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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default [PF] The Sylvan Sorcerer and Redemption of Polymorph

    The Gist:
    The sylvan wildblooded bloodline allows you to trade in the +2 DC on compulsion spells and the laughing touch ability of the fey bloodline for an animal companion. The sorcerer also gets access to a shiny number of arcane self-only buffs that, due to the share spells ability, they can cast on their animal companion. Alter Self and Enlarge Person are only the beginning. This build focuses on support for the animal companion and does some battlefield control on the side.

    On polymorphing
    Unlike in 3.5, PF polymorph spells don't replace your stats, but give you bonuses. This means that, in order to make these spells useful, you need to invest in meele combat ability, something arcane casters are quite unsuited for. Furthermore, in the vast majority of cases, a polymorphed arcanist cannot cast spells anymore. This means that polymorph spells are mostly going to be used for utility or by gishes. Unfortunately, their utility use (mostly movement and extra senses) is limited by the rather short duration - commonly 1 minute per level.

    The furry solution
    Along comes the sylvan archetype and it's promise of a furry, buffable battle cat for all your meele needs. The archetype replaces the bloodline arcana and first level ability of the fey bloodline with an animal companion. Your druid level is equal to your sorcerer level -3. This means that by third level the latest you will have the boon companion feat.
    Now, what makes this so nice is the that animal companions get a nifty little ability at first level:

    The share spells ability
    Spoiler
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    The druid may cast a spell with a target of “You” on her animal companion (as a touch range spell) instead of on herself. A druid may cast spells on her animal companion even if the spells normally do not affect creatures of the companion’s type (animal).


    Now that you're going to cast them on battle cat, the ferocious feline from furry town instead of your scrawny sorcererous self, all those shiny polymorph and self-buff spells on the sorcerer/wizard list suddenly look a good deal more impressive.

    Sharing spells for fun and profit
    There are alone 4 useful first level spells for buffing your beastly buddy:
    Mage armor, shield, expeditious retreat & enlarge person.
    Mage armor would work anyway, but that doesn't make it any less useful.
    Shield is a great defensive buff and together with mage armor grants a whooping +8 AC to a critter that always boost some natural AC and a decent DEX.
    Expeditious retreat suffers from it's 1 min/level duration, but +30" is pretty amazing, in particular when added to a charging, pouncing, enlarged, +8 AC-ed big cat companion.
    Enlarge person is a staple for meat shield buffing and it serves as well on your animal companion. A bit better even, since beasty will probably have several natural attacks that grown in dice.

    And that is only first level. Already on second level, you can give your furry friend the gift of opposable thumbs using alter self. Not to mention the gift of +2 STR and whatever natural attacks your chosen form has on offer. And if the lovable lacerator ever feels lonely, why not mirror image him a few friends fit to take a terrible hit or two in his stead?
    If you're feeling comical, you can give you animal assistant some animal aspect, but those don't seem all that desirable to me. What I find interesting, though is false life because by now, your party meat shield has probably more hit points than you cattish companion. This helps fix that imbalance.

    I'll stop this fun little exercise now, because there is much more out there. You can apply a simple rule of thumb: If it would be good for a gish, it's better for you, because your animal companion can attack while you supply it with buffs.

    The long arm of the buff
    But, you say, most often, you these are touch range spells and don't you want to be away from the front line, where you malicious monster mauls, murders and massacres it's ailing antagonists? Make way for the reach spell metamagic feat. You get it early and you use it a lot. Also get a rod, if you can.

    Transformation
    Finally, one spell deserves special mention because it is utterly redeemed by the sylvan sorcerer's special superness. The 6th level arcane spell transformation is utterly horrible for anyone, even gishes. Here's what it does:
    Spoiler
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    You gain a +4 enhancement bonus to Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution, a +4 natural armor bonus to AC, a +5 competence bonus on Fortitude saves, and proficiency with all simple and martial weapons. Your base attack bonus equals your character level (which may give you multiple attacks).

    You lose your spellcasting ability, including your ability to use spell activation or spell completion magic items, just as if the spells were no longer on your class list.


