Thursday, June 4, 2015

Races of Pathfinder: Undine

Undines are planetouched native outsider races with a connection to the elemental plane of water. This means that they are obviously great in aquatic environments, but they’re also not terribly strong. Their bonuses to Dexterity and Wisdom give them an edge at classes like the Rogue and divine casting classes. Undines might actually be my least-favorite race in the whole game, UNLESS you’re playing in an underwater campaign.

Racial Traits:

Ability Scores: +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, -2 Strength. The boosts to Dexterity and Wisdom make undines naturally sneaky and excellent at divine casting. With a penalty to Strength, melee builds are tougher, though you can still make a great Dex-based Magus or Monk.

Type: Undines 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: Undines are the same size as humans.

Speed: Undines have the same base speed as humans on land, and they also have a natural swim speed of 30 feet, which can come in very handy if you fall in a river, or if you’re playing a pirate-themed campaign that involves ships.

Energy Resistance: Cold resistance 5 is great, though if you’re playing a caster you can get higher resistance than this, so don’t put a ton of weight on it.

Spell-like ability: Undines can cast hydraulic push once per day, which puts out fires and lets you perform a bull rush combat maneuver using your caster level plus whichever of your mental stats is highest as your base attack bonus. Pretty 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.

Water Affinity: Just like the other elemental races, undines get bonuses to powers of the elemental (water) bloodline or the Water domain. The powers of the water bloodline aren’t bad, but the important point here is if you take that bloodline, your Charisma score is treated as if it’s two higher for ALL of your Sorcerer spells and abilities. The water domain isn’t bad, but I think the Ice and Oceans subdomains are probably a bit stronger, and you can choose either of those instead.
Alternate Racial Traits:

Acid Breath (Spell-like ability): Honestly, a 1/day breath weapon taht only has 5 feet of range just isn’t that good. I suppose if you’re a non-spellcaster it could come in handy, but I’m not a huge fan.

Amphibious (Spell-like ability): This option gives your undine the aquatic subtype, which means that she can breathe both underwater and in air. This will obviously be useful in any aquatic campaign. If you choose this abiliy here, you don’t have to use a feat on it later, so it’s a good idea.

Deepsight (Darkvision): This ability replaces your normal darkvision of 60 feet at all times with darkvision 120, but only when underwater. This will obviously be useful in an aquatic campaign, but not one that is mostly on land.

Flesh Chameleon (Energy Resistance): This power is interesting, giving you a +4 racial bonus to Disguise checks to appear human, and allowing for a really cool roleplaying opportunity in the skin-color-changing ability. However, I think that this is generally not going to be as helpful as energy resistance would be, so I can’t rate it very high.

Hydrated Vitality (Water Affinity): Just like the other three elemental races, you can get fast healing 2 for a single round, but unlike the other three races, you don’t need to get hit with a possibly damaging spell to get this. This is obviously going to be even better in a solely aquatic campaign, since you can then essentially turn it on anytime you want to.

Nereid Fascination (Spell-like ability): A fascination ability is very useful for many different characters, and the Will save to ignore it can get crazy high if you focus your character on Charisma, so for a Cha-focused character this is better than the hydraulic push spell-like ability.

Ooze Breath (Spell-like ability): This is similar to the Acid Breath ability, but instead of more acid damage you can instead cause the sickened condition. This is probably not as good as the Nereid Fascination ability, overall.

Terrain Chameleon (Energy Resistance): A bonus to Stealth can come in handy, but since it only works in water this can be very situational unless you’re playing a solely aquatic campaign. The resistance to cold is probably better for most characters.

Water Sense (Energy Resistance): This is a really amazing ability, especially if you’re a caster who can create a small body of water to fight in. I’d probably take this one for most characters in lieu of the cold resistance.

Alchemist: You can make a decent ranged Alchemist out of your undine character, especially if your GM lets you use the Underwater Demolition discovery, which lets you use bombs underwater, though it was written for grippli originally. Don’t try to make a melee mutagen-focused Alchemist, though, since the Strength penalty will severely deter you.

Barbarian: The Strength penalty is definitely a problem here, and there aren’t any racial powers that make up for it at all. I’d say this is suboptimal at best, and possible even a just plain horrible choice.

