Pathfinder - Character Optimization - The Veiled Illusionist Handbook
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.
The Veiled Illusionist is a fun take on Illusionists. The core mechanic is the Veil pool, which powers a collection of abilities based on whatever disguise you adopt. It's not screamingly powerful, but the flavor is great and with some creativity the Veiled Illusionist can add some exciting new options for illusionists.
The Veiled Illusionist is a full caster closest to a Wizard, but because of their emphasis on illusions their skillset can fall somewhere between a Rogue and a Wizard, which can make them hard to fit into a party which required specific roles to be filled.
Much of the Veiled Illusionist's decisions (including gear) are essentially identical to those of a Wizard, so be sure to check out my Wizard Handbook.
Feat: This is a given considering the concept you're clearly trying to build.
Skills: 5 ranks in the first two isn't awful, and if you spend your favored class bonus on skill ranks even a Sorcerer with 8 Intelligence shouldn't have too much trouble meeting all of the skill prerequisites by level 5 or 6.
Spells: This is a given considering the concept you're clearly trying to build.
Veiled Illusionist Class Features
Hit Points: d6 hit points is common for straight casters.
Base Attack Bonus: 1/2 BAB, but you should never need it.
Saves: Will is the Veiled Illusionist's only good save, which probably matches the good saves of your base class.
Skills: 2+ skill ranks and a very small skill list. Fortunately Pathfinder's skill system is fairly flexible, so Veiled Illusionists with lots of skill points can continue to easily invest in the same skills which they took with their base class.
Spells per Day: Like most prestige classes which advance your spellcasting, you only get additional spells per day (and spells known for spontaneous casters). Arcanists, Witches, and Wizards all need to go spend money to learn additional spells.
Veil Pool (Sp): The Veil Pool is the source of all of the Veiled Illusionist's abilities, and the class is limited by the points in the pool. Any Veiled Illusionist should do everything they can to boost the size of their pool, or they will find themselves depending solely on their spells.
- The first level benefit is the most important, and possibly also the most problematic. Using this ability is basically the "on switch" for your class. The duration is hours/level, so at early class levels you'll spend many of your Veil Pool points just keeping this turned on, but this will taper off quickly as you gain class levels, just in time for you to make use of your other class abilities.
- I'm not sure exactly what this entails with Disguise Self. Most of the time you're going to change from something human-like to something else human-like. It might matter when you can change into a Cyclops and want to sound like a big stompy giant.
- The touch component is weird, but the ability to mimic voices is important.
- Situational, but very cool.
Goddess's Veils: Goddess's Veils are essentially "modes" for the Veiled Illusionist. You pick a veil, and you get a cool ability based on that veil until you switch to a different one.
- Human: This ability is complicated. Wizards will have lots of problems using it, especially at low level because you need to turn your veil on, prepare the spell(s), then use them before they fall out of your spellbook after hours/level. Bards will find this particularly helpful because their spell list is more limited than other base class options. The wording is somewhat unclear, but if I'm reading this right you need to pick the spells provided as you gain levels, and get access to them when you activate the veil. You don't get to shuffle your spells known whenever you change veils.
- Halfling: Very situational, and very limited. If you don't want people to know what you're casting, cast Invisibility.
- Elf: Spell Resistance is hugely problematic at higher levels, and rerolling a d20 roughly equals a +5 bonus. Combined with Spell Penetration, you shouldn't have any issues.
- Gnome: This means that you can maintain a spell like Silent Image and move it around while still casting other spells. However, remember that the cost is one point for each time you concentrate, so you're going to burn through your entire pool in a few rounds. This is probably the veil in which you will spend the most time until you pick up True Veil at 10th level.
- Cyclops: True Seeing is situational, and 1 round for 1 of your extremely limited veil points isn't a great return, but it saves you the trouble of preparing it every day.
- Naga: This effect, like illusions in general, depends on your creativity and the permissiveness of your DM. You might do something clever like use Major Image to create an illusory tiger to frighten your enemies. If they disbelieved the tiger, you might then have the secondary illusion portray a tiger skeleton or something which still attempts the same effect. If your DM is on board, this can be very powerful. If your DM doesn't support illusionists well, you'll have trouble making this work for you.
Quick Veil: With an hours per level duration, you can run your veil for 5 hours on a single point by the time you get this, so you should never need to use it in combat unless your are ambushed. However, once you get True Veil you can use a Swift Action to turn on the special abilities granted by your Naga veil.
True Veil: Keep in mind that this uses a different duration from the hours/level duration for your normal Veil. The humanoid forms are an absolute waste when you've been able to cast Alter Self for something like 10 levels, and Alter Self will have a much better duration without wasting Veil Pool points.
Because this is a Polymorph effect, it may be helpful to read my Practical Guide to Polymorph, especially the "How does polymorph work" section. Below is a specific explanation of the abilities you get from possible option so you don't need to go look it up in addition to advice on which forms to use.
