Pathfinder - Practical Guide to Spiritualist Phantoms
Last Updated: Sept 11, 2018
I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.
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.
Before you read further, a warning: Prepare to be frustrated. Over two years after publishing Occult Adventures, the Spiritualist class has a number of extremely obvious errors in its text. They've been pointed out on the Paizo forums, and the designers have apparently publicly discussed corrections, but there has been no errata made to formally correct the issues. Because of these issues, several mechanics make it unclear how to determine the Phantom's armor class.
Phantoms are the central mechanic of the Spiritualist class. They share a lot of concepts and mechanics with similar creatures like Animal Companions and Eidolons, but they have a handful of unique mechanics which can make them difficult to understand and difficult to optimize.
Where is my phantom?
The Phantom can exist in a number of states. Moving the phantom between states is an important mechanic, and it's important to know where your Phantom is at all times.
Banished to the Ethereal Plane
If the Phantom is slain or hit with a spell like Banishment, it can be banished to the Ethereal Plane. The only way to return the Phantom is to spend one minute performing the ritual to manifest the Phantom.
Certain circumstances, such as the Phantom being destroyed or the Spiritualist being slain, add a 24-hour timer before the Phantom can be manifested again. This is a scary time for the Spiritualist, so avoid it whenever you can.
Confined in Your Consciousness
A Spiritualist can confine their Phantom using a standard action while the Phantom is manifested. Being confined in this way protects both the Spiritualist (See the "Shared Consciousness" class feature) and the Phantom. The Spiritualist gets some helpful mental defenses, and the Phantom can't be banished, destroyed, or otherwise harmed.
Once you reach 3rd level, Bonded Manifestation lets you partially manifest your confined Phantom for a few rounds per day.
Your Phantom is most useful while Manifested, so expect to spend most of your time in this state or trying to get to it. For more, see "Full Manifestation Forms", below.
Full Manifestation Forms
Your phantom can manifest as Ectoplasmic or Ethereal. Each is useful for different things. Ectoplasmic is your primary combat option, and includes useful things like DR for your Phantom. Ethereal is better for sneaking, spying, and delivering touch spells.
The whole list of differences between options is spread throughout the Spiritualist class description, so I've compiled a summary into the table below.
|Etheric Tether||50 ft., but can stretch to 100 ft. by concentrating as a full-round action||50 ft. and line of effect, but can leave for 1 round per Spiritualist level|
|Spiritual Interference||+2 shield bonus to her Armor Class and a +2 circumstance bonus on her saving throws||+2 circumstance bonus on saving throws against mind-affecting effects|
|Greater Spiritual Interference||each ally gains a +2 shield bonus to its Armor Class and a +2 circumstance bonus on its saving throws. For the spiritualist, these bonuses increase to +4.||allies within 30 feet of the phantom receive a +2 circumstance bonus on saving throws against mind-affecting effects. For the spiritualist, this bonus increases to +4.|
|Can it wear armor?||No||Also No|
|Armor Bonus type*||natural armor||deflection|
|Other||Magic Attacks, DR, Phase Lurch||Incorporeal|
|* - Fully Manifested Phantoms can wear armor. Ectoplasmic Phantoms cannot wear armor. Ethereal Phantoms cannot wear armor. Phantoms must always be either Ectoplasmic or Ethereal while manifested, therefore Phantoms cannot wear armor.|
How Phantoms Work
First, familiarize yourself with the table below, taken from the Spiritualist class entry. As you gain levels, your Phantom abilities grow, and it adds additional hit dice, armor, feats, and other useful stuff.
|Class Level||HD||BAB||Good Saves||Bad Save||Skills||Feats||Armor Bonus||Dex/Cha Bonus||Slam Damage†||Special|
|1st||1||+1||+2||+0||2||1||+0||+0||1d6||Darkvision, link, share spells|
|3rd||3||+3||+3||+1||6||2||+2||+1||1d6||Deliver touch spells (30 ft.)|
|5th||4||+4||+4||+1||8||2||+4||+2||1d8||Ability score increase|
|10th||8||+8||+6||+2||16||4||+8||+4||1d10||Ability score increase|
|12th||9||+9||+6||+3||18||5||+10||+5||1d10||Deliver touch spells (50 ft.)|
|15th||12||+12||+8||+4||24||6||+12||+6||2d6||Ability score increase|
|†The value shown is for Medium phantoms. See the table below for Small or Large phantoms.|
Phantoms are the same size as their Spiritualist by default, but small Spiritualists can also have medium Phantoms. You want the biggest spirit possible to get as much slam damage as possible, so you almost always want a medium Phantom.