    By the time a gish can cast this, they almost certainly have items which give them permanent enhancement bonuses to their physical stats and, since they're gishes, they are already proficient with martial weapons. They usually also don't have BAB problems, but what they really like is being able to cast during combat.
    Now, to add insult to injury, this is a self-only spell, so you couldn't cast it on your meat shield or glass cannon, even if they, for some reason, wanted that.
    But your animal companion is an animal, that is, it has a 3/4 BAB progression. Depending on the circumstances, it might not have permanent enhancement bonuses on it's physical stats and it really doesn't mind being unable to cast spells.
    For a sylvan sorcerer, this spell becomes useful. Not optimal, and since it's a 1 rnd/lvl spell, I'm not sure if it would be worth the 6th level slot to cast in combat. But it's not a totally useless spell anymore. That's something.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: [PF] The Sylvan Sorcerer and Redemption of Polymorph

    Color Code
    The color code should be the one we're familiar with now.
    Blue means that the spell/feat is excellent for a sylvan sorcerer. I would want to take most of these spells at one time or another.
    Green means that the spell/feat supports the archetype well, but is one you can easily do without, either because it is not quite as impressive or limited in it's applicability or because it mimics a blue spell.
    Orange spells/feats I can image to be useful in some situations or mildly useful in many situations or useful only if have a specific plan in mind.
    Red spells/feats I specifically advise against.

    As of today, I do not yet rate the polymorph spells, with two exceptions.

    Feats

    Wherein some feats relevant to the archetype are discussed.

    Boon Companion - You get this at level 1 or 3. It makes your druid level equal to your sorcerer level for all matters animal companion. Not taking this feat is like telling your animal companion that you don't love him.
    Reach Spell - This is your go-to metamagic feat, since it allows you to buff your animal companion from a distance. At +1 spell level it's cheap and, if you were so inclined, you could use it to get some mileage out of offensive touch spells such as ghoul touch and touch of idiocy.
    Extend Spell - All the polymorph spells have minutes/level and extending them would be nice. While reach spell allows you to be a better in-combat buffer, extend spell makes you a better out-of-combat buffer. And beyond this, being able to make rope trick or false life last all day a few levels earlier is nice, too.
    Quicken Spell - This is as good for a sylvan sorcerer as it is for everyone else. Quickened Shield comes to mind.
    Silent Spell - The sylvan sorcerer is particularly good at staying invisible and hidden during combat and silent spell helps you with that.
    Craft Wondrous Item - I assume that it will be difficult to find Items your companion could wear, so you might want to consider making some yourself. Stat boost and protection items should take priority.
    Inscribe Magical Tattoo - According to the description, this works basically like craft wondrous item. So if you want, go and turn your companion into a heavy metal battle cat.
    Improved Share Spells - Very useful to save some spell slots for stuff like false life, which you might want on your companion and on yourself, but not very useful for the polymorph spells that take center stage here and hence not a top priority for a sylvan sorcerer.

    Relevant Spells

    Wherein some spells relevant to the archetype are discussed.

    General remarks on polymorphing critters.
    • Size bonuses to abilities are not absolute, but relative to the size you start out with. Before you apply the ability bonus from a spell, you adjust your original scores to make you medium according to the size change table. If your companion is large (which it will probably be), you first give it -4 STR, +2 DEX and -2 CON before you apply the bonuses from the spell. For example, if you use alter self to turn a large animal companion into a medium humanoid, your net modifiers are -2 STR, +2 DEX, -2 CON. If you turn a medium animal companion into a medium humanoid, it gets +2 STR.
    • Polymorph spells do not stack. You can only ever be under the effect of one polymorph spell. This doesn't apply to other transformation spells.
    • Your type never changes.
    • You always gain all natural attacks of the form you take.
    • You do not lose your natural armor bonus, but it doesn't stack with the one you gain from the polymorph spell either. You use the higher of the two.
    • You get some special abilities of your new form, as listed in the corresponding spell.


    Explanation of symbols:
    (P) means that it's a polymorph spell that you can share, (S) means that it's a self only spell that can be shared. All polymorph spells discussed here are self only.

