot of feats to make something bad usable so it's probably not worth. But it's possible.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

^Metamagic Rager looks good, except for being incompatible with a lot of other Bloodrager archetypes -- most of the other archetypes also replace Improved Uncanny Dodge, although Metamagic Rager is odd in NOT also replacing Uncanny Dodge, so if you want to go whole hog with this, go Metamagic Rager VMC Barbarian, and at 7th level, you get Uncanny Dodge which stacks with Bloodrager Uncanny Dodge to make Improved Uncanny Dodge, while 3rd level gives you what starts out as a weak Extra Rage but levels up into a super Extra Rage(*), and 11th level gives you a genuine Barbarian Rage Power without needing to go Primalist, and 15th level gives you Damage Reduction that stacks on top of Bloodrager Damage Reduction; only 19th level is fully redundant with Bloodrager abilities without a way to stack, and you probably won't get that far anyway (Campaign will end first).

(*)If the Rage and Bloodrage pools are ruled to be separate, use the Rage pool for actual raging and use the Bloodrage pool for Metamagic.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I honestly find that 6th level casters can still use offensive spells, they just have to be a bit more vigilant about targeting weak saves, or else accept that their spells aren't always going to work. I don't particularly minmax my full casters either, so this is nothing new. The only real differences in DC is that a full caster can probably afford a +5 at start while most half casters are more MAD and I find they usually can only afford a +3, and their top level spells are 1-3 levels lower than a full caster's, which also reduces the DC. It's not insignificant, but it's not a deal breaker for me.

Also, I consider the fact that they aren't quite as good as 9th level casters to be something of a perk. It lets you enjoy using magic without feeling dirty about it XD

Bloodrager is a weird case because the spell progression is just so painfully slow for offensive spells, but as noted, you can make the build work. Just because it's not the best way to do things doesn't mean it's not a valid playstyle.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Frogsplosion wrote:
Larkos wrote:

The half-casters usually have class features to help them along. Bards and Skalds have bard song to boost their attack and damage. Inquisitors have bane, judgments, teamwork feats, and possibly inquisitions. Summoners have their Eidolons which the player controls. Magi have their arcane talents and touch attacks. Hunters have their animal companions and teamwork feats.

Really the Warpriest is the only one who relies on his spells to boost attack and damage. They have fervor to make things easier. Their sacred weapon and armor does alleviate things but they're limited. However, after playing a Warpriest from lvls 12-16. I can say that I used spells outside self-buffing and had a fun time. I was valuable outside of combat.

but how many of them were offensive spells that required enemies to make saving throws? That's kind of the issue, there aren't any ways to make a viable offensive spell-using half-caster (except magus because they rarely use spells with saves) without potentially ignoring their physical combat focused abilities. The average half caster builds I see have a 14 in their casting stats, other than dex magus builds that try to split dex/int 18/18 or higher and dump str/cha. You're almost never going to get a failed save with that stat unless they're really bad at it.

This is niche, but it is quite effective.

I have a currently 10 Sanctified Slayer Inquisitor/2 Viking Fighter that is a nasty debuff machine.

He can move-action Intimidate for Shaken condition (with a +42 to Intimimdate)
He follows that up with a Swift Action attack from Hurtful on his Vicious Bardiche, inflicting Sickened.
Then, 5 foot step out of melee range and cast a debuff spell like Inflict Pain for -4 to hit on the target for rounds per level.

The Shaken/Sickened condition inflict a combined -4 to saves, which helps to make up for the Inquisitor's 16 Wisdom.

I've also used this combination to get spells like Terrible Remorse and Shamefully Overdressed to stick.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Saldiven wrote:
Frogsplosion wrote:
Larkos wrote:

The half-casters usually have class features to help them along. Bards and Skalds have bard song to boost their attack and damage. Inquisitors have bane, judgments, teamwork feats, and possibly inquisitions. Summoners have their Eidolons which the player controls. Magi have their arcane talents and touch attacks. Hunters have their animal companions and teamwork feats.

