Thursday, October 08, 2009

More thoughts on the "Gish"

In my opinion, the key to building a gish in D&D 3.5/Pathfinder is to concentrate on creating a melee fighter. There are three basic approaches, creating a range combatant, a melee combatant or a balanced fighter-mage similar to the old elf class from Basic D&D. I think most people would agree the last option is the worst since it fails to generate any synergy between the two classes, in effect, creating a lousy fighter and an ineffective spellcaster in one character.

The ranged combatant approach is not bad, especially if the character concentrates on using ray spells. The fighter has several feats that can be applied to ray attacks, including weapon focus, improved critical and point blank shot. Also, the increased BAB is always handy even if most of the attacks are ranged touch. Having said that, the loss of a couple of caster levels to gain a modest increase in BAB and a couple of useful feats is not really that great of a trade-off. I would say the result would be quite inferior to a warmage.

So, how about the melee fighter? Well, obviously a gish is going to be less effective as a front-line combatant than a pure fighter or even a ranger or paladin. However, with the right choice of spells and feats, it can certainly hold its own. You really want to get rid of your arcane spell failure as much as possible, so arcane armour training and arcane armour mastery are essential, especially when combined with mithral armour. Oh, pretty, pretty mithral. Another sweet little feat is arcane strike, just an extra little bonus to your damage since you won't be able to dedicate as many points to Str as you might like.

On the spell side, the gish is going to want to stack up the buffing and defensive spells; bull's strength, bear's endurance, shield, heroism, alter self, rage and stoneskin are all great choices. A few offensive ranged spells are also a must, but since you will be down a couple of caster levels and also won't have many feat slots available for metamagic or spell penetration, you will want to take ones that either don't have saving throws or are not affected by spell resistance.



Obiri said...

One thing I like about the revised prestige classes is that they are great for gish. Arcane archer for a ranged type, arcane trickster for the ray type and of course the eldritch knight for the classical melee type.

The first two really sucked in 3.5 and there were other stronger (read: broken) melee gish prestige classes that appeared in later splat books.

I understand that people like melee gishs, I liked the Elf back in first edition but in 3.5 and Pathfinder you are correct. There is zero synergy between the two classes and you really have to focus on doing one thing well and I don't think a melee gish works. Perhaps you will prove me wrong.

Derobane-bane said...

I think it is a cool character concept to have a guy that can throw spells and fight in melee. Case and point: Vendalin. Here was character that could use excellent offensive, defensive and melee abilities. You could argue that V was as good a fighter, cleric or wizard as any 'pure level' PC of equal level, as long as dispel magic wasnt involved. Vendalin is now legendary because of his incredible versatility.
I'm not sure if one could make a 'gish' as effective (in terms of game combat mechanics)as Vendalin in Pathfinder. 3.5 was pretty easy to manipulate with all the extra sources out there. Still, I'm sure that one could make a PC that is almost as awesome as a fighter and spellcaster of equal level, given enough time and thought. The real question is, 'should you?'
In D&D, everyone in the party should have a distinct role, whether it is combat, legerdemain, social, healing, support or artillery (lest we forget the great-golden-ram incident in Legacy of Fire... I still have nightmares). Each player has fun being good at what they are trained to do. It would suck if a gish was a better warrior or a better spell-caster than the pure-leveled fighter or wizard in the party. I recall one incident in the Legacy of Fire campaign when Vendalin ordered the fighter to "get behind me. I'll protect you." The fighter, who had dedicated his life to DR (perhaps not the best move in terms of combat efficacy) shrugged and obeyed, watching Vendalin once again crush the enemy. Vendalin, the skinny little archivist, was undoubtedly a far more formidable warrior than the straight-up dwarven warrior that was clad head to toe in full-plate. With this sort of character in a 6 person party, someone is certainly going to be marginalized. On the other hand, if you had a gish-like guy such as Vendalin in a customized party (ie: Gish, cleric, bard, thief), everyone would be able to play their roles in the game.

Personally, I like the gish concept. From a role-playing aspect, a gish would be awesome to play. Here is a guy with split interests that serves two masters in his life. He is nowhere near as tough as the fighter in the group, nor does he come close to the arcane mastery of the wizard. Still, he aspires to be great and continually struggles in his mind as to which side of life will eventually take dominance. I would love to role-play this sort of conflicted character. From a game mechanics point of view, a gish would be a horrible, horrible mistake. You are clearly several levels behind your contemporaries, thus rendering yourself all but useless in combat. Sure, you could fire off a haste spell or maybe fight a subordinate minion but you will never be critically stabbing giants or disintegrating dragons. You may as well be a bard because you will be supporting your team mates and cheer leading most of the time.

I think that Rognar has the best idea as per his last post. He has created a gish that is carefully planned out to the point that it is not as crummy as a simple approach gish that would be 8 levels of fighter and 7 levels of wizard. Rog's guy cleverly uses a blend of carefully selected feats and levels that are timed and planned in advance. By doing this, Rog's gish will be an OK fighter (only a -5 to BAB) and a good spell caster (only -2 on CL). This sort of guy will be able to engage 80% of melee enemies effectively and allow the warrior in the group to engage the truly deadly enemies with super high ACs. The same thing goes with spellcasters. His gish will be able to tangle with most enemies while the spellcaster in the group contends with the high SR guys. Everyone finds a niche and has fun. The best thing about this gish is that he will be able to have a good time role-playing this very dynamic character concept. I look forward to seeing this guy develop... as long as he survives, that is.

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