Optimizing cantrips


Advice


I'm not very good at theorycrafting, so I was hoping to get a little help making the best consistent cantrip user.

I think the best class to base a cantrip focused character on would be a rogue. With magical trickster you get to add sneak attack to a cantrip, and you have a lot of wiggle room with skills to make enemies flat footed, via feinting, distracting, etc. I think a thief racket would be best, purely because their debilitations are stronger (Precise debilitation allowing an extra 2d6 or making them flat footed), though scoundrel for the extra charisma boost is a little tempting. Multiclassing sorcerer is probably another good way to go, as they get better attacking cantrip options than a bard, though you lose out on inspire courage. Being a goblin with burn it! would also help with damage. I'll write out the feats I can find that would be good for a cantrip focused style character.

Goblin thief racket rogue

Ancestry feat - burn it!
Level 2 feat - Sorcerer dedication, pick up produce flame and ray of frost, for melee attacking and long range, respectively
Level 4 feat - Magical Trickster
Level 10 feat - Precise Debilitation

So eventually you're dealing 10D4+5+5+6D6 damage per hit, with +31 to hit. There are lots of wiggle room to get feats to do other cool things, but I think that's pretty good. Alternatively there's being an elemental sorcerer which gives extra damage to produce flame, higher charisma, gets better (and earlier) proficiencies for casting, but loses out on sneak attack damage.

Thoughts, or ways to improve the build?


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Being an elemental sorcerer would not boost the damage of produce flame. Blood Magic triggers on spells cast from spell slots or focus spells. Cantrips don't qualify. It's the same thing that prevents Dangerous Sorcery from increasing Cantrip damage.


HammerJack wrote:
Being an elemental sorcerer would not boost the damage of produce flame. Blood Magic triggers on spells cast from spell slots or focus spells. Cantrips don't qualify. It's the same thing that prevents Dangerous Sorcery from increasing Cantrip damage.

Ah, right you are. Well one more point to rogue. I also noticed that while you can get sneak attack with cantrips, you can't do debilitations with them. So some othe kind of attack would need to be done first in order for the extra 2d6 precision damage to apply.


Scoundrel Racket will allow you start with an 18 in Charisma, which is Minor Magic's spellcasting ability.

Good luck!


I was thinking about scoundrel racket, but the precise debilitation seems too good to pass up to me. And extra 2d6 damage vs and extra +1 to hit and damage is tough. To hit would be pretty low without it though.


You'd also need to figure out how to boost spell casting proficiency on a rogue. Multiclassing is the only thing I can think of but that won't get you to legendary.


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Remember that you can gain the benefits of flanking with cantrips thanks to the current wording, whether it is intended or not is another discussion but RAW because you are almost always able to make an unarmed attack you can flank. And if you pick up a whip (you don't need to be proficient, you won't attack with it) you can flank from up to 10 ft. away as long as it is in your hand.

If you ever need the hand again just drop the whip, they are very light weight and cost nothing.


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Quote:
And if you pick up a whip (you don't need to be proficient, you won't attack with it) you can flank from up to 10 ft. away as long as it is in your hand.

That might be raw but seems a bit dodgy to me tbh.

I would certainly not allow it as gm


That's the bad part about picking up thief racket rogue, you'll always be 3 points behind in spell attack (-2 for lower proficiency, -1 for having lower charisma). You can raise proficiency to expert at 12 and master at 18, where full casters get expert at 7, master at 15 and legendary at 19. That and the fact that you can't get item bonuses to spell attacks has me a little worried about how the character would perform.

Very clever idea with whip reach counting as flanking!


Gaulin wrote:

That's the bad part about picking up thief racket rogue, you'll always be 3 points behind in spell attack (-2 for lower proficiency, -1 for having lower charisma). You can raise proficiency to expert at 12 and master at 18, where full casters get expert at 7, master at 15 and legendary at 19. That and the fact that you can't get item bonuses to spell attacks has me a little worried about how the character would perform.

Very clever idea with whip reach counting as flanking!

Does it matter that you're 3 points off the best possible, idealized build for any character who can cast spells? Or does it just matter that you can function effectively at it? Remember that it's all about trade offs - that idealized character who's "3 points ahead" can't do a lot of other things your character can do.

Shadow Lodge

Gaulin wrote:
Ah, right you are. Well one more point to rogue. I also noticed that while you can get sneak attack with cantrips, you can't do debilitations with them. So some othe kind of attack would need to be done first in order for the extra 2d6 precision damage to apply.
The problems with Debilitating Strike are:
  • As noted, they are applied by a successful Strike,
  • They only last until the end of your next turn, and
  • Attack cantrips are typically a two-action cast.
This means your one 'non-cast' action each turn needs to be a successful weapon/unarmed attack against an already flat-footed opponent to apply the debuff, which you can then follow up with your cantrip attack. This leaves you with no actions to maneuver or make your target flat-footed in the first place.

If you want to follow this route, I'd put Debilitating Strike on the 'Abilities that are probably not going to come into play very often' list.

