Natural Twenties #6: Strength Sorcerer

Hi everyone!
I’ve been away for a couple months because of various engagements, but I’m getting back on track, starting with this post. This month I’ll be showing you a build that I came up with after posting the “interlude” that is based on the Sorcerer/Paladin/Dragon Disciple build. I was thinking about what the most important thing to focus on for that character would be. And it hit me that Strength was really the focus. That led me to consider how to get the absolute maximum Strength bonus, and that is the build that you’ll see today. This build will still be based on the Sorcerer and Dragon Disciple. But instead of focusing on class abilities and feats that make him a better fighter, I’m going for the maximum Strength that is possible, to hopefully KO any enemy as quickly as possible from massive damage.

The first thing to consider for maximizing an ability score is “how do I get the most bonuses possible that can stack?” There are many different bonuses that you can find in Pathfinder and by default, as long as they are of different types, they stack. The most obvious example of this is with your armor class. To get a high AC, you want to make sure you have an armor bonus (say, +6 from chainmail), a shield bonus (a heavy steel shield gives a +2), a high Dexterity bonus (up to +3 in light armor), a deflection bonus (from a Ring of Protection +1), a natural armor bonus (either racially or from an Amulet of Natural Armor +1), and possibly even a size bonus (a small character gets a +1). Since all of these are different types of bonuses, they stack to give a total of 23 AC (10 + 6 armor + 2 shield + 3 Dex + 1 deflection + 1 nat. armor). What I’ll be trying to do with this build is stack as many bonuses as possible to the Strength score.

This is the sorcerer as Paizo thinks of her.

This is what you’re going to become by the end of this build.

Now, you may think that it’s a little funny that a Sorcerer, the spellcaster that usually stays in the back of the party throwing fireballs at enemies, will be specc’ed out for Strength. And normally that is true. The reason this works so well, though, is that the Dragon Disciple prestige class grants several bonuses to Strength. And through his bloodlines and polymorph spells, a Sorcerer actually has access to a good number of Strength bonuses also. Obviously, at low levels the best bonuses to ability scores are going to be through spells, since high-level magic items are just too expensive. This also means that at low levels this Sorcerer will not be charging to the front lines like a Fighter or Paladin, since his HP and AC will both start out relatively low. However, by about level 10, you’ll see where I’m going with this.

Alright, so starting statistics! Our human sorcerer with the copper dragon bloodline will begin play with a Strength score of 20 (that’s 18 from point buy and +2 human racial bonus) which is already an impressive score for any character. His other stats will be as follows: Dex 10, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 7, Cha 14. Now, this means that until you raise that Charisma score, our sorcerer will only have access to up to 4th level spells, but that will be dealt with soon enough. First-level feats will be Power Attack and Skill Focus (Knowledge (Planes)). Your favored class will be Sorcerer, and at any given level you will want to choose for your favored class bonus, either a bonus hit point or a new spell to add to your known spells (as found in the Advanced Players’ Guide).

Why the skill focus, you ask? Because another really cool thing about Sorcerer bloodlines is that you can have access to them through feats, and that means we can make this Sorcerer have multiple bloodlines. If the Dragon Disciple wasn’t the ultimate goal of this Sorcerer, he could take the Crossblooded archetype to get the same effect (two bloodlines), but Dragon Disciple specifically states that a Sorcerer must be of the Draconic bloodline. So, we’ll use Eldritch Heritage and Improved Eldritch Heritage to gain access to some bloodline powers of the Abyssal bloodline later on. The prerequisite for these feats is Skill Focus in the class skill granted by the specific bloodline, in this case Knowledge (planes).

Spell choices at these low levels aren’t going to be terribly important, but make sure that you learn the spell Moment of Greatness, found in the Ultimate Combat sourcebook. This spell will double any morale bonus for a single roll, and that will definitely be useful later on when we gain a morale bonus to Strength. If you have a bard or cleric in your party, this would be a spell that they should also be keeping around for you at higher levels.

