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A friend was interested in playing something akin to the D&D 4e warden in Pathfinder 1e, which has long been an interest of mine but nothing I found really worked for me, so I couldn’t really recommend anything. Instead, I wrote up this homebrew warpriest archetype to try to capture some of the warden’s feel. The goal is to produce something roughly balanced with a regular warpriest, though since warpriest is a pretty middle-of-the-road class, I’m comfortable with a slight power bump (e.g. the warden should still be Tier 3).

Since I’m primarily hoping to hear from Pathfinder experts on this, who may not necessarily be familiar with the 4e warden, a rundown:

  1. A “primal” class, like the druid.

  2. A “defender” class, which is something Pathfinder doesn’t really do in the same way. Defenders are all about making it really inconvenient or unpleasant for the enemy to attack anyone else.

  3. Emphasis on battlefield control, but specifically the battlefield around the warden. The warden makes it inconvenient to attack their allies mostly by pulling enemies close and making it suck to stay there but even worse to try to leave. Next to a warden was the last place you want to be, but they often make it very hard to get anywhere else. (In fact, wardens could get in trouble by being too sticky, and pulling in more enemies than they could handle.)

  4. Highest hp totals in the game—in 4e, both primal classes and defender classes tend to more hp, and by being the intersection of both, the warden gets the most.

  5. Many warden powers turn them into one form or another, usually with an elemental theme. These forms not only come with their own benefits for the warden, but they often also produce difficult terrain of one form or another around the warden.

  6. Each form also comes with its own attack power, that could only be used while in that form. These are usually some manner of control, but it isn’t terribly uncommon for them to just punish enemies who thought they could escape the warden’s grasp.

I didn’t want to create new spells or blessings, or a new subsystem for this; this is supposed to be a relatively quick route to something warden-like.

Google docs version (perma-link to the version as of this writing)

Warden

(new warpriest archetype)

When a warpriest dedicates themselves to the natural world, sometimes they are blessed with elemental powers of protection and warding.

Rugged Faith

Wardens gain 2 hp for every warden level they possess.

For all purposes, wardens treat all forms of natural attack as if they were favored weapons of their deity, even if their deity favors other weapons, or even if the warden has no deity. This is in addition to any weapon or weapons the warden’s deity actually favors.

However, wardens are prohibited from wearing metal armor or using metal shields, just as druids are. If a warden does use such equipment, they lose their spellcasting and supernatural abilities while doing so and for 24 hours thereafter. There is no prohibition on using other metal items, including metal weapons.

Wooden armor or shields treated with the ironwood spell to function as steel are allowed.

This replaces aura.

Spells

A warden’s spells and orisons are drawn from the druid spell list, not the cleric one.

Starting when they gain 2nd-level spells, a warden’s highest-level spell slots must be left unprepared. For example, a warden gains 2nd-level spell slots at 4th level, but cannot prepare spells in them until they gain 3rd-level spells at 7th level. Unprepared spell slots can still be used to cast spontaneous spells (see spontaneous casting and mystic wild shape, below). This limitation does not affect orisons or 1st-level spells in any way.

This alters spells.

Spontaneous Casting

A warden does not convert prepared spells into cure or inflict spells. Instead, regardless of alignment, they can convert prepared spells or unprepared spell slots into a spell with equal or lower spell level from the following list:

  1. entangle
  2. flaming sphere
  3. sleet storm
  4. spike stones
  5. call lightning storm
  6. sirocco

This alters spontaneous casting.

Bonus Languages

A warden’s bonus language options include Druidic, the secret language of druids, and Sylvan, the language of woodland creatures. These choices are in addition to the bonus languages available to the character because of their race. A druid is allowed to teach Druidic to wardens. This alters bonus languages.

Blessings (Su)

A warden cannot select an alignment blessing (Chaos, Evil, Good, or Law), regardless of their alignment. This alters blessings.

Fervor (Su)

A warden’s fervor cannot be used to heal or harm. Instead, a warden may use fervor to touch a living creature with 2 or less Intelligence as a standard action. The touched creature is charmed for 1 round; the duration increases by another round every 3 levels after 2nd (to a maximum of 7 rounds at 20th level).

The warden’s ability to cast spells quickly with fervor is also different. In addition to having a casting time of 1 round or less, a warden spell cast with fervor must affect an area. When cast in this way, the spell does not affect only the warden (as it would for a regular warpriest), but the spell must include the warden’s space, even if it could normally be cast at a greater range. (Spells that could not be cast on the warden’s space cannot be cast with fervor.) The warden may designate one creature as immune to the effects of this spell; the warden may immunize an additional creature for every 3 levels after 2nd they have (to a maximum of 7 at 20th level). Spells cast in this way ignore somatic components and do not provoke attacks of opportunity. The warden does not need to have a free hand to cast a spell in this way.

