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DnD 3.5 - The Unseen Seer Handbook

Disclaimer

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which tend to be more consistent than 3.5 handbooks. Because so little of 3.5 is available on the SRD, I will attempt to tag items with a superscript indicating their book of origin. For help identifying sourcebook abbreviations, see my Sourcebook Abbreviations Guide.

It's important to note that I generally omit campaign-setting specific content. I am of the opinion that those options are intended to be limited to campaigns run in those settings, and as such they don't really apply to a generic campaign. Those options also tend to be wildly unbalanced and rarely recieve errata. I also omit the use of "Flaws" since they allow a massive increase in power with essentially no cost to the character.

Introduction

The Arcane Trickster came in the core rulebook, and has long been a tantalizing, but largely unplayable character concept. Enter the Unseen Seer: a comensurate professional, a nearly unparalleled dungeoneer, and a welcome addition to nearly any party. The Unseen Seer meshes the Rogue's fantastic skills with the wizard's fantastic divination capacity, and piles a whole bunch of Sneak Attack on top of it all.

The Unseen Seer generally serves as a Rogue-equivalent, filling crucial roles as a Scout and Striker. Depending on your build choices, you can also fill roles as a Face or a Librarian. Depending on your base class choices, your skillset will swing between spellcasting and rogue stuff. If you take only a single level of Rogue before switching to a spellcasting class, you'll only be one level behind a single-class spellcaster, thereby allowing you to serve as a Wizard-equivalent. If you instead emphaize your non-spellcasting base clase, you'll give up spellcasting ability in favor of considerably improved skills.

Because it's so relevant to the Unseen Seer's primary damage mechanic, I strongly recommend reading my article on The "Volley" Rule and discussing it with your DM. Ignoring the rule means that the Unseen Seer is a super-lethal magical machine gun. Using the rule RAW means that you need to do some trickery to be a machine gun. Using my altered rule means that you're still a high-caliber rifle.

Unseen Seer Class Features

Hit Points: d4 hit die is the worst in the game, so you need to go to considerable lengths to avoid drawing fire..

Base Attack Bonus: 1/2 BAB. Fortunately, you won't be relying on anything silly like weapons.

Saves: Will is the Unseen Seer's only good save, but since it's a prestige class you've had two base classes worh of good saves to qualify, which should give you a good base at the very least.

Proficiencies: None. But you really don't need any.

Skills: 6+ skill points won't quite keep pace with a straight Rogue, but you can do a lot of things magically which Rogues must typically do with mundane skills.

Spellcasting: Full spellcasting advancement. Remember that Wizards will still need to spend money to learn new spells, as prestige class spell advanvement does not provide the usual 2 free spells per level ("You do not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained").

Damage Bonus: +4d6 Sneak Attack damage over 10 levels isn't quite as good as the Arcane Trickster, but this is a bit of a trick. Your spells will more than make up for the gap.

Advanced Learning (Ex): This is one of the most important abilities of the Unseen Seer. At first glance this is a cute way to get access to some Cleric divinations as an Arcane Caster, but the ability is so much more potent than that. Here are some spells to consider:

Silent Spell: Nice to have, but not essential. If you take this early, when you get it as a bonus feat you're allowed to select any other feat for which you qualify, which is a great way to get access to more high level feats than you could normally have.

Divination Spell Power (Ex): Losing caster levels with other spell schools is slightly annoying, but Practiced Spellcaster can make up the difference, though part of its effect will be eaten by your non-caster qualifying class(es).

Guarded Mind (Su): I wasn't sure exactly how useful Nondetection was, so I did some digging and rescued this excellent interpretation from the (now defunct) WotC forums:

Clairaudience/clairvoyance is a divination (scrying) spell along with arcane eye and prying eyes. Nondetection thwarts divination (scrying).

Locate object and locate creature are thwarted by nondetection. Discern location specifically indicates that it is not thwarted by nondetection. Only mind blank stops discern location.

Detect spells include any spell with "detect" in the title: detect magic, detect undead, detect thoughts, etc. These spells are thwarted by nondetection.

