Okay. I'm done. I don't think I can write anything more and say anything useful. I have not read anyone else's judgment yet; these opinions are my own. 10,346 words, give or take some formatting. Let's do this. Part 1 of 2; I respectfully request that no one post until I can post the second half.
Princess Brightleaf: 9.75
Originality: 3.5SpoilerGiven that the class is half-casting and only advances divine spells, I will admit that I didnít expect anyone to go for actual Wizard casting. (+0.5) Abjurant Champion wasnít expected with Arboreal Guardian, but thatís mostly because itís arcane; once weíve gotten over the shock of ďhuh, why is an arcane caster going into AG?Ē, itís not exactly crazy for a Wizard who happens to have proficiency with bows to want to spend some time in a PrC thatís pretty much good from start to finish, and itís not exactly breaking new ground to have an Abjurant Champion casting Luminous Armor. Still, going basically full arcane in an obviously divine class is sufficiently weird that I can recognize it.
Power: 2.5SpoilerYour early game is . . . decent. I was going to say it was pretty good, but the more I look at it, the more flaws Iím seeing. The Ranger level is a bit of a casting setback, but itís not unreasonable to dip into a skill-heavy class at first level even if you do want to go for a main caster (Iíve certainly taken Ranger as my first level quite a few times in my own builds), and then youíre pretty much a Wizard for a few levels. Or, well, you could be, at least, but the spells that youíve chosen are a little weird. Iím being slightly lenient in assuming that youíve got a couple other spells that might help you actually end combat faster above and beyond the ones that you mentioned in your build tableóI recognize that the ones in the build table are the guaranteed ones from leveling up as a Wizard, so theyíre basically treated as class features while other spells that you may happen to scribe are treated more like wealth, but since you didnít go into too much detail early on about what spells you seek out, Iím pretty much forced to just look at what you DID mention, which isnít a lot of spells that solve the kinds of problems you need to solve to get past the early stages. (If you were a Sorc with those spells, Iíd be even more confused as to what it is that you actually do after initiative is rolled, but I would hope that youíd find SOMETHING else to put in your book. You seem to be assuming that you do, if nothing else.)
Basically, Abjurers tend to be a little awkward early on, even though theyíre monsters in the late game. Low-level Abjuration spells alone donít tend to solve problems (they make problems not get worse, but low-level ones donít really have the ďIím in charge nowĒ effects that you could get from, say, low-level Conjuration or low-level Enchantment spells), and early on, you actually do have to worry about spell duration (Shield and PfE each last one whole minute when you get themóis that really worth a spell slot at ECL 2, let alone two spell slots?) and spells per day. Entangle helps a bit at ECL 3, though itís 1/day only (though at least it has a higher save DC than your Wizard spells, which is actually frankly kind of weird. Not penalty-level weird, but weird).
I saw some potential here in the fact that youíve basically got 4/6 Wizard casting for your early game (which is a bit low but still Wizard casting), but Iím not seeing what you do to take advantage of it. I will give you a small bonus because you have some potential, but the bonus would have been bigger if you had told me what you do to take advantage of your Wizard casting to solve problems. Unseen Servant does not solve that many problems. (+0.25)
Using Arcane Disciple to meet the Entangle qualification is both good and bad. Itís clever, since Entangle is obviously not a spell that Wizards can usually get, but itís also adding an additional feat to the prereqs of a class that already takes three bloody feats (most of which are useless). Since AG doesnít actually advance Wizard casting, though, youíve basically cost yourself additional resources to get into a class that doesnít support your main playstyle. (If AG were written in such a way that it advanced Wizard casting or even advanced ďthe class that allows you to cast EntangleĒ or something, Iíd give you a bonus for this, since youíd have cleverly gotten more Wizard casting out of a class that discourages Wizards to enter. As it stands, though, this is an extra hoop that youíve chosen to jump through that doesnít actually make you better.) The cost-benefit analysis doesnít indicate that this is something that aids your Power rating. (Ė0.25)
I admit to being extremely confused by your stats. You claim to be a primary arcanist, but youíve got rather a bit lower INT than I would have expected. Your WIS is high enough to support your 1/day/level Arcane Disciple spells, which is good, but the fact that it comes at the cost of your INT is noticeable. But then you go and boost STR, despite your only weapon-based feats being bow-related? (I am aware that youíre using a composite longbow that will add STR to damage, but even so, Iíd still think that DEX would be more relevant, considering that you like AC anyway, and you tend to do more damage by hitting when you would have missed than by doing a little more damage on a normal attack, at least with the fair-to-middliní to-hit bonuses youíre rocking.) That seems weird. I recognize that stats are going to be weird in Iron Chef anyway because we donít want to rely on stat-boosting items, but you never actually told me why you would care about STR, especially when you spend more of your point-buy on it than on any other stat. (I do recognize what youíre doing with your INT and WIS, of course. You want to guarantee a minimum 15 in each to prove that you can cast level 5 Wizard spells and level 5 Arcane Disciple spells without items, and since Elf Paragon provides a bonus to INT, you can afford to start with a lower INT than WIS to still hit the goal. That isnít lost on me. But it does make your early levels feel very strange, and I still donít get where the STR > DEX focus comes in, composite longbow or no composite longbow.)
