Combat Role for character with only good mental attributes and no feats?


Advice


If that got your attention, welcome!

So, here's the important bits:
The character is going to be (mostly) a Druid. No, synthesis summoner is not an option.
The character is going to be either old, or fragile (or both).
The character is only going to have access to Druid spells, not wildshaping, and is NOT going to be a summoner.
The character is going to have animal companion(s). One of which will serve as a mount (Charger).

What I need advice on is what kind of role in combat can the character serve outside of spellcasting. Should they focus on aiding others? Is there a fighting style that can be "adequate" with (AT MOST) the investment of one feat? I plan on using Bonded Mind and Share Spells to share the more tasty self-only buffs with party members. I don't want to delay that very much.

I have a race and stat distribution in mind but feel free to suggest whatever. Try to stick to Common or uncommon races, and no 3rd party please. Feats are at a premium, for human or half-elf (or another race with skill focus will suffice) are highly desired.


Yeah, I'd go full support buffs. But then again, I like that kind of character.

You could use various flanking and teamwork feats on the animal companion(s) in order to add a more tactical edge.


Any particular suggestions on the support buffs? And what to fall back on when I don't want to use spells?

And, yes, teamwork feats are surely going to be used. I was going to ask more about those when we've figured out the main character. But feel free to suggest. Animal type, build, direction, etc. The charger Companion will most likely be more of a bodyguard and get him the hell out of danger role.


Depends on the rest of the party. For example, I had a wizard who forwent Transmutation and Conjuration (the easy buffs). I ended up using a lot of niche spells like Ricochet Shot, Draconic Reservoir, and Brow Gasher. I'm not as familiar with the Druid spell list, or making a character focused on companions.

Aid Another is always a good option, carrying alchemical items in the early levels where they're more potent. Anything where you get to target a space instead of a person's touch AC eliminates the need for high physical stats. Armor like the Varisian Dancing Scarf for low weight and an emphasis on keeping somewhat mobile so your allies can set up a defensive line, or enemies can be funneled.


The rest of the party:
Bloodrager (Untouchable Rager/Primalist) - Think antimagic mage killer (no spells)
Brawler (Shield Champion)
Investigator
Summoner (Synthesist)

My character will be the only "real" Pure caster. We are playing the Strange Aeons campaign and my character will enter in at level 8. Druid Level will be 5 With three levels in another class (Spiritualist: Totem).

Ability scores (as an old half-elf)
Str 6 (9 -3 age)
Dex 14 (16 -3 age +1 lvl)
Con 10 (13 -3 age)
Int 12 (10 +2 age)
Wis 18 (14 +2 racial +2 age)
Cha 13 (11 +2 age)


I think of the classical role of Druid is summoning monsters and battlefield control with spells like Entangle.

I'm enamored of Druidzilla builds, but your character doesn't seem to be that kind of Druid.


The best roles to pull off with solely mental stats are battlefield control, buffer, debuffer, healer, and utility. For a Druid not interested in summoning, I suggest going both buffer and debuffer. Spells like Burning Disarm, Entangle, and Thunderstomp are pretty decent choices at first level and don't even require ranged touch attacks. Maybe get Cure Light Wounds, too, because it looks like your party might be low on healing (though the Investigator should be able to help).

Silver Crusade

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Here's one suggestion for a tricky way your character can be highly effective in combat. No feats or physical stats required. I've done this in PFS with an all-mental-stats PC and can say from experience it works great.

The trick is to get the most out of your animal companion mount. Do this by amplifying existing unused potential.

Consider an Axe Beak as your Charger Animal Companion. STR 18 DEX 16 and has reach. It's one of very few animal companions that can effectively use reach tactics.

Have it learn the feat Combat Reflexes. Axe beak has a good CMB. Combat Reflexes gives your axe beak four (4!) AoOs. It has an 18 Strength and 1.5x damage on its single natural attack, so it hits pretty hard. It can trip with AoOs. It's mechanically similar to a humanoid wielding a longspear, except it has no dead zone at 5' range.

The end result has the same martial competency as a standard 3/4 BAB reach build with 18 Strength. Plus, the Axe Beak has an effective charge when that's warranted. It's especially funny when your axe beak charges a foe and trips it. Smart foes will sometimes just stay prone, to avoid the AoO hurt of standing up. Which is just fine.

