Character Build Spotlight: Gish

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I personally am a great fan of gish, and I've seen many others who share similar tastes for the fighter/mage hybrid. This thread is dedicated to teaching what gish are, how they work, and the various kinds people enjoy playing.

While the technical appliance of the term "gish" is for a "warrior then mage" build, it has been brought to my attention many people also enjoy "mage then warrior" builds. Therefore, I want to broaden the definition of gish when applying it to this thread's focus.


What is "gish"?
Gish is the term used for any fighter/mage build where the character's focus in both spellcasting and martial combat is at least somewhat equal and where both aspects of the character are viable. Spellcasting and Manifesting (for psionics) can usually be used interchangeably.

In order for a character to be considered "gish", they must be capable of higher level spellcasting (6th-9th level spells), or capable of attacks with BAB +15 to +18, or a combination of these two things. There are a few very rare exceptions to this rule and these, some examples being the hexblade, bard, 3.5 assassin, fist of zuoken, and warmind) and these are treated as very unusual characters despite their obviously gish-like abilities/tendencies.

Gish builds are arguably the best "glue" to any adventuring party simply because of their dual-purpose nature. There are various types of gish, as is indicated above, and while each one has its own unique role in a group they are all excellent characters for binding a party’s attributes.

In the next several sections, all aspects relating to gish will be discussed and this thread will be updated as much as possible.


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Part 1: Classes


Starting Off
When looking closely at a gish build, there is always the primary concern of early levels. Afterall, before acquiring any of the several mage/warrior prestige classes available, you are behind any “straight” caster in terms of spells and likely not strong enough in melee to hold your own against a “straight” fighter. This is actually only partly true. This section will focus on classes to start with and why they are useful in construction of usable gish builds. Your core starting classes are exceptionally important, as they will be a key factor in determining the sort of gish your build will be best suited for.


Part One: The "Warrior"
Barbarian
The Barbarian is second to none in terms of outright damage possible. Numerous tests have proven this, Rage being a key factor in all of them. However, once multiclassing away from a Barbarian, a character will loose access to the greater rages that make the class so effective in combat. That said, why would anybody start with this sort of class only to multiclass away from it and dilute the Barbarian’s power? Two words: Rage Mage. The ability to rage extra times per day, cast spells at higher power while raging, and eventually gain Tireless Rage and Warrior Cry make this single prestige class amazingly strong when combined with the Barbarian class’s abilities. Depending on the focus a character spends on Rage Mage, multiclassing out of that isn’t a bad option either, as is discussed later in the Prestige Classes section. Combination Barbarian3/Wizard3/Rage Mage10/Eldritch Knight4 is remarkably powerful if the character focuses on buff spells, and this is simply one build (providing Base Attack +15, Tenser’s Transformation 1/day as a free action, Tireless Rage, and Wizard Caster Level 11, not to mention great starting HP).

Hexblade*
Hexblade is a powerful starting class, without a doubt from anybody who has seen it. High base attack and d10 for hit die, good Will, a good skill set, full weapon proficiencies and ability to use and cast light armor without Arcane Spell Failure (referred to as ASF) are just some of the goodies this class gets. Unlike other starting classes, multiclassing from the Hexblade is entirely unnecessary. The class is a stand-alone gish on its own, and multclassing away would only be to provide enhanced armor usage while casting spells (via Dragonslayer and Spellsword). However, as good a deal as this sounds for potential gish players, it must also be noted that the Hexblade’s spell selection (while greater then the Sorcerer’s) is limited to a low number per day and tops off at 4th level spells. Careful Hexblade players might look to multiclass a build similar to this: Hexblade5/Sorcerer3/Dragonslayer1/Spellsword1/Eldritch Knight10. This build provides a Base Attack of +18, Sorcerer Caster level of 14, access to 1st level Hexblade spells, no ASF from light armors (for Hexblade spells), and early-level Hexblade abilities. Hexblades are great for nongood characters who are careful builders and know what they want.

Fighter
This is perhaps the most self explanatory class in regards to beginning your gish build. The boost to your Fortitude save, bonus feats at both 1st and 2nd level, and the high base attack and hit dice make this very attractive to choose. Weapon proficiency is also key here, as many prestige classes (example: Eldritch Knight, Spellsword) require proficiency in all martial weapons and in the latter example all armor as well. Choosing Fighter as your base "warrior" half is a good start because the bonus feats, while limited at such low levels, are what will determine the build’s fighting style in the future of its level progression. If a player chooses Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot, for example, this is a good setup to a ranged type of gish, either a light to middleweight martial gish or a simple spell-focused gish. Choosing Power Attack and Cleave would be good choices if one plans a middleweight or "tank"-type martial gish build who focuses on self-buffs and two-handed weapons.

Monk
Perhaps the least common of gish starting "warrior" classes is the Monk. This is attributed to the lower Base Attack, arguably the only downside to starting as a monk. Despite this one downside, the medium HP, full array of good saves, unarmed/unarmored combat ability, great skills, and bonus feats make the monk incredibly useful in gish builds, even if it might suffer a case of MAD (Multiple Attribute Distribution, the downfall of many potentially-good characters). Starting with 4 levels of Monk and multiclassing away to any primary arcane caster (will be referred to as PAC) or primary psionic "caster" (PPC?) would provide a solid basis for unarmed and unamored abilities, and with no real need for weapons a character can focus all of his or her resources into increasing their magic item arsenal to improved their ability scores and gather more wands/scrolls/etc. Monk4/Wizard or Sorcerer4/Dragonslayer1/Spellsword1/Eldritch Knight10 with Lightning Reflexes provides a solid character with incredible saves (+16/+10/+21, including Iron Will required for Dragonslayer), a +17 base attack bonus, moderate-low hp, very nice skills, unarmed combat ability (bonuses for being unarmored are minimal so this promotes wearing of light armor) and solid spellcasting ability with either Sorcerer or Wizard as a chosen PAC (Caster Level 15). While it typically takes a little longer to get into a gish-type prestige classes, the benefits in the end are usually well-worth it.

Ninja
Having recently been pointed at the Rokugan Ninja class, I’ve decided to add this to the list of fighter types. With its primary save being Reflex, this presents something of an assassin/roguish feel and a bonus to an often suffering saving throw. Sneak attack and Uncanny dodge are great, as is Speed of Darkness (adding Intelligence to Initiative rolls). The great skill selection and nice number of skill points available make tjos almost a rogue/fighter who would benefit greatly from the addition of a Psion or Wizard. The lack of armor proficiency can hurt, but a level of Dragonslayer can change that and for stealthy assassin or sniper builds the Ninja is a strong starting point. The best part about the class though is that it, while providing the sort of Dexterity/Intelligence oriented abilities and skills that it does, maintains a full Base Attack bonus even if it suffers from a much lower HD then normal (d6 rather then the usual d10 or even less common d8). Like the monk, this isn’t a class that can be returned to once multiclassed away from, but then again there shouldn’t be any need to run back to this class, neutralizing that as a downside.

Paladin
While many people dislike the strict code of conduct of Paladins, they are actually one of the better classes available to support the martial side of mage/warriors. High base attack and hit dice, immunity to fear at first level, full proficiencies with weapons and armor, and at 2nd level the ability to heal himself and others and add his Charisma bonus to saves make the an attractive choice for the gish's "warrior" at early levels. Paladin/Sorcerers are the best build for this, as it allows the high Charisma so important to the Sorcerer to buff the character’s saves with little to no effort at all while at the same time increasing the amount of healing the character can dish out. Although it is regrettable that once a player multiclasses away from Paladin they cannot return (without attonement anway), beginning the first levels as a Paladin will provide a strong backbone for the character as it leaves Paladin to progress its primary spellcaster levels.

Ranger
Many people see the Ranger’s smaller hit dice as a negative, but when it’s only an average of 1 hit point less per level and you gain the benefits of great skills and two good saves the tradeoff is more then made up for. Two levels provide a pair of bonus feats (Track and either Two-weapon Fighting or Rapid Shot), nice early-level boosts to Reflex, great skills in terms of skill points and available choices, and the high base attack so important in nearly all gish builds. Although a less-than-common choice, there are several prestige classes that actually work better if entered with levels of Ranger rather then Fighter or Paladin (Master of the Yuirwood, for example).

Samurai*
The Samurai is taken for a similar reason to the Fighter and the Paladin. The bonus feats at first and second level (first level being Exotic Weapon Proficiency for bastard sword, the second being Two-weapon Fighting) provide a built-in weapon style for Samurai-gish to work from if they’re willing to sacrifice a few more feats to enhance this double-weapon style. With full proficiencies (minus shield), high base attack, d10 for health, and free feats the Samurai is a good class for players who like honor-bound characters and still want effective martial ability for their gish builds.

Swashbuckler*
Again a similar case to the fighter, Swashbuckler is a much "lighter" sort of starting warrior class. High base attack and d10 hit dice, very good skills compared to other primary fighter types, and an emphasis on Intelligence-based combat make this an ideal build for high-Dexterity Wizards. Fortitude is the primary save here. This class is best left after 3rd level, as 4th level Swashbuckler provides nothing and the first three levels allow a free feat, intelligence to weapon damage, a small bonus to Reflex. The proficiency with all simple and martial weapons and light armor is always helpful, as even without acquiring any mage/warrior prestige classes. The Swashbuckler is arguably the best martial class for would-be Bladesingers.

*found in Complete Warrior

Part Two: The "Mage"
Psion
The term "spellcasting" is most commonly referring to arcane spellcaster, but some of the best gish builds, despite the limited prestige classes available, are actually psionic characters. Psions are a sort of a Sorcerer offshoot in that they "cast" without preparation and have and make some of the best "blasters". The bonus feat at 1st level is always helpful in meeting prestige class prerequisites or simply increasing the psion’s personal power. Metapsionic feats are superb for psions and the powers available to psionic characters are incredibly versatile. After finally having read thoroughly through my copy of Expanded Psionics, 3.5 psions no longer choose their primary manifesting ability score, but that makes them no less dangerous, only slightly less versatile. The sheer amount of augmented powers psionicists can bring to the table is amazing, as few other characters can belt out the sheer numbers psions can. Got a few extra powerpoints? Load up your energy burst and then empower it.

Psychic Warrior
Bonus feats aplenty, the Psychic Warrior is very powerful psychic gish starter. With medium base attack, it tends to not fall quite as far behind in BAB as the other primary casters/manifesters, even if it’s limited in the psionic power scope. Although only reaching 6 levels of psionic manifesting, these powers are nearly all combat oriented and all very useful. Wisdom is the key manifesting ability score, and while no extra power points are gained for high strength the increased DC and bonus to Will are pretty good tradeoffs. This build is excellent for multiclassing with other wisdom-based characters, such as Clerics, and I am working out a Cleric/Psychic Warrior/Mystic Theurge that should be pretty effective. With Fortitude as their good save, a d8 for hit die, and a decent skill list this class is excellent for martial gish of any kind, especially martial tanks, while at the same time providing just enough to be considered "mage" as well.

Sorcerer
The epitome of blaster, Sorcerers are arguably the best gish out there. The high volume of spells per day, regardless of how limited they are, allow for continuous spell support and spell-focused Sorcerer gish are literally walking artillery platforms. Their machine-gun nature allows for a war-based spell list that can easily outshine many other gish casters in combat simply due to the repetitiveness (for example, a Wizard can only cast so many dispel’s in a day before he runs out...). Martially-bent gish excel with the Sorcerer because of how many times they can cast Tenser’s transformation (or really any number of buff spells). The ability to cast use higher spell levels to keep casting many lower level spells is infinitely useful when trying to wear down a highly fortified (be it via HP, Armor, etc.) opponent. The biggest downside, however, is the utter lack of useful metamagic. Unless Arcane Preparation is acquired, it takes a full round to cast metamagic-ed spells (making Quicken Spell useless). Arcane Preparation allows spells to be prepared as Wizards for purposes of metamagic feats. With Charisma as a primary stat and few Charisma-based skills, however, as well as a lack of any bonus feats or class abilities, the Sorcerer alone can quickly fall behind its Wizard counterpart in terms of usefulness. Luckily that’s why multiclassing and prestige classing exists.

Wilder
While the Psion is an excellent class in regards to gish builds, the Wilder might be the more dangerous outright. Most Wilder players don’t particularly care to multiclass away, considering the benefits of the Wilder class at later levels, but gish Wilder are surprisingly effective. With the ability to boost their manifesting level (at the cost of potential psychic enervation) this functions as a sort of built in Practiced Spellcaster. The ability to Elude Touch (better avoid touch attacks) and surging euphoria make this a very attractive class for the "mage" part of a gish build. The low number of powers known but high number of power points (plus Charisma as a primary stat) make it a very good combination with Charisma-related fighter-type classes (paladin, samurai, swashbuckler) who can continuously manifest strong psionic powers. Metapsionics are great despite the Wilder’s lack of bonus feats.

Wizard
Wizards, while lacking the sheer number of available castings as their Sorcerer counterparts, have the huge advantage in that they can learn a limitless number of spells so long as their spellbook is protected and metamagic feats will not extend the casting time of their spells if they prepare the metamagic feats with the spells ahead of time. Two fewer spells per day for each spell level seems like a bad tradeoff, but not needing an extra feat to simply cast metamagic spells at their normal casting time is more then a little helpful. The bonus feats this class acquires is also very helpful, as is Scribe Scroll at level one (allowing the Wizard to make many spell scrolls and allowing for a self-made spell "battery" ). Item creation feats can make up for the lack of spellcasting volume very easily. Wizards also gain new spell levels one level earlier then the Sorcerer, making it easier to gain access to prestige classes. The use of Intelligence as a primary spellcasting stat make a Wizard’s iffy skill list seem much better indeed as you learn you can max out many of the skills.


[b]NOTE:[/b] Many of the prestige classes made for arcane casters (Dragonslayer, Eldritch Knight, etc.) can be almost literally translated into psionics with a few skill changes and name changes. Bladesingers and Spellswords require a little more work but are still easily doable. These adjustments are tricky only in the respect that psionics are not affected by ASF, so there will be some minor adjustments in the transitions to make it more balanced for psionic characters.


Prestige Classes
Prestige classes are the meat and bones to gish builds. There is no way a fighter-type10/mage-type10 can achieve the power of a simple Fighter2/Wizard4/Spellsword10/Eldritch Knight4. Therefore, this segment is for the various gish prestige classes available.


Bladesinger
Prerequisites: Elf or Half Elf, Base Attack Bonus +5, Balance 2 ranks, Concentration 4 ranks, Perform (dance) 2 ranks, Perform (sing) 2 ranks, Tumble 2 ranks, Combat Casting, Combat Expertise, Dodge, Weapon Focus (longsword or rapier), Ability to cast 1st level arcane spells

[b]NOTE:[/b] I personally include Elven Lightblade and Elven Thinblade in the Weapon Focus category, as they fit the class perfectly.

Merits: Bladesong Style, Lesser/Greater Spellsong, Song of Celerity, 2 good saves, d8 hit die

Drawbacks: Odd levels do not progress spellcasting

Good levels to jump out after: Bladesingers have a unique spellcasting vs special ability progression. At every odd level, they increase spellcasting level, but with the exception of first level special abilities are only gained at even levels. First level is always good, as it allows a +4 dodge bonus when using a rapier or longsword (see above note) and nothing in the other hand and it also increases spellcasting level. After that, depending on what you want from the class will depend on what levels you go for. Lesser Spellsong isn’t worth shooting for, but Song of Celerity (4th) and Greater Spellsong (6th) are.

Good drop-levels: If you want to dip, only two levels of the class are necessary. This allows the above mentioned +4 dodge bonus and also the ability to cast defensively and take 10 on Concentration. After Greater Spellsong there isn’t really need to finish levels in the class, unless you really want Song of Fury (allows an extra attack).

