This Pathfinder Druid build will make use of the Druid archetype “Lion Shaman“. It will also have two levels of Monk (Master of Many Styles, Monk of the Iron Mountain) as well as two levels of Ranger.
This will be a self-sufficient melee-centric combatant that will excel in close combat and maximize the use of full attacks with Pounce. This druid character build will be a heavy melee damage dealer, but will also be able to stand with the toughest of enemies.
This character will be exciting to play and will be able to contribute extensively in and out of combat well into the end game levels.
This build will attempt to minimize gold expenditures to the necessary items, leaving plenty of individual flexibility.
Challenges to Overcome
One of the main challenges of a Wild Shape focused build is dealing with the difficulty in keeping your Armor Class at a functional level for the later game levels. Wild Armor is pricey at 16,000 gp and cannot be planned on until well past level 10. This build will not require the Wild enchant at all, allowing the character to have decent defences from start to end.
This build does not require any obscure magic items, but it does require items that are usually in high demand among other party members, so we will be taking a crafting feat to ensure we can have the gear we want when we need it. We will also have to outfit our animal companion.
Another challenge with this build is that it requires several decent ability scores, so it is more suited to a point buy system or a rolled ability system with multiple decent scores. However it can be adapted to any system.
We will be using a 20-point buy starting ability score system. We will be playing a Male Half-Orc. Our alignment will be Lawful-Neutral (this is important for when we select our Monk levels). We will trade out a few racial traits for alternates. We will take Beastmaster in place of Orc Ferocity (this will improve our Handle Animal), Rock Climber in place of Intimidating (Bonus to Acrobatics and Climb), and Skilled in place of Darkvision (extra skills are important and we get access to Low Light Vision). Our starting ability scores are as follows.
STR: 14 (5 Points) +2 for Race
DEX: 15 (7 Points)
CON: 15 (7 Points)
INT: 10 (0 Points)
WIS: 14 (5 Points)
CHA: 7 (-4 Points)
Druid – Lion Shaman Archetype
Favored Class Bonus – +1/3 Wild Shape Natural AC
Feat – Dodge
Campaign Trait – Animal Whisperer (this build was for Iron Fang Invasion)
Other Trait – open (I chose Beastkin – Lion)
Animal Companion – Lion (requirement of Lion Shaman)
Starting gear is flexible. A basic Wooden Shield and Hide Armor and some leather barding for your Lion are good choices.
Skills – Handle Animal, Perception, Spellcraft, Survival, +1 Optional
Level 2 – Level 6
Continue to take Druid with the favored class bonus of +1/3 Wild Shape Natural AC. When you reach Level 6 you will be able to Wild Shape into a Dire Tiger and it will function as if you were 8th Level (thanks to Lion Shaman) – so Pounce, Rake will be available.
Level 3 – Craft Wonderous Items
Level 5 – Boon Companion
Level 4 – Increase Dexterity to 16
Continue to max Perception, Handle Animal, and Spellcraft as well as add some Acrobatics, Climb, Knowledge Nature, and Swim where possible.
This is where we begin to build for our Wild Shaping and multi-classing to come online. By this level you should have hopefully found, bought or crafted some basic magic items. Ideally you should have:
- +1 Cloak of Resistance
- +1 Ring of Protection
- +2 Belt (Strength or Dexterity – Preferably Strength)
- +1 Amulet of Mighty Fists
This will put you at 11,000 gp worth of gear of an expected 16,000. If you can’t swing the Amulet of Mighty Fists yet, thats ok.
Assuming you were able to get all the gear above, your stats at 6th Level should be something like this (in Wild Shape – Dire Tiger):
Stats at Level 6
STR: 22, DEX: 14, CON: 15, INT: 10, WIS: 14, CHA: 7
AC: 19 (22 with Barkskin)
FORT: 8, REF: 5, WILL: 8 (+4 vs Fey)
Bite: +10 (2d6+7) plus Grab
Claws (2): +10 (2d4+7) plus Grab
Rake (2 Claws): +10 (2d4+7)
EDV vs AMCREL: 25 (Bite and 2 Claws vs 19 AC)
If we get a chance to Pounce, our EDV will jump to 47, and these values do not factor in the EDV of our animal companion. Overall this is a very solid character at Level 6.
