How to make a Hellknight magus work?


Advice


We learn from the Inner Sea World Guide, p.275: "Many Hellknight signifers are magi." I haven't read the Hellknight source book, but how would we efficiently build one? A magus gets heavy armor proficiency without arcane spell failure at level 13, but do we have to wait that long? Does anyone have build ideas?

J


Requirements

To qualify to become a Hell Knight signifer, a character must fulfill all of the following criteria.
Alignment: Any lawful.
Armor Proficiency: Proficient with medium armor.
Feats: Arcane Armor Training or Warrior Priest.
Skills: Intimidate 2 ranks, Knowledge (planes) 5 ranks, Spellcraft 5 ranks.
Spells: Able to cast 3rd-level spells.
Special: The character must slay a devil with Hit Dice greater than his own. This victory must be witnessed by a Hell Knight.

Scarab Sages

Is signifier armor medium or heavy? Magus gets medium armor at 7th, so you could go Magus 7/Signifier 10/Magus 3. You would never get to Magus 13 for no arcane spell failure, but Signifier greatly reduces Arcane Spell Failure due to its class abilities and Arcane Armor Training/Arcane Armor Mastery.


So I didn't know this class at all for my previous post, but there's a link to the prestige class in the quote above.

Aside from getting passive reductions in ASF at 3rd and 8th level (character level 10 and 15 if you go into it asap as a magus), you also get Arcane Armour Mastery at level 2 (character level 9). This would qualify you for SIGNIFIER ARMOUR TRAINING, which means you could wear Hellkingt Plate with only a 5% ASF by character level 9 (for the cost of a swift action).


Since Hellknight palate is a type of armor not a specific armor it can also be made out of special material. Mithral Hellknight plate may be costly but is would reduce the arcane failure down when using Arcane Armor Mastery. Spending gold is often more efficient that spending a feat.

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You either take the Mindblade archetype (psychic caster, so no arcane spell failure), or Deep Marshal (heavy armor at level 9), or Armored Battlemage (but that one is a pretty bad choice otherwise).

You could still cast spells without somatic components, but there's not enough of those for a feasible build.

The best option, frankly, is to use Glamered armor to get a set of light armor that looks like heavy armor. That's only 2700 gp.


Unfortunately, Path of the Hellknight didn't update Hellknight Signifer to be good for arcane casting classes that have their own way of getting around Arcane Spell Failure (in which case Arcane Armor Training is a just a painful feat tax), nor to be good for 6/9 casting classes more generally (it is really designed for 9/9 casters, although it isn't the worst prestige class for 6/9 casters).

Note that Armored Battlemage Magus gets Medium Armor at 1st level and Heavy Armor at 7th level, but it's otherwise a terrible archetype (trades out all ranks of Spell Combat AND the ability to enhance their weapon, as well as the Magus Arcana gained at 3rd and 18th levels). But as noted above, this doesn't get you off the hook for needing Arcane Armor Training -- only way (1 of 2) to do that would be to dip 1 level in Cleric, Inquisitor, or Oracle (conceptually Warpriest, but Rules As Written doesn't qualify), and then get Warrior Priest, which would actually be moderately useful on a Magus if only they could qualify. Only other way (2 of 2) would be to go VMC Oracle and have a Charisma of at least 10, and use the Orison you get at 7th level to qualify for Warrior Priest (except that since this eats your 7th level Character Feat, it doesn't work unless you retrain something else to get it). Of course, VMC Oracle eats more feats than just getting Arcane Armor Training, so you had better be able to get something REALLY good out of the Revelation you get at 3rd level (and it had better not be a level-dependent Revelation, because for the purposes of determining effect you are considered to be an Oracle 6 levels lower).

Edit #1: Semi-Ninja'd. But Rules As Written, since Mindblade Magus is an Occult caster and not Arcane or Divine, they can't get either Arcane Armor Training or Warrior Priest without dipping or VMC Oracle, and thus has no good way to qualify for Hellknight Signifer.

Edit #2: Deep Marshal isn't as terrible as Armored Battlemage. Losing Illusion spells (especially Vanish/Invisibility/Greater Invisibility) and Necromancy spells (Chill Touch) hurts, but at least you still have Spell Combat, and you get some Sorcerer/Wizard spells that are not on the normal Magus spell list.