    Level 1
    Shield (S) - This is an excellent buff spell and combined with mage armor, this will allow yuur companion to play tank during the single digit levels.
    Mage Armor - Another excellent buff that will stay useful forever since polymorphed creatures lose their armor bonuses.
    True Strike (S) - Yes, this works, too. Best used with powerful single attacks or to land a grapple or a swallow whole.
    Enlarge Person - Your earliest offensive buff and just as good on your animal companion as on the party fighter.
    Expeditious Retreat - Moderate duration speed boost. +30 ft. is a lot, but it doesn't last long and you'll have to cast it after polymorphing, which makes it less useful again.

    Level 2
    Alter Self (P) - Who said this wasn't broken anymore? Well, it really isn't. There's no game breaking use to this, but it has so many useful applications, from disguising your companion as a human to giving them opposable thumbs for manual dexterity, natural attacks, senses or just to make a big critter fit into a smaller space, this is place to go.
    See Invisible (S) - You can let your animal companion see invisible. That's nice, but the polymorphery opens up so many useful senses, that this is rarely needed.
    Bestow Weapon Proficiency - You can make your companion humanoid and you might want to give them a weapon to wield. This takes care of the required proficiency. Why you would want to do this, I cannot imagine, though.
    Blur - A nice buff that is still nice when you use it on your companion. But you could instead use mirror image, a strictly better buff.
    Mirror Image (S) - This is strictly better than blur (I might have mentioned that) and you can share it with your companion.
    Invisibility - This is mostly for you. Buffing your companion doesn't break the invisibility so you can stay hidden while your buffed out, polymorphed death machine does all the dirty work.
    False Life (S) - Gives your companion 1d10+Lvl temporary hit points. This keeps it alive and it lasts hrs/lvl. Recommended, but remember to swap it out if you later take the greater version.
    Animal Aspect (S) - Funny, but no.
    Bull's Strength - Enhancement bonuses are hard to come by early on and it will take quite some time before a permanent +4 becomes feasible. On level 4, +2 to hit and damage on three natural attacks is quite useful. Swap it out later, once you put a +4 belt or tattoo on your companion.

    Level 3
    Beast Shape I (P)] - You can chose a small or medium animal. All these spells will require some evaluation of the available forms, which might lie in the future.
    Monstrous Physique I (P) - Small or medium monstrous humanoid
    Heroism - A great buff and well worth a spell slot. Can also be used to make your party fighter and rogue happy.
    Anthropomorphic Animal - I'm not sure what to think of this other than that it's kind of cool but also kind of useless. Maybe get a scroll and make it permanent, to give your companion the permanent gift of opposeable thumbs.
    Haste - Everyone and the animal companion loves you when you haste them. That's a fact.
    Resionous Skin (S) - This is an odd little defensive buff, since it also improves grappling. Much better on your companion than on you.
    Versatile Weapon - You might not access to greater magic fang, but this spell is a decent replacement. It only lasts for 1 minute/level, but you also get to pick a type of DR to by-pass.

    Level 4
    Beast Shape II (P) - Tiny and large animals.
    Monstrous Physique II (P)- Tiny and large monstrous humanoids.
    Elemental Body I (P) - Small elementals. I'd say this deserves to be passed over. In particular considering the competition.
    Vermin Shape I (P) - Small and medium vermin. I don't think there are any worth having and you don't even get poison.
    Stone Skin - Still too expensive, I think.
    Shocking Image (S) - Good, but at this level, there is so much else to take. Stick with mirror image.
    Invisibility, greater - Yes, you can have an invisible huge dragon. If you want to.
    False Life, greater (S) - Not as essential as the second level version, but an improvement. You decide if it's worth a fourth level slot.
    Shadow Projection - I wonder if you keep your natural attacks, but you probably just gain one strength draining touch attack. Not really worth it without the improved share spells feat. With it, you're looking at two shadows and that strength damage can add up quickly.
    Animal Aspect, greater - Again, I'll go with no. The polymorph spells offer all ther versatility that this could give.

