Build Advice / Critique Requested: Eldritch Archer Crossbowman w / Rogue / Monk dip


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Apologies if this is a little hurried and less polished than many such requests, I've had to re-write it from scratch and it's late here.

Hello Paizo Forums,

I have come here seeking your aid, for I am attempting to create an Eldritch Archer Magus and I have never played an archer or Magus in Pathfinder before.
I am hoping some of you could take a look over my plans and share any comments, suggestions or (constructive) criticisms that occur to you, especially with regard to the viability of the spell and multi-class options I'm considering.
This is a non-PFS game, although I would prefer to avoid 3rd Party resources.
Also let me know if I've got any of the rules wrong and am inadvertently preparing to cheat.
Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Background
I was originally going to be playing an Eldritch Scion, however on showing up to the game it turned out that all of us were melee-focused characters, with even our Wizard sporting a Great Axe. The other players are a Death Touch-based Cleric and a Cavalier.
In order to have a little more balance to the group, I've offered to switch to a more ranged archetype and been given the go-ahead to rebuild by the GM.
We're only level 1 and have had one session, so there's not a lot set in stone about the character yet but I'd still like to make things as similar as possible to the original character.

Concept and design goals
Talen the Knife is a former soldier, a covert-operations type warrior (state-sponsored assassin) who believed he was serving his country by secretly eliminating unsavory elements, only to find out he was working for unsavory elements and becoming violently unemployed.

Themes are Shadowy Magic, magically-enhanced mobility and stealth to protect himself whilst providing long-ranged support, using spell-carrying crossbow bolts to distract, disrupt and destroy enemies.
A bit like an arcane magic using Ninja, except I couldn't work out how to get Thrown Weapons to actually work in this game.
I'd like him to be able to do respectable damage but I'm not aiming for Intensified-Shocking-Grasp levels of destruction every round (although one or two 'Kill it, Kill it NOW!' type spells for emergencies would be useful).

The Games Master has advised this game will have an above-average amount of in-town activities and recommended all characters have at least some social skills.

Race, Class, Ability Scores and Traits:

Name: Talen the Knife
The Eldrich-Scion version wielded a Starknife, hence the name.
Sadly Talen the Heavy Wrist Launcher doesn't have the same ring to it.

Race: Fetchling
Fetchling was originally chosen for the Eldritch Scion, so I could change this, but thematically it fits really well: Shadow Blending is amazing, Shadow Walk as a Spell-Like fits the concept perfectly.
I'm not sure if the lower starting Int is going to be crippling or not.

Eldritch Archer Magus 1
Eldritch Archer seems a better choice on first read, compared to Card Caster or Myrmidarch. They seem focused more on short-range or switch-hitting than long ranged support.
Are there any other archetypes that complement this one? I'm considering Hexcrafter Magus, but Spell Recall seems hard to give up. It would adds Night Blindness to the Magus Spell List though, which would have excellent synergy with the Fetchlings Shadow Blending ability. And the Flight Hex, of course.

Ability Scores (20 point buy:
Strength 7 (-2)
Dexterity 18 (+4)
Constitution 12 (+1)
Intelligence 16 (+3)
Wisdom 8 (-1) I'm hoping the Outsider (Native) immunity to the various Person spells will compensate for this long enough to get some gear or feats to boost Will saves.
Charisma 14 (+2) A bit of a legacy from his Eldritch Scion origins, though the bonuses to Charisma skills will be handy
Low Wisdom is terrible but I'm hoping the fact he uses a Light Crossbow will compensate for the terrible strength score. Not sure if Int 16 is sufficient for a Magus who plans to use Debuff spells, any advice on tweaking these would be welcomed.
I thought about dumping Cha and taking the Intimidating Bruiser or Student of Philosophy Traits that would allow adding Int to social skills, but that would stop me taking Adopted for Holy Ice Weapon, plus I could only take one of the two as they are both Social traits.

Traits
Magic: Magical Knack
Social: Adopted (Human): Magaambyan Arcana (Holy Ice Weapon)

Magical Knack feels almost mandatory if I'm planning to multi-class.
Magaambyan Arcana I'm less sure about: Holy Ice Weapon should allow him to summon a magical crossbow with a damage bonus scaling at his Caster Level.
I think this will go some way to make up for the Crossbow's lack of Str and Dex to damage.
However, I've not played enough Pathfinder to say for sure- the opinions of those that are more experienced than I would be welcome.
Also, is a 2nd Level spell (and 25gp) per fight too high a price to pay?

