Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Axe's Guide to Finding Divinity (Pathfinder Society Clerics)

IMPORTANT NOTE FROM ZENITH GAMES: This guide went defunct in late 2013 and stopped working. Shawn Perry retrieved from the web-archiving Way Back machine. We'll host it here until Axe decides to host it again or contact us.

Note also that this guide is pretty old, and that Axe is just focusing on casting and healing.  It's very possible to make a melee or ranged cleric, but Axe doesn't cover that in this guide.  Additionally, many of the domain abilities that Axe assumes are free are actually standard.

Axe’s Guide to Finding Divinity
(Pathfinder Society Clerics)
9/7/2010 v0.85

Inspired by Treantmonk’s pathfinder guides, and I am using his coloring coding for ease of readability. As a note I have only played Pathfinder as part of society play so am writing the guide under the assumption that you are playing society as well. Most of this will apply to most games anyway.

Part 1: The Casting Cleric

Color Coding the Guide:

In this guide I will be Color Coding your various options to provide my opinion on each of these options.

Red: Warning. This is a poor option and should be avoided
Orange: This is an OK option. I'm not recommending it, but it's not bad
Green: I recommend this option. It is a strong choice
Blue: A must have. Your best possible option

As I see it the Cleric is always capable of providing a significant amount of healing / debuff removal. The question is how do you want to contribute to the demise of the monsters, the two real options are to cast spells at the monsters or swing a weapon at them No matter which you pick you’ll still be perfectly capable of providing healing to the group as needed. This Part of the guide will be for the casting cleric. Expect to see the melee cleric in part 2 and the spell list in part 3.

Human: + Wis is good, an extra skill point is nice and one can always find use for an extra feat. Personally I think it’s trumped by Half-Elf but being able to max out a second or third skill isn’t bad

Half-Elf: + Wis is just as good here as it is for humans. You also get +2 perception, lowlight vision, skill focus & a +2 bonus against enchantments which you’ll already have a very good save against. Consider putting your skill focus into perception and taking a trait to get it in class for another +3 to be the party’s perception monkey. Don’t forget low-light as well.

Half Orc: + Wis is still good, and Orc-Ferocity is arguably best served on a cleric. Darkvision is generally even better than low-light although the +2 intim is mostly wasted.

Dwarf: +Wis/+Con/-Cha Amazing Stat array although the –Cha hurts a little as channel energy is really good now. Their slow speed is mostly a non-issue since they aren’t further slowed by armor. Defensive Training, Stability and Stone Cunning are all abilities that do things as well

Halfling: +Dex/+Cha/-Str : No bonus to Wisdom, at least the penalty stat is to one you can skip. A perception bonus salvages a little out of this race along with the bonus to all saves. Beware of the slow speed though.

Gnome: +Con/+Cha/-STR : No bonus to wisdom although +Con is a welcome. The slow speed is problematic and most of their racial bonuses are quite unexciting although lowlight, +AC against Giants and + Perception are still of some value.

Elf: +Int/+Dex/-Con: Yuck. At least the spell pen will be useful later when you’re fighting outsiders. Low light and perception are not enough to make up for the terrible stat bonuses. If Elf flavor is important to you just play a half-elf in touch with your elf side some more.

Str: 7 You’re not hitting things, you’re wearing medium or heavy armor so will be encumbered anyway. Note that penalties from encumbrance and armor do not stack so don’t worry about it too much.

Dex: 8-12 It’s quite easy to get your AC looking good, especially if you’re going the full plate route, no need to go above 12 though.

Con: 12-14 Hitpoints are always useful. I’m a little reluctant to go as low as 12 but you’ll have a good AC and the ability to heal yourself in a pinch.

Int: 7 Spending 4 points to bring your Int up to 10 nets you 1 skill point a level. Just not worth it. Kinda a shame that you’ll always suck at knowledge: Religion but that’s the price of piety.

Wis: 16-18 This is your casting stat, it gives you bonus spells, sets your spell DCs, gives you additional uses of your domain abilities, increases perception and will saves, max it at all opportunities

Cha: 12-16 Channel energy is quite good now, much more globally useful than the old turn undead. Still not nearly as important as Wisdom though.