If the warden has the ability to wild shape, they may also expend one use of this ability to wild shape as a swift action.

This alters fervor.

Mystic Wild Shape (Su)

At 4th level, a warden gains the wild shape ability, treating their warden level as their effective druid level. The warden gains uses per day of this ability, and the ability to take on plant and elemental forms, at the appropriate levels just as a druid does.

There are several things about the warden’s mystic wild shape that are different from the druid’s regular wild shape:

  • Sacred armor benefits do not end when armor melds into the warden’s form while using wild shape; they simply transfer to the form’s natural armor. (Treat forms without natural armor as having a +0 natural armor bonus. Sacred armor’s enhancement bonus can stack with other enhancement bonuses to natural armor, such as from an amulet of natural armor, to a maximum of +5.) Likewise, sacred armor benefits to a form’s natural armor do not end when wild shape does; they simply transfer to the armor the warden is wearing.

  • For warden spells cast spontaneously, a warden is able to substitute various noises and gestures for the normal verbal and somatic components of the spell, and also use any material components or focuses they possess, even if such items are melded within their current form. To cast a prepared spell while in a wild shape form, the warden requires the Natural Spell feat just as a druid does.

  • A warden must prepare their wild shape forms when they prepare their spells. They may prepare a number of forms equal to the number of times per day they can use wild shape, plus their Constitution bonus if any. Each prepared form can be used as many times as the warden wishes. For instance, a 6th-level warden (wild shape 2/day) could prepare a dire bat form and a dire tiger form, but choose to use wild shape to turn into a dire bat twice that day and not turn into a dire tiger at all.

  • When preparing spells and wild shape forms, the warden pairs a single warden spell of up to their highest spell level with each form prepared. That spell is added to the list of spells available for spontaneous casting, but only while the warden is in the paired form. The spell paired with a form may be augmented with metamagic feats, so long as the total level including the metamagic doesn’t exceed the warden’s highest spell level. The warden may pair the same spell with multiple forms if they wish, or prepare the same form multiple times with different paired spells. However, when they use wild shape, a warden must specify which form/spell pair they are turning into; preparing a form multiple times does not allow one to add multiple spells to the spontaneous casting list at the same time.

This replaces channel energy.

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2 Answers 2

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  • Rugged Faith appears like a significant upgrade, especially in combination with wild shape, which abandons the use of armor anyway. All natural weapons being favored weapons is a slight upgrade as well due to wild shape weapon dice being all over the place and therefore sometimes getting upgraded by sacred weapon. Not being able to wear metal armor is a slight downgrade outside of wild shape, but isn't practically more than -1 or -2 AC, even if you don't use ironwood or other similar solutions.
  • Casting changes Druid list is somewhat worse than the cleric one, losing out on some powerful self-buffs and utility spells. But overall not a huge difference. Not being able to freely cast your highest level spells is likely less restrictive than it looks for combat due to always being able to pair combat wildshape forms with your best combat spells. Its a not-insignificant hit to out-of-combat utility. The spontaneous casting change feels mostly an upgrade. Cure spells were very unappealing to warpriests because as a 6th level caster they quickly fell behind on how effective their healing was. These control spells are better, especially with the new fervor.
  • Blessings Not much of a negative. There's plenty of good blessings remaining.
  • Fervor Losing the self-heal and self-buff is an enormous downgrade, as it was how the warpriest massively outperformed in martial combat vs. what their base chassis would imply. Being able to cast one-sided area control effects is very powerful, but by my estimation, isn't as good as the buffs, especially because your spell DCs are going to fall behind pretty quickly. Swift action wild shape is pretty good as a ribbon, but doesn't move the needle much on overall balance due to the long wildshape duration.
  • Mystic Wild Shape So, wildshape is really really strong, and this archetype is a much more effective user of it than the druid would be. Between sacred weapon letting you apply stacking enhancement bonuses to your natural attacks, sacred armor letting you pump higher AC bonuses than a druid could, and higher base HP, I suspect it'll be in very powerful in melee. In comparison to a weapon-bound warpriest, you have various polymorph bonuses and access to forms with way more natural attacks at full attack bonus. You trade essentially nothing for what feels like a big upgrade to combat effectiveness vs. the base warpriest.

Overall the archetype seems like a solid upgrade over the base warpriest, but remains Tier 3

I think the real trade here is cleric-list self-buffs vs. wildshape. And that's a very hard comparison to make due to the high variability on both abilities. I suspect wildshape comes out on top, with powerful forms with many natural attacks making up for any bonuses you'd get from self-buffs.

