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Pathfinder - The Mesmerist Handbook

Last Updated: October 15, 2018

Disclaimer

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.

Introduction

The Mesmerist does two things: It talks to creatures, and it stares at creatures. In a party it serves as a Face, and with a little bit of help it can serve as a Scout. It can also do some support stuff, but can't compete with a normal spellcaster. Hypnotic Stare is the Mesmerist's signature ability, allowing the Mesmerist to significantly debuff enemies. Unfortunately, the Mesmerist is capable of doing very little on its own, so if you play one you'll need strong allies to do the heavy lifting in combat.

Mesmerist Class Features

Hit Points: d8 hit points is probably enough as long as you're smart. Hypnotic Gaze locks you into fighting within 30 feet, but you're in light armor with no shields and mediocre Dexterity, so your AC is going to be terrible.

Base Attack Bonus: 2/3 BAB is fine, especially since you only need to attack when you have nothing better to do with your turn.

Saves: Two good saves, but you'll want to invest in your Fortitude save.

Proficiencies: Light armor, simple weapons, and a handful of other weapons. Except to spend a lot of time in a chain shirt wielding a sword cane.

Skills: While not so versatile as the Bard or the Rogue, the Mesmerist gets 6+ skill ranks and has good skill list with a good mix of knowledge and face skills.

Spells: 2/3 spontaneous Charisma-based casting. The Mesmerist's spell list is almost exclusively mind-affecting like other psychic casters, and at only 2/3 casting you'll have issues with save DCs. Fortunately, Hypnotic Stare applies a big enough penalty to offset the DC gap between you and a full caster.

Consummate Liar: The bonus to bluff is really nice, but the Mesmerist has absolutely no reason to feint.

Hypnotic Stare (Su): -2 to Will saves is significant, and upgrading to -3 at 8th level is even better. For a class which focuses so heavily on mental effects, this is absolutely essential. Anything with a high Will save might be out of your reach, and this penalty could make or break you. This ability also sets the target for Painful Stare, Bold Stare, and Stare Feats, which are the bulk of how you'll contribute in combat.

Knacks: Cantrips are fantastic regardless of their name. Unfortunately your list of options is very short, but you still get essentials like detect magic and prestidigitation.

Mesmerist Tricks (Su): Most Trick options are terrible, and the limitation of one implanted trick at a time makes the ability really difficult to use in any meaningful way until you get Manifold Tricks at 5th level. See my Mesmerist Trick Breakdown for help selecting tricks.

Painful Stare (Su): It's a bit like sneak attack, but you can only do it once per round and the damage is terrible.

Towering Ego (Su): Will saves are important, and putting your Charisma bonus on top of your high Will saves should make you nice and resilient.

Bold Stare (Su): You need Psychic Inception. You will die if you do not take it. I cannot emphasize that enough. The other options are cool, and some of them are even worth taking, but Psychic Inception is too important for you to not have it. Take that first, and just pretend that you didn't actually get a choice because any other choice is like leaning on the point of a sword and hoping it's not sharp enough to run you through.

  • Allure: Unless you manage to get this going before combat starts it's largely useless. It can help you sneak around due to the Perception penalty, but that seems situational.
  • Disorientation: Combined with Demoralizing State and Excoriating Stare, you can apply a total of -7 to attack rolls, dramatically handicapping your target.
  • Psychic Inception: For a class so dependent on mind-affecting abilities, this is absolutely essential. A giant bug can easily kill you at most levels without this ability.
  • Sapped Magic: As you gain levels, enemies will gain more special abilities like spells and breath weapons, and reducing those DCs will keep you and your party alive.
  • Slugishness: The speed reduction is worthless, and reflex saves don't help you much since you can't cast anything like fireball.
  • Susceptibility: Very helpful as the party's Face, but optimizing your Charisma-based skills is really easy and you don't get enough Bold Stare options to make this an obvious choice.
  • Timidity: The penalty isn't big enough to matter for most foes.

Touch Treatment (Su): Having the option to remove status conditions is nice, but spending a standard action to remove most of the conditions from an ally is usually a waste of your turn.

