Thursday, June 4, 2015

Races of Pathfinder: Duergar

Duergar are essentially evil dwarves, the drow version of the dwarf.  They are similar to the dwarf in many way, but gain some interesting magical abilities to augment their dark and twisted nature.  However, their options are fairly limited in terms of effective classes.

Racial Traits:
Ability Scores: +2 Constitution and Wisdom, -4 Charisma. A -4 penalty hurts, but since Charisma is so often a dump stat it is not too hard to work around.  This makes them perfect candidates for Rangers, Monks, and Inquisitors, as well as any straight martial. Unfortunately the Charisma penalty is far too much for sorcerers, oracles or any other charisma based caster to overcome.  Even the cleric, a classic for the dwarf, suffers a big hit to channeling.

Size: Medium - Duergar don’t make very good sneaky characters, but otherwise their size doesn’t affect them. 

Speed: 20 ft - Duergar don’t move as quickly as other Medium-sized creatures, but this is made up for by their stoutness, which allows them to keep that 20-foot movement speed no matter what their encumbrance or what type of armor they wear. This makes them excellent candidates for any class that can wear heavy armor.

Languages: Duergar start with three languages as opposed to the normal two. It's not a huge advantage, but it is worth mentioning.

Duergar Immunities: Duergar Immunities is absolutely incredible, and a pretty compelling reason to play a Duergar.  Not only are they immune to paralysis (ghouls), phantasms (phantasmal killer), and poison (lots), they also gain a +2 bonus against spells and spell like abilities (everything).  Amazing.

Stability: A +4 bonus to CMD against bull rush or trip attempts can come in really handy, but it’s situational enough to not be a huge deal. If you really don’t like being tripped, though, be a duergar (or dwarf)!

Enlarge Person Spell-Like Ability: Like most once a day combat spell like abilities, the usefulness of this dwindles over time.  It can be useful early on, but later will only eat an action. Besides, you can just grab a wand.

Invisibility Spell-Like Ability: Invisibility is a nice, multi-use spell to have in your back pocket.  It's more broadly useful than enlarge person and can't be taken away from you.  I'm sure you can find a multitude of uses for this.

Superior Darkvision: Darkvision up to 120 feet is fun, but in most campaigns it's not going to be substantively different from dark vision to 60 feet.

Light Sensitivity: Light Sensitivity is a minor but pervasive penalty, that will provide annoyance for a good long time.  Luckily, if you can trade it out for Daysighted if you don't mind losing some Darkvision.

Alternate Racial Traits:
Blood Enmity [Invisibility]: A +1 bonus against dwarves and elves is pretty broad as these things go, but generally not worth the wonderfully multi-use invisibility.  Skip it.

Daysighted [Darkvision, Light Sensitivity]: You are bringing darkvision down to 60 ft. to lose light sensitivity.  Given that 60 ft. of darkvision is generally all you are going to need, I would say this is a worthy trade.

Deep Magic [Enlarge Person & Invisibility]: +2 bonus against spell resistance and +2 bonus on dispel.  If you are a full caster, then this is going to be immensely more useful than enlarge person, and likely more useful than invisibility.  Obviously if you are not a spell caster then you have absolutely no reason to take this.

Ironskinned [Enlarge Person]: Ironskin is a fantastic replacement for Enlarge Person for a variety of reasons.  Besides simply being a higher spell slot, it is a simple bonus as opposed to Enlarge Person's mixed bag.  Much better for tight corridors and dungeons!

Twilight-Touched [Invisibility]: Invisibility has far more uses than dust of twilight.  Stick with the original.

Dwarf Traits [Various]: You can take dwarf racial traits that replace stability, and remove duergar immunities for traits that replace hardy.  As below.

Mountaineer [Stability]: Unless your game will be played exclusively on a frozen mountainside, this one sucks.

Relentless [Stability]: +2 bonus to bull rush and overruns could be very useful for a Fighter or Barbarian, so I like it.

