Iconic Design: An Ode to GM PCs

Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, I’ll be sharing a life oracle Iconic Design.

Every now and then people ask me, “Hey, Alex! Won’t you sure more of your personal home game characters with us?” Well, that’s not happening today, but I have something better (and a little bit different) for you. Instead of sharing one of MY characters with you, I’m going to share one of my GM’s characters with you. Specifically, his GM PC, Sirrix.

I can’t remember how much we’ve talked about GM PCs here on Guidance, but its usually a very polarizing topic because PCs often accuse the GM player of favoring his own character during the story. And for some groups, that could possibly be fair criticism. But my GM, Justin, is smart. He knew he was running for a party of two PCs (my kitsune cavalier/fighter, Kyr’shin, and my brother’s elven magus, Dyne), so he knew that he had to give our party SOMEONE or we were going to die. Horribly, even, because we had no healer. So he did what any sensible GM would do: he gave us a healer, a half-elf named Sirrix.

Healers are the absolute best GM PCs. They often fill a role in the party that no one else ever wants to fill and the GM knows that his character is going to be loved and respected; you don’t bash your healer. Furthermore, the present of a good healer doesn’t necessarily make encounters easier for the PCs, as if they take too long in overcome their combats the healer’s resources will be exhausted, and the neveryone dies. As a result, you can often play a GM PC healer and subsequently use harder challenges against your players without fear of A) your GM PC trivializing the encounter or B) your players getting jealous of your GM PC’s awesomeness.

Now, before we get started, I want to point out that this is NOT the most powerful healer character that I or my GM could have designed. (That’ll be coming down the pipes later in the form of a spirit guide life mystery oracle.) Rather, my GM also intelligently designed this character to fill a second, vital role in our party: world exposition. What do I mean? Pop on in and see….

Build Concept

So Sirrix isn’t one of my characters, but I’ve played alongside him well enough to have a pretty good idea of what his build looks like.

  • Half-Elf: Sirrix’s backstory has him as a half-elf, so that’s what you’ll see here.
  • Oracle (Life Mystery): The life mystery is an AWESOME one to give to a group of PCs who are undermanned. Its focus on healing is great for several reasons: one, it’s a low-stress job that no one in the party ever seems to want to do. Two: your PCs will worship the ground your GM PC walks on without feeling like she takes the limelight away from them.
  • Seer Archetype: I mentioned on Monday how it’s a good idea to make sure that your healers can do more than just heal. For Sirrix, our GM decided to make him an exposition bot by giving him the ability to give us (the party) more information about what was going on then we’d otherwise know. He accomplished through the very modest seer archetype.

Well, that’s enough conceptualization: let’s get to work!

Early Levels (1–7)

  • Classes: oracle (seer) 7
  • Feats: Skill Focus: Profession [sailor] (Bonus), Extra Revelation: channel (1st), Extra Revelation: safe curing (3rd), Extra Revelation: energy body (5th), Selective Channel (7th)
  • Abilities: life mystery, oracle’s curse: wasting, orisons.
  • Revelations: channel (Bonus), natural divination (1st), safe curing (Bonus), gift of prophecy (3rd), energy body (Bonus), healing hands (7th)
  • Oracle 3rd-Level Spells: cure serious wounds, clairaudience/clairvoyance; divination, paragon surge, prayer.
  • Oracle 2nd-Level Spells: cure moderate wounds, detect thoughts; augury, lesser restoration, any one.
  • Oracle 1st-Level Spells: cure light wounds, detect undead; bless, moment of greatness, sanctuary, read weather, obscuring mist.
  • Oracle Orisons: create water, detect magic, detect poison, guidance, resistance, stabilize, light, mending.
  • Oracle Orisons: create water, detect magic, detect poison, guidance, resistance, stabilize, light, mending.

