I'm looking to make a combat effective 'high' (14) Intelligence Paladin for Pathfinder Society. Any thoughts on class dips, archetypes and feats to make the build an effective one?

The Paladin doesn't have to use their intelligence mechanically to be effective in combat, they just have to be combat effective and have high intelligence (and possibly in spite of having high intelligence).

I enjoy playing with people's preconceptions of certain classes so it seemed like a smart Paladin would make many players stop and think about Paladins in general. I suspect that because of MAD Wisdom and Constitution will be scraping the barrel and Dexterity would be the dump stat, or a ranged or mounted variant with low Strength, perhaps small size.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Frankly, the question seems good enough for me; he wants an Int-focused paladin that can participate in PFS scenarios 'effectively', which generally means with a certain chance for survival and able to contribute to the party. The 'Pathfinder Society' bit is important information, denoting a large number of expectations and restrictions on its own. \$\endgroup\$ – Lord_Gareth Dec 19 '13 at 12:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ The Dwarven Stonelord Paladin trades out all the Charisma-based abilities so you can dump Chr entirely. This will give you more points to spend on Int. \$\endgroup\$ – Macona Dec 20 '13 at 8:59

There are no solutions for you

At least, not for Paladin. If you want to combine magic and melee with a faith-based character I can suggest a highly pious Magus, but Paladin's not going to work out for a lot of reasons. See below:

None of your abilities care about Intelligence - And there's no archetypes or prestige classes that are Paladin-friendly to help you with either. Precisely none of the Paladin's features run off of Intelligence or can be made to do so in a fashion legal in Pathfinder Society.

The Point Buy is Hostile - You need Strength for accuracy and damage (unless you wanna try and go archery), Constitution to survive with and Charisma for your abilities and spellcasting, and you need all of them like you need lungs. PFS doesn't provide nearly enough points to cover your bases and to make matters that much worse buying up stat boosters is expensive in Pathfinder, difficult to do well and comes online rather late. It'll hurt, and you won't get a lot of reward for it.

Skills and Feats Can't Save You Now - Paladins excel at dealing damage (usually via Smite) and while you might pick up a secondary specialty in combat maneuvers the Intelligence you need to get them doesn't actually...contribute. Likewise, Paladins lack any native fashion of boosting or otherwise taking special advantage of their skills.

Pathfinder Society is typically a bad place to try and experiment with niche concepts like this one, especially given its extensive ban list. My suggestion is to explore a pious or religious Magus if you'd like to embrace the idea of a magical warrior who upholds faith as a virtue.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the input Lord_Gareth. As I mention below it isn't necessarily about using Int mechanically, but about having a high-ish Int Paladin that can also be effective. Alternative ways to think about it would be having a Paladin with a point buy of 15 and Int must be 10 (allowing 5 points to be applied later on for 14 Int). \$\endgroup\$ – Aaron Jackson Dec 20 '13 at 0:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AaronJackson His point is that PFS gives you very little ability points, and the paladin class requires a lot in the way of ability scores, and Int is one of the few abilities you don’t need. Between those three, putting significant points in Int not only means those points are wasted, it also means you don’t have enough points to enable the things the paladin class is supposed to do. Even starting with 10, a modest score a paladin may want for skills, planning to invest in it as you grow means your other scores will suffer. You need those because the game assumes you have them. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 22 '13 at 7:25

Well I sat down and used sCoreForge to try out a Halfling Divine Hunter that was capable of contributing to combat, and was useful in other areas (The Helpful trait makes me keen to make plenty more halflings) so I whipped this up.

Male Paladin 12
LG Small Halfling / Humanoid (Halfling)
Init +8; Senses Perception +8, Keen Senses

AC 28, touch 21, flat-footed 20 (+4 armor, +3 shield, +8 dex, +1 size, +2 deflection)
hp 76 (12d10)
Fort +17, Ref +21, Will +18
Shield Darkwood Buckler +2
Defensive Abilities Halfling Luck (PFCR 26), Fearless (PFCR 26)

