Playtest: PFS #2-14 Lost in Flames


Thaumaturge Class

Sovereign Court

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Thaumaturge Playtest Result

I was signed on to play PFS #2-14 Lost in Flames with my level 4 wizard when I saw signups switching to it becoming high tier. I didn't love the idea of playing up at that exact level, because you're punching waaay up as a caster. At the same time, the playtest hit. So I rolled up a level 5 thaumaturge and gave it a spin.

The Build
Warning: cheeseweaseled build

Since we were playing high tier I went with a L5 build using the PFS playtest rules. This means getting a handful of level 2, 3 and 4 items of your choice and some cash; no level 5 items. But hey, that's enough for a properly tricked out weapon.

I didn't like the idea of doing badly at Find Weakness and getting locked out. Also, the class looked a particular kind of MAD which I'll call multi-skill-dependent. Not that many classes would want to be maxed out in Arcana, Nature, Occultism, Religion, Society and also some social skills to actually get some value out of being Charisma key stat. So I decided to consolidate my dependencies and pick Esoteric Lore and Unmistakable Lore, and use my skill upgrades for Intimidate and Athletics (because Athletics often serves me well).

Build details:

Ancestry: Spellscale Kobold (Electric Arc)
Background: Academy Dropout (Charisma)
Class: Thaumaturge

Abilities at L5:
Str 16
Dex 18
Con 12
Int 10
Wis 12
Cha 18

Feats:
A1 Kobold Breath
B1 Dubious Knowledge
C1 (I forgot to take this, was thinking like spellcasters they didn't normally get one)
C1 Additional Lore (Devils)
C2 Esoteric Lore
S2 Intimidating Glare
G3 Canny Acumen (Reflex)
C4 Divine Disharmony
S4 Unmistakable Lore
A5 Cringe

Implements:
1 Weapon (Trident)
5 Chalice (Cayden tourist shop beer stein that continuously fills with soy latte. You don't want a lizard dragon drinking lactose.)

Attacks:
Melee: +1 Striking Returning Trident +13 / 2d8+3 (+4 implement's empowerment, +~4 weakness)
Ranged: as melee, but +14 to hit

AC: 22 (leather)
Saves: Fort +10, Reflex +13, Will +10
HP: 51

Skills:
U Acrobatics +4
T Arcana +7 [RK +11]
E Athletics +12
U Crafting +0
U Deception +4
U Diplomacy +4
E Intimidation +13
U Medicine +1
T Nature +8 [RK +11]
T Occultism +7 [RK +11]
U Performance +4
T Religion +8 [RK +11]
U Society +0
U Survival +1
T Thievery +11
T Esoteric Lore +7 [RK +11]
E Devil Lore +9 [RK +13]
T Academia Lore +7 [RK +11]

Notable Items:
+1 striking returning trident
wayfinder
leather armor
dusty rose prism aeon stone (shield, resonates for 5 extra hardness)

This is not really a normal healthy balanced build. Look at the skills; Charisma and Dex are his best stats but he doesn't have enough skill training to pick up half of those skills. Meanwhile you get automatic Arcana/Nature/Occultism/Religion and when you're recalling knowledge you're good at them. But that doesn't matter since you're going to use Unmistakable/Esoteric Lore for that. You'd only use ANOR skills for stuff like rituals or defusing hazards, and then it's only +7 or +8 which at level 5 is BAD. That's the skill of a L1 character, not L5. Because you're MAD.

But Find Weakness will always work on the first try. You might get locked out by a failure for following up on the next creature though. To-hit is maxed out for non-fighter. Ranged damage (2d8+7) is kind of off the chart for this level. I also have an acid breath line and an electric arc to deal with swarms and such. HP isn't great but I have Cringe and a thrown/melee weapon with a 30ft increment, and competitive AC. So a little glass cannon but one that can stay out of the front.

The Adventure

The adventure is a small hexcrawl through a dense forest, trying to find some bad people doing bad things and put a stop to it. We were going into the woods with a party ranging from level 3 to 6, but the level 6 was a druid so obviously we weren't going to starve or get hopelessly lost.

The adventure featured a handful of combats interspersed with some scenery encounters/skill challenges. I didn't really contribute much during the skill encounters, since my skills weren't really that great. And obviously the druid was going to do the heavy lifting in woods themed challenges. Overall these took some time to play through, but to me it quickly became apparent that it just wasn't very hard. There's some ration management but the druid had Forager and we'd bought mounts to boost our overland speed so we were set up well there.

In the combats, I think my thaumaturge worked reasonably well. By that I mean he hit hard, very hard, and had several potential tricks up his sleeve to be able to hit any kind of enemy.

First Encounter:

We ran into a bunch of owlbears. Interestingly, I was the only who bothered to Recall Knowledge, because I'd get a distinct mechanical benefit from it. Didn't really learn any really surprising information. But opening up with two trident throw hits for 20 and 25 damage (including weakness) was definitely setting a tone. That's serious damage at level 5, especially at range without expending any resources.

Second Encounter:

The second encounter took place in a river valley with some weird monolith that caused the water to surge about every round. The whole river bed was difficult terrain and extra-difficult for Small creatures like me. So every square would cost 15ft and I only have a speed of 25ft. Well eff that, I climbed the banks for higher ground as soon as possible. See, Athletics serves me well.