20 point buy options:

Str 7 / Dex 8 / Con 13 / Int 7 / Wis 18 / Cha 16 – The extreme – You’re good at casing spells, your cha is good and your con is decent, you can only carry about ten pounds of stuff after your armor and shield though, also watch out for pits. Make sure to take diplomacy to capitalize on your high charisma.

Str 7 / Dex 13 / Con 16 / Int 7 / Wis 17 / Cha 12 – The Tank – Your AC and HP are good, your cha and wisdom suffer a bit though. Make sure to make good use of your talents by putting yourself into harms way as often as possible.

Str 10 / Dex 10 / Con 12 / Int 10 / Wis 17 / Cha 14 – The balance – An array for players scared of single digit stats

Channel Energy
Channel Positive / Channel Negative

I think the healing provided by Channel Positive is quite good. By the time you get to third level you’re casting close to a fifth level spell (cure light wounds mass) ~5 times a day in addition to all your spell casting. The damage you put out gets a save and it’s a lot more work to exclude your allies from the damage than it is to exclude your enemies from the healing. I do however like channel negative for the melee cleric so I’ll be talking about that a bit more in part 2.

Deities & Domains:
In Pathfinder society play clerics of the pantheon are not allowed so only certain domain combinations are allowed. Here you will find ratings for each of the deities then for each of the domains.

Abadar LN Earth, Law, Nobility, Protection, Travel
Asmodeus LE Evil, Fire, Law, Magic, Trickery
Calistria CN Chaos, Charm, Knowledge, Luck, Trickery
Cayden Cailean CG Chaos, Charm, Good, Strength, Travel
Desna CG Chaos, Good, Liberation, Luck, Travel
Erastil LG Animal, Community, Good, Law, Plant
Gorum CN Chaos, Destruction, Glory, Strength, War
Gozreh N Air, Animal, Plant, Water, Weather
Iomedae LG Glory, Good, Law, Sun, War
Irori LN Healing, Knowledge, Law, Rune, Strength
Lamashtu CE Chaos, Evil, Madness, Strength, Trickery
Nethys N Destruction, Knowledge, Magic, Protection, Rune
Norgorber NE Charm, Death, Evil, Knowledge, Trickery
Pharasma N Death, Healing, Knowledge, Repose, Water
Rovagug CE Chaos, Destruction, Evil, War, Weather
Sarenrae LG Fire, Glory, Good, Healing, Sun
Shelyn NG Air, Charm, Good, Luck, Protection
Torag LG Artifice, Earth, Good, Law, Protection
Urgathoa NE Death, Evil, Magic, Strength, War
Zon-Kuthon LE Darkness, Death, Destruction, Evil, Law

Spell ratings are a little different than the rest of the guide. Since having a useful spell at every level is nice I’ll be giving a color to each spell level in each domain.

Blue: Useful spells not on the cleric list
Green: Spells on the cleric list you’re interested in casting
Orange: Unexciting, but situationally useful at least
Red: You’re not going to cast this

The abilities are fairly useless and I’m not a fan of obscuring mist but the spell list gets quite good later and wind wall is an early entry at level 2
Lightning Arc: This requires an attack roll, you don’t make those and the damage scales really poorly anyway.
Electricity Resistance (lvl 6): Free resistance is nice even if it’s small
Domain Spells: 123456

The animal companion is quite powerful but won’t do anything for you until the animal companion at 4 and the low level spells are useless so make sure to get a second domain with low level spells you want to cast.
Free Knowledge: Nature in class still uses Int right?
Speak with Animals: Even if the animals can understand you they are still too stupid to use diplomacy on.
Animal Companion (lvl 4): This is even better than the ranger ability since you have access to the full druid list. When you do get this take the Boon Companion feat at 5 to power up your companion to full druid strength.
Domain Spells: 123456

This domain does nothing for you, don’t take it.
Artificer's Touch: Mending would be useful if 0 level spells weren’t already at will. Also gives you an anti construct attack that you’ll never use.
Dancing Weapon (lvl 8): Gives your weapon the dancing ability, completely useless for casting clerics, really good for battle clerics
Domain Spells: 123456