Spd 20 ft/x4
Ranged Holy Seeking Light Crossbow +3 +19/+19/+14/+9 (1d6+12) 19-20/x2 CM +3; [RS]; [PBS]; [DA]; good-aligned, +2d6 vs evil alignment; Weapon ignores concealment
Special Attacks Smite Evil [6] +5 to Hit and AC, +16 damage vs. target of Smite Evil(PFCR 60-61)

Str 6, Dex 26, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 20
BAB +12, CMB +9, CMD +29
Feats Armor Proficiency (LIGHT / MEDIUM) (PFCR 118), Crossbow Mastery (PFAPG 157), Deadly Aim (PFCR 121), Low Profile (PFAPG 164-165), Point-Blank Shot (PFCR 131), Precise Shot (PFCR 131), Rapid Reload (Crossbow, Light) (PFCR 132), Rapid Shot (PFCR 132), Shield Proficiency (PFCR 133)
Skills Diplomacy +23 [Gather Information +23, w/ fey +23, w/ nobility +23, w/ nobility attracted to you +23, w/ persons attracted to you +23], Heal +5, Ride +12, Sense Motive +16, Spellcraft +15, Use Magic Device +20 [With scrolls +20]
SQ Aura of Good (PFCR 60), Paladin Channel Energy [6d6] (PFCR 62), Detect Evil (PFCR 60), Divine Bond (PFCR 63), Divine Health (PFCR 61), Lay on Hands [11] (PFCR 61), Mercy (PFCR 61)
SU Aura of Care (PFUC 62), Divine Grace (PFCR 61), Hunter's Blessing (PFUC 62), Shared Precision (PFUC 62)
MC Code of Conduct (PFCR 63-64), Precise Shot (PFUC 62)
Traits Helpful (Race: Halfling) (PFCo: HoG 30), Magical Knack (Magic) (PFAPG 329)
Languages Common, Elven, Goblin, Halfling

Eq'd Magic Belt of Incredible Dexterity +4, Eyes of the Eagle, Slippers of Cloudwalking, Circlet of Persuasion, Headband of Alluring Charisma +4, Ring of Protection +2 (R), Cloak of Resistance +3, Silver Smite Bracelet, Wand of Mage Armor

The Divine Bond was adding +3 at level 11 so I calculated the gold as if I had shelled out for a +3 light crossbow (for a total of +6 inc. special abilities). HP is miserable, AC is so so, good enough for staying out of melee, saves are, well it's a Paladin. 11x Lay on Hands @ 6d6+6 at level 12. That could be a lot of healing. Spellcaster Level is Class Level -1 instead of Class Level -3.

The attack bonus is a little low although Paladins generally make this up with Smite Evil and 11/p is certainly sufficient. Whilst crossbows are the poor cousin to composite longbows they remain viable because of the lack of a strength requirement. They certainly aren't a distant caster, the spell list for Paladins is not suited to aggressive casting. The 14 Int isn't a mechanically required element for combat. It's a Point Buy restriction that means the typical Paladin dump stat instead takes up valuable points.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Since this is a character build question, it's worthwhile pointing out what this character does - for instance, how they contribute to combat, and how the 14 int benefits them and gets used. Are they intended to be a distant caster? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 19 '13 at 14:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Lord_Gareth: I don't think the intelligence score requirement is there in order to help optimization. The goal is to optimize a paladin despite having 14+ intelligence. \$\endgroup\$ – Ellesedil Dec 19 '13 at 17:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ italic Archery italic is how the Paladin contributes in combat. The attack bonus is a little low although Paladins generally make this up with Smite Evil and 11/p is certainly sufficient. Whilst crossbows are the poor cousin to composite longbows they remain viable because of the lack of a strength requirement. \$\endgroup\$ – Aaron Jackson Dec 19 '13 at 20:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ They certainly aren't a distant caster, the spell list for Paladins is not suited to aggressive casting. The 14 Int isn't a mechanically required element for combat. It's a Point Buy restriction that means the typical Paladin dump stat instead takes up valuable points. If an Aldori Duelist can be used to optimise a Paladin for example, then go for it but I don't believe it can. And my apologies for the multiple comments. The lack of a carriage return surprised me. \$\endgroup\$ – Aaron Jackson Dec 19 '13 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Aaron, please integrate your comments into your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Dec 22 '13 at 5:24

Here's a perfectly viable and fun build for a smart paladin. Hero Lab claims it's all PFS legal.