My physically wimpy Gnome Sylvan Sorcerer with the Axe Beak found this approach works REALLY, REALLY WELL. It's like having an always-present bodyguard with a polearm. The axe beak protects you by greatly reducing incoming damage - it trips and damages any non-reach foe who tries to get close enough to hit you. Don't underestimate this effect in Pathfinder, it's HUGE.

My gnome enhanced this approach further with one teamwork feat, Paired Opportunists. Your PC then carries a longspear - don't need good stats, don't even need to be proficient (druids are not), just need to threaten at reach to give your axe beak +4 on all AoOs, including +4 CMB to trip. Your axe beak then gets +8 (plus eight!!!) to hit foes who try to stand up. The approach works just fine without Paired Opportunists, which is just frosting on the cake.


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Magda Luckbender wrote:
*amazing advice*

Now, THAT, is the kind of clever thinking and advice that makes my day. Thank you. Now, I will need to work the Paired Opportunist into my feat progression. I will be proficient with the longspear due to my Spiritualist levels and I even have a use for the longpear elsewhere...

Silver Crusade

Good luck.

Suggestion: unless your allies are also optimized you may be in danger of overshadowing them. You and your mount, together, will have superior combat ability compared to many melee builds. E.g. You'll out-damage a specialized sword-and-board Fighter about two to one, while also providing more battlefield control and taking less damage, all the while also providing a defensive screen for your squishy allies. Same goes for most two-weapon fighters and most DEX-based melee builds - your sorcerer might make them look like amateurs.

I played this build in online PFS, where most people have optimized builds, so we never seriously overshadowed anyone. That said, I remember sometimes holding back to avoid stealing glory from the melee specialists. It's a very powerful build and should be used with care.

Sometimes, when we felt like showing off & in order to disrespect an enemy, we would eschew taking any Standard Actions. We'd position ourselves and end our turn without taking any action. Other players would goggle at first. Then the AoOs would start rolling in and comprehension would dawn. They would understand that any action we might take on our turn paled in comparison to our passive combat power.

Hint: at higher levels you often deal with large creatures with reach. This shuts your bird down hard. Until, that is, you realize that Druid/Companion Spell Sharing allows certain spells to work that otherwise would not. Enlarge Person is a standout. The Pathfinder developers have clearly and explicitly ruled that Enlarge Person works with Spell Sharing, and that it causes the companion to enlarge even though it's not a humanoid. Please verify this for yourself. This gets you a Huge mount with 15' reach that still get 3 AoOs. Suddenly your bird starts crushing ogres, trolls, and giants in the same way it crushed goblins. To the best of my knowledge not one published pathfinder adventure, ever, features a dexterous Giant with Combat Reflexes wielding a reach weapon. Probably because it would slaughter an entire party of non-optimized iconic PCs. So find a way to cast Enlarge Person.

Final suggestion: with careful tactical movement you can generally completely avoid nearly all enemy Full Attacks, while always being able to deliver one yourself. For this reason this build is particularly effective against foes with multiple natural attacks, such as ghouls and trolls. Your mount probably wants to be acrobatic.


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Magda Luckbender wrote:
Suggestion: unless your allies are also optimized you may be in danger of overshadowing them. You and your mount, together, will have superior combat ability compared to many melee builds. E.g. You'll out-damage a specialized sword-and-board Fighter about two to one, while also providing more battlefield control and taking less damage, all the while also providing a defensive screen for your squishy allies. Same goes for most two-weapon fighters and most DEX-based melee builds - your sorcerer might make them look like amateurs.

There will be no issues with overshadowing anyone. Besides most of my group being fairly good at optimization, I am not the kind of player that likes to be in the spotlight. I've learned that characters in the spotlight tend to be bigger targets. Any time I make use of this sort of tactic will be purely in self-defense, or the defense of one of my allies who has suddenly come into danger territory.

Quote:
Hint: at higher levels you often deal with large creatures with reach. This shuts your bird down hard. Until, that is, you realize that Druid/Companion Spell Sharing allows certain spells to work that otherwise would not. Enlarge Person is a standout. The Pathfinder developers have clearly and explicitly ruled that Enlarge Person works with Spell Sharing, and that it causes the companion to enlarge even though it's not a humanoid. Please verify this for yourself.

