Why was arcane armor training given a 3rd level caster prerequisite?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

Sovereign Court

Note: long preamble... question at the bottom...

Recently I took a nostalgic trip back 30 years into my past, playing a game of Labyrinth Lord, one of the clones of Old D&D, and I got to see the "Elf" class in action. He can use any weapons, he can use any armor, and he's got spells right at level 1! The balancing factor is that his xp progression is much slower than other classes, so he'd be lower in hit dice, attack progression, save progression, etc.

So between that, and having watched a fellow Pathfinder Society player spend five levels using a painfully suboptimal arcane warrior type of character (1 level of wizard, 5 levels of fighter... he's got a 40% spell failure on his meager list of spells) I thought for my next character in Pathfinder Society I'd cook up something that aims for the Eldritch Knight, the best way to go in core for an arcane warrior type of character.

So I start working on the character. Basically you need 1 level of a martial class, and five (if wizard) or six (if sorcerer) to qualify for Eldritch Knight.

Now, I'm no fan of long waits for big payoffs in my game time. With out current schedule of one PFS game every two weeks, to get to Eldritch Knight means I'm going to have to slog through 42 weeks of uninterrupted game sessions, spending 80 hours of game time, to finally get to the EK prestige class. That's a lot of time and effort to be able to cast fireball while being girded for battle.

With that prospect ahead of me I wanted to see what else I could do to soften the blow of not really being able to play the "elf" from Old D&D right from the start.

One way is to, well... play an elf wizard. With proficiency in longbows and longswords I can at least run around feeling a little more buff, not being relegated to daggers and crossbows. I won't be able to front-line, but I don't feel totally gimped. However, I still won't be able to wear armor, or at least without risking wasting my time with fizziled spells, along with penalties to attack and skill checks. I could take light armor proficiency, to get rid of some of the penalties, but that's just wasting feats when I'll need to take a martial class later anyway.

So looking that approach over, it's just painfully suboptimal. I can't really do much in the way of being a fighter as a wizard. So what about reversing things a bit and just being a human fighter to start. All of the martial elements kick into place immediately. I can feel the grit of being a tough guy ready to smack some people about, and I get some of the qualifications for the EK out of the way.

Then I have to start taking wizard levels. Here is the real problem in that I suddenly have to discard my armor for fear fizzled spells. If this was just a level or two of wizard I could probably suck it up, but five levels? That's 15 sessions... 30 weeks... 60 hours of playtime to slog through.

But wait! Pathfinder has some new feats to help with this, the arcane armor training and mastery. Perhaps this will patch things to hold me over till EK kicks in. Sadly though, it takes quite a bit of time for arcane armor training to be viable. Due to a caster level 3 prerequsite, you basically have to wait till 3rd level (if playing a wizard that blows his feat on light armor training) or 4th level (if you do wizard 3/fighter 1) or fifth level (if you do fighter 1/wizard 4... waiting for the 5th level character feat to appear).

The end result is that the caster level 3 prerequisite does create problems for this feat to be a real patch in the problem of creating an arcane warrior. If the prerequisite had been "ability to cast arcane spells" then there would be more freedom to get into the character concept more quickly, rather than having to delay it for several levels.

If it was a bit looser then you could do wizard 1/fighter 1/wizard 4 and be able to enjoy wearing leather armor and buckler for several levels, until you can pick up some mithral armor so that you could finally wear a chain shirt without fear of spell failure.

There is also the factor of Mage Armor and Shield Spells. Both give plenty of protection, so why not just use those while waiting for arcane armor training to kick in? Well, you can, but then you're using up valuable spell slots, when you want to be using them for fancy arcane displays of power. If I want to wade into the middle of the fight, brandishing my sword and being able to cast a color spray or burning hands, I can do it but the trade off in every direction aren't worth it. Either I have to spend several rounds buffing, which is always boring, or I have to risk spell fizziles, which are always anti-climatic.

