Pathfinder - The Spiritualist Handbook
Last Updated: October 15, 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.
Spiritualists are like the occult equivalent of Hunters or Summoners. They're a 2/3 spellcaster built around a cool pet. Phantoms are relatively simple compared to other pet mechanics, but they're also less versatile and customizable.
The Spiritualist's biggest problem is that the Spiritualist itself doesn't have a clear role. The Phantom does most of the heavy lifting, but the Spiritualist doesn't have clearly useful options in combat. Expect to spend your feats trying to find something useful to do like firing a crossbow or something because there aren't enough useful feats for Spiritualists to consume more than a handful of your feat slots.
Spiritualist Class Features
Hit Points: d8 hit points in light armor makes you very squishy.
Base Attack Bonus: 2/3 BAB.
Saves: Two good saves, and they're the important ones.
Proficiencies: Light armor, simple weapons, and a couple extras. Lack of shields is annoying, but Darkwood shields have no armor check penalty, they cost next to nothing, and Spiritualists use Psychic spells so they don't need to worry about arcane spell failure.
Skills: 4+ skills with a decent skill list, but very few of them are Wisdom-based. Your Phantom also gets its own skills which can nicely complement yours.
Spellcasting: Spiritualists are 2/3 Wisdom-based spontaneous psychic spellcasters. Their spell list is mostly support and utility options, but there are a handful of offensive options in the mix that you'll probably want to ignore, plus Undead Anatomy I, II, and III for some reason.
Phantom: Phantom is the Spiritualist's defining ability. It's like an animal companion, but spooky. For help with your phantom, see my Practical Guide to Spiritualist Phantoms. I strongly recommend reading it before proceeding because understanding the Phantom is so fundamental to understanding the rest of the class.
Shared Consciousness (Su): This is a nice consolation prize for when your phantom is hanging out in your brain instead of being useful. Remember that fully manifesting your Phantom takes a full minute, so you don't want to walk into a fight with your Phantom inhabiting your brain instead of ready to fight.
Etheric Tether (Su): The first part of this ability allows you to sacrifice hit points to keep your Phantom alive. The second puts a leash on your Phantom, preventing it from ranging too far away from you. Most of the time you'll want your Phantom to remain within 50 feet of you. Ectoplasmic phantoms can only go out to 100 feet if you spend your turn concentration, and Ethereal phantoms can only range beyond 50 feet for a few rounds at a time. In either case, if the Phantom is outside the 50-foot leash at the wrong time it can be banished.
Bonded Senses (Su): This would be great for other pets, but Etheric Tether sets a short leash for your Phantom, so you won't get much use out of this. Eventually when your Phantom can spend more time away from your while Ethereal, which will make this more useful.
Bonded Manifestation (Su): Briefly wear your Phantom and gain some cool abilities.
- Ectoplasmic Bonded Manifestation: This is the combat option. The shield bonus is fine, but won't stack with your Darkwood Shield, and the Armor bonus probably won't beat your actual armor by the time you're high enough level to get it. The big appeal is the tentacles, which will probably be your biggest source of damage output while your Phantom is confined.
- Incorporeal Bonded Manifestation: This is the sneaky option. Use it to sneak around and avoid notice.
Spiritual Interference (Ex or Su): The shield bonus won't stack with your Darkwood Shield, but circumstance bonuses to saving throws are rare, which means that they'll stack with just about anything you already have. Ectoplasmic clearly has the better option here.
Detect Undead (Sp): You could cast this as a spell at level 1.
Phantom Recall (Su): Your phantom will almost never be more than 50 feet away, but if your phantom is about to die and you need to run away, this could be helpful.
Calm Spirit (Sp): You could cast this as a spell at level 4.
See Invisibility (Sp): You could cast this as a spell at level 4.
Fused Consciousness (Su): Most of the benefits of keeping your Phantom confined without actually confining it.
Greater Spiritual Interference (Ex or Su): An excellent improvement to Spiritual Interference, but don't expect your allies to follow your spirit around just to keep the bonuses.
Spiritual Bond (Su): Until now you've been sacrificing hit points to keep your Phantom alive. Suddenly the Phantom can do something similar.
Call Spirit (Sp): You could cast this as a spell at level 13.
