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I am about to join a campaign of pathfinder as a human cleric, but our point-buy is really limited with only ten points allowed.

This is a problem particularly for me as I want my cleric to be able to be a pretty good in melee combat and I can't really have sufficient stats for that.

To build around the problem, I want to get the feat Guided Hand which would allow me to focus on my wisdom and keep my strength at 10. The problem that that brings is that with 10 in strength I can't get power attack so I lose a lot of good feats.

My ability scores would be like this:

Str 10 Dex 12 Con 13 Int 10 Wis 16 cha 10

I will probably also get the glory domain to get a few good buffs.

Would that be enough to make him good in melee? And what feats should I get to make it work?

  • Note that the gods of the campaign are custom made so they have no feat related to them, only their domain.
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    \$\begingroup\$ When you say 'characteristic score' do you mean 'point buy'? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 18 '17 at 12:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ yeah that's what i mean. Sorry I am used to the french version of the game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Horly
    Apr 18 '17 at 12:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site. If you've not yet, take the tour. It looks like the question has, at this time, three votes in favor of putting it on hold as Too Broad. I suspect this is because the question asks for an entire build based on limited information. The site prefers questions like this be very specific, and What's a good melee-capable cleric build using this point buy? depends on the GM's guidelines, the campaign, the other players, and the resources available. Consider adding those details to this question to narrow its focus. Thank you for participating and have fun. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 18 '17 at 15:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Horly may i suggest you wait for a bit before accepting my answer? Other (better) answers might show up and if an answer was already accepted, it might discourage others. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Apr 18 '17 at 17:01
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This is what we call a frame challenge—an attempt to demonstrate why the things you are asking for aren’t actually going to work out the way you imagine they will. This is in no way an indictment of your goals; a melee cleric is an entirely reasonable character to want to play, and on its face, the concept of a “low point-buy campaign” has merit, seems like a way to add challenge or push players out of their comfort zone.

Unfortunately, your goals for this character are an excellent case-in-point for why such a low point-buy is actually terrible for a campaign. The mathematics of Pathfinder just respond incredibly poorly to it, and it all-but-forces players to adopt primary spellcasting—the most powerful approach to the game—to mitigate those problems. And if the goal was, itself, to have a game where the players faced those problems, low point buy, at least by itself, doesn’t accomplish that—primary spellcasters will be able to all-but-completely ignore it. There are vastly superior ways to accomplish that goal, that does so more evenly across different types of characters.

I will be talking a lot about what a character “needs.” This is based on the math of the game—the average expectations for things like attack bonus and AC, damage and HP, saving throws and DCs, that are baked into the game via its monster design. It would be out of scope here to fully lay out the mathematical progressions, but suffice to say that monsters are generally designed expecting that adventurers who challenge them will have pretty high values in the appropriate stats—that their attack rolls will involve decent BAB, pretty high ability scores, maybe even some feat boosts, that their saving throw DCs will stem from very high ability scores, and so on. Pathfinder expects you to reliably land effects against such monsters in order to beat them.

To be sure, a good GM could get around all of these problems—but it is a lot of work, more than it might appear to be. CR is an unwieldy, unreliable tool in the best of times, but changing the game so drastically makes it even less useful. I would not recommend that to any GM. And there, really, lies the rub—if low point buy is supposed to make the game harder, the fact that the GM has to either choose weaker monsters, or downgrade some of their numbers, in order to compensate, completely dispels that.

So I will be assuming that the GM isn’t doing that. And the reason why I’ll be making that assumption is...

A primary spellcaster almost doesn’t care about the low point buy

You could be a fantastically-powerful cleric at that point-buy—just be a primary spellcaster. Dwarf cleric gets you a neat 16 Constitution, 18 Wisdom, and you’re good to go, easily among the most powerful possible Pathfinder classes. The 10 point-buy constrains you a bit, but it doesn’t ultimately stop a primary-spellcaster cleric from being powerful.