Well, turns out there were leach swarms. Nasty enemy with swarm resistances and weaknesses, but also a weakness to salt, which I learned about with Find Flaws. So the first swarm got salted trident thrown at it. Then a funny thing happened: the goblin ranger who'd also made for higher ground asked the GM just how salted our rations were (the adventure tried to make much of them being a thing). GM was fine with using heavily salted rations against the swarm. This was kinda nice, the RK focus of the thaumaturge also panning out for other players.

Eventually we'd mopped up the enemies and there was just the obelisk to deal with. Which was a hazard that needed to be disabled with Arcana/Nature/Occultism/Religion or Thievery. And looking at my stats.. yeah I have all of those. But all of them are at +7 or +8 which isn't going to cut it, except for Thievery which was at +11, considerably better. So much for being the eldritch specialist, I'm just rogueing my way through.

Third Encounter:

Third encounter was in the middle of a forest fire against some sort of fire elemental critters. Well what do you know? They're weak to cold. Amazing. If course, using Find Flaws to be able to use Esoteric Antithesis against the first elemental to "cool" your trident doesn't work against the next one. That FF check is harder because it's your next RK check.

This was showing off the FF/EA mechanism as a bit of a fragile ranger - in a six player party where the adventure scales up with extra enemies but the party focus-fires enemies, FF/EA works pretty badly. Needs lots of actions to charge up and they get harder and harder.

It was a pretty rough fight and the lower level characters were frontlining some of it and getting burnt badly. At some point I went to the front line to soak up some hits and give the others some breathing room. This also let me use my implement's reaction to throw the trident at an enemy closing in on me through the 10ft no-fly zone. When showing this I was met at first with disbelief that this reaction could be this good - it's like Attack of Opportunity and Stand Still rolled into one, and together with implement's empowerment on my trident that's making AoOs for 2d8+7 which is pretty ouch. And has the potential to interrupt movement, which it did in this case (I got lucky, but hey).

In the end I did get allll of the aggro I bargained for and had to retreat and sip a bit from the chalice. First time I had to do it since I was back row throwing my trident much of the adventure.

Reflection

I had fun, but I think there's a lot wrong with the thaumaturge as currently specified. It played more like a weird sort of barbarian than a clever character, for several reasons:

- For several challenges we had to do stuff like make a Nature check to interact with some animals, or Occultism or Religion to interact with a hazard. Which the thaumaturge is BAD at because you don't get to use your Charisma for that.

- You're a glass cannon, with so-so HP and can't really properly use a shield. But you hit shockingly hard. Using the trident like I did felt almost like I was cheating because you can't use implement's empowerment with bows/crossbows/slings, so thrown weapons are a bit of a loophole. Meanwhile the trident works at range and in melee so you also make the most of your uber-AoO.

- I barely got to use my chalice at all, I was so busy moving closer to the fight, doing FF checks and trying to get at least one shot per round in. OTOH I didn't need it as long as I didn't get targeted. Likewise I didn't get around to using Divine Interference even though I'd spent time figuring out exactly how my chalice (Cayden Cailean tourist shop mug) and weapon (trident of Mephistopheles) would fit the bill. I also didn't use my breath weapon and only used electric arc once. My action economy was just soooo tight.

- The class feats are kinda messy. On the one hand you have really "opaque" stuff like getting some free talismans per day. Which requires a lot of book-diving to figure out which ones those shouold be. On the other hand feats like Divine Interference and Esoteric Lore are quite upfront about what they do.

- Two of the four level 4 feats were Uncommon pacts, which doesn't leave many options. So I just went with more of the low level ones instead that had more transparent effect.

- The Esoteric Lore/Unmistakable Lore exploit is really ugly, but you'll take it because it makes you much less MAD and it frees up skill upgrades to take social skills to actually use your Charisma.

- I think there's really not enough compelling reason to make Charisma the only key stat. If the class used a lot of innate spells that ran off Charisma that might make sense, but it doesn't. Getting to use Charisma for Recall Knowledge is creating a solution for a problem that didn't need to be there; if you could pick Wisdom or Intelligence you could decide to be a specialist in either the Arcane/Occult side of the bestiary or the Religion/Nature side (or lean on Additional Lore,..) This might make sense for heavily themed campaigns where you know most of the key monsters and bosses are going to be Int or Wis flavored.

- The class is really bad with multiple enemies. Not only do you run into the problem of FFing them which gets harder and harder, but also you need to keep doing it because "focus fire" is just one of the most commonly used tactics. So that sucks up a lot of actions each combat.

- You're weirdly bad at repeat enemies. If you figured out enemy 1 is a shrubbery that's weak to fire and you can make your weapon hot, why can't you do that against shrubbery 2-4? And when you then run into a tree monster, you can make your weapon hot again because it's entirely new?

- I'm closing with some positives though. It's fun doing so much damage with thrown weapons. I might look into a dragon barbarian now.

- Most of all, I like how the class does make you want to RK early in the combat, which can help drive the story of the combats. I would like to see much of the mechanic improved, but I think the current desirability is still the point to aim for.

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