Overall, what does this character actually do? Youíve thrown a couple of feats (mostly bonus feats, true) at using a bow, but youíve got no major bonus damage to speak of and almost no particular tricks that make you markedly better at using a bow than an unoptimized PHB Ranger, and I donít see a smooth progression of you getting consistently better at shooting. (Also, the lack of Precise Shot makes me cringe.) Your spells mostly seem to be devoted towards keeping yourself alive rather than solving problems (whether those problems involve rolling initiative or not), and while 5th level arcane spells are not to be disregarded entirely, youíre still casting 2nd level spells at ECL 10 and 3rd level spells at ECL 13, which isnít actually terribly impressive if itís all that you can do. (Youíve got more spells per day than a Spellthief, of course, but in terms of spell levels, a Spellthief also has level 2 spells at ECL 10 and level 3 spells at ECL 13, but they also have Steal Spell, Sneak Attack, and other tricks. Just sayiní.) Abjurant Champion is used well (Martial Arcanist matters when you lose this many CL, after all, and the other features do what they say they do quite nicely), but Iím still not seeing a ton of cohesion here. Craft Wand comes out of nowhere and has no explanation (what spells do you care about casting over and over at minimum CL to the point where itís worth the gold and XP andómost importantlyóthe feat slot? Wands are great, and the ability to craft them is rarely useless, but I also donít see why itís suddenly so useful at level 15óa level at which store-bought wands would be a very, very small fraction of WBL, but also a level at which the fact that wand-cast spells have minimum CL kind of makes them noticeably worse than spells you cast on your ownóto spend a feat on it when this character has to light so many feats on fire to fill prereqs), and Iím not terribly wowed by Woodland Archer on this character (itís a decent enough set of tricks on a primary archer, but you really arenít a primary archer, and Iím not sure that any of its tricks matter at ECL 18).
Youíd make a moderately flavorful NPC, but youíre not really rocking PC levels of utility here, especially in the all-critical midgame. I donít see you doing a hell of a lot to earn your share of the XP budget. I feel like you donít make a strong case for how you make yourself relevant at a lot of levels. Wizard spells are greatóbest list in the game in many waysóbut you donít get them very quickly, and the only thing youíve told me that you do with them (layer on AC and otherwise keep yourself alive) isnít an impressive primary trick when your secondary trick appears to be plinking with a bow in a manner thatís less effective than what an unoptimized PHB Ranger would be doing. Itís not accurate to call this character straight up weak, but I also donít feel like you live up to your full potential. This might have been (perhaps) mitigated with a more compelling tactics section, but I donít feel like the build as presented gets out of the dreaded ďitís very nice, but what does it DO?Ē hell. (Ė0.5)
Elegance: 2.25SpoilerBy hyper-strict RAW, you used too many skill points at level 6, since per pp. 58-9 of the PHB, skill points are spent before class features are accounted for, so you only had 12 INT at the time you chose your skills. This is kind of dumb, but itís also RAW. (Ė0.25) The good news is that your skill points otherwise appear to be legal, which is always a bit of a relief.