I definitely want to play a range-weapon attacking spell-caster using Arcane magic. Eldritch Archer seems the best way to do this, though Eldritch Scoundrel seems like it could be good as well?
The rest of the options here are things I could be flexible on if I'm told they're not viable. I'm especially interested in Archetype suggestions and any alternate trait choices.

Arcane Bond, Weapon Choice and Feat Selection:

1st Level Feat: Rapid Reload: Light Crossbow
Although Rapid Reload does nothing much useful at level 1, at level 2, I believe it is possible to to combine Ranged Spell Combat with Ray of Frost to fire the Crossbow twice per round, effectively turning Rapid Reload into Rapid Shot.

I'm planning to use the Light Crossbow as primary weapon for the first few levels.
I've picked it for the following reasons:
1. Although bows areclearly much better, crossbows allows me to dump Strength and this character is MAD.
2. It's a simple weapon, therefore can be created with Holy Ice Weapon
3. It has a slightly better crit range for Ranged Spellstrike
4. Better range and much less feat intense than throwing weapons

The main disadvantage seems to be the terrible damage and complete lack of Stat-to-Damage without multiple levels in Bolt Ace or extensive feat chains. I'm hoping that damage and debuff effects from spells (especially Holy Ice Weapon) will make up for the poor basic weapon damage.
Advice on which spells can do this or just letting me know if this is an unrealistic assumption, would be appreciated.

Arcane Bond: Heavy Wrist Launcher
This is a bit that touches on shenanigans- I plan to take the Heavy Wrist Launcher as my Arcane Bond, primarily because of the more urban nature of this game.
I couldn't find any rule anywhere that says you have to be proficient with your Arcane Bond weapon and bringing your bow or crossbow into a largely social encounter is problematic at best.
I've already discussed this with my GM- he's agreed that Crossbow-related feats can be taken for Heavy Wrist Launchers due to their using Hand Crossbow proficiency.
I'm reasonably certain he will rule that wearing it on your wrist will count as having it available for casting spells as well, but I'll be double checking this.
I do intend to make the character proficient with it as soon as he can afford to upgrade it with the Shadowshooting enchantment but the Feat Chain to get Crossbow Mastery seem too long to be affordable.
Whether I then re-train Rapid Reload (Light Crossbow) will depend on the viability of the Holy Ice Weapon spell.

I'm not sure if I've made the best choices here, could it be worth still trying to use a bow even with the -2 damage penalty? Or completely changing my stats to have higher Strength? Throwing weapons like daggers or shuriken would also have the concealable advantage but also require Strength (and I'm not sure they count as long ranged support)

Spells:

Level 0 Spells in combat are primarily going to be Daze and Ray of Frost, used with Ranged Spell Combat.
Daze will be useful on it's own, but Ray of Frost is basically an excuse to fire another crossbow bolt.

Level 1 Spells:
Snowball (1 Memorized)
Dancing Darkness (1 Memorized)
Mudball
Vanish
Web Bolt
Shield

I am far less confident in my level 1 spell choices compared to my level 0 spell choices.
Dancing Darkness seems to pair brilliantly with the Shadow Blending racial ability of the Fetchling although it might need the Night Blindness spell (either grabbed from the Wizard list with the Spell-Blending Arcana or added via Hexcrafter) to work on the many enemies with Darkvision.
I've picked Snowball as my other memorized spell for a damage burst, but there may well be better choices.


Most of the Magus list appears heavily skewed towards melee combat and disappointingly Eldritch Archer doesn't have any options to acquire range-related spells from more ranged-combat based spell-caster's lists, such as the Ranger or Hunter lists.
Are there any hidden gems in the Magus list that are especially good for Eldritch Archers or any priorities that I should be stealing from the Wizard list via Spell Blending?

Multi-classing and Advancement:

This is probably the area I need advice the most. I have a lot of ideas for directions I could take this character in, but not enough experience with Pathfinder in general and Magi and Archers in particular to know what's worth taking.
Magical Knack reduces (though sadly does not eliminate) the cost of multi-classing, so I was thinking of adding a dip or two to the build to help it with it's sneakiness and improve range-combat effectiveness.
It's worth noting I think we are using Factional Base Attack Bonus, so mixing with other 3/4 BAB classes won't completely ruin the ability to shoot straight.

Two dips I was considering were:
Far Shot Monk:
Only plan to take one level of this, but that level gives a lot:
Precise Shot, skipping Point Blank Shot requirement, Quick Draw (doesn't compliment the build directly, but often useful) and Improved Unarmed Strike with D6 Unarmed Strike.
Also throws in shuriken proficiency for sneaking weapons into places and adds a ninja-theme.
The real draw is the Precise Shot, which every Archery guide I've looked at suggests I acquire as soon as possible. However, Improved Unarmed Strike combining with Weapon Finesse from the Unchained Rogue and an Agile Amulet of Mighty Fists would turn the character into a competent (if not overwhelming) dex-based fighter if he is cornered or can't bring his weapons somewhere.
Sadly, I definitely do not have the Wisdom to make the Wisdom to AC useful. However, I don't believe you subtract Wisdom penalties from your AC.