So what is puzzling to me is why the high caster requirement for the arcane armor training feat? With a more liberal prerequisite it would mean leather armor and buckler or light shield, yielding a +3 AC, and needing to forgo Mage Armor and Shield (which yield a +8 AC). Giving a little bit of AC does increase your offensive power a bit since you get to cast more offensive spells, but you are losing BAB and your AC can't climb very high unless you want to risk spell failure.

In the end the main question I have with this post is why Arcane Armor Training was giving the 3rd level caster prerequisite, rather than something more liberal? I'm not seeing how it would be imbalancing, and would help in patching the whole issue of arcane warriors, at least to the degree that you could play the concept from level 1 or 2 depending on player choices.

Grand Lodge

Because the game designers of PF have a hatred of fighter/mages and don´t want to give us viable options to make one.


Mok wrote:
In the end the main question I have with this post is why Arcane Armor Training was giving the 3rd level caster prerequisite, rather than something more liberal? I'm not seeing how it would be imbalancing, and would help in patching the whole issue of arcane warriors, at least to the degree that you could play the concept from level 1 or 2 depending on player choices.

<one post sacrificed to the post-monster later...grr...>

Casting in melee (i.e. the 'arcane warrior') is a trap. And it's not because of Arcane Spell Failure (ASF), it's Concentration checks.

Cast defensively = DC 15 + 2x spell level.

So let's say you're a Ftr1/Wiz1. Let's also say you have Combat Casting and 18 INT. You have a +9 on Concentration checks to cast defensive; +4 from the feat, +4 from INT, +1 from caster level. You therefore have to roll an 8 to cast a 1st level spell successfully. You have a 35% failure rate.

One third of the time, you will fail, wasting a spell and your action for the turn. You could pull the 5' step and cast normal, but you can't always pull this off (lack of 'safe' space).

Granted, ASF makes this worse (double whammy), but IMO this is so bad that you're way better off sticking to stabbing things until you can reliably make the defensive casting rolls - which is probably around 3rd caster level (depends on what you consider reliable...25%? 20%? 5%?). That might be your answer. ASF and Concentration checks become manageable around the same time? 3rd and 7th caster levels are breakpoints for this in both regards (25% Conc failure and AAT at 3rd, 5% Conc failure and AAM at 7th).


I wouldn't stress it too much, take one level fighter and do the rest in the arcane spellcasting class of your choice. Here is your spell list:

Level 0: Flare, Light
Level 1: Feather Fall, True Strike, Ventriloquism
Level 2: Blindness/Deafness, Blur, Darkness, Knock
Level 3: Displacement, Suggestion, Tongues
Level 4: Dimension Door, Lesser Geas, Shout
Level 5: Contact Other Plane*, Teleport
Level 6: Geas*, Mass Suggestion
Level 7: Power Word Blind, Greater Teleport, Teleport Object
Level 8: Irresistible Dance, Power Word Stun
Level 9: Power Word Kill, Prismatic Sphere, Teleportation Circle*, Wail of the Banshee

None of these spells have somatic components, and can thus be cast in any armor regardless of arcane spell failure. Yeah, the first level spells are a little weak, but you should have a giant two handed sword to really lay out the hurt with. Pick up Still Spell for any other spells you want to cast and call it good. I would recommend a familiar for this route, pick up Improved Familiar at some point (I know you'll be feat starved, but it'll help) and buy your little opposable thumb buddy (remember to give them ranks in Use Magic Device) a wand of Haste or something. Also invest in Wands and Scrolls for yourself, because last time I checked, activating a Wand or Scroll didn't check for Arcane Spell Failure.


Convict #24601 wrote:

I wouldn't stress it too much, take one level fighter and do the rest in the arcane spellcasting class of your choice. Here is your spell list:

Level 0: Flare, Light
Level 1: Feather Fall, True Strike, Ventriloquism
Level 2: Blindness/Deafness, Blur, Darkness, Knock
Level 3: Displacement, Suggestion, Tongues
Level 4: Dimension Door, Lesser Geas, Shout
Level 5: Contact Other Plane*, Teleport
Level 6: Geas*, Mass Suggestion
Level 7: Power Word Blind, Greater Teleport, Teleport Object
Level 8: Irresistible Dance, Power Word Stun
Level 9: Power Word Kill, Prismatic Sphere, Teleportation Circle*, Wail of the Banshee

Nice to see SOMEBODY read my post in the earlier thread. I can tell because you left in the (*)'s ^_^.