That said, letís talk about your skills a little bit. A certain degree of uneven skill distribution is unavoidable when jumping between classes, so Iím not going to penalize directly for that, but even when we account for that, your skills are . . . lumpy. Youíre basically a caster, but you wait until ECL 8 to invest in Concentration (and then gain 12 ranks and also Combat Casting over the space of two levels)? Concentration is at its most important early on, since early on is when youíre least likely to have enough raw magical mojo to prevent enemies from ever getting up in your grill and threatening you. I would imagine that youíve fizzled a few spells over the course of your first seven levels. The number of levels at which you dump four or more points into a single skill all at once (ten levels by my count, ignoring level 1) is, shall we say, a bit unusual. Itís not entirely unreasonable considering the differences between the AG list and the AC list, but itís noticeable, and it doesnít make the character feel like theyíre progressing completely naturally. It feels like youíre always playing catch-up, lunging from skill to skill to patch up a bonus that had probably been flagging for a while. (Iím also a little bit confused by the various token ranks you put into things. They stick up like cowlicks. A single rank in a couple of Knowledges early on just makes perfect sense, so thatís fine, but whatís with the single point in Disguise at level 7, the odd +1 to Climb at level 6, or the sudden dabbling in Heal or Diplomacy at the very end? I feel like there could be an explanation for such things, but you didnít provide me with one, so Iím left a bit befuddled.) Overall, I think your skill allocation is inelegant enough to warrant a penalty. A very small penalty, but a penalty nonetheless. (To be totally clear about this, this is mostly for the lack of Concentration early onóthe lumpiness and the odd cowlick ranks basically just failed to make the case to mitigate things.) (Ė0.5)
Wild Shape Ranger is moderately clever, given that you gain Fast Movement but lose a class feature that you donít take enough levels to gain. Itís a little bit cheesy (I tend more towards the ďyou canít trade what you donít haveĒ school of thought), but itís not really going to make or break the character, and UA is very clear that youíd gain the new class feature (Fast Movement) at the level that the class itís from (Barbarian) would have gained it (level 1), so itís definitely RAW. And while itís mildly cheesy, it is a clever way to get something for nothing, so thereís basically no reason not to do it. Favored Terrain is somewhat more likely to come up (for the skill bonuses, at least) than Favored Enemy, but the fact that youíre losing out on (extremely unreliable) bonus damage is a tiny setback. Still, I hate FE as written, so Iím not going to complain about that too hard.
Youíve got a little tiny bit of prereq double duty going on in that PBS is a prereq for the SI and also for Rapid Shot and Woodland Archer. Itís not a very thrilling form of double duty, though, given that PBS is a prereq for basically everything in the entire game that has anything to do with projectiles. Iíd have loved it if you could have turned that Weapon Focus from Elf Paragon into more than just Weapon Focus, for example, and like I mentioned in Power, I donít see that youíre actually doing anything terribly interesting with your bow. Elf Paragon is a halfway decent way to get the prereq skills for AG, but Ranger should basically have done the heavy lifting on that already, so itís not exactly anything new. Other than that, nothing about your build seems more elegant than average. Nothing perfectly slots into anything else, nothing really cleverly kicks another build element into another category of usefulness, nothing ties everything together with a nice bow. I think weíre done here.
Use of Secret Ingredient: 1.5SpoilerYou never actually explained to me what benefit you get from Arboreal Guardian. The story about a kooky elf princess who ends up drunkenly falling in love with a tree is cute, but you didnít go anywhere interesting with it mechanically, and Arboreal Guardian seems to be actively clashing with your Wizard/Abjurant Champion casting, considering that it cost you four feats (including Arcane Disciple) and, you know, stops your casting progression despite you claiming to be a ďprimary arcanist.Ē The casting progression of the class basically goes to waste, given that you get a grand total of one spell per day out of it. And thatís INCLUDING the bonus from WIS, unless you snuck in that 10th level of AG when I wasnít looking (you end with 5 effective Ranger levels, which is still just 0 spells per dayómeaning that Iím not sure where your comment about being able to cast Hunterís Mercy three times per day comes in, since I donít see you getting 20 WIS out of anywhere).
