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Pathfinder - The Arcanist Handbook

Last Updated: May 18, 2017


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The Arcanist is a fantastic new take of Arcane spellcasting. Arcanists prepare spells at the beginning of the day like a Wizard, then cast spells using daily slots like a Sorcerer. This makes the Arcanist versatile, powerful, and a great introduction for players who are new to spellcasting. Arcanist Exploits add a level of customization and introduce a lot of excellent options.

Keep in mind that Arcanists need both Intelligence and Charisma for their spells (for maximum spell level and bonus spells, and for spell DC, respectively), which makes them more MAD than a Wizard.

Arcanist Class Features

Hit Points: d6 hit points is the worst in the game, so don't go drawing fire.

Base Attack Bonus: 1/2 BAB. Fortunately, you won't need it.

Saves: Will is the Arcanist's only good save, and with no real dependency on any ability score which contributes to saving throws, Arcanists need to make a point to enhance their saves.

Proficiencies: No armor, but access to all simple weapons offers plenty of options.

Skills: Despite receiving only 2+ skill ranks, the Arcanist actually gets a lot of skills because of their dependency on Intelligence. Access to all Knowledge skills makes the Arcanist a good Librarian, and access to Use Magic Device opens up a lot of interesting options.

Spells: If you're familiar with 5th Edition DnD, this should look familiar. Arcanists have the most versatile parts of both prepared and spontaneous casting, but get new spell levels at the same rate as Sorcerers.

Spellbooks: Identical to the Wizard class feature.

Arcane Reservoir (Su): Even without exploits to use your Arcane Reservoir, the ability to boost your caster level or DC give you some fantastic options. Boost DCs for your save-or-suck spells, and boost caster level for damage spells or spells with short durations.

Arcanist Exploits: Arcanist Exploits add a lot of cool customization options to the Arcanist, and can really supplement the Arcanist's spellcasting. Some exploits rely on Charisma, but if you avoid them you can dump Charisma to 7 and not notice the difference. For help with Exploits, see my Arcanist Exploits Breakdown.

Cantrips: Cantrips are fantastic and versatile.

Consume Spells (Su): This is a fantastic way to make use of your large number of low level spell slots, and a great way to fuel your Arcane Reservoir. However, the limited uses per day means that you can't just grab a Ring of Wizardy I to turn your 1st-level spells into a reservoir source.

Greater Exploits: Greater Exploits often improve on regular Exploits, but unfortunately they aren't as impactful as regular Exploits.

Magical Supremacy (Su): Eat all of your low level spells and turn them into 9th-level spells with boosted caster level and DC. Go ruin someone's day.


Like the Sorcerer and Wizard, the Arcanist is a primary caster, and is very SAD. Really all you need is Intelligence.

Str: Dump to 7.

Dex: Needed for saves and AC.

Con: Needed for saves and HP.

Int: All that you need to do your job.

Wis: Needed for saving throws, but Will is your good save, so don't worry about it too much.

Cha: Several Arcanist Exploits require Charisma, and Charisma determines any DCs for Arcanist Exploits. I still wouldn't put a ton of resources into this because the returns on your investment are small, but certainly don't dump it unless you plan to forgo Exploits which use Charisma.

25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy 15 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str: 7
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 18
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 14
  • Str: 7
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 17
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 14
  • Str: 7
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 16
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 14
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 15
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 13


A bonus to Intelligent is key, but bonuses to Charisma and defensive abilities are nice.

Dwarf: Nothing really useful to the Arcanist, and a penalty to Charisma, but Dwarfs are very durable. The favored class bonus makes the Dwarf very good at arcane barrier and arcane weapon, which can be great for a Blade Adept Arcanist.

Elf: Much like the Wizard, Elves are fantastic Arcanists. Their bonus to Intelligence and their racial abilities at least match whatever a Human could select. The Elf's favored class bonus allows you to increase the capacity of your Arcane Reservoir, which is nice if you want to walk into fights with a huge reservoir to draw on.

Gnome: The bonus to Charisma helps with Arcanist Exploits, but none of the Gnomes other abilities are particularly useful. The favored class bonus gets you a few more Arcane Reservoir points, but considering you can eat a 1st-level spell to get a single point, the most effect you can get from the Gnome's favored class bonus can be matched by 3 1st-level spells.

Half-Elf: Flexible ability bonus goes into Intelligence, and consider some alternate racial abilities. The favored class bonus is bad.

Half-Orc: Flexible ability bonus goes into Intelligence. Darkvision is always nice, but consider replacing the Half-Orc's other abilities. The favored class bonus is bad.

Halfling: The bonus to Charisma helps with Arcanist Exploits, and the Halfling is great if you want to be stealthy. The favored class bonus gets you some extra exploits, which is a great way to capitalize on the Charisma bonus.

Human: Always a fantastic option, Humans make great Arcanists. The favored class bonus is terrible (you can just buy spells to put in your spellbook), but don't let that dissuade you.



With 2+int skill ranks, the Arcanist has lots of fantastic options.


Arcanist feats are largely identical to Wizard feats, so I'll only cover Arcanist-specific feats here. For further advice on feats, see my Wizard Handbook.



If you need AC, you're doing something wrong. Still, it doesn't hurt to get some cheap protection. Keep in mind that Mage Armor is generally your best bet when you need AC, but Mage Armor isn't always on.

Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order. Magic armor is covered below in the Magic Items section.

Magic Items




It's difficult to recommend specific staffs without knowing your individual character, so instead I want to make a general endorsement of the concept of magic staffs in Pathfinder. If you are a 3.5 native, go read Pathfinder's rules for staffs because they have improved dramatically.

Staffs are a reliable, rechargeable source of extra spellcasting that can give spellcasters easy and reliable access to spells from their spell list which they might not want to learn, or which they might like to use so frequently that they can't prepare the spell enough times in a given day. On days when you're not adventuring (traveling, resting, etc.) you can easily recharge any staff even if you can only cast one of the spells which the staff contains.

Permanent Spells