Pathfinder - Hunter Archetypes Breakdown
I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
Temporary Note: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.
The Divine Hunter trades in the Hunter's Teamwork Feats for access to a Cleric Domain and the celestial or fiendish template for their Animal Companion. If you want a more ability-focused hunter or don't like teamwork feats, this is a good option.
Alignment: This shouldn't affect your build.
Class Skills: Dungeoneering and Religion are equally important and useful.
Domain: Cleric domains offer a lot of great options, including both abilities and special abilities. For help selecting a domain, see my Cleric Domains Breakdown.
Otherworldly Companion (Su): The Celestial/Fiendish templates offer some DR, energy resistances, and Smite.
Replaced Features: Class Skills (Altered), Teamwork Feats, Hunter Tactics
The Feral Hunter drops the Hunter's Animal Companion in exchange for Wild Shape. Wild Shape is a great polymorph option, and if you plan to use it I strongly recommend reading my Practical Guide to Polymorph.
Solitary: Taking away the Hunter's Animal Companion is like taking away a Wizard's spells.
Feral Focus (Su): Extending the Animal Focus bonuses to permanent duration makes them considerably easier to use throughout the day. Throw on one of the ability enhancements when you don't need something more situational. Because the appearance altering effect is a Polymorph effect, you're immune to effects which force you to change forms like Baleful Polymorph. The actual bonus from Feral Focus isn't a polymorph effect, which means that you can use while using Wild Shape.
Precise Summoned Animal (Ex): If you're planning to use Wildshape, you're planning to be in melee, so you want to take Outflank. Having a bunch of disposable badgers is a great way to get an easy flanking bonus.
Wild Shape (Su): Wild Shape gets you access to Beast Shape, which is the best set of polymorph spells until very high level.
Summon Pack (Sp): Roughly doubles the effectiveness of your Summon Nature's Ally spells. This is most effective when summoning the highest level creatures which you can get, so it won't be as helpful if you want swarms of weaker creatures.
Replaced Features: Animal Focus, Hunter Tactics, Speak With Master, Precise Companion (altered), Bonus Tricks, Improved Empathic Link, Greater Empathic Link, Master of the Wild, Raise Animal Companion, Teamwork Feats (6th, 9th, 12th, 15th, and 18th)
The Packmaster attempts to grant the Hunter multiple Animal Companions, but falls just as short as other archetypes that attempt to do the same thing. The issue is a systemic characteristic of Pathfinder: numbers curve upward with level, and if you can't keep up with the curve you can't compete. Splitting your companion means that it will have roughly half off the numbers required to keep pace at any given level.
Pack Bond (Ex): Sharing your levels across multiple companions means that your companions will have a lot of problems in combat. Their attack bonuses will be lower, their AC weak, and their hit points small. Except to lose companions frequently.
Pack Focus (Su): Not being able to give both of your companions a focus at the same time is frustrating.
Teamwork Feat (Ex): If you have a bunch of companions your best bet to make them useful is Teamwork Feats. Take this special ability so that your crappy companions can help each other be slightly less awful.
Second Pack Focus (Su): Double the effectiveness of Pack Focus.
Master of the Pack (Ex): Add an extra focus to one of your companions that lasts all day.
Replaced Features: Animal Companion, Animal Focus, Teamwork Feats (Altered), Second Animal Focus, Master Hunter
One day I was staring at the Hunter and the Summoner, and trying to decide if the Eidolon or the Animal Companion was better. Animal Companions are mechanically simpler, allow you take awesome and easily recognizable pets like a Tyrannosaurus. The Eidolon allows you build a completely customized monster. Both are fantastic. Then I thought that it would be cool if you could use Evolution Points to customize your Animal Companion. Then I read this archetype, and cried sweet tears of min-maxy joy.
Primal Transformation (Su): Paizo weakened this ability after my initial assessment, and for very good reason. The original evolution point progression made all other animal companions obsolete, and made the Hunter a better Summoner than the Summoner could every hope to be. Unfortunately, I think they went a bit too far. 2, 4, or 6 evolution points isn't much. You give up the persistent buff to your animal companion provided by Animal Focus, and you give up the ability to apply an Animal Focus to yourself temporarily. That said, the options provided by eidolon evolutions are considerably more versatile than Animal Focus. Where nearly all of the Animal Focus options are ability score increases, evolutions grant you access to new movement types, energy damage, additional attacks, abilities like Pounce and Constrict, and all sorts of fun combinations to adjust your Animal Companion to suit your current needs. However, with not ability to enhance yourself (unless your Animal Companion is dead) you need to rely even more heavily on your companion.
Primal Surge (Su): This is perfect for situational evolutions. Consider Blindsight when you encounter invisible foes or other vision impediments, Flight or Burrow when you need to get somewhere otherwise inaccessible, or Energy Resistance when you encounter a dragon or something.
Primal Master (Su): A Swift action is already pretty great, but activating Primal Transformation as a free action is even better, and you can apply two situational evolutions now.
Replaced Features: Animal Focus, Second Animal Focus, Master Hunter
The biggest problem with the Verminous Hunter is that Vermin Companions are bad. If options for Vermin Companions were anywhere near as good as options for Animal Companions, this archetype would be great.
Vermin Companion (Ex): Vermin Companions are much worse than Animal Companions for a long list of reasons. Also they're gross.
Vermin Empathy (Ex): Very situational.
Vermin Focus (Su): Basically Animal Focus with different options. Many of the options duplicate normal Animal Focus bonuses.
- Ant: This can largely replace your belt's bonus to Strength.
- Beetle: An excellent defensive bonus.
- Centipede: Very situational.
- Cockroach: Very situational.
- Crab: Very situational.
- Leech: Fantastic for grapplers.
- Mantis: Situational, but this can be fantastic if you or your companion are built as a Defender.
- Moth: Not always important, but fantastic to have available when you do need it. At high levels the blindsense is great for detecting invisible foes.
- Phasmid: Situational.
- Scorpion: Situational, but better than Spider. If your companion is a grappler, this is great.
- Spider: Situational.
- Wasp: Situational.
- Worm: Fast healing is always fantastic, especially if the fast healing is going to last all day long.
Swarm Stride (Ex): Situational.
Replaced Features: Animal Companion, Wild Empathy, Animal Focus, Woodland Stride