One of the shining rules of playing a GM PC is to keep the character simple. You don’t want complicated options and hard-to-remember rules if you’re going to have to run the character in the party. As a result, this oracle is straight-forward. Sirrix grabs Extra Revelation several times in order to compensate for having to take natural divination and gift of prophecy at 1st and 3rd levels, and he uses those extra revelations to pick up channel and safe curing. Safe curing means that the GM doesn’t have to think as hard about the nuances of tactical positioning with his GM PC and channel is simply the most powerful, important option in the life mystery for a healer. Sirrix also later picks up Extra Channel for more channels and Extra Revelation: energy body to put him ahead of the life mystery pack. Healing hands might seem like an odd choice, but being able to provide long-term care to the PCs is an AWESOME ability for a GM PC for several reasons. First, it gives the GM PC another place to shine in (out of combat healing), and second, it gives the party excuse to go into a resting period that’s long enough for the GM’s purposes, but not so long that the PCs risk missing the big, cool thing that they’re looking to do.

Sirrix’s spell list is rather bland for his role, and that’s intentional. Buffing the PCs and healing them; that’s all that you need to do in combat because your job as the GM PC isn’t to help the PCs win the encounter, its to keep them in the fight long enough that they can succeed on their own. That said, there are a few gems here that are pretty unique to our group’s needs. First, paragon surge. We usually asked Sirrix to use this spell to gain Extra Arcana (the feat that gives additional spells known). When faced with a problem that our party couldn’t solve with our current resources (which was a lot, since we were a two-man band consisting of a cavalier/fighter and a magus), we’d often ask the GM PC to grab a spell from the cleric spell list to help us out, usually more situational spells that Sirrix didn’t know. Although its not listed here, Sirrix also took track ship (Pirates of the Inner Sea) because he was a sailor and a seer.

Let’s see how we can further improve Sirrix in the mid levels!

Mid Levels (8 –14)

  • Classes: oracle (seer) 14
  • Feats: Skill Focus: Profession [sailor] (Bonus), Extra Revelation: channel (1st), Extra Revelation: safe curing (3rd), Extra Revelation: energy body (5th), Selective Channel (7th), enhanced cures (9th), Quick Channel (11th), Extra Channel (13th)
  • Abilities: life mystery, oracle’s curse: wasting, orisons.
  • Revelations: channel (Bonus), natural divination (1st), safe curing (Bonus), gift of prophecy (3rd), energy body (Bonus), healing hands (7th), enhanced cures (Bonus), spirit boost (11th)
  • Oracle 7th-Level Spells: greater scrying, mass cure serious wounds; any one (control weather, greater restoration, regenerate, resurrection)
  • Oracle 6th-Level Spells: legend lore, mass cure moderate wounds; heal, any one
  • Oracle 5th-Level Spells: mass cure light wounds, true seeing; breath of life, break enchantment, any one (pillar of life or raise dead)
  • Oracle 4th-Level Spells: cure critical wounds, scrying; any four
  • Oracle 3rd-Level Spells: cure serious wounds, clairaudience/clairvoyance; divination, paragon surge, prayer, any one (remove disease).
  • Oracle 2nd-Level Spellscure moderate wounds, detect thoughts; augury, lesser restoration, any three.
  • Oracle 1st-Level Spells: cure light wounds, detect undead; bless, moment of greatness, sanctuary, read weather, obscuring mist.
  • Oracle Orisons: create water, detect magic, detect poison, guidance, resistance, stabilize, light, mending, any one.

More awesome abilities for our GM NPC! Most of the new spells that Sirrix will get are powerful healing spells or general utility spells, but he does have the option of gaining one additional spell of his current level (or two of a lower level) for a day using paragon surge, which is fantastic. Revelation-wise, enhanced cures allowes Sirrix to continue getting milage out of his lower-level spell slots while spirit boost grants additional buffing potential to his healing. My favorite thing about spirit boost is that its benefits are ENTIRELY on the players to calculate and manage, which is helpful for a GM. Extra Channel also helps to ensure that Sirrix can keep healing longer than most. It also helps to fuel Quick Channel, which is nice when Sirrix wants to channel and cast a spell in the same round. (Or double channel, if he’s desperate.)

Like I said, this is a relatively straightforward build for the person at your table who doesn’t need to be bothered with the nuances of a PC. With that in mind, let’s wrap up at the End Game!