Shadow Lodge

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mrspaghetti wrote:
Gaulin wrote:

That's the bad part about picking up thief racket rogue, you'll always be 3 points behind in spell attack (-2 for lower proficiency, -1 for having lower charisma). You can raise proficiency to expert at 12 and master at 18, where full casters get expert at 7, master at 15 and legendary at 19. That and the fact that you can't get item bonuses to spell attacks has me a little worried about how the character would perform.

Very clever idea with whip reach counting as flanking!

Does it matter that you're 3 points off the best possible, idealized build for any character who can cast spells? Or does it just matter that you can function effectively at it? Remember that it's all about trade offs - that idealized character who's "3 points ahead" can't do a lot of other things your character can do.

To be fair, when the goal is (literally) 'Optimizing cantrips', being three points behind on your attack roll is a fairly big deal...


Mrs. Paghetti is right.
Anytime you pile up on one thing, it will detract from somewhere else. You just have to be prepared for it.
The only other option is to do like me. Play a bard in every campaign if you can get away with it.


A character w/ +3 attack advantage (or spell attack in this instance) does +50% damage when crits are involved. That's a huge difference.
Essentially you have a secondary attack you're using as a primary attack.
And you won't be getting Sneak Attack until 4th with it.

On the plus side, with Produce Flame being melee, you can flank with it without worrying about interpretations of using ranged attacks while flanking.

And there's nothing wrong with using Cantrips for breadth. You can optimize your Cantrips alongside a regular Dex-to-damage stabby build.
It's pretty useful to have energy options plus a long ranged option you don't have to draw and which takes no weight or hands.
Fire & cold weaknesses are fairly common too and often easy to determine, which makes up somewhat for a poor attack role.

I just wouldn't make Cantrips a Rogue's primary shtick.
A full caster w/ MCD Rogue would fare better if wanting that Rogue feel w/ a Cantrip focus. An Int caster for more skills or a Cha caster if you want to pick up some innate Cantrips (if offensive).


Yes debilitating strike is something that's not as important as I originally thought. But getting a melee strike in once every other turn isn't too difficult, I don't think.

I don't care too much about rogue feel, just like the idea of not using weapons or magic items. But sneak attack with cantrips seemed like it could come close to competing with weapon strikes to me, though maybe not.

If those extra +3 to hit is ultimately more important that sneak attack, then maybe just going full caster is a better option.


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Seisho wrote:
Quote:
And if you pick up a whip (you don't need to be proficient, you won't attack with it) you can flank from up to 10 ft. away as long as it is in your hand.

That might be raw but seems a bit dodgy to me tbh.

I would certainly not allow it as gm

Completely agree.

Wielding a whip you're not using to get reach for a flank with a weapon you're not flanking with to get benefits of a flank?
Why not stand back holding a whip, while throwing axes or daggers?
That's a big nope from me.


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Barnabas Eckleworth III wrote:
Seisho wrote:
Quote:
And if you pick up a whip (you don't need to be proficient, you won't attack with it) you can flank from up to 10 ft. away as long as it is in your hand.

That might be raw but seems a bit dodgy to me tbh.

I would certainly not allow it as gm

Completely agree.

Wielding a whip you're not using to get reach for a flank with a weapon you're not flanking with to get benefits of a flank?
Why not stand back holding a whip, while throwing axes or daggers?
That's a big nope from me.

Not saying it is good, just saying that is 100% how it works RAW. And optimisation has nothing to do with doing things thematically. It is about doing things the best you can and getting every bonus possible.

It isn't even a dicey reading, it is very straight forwards.


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Being 3 points behind with spell attack rolls matters more for cantrip-centric rogues than most other casters because cantrips that benefit from sneak attack take 2 actions, require the enemy to be flat-footed, and do nothing on a miss. Meaning that it often takes a lot of set up and it is not going to be a lot of fun doing all of that work, blowing 2 actions, and doing nothing when you roll an 11 on the die when you attack.

A lot of people already feel that casters are not fun because of this situation with cantrips, but adding on the necessity of setting up flat-footed and having cantrips be the "big special thing" your character focuses on, is going to quickly lead to frustration at the table. And as a MC caster, you just are not going to get a big enough pool of truestrikes to make that feel like a tactic you can employ easily.

I have thought about this character often and if I ever tried it, it would definitely want to be a goblin scoundrel with a CHA of 18. Because your ideal set up will be demoralizing a foe that is already flat-footed and then hitting them with the cantrip.


Can we use advanced playtest stuff? Because then I say Flame Oracle multiclassed into rogue to get magical trickster. Flaming Fusillade is the ultimate upgrade to cantrip DPR,and overwhelming energy is probably the runner up. You probably need to spend some resources to diversify other cantrip options, but I'd say it you have divine lance, produce flame, ray or frost, and electric arc you're in good shape.

You've also got some other potent focus spells which you can use more often than other casters. While it isn't cantrips per se it is a renewable resource of note.


