Saturday, July 21, 2018

Where There's A Whip, There's A Way (Advice on Whip-Wielding Magi)

When it comes to exotic weapons, we so often overlook the humble whip. Given almost exclusively to bards, it has an impressive reach, but using it provokes attacks of opportunity if you're being threatened. Worse, it deals non-lethal damage, and can't hurt anything with a +1 armor bonus, or a +3 natural armor bonus. Given that it's just a bunch of leather strips bound into a cord, there really isn't much average characters can do with a whip.

A magus, on the other hand, can make the sound of a whip-crack into his enemies' personal nightmare.

How much could it hurt, they said. Watch this!
Also, if a magus isn't quite your bag, but you still want to use a whip, then might I suggest checking out my Tips For Building A Whip-Wielding Swashbuckler over on Gamers?

Building A Whip-Wielding Magus

For a magus, the weapon you're using is often a secondary concern; the real power in your strikes is going to come from your spellstrike, and other class features. And while a lot of people will just tell you to take a scorpion whip, we're actually not going to go that route (though you can, if you want to).

The first thing you're going to want to do is to take the kensai archetype for a magus. This isn't required (you can just go straight magus, if you wish), but it gives you proficiency in the whip at level 1, as well as free Weapon Focus in your whip. Both good things, since you're going to need your share of feats to make this concept really shine. In order to utilize all your class features, you'll want to go a traditional Strength-based magus, but it is possible to go a Dex-based route if you wish. If you go the Dex route, then for your first level feat you should probably invest in Weapon Finesse, since you'll need all the Dexterity you can manage when it comes to keeping your AC high. This one is optional, but not required. If you have a human bonus feat, consider Combat Expertise (Threatening Defender is a useful trait to have with this one) or Combat Reflexes (no your whip doesn't threaten at level one, but we'll get there, trust me. In the meantime, wear a spiked gauntlet, or a cestus, or something for people who get in your personal space).

At level 3, you choose your first Magus Arcana. Shield Arcana is great, but Wand Wielder is equally useful if you want to preserve your spells while still getting your licks in (especially if you stow the wand in your whip using the spell Weapon Wand). Alternatively, if you want to build yourself to trip, disarm, etc. with your whip, you might want to take Maneuver Mastery just to give yourself an edge.

At level 3 you also qualify for Whip Mastery as a feat. You no longer provoke attacks of opportunity with your whip, and you can deal lethal damage to any foe regardless of armor bonus. Now we're getting somewhere. So now your weapon of choice is lethal against any foe, you can wield it as you will, and you can deliver your spellstrike with 15 foot reach. Particularly useful for those who want to lash out with shocking grasp, deal their target a lot of damage, and then get the hell out without provoking attacks of opportunity.

At 5th level you gain your first bonus feat. If you went the Dex-based route, take Slashing Grace (though it should be noted that spell combat won't work with this feat, as it's the same as two-weapon fighting, so keep that in mind). For your normal feat, you might want to consider Combat Reflexes if you haven't taken it yet.

At 7th level you now qualify for feats as a 4th-level fighter. Improved Whip Mastery gives you 10-foot reach for the purposes of attacks of opportunity, though, so it should be something you invest in. Then at level 9 and 11 you should take Weapon Specialization (Whip), and Greater Weapon Focus (Whip). By level 13 you should have room for Greater Weapon Specialization (Whip) as well. Additional magus arcana that will help, including Arcane Accuracy, Arcane Edge, and Bane Blade (if you get that high).

But Whips Just Don't Deal A Lot of Damage...

A lot of people get turned off by the 1d3 of damage a whip deals, as well as the amount of time it takes to get lethal using these feats. Those are both fair points, however, it's important to remember your arcane pool, your dex modifier, and your spellstrike are what matters, here.

The whip's actual damage is just icing on the cake. The important thing is that you can deliver your spells from far enough away that your foes won't be in your face immediately, allowing you to maintain tactical distance. Between the bonus dice of damage your weapon abilities deal, the damage of your spells, and the sheer amount of hurt you can add using things like Arcane Edge or Bane Blade, that 1d3 is going to be insignificant.

Especially if you're hitting on touch attacks.

Bear with me here, because this is where things get a little sneaky. Because if you have an awesome whip that you've enchanted and kitted out to lay down a serious hurt, of course you're going to use that all the time. However, there are a lot of spells that create magical whips you can use. And these whips not only deal a slew of side effects, but they typically hit on your enemy's touch AC.

Which spells do I mean? Well, River Whip is a 2nd-level magus spell, and it creates a whip of water that hits on a touch attack. It also deals bonus damage to fire-based enemies, which is handy in a few distinct circumstances (and could you imagine a shocking grasp through a coil of water?). Rock Whip is a 2nd-level magus spell that creates a whip of crystal and stone that deals 1d8 bludgeoning damage, can pass through natural, unworked stone, and hits with enough force that you can make a free a bull rush attack that uses your caster level in place of your BAB, and your casting modifier instead of Strength. It doesn't work on outsiders of the earth subtype, but otherwise it's a handy weapon for slamming your enemies up and down the field. Whip of Spiders is not a magus spell (though you could get it with a wand or a magus arcana), and it turns a swarm of spiders into a whip that deals 1d6 points of damage, applies a spider's poison, and a swarm's distraction on the target, in addition to hitting on a touch attack. A bigger version of this spell (6th level) makes a Whip of Ants that deals 3d6 points of damage on a hit, plus poison and distraction, in addition to hitting on touch AC.

Then there's the chance that you get your hands on items like the Tracker's Whip (technological weapon that lets you entangle targets you hit) or the Whip of Life and Death (whip that absorbs positive or negative energy channels, and allows you to deal them as bonus damage against targets you strike). Or just your run-of-the-mill enchanted whips that pile on bonus damage from holy, flaming, frost, shocking, and so on, and so forth.

While it might take a bit of time to turn the humble whip into an instrument of death, remember that the investment is often well worth the wait.

That's all for this week's Crunch installment. Hopefully folks find something they like, and if you incorporate any of my advice into a character build I'd be happy to hear about it in the comments below. For more of my work head over to my Vocal archive (or if you just want more gaming stuff, go to my Gamers author page). You might also want to check out the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio, where I help out from time to time. To stay on top of all my releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you want to help support my work, consider Buying The Literary Mercenary a Ko-Fi, or heading over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. A little donation goes a long way, and I appreciate any and all help you can give!


  1. If you have Combat Stamina (which you may or may not be able to get in addition to a normal bonus feat with a 1-level dip of Fighter depending on GM ruling, or might already be available to all characters automatically), the Whip Mastery feat changes your damage die with a whip from 1d3 to 1d8 so long as you have at least 1 point in your stamina pool (and so long as you are using the whip to deal nonlethal damage). Furthermore, you can spend 2 stamina points to cause your whip to deal damage as if it were 1 size category larger for your next attack. That means your whip is hitting with a 2d6 damage die!

  2. Thanks for that! Do you think its possible to explain and bluid a more fighter type Whip wielder?

  3. Doesn't this advice just at-best create a low-rent aberrant sorcerer who only gets 1-6 spell progression?

    As for a whip-wielding fighter, its pretty objectively terrible from a strictly mechanical viewpoint (assuming you want to make attacks and deal damage), but you basically just take the standard whip feats, make that your fighter preferred weapon group, get standard combat feats (weapon focus and greater wf, weapon spec and greater, power attack, and pick up the dueling gloves that improve your weapon training by 2) and go to town.