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Pathfinder - Transmuter Wizard Handbook

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Introduction

The Transmuter is a master of enhancement spells and shapechanging. While their role is largely supportive at early levels, higher levels bring a chain of exciting polymorph spells which allow the Transmuter to assume forms for any situation.

To get a good since of Transmuters, be sure that you read my Practical Guide to Polymorph to get a good since of how polymorph works, and how best to use it.

Wizard Class Features

Hit Points: d6 hit points leaves you pretty squishy, but you have a laundry list of defensive options to put in front of your hit points. Because Transmuters spend a lot of time in melee while polymorphed, you will need to spend some resources to address this issue.

Base Attack Bonus: Your lack of base attack bonus hurts when you polymorph, so you become very dependent on your Strength/Dexterity. You won't lose additional attacks because BAB does not provide extra attacks with natural weapons.

Saves: Your only good save is Will, but because Wizards only "need" one ability, you can afford to invest some of your ability score points in Dexterity and Constitution.

Proficiencies: Wizards get very little in the way of proficiencies, but beyond very early levels you won't need them. A light crossbow is an excellent backup weapon for a Wizard, but stay away from Bows unless you put points into Strength.

Skills: Wizards only get 2+ skills, but you get every knowledge skill as a class skill, and your absurd intelligence will give you plenty of skill points to throw around. Remember that permanently increasing your intelligence will give you additional skill points retroactively.

Arcane Bond (Ex or Sp): You have the option of a familiar or a bonded item, and both options have their merits. Keep in mind that you can't use hand-held items while polymorphed because they meld into your form, but your other items continue to function normally while polymorphed.

  • Familiar: Always a solid choice, the familiar is an ever-present and ever-useful companion. Familiars can serve as scouts, assassins, couriers, assistants, and even meat shields in a pinch. Their passive bonuses to the wizard are roughly equal to a feat, and the provide the benefits of Alertness when they are adjacent. Effectively, a familiar gives you two feats and a cool pet. Remember that you can use spells with a target of "You" on your familiar, which includes Polymorph spells. Polymorph your familiar into something useful and throw it around in combat. Don't forget that your familiar probably gets Weapon Finesse for free, which they can continue to use while polymorphed.
  • amulet: Jewelry is nice an safe. It doesn't take up a hand, it's hard to take from you in combat, and it's a good option for enchanting.
  • ring: The ring is really the gold standard of bonded items. It's incredibly small, it's easy to hide under a glove or on your person, it's a very difficult target for sundering, and you can enchant is as per Enchant Ring without the feat. Magic rings have a lot of great options, but Enchant Ring is rarely worth the feat, so this gives you some options to save some money.
  • staff: You generally can't use it while polymorphed.
  • wand: You generally can't use it while polymorphed.
  • weapon: You generally can't use it while polymorphed.

Arcane School: You picked Transmutation. For information on other schools, see the Wizard School Breakdown For information on the Transmutation school specifically, see below.

Cantrips: Cantrips are amazing at every level. Prestidigitation is often called "minor wish", and Detect Magic will never stop being helpful. At low levels, Acid Splash provides easy, realiable damage.

Scribe Scroll: Scrolls are great for wizards, and giving you the feat for free is nice. Use it to prepare scrolls of spells that you need infrequently so that you can cover all of your bases.

Bonus Feats: 4 extra feats over the course of 20 levels isn't game-breaking, but the Wizard would still be king if he didn't get any of these. The addition of Arcane Discoveries gives wizards a handful of unique and incredibly powerful options in place of metamagic and item crafting feats.

Spells: You have the best spell list in the game, and every new book makes it better. Spells are why you play a wizard.

Transmutation School

Physical Enhancement (Su): The bonus is certainly nice, and it greatly reduces the amount of money you need to spend on a belt. I would recommend constitution since your hit points are terrible, and transmuters spend a lot of time pretending to be a melee monster.

Telekinetic Fist (Sp): Not spectacular compared to similar school powers, but it's bludgeoning damage so you don't have to worry about energy resistance. It also provides you with a combat option at low levels before you can Polymorph.

Change Shape (Sp): Some extra free shapeshifting. The duration is pretty short, so you'll probably want to save this for moving about as something with a special movement type, like flying across a chasm or digging through the wall of a tunnel.

Enhancement School

The Enhancement subschool suffers from duration issues. The buffs are too mediocre to justify their unbearably short durations.

Replacement Powers: Telekinetic Fist and Change Shape.

Augment (Sp): The duration is pretty short until very high levels, but it can be nice to buff the fighter before you jump into combat.