    Level 5
    Beast Shape III (P) - Diminutive and huge animals are now on offer. Huge is always larger than your companion, which means you always get a net STR bonus. You also get small and medium magical beasts.
    Monstrous Physique III (P) - Same here.
    Elemental Body II (P) - Medium Elementals are not impressive.
    Vermin Shape II (P) - Now you get poison and can be large.
    Undead Anatomy I (P) - I've no idea what to say about this, but having a vampire for an animal companion seems cool.
    Plant Shape I (P) - Not really, no.
    Animal Growth - Yes, you get the staple druid buff, too. And it's every bit as good for you as it is for the druid. This is not a polymorph spell, meaning you can have both active. The size bonuses don't stack, but they overlap. Very nice if you find a small shape with lot's of natural attack. You make it medium and give it +8 STR.
    Battlemind Link - This is excellent if share spells allows you to cast this on you companion and the party fighter. If not, not so much.


    Level 6
    Beast Shape IV (P) - Now you get tiny and large magical beasts. Too bad the hydra is huge.
    Monstrous Physique IV (P) - This just adds a number of special abilities and does not increase your size range over III.
    Elemental Body III (P) - I wish this was good. I really do.
    Undead Anatomy II (P) - Still unsure.
    Plant Shape II (P) - Can give you fast healing (5), so you might want to consider that. But so can giant form I on the next level.
    Form Of The Dragon I (P) - Now we're talking. You want this.
    Battlemind Link (S?) - This spells has you and one creature for a target. Share spells specifies that you can cast spells with the target "you" on your companion. This is excellent if share spells allows you to cast this on you companion and the party fighter. If not, not so much.
    Heroism, greater - Shorter duration, but good bonuses.
    Contingency (S) - Yes. Yes you can. And you can probably think about several ways to profit from being able to do this. Here's just one idea: Animal Growth triggered by having Form of the Dragon cast on you.
    Transformation (S) - This usually is quite horrible, for you and your companion, this can be good. Most of the bonuses don't stack with what you probably already have, but the increased BAB stacks with everything.

    Level 7
    Elemental Body IV (P) - Elementals are just not very attractive forms to take.
    Giant Form I (P) - Giants on the other hand, are. Now this is when Bestow Weapon Proficiency might come in useful. Of course, you need to bring a giant sized weapon for you giantized companion to wield. Also gives troll form and regeneration 5.
    Undead Anatomy III (P) - I really have to check the options.
    Plant Shape III (P) - You can turn your companion into a really big plant.
    Form Of The Dragon II (P) - Just as good as I.
    Spell Turning (S) - A great defensive buff for you and a great defensive buff for your companion. A perfect spell for improved share spells.

    Level 8
    Giant Form II (P) - Not too much of an improvement over I, more strength, more size, but not that many special abilities and there are only two huge giants anyway.
    Undead Anatomy IV (P) - Allows some intersting damage resistances requiring magic and silver or magic and bludgeoning to overcome. You can also get fast healing 5.
    Form Of The Dragon III (P) - You take this.
    Seamantle (S) - An odd defensive buff that can give a +8 cover(!) bonus to AC.
    Iron Body (S) - Gives immunities, +6 STR, -6 DEX (enhancement) and your speed is halfed. Not something you'd usually want. You also can't play wind instruments anymore, just in case you have a fluting companion.
    Frightful Aspect (S) - Now we're taling, spell resistance, DR, some size bonuses, some natural armor bonuses, and a powerful fear aura that makes every enemy within 30 ft. shaken without a save and turns them frightened for 1d4 rounds once you hit them. After that, they are no longer shaken, though.
    Moment of Prescience (S) - gives a huge bonus to one roll, lasts for hours and hours and you can pick which roll to add the bonus to. This is useful, but unless you have a plan what to use this on, there are better options.

    Level 9
    Shapechange (P) - All of the other polymorph spells rolled into one with a longer duration and you can change shapes any way you want. This is worth having for that last part alone. Also, this is your level 19 bloodline spell anyway.
    Fiery Body (S) - Turns you into something like a fire elemental. Not overly impressive. If you can apply the damage to natural attacks in addition to unarmed attacks, it gets a good deal better.

