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Pathfinder - Occultist Implement Schools 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.

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.

Implement Schools

An occultist's choice of implements is the most important class decision that they make. Implements grant an item buff ("Resonant Power"), a base focus power, access to a unique list of focus powers, and a spell of every level which the occultist can cast. Occult Adventures presents 8 implement schools, and since Occultists get just 7 choices you will need to omit at least one, and you'll omit more of you choose to re-select the same implement school to get another set of spells from that school.

When selecting implement schools remember that the only focus powers you are forced to take are the "base" focus powers. It's perfectly fine to pick up a school for the resonant power, base focus power, and spells but never pick up any of the focus powers.

The specific implements for each implement school are intentionally not addressed below. The specific form of the implement generally doesn't matter. Each school allows enough options that you shouldn't have any conflicts. If your GM is a stickler, you can select the items that aren't normal equipment and just hang them all from your character's body on strings and walk around like a set of magical wind chimes.

Abjuration Implements

As you might expect, Abjuration centers on defensive options. All of the powers presented by the Abjuration Implements School can generally be handled with other means, many of which are already easily accessible to the Occultist. However, some of the better options also trigger on an Immediate action, allowing you to call up defenses quickly without cutting into your turn significantly.

Resonant Power: Warding Talisman (Su): A resistance bonus is an absolute essential in Pathfinder. You want it to be as big as possible as quickly as possible. That said, it's also one of the cheaper bonuses to put on a magic item.

Base Focus Power: Mind Barrier (Sp): The swift action option is essentially useless unless you're taking ongoing damage or intend to walk into a damaging effect, but the immediate action option can prevent quite a bit of damage. The damage prevented scales with level, but the focus cost never increases so this ability remains useful as you gain levels. This really helps compensate for the Occultist's d8 hit dice.

Focus Powers: : A few decent defensive options, but nothing that you absolutely need.

Conjuration Implements

Extremely few useful options. For some reason the conjuration school tries to turn the Occultist into a healer, but it doesn't do a particularly good job.

Resonant Power: Casting Focus (Su): Occultists don't get many interesting Conjuration spells which can meaningfully benefit from this.

Base Focus Power: (Sp): Most of the time when people cast Summon Monster it's to get one creature, and the one-minute duration is great at levels 1 through 10. Unfortunately, the level of creatures you can summon doesn't scale at full speel. Wen you can pick up the Shadow Beasts power it will be immediately more useful and versatile.

Focus Powers: : Very few worthwile options.

Divination Implements

The Divination Implements School is insanely useful. It provides scouting, information gathering, a flexible check bonus from Sudden Insight, and access to special senses which normally require high-level spells to access.

Resonant Power: Third Eye (Su): The Perception bonus is a nice distraction, but the real value is the improved senses which you gain. The cost to get them is frustratingly high, but access to constant See Invisibility is a huge benefit, and Blindsense and Blindsight are extremely powerful.

Base Focus Power: Sudden Insight (Sp): An easily accessible scaling insight bonus on a wide variety of checks for just 1 focus. At low levels the bonus won't be significant, but as you increase in level the cost will become relatively cheap and the bonus will scale considerably.

Focus Powers: : A couple of really fantastic gems, but most of the options are redundant or too situational to justify.

Enchantment Implements

Enchantment provides some of the only save-or-suck options available to the Occultist, but many of the abilities have level requirements, so you may want to wait to pick up Enchantment until at least level 6.

Resonant Power: Glorious Presence (Su): The Occultist really isn't much of a Face. They get Diplomacy as a class skill, but not Bluff or Intimidate. You can pick up Bluff and Intimidate from traits, but there are better options for a class which depends so heavily on Intelligence. UMD is a tempting option with this bonus, but the Pragmatic Activator trait will likely produce better results. If you really need to get some diplomacy done, charge this up at the beginning of the day and pass it off to your party's Face.

