I have been building a gish character for a Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 game that I'm playing with some friends; as some of you had noticed, I made some threads asking for guidance on some interpretation of the rules, just to make sure that this character plays according to them. After a good amount of time researching, I've finally finished, and I really like the result!
This is the first character that I make and to which I have devoted a good deal of time; as I won't be playing with this character any time soon, I want to share this build with you. I'm not an optimizer so, if you can suggest or add some things to make it better, I'll appreciate it if you share your thoughts.
I'll present this build the best I can, showing some of the possibilities that you can do with it. I like the Final Fantasy games very much, so I'll include some tricks that I call "Limit Breaks" and "Trances" or battle styles. I'll be adding more information as I get it to improve this post.
Well then, let's begin!
Balancing the arts of sword and magic.
Minimum requirement of books: Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, Draconomicon, Complete Warrior and Complete Mage. These books are required to be able to take the prestige classes.
Books Used (feats and prestige classes):
Player's Handbook II
Dungeon Master's Guide
Drow of the Underdark
Player’s Guide to Faerûn
I will be showing the specific feats that I used from these sources.
I'll recommend more books that you can use to enhance the build a bit. You should use the Spell Compendium and Magic Item Compendium as well.
Background: This character doesn't fight mainly as a wizard or a normal warrior; it can get a very good balance of both abilities, by taking advantage of some spells and using them in some interesting ways as it fights, as we'll see later in this post. It is an intellectual warrior, it dedicates more time studying about magic and monsters than studying geography, history or social knowledge. It actually has 5 levels of the Spellsword prestige class, and I managed to get it to still advance in the caster levels pretty well. This character is made to be able to fight with a good sword and manipulate magic with a good balance during a fight.
Race: If you're playing in Forgotten Realms, I will suggest Human (with the Militia feat to meet some requirements); if you're not, you'll have to be an Outsider (I recommend Aasimar, from Races of Destiny).
Ability Scores: I won't include a specific ability score build to keep this as flexible as possible, but I have to say that you'll need high scores on Intelligence, Strength and Constitution. This build has not much MAD.
Alignment: If you can use the Book of Exalted Deeds, I recommend any good alignment to be able to cast some awesome spells.
Equipment: If you can use the Magic Item Compendium, you will do great with a +1 Sizing Greatsword plus any other enhancements of your choice. You won't have any problems with spellcasting later if you use a Mithril Breastplate with any enhancements of your choice. I recommend the use of Boots of Speed too. You can enhance the character with any other magic equipment that you want (Int, Str and Con boosters, for example).
Overview (Levels 1-20): Wizard 5/Eldritch Knight 3/Dragonslayer 1/Spellsword 5/Abjurant Champion 5/Eldritch Knight 1
I want to thank the people that helped me make this build possible, you can see the thread in this link: Trying to Make a 5th lvl Spellsword Gish with 16 BAB and 9th Level Spells at level 20
I don't recommend wizard specialization so you can cherry pick the spells that better suit your needs; you won't be the main caster in your group but you can help with the battlefield control to a certain extent. If you really want to specialize, I recommend the Abjuration school, to get the best of the Abjurant Champion class. You need proficiency with all the martial weapons to take the Eldritch Knight prestige class, that’s why you need to be an outsider or take the Militia Regional Feat from Player’s Guide to Faerûn.
I’ll show the feats that I selected for this build, these are suggestions to take good advantage of the capabilities of this character; you have 7 free feats from a total of 10 (or 11 if you’re a human). I’ll indicate the required feats for prestige classes with bold letters.
You will also need 2 ranks in Tumble and 6 ranks in any knowledge skill, I’m sure that those skill ranks won’t be a problem at all to get.
Level 1 .- Wizard: Dodge (If you’re human, Militia too)
Level 2 .- Wizard:
Level 3 .- Wizard: Iron Will
Level 4 .- Wizard:
Level 5 .- Wizard: Smiting Spell
Level 6 .- Eldritch Knight: Combat Casting and Enspell Familiar
Level 7 .- Eldritch Knight:
Level 8 .- Eldritch Knight:
Level 9 .- Dragonslayer: Knowledge Devotion
Level 10.- Spellsword:
Level 11.- Spellsword: Improved Familiar
Level 12.- Spellsword: Arcane Strike
Level 13.- Spellsword:
Level 14.- Spellsword:
Level 15.- Abjurant Champion: Energy Substitution
Level 16.- Abjurant Champion:
Level 17.- Abjurant Champion:
Level 18.- Abjurant Champion: Poison Spell
Level 19.- Abjurant Champion:
Level 20.- Eldritch Knight:
You can change the order of these feats if you want to get some benefits earlier than others.
Some other recommended feats:
Dragon Familiar: I love dragons and I find pretty awesome the idea of having a loyal and powerful dragon companion.
Enspell Familiar (from Dragon Compendium): If you can have your familiar with all the buffs that you have without needing it to be at 5’ from you, you can have a pretty powerful battle companion if you take either the Improved Familiar or the Dragon Familiar feat as well. I suggest replacing the Smiting Spell feat (or the Energy Substitution feat if you can get your hands on a Metamagic Rod [substitution] from the Magic Item Compendium) to take this one if you want.
