By Creighton Broadhurst
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.
The archmage is a good prestige class that grants members many useful abilities:
- Easy Qualification: For a single-classed wizard, sorcerer, or even wu jen (Complete Arcane), archmage is an easy class for which to qualify (although the process does take some time). Wizards can qualify for this class at 13th level, while sorcerers (with careful planning) can qualify at 14th level. Characters qualifying for this class need 15 ranks in Knowledge (arcana) and Spellcraft -- something that every 13th-level arcane spellcaster should have anyway. Characters also need to take Skill Focus (Spellcraft) and Spell Focus in two schools of magic, be able to cast 7th-level spells, and have knowledge of 5th-level or higher spells from at least five schools of magic.
- Good Will Saves: An archmage uses the best progression for Will saving throws in the game (see Table 3-1, PHB). Added to the bonuses gained from his previous arcane spellcasting class, he should have a truly impressive Will save.
- Excellent Spell Progression: With every level of archmage gained, a character also gains new spells per day (and spells known, if applicable) in the arcane spellcasting class in which he can cast 7th-level spells.
- Good Class Abilities: The archmage gains an additional high arcana ability at each class level. This gives him access to a number of useful abilities that can be used to customize his abilities. Choosing an ability requires the archmage to permanently sacrifice one or more spell slots, but the available choices always makes this worthwhile.
The archmage's advantages come at a price. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about an archmage character:
- Low Hit Points: An archmage uses 4-sided Hit Dice, making him very vulnerable in a fight.
- Poor Fortitude and Reflex Saves: An archmage has the worst progression for Reflex and Fortitude saving throws in the game. Unfortunately, these poor saving throws often stack with poor saving throw bonuses given by the classes a character uses to qualify for this prestige class.
- Poor Attack Bonus: An archmage has the worst base attack bonus in the game, advancing as a wizard.
- Loss of Class Abilities: Although advancing as an archmage grants additional spellcasting abilities in a character's previous arcane spellcasting class, the character does not get any other benefits from those classes. For example, a wizard 15/archmage 5 only has the class abilities of a 15th-level wizard. Similarly, if he has a familiar it, only has the abilities granted by a 15th-level master. (However, in the case of familiars, this only means it misses out on a higher Intelligence score and natural armor bonus, as a familiar has gained all its additional abilities by the time the master has reached 13th level).
Playing an Archmage
All the advice for playing a wizard character applies to archmages. People who play efficient archmages should also keep these additional notes in mind:
The high arcana class feature allows you to pick a number of special abilities to further customize and enhance your character:
Arcane Fire allows you to hurl bolts of arcane fire at your opponents. The bolts require a touch attack, do not allow a saving throw, have a long range, and deal 1d6 points of damage per class level of the archmage and 1d6 points of damage per level of the spell sacrificed to create the bolt.
Arcane Reach allows you to cast a spell with a range of touch on a target up to 30 feet away. If you select this ability twice, you double this range. Remember, you don't necessarily have to use these spells to injure your opponents. Often, dropping the right spell on a badly injured companion can save his life. Arcane Reach is a great choice if you commonly use some of the following spells:
0 level -- resistance, touch of fatigue
1st level -- endure elements, jump, mage armor, protection from [alignment]
2nd level -- bear's endurance, blur, bull's strength, cat's grace, darkvision, eagle's splendor, fox's cunning, ghoul touch, protection from arrows, resist energy, spider climb, touch of idiocy
3rd level -- displacement, fly, gaseous form, heroism, magic circle against [alignment], nondetection, protection from energy, tongues, vampiric touch
4th level -- bestow curse, contagion, polymorph, remove curse, stoneskin
5th level -- dream
6th level -- greater heroism, true seeing
7th level -- plane shift, statue
8th level -- Otto's irresistible dance, protection from spells, temporal status
9th level -- astral projection, imprisonment
Mastery of Counterspells allows you to turn back spells you successfully counterspell onto their caster as if they were affected by the spell turning spell. This ability goes well with the Improved Counterspell feat (PHB 95) or the spell-like ability granted by high arcane (if you take dispel magic or greater dispel magic).
Mastery of Elements allows you to alter spells to deal a different kind of energy than they would normally do. This ability is really useful when fighting creatures with a particular vulnerability to certain kinds of energy (for example, creatures with the fire subtype take extra damage from cold spells) or that are protected against certain kinds of damage (perhaps by a protection from elements spell or through natural immunity).
Mastery of Shaping is a great ability if you routinely throw around lots of area of affect spells. It allows you to create spaces within the area of affect that are not affected by the spell. If your adventuring party has several members that love to mix it up in combat, this is the choice for you.
Spell Power increases your effective caster level by +1 for determining variables such as damage dice, range, and caster level checks. Against creatures with spell resistance, this is a particularly useful boost.
Spell-like Ability allows you the greatest degree of flexibility when customizing your character. In brief, it allows you to choose a specific spell that you can use twice a day as a spell-like ability. You can even choose a spell altered by one of your metamagic feats, for example empowered scorching ray. Although this requires you to sacrifice two spell slots (a 5th-level slot for the ability and a spell slot of the same level as the spell chosen), it is incredibly useful. Basically, a good choice for a spell-like ability is any spell you are likely to want to cast in every encounter; adventuring archmages can confidently expect to use several stock spells on a daily basis. While your exact choice of spell depends on your style of game and likely foes, consider taking the following spells as spell-like abilities:
3rd level -- dispel magic
4th level -- dimension door, greater invisibility, stoneskin
5th level -- feeblemind, teleport, telekinesis, wall of force
6th level -- greater dispel magic, greater heroism, true seeing
7th level -- delayed blast fireball, power word blind, prismatic spray, empowered and maximized scorching ray, spell turning, greater teleport
8th level -- moment of prescience, power word stun, protection from spells
9th level -- maximized disintegrate, meteor swarm, power word kill, time stop
In general, it is not worth using this ability to take any spell below 4th level as a spell-like ability -- you are also sacrificing a 5th-level slot, after all!
