Yes, yes, I know, I've been very, very delayed in putting these up. But we're getting the ball rolling again! I am kind of jumping the gun a bit here because we don't have as big a buffer as I'd like, but I've held off too long as it is.
As usual for the showcase, these builds are intended to spur discussion and perhaps inspire a few people in the spirit of the old CO boards. They come from members of my gaming group - me, Radical Taoist, DisposableHero_, Andarious, Sionnis, and Seishi - and I'll always identify who wrote the build at the start, so do not assume I'm the guy behind all of them (because I'm not!).
Unless otherwise noted, showcase builds use 28 point-buy, and have their snapshots evaluated using fractional base attack / saves (because it simplifies the math). None of them actually rely on fractional to be built, though. The format I use showcases their progression at key levels rather than just presenting the build and showing off a few tricks at level 20; most of these are capable of being played 1-20 if you so choose.
With that out of the way, let's get started. This week, we’re taking a slight twist on an older idea, and presenting one of my own.
Say Hello to my little friend.
Required Books: Eberron campaign setting, Sharn: City of Towers, Complete Scoundrel, Weapons of Legacy, Complete Arcane, Tome of Magic, and whatever source you want for spells. (The three Compendiums each provide useful things here.) Additionally, reading the handbook for wand users and crafters can provide some insight (although your abilities alter what spells make for good wands).
Unearthed Arcana used: None.
Background: The Legacy Trickster stunt is well-known in the context of the Hellfire Warlock (thank you, Tsuyoshikentsu, for finding this).
There’s another prestige class that has the same properties that made the Hellfire + Legacy Trickster combination so appealing, but never got a lot of attention. The Cannith Wand Adept (Sharn, City of Towers) is three levels long and adds its class level to the caster level and DC of any wand he uses, and has a few wand-specific abilities as well. This is on top of the few other typical “wand master” abilities, which can already make wands more desirable in combat. This “overdrive” is an attempt to use the Legacy Trickster stunt to see how far open that specific ability can go before it snaps.
A note on power levels: We’re entering Cannith Wand Adept using the natural entry class, Artificer, which is on its own a fair sight stronger than the Cannith Wand Adept. Furthermore, none of the classes involved here actually advance caster level. This is a far ways down in power from a straight artificer as a result, but the goal here wasn’t raw power so much as seeing how much mileage we could get out of a wand.
Also: The build is more or less “complete” at level 12. Everything after that just attempts to kick it into overdrive with Legacy Trickster. If you don’t like that specific stunt, stop the build at 12; it’s completely serviceable there. Continue on as a straight-up artificer and you’ll be fine. It’s a pretty standard wand-based artificer up to that point; the new trick here is adding in a small extra DC boost and kicking the whole thing into overdrive rather than viewing it as a slight delay on your usual artificer.
- Race: Human. “Cannith” is a human family and you can’t get the requirements without belonging to it.
- Ability Scores: Oddly, this doesn’t matter quite so much, since virtually everything you do is almost ability-score-independent, particularly at the endgame. Charisma and Intelligence still matter, especially early on, so we’re going with 8/10/14/16/9/14 to start. Increases don’t need to go anywhere in particular though. (For snapshotting, I’ve assumed they go to Intelligence: you’ll get better infusions and more skill points, which are pretty much all your own ability scores provide.)
Skill Notes: Besides the obvious maxing out of Use Magic Device, there’s a bit of finesse required here. Qualifying for Uncanny Trickster using only artificer and wand adept levels is actually kind of painful because very few of the published skill tricks require artificer class skills. We have to grab a few superfluous tricks as a result. Specifically, I grabbed Collector of Stories, Magical Appraisal, Clever Improviser, and Swift Concentration, along with all of their prerequisites. I was able to max out Spellcraft, Search, Disable Device, and Knowledge: Arcana while still having enough points left over to qualify for other Trickster skill tricks.
On a related note, you need 5 ranks in Knowledge: History to become a legacy champion, and that’s a cross-class skill for everything else. Thankfully we’ve got a lot of skill points to play with.
Basic Equipment: This really doesn’t matter one iota beyond your bandolier or belt. Armor yourself as you need for an artificer and carry the backup crossbow most noncombatants carry. A masterwork UMD tool as early as possible would be a great investment, though you’ll replace it with magic gear eventually.