Letís look at the positives. If we accept your AC numbers (though thereís some assumptions in there that I donít love, particularly as regards your spells/day limit), you actually kind of get a benefit out of the natural armor bonus to AC, which is, truth be told, a little surprising. (That does make it somewhat ironic that you lost the last level of AGóitís little more than a forgettable bonus, but if you actually use your natural armor bonus to AC, it stands out more!) And I suppose getting potions of Lesser Restoration at cost and using them to remove the penalty from sanctified casting is a decent way of making cheap potions slightly relevant at high levels (though I will note that it would cost you fewer levels to just dip Cleric or Druid and cast it yourself). Beyond that, though? Iím fully aware that this is a really terrible class, but Iím not seeing a lot of effort put forth to use the few features it does have. And, of course, you donít finish it.
I hate to say it, but this build is a textbook example of ďa regular build with the SI plopped randomly in the middle.Ē This build wants to be a Wizard/Abjurant Champion. It wants to be elf-y, so weíve got a totally reasonable Ranger dip for some minor nature-y tricks and weíve got Elf Paragon (which is fine, if not 100% optimal), but then things kind of go totally off the rails with AG. The build just kind of stalls out. You claim to be an arcane caster as your primary focus, but you spend a hell of a lot of feats and levels not doing anything related to arcane casting, and it doesnít make a whole lot of sense. Wizard spells are strong, but they canít do as much heavy lifting with no support as you seem to be asking them to do.
I mean, the implied thought process that I read out of this build is ďokay, AG sucks. How do I make it not suck? I know, Iíll add Wizard casting, because Wizard casting is strong!Ē But then you didnít actually make your Wizard casting related in any way to AG. Aside from the prereq feats, you could have used the non-SI parts of this build with, well, many of the other SIs weíve had in the past, and it wouldnít really make appreciably more or less sense with most of them.
The fact that you paid lip service to your cheap Lesser Restoration potions, the fact that you donít wait until the last minute to enter, and the fact that you sorta-kinda use the AC bonus prevents me from giving you a rock-bottom score, but I just plain donít see what AG does for you or why you care about it. (Ė1.5)
Final Thoughts:SpoilerThe deeper I look into this build, the less sense it makes. I did not dislike the small bite of fluff you gave me, and itís not like Abjurant Champion advancing Wizard casting isnít a strong class, but I just didnít get any sort of clear focus out of this build. The SI has basically nothing to do with your actual capabilities, so a lot just feels wasted.
Rory Greenblood: 12.25
Originality: 3.25SpoilerForestlord half-elf is a neat choiceóno stat penalties, no bending over backwards to meet the fluff requirement, and some abilities that are a tiny bit more useful than the sack of overcooked oatmeal that PHB half-elves call ďracial features,Ē plus the ability to spend a level to get a bonus feat that doesnít come from a specific list. Not bad. It might have been interesting to see if you could have used the [Dragonblood] subtype to qualify for something, but itís better than nothing. (+0.25) Ranger is a highly obvious entry, but you went in kind of a weird direction with it. Nothing about your core abilities is especially out there, but you arenít completely cookie-cutter.
Power: 3.5SpoilerFinding a PrC with unique casting is a fairly standard Good Idea when dealing with a half-casting SI, since that way you can still achieve ďmaxĒ casting capability (or close to it) despite the half-casting SI. The flip side, though, is that Justice of Weald and Woe, despite having some really awesome spells available, gets very few per day (itís a small number in an absolute sense and a smaller number when you remember that it doesnít come online until a relatively high ECL), so slowing that down with half-casting means that you really donít have many spells per day at all.
Letís talk about that a little more. I really like JoWaWís spells. The arrow-enhancing spells are both flavorful and useful, which is relatively rare for archers. But, and you knew thereíd be a but, you get just so few of them for so many levels that itís kind of painful. You do, I suppose, end up with more of the arrow-enhancing spells than youíd get from Ranger 10 / AG 10 (though not more than youíd get from Ranger 20), since Rangers also get access to all of your arrow spells except for Serpent Arrow (which is an odd duck anyway), but you get the higher-level ones much slower than a pure-class Ranger would, which is strange to say. (I mean, Rangers get basically everything late, especially spells, so to get anything slower than a pure-class Ranger is actually really slow!) Also, theyíre flashy effects, but almost all of them also only work for one round or one arrow, so itís unlikely that youíll be able to just use a single spell to set the tone of the encounter the way a primary caster might be able to. (In your defense, you never claimed to be a primary caster, so Iím not saying that youíre expected to have the exact same capabilities as one; the point is that you need to use a lot of spells to really stay ďmagicalĒ all dayólikely more spells than you have.)
