WIP on the Titan and a Preview

I have gotten started on the Toys for Tots titan. He (she?) is primed and I have some basecoats down. I need to go get a couple of colors of paint this week, so I didn’t get as much painted as I wanted on Sunday, but overall, it’s a good bit of progress now that 90% of the model at least has some paint down on it. I only have 1 picture of it at the moment (as it’s mostly just black and silver at this point!).

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You can see the electronics and LEDs covered in tape at the moment. Lots still to do as well, but it’s getting there. I’ll try and sit down and get a bit more painted on Wednesday (hopefully with pictures shortly after the show is posted). In the meantime, I’ve also been collecting the materials for my army list boxes. I did a set of boxes for this last year’s LVO and BAO. Everyone that I played against got one with a copy of my army list in it. Here are a few pictures of last year’s boxes.

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They were nice little jewelry boxes that I was able to get for relatively little. I printed out the lists (and the tabs that went in the top of each box) on some parchment and sealed them with wax. The LVO lists used an Inquisitorial symbol that I was never happy with. Though the gold =][= symbol on the red wax looked cool, it only really came out well on about 1 seal in 6. It was also super labor intensive. For the BAO, I used some jewelry chain and made a wax seal of the same boss I used on the top of the box (the mechanicum symbol from the Manufactorum kit). I made some velvet pillows for the lists to sit on too. All in all, they were generally a hit.

This year, I am using a significantly larger box so I won’t have to fold the lists (this is a lot larger!). I’m going with this size because there wasn’t a whole lot of reason price-wise to go with an intermediate size. The cost just didn’t make much of a difference in between the two. This meant that I needed a much larger boss to go on the front. I distinctly remembered seeing a Forge World made large mechanicum symbol somewhere, but knew it was long out of print. After a bit of digging, I found that it was a special release done as part of a loyalty program with some unreleased mechanicum models. I found a couple on ebay from the UK and France and ordered them. The first (and better condition) of the two arrived last night. Hopefully the other one is at least half this nice. I’ll be making a silicone mold of them and casting them to go on the boxes like I did with the previous one. This is large enough that I don’t know if I am going to paint them like I did before, or go with an aged brass/bronze. I’m just not sure yet. I will also be custom making a clasp as these boxes don’t come with one. I’ll be remaking the Aquila pin, also had from Ebay, into a splitting magnetized clasp that will span where the box opens. Overall, they should be really cool. I’ll probably make an extra one or two to give away (I’ll probably give one to the Frontline Gaming guys and maybe someone else).

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Lastly, ZappCon is coming up! It is the weekend of October 17th and 18th. The entire The Dice Decide cast will be there (including Erin from our The Dice Decide Your Movie special!), so come on out and see us. We’ll be volunteering, and I plan on cosplaying at least one day. The final volunteer schedules haven’t been released yet, but I should be working on running Artemis on Saturday! All the Artemis crew will be wearing special ‘uniforms’ and everything. It should be a fun time, so come on out. The link above is to their website. If you pre-order your two-day badge, you get a good deal off but pre-orders close on October 11th. It’s an awesome convention with lots of vendors, cosplayers, games and more. Last year was great fun! This is the ship’s logo:

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Slumps and Titans

I’ve been in something of a hobby slump as of late.  I’ve gotten a few games of Malifaux and Dropzone Commander in, but I’ve not put brush to model in nearly a month!  That’s quite a bit longer than I usually take off.  I am planning on breaking that here shortly by working on another titan though.  It’s a model for a charity army (Toys for Tots) and I will have progress pics soon.  In the meantime, I’m going to write about the 5 Knight Titan tournament list I’ve been running and why I take what I take.  It isn’t a comprehensive guide to running an all-knight list, but it is a reasonably good introduction to the conceptual underpinnings of my list.  I will also go through and describe the role of each knight in the list in rather more detail than I’ve seen elsewhere.

First off, the list:
Exalted Court
Cerastus Knight Lancer – Warlord with Sanctuary
Knight Warden – Stock
Knight Paladin – Stock
Knight Gallant – Stock
Knight Gallant – Meltagun and Helm of the Nameless Warrior

That’s it.  Only 5 models.  I have been asked why I run the Exalted Court instead of the Baronial Court.  The Baronial Court grants Counter Attack and Overwatch to a wide swathe of the army.  It also confers a significant bonus to front arc shielding.  An entire wall of AV13 with a 3++ invulnerable save is truly intimidating.  There are a number of reasons that I don’t though.  First is that it rewards maintaining a cohesive formation of knights.  That prevents you from being aggressive as you try to maintain the formation bonuses.  It is unlikely that all 5 knights will be able to keep them all for more than a round or two without sacrificing a lot of offensive potential. With the Exhalted Court, each knight is maintained as it’s own self-contained killing unit without sacrificing bonuses. The other major reason I run the Exalted Court is that it confers two different bonuses that complement each other well.

A major army-wide increase in WS and BS is a fairly big deal on an army that can be functionally run on 12 D6 plus a scatter die. Your blasts will hit what is under the center dot a full 2/3 of the time and 2s to hit in shooting is always nice.  Hitting a majority of models in Close Combaat on 3s is also a rather significant deal, as you are getting 3-7 (at the very outside) attacks in close combat.  More hits means more casualties.  But the bigger advantage is that each knight becomes a character capable of issuing a challenge (and taking relics if you are so inclined).  That effectively eliminates many of the biggest threats to your knight in Close Combat, power fists and melta bombs on sergeants.  A single melta bomb hit can seriously ruin your day as a knight player.  The ability to pick those out of combat is significant. Even if there isn’t anything special on the sergeant, it’s often worthwhile to chop him in half.  It isn’t foolproof, but with the proliferation of MSU marine lists, taking out their sergeants makes them fail a lot of leadership saves.  That helps you control the battlefield a bit.

Now onto the individual knights themselves:

Cersastus Knight Lancer (Warlord with Sanctuary): Many people think that this is a substandard version of the Cerastus chassis, especially compared with the Archeron and it’s huge flamestorm template of AP3 doom.  While the Archeron is good, the Lancer performs an important role in the army.  Killing other heavy hitters. Especially other Knights and Gargantuan Creatures. It can even take down a CC equipped Wraithknight with a reasonable chance for survival. Additionally, as the warlord of the army, it gets a few extra benefits. WS 6 is a significant advantage as you are now hitting just about everybody on a 3 and they are probably hitting you on a 4. That helps as mentioned earlier in that you only have so many attacks. You have the same character benefits as before in issuing challenges, and you are able to reroll all misses in those challenges (so always challenge!). Also, nearly all the warlord traits are excellent. Ending up with an extra attack or rerolling 1s on your shield saves is significant, as is the extra inch of range on charges and runs. Speaking of runs, don’t be afraid to forgo shooting for a round to run, as you get 3d6″ of movement. Being able to move that fast is a huge benefit (shared by all the Cerastus chassis). People underestimate just how far a decent roll will get you. Moving an effective average of 22″ can really catch out an opponent who was planning on at least one more round of shooting!
That brings me to his taking Sanctuary. Now, there is some online confusion about how him taking sanctuary works, as it is nominally unclear. There is an interpretation that says that because it doesn’t replace the Ion shield, that it is an additional shield (because the Lancer’s shield is not an Ion Shield) and it would allow him to toss his shield on the rear arc or possibly also have a second arc covered by the shield. That’s kinda douchey and any half-reasonable TO will smack that crap down hard. I simply run it as an upgrade to the shield that he does have.  It does help a great deal, as the +1 to Ion Shield saves that your warlord in this formation gets does apply to the Sanctuary’s 6++ on non-shielded faces.  It’s a good way to help keep him alive while being aggressive with him.  His job in the list is basically to run around as a bully, mugging any and everything he can reach with that big pointy stick.  He should get stuck in early and often.

Warden (No upgrades):  This guy is my Swiss Army Knife.  When I need to have somebody hold a flank for a few turns or clear out a section of the board, he’s usually the one that gets the job.  He puts out a very significant amount of firepower and can even threaten fliers (though as we’ll discuss later, there are serious limitations in this!).  His general utility is really able to get a lot done with a (relative) minimum of investment.  Also, because it is a relatively new variant, people seem to give it a bit more space.  This is already changing (as people are beginning to see it, quite correctly, as just another knight).

Gallant (No upgrades): This guy is there to back up my Swiss Army Warden.  He jumps in when he’s threatening to get overwhelmed or bogged down.  He often leads the way for him.  He plays a very straightforward role leading the way for the Warden to do his job.