Also, I’d suggest tying some twine or chains or similar to your wrists. Cannith Wand Adepts can quickdraw wands, but like the feat, they have to drop the wand instead of quick-sheathing it. By giving yourself, essentially, a keychain, this’ll be less of a problem while you’re juggling your assorted wands. (If you want to be a real stickler for this, you’ll tie the strings to your bandolier or belt, as your quickdraw ability specifically refers retrieving wands from those places rather than dangling from your wrists. Basically you just want to be able to juggle wands without too much of a hassle.)
Magical Gear Goals: Wands up the yin-yang. You will be burning through the wooden sticks like wildfire. Anything that facilitates their use (such as a belt of many pockets, Spare Hand, and so on) is a good call as well. A basic +UMD item, advanced as big you see necessary, is also a wise investment, especially once you master the Spell Storing Item infusion. You can make pretty much anything you need on your own (Wands can’t store spells above 4th level, and you can create items of up to CL 11), so staple gear won’t be hard to get.
There is one magic item that deserves special mention here: The Rod of Many Wands (Complete Mage). I’ll discuss it below, once you’ve seen what the build can do.
You will need a legacy item as well, but it doesn’t have to progress beyond a Least Legacy (this can keep the legacy penalties from growing too significant). Special note on this: since wands take effect at their own CL, legacy items that penalize your CL won’t have as much of an impact on you as they would on a normal caster. On the flipside, artificers aren’t actual spellcasters and, as far as I can tell, you can’t “cheat” a legacy wielder requirement with UMD, so very few of the published items will work for you and you’ll probably have to design your own. There is a handbook out there for doing exactly this; there’s a more recent version which is offline at the moment.
Build Stub: Artificer 9 / Uncanny Trickster 3 / Cannith Wand Adept 3 / Legacy Champion 5.
1 – Artificer – (Artificer knowledge, artisan bonus, disable trap, item creation) (Scribe Scroll, Favored in House Cannith, Bind Vestige)
2 – Artificer – (Brew Potion)
3 – Artificer – (Craft Wondrous Item, Practiced Binder)
If you’d like, you can instead take Improved Bind Vestige here and delay Practiced Binder to 12. If you do, a pact with Malphas can get you poison use (use it as a way to buff the rest of your team; you’re expected to have a Craft skill and it may as well be Poisonmaking or Alchemy), while Focalor can get you a general-purpose short-range debuff aura (remember that using a wand does not provoke an AoO).
You kind of need all three feats before the reason behind the pact magic approach becomes clear, so for right now you’re relying on what Artificer provides you to normally.
4 – Artificer – (Craft Homunculus, Heighten Spell)
5 – Artificer – (Retain Essence, Craft Arms and Armor)
6 – Artificer – (Twin Spell)
7 – Artificer – (Metamagic Spell Trigger, Craft Wand)
This is one of your key abilities. It’s basically like a version of Divine Metamagic that costs GP. Critically, you seem to be able to use multiple metamagic feats with it at once, and it does not cap out at 9th level. This means at level 7 you can pick up a wand and burn through 5+(9-the spell’s level) charges in one shot to cast it twice with a significant DC bump (1st level: DC 20; 2nd level: DC 22; 3rd level, DC 24; 4th level: DC 26). For the record, the average saving throw mods for monsters at this CR are +9/+7/+6.
I’m rather cheesed off that Craft Wand is a bonus feat at level 7 when it only requires CL 5 to take normally. We held off on it because the artificer’s fixed bonus feats can’t be rotated, even though this kind of messes with the timing because Craft Wand is a prerequisite for several other good feats. If you can convince your DM to rotate when Craft Wand and Craft Arms/Armor come online, you can grab Reckless Wand Wielder at 6, and shuffling the order when you get your metamagics.
8 – Artificer – (Quicken Spell)
9 – Artificer – (Wand Mastery, Craft Rod)
10 – Cannith Wand Adept – (Identify Wand, Wand Focus)
I talked about this above, but it bears repeating: Wand Focus is your other heavy lifting ability. It gives you a slight bonus on wand attack rolls, and – much more importantly – it further raises your wand caster levels and DCs by an amount equal to your wand adept class level. That number normally caps at 3; we’re going to make it much higher.