For second level, you’re going to start multiclassing early. You’ll want to take a single level of Alchemist, with the Vivisectionist archetype from the PRG:UM sourcebook. What this single level gives you is the ability to drink a mutagen at the beginning of a battle for a 10 minute +4 alchemical bonus to Strength, and a +2 natural armor bonus to AC. This does come with a small price, a -2 to Intelligence, but that really doesn’t hurt a Sorcerer very much. This single level of Alchemist also grants you the ability to brew potions of any spell you know up to 4th level, and gives you a single dice of the rogue sneak attack ability. Meaning that if you ever happen to flank with an ally you will get an extra +1d6 damage on your attacks.

At third level you’ll go back to Sorcerer, and the only thing you really get from this level is a single level 1 spell and a feat choice. For the feat, go with Eldritch Heritage (Abyssal). At your current level, all you get is the ability to grow claws (which you already have from the draconic bloodline). At 4th level, you gain your first bloodline spell (mage armor) and the dragon resistances bloodline ability, which grants resistance 5 to acid damage. You can also raise your Str by +1 through the 4th level ability increase.

At fifth level, you are one level away from qualifying for the Dragon Disciple prestige class. You can also begin casting 2nd-level spells. Bull’s Strength will be your go-to spell. This grants a +4 enhancement bonus to Strength for 1 minute per caster level. Your fifth-level feat will be Cleave. Now, let’s recap our Sorcerer/Alchemist’s abilities. At the beginning of a battle, the first order of business will be to cast Bull’s Strength on yourself. Second round, drink your Strength-enhancing mutagen. Now your Strength is a 28, giving a +9 to attack and damage on each attack. Third round, use your free action to grow claws, then charge! You should be getting a +13 attack bonus (+2 BAB +9 Str +2 charge), lowered to +12 with Power Attack, and your damage will be on average 13 (1d4 + 9 Str + 2 power attack). You may consider using a spear at this level instead of your claws, because this will give you 1.5x your Strength mod on damage, bumping it up to an average of 17 (1d4 + 13 + 2 power attack). However, keep in mind that you would then get only a single attack per round instead of two claw attacks. You can even have someone cast Enlarge Person on you which gives you a +2 size bonus to Strength, but at the cost of -1 to attack and -2 to Dex.

Sixth level is here, and it’s time to get into that Dragon Disciple class! Your first level gives you a d12 hit dice and an increase to natural armor bonus (though this does not stack with the natural armor granted from the alchemist mutagen ability, sadly). Seventh level brings a wealth of useful abilities, including a +2 untyped bonus to Strength that stacks with EVERYTHING! You also gain the dragon bite ability, which gives you a bite attack when you grow your claws. The awesome thing about that is it uses 1.5x your Strength bonus AND 1.5x power attack on damage! You’ll also be choosing a feat here. My suggestion would be Furious Focus, which lets you forego the Power Attack penalty to the attack roll on your first attack in a round, meaning your bite attack won’t be taking that penalty!

At eighth level, you gain a breath weapon, usable once per day, that deals 1d6 acid damage per Sorcerer level (Dragon Disciple stacks with this) in a 60ft. line. You also get to raise your Strength by +1 again, giving you an impressive 24 base strength. You can also now cast 3rd-level spells, and good choices include Draconic Reservoir (letting you absorb energy of a certain elemental type and apply it to your melee attacks), Vampiric Touch, Monstrous Physique I (+2 size bonus to Str), Undead Anatomy I (same as Monstrous Physique , however healing spells will harm you and inflict spells will heal you), Blood Rage (from Orcs of Golarion, cumulative +2 Str after getting attacked, up to +10!) and Haste (to get that extra bite in a full attack action).

Vampiric Touch: I promise you won’t have to be touched by THIS kind of vampire.