Base Focus Power: Cloud Mind (Su): Most foes of your CR will have more hite dice than you have Occultist levels, so you won't get to stun foes often unless they're in an encounter featuring multiple enemies. Staggering a foe is nice, but only matters if they depend on full-round actions like full attack. The fact that targets become immune after being affected once is disappointing.

Focus Powers: :

Evocation Implements

Occultists are not blasters by any means. Their offensive spell options are pitifully slim, and with only 2/3 spellcasting they don't get the high level spells that evokers need to remain viable in a game where dealing damage is already one of the least effective ways to play a spellcaster. Still, Energy Ray is the Occultist's only meaningful offensive option without a daily usage limitation. Its damage will quickly outstrip what the occultist could do with a weapon, and the reliability of a ranged touch attack can't be ignored.

Resonant Power: Intense Focus (Su): The payoff isn't great, and Occultists have very few spells and focus powers which deal direct damage. Energy Ray will probably benefit most from investing in this ability.

Base Focus Power: Energy Ray (Sp): The damage isn't amazing and the range is dangerously short, but you can do this as often as you like which makes it pretty useful. This is the blunt hammer of Occultist powers, but when so many of your problems are nails it's nice to have a hammer handy.

Focus Powers: : There really isn't anything here that you need to get by.

Illusion Implements

Most of the illusion implement school is worthless, but there are a few particularly exiting gems. Distortion is great at any level, and once you hit 9th level Shadow Beast is absolutely amazing.

Resonant Power: Distortion (Sp): Plenty of spellcasters go their entire lives without making a single attack, so you could in theory be permanently distorted/invisible. You can even use this while sleeping!

Base Focus Power: Minor Figment (Sp): Ghost Sound and Minor Image are both already on the Occultist spell list, and Ghost Sound is the only illusion cantrip available, so half of Minor Figment is already worthless. The 7th-level improvement doesn't help much.

Focus Powers: : Aside from Shadow Beast, everything on the Illusion Implements' list of powers can be replaced with a spell already available to the Occultist.

Necromancy Implements

The Necromany Implement School is good, but not amazing. Very few parts of the school are absolutely fantastic, but several of the options are certainly worth considering.

Resonant Power: Necromantic Focus (Su): People who like undead pets are inhibited by the limited number of hit dice worth of creatures they can control. Expanding this limit is fantastic. The ability to create additional undead is a nice added bonus. However, the Occultist is still only a 2/3 caster and Animate Dead is the only spell on your spell list which benefits from these bonuses. Either pass this off to a real necromancer, or get real comfortable dragging zombies around.

Base Focus Power: Mind Fear (Sp): Most enemies will have more hite dice than you have levels. Shaken is a fine condition since it debuffs creatures in so many ways, but the duration is pitiful.

Focus Powers: : Several of the necromancy powers are worthwhile, and Necromantic Servant is easily one of my favorite undead pet mechanics.

Transmutation Implements

Several great options, especially if you have avid weapon users in the party.

Resonant Power: Physical Enhancement (Su): If you don't plan to go into melee, put this on one of your party members. It's especially useful at low and middle levels before your allies can afford belts which improve two or three ability scores. Or if you don't need to do so you can always boost your Dexterity or Constitution to better defend yourself.

Base Focus Power: Legacy Weapon (Su): The fact that the enhancement bonus stacks with existing enhancement bonuses is amazing, and you get to swap some of the granted enhancement bonus for special abilities. Use this to add enhancements which aren't always applicable like energy damage, aligned abilities like Holy, and situational options like Bane. Many other classes get similar options (Paladins, Magi, etc.), but generally abilities like Holy cost disproportionaly more to use than less situational abilities, and Bane is generally just not an option. This is an important limiting factor on those abilities, and the fact that Occultists don't have that same limitation is surprising. Note that this ability isn't limited to a weapon you are holding or which is carrying your focus, so you can grant this to one or more of your allies if you so choose.

Focus Powers: : Half of the options are too redundant or situational to justify, but the good options are certainly worth considering.