This column aims to provide players with tips on creating effective and interesting characters of various types. Whether you're a beginning player creating your very first character or an experienced gamer looking to put some punch into an old standby, this column is for you.
- Easy Qualification: It is easy to qualify to become a dragon disciple (from the DMG pg. 183). You must already be a nondragon (easy for the vast majority of characters), cast arcane spells without preparation, have eight ranks of Knowledge (arcana), and speak Draconic. Thus, bards, beguilers (PHB II), sorcerers, duskblades (PHB II), warmages (Complete Arcane), and even spellthieves (Complete Adventurer) can qualify to become dragon disciples. The only costly qualifier for dragon disciple is the required eight ranks of Knowledge, but these can be achieved by 5th level.
- Excellent Hit Points: Dragon disciples use d12 Hit Dice, the best in the game. When added to their spellcasting Hit Dice, this gives them excellent hit points.
- New Class Ability at Every Level: Dragon disciples pick up a new, useful ability at every class level. These abilities stem from the dragon disciple's heritage and are often useful in combat. They gain bonuses to their natural armor, their Strength, Constitution, and Intelligence scores, and a breath weapon. At 2nd level, dragon disciples gain claw and bite attacks, meaning that they become impossible to disarm. At 10th level, a dragon disciple gains the half-dragon template, giving them many additional abilities.
- Good Will Saves: Dragon disciples have good Will saves which stack well with those bestowed by their arcane spellcasting class.
- Good Fort Saves: Dragon disciples have good Fort saves.
The dragon disciple's advantages come at a price. Here are a few things to consider when designing a dragon disciple:
- Poor Reflex Saves: Dragon disciples have poor Reflex saves, leaving them vulnerable to attacks such as fireball and lightning bolt. This situation is made worse by their arcane spellcasting class, which normally also has a poor Reflex saving throw. (Bards are slightly better off in this regard).
- Spells: Although a dragon disciple must be able to cast arcane spells without preparation, the class itself does little to enhance that ability.
- Average Attack Bonus: Dragon disciples' base attack bonus increases as a monk's. It's not great, but it is better than that of a single-classed sorcerer.
Playing a Dragon Disciple
When playing a dragon disciple, consider the following:
Choose your spells carefully. As a dragon disciple, spellcasting is never going to be your primary focus, and you probably have only a few spellcasting levels. Thus, you are unlikely to be the primary arcane spellcaster in the group. Given this, it is best to concentrate on spells that protect you and augment your own abilities (and those of your companions). Additionally, you may not have been able to place your best stat in your spellcasting ability, meaning that the DC for your spells will be correspondingly lower.
For dragon disciples, Practiced Spellcaster (Complete Arcane 82) is a useful feat, because it increases the efficacy and duration of spells. This, in turn, allows them to stay in combat longer. Extend Spell and Sudden Extend (Complete Arcane 83) also increase the duration of buff spells -- a useful advantage. Lightning Reflexes improves their bad Reflex saving throw, while Improved Toughness (Complete Warrior 101) bestows extra hit points -- always handy for a combatant.
In many ways, dragon disciple is a hybrid prestige class. Members have a mix of spellcasting abilities and combat skills. The equipment you purchase depends in large part on what role you want to fill in your party. If you can ignore the arcane spell failure chance of some types of armors (an ability of warmages and duskblades), buying magical versions of these makes excellent sense. Given that as a dragon disciple you also gain bite and claw attacks, buying magical weaponry may not be the best move for you. Getting some method of enchanting these attacks, however, makes a lot of sense. Buying an amulet of mighty fists or investing in multiple potions of magic fang are good ways to achieve this. When buying stat-boosting items, focus on those that improve your physical attributes (Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution) instead of those that improve your spellcasting ability. The DC of your spells is irrelevant if you concentrate on buffing and protective spells.
