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DnD 3.5 - The Evoker 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

Evokers are all about damage. Pick up a fist-full for d6's or two or five, drop them on the table, stare your DM right in his smug face, and repeat after me: "Reflex for half. It won't save you."

Before reading this guide, I strongly recommend that you read my Wizard Handbook. This guide omits general Wizard information in order to focus exclusively on Evokers.

Evokers and the Evocation school are often decried as a sub-par way to run a Wizard. After all, when you can cast a save or die spell and remove enemies from a fight, why bother engaging in the war of attrition that is hit points? Because fireball is awesome, and because shut up. You might also wonder why you would play an Evoker when Warmages seem to be tailor-made to replace Evokers. Simply put, Warmages are garbage, and anything a Warmage can do an Evoker can do better.

It is also frequently noted that the Conjuration school features many similar, and often better direct damage spells than Evocation. While this is certainly true, Evocation has more options and the benefits of Conjuration spells (namely that they typically don't allow Spell Resistance) will be mitigated by options which most Wizards will need to take anyway. Conjuration also lacks much of the damage type versatility offered by Evocation, and when you're all about damage, versatility is key.

Evokers depend very heavily on caster level because it adds more damage, and when you're all about damage you're all about caster level. This guide will include many amusing ways to boost your caster level. If you hit the damage die maximum every time you get a new spell level, you're doing it right.

Evokers also have the "problem" of reflex saves for half damage. Instead of viewing this as a problem, learn to view this as an asset. If enemies save against and Enchanter, the Enchanter has wasted their turn. If you do enough damage, a reflex save for half is still enough to kill everything in the room. This also allows you to largely ignore the need to boost your Reflex save DC's, which removes the need for feats like Spell Focus. Spells which depend on attack rolls in place of saves are also particularly appealing, because ranged touch attacks are incredibly easy to make since average monsters' touch AC doesn't scale past 12. Even a Wizard can reliably hit a 12.

Picking Your Favorite Element

Selecting your favorite element from the four core energy types allows you to focus on spells and abilities which boost that element. Each has its merits, so pick whichever you think will work best for you.

  • Acid: The Conjuration school typically does acid better, but it's still a good option because relatively few things are resistant to it.
  • Cold: Frostburn offers some great feats (Cold Focus, Piercing Cold) which make Cold spells exceptionally powerful.
  • Electricity: A good option for good-aligned characters because evil outsiders typically have resistance to Acid, Cold, and Fire.
  • Fire: Fire is the most commonly resisted energy type, but you're going to need ways to overcome energy resistance anyway. Good-aligned outsiders aren't resistant to fire, so it's a good option for evil Evokers.

Wizard Class Features

Summon Familiar: The familiar is a particularly useful source of damage output for the Evoker. Put some ranks into UMD, hand it a wand or cast Imbue With Spell Ability, and turn your familiar into a shoulder-mounted cannon. For help with Familiars, see my Practical Guide to Familiars.

Wizard Schools

Since we're looking at Evokers, this section only addresses what we want to give up.

  • Abjuration: Assuming you have a way to avoid fireballing your party (there are several), you're probably safe to give up Abjuration. Make sure your Cleric has Resist Energy just to be safe.
  • Conjuration: Conjuration is extremely powerful, and many Conjuration spells work very well for Evokers, especially the low level elemental orb spells and some high-level blast spells.
  • Divination: You can't give up Divination.
  • Enchantment: Enchantment is very powerful, but it doesn't work with the tactics which Evokers rely on.
  • Illusion: Illusions can do a lot, but their most notable features are the ability to replicate Conjuration and Evocation spells. The only thing you'll really miss is Improved Invisibility.
  • Necromancy: Evokers don't do well with pets, and they don't really need save or suck spells.
  • Transmutation: Transmutation contains many excellent buffs, but Evokers generally won't use the polymorph spells. Disintegrate is also a fantastic option for Evokers, but you can do without it and the Fortitude save can be problematic since Fortitude saves are typically the highest save for monsters.

Feats

Evokers can make use of some feats which are completely wasted on other Wizards. This section covers those feats, and expands on feats which are useful to other Wizards. For feats relevant to wizards in general, see my Wizard handbook.