Level 7 – Level 10
This is where we multi-class into Monk and Ranger. The order is flexible and depends on your individual campaign. For my campaign, my early level Animal Companion was killed by a hobgoblin, so I chose Ranger first for the Favored Enemy class feature.
Level 7 – Ranger
Feat: Natural Spell (this will allow us to cast spells while in Wild Shape)
We choose our first Favored Enemy
Our Lion animal companion now becomes large and gets a nice boost to damage.
At this point you will want to get your Lion some size Large Masterwork Studded Leather Armor (Barding) 250 gp.
Level 8 – Monk (Master of Many Styles, Iron Mountain)
Feat (Monk) – Dragon Style
Now we can charge (Pounce) through difficult terrain and through allies.
Ability Bonus – Increase Constitution to 16
The Monk allows us to also add our Wisdom to our AC, a nice bonus for Wild Shaping.
By now we should have been able to add the following gear:
- +2 Cloak of Resistance
- +2 Headband of Inspired Wisdom
You should also be able to equip your Lion Companion with:
- +2 Belt of Giant Strength
This is a very modest 22,250 gp of the expected 33,000 gp for level 8.
Stats at Level 8
STR: 22, DEX: 14, CON: 16, INT: 10, WIS: 16, CHA: 7
AC: 22 (25 with Barkskin)
FORT: 11, REF: 9, WILL: 10 (+4 vs Fey)
Bite: +12 (2d6+7) plus Grab
Claws (2): +12 (2d4+7) plus Grab
Rake (2 Claws): +12 (2d4+7)
EDV vs AMCREL: 25 (Bite and 2 Claws vs 21 AC)
CEDV (PC + Lion Companion): 45
Lion Companion Stats
STR: 23, DEX: 17, CON: 17, INT: 3, WIS: 15, CHA: 10
(assuming you raised Int at 4)
AC: 23 (26 with Barkskin)
FORT: 10, REF: 8, WILL: 6
Dodge, Toughness, Great Fortitude, Iron Will
Bite: +11 (1d8+7) plus Grab
Claws (2): +11 (1d6+7)
EDV vs AMCREL: 20
Our saves are rising closer to all Green. Our AC is still Orange but we will be addressing that in the next couple of levels. If we get a chance to Pounce our EDV goes to 47 and our Companion EDV is at 20. We are becoming a serious combatant now.
Level 9 – Monk
Feat (Monk) – Crane Style
Feat – Shapeshifting Hunter
Bonus Feat – Toughness (Iron Monk Archetype)
Bonus +1 Natural Armor (Iron Monk Archetype)
Also thanks to Shapeshifting Hunter, we now get another Favored Enemy as well as an upgraded Favored Enemy.
With the benefit from Crane Style, we can start using “Fighting Defensively”, especially against tougher encounters.
Level 10 – Ranger
Combat Style (Ranger) – Natural Weapons
Combat Style Feat (Ranger) – Improved Natural Attack (Claw)
We also should be able to upgrade our gear:
- +3 Cloak of Resistance
- Belt of Physical Might (+2 STR, +2 DEX)
- +2 Ring of Protection
Our Lion Companion should also be able to get:
- +1 Amulet of Might Fists
This brings our gear value to ~ 43,000 gp of the expected character wealth of 62,000 for a level 10 character.
Stats at Level 10 (Wild Shaped)
STR: 22, DEX: 16, CON: 16, INT: 10, WIS: 16, CHA: 7
AC: 25 (28 with Barkskin)
FORT: 13, REF: 12, WILL: 12 (+4 vs Fey)
Bite: +14 (2d6+7) plus Grab
Claws (2): +14 (2d6+7) plus Grab
Rake (2 Claws): +14 (2d6+7)
EDV vs AMCREL: 25 (Bite and 2 Claws vs 24 AC)
STR: 26, DEX: 18, CON: 18, INT: 3, WIS: 15, CHA: 10
(Raise CON +1)
AC: 26 (29 with Barkskin)
FORT: 12, REF: 10, WILL: 7
Dodge, Toughness, Great Fortitude, Iron Will, Improved Natural Attack (Claw)
Bite: +14 (1d8+9) plus Grab
Claws (2): +14 (1d8+9)
EDV vs AMCREL: 25
If we are Fighting Defensively:
Our saves are now all Green. Our AC is improving. We now have a great defensive option to fight defensively. Our EDV is still above Orange; Green if we include our companion. If we get a chance to Pounce our EDV will rise above 50.
