A Medium is a character who possesses the ability to talk to the spirits of the dead - not a necromancer in the /tg/ sense, but one in its original sense; a diviner who works their arts through communing with the dead. They may be particularly adept at fighting undead, especially ghosts, but more often than not are completely incapable of combat; they serve as flavor or advisory NPCs more than anything.
Mediums and spiritualism were hugely popular between the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The first version of a Medium to appear in Pathfinder was a new Mystery for Oracles introduced in part 5 of the Reign of Winter adventure path, "Rasputin Must Die". Inspired by the spiritualists and mediums who were prolific in Russia and the West during the time of the Great War, the "Occult" mystery grants the Oracle access to an array of spells and abilities reflecting the ghost-calling necromancer-psychic that mediums proclaimed to be.
This was followed up in the Occult Adventures sourcebook, where the Medium was introduced as its own distinctive class. The class suffers from massive MAD, as it's primary ability is to LITERALLY MIMIC OTHER CLASSES:
There are six normal spirits which many might realize are just the mythic paths. Spirits grant scaling bonuses to whatever is relevant to their core ability, as well as a flat boon that applies to the character and the whole party from level 2 onwards.
- Archmage: grants a bonus on concentration and intelligence checks, as well as a boon to spell damage for the whole party. They get 2/3rds spontaneous arcane spellcasting gaining spells from the Sorcerer/Wizard list, although they only gain one spell known per spell level meaning their 5-6th level casting is repeating the same spell multiple times. At least they can choose new spells each day and Summon Monster is an acceptable choice. They can also gain Influence (see below) on enhancing their caster levels and DCs. Capping with the ability to cast any spell from the Sorcerer/Wizard list. from ANY level. without expending a spell slot once per day.
- Champion: grants scaling bonuses to attack rolls and damage, as well as to strength checks as well as a flat bonus to damage for the party. These early bonuses and powers allow them to outmatch several martial classes, though without feat support the class definitely falls away at later levels.
- Guardian: gains a scaling bonus to AC, Constitution checks, as well as Fortitude and Reflex saves. Can use heavy armor and gains resistances to various energy types. Can later spend Surge to intercept blows intended for allies.
- Hierophant: gains bonuses to Wisdom checks and Will Saves, and flat bonuses to healing for the whole party. Gains 2/3rd spontaneous divine casting. In addition to the one new Cleric spell known per level, they also gain all Cure/Inflict spells from level 6 onwards, granting them much more versatility. They also gain the ability to Channel Energy and give out temporary buffs to the party, capping with the ability to cast the minor version of Miracle once per day.as a supernatural ability.
- Marshal: Gains scaling bonuses to Charisma checks, and on Spirit Surge rolls, their first Spirit Power lets them use Surge on practically any d20 check used by yourself or your allies, (meaning double bonuses on Charisma checks). They also have the unique ability to take the flat seance boon from ANY other Spirit every time they channel, and can provide competence bonuses to all allies saves or attack & damage rolls unlimited times per day by spending standard actions, or move actions at higher levels.
- Trickster: gets scaling bonuses to Dexterity skill checks and reflex saves as well as a floating +1 bonus on any skill for the party. This is supposed to be the skillmonkey Rogue analogue, gaining bonuses on skill checks equal to your level, and later gaining a crap version of Sneak Attack. and the ability to steal magical buffs.
There are a large amount of "Legendary" spirits that must be asked very politely to possess you and are largely fucking useless (oh boy 2 points of non-stacking bleed damage per attack! This was definitely worth slaughtering peasants for!).
As mentioned, Mediums can Spirit Surge allowing them to add an extra dice to any d20 roll that was itself modified by the Spirit Bonus. By doing this they accumulate Influence; showing how much control a spirit currently possessing him has. Influence starts a 1 point simply for channeling the spirit, but at 3+ points of influence, your spirit starts messing with you, giving specific penalties dependent on the spirit being channelled in addition to a -2 on initiative. At 5+ Influence your body is completely taken over and becomes an NPC until the following day.
- There are three ways to get around the limited number of Spirit Surge uses per day: The first is to take a Taboo which is essentially taking on one of a choice of additional "penalties" to be able to spirit surge two more times per day. Taboos can either be absolutely crippling or an entire non-issue depending on the circumstance, like not being able to tell the truth or willingly accept divine spells as some of the worst. Conversely only using a single weapon for that day, or taking every opportunity to learn something new rank as some of the least difficult Taboos to live with.
- The second way to get more Spirit Surge is to channel a weaker spirit, by sacrificing each power your spirit gives you granting you an additional two uses. Though this is effectively negating the whole point of being a Medium.
- At ninth level a Medium gains the ability to recover one point of influence per day, effectively granting them one more use.
Mediums can also talk with the dead; kind of like an advanced version of the Speak with Dead spell, but actually channeling it through themselves instead of summoning the dead person, later not actually requiring a corpse or a location to perform. They also get the ability to Channel Haunts and do scaling positive energy damage to them with a touch and force them to answer your questions, though unless your campaign uses the Horror/Occult mechanics that ability will mean jack shit.
You might have noticed that all these features make them weaker versions of core classes. It could be argued that there is benefit in versatility, since it allows the player to change their minds every time they come to the table, or fill roles as players drop in and out. While Spirit Surge is great, the limitations imposed upon it make it a short term tool at best or a liability at worst thanks to the influence penalties that come with it. Also, while the Seance boons are great, they tend to support allied characters of a similar type as you were, like the Hierophant boon giving no benefit to the party's Fighter, while also making a party's dedicated Cleric EVEN BETTER, only widening the gap between the class you were intending to mimic.