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Well frankly, the Hellknight Signifer prestige class is pretty bad overall (and especially bad on an arcane caster). So to play a Hellknight Magus I'd recommend ignoring this and going straight Magus instead. The main question then becomes how to make an effective Magus that gets heavy armor as early as possible, since Hellknights take pride in wearing heavy armor everywhere.

As a Magus, you really don't want to spend a swift action on mitigating your spell failure, so Arcane Armor Training would be a feat tax that you'd otherwise ignore, and getting AA Mastery doesn't help you. Assiduous Gaze is flavorful but not that powerful (and if you really want, you have spells for that via Spell Blending). Other than that, the archetype just doesn't do a whole lot, and it has lower hit points (no FCB) and fort save, and doesn't advance your arcana or weapon enchantment. Yeah, stick with straight Magus instead.


^Hellknight Signifer would be not too shabby on a Cleric or on certain builds of Oracle, Sorcerer(*), or Wizard(*). But it just doesn't cut the cheese for a Magus, so for a Hellknight Magus, sticking with pure Magus is the way to go if you are allowed to (see if they will let you use spells to substitute for Signifer-specific abilities that might otherwise be considered required of your station in the organization once you pass The Test).

(*)Depending upon choice of class feature options that don't depend so much upon class level; for Cleric and Oracle, the Catechesis class feature solves this problem; for Sorcerer and Wizard, the class features other than spellcasting are sometimes mostly or completely level-independent if you get them at all, such as the Versatile Evocation ability of Wizard (Evocation (Admixturer)). For Arcanist, Shaman (for whom Catechesis was not updated to do anything), and Witch, and for all 6/9 and 4/9 casters, the class features not taken by prestiging out are just too numerous and too level-dependent.


Well this is all very depressing, but I suppose clarifying too. I liked the idea of being a gish in full Hellknight armor (with the benefits Hellknights get from it), but perhaps it is not to be. A lot of you guys I've seen around here and respect, and if you can't figure out a good way to make it work I'm just going to declare it dead then.

Is a straight magus the best way to build a great gish, or are there better alternatives out there?

J


JDawg75 wrote:
I liked the idea of being a gish in full Hellknight armor (with the benefits Hellknights get from it), but perhaps it is not to be.

Well, it's not like it wasn't easily possible. It's just that the prestige class sucks, especially for an arcane caster where it has very litle useful class features. I especially don't really get which "benefits Hellknights get from it" you're referring to.

Also, Hellknight Leather (and Hellknight Half-plate) is "hellknight armor", too.

JDawg75 wrote:
Is a straight magus the best way to build a great gish, or are there better alternatives out there?

As it is the case in Pathfinder 99% of the time, what's best depends on what you actually want. Magus is for using offensive (touch) spells in combat, especially damaging ones. That's a pretty unique playstyle, but there are other gish type classes and archetypes out there, which may be better fitting for your goals.

Even if you're strictly talking about arcane caster (not as if the discintion between arcane and divine casting is meaningful in Pathfinder, and that's without touching psychic casting and alchemy), there's Bloodrager, Child of Acavna and Amaznen Fighter, Synthesist Summoner, Questioner Investigator, Skald, Archaeologist Bard, Eldritch Scoundrel Rogue, Dawnflower Dervish Bard, Cabalist Vigilante, Warlock Vigilante, Bard, and polymorph spells using full casters, roughly sorted from most martial to most castery. In addition, there's Summoner, Hag-Haunted Spiritualist, and Magical Child Vigilante (where the job is split between two entities). And that's without prestige classes, which, while generally superfluous in Pathfinder thanks to hybrid(ish) classes and archetypes, still exist, including the classics Eldritch Knight and Dragon Disciple.

Eldritch Knight using the Arcing Weapon and Explosive Weapon feats deserve notice for being an interesting variant to Magus.


Derklord wrote:
JDawg75 wrote:
I liked the idea of being a gish in full Hellknight armor (with the benefits Hellknights get from it), but perhaps it is not to be.
Well, it's not like it wasn't easily possible. It's just that the prestige class sucks, especially for an arcane caster where it has very litle useful class features. I especially don't really get which "benefits Hellknights get from it" you're referring to.

I wouldn't call Hellknight Signifer absolutely terrible overall, even if it isn't the best prestige class. The list of prestige classes has some real stinkers. But it IS absolutely terrible for any caster that has a lot of class features (or a few juicy ones) other than their spells, including all 6/9 casters, including Magi. If you are a Wizard with Arcane School Powers that don't scale (or at least don't scale much) with level and of which the 8th level Arcane School Power is humdrum, or a Cleric stuck with Domains having properties like that, or a Sorcerer whose upper level Bloodline Powers are lousy or otherwise unusable for your build, then it's not terrible, even if not the best.

