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Friend wants to expand his caster experience. He has played most kinds of casters more or less successfully. Buffs, de-buffs, SoD, charm, evokers, healers, etc... However, he hasn't had much luck with battlefield control spells. The few times he has tried to use a wall, fog, pit, or entangle spell it hasn't had much beneficial effect. Often the players felt like it hampered them at least as much as the enemy. So he pretty much just stopped using them.
Now he wants to give it a serious attempt. He is looking for advice on how to build it and which spells to use. But also on strategies to use the spells and not mess up his allies.
He prefers spontaneous casters over prepared casters. Spellbook casters are his least favorite. However, for this he is willing to consider any build.
Any help is much appreciated.
Using battlefield control tactics has to be done smartly. It doesn’t help your party if your friend casts entangle with the enemies in the middle, because now in order to reach them they have to also go in to the entanglement.
Glitterdust is one of the first control spells you can cast as a wizard and is a staple even at higher levels. Aqueous Orb, black tentacles, and any of the Wall Pit or Cloud spells make for good control. A popular combo is black tentacles with stinking cloud cast over it.
To be really good at battlefield control you have to understand your party’s own tactics. It doesn’t help anyone if the barbarian charges off on their own all the time but if that’s what they do you need to account for that. Same with the rogue wanting a flank position.
I would recommend picking up the fleeting spell feat. The duration is halved but it allows dismissing a spell possible as a swift action when it wasn’t possible before, and doesn’t take up higher level spell slots.
I’d stay away from most of the pit spells unless you work out with the party ways to avoid it- ending your turn at the edge of a pit requires a reflex save after all.
Wall spells can help force enemies to a choke point where the frontline can pick them off one by one.
Cloud spells help cover a retreat or even debilitate them like with stinking cloud. It also helps you not have to deal with ranged targets for a bit- just cast a cloud waaay over there where the archers are and now you can focus on the melee threats while the archers have to change position to see you.
You could hydrolic push to move enemies closer to the fighter, or move them away as a readied action when your fighter is about to be attacked to push the enemy away from your fighter(potentially invalidating your fighter as a target for being attacked)
Use walls to split your enemies. So you only have to fight half of them at a time. Then when the first half is killed, dismiss the wall and fight the other half. At worst they have to spend a few turns moving around the wall (still a significant amount of protection, as they could potentially have been full-round attacking in that time instead)
Use mist or darkness (especially if everyone in your party has darkvision) to block line of sight. Use of this is most effective when dealing with ranged targets.
Soften earth and stone is great because you can selective hit most of your enemies and leave out your allies. You can inhibit movespeed (and ability to take 5 ft steps) therefore preventing the ability to use full round attacks if they want to follow your allies.
Another great spell is Black Tentacles. This can destroy your enemy backlines. and you can either range the enemy backline or focus only on enemies not in the spell range. The goal for spells like this is to separate enemy forces generally.
The overall goal for Battlefield control is to put an Action Penalty on your enemies. Find ways to make you enemies spend more actions either in attempts to get to you; stop, slow or delay their ability to full attack you; and limit enemy vision(really hard to attack what you cant see).
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I'm not sure I would classify Glitterdust as a battlefield control spell. It doesn't deny an enemy the use of an area. Though it's chance to temporarily blind is an excellent debuff.
I personally have had pretty good luck with Grease as a low level BC spell. Though I have used it to on a weapon to disarm more than on an area.
We will definitely find Fleeting Spell. I don't remember seeing that before.
Anymore advice on a build? Druid seems to have several nice spells. Most of them seem to be conjuration spells. So I'm guessing we would want Spell Focus Conjuration.
All of the pits are fantastic. I enjoy using an aqueous orb to sweep medium threats up and put them in the pit for me.
I've gotten a pretty good amount of mileage out of Stumble Gap, for a level 1 spell.
Grease is obvious. Glue Seal isn't bad.
