Pathfinder - Medium Spirits Breakdown
Last Updated: December 8th, 2017
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.
Your choice of spirit determines your function for the day. Most Mediums will stick to one spirit on most days because you'll need to build your feats around your favorite spirit and your role in the party.
The Archmage grants the medium access to some wizard spellcasting, but you still only go up to 2/3 casting, so you're not going to compete with a full spellcaster. Combined with the Medium's proficiencies and skills, the Archmage makes the Medium similar to a Bard in many ways. However, the Medium has none of the Bard's excellent support abilities, worse skills, and horribly few spells known because they retain the Medium's spells known progression. Much of your spellcasting will come from spell levels where you only know one spell taken from the sorcerer/wizard list, so your versatility is poor.
Spirit Bonus: Concentration checks won't make much of a difference since Mediums are only 1/2 casters, but the bonus applies to a long list of skills, including every knowledge skill.
Seance Boon: Mediums get almost no damage-dealing spells, so this will probably only benefit your allies who recieve your Shared Seance bonus unless you pick up some applicable spells with Archmage Arcana.
Influence Penalty: Mediums don't have enough spells and special abilities to get by without using weapons. That means that this penalty will quickly cause you problems in combat. Even with the expanded spellcasting, you will probably still fall back on weaponry at some point.
Taboos: The first option is terrible because it excludes important spells like healing spells, but the second and third are really fun.
Archmage Arcana (Lesser, Su): You know how Mediums are 1/2 casters and you don't need to worry about spellcasting too much? Well, nevermind that. Unfortunately you'll only get to learn one spell at 5th and 6th spell levels, but you get to change them every day.
Arcane Surge (Intermediate, Su): As a 2/3 caster (thanks to Archmage Arcana) you'll never get a lot of spell slots. Still, this ability might be worth giving up to get extra Spirit Surge uses.
Wild Arcana (Greater, Su): Extremely versatile, but you can't combine it with Arcane Surge.
Legendary Archmage (Supreme, Su): Any wizard spell of any level once per day. You're still casting the spell, so I assume yo ustill need to provide components. No Wish abuse here.
The Medium's best option for being useful with weapons. Access to martial weapons is great, the Spirit Bonus will close the gap between 2/3 and full BAB, and Sudden Attack will compensate for your lack of iterative attacks from your 2/3 BAB. However, you're still stuck in medium armor with d8 hit points, so you'll probably need to spend feats to compensate.
Spirit Bonus: Attack and damage with non-spells generally means weapons, so this is a great way to compensate for your 2/3 BAB. The bonus to Fortitude saves is welcome since Mediums get poor Fortitude saves, plus it means that you can add a die to the saving throw in a pinch thanks to Spirit Surge.
Seance Boon: The more attack rolls you have in the party, the better. Encourage your allies to take up two-weapon fighting. Get someone to cast Haste.
Influence Penalty: The penalty to caster level is the biggest problem here. Your spellcasting is already bad enough, and making it worse hurts. Fortunately, you don't need caster level to fuel your spell damage, so all you really lose is duration.
Taboos: The first option is really hard if you're in a party with an arcane spellcaster, but should be fine if you have a psychich spellcaster. The second is usually fine, but you may be stuck iwth either a melee weapon or a ranged weapon when you need to switch to the other. The third is usually a safe choice, but if someone challenges you to single combat you'll probably lose.
Champion's Prowess (Lesser, Su): This is a good example of why most Mediums will get locked into one spirit for their whole career. If you pick up a weapon and get attached to it, you generally put a bunch of money into it. Using a different spirit will mean that your magic pointy stick is temporarily unusable.
Sudden Attack (Intermediate, Su): A free attack as a bonus action means that you'll keep up with full BAB characters, and you may actually have more attacks than they do at some points.
Fleet Charge (Greater, Su): A weakened version of Pounce, but still good. You can even use this with ranged weapons, making Rapid Shot a really fantastic choice.
Legendary Champion (Supreme, Su): Simiilar to Martial Flexibility in many aspects. Consider reading my Martial Flexibility Handbook for ideas on how to select feats.
Where Champion provides useful offensive options to a class with none of them, Guardian offers some unique defensive options to class that has few of them. The options are medicore with a couple high points, but honestly you could take Armor Proficiency (Heavy) and get the most important part of the spirit, then ignore the rest.
Spirit Bonus: Bonuses to AC and both of your bad saves. You can't use Spirit Surge on your AC, but you can use it on either save.
Seance Boon: It's not terrible, but it won't come up as much as an offensive bonus.
Influence Penalty: Consider picking up proficiency with the Madu, as it reduces the fighting defensively penalty to -2. Absolutely pick up 5 ranks in Acrobatics to get the extra +1 to AC from fighting defensively. Being forced to cast defensively means that you're forced to make Concentration checks. At low levels, this is crippling.
Taboos: The first option is pretty easy, and loosely defined. The second is dangerous if you're anywhere near combat. The third is probably fine unless you'replanning ot fight something with a fear effect.
Guardian's Shield (Lesser, Su): It's just as hard to change your primary choice of armor as it is for weapons.
Absorb Blow (Intermediate, Su): This is a considerably amount of DR and energy resistance. Paladin's Sacrifice is a great spell, too.
Sudden Block (Greater, Su): You'll generally want to save this for attacks that only missed by one or two and did a ton of damage. In other cases, just use Absorb Blow.