See invisibility, true strike, moment of prescience, foresight, Rary's telepathic bond, tongues, and true seeing are not detection, location, or scrying divination spells. Nondetection has no ability to thwart these divination spells.

So it won't protect you from things like See Invisibility or Invisibility Purge, but it will protect you from more general detection methods like Detect Magic. This is in no way an official ruling, but it's logical enough that I would use it in my games.

Qualifying Classes

Unseen Seer's prerequisites are fairly gentle. 1st-level spells, including a couple divinations, and 8 ranks in a few skills which you probably want anyway. You could qualify with a single level of an arcane spellcasting class and a pile of Rogue levels, or with a bunch of caster levels and a single Rogue level at level 5 so you have enough skill ranks to get those skills up to 8. You don't even need to use Rogue, technically, since Unseen Seer doesn't require Sneak Attack.

More clever combinations are possible, but for the sake of simplicity the classes below all have every required skill except Spellcraft and/or cast arcane spells including enough divinations to qualify for Unseen Seer. Sense motive has also been ignored because you only need 4 ranks, so you can cross-class it if you need to do so. I'm assuming that you want to get into Unseen Seer as quickly as possible, so I assume that you'll take 5 total class levels. This might be a 1/4 split in either direction, but there's a case to be made for 2/3 splits depending on your choice of classes.

Abilities

The Unseen seer's abilities more strongly reflect their caster class than their non-caster class. Rogue/Wizards, for example, are all about Intelligence. However, since you're not dependent on spell DC to be effective, you can afford not to dump all of your resources into your spellcasting ability.

Str: Dump.

Dex: A bit of Dexterity is helpful for skills, ranged touch attacks, AC, and saves.

Con: Everyone needs hit points and Fortitude saves, but your best bet is typically avoidance rather than endurance.

Int: For intelligence-based builds, this is your primary stat. For Charisma-based builds, you probably still need a lot of Intelligence for skill points.

Wis: Unseen Seer gets good Will saves, and your spellcaster class likely does too, so you can afford to not invest a lot in Wisdom.

Cha: Charisma-based casters will want a bunch of Charisma, but Intelligence-based builds can dump charisma and make up for it with items where necessary.

Intelligence-based Caster
32 Point Buy 28 Point Buy 22 Point Buy 15 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 16
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 16
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 17
  • Wis: 13
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 16
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 14
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 9
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 15
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 10
Charisma-based Caster
32 Point Buy 28 Point Buy 22 Point Buy 15 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 16
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 14
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 16
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 14
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 16
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 13
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 16
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 13
  • Con: 10
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 14
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 13
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 15

Races

Size doesn't matter since you're using spells, but given the choice opt for small size. Bonuses to your casting stat are crucial, but bonuses to Dexterity are nice if you can't get one. Intelligence and Charisma bonuses simply don't exist in the core rulebook, so consider non-core races if possible.

Dwarf: Nothing useful for the Unseen Seer.

Elf: Bonus Dexterity is nice, but that's really all that you get.

Gnome: The ability bonuses aren't helpful, and the Gnome's other racial abilities aren't very interesting..

Half-Elf: Awful.

Half-Orc: Penalties to both potential caster stats.

Halfling: Small size and bonus Dexterity are nice.

Human: A bonus feat, extra skill points, and access to Able Learner make Humans a great option for skill monkey builds. Unfortunately, Dragonborn of Bahamut strips both your free feat and your bonus skills, so if you want the Dragonblood subtype you'll need to take the Dragontouched feat.

Non-Core Races

Dragonborn of BahamutRotD: The ability score adjustments and the favored class aren't helpful, but Dragonblood subtype without a feat is great, and Draconic Aspect is amazing. Heart is obviously out since a breath weapon on a spellcaster is pointless, but it's hard to decide between Mind and Wings. Mind eventually grants permanent blindsene, which is amazing, but you can get Blindsight as a 2nd-level spell. Wings grants flight, but it only gives you 30 ft. flight with Average Maneuverability, so Overland Flight or Fly will often be better choices.

