Thursday, June 4, 2015

Races of Pathfinder: Aquatic Elf

Aquatic Elf
Aquatic elves are basically elves that can breath water.  They have many of the same abilities as their land-locked cousins.

Racial Traits:
Ability Scores: Sea elves get a +2 to Dex and Int, making them great at ranged attacks and arcane spellcasting. They suffer a -2 penalty to Con, which can definitely hurt their hit point total.

Size: Elves are the same size as humans.

Speed: Elves have normal speed of 30 feet.

Swim Speed: Water hazards, encounters, and dungeons are fairly common in Pathfinder, so you'll find a swim speed very handy at least a few times.

Elven Immunities: Aquatic Elves are completely immune to magic sleep effects, and get a bonus against all other enchantment effects on top of that. This is excellent.

Keen Senses: A bonus to the most important skill in the game is always welcome.

Elven Magic: This bonus to caster level checks can definitely come in handy for a spellcaster, obviously, but for a non-spellcaster this is totally useless. A bonus to identifying magic items is a little situational, but at least useful for everyone.

Weapon Familiarity: Aquatic elves get rapiers, short swords, tridents, and all "elven" weapons.  It's not the most useful group, but some are better than simple weapons.

Low-Light Vision: This is always useful, but not nearly as helpful as Darkvision is for dwarves.

Amphibious: The ability to breath underwater goes hand in hand with a swim speed, making Aquatic Elves excellent underwater scouts.

Alchemist: An aquatic elf can make an exceptionally good bomb-wielding Alchemist, since both Intelligence and Dexterity are important for that type of build. The Mindchemist and Grenadier archetypes would both be great choices also, I just wish you could take both at once! You might also consider multiclassing with the Arcane Bomber Wizard for some ability synergy and the chance to use arcane scrolls.

Barbarian: With their penalty to Consitution, and Intelligence being relatively useless, aquatic  elves don’t make very good Barbarians. In general I would stick with the Fighter or Cavalier if you want to be a melee frontliner as an Aquatic Elf.

Bard: Aquatic Elves make some seriously excellent bards, since both Dexterity and Intelligence are helpful for most bard builds. The penalty to Constitution shouldn’t matter quite as much since you can heal yourself, so that’s nice too. 

Cavalier [Samurai]: There’s nothing stopping an Aquatic Elf from being an excellent Cavalier, as long as you keep an eye on hit points. At the same time, the bonuses to Intelligence and Dexterity don’t really do a ton for a vanilla Cavalier either. To take advantage of Dex, you may consider the Luring Cavalier and Musketeer archetypes (in fact, you can actually combine the two, since they replace different abilities). 

Cleric: Every race has clerics, but Aquatic elves don’t fit the bill quite as well as dwarves do. No bonus to Wisdom or Charisma, and a penalty to Con, though that can usually be overcome since you can heal yourself. You might consider the Divine Strategist archetype, which lets you add your Intelligence bonus to damage and other rolls starting at level 8.

Druid: Like clerics, Druids rely on Wisdom. Are you seeing a trend here? Aquatic Elves just don’t make the best divine casters! That being said, there’s no reason that you can’t make an excellent elven Druid, you’re just not going to be optimal. I’d also consider the Mooncaller archetype, since several of the abilities granted by it synergize very well with elves (such as gaining Darkvision at second level!).

Fighter: WIth a bonus to Dex and Int, an Aquatic Elf can make a seriously excellent ranged fighter. If you slap on the Lore Warden archetype, it just gets silly good, with tons of hit points and a bardic knowledge-like ability that comes in handy all the time. If you’re trying for melee, though, look at the Magus instead.

Gunslinger: The bonus to Dex is obviously going to help. Many of the Deed abilities use Wisdom, so it hurts a little bit that you don’t have a bonus there. I see no reason why you can’t make a decent gunslinger with an elf.