However, that requires dumping Strength and Charisma, most likely. You’re unlikely to be much of a melee fighter like that. You can take Guided Hand, sure—but that’s two feats to fix only accuracy. Your melee attacks still won’t have any serious damage to them, and most avenues for increasing it are out. With your prodigious Wisdom and mighty cleric spellcasting, every time you actually swing a weapon, it will be a huge wasted opportunity to have cast a spell, instead. Sure, OK, sometimes the battle’s already decided and you don’t want to waste a spell slot mopping up, so you swing your weapon a little. It won’t really matter much but you could. Burning two feats on that is a stretch, particularly since you won’t actually be all that efficient mopping up, but you could.

There is maybe some room here to be less dedicated to spellcasting... but that’s not enough to make you a serious melee combatant.

You say you want more than just having a weapon around to mop up. You want swinging your weapon to actually be a meaningful option. Say you go with 13 Strength, to take Power Attack and associated feats. Well, that has to come out of your Wisdom, clearly; with 10 point buy, there’s nowhere else to take it from. So you drop to 16 Wisdom—still useful, if not great. 13 Strength, 14 Constitution, 16 Wisdom. I really hope you weren’t planning on using any of your Charisma-based class features. Only you’re a medium-BAB class, and your Strength bonus is just +1. Your accuracy here is poor, and your damage is mediocre. So maybe you switch your Strength and Constitution, and you get a +2 bonus, which can be +3 damage instead of +1 if you have a two-hander (and you probably should). OK, that’s great except... you also have a Constitution bonus of +1. On a d8-HD class. Standing in the front lines is... unlikely to go well for you.

Trying to push it even further just spreads you too thin to do much of anything right

Can you sap even more Wisdom? Maybe, but the mathematics of point buy are no longer making that seem all that attractive. Dropping from a base of 16 to a base of 14 saves a whopping 5 points—and with dwarf, you still have a Wisdom of 16, which is OK. But dropping from that 14 base to a 12 base only saves 3 points, and now you’re at 14 Wisdom—now you’re getting low enough that anything with a saving throw isn’t really a good idea, and you’re missing out on bonus spells pretty soon here. Maybe you get some kinda-decent Strength and Constitution going on, but you’re still a medium-BAB class, a d8-HD class. You can fight, but you’re mediocre at it. You can cast spells, but you’re pretty mediocre at that, too. And the monsters that an adventurer faces have a nasty tendency to eat mediocrity for breakfast.

And pure warriors aren’t really faring too much better, either.

For the sake of argument, though, say you go all in, abandon cleric altogether. Now you can safely ignore Wisdom, right, and just go for that sweet Strength and Constitution, with some nice full-BAB, d10-HD or d12-HD class? Except you won’t have much of anything in the way of mental scores, so a lot of feats will be barred to you. You will be slow to react, prone to magical danger, useless when it comes to talking, or working your way past traps and obstacles. You’ll be pretty weak at anything that isn’t swinging a sword. And as important as that is, Pathfinder adventurers are usually called upon for a bit more than that. In effect, all the problems of Pathfinder mundane characters will be badly exacerbated by your need to ignore everything that’s not sword-swinging. And yes, you will need to.

Conclusion: Low point buy accomplishes little but making “primary spellcaster” even more desirable than it already was

So you see how in this spectrum, everything that isn’t “primary spellcaster” is just somewhere between “mediocre” and “bad.” That is what this point buy accomplishes. It hurts the weakest classes, and it prevents even strong classes from doing anything too unusual. It basically takes Pathfinder, a game that very heavily rewards spellcasters, and massively amps up those rewards, while also throwing a bunch of punishments on top of non-spellcasters.