You have no Concentration, but many of your spells are swift-action spells that donít provoke, so I guess thatís not as awful as it could be. Youíre clearly an archer who doesnít want to be in melee anyway.
The fact that you have as many spells as you do puts you above a Fighter, sure, but I still canít say Iím really impressed with your magical staying power, especially considering how long it takes to really start working. I can give you a small amount of points, but I canít give a whole lot. (+0.25)
Side note about JoWaW weirdness that doesnít affect how Iím judging your build:SpoilerItís not actually stated in the rules text whether their spells are arcane or divine, nor whether theyíre spontaneous or prepared. The flavor text says ďyou will begin to learn to cast spells that draw upon the divine power of nature itself,Ē so I guess thatís more evidence for them being divine than weíve seen for them being arcane, but itís pretty much totally unclear whether theyíre spontaneous or prepared. The fact that you have a spells known list implies, but does not specifically state, that theyíre spontaneous. Even so, pp 179-180 of the PHB only refer to divine spells as being prepared (but thatís more because no spontaneous divine castersólike the Favored Soul, Shugenja, or Spirit Shaman, to name a fewówere printed when the PHB was written), so in the absence of text from Champions of Ruin that states one way or another, a flimsy but nontrivial argument could be made that the primary text in the PHB indicates that JoWaW spells are prepared, because it only talks about divine spells being prepared. Weird, right? Doesnít really affect your buildís power one way or the other, but itís weird. I suppose that technically, if theyíre prepared, youíd have to spend two hours in the morning (one to refresh your Druid spells and one to refresh your JoWaW spells), while if theyíre spontaneous, youíd only spend an hour prepping Druid spells and 15 minutes refreshing JoWaW spells, but Iím not going to count that against you.
Letís look at your archery. On the one hand, you waited 11 whole levels to take Precise Shot, which absolutely makes me cringe (yes, I know that it was a bonus feat, but still, that Ė4 penalty HURTS at early levels), but on the other hand, at least you actually did take it, which is more than I can say for many Iron Chef builds (in this round and in many others).
Ranged Pin is always fun when it works, but it doesnít always work. I donít see anything in particular that makes you better at using it than any other character might be, and youíve got both low STR and relatively low BAB, so Iím not sure how often youíll win the opposed grapple check at ECL 12+. (Yes, itís kind of dumb that Ranged Pin uses your STR, but themís the rules.)
Craven is an excellent source of bonus damage to make your arrows actually matter, and I love seeing you use the 1d6 SA you get from JoWaW to qualify. I would really have liked to have seen it earlier, but you clearly understand the order in which the different parts of leveling up happen. (I wonder if thereís any way you could have gotten JoWaW earlier, though? ECL 15 is a long time to wait before getting your big bump to arrow damage. Maybe if youíd use Ranger 4 instead of Druid 1 for Entangle?) I donít see how youíre necessarily getting SA on a full attack, though . . . youíve got maxed ranks in the stealthy skills, but no crazy additional bonuses that would offset the penalty for sniping, and you donít have any native invisibility, HiPS, or anything similar. (Kelpstrand is honestly not terribly likely to succeed considering your very low caster level, and Ranged Pin, unlike Kelpstrand, still counts you as being the one grappling, so the target still gets its DEX to AC against you, just not against anyone else, stupid as that is. Regardless, Ranged Pin isnít exactly reliable with your low STR, so even if we do say that the target is denied DEX, itís still not a sure thing.) Still, youíre trying, and at least you do have Dead Eye for a little bit of bonus damage before level 15. (+0.25)
Your skill totals are acceptable. Itís sad to see maxed Hide/MS with no Darkstalker and no other fancy tricks (your Camouflage spell is all well and good, but you do NOT have the slots to be tossing it around like crazy), but even if I donít believe that youíll always be hidden, I believe that youíll be able to at least try without embarrassing yourself now and again. Itís hard to tell if you actually care about tracking (youíve got decent Survival early on, but Track hits the field late, and you stop boosting Survival a few levels after Track comes online), but even if you arenít an all-purpose skillmonkey, youíve at least got a trick or two. Not much more than that, but itís something. Iíd say that youíre competent enough to avoid a penalty, but nothing you do with your skills wows me enough to earn a bonus.