Magic Resistant [Duergar Immunities]: Spell resistance is fun awesome at lower levels, so enjoy it.  However, if you have a buffer you really don't want to take this as it costs a standard action to lower. An arcane magic user does NOT want this trait, though, because -2 to concentration sucks.  On top of that Duergar Immunities is so good that it's likely not worth it.

Stubborn [Duergar Immunities]: This would normally be pretty good, but Duergar Immunities is just so powerful that it's not really worth considering. 

There aren't too many classes that can make the best use of the Duergar's ability scores and abilities - Monks, Rangers, and Inquisitors do nicely, as they key off of Wisdom and Constitution.  Fast movement from Monks (or the Inquisitor's travel domain) also help.  Cavalier is another good choice (mounts ignore your slow movement), as is the straight Fighter or Barbarian (barbarians again benefitting from fast movement).

Druid is really the only full spell caster you should look at, gaining from Wisdom and not suffering form the Charisma penalty. The Gunslinger gets a tiny bit of synergy as well, with the Wisdom bonus and being able to largely ignore the speed penalty.

The Cleric, a classic dwarf, suffers just too much from the Charisma penalty.  If you really don't like channeling then you can try, but you are missing out on an important class feature.  However, if you trade it out in the Divine Strategist archetype, you can start running on gas.

There's nothing really to prevent a duergar from becoming an Alchemist, Magus, Witch, Wizard, or Rogue (though invisibility helps with the last), but there is virtually no reason to do any of them.  An Empyrean Sorcerer is about as appealing as a Wizard.

Don't even bother considering anything based off of Charisma.  A -4 penalty is just too much to overcome.  Bard, Paladin, and Ninja suffer too much to be viable, and of course Oracle, Sorcerer, and Summoner are right out.  

Racial Favored Class Bonuses:
Cleric: +1/2 bonus to craft items.  If you are big into crafting, then sure.  Otherwise, obviously skip it.

Fighter: +1 to CMD against bull rush or trip is far too situational. You'll make better use of that extra hit point.

Inquisitor: Running out of judgements really sucks, but this advancement is a bit too slow for my liking.  Still, if you want to be less worried about using judgement this can be powerful.

Racial Archetypes:
Gray Disciple: You are going to burn through ki fast with this archetype.  You gain the ability to cast invisibility, enlarge person, and darkness with ki (granted, as swift actions), but lose a lot of good monk abilities: still mind, an extra feat, wholeness of body, and more.  The only really interesting bonus comes at level 15 when you gain the ability to instantly kill enemies who are adjacent to stone.  Save your ki for anything else, leave the spell casting to the spell casters, and skip this archetype.

Racial Feats:
Giant Steps: Despite myself, I actually like this feat.  It increases your base speed by 20 feet when you are large or larger.  It is obviously meant to be used with Enlarge Person, but if you can make yourself permanently bigger or constantly have bigger buffs cast on you, it doubles your speed.  I'm a fan.

Gray Dwarf Magic: Great, more once per day spells.  You don't need to grab the whole retinue of spells available to the Duergar.  Invisibility and Ironskin should suffice.

Innate Flexibility: This is kind of a strange one, essentially doubling the number of times you can use your spell like abilities.  If you take this along with Gray Dwarf Magic, then you can have three low level spells with 6 spell slots to go around.  It's a big feat investment that could easily be replaced by a wand or friendly sorcerer.  

Lingering Invisibility: This is an easy way to gain concealment for an entire combat. At level 6 you can cast invisibility, move into attack, gain your invisible bonuses on attack and then have concealment for five more turns.  It's surprisingly powerful, and well worth it.  You can also use stealth with this concealment, attempting to gain sneak attacks if you are a rogue.

Tough as Iron: +2 to natural armor?  This is a no brainer.  Even if you aren't a melee character, this is probably still worth it.  It requires Toughness as a pre-requisite (the only thing keeping it from sky blue), but Toughness is a feat many characters wind up taking anyway.

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