Beam Me Up (Building Relevance for Pathfinder “Intro Rays”)

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Many of the classes in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game grant access to spell-like ray powers from acid darts to fire bolts. These “Intro Ray” abilities increase the usefulness of low-level casters and ensure thematic consistency for specializations that at those levels would be difficult to distinguish otherwise.  Yet at mid-levels these rays seem to fire off into the horizon and are rarely heard from again… Here are some thoughts on keeping “Intro Rays” relevant…

Ray Effects in Class Abilities

At low levels multiple classes give a pool of daily use spell-like attacks that generate rays. These class “Intro Rays” are generally thematic. Acid darts summoned by conjurers or fire bolts called to the hand of the Fire God’s faithful. For the most part these rays follow simple mechanics of 1d6 + 1 per two levels (some rarer energies getting 1d4 instead). This keeps them slightly in step with basic melee attacks and just above the power of 0-level ray effects. Rays like these help define class thematics and flavor. They show up in a few categories:

  • Elemental DomainsFire, Water, Air, and Earth cleric domains all have basic elemental rays following the same damage parameters. This gives the clerics of these elements a baseline aggression that helps define them in early levels .
  • Sorcerer Bloodlines – Like domains, elemental bloodlines for sorcerers provide a number of rays but are joined by monster ability bloodlines and more that add another selection of ray origins.
  • Wizard School Abilities – Acid darts for conjurers and telekinetic fists for transmuters both provide rays. Wizards of some Third Party sources have other elements available.

Ray Relevance in Mid-Level to High-Level Play

With an upper end of 1d6+10, the general usage of the “Intro Ray” isn’t long for the world. That said there are ways to engage your rays to ensure their relevance for longer durations into your level progression. Level progression decisions and feat selections might even restore viable effectiveness to their relative weak power levels particularly in games allowing Third Party material:

  • Tester Shot – The good news for most “Intro Ray” classes is that they are generally tightly tied to the thematic strength of your class. If there is a need for ascertaining relative resistance to your favored element, it is a lot less risky to risk a fire bolt than your last prepare fireball. Don’t be afraid to try out a foes energy protections with this relatively expendable attack as an added bonus you might gain insight into potential Spell Resistance.
  • Sneak Attack – In multiclass builds the “Intro Ray”  Sniper is a viable path. The limits of both rays and sneak attack to 30′ almost seem to suggest the play style. Trickster hiding and using illusion to ensure the delivery of lethal blasts of power. While increased damage dice can make good handy work of energy resistances, this option can have issues with SR. Plan accordingly. This route also cuts into spell progressions.
  • Arcane Blood – Introduced in this spectacular source from Rogue Genius Games, this feat allows you it energize your sorcerer bloodline powers with unspent spell slots. The exchange is favorable and allows a fire sorcerer to hold his own beside a kineticist with similar elemental prowess. The feat is likely quite adaptable to other classes with GM permission.
  • Solar Wind Maneuver Discipline – Games using the Path of War Martial expansions present a school of combat focusing on the augmentation of ranged combat. Some GMs will likely let Solar Wind work with rays as is and some will ask you to take Weapon Group Adaptation. Even at the 2 feat cost of both Weapon Group Adaptation and Martial Training, this still might be advisable or even a light multiclass to stalker or warlord. Stances and boosts can make your ray attacks can combine to grant sizable bonuses to make your Intro Rays worthwhile for levels to come.

Even basic feat choices like Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot go a long way to making “Intro Rays” more viable. We would love to hear about ways you have kept your rays relevant in the comments below.

Need other new ideas for your characters? You can check out our Pathfinder content at these fine vendors: d20pfsrd.com, drivethruRPG, paizo and RPGNow.

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