It’s a flaw in the system, and it’s obnoxious, but it’s also not easily going away. Low point buys just do not work well. I strongly recommend to your GM to just avoid them. I strongly recommend to you that if you play in such a campaign anyway, a primary spellcaster is very likely to be the least frustrating route. Because the mathematics of the game mean that either other sorts of characters are going to find themselves missing too much, being hit too often, and having too little HP to soak hits, while the spellcaster seems even more godly by comparison than he already would have, or else (less likely) you’re in a campaign where the GM is compensating for the low point buy—and where a primary spellcaster is just going to mop the floor with everything.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Your post makes me think that making PCs mediocre/bad is exactly the goal of that campaign. I don't know how the players feel about it, but the GM should be upfront about that idea. Dungeon Crawl Classics give me a similar feel to what you described on your answer, and thus, maybe Pathfinder isn't the best system for that (doesn't mean they shouldn't use it though). \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Apr 18 '17 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras Yeah, except that low point buy doesn’t accomplish that if they play a primary spellcaster. Which means low point buy—at least, by itself—is a really, really poor way to accomplish that goal. That was kind of the idea I was trying to get across. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 18 '17 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras Addressed that specifically. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 18 '17 at 15:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras While higher point buy makes mundanes even more playable, lower point buy favors classes that are single-attribute dependent. A GM that really wants a lower-powered game limits the classes that are available rather than lowering the point buy. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 18 '17 at 15:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras Now I'm not sure I agree. If balance were not the GM's concern on some level then the GM wouldn't use point buy at all. I mean, if the GM's goal is not balance and, instead,--I dunno!--, like, to reduce the PC survival rate, low point buy is a far worse tool than, for instance, just throwing powerful monsters at the PCs earlier. (I mean, I'd think it's more fun (in the abstract) to say My level 1 fighter was eaten by a chimera than My level 1 fighter with Con 4 died when he fell down a 20-ft. pit.) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 18 '17 at 16:54
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You have quite a few problems here:

  • You have to waste 2 feats simply to gain the benefit of adding your wisdom to your attack rolls. Yes, rolls, your damage will still depend on str. The second feat being situationally useful, which might not even be justified considering your low stats.

  • You are taking two feats to basically add +3 to your attacks, against +0 from your str 10. Which could be lowered to "+2" if you had 13 str. So, if you had 13 str, those two feats would be as useful as Weapon Focus.

  • No feats will replace Power Attack as requeriment for other, stronger, feats.

  • You probably want to wear heavy armor, since you are not a martial class, every bit of extra protection is necessary to stay alive.

The first problem can be solved by not even taking those feats. The second problem is a matter of balancing missed hits versus hits that deal more damage to compensate the misses. The third problem can only be solved if you increase your strength to at least 13 and take power attack. And finally, you will have to either spend another feat to wear heavy armor, or multiclass to obtain proficiency.

You could replace power attack with Piranha Strike, but that feat does not count as Power Attack for prerequisites of other feats, so you are stuck with it. It also doesn't work with weapons other than light weapons, so depending on what deity you choose, the feat won't be as benefical. It also requires weapon finesse, which is another feat tax that you won't use because you are looking for Guided Hand.

Rea-arrange your stats

Now, if your choice of stats are not set in stone, you could rearrange your point-buy around, like:

  • Str 13 Dex 10 Con 12 Int 10 Wis 14(16 with +2 human) cha 10

This way, you lost +2 to your attack rolls, but got +1 to damage and this 13 could become a 14 at lv4, which also increases your damage and attack rolls by another point (1h weapon) or two (2h weapon). But now you also have two feats to expend. You could buy Power attack with one of those, which would increase your damage by +2 (1h weapon) or +3 (2h weapon).

At 4th level, we are looking at +3 BAB, +2 str, -1 powa. Or +4 to attacks and +4 (1h) or +6 (2h) to damage. This is not bad, but it isn't good either. You are still lagging behind any martial character by several levels. Even if you take weapon focus with your deity's favoured weapon, that only gives you +5 to hit, while a martial is usually nearly double of that value by 4th level.

I would suggest that you swap strenght and wisdom and discard Guided Hand. The minimum wisdom you need to still be able to cast all your spells is 13 at 1st level (later on you will need at least +2 from a magic item). Like this:

  • Str 14 (16 with +2 human) Dex 10 Con 12 Int 10 Wis 13 cha 10

Your con is still very low for a melee character, specially with a D8 hit die. So, if you don't care much about dumping stats, you can lower your int and charisma:

  • Str 14 (16 with +2 human) Dex 10 Con 14 Int 8 Wis 13 cha 9

With a 16 strength, you character fixes a lot of those problems i mentioned, and all you have to worry about is to not pick spells with a save DC, as your DCs will be really low. But that means you can also focus on buffs, summons, spells with no saves (like prayer), etc.

