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An iteration on my previous warden archetype. See that question for motivation and goals.

Changes:

  • Instead of 2 hp/level, just used a d12 HD for warden. Changing HD is very rare, or possibly entirely without precedent, among Pathfinder archetypes, but it just seemed like the cleaner way to do things.

  • Added more bonus spells per day, based on Constitution. This is in addition to those from Wisdom.

  • Changed sirocco to antilife shell as the 6th-level spell on the spontaneous casting list. I’m not really wild about either but antilife shell seems more iconic.

  • Remembered to note that wardens are also forbidden from teaching Druidic.

  • A druid domain replaces blessings. Unlike most domains, which come with a dedicated domain slot per level, this one comes with a slot per level that cannot have anything prepared in it, and then the domain spells are added to the spontaneous casting list.

  • Natural order replaces sacred weapon, allowing the warden to improve their spell save DCs against nearby targets. How near those targets need to be scales as the sacred weapon damage die does for the warpriest. And then instead of enhancement bonuses to the warpriest’s weapon, the warden adds enhancement bonuses to spell save DC. Saves scale with ½ level, rather than level, so enhancement bonuses to save DCs is arguably twice the benefit of the same bonus to attack. However, since enhancement bonuses also apply to damage, and can allow a creature to overcome DR, and there were special weapon properties you could apply instead, I think it at least comes close to being a fair trade.

  • Fervor lost its charm option, and the wording was tightened up. Spells cast with fervor can now be placed adjacent to the warden, since I didn’t like how the previous restriction eliminated cone and line areas.

  • Wild shape became wild champion, which is like wild shape where you don’t get natural attacks, natural armor, or Strength bonuses, but can continue to speak and use items. This is a significant downgrade, which hopefully mitigates some of the strength of the previous version and pushes the archetype more in the direction I’m interested in. I did change the wild shape preparation thing so that you don’t have to prepare every form you want to use; you just don’t get a spell if you choose a form that doesn’t have a paired spell.

  • Changed up aspect of war a little bit to be more in line with what the warden does, debuffing saving throws and allowing rapid wild shape changes instead of boosting BAB and movement speed.

I think this version is tighter and cleaner. I’m also happier with the more-magical direction. I’m a little worried that there isn’t enough inherent toughness to allow the warden to drag in a ton of attention, but between the d12 HD, sacred armor, and wild shape, plus whatever debuffs their crowd control applies, I’m hoping there is. I’m more worried that the domain replacement for the blessing was the wrong call; blessings are more unique and fit the warpriest level progression better, and adding more spontaneous spells limits how much of a hindrance the unprepared-slot thing is which potentially erodes the significance of pairing spells with wild shape forms. At the same time, the opportunity to customize spells with a domain choice seems very fitting for a more-magical class like this.

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.

Hit Die

Warden levels use a d12 hit die.

Metal Prohibition

Wardens are prohibited from wearing metal armor or using metal shields, just as druids are. This replaces aura.

Spells

A warden’s spells and orisons are drawn from the druid spell list, not the cleric one. A warden gains bonus spells per day for having a high Constitution score, in addition to bonus spells per day for having a high Wisdom score.

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 for spontaneous casting (below).

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. antilife shell

This alters spontaneous casting.

Bonus Languages

A warden’s bonus language options include Druidic, the secret language of druids (for this purpose, a warden is considered a druid), and Sylvan, the language of woodland creatures. These choices are in addition to the bonus languages available to the character because of their race. Like druids, wardens are forbidden from teaching Druidic to those who are neither druid nor warden. This alters bonus languages.

Domain (Su)

A warden gains a single domain from among those available through a druid’s nature bond. When determining the powers and bonus spells granted by this domain, the warden’s effective cleric or druid level is equal to their class level.

A warden also gains one spell slot for each level of warden spell they can cast, from 1st on up. However, the warden must leave these spell slots unprepared, and the domain’s spells are added to the list of spells the warden may cast spontaneously.

This replaces blessings.

Natural Order (Su)

A warden may replace a spell’s level with ½ their class level, rounded up, when calculating the DC of saving throws made by nearby foes. This DC applies only to enemies within 5 feet of the warden; all other enemies saving against the spell must meet its usual DC. This increases by 5 feet at 5th level, and again every 5 levels thereafter, to a maximum of 25 feet at 20th level.

At 4th level, while casting a spell, a warden may apply a +1 enhancement bonus to the spell’s saving throw DC. This bonus applies to all who save against the spell, regardless of which DC they would be subjected to. For every 4 levels beyond 4th, this bonus increases by 1 (to a maximum of +5 at 20th level). The warden can apply this to a number of spells per day equal to their warden level.

This replaces sacred weapon.

Fervor (Su)

For a warden, fervor cannot be used to heal or harm, and its ability to quicken spell casting is different in the following ways:

  • Spells cast with a warden’s fervor are not restricted to affecting only the warden.