There is no issue at our table with using Share Spells properly. If I can target myself with the spell, I can share it with the animal companion. That is how we use it.

Silver Crusade

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One other note: I once joined a highly optimized group for high level play. I was shocked to learn that they all considered clerics only useful as healbots. They had never seen an effective combat-optimized cleric and didn't know it was possible. They thought all clerics are just for healing.

I took up the challenge and built an over-the-top hyper-optimized PFS-legal all-cleric combat monster Clericzilla. To top it off, I gave this PC healing ability that was superior to their standard healbot cleric build. After a few sessions they were forced to revise their opinions. I retired the PC shortly thereafter. Everyone agreed it was the most powerful build at the table and the most combat-powerful Pathfinder build they knew of.

Here's how the build works. Please don't do this to your table unless it's truly and deeply warranted. Please don't use these tips without also providing your GM with appropriate warnings. On-demand AOE daze will trivialize every standard combat encounter. Your GM should not allow it without careful consideration. Here's how it worked at 9th level:

* Dazing Hangover cleric with versatile channeling, selective channeling, quick channel, alignment channel, high charisma, and a Phylactery of Positive Channeling. Channel positive energy primarily and negative energy via Versatile Channel. Daze all vulnerable foes within 30 feet who fail their save. 2d6 negative channel damage to all foes, no save, is a minor side effect. Nothing in the Pathfinder bestiary has any extra resistance to Daze. GM house ruled a few reasonable immunity oversights, which made things more sporting. Gets ~10 channels per day.

* Reach cleric of the Animal (Feather) domain and Plant (Growth) domains. Used the above axe-beak animal companion mount trick. Paired Opportunists.

* Feather domain gives flight via the Fly spell. The huge flightless axe beak bird takes to the air again, in defiance of Physics! Thank you Spell Sharing.

* Clericzilla buffs also work via Spell Sharing. So self-buffs affect both you and your mount. Stacked buffs yield absurdly high to hit and damage bonuses. When fully buffed you can trip (overcome CMD) the fiercest melee foes, and thus generally prevent them from attacking you.

* A healing nova, via Quick Channel, burns 3 daily channel uses for +14d6 healing to your entire party. Or BOTH daze all foes AND heal all allies +7d6 HP. In one turn.

* Reach tactics prevent foes from ever getting a Full Attack on you. You can always Full Attack.

* Reach tactics reduce incoming damage. Foes must resort to missile fire to have any chance of harming you. Take appropriate precautions.

* The combination of on-demand 30 foot radius selective Daze, plus reach tactic and trips against foes who make their save, provides massive Battlefield Control. Not even Dazing Fireballs can compare, as those have a smaller radius and drain resources faster.

* Alignment channel lets dazing Variant Channel (Rulership) work against outsiders! Packs of otherwise-fearsome demons will flee in fear and be unable to escape as your allies cut them down! Note: Wrath of the Righteous adventure path can easily be adjusted to allow a Dazing Alignment Channel cleric. Just add more waves of demons and use up the 10 channels per day.

* Enlarge Person increases your reach to 20' and your Huge flying axebeak mount's reach to 15'. Rule the skies. Dragons will flee in helpless terror at your approach. Seriously. With proper protective buffs you are immune to most dragonbreath. They are not immune to your Daze.

* In extremis you can use Dazing Channel twice per round. Every foe on the field must make two consecutive difficult saves or lose their turn! I challenge readers to envision a Pathfinder combat this will not trivialize.

* You are also a full prepared Tier I spellcaster. As a hobby.


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Yeah... I'm not looking for that level of effectiveness. Merely that of an unassuming old man that has a few powerful tricks up his sleeve.

Speaking of channel energy, I've determined that I will be able to pull that off as well with Wasp Familiar (worshipping Calistra) and taking Adept Channel. Already approved with the GM and he's decided to use my Caster Level to base the feat's power off of, rather than class level. Part of the character's background is that he used to be a guild master and due to that, his Druid casting is going to be effectively 8th Level, despite only having five levels in the class (see kintargo opera house for reference, though different home game flavor).