All phantoms start from this basic stat block, much like animal companions each start from an animal-specific stat block.
Starting Statistics: Type Outsider (phantom); Size As spiritualist or one size category smaller (or one size category larger, if the spiritualist is Small or smaller); Speed 30 ft.; AC +2 dodge (in incorporeal form) or +2 natural armor (in ectoplasmic form); Attack 2 slams (1d6 or 1d4 if size Small); Ability Scores Str 12, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 7, Wis 10, Cha 13.
You may notice that the AC section lists "+2 dodge (in incorporeal form)". This is the base AC bonus your Phantom gets, and the "Armor Bonus" which the Phantom gains as you gain levels (see the table above) adds to this base bonus. Your Phantom starts with a AC of just 14, so it's going to extremely vulnerable.
You should also take note of the Phantom's ability scores. With the exception of Anger Phantoms, they don't have enough Strength for Power Attack. Expect to spend your Phantom's first Ability Increase (Spiritualist level 5) on Strength so that you can get Power Attack and do some damage.
Phantoms get two skill ranks per hit die, and since they don't get hit dice every level I strongly recommend picking two skills and sticking to them as much as possible. Phantoms also get free ranks in two other skills depending on your choice of Emotional Focus, so your Phantom can have four maxed-out skills in total.
- Bluff (Cha): Phantoms don't get enough ranks to keep it relevant.
- Fly (Dex): One rank is plenty.
- Intimidate (Cha): Phantoms don't get enough ranks to keep it relevant.
- Knowledge (Planes) (Int): With 7 Intelligence your Phantom isn't going to do much good.
- Perception (Wis): The most-rolled skill in the game.
- Sense Motive (Wis): 10 Wisdom isn't a great basis for Sense Motive and Phantoms don't get enough ranks to keep it relevant.
- Stealth (Dex): Sending your Phantom to sneak around can be a really good idea since it can move through walls.
Your choice of Emotional Focus is a bit like choosing an animal for an animal companion, in that it defines the Phantom's appearance and capabilities. But unlike animal companions, Phantoms develop new capabilities as you increase in level.
Anger is a great baseline against which to measure other Emotional Foci options. It's a great offensive option, and its emphasis on Strength and Power Attack makes it easy to build and play in a manner that will contribute meaningfully to the party.
Skills: Your Phantom isn't a face, so Intimidate won't see a lot of use unless you plan to have your Phantom Demoralize things. Survival might be useful situationally.
Good Saves: The two most important saves.
Strength Focus: Strength is better for damage, but your Phantom's AC is going to be a problem.
Powerful Strike (Ex): The size difference won't matter much until you've got enough levels for the damage gap to widen, but Power Attack for free is fantastic.
Aura of Fury (Su): The basic abuse case for this is to turn it on as a swift action, have your Phantom attack, then end the effect as a free action at the end of your turn. But if your party outnumbers your enemies, or if your enemies have problematically high AC, leave this running.
Ferocious Mien (Su): Making your Phantom bigger and adding Rage will be a big boost to damage, but its AC is going to drop by a total of 4, so be prepared for it to take a lot of damage at the same time.
Furious Wail (Su): AOE save-or-die once per day as a spell-like ability. By 17th level your Phantom will have 20 Charisma, so the save DC starts at a respectable 21 and and maxes out at 22 at 18th level.
Dedication is a sort of defensive support option. It has almost nothing to boost its offensive options, most of its abilities are passive, and all together it's a fairly bland option. Still, the combination of Defending Aura and Greater Spiritual Interference can provide an excellent set of defensive bonuses to the Spiritualist and their party.
Skills: Your Phantom isn't likely to serve as your party's Face, so I don't see these skills getting use much.
Good Saves: Will is the most important saving throw, and Iron Will will further supplement it.
Iron Will: A nice improvement to your Phantom's defenses, but it won't help you actively accomplish anything.
Dutiful Strike (Su): Some bonus to hit and some extra damage, but it requires enemies to target the Spiritualist first. You should generally do as much as possible to avoid being targeted, which can make this difficult.
Defending Aura (Su): +2 Deflection bonus to AC is great, but that +2 typeless bonus to saving throws is spectacular. This should never be turned off.
Devoted Servant (Su): The Phantom stays manifested as long as you are unaware, which means that it goes away once the surprise round ends or you wake up or whatever.
Steadfast Devotion (Su): The listed effects are all extremely rare.
On its own, Despair doesn't do much. It's good add applying debuffs to enemies (especially their saving throws), but can't follow that up in any meaningful way. Paired with a spellcaster, especially a dedicated save-or-suck caster, Despair is a truly horrifying problem for your enemies. Aura of Despair and Despairing shout can apply a total of -4 to enemies saving throws which can stack with Shaken, Sickened, and other debuffs to make enemies extremely vulnerable to even the weakest spells DCs.
