Pathfinder Character Designs 2: Warrior-Mages
This is part 2 of my billion-and-a-half part series of writing about random character builds. I started this with a post about the Rogue and their archetypes. Today, I’m going to go over some things I’ve learned about making and playing warrior-mage type characters. I’ll go over single class variations, multiclass variations, then the “gish-in-a-box” characters introduced by Paizo for Pathfinder, and finally I’ll round out the post with some spells..
The Pathfinder Core has one class that I’d consider “out-of-the-box” warrior-mage capable, and that’s the Bard. They get arcane casting, can wield a pretty nice assortment of melee weapons and some armor, they can self-buff their attacks and defenses, and self heal as needed. In fact, in the Advanced Player’s Guide and Ultimate Combat, the Bard gets archetypes that make them very combat-oriented with their arcane magics added on top (for reference these are the Arcane Duelist in APG and the Dervish Dancer in UC).
Additionally, and a little surprisingly, if you stat a Sorcerer or Wizard and use the proper Bloodling/School, you can get a little be of melee out of these two. For the Sorcerer, there are the Aberrant (10-20 foot Touch Spells), Abyssal/Orc (+2-6 Strength), and Pit-Touched Infernal (+2-6 Constitution) Bloodlines, for example. For the Wizard, there’s the Transmutation School, which gives a +1-5 enhancement bonus to a physical stat, changeable at the beginning of the day. So, as mentioned, a Warrior-Mage with these two is a little work, but still possible. It may not be the best, but it gets the job done.
For history’s sake and for a little bit of fun, here are two warrior-mage builds I lifted from a really old 4chan /tg/ post with a thread about this subject. In 3.5, these were two of the main warrior-mage builds. The first is a standard arcane caster + fighting, which results in crazy casting and the ability to whack-things-with-stuff, and the second (“Sorcadin”) is a more complicated but still good mix of smiting and arcane casting. Both take advantage of the Abjurant Champion and his various “sacrifice spells to buff self” abilities.
Fighter 1 / Wizard 6 / Spellsword 1 / Abjurant Champion 5 / Eldritch Knight 7
Paladin 2 / Sorcerer 4 / Spellsword 1 / Abjurant Champion 5 / Sacred Exorcist 8
Now, in Pathfinder, you obviously can’t really take the Abjurant Champion and Sacred Exorcist unless you’ve got a really open GM. So, you can’t exactly make the same thing, but you can get close.
Fighter 1 / Sorcerer or Wizard 9 / Eldritch Knight 10
If I do the math right in my head, the Sorcerer variant has +15/+10/+5 BAB and casts like an 18th Level Sorcerer. His main drawback is that he loses out on most of the really powerful Sorcerer Bloodline abilities. This is somewhat lessened by the Wondrous Item in the Advanced Player’s Guide called the “Robe of Arcane Heritage”. With the Abyssal/Orc Bloodline, you’ll get a +4 to Strength and the Pit-Touched Infernal gets a +4 to Constitution. Additionally, if you go Draconic, you can also jump to Dragon Disciple, which has some nice melee-mage potential.
The Wizard is more flexible, you can drop a level of Wizard for Fighter and not lose a lot of spell casting to get +16/+11/+6/+1 BAB, otherwise you’ll have mid-BAB. You get another bonus combat feat out of that switch as well. You end up casting as a 17th or 18th level Wizard. The Transmutation school (with the option of the Enhancement Sub-School) grants this Wizard a lot of self buffs, so he can keep up his stats during the day. If you go with Illusion you can use an at-will Greater Invisibility and Conjuration has several teleportation options.
As for the Sorcadin, I don’t know that you can build one in Pathfinder easily. Trading the level of Fighter for a level of Paladin would be an option though. Same for the Wizard. You get a Smite Evil out of the deal instead of bonus feats along with all those proficiencies.
There are a few other Pathfinder classes who qualify as warrior-mages straight away. There’s the Bard listed above, but the Advanced Player’s Guide introduces the Alchemist and Ultimate Magic introduces the Magus.
Alchemists have a limited kind of spell casting, they drink their Extracts, which “casts” the spell. The advantage is that they can do this in any armor without worrying about spell failure. Any Extract is like this, including those Ultimate Magic grants through Archetypes (Summon Nature’s Ally from a character in Full Plate is kinda scary). Alchemists can either dip into a full martial class (Fighter, Paladin, Barbarian, Paladin, etc.) for a slew of armors and weapons, along with other small bonuses that make the job easier, or take a few feats to get the proficiencies, which is fine for Alchemists because they aren’t that feat starved. Also, since the Extracts don’t actually require DCs most of the time, you only need about 18 Intelligence (more through leveling if need be) to operate them. Bombs are a nice addition to being able to fighting in melee, but there’s also the Vivsectionist who can do sneak attacking instead of bombs. Another advantage for the Alchemist is that they’re skill monkeys with everything else, so they have versatility in and out of combat.
Billed as an out-of-the-box warrior-mage and does the job great. He’s got the weapons, spells, and self-buffing to be a terror all over the battlefield. He can also get a nice defense going, either with high Dexterity (in a Dervish Dance build that uses Dex for melee damage) or eventually getting heavy armor for a Strength Magus. He’s also exceedingly multiclass friendly, capable of dipping into one or even two classes for their various abilities. This is because, quite frankly, everything the Magus gets after 7th-ish Level is ho-hum.