So, I am rather pleased with how the character is turning out. Due to taking the above mentioned channeling feat(s), Ill have to use the Phantom Animal as my animal Companion/phantom until I can take Eldritch Heritage or Boon Companion, but I think it's worth it.


Share spells also says

Spells cast in this way must come from a class that grants an animal companion. 

Enlarge person isn't a druid spell.

You can't cast it on a druid pet.

Silver Crusade

@Cavall: Incorrect. Enlarge Person is a cleric Domain Spell with the Plant(Growth) domain, thus it is on the spell list for the cleric in the linked example. The Animal Companion comes from the cleric Animal (Feather) domain. Both come from the same class. Share spells applies. Thank you for your editorial vigilance!

Share Spells wrote:
The druid may cast a spell with a target of “You” on her animal companion (as a touch range spell) instead of on herself. A druid may cast spells on her animal companion even if the spells normally do not affect creatures of the companion’s type (animal). Spells cast in this way must come from a class that grants an animal companion. This ability does not allow the animal to share abilities that are not spells, even if they function like spells.

The trick of casting Enlarge Person on your Animal Companion only works for a cleric with both the Plant(Growth) subdomain and the Animal domain. It also works for a Sylvan Sorcerer. Most classes with an animal companion (including Druids!) can't combine Enlarge Person with Share Spells.


So curious what would be the stats for your classic Magda, that's always a struggle for me with a cleric


Magda Luckbender wrote:

@Cavall: Incorrect. Enlarge Person is a cleric Domain Spell with the Plant(Growth) domain, thus it is on the spell list for the cleric in the linked example. The Animal Companion comes from the cleric Animal (Feather) domain. Both come from the same class. Share spells applies. Thank you for your editorial vigilance!

Share Spells wrote:
The druid may cast a spell with a target of “You” on her animal companion (as a touch range spell) instead of on herself. A druid may cast spells on her animal companion even if the spells normally do not affect creatures of the companion’s type (animal). Spells cast in this way must come from a class that grants an animal companion. This ability does not allow the animal to share abilities that are not spells, even if they function like spells.

The trick of casting Enlarge Person on your Animal Companion only works for a cleric with both the Plant(Growth) subdomain and the Animal domain. It also works for a Sylvan Sorcerer. Most classes with an animal companion (including Druids!) can't combine Enlarge Person with Share Spells.

It isn't incorrect when your statement is "Hint: at higher levels you often deal with large creatures with reach. This shuts your bird down hard. Until, that is, you realize that Druid/Companion Spell Sharing allows certain spells to work that otherwise would not. "

When you add qualifiers beyond the statement, like it's no longer druid/companion spell sharing but instead sorcerer ot cleric then sure. But that doesn't make the above statement true it's just goal post moving

Silver Crusade

@Cavall: You are absolutely correct! When I wrote that I forgot I was dealing with a Druid, not with one of the classes able to combine Enlarge Person with Share Spells. Thanks for the correction and editorial vigilance!

Silver Crusade

ekibus wrote:
So curious what would be the stats for your classic Magda, that's always a struggle for me with a cleric

Directly out of the original Reach Cleric guide.

Here's Magda Luckbender's character sheet, which I've not touched for years, not since she reached 11th level via SLOW PFS advancement. Perhaps I'll bring her out of retirement some time for an 11th level adventure.


Magda Luckbender wrote:
ekibus wrote:
So curious what would be the stats for your classic Magda, that's always a struggle for me with a cleric

Directly out of the original Reach Cleric guide.

Here's Magda Luckbender's character sheet, which I've not touched for years, not since she reached 11th level via SLOW PFS advancement. Perhaps I'll bring her out of retirement some time for an 11th level adventure.

Such a high Strength and such a low Charisma! Why did you do that? The character is based on Channel Energy, right? Both the DC and number of Channels/day are affected by you CH?

I see you are using Glaive, and Glaive is Shelyn's favored weapon. Are there any in-game benefits to using the deity's favored weapon, or did you just stick with Glaive for flavor/roleplaying? Personally, I favor Lucerne Hammer or Horsechopper for Reach Polearms.

Is variant channeling PFS Legal?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Magda Luckbender wrote:

One other note: I once joined a highly optimized group for high level play. I was shocked to learn that they all considered clerics only useful as healbots. They had never seen an effective combat-optimized cleric and didn't know it was possible. They thought all clerics are just for healing.