Gallant (Helm of the Nameless Warrior and Melta-gun): This guy is there to back up the Lancer.  He is usually coming in later as the Lancer is faster.  Ideally, he will hit a relatively large unit to get a large number of attacks on the charge, but none of that is particularly important.  He’s really a second body to draw some of the heat off of the Warlord.

Paladin (No upgrades):  This guy is my backfield guy.  He’ll often sit back and lob Battle Cannon shells into the opposing army.  He usually runs forward late game to plug any holes.  This is the least important knight, and I’ve considered downgrading him to an Errant (or even a Gallant!) to encourage more aggressive behavior, but the Paladin is just too good in comparison.  If I were to swap it over to anything else, it would certainly be another Warden.  It’s also important not to underestimate the second Heavy Stubber.  It’s been a hero in a couple of my games before.

Tactics and overall game-plan:
I play in primarily ITC events (I am in California), so this advice is centered around that style of event.  I will be brutally honest about it as well.  This list is not designed to win an event.  It lacks a lot of vital “good list” components and has a huge secondary mission gap issue.  When things go well, you will often end up with 9-11 points only giving up 1-2 to your opponent, but if things go badly, you are likely to get nailed losing 11-0 quite a lot.  Losing a knight not only takes down a 20% chunk of your model count, but it gives up 2 secondary mission points (as many as you can earn normally in a round!). That is a huge disadvantage that you’ll often have difficulty overcoming.  Your strengths are that you are super mobile and hit very hard.  Rule 1 for any all-titan list: be aggressive.  You will rarely come off better by sitting back and trading shots with your opponent. They will always have more shots than you will. If you aren’t charging, you aren’t going to do well.

Often, you will want to refuse a flank. If possible, you should be looking to go second. This not only presents you With the only Maelstrom advantage yo u will have all game, but also allow you to refuse a flank in all the missions save mission number three. As that is also the Relic mission, that one is going to Present yo u with some difficulties regardless.

Lastly, be aware of your biggest threats. Units deep striking with multiple meltaguns will wreck your face. Know when to castle up to present the fewest good shots on you knights. Also, if you can manage it, being able to prioritize your opponents’ antitank units effectively will pay off greatly as the game moves though the rounds.

I should have a fair bit of paint on the tots Titan Sunday afternoon!

Pathfinder Occultist Guide: Part Four

Archetypes & Builds

Every class in Occult Adventures gets a few archetypes, giving up some abilities to gain others. It can drastically change the class, but if you’re going for a specific build (which I outline a few of below)  the Archetype’s can be right up your alley.

Battle Host

The first archetype helps to create a melee focused Occultist. It gains a couple of knowledge skills, and doesn’t give anything up directly for the boost. They aren’t impressive (local and nobility) but they don’t hurt. Most notably, however, is the gain of Heavy Armor and Tower shield proficiency. These couple very well to create a martial minded character, especially defensively.

You’re going to only have 2 implements until level 10 (when you get your third). Those are likely going to be Abjuration and Transmutation, which work to make you a competent frontliner, especially once you have a magic weapon and start giving it Bane. Alternatively, you could choose just Abjuration (for defense) or Transmutation (for offense) and then take a more casterly implement school. This can give you a battle-caster style that can be hard for other classes to get right.

Given the bonus feats, this is also the best option if you want to go after an archery pursuit. Couple this with Gravity Bow as a spell and you’ll be able to throw a lot of damage down range.

Panoply Bond: This is the big mechanic of the archetype, exchanging all of the implements for one. You still have to dedicate focus to each school, but you manage only one implement, that you’ll never really lose. The big benefit, is that you can make this an expensive item, like Full Plate, so you get to start your career with a Masterwork suit of armor (if that’s the route you go). You give up quite a few implements, however, which is going to limit your casting  and focus power choices severely.

Battle Skill & Battle Reading: These are just straight nerfs to your standard abilities, restricting what they work on. This is really a tax to pay for your other abilities.

Bonus Feasts: You get one at 4 and ever 4 levels after. You’re going to be in the thick of things, so more feats is a welcome addition. You give up most of your circle based abilities to get these, which isn’t a big loss if you’re the kind of character who wants to focus on a martial pursuit.

Spirit Warrior: Not a bad ability, as the spell itself is pretty potent. As a non-divine class, however, it’s hard to say what weapon form it chooses. Try to follow a martial god so that you’ve got either a wide crit range, or a high crit multiplier. If you can get it, Falcata is a great option. Aura sight is a fair trade for this offensive ability.

Heroic Splendor: Effective at granting you some needed defense or offense, it’s always nice to gain a resource that is this flexible. Again, a fair trade for outside contact, or a trade up if you’re wanting to focus on melee/archery.

Necroccultist

It does what it says on the tin, focusing on necromancy and undead minions. The standard Occultist does this pretty well already, so this archetype really needs to offer more for its trade offs.

Necromantic Bond: For being restricted (you effectively gain the bonuses of having two Necromancy implements). There aren’t enough necromancy spells not on your list already to really worry too much about this.  You’ll be able to pick up a few debuffs (like ray of enfeeblement) early on, but as you start get get spells at later levels the Occultist list has higher level spells on at a lower level, so this starts to sag a bit.

Deadspeaker: You swap out Object Reading for an equally useful investigation ability. This change is mostly thematic, as the results are dependent heavily on the GM.

Ghostly Horde: Here we go, summoning a horde of ghosts certainly has a nice feel to it, and the damage is hard to resist. It’s a good trade off for aura sight, all things considered.

Life Drain: I’ve never been a big fan of negative levels as an ability in the hands of a PC, but if you’re a GM this is a really interesting ability to use on the heroes. It’s a few hours of negative levels, which can make for an engaging scenario. As a PC, however, I find that handing out negative levels is a bit situational, best used on big-bad’s who are casters. It’s green because you only give up Outside Contact to get it, which I feel is a trade up.

Sha’Ir

I’m still on the fence about this archetype. I can see some great potential, but I can’t play all the archetypes long enough to really get a feel for how survivable the Jin are. If you’re going the Dresden route (noted below) then this is probably the build you’ll gravitate towards. It’s limited by the 6-level casting of the Occultist, however.

Jin: You lose roughly half your implements, but gain spells to make up for the loss. The net effect is that you limit your pool of Focus Power options, but you gain a wider selection of spells. Most notably, these spells are some of the most iconic and flashy options.  Many already exist on the Occulist list, but they are mostly spells you’ll want to have around if you’re going to focus on casting. Replacing a dead Jin is free (except for time) so if you lose one you’re simply hindered temporarily. It’s a fair trade, and the later abilities really make it shine.

Augment Jin: A big boost to the elementals hit points and saves keeps it from dying too often. Although as you level you’re going to need to use this ability to keep it effective in combat. It probably won’t ever be impressive… but an obedient elemental has some incredible uses. Like sending it down a hallway to trigger traps. This ability grows with you, and it really plays well into a blaster or controllers goals.

It should be noted that this does have an effect at low levels. While Jin are normally small elementals, but they lose their elemental ability (air mastery, burn, ect). This gives them that ability back. These abilities have some useful applications, if not always combat effective.

Manifest Jin: There isn’t a lot to this, effectively buffing one of the Jin to full small elemental status at all times. It’s not a big buff and you’re still going to need to Augment the Jin to make it useful in combat.

Jin Spy: I’m not exactly sure what this does for the character. I suppose it implies that before this ability the character doesn’t have control over her Jin. I can’t imagine that’s the case, however, as it would make the class very strange. Few GM’s would want to spend time controlling the Jin. GM’s will likely require this ability to send the Jin away from the Occultist for any real amount of time, I expect.

Tome Eater

A truly strange archetype (and the kind I want to see more of), the Tome Eater is a drastic thematic shift for the character. I suspect that a Goblin Tome Eater will appear as a new trope for the Goblins in many Occult focused games.

Bonded Tome: Like the Battle Host the Tome Eater gets only one implement that serves as a focus for his implement schools. It doesn’t change much, but it does add the ability t o buff DC’s a few times per day, which certainly doesn’t hurt.

Devour Books and Scrolls: This ability gets expensive fast, so I don’t suspect it will see much use by PCs. A GM, however, will love stealing scrolls and books and then eating them in front of the heroes. At 6th level, however, this ability starts to shine. The character can swallow incoming spells, effectively having Dispel Magic on demand. It gets even better at 16 when you don’t have to ready an action.

Word Sense: An investigation ability swapped out for aura sight. It comes in at orange, because Aura Sight is likely more useful.