Silverbrow HumanDM: The Dragonblood subtype is nice, but the reason you play a human is for the feat and bonus skill points.

SpellscaleRotD: Ideal for a Charisma-based build. +2 Charisma is almost impossible to find, and the Dragonblood subtype opens up fantastic feats like Practical Metamagic and improves Arcane Spellsurge. The rituals also offer a few decently useful options.

Skills

This section only covers skills on the Unseen Seer list. Other Rogue skills are often still crucial for the Unseer Seer, but they are beyond the scope of this guide. Humans will want to take Able Learner to easily continue their skill progression, but others will need to invest cross-class ranks to continue improving crucial skills like Disable Device.

Feats

This section does not cover metamagic feats. For help with metamagic, see my Practical Guide to Metamagic

Metamagic Feats

This section does not fully cover metamagic feats. For general help with metamagic, see my Practical Guide to Metamagic. This section briefly touches on a few crucial metamagic feats to consider, and provides relevant information in addition to the general information in my metamagic guide.

Reserve Feats

Reserve feats are very effective for the Unseen Seer because they stretch your magic considerably, and the feats which allow you to make attacks rolls also allow you to apply Sneak Attack. Ideally, your reserve feat should do somewhere close to 1d6 damage per character level, making it a highly effective fallback.

Weapons

You should never need to use a real weapon.

Armor

Armor depends heavily on your choice of base classes. Some will allow you to cast in light or even medium armor, while most will not. Mage Armor is always a reliable, cost-effective option, so don't be afraid to default to Mage Armor. If you want to wear armor crystals (potentially a very good idea), pick up a suit of Thistledown Padded ArmorRoW and/or a mithral buckler.

Spells

Unseen Seer spells can range anywhere from "I'm a wizard who happens to have Sneak Attack" to "I'm a Rogue, but look at this magical machine gun". I can't possibly list every spell that could possibly be useful, but here are a few essentials.

1st-Level Spells

2nd-Level Spells

3rd-Level Spells

4th-Level Spells

5th-Level Spells

6th-Level Spells

7th-Level Spells

8th-Level Spells

9th-Level Spells

Magic Items

Rings

Rods

I won't go individual rods, but metamagic rods of metamagic feats like Silent Spell and Invisible Spell are great because those feats aren't always important, but they can be a nice trick once in a while. See my Practical Guide to Metamagic for help with metamagic feats which you might want on a rod.

Wands

Wondrous Items

Unseen seer items look a lot like items for Wizards and items for Rogues, so check out my Rogue Handbook and Wizard Handbook. You'll find items that enhance your caster level extremely useful since they boost your Sneak Attack damage from Hunter's Eye, and you may consider a metamagic rod for quicken spell so that you don't need to cast Arcane Spellsurge when you know you can end a fight in one turn.

Permanent Spells

Other Classes

Example Build - Spellscale Spellthief Sor-seer-er

Sssssssneak attack!

I generally build for what will be the most mathematically effective based on easily assessed criteria, leaning heavily toward things which are known to work very well. This build is a bit of a departure from that philosophy; I don't like the Spellthief class, and I pick Wizard over Sorcerer essentially every time. I'm also extremely hesitant to use metamagic since on a Wizard there's almost always a better spell that can replace a metamagic spell. So, naturally, I combined the three.

This is a weird build. It's is as much an experiment as it is a suggestion, and as I write this paragraph I honestly have no idea how well this will turn out. However, assuming that we hit the most crucial points of the Unseen Seer (Ice Darts, Hunter's Eye, Twin Spell) it's hard for the build to fail so badly that it's not insanely lethal.

