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DnD 3.5 - The Warmage Handbook

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses 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.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

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 Warmage is a simple, straight-forward take on spellcasting. A dedicated Blast and Striker, the Warmage forgoes all subtlety in favor of blowing stuff up and dealing piles of d6's.

To be completely honest, the Warmage is a bad class. Its damage output is trivially higher than a Sorcerer, and the ability to equip armor can be easily replicated by a variety of other classes. In order to improve the warmage, look for ways to expand your spell list: Arcane Disciple, items like Runestaves, and classes like the Rainbow Servant.

Warmage Class Features

Hit Points: With d6 hit points the Warmage can't take many hits, but it's a bit better than the Wizard.

Base Attack Bonus: 1/2 BAB, but BAB doesn't really matter. The few attacks which the Warmage will make will be touch attacks.

Saves: Will is the Warmage's only good save, and with no major dependencies on Dexterity or Constitution you will need to make a point to boost your bad saves..

Proficiencies: Simple weapons give the warmage some nice backup options when you run low on spells, and access to light armor and light shields will give you a better AC than most arcane spellcasters. Armored Mage allows the Warmage to cast spells unhindered, and at level 8 the Warmage can move up to medium armor.

Skills: 2+ skill ranks, and a very thin skill list. The Warmage needs a bit of Intelligence for Warmage Edge, but 12 Intelligence will get you all of the Warmage's interesting skills.

Spells: The Warmage is a Charisma-based spontaneous caster, similar to the Sorcerer. However, unlike the Sorcerer, the Warmage's spell list is limited to a very small set of offensive spells.

Armored Mage (Ex): Wearing armor and shields while casting spells will give you a somewhat survivable AC.

Warmage Edge (Ex): This bonus is nice at very low levels, but it will be quickly eclipsed by caster-level based damage. It is the Warmage's only ability which depends on Intelligence, so it's hard to justify putting a lot of resources into boosting Intelligence. It's especially nice at first level because it makes cantrips do respectable damage.

Advanced Learning (Ex): Limited to Evocation spells, but this opens up a lot of fantastic spells which aren't on the Warmage spell list. This is especially nice because the Warmage got no new spells added to their spell list after Complete Arcane was published.

Sudden Empower: 50% more damage for free once per day.

Sudden Enlarge: Frequently mistaken for Widen spell. Enlarge improves a spell's range. Very few spells have range problems, which makes this very situational.

Sudden Widen: Excellent for high level spells with small areas of effect.

Sudden Maximize: Maximum damage always feels good.

Alternate Class Features

  • Eclectic LearningPHB2: The warmage really needs access to non-blaster spells like Fly to stay relevant at high levels. Casting spells a full spell level behind everyone else is painful, but the added versatility is fantastic.

Abilities

The Warmage's abilities largely resemble a Sorcerer; strong emphasis on Charisma, and the rest is mostly focused on survivability.

Str: Dump.

Dex: Essential for saves, AC, and ranged touch attacks.

Con: Hit points are crucial.

Int: Take a bit for Warmage Edge, but don't bend over backwards to improve it. The damage bonus is fairly small.

Wis: Take a bit for Will saves.

Cha: The Warmage's spellcasting ability.

Races

Bonuses to Charisma are are incredibly rare, so look for other bonuses. Dexterity is nice, and small size is always good for strict spellcasters.

Dwarf: The penalty to Charisma really hurts, but the defensive abilities are tempting.

Elf: The bonus to Dexterity is nice, but the penalty to Constitution is annoying.

Gnome: A bonus to Constitution adds some survivability, and the penalty to Strength doesn't matter. The Gnome's other abilities are largely wasted on the Warmage.

Half-Elf: Awful.

Half-Orc: Penalties to both Intelligence and Charisma.

Halfling: Small size and a bonus to Dexterity make the Halfling great with rays and ranged touch attacks.

Human: A bonus feat is always welcome.

Skills

  • Concentration (con): Essential for almost any spellcaster.
  • Intimidate (cha): The Warmage has the Charisma to be a Face, but lacks access to Bluff and Diplomacy.
  • Knowledge (Arcana) (int): One of the most important Knowledge skills.
  • Knowledge (History) (int): Situational.
  • Spellcraft (int): Great for identifying spells.