Elegance: 2.5SpoilerFirst off, on the one hand, youíre technically crossing setting lines with use of Justice of Weald and Woe (itís FR while Arboreal Guardian is GW). On the other hand, setting restrictions are dumb and JoWaW is awesome, so Iím not going to penalize for that.
Your skill points appear to be legal. This is good. Also, I was all set to chew you out for not qualifying for Dead Eye, but with the help of our fine Chairwoman, I became aware of the errata (https://paizo.com/download/dragon/co...umeIErrata.pdf), which was not at all easy to find, and that errata makes you legal. Still, next time, if youíre using errata in such a manner that the legality of your build is affected (and triply so if youíre using errata thatís hard to find!), please mention it somewhere. That was a headache I didnít need. (Ė0) (Yeah, Iím not actually docking you points, but I want to put a negative in there, because I spent far too long dealing with that.)
The Druid level in the middle confused me a lot, I have to admit. You say in your level 5 box that the purpose of Druid is to get Entangle, but another level of Ranger would have provided you with Entangle as well (and a slightly stronger companion, plus more skill points, though minus the minor features that you admitted you had to put in extra work to make not overlap in the first place). It wasnít until you started explaining the Acorn trick that it started to make sense, so it definitely failed my ďlook at each level one at a time and see if the rationale is clearĒ test. The fact that you had to try so hard to give away your class features is a little bit awkward, considering that you delay getting Track for five levels but never get any ranks in Gather Information to take advantage of the Urban Tracking you get instead.
Letís talk about that Acorn trick, since weíre here. It does seem like youíre spending a fair bit of work on it, but the SI only actually offers one ability (Forestwalk) that is predicated upon specifically being in the Spirit Wood. (Weíll gloss over whether your Spirit Tree is an oak capable of producing acornsóIíll be kind and assume that even if it isnít, there may be a normal oak tree sufficiently close by.) I donít agree that holding an Acorn is enough to count as being within 1 mile of your tree for the purposes of your telepathic communication, thoughóthis is the same tired old Acorn argument that has happened time and again, but while you are treated in certain ways as being under the Acornís tree, you donít actually have a presence there (you couldnít cast a spell centered on the area under your tree from across the continent, and an area spell cast at your tree wouldnít catch you in it), so I donít think you can measure distance from your current location as though your current location were the tree. The good news is that Forestwalk totally seems to work, and your telepathic communication is a minor flavor ribbon at the best of times, so the fact that I donít agree that you can treat the Acorn as a telepathic range booster doesnít really have any effect on what your build can do overall. Natureís Warrior is a bit less clear. Iím inclined to rule in your favor on this one, since Natureís Warrior is more about gaining a passive ability while near your tree (which makes sense for the Acorn) rather than about dealing with an active ability with a range measured from your tree (which trips my ďAcorns do not allow you to have a presence in two places at onceĒ reflex). So I suppose that Natureís Warrior is a second ability that the Acorn will trigger, not that you go out of your way to indicate why itís especially amazing.
That said, is it worth it to invest in getting 3 levels of Druid casting (capping at level 2 spells at ECL 9)? You name-drop a lot of reasonably useful Druid spells, though your struggling caster level (a whopping 3 at ECL 9, where it stays until ECL 18, when it becomes all of 7) and anemic spells per day make me a bit skeptical that you can get a whole ton of benefit from them at the level they come online. (I mean, the Acorn only lasts three days until ECL 18, and that doesnít seem like a whole lot of time if you want to rely on itósure, it only really affects your movement speed for the bulk of your career, but again, you seem to care about it an awful lot.)
Basically, what this boils down to is that you ended up adding an extra facet to your character for questionable return on investment. Druid spells are pretty much automatically stronger than Ranger spells, no argument, but Iím not sure that the small quantity of Druid spells you can cast end up being so much better than Ranger spells that itís worth all the hassle you put yourself through: you ended up delaying your ability to Track until youíre all but out of the early game (when nonmagical tracking is most relevant), you lost a couple skill points (on a reasonably skill-starved build), you lost the ability to trade your non-scaling animal companion (which would have been stronger with 4 levels of Ranger than 1 level of Druid, if you really wanted a petóI see your comment about milking your pet for poisons after ECL 14, but you have no ranks in Craft: Poisonmaking) for the always-classy Distracting Attack, you lost a point of BAB (which, combined with your desire to get the Acorn, delayed the point at which you can enter JoWaW, which is relevant because it delayed you getting Craven for three whole levels), and from a metagame standpoint, you left me wondering why you didnít go Druid from the beginning.