At 20th level, this will be a Rogue 1/Sorcerer 2/Spellthief 2/Unseen Seer 10/Arcane Trickster 5. Spellwarp Sniper works in place of Arcane Trickster, but I want Arcan Trickster for the skill list since Unseen Seer loses much of the Rogue's skill list, especially crucial options like Disable Device and Open Lock. I still see the Unseen Seer as more of a rogue-equivalent than a wizard-equivalent, so we need to fill the classic Rogue roles. You can probably replace the rogue level with another Sorcerer level, but you'll give up basically every skill that you don't need to qualify for a prestige class until you hit Unseen Seer.

Restrospective: Oh, god, I've created a monster. The build is really difficult until level 10, at which point it starts ramping up in damage and effectiveness at a truly startling rate. It outperforms Disintegrate by level 12 using a single 2nd-level spell slot, and tripples Disintegrate damage with that same spell slot by level 17. With Twin spell, you can easily kill entire encounters in a single turn at most levels above 10. You can also steal spells and spell effects from anything unfortunate to be within 30 feet of you.

Abilities

We will assume the 32-point buy abilities suggested above for Charisma-based spellcasters, but we'll swap Dexterity and Intelligence. That means that we're starting with 16 Intelligence and 16 Charisma, but like I said: this is a weird build. If you replaced the rogue level mentioned above with an extra Sorcerer level you'll either need to play a human for the skill ranks or make the same ability adjustment.

Race

Spellscale. The Charisma bonus is nice, and we get the dragonblood subtype. You can use some of the blood-quickening rituals to get access to some useful stuff, too. Human with the Dragontouched feat would work equally well, and the extra skill points would be helpful.

Skills

Skills get a bit messy here since the shifting classes have such different class skill lists.

Levels

Level Feat(s) and Features Notes and Tactics
1 - Rogue 1
  • Feat: Darkstalker
  • Sneak Attack +1
  • Trapfinding (ACF?)

At this level you're a weak rogue. Darkstalker won't pay off until much higher level, and with just 14 Dexterity you're not much of a threat.

2 - Sorcerer 1
  • Summon Familiar (ACF?)

With only one die of sneak attack damage, you're not going to scare anyone. Use Acid Splash to deal Sneak Attack, and save your 1st-level slots for a save-or-suck spell like Color Spray or Sleep.

Since we're only taking 2 levels of Sorcerer, your familiar is going to be pretty weak. It won't even be able to deliver touch spells. However, several familiars provide options that will fill in gaps in the build. All of the clases in the build have poor Fortitude saves, and having your familiar handy grants the effects of the Alertness feat, allowing you to slack a bit on your Spot/Listen skill ranks. Personally I recommend the rat for the +2 fortitude save bonus since you'll only get +5 base Fortitude by 20th level.

3 - Sorcerer 2
  • Feat: Extend Spell

Extend Spell won't be helpful yet, but it's an investment in your future. Continue being a terrible sorcerer for now.

4 - Spellthief 1
  • Ability Increase: Charisma
  • Sneak attack +1d6
  • Trapfinding
  • Steal Spell (0- of 1st-level)

A second d6 of Sneak Attack helps a little bit, but your best offensive options are Acid Splash and Kelgore's Fire Bolt, neither of which are especially powerful.

See if your DM will allow you to trade Trapfinding for a Rogue ACF which replaces Trapfinding. Literally anything is better then getting Trapfinding a second time.

5 - Spellthief 2
  • Detect magic
  • Spellgrace +1
  • Steal spell effect

Taking the second level of Spellthief this late allows you to easily reach the required 8 Hide, Search, and Spot ranks without spending twice as many skill points to get them as cross-class skills. Steal Spell Effect is excellent, and the text doesn't have a spell level limit like Steal Spell does, so even if you never take Master Spellthief you will always be able to steal enemies' buffs when you hit them..

6 - Unseen Seer 1
  • Feat: Twin Spell
  • Damage bonus +1d6
  • Caster Level 3

From here on I'll list your normal caster level and your Divination caster level. It gets complicated.

Advancing your caster level and the first Unseen Seer Damage Bonus means that your firebolt is doing 3d6+3d6 on a Sneak Attack.

Your first level of Unseen Seer also means that, for the first time, your skills aren't a complete nightmare. You'll want to put 7 ranks into Decipher Script, but you'be got a while to do that so don't worry about it too much.