Let’s recap again. You are eighth level, and your Strength score without any spells is 24. You can grow claws and gain a bite attack as a free action. Your claws are treated as magic weapons to overcome damage reduction, and your bite deals 1d6 points of acid damage in addition to its normal damage. At the start of a battle, you’ll cast Bull’s Strength (unless you can afford a belt of Str +4 already, I doubt it), then drink your mutagen. Next you’ll cast Monstrous Physique I (a medusa might be the best bet here, since you will not only get your bonus to Strength but also might fool your enemies into thinking you could petrify them), then use your free action to grow claws and a bite. You could cast Haste or various other useful buffs on yourself, and then finally you cast Blood Rage , which can net you a total +10 morale bonus to Strength over the course of just five rounds. In addition, a cleric or bard in the group could cast Moment of Greatness to DOUBLE that bonus to +20 for a single attack or damage roll. When you finally decide to charge in, you’ll be at 34 Strength (that’s a +12 bonus!) and with power attack your first attack bonus will be +16 (4 BAB + 12 Strength) and you’ll deal an average of 30 damage (1d6 + 18 + 6 power attack + 1d6 acid) on your initial bite attack. In a full attack action, you’ll be doing an average of 30 damage on bites and 15 (1d6 + 12 Str + 4 power attack) on claws. After 5 consecutive rounds taking damage, you’ll be at a 44 Strength (+17 bonus), dealing an average of 37 damage (1d6 + 25 Str + 6 power attack + 1d6 acid) with your bite and 24 damage (1d6 + 17 Str + 4 power attack) with your claws. Don’t forget that you have the ability to cleave with your claws, and you can also use a breath weapon once per day (7d6 acid damage in a 60 foot line) in addition to your spellcasting. Wow, what a beast we have created so far.

Level nine now, and this will be your last level of Dragon Disciple. You get another +2 untyped bonus to Strength, an increase to natural armor (total of +3 now) and a bloodline spell ( Fly ). You also get to choose a feat, and it’s pretty obvious that you’ll be going with Great Cleave , so that you can get tons of extra attacks against multiple adjacent opponents. At level ten, we go back to Sorcerer levels, since Dragon Disciple has given us all the Strength it can possibly give. You gain the ability to use your breath weapon twice per day now, and can start casting level 4 spells. Good 4th-level spells include Monstrous Physique II (a minotaur is probably your best choice, since it gives you an extra natural attack, gore, in addition to your bite and claw attacks), Stoneskin, Greater False Life, and Boneshatter (a great spell from the Pathfinder Companion: Osirion Land of Pharaohs sourcebook that deals extra damage to skeletons).

Level eleven is going to boost your strength again through the Improved Eldritch Heritage (Abyssal) feat. This allows you to choose the Strength of the Abyss ability, giving you a +2 inherent bonus to Strength and another +2 at 15th and 19th levels. You’re now looking at a base Strength score of 28. Awesome.

Level twelve brings another +1 increase to Strength and a bloodline feat (we’ll pick Quicken Spell so that you can start casting some of your buffs as swift actions). If you’ve purchased a headband that raises your Charisma by at least +2, you can also start casting 5th level spells now. If not, get on it! Some of the best 5th level spells are wreath of blades (from Ultimate Combat, allows you to cast spells without provoking attacks of opportunity), and elemental body I (choose medium earth elemental and gain a +4 size bonus and +5 natural armor, without losing any Dexterity. It’s a little weird, but the rules allow you to still grow your bite and claw attacks as an elemental.) You also gain +1d6 acid damage on your claw attacks, since you’re now the equivalent of an 11th-level Sorcerer when it comes to your Draconic bloodline powers.

Level thirteen isn’t terribly impressive, with just a few new spells and a feat. A nice one at this level would be Intimidating Prowess. Given that you have an insane Strength bonus, you should be able to intimidate pretty much anything with a mind. Level fourteen is where the build really starts to come together. You start to cast level 6 spells and you also get Form of the Dragon I as a bloodline bonus spell. This spell allows you to become a medium-sized dragon, gaining a +4 size bonus to Strength, +2 to Con, +4 natural armor bonus, and two wing attacks in addition to your bite and claw attacks. You also have the option of turning into a dragon of a different type than your bloodline.This means you could have TWO breath weapons and resistances to TWO elemental types at once. Plus, since dragons can talk, there’s no problem with casting your spells while polymorphed. Other great spells to know include: True Seeing, Greater Heroism, and Enemy Hammer (this is a super fun spell from the APG that lets you use one enemy as a club to smack another via telekinesis).