I appreciate it, it's been really helpful.


Convict #24601 wrote:
I appreciate it, it's been really helpful.

I'd love to hear more about how it's working for you. That was pretty much a thought exercise on my part, though I'd LOVE to run a Dwarf Ftr/Wiz/EK running that model.


Mok wrote:
In the end the main question I have with this post is why Arcane Armor Training was giving the 3rd level caster prerequisite, rather than something more liberal? I'm not seeing how it would be imbalancing, and would help in patching the whole issue of arcane warriors, at least to the degree that you could play the concept from level 1 or 2 depending on player choices

Simple answer, they generally hate the idea of an arcane caster in armor and doing decently in combat. James has been quoted saying that there is no plans on creating any class similar to a duskblade, and that we should just sit and be happy with the upcoming bard variant. I find it a bigger problem that they make both arcane armor training and arcane strike run on swift actions, then turn around and make the EK's lvl 10 class ability also run on a swift action. Some say that you can use a move action to perform a swift action, but that is not set in stone, and mostly a house rule. If you want to investigate this, I suggest you ask about move actions as swift actions at the society board.


Haven't been able to play anything with that build yet, but what I'd like to try is a Human Wizard with Arcane Strike and Still Spell at 1st level with these two traits (Our GM is pretty cool about letting us all pick two traits each game):

Magical Lineage
One of your parents was a gifted spellcaster who not only used metamagic often, but developed many magical items and perhaps even a new spell or two—and you have inherited a fragment of this greatness. Pick one spell when you choose this trait. When you apply metamagic feats to this spell, treat its actual level as 1 lower for determining the spell’s final adjusted level.

Magical Knack
You were raised, either wholly or in part, by a magical creature, either after it found you abandoned in the woods or because your parents often left you in the care of a magical minion. This constant exposure to magic has made its mysteries easy for you to understand, even when you turn your mind to other devotions and tasks. Pick a class when you gain this trait—your caster level in that class gains a +2 trait bonus as long as this bonus doesn’t increase your caster level higher than your current Hit Dice.

Figured I'd do (with a 20 point buy) 18 Str, 12 Dex, 14 Con, 15 Int, and 7 Cha. Start as a Wizard with a Spear and do second level as Fighter, load up on cool weapons and armor, then switch back to Wizard until I can hit Eldritch Knight. With the Magical Lineage trait I'd probably select Enlarge Person so I can Still that with a 1st level spell slot, and I'd keep full caster levels (if not spells) with the Magical Knack trait, so I think it'd be a pretty fun build.

I'd try and stick with the somatic-less spell list and use Still Spell only for really special spells. I've also found a list of spells I'd keep scribed for emergencies (Fly comes to mind). I might get a chance to play it soon, if I do I'll let you know how it goes.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Convict #24601 wrote:

(Our GM is pretty cool about letting us all pick two traits each game):

Magical Lineage
and
Magical Knack

Unless I am mistaken, both of those traits are magic traits. If so, you cannot have both at the same time. According to the rules, you can only have 1 trait from each area (faith, magic, region, religion, combat, etc..).


Convict #24601 wrote:

Haven't been able to play anything with that build yet, but what I'd like to try is a Human Wizard with Arcane Strike and Still Spell at 1st level with these two traits (Our GM is pretty cool about letting us all pick two traits each game)

Figured I'd do (with a 20 point buy) 18 Str, 12 Dex, 14 Con, 15 Int, and 7 Cha. Start as a Wizard with a Spear and do second level as Fighter, load up on cool weapons and armor, then switch back to Wizard until I can hit Eldritch Knight. With the Magical Lineage trait I'd probably select Enlarge Person so I can Still that with a 1st level spell slot, and I'd keep full caster levels (if not spells) with the Magical Knack trait, so I think it'd be a pretty fun build.