Builds

There are three builds that the Occultist gravitates to by default. While other options are certainly available, I consider these to be the roles that the Occultist can perform intuitively by most players.

The Martial

Either as a frontline specialist or as an archer, the Martial focuses less on his spells and more on his focus powers. He’s a bit more feat heavy than other Occultists, if he chooses the archery route especially, but his focus powers lend potent buffs to his defense and offense. Unlike most Occultists, the Martial benefits from a little multi-classing, most notably Fighter.

Attributes: Int, Str, Dex, Con, Wis, Cha. You’re going to need plenty of mental focus and decent physical stats to stay in the thick of things. If you’re going archery then switch Dex and Str in the order of importance.

Implements: Abjuration & Transmutation. The physical stat boost from transmutation is very effective, allowing you to focus on Int first. The base focus power is also quite powerful, especially once you’ve got a magic weapon and can instead add bonuses like Flaming, Keen, and Bane. Abjuration does just as much for your defenses as Transmutation does for your offense, and should see its way into your implements at level 1 or 2, even if you’re going with archery.

Notes: Without a +1 BaB at first level a lot of good feats are off limits to you. You can start with a level of fighter, to get the bonus feat and the +1 BaB. However, another solid option is to just take Toughness or Heavy Armor Proficiency at level 1. It delays Power Attack, or other offensive feats, but you won’t deeply regret the selection.

The Dresden

Named after Chicago’s premier wizard-detective, the Dresden is an excellent investigator/blaster. He won’t be nuking as heavily as a Sorcerer, but he’ll come pretty close for quite some time.

Attribute: Int, Dex, Con, Wis, Str, Cha. You’re most important stat is Int, and it’s critical enough that sinking an 18 into it is always a good choice. I would even consider dumping a stat to 8 in a game with a 15 point buy, just to get an 18 Int.

Implements: Evocation, Divination, Necromancy. You’re likely going to want the nuke focus powers early on, especially Elemental Blast at level 5. This build will put more focus power into Evocation than anywhere else, allowing it to blast more.

Notes; The class holds up with more dedicated blasters better than you might think. On paper it falls behind, but in practice it gets the job done efficiently. It has added utility that many other blasters won’t have, and with the right Implement choices it can also boast a pretty reliable companion or some mighty investigation abilities.

The Mastermind

When in doubt, bring some friends from the underworld/afterlife/elemental planes with you!

Attributes: Int, Con, Cha, Dex, Wis, Str. Like the Dresden, Int is king. followed by more HP and a descent Cha. If you give up your bargaining abilities or don’t plan on taking binding spells then Charisma drops down in the order to below Dex.

Implements: Necromancy, Conjuration, Illusion. All of these implement schools have pets that hang around for long enough to be effective. Necromancy at 10 minutes per level, Conjuration for a full minute, and Illusion for 1 round per level. As you learn the powers of your summoned creatures you’ll gain access to an array of options as well. You can easily have 3 or 4 pretty powerful servants at your disposal. This doesn’t couple as well with the Sha’Ir archetype as you might think, as you’ll be starved for standard actions too frequently.

Notes: I don’t recommend this option for new players, as it requires you to manage multiple actors on the field. The game slows down enough with a new player at the helm of a class with an animal companion, and the mastermind can take that to the extremes. If you can play fast, or you’re in a game with few people, then the Mastermind can shine.

Pathfinder Occultist Guide: Part Three

Now we come to the Feats, Traits,  and Equipment. Where the class abilities gave you specific options in the Occult Adventures book to choose from, these options span many sources. I’ll be focusing on those provided in the books that can be referenced on Paizo’s PRD, with the addition of Occult Adventures, which isn’t on the PRD as of the writing of this guide, but I expect it to be there in a reasonable amount of time.

Feats

Feats are possibly the most complicated choice players have to make, and new players in particular have trouble deciding what options are good for their character. Thankfully the Occultist isn’t a feat heavy class, so you don’t have to worry too much about being feat starved.

I’m going to begin by listing a few feats that are never “bad” choices that appear in the core rulebook, as this will help set a baseline. I’ll then proceed through each book and note the blue and green options, with a few orange thrown in (and maybe a red option or two if I think they might be traps).

Core Rulebook Feats

Skill Feats: This includes feats like Acrobatic or Magical Aptitude that grant a +2 to two different skills. I mention them here as a group, since you probably won’t need to take any of them. You’ve got plenty of skill ranks, so you don’t have to worry about these little boosts. Additionally, Skill Focus (which grants a +3 to one skill) is likewise not very good. Some builds enjoy it, but it’s a bit redundant for the Occultist.

Armor Proficiency (Heavy): Melee focused Occultists are going to want as high an AC as they can get. You could dip into fighter (or similar) to gain the heavy armor training, but dipping with an Occultist can dent your progression substantially (you’re already getting spells later than you’d like). Instead, picking up Heavy Armor Training as a feat isn’t a bad choice, as you aren’t a feat dependent class. You can hold off until level 3 or 5 to pick this up, however, as medium armor will hold up for a few levels, and you won’t have the money for full plate at first level anyway.

Combat Casting: If you’re planning to be in the thick of things then you should consider picking up Combat Casting early. It’s a good first level choice if you want to be able to cast while in melee with an enemy.

Combat Expertise & Improved Maneuvers: Since you’re going to have a high intelligence, you might consider learning a few tricks to use in combat. Disarm, Trip, and Dirty Trick are all decent options that can provide opportunities for your party heavy hitters (if you aren’t one). If you’re a dex build you should also look at the Agile Maneuvers feat. These are rated as orange simply because an Occultist likely has better things to do on his turn, but if you have the feats to burn you might like having an additional combat option.

Point-Blank Shot & Ranged Feats: These include Deadly Aim, Point-Blank Shot, and all the other feats that tie into it (like Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, ect). If you’re going with an archery build, then you’re likely to be putting every feat you get into these. It’s a heavy chain to push into, but with Transmutation’s Gravity Bow spell and Legacy Weapon focus power and you can put out a lot of damage. If this is your plan, you might want to consider being a Human for the extra feat, since this is a feat heavy road to travel.

Dodge & mobility feats: The Dodge chain isn’t a bad one, especially for martial characters with a full BaB, but it doesn’t really hold up for the Occultist, who doesn’t need to charge in right away to be effective, or move about the battlefield much.

Eschew Materials: It depends on your GM, but if yours is a stickler about material components then this is an amazing feat to pick up. Normally you won’t need it (as drawing the components is part of casting) but you’d be surprised how often a lack of a component bag can come up.

Great Fortitude, Iron Will, & Lightning Reflexes: Bonus saves can help to shore up your failings, or to boost a good save into even more reliable territory. However, it’s probably better to get a +1 from a trait than to spend a feat on a +2. The improved versions, however, are almost never worth it.

Improved Counterspell: You’re not going to have the spell levels to make this worth it most of the time.

Improved Initiative: Going first is especially important if you’re filling a crowd control or battlefield control role. If you’re not trying to lock down multiple opponents with debuffs and area spells then this drops to orange.

Power Attack, Cleave, & beyond: If you’re intending to hit things with a big weapon (which is an option) then you’re going to want to pick up Power Attack at level 3 (you can’t until then because of your BaB). Because you’re frequently going to be making only a single attack, Furious Focus (from Advanced Players Guide) is a nice bump. All in all, there aren’t a lot of feats you “need” to make use of a 2-handed melee weapon, so this is a nice secondary role you can fill without too many feats spent.

Spell Focus: You’re going to have problems with saves as you level, and this will certainly help. Don’t hesitate to get all the way to Greater Spell Focus as early as level 5 if you’re specializing in direct damage or debuffing, as you’re going to want the better saves.

Spell Penetration: After about level 7 you’re going to start seeing more and more creatures with Spell Resistance. Luckily it’s a caster level check, so you’re not penalized for being a 6-level caster, but you’re still going to appreciate the added chance to break through resistance. You can wait till level 7 or 9 to pick this up, however.

Toughness: I can’t say this enough, more hit points is good. Even if you don’t think you need them, if you’re at a loss for what to take as a feat, Toughness can keep you alive.

Two-Weapon Fighting Feats: Since Occult Magic doesn’t have somatic components it is possible to work with a two-weapon combatant. However, as a 3/4th BaB character the negative to hit is a bit more noticeable for you. In general this feat heavy chain isn’t as efficient as taking Power Attack and just using a two-hander.

Weapon Finesse: You don’t have a lot of touch attacks, but the few you do can benefit from Weapon Finesse if you have a high dex instead of a high strength.

