Pathfinder - Occultist Archetypes Breakdown
Last Updated: December 6th, 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.
Tbe Occultist is a class without focus, and without purpose. Building a good Occultist requires that you find a way to make the Occultist good at something. This is typically difficult, but with an archetype the Occultist gains a clear sense of purpose and direction. Most of the Occultist's archetypes are good, and honestly I don't think I would ever play a vanilla occultist.
Battle Host replaces the Occultist's "Circles" abilities, but makes the Occultist clearly useful in combat by granting bonus feats and heavy armor proficiency. If you plan to be in melee as an Occultist, this is a fantastic option. Ranged Occultists won't get quite as much use, but it's still a good option for the bonus feats.
Class Skills: Two additional knowledge skills expand the Occultist's ability to play the party's Librarian.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Heavy armor is a must for melee Occultists, and you get it for free.
Panoply Bond (Su): No more juggling a bunch of different implements, now you can do everything with one item. Also, you get a free masterwork item at first level. Yes, that can be free masterwork full plate. There aren't any future abilities which enhance the item, so the only difference between a weapon, shield, or armor is which you're less worried about dropping. Armor tends to be very difficult to drop in combat, so I think armor is the clear winner here.
Battle Skill: Magic Item Skill is a nice bonus, but you really don't require UMD to function, especially since Battle Host gives you a clear and useful role in combat.
Battle Reading: Technically not as useful as Object Reading, but a lot of the people you care about will have weapons and armor to read.
Bonus Feats: 4 bonus combat feats goes a long way, Even with Battle Host, the Occultist is largely on their own to make themselves useful in combat. Feats are your best option for doing that, so 4 more is a big help.
Spirit Warrior (Sp): You get access to the effect of Spiritual Ally two levels before a cleric, which is great. However, it never scales in effectiveness, so it will fall behind as you gain levels.
Heroic Splendor (Su): An Insight bonus to an ability score will stack with your items, which is amazing. Boost your Strength and go do some damage.
Replaced Features: Class skills (altered), weapon and armor proficiency, implements (altered), mental focus (altered), spellcasting (altered), implement mastery (altered), magic item skill (altered), object reading (altered), shift focus, magic circles, binding circles, fast circles, aura sight, outside contact.
Compatible Archetypes: None.
The Necromancy implement school is limited severely by its small list of spell choices. Just opening up the Necroccultist's spell list goes a long way to improve Necromancy for the Occultist. You're locked into the Necromancy implement school far more than a vanilla Occultist would be, but honestly that's what you want.
Necromantic Bond (Su): You lose the second implement school gained at first level in addition to the one you normall gain at 14th level. In exchange, you can learn from a considerably largest list of possible necromancy spells. The bump to your Necromancy spell DCs at level 14 is huge. +2 means that your spell DCs match spells up to 8th level from full casters. Your options won't be as good, but the ones you have will be reliable.
Deadspeaker (Su): Situational, but no more situational than Object Reading.
Ghostly Horde (Su): This will eat your Mental Focus very quickly, but it's typeless damage that few creatures will resist in a large AOE, and you can continue it as a Swift Action for as long as you can afford.
Life Drain (Sp): Basicalley Enervation with half damage. Negative levels are extremely powerful, so they're generally not available to players until very high spell levels.
Replaced Features: implements (altered), implement mastery (altered), object reading, aura sight, outside contact, magic item skill, object reading
Compatible Archetypes: None.
Where Battle Host focuses the Occultist on combat, the Sha'ir focuses the Occultist on elemental spells. This allows the Occultist to be more of a blast, and its pet Jin provide constant access to pet elementals which resemble summoned creatures with greatly enhanced hit points and saving throws.
Jin (Su): This is a mixed bag. You get additional spells known from "elemental schools", which is great. Elemental spells are generally offensive spells (fireball, etc.), giving the Occultist access to usable damage spells, and leaving room in your normal spells known to select other spells without being tempted by damage spells. However, your Jin are physical creatures with truly terrible stats. If they're hit, they're almost certainly dead, and you're out a bunch of spells and a point of mental focus the next day. Fortunately, Augment Jin comes online at level 2 and your Jin will be at least passably survivable.
Augment Jin (Sp, Su): You need to invest in your saves and hit points. You want high Dex/Con/Wis, a cloak of resistance as soon as you can find one, and you may want the Toughness feat. The bits about your Jin using your hit points and saves still apply while your Jin are augmented, so if you invest in your own defenses you can turn your Jin into durable pets.
Manifest Jin (Su): This removes the Young template from your Jin, and returns the special abilities that it lost (burn, whirlwind, etc.). At this level your Jin will only be useful for utility at small size, but at least you don't need to spend focus to send your air Jin to go fetch things.
Jin Spy (Su): Pick your least favorite Jin, and send them to go gather some information for you. If you have abilities from all of your Jin this can handicap you temporarily, but you also don't need to negotiate or spend money. It's unclear, but I think you still need to spend the 1 point of Mental Focus to activate the ability, and since you never have more than 4 Jin you can never set more than 4 to perform tasks.
Replaced Features: implements, mental focus (altered), spellcasting (altered), implement mastery (altered), aura sight, outside contact (altered)
Compatible Archetypes: None.
Tome Eater grants a very interesting way to recover Mental Focus, but ubless you're going to burn through focus points quickly, the drawbacks aren't worth what you give up.
Bonded Tome (Su): Only one implement means less items to juggle, and you also get the ability to boost your caster level or DC by 1 a few times per day. Boosting your DC is great when you need to hit with a save-or-suck spell, and since Occultists are only 2/3 casters your DCs are a big problem. However, you get one fewer focus schools than other Occultists, which limits your options, and even with the +1 to spell DCs you're still not a supremacy caster.
Devour Books and Scrolls (Sp): This is a really weird ability that does a whole bunch of stuff that should really be formatted as separate abilities. The TL;DR is that you can eat mundane books to regain Mental Focus (the least expensive of the three options by far), and if enemies cast spells from scrolls around you, you can eat the spell to regain Mental Focus.
Word Sense (Sp, Su): Too situational. Real-world librarians and bibliophiles would salivate over this, but it's just not all that useful for adventurers in most cases.
Replaced Features: implements (altered), mental focus (altered), spellcasting (altered), implement mastery (altered), shift focus, the implement gained at 6th level, magic circles, outside contact, binding circles, fast circles, aura sight
Compatible Archetypes: None.