Bard: Undine Bards get access to a racial archetype called the Watersinger, and personally I think this is the absolute best thing about being an Undine. At 1st level, you gain the ability to use bardic performance to manipulate water and shape it into all sorts of useful things. The really cool ability comes at 3rd level, however, when you can have that water that you’re controlling attack a creature, and even provide a flanking bonus. This means you can essentially use your bardic performance to summon a creature that is immune to essentially everything, since it’s actually an object (and gains hardness). The damage even increases as you level, from 1d6 plus your Charisma mod at 3rd level up to 2d8 plus your Charisma mod at 20th. The only painful thing about using this ability is that you have to spend an extra round of bardic performance each round in which you attack with the water, but this doesn’t cost you any action at all (maintaining a bardic performance is free) so you’re able to continue doing whatever else you want, including spellcasting or attacking the same creature to get that flanking bonus for yourself.

Cavalier [Samurai]: The penalty to Strength is going to hurt you here, and there’s absolutely nothing else going for you as far as being a Cavalier. You could go for a ranged build, but honestly you’d be better off taking Ranger or Fighter in that case. If you’re in an aquatic campaign, talk to your GM about riding something like a giant seahorse or dolphin, because otherwise the Cavalier class literally does nothing for you.

Cleric: Just like the other elemental races, you can make a very good Cleric if you focus on the Water domain or its subdomains. I personally like the Ice subdomain, which lets you turn to ice for several rounds per day, gaining DR 5/- and cold immunity, but you have to be careful of fire damage. I would suggest combining this with an energy resistance spell against fire of some type. The Oceans subdomain’s surge power is also pretty cool, giving you a replacement for your racial hydraulic push ability that’s usable much more often. Obviously you can switch that spell-like ability out for another option… I’d recommend either Amphibious or Nereid Fascination. Definitely ignore the favored class option. It’s terrible.

Druid: All of the suggestions I made for the Cleric also apply for a Druid, but you also get access to a racial archetype, the Undine Adept. It’s a pretty excellent option for an aquatic campaign, as you gain the amphibious special ability for free, and you also get to apply the effects of Augment Summoning to creatures with the water subtype, so that’s really nice for a summoning-focused Druid. Combine this with Nereid Fascination and Water Sense, and you’ll have a very strong character when in water! The favored class option isn’t bad if you’re in an underwater campaign, but otherwise ignore it.

Fighter: With a Strength penalty, I’d obviously recommend a ranged Fighter build for an Undine. The only painful thing is that ranged combat underwater SUCKS unless you’re willing to invest some serious resources into it, and ranged builds are already resource- and feat-heavy. If you’re not playing in an aquatic campaign this isn’t a problem…. but wait, why are you choosing undine again??

Gunslinger: The same problems exist for an undine Gunslinger as for a ranged Fighter, but you have to spend even MORE money to make it work… you need to at least have a Dry Load Powderhorn or the Dry Load property on your gun or cartriges, which are all super expensive. If you’re not playing underwater, pick another race for your Gunslinger. Seriously.

Inquisitor: I can’t really see any reason to choose Inquisitor over Cleric or Druid at all. That being said, the Wisdom bonus is great, and a ranged build would work very well.

Magus: A Dex-based Magus build would work well here, but without an Int bonus and with a penalty to Strength it’s not going to be ideal.

Monk: An undine Monk could work very well, especially if you take advantage of the Water Sense abiliy as well as the favored class option, which boosts both your CMD to resist a grapple AND gives you more uses of stunning fist per day. Make sure to focus on Dexterity as your main stat. If you aren’t planning to use Stunning Fist, you should instead take the Flowing Monk archetype because… well… it’s flowing! This is probably one of the better builds to use underwater, since melee attacks aren’t affected by water, unlike ranged ones.

Oracle: I absolutely love the concept of an undine Oracle of Waves, as some of the Waves revelations are just amazing (baleful polymorph several times per day at 7th level? Yes, please!) Couple this with Nereid Fascination and you can shut down entire combats all on your own! The deaf curse works very well for aquatic environments as well, since you can’t hear underwater anyway. Combine this with Water Sense, for sure.

Paladin [Antipaladin]: The Strength penalty is definitely detrimental, and in an aquatic campaign you’re not going to enjoy using a horse as a mount. Definitely choose to bond with your wepaon instead. Either way, this is definitely sub-optimal.

