Class Building 101

It seems to me that whenever players build characters, they can have false expectations about what they are. I’ve provided a list of classes that are often misunderstood. I will give these all a number from 1-10, one being the most “noobish”, meaning people often play this class because it’s either easy, or they don’t know how to play well. Well… well enough to really rock-it with the veteran players who want to face enemies more powerful and dangerous.

For the 5e variation, click here.

The Ranger 2 (The first choice of the noob)
The ranger, on first inspection, looks like that guy who is absolutely Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. That is correct. They seem to be the Jack-of-all-trades martial class, oh, and they get a pet… a kind of shitty pet in comparison to a druid pet unless you burn a couple of feats in making it awesome, which is totally okay. In reality, rangers were originally pretty much a balanced mix of fighter and druid, streamlined so that a character would be able to fight and cast spells. Pathfinder has removed this need from the existence of role-playing by making druids more effective at pretty much everything that might make a ranger effective as a spellcaster.

Rangers are actually some of the best well-rounded characters so long as you are willing to let your class features simply straight up decide for you how you want to play. The best rangers are switch-hitters, balancing range with up-close damage with a big two-handed weapon.

The Druid 4 (The unexpected party replacement)
Pathfinder has removed the “True Neutral” stigma from druids. They just have to have neutral as part of their alignment, which makes a bit more sense. Druids are not the old tree-hugging hippies you used to know. They are stone-cold bad-asses. You want to know why? They can do this thing called wildshape, where they take the form of an animal (from a list of animals that includes bears, lions, wolves, and eagles). Not only that, but they can cast spells. When combined with a feat called Natural Spell, congratulations, you are a fucking grizzly bear calling down bolts of lightning on your enemies. Oh yeah, and they get an animal companion that is pretty much another party member for all intents and purposes. This is such a secondary thing for most players that we often forget about their animal unless there is a figure on the board for it at all times.

I call druids the “party replacement” because they try and do everything that everyone else specializes in. They can only do a few of these things well, but it doesn’t stop them from trying to do it all. A well-equipped high level druid can tank bad guys, slink into the shadows, heal party members moderately well, summon up a group of wild animals, and hit enemies with some decent spell damage. What? Oh yes, I forgot. They can do most of these things simultaneously.

If you were thinking of playing a cleric, though your stat points were really damn good and you already have another off-healer, like a paladin, you may want to think of choosing a druid, instead. Another reason to choose a druid is because you only have a party of three people. In that case, you chose well. Now all you need is to choose a bear or another large animal as a pet, have a rogue in the party, and a third class to fill in the need for either extra damage or better combat control.

The Rogue 3 (Not the enemy! Friendly fire!)
No, I’m not saying rogues are noobish characters to play at all. I am saying that people often have the wrong impression of what D&D or Pathfinder rogues are supposed to be like. Rogue does not always mean thieving pickpocket. Yes, you are sneaky, dextrous, skilled, and good at snatching sweet sweet swag. This is where the similarities end, though. Why? Because, my friend, you are not alone in your adventure.

Congratulations, you are now the party workhorse. Need a trap disarmed? Get the rogue to do it. Need the area scouted for leery-eyed basilisks? Get the rogue to do it. Need somebody to walk a tightrope across a pit full of unspeakable horrors while getting shot at by archers so that a switch can be flipped and the rest of the party can pass safely? Get the rogue to do it. Seriously, I have yet to begin with how much shit you have to do and put up with as the rogue.

If you even start to feel a bit entitled to some hard-earned loot, just know that your party is watching you like a hawk to keep you from pocketing even a cent more loot than you think you should share. If you think you can get away with it, don’t worry, any suspicious behavior and they’ll have the fighter shaking you by the ankles to see what spills out.

So really, unless you are the nicest person in your group, don’t be the rogue, that is unless you really just get your kicks playing a stealth character that shanks stray goblins in the shadows. If you play a rogue, be fair with the loot. You will also see that I am well-acquainted with the harrowing demands of rogue life and I always have some extra goodies for you. Just remember that as you sit at the RP table, you adventure with these people. They put up with your deception shenanigans and get-rich-quick schemes. Remember that when you drag them into the alley to meet with your shady-ass guild informant, they have your back.

The Paladin 6 (Sir Earl de Justiceboner)
Paladins are often misunderstood. Lawful Good doesn’t mean Lawful Asshole. It means that you are a good person who obeys and lives by the same laws that structure society. You, yourself, wouldn’t cheat or steal and you might look down on others for doing it, but it doesn’t mean that you are an extension of the city guard. Don’t actively try and stop every unlawful decision they try to make. You don’t have to agree with them, but you do trust these people to have your back. Being a paladin means setting a good example because you believe that your duty is the way you represent your god and king. You are a knight of high purpose, reigning holy ass-whooping upon the truly evil nightmares of this world.

If RP were the only problem with people playing paladins, I would stop, but it isn’t. Paladins are built as a martial class, their casting of divine spells is secondary to their ability to beat the shit out of things, often with a big-ass two-handed weapon or a bow. Why be a paladin? For one thing, you get an incredible and free holy enchantment for your weapon that kicks some serious evil ass. Also, don’t try and make a cavalier out of them if you are not playing in a long campaign. Even though the word paladin implies being a bad-ass knight, which we generally picture astride a heavily-armored white charger, the rules for mounted combat aren’t well-made, even though paladins are the hands-down best cavalry.

