Cartmanbeck’s Guide to the Iron Caster – Using Item Mastery feats to be the ultimate Con-based caster

Cartmanbeck’s Guide to the Iron Caster 

Using Item Mastery feats to be the ultimate Con-based caster

Casting in the Pathfinder RPG is generally based on a character’s mental stats, with a few notable exceptions. The Kineticist is a sort-of-caster who uses her Constitution to determine many of her stats and the strength of her elemental blasting abilities. There was a time when an archetype of the witch allowed orc-blooded characters to use Constitution to determine many of their casting abilities, though that archetype has been well-and-truly destroyed by a relatively recent FAQ. 

But there are still clamors by many to make a character who can cast spells using only the force of his or her constitution, willing magic to come into being through sheer vitality. A post on reddit pointed out a recent group of feats published in the Magic Tactics Handbook has made this wish come true… at least until Paizo realizes how absurd these options end up being, and FAQ them into obvlivion. The Item Mastery feats each let you gain the ability to cast a specific spell as a spell-like ability once per day (additional times per day with an increasing base Fortitude save, interestingly) using your Base Attack Bonus as your caster level, and your Constitution score in place of whatever normal casting stat that spell would have, including for calculation of spell DCs. 

Now, on its own, spending a feat to get a 1/day spell-like ability isn’t really amazing, but thanks to the Brawler’s martial flexibility ability and the Advanced Weapon Training feat, you can actually gain ANY of these feats that you need at the moment, allowing for amazing versatility for a full-martial character. The way you can do this is through the option that was added to the Advanced Weapon Training options in the Magic Tactics Toolbox, called Item Mastery: 

Item Mastery: The fighter gains an item mastery feat (see pages 30–31 and pages 26–27 of Weapon Master’s Handbook) as a bonus feat, which functions with any magic weapon he wields, even if the magic weapon does not meet the feat’s normal requirements. He must meet all of the feat’s prerequisites.

This means that you can gain any Item Mastery feat using Martial Flexibility, and you can ignore every requirement of your Item Mastery feats that has to do with the magic item in question… you can just hold any magic weapon that fits your fighter weapon training ability, and you can use any Item Mastery feat that you happen to possess at that time.

And remember that these spell-like abilities don’t provoke AOOs (thanks to the way Item Mastery feats work) and are never affected by armor, so you can wear full-plate and carry a tower shield and still cast these with no issues whatsoever. Silence doesn’t affect you, nor do emotion-based effects shut down your spellcasting like the poor psychic magic users.

The core abilities for this build are the martial flexibility ability from the Brawler, the weapon training class feature from the Fighter, the Advanced Weapon Training feat from the Weapon Masters Handbook, and a group of feats from that same book called Item Mastery feats. Getting this combination of powers all onto a single character can happen in a few different ways, though there are tradeoffs for each. 

Unfortunately, the Item Mastery option for Advanced Weapon Training is not available in Pathfinder Society, so this severely limits the utility of this build in that setting. You still might be able to make a fun CON-based caster, but the following is going to assume that you’re NOT playing in PFS.

Here are the minimum requirements to getting this build off the ground:

  • Fighter level 5: This is a requirement of the Advanced Weapon Training feat, which is necessary to make all this work. Now, this doesn’t mean you ACTUALLY need to have five Fighter levels. Brawler levels count as fighter levels for the requirements of feats, as do Warpriest levels. A Magus also gets to count half his levels as Fighter levels for this purpose, so a 10th level Magus would also qualify.

  • Weapon training (Fighter class feature): This is another requirement of the Advanced Weapon Training feat, and this one is harder to fake. There are not many ways to get this ability outside of being a 5th level fighter. Now, there’s nothing wrong with just being a 5th-level fighter to make this work, but just for completion’s sake, there are a few other ways of fulfilling this requirement. The Myrmidarch archetype for the Magus gets this ability at 6th level, and the Arsenal Chaplain archetype of the Warpriest gets it at 5th level. The Sohei monk also gets it at 6th level. Unfortunately, all of those classes have slower Base Attack Bonus progression than the Fighter, so they’re not ideal options.
    You can actually bypass this requirement with a specific Fighter archetype that trades it away, surprisingly enough. The Weapon Master archetype gains this ability at 3rd level, is specifically called out in the Special section of Advanced Weapon Training, and it even lets you gain the feat a level earlier than a normal Fighter could, bypassing that requirement as well! 