Perfection of Self (Su): Sometimes you need to do a shit load of damage in one round. At those times, buff your strength a whole bunch and stomp on someone. This couples well with Polymorphing into something with Pounce.

Shapechange School

The Shapechange subschool trades your low level attack option for the ability to gain additional natural attacks. This can be fantastic at high levels when you can Polymorph, but it leaves you with very limited options until level 5.

Replaced Power: Telekinetic Fist.

Battleshaping (Su): The real benefit here is using it while shapeshifted. Turn into a Dire Tiger and get a gore attack. Losing telekinetic fist hurts at low levels, especially due to your limited combat options at low level, but this can do some great things for you once you can Polymorph.

Opposing Schools

  • Abjuration: You will need the Abjuration school's defensive buffs.
  • Conjuration: Conjuration is one of the best schools. In addition to summoning effects, it includes teleportation spells.
  • Divination: Divination includes a huge number of utility spells like Detect Magic and Scry.
  • Enchantment: In addition to some of the best save-or-suck spells in the game, the Enchantment school provides lots of good utility and buff spells.
  • Evocation: When you need damage, turn into a tiger and go crazy.
  • Illusion: Illusions are fun and can do a lot of creative things, but they don't really provide a lot of utility.
  • Necromancy: Necromancy has very little that we need. You don't need corpses to make minions, and it doesn't provide a lot of useful buffs, with the exception of False Life.

Abilities

Because Polymorph augments your existing abilities instead of replacing them, it is very important to strike a balance between Intelligence and your physical ability scores. Your scores don't need to be insanely high like a Fighter or a Rogue because they will be augmented, but every point helps.

  • Str: Most Polymorph forms depend on Strength for attacks, damage, and combat maneuvers.
  • Dex: Important for saves, and for AC. Because you will be a big scary target while Polymorphed, you need as much AC as you can get.
  • Con: Your hit points are garbage, and fortitude saves will be a problem for you. Being Polymorphed gives you additional constitution, but if you fall out of Polymorph and your constitution drops, you may die due to the sudden loss of maximum hit points, much in the same way raging Barbarians do.
  • Int: You get magic, skills, and a bonus to knowledge skills (which you will have a ton of). Because you need physical ability scores you don't need to maximize this, but it should probably still be your highest ability score at start so that you can get all of your new spell levels as soon as possible.
  • Wis: You get high will saves, and more is nice, but you have too many other important abilities to heavily invest in Wisdom.
  • Cha: dump to 7 and keep your mouth shut until its time to throw some spells around.
25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str:14
  • Dex:14
  • Con:15
  • Int:16
  • Wis:12
  • Cha:7
  • Str:14
  • Dex:14
  • Con:14
  • Int:15
  • Wis:12
  • Cha:7
  • Str:13
  • Dex:12
  • Con:14
  • Int:15
  • Wis:10
  • Cha:8

Unlike most Wizards, Transmuters lose quite a bit by being middle-aged. Polymorph is a young person's game.

Races

Bonuses to Intelligence are nice, but not strictly necessary. Improved saves, bonus physical stats, and defensive abilities are helpful.

Dwarf: Dwarves are a surprisingly good choice for Transmuters. Bonus Constitution and Wisdom make them very durable, ajd a +2 on saves against spells is fantastic. Darkvision is always helpful, but you lose it when you Polymorph.

Elf: Bonus intelligence is great, and the bonus to dexterity and penalty to constitution are roughly equal for our purposes. The +2 bonus to penetrate spell resistance won't come up much since Polymorph doesn't deal with Ppell Resistance. The other benefits are highly situational, but certainly welcome.

Gnome: The bonus to Constitution is nice, but the penalty to strength will hurt your damage. The other racial bonuses do basically nothing for you.

Half-Elf: The flexible ability bonus goes right into Intelligence, but that's really all you get. You won't be multiclassing, and skill focus won't really matter to you. Some of the Half-Elf's alternate racial traits help a bit, but they don't offer anything particularly helpful for a Wizard. Humans are strictly better.

Half-Orc: The only thing you really get is the flexible ability bonus. Half-Elves are better, and Humans are better than Half-Elves.

Halfling: Bonus to dexterity helps with a bad save, and the +1 racial bonus to all saves is nice, but the strength penalty hurts your damage. You don't get anything from the other racial abilities, but Halfling isn't totally awful.

Human: The flexible ability bonus can go in any of your physical ability scores, but I recommend Strength. Your bonus feat can be used for a lot, but I would recommend Toughness so that you have lots of hit points even at first level.

