Thursday, June 4, 2015

Races of Pathfinder: Sylph


Sylphs are planetouched native outsider races with a connection to the elemental plane of air. This means that they are generally light, whispy, and FAST. Their bonuses to Dexterity and Intelligence lend them strongly toward Rogues and arcane casters, but they generally can pull off any class that doesn’t depend heavily on Constitution.

Racial Traits: 

Ability Scores: +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence, -2 Constitution. The boosts to Dexterity and Intelligence make sylphs naturally sneaky and excellent at arcane casting, so if there ever was a race build to be an Arcane Trickster, this would be it. They’re not very hardy, so front-line warriors in general, and Barbarians specifically, are suboptimal builds for a sylph.

Type: Sylphs are outsiders with the native subtype, so just like the other planetouched races they can’t be affected by spells and effects that target humanoids, such as enlarge person and charm person, so this is a double-edged sword. .

Size: Sylphs are the same size as humans.

Speed: Sylphs have the same base speed as humans.

Energy Resistance: Having resistance 5 to electricity is decent, though not as strong as the acid resistance that oreads get. 

Spell-like ability: Sylphs can cast feather fall once per day for free, and anyone who has ever fallen down a deep well can tell you that this can be a life-saver. If you’re an arcane caster, this means you probably don’t have to use a spell slot on it, since you’re not likely to need it more than once per day, and the options to switch out for this one generally aren’t as nice.

Darkvision: I’ve talked this one to death on other races’ descriptions… it’s excellent, and way better than Low-Light Vision, simple as that.

Air Affinity: Just like the other elemental races, a sylph Sorcerer or Cleric (or any other class that uses Domains) gets a boost if they choose the right bloodline or domain, respectively. The Elemental (air) bloodline is nice but nothing amazing, and I’d say the same thing about the Air domain. In either case, make sure to replace your racial electricity resistance with sonic resistance using Thunderous Resilience, since the bloodline and domain both give you (higher) electricity resistance. However, the Wind subdomain is excellent, letting you use a ranged bull rush several times a day, using your caster level (which is 1 higher thanks to this racial power) as your base attack bonus and your Wisdom bonus as your Strength bonus! Very nice!

Alternate Racial Traits:

Air Insight (Air Affinity): This one is an obvious choice for any arcane caster who isn’t a Sorcerer… you get to have summons last longer at no cost to you. It’s also a great choice for a Druid who prefers an animal companion over a domain.

Breeze-Kissed (Air Affinity): This ability is two-fold… you get a constant +2 AC vs non-magical ranged attacks (generally only useful until around level 5 since most enemies will have magical bows after that) and you also can use a ranged bull rush or trip once per day. preggy cool, and a decent option for non-casters.

Like the Wind (Energy Resistance): Any bonus to speed is pretty sweet, but I don’t think I’d ever choose this over the sonic resistance 5 granted by Thunderous Resilience, so I have to rate this one relatively low.

Sky Speaker (Spell-like Ability): There’s just no chance that a casting of speak with animals will come in more handy than feather fall. Stay away.

Storm in the Blood (Air Affinity): Just like the other elemental races, sylphs can get a (VERY) limited fast healing when exposed to electricity. The problem is, it only lasts one round, and has a pretty low healing cap per day. This just isn’t as good as any of the other options, in my opinion.

Thunderous Resilience (Energy Resistance): Wow. Very few abilities in the game will give you sonic resistance, so I say take it while you can get it. For Sorcerers or divine casters who take the Air domain, this is a no-brainer, since you’ll get your resistance to electricity back through bloodline/domain powers anyway.

Weather Savvy (Spell-like Ability): This is a cool, thematic option, but it relies far too heavily on the GM knowing what the weather is going to be like, and weather doesn’t factor into many campaigns anyway. Sadly, this one’s rated pretty low.

Whispering Wind (Spell-like Ability): For a sylph Rogue or Ninja, this is an automatic choice. +4 to Stealth? Yes, please!