Aasimar angelkin gets a STR and CHA boost so you make the most of your point buy.

You take the Holy Tactician archetype, which lets you grant allies a teamwork feat and give them some movement and other leader-like stuff. For teamwork feats, the ones that stack for everyone that has them - like Lastwall Phalanx, where everyone gets +1 AC per adjacent ally with the feat, or Shake It Off, where everyone gets +1 on all saves per adjacent ally with the feat, are pretty good in that situation.

Knowledge variant channeling doles out Int damage. The Detect Expertise feat lets you figure out their spellcasting type/level when you detect evil on them.

Spell wise, Compel Hostility/Knight's Calling (tank aggro pulls) and Tactical Acumen fit the theme.

Tripping's a good debuff, I don't care what anyone says, so Improved Trip and a big ol flail. He has a bunch of small-move battlefield control powers to complement this.

Here he is at level 8, since PFS doesn't get too high level. +13/+8, 1d10+20 with Power Attack and Weal's Champion on, +17/+12, 1d10+25 with divine favor and bull's strength cast (and can deliver a 4d6 channel through his weapon thanks to consecrated). AC can top out at 24+number of adjacent allies (team up with a summoner!) with save bonuses to boot. Not necessarily a primary damage-dealer, but provides plenty of options and defensive boosts to the party.

Male Angel-Blooded Aasimar (Angelkin) Paladin (Holy Tactician) 8
LG Medium outsider (native)
Init +0; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +0


AC 21, touch 10, flat-footed 21 (+11 armor)
hp 68 (8d10+16)
Fort +11, Ref +5, Will +9
Resist acid 5, cold 5, electricity 5


Speed 20 ft.
Melee +1 consecrated heavy flail +10/+5 (1d10+16/19-20/×2)
Special Attacks Channel Energy 4d6
Spell-Like Abilities
   At will—detect evil
   1/day—alter self
Paladin (Holy Tactician) Spells Prepared (CL 5th; concentration +8):
2nd (2/day)—bull's strength, communal protection from evil
1st (2/day)—divine favor, compel hostility


Str 18, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 16
Base Atk +8; CMB +9 (+11 trip); CMD 22 (24 vs. trip)
Feats Combat Expertise, Detect Expertise, Improved Trip, Lastwall Phalanx, Power Attack, Shake It Off
Traits defender of the society, stalwart of the society
Skills Diplomacy +12, Heal +10, Knowledge (nobility) +12, Knowledge (religion) +12, Sense Motive +11, Spellcraft +12; Racial Modifiers +2 Heal
Languages Celestial, Common, Osiriani, Varisian
SQ aura of good, battlefield presence, guide the battle, lay on hands, mercies (mercy [shaken], mercy [sickened]), variant channeling (knowledge variant channeling [±2 sacred]), weal's champion
Other Gear +1 Full plate, +1 Consecrated Heavy flail, 150 GP

