In this month's exclusive interview, Andy Collins, lead developer of Complete Mage, discusses its heritage feats, fey and fiendish; reserve feats; Bigby's Tomb--and which spellcaster he'd most want in his party!
In the interests of better involving the player community with the D&D website, questions for this interview were solicited in part via the message boards. Our thanks to everyone for their participation.
Wizards of the Coast: We're talking about Complete Mage--many folks are curious as to how this book relates to Complete Arcane; specifically, are there synergies between them? Likewise, what sets Complete Mage apart?
Andy Collins: Both books cover similar topics--how to enhance your character's magical (arcane) abilities. That said, they don't follow exactly the same format (though both contain spells, feats, and prestige classes as one might expect), so the range of subject matter varies a bit. Complete Mage, for example, doesn't introduce new classes like Complete Arcane did, though it does provide some new options (feats, spells, and so on) for the new classes from Complete Arcane.
Wizards: Speaking of classes, spellcasters everywhere are hoping this book brings a little love for their particular class. Let's look at a few: What does Complete Mage offer for warlocks? For hexblades? For wu-jen?
Andy: It's hard to imagine an arcane spellcaster that won't find something in here to their liking, from warlock invocations to wu jen feats to assassin and hexblade spells. Of course, we haven't forgotten the bard, sorcerer, and wizard--the book has plenty for those characters too.
Wizards: According to the catalog description, "Alternative class features give other character classes--from the barbarian to the rogue--a little taste of what it's like to be an arcanist without sacrificing their core identities." Can you give us an example of such a taste?
Andy: The rogue, scout, or ranger can gain the ability to reflect spells or spell-like abilities back upon their caster... at the cost of their precious evasion class feature.
Wizards: Within R&D, is there an ongoing debate between the relative strengths of spellcasting vs. fighting classes (and if so, how goes that debate)? Tome of Battle recently gave fighters a new suite of damaging powers; does Complete Mage look to bring similar capabilities to the spellcasters?
Andy: In my opinion, the most exciting new option in Complete Mage is the "reserve feat." This category of feats offers your spellcaster an unlimited-use attack or utility power, as long as you keep one of your most potent spells uncast. The 6th-level wizard with Fiery Burst, for example, can create a 5-foot-radius burst of fire up to 30 feet away that deals 3d6 points of damage as often as he wants... as long as he hasn't cast his last fireball spell for the day. Basically, these feats let your spellcaster manage his resources so that he isn't the one saying "it's time to leave the dungeon"--as long as you play well, your wizard can do something interesting and fun every round and never run out of resources!
Wizards: Speaking of spellcasting and combat, are there any battle-hardened prestige classes, on par with the (base class) warmage? Any favorite PrCs of your own?
Andy: The holy scourge is "an arcane caster who instills within his magic the power to cleanse the world of wickedness and depravity"--how can you go wrong with that?
I also like the enlightened spirit prestige class, which is designed for warlocks who wish to shed their fiendish taint and take on a more celestial aspect. Among other powers, the character's eldritch blast takes on new aspects designed for battling undead and evil outsiders.
Wizards: Of course, it couldn't be Complete Mage with the addition of new spells. What can you tell of us these--are there shape of/form of/aspect of spells that continue the reimagining of polymorph? And we hear there's a defensive spell that can even block magic missiles.
Andy: For Complete Mage, we tried to push the familiar boundaries of what spells do in the game. With Spell Compendium in players' hands, we knew that just "more of the same" wouldn't fly. Thus, you'll see spells with cumulative effects when cast consecutively, with bonus effects that kick in if the target's already suffering (or benefiting) from another of your spells, with contingent effects triggered by later actions, and even spells that let you cast two spells simultaneously!
We also have spells that riff on long-time favorite spells, such as true casting (a 1st-level spell that gives you a +10 bonus on your next spell penetration roll) and repelling shield (a 3rd-level spell that pushes away attacking creatures in addition to providing the normal benefits of shield).
The new polymorph-style spells in here allow your wizard to take on the form of a hell hound, winter wolf, chimera, or even a beholder!
Wizards: Folks are also curious about the heritage feats. Are these based off the previous bloodlines (draconic, infernal, celestial), or can we expect new bloodlines?
Andy: We have two series of heritage feats--Fey and Fiendish. They're available to any character who meets the alignment prerequisites, and grant a variety of special benefits and spell-like abilities.
Wizards: There's a whole section of Complete Mage dedicated to arcane adventures. Can you tell us a little about these--what kind of magical locations are covered, and what might be gained there?
Andy: The magical locations in Complete Mage range from the mysterious (such as Bigby's Tomb) to the fantastic (such as an eternal vortex). Some are locations to visit, while others represent phenomena that could manifest wherever the DM wants them, such as the metamagic storm. The benefits gained by characters who visit such locations vary widely--from empowering necromantic spells after exploring the boneyard to gaining a bonus spell slot after drawing power from a dragonsblood pool--so regardless of the level of your campaign, you should be able to find something appropriate.
Wizards: Finally, Complete Mage offers new named spells for Melf, Otiluke, Mordenkainen, Rary and Vecna. All things being equal, which of these spellcasters would you most want in your party?
Andy: Well, Vecna's a deity, so that one hardly seems a fair choice. And I hear Rary's none too trustworthy. Despite their name recognition, neither Otiluke nor Mordenkainen have come up with some pretty unexciting spell concepts--come on, guys, spheres and mansions? Please.
Honestly, I have a soft spot for anyone self-confident enough to voluntarily be called "Melf the Elf," so I think I'll have to go with the creator of the acid arrow.