Weapon Focus: A +1 to hit can help shore up your lower BaB, but the rest of the chain probably isn’t worth diving into for an Occultist.

Item Creation Feats: You just don’t have enough spells to create a wide range of options without lots of Spellcraft checks. However, if your GM allows these feats, it can help push up your wealth by level. You can also use it to enchant your implements at a discount so that they pull double duty. Craft Wondrous Items is your best bet here, and your fellow party members will appreciate it as well.

Metamagic Feats: Here’s a tricky one, as the spells you do get don’t benefit too much from metamagic feats. You gain spell levels so slowly that increasing the spell slot requirement for an effect is rarely worth the jump. You just don’t have the breadth of spells that a full caster has. However, Extend and Heighten can be worth it, especially if you’re buffing (extend) or debuffing (Heighten), so those two are green. Additionally, there are some tricks you can pull with the Magical Lineage trait (which reduces the level of the spell by 1 as long as you toss on a metamagic feat) if you really want to maximize the effectiveness of a single spell. This will hurt your save DC so you’re going to need to choose your spell wisely.

Occult Adventures Feats

I’m bumping Occult Adventures up on the list (rather than the normal chronological release order) because it includes feats specifically for the Occultist.

Psychic Duel Feats: If you’re doing a lot of Psychic Duels, there are a variety of options to help boost up your duel abilities. In non-occult campaigns, however, these aren’t as important, since most creatures won’t put up too much of a fight. If you want to lock people down with psychic duels, however, you can start picking these up after you get level 2 spells.

Efficient Focus Shift: If you’re having problems properly planning where to put your Focus each day then this feat will help you fix your mistakes. However, by 7th level you should have a good handle on things.

Extend Resonant Power: If you’ve got a Conjuration implement this can make it useful to someone at least. Otherwise, this can help provide a buff to a party member, especially if you have other spellcasters in the group.

Extra Focus Power: Focus powers are great, usually far more potent than a single feat, so getting more of them is always a plus. More importantly, you gain feats at the same level as focus powers, so when you hit key levels (like 5th) you can pickup two good powers instead of waiting.

Extra Mental Focus: 2 Focus points may not sound like a lot, but the more you have the happier you’ll be, especially early on. This makes a great 1st level feat.

Implement Focus: If you’re running around with a lot of focus in your generic pool (which I don’t recommend) then this will certainly help. Planning for your day, however, is a big part of the class (like a wizard) so it’s probably better to just get used to thinking ahead instead of using your generic pool too much.

Rapid Focus Shift: If you’re needing to shift focus from instruments this quickly, and this often, then you’re probably better off tanking Extra Mental Focus so you simply have more to go around.

Strong Implement Link: The trick with this feat is to share your implement. You can charge it up in the morning and hand it off, allowing your party sorcerer, for instance, to benefit from your Evocation Implement. As long as you’re within 30 feet of him you can cast with impunity. It’s a surprisingly convenient (and potent) buff for a fellow party member if you’re willing to let someone else hog the glory. That or you have someone in the group who can actually conjure. You do give up access to your associated Focus Powers, however, so that pushes this down into the orange.

Advanced Player’s Guide Feats

From here on out I’m just going to touch on the green and blue feats, to keep things from getting out of hand.

Crossbow Mastery: If you’re going the ranged attack route with a crossbow don’t miss this feat.

Elemental Focus: If you’re throwing around a lot of fire and lightning then this stacks with Spell Focus (evocation) and can help get your save DC’s as high as possible.

Expanded Arcana: This might get an errata, but for now it would let you add spells to your spell list from the Implements you have. This is particularly good for the Implements with a variety of spells, or with good spells all crammed into a few levels (like Evocation or Transmutation).

Furious Focus: I mentioned this above in the Power Attack description. This is surprisingly good for 2-handed martial Occultists, as it lets you boost your accuracy substantially for your first attack each round. It’s worth picking up around 5th-level if you’re in melee a lot (although it can wait till 7 or 9 if you have more pressing feats to take).

Ultimate Combat Feats

There isn’t a lot for an Occultist in Ultimate Combat, as Style feats comprise the bulk of options. But there’s a few good options not to be overlooked.

Clustered Shots: This can really help you overcome damage resistance, if you’re using ranged weapons this can make a big difference.

Destructive Dispel: If you’re going to be using Dispel Magic to dispel frequently then this feat is pretty effective. It’s only worth taking if you fight a lot of spellcasters though, and if you’re willing to hold your action to dispel. If this is the case, however, this quickly jumps up to blue.

Dimensional Agility Chain: If you’re going to use dimension door frequently, this can provide some interesting tricks. While most classes have to multi-class to make use of these feats in melee, the Occultist doesn’t. The effects of the feats, however, aren’t powerful enough to rate them highly, but they are fun. You don’t get Dimension Door very early, however, so this will be a late game option for you.

Dispel Synergy: Another boost if you dispel frequently.

Ultimate Magic Feats

Many of these feats are designed for specific classes, but there are a few worth looking at for the Occultist.

Antagonize: An Abjuration focused Occultist can make an amazing tank, if only he had a mechanic for attracting the attention of a single enemy… and this feat gives him that.

Detect Expertise: If you enjoy using divination magic to get a leg up on enemies, then this can help a lot. It is particularly useful in investigation focused campaigns, as the abilities of a target are huge clues in a “who done it.”

Eldritch Heritage Chain: Gaining the benefits of a sorcerer bloodline can vary from terrible to amazing. One notably great options to look at is Arcana (for Arcane Bond),

Extra Cantrips or Orisons: This technically doesn’t work for the Occultist, because he has Knacks, not Catnrips/Orisons. However I can’t imagine a non-PFS GM having an issue with the feat. If you’ve got Knacks you want to pick up (like multiple divination 0-level spells) talk to your GM about being allowed to take this feat. Technically, expanded arcana can also let you select two 0-level spells.

Spell Specialization: If you’re tossing around a lot of Evocation spells with damage die per level (like fireball) then Spell Specialization can boost that damage considerably. The feat itself allows you to choose a new spell at regular intervals, so once you’ve maxed out the levels on a spell you can apply the feat to something new.

Undead Master: If you’re working towards an undead horde you probably don’t actually need this. However, if you’re trying to build one big bloody skeleton (or the similar) then this feat can really help turn that dragon you just killed into your new pet.

Advanced Class Guide Feats

Most of these feats focus on the new classes in the book, but again, there are some great options.

Amateur Investigator: As an Int  class this is an amazing ability in an investigation heavy campaign.

Barroom Brawler: If you’ve got a variety of combat feats you wish you had, then this will give you some added flexibility. Only take this if you really know your combat feat options well, however, as it can slow the game down if you’re searching through books.

Believer’s Boon: If you follow a god with good domains (trickery is amazing, as is travel) then this is blue, otherwise it’s likely green, as most god’s have at least one decent domain ability.

Slashing Grace: If you’re going with a dex build, this is close to a requirement, as it represents a big jump in damage. It’s a bit feat intensive, however, and dex is not the Occultists most efficient route to melee fighting.

Traits

It’s easier to break traits up into groups, as many perform similar functions. There are a few traits that benefit from some special attention, and we’ll discuss those individually. There is an amazing guide to traits here, and there isn’t much need for me to go over them all now. I’ll touch on the big blue options only.

Skill Traits: Gaining a new skill in class can help round out a character. Occultists have enough skill points to go around so picking up a skill you don’t have like Knowledge (Dungeoneering), Bluff, or Intimidate gives you a big boost to flexibility.

+1 Save Traits: A bonus to saves never hurts, especially since you can shore up your reflex save.

Reactionary: If you’re a debuffer or controller build, going first is extremely helpful.

Focused Mind: A bonus to concentration checks will help if you’re going to be on the front lines.

Magical Lineage: You’ll have to find a spell that benefits greatly from metamagic, and then take metamagic feats to make this worth while. If you do, however, you can pull of some neat tricks. One example is to take Shocking Grasp and the Reach metamagic feat, giving you a decent ranged touch attack in your first level spell slot.

Magic Items

There are a lot of magic items and the Occultist interacts with them a bit differently than most, because not all item bonuses stack with the abilities of an Occultist. Cloak of Resistance, for instance, won’t stack with the benefits of the Abjuration Implement. It is vitally important that you check the type of bonus granted by items, to be sure their effects stack.

A +1 Weapon, is a priority for melee characters. Not just for the bonus it provides on its own, but because it unlocks Legacy Weapon’s ability to grant other effects, like Keen and Bane, at low levels. Between Lead Blades and Bane you can have a Greatsword that deals 5d6+2+1.5 Str + Power Attack damage.