Alchemist: You have boosts to the primary two stats that bomb-tossing Alchemists need, so this is a great option. You may want to consider the Preservationist archetype in concert with the Air Insight alternate racial ability, since it’ll increase the number of rounds your air elementals stick around (although Breeze-Kissed is also a good option for an Alchemist). You may also consider the Cloud Gazer feat so that you can toss your bombs from the protection of an obscuring mist or similar spell.

Barbarian: Daily rage rounds depend on Con, and sylphs don’t have much of that. If you did go the Barbarian round, the Elemental Kin archetype is an obvious choice, but this is going to be sub-optimal at best.

Bard: High Int means more skill points, and many Bards use Dexterity-based combat, so Bard is a good choice for a sylph. Air Insight is a very good choice to keep your air elemental summons around longer, and Thunderous Resilience will let you be resistant to your own sonic-damage spells. Along with that, consider the Sound Striker archetype to focus more strongly on sonic damage.

Cavalier [Samurai]: A reduced Con score isn’t great for a Cavalier, and since you’re not a Small creature you have to deal with lugging around that Large mount. However, the Luring Cavalier archetype would allow you to be a more ranged-focused character, and that might work very well. The Samurai can already do very well at ranged combat, so it’s also a decent choice.

Cleric: Even without a Wisdom bonus, sylphs make excellent Clerics thanks to their Air Affinity ability. You get +1 caster level for all Air domain-related abilities, and that includes the sweet Wind subdomain. Make sure to switch out your racial electricity resistance for Thunderous Resilience since you’ll get better electricity resistance later on. 

Druid: Like the Cleric, this is a good choice despite the lack of Wisdom bonus. If you go the domain route, obviously pick up the Wind subdomain that I just talked about in the Cleric entry. If you instead opt for an animal companion, make sure to take Air Insight to give a boost to your air elemental summons. On top of that, sylphs get a racial archtype called the Sky Druid. This is an excellent archetype with several really fun abilities. First off, you can still take the Wind subdomain, or if you prefer an animal companion, you need to take one that has a fly speed (roc, anyone?). You can switch out your feather fall 1/day spell-like ability for something else, since at 2nd level you get a CONSTANT feather fall effect, and you can use ranks in Fly in place of Acrobatics when jumping! At 5th level, you get a supernatureal power to fly for minutes per level each day, at 9th level you are never affected by wind of any type, and at 13th level you gain a fly speed! Seriously, this is a sweet archetype!

Fighter: The only thing going against you as a sylph Fighter is the reduced Con score. However, if you decide to be a ranged Fighter, that’s not a problem, and you have the Dexterity bonus to pull it off. Obviously the Archer archetype makes sense, but you may also consider the Lore Warden instead to take advantage of your high Intelligence. Make sure to take Cloud Gazer, so that you can fire your arrows from near the edge of an obscuring mist cast by your party Wizard.

Gunslinger: Any race that can excel as a ranged Fighter can also do very well as a Gunslinger. You might consider picking up Airy Step and WIngs of Air, because a flying Gunslinger is a dangerous thing, and you’ll definitely want the Cloud Gazer feat so that you can fire your gun from the safety of an obscuring mist.

Inquisitor: A ranged Inquisitor build could be quite good for a sylph, and you’ll obviously want the Wind subdomain for the same reasons that a Cleric would (though not getting the bonus spells is detrimental). If you’re going for a sneaky build, you’ll want to take the favored class bonus for your Stealth checks, but opposed Perception checks hardly ever come up, so it’s otherwise not that useful.

Magus: There are a lot of Dex-based Magus builds floating around out there, and a sylph can really capitalize on that with bonuses to both Dex and Int. The Kapenia Dancer and Myrmidarch archetypes are obvious choices, and you’ll definitely want the Cloud Gazer feat, as it will let you lay down an obscuring mist and then shoot from within it with no penalty.