    Companions
    Just a few comments on picking companions for a sylvan sorcerer. Later on, I will add some recommendations.
    • What you are looking for are good physical abillity scores and medium size. A large creature that is polymorphed gets -4 STR, +2 DEX, -2 CON before the modifiers from the spell are applied. Hence, when selecting a companion, you can compare their effective scores by applying these modifiers to the large ones.
      Here's an example: a fully grown wolf has a 21 STR but it is large. That means it's strength after polymorphing is equal to a medium companion with 17 STR.
    • Medium size is nice because it makes calculations easier.
    • Natural attacks don't matter, but natural AC does. Due to the bonus acquirred by being an animal companion, the original natural AC bonus will probably be higher than whatever the polymorph spells provide.
    • Get feats that don't require a certain form to be effective. Dodge, power attack and toughness are prime examples.
    • Use the first abillity score increase to raise INT to 3. This not only opens up many new feats, it also means your companion can understand you now.
    Last edited by KutuluKultist; 2012-02-22 at 06:01 AM.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: [PF] The Sylvan Sorcerer and Redemption of Polymorph

    reserved post

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    Banned
     
    Griffon

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    Default Re: [PF] The Sylvan Sorcerer and Redemption of Polymorph

    Interesting. Sincere inquiry, not snark: How does this compare to the Summoner?

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: [PF] The Sylvan Sorcerer and Redemption of Polymorph

    Quote Originally Posted by navar100 View Post
    Interesting. Sincere inquiry, not snark: How does this compare to the Summoner?
    I've not done the math, but my first intuition would be that it compares rather favorably. The options opened by beast shape alone are quite impressive. You also have full sorcerer casting, and even given the spells known you spend on buffs for your AC, using metamagic and smart spell choices you still can do battlefield control and blasting and you have many more spell slots than the summoner.
    You also get to choose forms every time you cast the polymorph spell, not once per level.
    On the other hand, you have to wait until the various polymorph spells become available and you have to actually spend an action to cast them, while the Eidolon can just hang around.
    But even an unbuffed animal companion is not that fragile and far from useless.

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    Orc in the Playground
     
    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: [PF] The Sylvan Sorcerer and Redemption of Polymorph

    Pretty neato concept! Seems like another flavor of Summoner, but you get some very nice options at different spell levels that add versatility and power.

    In essence you have another caster with a golem, but if you don't focus too much of your spell selection on the golem and remember you are a full arcane caster as well, you can do some impressive stuff in addition to having a wrecking machine pet.

    This bloodline variant could easily mimic the pre-nerf summoner or possibly go beyond it in power level.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    deuxhero's Avatar

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    Default Re: [PF] The Sylvan Sorcerer and Redemption of Polymorph

    Rod of Reach is also worth suggesting if the DM lets you have one for the price of the OTHER +1 metamagic rod.
    Last edited by deuxhero; 2012-02-21 at 05:20 PM.

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    Orc in the Playground
     
    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: [PF] The Sylvan Sorcerer and Redemption of Polymorph

    This cuts down on spells known, but it might be worth making a cross blooded aberrant/sylvan sorcerer, they get reach with touch spells and all spells with the polymorph descriptor have 50% longer duration.

    with robes of arcane heritage you will have 15' reach with touch spells at level 7.

    you will be able to fly and deliver touch attacks or buffs while hovering above the battle.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: [PF] The Sylvan Sorcerer and Redemption of Polymorph

    Quote Originally Posted by Blyte View Post
    This cuts down on spells known, but it might be worth making a cross blooded aberrant/sylvan sorcerer, they get reach with touch spells and all spells with the polymorph descriptor have 50% longer duration.
    this also slows your spell progression down another level, 2nd level spells start at 5th.

    edit: polymorph type spells cause you to lose any ex or su's that rely on the original form. Does this mean if you take a velociraptor that pounce would not function in other forms?
    Last edited by Khantin; 2012-02-22 at 08:17 PM.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: [PF] The Sylvan Sorcerer and Redemption of Polymorph

    Quote Originally Posted by Khantin View Post
    this also slows your spell progression down another level, 2nd level spells start at 5th.
    I do think that that is too high a price to pay. Crossblooded works for focused blasters that use metamagic and don't need higher level spells known as much.
    edit: polymorph type spells cause you to lose any ex or su's that rely on the original form. Does this mean if you take a velociraptor that pounce would not function in other forms?
    Yes, I think so.