Likewise, +1 Armor and Shields open up Aegis in the Abjuration Implement. Give the special armor and shield abilities a read, there is something for almost any situation available to you. Defiant functions much like Bane, so you can add +2 AC and DR 2/- to your armor/shield.

Metamagic Rods are also a huge boon. Rather than spending feats on metamagic, an Extend or Heighten rod provides 3 uses per day of a very convenient feat.

From Occult Adventures there is also the Ring of Psychic Mastery. By the time you can afford it, it hands out 4 additional spells per day(a single spell slot of levels 1 to 4). This is especially good for characters who had to cast a spell multiple times (like healers or nukers).

Lastly is the Refocusing Rod. At 5000gp this rod is cheap enough to rate much better than taking the Efficient Focus Shift feat. It even provides other functionality that the feat doesn’t.

Next up, Archetypes & Builds!

Pathfinder Occultist Guide: Part Two

Implements & Schools

Every Occultist is limited by the implements he has chosen. At most you’ll only ever have 7 Implements, and for the majority of your career you’ll only have 4 or 5. This means that every Occultist has a very difficult decision to make. What makes the issue more convoluted, is that every Implement school has its own drawbacks and bonuses.

Implements correspond to schools of magic. Every implement grants a base power, a passive “Resonant” ability that powers up when you invest focus in the implement, and it also provides a list of possible Focus Powers that a character can choose from when they are granted Focus powers at odd levels. The Occultist gains 1 spell per spell level from the associated school off of his list (which is fairly limited but has some good spells).  You’ll quickly get a 3rd Implement at level 2, but then you have to wait till level 6 for a 4th. So the early choices are important.

Because of all this, every Implement school functions very differently. They each provide abilities along one or two themes, and the focus powers often mimic an enhanced version of the spell options provided. Spell choices often fall to utility abilities, because the focus powers do the job must better. You’ve only got so many focus powers to choose from, however,so spells can broaden options in effects you don’t want to use focus powers on.

Some implements have amazing focus powers, some have great spells, and some have solid base abilities. Don’t be afraid to take an implement because you like one or two focus powers. Sure the spells you gain might not be your cup of tea, but they won’t hurt you. You’ve only got so many actions in combat, so the opportunity cost for a few dud spells isn’t a big deal when you’re using focus powers or just wading into melee.

I’m not going to color-code the implement schools themselves, as your mileage is going to vary depending on too many factors. However, I will be color coding all the abilities within the school, so help inform your decision making when choosing the options you might be interested in.

Lastly, Occultists have the option to take an implement more than once to gain additional spells from the school. I don’t recommend this. Once you have the implement the spells from the school are considered on your spell list, so you can just pickup scrolls and wands to fill in those spots. Even when it isn’t on your list, you’ve got an amazing UMD, so just invest in a few scrolls and wands for those abilities you’ll want frequently that you might not have (like detect magic).

Abjuration School

The abjuration implements can turn an Occultist into a defensive wall, shrugging off attacks both physical and magical. It improves your saves, gives you reactive defense options, and lets you dispel magical effects that do manage to get through. If you’re intending to be on the front lines of combat the abjuration school should be a priority for you.

Warding Talisman (Resonant Power): This effectively turns your implement into a cloak of resistance. It doesn’t stack with the cloak, but honestly that’s fine. Really this frees you up to take one of the many other awesome cloaks that is usually usurped by a cloak of resistance.

Mind Barrier (Base Focus Power): While it requires you to be ready to take a hit, it is only a swift action. If you’re looking at being on the front line of fights this power jumps up to blue. Combined with Heavy Armor Proficiency this can make for a very effective meat shield.

Aegis (Any Level): For 1 focus you can increase the enhancement bonus of your shield or armor, and it stacks if you’ve already got a magic bonus. Even better, you can use this power to add any special ability to the armor or shield. This grants an incredible amount of defensive flexibility to the character for a full minute, allowing the Occultist to adapt to enemy threats while on the front line.

Energy Shield (3rd Level): Another incredible defensive ability. Turning it on is a swift action and it lasts for a full minute, so with a little preparation you can withstand elemental damage (like a dragon’s fire) without missing a beat. It works like Protection from Energy with 5 points per level. As a swift action for 1 focus this is great. However, it gets even better! For 2 focus you can gain this benefit as an immediate action! So when the dragon breaths fire… BAM buncha points of fire buffer!

Globe of Negation (11th Level): A solid defensive ability that can protect both the Occultist and his companions. It’s immobile, costs a lot of focus, and it pops fairly quickly (usually only stopping one or two spells). However, it does provide a fair amount of battlefield control and protection against enemy casters.

Loci Sentry (Any Level): An effective early warning system that just won’t get used very often. Dazing the target for a round is a step up from the Alarm spell, but if you set the area far enough away from you (as an early warning system) then the daze won’t matter.

Planar Ward (Any Level): Another 1 minute defensive buff, this one will range from orange to blue depending on how frequently your campaign encounters outsiders. In a demon hunting campaign this is pretty amazing. If you’re hunting giants, however, it won’t come into play much.

Unraveling (5th Level): A limited dispel magic ability that can serve to shut down magical traps, remove buffs from a target, or clear debuffs off yourself and allies. It has a range limitation of touch, but if you’re a melee kind of character that isn’t too bad.

Abjuration Spells

  • 0-level: The only option you get here is Resistance, which won’t stack with your Resonant power. So you’re left giving out a +1 Resistance bonus to your allies once in a while.
  • 1st-level; A few good options here, notably Shield (for when you want to use a 2-hand weapon) as well as Weapon Ward (for when you want to cast in combat).
  • 2nd-level: These spells are all pretty situational. Of these spells I think that Node of Blasting will serve you best, although Resist Energy is also a good staple defensive spell to hand out to your party (limited somewhat by your better Focus Powers).
  • 3rd-level: Dispel Magic, Explosive Runes, Communal Resist Energy, and Protection from Energy are all great options. If you’ve got the energy resisting focus powers the last two spells won’t help you much, but if you’re not a front line fighter you’re allies will thank you for it. None of the spells at this level are really bad, but I feel Dispel Magic will serve you best since you can likely only pick one spell.
  • 4th-level: This level of magic is blue if only for Dimensional Anchor. There are other good options out there, but once enemies get access to teleport it becomes critical to shut that crap down or else the big bad will escape time and again.
  • 5th-level: Greater Dispel Magic and Spell Resistance are your best two options here. Nothing flashy, but they are good staples that you won’t regret having.
  • 6th-level: Many of these spells are redundant with force powers you could take at lower levels. Forbiddance and Symbol of Vulnerability require some setup time but are well worth it once they are active. Repulsion can save your bacon as well.

Conjuration Implements

Conjuration has more red options, in my opinion, than any other implement school, but it isn’t as bad as it appears. If you’re happy with your other implements, Conjuration makes a solid 2nd level pickup. You can safely put just a few Focus into your implement for Servitor  and then pickup healing and utility spells just so that you’ve got them. You don’t have to take any of the focus powers, but you might pick up one or two at later levels.

Casting Focus (Resonant Power): This is would be an early boost for low level summoners if there were more spells it effected.  The only spell you have that are 1 round per level is Glitterdust (lvl 2). Basically you’re only use for this is to hand it off to the party Conjurer and then summon yourself a new implement with Conjure Implement (which will only last 10 minutes per level). So basically it’s useless to you. I keep rereading it in hopes that I misread it before, or that I’m missing something key.

Servitor (Base Focus Power): Now we’re talking. You get to summon monsters for a minute. That’s the duration of a level 10 summon monster spell, and it scales up. Better yet, you can just keep the creature out by spending focus. Even better, there are a ton of creatures you can summon that cast spells, so this gives you access to a wide range of both combat and utility abilities.

Conjure Implement (Any level): I don’t see this ability coming into play a lot, unless your GM likes to strip the party of their equipment on a regular basis.  There are only a few corner cases that come to mind to make this worth taking. It might bump up if your GM REALLY appreciates cleverness.

Flesh Mend (3rd level): Not a bad heal power, and it scales well enough to matter. You’re not going to be the group primary healing source, but you can certainly be respectable in a pinch.

Mind Steed (Any level): It’s a shorter duration mount spell that can eventually fly. It’s not bad on its own, but the opportunity cost of all the missed alternative focus powers puts this one into the red.