Monk: I’m actually surprised that there’s not a Monk archetype specifically for the sylph, as it seems like an obvious choice. The Zen Archer is an amazing archetype for a sylph Monk, and you might also consider the Flowing Monk archetype for flavor purposes. Inner Breath is also a flavorful option.

Oracle: While you don’t get a Charisma bonus, you can still make a seriously amazing Oracle if you take advantage of Cloud Gazer and the fact that obscuring mist is on your spell list, you can rain down all kinds of ranged damage without being seen yourself. Make sure to pick your favorite revelation that is dependent on your Oracle level to apply the favored class bonus to, since it essentially multiplies your Oracle level by 1.5 for the effects of that revelation.

Paladin [Antipaladin]: With no Charisma bonus and a penalty to Con, it’s tough to make a good Paladin with a sylph character. That being said, any of the ranged archtypes, such as Holy Gun or Divine Hunter, will work out just fine. The Antipaladin doesn’t get access to those archetypes, so it’s nowhere near as good.

Ranger: A ranged Ranger build is a great choice for a sylph, though I would probably shy towards the Fighter over this. You’ll obviously want the Archery combat style, and make sure to take Cloud Gazer for the same reasons as any other ranged build.

Rogue [Ninja]: I am pretty sure the sylph was put together with the Rogue class in mind. A sylph Sniper will be truly amazing, thanks to Cloud Gazer in concert with an obscuring mist spell. Ninja works just as well also. I would probably not take the favored class option, as a skill point will be more useful for you at most levels. Make sure to take the Whispering Wind racial option, as a permanent +4 to Stealth checks beats out a 1/day spell-like ability any day for a Rogue or Ninja.

Sorcerer: This is obviously a great option for a sylph thanks to the Air Affinity racial power. You’ll want to take the Air elemental bloodline to take advantage of it, obviously. Make sure to take Thunderous Resilience to get resistance to sonic damage, since your bloodline comes with electricity resistance built in. You’ll want to take advantage of the racial favored class option, applying it to your Elemental Blast bloodline power to give you extra dice of damage when using it.

Summoner: Air Insight seems like an easy choice for a Summoner, but remember that a Summoner’s summon monster spell-like abilities last for minutes per level instead of rounds, so really it isn’t that helpful. Cloud Gazer could come in handy for a Summoner, as well, since you could stand ten feet into an obscuring mist without being seen and summon creature after creature to do your bidding.

Witch: You’ve got nothing in particular going for you with a sylph Witch other than the bonus rounds of summoning from Air Insight and a bonus to Int, so I would definitely pick Wizard instead. If you do go with the Witch, take a flying familiar and use the racial favored class option to give it killer Perception checks.

Wizard: You’ve got a lot of good things happening here for a Wizard. First of all, you get an Int bonus to make your spells more powerful. The favored class option is also fantastic, and of the two elemental schools that you can choose, the Wood school is best (entangle is an AMAZING spell for a Wizard!) You’ll want to apply the extra effective levels to your Flexible Enhancement school power, since you can give yourself very nice bonuses to your ability scores and change them out each day when you prepare your spells! On top of all that, you’ve got a racial archetype, the Wind Listener. This archetype isn’t anything mind-blowing, but you do get to add Perception to your list of class skills, and you get to replace Arcane Bond (some people worry that they’ll lose their bonded object or familiar) with the ability to lose any prepared spell to cast a divination spell instead. 

Racial Favored Class Options:

Cleric: A situational bonus on a single type of Knowledge check is not worth your time. IGNORE!

Druid: See Cleric right above this. IGNORE!

Inquisitor: For a Stealth-focused build, this is an excellent option, but most Inquisitors just run in and fight, so you’re probably better off with an extra hit point in most cases.

Oracle: This is one of the best favored class options in the game, because many Oracle revelations are very powerful! Seriously, doesn’t matter what mystery you pick, you should be taking this at every level.