Really the Warpriest is the only one who relies on his spells to boost attack and damage. They have fervor to make things easier. Their sacred weapon and armor does alleviate things but they're limited. However, after playing a Warpriest from lvls 12-16. I can say that I used spells outside self-buffing and had a fun time. I was valuable outside of combat.

but how many of them were offensive spells that required enemies to make saving throws? That's kind of the issue, there aren't any ways to make a viable offensive spell-using half-caster (except magus because they rarely use spells with saves) without potentially ignoring their physical combat focused abilities. The average half caster builds I see have a 14 in their casting stats, other than dex magus builds that try to split dex/int 18/18 or higher and dump str/cha. You're almost never going to get a failed save with that stat unless they're really bad at it.

This is niche, but it is quite effective.

I have a currently 10 Sanctified Slayer Inquisitor/2 Viking Fighter that is a nasty debuff machine.

He can move-action Intimidate for Shaken condition (with a +42 to Intimimdate)
He follows that up with a Swift Action attack from Hurtful on his Vicious Bardiche, inflicting Sickened.

where does the sickened come from? I checked vicious and hurtful, didnt see anything


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Frogsplosion wrote:
Saldiven wrote:
Frogsplosion wrote:
Larkos wrote:

The half-casters usually have class features to help them along. Bards and Skalds have bard song to boost their attack and damage. Inquisitors have bane, judgments, teamwork feats, and possibly inquisitions. Summoners have their Eidolons which the player controls. Magi have their arcane talents and touch attacks. Hunters have their animal companions and teamwork feats.

Really the Warpriest is the only one who relies on his spells to boost attack and damage. They have fervor to make things easier. Their sacred weapon and armor does alleviate things but they're limited. However, after playing a Warpriest from lvls 12-16. I can say that I used spells outside self-buffing and had a fun time. I was valuable outside of combat.

but how many of them were offensive spells that required enemies to make saving throws? That's kind of the issue, there aren't any ways to make a viable offensive spell-using half-caster (except magus because they rarely use spells with saves) without potentially ignoring their physical combat focused abilities. The average half caster builds I see have a 14 in their casting stats, other than dex magus builds that try to split dex/int 18/18 or higher and dump str/cha. You're almost never going to get a failed save with that stat unless they're really bad at it.

This is niche, but it is quite effective.

I have a currently 10 Sanctified Slayer Inquisitor/2 Viking Fighter that is a nasty debuff machine.

He can move-action Intimidate for Shaken condition (with a +42 to Intimimdate)
He follows that up with a Swift Action attack from Hurtful on his Vicious Bardiche, inflicting Sickened.

where does the sickened come from? I checked vicious and hurtful, didnt see anything

I'm guessing it's a cruel weapon.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Luthorne wrote:
Frogsplosion wrote:
Saldiven wrote:
Frogsplosion wrote:
Larkos wrote:

The half-casters usually have class features to help them along. Bards and Skalds have bard song to boost their attack and damage. Inquisitors have bane, judgments, teamwork feats, and possibly inquisitions. Summoners have their Eidolons which the player controls. Magi have their arcane talents and touch attacks. Hunters have their animal companions and teamwork feats.

Really the Warpriest is the only one who relies on his spells to boost attack and damage. They have fervor to make things easier. Their sacred weapon and armor does alleviate things but they're limited. However, after playing a Warpriest from lvls 12-16. I can say that I used spells outside self-buffing and had a fun time. I was valuable outside of combat.

but how many of them were offensive spells that required enemies to make saving throws? That's kind of the issue, there aren't any ways to make a viable offensive spell-using half-caster (except magus because they rarely use spells with saves) without potentially ignoring their physical combat focused abilities. The average half caster builds I see have a 14 in their casting stats, other than dex magus builds that try to split dex/int 18/18 or higher and dump str/cha. You're almost never going to get a failed save with that stat unless they're really bad at it.

This is niche, but it is quite effective.

I have a currently 10 Sanctified Slayer Inquisitor/2 Viking Fighter that is a nasty debuff machine.

He can move-action Intimidate for Shaken condition (with a +42 to Intimimdate)
He follows that up with a Swift Action attack from Hurtful on his Vicious Bardiche, inflicting Sickened.

where does the sickened come from? I checked vicious and hurtful, didnt see anything
I'm guessing it's a cruel weapon.

It's also completely ignoring the "spells" portion of what we are talking about.

No one said it isn't possible to make debuffers or battlefield control with martial means.

It's a non sequitur.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Half and 3/4 casters require a lot of thought input to make work.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / General Discussion / The Half-Caster Dilemma. All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.