My (no-merc) party composition

So after reading lots of posts and guides and a lot of try-and-error on my own, I think I’m ready to settle with a party that I enjoy playing and that seems to be strong enough for harder difficulty settings. Note that I only playtested in the first parts of the game because I want to enjoy the rest of the experience on full release. So - this post might serve as inspiration for you as it will serve as a reminder for me when playing in September :grin: . Also: Let me know what you think

Some self-imposed rules:

  • work with the companions the game provides you with - no retrain by mods, no mercs
  • companions should provide benefits and synergies for the group (e.g. bonus-stacking) on top of fulfilling their own role in combat
  • broad range of abilities covered (melee, ranged, divine, arcane)
  • I don’t mind intense buffing after rest to be ‘fit for combat’ and use a mod to turn this from cumbersome to one-click exercise

MC: Vital Strike Sword Saint (15 Sword Saint, 4 2h fighter, 1 monk, fauchard, pushing STR on level-ups)

  • Basic Idea is that vital strike, 2h weapon fighting and Sword Saint have strong synergies. Lets take a look into this:
  • (Mythic) vital strike lets you combine all you iterative attacks into one attack that uses you best to hit-value. This increases average damage as the damage from your 2nd, 3rd and eventually 4th iterative attack are all carried out with your best to hit-score. It gets even better when doing attacks of opportunity or cleaving finishes as you will apply the combined damage of all attacks (instead of doing only one iterative attack normally). Downsides are frequent “overkills” meaning that you deal a lot more damage than the enemy has HP - without vital strike the remaining iterative attacks would be applied to another enemy in range - this doesn’t happen with vital strike. Furthermore you cannot further increase the number of attacks (e.g. haste or speed weapon) and finally you need to invest 3 feats + mythic vital strike to get this working. Note that currently the critical damage-implementation (as described here) favors vital strike which lets you 1-hit-crit-kill even big bosses. It is up for debate if this is in line with the pathfinder core rules - however I found a vital strike damage calculator online that was implemented in the same way as the game. However & even without this, this build is really powerful!
  • 2h weapon fighting has great damage (1.5x STR bonus) and reach weapons. Since you will have quiet a high AB (no iterative malus), you can afford to switch on Power Attack frequently (which gets huge bonuses when 2h-fighting). If you can sneak in some levels of two-handed fighter to get that nice overhand-chop, damage gets amplified even further (2.0x STR bonus)
  • Sword Saint has the ability to boost AB further (arcane accuracy, quickened true strike), boost crit scores (perfect critical) and apply arcane weapon enhancements that further boost to hit-chances and damage. You also get increased damage on flat-footed opponents and on crit-confirmation rolls. On top of that sword saint has nice defensive capabilities that make him sturdy in combat (INT2AC, Shield, Mirror Image, etc.)
  • So - quiet a nice package. Picking Fauchard because reach weapon with great crit. threat range
  • Mythic path: build has enough free feats from character level 14 onward for the tricksters three critical feats but I think these are overkill since stuff explodes from your crits anyway and they happen quiet frequently. Guess I will go with Angel (flavor for my first playthrough), however Demon or Azata would also work

Leveling breakdown (optimized so that you gain the vital strike feats as early as possible since these are the biggest boosts to your damage output):

  • Hungerseed Tiefling, Acolyte, 17/14/12/16/16/7
  • 1 lvl monk (Dodge, imp. unarmed and crane style to get defenses up quick, Wis2AC, Flurry with quarterstaff in the early levels)
  • 4 lvl sword saint - Fauchard, Power Attack, Cleave
  • 2 lvl 2h fighter - we need the feats to get Vital Strike, Outflank, Cleaving Finish done by character level 7
  • 9 lvl sword saint - Dazzling, Shatter, imp. vital strike, grab dimensional strike for enemies with sky high AC
  • 2 lvl 2h fighter - overhand chop (juicy 2xSTR damage multiplier, greater vital strike, weapon specialization
  • final 2 lvl sword saint

2.) Seelah (Paladin 13/ Mutation Warrior 6/Scaled Fist 1, long sword & heavy shield, pushing STR on level-ups)