Arcane Disciple [Healing] (from Compete Divine): I find interesting the idea of being able to heal yourself, but this feat can increase your MAD a bit.
As you can see, this character can be pretty fun to play during the advancement of levels, it can wield a sword from the very beginning (Not recommended, but you can) and gets competence with armor and more hit points at a fairly good time (Specially before the Spellsword levels, so you can fulfill the special requirement). The levels in Spellsword can make it possible for you to wear a mithril medium armor without worrying for the Arcane Spell Failure.
Your Abjurant Champion abilities can be well used to buff yourself without wasting much time using swift actions to cast (If you can use the Greater Luminous Armor from the Book of Exalted Deeds plus a Shield spell, you can have a +21 boost on your Armor Class).
At level 20, this character has +17 Base Attack Bonus and spellcaster level 17, so it can cast 9th level spells. It also has an average 83 hit points without any Con modifier (if you have +4 Con modifier, you’ll have 163 hit points); an average ranger has 93 hit points without any Con modifier at level 20, so this character is just 10 HP below a ranger, and I think that that’s a pretty cool HP for a caster, and a pretty appropriate amount to be able to fight melee.
For thematic purposes, the Smiting Spell feat can add a very cool flavor to the character, as it is a wizard with a sword, it should be able to modify some spells to transfer that energy to its weapon and smash it on the enemy with a successful hit.
The Knowledge Devotion feat is great for this character; your main priority should be to max out all the knowledge skills used to identify monsters when you can (Arcana, dungeoneering, nature, the planes, religion and any other that can be used to identify monsters) after the Concentration skill. You can use several Crystal Masks of Knowledge (from Magic Item Compendium) or use the Collector of Stories skill trick (from Complete Scoundrel) to get a good amount of bonuses to those knowledge skills and always have at least a +2 insight bonus to your attack and damage against your opponents.
The prestige classes give a good boost of attack bonus and HP to your character, so the Improved Familiar or the Dragon Familiar feats can be quite useful to get a battle companion that can effectively help you.
Of course, as a good gish character, the Arcane Strike feat can be very useful if you want to make sure that your next attacks will hit (specially for the Limit Breaks). Also, this feat is pretty cool for thematic purposes too, as you literally use magic to hit better with your weapon. And you weapon glows.
The Poison Spell feat, from the Drow of the Underdark book, can be especially useful for this character if you use it with certain spells like Chill Touch. Why? Because if you use a single dose of poison for a Chill Touch and hold the charge of that spell, you can make several touch attacks with it, deliver the spell and also deliver the effect of the poison, without having to use more than just one single dose. That’s what I call getting value for your money right there. If you’re using a good alignment, you should use paralysis poison. I don’t know if this feat can be used with the ravages of the Book of Exalted Deeds.
This character can use the Channel Spell of the Spellsword prestige class, and that allows it to do what I call “Limit Breaks”, referring to the Final Fantasy games in which I got inspired to make this build and these tricks.
As the name suggests (for those that are familiar with Final Fantasy games), these tricks are VERY powerful, and you should not use them too often if you don’t want your DM to houserule your abilities.
The Channel Spell of the Spellsword is a very interesting ability, but we can agree that it can be amazingly useful if used with some good spells and it also can be a kind of waste if used with the wrong spells.
For example, if you decide to channel a Scorching Ray, you’re getting yourself in a melee fight with the enemy and trying to get past its full Armor Class just so you can deal the damage of your weapon and the very same amount of damage that that spell would do if you cast it from a safe distance… with a ranged touch attack. That’s just not a good trade for me; however, if you decide to channel a Wall of Fire, you can do what no other character in the game can do: Set your enemy on magical fire for a good number of rounds, dealing damage each round. You have only 3 Channel Spells per day, so you want to make wise use of them.
The goal here is to get this character to do awesome things that only its abilities can allow, so it can be a special character and not just a fighter that can cast spells or a wizard that can grab a sword and fight sometimes. It should be able to do both things at the same time.
I’ve read the rules over and over again and checked the errata on the Complete Warrior book to make sure that this use of the ability is really possible, you can see a forum thread that I made explaining the justifications for that here: [3.5e] Using the Spellsword's Channel Spell with Wall of Fire and other area spells.
Ok, let’s begin with the Limit Breaks; a good think to notice is that you can start using a lot of them at the very moment that you can get to use the Channel Spell (Level 13). I’ll also indicate the earlier levels in which you can begin to use each Limit Break.
- Firaga Sword (Level 13): You can channel a Wall of Fire in your weapon and the next target that you hit will light up like a torch and receive damage as if it was inside a Wall of Fire, and the ways to get rid of that is either taking 20 points of cold damage, getting a Dispel Magic cast on it or dive into water. That’s really cool.
- Frostburn Sword (Level 13): As Firaga Sword, but with a Wall of Coldfire Spell (from Frostburn).
- Vortex Sword (Level 13): As Firaga Sword, but with a Vortex of Teeth spell (from Spell Compendium). Pretty useful for incorporeal creatures and the only way to get rid of that is with a Dispel Magic.