Derklord wrote:
Also, Hellknight Leather (and Hellknight Half-plate) is "hellknight armor", too.

Checking the page for Heavy Armor, Hellknight Half-Plate seems inferior to Hellknight Plate in absolutely every way, including those most pressing for arcane casters. Wonder why they even have it? At least Hellknight Leather has some legitimate uses, including but not limited to offering lower Arcane Spell Failure chance.

Derklord wrote:
JDawg75 wrote:
Is a straight magus the best way to build a great gish, or are there better alternatives out there?

As it is the case in Pathfinder 99% of the time, what's best depends on what you actually want. Magus is for using offensive (touch) spells in combat, especially damaging ones. That's a pretty unique playstyle, but there are other gish type classes and archetypes out there, which may be better fitting for your goals.

Even if you're strictly talking about arcane caster (not as if the discintion between arcane and divine casting is meaningful in Pathfinder, and that's without touching psychic casting and alchemy), there's Bloodrager, Child of Acavna and Amaznen Fighter, Synthesist Summoner, Questioner Investigator, Skald, Archaeologist Bard, Eldritch Scoundrel Rogue, Dawnflower Dervish Bard, Cabalist Vigilante, Warlock Vigilante, Bard, and polymorph spells using full casters, roughly sorted from most martial to most castery. In addition, there's Summoner, Hag-Haunted Spiritualist, and Magical Child Vigilante (where the job is split between two entities). And that's without prestige classes, which, while generally superfluous in Pathfinder thanks to hybrid(ish) classes and archetypes, still exist, including the classics Eldritch Knight and Dragon Disciple.

Most of those are at least serviceable, but Child of Acavna and Amaznen Fighter is truly terrible -- play a Myrmidarch Magus instead, which, even with trading out too much for what you get, is still superior in most respects and only falls behind slightly in a couple, and even gets the Armor Training that a Hellknight would want, although slowly. I wish they had come out with a 4/9 Magus (not the same as Bloodrager, but instead a Magus-Fighter backcross hybrid) before they went to 2nd Edition.

Derklord wrote:
Eldritch Knight using the Arcing Weapon and Explosive Weapon feats deserve notice for being an interesting variant to Magus.

I missed seeing those feats. Arcing Weapon gives you a way to add Spellstrike to an Eldritch Knight much earlier than going VMC Magus and without using so many feats, so the usefulness is obvious, but Explosive Weapon seems nearly useless, since in most cases you won't be able to use it without nuking your party unless you invest in Selective Spell and/or immunity for them, and if you invest in that, might as well just cast the spell in the normal way to go off on top of yourself.

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JDawg75 wrote:
I liked the idea of being a gish in full Hellknight armor (with the benefits Hellknights get from it), but perhaps it is not to be.

You can certainly play a gish in heavy armor, I would just not recommend the Signifer prestige class for that.

Derklord wrote:
Also, Hellknight Leather (and Hellknight Half-plate) is "hellknight armor", too.

The description for Hellknights states they wear plate as a matter of pride, and that Hellknight leather is for sailors. A Hellknight gish wouldn't be wearing leather.

JDawg75 wrote:
Is a straight magus the best way to build a great gish, or are there better alternatives out there?

It's hard to compete with Spell Combat; its action economy advantage makes the Magus a natural "best" at most kinds of gish. Of course, it depends on what exactly you want from your gish, and at what level :)

Derklord wrote:
Magus is for using offensive (touch) spells in combat, especially damaging ones.

While that's certainly a good tactic for the Magus, it is a common misconception that it's the only thing a Magus is good at. The Magus spell list also has good crowd control, solid defensive buffs, and unmatched mobility for a melee character.

Obligatory guidebook link.


I really like the idea of several abilities the Hellknight gets, but the goal of a gish might be inappropriate. If I want to be a Hellknight I should build him on another chassis, such as a fighter.

If I want a gish, a Magus is a pretty awesome way to go.

J


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Quote:
How to make a Hellknight magus work?

Roll Profession, or use the downtime system from Ultimate Campaign.

Jokes aside, being a member of the organization without being of the class is the best way.

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