Good lead ins: Swashbuckler3/Fighter1/Wizard2, Fighter4/Wizard2 or Sorcerer2


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Assassin*
Prerequisites: Alignment any evil, Disguise 4 ranks, Hide 8 ranks, Move Silently 8 ranks, Must kill someone for no other reason than to become an assassin

Merits: Brief but effective spell list, good skills, sneak attack, (Improved) Uncanny dodge, Hide in Plain Sight, Reflex save as good save (unusual for gish), spells cast spontaneously and in light armor

Drawbacks: Medium Base Attack bonus, d6 hit die, spellcasting encourages light armor, self-contained spell list and progression

Good levels to jump out after: The assassin works excellent with Intelligence focused characters, especially caster-focused ones with an evil twist and a penchant for gift for killing. However, since the class has its own system of casting, it works best with at least 3 levels. You loose 1 BAB and 3 PCL (primary caster levels) in exchange for a few assassin-related spells and the ability to cast them in light armor. Level two provides Uncanny Dodge, which is nice for characters that don’t have it (as is the Improved version), poison use and death attack make good use of Intelligence, and sneak attack is perfect for invisibility junkies. 5th level, if you’re loosing a good bit of PCL and 2 BAB, but have even more spells and even more benefits of this class.

Good drop-levels: The assassin, with a small handful of other prestige classes, works best as a gish compliment/supplement with at least 5 levels or so. You suffer a -2 BAB loss up to level 8, which isn’t bad. Levels 9 and 10 really aren’t needed.

Good lead ins: Rogue3/Swashbuckler3 is great for more martial ones, as is Rogue1/Wizard4/Swashbuckler3 if you’re willing to wait and focus on Spellsword and Eldritch Knight after a few assassin levels to further/finish up Wizard.


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Dragonslayer
Prerequisites: Base Attack Bonus +5, Dodge, Iron Will, Tumble 2 ranks

Merits: Fear immunity, energy resistance, Damage reduction, Full BAB, d8 HD, two high saves and a bonus to the class's weak save

Drawbacks: Every even level doesn't increase spellcasting, the biggest setback.

Good levels to jump out after: 1st level is good for a boost to Fortitude and Will and a +1 to Base Attack, immunity to fear, and a level of spellcasting. 5th level is good for full energy resistance 5 and another spell level, and 6th level is good for another point of damage reduction and for the free feat (Lightning Reflexes). If you're going to 9th level you have another spell level and another point of Damage Reduction tacked on, but you also may as well take the 10th level and gain energy resistance 10 and the ability to use true strike as a move action.

Good drop-levels: Any even level is a decent drop level, as you gain no real "benefits" and each even level delays your spellcasting progression. Levels 2, 4, and 8 are all useless, honestly. 6th level is alright, but neither greatly beneficial nor important simply because of its lack of spellcasting progression.

Good lead ins: Fighter2/Wizard4/Spellsword1, Paladin4/Sorcerer2. This PrC seems to be one to dip into later levels or shoot out for soon as possible and add on the extra spellcasting levels afterwards with Eldritch Knight or simply more Sorcerer levels.


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Eldritch Knight
Prerequisites: Profiency with all martial weapons, Able to cast 3rd-level spells

Merits: Full base attack bonus progression and one-level-from-full spell progression is nothing to scoff at.

Drawbacks: First level doesn’t increase spellcasting level and there are no class abilities to speak of. D6 for hit dice is sorta ew, but easily forgivable if a character is smart and takes feats like Improved Toughness and has self-buff spells/powers.

Good levels to jump out after: Really any level past 1st. Levels 2-10 provide full Base Attack increase and full spellcasting progression, so any level of this class is as useful to get to as any other. This makes the Eldritch Knight the perfect “filler” class, one designed to raise BAB and Spellcasting.

Good drop-levels: See above.

Good lead ins: Aiming straight for Eldritch Knight is not typically a sound choice in gish building, as other classes can be acquired earlier and provide more benefits (with the exception as a straight PAC (or psionic caster) with the Militia feat. This having been said, Eldritch Knight is good to “finish off” the 20-level progression, or take at odd levels when you just want a bonus feat (at first level) or an increase in spellcasting and base attack.

[b]NOTE:[/b] This, with the change of a few skills and words, this can easily translate into what I affectionately call “Cerebral Knight”, the psionic variant. Abilities are exactly the same, with the spellcasting progression replaced with psionic manifester progression.


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Elocater
Prerequisites: Base Attack Bonus +3, Concentration 8 ranks, Mobility, Spring Attack, Able to manifest 1st-level powers

Merits: Two good saves, better manifesting progression then any Bladesinger or Spellblade equivalent, Scorn Earth, Dimension Step, Flanker, Dimension Spring Attack

Drawbacks: 2nd, 5th, and 8th levels do not progress manifester level, medium BAB, d6 hit dice

Good levels to jump out after: As a personal fan of elocaters, I've played with ideas involving them quite a bit. 4th level elocater presents +3 to manifester level and +3 to BAB, along with two good save boosts to Reflex and Will and five good and useful abilities promoting mobile combat. 7th level suffers slightly from the medium BAB and being 2 manifest levels behind a full manifester, but still provides even more bonuses. Rising to 10th level elocater puts you at +7 to manifester level and +7 to BAB, along with great saves and a series of amazingly mobile abilities (dimension spring attack and accelerated action are extremely useful and deadly in martially-bent psionic gish).

Good drop-levels: Levels 2, 5, and 8 are great to drop at. Opportunistic Strike is nice and all, but probably the least used of the elocater's abilities and at each level it increases in bonus the elocater skips a manifester level.

Good lead ins: Psychic Warrior5, Psion1/Monk4, Psion2/Ranger3, Swashbuckler3/Psion2, Wilder2/Barbarian3


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Fist of Zuoken*
Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +4, Concentration 9 ranks, Wild Talent, Still Mind class feature

Merits: Stacks with monk levels for unarmed damage/unarmored speed/AC bonuses, two good saves, quick power-point gain, two bonus psionic feats.

Drawbacks: Medium Base Attack, d6, very limited power points and powers.

Good levels to jump out after: This is a very...unusual prestige class, even among similar ones that have their own stand-alone spell/power lists. The actual psionics of this class is fairly weak, but it's what it augments that makes this prestige class worth noting. A full monk with any number of levels in Fist of Zuoken is tough. However, he suffers from a lower Base Attack, making this a perfect candidate for a 4-level dip before running to Illithid Slayer or a similar class for BAB boosts.

Good drop-levels: Level 5 is when the second loss of BAB takes place, same with level 9, but otherwise there is really no difference between levels to get out. 5th and 9th are the best to drop at (4 levels of FoZ or 8 levels of FoZ).

Good lead ins: Fighter2/Monk5, Monk6, Psychic Warrior2/Monk4, any build is fine but at least 3 levels of monk are required.


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Havoc Mage (courtesy of Sang-Drax)
Prerequisites: Base Attack Bonus +4, Knowledge (arcana) 5 ranks, ability to cast 2nd level arcane spells

Merits: Two high saves, d8 hit die, and Battlecast, which means that, by level 5, you may cast a 8th level or lower spell and make a single attack as a full round action.

Drawbacks: 3/4 BAB and 3/4 casting means you lose 2 points of BAB and 2 caster levels in 5 class levels.

Good levels to jump out after: Taking all 5 levels seems to be the best option. If you're a sorcerer Gish and you don't want to take lots of Spellsword levels, you might take 4 levels to qualify to Eldritch Knight, as in Fig2/Sor4/SS1/HM4/EK X.

Good drop-levels: Taking 2 levels means you lose 1 BAB and 1 CL and the trade off is being able to Battlecast 2nd level spells - so not worth it. By 4th level, you lose 1 BAB and 2 CL for the ability to Battlecast 4th level spells. And you're 1 level away from Battlecast 8th and +1 CL. If you want to take this class, take all 5 levels.

Good lead ins: Fighter2/Wizard4; Paladin 2/Sorcerer 4/Spellsword 1 to qualify to EK without taking more Spellsword levels.


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Illithid Slayer
Prerequisites: Base Attack Bonus +4, Knowledge (dungeoneering) 4 ranks, Track, Must have a power point reserve of at least 1 power point, must have killed an illithid, either individually or as part of a group composed of no more then six members.

Merits: Full BAB, nigh-full manifesting level, Lucid Buffer, Cerebral Blind, Breach Power Resistance, Cerebral Immunity, Blast Feedback

Drawbacks: First level is essentially a dead level, unusual high save (Will)

Good levels to jump out after: Really, there are four main levels you want to go for in this prestige class. If only dipping, 3rd level for Lucid Buffer. If delving semi-deeply, 6th level provides permanent protection (requiring psionic focus) against detection by even the most powerful of spells and abilities. 9th level ups the ownage factor by providing Cerebral Immunity, essentially a permanent mind blank that works even against the biggest baddest spells/psionics for as long as you're psionically focused.

Good drop-levels: First level is the only real dead level in this prestige class, though 5th level similarly provides nothing except another point to Base Attack and add another level to manifester. 4th and 7th are good drop-points if you want the Slayer for dipping purposes, and the latter at least leaves you with an undetectable nature (even foils the biggest, baddest spells and psionics).

Good lead ins: Psychic Warrior6, Swashbuckler3/Psion2, Wilder4/Ranger1


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Iron Mind (courtesy of RadicalTaoist)
Prerequisites: Base Attack Bonus +3, Heavy Arrmor Proficiency, Invest Armor, Concentration 8 ranks, Ability to manifest 1st level powers.

Merits: d10 Hit Die, only loses a manifester level at 1st and 6th, Armored Mind, Mind over Matter, -/x damage reduction while psionically focused in heavy armor, Mettle of Will, Barbed Mind at level 10

Drawbacks: Medium BAB. That's. About. It.

Good levels to jump out after: 5th, if you don't want to lose a 2nd manifester level. 5th grants you Mettle of Will (only applies to Will saves, sorry) which ain't half bad.

Good drop-levels: Really, every level of this class is pretty sick. D10 Hit Die??? 6th is the weakest level, with no manifester progression and granting another daily use of Mind over Matter (use your Will save in place of a Fortitude or Reflex save as an immediate action). Definitely a PrC worth going all out in, even though the 10th level ability Barbed Mind isn't stunning (good, mind you, but not stunning).

Good lead ins: Psywar5, Psion4/Fighter1, Psion3/Ftr2, also segues into PrCs like Warmind and Illithid Slayer (which grants heavy armor proficiency) very nicely.


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Master Harper (link)
Prerequisites: Any nonevil, Bluff 8 ranks, Diplomacy 8 ranks, Knowledge (local) 12 ranks, Perform 12 ranks, Sense Motive 8 ranks, Spellcraft 8 ranks, Alertness, Iron Will, Able to cast 2nd-level arcane or divine spells, Approval of the High Harpers or majority vote of any dozen master Harpers.

Merits: Two good saves, Full spellcasting progression, bonus feats

Drawbacks: d6 hit die and medium base attack bonus

Good levels to jump out after: 1st level is a good dip level, providing a bonus feat and the equivalent to bardic knowledge. 2nd level is good to get because it provides another free feat (an item creation feat). After that the only level truly worth shooting for is 5th, simply because you acquire another bonus feat and immunity to lycanthropy (as well as the ability to cure it).

Good drop-levels: If you are only dipping, any level after the first or second is good to leave at. The abilities are sorta weak for the HD of this type of class, even though full spellcasting AND medium BAB is not necessarily a bad thing. No levels are needed past 5th.

Good lead ins: Due to the steep prerequisites skills, this class is much harder to qualify for. Wizard3/Ranger5/Dragonslayer1 sets up nicely for it and provides a measure of safety, and similar Sorcerer builds (ie Sorcerer4/Ranger4/Dragonslayer1) work too. Since Iron Will is required by both, it's good to go ahead and grab Dodge to dip into both Dragonslayer and Master Harper for fear immunity and a couple bonus feats.


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Master of Yuirwood
Prerequisites: Elf or Half Elf, any nonevil, Knowledge (nature) 5 ranks, Survival 10 ranks, Alertness, Track, must qualify to select regional feats from Aglarond or the star elf region (Faerûn)

Merits: Full spellcasting progression, good skills (points and selection), Uncanny Dodge, pass without trace, Forest’s Grace, d8 for hit die

Drawbacks: Medium BAB increase, Faerûn-exclusive

Good levels to jump out after: 2nd level is almost a must. Since every level increases spellcasting, 2nd level also adds Uncanny Dodge to your list, and at 5th level Improved Uncanny Dodge.

Good drop-levels: Because of the Faerûn-exclusive abilities, anything past 5th level should be treated as completely optional. The slightly lower than full BAB and Work Menhir Circle abilities aren’t usually worth it, although Forest’s Grace (adds Charisma to saves) is very good to have.

Good lead ins: Ranger6/Sorcerer1 --- Since this prestige class has such steep skill requirements, levels of Rogue might be recommended to augment Ranger levels, although I suggest simply waiting until slightly later levels (9th-12th) to take up this PrC.

[b]NOTE:[/b] Since this is a very Faerûn-exclusive PrC, it isn’t encouraged to take unless a DM allows for this to be changed a little (replacing Work Menhir Circle ability with something else, for instance).

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Psychic Assassin (here)
Prerequisites: Any evil, Disguise 4 ranks, Hide 8 ranks, Move Silently 8 ranks, Manifester Level 5th, the character must kill someone for no other reason than to become an assassin.

Merits: Great special abilities, primary save is unusual for gish PrCs, great skills and Intelligence synergy

Drawbacks: medium base attack, d6 hit die, manifester level progresses at +1 level at each even level

Good levels to jump out after: Any level is good to jump for. 4th level is good, as you have poison use, death attack, +2d6 sneak attack, +2 save against poison, and uncanny dodge. 8th level provides Hide in Plain Sight and has yet more sneak attack.

Good drop-levels: Really any odd level is alright to drop out at. The psionics doesn't increase on odd levels, but the only complication here is that odd levels tend to give some attractive benefits (Sneak Attack, uncanny dodge, special abilities). This is a "take what you want and leave" PrC, and is quite playable up to 10th level.

Good lead ins: Psychic Rogue5, Rogue1/Psion5, Swashbuckler3/Psychic Rogue5


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Psychic Weapon Master (here)
Prequisites: Base Attack Bonus +5, Ability to manifest a 3rd-level power, must have a crystal melee weapon, Dodge, Mobility, Power Attack, Psionic Dodge, Psionic Weapon, Weapon Focus, Weapon Proficiency (weapon of choice).

Merits: Full base attack bonus, d8 HD, decent skills per level (4 + int), only misses out on three manifester levels, bonded weapon, psionic damage, increased multiplier, power critical, psionic whirlwind

Drawbacks: must maintain a power point reserve of at least 11 to maintain maximum effectiveness, steep prerequisites

Good levels to jump out after: This is probably the worst prestige class to merely dip into. First level sucks, but is a good precursor to what happens later. The more levels you take in the class, the better the benefits. Since BAB does not suffer and manifesting barely suffers, all levels are good to go for. Increasing the multiplier of your weapon starting at second level makes it very attractive and power critical at 7th level augments this perfectly by increasing threat range. Psionic damage (maximizes weapon damage) is awesome as you gain more levels and can use it more often per day and first acquire it at first level.

Good drop-levels: The best level to drop at is after 5th. 5th level provides no increase in manifester level/power points and has a weak ability, not to mention no save increase. The other levels just bring too much benefits to ignore, especially with bonded weapon.

Good lead ins: Psychic Warrior7, Psion6/Fighter2


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Rage Mage
Prequisites: Any nonlawful, Base Attack Bonus +4, Combat Casting, Able to cast 2nd-level spells, Rage or Frenzy ability.

Merits: Spell rage, overcome spell failure, Spell fury, Tireless Rage, Warrior Cry, d8 HD

Drawbacks: Odd levels do not increase spellcasting, medium BAB increase

Good levels to jump out after: 2nd level is the perfect level to get to for simple dipping purposes, as a character will have spell rage 1/day and will be able to ignore 10% spell failure.

Good drop-levels: Depending on what the player wants, this is a tough decision. 4th and 6th level receive no benefits except save increases and increase in spellcasting level. Those are the only levels, however, that a character is not gaining an ability of some sort, be it more raging, more spell rage, or any of the other abilities. If dipping only two levels are necessary, as any more compromise increase of spellcasting level.