Endgame (15+)

  • Classes: oracle (seer) 20
  • Feats: Skill Focus: Profession [sailor] (Bonus), Extra Revelation: channel (1st), Extra Revelation: safe curing (3rd), Extra Revelation: energy body (5th), Selective Channel (7th), enhanced cures (9th), Quick Channel (11th), Extra Channel (13th), Extra Revelation: combat healer (15th), FREEBIE (17th), FREEBIE (19th)
  • Abilities: final revelation, life mystery, oracle’s curse: wasting, orisons.
  • Revelations: channel (Bonus), natural divination (1st), safe curing (Bonus), gift of prophecy (3rd), energy body (Bonus), healing hands (7th), enhanced cures (Bonus), spirit boost (11th), combat healer (Bonus), life link (15th), lifesense (19th).
  • Oracle 9th-Level Spells: foresight; mass heal, true resurrection, any one
  • Oracle 8th-Level Spells: mass cure critical wounds, vision; any three.
  • Oracle 7th-Level Spells: greater scrying, mass cure serious wounds; any three (control weather, greater restoration, regenerate, resurrection)
  • Oracle 6th-Level Spells: legend lore, mass cure moderate wounds; heal, any two
  • Oracle 5th-Level Spells: mass cure light wounds, true seeing; breath of life, break enchantment, any two (pillar of life or raise dead)
  • Oracle 4th-Level Spells: cure critical wounds, scrying; any four
  • Oracle 3rd-Level Spells: cure serious wounds, clairaudience/clairvoyance; divination, paragon surge, prayer, any one (remove disease).
  • Oracle 2nd-Level Spellscure moderate wounds, detect thoughts; augury, lesser restoration, any three.
  • Oracle 1st-Level Spells: cure light wounds, detect undead; bless, moment of greatness, sanctuary, read weather, obscuring mist
  • Oracle Orisons: create water, detect magic, detect poison, guidance, resistance, stabilize, light, mending, any one.

This build makes me giggle because it gets EVERYTHING. All of the best healing spells and abilities. All of the life mystery revelations. Everything. Just about the only thing that it doesn’t get is the healing domain cleric’s free +50% empower bonus on healing spells, which is honestly okay. Have you SEEN this build?

Healing isn’t always the most fun role in a party for players. (I enjoy it, but that’s just me.) That said, everyone ALWAYS loves a healer, so if you as a GM want to throw harder encounters at your players, take a page from Sirrix’s book and build a GM PC that your PCs will LOVE forever. (I know my brother and I love Sirrix!)

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alex’s Twitter, @AlJAug.

Alex Augunas

Alexander Augunas lives outside of Philadelphia, USA where he tries to make a living as an educator. When he's not shaping the future leaders of tomorrow, Alex is a freelance writer for esteemed Pathfinder Roleplaying Game publishers such as Paizo, Inc, Radiance House, Raging Swan Press, and more, and also acts as a co-host and blogger on the Know Direction Network, where he has earned the nickname, "The Everyman Gamer." Recently, Alex has forayed into the realm of self-publishing through his company, Everyman Gaming, LLC.

3 Comments

  1. Kevin M. Reply to Kevin

    I want to see how you would make Altair from AssCreed. I love the concept of the Assassin, but they are not easy to pull off in Pathfinder. In fact, unless going against NPC commoners, I don’t think it’s possible to pull off the OHKO that we see in the video games. For extra challenge, I would love to see the build using only the Core Rulebook, but that may make the build untenable.

  2. Hi Alex,
    Great build.

    I also built a Life Oracle GMPC for a short handed party (great minds and all that). I did have some slightly different build options. I started at level 1 with Fey Foundling, which is great for healers especially when paired with Life Link (which I also took much earlier). Since your GM PC healer shouldn’t be engaging in combat he/she shouldn’t get hit often and thus taking 5 hitpoints damage a round off the hands of your melee and paired with a channel and Fey Foundling your GMPC can soak up damage and keep your PCs in the fight longer.

  3. One other point about your build I liked. One thing I hate about GMPCs is often the players will let the GMPC interact with the NPCs, which leads to the GM having a discussion with her/himself. Oracles need high Charisma which could naturally lead to them taking diplomacy and being forced into the forefront of discussions. Your selection of wasting curse gives a mechanical and flavor reason for that not happening.

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