26 January 2012

Why Less is More -- My Pathfinder Character Dilemma

I'm currently playing in the serpent's skull adventure path and having a lot of fun.  My group is solid, the adventure is a nice blend of mystery, exploration, and combat, and the DM does a great job.  We've just completed the first book of the AP and are currently gearing up for a trek into the Mwangi Expanse.  Now, let me tell you about my character. . .

Really, what I want is some help with this guy.  Culver Farwalker is an adventurer's adventurer.  He's motivated by finding lost ruins, discovering new knowledge, and, yes, gaining some loot in the process.  One of his major goals is to become a member of the Pathfinder Society.  He's mostly heroic when it comes to his friends, but is certainly more motivated by uncovering relics than any sort of greater good.  Indiana Jones is certainly an inspiration.

Is this slight of hand?  But then how do I get weapon specialization: whip?

All of this is great and I feel pretty comfortable with Culver now after some initial misgivings.  But notice something about the above description -- it has nothing to do with class or abilities.  He could be anything!  So I am having trouble figuring out what he should be.  Technically, he's a bard, but I don't feel terribly comfortable with that choice.  I've been given permission to "reskin" him into a different class.  This leads me with a problem and some observations.

Problem:  What should I do with him, class wise?  The party has a fighter, cleric, paladin, and a wizard.  The wizard's player isn't very experienced, so doesn't make the best choices regarding spell choice and use.  He also misses some games due to work.  Thus we have a 30% wizard.  What can he be that will help the party, be fun to play, and not, well, suck?


  • I can't help but think that, in Old School sorts of games, this dilemma wouldn't be an issue.  That is, the choice of race/class wouldn't matter as much because of all the things we know about old school gaming (no skills, player skill matters a lot, party balance and composition not as important, etc).  But these things DO matter a lot in Pathfinder, so I can't help but engage in some sort of character optimization.
  • Boy, Pathfinder has a lot of options.  Just in the SRD, there are core classes and base classes.  Each one of those, in turn, has archetypes!  Some, like the sorcerer, have further options like bloodlines.  I know many people see this as a feature, but I can't help but be struck by option paralysis as I try to see how all those things could be combined to fit the concept.  I want Culver to know things about history, ancient cults, and the peoples of Golarion.  So do I need to take a class that has a lot of skill points so that he can put some into various knowledge skills?  But just knowing things makes for a somewhat crappy character in a game where one fights monsters and runs into traps, so how do I get some combat ability out of this guy while still allowing him to do the things that no one else in the party can do -- like disarm traps?
  • The above, especially, has led me to the conclusion that comprehensive skill lists are much more of a hindrance than a help and I vastly prefer systems with few or no skills.
Since I can't make Culver into a fighting-man, what am I to do?


  1. I think Indy is a thief: http://jovialpriest.blogspot.com/2010/12/bx-indiana-jones.html

    Maybe Culver can be a thief as well, in the broadest sense of the Bilbo, Indy, Grey Mouser sort of way.

  2. Yeah, as the Jovial Priest says, thief (or in Pathfinder/3E speak, Rogue) is a good choice.

    You get tons of skill points to toss around, plus you're no slouch in combat. And your party is missing the "thief" slot (although your Bard build fills this role, too). And if you want a bit of magic, there's always multiclassing into one of the spellcasting classes.

  3. Your guy sounds more like a prestige class than a base class, and a prestige class that I'd be shocked if Paizo doesn't support. Which it does. Take a look at the Pathfinder Delver: http://www.d20pfsrd.com/classes/prestige-classes/other-paizo/n-r/pathfinder-delver

    Probably the best class to start with is rogue, as others have mentioned. That'll give you the mix of skill points, combat ability, and trap finding that you want.

  4. Oh, and *please* keep blogging the Serpent's Skull adventure path! I'm running it right now-- a few sessions into Smuggler's Shiv-- and it's good to get a player's perspective.

  5. Wow! Thanks for all the comments, everyone. I sat down and did a "character audit" last night. It helped me make some decisions about Culver. I'll post about those soon.

  6. I'm late to the party, but I'll add my vote to the thief/rogue votes. I'm also partial to bard, but you make it pretty clear you're not staying there.

  7. I vote rogue. You get the skills points to spread all over the place, the variety of class skills, and precision damage for those time you get into combat. Take a strong look at the Use Magic Device skill. Scrolls and wands can give you the versatility that you want. Plus, I think the PF books do not feature skill-bonus magic items as much as they should. A +5 (skill) item is fairly cheap at mid levels and can give you a huge boon to any skill you want. Heck, even a +10 item isn't outrageous by the time you get around 10th level.