If the average opponents were lawful instead of evil this domain might actually be worth taking, as is pass.
Touch of Chaos: This requires you hit an enemy with a melee attack, no thanks.
Chaos Blade (lvl 8): A very useful power for a battle cleric if and only if you are fighting lawful opponents.
Domain Spells: 123456

If you want to be the party face supplement your diplomacy with the magic from this domain. Be aware that Heroism at level 4 is a very late entry and charm monster is late at 5. At least the higher saving throw difficulty on charm monster is worth something.
Dazing Touch: Touch somebody to make them lose their next action. It would be useful if your attack bonus wasn’t so low.
Charming Smile (lvl8): Swift action charm person with a short duration. Useful for getting information from NPCs, remember to charm first to bring to friendly and then diplomacy to bring up to helpful, just beware the short duration.
Domain Spells: 123456

Alright condition removal, spells are mostly buffs that you’d take anyway, pretty boring domain overall but makes you better at healing and buffing.
Calming Touch: It heals some nonlethal damage and removes sickened, fatigued and shaken, seems pretty useful actually.
Unity: Well, the most common Area spells have reflex saves and there is unlikely to be anybody in the party worse than you. It will occasionally be useful for things like frightful presence
Domain Spells: 123456

Normally clerics don’t get Blindness/Deafness until level 3 while the darkness clerics get blindness as a level 2 spell instead. Spells like deeper darkness likely make most of your party very unhappy and your summon monster only gets shadows. As a note the Shadows are not normally available to summon monster but are the right CR for a summon of that level.
Blind Fight: This feat does nothing for you.
Touch of Darkness: Alright debuff, makes everybody blurry to the target, too bad you can’t touch the broad side of a barn door.
Eyes of Darkness: Since darkness only blocks line of sight and not line of effect the ability to ignore it isn’t very exciting.
Domain Spells: 123456

While you can eventually heal yourself with negative energy your allies will still suffer, If you are going to make your party suffer by channeling negative energy this domain rewards you at level 8 at least. Note that in PFS play the undead you animate/create disappear at end of the adventure taking your onyxs with them
Bleeding Touch: Melee attack for some crappy bleed damage, as useless as the rest of the blasts.
Death's Embrace: Now negative energy heals you, too bad your allies will still suffer.
Domain Spells: 123456

Abilities range from useless to detrimental. The spell list is bad for you and includes such “gems” as a late entry suboptimal bard blast
Destructive Smite: Non-action bonus to melee damage, the damage isn’t too big though.
Destructive Aura(lvl 8): Everybody takes more damage, too bad this is bad for the PCs since killing a PC with extra damage is much worse than not killing a monster from less damage.
Domain Spells: 123456

Several good druid spells round out a strong list. If you happen to have a sling user in the party and are fighting undead make sure to give them some magic stones. Note that Stoneskin is a very late entry at 6.
Acid Dart: At least acid is a strong damage type, too bad this ability is just as bad as the rest of the blasts.
Acid Resistance(lvl 6): Free resists are always handy.
Domain Spells: 123456

Must be evil to take, not an option in PFS play.

This domain helps your offense immensely with good fire spells at almost every level. Produce Flame at level 2 is the only real loser, note that Fire Shield is a late entry at 5.
Fire Bolt: Here’s that crappy blast again
Fire Resistance(lvl 6): Once again a free resist is useful, fire doubly so.
Domain Spells: 123456

Great domain for social interactions, some of the spells are better suited for battle clerics but it helps you beat up undead at least, overall it’s not bad
+2 channel save DC for undead: Makes channeling at undead slightly better
Touch of Glory: This buff is great for social situations and UMD checks. You get a lot of them every day so don’t be shy.
Divine Presence(lvl 8): Mass Sanctuary with a high DC hmmm. If you’re willing to delay and the monsters aren’t you can wait to activate this until you’re in between the other players and the monsters to give all the monsters a hard save or effectively lose their turn.
Domain Spells: 123456