Overall, I think the archetype makes for a beastly (pun intended) melee combatant, but may not hit as much on the warden flavor as you might want. The control spells are saddled with poor spell DC progression, meaning that they'll have huge punch at low levels where you will get to cast them as a swift action to disable foes while also full attacking, but will become more ignorable at higher levels.


A few unclear things:

  • How does the fervor charm effect work? Does it allow a save? Should I be referring to a particular spell for how it changes the target's behavior toward me?
  • How does sacred weapon's ability to grant an enhancement bonus to a weapon apply to natural weapons? I assume you have to pick an individual natural weapon once you've wildshaped.
  • Does fervor's swift action wild shape count against your uses of wildshape per day?
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the feedback. One thing I’d point out with the pairing of wild shape with your highest-level spells is that it means you have to spend a use of wild shape to access them—potentially very significant, at least at mid-low levels, and even at high levels it locks you in. That said, thank you for pointing out the DC issue—that is definitely a serious issue I hadn’t considered. DC boosts are valuable, and you’re convincing that this is a probably-larger upgrade than I was hoping for, so I’ll have to figure out how to change things to bring something in that helps with DCs. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 20 at 16:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, that does follow my thinking. I’ve been working on an update that replaces sacred weapon with a feature that uses ½ class level instead of spell level for spell DCs—if the target is very-near the warden. Then at 4th+, it adds enhancement bonuses to the spell DC, rather than to a weapon. So that helps the DC. But the warden still seems to have too-few spell slots, which is a problem. Question, since I’m less experienced with PF wild shape: would removing natural attacks, constrict, rake, pounce, and trample, but letting you keep items and the ability to speak, be a net up- or down-grade? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 23 at 14:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ But I think that buffs and battlefield control are also a bit different in this regard: buffs are pretty universal, while battlefield control can be more context-sensitive. It seems to me you’d feel it more with battlefield control than you would for buffs? (I also just ditched the charm thing entirely; the archetype needs to lose power and that was an exceptionally low-value thing to just drop, so that was a start. Still working on other drawbacks.) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 23 at 14:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ The strength of PF wild shape is mostly in picking up forms with lots of natural attacks (Even the lowest levels of beast shape can get forms with 5 natural attacks, when the warpriest could only make 1-2 iterative attacks), so removing the ability of wild shape to gain natural attacks (along with sacred weapon's free enhancement bonuses) would seriously neuter the archetype's offensive potential to well below the standard warpriest. That might still be OK if the control benefits are worth it, though I know it'd be a hard sell to many players used to the warpriest's martial potency. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cellion
    May 23 at 14:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Because 1. fervor is already almost-exactly the feature I want, and 2. (more importantly) I don’t want full spellcasting. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 23 at 15:21
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My own analysis is

  • Rugged faith is roughly neutral: +2 hp/level vs. getting better (or cheaper, which amounts to the same thing) metal armor.

  • Spontaneous casting is roughly neutral, possibly a bit better-than-neutral: the spells on the list are ultimately better, but having spontaneous cure is important to a lot of parties.

  • Fervor is a bit better than neutral: while the charm effect seems a bit weaker than healing (certainly more niche), the quick-cast ability is the real focus of the ability in both cases, and getting to cast area spells without friendly fire is probably better than self-cast buffs. But it’s a close thing because cleric buffs are really good.

  • The blessings thing is a slight negative, but really fluff: while the aligned blessings are fine, there are plenty of good choices left.

  • The changes to spells is the big negative, and the swap of channel energy to wild shape is the big positive.

    • The cleric list might be ever-so-slightly superior to the druid list.

    • The real issue comes in at 4th when you can’t just prepare your 2nd-level spells. Limiting your highest-level spells to being just the one from the spontaneous casting list plus the one you pair with your current wild shape form is a big deal.

    • In fact, it’s enough of a negative (I think) to overcome the fact that wild shape is much superior to channel energy, plus we’re building in a semi-Natural Spell effect (though I think many wardens will probably still want that feat). More than, even, since I expect it to also cover whatever small advantage we find in the spontaneous casting list and fervor.

    • The sacred armor stuff is just quality-of-life stuff; it’s a benefit, but the benefit is mostly “your class features don’t actively interfere with one another.” I consider it basically neutral, avoiding a potential negative.

I’ve only focused on balance here, because I’ve been over the wording and thought through interactions, and obviously, if I found any ambiguous or unclear wording, or realized some corner case that was problematic, I’ve just fixed it. Nonetheless, I’m reasonably confident in my balance analysis, and it’s unclear wording or uncovered corner cases that I’m most concerned with.

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