11 – Cannith Wand Adept – (Wand Quick Draw, Dual Wand Use)
Keith Baker at one point said that this ability was supposed to make a huge splash, but a similar ability showed up as a feat in Complete Arcane (the books were released in the same month – apparently development teams don’t coordinate with each other all that much). Thankfully, the wand adept’s version is better (it doesn’t require Two-Weapon Fighting, and, by extension, 15+ Dexterity), if slightly more expensive charge-wise. By burning 1d4 charges per wand instead of the usual 1, you can trigger two wands as a single full-round action. Add in Metamagic Spell Trigger and you can tack on Twin or Heighten to that without too much trouble. Due to the action cost you can’t add Quicken to dual wands, but you can lead or follow up a dual trigger by Quickening either one of the wands you’re holding (and possibly also twinning or heightening it), or using your Wand Quick Draw ability to switch to a third wand and quickening that. Six spells per round at level 10 isn’t too shabby.
Interestingly, there’s a side effect to this. The ability lets you trigger the wands as a full-round action, overriding the usual time it takes to use a wand (typically a standard action; the RC makes it clear that it’s a swift or immediate action if you’re using a swift or immediate action spell though). This looks like a drawback – until you notice you can pack wands with spells that take more than one full-round action to cast. A trivial example is using a single full-round action to fire off two Summon Monster wands (normally a 1-round casting time each), before considering your metamagic.
There’s also one other thing here. Following that RC ruling, if you’ve got an immediate-action wand in your hand, you can use it as an immediate action. You’ve got Wand Quick Draw, which means after you’re done with your dual-wield, drop the wands you’re using (see the keychain note above) and Quick Draw a pair of immediate-action wands of your own. You can switch back to combat wands as a free action at the start of your next turn.
12 – Cannith Wand Adept – (Improved Dragonmark, Siphon Charge) (Least Dragonmark (Making), Improved Bind Vestige)
It’s also a trivially minor effect at this point, but Karsus’ other ability (essentially an always-on Detect Magic) links up well with Magical Appraisal and Identify Wand. (It does have a slight backfire effect – powerful magic within 30 feet will automatically Dazzle you. This isn’t very significant, but at the later levels your own gear might trip this!) Be advised that Karsus will not answer a binder’s summons if his seal is within the effect of an active spell. These drawbacks probably won’t be an issue, but shouldn’t be forgotten either, particularly if your team favors heavy buffing / Persistent Spell.
13 – Uncanny Trickster – (Bonus Trick, Favored Trick)
14 – Legacy Champion – (Reduced Lesser, Bond of Lore)
Like the last time I used the legacy champion on a showcase, I’m going to omit bonus legacy feats from the build discussion. Which you pick is largely up to your choice of legacy item, and you can easily use one of your own design here. (If you do, know that you don’t actually need to advance it beyond the Least Legacy for the build to work, which can help mitigate the penalties from legacy items.)
15 – Legacy Champion – (Replace Least) (Reckless Wand Wielder)
16 – Legacy Champion – (Extra Least)
17 – Legacy Champion – (Bonus Legacy Feat)
18 – Legacy Champion – (Replace Lesser) (Repeat Spell)
19 – Uncanny Trickster – (Bonus Trick, Favored Trick)
20 – Uncanny Trickster – (Bonus Trick, Favored Trick, Uncanny Luck)
Snapshot: You’re actually mostly ability-score independent as I mentioned. The only +6 booster item you need is to your Constitution, which’ll raise your expected HP to 180 (not all that hot, even for a caster, but if you want, you can shuffle level-up points and tomes to Constitution to get it higher). Since you trigger your things with UMD, we’ll also give a cheap +5 UMD item, although realistically you’ll want a bigger one. With no other magic items or buffs, you’re at Base Attack +15, saves of +11/+8/+13, and a respectable amount of skills (all those listed above, plus 80 extra skill points to distribute as you see fit among a pretty broad list as a Legacy Trickster). You also have item creation (up to CL 11) and artificer infusions at CL 9 (up to 4th level infusions – 5/4/4/3 slots per day), which can give you a decent amount of backup versatility; if you boost that CL using equipment, Power Surge becomes useful. The real winner on the infusion list is Spell Storing Item, which actually creates a wand on the spot (up to 4th level, with a DC 32 UMD check – your UMD mod is +32; you can’t fail this.). It’s only got one charge (without Power Surge), so you can’t overload it like other wands, but you still get its passive benefits, and since you can hasten your infusions with Action Points, this can really save your bacon if you’re caught with your pants down and surrounded by mixed metaphors.\
But, of course, the real selling point is your wands. You get +13 to the DC of any wand you use, and +11 to its CL, simply by holding it. You can burn an extra charge from the wand to raise that up to +13 CL if you need to hit a breakpoint or breach SR. You can also burn extra charges to apply Heighten (up to +9-the spell’s level extra charges), Twin (+4 charges), Quicken (+4 charges), and Repeat (+3 charges) to any of the spells in those wands, in any combination. You can also dual-wield wands, firing two off with one full-round action by burning 1d4 charges instead of the initial 1. Although this gets pricey, it also makes wands much more effective, to the point where you’ll select different sorts of spells than usual for them. You can also create wands of any spell that’ll fit into a wand (CL 9 is enough to fit them in), using your CL boost to get it to the higher levels, or you can buy higher-CL wands on the open market and use your boosts to get somewhat ludicrous.