Good lead ins: Barbarian2/Sorcerer4, Barbarian3/Wizard3


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Raumathari Battlemage
Prequisites: Combat Casting, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (bastard sword), any one metamagic feat, Able to cast 3rd-level arcane spells and knowledge of at least four evocation spells, Able to read Roushoum and the Imaskari script, Proficient with all martial weapons, The character must find a mentor who already has levels in Raumathari battlemage and spend at least ten days studying in the mentor's company (during this time of study, both mentor and student must spend at least 8 hours a day in training).

Merits: Nearly complete spellcasting progression, sword focus, Channel Spell, Battle Spell

Drawbacks: low hit die (d4), medium base attack progression

Good levels to jump out after: Virtually every level in this prestige class is worth acquiring. From using the bastard sword as a focus for spells (replaces most material components, gains ability at 1st level), to channel spell (lesser form of Spellsword's channel; gained first at first level), to battle spell, which allows certain metamagic feats to be used X / day without increasing casting time or adjusting spell level, this class is exceptionally good at what it does. Except for the matter of LOW hit points. 3rd and 4th levels are excellent to go for for dipping purposes, for more extensive class-taking 6-10 are all good levels.

Good drop-levels: 5th level is the only real "dead" level of this prestige class, as it provides a weak ability and no progression of spellcasting. Furthermore, it slows down BAB progression by 1 more. If you're serious about this PrC, tough it out and move on, if you only want minor dipping then use 5th level as the dropout point and take only 4 levels of the Raumathari battlemage.

Good lead ins: (Militia) Sorcerer6, Fighter1/Wizard5

NOTE: This class is also very Faerûn-exclusive, but it is still very useful. Changing the prerequisites is the only necessary change needed, actually, and I should think this would be no problem for any DM.

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Sacred Exorcist
Prequisites: Alignment any good, Knowledge (the planes) 7 ranks, Knowledge (religion) 10 ranks, Able to cast dismissal or dispel evil. Adopting this prestige calss requires the sanction of a church or order that ordains sacred exorcists and only characters judged by their church to be exemplary in faith and devotion, strong of will and upright in morality, are made sacred exorcists.

Merits: Full spell progression, proficiency with all simple weapons, chosen foe (undead or evil outsiders), turn undead, Extra Turning, Consecrated presence, dispel evil.

Drawbacks: unusual good save (will), medium base attack bonus, somewhat steep knowledge prerequisites.

Good levels to jump out after: Perhaps the most devastatingly useful prestige class for sorcerers, 1st level alone makes this prestige class worth it by allowing a slight bonus against either undead or evil outsiders and, more importantly, the ability to turn undead as a cleric. Divine Might anyone? 4th level allows dispel evil, increases the bonus against the sacred exorcist's chosen foe, and the level before you gain Extra Turning. 5th level gives no bonus to saves OR Base Attack, but the increase of spellcasting an the gaining of Concetrated Presence makes all five of these levels worthwhile. Any levels taken after 5th are gravy, all useful but none absolutely necessary, either giving another Extra Turning, another dispel evil use, and a Chosen Foe bonus.

Good drop-levels: The only "prime" drop point of this prestige class is at 9th level, which gives you another Extra Turning (number three in fact) but on its own decreases again in base attack; most gish builds don't want to slow down their BAB progression too much. The rest of the PrC is simply too nice to ignore and any level's as good/bad as another to drop out.

Good lead ins: This is a later-gained prestige class, not something to aim for from first level. To help with the Knowledge requirements, though, Educated is a good feat to take (taken at 1st level only, makes all knowledge class skills, +1 bonus to knowledge checks with two particular knowledge areas). As long as you acquire dismissal (a useful spell anyway) and have the requisite skills this PrC is a sinch to get into mid-late levels (likely levels 10-16 is when the first level of this should be acquired, even if it's only a dip).

NOTE: Sacred exorcist is the second simplest class to convert into psionic use. A rule that psionic dismissal counts for the spell requisite and ruling "+1 level of existing class" includes psionics as well makes this perfect for a certainly flavorful character (psionic exorcists...hm...)

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Spellsword
Prerequisites: Base Attack Bonus +4, Knowledge (arcana) 6 ranks, Full armor and weapon proficiency, Able to cast 2nd-level arcane spells.

Merits: Ignore Arcane Spellfailure, Channel Spell (by far the best feature), Full BAB, d10 HD, two high saves

Drawbacks: Every even level doesn't increase spellcasting, the biggest setback.

Good levels to jump out after: 1st level provides a +1 to BAB, ability to ignore a little Arcane Spell Failure, a boost to Fortitude and Will, and a level of spellcasting. 5th level allows for even better armor-wearing ability and Channel spell rocks no matter how you look at it. 9th level spellswords allow you most of the class abilities, good BAB and saves, and of course you by now ignore most arcane spell failure (30%...adamantine full plate, anyone?). 10th level gives the shining gold of this PrC by allowing up to two channellings of spells, a truly devastating ability that gets more dangerous at high levels.

Good drop-levels: Any even level is a decent drop level, as you gain no real "benefits" and each even level delays your spellcasting progression.

Good lead ins: Fighter2/Wizard4, Paladin2/Sorcerer4


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Vassal of Bahamut
Prerequisites:

Merits: Full base attack bonus, d10, imperious aura, platinum armor, dragon senses, shared trove (lots of free money)

Drawbacks: doesn't progress any spellcasting but has own small divine spells,

Good levels to jump out after: Level 1 is the ONLY recommended level of this PrC. It gives platinum armor, which is simply awesome. However, 2nd level gives access to a divine spell, gives lots of platinum, and gives dragon senses. That said, for gish builds only one or at the most TWO levels are useful.

Good drop-levels: Any level after 2nd and including 2nd. A gish does not need to try and progress too much in a class that does not improve spellcasting ability.

Good lead ins: This is too difficult to determine, considering the steep BAB and the feat requirements. More than likely this will be taken at 10th level or so; any lawful good-BAB +7-vow taking-dragonslayer of reds can be a vassal.


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War Mind*
Prerequisites: Alignment any nonchaotic, Base Attack Bonus +3, Knowledge (history) 2 ranks, Knowledge (psionics) 8 ranks, Must have a power point reserve of at least 1 power point, must have had some instruction by another war mind, have access to Talariic texts, or belong to an organization that has access to Talariic texts

Merits: Full base attack bonus, both Fort and Ref as good saves (highly unusual), very fast power point gaining, chain of personal superiority, enduring body, sweeping strike, chain of overwhelming force, d10 for HD

Drawbacks: Doesn’t further manifester level. That’s it.

Good levels to jump out after: All of them. The war mind is just one of those oddball prestige classes that on its own is amazing. A psionic character can get a LOT of mileage out of this prestige class without even having a primary manifesting class. Third level gives you chain of personal superiority +2 and chain of defensive posture +2 as well as damage reduction 1/-. 5th level gives you the awesome Sweeping Strike, and ever level after the previously named abilities just get tougher until at 10th level you gain the ability to make a single attack once per day that deals an extra 10d6 points of damage.

Good drop-levels: 4th level is the only level that doesn’t gain anything. After that, it’s all dependent on how much of this class you want.

Good lead ins: Psychic Warrior5 is the most obvious lead in, though Education and Fighter4/Monk1 also has some potential. This class has nasty tendency of trapping players who want their abilities better, and the full BAB progression makes this class’s only downside its lack of furthering another prior class’s manifesting levels.



*These prestige classes are unique because they have their own self-contained manifesting/spellcasting. They will hamper progression of primary manifesting/spellcasting, but tend to be worth it in the end due to the mutli-use nature of such a character. These are admittedly difficult to use, but should a character land levels in them they are typically better rounded at all levels rather than simply great in the end.
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Congratulations Sang-Drax for creating one of the best gish-types I've seen using the most creative/unusual combination classes/prestige classes.

Much thanks to everyone who helped in posting, suggestions, and continuation of this thread, and special thanks to JosephKell who started it all. Happy gaming folks.
Using Sorcerer for the "Eldritch Songsword" is sub-optimal. Wizard would allow you to focus completely on Intelligence, since that is the Bladesinger's focus.

Edit: Also, changing Sorcerer to Battlesorcerer in any gish build will allow you to keep the same caster level but increase your attack bonus.
Part 2: Feats
This section will focus on the meat and bones of a gish, the feats. Despite classes, it is the feat choice that allows a gish to be what it is, even if the feats are only qualifying for a prestige class or the spells only chosen to survive lower levels.


Feats
There are many differing opinions as to what make gish so dangerous. A greatsword-wielding character with Power Attack, Arcane Strike, and Tenser's transformation cast is a very scary thing. However, a spiked chain tipping machine who is following up with Wail of the Banshee amidst his prone foes is just as scary. The main idea of feats for any character is personal augmentation, similar I suppose to buffing spells. Even if it's something as simple as Lightning Reflexes, there is always a benefit to feats, and for gish builds personal augmentation is extremely important. There are three categories of feats a gish can choose from: martial, qualifying, and caster-related. Martial is quite obvious. Such feats are designed for combat purposes without spell-slingin'. Qualifying/General feats are those taken to qualify for prestige classes that are also useful for a character to have anyway. Caster-related (or manifester-related) feats are those that enhance spellcasting in one way or another.

Martial Feats
  • Arcane Strike: Arguably the best non-required feat, the bonus to attack and damage provided by channeling spells into arcane strikes is incredible. Channeling a simple first level spell can make up for not having Weapon Focus and provide that slight bit of extra damage. Later-leveled gish channeling later-level spells into arcane strikes are dealing notably more damage and hitting much more easily.
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  • Cleave: While its sucessive feat in the cleave tree is useless to a gish, the Cleave feat itself can find use against larger numbers of enemies the gish happens to find itself surrounded by. Combinations of feats to provide more damage increase the chance of a follow-up attack.
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  • Combat Expertise: A prerequisite for many trippers/disarmers, the feat itself is actually very useful. Sacrificing from attack rolls to add to AC can save your butt against hard-hitting enemies.
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  • Combat Reflexes: While not the most useful at first glance, if an enemy leaves themself open to a free attack, take it! Then take it again if you have high enough Dexterity. The ability to make multiple attacks of opportunity in a round should never be overlooked as useless, though this feat rarely finds itself into many gish builds simply because it is not needed by most characters.
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  • Dash: An extra 5 feet to movement in light or no armor (and with no more then a light load) is actually fairly useful. Monk or Barbarian gish, who already move quicker then normal, could take this as a feat if they have any extras and gain a slight edge in both positioning for combat and escaping from it.
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  • Defensive Strike: When combined with various other martial feats, the bonus to attack when an opponent misses you can lead to a pretty vicious counter. Casting a quickened spell and using Total Defense is a good way to ensure you gain this bonus, but the requirement of using a Total Defense action tends to cause players to shy away from this feat.
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  • Exotic Weapon Proficiency: While at first one would wonder how this is useful besides as a qualifying feat, the ability to use a bastard sword in one hand and a shield in the other makes this an attractive choice for characters who want their exotic weapon to be used single-handed while they employ a shield with the other arm.
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  • Greater Two-weapon Defense: If a character has the feats available to pull off two-weapon combat trees, this is a good defensive feat for them. The +3 to AC simply for having a weapon in either hand (or a double weapon) is far from terrible.
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  • Greater Two-weapon Fighting: As was said with Greater Two-weapon Defense, if a gish can spare the feats for a two-weapon-fighting tree, then go for it to its max. Six iterative attacks, seven at the latest of levels and with a close-to-max BAB, can be combined with all sorts of feats for truly devestating damage. Seven straight attacks, each with an arcane strike, can prove deadly to even the highest-hp enemies.
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  • Improved Combat Expertise: Identical to Combat Expertise with one BIG bonus: the only limit to what you can take off from attack to add to AC is your BAB. Ever-so-nice for high BAB gish builds.
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  • Improved Critical: Increasing the threat range of your weapons is never, ever, a bad thing. Critical hits are a gish character's chance to score extra damage with their martial weapons, leaving less enemies/hit points for their spells to compensate for and allowing a character to save spells for when they're most needed.
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  • Improved Disarm: Disarming an opponent and leaving them weaponless is an excellent way to fight. Dishonorable, sure, why not? The party's other fighters certainly won't complain.
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  • Improved Initiative: When using gish builds, speed counts. Even a fully-armored gish tank will enjoy the benefits of going first, even if it's only to move into a more favorable position. High Dexterity builds might be less inclined to take this, but the feat is useful regardless of who has it and is a qualifying feat for Reactive Counterspelling (GOOD feat).
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  • Improved Mounted Archery: If you've got the Concentration, a mount (perhaps via mount spell), and the prerequisite feats, this is an excellent choice. Attacking any time during your mount's move and with reduced penalties (no penalty for attacking with double move) is awesome for the most mobile gish builds (mounted gish, while rare, are exceedingly dangerous).
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  • Improved Rapid Shot: Rapid Shooting without penalty = nice for archery-focused gish builds.
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  • Improved Sunder: Sundering without attacks of opportunity is very nice, since the martial gish who focus on two-handed weapons have the ability to deal lots of damage and that lots of damage can very easily be directed at an enemy's sword or armor rather then their person.
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  • Improved Toughness: Friends don't let friends take Toughness, but this is quite the exception. A feat that actually scales with level (level for level, actually), this bonus to HP is incredibly useful, ESPECIALLY for low-hp gish builds.
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  • Improved Trip: Tripping enemies and a free attack afterwards is wonderful. Then forcing a foe to stand and provoke an attack of opportunity from others around him, likely the other fighter-types of a gish's party, and prone enemies are easy pickin's.
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  • Improved Two-weapon Defense: Slightly better then Two-weapon Defense, but the shield bonus to AC, as is the case with any gish build, can be a saving grace.
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  • Improved Two-weapon Fighting: As has been said, if a gish has the feats available, the TWF tree is dangerous later levels. This is simply another step along the way, providing the second iterative off-hand attack.
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  • Instantaneous Rage: 'nuff said. Go Rage Mage.
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  • Karmic Strike: Surprise surprise... I doubt many DMs enjoy a character pulling this trick directly after they full attacked the enemy the round before. If it's against a foe a player KNOWS they will get hit by, then this feat + Combat Reflexes can be the balance to the enemy always hitting. The gish, afterall, gets an extra hit.
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  • Manyshot: Using only a standard action to fire multiple arrows can make an archer gish the party's best friend. With minimal effort a character can fire multiple arrows into enemies, and while I haven't checked how this would work yet I believe this can be combined with Ranged Disarm/Pin/Sunder for multiple attempts.
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  • Mounted Archery: Hm...Whenever I see this feat I think of - was it the Persians? - who would ride by in groups on horseback and shred armies with only shortbows. Mounted archer gish are a little (LOT) feat restrictive, but wow are they good. Extremely high mobility and with Improved Mounted Archery it's a built in, improved version of Shot on the Run.
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  • Mounted Combat: For mounted gish, your mount is relatively important. In fact, it's half the title "mounted gish". Keeping your mount alive by negating hits to it is useful, and so is this feat for qualifying for other moutned feats.
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  • Point Blank Shot: Useful as a qualifying feat and for the +1 to attack when within 30 feet, Point Blank Shot stacks well with Weapon Focus and a 1st level character, before every becoming gish, is that slight step ahead of his fellows in hitting enemies.
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  • Power Attack: Whew boy, is this a nice feat. Martial melee gish types of any kind need three things to become great: bull's strength + Tenser's transformation + Power Attack + two-handed weapon. A Strength 18 character with a greatsword taking 5 from attack and adding 10 to damage have damage that looks like this: 2d6+19. An average of 26 damage per hit. Taking from attack to add to damage when using a single-handed weapon is alright, but with double weapons it's incredible and the amount of damage with minimal effort required can become insane. Add the above ingrediants to Spirited Charge and let the good times roll.
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  • Precise Shot: No party likes their archer hitting them while they are in melee, so removing the hefty -4 penalty to attacking foes in melee with allies is excellent.
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  • Quick Draw: The ability to draw your weapon as a free action is invaluable when caught off guard. Simple feat, great benefit.
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  • Ranged Disarm: Slightly more useful then Ranged Sunder, this allows a gish to disarm his foe before his party ever closes to melee. If the party's already in melee, then the enemies being suddenly disarmed will result in many a thanks from your comrades.
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  • Ranged Pin: Pinning a foe to a nearby wall or tree makes them easy pickings for later. Archer gish can peck away at them with arrows and not worry about them moving away, and even if they do move away he can simply pin them again, then perhaps disarm them or sunder their weapon at range.
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  • Ranged Sunder: Sundering an enemy's weapon before you ever close to melee makes you the support gish in your party and usually forces a foe to improvise or chose less-specialized weapon.
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  • Rapid Shot: Using a full attack and recieving an extra attack is a nice thing, since this allows archer gish builds to essentially recieve 5 attacks as they reach +16 BAB and higher. Five bow shots is more then a little helpful, especially when combined with its greater version and Improved Mounted Archery.
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  • Ride-By Attack: Mounted melee gish find that remaining in melee simply isn't intelligent, and Ride-by Attack allows them to get in, hit, and get out without provoking an attack of opportunity.
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  • Shot on the Run: Archery gish can certainly benefit from being able to move, attack, and move, and since this doesn't limit the character to using a ranged weapon a wand with an attack spell would also be usable.
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  • Spirited Charge: Mounted combat gish, usually tanks, can always benefit from dealing twice the normal damage from mount-back (three times with a lance). Augmenting this with Arcane Strike and Improved Critical and a single mounted charge can lead to incredible amounts of damage being dealt.
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  • Trample: Regardless of whether or not you focus in ranged or melee mounted combat, allowing your mount itself to deal damage in Overrun attempts can spare spells and weapon usage. When combined with Ride-By Attack, rushing an enemy and overrunning them, only to move out of their reach after running them over, is a tactically sound move.
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  • Two-weapon Defense: Two-weapon Fighting characters with extra feats should invest in this tree, as the shield bonus to AC is always helpful (especially for lightly armored gish).
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  • Two-weapon Fighting: If a player is willing to put most of his feats into two-weapon fighting, he will have a machine-gun-meleeist and his feats will be well-spent. The Two-weapon Fighting tree is slightly tight feat-wise for gish, but allows them more martial power to supplement/be supported by their spells.
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  • Weapon Finesse: Any sort of lightly armored gish will find this useful if they have a high Dexterity and are fond of using lighter weapons.
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  • Weapon Focus: The extra +1 to attack with a particular weapon can really help any sort of fighting character, especially when dealing with multiple attacks or benefits that subtract from attack to add to something else.