Traits

  • Axe to Grind (Combat): Trait bonuses to attacks are hard to find, and stack with basically everything else. You may spend a lot of time by yourself Polymorphed in melee, which will get you a lot of use out of this. It also helps while charging, which makes Pounce forms very scary.
  • Deft Dodger (Combat): Your saves need the help, and many large forms will penalize your dexterity.
  • Dirty Fighter (Combat): One point of extra damage isn't going to get you anything special, and you can't gurantee to bring this into play.
  • Reactionary (Combat): Going first is always an advantage.
  • Reckless (Combat): Because you are going to be in melee, Acrobatics can be very useful.
  • Resilient (Combat): Your saves need the help.
  • Tactician (Combat): A small bonus to initiative, but you won't be making a lot of attacks of opportunity in a day.
  • Blessed (Faith): Too hard to time.
  • History of Heresy (Faith): Divine spells are half of all spells, but a +1 situational bonus isn't great.
  • Indomitable Faith (Faith): Will saves are you best save, but better saves never hurt.
  • Arcane Temper (Magic): Initiative bonuses are great, and bonuses to Concentration are hard to find. If you need to cast spells while you're in combat, this can be very helpeful.
  • Desperate Resolve (Magic): Only better than Arcane Temper in very rare situations.
  • Focused Mind (Magic): Bonuses to Concentration checks are hard to find, and a +2 bonus is a big difference.
  • Magical Lineage (Magic): You don't have any one spell which you will be depending on, which makes this difficult to use.
  • Pragmatic Activator (Magic): UMD is great, but your Intelligence isn't as high it is for a typical Wizard, so this won't help you very much.
  • Shrouded Casting (Magic): Pick Transmutation and save yourself a feat. Or your can just buy a spell component pouch.
  • Tenacious Shifting (Magic): 2 additional rounds may not seem like a lot, but this is a significant increase for spells with duration measured in rounds per caster level..
  • Life of Toil (Social): Your saves need the help.
  • Seeker (Social): Perception is always good.
  • Warrior of Old (Elf Racial): +2 initiative, and doesn't take up a more versatile trait category.
  • Elven Reflexes (Half-Elf Racial): +2 initiative, and doesn't take up a more versatile trait category.

Skills

Between traits and our 2+int skill ranks, we have lots of fantastic options.

  • Appraise (Int): Potentially worth a rank to appraise gems, but anything really worth appraising will require Spellcraft.
  • Fly (Dex): You will want a few ranks here for when you are flying constantly.
  • Knowledge (Arcana) (Int): Identify constructrs, dragons, and magical beats. Fairly few classes get access to this, so you need to step up here.
  • Knowledge (Dungeoneering) (Int): Identify abberations 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): This may as well be Knowledge (Plot) in some campaigns. If anyone should know history, it's a wizard.
  • 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): Sometimes you need to know who the king is. Definitely worth a rank, maybe more depending on your 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.
  • Perception (Wis): Your wisdom isn't terrible, and you might have a familiar to give you Alertness. If your party needs extra eyes, this is worth a few ranks, even if it's not a class skill.
  • Spellcraft (Int): Craft items and identify spells and magic effects. Max this every time.

Feats

Transmuters need feats a bit more than many Wizards in order to maximize their abilities in combat.

General Feats

See the Feats section of my Practical Guide to Polymorph.

Item Creation Feats

  • Brew Potion: There are very few cases where scribe scroll is not a better choice for you. In those cases, just buy the potions.
  • Craft Magic Arms and Armor: The second most use crafting feat, Arms and Armor lets you craft items for the rest of the party. Keep in mind that any armor you wear will be absorbed when you polymorph, and you lose the armor bonus to AC.
  • Craft Rod: There are several excellent options for rods, but since you can't pull them out while polymorphed, they are hard for you to use.
  • Craft Staff: While staves are very powerful, they are also limited in utility. You also can't use them while polymorphed.
  • Craft Wand: Wands are cheap enough that spending a feat on them is rarely worth the expense. You also can't use them while polymorphed.
  • Craft Wondrous Item: Wondrous Items are most of the items in the game, and literally everyone uses them. Save the party a huge chunk of gold.
  • Forge Ring: Rings are very powerful and very exoensive. Everyone can have two, which stretches this feats usefulness. It's still not as good as Craft Wondrous Items, but it's a close second.
  • Scribe Scroll: You get it for free, and its fantastic. One scroll of Gust of Wind or Wind Wall could save your life some day.

