As usual for the showcase, these builds are intended to spur discussion and perhaps inspire a few people in the spirit of the old CO boards. They come from members of my gaming group - me, TempestStormwind, DisposableHero_, Andarious, Sionnis, and Seishi - and I'll always identify who wrote the build at the start, so do not assume I'm the guy behind all of them (because I'm not!).
Unless otherwise noted, showcase builds use 28 point-buy, and have their snapshots evaluated using fractional base attack / saves (because it simplifies the math). None of them actually rely on fractional to be built, though. The format I use showcases their progression at key levels rather than just presenting the build and showing off a few tricks at level 20; most of these are capable of being played 1-20 if you so choose.
With that out of the way, let's get started. This week, one of Andarious’ ideas gets the spotlight (I may have added a few spell and magic item suggestions here and there).
0 BUFF TIME GISH
Try to keep up!
Required Books: Complete Mage, the Swiftblade online enhancement, Complete Champion, Complete Warrior. Unsurprisingly, the Magic Item and Spell compendiums are useful as hell.
Unearthed Arcana used: None!
Background: Andarious likes his gishes. However, he’s not so big a fan of wasting several rounds at the outset of combat turning into a serious threat; in that time the alpha strikers can end the whole fight. So he whipped up this bad boy to get right to the beating face stage of combat. The Zero Buff Time Gish is fast, hard hitting, versatile, well prepared for nearly anything, and capable of going from 0 to greatsword-in-your-face on round 1.
- Race: Illumian (Aeshkrau).
- Ability Scores: 16/14/14/14/8/8. Fighter first, caster second is the order of the day, so Strength gets all the tomes and level ups.
Skill Notes: Andarious’ original skill loadout maxed Concentration, Spellcraft, and Knowledge: Arcana, threw 5 ranks in Jump and 10 in Balance, and still had enough left over for 18 ranks in Tumble and four skill tricks.
Basic Equipment: Aside from your greatsword, spellbook, and spell component pouch? You’re pretty easy to equip. Given how fragile you are at the early levels, items like tanglefoot bags may not go amiss.
Magical Gear Goals: As your only melee investment is a big fat greatsword with the best enhancements you can put on it, your have a lot of free cash to spare. Pearls of Power and Rings of Wizardry are very handy to you. You may want a ring of the Diamond Mind to get Mind Over Body and shore up your weakest save. Oh, and ioun stones, of course.
Build Stub: Wizard6/Swiftblade9/Abjurant Champion5
1 – Wizard – (Familiar) (Greatsword Proficiency, Scribe Scroll) (Aesh sigil) *
Spells to grab: True Strike and Shield
You start as a wannabe gish, but you can do an okay job of it if you pick on weaker enemies who are unlikely to survive a greatsword hit.
2 – Wizard – (Krau sigil) *
Your full runeword comes online now.
3 – Wizard – (Dodge) *
Spells to grab: Heroics and Invisibility
Realistically, despite your gish setup, you’re probably still getting more killing power from the spells that f*cking kill people at this level. But it’s nice to be efficient with the melee when mooks show up.
4 – Wizard – *
Spells to grab: Protection from Arrows, Rope Trick
5 – Wizard – (Spontaneous Divination) *
Spells to grab: Haste, Tongues
This Complete Champion alternate class feature offers a lot more than it appears. Nothing is worse than casting a buff that doesn’t help you out; the ability to pull divinations out whenever you need them will be a big help later. You will eventually be able to identify ambushes, creatures with special defenses, casters who can dispel, and other gish killing traps in advance and adjust your tactics accordingly.
6 – Wizard – (Mobility) *
A dull prereq feat and you’re not allowed to cast anything with your 3rd level slots besides Haste. Ehhhhhh…
7 – Swiftblade – (Swift surge +1/0 ft.) (Spring Attack) *
Spells to grab: Heart of Water, Greater Mage Armor
Now that you’re allowed to cast 3rd level spells other than Haste again, time to pick up a better Mage Armor and the poor man’s Freedom of Movement. Spring Attack compensates for our lack of durability; stay safe and out of reach.
8 – Swiftblade – (Blurred alacrity) *
Spells to grab: Polymorph, Arcane Eye
9 – Swiftblade – (Sudden casting) (Arcane Strike) *
Spells to grab: Dimension Door, Stoneskin
We start living up to the name of the build; our signature spell can be quickened for free now. Arcane Strike gives us a nice damage source to spend our heaps of bonus spells on.
10 – Swiftblade – (Arcane reflexes, swift surge +1/10 ft.) *
The loss of a spellcasting progression level sucks, but you will be acting sooner.
11 – Swiftblade – (Evasive celerity) *
Spells to grab: Teleport, Telepathic Bond
The miss chance from blurred alacrity maxes out now, at the same time we get another miss chance. Swiftblade helps reduce buffing times as one spell just does so many things for us.