Qualifying Feats
  • Alertness: Several successful gish builds require very little in the way of feats, some needing only prerequisite feats for prestige classes. Alertness is a qualifying feat for at least one prestige class, but more importantly it provides the fighter/mage with a slight edge in Listen and Spot, skills likely to be cross class for most gish builds.
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  • Combat Casting: While not the greatest of feats, it still has its uses. Unfortunately 90% of that use is for qualifying for a prestige class. Skill Focus: Concentration provides a slightly smaller bonus but applies all the time instead of under certain conditions. Regardless, Combat Casting does provide a decent bonus under the right conditions and is a prerequisite feat for multiple gish-related prestige classes (i.e. Bladesinger, Rage Mage, etc.).
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  • Combat Expertise: One of the infinitely useful defensive martial feats, Combat Expertise is also a prerequisite feat for many other feats as well as prestige classes. It’s a safe feat to choose if a character has any extras they aren’t needing for anything else. Especially good for Dexterity-focused gish builds.
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  • Dodge: While a miniscule feat that has quickly diminishing returns as levels progress, Dodge is a prerequisite feat for many other feats and one of the more unusual, but nevertheless useful, prestige classes (dragonslayer).
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  • Endurance: Under the rare condition one is forced to hold their breath, a better feat can’t be found. However, until that condition occurs, this feat simply will sit and remain in most player’s feat lists strictly for purposes of qualifying for a couple other feats or prestige classes.
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  • Iron Will: As though their will wasn’t good enough, this feat seems almost redundant. However, it’s also a prerequisite for a certain dragonslayer prestige class players may wish to take, and a boost to any save is never to be ignored.
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  • Mobility: While easily discountable, this feat is actually a very good movement feat for psionic characters, finding more use with psychic gish then arcane ones. Elocaters, while barely gish by definition, make excellent use of this feat, as do other roguish gish. Mobility is also required by a couple arcane and psionic prestige classes, though they are all lightweight-types in nature.
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  • Point Blank Shot: Archer gish are dangerous enough with their martial and spell blend, and throwing in bonuses to attack and damage with so simple a feat of this just makes them all the better. Useful as a prerequisite to the entire list of archery feats and applicable to both spells and weapons, Point Blank Shot is a solid feat choice for any range-focused gish build.
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  • Track: Realistically there are only two gish subtypes that will ever employ Track as a feat: ranger/barbarian gish and any off-shoot of them who focuses on hunting of whatever. Track is primarily a prerequisite feat, as most characters won’t have a need for it.
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  • Weapon Focus: Prerequisite for a string of martial feats and more then a couple PrC’s of gish and nongish varieties, Weapon Focus is easily one of the most versatile combat feats. Like Point Blank Shot, it is applicable to spells and weapons alike, making it useful for more then simply qualifying for other feats and/or prestige classes.



Caster-Related Feats
  • Arcane Preparation: Sorcerers and Hexblades (and the odd Bard gish) are really the only characters that can make use of Arcane Preparation, but this finally gives the ability to these characters to use Quicken Spell. Preparing several quickened spells, wizard or sorcerer gish can very easily pull off attacks and spells in the same round, multiple spells in the same round, among other combinations.
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  • Augment Summoning: For gish who prefer summoning minions to aid them in battle, few feats are more useful then Augment Summoning. It allows for considerably tougher summoned monsters without raising spell levels to cast such spells, and a +4 to two physical stats means these gish should be summoning often for flanking bonuses and/or ranged support (summoning Arrow Demons is arguably the best ranged support available).
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  • Craft Contingent Spell: One of the most useful item creation feats, this allows counter-spell gish and defensive-magic gish ultimate flexibility, wizards in particular (though sorcerers can certain benefits from this, too). Preparing a contingent bull’s strength set to activate when a bull’s strength spell cast on the bearer wears off can essentially keep physical power high, and this is simply one of many many uses for this feat.
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  • Craft Magic Weapons and Armor: Arguably the most common item creation feat chosen by gish, characters with this feat can essentially construct their own armories. Given enough downtime and in-between-adventuring for more exp, gish can make many powerfully enchanted armors and weapons for the entire party.
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  • Craft Rod: While uncommon, most rods tend to serve purposes that spells aid in their function but are not usable in any other way (rod of thunder and lightning, rod of the viper, etc). While still useful, the rods simply can’t seem to carry the same impact as wands or staffs, making Craft Rod an uncommon choice for gish.
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  • Craft Staff: More costly then wands, staffs typically serve as weapons as well as a means to provide wand-like services. Multiple spells draining a charge or two each (related spells such as fire spells, transmutation spells, etc) and a slight enhancement can make a staff especially dangerous in the hands of a gish, who are already more then simply proficient with weapons. In fact, Two-weapon Fighting gish who craft powerful staffs can easily make use of them as both weapons and spellcasting devices.
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  • Craft Wand: While Craft Magic Weapons and Armor may be the most common, many consider Craft Wand the most useful of item creation feats. Taking the time to create two or three wands can prove to be a savior in high-powered campaigns where slightly longer encounters and many of them in a day are common. For wizards, they provide a means to cast many utility spells (i.e. knock, grease, etc) or many attack spells (fireball, empowered magic missile, etc) repeatedly and still have a their prepared spells. Quick Draw is a good feat in combination with wand-use, as it provides a means to very quickly switch between multiple wands depending on the situation.
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  • Craft Wondrous Item: While most characters would prefer to focus their building efforts on armor, weapons, wands, and scrolls, Craft Wonderous Item allows a gish cheaper access to several items. Self-made items or those presented in various WotC sources, nearly all magical items will find use, seeing as how gish are already extremely versatile characters as it is. In large-scale battles, a portable hole containing a Thayan Bombard and multiple ammunition (Unapproachable East, pg 55) can prove invaluable. In stealthier campaigns, nondetection and invisibility imbued within an item can also be extremely useful.
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  • Empower Spell: Multiplying damage for a spell by 1.5 for only a +2 spell slot increase is amazing, making this feat for practicality worth far more then Maximize Spell. Wicked characters can prepare a quickened empowered magic missiles in case of emergency use, essentially dealing an average of 3.5 per missile, guaranteed (unless certain defensive spells are in place by enemies).
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  • Energy Admixture: A deadly spell no matter where it’s used, even a humble scorching ray becomes a fiendishly-wicked weapon in combat. Fireballs and other common offensive spells gain incredible potency, dealing double the normal damage on average despite not being able to tack on any other metamagic damage feats (such as Empower or Maximize Spell).
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  • Enlarge Spell: An uncommon feat in general, but unbeatable for sniper gish. Sniper gish are rare enough, but when they hit with a disintegrate from well over 300 feet away, or hit with a magic missle from just as far, long-range combatant gish gain new respect from their allies. This is more likely to be taken by archer gish then any other.
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  • Eschew Materials: Reliance on material components can be hampering, and this Feat for the most part takes care of that. It’s always good to not rely on finding bats poop and sulfur just to cast fireball, and as long as no gold cost is involved such minor material components can easily be ignored.
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  • Explosive Spell: Whew, easily forgettable in some obscure corner of Unapproachable East, but this feat is interesting. It increasing the spell level by +2, it allows for a simple fireball or whatever other evocation you can think of to move you enemies. Stuck on a cliff face with enemies rushing on a narrow ridge? An explosive lightning bolt can knock them all off. Trying to get an enemy into a pit? Hit them and their buddies with an explosive fireball and push them towards the pit.
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  • Extend Spell: An amazingly useful feat, Extending Spells allows for less spells per day (usually). Needing to cast less buffs in a day is always useful, letting a gish use their spell slots for other things.
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  • Forge Ring: Likely the least common of item creation feats, rings can be too costly in both gold and experience for most gish to want to spend. However, those willing to put forth the effort for a pair of extremely powerful rings find themselves benefiting greatly for enhanced abilities and/or protection at the cost of less-used item slots.
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  • Fortify Spell: Sort of a spontaneous Spell Penetration, that stacks with Spell Penetration as well, this feat allows for a slight push against foes that a gish might be experiencing problems with due to lack of caster levels. In fact, a combination of Fortify Spell, Practiced Spellcaster, and Spell Penetration can virtually ensure the spell affects a target.
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  • Greater Spell Focus: When combined with a selection of other caster-buffing feats, Greater Spell Focus can cause great jumps in power, very similar to Spell Power in usefulness.
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  • Greater Spell Penetration: Doubling the benefits of Spell Penetration, its greater version finds less use despite its great benefits.
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  • Heighten Spell: Raising the level of spells typically won’t find much use in high level spellcasting gish. But since many gish never want to or need to exceed 14 caster levels, Heighten Spell can raise the power of their spells to keep up with those higher-level casters, though since characters can’t use this to exceed their normal maximum that further hinders the usefulness of this particular metamagic feat.
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  • Improved Counterspell: Particularly useful for abjurer wizards, the ability to counterspell using any spell in the target spell’s school can prove more then a little useful. However, this feat’s main use is as a prerequisite for and augmentation of Reactive Counterspell.
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  • Improved Initiative: Speed kills. Any character knows this, and spellcasters who go first can literally mold and twist the battlefield into more favorable positions for themselves and their party. Going first is never overrated.
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  • Maximize Spell: For strict damage dealers with many spells per day available (namely sorcerers) maximizing the variable effects of spells can provide powerful weapons for even simple spells. Maximizing evocation spells like magic missile, fireball, and scorching ray for repeated use makes many enemies cringe at the sheer numbers involved (25 guaranteed damage for the first, 60 max-damage in a large area for the second, and 18 damage per ray for the third is nothing to scoff at).
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  • Persistent Spell: Spells that last all day are never weak. Especially buff spells. In subterranean campaigns, gish with this spell can provide spells to their comrades that last an entire day.
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  • Point Blank Shot: For ray-focused casters and gish, Point Blank Shot is surprisingly useful. Archer gish further benefit from its use in not only weapon use, but spell use as well, adding a slight bonus to attack rolls and damage.
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  • Practiced Spellcaster: Never, ever, ever underestimate lower-caster level gish, and this spell is why. Increasing the effective caster level by FOUR is amazing, allowing for considerable increases in damage variables, distance and area affected, and even overcoming spell resistance. Great all-around spellcaster feat.
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  • Quicken Spell: Casting a spell on the fly and as a free action is incredibly useful, even though sorcerers must take Arcane Preparation to benefit from Quicken Spell’s use. Many wizard gish have quickened spells as emergencies they keep on hand, and the feat alone regardless of who uses is allows for multiple spells cast per round. High payment in terms of spell slots raised, but very useful.
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  • Reactive Counterspell: Sorcerers in particular, though abjurer wizards also prove dangerous with this feat, can bring out the best in counterspelling in D&D. A free counterspell attempt each round and lots of spells per day mean no abjuration-focused caster can be underestimated, as enemy casters are very likely to have even their best spells countered just when they thought their foe had already used his full action to do other things.
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  • Scribe Scroll: Having several scrolls of various types prepared is always helpful. When a character finds his or her adventuring party stuck in a rapidly shrinking (trapped) room, a scroll of teleport may be the most useful item in the party’s arsenal.
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  • Silent Spell: Surprise surprise, the party is caught in a silence spell. This feat allows for a simple counter to one of the most simple anti-spellcasting spells and is especially useful when attempting to maintain stealth.
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  • Skill Focus: Be it in Concentration, Spellcraft, or whatever other spellcasting-related skill is necessary, Skill Focus is very useful to characters who simply don’t have the volume of skill points available by providing a small bonus enjoyable in all situations where that chosen skill is applied (Concentration being the most popular choice).
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  • Spell Focus: Especially good for characters limiting their spell list, Spell Focus can certainly buff up defensive/offensive spells, and when combined with Spell Penetration and Practiced Spellcaster, gish characters can almost be positive their spells will affect high-SR creatures such as drow and powerful enemy monks. Abjuration, Conjuration, Evocation, Necromancy, and Transmutation are the only schools necessary to be Focused in.
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  • Spell Mastery: Wizards of any kind who have lost their spellbook know the value of having or not having Spell Mastery. Those who did perhaps escaped to find their spellbook again, those who didn’t were royally screwed. It’s advised to have a single attack, a single defense, a single stealth, and a single transportation spell, simply to give wizard-casting gish more options if their precious spellbook is destroyed or stolen.
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  • Spell Penetration: Breaking SR is always annoying, especially against high SR creatures like dragons, drow (among others), is annoying. Spell penetration makes this easier, and that speaks for itself regarding usefulness.
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  • Spellcasting Prodigy: This feat is surprisingly valuable for players who don’t want their gish characters suffering from MAD (multiple attribute dependency). It allows them to focus less in their primary spellcasting ability score then they would otherwise normally have to, allowing for more resources to be spent increasing other abilities.
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  • Still Spell: Bound and gagged is the worst position for most spellcasters, but one with Still Spell can just as easily cast spells while bound as when not. Combined with Silent Spell, bound and gagged is no longer a problem.
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  • Transdimensional Spell: For characters who have ever dealt with (frequently) creatures lurking ethereal, this feat is perfect for any extras they may have. Raise the caster level one and a phase spider will get a big surprise when it finds itself slammed by an area affect spell. Not the greatest, grandest, most important spell, but still one that has some merit in multi-dimension campaigns.
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  • Twin Spell: Few things are worse for enemies then having TWO of that horribly damaging spell hit them at once, and Twin Spell is a powerful tool in the hands of intelligent gish. Twin empowered magic missiles, for example are good guaranteed damage in larger volumes then magic missile would normally allow.
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  • Weapon Focus: Taking this feat for ray type spells, especially those where Point Blank Shot is already in use, can make even the meekest of damage dealing rays more dangerous.
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  • Widen Spell: This feat, while less common then other metamagic feats, is excellent against large numbers of weaker opponents. Afterall, a fireball with twice the area of effect can certainly surprise intelligent enemies and simply scare less-intelligent ones.