With both of these classes, very little necessary is tied to character level, so the multiclassing they may do won’t really hurt their progression that badly. The Alchemist loses his Grand Discovery which are all nice, but not “oh god the awesome!!11” and the Magus’s late game stuff isn’t all to game breaking either.
Gish-in-a-Box Multiclassing Options
From Walter’s Guide to the Magus (here: https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1DB6sOfbAzFmKVPgcyLWipTVqvWFjfDSv6v_YiGQb5Yw&pli=1 ), there’s a dip option for picking up, of all things, a level of Sorcerer. By taking the Crossblooded Archetype to gain the Orc and Draconic Bloodlines (Blue or Bronze) and you deal 2 additional points of damage per dice of your bread ‘n’ butter spell, Shocking Grasp. So, at 5th level, Shocking Grasp is a 5d6 + 10, at 10th level with Intensify Spell, it’s 10d6 + 20 damage. 10/20 damage in exchange for -2 Will and 1 BAB (which can be made up for with a couple levels of Fighter or something), a definitely nice trade. This also nets you access to Dragon Disciple, which has some nice buffs for a warrior-mage.
Additionally, a Magus jumping to Alchemist gains the ability to self heal and Mutagens for physical boosting. A Magus/Paladin can be quite frightening here as well, as seen here: http://paizo.com/paizo/messageboards/paizoPublishing/pathfinder/pathfinderRPG/advice/featSuggestionsForPaladinMagus&page=1#19
I have a list of the things a Magus can jump to:
-Alchemist for Mutagens and self heals.
-Barbarian for the Raging and Rage Powers.
-Bards for self buffing and self healing.
-Cleric for making a Red Mage with Mystic Theurge (Magus 7/Cleric 3/Mystic Theurge 10)
-Druid for a similar combo with Mystic Theurge
-Fighter for the feats.
-Inquisitor for Judgments, utility, and self heals.
-Monk for the Unarmed Spellstrike concept.
-Paladin for Smiting and self heals.
-Sorcerer for the above Bloodlines.
Spell and Tricks
This section is the last and will cover tricks, feats, items, and spells helpful for being a warrior-mage.
Spells (Specific Defensive Buffs)
-Mage Armor: A basic spell for Sorcerers/Wizards which can be used by almost everything here, if needed. Alternatively, the character can just get some Bracers of Armor.
-Mirror Image: Insanely great buff. You are incredibly hard to hit, which will happen if you’re in the frontlines.
-Fire Shield/Vitriolic Mist: These two spells punish creatures for attacking you. You can stack them, or go with one at a time. They’re kinda short term for the damage returns, but they could deter something from attacking you.
-Shield/Shock Shield: Again, two shields that give you a short term AC buff. Alternatively, you can pick up a Mithril Buckler, which doesn’t require proficiency to use and eventually results in a better bonus that’s on all the time.
-Stoneskin: Has a Material Component cost, but it’s free DR, which is awesome.
-Adjuring Step: While in melee, you can cast some spells without provoking. You can’t attack or run away, but you can still get some stuff off.
-Illusion of Calm: Adjuring Step’s bigger brother (though same level), this lets you cast in combat and move without provoking so long as you’re not attacked.
-Bull’s Strength/Cat’s Grace/Bear’s Endurance: Free attack power or temporary hit points.
-False Life/False Life, Greater: Free hit points.
-Bracers of Armor: It’s like Mage Armor but always on.
-Ring of Deflection/Amulet of Natural Armor: More AC is always better for these guys. I mention them because of Arcane Spell Failure, which these items all ignore.
-Robe of Arcane Heritage: For the Sorcerer multiclasser.
-Robe of the Archmagi: If you don’t want to eat all of your item slots on defense, you can get one of these, but it’s bonuses will be lower than piecemealing all the different items together.
-Mithril Buckler: Ah yes, this trick is so easy and so awesome. You can equip them without proficiency for a nice AC bonus.
-Haramaki and Silken Ceremonial Armor: These two armors are from Ultimate Combat and both have a +1 armor bonus with no penalties to skills or arcane casting! How awesome is that!
Arcane Strike: Because the warrior-mage is not a Fighter, he needs as many buffs as he can get. This is one of those abilities, though it does require a Swift Action to use.
Arcane Armor Training/Mastery: On paper this sounds helpful but it’s really unnecessary. There are so many ways to buff up AC, the warrior-mage will never need this.
Dervish Dance: To help bring relief to the MAD problem with this character, he can use Dexterity for weapon attacks and damage with a scimitar. It’s not necessary, but it does help.
Magical Knack: Perfect for the Fighter/Sorcerer or Wizard/EK because you’re spells are actually full power.
Magical Lineage: For the Magus, this is a terrific spell to pump up Shocking Grasp easily.
I hope everyone enjoyed this post. I’m sure I’ve missed something glaring, but it’s not a super-serious guide.
Also, the artwork is a sketch fo a piece of art for the Magus section of the Pathfinder book I’m making with my friend. And yes, when I drew the sword, I only drew half of it then copied and flipped it so the weapon would actually be symmetrical.