We haven’t talked much about magic items at this point, but here is where you’ve definitely got enough cash floating around to make a big impact on your battle ability. The character wealth by level chart shows a standard wealth of 185,000gp at 14th level. That’s a huge number, but the items you’re going to want will take significant chunks out of that total. First and foremost, a belt of Giant Strength +6 (36,000gp) should be purchased, giving you a +6 enhancement bonus to Strength. You should also have bracers of armor +5 (25,000gp) by this point. Next up, a headband of Mental Prowess +4 (Int and Cha +4, 40,000gp), to give you a few skill points and to allow you to cast higher-level spells (that 14 Charisma you started off with is not Sorcerer-friendly). You’ll also want to pick up a lesser metamagic rod of Quicken (35,000gp) to allow you to cast a few of your buffs each day as swift actions. Finally, you’re going to eventually want to get the highest powered amulet of Mighty Fists that you can get, since the enhancement bonus from that item applies to attack rolls and damage on every natural attack you perform. A +1 is already a painful 5,000gp, but at this level you can afford at least a +2 for 20,000gp. That leaves you with around 28,000gp for your other gear, which is pretty reasonable.

Amulet of Mighty Fists: Almost as cool as this.

Adding in all the gear and items, let’s have another recap. At 14th level, your base Strength score is now 29. At the start of a battle, you can begin by drinking your mutagen and casting a quickened Haste using your metamagic rod. Next round, cast a quickened Blood Rage , put your rod away, then cast Form of the Dragon I. Your Strength score is now 45 (29 + 6 size + 6 enhancement + 4 alchemical), which is a +17 bonus. The next round you can charge in, hopefully getting further buffed by your party with bardic singing or cleric spells like Spell Resistance, Mass Bear’s Endurance, Moment of Greatness and Bestow Brace of the Champion (which gives an ally some of the powers of a Paladin). Your first bite attack will be at +26 (7 BAB + 17 Strength + 2 enhancement – 2 power attack +2 charge) and will deal an average of 40 damage (1d8 + 25 + 6 power attack + 2 enhancement + 1d6 acid). Your full attack action will consist of two bites at +24, average 40 damage each, then two claws at +24, 29 damage(1d6 + 17 + 4 power attack + 2 enhancement + 1d6 acid) damage, then two wings at +19, 25 (1d4 + 17 + 4 power attack + 2 enhancement) damage.

Level 15 is another big one, because you get another +2 inherent Strength bonus thanks to Strength of the Abyss. You also get to pick a feat. This one could go several ways, depending on the rest of your party. If you already have a caster casting buffs on you during the first few rounds of combat, you can probably continue with the melee attack feats like Improved Critical (bite) to get a better chance of doubling your damage. If you find yourself doing all the buffing, you’ll probably want to take Skill focus (Use Magic Device) so you can use spells that aren’t on your spell list (such as Divine Vessel , which would give you an additional +2 untyped Strength bonus when choosing Axiomatic or Fiendish aspect). You might also want to consider the Extend Spell metamagic feat, though it will make many of your buffs have a longer cast time.

At level sixteen, you will have 7th level spells, including your bloodline spell Form of the Dragon II, which raises your size bonus to Strength +6 and gives you an additional tail slap attack. This attack is a pretty cool exception to the standard attack rules in that it is a secondary natural attack, (which means a -5 penalty to attack rolls) but you add 1.5x your Strength modifier to damage (as opposed to the standard ½ Strength). A few other great 7th-level spells include Spell Turning, Caustic Eruption (this one causes acid to fly in a 30-foot radius around you and continue causing damage for two more rounds), Mage’s Sword, Finger of Death, Arcane Cannon (this spell animates a cannon that can fire every two rounds independently of you, deals 4d10 damage per attack, targets touch AC within its first range increment, and you can even channel spell-like or supernatural abilities that rely on touch attacks through the ammunition) and Ice Body. You also grow wings at this level, giving you a constant fly speed of 60ft with average maneuverability. Finally, you get to increase your Strength score by 1 more, to 30.