7 - Unseen Seer 2
  • Advanced learning (Divine Insight)
  • Bonus Feat: Silent Spell
  • Caster Level 4

This level brings 2nd-level spellcasting. It's really hard to wait until level 7 to get 2nd-level spells as a Sorcerer, but I promise it'll all be worth it soon.

You only get 1 regular spell known, so it's hard to know device what to learn. Invisibility is probably your best bet, but if you're getting by on mundane hiding (or if you have a Ring of Invisibility) go for Cloud of Knives or Ice Darts.

Your first Advanced Learning spell should be Divine Insight. At Caster Level 4, Hunter's Eye only gets you +1d6 Sneak Attack currently so it's not a significant damage boost. Divine Insight will help fill in the huge gap in your rogue skills, especially Disable Device. Relying on Divine Insight also means that instead of investing skill ranks in a bunch of skills which you can't always use, you can put ranks into frequently used skills like Spot and fill in the gaps with magic.

8 - Unseen Seer 3
  • Ability Increase: Charisma
  • Divination spell power +1
  • Caster Level 4 (6 Div)

Mostly a dead level.

9 - Unseen Seer 4
  • Feat: Master Spellthief
  • Damage bonus +2d6
  • Caster Level 7 (9 Div)

Master Spellthief is a big help. Adding 2 caster levels on top of your normal advancement does a lot for your damage output, bringing you up to 3 darts from Ice Darts, and improving your damage from Lesser Orb of X spells enough that you should replace Khelgore's Fire Bolt if you haven't done so already. You could reasonably take Practiced Spellcaster in place of Master Spellthief, but the appeal of Spellthief is stealing spells. If you want Practiced Spellcaster, use Rogue instead of Spellthief.

At this level, Ice Darts will fire three darts, dealing 2d4+4d6 damage each on a Sneak Attack.

3rd-level spells means that you've got enough spell slots to get through a few fights using Ice Darts and other spells. With Extend Spell you can make Hunter's Eye last two rounds, allowing you to spend your 2nd-level spell slots on Ice Darts. You can also now steal spells up to 3rd level, finally making your Spellthief levels somewhat worthwhile.

10 - Unseen Seer 5
  • Advanced learning (Hunter's Eye)
  • Guarded mind
  • Caster Level 8 (10 Div)

This is where the build really starts to take off: you finally pick up Hunter's Eye. At caster level 10 with Divination spells, Hunter's Eye gives you +3d6 Sneak Attack per attack.

You're still getting three darts from Ice Darts, but now you're dealing 2d4+7d6 per dart. Against a single target, that's 6d4+21d6 damage. You're quickly approaching Disintegrate-scale damage, and your damage output will scale very quickly from here on.

11 - Unseen Seer 6
  • Divination spell power +2
  • Caster Level 8 (12 Div)

This level brings 4th-level spells, and Hunter's Eye adds another d6 of damage.

You're still getting three darts from Ice Darts, but they're now dealing 2d4+8d6 per dart. Against a single target, that's 6d4+24d6 damage.

12 - Unseen Seer 7
  • Ability Increase: Charisma
  • Feat: Arcane Thesis (Hunter's Eye)
  • Damage bonus +3d6
  • Caster Level 9 (13 Div, 15 H.E.)

All of the damage ever! You get another Unseen Seer Damage Bonus and Ice Darts finally adds a fourth dart.

Arcane Thesis (Hunter's Eye) now means that you can cast Hunter's Eye both extended and silenced without increasing its spell level. If you'd like, you can cast Silent Ice Darts as a 3rd-level spell, and be completely silent when killing stuff. Arcane Thesis also grants a +2 caster level increase with the specified spell, so your effective caster level with Hunter's Eye hits 15 and brings in yet another damage increase!

You're now getting four darts from Ice Darts, dealing 2d4+10d6 per dart. Against a single target, that's 8d4+40d6 damage. That's more damage than disintegrate cast by a 20th-level spellcaster, and you're using a 2nd-level spell.