  • Martial flexibility (Brawler class feature): This ability lets you gain combat feats on the fly, and is absolutely essential to this build’s flexible nature. Brawlers get it at 1st level, making a single-level dip a reasonable way to pop into it… however it requires a Move action at 1st level, and it would be preferable to reduce the feat-swapping to a Swift action by getting to 6th level. The Martial Master fighter archetype gains martial flexibility, but at the cost of the weapon training feature, which doesn’t work with our plans. Same can be said of the Free-Style Fighter. You could also grab it through a dip in Sorcerer with the Eldritch Scrapper archetype but… why?
    There is one additional way to get access… the Barroom Brawler feat. This feat lets you use Martial Flexibility a single time per day, which isn’t too great, but will get you in. You can take the Abundant Tactics advanced weapon training options to get a few extra uses per day, but you’ll still get way more uses through a level of Brawler.

Alright, so let’s condense all this into a few good leveling options, shall we?

  • Fighter (Weapon Master) 4/Brawler 1 – This is the least number of levels you can take to get the core features of this build. You must choose a single type of weapon (longsword, dagger, etc) as part of your Weapon Master class, and you can only use this type of weapon to cast your Item Mastery-granted spell-like abilities. Because of this restriction, I slightly prefer taking one more level of standard Fighter to gain weapon training with a full weapon group.

  • Fighter (Weapon Master 4) + Barroom Brawler feat – This lets you skip the Brawler level dip, but you can only use it once. Make sure to pick up Advanced Weapon Training (Abundant Tactics) to get the most use out of this.

  • Fighter (Any that doesn’t trade out weapon training) 5/Brawler 1 – This is, in my opinion, the most versatile way to make this build work. It takes one more level to get it off the ground, but you can use any weapon in your chosen weapon group to cast your spell-like abilities, which I think is a good tradeoff for that 1 level. It also gives you access to some archetypes that might be appealing, such as the Lore Warden or the Eldritch Guardian

Any of these options will be made much stronger if you can convince your GM to allow you to take the Combat Stamina feat, which is part of the Pathfinder Unchained Stamina system. This gives you a pool of stamina equal to your BAB + your Con mod, and you can spend 5 points from that pool to use Martial Flexibility or Barroom Brawler as a Swift action instead of a Move action. This means you don’t need to take 6 levels of Brawler to get that Swift-action goodness!

Item Mastery Feats:

Now, let’s take a look at the abilities that you’ll eventually be able to gain through Item Mastery feats, and the requirements you’ll need to meet to be able to choose them using Martial Flexibility. Remember that most of these can be used only once per day at first, but gain extra uses per day as your base Fortitude saving throw increases… so multiclassing with classes that have good Fort saves will increase your uses per day much faster. Good classes to grab a level dip in to boost this include Barbarian or Bloodrager (those two don’t stack for rage, remember!), Paladin, and any prestige class with full BAB and fast Fort save progression. 

Ability Mastery (Use Magic Device 3 ranks, base Fortitude save +4) – This ability lets you gain a +2 enhancement bonus to any ability score for 24 hours, which is great… except that Martial Flexibility only lasts for 1 minute, and after that 1 minute, you lose the benefit of this feat. If you have a free feat slot (and let’s face it, you’re a Fighter, you probably do) this one would not be a bad choice for a permanent feat, but it’s not an option for Marial Flexibility.

Compulsion Mastery (UMD 3 ranks, base Fort save +6) – This one lets you cast suggestion as a spell-like ability once per day. Could come in handy, but not one of the strongest options here.

Concealment Mastery (Stealth 3 ranks, UMD 3 ranks, base Fort save +3) – As long as you’re willing to sink a few ranks into Stealth, this is well worth your time. Before 7th level, you can cast vanish as a spell-like ability. After 7th level, you’ll get to use either invisibility or undetectable alignment instead. 

Curse Mastery (UMD 3 ranks, base Fort save +6) – You get to use bestow curse, which is an EXCELLENT debuff against a big-bad. 

Curative Mastery (UMD 1 rank, base Fort save +2) – You can cast cure light wounds, and later spend multiple uses to cast higher level healing spells (all the way up to breath of life!) Seriously good for a martial character!

Dispel Mastery (UMD 3 ranks, base Fort save +6) – You can cast dispel magic as a targeted dispel only. This one is going to be amazing against casters, since you can cast this while you’re right up next to them (remember, these are spell-like abilities that DO NOT provoke AOOs!) and target a magic item or spell that is giving you the most trouble. Amazing for a martial character!

Energy Mastery (UMD 1 rank, base Fort save +4) – This gives you the ability to cast burning hands, and you even get to apply the effects of the Elemental Spell metamagic feat for free if you want! This is a seriously good option if you’re up against a bunch of small baddies, and you get more extra daily uses of this one than most other options as your Fort save increases… which is great because you can instead use two daily uses of this at the same time to get the effects of an Elemental lightning bolt instead!