Nothing new on the spell list but at least you might cast most of them anyway.
Touch of Good: Well it’s worse than glory for social situations and the bonus isn’t big enough to be worth using in combat most of the time. It is useful for other skill based challenges such as finding and disarming traps though
Holy Lance(lvl 8): This would be really nice if you were a battle cleric or if it’s usable on an ally’s weapons.
Domain Spells: 123456

For a cleric who wants to be good at healing but insists on channel negative energy this domain gets good, otherwise pass. At least Healer’s Blessing comes at lvl 6 instead of 8. Spell ratings assume that you channel positive otherwise spells 1-4 become green.
Rebuke Death: Some crappy healing for an unconscious target, is that really all this does?
Healer's Blessing(lvl 6): This would be amazing if your ability to channel positive energy wasn’t so good.
Domain Spells: 123456

If you get a lot of value out of divinations bump this up to green otherwise the spell list is really unexciting.
All Knowledge Skills as Class Skills: This is supposed to do something, right?
Lore Keeper: Spending a standard action in combat trying to touch an enemy to make a knowledge check, at least the ability uses wisdom instead of intelligence.
Remote Viewing(lvl 6): Look what’s behind every door before you open it? This ability is quite useful and available at lvl 6
Domain Spells: 123456

Very similar to the good domain except your powers are anti-chaos instead of anti-evil and your first level power is even worse.
Touch of Law: Spending a standard action to let somebody take 11 just doesn’t seem very exciting to me.
Staff of Order(lvl 8): Pretty sure Anarchic is significantly worse than holy.
Domain Spells: 123456

While I prefer dealing with condition removal via scrolls, memorizing spells like remove fear and remove paralysis isn’t the end of the world. The abilities are what really makes this domain good though.
Liberation: On demand Freedom of Movement, sign me up!
Freedom’s Call (lvl 8): Make your allies immune to the following conditions on demand: confused, grappled, frightened, panicked, paralyzed, pinned, and shaken. Why does this domain get two cool abilities?
Domain Spells: 123456

The spell list takes awhile to get going but the abilities are quite strong.
Bit of Luck: Let somebody roll all d20s twice for a round. It’s useful for out of combat skill checks and even has some use in combat when you expect somebody to be making a lot of roles in one round.
Good Fortune (lvl 6): A free reroll can help prevent disaster.
Domain Spells: 123456

Your spell list is hit and miss but you’ve got a couple gems, while your abilities are both quite strong.
Vision of Madness: Use it out of combat to help an ally with a skill check or in combat against a foe where saves and skills don’t matter. For a cleric that can touch the enemy you’ve got one of the best short duration debuffs in the game.
Aura of Madness (lvl 8): On demand enemies-only confusion aura with a high save as a non action. Hard to get better than this.
Domain Spells: 123456

It gives you an alright ranged attack but you’ll have to spend money on a weapon to keep it useful as you level up. The spell list is pretty bad with the only good spot being the early entry (for a cleric) of Anti-Magic field which would otherwise be uncastable by PFS Clerics.
Hand of the Acolyte: Well it uses wisdom instead of dex. If you do have this remember to get a light shield and hold your 2 handed weapon in your shield hand.
Dispelling Touch(lvl 8): Dispel magic, single target only as a touch attack, too many restrictions severely limits the value.
Domain Spells: 123456

Your spell list is unexciting and your abilities are mediocre
Inspiring Word: Usable for a non-scaling bonus outside of combat or a small bonus to an ally right before kicking in the door.
Leadership(lvl 8): Persuasive isn’t super exciting but at least it does something
Domain Spells: 123456

Gives you access to some good druid spells and gives you some crappy ability take this and the animal domain if you want to pretend to be a druid.
Wooden Fist: A few rounds per day you can make unarmed attacks that do lethal damage, yuck.
Bramble Armor (lvl 6): Well it’s a non-action that does something. Too bad it’s not much
Domain Spells: 123456

Reasonable spell list, although they are all cleric spells, the abilities, ignoring Resistant Touch, are useful as well
Free Resistance Bonus: Saves you a cloak slot and some cash
Resistant Touch: Well you can lend it to the rogue who’s disarming a trap, or you could just not write this ability down and you wouldn’t really be missing anything.
Aura of Protection(lvl 8): Unlikely to give your allies much AC but the free energy resist is nice.
Domain Spells: 123456