Unchained Rogue:
A quick and simple way to provide both the Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Heavy Bolt Launcher feat (via Hand Crossbow Proficiency from the class) and Weapon Finesse so he can switch-hit in an emergency. It obviously works best with an Agile melee weapon (or Amulet of Mighty Fists) of course.
It also makes almost every skill a Class Skill (including Stealth and the social skills) and provides a huge number of Skill Points with a Int 16 character.
Finally given the sheer variety of ways a shadow-stealth focused Magus with access to the Wizard list has to either turn himself invisible, blind his opponent or render them flat-footed/denied their Dex to AC the Sneak Attack would probably get a lot of use as well - it seems far, far easier for a Magus to get Sneak Attack to activate than it does for a Rogue.

Both of these options seem like they would add to the character's versatility without costing *too* much from their power, especially as the game is unlikely to go to the sixth-level spell anyway.

I've a few ideas of my own for advancement, but I don't know when to take the alternate class dips- probably either first thing, to get Precise Shot and Hand Crossbow proficiency before I can afford Shadowshooting at around level 4-5 or at level 6, so I have a couple of uses of the Holy Ice Weapon.
I could use advice on Feat Choices (Rapid Shot is normally key, but seems like it doesn't work with Ranged Spell Combat, do I need Point Blank Shot if I skip straight to Precise via dip? etc) and to be pointed towards any interesting Prestige classes that seem to fit the concept.


So Rapid Reload simply means you COULD shoot two bolts per round IF you have Rapid Shot. So you'll still need to blow a feat on Rapid Reload...or play an Elf, as they have an alternate racial trait that passes up their racial weapon familiarity for essentially Rapid Reload.

Crossbow Eldritch Archer isn't a terrible idea since Magi tend to get their damage from spells rather than from static strength bonuses, and the wider crit range of crossbows compared to bows may give you some nice results. The only downside to Eldritch Archer vs regular Magus is that with a regular Magus, a miss doesn't mean you've lost the charge of the spell, while it does with an Eldritch Archer. Many people play Eldritch Archers as more debuffers and support casters, so instead of doing Spell Combat/Ranged Spellstrike with Snowball or Scorching Ray, they'll fire off a Glitterdust or Grease and then an arrow/bolt at a target.

Hexcrafter is very strong (and great for an Eldritch Archer because it'll let you fly, which in my mind is more useful to a ranged character in combat than melee) but it's somewhat a different beast. The Slumber Hex can definitely give you some stealth-like abilities.

Eldritch Scoundrel is a different beast from both a Magus and a Rogue; Your sneak attack and rogue talents are delayed (and you lose armor proficiency) but you gain spells. They're not necessarily combat-focused the same way a Magus is, and it might be worth comparing an Eldritch Scoundrel to a Wizard/Rogue multiclass (assuming that you could have that play out organically in your campaign).


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On holy ice weapon; you're still firing ordinary bolts so I'm not sure you'd get the cold damage bonus. The spell says nothing about bestowing the effect on your ammo. Also you'll want to get a real magic crossbow eventually, perhaps a mage's crossbow.

Multiclassing the way you describe doesn't sound like a good idea. A magus never has enough spell slots. Unless you're using fractional BAB each dip in monk or rogue costs you BAB.

You're absolutely going to need point blank shot. Magus bonus feats don't bypass prereqs. On the plus side rapid shot works with spell combat, providing you can handle the attack penalties.

The reach spellstrike magus arcana lets you use touch spells at range. The spell blending arcana can add a spell or two more if you're so inclined.


Right, to clarify off avr's post, my statement was if you were going to go Rogue instead of Eldritch Archer.


JiaYou wrote:
So Rapid Reload simply means you COULD shoot two bolts per round IF you have Rapid Shot. So you'll still need to blow a feat on Rapid Reload...

Wouldn't Ranged Spell Strike (Any ranged cantrip with an Attack Roll) + Ranged Spell Combat allow shooting two bolts at -2 a round (effectively duplicating Rapid Shot) and thus require Rapid Reload?

JiaYou wrote:
Crossbow Eldritch Archer isn't a terrible idea since Magi tend to get their damage from spells rather than from static strength bonuses, and the wider crit range of crossbows compared to bows may give you some nice results.

