Iconic Design: Calling All Angels

Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, we’re going to be creating a Herald Caller cleric build.

As many of you know, I had a hand in writing the Monster Summoner’s Handbook, which came out this past summer. As most of you probably DON’T know, I absolutely fell in love with an archetype that one of my coauthors wrote in this product, the herald caller. So I whipped one up for Pathfinder Society and started playing it. Today I’m going to share my herald caller build, because we can all use a little more good in our lives.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Build Concept

Here’s the core components of the build.

  • Herald Caller (Cleric): I adore this archetype. First, it bumps up the cleric’s skill ranks per level, which is a big, fat plus in my book. Second, it makes the cleric’s spellcasting even more flexible, which I love. Finally, I’ve had a soft spot for summoning divine creatures ever since I flooded the aquarium in Thornkeep’s Dark Menagerie with celestial sharks. So an archetype that lets me focus on what I like to do as a cleric works for me.
  • Sarenrae: As I mentioned, I’m playing my cleric in the Pathfinder Society, so I opted to worship Sarenrae. As written, the archetype’s best abilities don’t work if you choose to be a cleric of a philosophy rather than a deity and clerics on Golarion pretty much always worship deities. Clerics of philosophies aren’t a thing on Golarion, with the philosophy bit handled better by oracles and potentially shaman. I picked Sarenrae partially because she’s my favorite Inner Sea deity and partially because she literally has all of the abilities that I wanted my character to have, so everything works out in the end. I think.
  • Cleansing Light: Here’s a trait I’ve yet to talk about! This trait is Sarenrae-exlcusive and it is AWESOME. Basically, whenever you channel positive energy to harm undead and roll a 1 on any number of channeling damage dice, you can reroll all 1s. Every time. Forever. Always. I ADORE this trait, as nothing is more disheartening than a 1 on a channel die. Especially when you’re using those dice to destroy the undead. I’ll take it.

With that out of the way, let’s get started!

Early Levels (1–7)

  • • Classes: cleric (herald caller) 7
  • • Feats: Weapon Finesse (1st), Dervish Dance (3rd), Augment Summoning (Bonus), Summon Good Monster (5th), Sacred Summons (7th)
  • • Abilities: call heralds +2, channel energy 4d6, dedicated summoner (Sun), divine heralds, mighty heralds
  • • Domain Abilities: sun’s blessing (1st)

So you’ll notice a bit of a split in my build at the early levels. That’s intentional. For starters, I love the imagery of a follower of Sarenrae spinning around the battlefield with her scimitar, and the fact that herald callers lose out on armor proficiency makes the Dex-based route even more enticing, because you’re also boosting your defenses slightly. (Though you’ll still want to stay out of the line of fire.) Also, I strongly believe that clerics should have a fallback when they’re out of spells or don’t have a spell that will work in their current situation, and investing two feats into martial combat is a good way to do it. That said, I’m sure that I’m going to be feeling the loss of Selective Channel, so I might end up choosing to take Selective Channel instead of Sacred Summons and adjust the build accordingly. Sacred Summons is a fantastic feat, but its EXTREMELY limited, especially for followers of Sarenrae. You see, Sacred Summons only works if the alignment subtypes of the creature(s) to be summoned perfectly matches the alignment(s) of the cleric’s aura, and because the summon monster spell list was written before angels or agathions were ever written (the primary Neutral Good outsiders), I’m pretty much limited to creatures from the Summon Good Monster spell list in terms of what I can summon fast with Sacred Summons. Summoning things like agathions (namely silvanshees and vulpinals) as a standard action with summon monster V is FANTASTIC because they all possess lay on hands, meaning you can summon a bunch of silvanshees with summon monster IV or a bunch of vulpinals with summon monster V and basically have them running around the battlefield, healing people for you. That tactic comes on-line at 7th level for this build for purposes of summoning silvanshees, assuming I have those two feats. But if my play experience makes Selective Channel a better choice, you can bet I’ll swap those around and push Sacred Summons back to 9th level.