.
Battlesorcerer has one less spell per level (choke) but has cleric BAB and HD.
You guys all know that this is what the Gish Thread is all for, right? Easier to keep it all in one place instead of throwing it around everywhere.
Runic Knight
Race: Dwarf
Ftr 1/Wiz 6/Eldritch Knight 10/Runecaster 2/Dragonslayer 1
BAB: +16
CL: 18

Arch slayer
Race:Human (requires:Militia)
Wizard 6/Eldritch Knight 10/DragonSlayer 1/Spellsword 1/Archmage 2
BAB: +16
CL: 19
Part Three: Spells
If feats are the meat and bones of the gish, spells are the muscles that move them. They provide the filling in of gish builds and along with feats play a major role in determining what sort of combat your gish may specialize in. The following is a list of spells that gish builds of any type can find useful. Also, psionics are not included due to the primary focus of this thread being arcane casters, though a list is on its way eventually, likely in its own section. I will be adding more spells to this as I go.


1st-level Spells
  • enlarge person-At early levels, a doubling of size means the decrease in AC due to both size increase and this spell's Dex decrease. However, the bonus to strength and increased weapon size (damage) and reach can easily make up for that, especially at later levels. By 6th level with a reach weapon this spell beings to soar in usefulness and can effectively keep enemies 20 feet away with a hard-hitting reach weapon.
  • feather fall-Cast as a free action whenever you want, this can be perfect for daredevil gish who must deal with heights or steep cliffs or anything of the sort. Reducing falling damage to zero with a free action is more then a little useful, even if it has very little combat use except against flying monsters.
  • mage armor-A 1 hour/level +4 armor bonus to AC is great. Free armor at first level, free of charge, without any ASF or armor check penalty. It also protects against incorporeal creatures. This spell, though, does -not- stack with any other armor bonuses.
  • magic missile-I shouldn't need to explain it. Magic missile is the best 1st level attack spell, guarenteed damage. At later levels, the low level of this spell makes it easily usable with metamagic feats like Empower Spell, Maximize Spell, even Twin Spell. Adding all three, in fact, allows for twice as many missiles dealing 7 damage each (7 x 10 = 70). Although subject to spell resistance and anti-force effects like shield this is still a very strong choice of spells.
  • mount-A free horse is nothing to scoff at. Especially early level cavalry gish. Meaning a Fighter1/Sorcerer1 doesn't need to buy a horse, just use this spell. Even for non cavalry-based gish, this is a great spell for escapes.
  • ray of enfeeblement-A ranged touch attack that drops enemy Strength score is great at early levels and with the addition of Empower and Twin Spell can cause havoc at later levels, too.
  • shield-The bane of magic missile, this also provides a +4 shield bonus (which stacks with mage armor, by the way). Like the other 1st level defensive spell, this also applies to incorporeal touches, basically at low levels providing a +8 AC bonus that works against anything.
  • sleep-Effectively the "1st-level death spell", [i]sleep is dangerous at early levels, even though past 5th level it becomes dead weight. It's great for groups of weaker creatures, with a 10-ft burst and all, and leaves enemies awaiting the party's warrior types to attack with coup de grace 's.
  • true strike-A free +20 insight bonus to attack. 'Nuff said.

2nd-level Spells
  • bear’s endurance-Free hit points and a boost to Fortitude. Simple spell, great benefits earlier levels before the gish can acquire any enhancement-bonus items.
  • blur-A 20% miss chance at 4th level is crucial, and even at later levels it's useful to have as a backup alternative to the higher level (but more useful) displacement.
  • bull’s strength-A +4 to Strength equates to a +2 to attack and damage, which for martial melee gish is very important. As with similar transmutation affects it becomes redundant at later levels when items are acquired but it's still always good to have at early levels.
  • cat’s grace-The free +4 enhancement to Dexterity make it a useful spell when in combat against foes who use area-affect evocation spells (to help with Reflex save) or in cases where a gish wants a better chance to go first and with higher AC.
  • Melf’s acid arrow-Although it doesn't do much in the damage department, a couple feats could change that. It requires a ranged touch attack and has lingering effects, which against enemy spellcasters is great. Oh, and it ignores spell resistance. Nice.
  • mirror image-Gah, I personally love this spell. A whole bunch of images of an armor-wearing spellcaster can be formidable at lower-mid levels, and even at higher levels the spell has use.
  • scorching ray-This is (IMO) the best low-level offensive spell. Ever. Empower blends wonderfully at early-mid levels and even at later levels other feats such as Energy Admixture and Twin Spell work beautifully. Several ranged touch attacks for good damage makes this a strong choice for ranged gish.

3rd-level Spells
  • dispel magic-There is very little downside to counterspelling an enemy spell. Nor is there a downside to nailing a large area with previously-buffed enemies and destroying all those rounds of preparation. When coupled with Reactive Counterspell, abjurerers and sorcerers can seriously wreak havoc with this spell.
  • displacement-50% concealment when in all-out melee combat is a beautiful thing. Makes gish not only hard to hit, but forces enemies to expend resources to try to dispel the effect.
  • haste-An extra attack on full-attack actions and a bonus to attack, AC and Reflex saves, and a +30 foot increase to speed is all anyone needs to hear. High speed gish MUST have this spell, and all martial gish become exceptionally more dangerous. Less martial-inclined gish tend to need it less.
  • heroism-With a pretty long effect (10 min/level) and a +2 morale bonus to attacks, saves, and skill checks, heroism can always find use in any gish build, caster, balanced, or martial.
  • rage-Barbarian rage (to a lesser extent) minus the fatigue, sounds like a good deal to me. Early level anyway, but at later levels when enhancement bonuses don’t stack with one another this is pretty nice.
  • slow-Oooo...such a nice spell. Target someone at close range and they’re suddenly slowed to a single move action or standard action per round. Half their normal speed and penalties to attacks, AC and reflex, and all that from a drop of molasses. ;) Good on any gish list.
  • vampiric touch-A great offensive spell that only gets stronger as the gish does, especially once metamagic is introduced. You gain temporary hit points equal to the 1d6 per level (10d6 max) you can deal and all from a melee touch attack. This is not only nice for every gish type, it’s useful for ‘em all.
  • wind wall-A shapeable wall that protects against arrows, gases, and similar things is very useful, but this is a highly campaign-dependent spell. It’s appropriate for gish only if they need it on at least a semi-regular basis.

4th-level Spells
  • fire shield-A great passive offensive spell and primary defensive spell, resistance to either fire or ice and the chance to negate either altogether make up for half of a very good spell. The other half comes when enemies strike you and are dealt 1d6 + 1/level (max 15) damage of either cold or fire. Melee gish had better have a good reason for not adding this to their 4th-level repertoire.
  • greater invisibility-Attacking and staying invisible is not only great for any gish, but powerful for assassin and roguish gish. Very simple spell and very effective.
  • phantasmal killer-A GREAT death spell considering it’s available by 7th or 8th level. Save or die, Will save mind you, will kill almost any fighter type. Even if it’s successful, free 3d6 damage is nice.
  • polymorph-This is the spell to whistle at. A gish with this can easily turn themself into any number of enormously powerful creatures, including war trolls, dragons, firbolgs, the list goes on. The gish gains the physical traits of the creature, plus extraordinary abilities, and keeps the character’s mental traits. Spellcasting giants tend to raise eyebrows...
  • stroneskin-An extremely versatile and useful spell, damage reduction 10/adamantine is impressive. It lasts for a long time and is wonderfully useful to any build as a defensive spell.

5th-level Spells
  • cloudkill-A wonderful spell against "entrenched" (that is to say well fortified) enemies, the movable/shapable cloud kills weaker creatures and deals Constitution damage to creatures that make their saves or are stronger. Per round.
  • cone of cold-Cone spells aren't typically favored unless by front-line gish with access to quickened spells and/or Channel Spell, but up to 15d6 cold damage can't be ignored (especially when metamagic is thrown in).
  • draconic might-A free +5 enhancement to Str, Con, and Cha make this a great martial/sorcerer spell to have, even better if polymorph can be used either right before or after.
  • draconic polymorph-Hm...polymorph with a BIG bonus to Strength and another bonus to Constitution with a 20 HD max to what you can turn into. Did I mention how nice war trolls were to use...or dragons...?
  • feeblemind-A good follow-up spell to mind fog, dropping a spellcaster’s ability scores (Int/Cha) to 1 can be a great way to protect yourself from a good number of potent enemy spellcasters.
  • mind fog-Affecting a large area and potentially dropping all of their will saves -10 is great for cramped-quarter combat where an enemy is pinned down and the gish needs to force them to either flee or pursue.
  • telekinesis-The various abilities of this may seem a little off in gish builds at first, but the ability to bull rush/disarm/trip from a very long distance, lift a heavy object and keep it up, or violently thrust with it, this a can easily provide gish with a useful spell to move yourself and others and at the same time it remains ready for combat maneuvers.
  • teleport-One of many, mobility spells of any kind will always be useful to move people and equipment to and from places. Instantly.
  • wall of force-An indestructible wall, invisible mind you, is never useless. Difficult to get rid of to say the least and susceptible only to magic and epic rogues. This is arguable the best spell a gish on the move can have because until 12th level enemies likely won’t have the resources to get around it. Even after that, most creatures you fight can’t get around it, and boxing in a particularly strong monster and cloudkilling it is a great strategy.
  • waves of fatigue-Great when the gish is at the front of a group and perfect against far off or many enemies. Making a bunch of foes fatigued is a beautiful thing, especially since it has no save.

6th-level Spells
  • acid fog-A solid fog but better, trapping enemies in this is a great way to deal damage. Boxing them in with wall spells is even sweeter, but otherwise the spell itself makes it harder for escape (and slower) and makes an enemy more subject to the acid damage dealt by the fog.
  • chain lightning-Even btter then lightning bolt, there is a good reason this spell is twice the spell level of its smaller cousin. the increased damage cap (from 10d6 to this spell's 20d6 max) and ability to arc off and strike other targets makes it amazingly useful, even if only used to target a couple enemies. Annoying focus, but not difficult to acquire.
  • circle of death-The sheer number of HD worth of creatures subject to this spell makes it perfect against MANY weaker creatures a character doesn't want to waste their time with and affects a HUGE area. Slightly expensive material component considering how little this spell will likely be used though.
  • disintegrate-2d6 per caster level, to a max of 40d6. Ouch. Ranged touch attack to hit. I'm not seeing a downside to this spell. It destroys virtually ALL things standing in its way with only a few magical exceptions, and targets dropped to 0 hit points are utterly destroyed and leave a nice trail of dust. What a visual affect. Even those who make their saves take damage, which makes this even cooler to use with Empower Spell...
  • greater heroism-With double the normal spell’s bonuses, immunity to fear, and temporary HP this spell far surpasses heroism in usefulness.
  • prismatic eye-A great conjuration spell, the fact that this can be used as a free action once per turn is great. I actually consider it in many cases more useful than prismatic spray because it lasts longer and is more controllable, as well as having a higher potential damage index.
  • Tenser’s transformation-A better spell for gish with fewer items, this is best served as an emergency spell, a contingency if you will. And works well with contingency, too. The bonuses to Strength and Dexterity, natural armor, Will saves, and the bonus hit points are all great additions to the primary ability of the spell, which increases the base attack bonus greatly and can make even the meekest caster a martial warrior.
  • wall of iron-The wall itself is a good barrier, and if you research it instead of just learning it you can probably alter it to be horizontal...appearing midair...can you say splat? Otherwise, not the greatest of spells, but still useful for primarily defensive gish.

7th-level Spells
  • finger of death-Finger of death is useful for necromancy-based gish (one of the scarier kinds) and can be very deadly and useful for use against many slightly less powerful enemies, though BBEG types tend to be immune or close to it.
  • Mordenkainent’s sword-While normally this spell isn’t a good idea, using the Psionics/Magic Transparency idea (the normal idea, not even a variant) a feat or item can be easily made to hold a gish’s Concentration so he can still fight.
  • prismatic spray-Ooo...did someone say channel spell? Prismatic spray is one of the deadliest offensive spells out there because it’s almost impossible to defend against. Fire, cold, acid, electricity, petrification, insanity, the effects are completely random.
  • spell turning-Turning an enemy’s spell(s) back at them is just sweet. That magic missile? Let ‘em maximize and empower it and then send it back at them. Bestow Curse? Bring it. All around good defense spell for this level.
  • waves of exhaustion-The greater version of waves of fatigue, this provides a larger cone, meaning more potential enemies or more usable from a greater distance, and is more dangerous against groups of minions from a BBEG or somesuch. Good spell when used correctly, though with the exception of prismatic spray gish tend not to like cone spells as much due to their allies potentially being in the way. Exhausting your buddies is likely to get your gish killed, specially since it still affords no save (though then you can see how well a gish works against a party...see individual tactics in the following post.:D).

8th-level Spells
  • incendiary cloud-A sort of enhanced version of cloudkill, this is similar in that it can be moved the same way, though concentrating can make it move even quicker. 4d6 damage per round is nice, and likely only very Dexterous characters will be making their saves for half damage. This is particularly deadly against enemy spellcasters.
  • greater prying eyes-The ability to summon mini scouts with true seeing is very useful. By the time a gish is able to cast 8th level spells anyway, simply barging into a fight becomes a much less intelligent idea, thus proper scouting/reconnaissance is wonderful.
  • horrid wilting-with such long range and large in area of affect, this is a great surprise spell for gish to initiate combat with at a distance against living foes. Against undead creatures this does nothing and against water elementals and plants this spell does even more.
  • mind blank-Protecting one’s self from all mind affecting and reading affects is wonderfully useful. With greater invisibility, nondetection, and mind blank gish can be undetectable by nearly all means even after they attack.
  • polar ray-A simple ranged touch attack dealing up to 25d6 worth of cold damage. Nothing fancy or flashy, just outright damage. Aggressive gish find this spell very useful, especially against high AC enemies (which typically have lower Touch AC).

9th-level Spells
  • meteor swarm-A powerful offensive spell, nailing large numbers of foes or simply a couple powerful enemies at a distance can ruin their day and if the gish’s party is prepared and immune to fire even point-blank castings can be brutal.
  • Mordenkainen’s disjunction-Against DMs who enjoy throwing powerful NPC enemies at their players, this is probably the most frustrating spell a gish can know. Destroying magical items and effects within the burst radius can be simply vicious against item-dependant enemies.
  • shapechange-With a 10 minute per level duration, this spell is amazingly powerful. Spending combat in the form of a red wyrm, then next round shifting (as a free action) into a solar, your weapons are seemingly limitless. With no disorientation, the only downside do this spell is the user’s items are separated from them. Worth the price to pay since you can turn into a balor every other round and gain a free sword.
  • Simbul’s Spell Trigger-Allowing up to four spells (max 7th level) to be quickened without the need for a feat is beautiful, simply beautiful. Allowing up to four spells up of up to 4th level to be cast simultaneously is just deadly. This is a favorite of spell-focused defensive gish, for it allows multiple dispels to be prepared in advance, and when combined with a sorcerer and Reactive Counterspell virtually no spell will get to the party without at least an attempted counterspell.
  • time stop-Arguably the most powerful spell even well into epic levels, a gish with access to 9th level spells can never go wrong choosing this as their first spell, even with its 3.5 Edition weakening. 1d4+1 rounds to freely buff, prep delayed blast fireballs, and move around can make gish extremely dangerous since the only creature affected is the gish itself (thus, no saves).
  • wail of the banshee- hehe, Pure evil. If your gish has the ability to cast 9th level spells and doesn’t get Simbul’s Spell Trigger from Magic of Faerun, this is a great spell. If you’re like me and always end up surrounded by enemies, anyway. Kills things, that simple, and with a jacked up DC from various sources this can be a hard Fortitude save to make.
  • weird-Pretty much a phantasmal killer on steroids. Failing leaves ‘em helpless for a buffed up coup de grace. If they fail...well...then you won’t need to worry about wasting a coup de grace now will you? Powerful spell, in many cases stronger then wail of the banshee because of the aftereffects assuming they make their saves.