Glad it isn't a terrible idea, but which spells in particular would be good for the damage source? The two that immediately come to mind are Snowball and Scorching Ray, which you mentioned as uncommon choices.

Spells to enhance the weapon directly, like Sense Vitals or Greater Magic Weapon?

Hexcrafter does look great, especially early, easy Flight. But given the Magus seems to have so many uses for low-level spells, Spell Recall seems worth holding onto making it's a very tough decision.
I might end up deciding between the two on the flip of a coin.

avr wrote:
On holy ice weapon; you're still firing ordinary bolts so I'm not sure you'd get the cold damage bonus. The spell says nothing about bestowing the effect on your ammo.

If the Cold damage doesn't apply to ammo, that's obviously a major flaw in the plan. However, I couldn't see anything in the spell description that implies it doesn't work.

You're still firing ordinary bolts when you fire them from a +2 crossbow, but you still get the damage bonus then.
Is there a general rule or ruling elsewhere that I've missed that indicates it works differently?
I thought that spells that affect the weapon without affecting ranged weapons either clearly indicate that in the description (as per Reduce Person) or specified 'Melee Weapon' as their target.

avr wrote:
You're absolutely going to need point blank shot. Magus bonus feats don't bypass prereqs. On the plus side rapid shot works with spell combat, providing you can handle the attack penalties.

I think you misread what I had posted- I wasn't planning to take Precise Shot as a Magus Bonus Feat, I was planning to take it as a Monk Bonus Feat which does ignore prerequisites (unless I have missed something).

This makes the question not 'Can I take Precise Shot without Point Blank Shot' it's 'Should I take Point Blank Shot on it's own merits?'

If Rapid Shot works with Spell Combat, the ability to take Rapid Shot is an argument for taking Point Blank Shot but I don't think these two abilities work together:
Rapid Shot only works "when making a full-attack action with a ranged weapon".
As far as I can tell Ranged Spell Combat is it's own type of Full-Round Extraordinary Ability action, not a Full-Round Attack action.
Is there a ruling or FAQ somewhere that states Spell Combat counts as a Full Round Attack Action for purposes of Rapid Shot and similar feats?


So Snowball and Scorching Ray would be quite good COMMON choices if you're going to go as a blaster Magus, but what I meant was that it's easier to choose and be effective with other spells than if you went as a melee Magus (but it obviously can still be done). Enhancing the weapon directly is arguably a job for your Arcane Pool. Additionally, since your weapon is your bonded item, you get to enchant it as if you had the relevant crafting feat (in this case, Craft Magic Arms and Armor). This means with downtime you can fairly easily bump your weapon's enhancement bonus, which stacks with Arcane Pool. If you go Hexcrafter then enhancing weapons isn't competing with Spell Recall for pool points.

The reason Point Blank Shot is arguably worth taking is that, unless you choose abilities that increase the range of your Spellstrike, Ranged Spellstrike is limited to the range of the SPELL, not the arrow/bolt carrying the spell. Thus it's going to be somewhere around 30-40 feet at low levels anyway, thus gaining the bonus from Point Blank Shot. +1 to hit and damage at low levels is very respectable, especially for an archer that generally relies on multiple hits to be effective.

I would say avoid multiclassing and dipping if you can unless you have a real goal in mind and you're not just trying to get a feat here or there. If you're dead set on avoiding having to take Point Blank Shot, then you could go Divine Hunter Paladin at first level for free Precise Shot. But then you're not getting Spell Combat until level 2, Ranged Spellstrike until level 3, and you're now a level behind on your Magus spells/abilities. And as a 6/9 caster that hurts a bit.


Spell combat lets you make a full attack with one weapon. Sure it's its own kind of action but it pulls the amount of attacks you're allowed to make from the full attack rules. There's a FAQ here.

As to the ammunition gaining the properties of the weapon firing it that's pretty limited. Some effects like flaming specify that they are bestowed on ammo, enhancement bonus is carried over (but not side effects of that enhancement bonus), but if nothing is specified or implied in the effect it doesn't. Holy ice weapon specifies how it interacts with thrown weapons, so it isn't restricted to melee weapons only - but that doesn't mean it works well on projectile weapons.


Something to consider doing is switching your bonded object from a crossbow to a firearm at higher levels. While it will be expensive, you can pay to change your bonded object just like a wizard can. Either you can spend a feat or get a cracked opalescent white pyramid ious stone. Then arrange a method to avoid reloading the gun.

I'd recommend using an Air Repeater and the spell reloading hands for a cheap alternative to buying a firearm that doesn't need to be reloaded. The other more expensive alternatives would be a musket with the shadowshooting special ability, or a shadowcrafted two handed ranged weapon, or a Pistol of Infinite Sky.