- Cyclops: +4 size bonus to Strength, -2 penalty to Dexterity, +4 natural armor bonus, low-light vision, Ferocity. This is a melee form, and you're probably a Wizard or something equally averse to melee combat. Bards might be able to make use of the Cyclops form in melee, but even that is a stretch.
- Humanoid, Medium: +2 size bonus to Strength. Cast Alter Self for 10 minutes/level duration and save a Veil Pool point.
- Humanoid, Small: +2 size bonus to Dexterity. Cast Alter Self for 10 minutes/level duration and save a Veil Pool point.
- Naga, Dark: +4 size bonus to Strength, -2 penalty to Dexterity, +4 natural armor bonus, darkvision 60 ft., guarded thoughts, poison (sleep). Sleep poison is a save or suck, so assuming you have a decent DC you can go around taking out single targets every round for 10 rounds. Guarded thoughts is also cool since you're an illusionist and someone reading your mind would ruin your illusions.
- Naga, Guardian: +4 size bonus to Strength, -2 penalty to Dexterity, +4 natural armor bonus, darkvision 60 ft., poison (constitution damage), spit. The big draw is the ability to spit poison, which can be very lethal, but might drop enemies as fast as you could with a spell.
- Naga, Lunar: +4 size bonus to Strength, -2 penalty to Dexterity, +4 natural armor bonus, darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, poison (constitution and wisdom damage). Less Constitution damage, but also Wisdom damage. Personally I prefer the bigger Consitution damage so you can just kill stuff rather than waiting for their Wisdom to hit 0, 1 point at a time.
- Naga, Royal: +4 size bonus to Strength, -2 penalty to Dexterity, +4 natural armor bonus, darkvision 60 ft. No special abilities beyond what every other Naga gets.
- Naga, Spirit: +4 size bonus to Strength, -2 penalty to Dexterity, +4 natural armor bonus, darkvision 60 ft., Swim 20 ft., poison (constitution damage). Swim speed is the only unique thing the spirit naga gets you, and you can get that from spells without too much difficulty.
- Naga, Water: +4 size bonus to Strength, -2 penalty to Dexterity, +4 natural armor bonus, darkvision 60 ft., swim 50 ft., poison (constitution damage). Better swim speed than the Spirit Naga, but worse poison damage.
Note regarding poison DC's for polymorph effects: I'm not sure how to calculate the DC of the Naga's poisons. Since the veils are a spell-like ability, it should use the universal monster rules for Spell-like Abilities. The spell replicated by True Veil is unclear for the Cyclops/Naga forms, but Veil Pool uses disguise self, which means that the poison DC is 10 +1 (Disguise Self's spell level) +Charisma. Alternatively, you might rule that the DC is based on the DC of the originating effect (which makes sense based on the general Polymorph rules), so your DC is 15 + the number of points in your Veil Pool. Check with your GM for a specific ruling.
Full casters are an obvious choice.
- Arcanist: The Arcanist's unique spell preparation and casting mechanic works very well for the Veiled Illusionist because illusionists depend on a very fixed set of spells to solve all of their problems. The Arcanist's dependence on Charisma for exploits and spell DC's is frustrating, but it works well for Bluff and Disguise.
- Bard: Bard is a tempting option as an interesting build, but it simply can't match the effectiveness of a full caster. The Bard's skills will fall off sharply once they're stuck with the Veiled Illusionist's 2+ skill points per level, and Bardic Music will stop being a good option.
- Cleric: A Trickery domain cleric gets enough illusion spells to qualify for the class. Cleric doesn't really play to the concept of the Veiled Illusionist, but I could see some interesting characters coming out of a Trickery Cleric.
- Sorcerer: While not as powerful or versatile as an Arcanist of Wizard, the Sorcerer's huge pile of spells per day allow you to cast illusions frequently without running out of spell slots. Unfortunately none of the bloodlines play into the Veiled Illusionist particularly well, but Shadow is a decent choice if you're also your party's Scout.
- Witch: The Witch's big draw is Hexes, and since you're not sticking to Witch your Hexes won't be great. If you opt for Witch, stick to utility Hexes over those with a save DC like save-or-suck Hexes.
- Wizard: The Wizard is an obvious choice, especially with the Illusionist school, and the Wizard's natural versatility allows the Veiled Illusionist to do a lot of utility casting beyond their illusions.
The Veiled Illusionist's abilities will be identical to those of your base class.
Any race which works well for your base class will work well for the Veiled Illusionist. Gnomes are a particularly good choice for their racial bonus to Illusion DC's.
Traits which work for your base class will work for Veiled Illusionist. Resist the urge to pick up traits which get you Bluff and Disguise as class skills because you will get the class skill bonus from your first level of Veiled Illusionist, which essentially erases the benefit for the traits.
- Bluff (Cha): Essential for any Face, especially one who gets by on illusion and disguises.
- Disguise (Cha): The Veil abilities will give you a hefty bonus to Disguise checks, but a few ranks can put you well out of reach of other creature's Perception checks.
- Knowledge (arcana) (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills.
