Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Magus - old-schooler's nightmare fuel

Anyone of the OSR who read the previous post by Obiri on his Magus (Bladebound-Kensai) build has probably had all their suspicions about the complexity of D&D 3.x/Pathfinder chargen confirmed. I confess, it made me blink a few times since I rarely utilize a lot of the supplemental material that went into that build. Having said that, there's nothing forcing players to use all that stuff or DMs to allow it. However, as I read up on the Magus base class, I came to the conclusion that Pathfinder may be in danger of "jumping the shark". Now, don't get me wrong, the Magus is cool. Indeed, I intend to play one next time. In fact, my next few characters may be Magi as there are several options I'd like to try. However, one of the first impressions I got of the Magus class is how many things you have to keep track of, even at low levels. A third-level fighter, for example, will typically have two options, attack with melee weapon or attack with ranged weapon. Maybe he'll have to decide whether or not to use Power Attack, but that's it. A third-level wizard will have a handful of spells to choose from, usually magic missile or sleep, or maybe a bull's strength to buff the fighter. In any case, the choices are limited and typically easy to make. Then I read the Magus. The first class feature of the class is this:

Spell Combat (Ex): At 1st level, a magus learns to cast spells and wield his weapons at the same time. This functions much like two-weapon fighting, but the off-hand weapon is a spell that is being cast. To use this ability, the magus must have one hand free (even if the spell being cast does not have somatic components), while wielding a light or one-handed melee weapon in the other hand. As a full-round action, he can make all of his attacks with his melee weapon at a –2 penalty and can also cast any spell from the magus spell list with a casting time of 1 standard action (any attack roll made as part of this spell also takes this penalty). If he casts this spell defensively, he can decide to take an additional penalty on his attack rolls, up to his Intelligence bonus, and add the same amount as a circumstance bonus on his concentration check. If the check fails, the spell is wasted, but the attacks still take the penalty. A magus can choose to cast the spell first or make the weapon attacks first, but if he has more than one attack, he cannot cast the spell between weapon attacks.

Ok, that's freakin' cool! I can whack a bad guy with my sword and then peg him with a magic missile in the same round!...at first level!! Then I read the next class feature on the list:

Spellstrike (Su): At 2nd level, whenever a magus casts a spell with a range of “touch” from the magus spell list, he can deliver the spell through any weapon he is wielding as part of a melee attack. Instead of the free melee touch attack normally allowed to deliver the spell, a magus can make one free melee attack with his weapon (at his highest base attack bonus) as part of casting this spell. If successful, this melee attack deals its normal damage as well as the effects of the spell. If the magus makes this attack in concert with spell combat, this melee attack takes all the penalties accrued by spell combat melee attacks. This attack uses the weapon's critical range (20, 19–20, or 18–20 and modified by the keen weapon property or similar effects), but the spell effect only deals ×2 damage on a successful critical hit, while the weapon damage uses its own critical modifier.

I had to read that one a few times. My first thought is "Why would anyone want to tie a touch attack in to a normal melee attack when the previous class feature permits you to do both a spell attack and a melee attack in the same round anyway?" Then I figured it was all about using the weapon's critical range. Ok, I guess. It makes the scimitar the go-to weapon for the Magus class, but is, otherwise, pretty marginal as far as class features go.

By third level, things really start to get complicated. First off is the class feature, Magus Arcana. There are several different types of Magus Arcana to choose from, much like Rogue Talents in that regard. A likely first choice, however, is Arcane Accuracy. It allows you as a swift action, to use a point from your Arcane Pool (a pool of points that fuel various Magus abilities) and add your Int modifier to your attack rolls for one round. However, I haven't even talked about feats yet. In the first build I made of a base Magus, I chose a human with Combat Casting and Weapon Focus (scimitar) as first level feats and Arcane Strike as my third level feat. So now I have to choose whether to use Arcane Accuracy or Arcane Strike since both require a swift action and, of course, I only get one.

So, I'm a lowly third-level Magus and I already have to decide on whether to attack, cast a spell or both, which spell to cast, whether to use Spellstrike or not and whether to use Arcane Accuracy or Arcane Strike. To paraphrase the old US Army recruiting slogan, "The Magus, we do more in the first round than an AD&D Wizard does all day".



Obiri said...

Because "I power attack it with my sword" gets old.

Rognar said...

Which is why no one ever seems to play fighters in our group. They are great in combat, but just so boring.

Obiri said...

I wanted to go barbarian this time but things didn't go my way (poor Beast). He wasn't going to do much besides power attack every round. He was pretty dumb and didn't have much in the way of skills.

EternusPrime said...

Useing both spell combat and spell strike you attack at -2 first with weapon then cast a spell (shocking grasp for example ) and use your weapon to deliver it thus granting you a potential 2 weapon hits and a spell hit in one round

David said...

Spellstrike is great when combined with shocking grasp. It was my go to combo when I was playing a magus and it drove my GM crazy.