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Eldritch knights (Dungeon Master's Guide, pg. 187) combine some of the best characteristics of fighters and arcane spellcasters, making them truly flexible and dangerous opponents.
Although the eldritch knight is a solid, well-rounded prestige class, it does have some weaknesses.
Playing an Eldritch Knight
If you are planning on play an eldritch knight, you should keep some things in mind. An eldritch knight needs to be very aware of his position within the group. It is likely that he is neither the party's best wizard nor fighter; however, being relatively skilled in both classes makes him a useful addition to any adventuring group.
Certainly, an eldritch knight's higher hit points and armor class mean that they can afford to get into combat more often—and, once there, stay longer—than a single-classed spellcaster. His proficiency with all simple and martial weapons also gives him more attack options.
Arcane Spell Failure
Perhaps an eldritch knight's most dreaded enemy is his own armor! More specifically, many armor types and shields can interfere with the gestures necessary to cast many spells to such an extent that the spell fails. Luckily, eldritch knights have developed several tactics to reduce or eliminate the problem of arcane spell failure. Most eldritch knights use a combination of the strategies listed below to get around this common problem.
No Somatic Component: Eldritch knights often memorize spells that have no somatic components, because such spells have no chance of arcane spell failure. The accompanying list provides many useful spells from the Player's Handbook without somatic components.
Extend Spell: Some spells, such as false life, protection from arrows, and overland flight, combined with the Extend Spell feat from the PHB, can last for a sizable part of a day (although extended spells take up a spell slot one higher than normal). Eldritch knights often cast these spells before putting their armor on, thus obviating their arcane spell failure chance.
Still Spell: Taking the Still Spell feat allows eldritch knights to cast spells without somatic components. A stilled spell takes up a spell slot one level higher than the spell's actual level, but has no chance of arcane spell failure.
Use Magic Items: While, unfortunately, scrolls are treated as spells in terms of arcane spell failure chance, other wondrous items such as wands and staffs are not. Thus, an eldritch knight can wear any kind of armor he desires and use such magic items without fear of failure.
The kind of equipment coveted by an eldritch knight depends on their focus (see "Sample Eldritch Knight Builds," below). Magic weapons and armor (preferably crafted from mithral, which reduces arcane spell failure by 10%) are a necessity. Adding the twilight armor special quality (Player's Handbook II) reduces the chance of arcane spell failure by a further 10%. However, all eldritch knights should aim to buy a ring of force shield (+2 bonus to AC, no arcane spell failure chance) to replace their shield or buckler as quickly as possible. Beyond that, stat-boosting items for an eldritch knight's relevant base classes are very handy. Wands, staffs, and rods ignore arcane spell failure and are also a useful addition to an eldritch knight's armory.
Sample Eldritch Knight Builds
The eldritch knight is a very customizable prestige class. In particular, a character's feat and spell selections define his role within the party. As discussed above, all eldritch knights should consider the Still Spell feat to offset their arcane spell failure chance. Many eldritch knights also take Lightning Reflexes to improve their poor Will save. Finally, they often take Extend Spell (PHB) or Practiced Spellcaster (Complete Arcane) to increase the duration and efficacy of their spells. Eldritch knights with the Eschew Materials feat (PHB) do not have to use material components costing 1 gp or less; this allows such characters to wield two-handed weapons, or a weapon and shield, while casting spells with such components.
Many eldritch knights take at least one level of spellsword (Complete Warrior 79) for that prestige class's ability to reduce arcane spell failure. However, the decision to take levels in other prestige classes (if any) depends on the eldritch knight's focus: weapons or magic.
The following notes detail three different styles of eldritch knight. There are many more!
Melee Eldritch Knight: A melee specialist eldritch knight likes nothing better than diving into battle, using his spells and weapons to smite his foe. Such characters normally use their arcane spells to augment and protect themselves. They often take four levels of fighter to qualify for the Weapon Specialization feat before becoming an eldritch knight. Such characters normally focus on using one kind of weapon taking the Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization, and sometimes Improved Critical and Power Critical feats (Complete Warrior 103). Arcane Strike (Complete Warrior 96) is an absolute necessity for this kind of character. Melee-focused eldritch knights also often take levels in the bladesinger (if an elf or half-elf, Complete Warrior pg. 17) or dervish (Complete Warrior pg. 25) prestige classes, in order to complement their combat prowess (depending on the precise weapon they use).
Archer Eldritch Knight: This type of eldritch knight is often an elf with levels of arcane archer. A true expert with the bow, he uses true strike, cat's grace, and so on to increase his accuracy. Archer eldritch knights also often take levels in darkwood stalker (if an elf or half-elf, Complete Warrior pg. 23) or Order of the Bow Initiate (Complete Warrior pg. 68).
Wand-Wielding Eldritch Knight: This is a potentially expensive character build in terms of gold and XP cost, but it can wreak devastation among its foes. (Also, note that the character must have a Dexterity of least 15 to pull this off.) Such characters take the Two-Weapon Fighting, Craft Wand, and Double Wand Wielder (Complete Arcane 77) feats. Wands, of course, do not suffer arcane spell failure checks, so these characters normally wear heavy armor. Eldritch knights with Double Wand Wielder can use two wands at the same time, allowing them to simultaneously strike their enemies with fireballs and lightning bolts (or whatever spell combination they desire).
Sample Eldritch Knight: Cymria of Celadon
A thin, lean elf clad in scale mail and holding a glowing battleaxe stands before you. Her deep green eyes are hard, cold, and devoid of all mercy.
Cymria of Celadon CR 14
Cymria had the following ability scores before racial adjustments, Hit Dice ability score increases, and stat boosting items: Str 14, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 15, Wis 10, Cha 8.
Have a spell combination you use with the eldritch knight? Any additional advice you would include for this prestige class? (And does the name Cymria of Celadon ring a bell?) Let us know, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Creighton Broadhurst is a member of Living Greyhawk's Circle of Six and a mad-keen World of Greyhawk fan. His hobbies include trying to complete his original Temple of Elemental Evil campaign (most adventurers daring that dangerous locale do not survive) and clearing up the devastation left by his two-year-old son (who delights in wielding exotic toys to bizarre and deadly effect).
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