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Character Concept: Battlefield Control via Terrain Control

I'm looking to make a build designed to prevent enemies for moving freely on the battlefield, making difficult terrain, creating walls, denying line of sight, and that kind off stuff. Battlefield control more than opposing character/monster debuff.

Constraints

  • no mind control
  • our GM does not allow immunities
  • alignment restrictions apply, so no classes that require evil alignments
  • no race-locked classes
  • our team is currently at level 7; consider that if it would make a difference

  • I'm specifically looking for battlefield control through movement denial so no debuff-centric builds (other than "slow them down / hold them" as the debuff in question)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There are lots of good guides online for this sort of thing, did you look? \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Commented Sep 8, 2019 at 14:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Fering I did but I'm not very good at coming up with good search terms so I didn't get many results beyond a few random forum pages. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 8, 2019 at 14:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please review the edit; I tried to get this closer to a valid optimization style question. Please review the meta on what makes a good optimization question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 8, 2019 at 17:55

2 Answers 2

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You should be a single-classed T1 character.

To optimally do battlefield control, you should take any T1 class and put all your levels in it. It doesn't really matter which one-- you probably don't want to be a Druid unless you expect the game to go to level 9 and Clerics need to get the best control spells via Domain spells, but either of those classes will be only a tiny bit worse at battlefield control at exactly level seven than a Witch or Wizard. All of these classes get other stuff too, and that other stuff might or might not make up for your nebulously defined idea of battlefield control depending on whatever other criteria you come up with.

Here are some things each of the T1 classes has around 7th level to offer:

Witch: The Coven Hex is still broken at 7th level and allows at-will Forcecage as a spell-like ability (i.e. free), at-will Mirage Arcana, and other goodies. It requires you to have two other creatures, one of which is almost definitely the result of simulacrum cast by you to make a hag, and it takes three people's full round actions and it somewhat constrains your party member's choices unless you're a Vellemancer or have Leadership or buy a second scroll of simulacrum, but forcecage at-will can shut down almost any fight where battlefield control is relevant. Also, solid fog. Disadvantages include not getting slow and getting many less wall effects than other classes, but the effects you do get are powerful and forcecage is a 7th level spell so that's by far the best at 7th.

Cleric: You can take the coven hex with the Triadic Priest archetype if you want. Water/Cloud gets you solid fog if you want (it's not nearly as good as in 3.5) and you natively get stone shape, wind wall, and lots of others. You don't get slow and later you won't get Move Earth unless you have the right domain. You shouldn't worry too much about taking the domain for that, though, because if you take Plant or Blood you can get Wall of Thorns which is pretty much the best wall spell. You have more hps than the other T1 classes and can wear full plate.

Druid: You get Wall of Thorns at 9 natively and also have more mucking around with the battlefield spells than anybody who's not a Wizard (and many of yours are better). However, your spells come online at not spell level 4, so that is sad for you. You can cast slowing mud instead of slow, which is a sad trade, and you don't get solid fog or slow.

Shaman: You get Wall of Thorns, you get whatever spells you care about from the Wizard list, you can pretty much do whatever. Definitely a solid choice. Can take Coven hex. Can cast simulacrum later (see 'can cast any Wizard spell').

Wizard: Gets almost all the spells (slow, wall of X, X pit) but no Wall of Thorns, which is the best spell, and Stone Shape and Bestow Curse are a level higher. Very good choice, as per usual, but definitely less good than Wall of Thorns casters at level 9 (which may not matter to you). Mage of the Veil as an arcane school is a nice defensive boost for a battlefield control character.

Arcanist: Gets the spells the Wizard gets (i.e. almost all of them) a level later than the Wizard does, but also is easier to play because doesn't have to prepare spells the same way the Wizard does but not in a way that sucks like sorcerers are stuck with. Can take the important Mage of the Veil ability as an exploit if you want. Is sort of better at spells but gets them a level later, is the main thing to take away here. So at level 7 you are casting like most people do at level 5 and at level 9 you'll be stuck back at 7 but the rest of the time you are a little better than everybody else because exploits and higher DCs and Caster Level and dual-prepared-spontaneous qualification stuff.

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There is no one definite answer here. All kinds of these "builds" exist.

The only constants will be:

  • This guy needs to be a spellcaster (well duh).

  • He'll focus on terrain-control spells with area effect.

As a 1st step, ust go through the spell list and jot down whatever spell can be used to control movement on a battlefield, or the conditions of a battlefield. Conditions typically also include sight-effecting (light/dark spells), but spells which create bottlenecks or limit how and where enemies can attack are good too. Then pick the class with the best ones (probably going to be Wizard here).

This single Wizard spell is insanely good, though: (Leomund's) Tiny Hut.

The rules-as-intent of that spell is to create a safe camp and thus "skip that boring part of the game fast, so that we can go back to the next fight as soon as possible!".

But they designed it way too good because in practice this spell is easily abused to dominate fights by creating a perfect defense and bottleneck.

Side note: In my D&D 5E campaign (where the spell is basically the exact same), I nerfed it. Solid! That spell only creates not an epic-level (because unbreakable) force sphere "with entrance, too!", but instead a very simple "low-fantasy-looking" mundane wooden hut that is about 10 feet on a side: 1 door, 1 smallish open window, 1 covered hole in middle of a slanted roof, and a basic floor right on the ground, with a circle of simple stones around the middle that opens directly to the ground. Also, not thick wood, either: a very, very plain and simple hut. Good for holding max 6 sleeping medium creatures + a small campfire. Broken or removed parts just go poof. Effect is to reduce by 1 "step" each of all these environmental conditions: rain, wind, cold, uneven ground, ground wetness. In short, "Finding a nice spot for camp made very easy, with a better quality of sleep, too!" Because, ever tried camping over a ground with tree roots and a few rocks? Exactly! Thus, a superb utility spell, but not a combat battlefield control spell. Aka: "Rules-as-intent". Still gives some nice cover and probably will make intelligent foe lose surprise as they waste a few attack to enter or outright destroy the 'rather flimsy' hut. However, if there are more than 4 PCs standing up, some have to fight in 'squeeze mode'.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I read PF1 and played it albeit only a few games with predefined characters, so Leomund Tiny Hut didn't came up at all. Otherwise this spell is so godly good it's almost a prerequisite. Tons of experience with D&D 3.5E, and both systems do share lots of common ground. PF1 fixed a few things, but for the spells, only a few and most of them were basically 100% untouched cut-n-paste. I thought that the sentence "(where the spell is basically the exact same)" was quite sufficient. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat
    Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 17:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK, no worries, I'd confined your answers references to PF and 3.5e. 5e is really irrelevant to this question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 17:49

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