Metamagic Feats

  • Bouncing Spell: Very few of your spells target anything which will make a save against them.
  • Burning Spell: You are not an evoker.
  • Concussive Spell: You are not an evoker.
  • Dazing Spell: You are not an evoker.
  • Disruptive Spell: If you are trying to prevent another spellcaster from casting a spell, just kill them instead.
  • Echoing Spell: Considerably worse than the Split Slot Arcane Discovery, and not terribly useful with your spells.
  • Ectoplasmic Spell: You are not an evoker.
  • Elemental Spell: You are not an evoker.
  • Empower Spell: You are not an Evoker.
  • Enlarge Spell: You are not an Evoker.
  • Extend Spell: Extend your buff spells and area control spells.
  • Flaring Spell: Dazzled is a garbage status effect.
  • Focuses Spell: None of your spells are AOEs.
  • Heighten Spell: Increasing the DC of your spells is nice, but since your list of known spells is functionally infinite, this isn't as important as it is for Sorcerors.
  • Intensified Spell: You are not an evoker.
  • Lingering Spell: None of your spells are AOEs.
  • Maximize Spell: You are not an Evoker.
  • Merciful Spell: You are not an Evoker, and you are not a pacifist.
  • Persistent Spell: Make people reroll against your insanely high spell DCs. Better than Bouncing Spell, but at twice the cost.
  • Piercing Spell: Very few of your spells target anything which will use spell resistance to resist them.
  • Quicken Spell: At high levels, Quicken Spell is king. The +4 spell level hurts, but it gets you a second spell per turn. It is also hard to find spells which you can cast while polymorphed without also using Silent and/or Still spell.
  • Reach Spell: You are not an Evoker.
  • Rime Spell: You are not an Evoker.
  • Selective Spell: None of your spells are AOEs.
  • Sickening Spell: You are not an Evoker.
  • Silent Spell: When you are Polymorphed, you typically can't speak to cast spells. Until high levels when you can use Form of the Dragon, this is key for casting spells while polymorphed.
  • Still Spell: Some Polymorph forms may have the body parts needed to perform Somatic components (Apes, etc.), but these are generally not the best forms available. Still Spell lets you cast spellsw hile you're running around as a Tiger.
  • Toppling Spell: You are not an Evoker.
  • Thundering Spell: You are not an Evoker.
  • Widen Spell: Awful. Truly awful.

Arcane Discoveries

Wizards can take an Arcane Discovery in place of a regular feat or Wizard bonus feat.

  • Arcane Builder: Crafting high level items takes an insanely long amount of time. If this is a problem, grab this discovery.
  • Fast Study: If time to prepare your spells is frequently a problem, something is very seriously wrong in your campaign.
  • Feral Speech (Su): Why would a wizard ever want to talk to an animal when he can summon demons?
  • Golem Constructor: Why have golems when you can just Dominate people?
  • Immortality (Ex): Live forever. Not really a game effect, but very cool flavor-wise.
  • Multimorph (Su): Hugely improves the versatility of your Polymorph spells.
  • Opposition Research: By level 9, spending two slots to cast an opposition school spell isn't going to cripple you. If you really need a spell from an opposition school, two spell slots is likely worth less than a feat slot.
  • Split Slot: Since so many of enchantment spells are going to be save-or suck, your high level spell slots are likely more productive. However, don't underestimate the value of low levels buffs.
  • True Name (Sp): Planar Binding is a good spell, and this effectively lets you use it at will as a move action.
  • Staff-Like Wand: You can't use wands while Polymorphed.

Weapons

Weapons aren't your first choice, but they're useful at very low levels.

  • Dagger: Carry one or two for utility purposes, but don't plan to pull them out in combat.
  • Light Crossbow: Better range than acid splash, fairly cheap, and doesn't rely on your garbage Strength score. Carry one at early levels, then dump it when you have enough spells to get through the day.
  • Javelin: You have some strength to put behind thrown weapons, so javelins are a good, cheap option at low levels.

Armor

If you need AC, you're doing something wrong. Still, it doesn't hurt to get some cheap protection. Keep in mind that Mage Armor is generally your best bet when you need AC, but Mage Armor isn't always on.

  • Mithral Buckler: For 1165gp, a mithral buckler is +1 ac with no ACP or spell failure. At high levels when gold falls out of your pockets like lint, this is a cheap way to boost your AC. You can even make it +1 for less than the cost of the base item.
  • Haramaki: +1 AC, 1 pound, no ACP or spell failure. Way less cool than the Silken Ceremonial robes, but it's a quarter the weight and one tenth the price.
  • Silken Ceremonial: +1 AC, 4 pounds, no ACP or spell failure. Plus, it's a sweet ceremonial robe.

Multiclassing and Prestige Classes

Don't, unless you have a specific concept in mind. If you must multiclass, try very hard to not give up spellcaster levels. Also keep in mind that classes which give you spellcasting do not allow you to learn spells for free when you gain levels.