I read and understood your argument about Druid spells being good, but the question then becomes why you stop advancing Druid spells in favor of JoWaW spells (JoWaW spells are stylish as hell, but from a power standpoint, Druid spells are likely stronger overall, especially considering that youíd get significantly more per day for the same level investment). By adding Druid to your build, you added Druid to the conversation, and I donít feel like the topic goes in your favor. Iím not docking you points just because of the dipóIím docking points because of a really jarring twist that seems to come out of nowhere. (Ė0.5)
AG and JoWaW have at least a little bit of commonality between their prereqs, which is rarer than I would have expected this round. Nothing really wowed me with your build elements slotting nicely into place around each other, though. Half-Elf Paragon is a way to deal with the ďthe SI wants you to take 3 feats by level 5 without being a humanĒ issue, but since one of the feats is PBS (easily available as a Fighter bonus feat or a bonus feat for some other classes, like Scout or PsyWar), itís not as impressive as it might have been.
Use of Secret Ingredient: 3.0SpoilerAs Iíve said over and over, Iím fully aware that this is a really hard round. Itís very difficult to show off the abilities that the class gives you. Nonetheless, letís begin.
While I disagree with your use of the Acorn for Wood Speech, Wood Speech is a flavor ribbon either way, and I agree that the Acorn lets you use Forestwalk in a slightly more far-ranging manner than some of your competitors. You donít do anything interesting with Natureís Water that any other AG couldnít do. You name-drop running and charging through trees, but you donít have the melee capacity to make charging interesting, and I donít understand what your comment about your enemies not knowing if youíre teleporting or not has to do with running through treesóyes, youíve got your tree-a-port ability from your race, but itís not like youíre going to be hiding very well after taking the capital-R Run action through a tree, so it should be pretty obvious whether you teleported or notóand either way, you donít tell me what you do with the ability thatís interesting. Iíll give you credit for the Acorn trick working with Natureís Defender. You set yourself up to take advantage of Hunterís Mercy well enough (Craven is online then, and your late-game comment about Shadow Arrow seems legit enough), or at least as well as we can hope for a 1/day ability thatís duplicated by a level 1 spell. I donít agree that Tree Stride is enough to let you get back to your tree with no fuss if youíre outside the Spirit Wood; in a best-case scenario, you have to have a string of oaks, ashes, or yews that are no more than about half a mile apart between any two specimens, and thatís not really a guarantee when youíre outside of your forest. (Inside the Spirit Wood, thatís significantly less important, since you donít really need to re-up your Acorn as aggressively in the Spirit Wood.) You donít really give any indication that you care enough about AC for a late-game bonus to be noticeable for you; by the time the AC bonus exists, if you havenít devoted some kind of resources towards your AC total, youíve probably fallen off the RNG. (Iím skeptical that your WIS-to-AC bonus is more useful than that granted by wearing light armor, especially considering that light armor is easier to add enhancements to.)
The half-casting slowed you down a noticeable amount (the build would make just as much sense going full JoWaW rather than AG), and even though you found a separate casting list that only required 10 levels of advancement to max, you still didnít get full JoWaW casting as a result of your lost caster levels. (It is not at all unambiguously clear that you have more magical mojo than a pure-class Ranger for much of your career, unfortunately. An argument can be made, but it is not a slam dunk.) AG is less actively opposed to your build than is the case with some of your competitors, but the build still feels like it would be better off by not going AG.
My big sticking point is that while you did make an attempt to use some of the SIís abilities, I donít feel like you ended up doing anything that couldnít be better done by the other classes in your build, and I donít think you took much advantage of the (very) few unique features that AG offers. I think weíll call it about even.
Final Thoughts:SpoilerI donít dislike this build at all. Itís a pretty reasonable good-faith effort to make the best of a bad lot, and you managed to be functional despite AG sandbagging you. I was really hoping for something that went the extra mile and did something unique with AG that your component classes couldnít do, and I still feel like that Druid level in the middle didnít do you too many favors, but the end result is only moderately worse than a normal JoWaW build.