I ...n mount trick. Paired Opportunists.

* Feather domain gives flight via the Fly spell. The huge flightless axe beak bird takes to the air again, in defiance of Physics! Thank you Spell Sharing.

* Clericzilla buffs also work via Spell Sharing. So...

Please which diety has Animal, Plant domains and rulership in their portfolio for variant channel?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Scott Wilhelm wrote:
Magda Luckbender wrote:
ekibus wrote:
So curious what would be the stats for your classic Magda, that's always a struggle for me with a cleric

Directly out of the original Reach Cleric guide.

Here's Magda Luckbender's character sheet, which I've not touched for years, not since she reached 11th level via SLOW PFS advancement. Perhaps I'll bring her out of retirement some time for an 11th level adventure.

Suc...

Is variant channeling PFS Legal?

Last time I checked. However PFS clerics must pick a deity. So that’s Horus, Ra, Iomedae, or Olheon? I am guessing Dispater is out. None of these deities have both Animal and Plant domains so not sure how the Daze Enlarged Axebeak Cleric build works...but I am a bit fuzzy on all the rules so I am probably missing something.

Silver Crusade

Magda Luckbender is NOT offensively hyper-optimized. She's just a typical, slightly non-optimal reach-build evangelist cleric who made 11th level in PFS on the SLOW path. She's a melee combatant and channels positive energy on a purely recreational basis. I would not bring a game-breaking build to the table without a good reason. Wanting to convince people that clerics are not just healbots is a good reason.

If in doubt about why a cleric might want high strength please read the reach cleric guide. It's all about Action Economy.

Reach Cleric Guide wrote:

There are a number of guides to various styles of Clerics, and they all possess the same inherent problem:

Action Economy. Or more specifically, what to do with the Standard Action each turn.
At level 1, Clerics are completely martial. With only 3 or 4 non-cantrip spells per day, they're going to basically
be a fighter that can cast Cure Light a few times. They simply can't cast enough spells to be any sort of "caster
character". At level 1, there's not a problem with Action Economy: each action is being spent doing some sort
of attack.

At level 20, Clerics are completely caster. The get far more value out of casting a spell than they do by
attacking. Why do a standard attack if you can summon a Storm Giant that will do more damage over the
course of a battle while soaking up damage? Why do a quickened Righteous Might when you can do a
quickened Wall of Stone? At level 20, there's not much problem with the Action Economy either: you use
magic if you've got a standard action to work with.

And in between those two levels? The Cleric is a strange mix between the two directions, which intersect in a
very bad way: The Standard Action. Unless a Full Attack is involved, both the martial and spellcasting require
the round's standard action, which means you have to choose which half of the character to use. It's especially
bad if you play a character through a wide range of levels - all those martial feats and abilities you took early on
have to look on sadly while your character spends most of their time in battle casting spells.
Fortunately, there's a build that gets around this limitation: a Reach Cleric

What's a Reach Cleric?

A Reach Cleric uses a Longspear and smart tactics to do full spellcasting while using Combat Reflexes and
Attacks of Opportunity to deal out martial damage.
One common example would be the Reach Cleric
positioning themselves 15 feet away from the enemy and then casting a spell. If the enemy wants to close the
distance, the Reach Cleric will get the attacks they didn't take during their own turn.

This means the martial aspect and the spellcasting aspect no longer conflict over the standard action. The
spellcasting is done on the Reach Cleric's turn, while the damage dealing is done on the foe's turn.

Two Neutral or Evil deities have Rulership in their portfolio: Horus and Dispater. Neither of those have the Plant(Growth) subdomain, so one must either choose a different Domain or choose the Seperatist archetype for Plant(Growth), which seems to not conflict with Variant Channeling. Neutral Horus has the Animal(Feather) domain. The obscenely-gamebreaking build I reference is a Separatist Variant Channeling cleric of Horus.

Variant Channeling is a PFS-legal thing in Ultimate Magic. Be careful, though, because the Variant Channel rules were released with little or no playtesting and have some inconsistencies.


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Scott Wilhelm wrote:


Is variant channeling PFS Legal?

Better be. Our Seeker-level group (Eyes of the Ten and beyond) has a Dazing Cleric of Dispater who is devastating.

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