Flight Mastery (UMD 3 ranks, base Fort save +6) – You get to cast fly on yourself, which obviously is super useful!

Force Shield Mastery (UMD 3 ranks, base Fort save +3) – You can cast shield… kind of. You don’t get a flat +4 Shield bonus to AC, unfortunately. Instead, you get a bonus equal to ? your base Fort save. This will eventually hit +4, but you’ll need to get to a higher level for that. I’d suggest instead you just carry a wand of shield and cast from that before you enter combat, if you really want that shield bonus.

Illusion Mastery (UMD 2 ranks, base Fort save +4) – You can cast minor image, which is very situational for a martial character, but could come in handy every so often. If you have an actual caster in your party, have her deal with this when it comes up instead.

Implement Mastery (Implements class feature, mental focus class feature) – This is the only Item Mastery feat that doesn’t apply to you at all. Ignore it completely, unless you wanted to grab a few levels of occultist just to boost your uses per day of some key spell-like abilities.

Racial Item Mastery (UMD 6 ranks, base Fort save +3) – This one is specific to your race, so if you are of a race who has racial spell-like abilities, this one could be extremely useful (I’m looking at you, Azata-blooded Aasimar!)

Resistance Mastery (UMD 3 ranks, base Fort save +3) – This is another one where the benefits last for 24 hours but Martial Flexibility doesn’t. However, it may very well be worth using a feat on if you find yourself running into energy damage of different types often, as you can choose resistance 5 against one type of energy damage each day, which could be useful. Or you could just buy a wand of resist energy instead.

Restoration Mastery (Heal 5 ranks, UMD 5 ranks, base Fort save +3) – This one gives you abilities that most wizards would dream about… you can cast lesser restoration, and at 9th level you can cast remove blindness/deafness or remove paralysis.

Symbolic Mastery (UMD 4 ranks, base Fort save +2) – This one… is very weird, but adds an incredible amount of flexibility for a martial character. You use a holy symbol of a deity whom you worship and whom has the SAME alignment as you to attack with either a melee touch or a ray, dealing damage of a type determined by the cleric domains of that deity. You can choose the damage type, including all four of the normal energy damage types, sonic, positive energy, negative energy, or UNTYPED damage (which reduces the damage a bit). The damage is based on your ranks in UMD, and the uses per day are equal to your base Fort save. For example, you could worship Azathoth, which would let you use cold, negative, or positive energy. Or you could worship Irori and use acid, cold, electricity, fire, positive, or sonic energy (that’s probably the one to go with, FYI). As weird as this option is, it adds a TON of versatility to your “casting” options, you can use it a good number of times per day, and if your GM believes in pantheons as worship options in Golarion, you could concievably carry around a couple different holy symbols and deal any type of damage you want to.

Telekinetic Mastery (UMD 5 ranks, base Fort save +7) – You can cast telekinesis, which is much more useful outside of combat than in because of the requirement of concentration. 

Teleportation Mastery (UMD 4 ranks, base Fort save +6) – You can cast dimension door, which is one of the more useful options on this entire list. Getting around on the battlefield can make a huge difference for a martial character. This one is a guaranteed “yes” for you.

Vision Mastery (UMD 2, base Fort save +4) – You can cast darkvision or see invisibility, which of course are very useful options. I don’t think I need to say a lot here… when you need to see in the dark or see that ninja that just vanished, this lets you do it.

Weapon Evoker Mastery (UMD 2, base Fort save +3) – This is a pretty good option during lower levels. You get an extra 1d4 damage on any magic weapon that deals elemental damage, every round, by using a Swift action. This one may be worth using an actual feat on, so that you don’t have to use up your daily uses of Martial Flexibility to turn it on every time.

Other useful things:

  • Gloves of Dueling boost your weapon training bonus by +2, giving you two extra uses of Martial Flexibility or Barroom Brawler per day, thanks to the Abundant Tactics advanced weapon training option. This is pretty critical if you’re relying on Barroom Brawler!

  • Belt of Superior Maneuvers also gets you another use of Martial Flexibility per day if you have a level of Brawler, as well as a useful bonus to combat maneuvers.

  • If you have the Charisma to back it up, Eldritch Heritage (Serpentine) may be a useful addition to your arsenal, giving you a poisoned bite attack with DC based on your very high Con score.

  • There is a new weapon special ability from Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Intrigue called the Training property. You choose a Combat feat, and while you’re holding the weapon, you gain access to that Combat feat. Secret Wizard on the paizo threads smartly pointed out, you can use the Warrior Spirit Advanced Weapon Training option to grant this property to your weapon a number of times per day equal to 1 + your weapon training bonus, choosing the Advanced Weapon Training feat as your Combat feat each time, and choosing the Item Mastery option, which gives you an Item Mastery feat. This is super circuitous, but it essentially gives you another pool of uses of Martial Flexibiility for the purposes of this build. This means you can actually flex your way into TWO different Item Mastery feats at a time!!! (Important to remember, the Warrior Spirit ability defaults to a Standard action, so you’ll want to use this one BEFORE you enter combat!)