The reason to do this is because of the Magus' weak BAB. Hitting ranged touch helps to bridge the gap as AC rises with CR faster than your chance to hit. It won't help with everything you fight, but it should help a lot against most opponents.


JiaYou wrote:
It's easier to choose and be effective with other spells than if you went as a melee Magus (but it obviously can still be done)

As the only person in the group focused on making ranged attacks I feel I'll need to focus on ranged damage a lot of the time.

Though spells that bring flying creatures down to the ground will be very useful.

JiaYou wrote:
The reason Point Blank Shot is arguably worth taking is that, unless you choose abilities that increase the range of your Spellstrike, Ranged Spellstrike is limited to the range of the SPELL, not the arrow/bolt carrying the spell.

Good point, I hadn't realised how short range many of the Magus' spells are.

JiaYou wrote:
I would say avoid multiclassing and dipping if you can unless you have a real goal in mind and you're not just trying to get a feat here or there. If you're dead set on avoiding having to take Point Blank Shot

I'll admit the main goal with dipping Monk and Rogue is simply to Get More Feats but it seems like everything I want to do requires at least two or three of them and without a dip I don't think I can get Precise Shot before level 5.

Not having that feat feels like a big problem with all other PCs being melee-focused.

The extra feats I think I'd get from a 2 level (Monk 1/Unchained Rogue 1) are:
Weapon Finesse, Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Hand Crossbow, Precise Shot, Improved Unarmed Strike, Quick Draw.
Getting all those feats (plus BPS) via regular advancement wouldn't happen until level 13 at the earliest.

Admittedly Quick Draw and Improved Unarmed Strike are more 'nice to have' than 'key to the build'.
Add in Sneak Attack and all those lovely Class Skills (especially Stealth and UMD) and it feels like it might be worth a 2 level delay in class abilities to be 10 levels ahead in Feats and opens up the option of taking 'Luxury' feats like Meta-magic or Arcane & Riving Strikes.

What're the main advantages of the Divine Hunter compared to the Far Shot Monk in terms of getting Precise Shot?
I don't think that the Monk loses anything if they become non-Lawful, merely preventing them from advancing Monk, which I wasn't planning to do anyway.
Staying Lawful Good will be challenging in the current group (and isn't how I envision the character anyway.

avr wrote:
Spell combat lets you make a full attack with one weapon. Sure it's its own kind of action but it pulls the amount of attacks you're allowed to make from the full attack rules. There's a FAQ here.

Thanks! That is just what I was looking for.

Do you have a reference or FAQ on the Holy Ice Weapon thing as well?
The only thing I've found in the rulebook is:
The type of weapon used determines the amount of damage you deal.
I can't really see how:
deals an extra 1d6 points of cold damage on a successful hit.
differs from:
The weapon deals normal damage for a weapon of that type, plus 1 point of cold damage per caster level (maximum 10)
It's definitely possible I'm missing something though.

Also, does anyone know any alternative methods to get scaling damage on a crossbow? They don't benefit from Strength or Dexterity bonuses but I don't want to go five levels into Bolt Ace just to keep up damage-wise.

Meirrel wrote:
Something to consider doing is switching your bonded object from a crossbow to a firearm at higher levels.

Thanks for the advice, but I don't think guns are available in the setting.

I can definitely see your point about needing more Attack Bonus. Between Rapid Shot and Spell Combat, he's starting at a -4. If he somehow got is Attack Bonus high enough, he could even two-weapon fight with a hand crossbow and Heavy Bolt Launcher for -6 for 4 shots a round.
Any other ways to address the accuracy issue?
Especially, how well does Arcane Accuracy Arcana work it play? It looks like a good option on paper but might be expensive in terms of Arcane Pool.


There's nothing explicitly saying that one obscure spell does or doesn't add damage to ammunition. It's just that frost has a superscript 3 and the note '3 Projectile weapons with this ability bestow this power upon their ammunition.' at the bottom of the table and holy ice weapon has nothing equivalent. You aren't bashing the enemy with the haft of your crossbow made of holy water most of the time, you're shooting wood-and-steel bolts at the enemy instead.

The deadly aim feat adds some scaling damage of course, and a magus enhancing their weapon via arcane pool adds +1 attack & damage, +1 more per 5 levels. Beyond that there's magus arcana which add attack bonuses one way or another (which matters a bit if you're taking a -2 for spell combat and another -2 for rapid shot, and possibly deadly aim on top of that). Arcane accuracy generally works fine if you don't spend a lot on spell recall, 1/2 level + Int + possible items etc. adds up fast.

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