Ranger: Ranger is a great choice for an undine, thanks to both the Wisdom bonus and several Ranger abilities that rely on terrain and synergize with racial options that do the same. You’ll definitely want Amphibious, Deepsight, and Terrain Chameleon, for example.

Rogue [Ninja]: A bonus to Dex is obviously good for an undine Rogue, and either Flesh Chameleon or Terrain Chameleon will probably be helpful, depending on what your Rogue focuses on. I also like Water Sense for either a Rogue or, even better, for a Ninja, who can turn invisible and still sense other invisible creatures as long as they are in contact with water.

Sorcerer: As with the other elemental races, undines get a bonus to Charisma when using Sorcerer powers if they take the water elemental bloodline, and they can trade away their racial cold resistance without fear since the bloodline grants better cold resistance at 3rd level. Water Sense is still the best option for that trade. The favored class option is alright, but I don’t find that caster level checks are useful a lot, and being underwater only affects casting for those that can’t breathe water, which your undine will be able to thanks to the Amphibious trait. As far as casting fire spells, you can take the Steam Caster feat to fix that too, but you shouldn’t be trying to cast fire spells underwater anyway… several spells that normally deal fire damage will be cold damage for you thanks to your bloodline.

Summoner: This is a decent option, thanks to the aquatic eidolon base form. You don’t get a Charisma bonus, and the favored class option is only marginally useful, since you shouldn’t often be moving more than 100ft from your eidolon.

Witch: There’s nothing good or bad about this option, and there aren’t really hexes that work better underwater or anything like that, so I don’t have much to say here.

Wizard: I like this mostly because of the favored class option, which lets you add Cleric or Druid spells to your spell list, which is NICE! You’d think that the Water elemental school would be a good choice, but one of the main powers involves gaining a swim speed, and you already have that.

Racial Favored Class Options:

Bard: Countersong is one of the least-used Bard abilities, and you only get a bonus to it when the effect you’re trying to counter comes from an aquatic creature. BOO!

Cleric: You’re not going to have to overcome the spell resistance of aquatic creatures that often. IGNORE!

Druid: In an aquatic campaign, you’ll likely come upon many aquatic animals, so this bonus will be helpful. Obviously if you’re not in water, this is useless.

Monk: Extra uses of Stunning Fist is great, as it can be an encounter-ending ability. Tossing on grapple resistance is just icing on the cake. This is excellent!

Sorcerer: You’re not going to be making checks to cast underwater, since you can breathe underwater. Bad choice!

Summoner: The Life Link ability already has a range of 100 feet, so you really shouldn’t need to make use of this favored class option at all. Take a skill point instead.

Wizard: Adding spells from other spell lists to your own is excellent, and in some cases overpowered by a significant margin. You should take full advantage of this.

Racial Archetypes:

Watersinger (Bard): This is an excellent archetype, as it lets you create flank-buddies for yourself or your teammates without having to use spells up. Couple this with the ability to make a ladder or bridge for your party when needed, and possibly sicken or reposition foes from range, and you’ve got a lot of really great options here, even if you’re not going to be in the water during your campaign. In fact, this is probably the only reason I would ever make an undine character, personally.

Undine Adept (Druid): This archetype will make one of the best underwater Druids out there, no question. You don’t need to use either your racial ability or a feat on becoming amphibious, since you get that at 2nd level, and a free Augment Summoning feat is excellent. The later Wild Shape isn’t great, but it’s worth the trade-off.
Racial Feats:

Aquatic Ancestry: In most cases, you won’t want to use one of your precious feats on this ability, since you can instead just gain it at first level with the Amphibious racial option.

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 undine 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.

Hydraulic Maneuver: This is an excellent option for casting classes, since you can use this with your spells, not just your once/day racial spell-like ability. Adding either dirty trick or disarm to a spell that already pushes your enemy around is really nice. However, I still like Nereid Fascination more in general, so this can’t be blue for me.

Steam Caster: This feat is nice if you plan to use fire spells underwater, but honestly you shouldn’t need to… there are so many other types of damage that work perfectly well underwater.

Triton Portal: This is an excellent option for non-casters, since it will definitely come in more handy than a single casting of hydraulic push. Summoning a small water elemental doesn’t seem like much, but you can use it for flanking, so it’s worth consideration.

Water Skinned: Umm… just go get a bucket of water. Seriously, this is not worth a feat at all, for anyone.

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