Inquisitor: This is another Wisdom-based character, so while there’s no reason that you couldn’t make a good Inquisitor with an aquatic elf (the Dex bonus just begs you to go ranged), you’re not going to be optimal. None of the archetypes do anything to chage this, either.

Magus: Now, here is a class that an aquatic elf was just born to play. Intelligence for casting and many of the Arcana abilities. You’ll probably want to make a Dex-based Magus (there is a guide on how to do that here), and that will make you want to consider both the Spell Dancer and Myrmidarch archetypes. The Hexcrafter is also a popular choice, because Witch Hexes are just amazing. Make sure to take the racial favored class bonus, which will give you an extra Magus Arcana every six levels, which is a HUGE bonus!

Monk: An aquatic elf can definitely pull off a Dex-focused monk, but the lack of a racial Wisdom bonus is definitely sub-optimal. Consider looking into the Flowing Monk and the Zen Archer, but again, this isn’t the best class for an elf.

Oracle: The Charisma-focused nature of the Oracle doesn’t lend itself to elven mastery, sadly. 

Paladin [Antipaladin]: Paladins rely almost exclusively on Strength and Charisma, which your elf isn’t the best at, so generally a Paladin is going to be a suboptimal choice. However, you can definitely mitigate this by choosing the Divine Hunter or Holy Gun archetypes, either of which will give you some excellent abilities to use at range. 

Ranger: Rangers do use Wisdom, but it’s really only for spellcasting, so if you choose a spell-less archetype like the SkirmisherTrapper, or Urban Ranger, you’re going to get a lot more bang for your buck. You’ll probably want to go with a ranged combat style, to take advantage of the Dex bonus. Thematically, elven Rangers just make perfect sense, so I say go for it!

Rogue [Ninja]: Aquatic Elves make excellent rogues, thanks to their bonuses to both Intelligence and Dexterity. Ninjas take a hit because of the requirement of Charisma for their ki abilities, so I’d stick with the Rogue, if choosing between the two. I don’t think any of the archetypes are specifically better for an elf, but many of them have interesting abilities, so make sure to look them all over.

Sorcerer: Generally, as an aquatic elf, you’re going to want to choose Wizard over Sorcerer, because Sorcerers require Charisma. However, you can fix this very easily if you’re willing to choose the Wildblooded (Sage) bloodline, which makes every single one of your normally Cha-based Sorcerer abilities based off of Int instead! This makes an aquatic  elven Sorcerer much more feasible, though you don’t get your choice of bloodlines anymore, which means you can’t customize the character nearly as much. 

Summoner: Like Sorcerers, Summoners require lots of Charisma. Unlike Sorcerers, there’s no Sage bloodline to switch them over to Int. Flavor-wise, the First-Worlder Summoner is pretty cool, since your eidolon become a fey creature instead of an outsider, and you get summon nature’s ally spells instead of summon monster. I would stay away from the Synthesist archetype, because Constitution becomes very important for you when your eidolon is nothing but a shell around you, and Con is not an elf’s best stat.

Witch: Witches are Intelligence-based, and that makes them an awesome choice for an aquatic elf. If you want to be a good healer, the Hedge Witch archetype is probably one of the best ways to get an Intelligence-based party healer, so if you’re set on playing an elf but being the party’s band-aid, that’s the way to do it.

Wizard: Aquatic Elves are long-lived and patient, in addition to being very intelligent, and that makes them incredibly good wizards. You may want to look at the Arcane Bomber archetype if you’re trying to do a bunch of damage. The Spellbinder, which is specifically for elves, is only okay, because you’re trading the ability to cast any one spell in your spellbook once per day for the ability to trade your currently prepared spells for spells that you’ve learned very well. This means that you could be giving up a casting of any one of your highest-level spells. The tradeoff here is that you don’t have an item that could cause you to fail at spellcasting if it’s lost. If you want versatility, stick with the normal Arcane Bond, or even pick up a familiar instead.

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