Looking through the bestiary, at level 20 at least (where the difference between a rogue and full caster would be most apparent) it looks like most monsters have an AC of 45 to 48, so you'd have to roll really high to hit them even with flanking. So it seems like most of you would be right in that rogue with a focus on cantrips would be a bad idea.

I did look at oracle just now, and yeah they get some focus spells that boost produce flame in different ways. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but maybe that is the optimal cantrip user at later levels.


Gaulin wrote:

Looking through the bestiary, at level 20 at least (where the difference between a rogue and full caster would be most apparent) it looks like most monsters have an AC of 45 to 48, so you'd have to roll really high to hit them even with flanking. So it seems like most of you would be right in that rogue with a focus on cantrips would be a bad idea.

I did look at oracle just now, and yeah they get some focus spells that boost produce flame in different ways. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but maybe that is the optimal cantrip user at later levels.

So, by level 20 you will be sitting on a +34, requiring a 43-46 if you are flanking. Then adjusted for the highly likely status bonuses to attacks and status penalty to their AC at that point (level 20 characters have so many tools)

Not saying it is great, just saying that the need to roll really high isn't really accurate imo (ironic pun intended).


Sorry I was still thinking about thief racket rogue, which is a +31 (master proficiency and +5 charisma). I know flat footed is basically a guarantee, but that's still a fairly high roll, and basically a loss of a turn on a miss.

But yes, a full caster using cantrips isn't terrible. Those extra 3 points really do matter a ton, just a lot less damage than a rogue would do. I always forget to take to hit into account, just look at all the damage dice and drool haha


You are literally better off just attacking even with a short bow.

Outside of electric Arc hitting two targets, cantrips do at or less steam half the damage per action if a equivalent leveled shortbow single attack.

Heck with cleric/cloistered your one shortbow attack will do slightly less damage than a precision ranger attack. Wich is more than double the damage per action it a cantrip and more damage per hit. Due to runes your only -1 behind the cantrip at worst and you can use it every round you don't have to move in top of casting a spell.

Unless I had poor dexterity on my full caster or feel I needed that staff to be functional I'll be using a shortbow majority of the time for my non spell attacks.

But your using a martial base,. Outside of targeting weaknesses I'm not sure if the benefit.


I've been working on a list of ways to acquire Cantrips. Thought this thread might be a good place to post it.


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rainzax wrote:

Scoundrel Racket will allow you start with an 18 in Charisma, which is Minor Magic's spellcasting ability.

Good luck!

I think a Sorcerer Dedication is better than Minor Magic for a cantrip specialist.


NECR0G1ANT wrote:
rainzax wrote:

Scoundrel Racket will allow you start with an 18 in Charisma, which is Minor Magic's spellcasting ability.

Good luck!

I think a Sorcerer Dedication is better than Minor Magic for a cantrip specialist.

Not mutually exclusive.


rainzax wrote:
NECR0G1ANT wrote:
rainzax wrote:

Scoundrel Racket will allow you start with an 18 in Charisma, which is Minor Magic's spellcasting ability.

Good luck!

I think a Sorcerer Dedication is better than Minor Magic for a cantrip specialist.
Not mutually exclusive.

Minor Magic can be useful for picking Cantrips outside your Sorcerer's options (i.e. Shield for a Primal Sorcerer). Since it won't ramp up in Proficiency, the feat's best used on non-offensive Cantrips.


Castilliano wrote:
Minor Magic can be useful for picking Cantrips outside your Sorcerer's options (i.e. Shield for a Primal Sorcerer). Since it won't ramp up in Proficiency, the feat's best used on non-offensive Cantrips.

" If your proficiency in spell attack rolls or spell DCs is expert or better, apply that proficiency to your innate spells, too." So it's fine for attack spells as it ramps up fine.

Castilliano wrote:
On the plus side, with Produce Flame being melee, you can flank with it without worrying about interpretations of using ranged attacks while flanking.

Not so: it lets you "make a melee attack" but flank says "must be wielding melee weapons or able to make an unarmed attack". It's not a weapon, so it can't flank so you'd need something like a gauntlet in the off hand that you don't attack with to use it even in melee to flank.


Well there aren't many situations you couldn't make an unarmed attack


Gaulin wrote:
Well there aren't many situations you couldn't make an unarmed attack

That wasn't the point: you need the same "interpretation" of flank to attack with a ranged weapon as you need with a melee attack with Produce Flame as neither triggers flank by itself. The fact that it's gauntlet or an unarmed attack isn't really the issue but the fact that you're not attacking with it but just wielding it to activate flank.

It's kind of like wielding an empty sling to keep a ranged stance active while you throw other weapons [as once you throw one, you'd fall out of the stance because you are without a ranged weapon until you 'reload' with another thrown weapon].


Minor Magic doesn't designate the Cantrips as innate, at least not at Nethys.
They certainly feel innate, yet seem to be spontaneous instead, like from a Class rather than like from an Ancestry feat (and those do specify they grant innate spells).
So yeah, MCDs generally beat Minor Magic (though it has its niches).

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