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I've got an idea together for a brown-fur transmuter arcanist I want to shelve for use in a future game. I'm assuming 15 point buy, as that's what my group typically uses, and I want to be able to turn other people into behemoths of war.
My instinct is to make this character a half-elf for Eldritch Heritage purposes. Namely, I want to eventually get Improved Eldritch Heritage for the Mutable Flesh power from the Shapechanger bloodline:
At 3rd level, once per day when you cast a transmutation spell with a duration of 1 minute per level that affects only you, you can increase its duration to 10 minutes per level. At 9th level, you can increase the duration to 1 hour per level.
Alternatively, I could take a single level of sorcerer, then take Bloodline Development, but this slows down my spell level increases to -2 compared to a Wizard. Ouch.
Let's assume that I'm an 11th level Arcanist with Improved Eldritch Heritage (Mutable Flesh). I cast Beast Shape III on an ally, which I can do because I can cast Personal transmutation spells on allies. I turn him into a Warcat, giving him +8 Strength (it's normally +6, but I can make it +8 because Brown Fur Transmuter is great), -4 DEX, +6 Natural Armor, Pounce, some powerful claw attacks, low-light vision, scent, a climb speed... Not a bad setup. Moreover, it would last 9 hours.
Of course, I could also cast spells like Undead Anatomy on the party's fighter and make him immune to most things, and have the buff last 9 hours.
The main issue I see is that up until level 11, my spells are short-term buffs. They'll last a minute per caster level. This means they're good for casting before you kick a door in, but after they're unlikely to last more than one or two combat encounters.
I feel like the hour/level buff is absolutely necessary so that I can also turn my allies into forms that are useful in a given zone (undead immunities in an undead dungeon? Yes please!), or I can choose forms based on utility.
But here's the next issue: the mutable flesh ability only applies once/day. That's... not very good. Is there any way of increasing the number of uses I can get with that ability?
Next: what are some good feats I absolutely should take? What about Exploits? (I know I need Dimensional Slide and Quick Study at the very least.)
What are some interesting personal-only transmutation spells my martial buddies may love? Mirror Strike looks like an odd duck that could be fun for certain builds. Long Arm is personal only, and is very nice. Alter Self looks like a fun spell to be able to apply to my companions as I please (turn everyone into bugbears for Scent+Darkvision and +2 STR for 90 minutes at level 9). Bull's Strength would provide a +6 bonus instead of a +4. Blink on allies with an Extend Metamagic Rod could be cool, but at level 9 we're only looking at 18 rounds, so it's a pre-fight buff at best... The list goes on, I'm sure.
And then there's Paragon Surge, which I could cast as a half-elf but put on an ally I turned into a half-elf via Alter Self, yes? With an Extend Metamagic Rod I could give the party fighter a feat of his choice for 18 minutes at level 10, which is... actually not a bad benefit. Dedicated Adversary when you know you're about to fight trolls? Yes, please!
For combat, utility, and disguise, I see a lot of potential here. Help me figure out how to make this build shine!
Wouldn't a tiefling make more sense for a Merlin based character? Also whether or not Mutable Flesh works with Share Transmutation is debatable. As a GM I'd say that it does not as Share Transmutation makes personal range spells into touch range that no longer affect only you. Thus spells cast with Share Transmutation are no longer eligible to be cast with Mutable Flesh; in the same way as if you cast a Fireball with affected Elemental Spell (cold) metamagic you would not be able to use it with Burning Amplification.
Wouldn't a tiefling make more sense for a Merlin based character?
Maybe, but my GM is unlikely to allow Tieflings in his games. He specifically allowed them for Hell's Rebels, but doesn't seem keen on having them in other modules. He prefers races with roughly the same race points as the core races, and only ones he feels suit the setting.
With that said, if he allows tiefling? Yes, he can be a tiefling. Otherwise, I'll take Half-Elf and run with the fey angle, or maybe a demonic one if I don't take the Shapechanger bloodline. Half-elf's racial traits line up better, oddly.
Also whether or not Mutable Flesh works with Share Transmutation is debatable. As a GM I'd say that it does not as Share Transmutation makes personal range spells into touch range that no longer affect only you. Thus spells cast with Share Transmutation are no longer eligible to be cast with Mutable Flesh; in the same way as if you cast a Fireball with affected Elemental Spell (cold) metamagic you would not be able to use it with Burning Amplification.
I asked about this in the Rules section. Seems you're right - I was hoping I could avoid the matter via order of operations (spending the Arcana point AFTER using Mutable Flesh), but I don't think that works either.
If I DON'T take a bloodline, I can take Mordant Envoy instead for a +1 bonus to transmutation caster level. That would extend the duration of my spells, when combined with the Transmuter of Korada trait, to 3 levels at level 1, meaning I could have 3 minute duration longarm or enlarge person and the like ready to go. With that trait, I'd be casting a Bull's Strength at level 4 that lasts 12 minutes and grants +6 strength. Yowsa.
One Bloodline I was considering was the Protean bloodline, simply for the benefit of its Arcana. Make my spells 20% harder to dispel? Why, yes, I would like that! I don't know how often that would come up, but that's a pretty handy arcana to have, and skill focus Knowledge (Planes) isn't a bad skill to have a focus in. Could be worth spending Eldritch Heritage on?
Similarly, Eldritch Heritage for the Abberant bloodline is REALLY solid for transmuters. Sure, it doesn't stack with Extend Spell, but it also means I don't need an Extend Spell rod for every spell I cast.
That's an awesome bloodline power for high level transmuters with a Ring of Continuation. If you make it yourself (e.g. by having it be your Arcane Bond item) you can likely afford it by the early teens.
That IS pretty tempting. If I want to be a melee wizard with my own buff spells, I could use that to turn myself into a hulking beast of war for a while, and still be able to cast spells if I choose the right form. I'll think on getting that ring - it's good if I go with the Shapechanger bloodline for sure.
Any more suggestions? The sorcerer dip seems like a bad idea, so I'm trying to avoid that. Mordant for +1 transmutation caster level is looking like the simplest option, as it lets me dump Charisma if I so please, but some of these bloodlines are *really* cool.
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Looking over the Ring of Continuation again, the Brown-Fur Transmuter gets an important advantage over other casters with it. The 24-hour spell ends if you cast another spell with a range of Personal, so if you want to cast such a spell on yourself, you can use the Share Spells ability (spend a point from your Arcane Reservoir to change its range to Touch) so as not to end the spell in the ring.
Arcanists get access to the Altered Shifting exploit, that allows you to change forms (within the forms allowed by a given spell) by spending a point from your Reservoir and reducing the spell's caster level by 1. The shorter duration doesn't affect you, and at a glance, the only effect of a lowered caster level is that it makes it easier to dispel.
Wizards get Multimorph, which is better in every way (costs nothing but a minute of duration, which doesn't matter with that ring) but the class itself doesn't get the important Share Spells ability.
Either way, you can cast spells even in animal/dragon/etc. form with a Polymorphic Pouch for your spell components (or Eschew Materials), and a Ring of Eloquence for the Verbal components (market price of 5,250g to add the effect to your Ring of Continuation).