Paladins are also very highly stat-demanding. If ever you role some really REALLY sweet-ass stats, that’s a good time to make a paladin. You need at least three stats at or over a 16 to even start looking at the paladin template. You can only afford one dump stat and sorry… that’s usually intelligence, so there goes your idea of being very skilled. They require a high charisma and a decent wisdom score, even though they are physical, martial combatants who demand high strength and constitution, as well as a half-decent dexterity. If I don’t get lucky on stat rolls, I cut my losses and go for something less demanding than a Paladin.

The Spell Caster 5 (Joe McSploder)
If you are playing an arcane caster, meaning wizard/sorcerer, please read the section Arcane Magic and You (The Guide to How it Works). If you don’t, you may not realize what it takes to be a useful mage. Mage is the generic description of a caster who fits this category well.

The important thing to understand is you are a glass cannon. Incredibly powerful, yet delicate. You aren’t meant to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the guys in armor. Not only that, but once you start blasting away at baddies, you are going to draw the ire of every enemy in the dungeon. You will be a huge red target and there is little you can do about it, alone. This is why you are in a party with other adventurers. They need to be aware of you and your actions at all times. Playing with an unskilled player of wizards is kind of like travelling with a four-year-old armed with a flamethrower. If you want to stay alive, stay behind the dude who is armored like a train and watch your lines of fire.

Next is another spell caster people often forget to mention, the cleric. Clerics can be misunderstood, unless the person playing one has played one in another game setting, like an MMO. They are healers. They are also holy atom bombs against evil outsiders and undead, but mostly, they just heal everybody very very well. Another, secondary use that is acceptable, is one when they either buff the party with spell enhancements, or curse the enemies, whichever fits your playing style. Regardless, if you are the cleric, you are there to keep everyone alive.

Sometimes, you get cool domain powers that give you something to do when you aren’t healing. When things get really hairy and the group finds itself surrounded, they can help protect the mage by becoming part of a circle to protect them. The same can be true in circumstances where the rogue finds their sneak attack abilities useless against the enemies, like they were undead. If so, then shame on you for not turning them into piles of ash with your holy nuclear fury.

The Alchemist 10 (If you didn’t know this before you navigated to this page, then you don’t have the mad skills to play this class.)

New to Pathfinder? Alchemists are what you don’t play if you are new to Pathfinder. They are extremely complex in their abilities, powers, crafting, and game-play. Alchemists are the quintessential scientists of this fantasy setting. They are what you play if you get bored with kicking ass as anything else. It’s possible to play one well enough to fill a party slot, but believe me when I say that everyone will be wishing you’d picked something else.

Alchemists don’t just mix potions, they make bombs, which are just essentially grenades. These bombs can get fairly powerful and quite useful, depending on the enhancements that they were given, beforehand. One bomb can even selectively explode in a way that does not hurt party members. Try and wrap your head around that, but before you do, keep reading. They can disarm traps, identify magic, and become a fucking mutant monstrosity. What they aren’t good at is doing any one thing particularly well, other than confusing the party with the fact that they share space with a mad scientist who may or not be the one and only Doctor Jekyll.

The Monk 7 (If Dragonball-Z were Tolkien-friendly…)
Whenever I build a character, I have to think long and hard about not making my character a monk. Monks are so completely bad-ass that I wonder why people don’t play them all the time. Of course, there are those who are in the mindset that fantasy is limited to western mythology don’t play them. If you are the fifth wheel in a party of four, just take up that slot with monk. Just think like Jackie Chan and your GM will have a hard time finding a dungeon that you can’t beat with the fury of a thousand flaming dildos.

When you think of a monk, sometimes the picture that enters your minds is one of a scholar in a forgotten reliquary full of books written in Latin, chanting and praying. If this is the picture in your mind, punch yourself in the head. That’s what a monk would do to you for picturing how they trained as anything less than pure Shaolin workout/torture-porn. Monks are really just bad-ass specialist fighters. What do monks specialize in? Ass-kicking… and punching… and brawling. They are a mixture between combat control and front-line fighting. They can beat your enemies into submission by grappling, tripping, and generally just dick-punching them with their karate, thai-qwon-do, judo, wing chun, or wushu kung-fu.

When building a monk, you will encounter the same problem that Paladins have. It requires high stats all around. Why? You are the pinnacle of humanoid form, like an Olympic athlete. Not only that, but you need to be keenly wise, meaning extremely observant or perceptive. Monks have something called ki, which is the energy that is consumed in order to perform the more bad-ass of their superhuman feats. The pool of those ki points is wisdom-based. You will need them.

If you plan on building a halfling monk, slap yourself… allot… only softly. See how useless you feel? That’s what it’s like to build a ridiculous tiny monk. You need to be something hardy, quick, and strong, with few to no drawbacks, like a human. Yes, humans in Pathfinder are pretty damn sweet like that, unlike allot of other RPGs.