12 – Swiftblade – (Fortified hustle) (Power Attack) *
Spells to grab: Improved Blink
We need ability boosters to cast 5th level spells, but you’re level 12; how do you not have them? Protection from dispelling and antimagic is handy at least. With PA, we now have a means to start dealing real damage, fueled by Arcane Strike. This is about the tipping point where you are more gish than caster, so act like it. Get Improved Blink if you don’t have it already; it’s a great defensive buff and it stacks with your miss chance from blurred alacrity. It does NOT stack with your miss chance from evasive celerity, but that hasn’t reached 50% yet, and it doesn’t protect you from area effects or allow you to walk through walls.
13 – Swiftblade – (Swift surge +2/10 ft.) (Bounding Assault) *
This is the only level at which you lose a caster level. Given that you now have the ability to give ‘em the ol’ one-two with Bounding Assault, it’s a fair price to pay.
14 – Swiftblade – (Diligent rapidity) *
Spells to grab: True Seeing, Mislead
You no longer need Heart of Water for its FoM effect, but it can still compensate for diligent rapidity’s limitations if you can’t cross that body of water in one round.
15 – Swiftblade – (Perpetual options) (Combat Casting) *
Spells to grab: Contingency, Imbue Familiar with Spell Ability
And now we live up to the name. Haste now gives us extra actions that we can cast buffs with while fighting. And by now, you should have two spells that allow you to turn on your buffs as non-actions – not swift actions, non-actions.
16 – Abjurant Champion – (Abjurant armor, extended abjuration) *
Spells to grab: Vision, Waves of Exhaustion
Time for another gish PrC to keep that BAB and HP up. At this point you should have the divinations that will let you get the most use out of your earlier ACF and keep you ahead of your enemies.
17 – Abjurant Champion – (Swift abjuration) *
Isn’t it great casting buffs as swift actions so you can buff and fight at the same time?
18 – Abjurant Champion – (Elusive Target) *
Spells to grab: Moment of Prescience, Mind Blank
Power Attackers are hard countered by this lovely feat.
19 – Abjurant Champion – (Arcane boost) *
The offensive options provided by this class feature don’t offer much compared to Arcane Strike, but the defensive options are quite handy.
20 – Abjurant Champion – (Martial arcanist) *
Spells to grab: Shapechange, Foresight
Woohoo, 9th level spells! If you haven’t got the tomes yet and you don’t like being dependent on Int boosters to cast your highest level spells, grab Wish and provide your own inherent bonuses.
Snapshot: We end up at level 20, assuming +6 ability boosters on Str, Dex, Con, and Int (we don’t have any other major expenditures besides the weapon, so this is not a great demand), packing a +17 BAB (+33 melee attack rolls with a +5 weapon and Haste on, and you know Haste will be on), a caster level of 19 and 17 levels of wizard spellcasting, saves of +11/+14/+14 before cloaks or luckstones or such, 175 hit points, and an AC in the 35 range with buffs up before you grab stuff like rings of protection. On the first round of combat, you can put up Haste as a swift action, trigger a Contingency buff (up to a 6th level spell), have your familiar cast his imbued spell on you, and still have a full round action to full attack, charge, or Bounding Assault. On the second round, you can cast any abjuration buff of your choice as a swift action and keep laying down own. If that’s not enough time for you, I suppose a scroll of Time Stop would be handy…
Overall Strengths: Here we have a gish that makes it happen when it needs to happen, if not sooner. The confluence of good BAB, caster level, and spell access is pretty great for a framework, but your ability to start beating serious face right away is the biggest appeal of this build. Arcane Strike, lots of bonus spell slots, and Power Attack mean you can do a fair amount of damage. You’re mobile as swiftblades are wont to be and hard to hit with all your miss chances. And you can still pack the fixit utility spells when an awkward magical trap or environmental hazard shows up.
Overall Weaknesses: You take a while to get going; you’re a suboptimal wizard for a third of your progression and a lightweight gish for another third. Slightly fragile for a front liner, you’ll be in trouble if someone can drop or pierce your magical defenses. No investment in the save DCs of your spells means that you don’t really have access to many of the spells that end fights (I recommend the no-save Necromancy debuffs, particularly those delivered by rays, to compensate). A reliance on Arcane Strike to fuel Power Attack for serious damage does mean that you will be burning through your considerable spell slots fairly fast. There’s a period in your progression where a good dispel knocking out your Int circlet can cut off your access to high level spells (though you can still Arcane Strike with those slots).
Variants: A Focused Specialist Transmuter would get considerably more spell slots, at the cost of two schools. Enchantment and Evocation would probably be the schools to drop; you don't do spells that rely on high save DCs, they’re not your thing. If you’re not into Elusive Target, feel free to replace it with another feat, and remember in such a case to switch Dodge with Expeditious Dodge too.
Andarious wanted to add:
if people aren't happy with this build there's another Gish I finished partway through this build which is much more cohesive albeit probably less powerful in melee. One of the nice things about the other gish is that it really only need give up a single caster level, or two if you want a bit more arcane spell failure reduction.
There you have it. It's nice when things just work. And it's even nicer when they work right now.
Next up: We'll let you know. The list of remaining available builds is currently being finalized. That said, we'd be glad to hear what general types of builds you would like. Alternatively, if there were any previous showcases in particular that you really liked, go ahead and tell us "give us another like that" (or if you really didn't like them, I guess a "go back and try that one again" will do too...).