Without committing to a single build, it also becomes very VERY difficult to optimise your character to any role at all, essentially compounding the problem of everyone else getting better while you just dance around the niches filling holes. If you do commit to a single build, then you've just negated the versatility offered by being a Medium in the first place and should have just picked a class more appropriate.
It appears then that the Medium function best in parties that are not particularly well built by missing key components like full arcane/divine spellcasters or skillmonkeys, and giving a leg up to those partial casters or multi-classed characters that won't completely outstrip the Medium at everything they do.
In general, the class is seen as the absolute weakest of the already weak lot of the Occult Adventure classes, being mediocre at everything it can conceivably do, and deliberately making other classes better at what they're attempting to do themselves, and arguably suffering the very worst from the sourcebook's absolute fetish for undercooked penalty mechanics in the form of "influence," which piles up quick because it's required to make half the spirits even mediocre and hard to get rid of during the day. If you dig up the original playtest for the book, it indicates that they were supposed to function more like a Binder, a well loved and balanced class from 3.5, but Paizo was too lazy to create more than a handful of spirits and changed them to what they are now.
They would feasibly make for great DMPC or Cohort members in a party, as the limited amount of spells/abilities they have don't require much paperwork so long as they're not changing spirits all the time, combined with the flat bonuses they grant to the party can make everyone else shine. It also practically negates the fear of losing control of the character to build-up of excessive influence if the character was already under the control of the DM or never intended to be a primary character in the first place. As well as providing a good excuse for the DM to introduce a "new" character/spirit appropriate to each location the party visits.
A lot of the issues regarding Mediums can be salved with the application of archetypes, either removing useless features (particularly the Horror/Haunt based ones) and replacing them with actually useful ones, or by altering how the Spirit feature works in such a way it becomes more advantageous at a cost of some versatility.
- Fiend Keeper: you channel an evil spirit who constantly vies for dominance requiring you to walk a neutral tightrope. This does allow you to supercharge your Spirit and gain unique powers by beating them with a Int/Cha check, otherwise they gain influence if you fail.
- Kami Medium: channel Kami rather than the recently departed. Gains a Familiar made of paper, and uses a very unusual kind of spellcasting that covers targets with post-it notes that they cannot see or interact with themselves, but can be removed by an ally and negate the affect.
- Medium of the Master: you can ONLY channel a Monk, and replace most of the Champion spirit abilities with Monk-like abilities. You are now a spellcasting Monk...
- Outer Channeler: Binds to a specific subtype of outsider which cannot be changed, essentially fixing your Spirit choice forever. But they gain a powerful familiar and can accept additional taboos for more spirit surge.
- Reanimated Medium: interesting idea, badly executed. You died once and are channeling your own soul back into your body. Uses influence in reverse, spending it instead of gaining it, only restoring a fixed amount every day making it prudent to only use influence on alternative days. Other abilities help you come back from the dead more easily... though you should aim to not be dying in the first place.
- Relic Channeler: Gain access to more powerful versions of the existing spirits (more spells known, more skills, feats etc) but fixing them to portable objects that you need to carry around if you want to channel them. This also removes the ability to make any changes to those choices further down the line (those spells known, more skills, feats etc) so you better be sure you're happy with the decisions you make.
- Spirit Dancer: Choose-your-own-features version of the Medium. You can pick and choose your abilities from the various spirit legends at the start of each day, but only get access to them via a special dance that works like Barbarian rage. Though it doesn't exactly add anything new, the freedom offered by this archetype is often considered to be a whole Tier higher than the base class.
- Storm Dreamer: loses access to surges, but gains the domain powers and spells of Gozreh, so it's a fair trade off. They can also enter a trance for several minutes per day and gain things like blindsense, resistance to cold, air, and electricity, and can throw out lightning bolts, all regardless of the spirit being channeled.
- Storyteller: lose the scaling seance bonus and flat seance boons, in exchange for all of the better Bardic Music performances and the ability to use Spirit Surge on everything. However they struggle to use that surge on anything because they have an extra point of influence each day and they can't use propitiation to reduce it.
- Udo Wendo: channel elemental spirits that are easier than dead spirits, requiring gold or accepting non-lethal damage instead of specific locations, but their bonuses can't be shared with other party members. You also get to choose domain powers and spells from quite a wide list and dump all of the situational Horror/Haunt mechanics in exchange for the ability to speak with dead/animals/humanoids.
- Vessel of the Failed: bind yourself to one of the various failed aspiring deities. You can tinker with the surge/influence mechanics to not be reverted to an NPC if they get too much of a hold, but you become steadily more and more debilitated as they do.
|The Classes of Pathfinder 1st Edition|
|Core Classes:||Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk |
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
|Alchemist - Antipaladin - Cavalier |
Inquisitor - Oracle - Summoner - Witch
|Arcanist - Bloodrager - Brawler - Hunter - Investigator |
Shaman - Skald - Slayer - Swashbuckler - Warpriest
|Kineticist - Medium - Mesmerist |
Occultist - Psychic - Spiritualist
|Ultimate X:||Gunslinger - Magus - Ninja - Samurai - Shifter - Vigilante|