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    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: [PF] The Sylvan Sorcerer and Redemption of Polymorph

    Reach spell suffices under most circumstances, but taking the Eldritch Heritage feat to obtain a familiar and then using the familiar to deliver the touch spell to the rawr rawr killing machine doesn't seem too terrible a deal either. Necessary precautions should probably be made to ensure your familiar doesn't bite the dust, but its a nice little combo of pets while keeping you mostly out of harms way.

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    QuidEst's Avatar

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    Default Re: [PF] The Sylvan Sorcerer and Redemption of Polymorph

    Quote Originally Posted by Bluerelic View Post
    Reach spell suffices under most circumstances, but taking the Eldritch Heritage feat to obtain a familiar and then using the familiar to deliver the touch spell to the rawr rawr killing machine doesn't seem too terrible a deal either.
    That could delay things quite a bit- your familiar has to fly back and forth between you and your beastie. No casting a new spell until the touch is delivered, and you can't cast another touch spell that you want delivered until your familiar makes it back.

    For low-level (up to 4th) spells, there's Spectral Hand. Sacrifice (hopefully temporarily) 1-4 hitpoints, a second level spell, and a standard action of your time, and for the next min/lev, you can deliver those low-level touch spells through a magic hand.

    Heh… for overkill, you could go cross-blooded for the reach, human to use every-other level favored class bonus of an extra spell, making up the spells known a level later, Eldritch Heritage yourself a familiar, continue the Eldritch Heritage with another feat to get yourself faster reach spells a few times a day, and use Spectral Hand to get the low-level buffs out instantly. Even if your familiar gets fried, you've got options. XP

    If, for some reason, third party shenanigans are allowed, you can have your hand itself pop off and run around to deliver your touch spells. Included here more for the humor of the situation and the sheer number of things you could have running around the battlefield to help out your critter than for any serious optimization.


    Quote Originally Posted by Khantin View Post
    this also slows your spell progression down another level, 2nd level spells start at 5th.
    Huh? Only if you're taking it as a dip rather than the class archetype. Unless I missed something…
    Last edited by QuidEst; 2012-04-27 at 09:22 AM.

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    RndmNumGen's Avatar

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    Default Re: [PF] The Sylvan Sorcerer and Redemption of Polymorph

    Oh man. I really want to make a Gnome Crossblooded Aberrant/Sylvan Sorcerer now. Perverting all the nature! Only... would Aberrant or it's wildblood, Warped, be better? Aberrant increases the duration of Polymorph effects by 50%, while Warped gives a small boon to any creature you polymorph... hmm...

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    RndmNumGen's Avatar

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    Default Re: [PF] The Sylvan Sorcerer and Redemption of Polymorph

    So, question: what would be a good animal companion for this build? We need something with good base stats, especially on the to-hit and to-damage side(AC and HP is much more easy to buff than attacks). We also need something with good mobility in it's base form, due to adventurer's fondness of getting into and out of dungeons. Climb or Fly speed, perhaps? Special abilities are useful in the base form, but we lose most of them when polymorphed.

    Rhino seems to be one of the best brawler-type companions, though it suffers from the whole dungeon problem and an inability to get up or down walls - no hands.

    Wolverines are weaker both due to being Small and having lower STR, but they have a Climb speed and can Rage 6 rounds/day - something that isn't lost when polymorphed. Could be useful.

    Rocs have a very nice DEX and Natural Armor, and can Fly with a speed of 80 feet. Not very useful in dungeons, but they can still walk with a 20ft speed in there. CON is fairly low, which is unfortunate, but if we throw Mage Armor on one it won't be likely to get hit at level 1 with 23 AC. Still, it will need Weapon Finesse to be productive, since it has no STR.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: [PF] The Sylvan Sorcerer and Redemption of Polymorph

    If you amp up the wolverine's INT to 3, you may be able to get them extra rage feats, making their rage all the more useful. By RAW, this won't work, but I can see many a DM allowing it.

    As for the companion: up till level 6, what's best for the druid is best for this character. After that, priorities change a bit. The Spinosaurus has the best stats (and is decent before you polymorph it).
    When it gets big at level 7, you're looking at an effective 22 str, 15 dex, 17 con.
    Runner up is another dinosaur, the Iguanadon with 21 str, 15 dex and 17 con.

    Then there are a couple of critters with 19 or 18 str including some mammals like bears and big cats, both of which are decent pre-polymorphed.

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