  • I know that some prominent guides suggest to build her into a bard/skald but I don’t think that this puts her to best use
  • Instead I want to keep her mostly as a paladin - esp. because of the great lvl 11 ability Aura of Justice. This lets the whole party enjoy a boost of Seelah’s CHA to attack bonus and of Seelah’s paladin level to damage. It is easy to get her CHA-bonus to +5 very quickly and the attack bonus could ramp up to +20 per attack. each attack. by each party member. Until the enemy is dead. That’s just great. Also I think the campaign setting kindof asks for a paladin companion, so it also feels good from a roleplay-perspective
  • However she also should do decent damage w/o smite on her own and we will find this by using the two-weapon-fighting feat-line, the shield bash feat-line and double slice, weapon specialization and of course outflank and dazzling/shatter
  • She also needs to tank a lot so we need to get her defenses up fast by taking a single level scaled monk (crane)
  • After reaching lvl 4 spells on paladin lvl 13 (looking at you eaglesoul and you greater angelic aspect) we switch to mutation warrior for extra feats & mutagen
  • Mythic-wise she will want improved abundant casting, abundant smite, destructive shockwave, last stand and some further stuff to increase her fighting capabilities
  • taking all this together she both contributes greatly to the party and is a strong frontliner herself

3.) Camellia (Dirge Bard 8, Demonslayer 11, Shaman 1, Shortbow, pushing DEX on lvl-ups)

  • yep - a good party needs a bard (esp. because of dirge of doom) and although her stats are not optimal (CHA 13), this is no real problem since we use the bard spells mostly for buffing and not to directly harm anyone - thus no saving throws involved
  • I was thinking whether going the skald-route would be better since my party is quiet melee-heavy and skald can get some nice bonus but in the end decided against it. I want to use Camellia as a ranged damage dealer and she will need the help from bard song (skald doesn’t do anything for ranged). Also I wouldn’t want the spell-casting of my hybrid (melee/magic) chars to suffer (skald shuts spellcasting off if you accept the rage)
  • After reaching Dirge on bard lvl 8 it’s time to become a bit more selfish and increase AB and damage. Mutation Warrior would be a good option but gives no further attack boosts to the other party members. Thus we go Demonslayer which will put us on par with the mutation warrior when attacking favored enemies (remember there is always instant-enemy spell as a swift action) and on top of that giving everyone else +3 to attack and +3 to damage when attacking the marked target
  • Feat-wise it’s the usual ranged stuff (we go shortbow b/c bard proficiencies), dazzling/shatter and of course lingering song
  • Mythic-wise she will want abundant casting (lots of instant enemy-casts!) and all the ranged stuff
  • once again she provides good stuff to everyone in the party and is a good ranged damage dealer on her own

4.) Lann (Druid 19, Witch 1, Zen Archer 1, pushing STR on lvl-ups)

  • Druid is just great for Lann, given his superb stats and +2 AC natural AC
  • Animal companion (dog or wolf, bully, trip-enhancing feats) will lead to enemies going prone, which will lead to attacks of opportunity when they stand up which will cause the MC to vital strike them into oblivion.
  • On top of that Lann will wild shape into wolf (or another beast together with aspect of the wolf) and trip enemies… even more attacks of opportunity. And on spell level 9 he will turn into a dragon - which is just awesome by itself
  • Then we also need Barkskin up on everyone and druid just gives us that
  • one level of witch (thanks @Belenus for the idea!) gives a total of +5 AC (+1 due to lizard familiar, +2 due to ice plant, +2 due to ‘icy protector’-ring)
  • Feat-wise it’s a mix of defensive stuff (crane), trip enhancing, outflank, dazzling/shatter
  • Mythic-wise master-shapeshifter, greater abundant casting, brutality incarnate, mythical beast
  • he is still going to be good with a bow if not shapeshifted but … should be shapeshifted most of the time

5.) Nenio (Arcane Trickster 10, Scroll Savant 8, Vivi 2, pushing INT on lvl-ups)