Example Build - Master Transmographist

Form of... a Dire Tiger!

The best shapeshifters in the game, Transmuters get every Polymorph spell written, and get access to them faster than anyone but Druids. With careful character choices and a few items, the Transmuter can turn into a combat machine rivaling even the best Fighters.

This build takes a while to build momentum, but starting at level 5 you come screaming into combat, where you can stand alongside the best of fighters.

We will give up the Illusion and Necromancy schools. Evocation doesn't give us much in the long term, but it gives us some options at low levels before we can polymorph. In addition, we will use the Shapechange subschool in order to get the Battleshaping school ability.

Abilities

We will assume the 25-point buy abilities suggested above, but the other suggested abilities can also use this build without any problems.

Race

Because we want to survive our role on the battlefield, we're going to use the Dwarf for this build. This changes very little about our character options, so if you want to play a Human you can use the same build and take Toughness as your Human bonus feat.

Skills

With 16 intelligence, we only get 5 skills, so we really need to pick

  • Knowledge (Arcana)
  • Knowledge (Dungoeneering)
  • Knowledge (Religion)
  • Knowledge (The Planes)
  • Spellcraft

Traits

Deft Dodger and Reactionary. All of our saves will be excellent, and we will have a nice bonus to initiative.

Levels

Level Feat(s) Notes and Tactics New Spells
1 - Wizard
  • Dodge
  • Scribe Scroll*

Arcane Bond (Familiar: Weasel), Battleshaping

First level is hard for you. Your AC is bad, even with Dodge, but you have 10 hit points. Because you have decent dexterity and strength, grab a stack of javelins to throw. Your spells won't do a lot of damage, so save them for buffing you party. Bring Acid Splash for enemies with high AC.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

  • Protection from Evil
  • Mage Armor
  • Enlarge Person
  • Feather Fall
  • Magic Weapon
2 - Wizard

Level 2 is very boring. Stick to your level 1 tactics.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

  • Shield
  • Obscuring Mist
3 - Wizard
  • Toughness

The combination of Magic Weapon, Enlarge Person, and Bull's Strength will do a lot to buff your fighter, which will help him do the damage which you hope to be doing in a few levels.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

  • Scorching Ray
  • Bull's Strength
4 - Wizard

Nothing really exciting, but you pick up some situationally useful buff spells.

Ability Score Increase: Constitution (17 to 18)

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

  • Resist Energy
  • Darkvision
5 - Wizard
  • Power Attack
  • Arcane Discovery: Multimorph*

Physical Enhancement +2.

Finally! Time to go to work! Beast Shape I lets you turn into a Deinonychus and murder things. Without the Beast Shape bonuses, you should have a total of around 41 hit points (not bad at all), which is enough to keep you in the fight for a while. Mage Armor should still work while Polymorphed, and coupled with dodge your dino form should have 19 AC (not counting items or other spells like Shield and Protection from Evil), and your saves are fortitude +5, Reflex +6, and Will +6 (before items and racial bonus against spells). Aside from your low AC, you're fairly durable. Your damage is respectable, and Power Attack adds a couple points.

Keep in mind that you don't get pounce yet, but once you're in reach you get 5 attacks. If you have someone handy to cast Magic Fang, you will get a ton of extra damage out of it.

Multimorph is difficult to use at this level because the duration of our spells is so short, but it's great for changing into a bird and flying away when combat takes a turn for the worse. You could also polymorph into a Dire Rat, sneak in, then Multimorph into a Deinonychus to charge your enemies from behind.

Don't forget to use Battleshaping to add additional natural attacks (like a Gore) to your Deinonychus form. Because you don't get a lot of damage out of power attack, you need to capitalize on your number of attacks.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

  • Beast Shape I
  • Haste
6 - Wizard

Nothing really exciting, but you pick up some more spells.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

  • Displacement
  • Heroism
7 - Wizard
  • Defensive Combat Training

Beast Shape II brings us a lot of great things, but the most important is Pounce. Beast Shape into a Dire Tiger, pounce on things, and throw a pile of damage dice. Deinonychus still gets more attacks, but the stat bonuses are considerably greater for chaging to a Large creature, so the Dire Tiger is a better choice.

Dire Tiger also has Grab, which is great to use on physically weak targets like spellcasters. Maintaining a grapple deals whatever damage was dealt by your initial Grab attack, so you get to apply your claw damage every time you maintain your grapple. Defensive Combat Training will increase your CMD, which makes it very difficult for your targets to escape your grapple.

Don't forget to use Battleshaping to add additional natural attacks (like a Gore) to your Dire Tiger form.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

  • Beast Shape II