Psychic Fog (3rd level): Obscuring mist isn’t a bad effect for your party rogue, but this power really doesn’t get good until 7th level when it mimics solid fog, which lets you get a bit more creative. If you like this ability, I recommend postponing it until at least level 7.

Purge Corruption (5th level): If you see a lot of poison and disease in play this can be helpful, but the Heal skill, scrolls, or a paladin/cleric can handle these problems without you have to dedicate an entire Focus Power to it.

Side Step (7th level): This one is worded strangely, as it says it works like teleport… which has a failure chance based on how well you know the area you’re heading to; however, the power has a short duration. I think they wanted it to simply not require line of site to the destination, and I’m hoping it gets errata’d to be more clear as to the intended effect. It’s green now, but will jump to blue if it the wording changes.

Conjuration Spells

  • 0-level: Create Water and Stabilize aren’t terrible, of which I think Stabilize will find more dramatic use.
  • 1st-level; You could pick up Cure Light Wounds here, and with Flesh Meld added in  you’ve got a lot of d8s to pump into your party right from the get-go. The rest of the spells don’t really do much for you, although Mount here is probably a better choice than as a Focus power.
  • 2nd-level: Communal mount is a nice group escape spell, and of course cure moderate wounds isn’t bad. However, Glitterdust is the best spell available here, especially as something a spontaneous caster can toss around.
  • 3rd-level: There aren’t a lot of flashing options here, but you’ve got a few good work horse spells. Cure Serious Wounds can save a life, and minor creation can be used in enough creative non-combat ways to be a good quality of life upgrade.
  • 4th-level: Dimension door is a classically useful spell, and it opens up some interesting feat chains. If teleporting isn’t your thing (or you have the focus power) then major creation is another great problem solving spell.
  • 5th-level: Lesser planar binding works well with your magic circle class ability, and by the time you get the spell you’ve got a decent enough circle. This opens up a some options later in your career that adds something new to your repertoire. Likewise,  Wall of Stone can see frequent use, especially in dungeons.
  • 6th-level: Not much of real use here, other than wall of iron, and planar binding. You’re probably going to be using your other 6th level spells more often.

Divination Implements

Unsurprisingly, Divination does what it says on the tin. It provides a wide array of spells and abilities suitable for espionage and research. It doesn’t blow things up in combat, but it does turn the character into a super sleuth. The resonant and base power are good enough that divination can find a home early in almost any Occultists arsenal of implements, and it’s a great level 6 choice even in a martial or dungeon crawling campaign.

Third Eye (Resonant Power): If you’re a human, this power is very helpful early on, and if you’re the party scout this is even better. I rate it as blue because it scales so well for a passive ability that is basically always on. Having reliably “always on” see invisibility and dark vision by level 7 isn’t flashy, but Pathfinder will frequently reward you for having them.

Sudden Insight (Base Focus Power): A +1 doesn’t feel like a lot at level 1, but this scales rapidly. Because of the way a d20 roll works, by the time this is giving you a +5 bonus on demand, you’re going to love having it. Around level 10 you’ll probably have 9 focus in your implement, so that’s 9 times a day you can add a +5 to a skill check or attack.

Danger Sight (3rd level): While not as potent as the more narrow defensive Abjuration Focus Powers, this one can be applied to a wide range of options. As with Sudden Sight, you can safely use this frequently for bonuses to critical defensive moments.

Future Gaze (Any level): Augury is one of those odd spells that relies so heavily on the GM guessing that it might as well be useless.  Not because GMs are jerks, but because players tend to take approach problems in cinema inspired ways that render this power more a story point than a reliable mechanic you want to invest in. If I’m running a game and I want my players to have this sort of effect (which I often do) I’ll give them an item that does this.

Mind Eye (5th level): The perfect spy ability. I know Diviner-Wizards who would sell their familiar for this kind of trick. It’s invisible (+20 stealth) and Fine (+16 stealth) so it’s going to be pretty hard to spot. Seeing what is beyond the door, or hearing the enemy’s plans, drastically changes entire encounters… or the path of whole campaigns! Having frequent access to this sort of ability is a game changer in almost any campaign.

Object Seer (7th level): I rate this fairly low because it won’t see frequent use, and when it does you’re probably going to get a lot of the same information out of your Object Reading class ability (which works on mundane items just fine).

Powerful Connection (any level): Because Mind Eye is so good, I have hard time rating this ability above orange. If you’re looking divine frequently this can be useful, but those spells don’t come around until much later. If you’re dead set on being a magical bloodhound, however, this will help you do achieve that goal.

Watchful Eye (any level): Of the focus powers available at level 1 this is the best divination option, which gives it a little bump in color rating. If your campaign is functioning on a high intrigue sort of game this is blue. Why? Because it effectively gives you a security camera in a medieval setting. This has a lot of investigation and spying uses.

Divination Spells

  • 0-level: Detect Magic and Detect Psychic Significance are used so frequently that not having Detect Magic as a caster is a big deal. Not as big a deal for an occultist, but picking up here is great. Read Magic, likewise, is a boon if you’re looking at heavy scroll use. I recommend choosing Read Magic and then getting a wand of Detect Magic early on.
  • 1st-level; Your high int score gives you extra languages, but not so many that comprehend languages won’t see use. In addition, detect secret doors is pretty great for a spontaneous caster who sees a lot of dungeon time.
  • 2nd-level: Create Treasure Map is just a crazy spell. Not just useful, but interesting in its application. Locate object can also be used in sweeping patterns (usually over the course of days) during an investigation, if you get creative.
  • 3rd-level: Seek thoughts is just an immensely useful tool in investigation focused campaigns. Likewise, Retrocognition is just an amazing tool at a crime scene!
  • 4th-level: There are several of the best divination spells at this level that aren’t rendered less useful by Mind Eye. Detect Scrying being one of the big ones for paranoid (or competent) characters.
  • 5th-level: Between Battlemind Link, Find Quarry, and True Seeing, you’re going to have some tough choices to make.  Of those, Battlemind Link is pretty flashy, and will make a martial party member love you (and you them).
  • 6th-level: By the time you get these spells you’ve already figure out creative uses for your other scrying spells and abilities. You’re likely to just take an upgrade to one of your other abilities here, for the higher DCs and effectiveness. You can grab Scrying (greater), for instance, and then swap out a lower level spell when you get the chance.

Enchantment Implements

The enchantment school focuses heavily on “save or suck” spells, crowd control, and turning the enemy against themselves. It does it fairly well too, especially with Focus Powers that are souped up versions of traditional control spells. Unfortunately your spell list doesn’t scale well, since the DCs are tied to spell levels that you get later. You’re going to need Spell Focus Enchantment to have much chance of making them work, and even then you might be better off taking the utility options instead (although there aren’t many of those).

Glorious Presence (Resonant Power): Nothing flashy here, just a solid boost to a wide range of skills. A boost to diplomacy and UMD are great, and if you use a trait to get Bluff in class, all the better. If you’re the party face you should consider picking up the Enchantment school.

Cloud Mind (Base Focus Power): Basically a better version of the daze spell, this ability has limited use, as the best you can hope for is to steal a turn from a creature that is your HD or lower. You’ve likely got better things to do on your turn.

Binding Pattern (7th level): Hold Person is always a good spell, and the DC on this power scales with level. If you’re looking to be a master of crowd control this is a good tool to have.

Forced Alliance (5th level): Essentially a charm person effect with a broader range of targets and a better scaling save. It’s combat uses are more limited than they would appear, but if your saves are high enough you can turn an enemy to your side for a few rounds.

Inspired Assault (Any level): A nice little buff, and you’ve likely got enough focus to hand it out to a friend or two. Unless you have a bard in the group, this is a good “about to bust down the door” buff to hand to a damage dealer.

Mental Discord (Any level): Now here’s a great debuff that you can take at level 1. You won’t use it in every fight, but when you do it’s a big deal. Just remember that primary casters (like wizards and clerics) usually have decent will saves. But if you stick it to them (and you can keep trying each round) they will have a hard time casting their higher level spells. On the flipside, it’s more likely to land on some partial casters (paladins being a notable exception) but those targets will have an easier time passing the concentration checks. If nothing else, landing it on a target imposes a -2 will save penalty for your future spells and abilities.

Mind Slumber (3rd level): Another really solid crowd control spell. If you’re dealing with a single opponent then you should have a plan for how you’re going to manipulate it on your turn. Try to come up with some hurried Jigsaw (from the SAW movies) situations to put the target in when it wakes up. It’s only green because it allows a save every round.