  • I like her to be a blaster wizard, hurling arcane destruction at the enemy and to have a full arcane caster which get’s me to the cool spells on the quickest route possible (minus one level vivi)
  • to cut it short: I would build her mostly as proposed here: https://www.neoseeker.com/pathfinder-wrath-of-the-righteous/builds/Nenio, which two exceptions:
  • 1.) I would to the 2 levels of vivi together after reaching lvl 3 spells (because haste is just too good and you can leverage abundant casting b/c you have the three first arcane levels unlocked) and would pick infusion instead of cognatogen. Although this means Nenio can only buff her DEX and not her INT with the mutagen (which is actually not that bad b/c rays) - you can cast shield on Lann, the two animal companions and Sosiel and give them a nice +4 AC boost
  • 2.) I also tend to go for 10 lvls of arcane trickster instead of scroll savant b/c their capstone ability seems to be more useful than the scroll savant’s lvl 10 ability - given that you will drown in spell slots anyway thanks to greater abundant casting

6.) Sosiel (Cleric 20, 2h reach glaive, pushing STR on lvl-ups)

  • We have most of the bases covered. But… there is always room for healing, great cleric buffs, a reach-fighting guy who can make good use of trips, another animal companion (because trips, you know) and the two best domain abilities (community & nobility - mythic makes it possible)
  • the two domain abilities alone will grant +6 AB or more (community) +2 AB (nobility) to everyone in the group. amazing
  • his AC won’t be great so he needs to stay behind the front-liners
  • Frightful Aspect will give some ‘shaken-relief’ to Camellia who can switch back from dirge of doom back to inspire courage
  • Mythic-wise that’s three impossible domains, greater abundant casting and then stuff to enhance his fighting skills

So lets take a look at the “shared bonus pool”:

AB

  • 5 Seelah Aura of Justice
  • 2 Camellia Inspire Courage
  • 3 Camellia Hunters Bond
  • 2 Sosiel Nobility Domain
  • 6 Sosiel Community Domain
    = + 18
  • 4 Outflank
    = + 22

Damage

  • 13 Seelah Aura of Justice
  • 2 Camellia Inspire Courage
  • 3 Camellia Hunters Bond
    = + 18

before further buffs - quiet nice

And that’s it. Group feels well-rounded and ready to go once we hit release - can’t wait for it. So what do you think - how does this sound to you? Any suggestions?

2 Likes

Is this planned for the finalized version of the game? Because once the Skald Rage Powers are implemented to properly work with Court Poet that could solve your Skald issues for Seelah - everyone gets Int and Cha buffs, so your arcane casters and Mark of Justice get better. Then with a rage power like accuracy stance your melee characters are still getting a nice buff to-hit from the song. That’s a nice bit of synergy there.

1 Like

Thanks, that’s an interesting suggestion. And a suggestion with some complicated implications… Lets go through it :sweat_smile:

8 lvl dirge bard gives +2 to hit and +2 to damage to everyone in the party.

vs

we would need 10 lvl of court poet do get dirge of doom. this would give +4 to INT and +4 to CHA, -1 AC, 3 rage powers, lets say lethal stance (+3 AB for melee) and beast totem (+2 AC)

Lets see what this would mean for the individual party members:

for MC:

  • +4 INT = +2 AC and some further nice bonus (+2 damage to flat footed, +2 initiative, +2 crit confirmation)
  • the +4 CHA currently wouldn’t do him any good however he could be an Aasimar instead of a Tiefling, Scaled Fist monk instead of normal monk ec. So lets say thats another +1 AC (would not hammer WIS as low as CHA to avoid bad will saves)
  • +2 AC beast totem
  • -1 AC
  • Total +4 AC and some further bonuses.
  • +3 AB, as he is melee from lethal stance
  • all in all, I think Court Poet would clearly be better for him than the +2/+2 that bard gives

for Seelah:

  • +2 AB for everyone with Mark of Justice due to +4 CHA
  • +3 AB, as she is melee
  • +2 AC beast totem, -1 AC = 1 AC
  • +2 saves due to +4 CHA (Thanks @Orannis for pointing this out)
  • all in all, I think Court Poet would be better for her than the +2/+2 that bard gives

for Camellia:

  • gains nothing from court poet’s Insightful Contemplation as she is ranged and does not need INT or CHA
  • 1 less BAB
  • one less archery feat
  • one less tick of favored enemy (-2 AB, -2 Damage for her, -1 AB, -1 Damage for party)
  • no quarry (which would give +2 AB on ranger lvl 11)
  • note that it takes 2 char level longer before you get dirge of doom so everyone has to wait this period
  • she suffers badly, Court Poet switch would question her usefulness as an archer

for Lann and Sosiel:

  • +3 AB, as both are melee
  • +2 AC beast totem, -1 AC = 1 AC
  • it is not clear if this is better than +2/+2 that bard gives, would tend to stick with bard

for Nenio:

  • +2 DC due to +4 INT. That is really nice
  • +2 AC beast totem, -1 AC = 1 AC
  • If you use ranged touch spells or rays you might still be better of with inspire courage/Bard. I would say the +2 DC outweighs it though

for the “shared bonus pool” of the group when everyone is concentration on the same opponent:

  • +2 AB Seelah Mark of Justice
  • -1 AB Camellia Hunters Bond
  • = +1 AB
  • and: dirge of doom comes later

Taking everything together: Although especially MC, Seelah and Nenio would benefit (for the other two it’s not as clear cut, would tend towards bard for them), I think that Camellia’s usefulness as an archer would suffer too much. To the point where you just want to keep her as a skald without any ranger levels to further enhance the range powers . But then this leaves me with her as-good-as-dead body during combat which feels bad…

2 Likes

Pretty minor, but don’t forget Seelah is also gonna get +2 to all of her saves!

Your assessment is fair. I, personally, would never build Camellia as an archer (particularly with how much of an absolute murder-engine she is in melee as a pure Shaman), so my perspective on your particular party comp will be less useful.

It sure is something to think about, though eh? I think Court Poet is gonna shake out as one of the secret MVP classes of the game.

1 Like

When I make a companion-only party, I have a real hard time butchering their thematic builds. Seelah is a paladin, Lann is a Zen archer, Camelia is a spirit hunter, etc… If I’m going to butcher their intended class by making them default class 1/better class 19, I feel like I might as well build a merc anyway because butchered companion is just a weak merc where I misclicked during a level up.

Good catch with the +2 saves [edited in the post] and agree with good potential for the Court Poet.

Regarding Camellias role I indeed want her to be ranged to cover this role - especially since Lann will be wild shaped most of the time. One question though: Given that most damage-enhancing buffs favor STR-builds - what makes her this murder-engine? Of course you would apply the whole DEX-to-AB and DEX-to-Damage feats and supporting mythics, she can buff herself with divine power (which is nice!), apply weapon enhancements at will and have decent AC (iceplant, wind, archmage armor). Not bad but nothing my other melees / cleric could not cover at least as well. Is there more?

Yeah I get that. In the end its of course a matter of personal preference, for me:

  • I think owlcat did a much better job than in Kingmaker to provide esp. the first companions you meet with a decent platform that can be build in multiple ways. Lann is a great Zen Archer or Druid or Cleric etc…
  • It feels a bit like D:OS2 where companion-personality and companion-class are completely de-coupled to the point where you can just decide what class the companion should be when meeting them. I enjoy the range of possibilities that open up this way.
  • Mechanically I agree that a full merc party could be more powerful - however if you take Lann as an example: he has stats (and a +2 AC bonus) that you could not re-create yourself with a merc. I think that this is a nice bonus you get when sticking with them. On top of the additional dialogue / reactions etc. Also some of the stuff they get on their ‘default class 1’ are still useful (e.g. Camellia’s +1 weapon enhancement, Lann’s +1 bow attack per round when not shape shifted and his BAB +1)

Battle Spirit gets Weapon Specialization (and better there is Mythic version) and Greater Weapon Focus. There are also very good Rapiers in act 3 compared to Longswords for Seelah. Honestly STR Version would have more damage and AB (and lower AC), but because Camelia gets these feats for free she can slightly overtake Seelah as 1XPaladin/1Monk for AC, to hit and damage without Smite Evil, while Seelah has higher saves.

1 Like

Thanks - got it. That’s a strong boost to her AB & damage and would pump her melee performance significantly.