Next, let’s talk about that one domain choice. For me, Sun was a no-brainer. Undead are common both in Pathfinder Society and as a staple in every GM’s toolbox in general, so taking the domain that nullifies channel resistance and boosts the damage of channel positive energy is another easy call. The spells aren’t fantastic, but there has to be a tradeoff somewhere, right?

So with all those basic choices out of the way, let’s talk about what the character can DO. First, it gets Augment Summoning as a bonus feat for free (and later Superior Summoning) all the while ignoring the Spell Focus (conjuration) feat tax forever always. That’s awesome, but that’s not until later levels. What can this character do?

Well, for starters, a herald caller has a more restricted summoning list than most clerics. She can only summon creatures listed as a summoning option for her deity, as listed in the Monster Summoner’s Handbook, monsters whose alignment matches at least one aspect of her deity’s alignment, and creatures with an elemental subtype that matches a domain granted by the deity. Since I chose Sarenrae, here are my choices:

  • Any Good creature. (Creatures that include Good as an alignment component.)
  • Any Neutral creature. (That’s Neutral, not any creature with a Neutral component to its alignment.)
  • The janni (VI) and the movanic deva (VII). (Creatures on Sarenrae’s expanded list.)
  • Any creature with the fire subtype. (Sarenrae has the Fire domain.)

When she summons a creature from the cleric spell list, a herald caller also gets a number of special benefits. First, the cleric and any creature that she summons always understand each other’s spoken words, so controlling the things she summons is easy. Second, when the cleric uses channel energy to heal, she can automatically include any creature she summons regardless of whether her channel energy could normally heal it and regardless of its distance from the cleric. If her heralds would normally be harmed by her channel energy, the herald can choose to exclude it from her channel for free. In addition, the call heralds ability gives the herald caller a scaling bonus on concentration checks to cast summon monster spells defensively, just to be sure they go off.

These are some awesomely cool benefits; I’ll take’em! Let’s move on to the mid levels and see what’s next.

Mid Levels (8 –14)

  • Classes: cleric (herald caller) 14
  • Feats: Weapon Finesse (1st), Dervish Dance (3rd), Augment Summoning (Bonus), Summon Good Monster (5th), Sacred Summons (7th), Superior Summoning (Bonus), Selective Channel (9th), Improved Channel (11th), FREE BEE (13th)
  • Abilities: call heralds +3, channel energy 7d6, dedicated summoner (Sun), divine heralds, mighty heralds
  • Domain Abilities: sun’s blessing (1st), nimbus of light (8th)

Okay, so moving on the general tactics don’t change, they simply get better. The new feats for this area are Superior Summoning (+1 creature whenever I summon multiple creatures), Selective Channel (or Sacred Summons if I choose to swap things around, as noted earlier), Improved Channel (BURN THE DEAD THINGS), and one free bee. That’s right, a free bee this early! The reason I’m already calling for free bees is that after you get what’s listed here, there’s nothing really that you NEED. Your monster summoning is basically as good as you’re going to make it and there isn’t much else that the cleric could take (or would want to take) for fighting in melee or destroying undead with channel energy. So this does leave some options option, which I’ll list below:

  • Extra Channel: This build is good at healing, and this only makes it better. More heals, more zombie-death.
  • Turn Undead: Not a great feat (in my experience, it is better to burn than turn), but an option.
  • Alignment Channel: The ability to destroy evil outsiders is nice, but I’m not convinced that I need this.
  • Weapon Focus: I could, but I’m not sure if I’m going to want to by 13th level.
  • Improved Initiative: Going first never hurt me, and compared to most clerics my initiative is going to be good already thanks to my high Dexterity.

So yeah, plenty of options here. Honestly, I’m pretty partial towards Extra Channel, so that’ll probably be my choice. But who knows? Maybe something will change between now and then.

