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).
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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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-level: Here 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 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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!