  • A warden’s fervor can only be used with area spells, and when used the spell must be cast so that at least one square of the spell’s area is within 5 feet of the warden. (Spells that cannot be cast close enough cannot be cast with fervor.)

  • When casting with fervor, a warden may designate one creature as immune to the spell (for that particular casting). For every 3 levels after 2nd, the warden may immunize another creature, up to 7 at 20th level.

This alters fervor.

Wild Champion (Su)

At 4th level, a warden gains the wild shape ability of a druid of their level. However, they take on a hybrid form, rather than the full form of the chosen creature. They retain the ability to speak, and to use items, which adapt to the new form instead of melding into their body. This wild shape does not interfere with spellcasting.

However, wardens do not gain any natural attacks, natural armor, or Strength bonus from the form they take on. They also never gain the constrict, pounce, rake, or trample abilities from this ability. Other abilities are gained as normal, and the warden may use abilities such as grab with their manufactured weapons as if they were the form’s natural attacks.

A warden may expend a use of fervor to wild shape as a swift action. This still consumes a daily use of wild shape.

Finally, when preparing spells for the day, the warden may select a number of druid spells, up to their Constitution bonus (minimum 1). They pair each spell with a particular wild shape form. While in that form, the paired spell is added to the list of spells they may cast spontaneously. A warden may choose to pair multiple spells with a single form, but they must select a single one of those spells each time they change into that form; they do not add all of the spells to their spontaneous casting list at the same time.

This replaces channel energy.

Aspect of War

The warden’s aspect of war is less martial and more magical. Instead of increasing the warden’s base attack bonus or allowing the warden to move unencumbered, the warden instead projects an aura that causes enemies within 10 feet to take a −4 penalty on all saving throws, and has the ability to wild shape as a free action, once per round (without using fervor). This ability alters aspect of war.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What’s the question? \$\endgroup\$ May 31 at 18:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin This is seeking a homebrew review. This is a pretty standardized thing around here. The link to the previous iteration gives more details at precisely what I am aiming to achieve, if potential answerers are looking to specifically compare this against stated goals. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 31 at 18:35

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This is a big departure from the Warpriest.

With 3/4 BAB, no fervor-based cleric self-buffs, no sacred weapon free enhancement bonuses, and no natural attacks, this archetype no longer holds up in terms of being an offensive martial combatant. It's basically worse than the druid or cleric at being a martial (druid has true wild shape with all its statistical bonuses and natural attacks, cleric has its various buffs, though it has to pre-cast them). And other 6-level caster martials like the magus blow it out of the water offensively. Note that without any offensive bonuses, the Warden's CMB and CMD are going to be so-so at best - a druid will be much better at leveraging the grab ability from a wildshape form.

With 6/9 druid casting, but with constrained access to its highest level slots, the Warden is certainly not competitive against a full caster in terms of utility and flexibility.

So what does it have:

  • Bonus spell slots over other 6-level casters
  • Competitive spell DC, even for "outdated" spells, so long as you cast up close to foes. All your spell slots can have your highest DC, an ability no other caster can replicate.
  • Free quicken metamagic for area spells when cast close to you.
  • Movement type flexibility from limited wild shape

There's no class that really has this sort of suite of abilities in PF1E, which makes this archetype difficult to evaluate. Action economy is king in PF1E, so throwing out double the control effects each round is incredibly strong. A 4th level warden wading forth and then tossing down an entangle and burst of radiance in round 1 is a solid turn. In earlier levels, it probably performs as well or better than a full caster at controlling foes. However, at higher levels a full caster's access to superior control effects eventually eclipse what the Warden will have access to.

Verdict:

This archetype does accomplish the original goal of being a short-range battlefield controller, however, it may compare poorly to other classes that can do more than that. Its role and playstyle are very different from a base warpriest, which makes comparisons about its balance vs. other archetypes very difficult. My intuition tells me that this archetype is likely to overperform at low to mid levels, where its weaknesses vs. other spellcasters are less pronounced while its benefits are most pronounced, but at high levels it will fall behind.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, fundamentally, I just don’t care about the competition from full-casters—those are overpowered, full-stop, and they can’t be competed with short of being one. A magus doesn’t, a warpriest doesn’t, a summoner comes kind of close but only because they have access to a lot of 7th-, 8th-, and 9th-level spell effects despite their slots capping at 6th (thanks to their summon monster SLAs and the large number of spells on their list that are higher-level for other spellcasters). But I’ll think about high levels: something bloodrager-esque where you auto-cast a spell when you take on a form? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 1 at 20:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Fundamentally I think this archetype is going to be fine - you have in-class flight and a pile of save or sucks with good DCs in your arsenal, you're going to be a solid asset to any party. If you don't mind the delta vs full casters OR the delta vs DPR-oriented partial casters like the magus or bloodrager, then all is well. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cellion
    Jun 1 at 21:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ If I had to give another high level perk, I'd give them early access to a curated list of higher-level control spells. Alternatively, you could give them a bit more offensive prowess so they can brawl a bit after delivering their control. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cellion
    Jun 1 at 21:04

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