Dragon disciples need to plan their progression in advance. Prospective dragon disciples can qualify for the prestige class at 5th level, and the prestige class has only 10 levels, so they need a plan for what to do with their remaining five levels. Returning to their original class to boost their spellcasting abilities has merit. Alternatively, a dragon disciple could take levels in another prestige class or (depending on his race's favored class) multiclass into a more combat-oriented class. Depending on a dragon disciple's class and race combination, occult slayer (Complete Warrior 66) is a good prestige class in which to gain a few levels, as are spellsword (Complete Warrior 79) and eldritch knight.
Sample Dragon Disciple: Ivellios Amakiir
Tiny, iridescent golden scales cover this tall, well muscled elf from head to toe. His long, black hair is tied back in an ornate ponytail. His hands end in long, graceful claws, and sharp fangs protrude from his mouth.
Ivellios Amakiir CR 11
Male elf duskblade 7/dragon disciple (gold) 4
CG Medium humanoid (elf)
Init +6;Senses low-light vision; Listen +6, Spot +6
Languages Common, Draconic, Elf, Sylvan
AC 25, touch 12, flat-footed 23
(+2 Dex, +7 armor, +4 shield, +2 natural)
hp 90 (11 HD)
Fort +11, Ref +7, Will +9; +2 against enchantment spells and effects
Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee+1 keen longsword +17/+12 (1d8+6/17-20) or
+1 keen longsword +17/+12 (1d8+6/17-20) and
bite +15 (1d6+5) or
bite +15 (1d6+5) and
2 claws +10 (1d4+2)
Ranged mwk composite longbow +13/+8 (1d8+5/x3)
Base Atk +10 Grp +15
Special Actions arcane channeling, breath weapon, quick cast 1/day, spell power +2
Combat Gear potion of cure serious wounds, ring of blinking, ring of the ram (40 charges)
Duskblade Spells Known (CL 7th; ranged touch +12):
2nd (6/day) -- bear's endurance, bull's strength, dimension hop, swift fly, stretch weapon, touch of idiocy,
1st (7/day) -- blade of blood, jump, Kelgore's fire bolt (DC 14), obscuring mist, shocking grasp, swift expeditious retreat
0 (6/day) -- acid splash, disrupt undead, ray of frost, touch of fatigue (DC 12)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 7th)
5/day -- dancing lights, detect magic, flare (DC 12), ghost sound (DC 12)
Abilities Str 20, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 15, Wis 10, Cha 8
SQ arcane attunement, armored mage, elf traits,
Feats Arcane Strike*,Combat Casting, Improved Initiative, Improved Toughness*, Lightning Reflexes, Weapon Focus (longsword)
*feat presented in Complete Warrior
Skills Concentration +16 (+20 casting defensively), Jump +16, Knowledge (arcana) +10, Listen +6, Search +2, Spellcraft +18, Spot +6, Swim -1
Possessions combat gear plus +2 breastplate, +2 heavy steel shield, +1 keen longsword, masterwork composite longbow (+5) with 20 arrows, boots of striding and springing,gauntlets of ogre power,amulet of health +2, 50 gp
Arcane Channeling (Su) As a standard action, Ivellios can deliver any touch spell he knows through his weapon with a melee attack without provoking an attack of opportunity. The spell must have a casting time of 1 standard action or less. If the attack is successful, the attack deals damage normally; then the effect of the spell is resolved.
Breath Weapon (Su) 1/day;DC 16; 30 ft. cone; 2d8 points of fire damage.
Spell Power (Ex) If Ivellios has injured his opponent with a melee attack, he gains a +2 bonus on caster level checks to overcome that opponent's spell resistance for the remainder of the encounter.
Quick Cast Once per day, Ivellios can cast one spell with a casting time of 1 standard action or less as a swift action.
Armored Mage (Ex) Ivellios can use light or heavy armor and heavy shields without any chance of arcane spell failure.
Ivellios had the following statistics before racial modifiers, Hit Dice modifiers, dragon disciple bonuses, and stat boosting items -- Str 14, Dex 12, Con 13, Int 15, Wis 10, Cha 8.
Have a feat progression you prefer for the exotic weapon master? Any additional advice you would include for this prestige class? 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).