- Inferno Sword (Level 13): As Firaga Sword, but with a spell of Wall of Magma (from Sandstorm).
- Acid Burst Sword (Level 13): As Firaga Sword, but with an Acid Wall of Magma spell (Using the Energy Substitution feat or a Metamagic Rod [Substitution]).
- Venomous Sword (Level 13): A Cloudkill spell using Channel Spell. Getting a good deal of Con damage each round can really ruin someone’s day.
- Bosshammer Sword (Level 16): An Avasculate spell (from Spell Compendium) using Channel Spell; just to look awesome and scare a dragon if you can blow up half of its life with a single hit of your sword.
- Lion Heart/Omnislash (Level 18): If you can get a Belt of Battle (from Magic Item Compendium), prepare a Greater Celerity spell (from Player’s Handbook II) and use your Boots of Speed, you can emulate the famous Limit Breaks from the Final Fantasy VII and VIII games. This is how you do it:
1.- You channel a Stun Ray (or an Otto’s Irresistible dance to get attacks of opportunity) on your sword.
2.- On your next turn, you make a charge on the target. 1st hit, target gets stunned at least for a round.
3.- On your next turn, you activate your Boots of Speed and make a full attack on the target, preferably using the Arcane Strike feat and any other buffs that you can get cast on yourself.
4.- On the same turn, you use a swift action to activate the 3 charges of your Belt of Battle and make another full attack.
5.- If you have a little luck, your target won’t begin its turn just after you, so wait until another enemy takes action and then use an Immediate Action to cast defensively a Greater Celerity spell and make another full attack on your target.
6.- (Optional) If you really want your target dead, you can finish this process with any other Limit Break described above using a move action to channel the spell and a standard action to hit.
I know that there are better ways to emulate a Lion Heart/Omnislash in Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, but this is a nice option too if you can plan your turns carefully to try it. I’m not quite sure if I’m using the rules well here; please tell me if you can’t do something like this.
If you have other ideas for Limit Breaks, I’ll be grateful if you share them with me to add them here as well.
These tricks can really prove that your character effectively balances sword and magic. These tricks use all the spells that allow you to do touch attacks per caster level. This is why I recommend using a Sizing Greatsword, so you can shrink it to the size of a long sword and you can hold the charge of a multitouch spell in your off-hand to deliver the spell in the same turn that you attack with your sword. Te big disadvantages of these tricks are that you can’t cast any other spell while you do this because you lose the spell that you hold if you do it and, if you touch any other thing that’s not your enemy with your off-hand, the spell triggers. All of these tricks have to be started following these steps:
1.- On your turn, you shrink your greatsword into a long sword (or you switch from your greatsword to a long sword) and you cast a multitouch spell, holding its charge.
2.- On your following turns, you manage to get close to your enemies to be able to do full-attacks.
3.- When you can do a full-attack, you should activate your Boots of Speed, make a full attack and use the extra attack to make a touch attack to deliver the multitouch spell to your target, and you can keep holding the charge of the spell if you want to repeat it. The touch attack should not provoke an attack of opportunity because your hand is “armed” with the spell.
If you’re surrounded by enemies, you can deliver the spell to many of them if you use your full attack distributing your touch attacks on the enemies, and you can do the remaining attacks with your sword.
If you’re using the Poison Spell feat, you can enhance these Trances very much.
Unlike the Limit Breaks, you can begin to use some of these Trances from the very beginning by carrying a great sword and a long sword and switching between them. I will indicate the earlier levels in which you can use each of them.
- Chilling Swordman (Level 1): Holding the charge of a Chill Touch.
- Corrosive Swordman (Level 1): Holding the charge of a Corrosive Grasp (From Magic of Faerûn).
- Parching Swordman (Level 1): Holding the charge of a Parching Touch (from Sandstorm).
- Storm Swordman (Level 10): Holding the charge of a Storm Touch (from Magic of Eberron).
- Spectral Swordman (Level 14): Holding the charge of a Spectral Touch (from Libris Mortis: The Book of the Dead).
- Scalding Swordman (Level 16): Holding the charge of a Scalding Touch (from Magic of Eberron).
If you know of any other multitouch spells to use, please tell me and I’ll add them here.
There are two things that I’m not completely sure how to interpret them:
1.- I don’t know if you can make more than 1 touch attack with your spell on the same target in your turn; if you can do it, you can distribute your full attack between touch attacks and attacks with your sword. (Except with Spectral Touch, that spell specifies that you can only do this attack once per round).
2.- I don’t know if you can make the extra touch attack with your off-hand holding the spell as if you were using a second weapon and thus taking the penalties of Two Weapon Fighting.
If you can help me clear these doubts, I’ll appreciate it.
Well, these are a lot of the cool things that you can do with this character; I’m not 100% sure if the rules are well applied in all of this long post, so if you notice anything wrong, please tell me so I can make corrections.
Also, if I didn’t explain myself correctly or if I made spelling errors, please tell me so I can make corrections to the text.
I hope that you like this build; I would love to see your opinions.
Thanks a lot for your attention!