Much thanks to JosephKell, handforged, Radical Taoist, Sang-Drax. SoulLord, and everyone else who helped in the creation and contribution of ideas of this thread.

Oh, and congratulations Sang-Drax for creating the best gish using most creative/unusual combination classes and prestige classes.
here or pg 5 bottom
in.FuSioN had a Battle Sorcerer Gish thread, but that never got the same level of attention as the Gish Thread, due to the class restriction. I would say that you should turn this thread into the spiritual successor to JosephKell's original thread.
Part 4: Types of Gish
Gish, like the races that become them and the players that play them, come in all manner of forms. This somewhat-shorter section will detail with the major aspect regarding the types of gish: the subtypes.

The Subtypes
Although at surface level it is difficult to see how there can be much variation in gish builds, closer look makes one wonder at the possibilities that even a single class difference can provide. As such, this section will focus on the main types of gish and will include as much as possible about them. While this is by no means a hard, steadfast rule, remember that "gish" isn't even a human term and there won't be any hard fast rules, just reliable guidelines.

The Archer: Light martial OR spell focused gish, archer gish focus on bow art and ranged touch spells. Arcane archers have nothing on dedicated archer gish, as most arcane archers won't be able to launch a full ranged bow attack employing Improved Rapid Shot and Improved Mounted Archery and the next round cast an empowered scorching ray or magic missile. This build focuses on any sort of armor preference, almost exclusively archer-focused feats, spell selection emphasizing on enhancing own mobility, decreasing enemy mobility, and on ranged touch spells, and for ability scores a lower Strength and high Dexterity, and a high primary spellcasting attribute. Almost none of the feats in this build should be for non-archer benefits, as a focused spell-supported archer gish is fearsome enough without specializing too much, and emphasizing the archery makes him simply lethal.

Assassin/Sniper: Assassin gish focus on extreme Intelligence scores, light armor, and high Dexterity to save them when in trouble. Optimal classes for this are innately Swashbuckler and Wizard. Though lower on the Base Attack and Caster Level scale compared to many gish, their spell selection and natural stealth (and likely adding Intelligence to damage) make them deadly adversaries, as they can easily hit and disappear with a strike and a spell. High Dexterity and Intelligence, light armor, emphasize stealth spells and weapon should be light (preferably rapier, longsword, etc). Enlarge spell and magic missile work well, as do true strike and a sneak attack from several range increments away, and both lend credit to the title "sniper".

Balanced: With a Caster Level and BAB just about the same, they are good at both without being the best at either. Focus on medium to heavy armor that allows for Dexterity, as this has the most flexible ability scores (High primary caster stat and one other physical stat of character's choice). High Strength types should focus on melee oriented spells and feats, high Dexterity types should focus on archery and ranged support, and high Constitution types can alternate between the two while not excelling at either. This sort of build plays the blending game and should have lots of buff and lots of synergetic spells to compliment the primary caster's spells and the primary meleeist's abilities. Support means support, not cast yourself exclusively into one set position, so these builds should be adaptable and canny.

Caster: These gish builds are ones that focus almost exclusively on spellcasting with martial prowess the secondary focus. Typically netting a Base Attack Bonus of +15 or +16 at the most, their caster levels are nigh perfect: 18th or 19th level. There are several classes that make caster gish more dangerous, such as dips into spellsword for the small amount of ignore ASF, runesmith, 2nd-level Geomancer, among others. These provide armor usage and still nearly full spellcasting, which is the primary focus after all. In contrast to other gish builds, Casters focus on spell-oriented feats and very few (if any) martial feats (Improved Toughness is recommended for the needed HP bonus). While some argue +15 BAB is not “gish-worthy”, heads tend to turn quickly at the sight of an character using Archmage special abilities in full plate with a greatsword in hand and a Tenser’s transformation at the tip of his tongue. Similar sentiments are shared at the sight of lv9 Arcane Strikes, Spellfires, and other powerful abilities.

Cavalry: Like the archer, Cavalry gish have no need for non-martial feats. Focus them into whatever mounted category you enjoy best (or both if you’re careful with ability scores) and you can have a mounted gish using Deadly Charge channeling a spell through his lance one round and turning around for a Ranged Sunder the next, then again wheeling around for a blast of spell. Dexterity is of slight concern, only for ranged attack purposes, and Strength and the primary spellcasting attribute should be top priorities. The sheer damage a cavalier/arcane strike combination can deal is mind boggling, and all the while this build can stay out of the main fray if its low on life and use superior maneuverability to come to the party’s aid and retreat again. Armor should be fairly heavy (at least medium armor) and mithral heavy armor is recommended if funds allow for it. Most spells should be (like the archer) ranged touch spells and self buff spells, no other spells are really needed (don’t bother with utility spells as a party’s primary caster can take care of that).

Juggernaut: Gish who self-style themselves as the “combat tanks” of gish kind I affectionately call juggernauts. When a character can wear plate mail, Power Attack with a full blade, and support himself with a well-timed polymorph or greater heroism, all the while channeling spell after spell through his weapon, that becomes one of the most fearsome sighs on a battlefield. While not limited to armor wearers (rage mage’s can easily qualify as “juggernaut” class), these armor-wearers are the most effective as it presents one less ability score to focus resources into. Strength and their primary casting stat are priorities, Constitution following the lead close behind. Feats are largely dependent on the player’s style of combat, and should be focused (with the exception of two or three feats) exclusively on combat. Arcane Strike, Improved Toughness, and Practiced Spellcaster are a great trio of feats for these sort of builds. Juggernaut gish should be at the spearhead of any combat, where the maximum number of foes are subject to his spell-augmented wrath. Chain lightning becomes wicked to use point blank, and if all else fails wizard-juggernauts can focus spells they don’t need into Channel Spell.

Light-Mid Melee Support: The best examples I can think of off hand for light-to-mid-melee support are the Master of Whips (post #104) and Bladesinger (post #68). Light-Mid Melee support are builds that, while excelling in melee combat as much as the next martial gish, are typically in light armor (or close to it), are Dexterity-oriented in terms of skills and feats, and have a spell list designed to augment these abilities. Light-Mid Melee supporters are not designed to be impressive damage dealers, simply able to survive and do well in melee while casting off spells, dancing around their enemies, and casting some more. The whip and chain/spiked chain builds especially show the support nature of this category of gish, as foes who are both disarmed and tripped are sitting ducks for the rest of the party’s meleeists. This is not a build that should ever be caught alone anywhere, though if he is the higher Base Attack Bonus and largely useful spell selection should make it more then just survivable despite its lack of heavy armor and large amounts of HP.

Triple- and Quadruple-Threat: These gish are arguably the hardest to make. Combining the aspects of at least three character archtypes, the most common blend is that of manifesting/spellcasting and martial prowess. Two levels of Cerebremancer, Mystic Theurge, or Psychic Theurge can help enhance two different types of “casting” while providing +1 to BAB (despite the low HD). An example of a quadruple threat is that of an ex-paladin human paragon1/blackguard6/assassin9/arcane trickster4. With both martial prowess (BAB +15 and great hit die), nigh-full blackguard and full assassin spellcasting (10 arcane CLs, 9 divine CLs), and considerable stealth ability and skills, this is a strong quad-threat build. These sorts of builds tend to suffer from MAD, meaning balanced ability scores are a primary goal with one or two a cut above the others. Feats also tend to be spread thin, but good ones to have are Practiced Spellcaster and mostly martial or noncaster-related feats, since CL is typically lower in this sub-class of gish. Otherwise, skill choice and combat vary widely depending on the type of build this is, though few triple threats can stand in open toe-to-toe combat with more martially focused character (or gish).


NOTE: If anybody has any additional information to be added to these gish subtypes or have any other subtypes (excluding special cases where there are only one of the class, such as Sang Drax's blackguard/nar demonbinder) then please make sure to let me know so I can add them.

Furthermore, I apologize as my links seem to not be working at the moment...
I'll post a few builds in s little bit, but I have a few suggestions for making this utility a great resource.

1. Copy all of the builds to your original post and use the format you have come up with.

2. Add a requirements(feats, skills, etc.) and a books used section to each build to make it that much easier to figure out what is going on.

3. Copy all of the builds from the Old JosephKell page with credits, maybe listed with a different color heading, to make this the most complete catalog of Gish builds.

4. Link to the old thread in order to completely credit those authors and allow full perusal of the enhanced build structure and tactical comments.

~hf

edit: sorry I missed your reply, I will be willing to help you build the formatting for the new library for the first post.
Mystic Knight
Paladin 2/Battle Sorceror 8/Dragon Slayer 1/Spellsword 1/Sacred Exorcist 8
BAB: +16
Caster Level: 18 (9th level Sor spells)
Saves: +11/+4/+16
Special: Familiar, Divine Grace, Aura of Courage, Ignore 10% ASF, Exorcism Domain, Turn Undead, Consecrated Presence, Chosen Foe, Dispel Evil, etc.
Requirements: Knowledge(planes) 10, Knowledge(religion) 7, Knowledge(arcana) 6, Tumble 2 Able to cast dispel evil or dismissal and 2nd level arcane spells, Iron Will, Dodge, all Armor Proficiencies, BAB +5
Books: Unearthed Arcana, Complete Warrior, Complete Divine, Draconomicon

I developed this build as a non-OA version of LordShade's Witch Hunter Build below:

Lord Shade's Witch Hunter
Battle Sorceror 7/Witch Hunter 2/Spellsword 3/Sacred Exorcist 8
BAB: +16
Caster Level: 18 (9th level Sor spells)
Saves: +10/+5/+17
Special: Familiar, Smite evil, Kami's Grace, Detect Evil, Ignore 15% ASF, Bonus Feat, Exorcism Domain, Turn Undead, Consecrated Presence, Chosen Foe, Dispel Evil, etc.
Requirements: Knowledge(planes) 10, Knowledge(religion) 7, Knowledge(arcana) 10, Track, Able to cast dispel evil or dismissal and Magic circle against evil and 2nd level arcane spells, all Armor Proficiencies, BAB +4
Books: Unearthed Arcana, Complete Warrior, Complete Divine, Oriental Adventures
Eldritch Archer
Fighter 1/Wiz 3/Elf Paragon 3/Arcane Archer 2/Spellsword 1/Eldritch Knight 10
BAB: +18
Caster Level: 15 (8th level Wiz spells)
Saves: +16/+10/+9
Special: Familiar, Scribe Scroll, Fighter Feat, Elfsight, resist enchantments, Weapon Focus, +2 Int, Bonus Feat, Enhance Arrow +1, Imbue Arrow
Requirements: Elf, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Focus(bow), Able to cast 2nd level arcane spells, all Armor Proficiencies, BAB +6
Books: Unearthed Arcana, Complete Warrior
Rauthmari Battleleader
Sorcerer 6/Witch Hunter 2/Spellsword 1/Rauthmari Battlemage 4/EK 7
BAB: +16
Caster Level: 18 (9th level Sor spells)
Saves: ???
Special: Ignore 10% ASF, Kami's Grace, detect evil, smite evil, sword focus, battle spell(silent, still), channel spell I&II
Requirements: Knowledge(arcana) 10, Able to cast 3nd level arcane spells and magic circle against evil, Able to read Roushoum and Imaskari, Militia, Track, EWP:Bastard Sword, Combat Casting, One Metamagic feat, Martial Weapon Proficiency, all Armor Proficiencies, BAB +5
Books: Oriental Adventures, Complete Warrior, Unapproachable East
The Gish
Fighter 1 / Battle Sorcerer 4 / SpellSword 5 / Eldritch Knight 10
BAB: +19
Caster Level: 16 (20 with practiced spellcaster, 1 8th lvl slot)
Saves: +14/+5/+11
Special: Ignore 20% ASF, 3 Bonus Feats, Channel Spell 3/day. You have no feat requeriments at all, so you are free to chose the path you prefer.
Requeriments: Knoledge (Arcana) 6, +4 BAB, All armors and all simple and martial weapons proficencies, 2nd level arcane casting && all martial weapon proficiencies and 3rd level arcane casting.
Books: Dungeon Master's Guide, Complete Warrior and Unearthed Arcana.

It's a very neat and easy build. You have virtually no requeriments and a lot of room to choose your feats. You can even try a tactical gish with this build. It is playable at low levels as you will have good HP and good BAB. Consider yourself as a fighter with lots of magical tricks.
This build is from Jared de'Minco, not mine.
If you're going to make a the thread that is to take over for the original Gish thread you'd better not forget what JK always referred to as the best gish combo there is:

The Quintessential Gish
Ftr 2/Wiz or Sor 4/Spellsword 5/Eldritch Knight 9

BAB: 18
Caster level: 15 (19 with Practiced Spellcaster)
Saves: +14/+5/+11
Special: A bit lower CL than other popular gish builds but with plenty of feats and Channel Spell included, which more than compensates. ASF -20%. A solid build all the way.

This build is in my experience best done as a human wielding a Spiked Chain or a Dwarf wielding a Greatsword.
Battlemage
Fighter 1/Battle Sorcerer 8/Eldritch Knight 10/Spellsword 1
BAB: +18
Caster Level: 18 (20 with practiced spellcaster, 2 9th lvl base slots, 1 9th level spell known)
Saves: +13/+5/+11
Special: Ignore 10% ASF, 2 Bonus Feats, Ignore all ASF when in light armor. No feat requirements.
Requirements: All martial weapon and armor proficiencies, able to cast 3rd level arcane spells, must defeat an enemy through force of arms alone, Knowledge (Arcana) 6 ranks.
Books: Dungeon Master's Guide, Complete Warrior and Unearthed Arcana.

Clean, simple, and you get two extra feats over and above what a normal spellcaster gets (admttedly, they're fighter feats, but, hey...). BAB and CL 18 (20 if you want to get Practised Spellcaster). Personally, Arcane Strike would be a must with me for this build, but you can do what you want with it. Please pick any holes you see in this; it is a concept that I might just try for my next gish character. Perhaps going Star Elf (from the Forgotten Realms) would be a good idea for the Cha boost. Maybe not, but it's just an idea...
:heehee (well Patricks post)

A few things.

1. shadow mage is right, I retired the Gish thread because it got cluttered. I have been considering making a new (4th? could that be right?) one. But I would rather work on it with other people using a shared account. It would work better if the entire thread were restricted and done a lot like how Funny Slaughter did the 3.5 FAQ (i.e. asking for help and having submissions e-mailed in for an organized look).

2. After I realized the mistake I made when I introduced the Gish term was that is was rather specific to Caster/Warriors that tended to use magic almost exclusively for killing directly (as opposed to hasting, mage armoring, etc.). That was when I tried to repair the damage done by trying to reclassify things as Bladesinger (for Illusion and Transmutation focus like Elves. Mobility/self-empowering), Gish (direct warring), and I forget the other two I came up with.

3. The reason I left Unearthed Arcana out is because one could argue that a small change to a class warrents a totally different build. Also, the varient wizards are so vague someone could argue that you don't have to be in the wizard class to take the specials (when in fact you do because a lot of them trade the bonus wizard feats).

4. I am Jared de'Minco. Well, not really, my name is Jonathan E F... but I made the Jared account for a game on the Real d20 boards, but I stepped out to make room for someone that wanted to be there more. Thanks Patrick, I didn't think anyone remembered the post I did under Jared. (that is why I put the laugh.)

5. The reason I don't like the Battle Sorcerer in Multiclassed progressions for a warrior is that it is a cop out! It already jumps out of Sorcerer for a better BAB (albeit a slower spell progression). Part of the reason the threads I've done got so much respect is because I didn't except cop outs. If something is worth doing or remembering it is worth doing right. Which leads directly into point #6.