Legendary Guardian (Supreme, Su): Outright ignoring the attack/spell is amazing. Ignore a save-or-die spell!
Heirophant attempts to make the Medium a stand-in for a Cleric, but falls far short. You don't get enough spells known, and even at the elevated 2/3 spellcasting you can't hope to compete with other 2/3 casters.
Spirit Bonus: Several important skills are Wisdom-based, including Perception. Will saves are excellent, too, and you can use Spirit Surge to boost your Will saves in a pinch.
Seance Boon: Nice to share if you have a real healer in the party, especially if they have multi-target healing abilities like Channel Energy.
Influence Penalty: Being forced to deal nonlethal damage can be really annoying, especiallyu since you're not proficient with a sap.
Taboos: The first options means no breastplate. The second means that you need to be lawful good or chaotic evil, at least for the day, The third means that anyone can ask you revealing or problematic questions and expect an answer. All three can be very problematic.
Divine Surge (Lesser, Su): More spells known is always great, and the ability to change them every day is fantastic. Boosting your casting to 2/3 will put you (almost) on par with other 2/3 healers like Alchemists, but since you only get one spell known at each level expect to spend a lot of time resting for a full day so that you can get the healing spell you need since so many spells for fixing problematic conditions are 3rd level.
Energy Font (Intermediate, Su): I like Channel Energy a lot, but it's usually not useful for more than a pool of group healing. Fortunately, the Seance Boon applies so you get to heal everyone affected for another 2 points per use. If you really like Channel Energy, see my Practical Guide to Channel Energy.
Overflowing Grace (Greater, Su): Oh wow, a +1 bonus for 1 round! This is pitiful.
Legendary Hierophant (Supreme, Su): Miracle is pretty great, even with the limitations.
Without doubt, the best option for the Medium in most cases. The Medium's best function is to make other party members better to compensate for the Medium's relative lack of function, and the Marshal caters to that function very well. The Seance bonus lets your allies pick their bonus without asking you to choose a specific spirit, and the spirit abilities allow you to buff your allies and eventually give them free actions.
Spirit Bonus: Mediums have Charisma-based spellcasting, so they're well-suited to being a Face. Applying your Spirit Bonus to Charisma-based checks makes this even better, improving not only your social skills but UMD. You even get to add your bonus to Spirit Surge rolls, making the added bonus even more useful.
Seance Boon: I dropped all of the other boons down a step after seeing this one. It's so much better than the other options that they can't hope to measure up. Let your cleric take the Heirophant boon. Let your fighter take the Champion boon. Let your wizard take the Archmage boon. Let your rogue take the Trickster boon. Leave the Guardian boon alone because it's bad.
Influence Penalty: The penalty will apply to Perception, but that's not crippling. You need to be "nominally in charge", so if your allies say "Sure, Medium, you're in command" you're fine. They're free to then ignore you thereafter.
Taboos: The listed examples are all problematic. The first means that you and your party need to let the BBEG run away, even if doing so is really stupid. The second means that you need to be willing to fight to the last to save a summoned creature that's going to disappear in a few rounds. The third means that you need to be an obnoxious braggart.
Marshal's Order (Lesser, Su): Spirit surge is a fantastic addition to your saving throws, and sharing it with your allies is an amazing benefit.
Inspiring Call (Intermediate, Su): When you first get this, the bonus is +2. As you gain levels the bonus will grow and the action required to activate it will get cheaper. Consider taking Vital Strike to maximize your usefulness when you're spending your Move Action to activate this, since granting the bonus to your allies will probably be more useful than anything you could do with a full attack.
Decisive Strike (Greater, Su): Grant your Standard Action to an ally. You know who can do more with a Standard Action than you can? A lot of people, especially spellcasters.
Legendary Marshal (Supreme, Su): At no cost, there is literally no reason not to use this as often as possible. Even at just 1d6, it can be the difference between death and narrowly surviving on an important saving throw.
Did you decide to play a Medium instead of a Rogue? Plan to use the Trickster spirit every day. Unfortunately, the Influence penalty is a nightmare, forcing you to play the stand-offish chaotic-neutral rogue stereotype in one of the worst possible ways.
Spirit Bonus: Mediums go no Dexterity-based class skills, and Reflex saves are the least important save. Fortunately, the Seane Boon and Trickster's Edge give you extra skills, so you can pick up Rogue skills like Acrobatics and Stealth.
Seance Boon: This is nice, but you can get the same benefit from a trait. You get two traits for free, and Mediums aren't dependent on any, so you're free to pad your skill list with traits.
Influence Penalty: You can't benefit from Aid Another, you need to try to avoid your ally's helpful spells, and you're generally suspicious of the people who may have been keeping you alive for years.
Taboos: The first option is easily circumvented: put on a mask and ask your friends to respect your privacy for 24 hours. The second could make it impossible to meaningfully communicate. The second probably won't come up, but if it does expect your party to get sick of your shenanigans and kill you.
Trickster's Edge (Lesser, Su): Disable Device and Stealth will let you replace a Rogue for the day.
Surprise Strike (Intermediate, Su): Weak Sneak Attack. This is basically the only significant damage boost that Mediums get from their class, but it's still not great.
Transfer Magic (Greater, Su): Fantastic, but only if you're fighting a spellcaster that's running buff spells.
Legendary Trickster (Supreme, Su): Picking 20 on a skill check once per day can be really useful, but free Greater Polymorph is insane. It's a 7th-level spell and you can do it at will all day long.