Special Abilities

Aura of Good (Ex) The paladin has an Aura of Good with power equal to her class level.
Battlefield Presence (Lastwall Phalanx) (Su) Grant allies in 30 ft one teamwork feat you possess.
Combat Expertise +/-3 Bonus to AC in exchange for an equal penalty to attack.
Darkvision (60 feet) You can see in the dark (black and white vision only).
Defender of the Society +1 trait bonus to Armor Class when wearing medium or heavy armor.
Detect Evil (At will) (Sp) You can use detect evil at will (as the spell).
Detect Expertise Detect a creature's magical abilities
Energy Resistance, Acid (5) You have the specified Energy Resistance against Acid attacks.
Energy Resistance, Cold (5) You have the specified Energy Resistance against Cold attacks.
Energy Resistance, Electricity (5) You have the specified Energy Resistance against Electricity attacks.
Guide the Battle (Ex) Allies in sight immediately move 5 ft without provoking attacks of opportunity.
Improved Trip You don't provoke attacks of opportunity when tripping.
Knowledge Variant Channeling (±2 Sacred) Knowledge & Perception bonus/Intelligence damage
Lastwall Phalanx Bonus equal to adjacent allies with this feat to AC and saves vs. attacks & abilities of evil foes.
Lay on Hands (4d6) (7/day) (Su) You can heal 4d6 damage, 7/day
Mercy (Shaken) (Su) When you use your lay on hands ability, it also removes the shaken condition.
Mercy (Sickened) (Su) When you use your lay on hands ability, it also removes the sickened condition.
Paladin Channel Positive Energy 4d6 (3/day) (DC 17) (Su) Positive energy heals the living and harms the undead; negative has the reverse effect.
Power Attack -3/+6 You can subtract from your attack roll to add to your damage.
Shake It Off Gain +1 to all saving throws per adjacent ally
Weal's Champion +3/+4 (self), +1/+2 (allies) (3/day) (Su) Self bonus for 4 rds. If hit then allies get bonuses vs same foe for 1 rd.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In PFS, there's a pretty high proportion of human/humanoid opponents in many scenarios. You can take the tactical feat that gives big ol trip bonuses vs large creatures from Dragonslayer's Handbook if you experience differently... \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 16 '14 at 1:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Variant channeling from SRD: "A character who has the channel energy ability from a class other than cleric may use these variant channeling rules if the class’s abilities are tied to serving a deity. For example, paladins can select alternative channeling abilities if they serve a deity..." \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 16 '14 at 2:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Aaah but there seems to be another problem; the variant channel for intelligence damage won't work on living creatures. Paladins channel positive energy; they can heal the living and harm the undead. The Intelligence damage is listed under 'harm' as an option. \$\endgroup\$ – Lord_Gareth Jan 16 '14 at 2:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, you're probably right but weirdly INT damage isn't actually prevented by the undead type - drain is, and damage to physical scores is... d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/rules-for-monsters/… But yeah, maybe you don't do that unless you take feats to affect outsiders or whatnot. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 16 '14 at 20:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh yeah, definitely. I wasn't saying that it wouldn't work on the undead, only that it makes the build less attractive in an environment that isn't full of the undead. \$\endgroup\$ – Lord_Gareth Jan 16 '14 at 20:28

One of my own character concepts could be easily modified to work with your desires.

I was inspired while watching early seasons of Supernatural to build a 'Holy Gun' for PFS. PFS, however, does not allow that archeype. So, I worked around it by taking my first level as Gunslinger with the Mysterious Stranger archetype, and the rest in Paladin with the Divine Hunter Archetype, worshipping Erastil.

Using Guns allows me to attack against Touch AC, meaning my to-hit bonus can be a little lower than normal without affecting my performance. The synergy of Mysterious Stranger (which uses Cha to allow a bonus to damage) and Paladin is also strong, and the Divine Hunter archetype allows better ranged attacks at lower levels than a standard paladin. With a Gun, the lack of a strength modifier to damage is also no problem. Smite Evil is also awesome with a x4 Crit weapon :)

The only real regret I have with this build is that I decided to use a musket. If I was building him again from scratch, I would instead focus on pistols and two-weapon fighting.

I went with a Stat array of Str 12, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 16, but you could achieve your own goal by using Str 10, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 16 - higher than average intelligence, and not quite as MAD as a standard Paladin.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You have Int 10; the question specifically requested Int 14. I like the attempt to mitigate the need for high ability scores (though I find Pathfinder firearms decidedly lacking as weapons), but even here your Int is not particularly high, and if it were I think you’d run into a lot of trouble. Plus, again, you wouldn’t really use the Int, you’d just have it. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 15 '14 at 2:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ As I explain in the answer, this is a build I went with - it would need to be modified to suit. I suggested ways of doing so. And, yes, it doesn't make use of the Int, but that wasn't a requirement of the question - combat effective with high intelligence, not combat effectiveness because of high intelligence. \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Jan 15 '14 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ -1 because I don't think "here's my build which doesn't satisfy your requirements but you could tweak it if you wanted" is satisfactory. Tweak it yourself - providing the decent-int tweaked abilities or other changes as an alternative satisfying changes to make to the 'proper' version if you like - and provide some assurance or endorsement of the tweak leaving the build viable and effective. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 16 '14 at 3:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're partly right - I should have gone with my instincts and not included the build at all, just the concepts. \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Jan 16 '14 at 3:49

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