6. The biggest reason I didn't start over again is because each time I did, I got four hours and like three pages done and felt that what I did was good enough, so I trashed it. If I were to 'start again' again (not a typo). I would only include spotlights on Prestige Classes, Feats, Core Classes, Spells, Weapons, and the like to point out other ideas. Basically it would be something of a "You might like this for your Arcane Warrior." Make a manual instead of a template. It could teach Min/Maxing instead of showing finish products.
  • Core Classes: Bards aren't as bad as a lot of people think (inspire courage is like a varying duration Magic Weapon spell).
  • Feats: Feats make as much of an impact on the character as the classes selected, they deserve more attention. Arcane Strike is very important for Wizards, since it allows a spell to do double duty.
  • Spells: There is more to Arcane Warriors than Fireballs, Mage Armor, and Haste spells. There is also Heroism, Rage, and a smorgasborg of other spells that I have greased over in my haste to make this list.
  • Weapons: Not just enhancements, but the weapons themselves. Some of the builds have no feat requirements! So a Spell Channeling Spiked Chain Arcane Warrior could be devastating!
  • Sample NPCs: The thing I was most proud of (and regret not doing more of) was the sample NPCs that were short of level 20. It was just a pain to format them as NPC blocks!


Go for it Shadow Mage! Have a blast with it! If you ever need help or (more likely) emotional support (some people can really be trying on the paitence) I'm around.
Ragin' Magin':
Race: Dwarf (Duergar or Goliath if LA buyoff rules used)
Samurai 1/Wolf Totem Barbarian 2/Battle Domain Wizard 3(UA)/Rage Mage 3/Spellsword 1/Eldritch Knight 10
BAB: +17/+12/+7/+2
Saves: +18/+5/+8
Caster Level: 14th
Benefits: EWP: Bastard Sword, Improved Trip (leading to Knockdown), Arcane Spell Failure -25% (good enough for Mithril Full Plate), Casts spells while Raging
Feats would probably go something like this:
1: EWP: Bastard Sword (Sam bonus), Combat Reflexes
2: (if Goliath only) Barbarian Racial Sub level (Mountain Rage)
3: Improved Trip (Bar bonus), Combat Casting
4: Scribe Scroll (Wiz bonus)
6: Power Attack
9: Arcane Strike
10: Knockdown
12: Reckless Rage
15: Mage Slayer
18: Quicken Spell

Ragin' Magin' v2:
Race: Dwarf (or Duergar if LA buyoff allowed)
Fighter 1/Wolf Totem Barbarian 2/Battle Domain Wizard 2(UA)/Runesmith 1/Rage Mage 7/Eldritch Knight 7
BAB: +16/+11/+6/+1
Saves: +17/+4/+9
Caster Level: 13th
Benefits: Cast spells in any armor, Improved Trip (->Knockdown), Casts spells while raging, free Metamagic enhancement to spells while raging.
Feats would probably go something like this:
1: Weapon Focus: Greatclub, Combat Reflexes
3: Improved Trip (Bar bonus), Combat Casting
4: Scribe Scroll (Wiz bonus)
6: Power Attack
9: Mage Slayer
12: Quicken Spell
15: Arcane Strike, Knockdown
18: Reckless Rage
Spellhammer
Fighter 1/Wizard 4/Runesmith 4/Spellsword 1/Eldritch knight 10
BAB: +16/+11/+6/+1
Caster Level: 18
Saves: +16/+5/+13
Special: Must be a Dwarf, Familiar, Rune magic.

The con bonus helps to offset the low HD. Grab some Mechanus gear armor, an Animated Tower shield, and go wild!!!
Strategies of Gish
Notes on Strategy and Tactics: While tactics are battle-by-battle formulas for success, so to speak, strategy is slightly larger in scale. However, since in a campaign you don’t usually have much of a choice (DM’s the “god”, after all), we will refer to individual combat maneuvers as “tactics” and group maneuvers as “strategy”.

Strategy and tactics are an essential when participating in combat-heavy adventures and even in campaigns with fewer-than-normal combat encounters they are still very useful to know. From mages to fighters, the tactical maneuvers an individual and/or a group can present is mindboggling, but gish hold a special place in the area of tactics and strategy in that they combine both aspects of mage and fighter. The following section will detail the basics of strategies and tactics with the three main gish subtypes and tips on how to make combat in general smoother for your party. Afterall, you're playing a versatile character, right? Why not use him for all he's worth?


Balanced Gish Focus
Combat Formation: Balanced gish have the hardest time finding their favored combat position because they’re the most versatile of gish types and their roles can change focus suddenly and effectively. However, lack of specialization could mean spreading one’s self too thin, while overspecialization can lead to a too-focused character. Balanced gish, regardless of their type favored weapons, should be easily adaptable in frontline and rear-support, as well as provide decent mage support from wherever. This means you go where you’re needed. If a hole presents itself, plug it with a magic missile and then yourself. If no more melee combat is needed, sit tight and fling spells at your enemy (this is where those nice big evocation spells and Sculpt Spell come in) to assist your buddies in melee. If enemy magical types are proving to be troublesome, dimension door into melee with them, or simply buff your allies to high heaven. Melee is where most balanced gish seem to gravitate, though, so spells that can turn the tide in melee should be applied liberally but not so often that you forget you’re holding a sword.

If your balanced gish enjoys reach weapons, perfect. You effectively have a character that can sit in “melee”, nail enemies from a range they can’t hit you with and sit behind a wall of your party’s meleeists. Even better, you can cast your spells easily without worrying about other foes striking at you and causing you to loose your spell (unless they have reach, too). Ranged gish typically have a nice bow but less archer ability than the focused archer gish, which is fine since they also tend to have higher level spells. Trading off polar ray and four bow shots a round is certainly nothing wrong. Players who enjoy their spellcasting are ideally suited for reach-weapon or ranged gish of this type.

“True” melee-oriented balanced gish are your “bladesinger” types, meaning they tend to have medium to higher armor, medium Dexterity, and like a very high AC. These are the ones who can sit in melee duking it out with equal-level warrior types (and/or martial-focused gish) and survive. Balanced gish in melee combat like this should definitely focus on bigger, badder buff spells but should still be able to, should the occasion arise, move away from melee and take up rear support with spells.

Tactics: Balanced gish don’t usually have much distinction between lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight subtypes. Afterall, a character with BAB +16-18 and CL 16-18 is useful regardless of where he is, especially on his own. In many cases these types of gish can sit alone amongst groups of enemies as a great distraction for their party and with the level of spellcasting they possess cast elemental immunity (lv6 from Manual of the Planes) followed by meteor swarm right at his feet and have the AC and hit points to survive until he can pull this off. Once accomplished, he can easily move back into the main fray (wherever he is).

Individual balanced gish are solid choices for combat of any kind. With high level spells at his disposal and a strong sword arm, most monsters are in for trouble messing with such a character, for many won’t do so well against characters who can fight almost as well as they can in melee and then cast spells to buff himself further (or cast spells to attack and press the offensive). Essentially, the most sound tactic for a lone balanced gish is to move slowly into melee, casting a spell and moving, casting a spell and moving, and just before entering melee buff yourself and go to town. Even if fighting many strong foes, at least you’re softening them up from a range (depending on the location many spells have greater ranges than the best ranged weapons) before entering melee stronger then usual.

Strategy: When surrounded by friendly allies, balanced gish shine brighter then any other and rivals clerics and druids for outright usefulness. Casting spells one turn and moving into melee the next for a blast of martial power can certainly surprise enemies, especially intelligent ones. Counterspelling balanced gish become the party’s best friend and sculpting a spell around your allies in melee is always helpful. The two strategies, of the many available, I will highlight are the High Mobility strategy and the Tunnel Complex strategy. Neither are explained in great depth, as the idea is to give general ideas and let players come up with the rest.
  • High Mobility: High mobility combat emphasizes speed of both movement and initiative. Winning initiative is important, but not overpoweringly so. The basic gist of this strategy is that half the party moves while half covers them. Half cast a spell or make a single ranged attack and take a move action, the other take a move action and then follow up with their own ranged attack. This keeps continuous movement possible and makes it hard to pin your group down. The job of the gish is to ensure the two “groups” do not get separated via some quick-witted trickery on the part of the enemy. The best of high mobility strategies are accomplished on horseback.
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  • Tunnel Complex: This sort of strategy is unusual in that it favors cramped conditions. Finding areas to bottleneck is typically priority, for if foes are contained and held in such a way that they can only attack from the direction you choose that means you dictate the battle. A “front line” of fighter-types is important, with the mages and lighter characters of course behind them a good long ways. The job of the balanced gish here is to buff up the meleeists and provide abjuration/protection spells while picking away at enemies with either a reach or ranged weapon.


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Martial Gish
Combat Formation: Obviously the focused "spellsword" gish (a gish who focuses on high BAB with spellsupport, much like the Spellsword PrC), this being a more martial build, has a sound place as either a rear ranged support or up on the front line. The Spellsword PrC's channel spell makes this arguably the best prestige class martial gish can acquire. Spell channel is very dangerous and very powerful. Channelling a cone of cold works best when no allies are in the way of the cone, so ideally you want to be the "point-man" in a party's formation. Barbarian/Paladin/Ranger/Rogue support (hell, buffed cleric works too) from both sides works well and if thought out carefully prevents flanking assuming your opponents are all in front of you. This sort of V formation with the gish as the point allows the remaining partiy to not only provide ample protection for one another, but their "lead man" is a blaster with HP and BAB to boot. If he takes too bad a beating, he can fall back with at least two other characters protecting his "retreat" to the rear.

Conversely, the martial gish is also extremely effective in the back of the party, completely ignoring the front-line and instead focusing on archery or ranged spells. Standing next to the mage with Quick Draw, a sword at your side, and a bow in hands will keep yourself prepared to protect the mage and still providing valuable aid in combat. This is a very good place in the party for low-hp gish builds, even if they are martial, and with a simple buff (usually not necessary but nice to have anyway) the low-hp martial gish can provide awesome bow-support.

As a martially-bent gish, your priority in the build is high base attack with spell-support. That means that, whether in melee (tanks) or at the rear (lightweights), you will likely be very effective buffing yourself and others and hitting enemies with your weapons. If you want attack spells, focus on spells that guarantee hits (ie magic missile) and spells that require ranged touch attacks (ie scorching ray). Otherwise, spells to buff your ability scores (series of level two spells) and that provide good defense are always helpful.

Tactics: Martially-focused gish are extremely dangerous. They’re usually close to full BAB with roughly 11-14 spellcasting levels. Imagine a Fighter with Tenser’s transformation. That said, there are several tactics martial gish can employ to make them truly dangerous in combat.
  • 1) Tanks- Focusing on the higher points of your abilities, Spellsword gish should always make use of channel spell. It allows you to essentially cast twice in a round, one to buff yourself, one to hurt your enemy. Next round you can strike harder (thanks to the buff) against a weaker foe. Tanks tend to have higher AC so striking them with an AoO is usually much harder. High-AC build should milk every drop of usefulness from their build and be up in melee, distracting the heck out of the enemy by having the balls to cast spells in melee and then turn around and swing a greatsword.
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  • 2) Middleweights- It’s not hard to be good out of full plate. Simple medium armor enhanced nicely is always effective to keep your AC relatively high, and you usually have an alright bonus from Dexterity. This automatically makes you more versatile. While you can’t stand in melee for as long as a tank-gish, you can also hit with a bow a little more effectively and for a little more damage. You can play both ranged and melee roles fairly well, and spells that augment this should be used often. Actually, middle-weight gish builds are very effective when paired with the various wall spells. Limiting how many foes can attack you and dealing with them first is a very sound tactic, and feat chains are excellent support as well. The spiked-chain feat group, feats focusing on reach weapons, and those enhancing archery are always nice to have and while you can’t have all three of these chains in gish builds, you only need one group. Spiked-chain trippers with cat’s grace and then Tenser’s transformation become arguably the scariest thing on the battlefield.
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  • 3) Lightweights- Light-weight martial builds are the best ranged gish available. Usually with lighter armor they have much higher Dexterity, so grab a bow and use it. Often. Sit behind the main fray and pelt away with archery-related feats and ranged touch spells for vicious effect. Magic missiles are invaluable to you, since they’re guaranteed hits and damage, and maximizing them for a free 25 damage is never a bad deal. Lightly-armored gish should not be in melee too often, though they should be able to hold their own for a few rounds if need be. Remember to quicken (via wizard gish or Arcane Preparation sorcerers) true strike to guarantee your hits, especially when using Rapid Shot or Many Shot, or any other feat that provides penalties to attacks for more attacks. Again buff spells are infinitely useful here.

Strategy: Group synergy is where gish specialize. Though no gish is defenseless out of an adventuring group, it’s when surrounded by allies the martial gish shines. Regardless of his role the martial gish is an invaluable combination of combat prowess and spell support (martial gish should not be attempting spell-duels with enemy casters).
  • 1) Tanks- The tank’s usefulness is painfully obvious. Sit in the front line and blast cone spells at multiple enemies. Spells that deal high damage are your goal, if you want to even focus on attack-spells at all. Self-buff and group buff spells (mass bear’s endurance for example) make you a party favorite in a heartbeat, and by sticking next to the fighters of the group enemy focus is usually taken away from the caster at the rear of your group. Or, better yet, the enemy’s attention can be divided between the tank martial gish, the cleric, and/or the PAC. If all three are attacking/spellcasting for higher damage, the other characters are typically ignored in importance and the enemy is splitting their resources (divide...and conquer...).
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  • 2) Middleweights- Reach-weapons. Your friends will love you forever if they know they can retreat and still be covered, and all the while you’re safely out of melee (middleweight martial gish usually have less HP then their tank cousins). Mass buffs are even more useful for you then for the tank martial gish, because you can sit there casting them without fear of attacks of opportunity. However, you also have the option of falling back to spell support if you so choose (see my Master of Whips). With three feats you can become the best friend of the entire party when you randomly counter an enemy’s spells. Or simple ranged-touch spells (necromancies in particular) can provide ample spell support, and augmenting your caster with mental buffs (eagle’s splendor, fox’s cunning, owl’s wisdom, etc.) makes -his- spells more effective, thus increase his usefulness to a party. Middle-weight martial gish have too many individual roles in a party to list, but focusing on (using Master of Whips example) something like reach-weapon support, spell-support, and buff-spell support will make an incredibly effective gish that doesn’t have to be good alone since in a group he rocks.
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  • 3) Lightweights- Individual tactics versus group strategy changes little with lightweight martial gish. With the highest Dexterity and lowers armor bonus of the three types, your priority will be to remain in the back to protect the casters and provide (if necessary) retreat cover. Archery feats are helpful here, as is 3.0 haste. Really any spells that will improve your archeries will make you more useful to the group, so Precise Shot and Cat’s grace are must-haves. This class of martial gish is entirely defined by feat-selection, but archery feats are the most optimal since you should be at range during every combat. Sure a sword at the hip is nice, but with likely the lowest HP in the group you don’t want t make it a habit of sitting in melee when your party could suddenly find it’s PAC attacked by a dimension door-ing enemy. Ranged touch spells, shield, and magic missle should always be on your spell list.



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Spell-focused Gish
Combat Formation: Surprisingly, the spell-focused gish can, much like a balanced gish, appear anywhere on the battlefield. With higher armor then most rogue-types and certainly higher AC then other full casters/manifesters, spell-focused gish can sit anywhere as artillery platforms or offensive machines (depending on the primary casting/manifesting class). The ideal place for spell-focused gish builds, though, is in the rear just like other casters. It’s easier to cast spells when you know you won’t be affected every single attack of opportunity attempting to ruin your spellcasting day.

Although “the rear” is the most obvious choice for spell-focused gish, something important has been overlooked with that conclusion: spell effectiveness. Many touch spells used at higher levels can be empowered or maximized to great effect (lv16 empowered maximized vampiric touch for example) and such spells should be used liberally. Gish emphasizing their spell or psionic side tend to have a very high caster or manifester level (17-19) and a lower Base Attack bonus (15-16). Casting the said example of vampiric touch and following this with a channeling of 8th level spells into Arcane Strikes bring to light the knowledge that in the midst of melee spell-focused gish can be just as dangerous as martially bent gish, using muscle to augment spells rather then the other way around. However, as dangerous as melee gish who focus more into their spellcasting than into their martial talents are, the optimal place for any primary or near primary caster is at the rear of the party or at least a distance away from the main fray of combat where he can cast spells from relative safety.