  • Minor Conditions: Fascinated almost never happens to players (although in a occult campaign it might be more common). I have no idea why Shaken is on here, but Sickened is on the Moderate list. They do basically the same thing, but Shaken is objectively more dangerous because of the fear stacking rules.
  • Moderate Conditions: Mostly conditions that are annoying or partially debilitating.
  • Greater Conditions: Ifg you have these conditions you're in a really bad situation.

Manifold Tricks (Su): Without this, Tricks are garbage. It's just too hard to predict both what trick you need and what friend you need it on.

Mental Potency (Ex): This might be a helpful way to squeeze some more usefulness out of your low-level spells, but the scaling is too poor to be meaningful.

Glib Lie (Su): Extremely situational.

Masterful Tricks (Su): See my Mesmerist Trick Breakdown for help selecting tricks

Rule Minds (Su): Permanent Dominate Person. Find a big, important enemy and enslave them.

Abilities

You need Charisma, and you need to stay alive.

Str: Dump to 7 and use a ranged weapon.

Dex: In light armor you need Dexterity to boost your AC.

Con: Fortitude is your only bad save, and you'll need hit points to compensate for your light armor.

Int: More skill points can be really useful depending on your party makeup.

Wis: You need a bit for Will saves, but Towering Ego allows you to apply your Charisma as a bonus so you don't need to invest heavily in Wisdom.

Cha: Your spells and abilities are all Charisma-based.

25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy 15 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str: 7
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 18
  • Str: 7
  • Dex: 13
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 18
  • Str: 7
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 17
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 15

Races

Charisma bonuses are hard to find, but they're basically the only thing you need. Small size is nice because it makes you harder to hit, but it's not crucial.

Dwarf: Charisma penalty.

Elf: Nothing useful for the Mesmerist.

Gnome: Bonuses to two important scores and a penalty to your dump stat.

Half-Elf: The flexible bonus goes into Charisma. The favored class bonus sucks, and humans and half-orcs provide other bonuses that work well for the Mesmerist, so they're better options.

Half-Orc: The ability score bonus goes into Charisma, and the bonus to Intimidate helps with your face skills. The racial favored class bonus improves your Painful Stare damage. It's not a ton, but the damage from Painful stare is so poor that it's a significant improvement.

Halfling: Bonuses to two important abilities and a penalty to your dump state. The favored class bonus gets you extra trick uses per day, but I think most mesmerists will have trouble going through their existing pool of uses.

Human: The ability score bonus goes into Charisma, and but there really aren't enough feats to make the feat important. The favored class bonus will improve your Will saves, which isn't very exciting but it's still useful.

Skills

  • Appraise (Int): Pay an NPC.
  • Bluff (Cha): Important fort any Face, and mesmerists get a nice bonus from Consummate Liar.
  • Diplomacy (Cha): The most important face skill, and you have the Charisma to back it up.
  • Disguise (Cha): Cast Disguise Self.
  • Escape Artist (Dex): Too situational, and as a psychic you don't need to worry about somatic/verbal components, which makes being restrained much less problematic.
  • Intimidate (Cha): Important for any face.
  • Knowledge (Arcana) (Int): Identify constructs, dragons, and magical beats. Fairly few classes get access to this, so you need to step up here.
  • Knowledge (Dungeoneering) (Int): Identify aberrations and oozes. If you spend any time underground or in dungeons, this is worth maxing. Otherwise, spend one rank and ride your intelligence bonus.
  • Knowledge (History) (Int): Situational, and very dependent on the campaign.
  • Knowledge (Local) (Int): Definitely worth a rank, maybe more if you don't have a rogue putting ranks in this.
  • Knowledge (Nobility) (Int): Situational, and very dependent on the campaign.
  • Knowledge (Religion) (Int): Identify undead. More easily available than Knowledge (Arcana), but still very useful, especially since your cleric probably dumped intelligence.
  • Linguistics (Int): Cast Tongues.
  • Perception (Wis): The most rolled skill in the game.
  • Perform (Cha): You are not a bard.
  • Sense Motive (Wis): Important for any Face.
  • Sleight of Hand (Dex): Too situational.
  • Spellcraft (Int): You're not Intelligence-based, but you
  • Stealth (Dex): Many of the mesmerist's abilities are indirect and won't break stealth, so you can do a lot of things while hidden.
  • Use Magic Device (Cha): The most powerful skill in the game, and you have the Charisma to back it up.