I love Stone Call at earlier levels for a little bit of damage and a huge area of difficult terrain.
I've been experimenting with summoning something and throwing Nauseating Trail on it, with somewhat mixed results so far.
Anything that blocks line of sight is usually going to help someone.
A summoner is also a battlefield control caster, in that they create a short term, persistent effect on the battlefield at a point of their choice which absorbs attacks, provides flanking bonuses, threatens the surrounding areas and blocks movement through the designated squares.
There's even the tongue-in-cheek use of the Mount spell known as Wall of Horse.
For spontaneous casters such as the Sorcerer or Oracle, the Summon Monster spells are a good option to pad out their spell list and provide flexibility in choice when you have a limited selection of spells to work with.
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You need to either rely on your allies to use your battlefield control spells to good effect, or you need ways to let your allies ignore the effects. Adding spells like air step, freedom of movement, smoke school's smoke sight ability, spider climb, life bubble, and enlarge, all help ensure that you're mostly hindering your enemies. Your choices will also change depending on whether your players are ranged, have reach, flight, and so on.
To some extent, your allies should have some means of ignoring some hindering conditions and some means of leveraging your crowd control effects. If not, then your allies probably aren't that great and focusing on supporting them may be a waste of time. Similarly, if your allies don't understand what your spells do, then you are going to struggle while trying to support them.
I recommend enlarge and pit if you have lots of melee characters. Make sure the melee know that around the pit is an area they don't want to be in, and cast the spell so that the outer ring of the pit is the most accessible path to melee for the enemies. Use enlarge to give your melee reach so that they can attack around the pit and get aoos as the enemy awkwardly advances. I wouldn't bother with the higher level pit spells. Add wall spells when you get higher level and your enlarge spells will let your allies attack over the walls.
For fog spells, I can't recommend Air(smoke) school enough. Add life bubble in there when you want to start using more lethal versions of the fog spells. The alternative is getting everyone fog cutting lenses or goz masks. These are all cheap enough, but allies may resent having to spend 8k on glasses rather than a +2 weapon. Dense allies will simply not buy them, then complain when they're blinded in combat.
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Ok, here is a first pass. Let me know what you think.
I was thinking Spell Specialist archetype. That would allow the signature spells to be dismissable as a swift or standard action without needing Fleeting spell and the half duration. Not sure though.
Male sylph arcanist (spell specialist) 9 (Pathfinder RPG Advanced Class Guide 8, 78, Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 2 258)
CG Medium outsider (native)
Init +9; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +15
AC 13, touch 13, flat-footed 10 (+3 Dex)
hp 47 (9d6+9)
Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +8
Resist sonic 5
Speed 30 ft.
Special Attacks arcane reservoir (5/12), arcanist exploits (counterspell[ACG], potent magic[ACG], quick study[ACG]), consume spells
Arcanist (Spell Specialist) Spells Prepared (CL 9th; concentration +14)
. . 4th (4/day)—black tentacles, wall of blindness/deafness[ACG] (DC 20)
. . 3rd (5/day)—ash storm[UM], distracting cacophony[UM], loathsome veil[UM] (DC 19)
. . 2nd (5/day)—create pit[APG] (DC 17), frost fall[UC] (DC 17), garden of peril (DC 18), web (DC 17)
. . 1st (6/day)—alarm, glue seal[ACG], grease, hydraulic push[APG], obscuring mist
. . 0 (at will)—dancing lights, detect magic, detect poison, ghost sound (DC 15), mending, message, prestidigitation
Str 7, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 21, Wis 14, Cha 7
Base Atk +4; CMB +2; CMD 15
Feats Combat Casting, Greater Spell Penetration, Improved Initiative, Persistent Spell[APG], Spell Penetration
Traits pragmatic activator, reactionary, seeker
Skills Fly +15, Knowledge (arcana) +17, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +14, Knowledge (engineering) +12, Knowledge (geography) +12, Knowledge (history) +12, Knowledge (local) +14, Knowledge (nature) +14, Knowledge (nobility) +12, Knowledge (planes) +14, Knowledge (religion) +14, Linguistics +9, Perception +15, Sleight of Hand +4, Spellcraft +17, Stealth +7, Use Magic Device +14; Racial Modifiers +4 Stealth
Languages Aquan, Auran, Common, Gnome, Halfling, Ignan, Terran, Undercommon
SQ breeze-kissed[ARG], paranoid, signature spell, signature spell, signature spell, signature spell
Other Gear arcanist starting spellbook
1st-level signature spell (Glue Seal) +2 to concentration checks with chosen spell. Use 1 reservoir to alter spell.