Level seventeen brings another feat choice. And if you haven’t taken it yet you may want to go for Improved Natural Attack (bite) to raise the base damage from 2d6 to 3d6 on your bite attack. If you’ve already done so, you could consider taking the Multiattack monster feat, which will make your secondary natural attacks (your wings and tail slap) take only a -2 penalty instead of a -5 on attack rolls.

18th level brings 8th level spells including Form of the Dragon III, which raises your size bonus to Strength to a whopping +10, increases the Con bonus to +8, and gives you +8 natural armor. You also gain immunity to the related energy type when polymorphed. Other good level 8 spells to keep in mind include Protection from Spells, Incendiary Cloud, Moment of Prescience, Greater Shout, and Iron Body . On top of these awesome spells, you also get a bonus feat from your bloodline at this level, and you should probably pick Toughness just to boost your HP a bit more. Finally, your bloodline breath weapon is now usable three times per day, and deals 16d6 acid damage in a 60-foot line.

Level nineteen brings your final feat choice, and this one is mostly up to you. Anything that will increase your damage to natural attacks, such as Improved Natural Attack (any) or anything that increases your chance to hit, such as Multiattack or Weapon Focus (bite) would be great. You gain the final +2 to Strength from Strength of the Abyss at this level, bringing your base Strength score to an insane 34. That’s more than an ancient copper dragon! Finally, level 20 gives you a few 9th level spells to cast, including your bloodline spell, Wish . Other good 9th level spells include Ride the Lightning, Shape Change, and Time Stop. You also get to raise your base Strength score to 35.

Before we go into our final review of this beastly Sorcerer’s abilities, let’s talk about gear at these high levels. The standard wealth for a 20th level PC is supposed to be 880,000gp. That’s obviously an insane amount of wealth, so let’s spend it! First of all, your Amulet of Mighty Fists should definitely be a +5 by now (125,000gp). You should also definitely have a Belt of Giant Strength +6 (36,000gp) or even a Belt of Physical Might +6 (+6 Str and Con, 90,000gp). Likewise, a Headband of Mental Prowess +6 (+6 Int and Cha, 90,000gp) would be very useful. A Ring of Protection +5 (50,000gp) is a must-have, as is a Robe of the Archmagi (75,000gp) which provides a +5 armor bonus and several other useful abilities to a spellcaster. Note that this robe will need to match your alignment to be of any use. You might also consider a Greater Metamagic Rod of Quicken (170,000gp) so that you can quicken your highest-level spells. This still leaves over 280,000gp for other items!

I mentioned alignment, and I’d like to point out that at this point, you could be of any alignment and use this guide just the same. In fact, there’s only one thing that you can do to raise your Strength score that is based on your alignment. If you are evil-aligned, you have the option to create a pact with a Succubus (or other evil creature, depening on your specific game world), to give yourself a profane bonus to Strength. As written, a succubus can grant a +2 profane bonus through her Profane Gift ability, but of course your DM may think that your immortal soul is worth more or less than that. There is nothing written in the rules that allows a divine bonus to Strength, but your DM might allow a pact to be created with a good outsider instead.

Succubus: Come on now, who wouldn’t want to make a pact with one of these?