Feats

  • Compounded Pain: Stare feats are really good for the Mesmerist, but don't get this until you already have two stare feats.
  • Extra Mesmerist Tricks: There aren't enough good Trick options to justify this, so wait until you can get Masterful Tricks.
  • Extended Stare: The 30-foot range of Hypnotic Stare puts you very close to enemies, and with few defensive options that's a scary place for you to be.
  • Intimidating Glance: Making an enemy Shaken is a great debuff, and doing it as a swift action is fantastic. This competes with Demoralizing Stare somewhat, so don't take both feats.
  • Medium Armor Proficiency: Your spells don't have Somatic components, so arcane spell failure doesn't apply. You probably don't want to invest in enough Dexterity to have a decent AC, so medium armor can be a great option.
  • Mesmerizing Feint: You do not need to feint. You can no significant benefit for doing so.
  • Ready for Battle: Initiative bonuses are always nice, but taking Improved Initiative is almost certainly more useful until you can implant at least two tricks.
  • Ready for Pain: I've never been in a campaign where nonlethal damage was prevalent enough for this to matter in the slightest.
  • Weapon Finesse: Do not do this to yourself. You do not belong in melee.

Stare Feats

Stare feats are one of the few things that makes the Mesmerist actually interesting. Be sure to pick up at least one, and if you can spare the feats get a second before you pick up Compounded Pain.

  • Bleeding Stare: Bleed damage rarely kills anything, and you get too little for this to compensate for your utter lack of damage output.
  • Demoralizing Stare: Even if it doesn't work for fear stacking, Shaken is still a great status condition. Remember that the target is taking the Will save penalty from Hypnotic Stare, so they'll have even more trouble hitting what should already be a difficult save DC. This competes somewhat with Intimidating Glance, and since they both apply Shaken you don't want to take both.
  • Excoriating Stare: Basically equivalent to Demoralizing Stare, but works on creatures that are immune to fear.
  • Fatiguing Stare: Fatigued isn't always useful, and even against enemies who care it's usually not a huge handicap.
  • Intense Pain: The extra damage is absolutely not worth a feat.

Weapons

  • Light Crossbow:Probably the only weapon you'll ever use, and even then only when you don't have anything better to do.
  • Sword Cane: You should not be using melee weapons.
  • Whip: A whip is still a melee weapon, and you should not be using melee weapons

Armor

  • Celestial Armor (22,400 gp): Unless you have heavy armor proficiency and a Dexterity modifier of at most +5, Celestial Armor is the best armor in the game if all you need from your armor is AC. For more, check out my Practical Guide to Celestial Armor.
    • Studded Leather: Starting armor.
    • Chain Shirt: Probably your permanent armor unless you get medium armor proficiency and upgrade to a breastplate.
    • Darkwood Heavy Shield: With no armor check penalty, you can use this regardless of your lack of proficiency. You don't really need your hands for anything, so a shield is an easy AC boost.

    Magic Items

    Armor/Shields

    • Celestial Armor (22,400 gp): Unless you have heavy armor proficiency and a Dexterity modifier of at most +5, Celestial Armor is the best armor in the game if all you need from your armor is AC. For more, check out my Practical Guide to Celestial Armor.

    Staffs

    It's difficult to recommend specific staffs without knowing your individual character, so instead I want to make a general endorsement of the concept of magic staffs in Pathfinder. If you are a 3.5 native, go read Pathfinder's rules for staffs because they have improved dramatically.

    Staffs are a reliable, rechargeable source of extra spellcasting that can give spellcasters easy and reliable access to spells from their spell list which they might not want to learn, or which they might like to use so frequently that they can't prepare the spell enough times in a given day. On days when you're not adventuring (traveling, resting, etc.) you can easily recharge any staff even if you can only cast one of the spells which the staff contains.