- Knowledge (religion) (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills.
- Spellcraft (Int): Someone in your party needs to have it, and it might as well be you.
- Stealth (Dex): You can cast Invisibility, but you still need to be quiet.
Veiled Illusionist feats are essetnailly the same as Wizard Feats.
Example Build - Elf Wizard Veiled Illusionist
I honestly have no idea how many people are in this adventuring party. Every time I turn around there's some new guy there. Sometimes a giant snake shows up for no readily apparent reason.
This is an extremely generic build, but it's a great baseline from which to work. Because this is a Wizard-based build, this build is intended to fill the role of your party's primary arcane spellcaster.
We'll take the Illusionist school (obviously), but we'll avoid the subschools because their lower level abilities are bad and you won't get enough Wizard levels to get their better abilities until extremely high level. Give up Necromancy or Evocation.
Assuming 25 point-buy, we want high Intelligence and a bit of Charisma to back up Bluff and Disguise.
- Str: 7
- Dex: 12 (14)
- Con: 14 (12)
- Int: 18 (20)
- Wis: 12
- Cha: 12
Elf. Elves make fantastic spellcasters of all kinds.
We'll essentially ignore the Veiled Illusionist skill list, and treat our skills mostly like we're building a straight Wizard, except that we will also pick up Bluff and Disguise. We'll go ahead and max them to keep things simple.
- Knowledge (Arcana)
- Knowledge (Dungeoneering)
- Knowledge (Planes)
- Knowledge (Religion)
As you improve your Intelligence, you gain skill points retroactively, so you'll pick up additional skills at 8th level and 16th level. In additon, the Headband of Vast Intelligence grants you ranks in one skill equal to your hit dice, so your +6 Headband of Vast Intelligence gets you three free skills!
- Diplomacy: You already have bluff and a splash of Charisma, so why not be the Face?
- Intimidate: Not as improtant as Diplomacy, but not an awful idea.
- Knowledge (Local)
- Knowledge (Nature)
- Perception: Good on any character.
- Sense Motive: It sucks to be beaten at your own game. Don't be out-bluffed!
Almost anything will work really. Reactionary provides a fantastic +2 bonus to Initiative, and Life of Toil helps with our garbage Fortitude saves.
If your party needs a Face more than a Librarian, drop two of your Knowledge skills and pick up the Ease of Faith and Outcast's Intuition traits to get Diplomacy and Sense Motive as class skills.
|Level||Feat(s) and Features||Notes and Tactics|
|1 - Wizard 1||
First level is hard for an Illusionist because you don't have a lot of options. Fortunately, Color Spray is a fantastic save-or-suck option at low levels. Extended Illusions is useless at this level, but Blinding Ray is a passable crowd-control effect. If your party's DPS characters are available it's good way to bring down a single target quickly. Of course, the Daze cantrip will have a comparable DC, will work on most enemies at level 1, and completely robs the target of their turn, so it might be a better option at level 1.
For your spells, pick up Color Spray, Disguise Self, Silent Image, and 4 others of your choice. It's okay to skip over less important illusion spells because eventually the Human Veil will allow you to expand your spell list to add your "B-list" spells which you don't always need, but still want available at a moment's notice.
|2 - Wizard 2||
For your 2 free spells learned, pick up whatever you want.
|3 - Wizard 3||
By this level you might start running into things wihc won't be completely dropped by Color Spray, so start using Hypnotic Pattern to subdue them while your party walks past them or prepares to drop a pile of damage on them.
For your 2 free spells learned, pick up Hypnotic pattern, Minor Image, or Insivisiblity, and something that isn't an illusion.
|4 - Wizard 4||
For your 2 free spells learned, pick up whatever you want.
|5 - Wizard 5||
For your 2 free spells learned, pick up Major Image and something that isn't an illusion. Remember that this is your last level of free spells known because of the way prestige classes advance spellcasting.
|6 - Veiled Illusionist 1||
Suddenly your Elf is a human for up to 6 hours a day. The Human veil will get you one free Illusion spell known of any level you can cast. Anything you want available permanently you should spend gold to add to your spellbook, and save the Human veil spells for odd illusions which you only need occasionally (and almost never in combat).
|7 - Veiled Illusionist 2||
The Halfling veil is very situational. I don't see it getting a ton of use.
|8 - Veiled Illusionist 3||
Small upgrade to the Veil Pool's disguise effects
You should now have 22 Intelligence (before items), so be sure to pick up an extra skill with your new skill ranks.
|9 - Veiled Illusionist 4||
With Greater Spell Penetration and the Elf veil, you should never have another problem with Spell Resistance.
Very little changes from levels 10 to 14. You get new spell levels, and the Gnome veil gives you a neat new trick, but that's about it. Do whatever you want with your feats; there's not much that you really need at this point. Consider item creation or metamagic.
|15 - Veiled Illusionist 10||
And now you're a snake for 10 hours at a time! Once in a while you might turn on True Veil and spend a minute poisoning people, especially if you're low on good spells.