The eighth level ability is strong but it’s not good enough to save this domain.
Gentle Rest: The debuff is pretty good against undead, too bad you can’t touch them at all.
Ward Against Death(lvl 8): On demand mass old school deathward. It’s not enough to get this domain above red though.
Domain Spells: 123456

Explosive Runes is a late entry at 4 and is only rated above orange for its humor value. That said this domain still sucks.
Scribe Scroll: No replacement for this in PFS, too bad a free feat would have been nice.
Blast Rune: Well at least you don’t have to make an attack roll, too bad you have to get a monster to step into a specific square.
Spell Rune(lvl 8): Well you can attach spells to your Blast Rune, that’s pretty cool, same restrictions as before though.
Domain Spells: 123456

Enlarge Person is a very strong 1st level spell to get. Stoneskin is a very late entry at sixth level though.
Strength Surge: It’s just like Touch of Glory from the Good domain except it applies to STR based rolls only.
Might of the Gods: Well you can use it to climb out of a pit at least.
Domain Spells: 123456

Die undead die! If you want to destroy undead combine this with the Glory domain and really smash them.
Sun's Blessing: Well you’re really good at blowing up undead with your channel positive energy at least.
Nimbus of Light(lvl 8): On Demand Daylight that auto damages undead and dispels all darkness effects regardless of level and doesn’t take an action? While some adventures it won’t do anything those with undead or darkness effects it’s going to be quite good.
Domain Spells: 123456

Good abilities and a great spell list push this domain up to blue.
+10 move speed: Full of win, easy to miss as it’s hidden in the flavor paragraph.
Agile Feet: Ignoring difficult terrain can be useful, too bad you have to decide the round before you need it.
Dimensional Hop: Wow! Move action teleport that can bring allies with you as well. Make sure to bring the two-weapon fighters into melee so they can make full-attacks.
Domain Spells: 123456

Useful abilities and some good wizard illusions plus confusion make this domain a strong choice.
Class Skills: Well you could take bluff instead of diplomacy as your social skill, not too excited by this.
Copycat: Spending a move action for a single mirror image seems quite strong to me.
Master's Illusion(lvl 8): On demand sixth level wizard illusion that doesn’t require an action? The only thing that keeps this from being completely broken is the short duration.
Domain Spells: 123456

Unexciting spell list plus unexciting abilities is a pass.
Battle Rage: It’s a crappy damage buff that requires touch and a standard action
Weapon Master(lvl 8): For a handful of rounds every day you get a free combat feat
Domain Spells: 123456

This should have been called the fog domain. Has a couple late entry blasts that don’t do much for this domain.
Icicle: Cold damage crappy ranged attack, just as bad as the rest of them.
Cold Resistance(lvl 8): Cold is a pretty good choice for free resistance.
Domain Spells: 123456

It starts out just like the water domain but gets some descent storm blasts instead. Be aware that Sleet Storm and Control Winds are late entries.
Storm Burst: Another ranged touch attack with crappy damage. Additionally this one does subdual damage but comes with a free -2 to hit.
Lightning Lord: Like Call Lightning but you can call down multiple bolts at once.
Domain Spells: 123456

Knowledge Religon: While one might think this is necessary for a cleric the problem is you’ll never be very good at it.
Perception: Even if you don’t get this in class your high wisdom and potential racial bonus will make this quite high.
Sense Motive: Similar to perception, probably not quite as useful but one of the few wisdom based skills and it’s a class skill
Profession: While making the day job roll is a lot of fun even if you managed to get an average of 50gp a roll you’d only have earned 1650gp by the time you got to twelfth level. If you can’t stand to miss out on the fun of rolling put a point in it if you must.
Heal: Helps you deal with poisons / diseases without using up spell slots.
Diplomacy: It’s a class skill with a stat you have above 10 that does things. Seems like a reasonable pick to me.

Selective Channeling: Want to be able to heal your party members in combat without refreshing the bad guys too? Pretty much necessary to make your healing work in combat.