Feats

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

  • Arcane MasteryCAr: Spell Resistance can really shut down a Warmage, so the ability to reliably overcome spell resistance can be very helpful. Typically enemies will have spell resistance somewhere around 8+CR, which means that Arcane Mastery allows you to constantly overcome the SR of any enemy up to 2 CR's above your level.
  • Battle CasterCAr: Lets you upgrade to medium armor, heavy armor if you're 8th-level or higher.
  • Extra EdgeCAr: Tempting at a glance, but the damage bonus is pitiful.
  • Extra SlotCAr: The Warmage is a spontaneous caster, so you get plenty of spell slots per day.
  • Extra SpellCAr: The Warmage's spell list is very short, so you shouldn't have any problems learning all of the worthwhile spells. Some people interpret this feat to let you learn any spell from any spell list so long as it fits the spell level requirements, but I cosnider that a very dubious interpretation of the rules. Check with your DM.
  • Knowledge DevotionCC: Normally reserved for melee classes, Knowledge Devotion can be a great option for Warmages who depend on rays and touch attacks, and the bonus class skill can be helpful for qualifying for prestige classes.
  • Obtain FamiliarCAr: Familiars are fantastic. Check out my Practical Guide to Familiars.
    • Spell-Linked FamiliarPHB2: Allows your familiar to cast cantrips and 1st and 2nd-level spells, effectively making them a small turret.
  • Piercing EvocationCM: Most of the Warmage's damage output is energy damage, so ignoring 10 points of resistance allows you to keep using your favorite spells with less concern for energy types. Of course, Warmages also have several damage spells which fall under Conjuration, so they won't be covered.
  • Spell PenetrationPHB: Spell resistance becomes very common at high levels, but Arcane Mastery is more reliable.
    • Spell PenetrationPHB: Arcane Master and Spell Penetration should allow you to always overcome the SR of any enemy you could expect to encounter.
  • Versatile SpellcasterRotD: Allows you to use your lower level spell slots to cast your higher level spells. Not always useful, but it can make it much easier to reuse your best spells.
  • Weapon Focus (Ranged Spell / Touch Spell)PHB: Nice for touch spells and rays, but you shouldn't have any trouble hitting with touch attacks.
    • Weapon Specialization (Ranged Spell / Touch SpellCAr: Not a ton of damage, but in theory you can apply the bonus to each ray of Scorching Ray, which adds up quickly.

Weapons

  • Light Crossbow: Helpful when your spells run low at low levels.
  • Halfspear: Commonly pictured with warmages and Sorcerers, but totally useless.

Armor

Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order.

  • Studded Leather: Starting armor.
  • Light Shield: Starting armor if you want a shield, but you probably want two hands to use a crossbow. Once you have enough spell slots that you don't want a crossbow, the light shield is essentially the same as a buckler because it still allows you to hold items in your shield hand.
  • Chain Shirt: Permanent armor. Consider upgrading to Mithral if you have a lot of Dexterity, but it's not essential.

Magic Items

Runestaves

Introduced in the Magic Item Compendium, runestaves are a fantastic supplement to any spontaneous caster's spell list. Many runestaves offer utility options which will make nice improvements to the Warmage's spell list.

Wondrous Items

  • Cloak of CharismaDMG: Essential.
  • Ioun Stone (Orange)DMG: A +1 to caster level means a lot of extra damage from your spells. Expensive, but a very worthwhile investment at high levels.
  • Cloak of ResistanceDMG: Vest of Resistance is identical and takes up a much less useful slot.
  • Metamagic RodsPHB/MIC: Metamagic is a great choice for many casters, but some metamagic feats aren't useful enough to justify spending a feat on them.
  • Vest of ResistanceMIC: Same cost as a cloak, and takes up the largely useless "torso" slot.

Multiclassing and Prestige Classes

  • Rainbow ServantCD: A common choice for optimizing arcane casters, the Rainbow Servant grants access to three domains and their associate abilities and spells, and at 10th level you can learn spells from the Cleric spell list.