I am using Lann as an empyreal sorcerer in my current run. Nice source of buffs missing from Ember’s spell list and he doesn’t run away when things get tough.

I agree that Owlcat did a better job building the companions. They are much more viable and versatile. I also agree that it’s a personal preference. I wasn’t criticizing; I just have a hard time doing it myself. While I oftentimes play with mercenaries, I will try a full companion play through on launch.

1 Like

Is this theory crafting or have you actually done it in game?

I’m asking because stuff like Camelia monk/paladin for example is not possible iirc (she is true neutral, but those two classes require lawful x).

And while I have had success with tanks (mercs or a Primalist Seelah) I’m not sure if Seelah could survive as a Paladin tank for the first 13 levels? Maybe I’m missing something here and would love some tips & advice.
In my playthroughs just having a shield focus feat does not help vs enemies that have +40 BAB around level 10.

In Alpha and Beta 1, Seelah was able to tank on core difficulty for me for the early part of the game. Usually the problem with a plate tank is that they peak early (by getting 10 AC from armor quite quickly) but don’t scale well because their attribute to AC conversions are limited and because the armor will only scale another 5 points from +5 armor. I am concerned about viability late game more so than early, in large part because paladin doesn’t have really any passive AC gains.

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I can really relate to this. In Kingmaker it often felt like a loose / loose-situation to me: either sub-optimal companions but with additional dialog / content etc. or a band of mechanically optimized but soul-less Mercs. I think I am happy with the way they designed it now. Lets see

in game, although not high level

that’s true but I didn’t propose Camellia to go monk/paladin - that’s Seelah’s role, in my party Camellia goes bard/ranger and there are no alignment issues with that

some things that should help:

  • crane style (that’s why I suggest the monk-dip for Seelah), might even go further and also get crane wing and riposte (I think it still works even with a shield in the offhand)
  • full buffs (barkskin, magical vestment, shield of faith)
  • bit of fun-mythic
  • mithral armor (and DEX-enhancement)
  • combat expertise (hopefully not necessary - would hate the AB-hit)
  • if you take a skald with the group then defensive stance and beast totem give huge AC boosts

I haven’t done high level combat to check if its enough or not but will give it a shot. In any case the two animal companions and shape shifted Lann (and if necessary some summoned undead) will assist with tanking.

I generally try to respect the concept (for example, whatever I did when completely respecting Kanerah and Kalikke, I kept them fire and ice somehow), but I have had a lot of fun messing with builds within that limit.

Keeping her entire stat-line intact, I full respected Arueshelae into an Eldritch Archer for example and she’s a ton of fun.

and shape shifted Lann.

I’m with you on that one :slight_smile:
I found Lann tank to be superior to most plate users (but I DID built him tanky).

Around level 10 he hit (in bear form) super high AC and had 3 full BAB attacks.
1 Level of Zen Archer.
1 Level of Witch.
8 Levels of Druid.

AC:
10 Base.
7 mage armor (mythic mage armor).
2 mongrel race.
7 dexterity bonus (18 stat + 4 from belt + 2 from bear form with master shapeshifter).
4 natural armor of bear form (beast shape III).
3 witch class dip (lizard familiar & iceplant hex).
6 wisdom bonus (18 stat + 4 from head piece).
4 fighting defensively (has 3 full BAB attacks so it doesn’t hurt as much).
4 shield spell from a vivi (not strictly necessary but nice).
6 ring of protection +3/shield of faith & amulet of natural armor /barkskin.
1 dodge.

= 54 AC & almost a full caster. Scales really well, gets to cast very nice party buffs & has an animal companion.

1 Like

I agree with that. I often respec Seelah into a martyr, which I think to be consistent as it’s just a move from base class to archetype.

What are the current issues with Rage Powers and Court Poet, if you don’t mind sharing?

Might have just been me, but my Rage Powers just aren’t working with the Court Poet “rage” (blanking on what it is called). I bug reported it. If it’s working for everyone else then that is grand, as imho it’s probably one of the most universally useful buff abilities in the entire game. Pretty much the only builds that don’t benefit from it are Wis-based pure casters. And heck, even they can get a bit of a natural armor bump out of it, or something more niche like more potent Channel Energy.