Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Military-Grade Evoker

There's been a never-ending argument about what kind of wizard is the most powerful. Some argue that the transmuter can transform his allies into titans, and his enemies into worms, and thus can adapt to any situation. Others prefer the power of the conjurer, pulling allies through rifts in the planes to lend their aid to her cause. Necromancers wield the fell powers of the grave, and enchanters may turn the staunchest foe into the dearest friend, but no one will ever claim that the sheer, destructive power of the evoker is something to be taken lightly.

Or, at least, no one who has made the claim has lived to tell the tale.
These blasting mages are perhaps some of the most common casters found in any game. Despite their vastly different builds, spells of preference, and countries of origin, though, we tend to picture them all in very similar ways. Evokers, as wizards, will be bookish, intelligent, and likely physically frail despite the raw power they're capable of channeling.

So why not change that impression up, and put your wizard through boot camp?

The Mechanics

Despite the name, the military-grade evoker doesn't have to have any levels of a martial class. Just because a wizard is a product of a war machine, that doesn't mean you're necessarily building someone whose job is to fight and cast at the same time. If you want to go that way, though, then two levels of a class like fighter, ranger, or even swashbuckler can be partially evened out with the magical knack trait, which increases your caster level by 2, up to your character level. If you opt to go the straight blaster route, then traits like heirloom weapon might be useful. Once you've picked a melee weapon that would be seen as standard-issue among graduates of your arcane program to use as a bonded item (the idea being that you receive a masterwork weapon as a mark of your rank), you should consider all the traditional feats that increase your caster level, spell DC, damage, or which help you penetrate spell resistance. Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot are good feats to invest in, but so are things like Varisian Tattoo, which you could make a standard mark for anyone who passed your training regimen. You may choose to invest in Arcane Armor Training, which allows you to cast in armor at a lessened penalty, or you may decide to rely purely on your magic to protect you. Every caster will have his or her own strategy, and unique idea of what constitutes "field ready".

Quick Draw and Improved Initiative might not be bad ideas, though.

The Flavor

Picture this scenario. A meeting has been called in a tavern, and volunteers are being requested for a dangerous mission. There's a man at the bar, drinking a pint of ale, who has the look of a newly-minted soldier. Broad shoulders, shorn hair, polished boots, a short sword on his hip, and a lock gauntlet on his right hand. He's unarmored, but that's not uncommon in the city. He volunteers, and shakes hands with his fellow adventurers. His name is Arden Blaze.

No sooner have the introductions been completed, though, then a brawl breaks out. Bottles are flying, punches are thrown, and hands start reaching for cudgels and steel. The new compatriots find the melee moving their way, when Arden slashes at the air. An invisible missile hurtles into the face of the nearest attacker, shattering teeth and laying him out. Before the others can put two and two together, Blaze has his sword in hand, the eldritch pattern along the blood channel which declares his completion of war college training glinting in the light.

Let's get this party started!
By playing with the idea of what people expect to see when they hear there's a wizard in the party, you upset assumed stereotypes. If you create someone who was trained to command in battle, and who was given knowledge of both tactics and creatures, then you may find yourself with a wizard who shouts commands to the party before leveling his sword to fire a lightning bolt at a mass of foes.

There's even more to it, though. For example, if you have a military-grade evoker, you should ask what the reputation of the nation's battle mages are. Will they be seen as heroes among the common people of their own nation? Will they be hated as jack-booted thugs in others? Is there a rivalry between casters and their martial brothers in arms, or did they train and fight together? Will the wizard and the fighter discuss deployments and get drunk together when they're in town, and form a two-person unit when the party is attacked because of their mutual experiences?

The concept is more than just overturning the status quo by making a wizard who can fight. It takes the concept of a wizard as a scholar, and alters it into a wizard whose primary training was as a warrior. If you alter that, what does it do to the character's demeanor, experiences, and way of looking at the world?

For more inspiration, check out 5 Tips For Playing Better Wizards!

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  1. So I did this with an Elven Evoker. He started with and Elven Curve Blade that I chose to make his bonded object (now it is masterwork and adds a spell). His first level feat was weapon finesse. So by maxing INT, and having a decent DEX he can cast 4 1st level spells and 9 Evoker Force Missles each day. Plus in Melee he has an AC of 13, +3 to hit with a 1d10 DMG from his sword. Slap on some Mage Armor and his AC is up to 17. Take a level of fighter somewhere before level 7 and he is ready to become an Eldritch Knight

  2. But you couldn't cast spells with an Elven Curved Blade, because you have to wield a bonded weapon and have a hand free to cast spells.

    I really liked this one. Add in your suggestion for a Chaplain Bard and you've got military might twice over.

    1. You could free action let go, cast, the. Free action grab back on

    2. Brandon Drummond, I do believe that has been expressly not allowed in cases of Spellstrike with the Magus. If you're simply casting a spell while holding a weapon, though (instead of casting and striking THROUGH the weapon) I don't see any problems with that method.