Dual Bond (Su): The name doesn't make sense, and Bonded Manifestation is mediocre at best.
Empowered Consciousness (Su): This is a really disappointing capstone. There aren't enough mind-affecting effects which involve possession to make this meaningful.
Spiritualists are primarily dedicated to supporting this Phantom, so their ability scores should be built around that capacity
Str: Dump it to 7 and get a crossbow.
Dex: In light armor with d8 hit dice you really need a bit of AC. Your best weapon option is probably a crossbow, so a bit of Dexterity helps there, too.
Con: Your Phantom is going to be doing most of your fighting, and while it gets d10 hit dice it only gets 15 hit dice over 20 Spiritualist levels. Expect to spend a lot of your own hit points to protect your Phantom via Etheric Tether. With only d8 hit dice, you don't have a huge pool of hit points on your own, so improving your Constitution is important.
Int: Nice for skill ranks and to complement your Knowledge skills, but you don't need it for much else.
Wis: Wisdom is the Spiritualist's spellcasting ability, but they're only 2/3 spellcasters, so you never strictly need more than 16.
Cha: Dump to 7.
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Your choice of race matters surprisingly little. Even your spellcasting ability isn't all that important, and you can easily get all of the Wisdom you need from your base ability score and items. Racial favored class bonuses are all terrible, too, so expect to spend your favored class bonus on additional hit points.
- Bluff (Cha): The Spiritualist is not a face.
- Fly (Dex): One rank is plenty.
- Heal (Wis): Spiritualists are Wisdom-based, so this is a great complement to your party's existing healing capabilities.
- Intimidate (Cha): The Spiritualist is not a 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 (Engineering) (Int): One rank maybe.
- Knowledge (Geography) (Int): One rank maybe.
- 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 (Nature) (Int): Identify animals. Unless you have a druid or ranger, you may be the only one in the party with this skill.
- Knowledge (Nobility) (Int): Situational, and very dependent on the campaign.
- Knowledge (Planes) (Int): Identify outsiders. Outsiders are diverse and strange, and knowing stuff about them will help your survival greatly.
- 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.
- Sense Motive (Wis): You're Wisdom-based, so this is a great way to support your party's Face.
- Spellcraft (Int): Craft items and identify spells and magic effects. Max this every time.
- Use Magic Device (Cha): The most powerful skill in the game.
- Armor Proficiency, Medium/Heavy: You don't need to worry about arcane spell failure and your AC and hit points are terrible. Extra AC is a good idea, and it will help you to do something useful for your party by walking into melee to draw attention.
- Distant Delivery: Etheric Tether limits your Phantom to a 50 ft. radius around you, but they need to move within 30 ft. for you to deliver touch spells. This is a minor inconvenience, but if you really enjoy delivering touch spells you may want this.
- Focused Phantom: Worse than Skill Focus, which is actually impressive.
- Phantom Fighter: Ghost Touch means that your phantom can attack enemies while Ethereal, removing the need for your Phantom ro run around in Ectoplasmic mode where it's relatively vulnerable.
- Phantom Fortification: Situational.
- Shared Soul: Keeping your phantom confined is usually a terrible idea, and spending feats to improve it is expensive and ineffective.
- Spiritualist's Call: Your Phantom really needs the bonuses, but the 10-minute duration is annoying. Expect to confine then re-manifest your Phantom between fights to keep this running.
- Toughness: Etheric Tether allows the Spiritualist to use their own hit points to reduce damage dealt to their Phantom, so extending your own pool of hit points is a direct improvement to your Phantom. Because you get more hit dice than your Phantom, it's better for you to take Toughness than for your Phantom to take it.
- Vigilant Phantom: Marginally better than Skill Focus while your Phantom is handy, but I would probably stick to Skill Focus.
Your choice of weapon largely comes down to how you want to keep yourself busy while your Phantom is doing something important. I recommend a crossbow, personally.
- Studded Leather: Starting armor.
- Chain Shirt: Permanent armor.
- Darkwood Heavy Shield: Your AC is going to be terrible, you have 1d8 hit points, and you suck with weapons. Use one of your mostly useless hands to hold a shield. With no ACP you don't need to worry about proficiency.
- 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.
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.