The final saving throws you get for this, using store-bought wands (minimum CL), depending on how much you heighten, are: 1st level wand, DC 24-32, CL 12-14; 2nd level wand, DC 24-33, CL 14-16; 3rd level wand, DC 25-33, CL 16-18; 4th level wand, DC 27-34, CL 18-20. You can craft wands with higher base CLs if you want (getting them up to CL 24 when you use them). DC 34 is respectable but not amazing against a good saving throw (+23/+19/+16 average at CR 20), but that’s on its own: you can throw out up to six of these at once, and follow it up next round with another six at no action cost to you (sustaining one spell every half-second without resorting to extra-action magic); even if you’re sticking to saving-throw-based spells, that’s a difficult spell barrage to evade.
You’ll notice this basically “buys” you the Cannith Wand Adept’s dual wand use ability, of a sort, except you can go up to three wands. And since the wands trigger as if you had triggered them, it’s likely that your passive wand-based abilities – Wand Mastery, Wand Focus, and Karsus: Heavy Magic – still apply to the wands you use. However, it’s questionable if your active abilities, particularly Metamagic Spell Trigger and Dual Wand Use (and to a lesser extent Reckless Wand Wielder), can be used in conjunction with the rod since the rod itself is not a spell trigger device, but it is activating spell trigger devices as if you had activated them.
This is something to check with your DM. It looks, to me, like you definitely get Wand Focus, Wand Mastery, and Karsus’ Heavy Magic, and you very likely can press for Metamagic Spell Trigger and Reckless Wand Wielder as well. However, the different actions required to activate the rod, and the fact that it itself isn’t a wand, means that Dual Wand Use is likely out of the question (so you can’t dual-wield rods – or hex-wield wands, if you prefer). Similarly, Wand Quick Draw is right out. However, there’s also a very real case that the DM simply says “no, none of them will work, because it’s its own command-word item and it’s doing the activation, not you”.
Fear not, it’s useful in both interpretations (and most combinations of those interpretations).
Under the interpretation that I think seems like a fair, but lenient, one, you can keep the rod in hand as a shotgun of sorts. Toss in cheap wands that do most of their lifting from your +CL effect, and use it to open up with three magic effects all at once instead of your usual two (it’ll be slightly more efficient at this job but you won’t be able to pick what they are on the spot since you’ll need to start with it loaded, and you won’t be able to metamagic them). Then drop the rod (free action) and juggle between your other wands as you see fit (possibly twin/repeat/quickening them on the same round).
Under the conservative interpretation, fear not: it still serves a use. Under this interpretation, the rod is a command word item, and the wands appear to trigger even if the user is not able to trigger them normally (i.e. a wizard using a rod with a bard-exclusive, ranger-exclusive, and assassin-exclusive wand can still get the spells to trigger simply by using a command word, and without making a UMD check). In addition, you’ve got the ability to create homunculi. Take note that the Expeditious Messenger homunculus in the Eberron Campaign Setting, unlike all other homunculi, can actually speak. By building one of these guys and passing him a fully-loaded rod of many wands, you basically build a flying spell cannon, or a magical turret (I prefer the ShMUP term “option”, but now I’m showing my age.). This guy will work like the common UMD raven familiar, but without the actual need for Use Magic Device ranks (although he can get those too - it’s just a more complex and expensive process), and armed with an analogue to your Dual Wand Use ability. Crafting a basic expeditious messenger, the rod, and (for instance) three CL 9 1st-level wands will cost you 25,275gp, which can get pricey, but it’s still cheaper than buying the empty rod on its own at the market, and it’ll help you if you want to pull off a Macross Magic Missile Massacre.