Alright, so if you’ve followed along here and built up a 20th-level character as I suggested, you will have a constant Strength score of 43 (29 + 6 inherent + 6 enhancement + 2 profane). At the beginning of a battle, you’ll start off by drinking your mutagen, then casting a quickened Form of the Dragon III . Your party member cleric or oracle should be casting Divine Vessel, Moment of Greatness, Greater Heroism and Haste on you as soon as possible. Next round, you cast quickened Blood Rage , then charge in with a strength score of an amazing 59 Strength (29 + 6 inherent + 6 enhancement + 2 profane + 10 size + 4 alchemical + 2 untyped). Your first bite attack will be at a +39 (10 BAB + 24 Str + 5 enhancement +2 charge -2 size) and will deal an average of 71 damage (3d8 + 36 Str + 15 power attack + 5 enhancement + 1d6 acid). At the beginning of the next round, cast a quickened attack spell like Shout and then make a full attack, consisting of two bites (assuming Haste is active) at +39 and +34 averaging 71 damage, two claws at +32 (10 BAB + 24 Str + 5 enhancement -5 power attack – 2 size) dealing 48 damage (2d6 + 24 Str + 10 power attack + 5 enhancement + 1d6 acid), two wing attacks at +30 (8 BAB + 24 Str + 5 enhancement – 5 power attack – 2 size) dealing 31 damage (1d8 + 12 Str + 10 power attack + 5 enhancement), and one tail slap attack at +30 (8 BAB + 24 Str + 5 enhancement – 5 power attack – 2 size) dealing 62 damage (2d6 + 36 Str + 15 power attack + 5 enhancement). Assuming you hit with all of those attacks, that an average of 362 damage per round! And don’t forget that blood rage is active, giving you up to a +10 morale bonus to Strength as you take damage, and once you get it saved up to a +10 (your Strength score would be a 69), discharge the Moment of Greatness spell to double that bonus for a Strength score of 79 for a single damage roll on your bite, dealing an average of 86 damage (3d8 + 51 Str + 15 power attack + 5 enhancement + 1d6 acid). Oh, and one really nice thing about having enhancement bonuses to attacks that most people don’t know about is that a +5 enhancement bonus will actually negate any type of damage reduction except DR/- or DR/epic. So if your DM thinks he can throw demons or angels at you with DR 20/good or evil, he’ll be in for a surprise!

Just to prove that this build has staying power in addition to damage-dealing ability, let’s figure out your defenses. AC when polymorphed into a dragon will be 28 (10 + 0 Dex + 5 armor + 5 deflection + 10 natural armor – 2 size) without spells. This can be boosted by a good bit simply by casting low-level buffs like cat’s grace (+2 Dex bonus), Haste (+1 dodge bonus), and Shield (+4 shield bonus), raising it to 33. You could also use a little bit of that extra money you’ve got lying around for an even higher armor bonus in the form of Bracers of Armor +8 (64,000gp) and a Manual of Quickness of Action +4 (110,000gp), bringing your total AC up to 40 (10 + 4 Dex + 8 armor + 4 shield + 5 deflection + 10 natural armor – 2 size + 1 haste). As far as hit points go, you’ll be looking at an average of 93 HP(15d6 + 1d8 + 4d12 + 20 Toughness), plus however many levels of favored class bonus you chose a hit point, when not in dragon form. When you’re a dragon, though, that will jump up to 133 thanks to the +4 size bonus to Con gained through the Form of the Dragon III spell. If you were able to afford a belt that gives a bonus to both Str and Con, you’ll have an additional 60 HP for a total of 193 (from the additional +3 Con bonus from a +6 Str,Con belt). You’re still not truly a tank since the AC could really be better, but I don’t think this Sorcerer will have any trouble lasting the two or three rounds it should take him to knock out pretty much any enemy. The best part about all of these attacks is that none of it is precision damage, so on a critical hit, everything gets doubled!

So, there you have it: a Sorcerer who can deal melee damage as well or better than most Barbarians and Fighters, with only 1-2 rounds of prep. Damage will also be better than a Rogue, overall, since none of the damage from these attacks is precision-based, and flanking isn’t necessary to get good damage like it is for a Rogue. The great thing here is you still have access to all spell levels, all the way up through level 9, so this ends up being a very resourceful character with a lot of combat and non-combat options. This build could fit very well into a party that is missing both a tank and an out-of-combat spellcaster, though it is definitely necessary to have another melee character in the party to keep enemies busy for that prep round at least.

Give me suggestions in the comments on what you’d like to see next month, otherwise I’ll just keep finding ridiculous build ideas for your entertainment!

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