2nd-level signature spell (Garden of Peril) +2 to concentration checks with chosen spell. Use 1 reservoir to alter spell.
3rd-level signature spell (Loathsome Veil) +2 to concentration checks with chosen spell. Use 1 reservoir to alter spell.
4th-level signature spell (Wall of Blindness/Deafness) +2 to concentration checks with chosen spell. Use 1 reservoir to alter spell.
Arcane Reservoir +2 DC or CL (12/day) (Su) Pool of points fuel exploits, or can expend to add +2 CL or DC while cast spell.
Breeze-Kissed (1/day) +2 AC versus nonmagical ranged attacks. Bull rush/trip with air 1/day within 30 ft.
Combat Casting +4 to Concentration checks to cast while on the defensive.
Consume Spells (1/day) (Su) As a move action, expend a spell slot to add its spell levels to arcane reservoir.
Counterspell (Su) Use 1 reservoir as an imm action, counter with spell 1 level higher or same spell at +5 bonus.
Darkvision (60 feet) You can see in the dark (black and white only).
Energy Resistance, Sonic (5) You have the specified Energy Resistance against Sonic attacks.
Paranoid Aid Another DC 15 for attempts to help you.
Persistent Spell Foes must succeed at 2 saves or suffer the spell's full effects.
Quick Study (Ex) Use 1 reservoir as a full rd action, consult spellbook to switch out mem spell (provokes AoO).
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Effects that alter the battlefield aren't usually effects that spell resistance works on (Grease, Obscuring Mist, Web, Create Pit, etc.), so stacking Spell Penetration isn't that useful. You might be better off replacing Spell Pen with Spell Focus (conjuration), especially since most of the battlefield control spells are Conjuration, anyway.
Spell Penetration is nice for the wall spells that you have (like blindness/deafness) but you have enough tools in your arsenal to cast non-SR applicable spells if you come across targets with high SR. So I'd keep Spell Penetration but swap Greater S.P for Fleeting Spell. It'll be nice to have on different spells, and remember you don't have to apply the metamagic to the spell when you prepare it, you can cast it spontaneously too, it just requires a full round to cast instead. I'd also swap Spell Focus (Conjuration) with Combat Casting.
You're a d6 HD full caster specializing in battlefield control. If you're in need of Combat Casting you're failing at your job of battlefield control. If you really feel you need that bonus, pick up a tunic of careful casting instead. If you're grappled, there are a couple of cheap ways to deal with that.
The first is to get a lesser talisman of Freedom (2500 gp, IIRC) which grants you Freedom of Movement for 3 rounds if you are grappled or restrained. If you find yourself getting grappled a lot you can invest in a Greater talisman at 25,000 gp but you have to consider if you'll actually be grappled at least 10 times in your career to justify getting a Greater one over investing in multiple lesser talismans.
The second is to allocate one of your skills that you get from your Int headband to Escape Artist and invest in a wand of Grease (750 gp). If you get grappled, move action pull out the wand and standard action cast it on yourself. Suddenly you're at a +10 to your escape artist check and a +10 to your CMD to avoid being grappled, and you have full ranks, giving you a pretty good chance at escaping.