I waffle on this build as to whether to take Fighter at 1st or Wizard. The lure of Power Attack plus a 2H weapon right off the bat is a strong one. Plus max hp on the biggest dice available doesn't hurt either (it's a 4 point difference). Throw in Toughness and you'll have at least 15 hit points at 1st level.

Oh, and wizards can't use spears BTW.

Specialization is the tough one too. There's no single good choice from the Verbal only list and you don't want to close out any of the schools either. But you get almost zero use out of Universalist abilities. Diviner is probably the 'best' choice for the +5 Initiative you'll get out of it, and always acting in the surprise round, but opposition schools...Abjuration, maybe? Necromancy?

Going Ftr/Sor might be better, what with spontaneous still spells, the limited spell list, and benefits of 6 levels of a bloodline.


Helic wrote:
Convict #24601 wrote:

Haven't been able to play anything with that build yet, but what I'd like to try is a Human Wizard with Arcane Strike and Still Spell at 1st level with these two traits (Our GM is pretty cool about letting us all pick two traits each game)

Figured I'd do (with a 20 point buy) 18 Str, 12 Dex, 14 Con, 15 Int, and 7 Cha. Start as a Wizard with a Spear and do second level as Fighter, load up on cool weapons and armor, then switch back to Wizard until I can hit Eldritch Knight. With the Magical Lineage trait I'd probably select Enlarge Person so I can Still that with a 1st level spell slot, and I'd keep full caster levels (if not spells) with the Magical Knack trait, so I think it'd be a pretty fun build.

I waffle on this build as to whether to take Fighter at 1st or Wizard. The lure of Power Attack plus a 2H weapon right off the bat is a strong one. Plus max hp on the biggest dice available doesn't hurt either (it's a 4 point difference). Throw in Toughness and you'll have at least 15 hit points at 1st level.

Oh, and wizards can't use spears BTW.

Specialization is the tough one too. There's no single good choice from the Verbal only list and you don't want to close out any of the schools either. But you get almost zero use out of Universalist abilities. Diviner is probably the 'best' choice for the +5 Initiative you'll get out of it, and always acting in the surprise round, but opposition schools...Abjuration, maybe? Necromancy?

Going Ftr/Sor might be better, what with spontaneous still spells, the limited spell list, and benefits of 6 levels of a bloodline.

Ack, two good points! I always forget that wizards use the gimpy weapon list instead of all simple weapons and yes, Mistwalker, those ARE two magical traits, meaning you cannot take both. Hrm... Might just take Magical Knack and forget the rest.

As far as schools go, it is really a tough choice. Flare and Light are evocation, Feather Fall is Transmutation, True Strike is Divination and Ventriloquism is Illusion, and that's just first level. Blindness/Deafness is Necromancy, so probably not a school you'd want to give up.

Yeah, Sorc is looking better and better.


Note that there are a few other magical classes that you might consider that can use armor: the bard, the alchemist, and the summoner (someone mentioned the bard in passing).

I agree that I don't see the compelling reason to have a minimum caster level prerequisite on Arcane Armor Training.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Sidebar on this subject: our PC cleric, 3rd level, took a level in sorcerer to start working towards mystic theurge. Since the requirements for AAT didn't specify arcane caster levels, I let him use his 3 levels as a cleric as the prerequisites for this feat.


Convict #24601 wrote:
Yeah, Sorc is looking better and better.

Ftr1/Sor4/DD4/EK for the win. You'd end up with 24STR (unaugmented!) and a +3 natural armor bonus. Your first iterative attack shows up at 9th level, one level behind a Cleric/Druid. Someone who goes Ftr1/Wiz5/EK gets his first iterative at 9th level as well, BTW. At 10th level you're a Sor7 in terms of spells, while a Ftr1/Wiz5/EK4 is Wiz8. Not a huge lag, but well worth the +4 STR and +3 Natural Armor you're getting (that's like 2 free, all the time buffing spells).

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