Tactics: Tactics for spell-focused gish are pretty much the same tactics any other primary caster would use, with the minor exception that melee is no place to fear. Use of multiple wall spells in strategic manners can certainly aid in the “divide and conquer” scheme and if there is plenty of time to prepare then spells commonly overlooked like mirage arcana, move earth, and the various symbols are all excellent when laying ambushes. Below are three general tactics individual spell-focused gish can employ and when they would be best employed.
  • 1) Solo Ambush- The neatest thing about gish is that alone they are still as versatile as with a group. Spell-focused gish, however, though randomly left alone, are powerful in the face of superior enemies or enemy numbers. Ambush tactics typically employ at least one or two illisionary spells (ie Hallucinatory terrain, mirage arcana) and a few other less-used spells in a caster's repertoire like the various symbols and explosive runes and alarms. Placing said explosive runes in the midst of a solid fog prevents them from escaping, and while watching from invisibility the gish can take advantage of any higher level area affect spells at the foes who just took damage. Underground and in closed quarters this works especially well, and spells such as stone shape can be put to wonderful use. Solo ambushes should only be taken part of if the gish performing the ambush knows the lay of the land very well.
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  • 2) Coverfire/Pressuring- The idea of this tactic is to "keep the enemy's head down". There is no stealth required, but keeping enemies bottled into one general area and pinned is an effective way to allow an adventuring party to establish a trap elsewhere while the gish fends off foes. Really any spell is useful here, so long as it's bright and flashy so even stupid creatures can see it and recognize it as something that hurts. Against intelligent foes, wall of fire followed by quickened magic missiles will almost certainly cause at least a momentary pause. Ready actions taken to loose ranged touch spells at foes who peek from behind a corner can also be very effective at pinning down foes. However, to clarify, pinning an enemy is NOT the primary goal of this tactical maneuver; fending the enemy off is. As long as the enemy progress is slowed (typically covering for an escape or lead into an ambush) then the gish has successfully employed this tactic.This tactic becomes less applicable against fewer more powerful foes, but against moderately strong enemies in number coverfire and pressure can become a key element in victory.
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  • 3) Solo Defense- On one's own and likely outnumbered/outclassed, a spell-focused gish needs to be more then moderately proficient with defending themself. This means making yourself unhittable, be it by buffing yourself so damage does very little or by making enemies not want to hit you. Spells such as fire shield, enlarge when used with reach weapons, and polymorphing into creatures like trolls (dare I say war trolls?) create powerful defenses that are hard to beat. Essentially, the idea behind solo defense is that the gish is either surviving until allies arrive or he's been pinned down by enemies and is forced to last as long as he can until he is either able to escape or he dies. Contingency set to cast teleport when low on life can save the life of any spellcasting character, gish being no exception. This is where the various buff spells shine, namely spell like blurr, displacement, fire shield, globe of invulnerability (greater/lesser/etc.), and stoneskin, though this is far from the complete list.

Strategy: Some information regarding group strategy and maneuvers.
  • 1) Ambush- Ambushes set up by spell-focused gish with full party support tend to be nasty. The mental ping version of alarm alerts when foes enter a desired area and a series of symbols and glyphs (along with runes) can make life for enemies more than just hellish. While the most powerful of these spell types are the symbols, these spells are simply designed to soften foes up for the "main stage" so to speak. Smart spell-focused gish would have already changed the landscape to their liking via a transmute rock/mud to mud/rock spell or even move earth or stone shape and make it harder for enemies to simply move on through by introducing features (like low walls) to impede movement. Fogs (particularly solid/acid fog are perfectly suited to this sort of combat. Foes emerging from such fogs often find a party's worth of arrows/attack spells targeting them, though in many cases remaining in the fog is just as lethal. Ideally, fighter-types will be waiting close to the ambush entrance (though out of range of any prepared traps) and ranged party members will be just behind them waiting to strike.
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  • 2) Artillery/Cover- Similar to the coverfire/pressure tactical maneuver, this takes those tactics to the next level and applies them to larger-scale fights. Big, damage-dealing spells like the beloved fireballs, lightning bolts, and their greater versions (delayed blast fireball and chain lightning, respectively) are just a few of the many spells usable in these situations. This is mostly used in groups to cover immediate retreats or to keep enemies hiding behind cover while the gish's party sets up for some attack or another. Bombarding a battlefield with evokation spells is one way of accomplishing this, though another less commonly used way is by summoning large numbers of creatures to engage and hopefully corall enemies into more manageable groups. Regardless of how it's done, this strategy is designed to keep enemies focused on the gish and his spells/minions, leaving the rest of the party to its own designs and tricks. There is very little "group" effort required here.
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  • 3) Support- Support is the most simple strategy. With a bow in hand, trading turns taking full attack actions with the weapon and casting spells is the most desireable strategy. Other ranged combatants in the group should crowd around the gish to provide it with maximum cover. The main purpose of this spell is to wear down at enemies, typically employing lower level spells (like lots of acid arrows, magic missiles, scorching rays, and the occasional higher level spell like polar ray or horrid wilting). Attacking as many enemies in a turn is important, so likely only one or two bow shots any one round will be focues on the same foe. The idea behind that is to "spread the love" so to speak, making the gish more noticed by enemies while the true ranged combatant of the group picks off the weakened enemies from a distance. Symbols are also useful here, if used in the same manner as in ambush strategies, as are many uses of enervation and even energy drain if available against stronger foes.
That is the problem with making a thread based on Progressions is that one slightly different multiclass (like 1 level dip) changes 5% of the class (if you measure in levels).

With the generic melee Fighter 2/PAC 4/Spellsword 5/EK 9, you could take out 1 level of EK for Dragonslayer for a d10 (instead of d6) HD and argue that it is a different progression.

Or people argue that Paladin 2/Sorcerer 4/Spellsword 5/EK 9 is significantly different than Fighter 2/Sorcerer 4/Spellsword 5/EK 9 because the first gets Cha to Saves, while the second doesn't.

Basically you end up with two, three, four, or maybe even five times as many builds/progressions while they are not significantly different.
Hm...I hadn't thought of it that way, but you've very right. All it takes is a couple class levels different to be called different builds. Again though, I plan to use them as examples, completely fleshed out and everything, just to show people a sample progression. I think I'll use very very general builds, like the Paladin2/Sorcerer4/Spellsword5/Eldritch Knight9 for Charisma-based, a Fighter1/Wizard5/Eldritch Knight10/Bladesinger3/Spellsword1 (or something thereabouts) for Intelligence-based, that sort of thing. Three of four example builds just to give people ideas and help them determine their own preferences.

Your mentioning that I should spotlight specific prestige classes usable in gish builds makes this all the more important. Show them what sort of multiclassing they'll probably need to do, and why, and then they can go down to the PrC Spotlight section of the thread to see if they like that as an idea.
Arcane Fighter
Fighter 1/Wizard 5/Eldritch knight 10/Archmage 4
BAB: +15/10/5
Caster Level: 18 (20 with Practised Spell Caster or 2 Spell Powers)
Saves: +12/+5/+11
Special: 4 High Arcanas, 2 Fighter Feats, 1 Wizard Feat, completely core.
Requirements: All Martial Weapons, Skill Focus (Spellcraft), 2 Spell Focus of creators choice.
Books: Players Handbook, Dungeon Master Guide.

I like this build because although it doesn't have the 4th attack, it has a lot of versatility, (with 4 High Arcanas you can do a lot), second I feel that is option is a Wizard that can fight, rather than a Fighter that can cast spells, which is the concept i had set up to create, third there is no flavour conflict, finally it would be difficult for any DM to disallow this build, since is Core.

Note: If you are really interested on the last attack than you could give up the last 2 levels of Archmage and take one lvl of Dragon Slayer and one lvl of Spellsword, and still keep 9th lvl spells.
Actually with Prestige Class close ups (or whatever you finally call them), I would focus more on that class and how it relates to a general direction of the Arcane Warrior.

Spellsword favors the Tank direction.
Bladesinger favors the Lighter Armor direction.
Eldritch Knight fills in any unspent levels (which is why it is usually best left until last to keep raising BAB and Spells).
Havoc Mage makes it easy to cast a few extra spells in combat (quicken spells don't provoke AoOs).

Obviously I am not being too thorough. But if you break each PrC down and outline the benefits gained, it can allow people to make their own decisions (and save you a lot of mind racking).

The reason you want to focus in is because if don't it is too easy get too broad in how one PrC synergizes with other PrC's you will end up with a Manual of Manuals. It will be so large and confusing that it would take less time to just say "E-mail me your request and I will send you back a template for your specific case that will be exactly what you want."

Not everything has to be shown. People can figure out easily what they want to do after Fighter 2/PAC 4/Spellsword 5 They can decide for themselves if they want to just finish out with EK for 9 more BAB, a bonus feat, and 8 more casting increases or if they want to go Havoc Mage or countless other melee classes.

There are more possible paths than people that approach the situation. And the amount of consideration for even an article that focuses in (at the near exclusion of all other PrCs) on the Spellsword could be massive. Short Example:

Channel Spell is gained at the 4th level of Spellsword. The earliest a PC using the Core Rules (i.e. pretending Unearthed Arcana and its Battle Sorcerer don't exist) can gain this ability is 10th character level.

Lets go a little farther.

Multiple Channel Spell is gained at 16th character level. Depending on the campaign, the ability to channel two spells at once is not only powerful, but good sense (like Living Greyhawk where there tends to only be 2-4 combats, and often they are on different days). In others the same PC might need to be able to spread their channels farther.

It is hard enough to discuss the value of a PrC (or when the value just doesn't seem to be high enough) without trying to map every other PrC you might want to use it with.

Edit:
The greatest advantage of letting people draw some of their own conclusions is that you can avoid arguing. Instead of saying when to leave a PrC, you can say the advantages of being there for that level. The only thing that a person might need is examples of lead ins (the first PrC taken is usually the hardest to qualify for as you have BAB and skills that might stipulate a minimum level).
Drakebane Crusader
Sorcerer10/Dragonslayer1/Spellsword1/Divine Crusader2/Mystic Theurge6
BAB:+11/+6/+1
Caster Level: 18
Saves: +12/+5/+19
Special: Ignore 10% Arcane Spell Failure, Summon Familiar, Aura of Courage, +1 Damage bonus against Dragons, Aura, War Domain
Requirements: Dodge, Iron Will, Tumble 2 ranks, All Martial Weapons and All Armor, Knowledge (religion) 2 ranks, Weapon Focus (deity's favored weapon).
Books: Player's Handbook, Draconomicon, Complete Warrior, Complete Divine, Dungeon Master's Guide.
This build could use some explanation. Two Words: Divine Power. You take War domain and 3 times a day base, plus Divine Crusader's spellcasting stat is Charisma. Not too feat hungry, gets access to the other War spells, I'm thinking Craft Magic Arms & Armor along with some Practiced Spellcasting and maybe Arcane Strike will do it. I suggest a deity who supports slaying dragons.
for the meta-optimization thread.
The Player's Guide to Faerun Militia feat does NOT grant armor proficiency.
It will not grant you the requirements for Spellsword, only EK.

Shouldn't the amount of Spellsword levels be limited (perhaps even eschewed) if caster level is a concern?

I'm not sure why a 1-level dip in Spellsword makes that much sense.
Shadow Mage--

It would be nice if you listed what books most of these PrC's are from as I am not familiar yet with what is in 3.0 to 3.5.
cult jake, the reason that one level in Spellsword makes a whole lot of sense is thus.

+1 BAB
+1 Caster level
+2 Fort
+2 Will
Ignore 10% Arcane Spell Failure

~hf

edit: Mondreyes, what PrCs do you have questions about?
Witch Hunter, rune smith, and paragon for starters.
I truly dislike what the Militia feat allows and if I was DM I personally wouldn't allow it even in FR campaigns. I just don't agree with it because I can pull out a +17 BAB and 18 caster level gish. Why take fighter or mage when I can not only do both, but do them well?

Anyway, cultjake, the reason it makes sense is posted by handforged. Add a d8 for HD to the list, too.

Mondreyes, I will post these things when I finilize the thread. At the moment I'm redoing some pages since I now agree with JosephKell regarding whether or not full twenty-level-progressions are truly needed and filling those pages now with prestige class focuses that say where the PrC is from, its benefits, prerequisites, and Pros-Cons (not complete list such as skill-list, benefits recieved at each level, etc., because not even I want to deal with the legal aspects behind that).
Mondreyes--

What does the one level of Dragonslayer do?
Witch Hunter, rune smith, and paragon for starters.

WH: Oriental adventures. Decent for a Cha-build. Better then Pal 2.

RS: Races of stone. No somatic components @lvl 1.

Paragon: Unearthed arcana. Various different thingies depending on the race.

Dragonslayer: Draconomicon. +1 BAB, good Fort & Will, +1 caster level, d8 or d10 HD (I don't recall), all martial weapons and all armor proficiency!

IWhy take fighter or mage when I can not only do both, but do them well?

Because a well-build mage will trounce you.
catharz--

Thanks.
Paladin4/sorcerer4/spellsword1/dragonslayer1/EK10
feats-power attack, divine might, iron will, dodge, improved toughness
BAB-18, CL-15 arcane, 2 divine

Paladin5/sorcerer4/spellsword3/EK8 (less feat dependent, extra smite and can summon mount)
feats- power attack, divine might, improved toughness
BAB-18, CL 13 arcane, 2 divine
Because a well-build mage will trounce you.

Build me the mage that'll trounce me and I'll build you the gish that'll take 'im out. You can't assume things like this to be one-on-one duelist class builds. They're universal, best with groups of gish or with a well-rounded party. It's really easy to, in arguments regarding what sort of build/class is good, say things like "the barbarian beats it at this" or "the wizard can do this" but you have to remember to put that aside and look at the bigger picture.

A party of six: Rogue, two fighter-types (preferably a paladin and a figher-multiclass or a barbarian-type), Cleric-type (druid or cleric), a dedicated mage, and a gish of arcane or psionic type are a very well-balanced and very effective group. That's where gish shine, they can so well work synergetically with other classes. Sure one-on-one they can hold their own, but that's not what they're made for.
What is the benefit of one level of DrangonSlayer?
+1 BAB, +1 CL, +2 foritude and will saves, d8 hps, and I think immunity to fear
And a bonus to attacks against dragons. lol, +1 damage, HUGE difference eh? :D
A gish will never make a good primary caster. Even with the practiced spellcaster feat, a Gish is always going to be caster levels behind. The only exception could be Wizard 6/EK X (if the Wizard has the Militia feat), but that is little more than a Wizard with a higher BAB.

The main problem is the limit on the number of feats. Even if you had BAB 20 and Full Wizard casting (Gestalt Warrior 20/Wizard 20), you still only have 7 feats (1st, 3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th, and 18th). You can either spend those on metamagic, craft, skill boosting, combat, or whatever.

It is a general rule that if you try to do two things great, you end up doing both badly. Three specialists can do three things faster with better quality.

It is Easier to be a Warrior First, Arcane (or Psionic) second. BAB is easier to make up for (and most builds only lose 2, or at most 4). And being behind 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 Caster Levels makes a minor difference. This is part of the reason why Warmage isn't a totally bad decision for an Arcane Warrior (if you don't mind being a Slash and Blast character).

Being an Arcane (or Psionic) Caster first-Warrior second and effective is way harder. It is like being a Mystic Theurge without having the second caster class.
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Dragonslayer gives +1 BAB, +1 increase to spells per day (and caster level), +2 Fort, +2 Will, d10 HD, Aura of Courage (like a Paladin), and I think Penetrate Dragon Spellresistance (+1 per Dragonslayer level to your caster check to overcome a dragon's spell resistance)
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Catharz and Shadow Mage (and everyone else that thinks that there exists one PC that can trump all others):

"If you try to punch me, I'll block and trip you."
"If you try to trip me, I'll kick your arse."

Around and around you go...
The main problem is the limit on the number of feats. Even if you had BAB 20 and Full Wizard casting (Gestalt Warrior 20/Wizard 20), you still only have 7 feats (1st, 3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th, and 18th).

Except for, yanno, the 11 or so Fighter feats you got as a Fighter and the 5 Metamagic/Item Creation feats you got as a Wizard on top of that.