  • The Dedicated Adversary feat is a great option for Martial Flexibility as well!

Sample Builds:

Below, I’ve built essentially the same character at level 5, using either Stamina or not, and without multiclassing. The Stamina option with a level dip into Brawler is the most ideal, but each of these could work as a melee part-caster in most games. This character uses a rapier as her primary weapon, and adds her Dexterity to both attack and damage thanks to Weapon Finesse and Fencing Grace. You could easily build a Strength-based combatant instead by grabbing Power Attack instead, and this might even be more optimal since you can then wear heavy armors and not lose out on Dexterity bonus to AC. (This would also give you access to the excellent Cut From the Air line of Weapon Mastery feats!) Note that I haven’t taken the level 1 bonus feat for being a human into account here, so you can pick pretty much any race that has a Con bonus instead and use this same progression!

Stamina Option:

Female human Fighter (Weapon Master) 4/Brawler (Exemplar) 1

Stats: Str 11, Dex 15 (+1), Con 18, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 10 (level 4 increase to Dex)

Skills: Heal 5 ranks, Perception 5 ranks, Stealth 5 ranks, UMD 5 ranks

Base Fort save: +6 

Class abilities: Weapon guard, weapon training 1 (rapier), brawler’s cunning, martial flexibility, martial training, call to arms

Feat choices: 

Level 1: Weapon Focus (rapier) 

Level 1 Bonus: Weapon Finesse

Level 2 Bonus: Fencing Grace

Level 3: Combat Stamina

Level 4 Bonus: Advanced Weapon Training (Abundant Tactics)

Level 5: Barroom Brawler

This build gets you 5 uses per day of Martial Flexibility per day (3 base + 1 abundant tactics + 1 barroom brawler), usable as a Swift action if you spend some of your stamina (remember that you need to have the Barroom Brawler feat to gain the associated combat trick, which is what lets you get that sweet, sweet Swift action goodness). You’ll probably still want Extra Martial Flexibility at some point to gain an additional 3 uses per day. A dip into Barbarian would make a lot of sense to boost the Fort saves, but remember that you can’t use spell-like abilities while raging, so the boost to Constitution doesn’t help you with that!

Non-Stamina Option:

Female human Fighter (Weapon Master) 4/Brawler (Exemplar) 1

Stats: Str 11, Dex 15 (+1), Con 18, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 10 (level 4 increase to Dex)

Skills: Heal 5 ranks, Perception 5 ranks, Stealth 5 ranks, UMD 5 ranks

Base Fort save: +6

Class abilities: Weapon guard, weapon training 1 (rapier), brawler’s cunning, martial flexibility, martial training, call to arms

Feat choices:

Level 1: Weapon Focus (rapier)

Level 1 Bonus: Weapon Finesse

Level 2 Bonus: Fencing Grace

Level 3: Weapon Specialization (rapier)

Level 4 Bonus: Advanced Weapon Training (Abundant Tactics)

Level 5: Extra Martial Flexibility

This build gets you 8 uses per day of Martial Flexibility per day (3 base + 1 abundant tactics + 3 extra martial flexibility), usable as a Move action. Unfortunately, without the Stamina rules, your only way of getting the Martial Flexibility down to a Swift action is through an additional 5 levels of Brawler.

No Multiclass Option:

Female human Fighter (Weapon Master) 5

Stats: Str 11, Dex 15 (+1), Con 18, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 10 (level 4 increase to Dex)

Skills: Heal 5 ranks, Perception 5 ranks, Stealth 5 ranks, UMD 5 ranks

Base Fort save: +4

Class abilities: Weapon guard, weapon training 1 (rapier), reliable strike

Feat choices:

Level 1: Weapon Focus (rapier)

Level 1 Bonus: Weapon Finesse

Level 2 Bonus: Fencing Grace

Level 3: Barroom Brawl

Level 4 Bonus: Advanced Weapon Training (Abundant Tactics)

Level 5: Combat Stamina OR Weapon Specialization (rapier)

This build gets you only 2 uses per day of Barroom Brawl, usable as a Move action or a Swift action if you have access to Stamina. You’ll definitely want to grab Gloves of Dueling ASAP to get an additional 2 uses per day. You’ll get an extra use per day at 9th level, one level earlier than the other two builds, but you’re still going to burn through those uses per day very quickly.

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