Obey (Any level): A standard command spell, but again, with the benefit of a scaling saving throw. Bonus points if you’re a common race in your setting (like human), as the -2 penalty to resist is nothing to sneeze at. If you’re looking to focus on enchantment, this is the flashiest enchantment power once you get some experience with it.

Enchantment Spells

  • 0-level: Your only option is Daze, which your Base Focus Power does does better. Once you’re fighting things with a few HD under their belt this becomes useless.
  • 1st-level; Many of the spells on this list are mimicked by Focus powers in a more potent fashion, although Forbid Action, Hypnotism, and Murderous Command are all solid choices with unique mechanical effects (if on the same control theme).
  • 2nd-level: Demand Offering is a new spell with a range of possibilities. Investigative Mind also offers a bump to a few int-based skill checks that is pretty hefty as well. Nothing stands out as particularly useful, however, as Focus Powers can usually get the job done better.
  • 3rd-levelHere are some more crowd control options. Although at this point you’re getting spells late enough that monsters are having a harder time resisting them. If you want to do crowd control for the long haul I recommend Focus Powers instead. Deep Slumber, for instance, isn’t an option until level 7, and it stops being potent 3 or 4 levels later.
  • 4th-level: Now we’re talking with Mind Swap. there are a lot of possibilities here. After all, it’s a lot easier for the group to tackle and subdue the big bad if his mind is in your body. All the while you happily tie yourself up while in his body. Or how about infiltrating the enemy hideout in the body of one of their trusted soldiers? There are a few other spells on the list, but I can’t imagine taking them over Mind Swap.
  • 5th-level: More crowd control with a save lower than you’d like. Of all these I think Inflict Pain (mass) is going to be your most useful spell, because it’s guaranteed to at least do something (if not much).
  • 6th-level: While most of your spells are getting resisted once and then they are done, Dream Cloak forces multiple creatures to save every turn or fall asleep, with no HD limit. Lots of stuff is immune to sleep by the time you get it, but the things that aren’t might actually fail a save often enough to make this worthwhile to cast in the pre-buffing before a planned combat.

Evocation Implements

Evocation suffers from the same problem as Enchantment, as the spell DCs don’t scale as well as the Focus Power DCs. However, those powers still do something (usually half damage) on a save, so it fairs considerably better. If you’re looking to be a party nuker this school can actually pull it off, but you’ll be using Focus Powers to pull much of that off. Melee based Occultists are going to get less out of this school, but there are still utility and flexibility options worth taking (like wall spells).

Intense Focus (Resonant Power): This is a workhorse buff, granting a bonus to the Occultists direct damage evocation abilities. The buff adds up, and it makes the Energy Ray base power a respectable little blast after a few levels (3d6+3 by level 6).

Energy Ray (Base Focus Power): This isn’t a powerful blast, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is better than ray powers that many classes get (which is usually 1d6+1/2levels) and only a little less powerful than the Kineticist’s basic blast. Combined with a high number of possible uses per day, and this power serves a character fairly well.

Energy Blast (5th Level): An area effect version of Energy Ray, this ability functions like a small fireball on demand. Combined with the bonus from Intense Focus, and the scaling save, and this power serves to be a solid nuke you can toss around enough times per day to actually matter.

Energy Ward (7th Level): If you’re a melee focused Occultist you’ll get more out of this ability than if you want to blast at range. The resistance to an energy type serves well, but the damage shield doesn’t scale well enough to be worth it at level 7.  Since most creatures are resistant to the type of energy they naturally breathe/cause the two different portions of this ability don’t usually work at the same time. If you want elemental protection then an Abjuration Focus Power will serve you better.

Light Matrix: (Any level): This power starts off fairly weak as a light source spell, but at level 5 it gains a nifty blind trick. However, it just doesn’t do much compared to other focus powers.

Radiance (Any level): This power is slightly better than Light Matrix, because it can dispel magical darkness fairly easy after a few levels. However, added effect on a critical hit isn’t going to see much use, as an actual Glitterdust spell or See Invisibility will work more reliably.

Shape Mastery (Any level): If you like throwing around large area effects, this ability can let you avoid hitting your party members, which they will appreciate. Usually only 2 or 3 party members will be in the danger zone, so this power lets you get more frequent use of spells like Burning Hands and Fireball. I rate this as blue, because if you want this power you’ll use it very frequently. Only take it if you plan to be launching a lot of area attacks, however.

Wall of Power (9th level): As battlefield control abilities go, this one isn’t very potent, as it simply causes a moderate amount of damage to creatures passing through the wall. If it blocked sight it would have more uses, but as it stands it probably won’t do as much damage as the base power when it is activated, unless you have a way to trap the enemy in the area for its duration.

Evocation Spells

  • 0-level: You’re likely going to get more service out of Light or Spare than you will out of the other abilities. If you’re just desperate for a cantrip attack telekentic projectile is the best cantrip attack, but you’ll probably have something better to do on your turn.
  • 1st-level; Shocking Grasp, combined with the Magical Lineage trait and Reach metamagic can give you a 5d6 level 1 spell at 25ft if you’re looking for more direct nuking. Burning Hands will probably be your choice.
  • 2nd-level: Burning Gaze can be fun, but its damage rapidly becomes inconsequential. However, Flaming Sphere has hidden efficiency, in that if you direct it each round it can often cleanup creatures that only have a few hitpoints left, allowing your groups heavy hitters to move on to fresh targets.  The list of options is long enough that you’ll probably find something that plays well with your party role somewhere (like Pilfering Hand if you’re the scout).
  • 3rd-level: This is the level with all the nukes, too bad you don’t get 3rd level spell until 7th level. the DC of also doesn’t scale like your focus powers. They are good backups, but you might find you prefer blasting with Elemental Ray or Elemental Blast. It still rates as green, however, as you can work to keep your DCs high enough to stay viable longer. Plus Call Lightning has a high degree of efficiency when combined with Flaming Sphere that is hard to match in spells (just cast both and control them every round, you only use up 2 spells for the fight, but get to do something decent every round).
  • 4th-level: Ball lightning does the work of flaming sphere, only much better, and Spirit-Bound weapon is a nice flexible buff for melee focused Occultists. This is also the level where Wall spells become available, providing some nice battlefield control.
  • 5th-level: If you’re doing the efficiency combo (call lightning + flaming sphere) then this level sees another upgrade with call lightning storm, and Fire Snake or Cone of Cold give you more area blast options with shapes not provided by your Focus Powers. You get these spells a little late, however, to rate them better.
  • 6th-level: None of the blasts do enough at the level you gain them, and you’re really going to feel the hit in save DCs of being so far behind 9-level casters. You’re best off taking a utility spell, like Contingency, that lets you get creative.

Illusion Implements

The best illusion options are those that provide invisibility of one form or another. There are lots of them, and quite a few options for generating a miss chance against you. These spells are best used by creative players (in games with a GM who appreciates shenanigans). Melee focused Occultists will find use in the spells that grant a miss chance, or create mirror images.

Distortion (Resonant Power): The miss chance provided is pretty small for most of your career, but it can always be on at the start of a fight. It requires a standard action to turn on, and it breaks once you attack, but it can be activated frequently enough that it will block a few hits.

Minor Figment (Base Focus Power): Like many illusion abilities, this one favors the creative. If you like playing the trickster this power will see frequent use. I rate it as blue because I have faith in your ability to apply this power in interesting ways, although you may need two castings to get some effects going.

Cloak Image (Any level): Disguise self is one of those really handy effects that often goes overlooked. The sheer number of times you can use this ability (and the ability to share later on) makes this a nice quality of life ability for the bluffer / party face.

Color Beam (Any level): Blinded is a good effect, but dazzled is pretty sub-par. The will save to negate this fairly minor effect make it a poor choice over other Illusion focus powers.  What’s worse, is you can’t even use it every round to keep something lower level than you blinded for more than a single turn.

Masquerade (7th level): You’ll probably get more mileage out of Cloak Image, unless you’re just dead set on impersonating people.

Mirage (5th level): If you’re one of those tricksy players, this ability begins to shine. It is especially good because you can use it so many times in a day. This can quickly become a staple power in your illusion arsenal as the area affected grows.

Shadow Beast (9th level): There is a lot of utility in Summon Monster, not just combat applications. In addition, the standard action cast time, and boost to damage from disbelievers (50% up from 20%) makes this a great focus power.

Unseen (3rd level): I can’t even begin to describe how useful this is, as invisibility on demand never gets old. You (or your party damage dealer) can even act offensively if you’re willing to spend focus every time you do.