Rogue: A flat bonus to Sense Motive is nice, but the bonus to Acrobatics only when jumping is too situational. If you’re a Ninja, this is probably a little better, since it lets you do some crazy jumping feats of amazingness.

Sorcerer: This favored class option is ALMOST as good as the one you can get for being an Oracle, but you’re limited to which bloodlines you can take. Still, you should be choosing this at every level.

Witch: If you’re planning to be a sneaky Witch, this option is for you. The bonus to Stealth can come in handy, but the bonus to the Perception checks of your familiar is much more powerful. In fact, I would probably choose this at every level just to get the familiar Perception bonus. Trust me, the first time you roll a 1 on Perception to notice a trap and your familiar says “HEY! THERE’S A TRAP ON THAT DOOR!” you’ll be thanking me!

Wizard: Just like the Sorcerer, this option is almost as good as the Oracle one. Definitely take this at every level, assuming you choose either the Air or Wood school.

Racial Archetypes:

Sky Druid (Druid): I absolutely love the Sky Druid archetype for both reasons of fluff and crunch. You should definitely be taking the Wind subdomain, no question. Starting at 2nd level you get a constant feather fall ability, which is really sweet, and the fly spell at 5th level is excellent too. Having your wild shape pushed back to 6th level hurts, but it’s more than worth it in my opinion. Finally, the last two abilities let you ignore ALL wind effects and give you a true fly speed of 60 (or 70 if you took Like the Wind) feet. Very nice!

Wind Listener (Wizard): This archetype is fantastic for a battlefield controller Wizard for several reasons. First, you add Perception to your list of class skills. Yes, please! Next, you can spontaneously convert your prepared spells into divination spells of the same level. That means that you never have to prepare a spell from the divination school, and there are some really great scouting abilities you can gain from those spells. The coolest ability, to me, is Wispy Form. This gives you DR 10/magic and the effects of greater invisibility for a number of rounds per day equal to your level, and this invisibility is immune to the invisibility purge spell. Awesome!

Racial Feats:

Airy Step: While this feat isn’t that amazing on its own (just a +2 on saves against electricity attacks and ignoring 30 feet of falling damage), it’s a gateway to the excellent Wings of Air feat, so it’s gonna be worth taking for many characters.

Cloud Gazer: This is one of my favorite racial feats in the game, and can be seriously exploited if used correctly. You get the ability to see completely through nonmagical fogs, mists and clouds. Even better, though, is that you can see three times as far in magical mists, such as an obscuring mist spell. Normally, you can only see 5 feet through the spell, but this lets you see up to 15 feet though. If you stand 10 feet from the edge of the effect, you’re invisible to everyone else but can see perfectly yourself. Now, you can safely throw out any ranged attack, even getting sneak dice if you have them, and have no chance of being seen. Awesome!

Elemental Jaunt: All four of the elemental-touched races can choose this feat, and while it’s a powerful ability, I don’t think it’s worth using a feat slot on for most characters. If your sylph is a spellcaster, she should eventually have access to this spell anyway, and if she’s not a spellcaster, you’re going to want to use your feats on combat abilities and let the caster of the group worry about things like plane shifting. Overall, this just isn’t going to be an optimal choice.

Inner Breath: Being immune to inhaled poisons is nice, but this is generally too situational to be worth a feat for most characters.

Wings of Air: A supernatural fly speed at 9th level is AWESOME, and most sylph characters should probably try to make this their 9th level feat. You also get a boosted bonus against electrical attacks. This is definitely worh a feat for almost everyone!


  1. Would you have an idea of a build for a Sky druid with or without the roc companion ? I'm really interested into this sky druid looks very awesome ! Thks in advance !

    1. Hmmm - I'm unfortunately no expert on the Druid class. I'd take this question to the forums, and see what they have to say! I'd recommend the Paizo forums, personally.