Sample Archmage: Reydrich
Tall and pencil thin, this old human's steely gray hair is closely cropped. His left leg is horribly withered, and he walks with a pronounced limp. When he walks, he leans heavily on a gruesomely carved, stout staff decorated with gargoyles and leering faces.
Reydrich, CR 20
Male human wizard 15/archmage 5
NE Medium humanoid (human)
Init +4; Senses darkvision 60 ft., arcane sight, see invisibility; Listen +6, Spot +11
Languages Abyssal, Ancient Suel, Celestial, Common, Draconic, Ignan, Infernal, Old Oeridian, permanent comprehend languages, permanent tongues, empathic link
AC 25, touch 16, flat-footed 21
(+4 Dex, +4 armor [from mage armor], +4 deflection, +2 luck, +1 insight)
Miss Chance 50% cloak of displacement
hp 131 (146 with false life) (20 HD)
Resist contingent blink activates when grappled
Fort +13, Ref +13, Will +20
Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee +2 quarterstaff +10 (1d6+1) or
+1 dagger +9 (1d4/19-20)
Base Atk +9; Grp +8
Atk Options mastery of elements, mastery of shaping
Combat Gear cloak of displacement, 2 potions of cure serious wounds, potion of restoration, ring of counterspells (greater dispel magic), staff of power (10 charges), scroll of ethereal jaunt, wand of summon monster IV (10 charges), wand of enervation (10 charges)
Wizard Spells Prepared (CL 20th; spell pen 24th; ranged touch +13):
9th -- Bigby's crushing hand, summon monster IX, time stop, wish
8th -- empowered chain lightning (DC 28), mind blank, greater planar binding, protection from spells
7th -- delayed blast fireball (DC 29), empowered cone of cold (DC 27), prismatic spray (DC 29), summon monster VII
6th -- chain lightning (DC 28), quickened scorching ray (2), true seeing
5th -- sending, quickened true strike, wall of force
4th -- detect scrying, dimension door, greater invisibility, extended heroism, polymorph, stoneskin
3rd -- fireball (DC 25), fly, haste, lightning bolt (DC 25), protection from energy (2)
2nd -- alter self, false life*, invisibility, knock, extended mage armor*, mirror image, protection from arrows
1st -- expeditious retreat, feather fall, mage armor, ray of enfeeblement, shield, true strike (2),
0 -- detect poison, mage hand, message, prestidigitation
* Already cast
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 20th):
2/day -- greater dispel magic, greater teleport, meteor swarm (DC 31)
Abilities Str 8, Dex 18, Con 18, Int 31, Wis 18, Cha 12
SQ imp familiar, permanent resistance, scry on familiar, share spells
Feats Alertness (if familiar within 5 ft.), Augment Summoning, Empower Spell, Extend Spell, Greater Spell Focus (evocation), Greater Spell Penetration, Improved Familiar, Quicken Spell, Scribe Scroll, Skill Focus (Spellcraft), Spell Focus (conjuration), Spell Focus (evocation), Spell Penetration
Skills Concentration +27, Craft (alchemy) +24, Decipher Script +20, Knowledge (arcana) +33, Knowledge (architecture and engineering) +15, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +12, Knowledge (geography) +12, Knowledge (history) +12, Knowledge (local) +14, Knowledge (nature) +12, Knowledge (nobility and royalty) +20, Knowledge (religion) +12, Knowledge (the planes) +23, Listen +6, Ride +8, Search +10, Spellcraft +39, Spot +11
Possessions combat gear plus headband of intellect +6, ring of protection +4, dusty rose ioun stone, amulet of health +4, bag of holding (type 1), eyes of the eagle, gloves of dexterity +4, +1 dagger, 2 doses of diamond dust (for stoneskin)
Spellbook spells prepared plus any spell the DM deems appropriate. Reydrich is a powerful wizard and has access to many books and libraries.
Master of Elements (Su) Reydrich can alter an arcane spell when cast so that it is based on a different element from the one it normally uses. This ability can only alter a spell with the acid, cold, fire, electricity, or sonic descriptor. The spell's casting time is unaffected. Reydrich decides whether to alter the spell's energy type and chooses the new energy type when he begins casting.
Mastery of Shaping (Su) Reydrich can alter area effect spells that use one of the following shapes: burst, cone, cylinder, emanation, or spread. The alteration consists of creating spaces within the spell's area of effect that are not subject to the spell. The minimum dimension for these spaces is a 5-foot cube. Shapeable spells have a minimum dimension of 5 feet instead of 10 feet.
Reydrich had the following ability scores before racial adjustments, Hit Dice ability score increases, stat boosting items, and inherent bonuses gained through casting wish: Str 8, Dex 12, Con 13, Int 15, Wis 14, Cha 10.
Have a spell or feat combination you use with the archmage? (Does the name Reydrich ring a bell?) 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. He is currently trying to survive the Savage Tide. It's not going well. That's what you get for playing a one-legged dwarf…