Illusion Spells

  • 0-level: Ghost sound is your only option, this is rated orange instead of red since ghost sound has some uses, but some choice would be nice.
  • 1st-level; Your focus powers are likely going to get more illusion causing use. Shadow Weapon, on the other hand, scales pretty well, and if your save DC is high enough it can serve as an emergency weapon option. Additionally, Illusion of Calm can really help prevent attacks of opportunity while you engage in other actions. Vanish provides some low level invisibility, but once you can cast invisibility or use Unseen it should get replaced.
  • 2nd-level: If you like your concealment percentage from the Resonant Power, then Blur is going to find frequent use, especially if you’re a melee Occultist. Mirror Image is equally useful as a defensive buff. You can probably skip the other spells (even invisibility) in favor of Focus powers. A special mention needs to go out for Instigate Psychic Duel, as it can be a key feature of Occult campaigns. Even in no occult campaigns it can lock a powerful enemy down for quite some time… if you’re willing to put your brain in harms way.
  • 3rd-level: Invisibility sphere and Displacement are great spells that never go out of style.
  • 4th-level: Greater Invisibility is worth taking, even with your Focus Power, more as a buff for other party members than for yourself (but you can still use it as a defensive boost). Otherwise Illusory Wall or Shocking Image are decent green choices.
  • 5th-level: Persistent Image comes a little late for you to get much real use out of it, and the other options are lackluster minor improvements. Mislead is probably the most useful.
  • 6th-level: Of the two options I prefer Permanent Image (especially for complex deceptions) but it comes so late in your career that you’ve probably grown accustomed to other approaches to problem solving.

Necromancy Implements

The Necromancy Implement provides not one, but two decent minion options that last 10 minutes per level, and that can be recast frequently. Combined with animate dead and the base resonant power and you’ve got a competent necromancer at your disposal. It also has a fear/curse line of options (most in spells) that combos well with Enchantment if you’re in a primary debuffer/controller role.

Necromantic Focus (Resonant Power): This is a doozy of a power, allowing for much larger undead hordes or single creatures to be created and controlled. If that wasn’t enough, it imposes a negative to saves that undead make against any of your spells and effects (from any school). Undead is a common enough creature type that this is a pretty useful secondary effect.

Mind far (Base Focus Power): Shaken isn’t a bad effect to toss onto big monsters, and Frightened is fantastic crowd control. Still the power comes in at orange because you’re going to probably have better options for achieving your goals.

Flesh Rot (3rd level): This doesn’t heal undead, so it isn’t as useful as inflict wounds, and its restricted targeting makes it pretty lackluster even as an attack.

Necromantic Servant (Any level): For the low level Occultist this is an amazing power. While the base skeleton is pretty weak, the boost to HP, BaB, and Damage keeps it useful as you level, as does the template and splitting powers. All in all, it’s a good little disposable minion. Most GMs will rule that it is summoned without weapons and armor (which is likely the intention). At low levels you should invest in an armored coat and a weapon/buckler that you can hand your new minion when you summon it. This avoids using up precious minutes waiting for it to put on better armor.

Pain Wave (7th level): Sickened is a descent debuff to hand out, and even if your target succeeds on its save they are sickened for one round. Its an area effect, so it also works to soften up the enemy’s saves for your party. Just an all around good work-horse ability that will see some mileage. It’s only green because you don’t get it until 7th level.

Psychic Curse (5th level): The pain confusion component lasts for days, so it can be a nice debuff to put on a target you plan to engage later on (especially if you have some crit-fishers in your group). In addition, the mental block and memory lapse effects are likewise super useful, so the flexibility of this power pushes into the blue.

Soulbound Puppet (Any level): Another small minion power, this one is slightly less offensive than the skeleton/zombie option, but both can be active, and familiars have some nice effect boosts. Keep a small collection of animal skulls on hand and you can swap between them fairly regularly.

Spirit Shroud (3rd level): Another defensive buff, this one in the form of temporary hitpoints. This can be as good (or better) in cases where you can pre-buff before a fight.

Necromancy Spells

  • 0-level: Touch of Fatigue is the “good” spell on the list, but special mention needs to go out to Grave Words, just for being really creepy to cast. If you want to play up the halloween-style horror of your character it can sometimes be useful (just do it all the time and hope for the best).
  • 1st-level; Other than the corpse altering spells (which have limited use) the two options are Cause Fear (which has a HD limit) and Inflict Light Wounds. Of these, Inflict Light Wounds is used to heal your undead, so you’re probably going to want to go with that.
  • 2nd-level: Lesser Animate Dead is the big stand out here, getting you an early start on your undead horde/servant. If you are a more melee focused Occultist then take a look at Brow Gasher. Bleed damage that scales (and has no save) really adds up.
  • 3rd-level: Chances are high you’re going to want Animate Dead. If you’re not doing the undead army thing, however, Bestow Curse is a pretty potent debuff that also rates blue if your save DCs are high enough.
  • 4th-level: Between Possession and Fear this spell level has some solid utility/control options. It comes online a little late, but at least the options aren’t redundant.
  • 5th-level: Suffocation is a useful option because it is resisted by Fortitude instead of Will. So many spells and powers in your arsenal use Will saves that you’re going to have a hard time with casting enemies. Having an ace in the hole that might hit them on a weaker save is just a good strategy.
  • 6th-level: There isn’t really anything great at this level, so it might be time to pick up harm or greater possession as upgrades to earlier spells you find useful.

Transmutation School

If I were rating the schools themselves I would rate Transmutation as blue. It’s fantastic for martial (both ranged and melee) Occultists, almost to the point of being a must have selection. Many of the focus powers are impressive, and almost every level has multiple good spells. It tapers off at higher levels, but that’s an issue all 6-level casters share.

Physical Enhancement (Resonant Power): It’s as good as a +2 attribute belt at level 1, and it frees up your belt slot later on. Alternatively, you can wear an attribute belt for one stat and then buff up another, saving you precious gold. All in all, this is a great passive ability, even if it does take 3 focus to power up.

Legacy Weapon (Base Focus Power): For a martial (ranged or melee) occultist this ability really shines, allowing you to gain special weapon qualities at earlier than normal. All you need is a +1 weapon and you can start laying on effects like bane, keen, or holy, as you need them.

Mind Over Gravity (7th level): It’s flight, and a pretty good version of it too. It lasts plenty long enough and has perfect maneuverability.

Philosopher’s Touch (Any level): Cold Iron and Silver weapons aren’t so expensive that you need to worry about taking this. Most players can afford to begin the game with a Cold Iron Spear (just in case you need it) and by the time you need silver or adamantine weapons you’ll be able to afford one, or at least a few blanches for arrows.

Quickness (5th level):  While the Haste spell allows you to buff the entire party, if you’re not worried about doing that this does provide a minor upgrade. I’d rather take the spell at 7th level, however, than using up Focus Power.

Size Alteration (Any level): It’s enlarge and reduce person, but as a standard instead of a 1 round casting time. It doesn’t seem like much, but that’s a big boost. However it’s on a shorter duration, so this power doesn’t really become effective in combat until about level 5, and by then its potency is tapering off.

Sudden Speed (Any level): A swift action to gain 30ft to your move speed? Not bad at all, and it has a decent duration. Definitely good for getting into melee… or running away. At early levels, if you’re in medium armor, this boosts your speed up to that of a horse.

Telekenetic Mastery (9th level): Standard telekenesis is a pretty good spell, this is better, as you can still cast spells while maintaining the ability. You have to wait until level 9, but once you get this power it can be a big problem solver in a variety of situations.

Transmutation Spells

  • 0-level: Of the knacks (aka cantrip) powers, Transmutation has the best selection, both in numbers and quality. Mage Hand, Mending, and Open Close will all see frequent use.
  • 1st-level; Another plethora (fun word) of options here, and many of them very good. Lead Blades and Gravity Bow really shine for boosting martial damage.
  • 2nd-level: This level is a little less potent, but it has some solid options. Rope Trick, for instance, can help when hiding and resting. Nothing really flashy, but a few spells you’ll find useful.
  • 3rd-level: Haste, Fly, and Stone Shape are big spells, of which I find Haste to be used the most, since focus powers can handle flight.
  • 4th-level: There are a few decent spells in here, but you’re really going to have to look for ways to make them work. I rate this orange, because everything here takes work to make them worthwhile.
  • 5th-level: Here’s another mediocre level, where the best spell (telekinesis) is replicated better by a force power.
  • 6th-level: Disintegrate is a solid nuke, but you get everything on this list too late to make it worthwhile.

Next up, Part 3: Feats, Traits, & Equipment!