Note that even if you pick heavy armor and increase your con, your survivability is still pretty bad for a melee character.

Follow Iomedae

Another option is to be a Follower of Iomedae (if this is Golarion campaign setting), or a similar "God of Justice".You then can take the Disciple of the Sword, which will grant you the benefits of Weapon Specialization (+2 to damage) with a longsword (Iomedae's favourite weapon), and work as the feat to qualify for Greater Weapon Specialization (+4 to damage).

Her followers also have access to the spell Inheritor's Smite, which can be cast as a swift action and grant a +5 sacred bonus on your attack roll with a free bull rush check. And also access to the trait Divine Warrior, which can increase weapon's damage when you cast spells to enhance your weapons.

Warpriest class

Another option, if you are not decided on being a cleric, is to pick the Warpriest class, which is a combination of fighter and cleric. They also have 3/4 BAB, like the cleric, but gain weapon focus for free on their deity's weapon, a scaling damage on the favoured weapon, and bonus combat feats every 3 levels. But they lose 3 levels worth of spellcasting (9th down to 6th) in order to gain the ability to buff himself as a swift action. With the Strength Blessing, the character can gain a bonus on attack and damage rolls equal to half your class levels for one round.

Unlike the cleric, it is much easier to be competivive against martials with the warpriest, and you have more build options available with the extra combat feats. I would also shift the 13 and 16 between strength and wisdom. But won't focus much on this option unless you state that you are interested on changing your class.

Mundane solutions

Sometimes you have no options, your character is already set, you created a build that looked nice on paper but when facing the reality that is the game system, you couldn't do a thing to fix it anymore.

Well, you still have mundane solutions (read: non-magical stuff you can buy), like alchemical items or weapons that can apply certain conditions, like:

  • A net. Yes, it may seem ridiculous, but this weapon is overpowered. Just look around the real world and see how nets are used to capture all kind of less-intelligent creatures (animals). A net has a low reach, only 10 feet, it is a thrown weapon, thus it will use your dexterity bonus (or wisdom if you got Guided Hand), but will attack against the target's touch AC, which might be significantly lower than his actual AC depending on the target. Creatures with armor (manufactured or natural) normally have low touch AC. Once hit, the target is Entangled, which lowers his AC by 2 points and prevents him from moving freely until the net is torn apart (wasting his attacks) or he escapes (wasting a full-round action).

  • Tanglefoot bags. At 50 gp, these are really expensive, specially at low levels. But the result is similar to that of a net, with the advantage of the target being unnable to move if they fail their Reflex save, and the glue lasting longer with more hit points.

A little backstory here. I GM'ed on a group where two characters on the group abused nets and "glue bags". Both of them were ranged characters (a magus, armed with a net, and a ranger), and they often had trouble when the group's melee (a barbarian) couldnt keep all melee enemies away from them. So, on the very first round of combat, if they werent buffing, they were "gluing" enemies on the battlefield so they could attack from a distance. And by lowering the target's AC and mobility, this also made things easier for the barbarian.