Overall Strengths: Extremely powerful wand use, limited only by the number of charges you’re carrying with you. With powerful boosts to their CL and DC, and a metamagic cap broken wide open, you can adjust your wand selection to the situation and bring a pretty respectable amount of spell output to the table with almost as much flexibility as a wizard. You also carry all the basic item creation feats and Retain Essence, which can help fund this arsenal, and enough of a CL to hit all the spells that could go into a wand to begin with. (Remember to look for lower-level versions of each spell you want in order to really save on your prices; the Trapsmith list is amazing here.)
Overall Weaknesses: I won’t lie – this is expensive, particularly if you look into the homunculus “options” or use all of your abilities every round (you can actually burn through about 40 charges from a single wand in one round if you use a 1st level wand in both the dual-wield attack and the quickened followup!). You will probably run short of gold pretty quickly unless you resort to economy-breaking measures (for instance, using Astral Projection to duplicate your gear and using the duplicates’ charges instead of your normal charges). Your HP are also on the low side, but this can be shored up by boosting Constitution via level-up pumps. It’s not like your ability scores are doing much else in the endgame – which is also one of the drawbacks of the build, since you can’t add your ability score to wand DCs the way you do to staves (and staves don’t benefit from your wand-specific class features, although they do still benefit from Metamagic Spell Trigger and from Karsus’ Heavy Magic abilities, so you’re no slouch with them!). Although this saves you quite a lot in booster/tome costs, it also means your wands probably cap out around DC 34 (for max-heightening a 4th level wand), which is acceptable but not all that amazing (although you do unload six of them at once, and can include save-hosing spells or no-save spells in your arsenal just as easily). Finally, it’s a minor note, but if you fail Karsus’ DC 25 binding check at the start of the day (check modifier +7), you’re subject to his influence – specifically, he forces you to use Bluff or Intimidate whenever you’d want to use Diplomacy. If you built those spare skill points to serve as a face, this might be tricky (although you may just as easily have boosted Bluff for the deceptive skill tricks anyway, or gone all silent wallflower and let someone else do the talking).
Variants: The obvious variant juggles which metamagic feats you have available – Chain, Persistent, Fell Drain, and others are all on the table here. The three I picked are examples that can be applied to a pretty wide range of spells and contributed to the action advantage effect; if you want to specialize in a specific spell type (or even a specific spell) you can focus the feats on that choice and/or invest in metamagic cost reducers for charge efficiency. You can also rotate the metamagic feats out for specific support feats, such as Extraordinary Spell Aim if you’re focusing on area wands, Extraordinary Artisan and/or Magical Artisan to make your wand crafting more efficient, or an action-point feat (probably either Heroic Spirit or Action Surge) for general badassery.
Special note here goes to Wand Surge, which allows you to spend an action point instead of a wand charge; this is usually combined with a wand of Unfettered Heroism (Races of Eberron; provides you one temporary action point every round for its duration – you don’t even need to persist it if you use Wand Surge to keep casting it. It even lasts a little longer if a human casts it!). I left it out of the build because the AP only counts toward one charge and you’re draining many more than that, but no wand build would be complete without mentioning this feat as an option, at least in passing. (If nothing else, it allows for dramatically increased use of Spell Storing Item.)
There you have it. It looks like you can stretch your wands to the point where they bring a respectable amount of power to the table, albeit at a high gold cost. Lock and load, and go all Chow Yun Fat with spells.
Next up: RT has a couple of his ready to go (more or less), so we'll have you choose between the [RT] Abominable Throwman and [RT] God Hand. I think this time we're only going to list builds that we've completed the writeups for, which'll make it easier to keep the pressure going on our end without simultaneously killing ourselves with an update schedule.
In the meantime, I'm interested in seeing if anyone's got some really good finds for spell selections that can be fit into this chassis....