Skills: Sneak up on enemies and demoralize them so you can benefit from Power of Despair.
Good Saves: The two most important saves.
Power from Despair: Fear stacking is a great strategy, but the Despair Phantom don't get a way to trigger these bonuses until 7th level. It may be a good idea to invest Intimidate so that your Spiritualist can demoralize enemies before your Phantom attacks them.
Miserable Strike (Su): This will help keep your Phantom alive.
Aura of Despair (Su): Automatically trigger Power of Despair, and -2 to saving throws makes enemies more vulnerable to save-or-suck effects. Combine this with Shaken and enemies become extremely vulnerable.
Despairing Shout (Su): All the penalties of Shaken, but targets aren't actually Shaken. That's useful because the two sets of penalties will stack, but it also means that you can't move Shaken creatures down the Fear progression. The DC scales as you gain levels, which means that it will remain useful.
Inescapable Despair (Su): Nice, and it will cut down on rolls at the table.
Fear, to no one's surprise, emphasizes fear mechanics. Fear Stacking is a great strategy, and the Feat Phantom is a great way to use it. Expect to spend a lot of time chasing down fleeing enemies.
Skills: Ambushing enemies is great, but don't expect to use Intimidate much.
Good Saves: Will is the most important save.
Stealthy: Your Phantom will be really good at Stealth, but not much else.
Horrifying Strike (Ex): Going straight to Shaken is great, and sets up the Spiritualist and the rest of their party to take advantage of Fear Stacking. This effect won't stack with itself, but should stack with other fear effects such as Increase Fear.
Increase Fear (Su): A great follow-up to Horrifying Strike.
Frightful Attack (Su): Combined with Increase Fear you can take enemies to Panicked in a single turn.
Shelter Allies (Su): By this level fear immunity can be achieved by a long list of other methods.
Hatred emphasis single-target damage. It's more complicate than Anger, but it fills the same role in the party. Hatred eventually gets Sneak Attack, so it's most useful in a party where it has someone to flank with.
Skills: Perception is always good.
Good Saves: Fortitude is good, but as good as Will.
Weapon Finesse: Phantoms increase in Dexterity, but not Strength, so Weapon Finesse is a great feat for your Phantom.
Hated Target (Su): Using your move action is hard because you won't get the Phantom's second slam on the round you do it, but the bonuses are good and scale with level. Switching to a Swift action at 7th level makes this much better.
Hateful Aura (Su): This won't be a ton of damage, but it's a nice deterrent.
Sneak Attack (Su): If you have someone to flank with your Phantom, this could be a significant damage boost.
Shared Hatred (Su): A nice boost, and it gets better if you have more allies in the party or if you have allies who rely on large numbers of attacks.
Jealousy is your best option for a Defender Phantom. Phantoms have terrible AC and their hit points won't keep up with a real fighter, but Jealousy includes some great taunt mechanics which compel enemies to focus their attacks on the Phantom.
Skills: Appraise? Really?
Good Saves: Will is the most important save.
Deceitful: Your Phantom is not your party's Face.
Jealous Combatant (Su): Taunt mechanics are rare, and this will really help your Phantom hold enemies' attention.
Resentful Aura (Su): This is a really neat ability. At low levels, staggering a foe won't do much because relatively few creatures rely on full attacks. But as you increase in level it will become more important. It also builds on the jealousy theme to serve as a secondary mechanic to force enemies to focus on your Phantom.
Retribution (Su): 2d8 is a nice damage boost, but you should do your absolute best to never need this ability.
Mine to Take (Su): Once per day you can redirect something that's probably going to kill you.
Zeal is an offensive support option. Aside from Ruthless Combatant it doesn't have any directly offensive options, so it fits best into a party that can already deal damage reliably on its own.
Skills: Too situational.
Good Saves: Fortitude is good, but as good as Will.
Tracking: Too situational.
Ruthless Combatant (Su): Two attacks with 19-20 (and eventually x3) crits is nice, but it's not going to make a huge difference. If your Phantom takes Improved Critical, 17-20x3 could be really scary.
Determination Aura (Su): Competence bonuses to attack rolls are fairly common (though not as common as Morale) so they may not stack if you have support characters in the party, but competence bonuses to saving throws are very rare.
Steadfast Servant (Su): Without this you're basically worthless overnight, and your Phantom goes away if you're hit with Sleep or something along those lines.
Zeal's Resolve (Su): Rerolls are always fantastic.