Endgame (15+)

  • Classes: cleric (herald caller) 20
  • Feats: Weapon Finesse (1st), Dervish Dance (3rd), Augment Summoning (Bonus), Summon Good Monster (5th), Sacred Summons (7th), Superior Summoning (Bonus), Selective Channel (9th), Improved Channel (11th), FREE BEE (13th), FREE BEE (15th), FREE BEE (17th), FREE BEE (19tH)
  • Abilities: call heralds +5, channel energy 10d6, dedicated summoner (Sun), divine heralds, mighty heralds
  • Domain Abilities: sun’s blessing (1st), nimbus of light (8th)

Nothing new, really. Just more feats that don’t matter all that much.

So that’s my current musings for my herald caller build. Despite being rather sparse on choices, its actually a lot of fun to play and I’m looking forward to bringing her level up even higher. What do you think? Is the herald caller archetype a cleric that you would play? What feats would you take in my free bee slots? Would you change anything? Leave your answers and comments below, and I’ll see you next week for another bit of Guidance on the Know Direction Network. Take care!

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.

5 Comments

  1. Dean

    I would absolutely consider playing this archetype and build; you had me at the 1-7 bracket

  2. Trent

    Sorry for the necro post, but I just found this site. I’m in the midst of building a summoning cleric and planned on going the sacred summons route. The herald feels like a great archetype and can help a feat-taxed class. However, the interaction between the herald’s limitation on summoning and the limitation of sacred summoning still confuse me. I wanted to play as CG and follow Cayden Cailan. Doing so with this archetype and sacred summoning seems very limited though. You took Summon Good Monster to open up your options, but it doesn’t seem very helpful for a CG player. Is this still viable as CG?

    • Alex Augunas

      Actually, herald caller itself doesn’t limit your options much. You lose all evil or lawful creatures as well as elementals because Cayden doesn’t have any elemental domains, but you gain the ability to add the entropic template to anything that you summon, which gives you some flexibility. (And let’s face it, the only real loss here is the elementals. Because summoning an evil creature adds the evil descriptor to summon monster, you couldn’t summon those anyway.)

      Your problem is that you’re assuming that my build (or any build) gets a lot of mileage out of Sacred Summons. The truth is that EVERY alignment has a super-small list of creatures that works with Sacred Summons; not just CG, not just Cayden Cailen. Caydens’ worshipers pretty much NEED to take Summon Good Monster to have anything to summon with Sacred Summons, however. (Sarenrae is the same way; angels aren’t until SUPER high level without the feat and agathions aren’t on it at all.)

      Don’t think of Sacred Summons as your primary tactic. Its not. Most of the time you’re going to be using full-round actions to summon as a cleric, and that’s okay. You’re not the summoner, you’ll never BE the summoner, but the summoner can’t possibly match your versatility in all of the other spellcasting goodies that you bring to the table.

      For instance, this build is currently Level 5. I blow up the undead. I heal and buff the party. I summon monsters to harrass ALL The bad guys. And when I feel like it, I move into flanking positions to help the party rogues out. All without preparing a single cure spell or summon monster spell. Action mastery and insane versatility is your strength as a herald caller, and its SUPER fun.

  3. Trent

    Thanks, that’s a helpful way to approach the archetype. I think I got caught up in what I was losing instead of the added versatility that you mention. Spontaneous summon spells are very enticing, not to mention bypassing Spell Focus.

  4. downlobot

    I’m late to the party, but I enjoyed reading this. I’m trying to decide between sun and healing domains – essentially whether to treat channeling as a cool thing to do sometimes, or as something to invest in.

    What are your thoughts on Summon Guardian Spirit for a herald caller? Also, tattoo attunement (this requires picking up spell focus, which we got to ignore before, and varisian tattoo, but that seems like it might be an OK deal to get to carry around a high level guardian all day)?