Monks get some odd weapons that they are proficient in, all of them being eastern in origin. Don’t worry about them too much. Odds are that you won’t come across anything like them in loot piles. If you want to add range to your punching power, start the game with a shitpile of shuriken. With the right feat, quick draw, they re-equip as a free action and thus can be used with almost all of the monk’s moves, including flurry-of-blows, which is effective with any monk-specific, simple, or light weapons. Shuriken don’t break like other ammo when you throw them, either. You can pick them up during or after combat and they get the damage bonus of your fists.

Think of adding levels of another class? Don’t. Just pick an archetype instead, like Monk of the Four Winds, who essentially becomes a goddamn Dragonball-Z hero. By adding ki to a standard attack, they can add elemental damage and even, at higher levels, turn it into a ranged touch attack. Monks are so unique in their abilities that they don’t need other class levels for what makes them good at being monks. They just get more and more bad-ass with every level. Don’t miss out on that.

The Bard 1 (Hey, you. You, the fop with the lute. Your party members are looking for an extra helmet to keep you from hurting yourself. Naw, just kidding. They don’t care about you.)

You are a bard… I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you have probably been convinced to play a bard because there is a fifth party slot open and people aren’t sure whether or not you can handle anything as complex as spells or combat feats. If you chose this yourself, hopefully you did so because you are the fifth party slot and you like the actual Role Playing aspect of RP. If you are not the fifth or more party slot and you are thinking of playing a bard… just… just no.

Bards are the Role-Player’s Role-Player of Role-Playing. Almost all of your spells and abilities are based around the social aspect of the game. You play an instrument, or you dance, or you sing, or maybe a combination of these things. These are a secondary aspect to the fact that you are the ultimate skilled-rogue, but with very little combat usefulness. Enemies are probably going to ignore you outright, unless you do something reckless. Your primary stats should be charisma, then intelligence, then dexterity. All of your other stats are dump-stats.

In the game, you will be able to serve as the center of attention at almost all times outside of combat, unless there’s a paladin, and he won’t be able to say jack shit about your taking the stage, since you are better at that than he is. Even the rogue will think you’re a bit over-the-top with your skills and social interactions. If this interests you and combat is a secondary aspect of your game-play, then by all means… be a bard.

The Barbarian 9 (Battle-song of Bear-Eater, the Barbarian. “Murder, murder, murder-stomp, eviscerate, destroy! Cleave those bastards with my axe, then fuck’em in the gash!! WRRAAAAAAAAUGH!!!”)

If you are a high-strung person with morals who doesn’t fantasize in some way about being a viking, then this is not your class of character. If you get even a half-chub at the idea of transforming into an avatar of unbridled fury, gripping an weapon the size of your immense rage-boner, and then commencing to paint the walls of the dungeon in the blood and entrails of any and all in your vicinity, then this is your class.

You are Conan, the motherfucking DESTROYER! You rape and pillage your way around the realms, searching for glory and gold. If you need a better explanation, then you are like that methed-out football player at a frat party who does keg-stands… on the roof. You didn’t choose to be a barbarian; you are just so boss that all this bad-assness just can’t help but be part of you.

Civilization, poise, refinement; these are things written on the frilly handkerchiefs you looted from your pansy-ass enemies to wipe your ass with when you take a shit! Ooooh YEAAAAH! Got it? Good. If you have trouble finding your feats, you are having a hard time recognizing what it means to be a bad-ass. Over the course of your class advancement, you only get one feat at first level, and then one every other level, plus a bunch of rage powers, which sound just as bad-ass as they are.

Barbarians get the best odds of more hitpoints per level than any other core class, boasting a 1d12. The can’t wear plate or full-plate armor, but you shouldn’t need to, if you have a high enough dexterity. If you want to further utilize that d12, just wield a great-axe and it won’t get lonely in your dice bag. Your primary stats are strength, with Constitution and dexterity coming in a close second. Your other stats are dump-stats, though a higher wisdom score will make you perceptive, plus eventually you will be able to use that Whirlwind attack that hits all adjacent enemies once you fulfill the prerequisites. Of course, a well-placed Great Cleave does the same thing, only you get to roll the damage each time you hit another enemy and slaughter it. Whirlwind isn’t dependent on killing the first enemy in the chain, though.

The best barbarians are generally orcs and humans because of their ability to have a high base strength score. In my campaign setting the avarxi and terappi are also pretty incredible at being barbarians too, but it’s up to you. I recommend using a big two-handed weapon. As a matter of fact, I recommend that for martial classes at all times, unless you are a dwarf, or a fighter… or both. The weapon you choose is important because it is your one and only weapon you should be using. If you don’t want the classic great-axe, I recommend the glaive, or another pole-arm, so that your weapon has the reach ability. This makes the template of your cleaving attack and/or whirlwind much larger and more devastating.

Hybrid Classes

If you are asking me about these, then you are probably already reading the resources about them online or in the book. If you are just hearing about them from me, now, then you probably want to stick to something more traditional than these classes. The same for many of the other classes that are Pathfinder-specific.

Class Building 101

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