Levels 11 – 20
The goals for these levels will be to maintain upgrading essential gear when possible, as well as upgrading your Lion Companion gear when funds permit. The feat selection after level 13 is flexible, so I will just highlight each level and give a completed build stat block for Level 20. If you maintain the equipment upgrades you will be able to remain a force right until Level 20. For Levels 11 – 19 we will take Druid, with the favored class bonus of +1/3 Wild Shape Natural Armor. Level 20 we will take Druid and +1 Hit Point.
Feat – Crane Wing
Ability Boost – Strength
Feat – Crane Riposte
Feat (Druid Bonus) – Iron Will
Feat – Weapon Focus (Claw)
Ability Boost Strength
Feat – Improved Initiative
Feat (Druid Bonus) – Improved Iron Will
Feat – Weapon Focus (Bite)
Ability Boost Constitution
Recommended Gear at Level 20
- +5 Amulet of Mighty Fists
- +6 Belt of Physical Perfection
- +5 Cloak of Resistance
- +6 Headband of Inspired Wisdom
- Ioun Stone (Dusty Rose Prism)
- +5 Ring of Protection
- (2) Pearl of Power (2nd Level)
Lion Companion Gear
- +3 Amulet of Mighty Fists
- +6 Belt of Giant Strength
Total combined equipment costs for PC and Lion Companion: 465,250 gp (880,000 gp expected at Level 20). Also of note is the combined gear fits within the recommended 25% Weapons, 25% Protection and 25% Magic.
Stat Blocks at Level 20
PC (Wild Shape)
STR: 28, DEX: 20, CON: 23, INT: 10, WIS: 20, CHA: 7
AC: 36 (41 with Barkskin)
FORT: 23, REF: 19, WILL: 23 (+4 vs Fey)
Bite: +29 (2d6+14) plus Grab
Claws (2): +29 (2d6+14) plus Grab
Rake (2 Claws): +29 (2d6+14)
Lion Animal Companion
STR: 34, DEX: 22, CON: 18, INT: 3, WIS: 15, CHA: 10
(level 12 boost Strength, level 16 boost Dexterity)
AC: 38 (43 with Barkskin)
FORT: 16, REF: 16, WILL: 9
Dodge, Toughness, Great Fortitude, Iron Will, Improved Natural Attack (Claw), Weapon Focus (Claw), Weapon Focus (Bite), Improved Natural Attack (Bite)
Bite: +27 (2d6+15) plus Grab
Claws (2): +27 (1d8+15)
Rake (2 Claws): +27 (1d8+15)
Final Benchmarks at Level 20 vs Average CR 20 Enemy
These statistics are assuming both PC and Animal Companion have the spells Barkskin and Bone Fists applied.
Normal Full Attack
Both PC and Lion Companion Pounce
The examples above only make use of 2 second level Druid spells, Barkskin and Bones Fists. This build comes online at level 6 when you get Wild Shape and remains effective until level 20. This is really a defensively based build that still has potential to put out remarkable damage numbers.
With Dragon Style and 40 ft movement, you should be able to begin every round with a Pounce. As a Lion Shaman you can also cast Summon Natures Ally (Feline) as a standard action for even more damage when required, potentially having three large cats attacking.
Also worth considering is that Shapeshifting Hunter allows you to use your Druid levels as Ranger levels for Favored Enemy. So we would also have 4 favored enemies at +2/+2 and three +2/+2 upgrades to assign as we see fit. Those are not factored into the above damage calculations at all.
If you are facing flying creatures, you can Wild Shape into something else to combat that (albeit at a slightly less power level), or assist the party ranged attackers with various spells and buffs.
This build is ideally suited to a outdoor, nature themed campaign and may not be well suited to a mostly dungeon crawl type of adventure as your large size may become more of a hindrance, and you will not be able to effectively use Pounce.