While our suggested Tank build was somewhat convoluted - requiring a splash of Monk (Scaled Fist) and an interconnected selection of attributes, skills, feats and the use specific combat abilities to boost Armor Class as much as possible - most other builds are decidedly more straight-forward. Case in point, the Dedicated Arcane Spellcaster. While dipping into various other classes can undoubtedly help tune many builds, characters who want to access the highest tier spells in the game will need to specialize to reach such vaunted heights. That being the case, our caster builds will be decidedly simpler, although there are a few strategic decisions that can be made during character creation to make these characters more powerful than other builds might be.
The main job of our arcane spellcaster is, of course, to cast arcane spells, and to that end, we should be boosting whatever stat influences their spellcasting… which can vary depending on what class and subclass you pick. Typically, however, this stat is Intelligence or Charisma, and having some Dexterity will also help with Ranged Touch Attacks, as well as with ranged attacks in general. Not all foes are worth using spells on, after all, and ammo is (thankfully) unlimited, so some crude level of competence with a crossbow will be welcome. Of course, there are other options for allowing your caster to contribute in fights without casting spells, like summoning critters to fight for you, or better yet, having an Animal Companion.
Not all spells are winners, and while the Wizard’s ability to pick and choose between a wide variety of spells is all well and good, the Sorcerer’s superior spells per level/day and ability to pick and choose between them on a whim will serve us better. Also, picking the Sylvan Sorcerer subclass gets us an Animal Companion with no real downsides, and therefore makes for a fine mercenary hire:
|The Dedicated Arcane Caster - Starting Stats||Sorcerer (Sylvan Sorcerer)|
|Strength||5 or 7|
|Dexterity||16 or 18|
|Constitution||14 or 16|
|Race||Human, Hafling, Gnome, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Aasimar, Tiefling|
|Starting Spells||Mage Armor, Grease|
|Feats||Spell Focus (Conjuration), Greater Spell Focus (Conjuration)|
Sorcerer (Sylvan Sorcerer): A well-rounded arcane spellcaster has many responsibilities, but generally applying buffs and debuffs are more important than direct damage dealing… although the ability to nuke when needed is appreciated, and some spells mix damage and debuffs. Fortunately, we can get a selection of spells to suit our needs as a Sorcerer, while also enjoying the added versatility and expanded spell slots the Sorcerer provides. Sure, their spell arsenals won’t be quite as versatile as a Wizard would be, but they don’t need to be - their job is to cast a select handful of evergreen buffs and debuffs repeatedly over the course of the game.
What really seals the deal, however, is the fact that you can pick the Sylvan Sorcerer subclass to gain an Animal Companion, as well. This critter will prove to be a mighty combatant for most of the game, allowing the Sylvan Sorcerer to contribute even when they’re not casting anything. We recommend picking a Leopard, Smilodon or Wolf for superior offense (trip in the case of the Leopard/Wolf and 5x attacks per round in the case of the Smilodon).
Ability Scores: Just like with our Tank, Charisma and Dexterity are the orders of the day, although Dexterity is arguably less important for the Sylvan Sorcerer than the Magus/Monk. Still, Charisma fuels the Sylvan Sorcerer’s spells, giving them bonus spells and DC boosts, making it our primary concern. Dexterity will boost their Armor Class and ranged attacks (including Ranged Touch Attacks for some spells), which is nice, but if your caster is worrying about their Armor Class, something has gone awry, and ranged attacks will be of secondary concern to spell power. Third comes Constitution, which just boosts Hit Points, something your casters will have few enough of.
Race complicates matters somewhat, especially since this build is suggested for companions, not your protagonist, so you’ll have fewer points to spend. Any race that doesn’t gain a boost to Charisma will be sub-par, and hence aren’t recommended (starting with a base 19 will allow you to get up to 24 by the end of the game). Halflings and Gnomes are probably ideal, as they gain bonuses to Charisma and Dexterity (Halfling) or Constitution (Gnomes), but Humans, Half-Elves, and certain variants of Aasimar and Tieflings (check what stats each one gains before selecting) work as well. Halflings and Gnomes will start with less Strength (5) at the benefit of more Dexterity (Halflings = 18) or Constitution (Gnomes = 16).
If you’re worried about the low Strength… don’t be. The Sylvan Sorcerer should never have to use their Strength for anything, and your Animal Companion will help contribute to overall party encumbrance. As long as you can carry your own gear, you’re fine. Wisdom is a little bit more worrisome, but as a caster you’ll have a decent Will Save regardless, so it’s not a huge handicap.
Race: For the Sylvan Sorcerer, race mostly matters in terms of what stats will be influenced. As mentioned above, you want that +2 bonus to Charisma to power your spells, so only races that meet that requirement will be considered for this build (although you can get along with sub-optimal races well enough). Halflings and Gnomes are probably the best choice for this build, getting bonuses to Charisma and Dexterity (Halfling) or Constitution (Gnome) along with a variety of racial bonuses. Push comes to shove, we’d probably pick the Halfling as the best class for Sylvan Sorcerer, just due to their Save bonuses and attribute score. The Aasimar (Musetouched) and Tiefling (Beastbrood) aren’t bad either, due to their bonus spells.
Alignment: You don’t have to remain good to get your hands on some powerful robes later on, so feel free to pick whatever you wish here.
Skills: This varies quite a bit depending on what race you picked, as different starting stats and racial bonuses will influence how good your Sylvan Sorcerer is with a variety of skills. Put simply, however, the Sylvan Sorcerer doesn’t really need any skills, so feel free to dump points into whatever you want to meet your party’s needs. Knowledge: Arcana, Lore: Nature, Mobility, Stealth and Trickery are all considerations, and while Persuasion seems like a no-brainer, your protagonist should be the one maxing that out. If you’ve got skill points to burn and other characters covering skills, however, you can always boost Persuasion just for “Dazzling Display”, which isn’t a terrible idea.
Feats: Not too complicated, your Sylvan Sorcerer only needs to do a few things well, and your feats should reinforce that. Spell Focus: Conjuration/Evocation, Greater Spell Focus: Conjuration/Evocation will boost DCs, Point-Blank Shot or Precise Shot will improve ranged offense, and if you invested in Persuasion, pick up Weapon Focus (ranged weapon of your choice, or ray attacks) and Dazzling Display so you can debuff foes on a whim.
Starting Spells: Pick up Mage Armor and Grease to start, as the former will help buff your comrades (and your pet!) and the latter will help you control the battlefield. Grease will be useful for a surprisingly long time, but at level three you’ll get access to Entangle for free. Glitterdust can blind foes in an area and reveal invisible critters, making it amazingly useful for a 2nd-level spell and Sense Vitals will give you the ability to sneak attack like a Rogue - not bad for your ranged attacks (including ray spells!). Haste is the no-brainer first pick of 3rd-level spells, followed by Stinking Cloud.
After that, you’re generally on the lookout for party-safe debuffs or offensive spells, especially Conjuration and Evocation spells, as your Spell Focus feats will boost the DCs of those spells. Buffs always remain important to look out for, as well, with Greater Invisibility, Heroism, Greater, Legendary Proportions and Mindblank being worthwhile picks in later levels.