13 - Unseen Seer 8
  • Advanced learning (Grave Strike)
  • Caster Level 10 (14 Div, 16 H.E.)

This level brings 5th-level spells, which include a couple really great options addressed under "Spells", above.

14 - Unseen Seer 9
  • Divination spell power +3
  • Caster Level 10 (16 Div, 18 H.E.)

I'm really enjoying the cadence of the past several levels. You get either a huge damage boost or a new spell level. Either is a ton of fun, so leveling is really exciting.

This level brings another d6 of Hunter's Eye. It's not as exciting as the past several levels have been, but just wait until you see what you get at level 15.

You're now getting four darts from Ice Darts, dealing 2d4+11d6 per dart. Against a single target, that's 8d4+44d6 damage. That's more damage than disintegrate cast by a 20th-level spellcaster solely based on the Sneak Attack damage.

15 - Unseen Seer 10
  • Feat: Practical Metamagic (Twin Spell)
  • Damage bonus +4d6
  • Caster Level 11 (17 Div, 19 H.E.)

A lot happens at this level. Like, a whole bunch.

First: You get 6th-level spells. That means that you can cast Twin Spell Ice Darts, doubling your damage output with a standard action. 6th-level spells also include Arcane Spellsurge, which means you can cast Arcane Spellsurge as a swift action (thanks Dragonblood subtype!), Improved Invisibility n in the same turn, and still walk around. Next round, Ice Darts and Twinned Ice Darts!

Remember how I mentioned Twinned Spell Ice Darts? Practical Metamagic (Twin Spell) means that you can do it as a 5th-level spell instead of a 6th-level spell. You have at least twice as many 5th-level spell slots as 6th at this level, so that's pretty great. You can also twin other spells, but they're not as important.

Finally, you get the last insane damage spike. You finally hit caster level 11, giving you the final dart from Ice Darts. You also get the final Unseen Seer Damage Bonus.

You're now getting five darts from Ice Darts, dealing 2d4+11d6 per dart. Against a single target, that's 10d4+55d6 damage. Suck it, every evoker in existence. Don't forget that you can use Twin Spell to double that.

16 - Arcane Trickster 1
  • Ability Increase: Charisma
  • Ranged Legerdemain 1/day
  • Caster Level 12 (18 Div, 20 H.E.)

Finally we make it to Arcane Trickster. Your skill list will change a bit, which will be momentarily annoying. Hunter's Eye also increases at this level, so you're getting yet another Sneak Attack die.

17 - Arcane Trickster 2
  • Sneak Attack +1d6
  • Caster Level 13 (19 Div, 21 H.E.)

8th-level spells and a total of two more Sneak Attack dice.

You're now getting five darts from Ice Darts, dealing 2d4+13d6 per dart. Against a single target, that's 10d4+65d6 damage. Suck it, every evoker in existence. Don't forget that you can use Twin Spell to double that.

18 - Arcane Trickster 3
  • Feat: Persistent Spell
  • Impromptu Sneak Attack 1/day
  • Caster Level 13 (20 Div, 22 H.E.)

I normally don't extend build guides this far since I've generally proven the concept of the build well beforehand. However, I wanted to point out Persistent Spell at 18th level.

Thanks to Arcane Thesis, you can use Metamagic feats with Hunter's Eye at reduced cost. Persistent Spell increases spell levels by +6 (+5 thanks to Arcane Thesis), but having your second-favorite spell always active means that that you don't need to spend a swift action every other turn (not to mention all of those spell slots) to keep it running. This means a huge increase in the amount of damage you can deal in a day since your spell slots are less in demand, not to mention the improved action economy.

You can also use Persisten Spell on Cloud of Knives. It's a regular attack so you won't be as effective with it as you are with Ice Darts, but it's potentially another application of Sneak Attack each round, and at 13d6 that's a nice pile of damage. You may also be able to apply it to your familiar, which means your pet rat gets a free attack every round too.