As the GM, this tactic was smart and sometimes even frustrating, because even if they could simply attack the net or glue to release themselves, they still would waste an action doing so. This was a way to obtain advantage of the system's action economy.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I... am sorely tempted to downvote the very suggestion that 13 Str, 12 Con makes for a viable melee combatant. That, to me, looks like nothing but suicide. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 18 '17 at 14:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan i agree completely with you. I did not suggest it is viable though, i just worked on what he gave me without changing too much. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Apr 18 '17 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan indeed, the grappler druid from the other question has that feat to avoid buying Improved Unarmed Strike unnecessarily (since he will only use it to qualify for another feat). A "reach cleric" is a ~viable~ (ahem better) melee alternative. But still, tripping and grappling foes is something i would discuss with the group's martial so both can enjoy the bonuses granted by those conditions. If this martial is a fighter, for instance, he could have spare feats that could easily go into this kind of maneuver. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Apr 18 '17 at 17:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ That said, Dirty Fighting is still a pretty good option to complement that kind of teamplay, since you gain another +2 if you are flanking the target and happen to make a maneuver against him. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Apr 18 '17 at 17:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding @KRyan's original point, I suggest the OP take a look at some of the other players' builds. If the GM is tailoring the monsters to the campaign and martials are surviving well enough with 12 Con and relatively low ACs, you might be okay. On the other hand, if the martials are built 18, 10, 16, 7, 8, 7 and wearing full plate, you're probably not going to be able to keep up with them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben S.
    Apr 18 '17 at 17:37
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It depends on the level range of the campaign and how much of your spellcasting power you're willing to sacrifice. Since your casting stat primarily affects saving throws, a cleric who is intending to use mostly buff spells only really needs enough Wis to be able to cast the spells at all - e.g., if you're not going above 10th level, you could drop your Wis to 15 and still be able to cast 5th level spells (or 14 if you use the attribute point from level 4 to increase it later).

Alternatively, depending on which deities your DM allows, you might be able to keep a high Wis to use Guided Hand and go for Pirahna Strike instead of Power Attack. Most deities with the Glory domain don't have a favored weapon that's compatible with Pirahna Strike, but the Empyreal Lord Jaidz does - the short sword.

If you don't mind giving up a fair bit of spellcasting power, you might also consider creating a Warpriest instead of a traditional cleric - they gain several abilities to make them more effective in melee, including access to Fighter-specific feats like Weapon Specialization.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem with piranha strike is that it does not count as Power Attack for requirements. So, he is still losing good feat options that depend on power attack. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Apr 18 '17 at 13:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, that's true. Personally, I think he'd still have a lot of great feat options, but if there is a specific feat that he wants that requires Power Attack then he needs a 13 Str as far as I know. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben S.
    Apr 18 '17 at 16:06
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OK, I still stand by my answer that says this is a bad idea for a lot of reasons and there are better ways to accomplish a challenging Pathfinder campaign, and being a primary spellcaster is the best approach to handling this particular bad idea.

But I do have something of an idea for being a cleric that goes into melee combat with intent to actually be useful in that role, despite poor stats. You still stat like a primary spellcaster, because this idea basically revolves around not using most of your ability scores for melee. I still recommend a dwarf here; +2 Con, +2 Wis is a really good deal for you. Human works though; you also want feats.

Basically, low Strength means you aren’t going to be doing much damage. There isn’t a whole lot you can do about that. So don’t bother—damage is not all that a melee combatant can do.

Instead, take Dirty Fighting along with Guided Hand. That allows you to dump Dex and Int, but still take Improved Trip. Combat maneuvers are, strictly speaking, attack rolls (even though you use CMB), so Guided Hand applies. So grab a guisarme, and use your attacks of opportunity to trip people. You won’t have enough Dexterity for Combat Reflexes to be worthwhile, and without that Greater Trip is kinda worthless, but that’s OK; even tripping one person a round would be excellent. Your CMB won’t be great even with Guided Hand, but it will be enough to trip someone occasionally, plus you can use spells to buff yourself or debuff enemies to improve your odds of success. And it’s not like you were using your attacks of opportunity for anything anyway.

During your turn, you are now free to attack with the guisarme (not for much damage at all, but you still can), trip with the guisarme (with at least decent odds of success), or cast a spell (your best option most of the time, but conserving spell slots can be useful too). Three feats is a lot to pay for that flexibility, but it can work.

If you want to expand on this, you can also take Improved Dirty Trick. Dirty tricks are rather versatile combat maneuvers, so that’s a decent idea. Keep in mind that your spells are far more versatile, though, so you may not want to be using your standard action for dirty tricks all that often.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would also add that, if he isnt lowering his wisdom, he could also use spells that improve his odds of hitting his target by applying conditions, or using summons to improve his flanking opportunities. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Apr 18 '17 at 17:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras Good point, added. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 18 '17 at 17:14

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