Toughness: Extra hit points are always good

Boon Companion: If you took the animal domain this feat is golden, otherwise it does nothing.

Skill Focus: Perception: Maxing perception can be quite useful, take alertness instead if you’re also going for sense motive.

Improved Initiative: +4 initiative is good on anybody

Armor Proficiency, Heavy: The only thing it does is give you a bonus to hit. Considering you don’t make attack rolls it seems like a bad feat to me. If you want to make ranged touch attacks you’ll probably have enough dex to make this unexciting.

Alignment/Elemental Channel: Way too specialized to come up often enough to make it worth it.

Extra Channel: If you find yourself running out of channels regularly you could grab it, mostly a pass.

Fleet: +5 to your move speed can be a big improvement considering how awful your mobility is. However the slightly higher move speed may not be worth a feat.

Combat Casting: I find the 5ft step + a high AC is good enough to ignore defensive casting most of the time. If it’s an issue for you consider this feat

Metamagic Feats: You’re never going to have access to enough spell levels to these good. Consider metamagic rods for any metamagic feats you might want.

2 PA Wands:
Cure Light Wounds: Everybody should have one of these, especially those big dumb fighters who take all the damage. Nevertheless it could suck to get caught without one so probably best to buy your own.
Comprehend Languages: Ever since I bought one of these I have used a charge every adventure to read a clue in some regional language. While not necessary, it’s handy
Bless: Not very exciting but gives you something to do every combat at low levels when your spells per day are very limited.

Full Plate: who cares if you’re not proficient with it? You’re going to be heavily encumbered and not making attack rolls. If this bothers you or if you want to be able to hit with your ranged attacks take heavy armor proficiency.
Heavy Shield: hey look you can now flank and your AC went up by two.
Buckler: Well you get one less AC than the heavy shield but in return you can actually use metamagic rods or staves and even at lower levels helps you juggle a wand. Slightly better than a light shield as you will have access to both hands for things like climbing.

Wondrous Items:
Headband of Wisdom: Wisdom is your most important stat, use this to increase your wisdom.
Belt of Constitution: Constitution is the only physical stat you care about
Cloak of Resistance: Resistance bonus to saves is always useful, may want to hold off for awhile if you’re frequently casting Protection from Evil on yourself.
Phylactery of Positive Channeling: +2d6 to your positive channeling sounds really good, too bad it uses the same slot as your Headband of Wisdom
Eyes of the Eagle: +5 Perception is good stuff


  1. Many of the domain abilities that you assume or list as non-actions are in fact Standard actions. All of the "Auras" and weapon enhancers are standard actions to activate. Level 8 powers for Artifice, Chaos, Darkness, Destruction, Evil, Glory, Good, Knowledge, Law, Liberation, Madness, Protection, Repose, Strength, Sun, and Trickery all require standard actions to activate even though there isn't an action type listed in the descriptions.

    "Unless otherwise noted, using a domain power is a standard action." CRB-p 41 (domains)
    CRB-p 186 (Su abilities)

    1. You are right. This is Axe's guide, but I'll make a note of it at the top.

  2. I have a cleric with heal and good as domains and I'm enjoying them. The heal empowers cure spells making them incredible and allowing you to conserve channeling for alignment channels etc.

    Touch of Good is amazing at higher levels. My 12th level cleric's touch of good is +6 sacred bonus! Great to turn a medium combat class into a fighter class...such as a druid in beast form, or an alchemist who can toss multiple bombs a round is now dealing out fighter levels of damage. Also very good to bump up someone's saving throws when you know that critical SU is coming that can TPK. Since it's a sacred bonus, the +6 often stacks with other just turned that character into a superhero!

    Alignment channel vs evil outsiders is a must around 7th level on, as you'll meet outsiders more often...and usually evil. This allows your positive channel cleric to heal or harm. also stacks well with improved channel +2 DC and extra channeling.

    disadvantages of heal/good domain spells outside of cleric. Holy Lance isn't used much and I haven't used rebuked death once in the 5 years playing him. The touch of good is *awesome*, but more or less the only thing great for good.

    Also this denies you Sun domain which crushes undead (assuming you're Sarenrae like me).