  • Arcane MasteryCAr: I already mentioned this on the Wizard guide, but I can't stress how important this is for Evokers since they are completely shut down by Spell Resistance.
  • Arcane ThesisPHB2: Because you don't get to update your spell choice, it's important to select a spell that scales well, works well with metamagic, and remains useful at every level. Unfortunately the 3.5 FAQ clarified that Arcane Thesis only reduces the metamagic level change by 1 no matter how many feats you apply.
  • Cold FocusFb: Stacks with Spell Focus, and more DC is always nice.
    • Greater Cold FocusFb: Stacks with Spell Focus, and more DC is always nice.
  • Draconic AuraDM: The Energy option boosts your spell DC's with one energy type.
  • Elemental SpellastingPH: Not as good as a Reserve feat for the chosen element because you don't get a fun ability, but more caster level is always good, and you can get this at first level.
  • Energy GestaltCM: The Acrid Fumes ability to nauseate enemies is tempting, but potentially nauseating targets every two spells isn't good enough to justify a feat, and the other abilities don't imply good enough status effects to make the feat worthwhile.
  • Metamagic VigorCM: If you apply metamagic feats which don't affect spell level (City Magic, Energy Substitution), you can get a free +1 to caster level as long as you cast a spell every round.
  • Piercing EvocationCM: Energy resistance is one of the Evoker's biggest obstacles, and overcoming 10 points will go a surprisingly long way.
  • Knowledge DevotionCM: Not usually useful for Wizards, but a ray-focused Evoker can do a lot with the bonuses, especially with Scorching Ray because the damage applies to all three rays.
  • Metamagic School Focus:
  • Quick RecoveryLoM: Only useful if you use Born of Three Thunders, and unfortunately the save DC gets progressively harder as your cast level improves. If you have some ridiculous way to boost your Will saves, this might work.
  • Spell Focus (Chaos, Good, Evil, Law)CD: Doesn't stack with Spell Focus, so it's worthless. No fun abuse with Consecrate Spell.
  • Residual MetamagicCM: The Lingering Metamagic ability is particularly potent at high levels. Quicken spells for free! Enduring Potency might be nice at low levels when you have limited spell slots, but using Scrolls and Wands for spell which you cast consistently is generally a poor investment.

Metamagic Feats

  • Born of the Three ThundersCAr: If anyone was going to use this feat, it would be an Evoker. The effect is great, especially since it doesn't affect the level of your spells, but unless you're immune to being Dazed it's very high risk. Combine with Energy Substitution to turn all of your spells into Three Thunders spells. The Quick Recovery feat allows you a chance to overcome this, but other methods of overcoming Daze tend to be extremely expensive (permanent Favor of the Martyr, Renewal Pact), setting-specific (Dragonmark: Mark of the Dauntless) or very questionable interpretations of the rules.
  • Chain SpellCAr: Generally if you want to affect multiple targets, you use an AOE. Chain Lightning has the same effect, but doesn't have the limitation of a low damage cap imposed by most low-level spells to which you would apply this.
  • City Magic MagicCs: The feat description doesn't actually specify that you need to use the feat inside a city, though a smart DM would make the logical connection. If you're running strictly RAW, you can use this on all of your damage spells to convert half of their damage to irresistable "city" damage. If your DM is smart enough to only allow this to apply in a city, this probably isn't worth a feat since most camapigns don't take place entirely inside cities.
  • Consecrate SpellBoED / CD: For only one spell level, Consecrate Spell does quite a bit for the Evoker. The [Good] descriptor doesn't matter much usually, but if you took the Granted Domain Power ACF in place of one of your Wizard bonus feats, you can select the Good domain for +1 Caster Level to [Good] spells. It also converts half of the damage to irresistable holy damage. Your fireball is now Flame Strike. The BoED also adds its won +1 to the Caster Level of the spell, but because Complete Divine was published later, it is the definitive version.
  • Corrupt SpellBoVD / CD: Essentially the same as Consecrate Spell, but it's evil.
  • Empower SpellPHB: Less costly than Maximize Spell, and the math is very good. An empowered spell will often do more damage than a higher level spell, but once your caster level runs past the maximum for your lower level spells your higher level spells will begin to overtake Empowered spells.
  • Energy AdmixtureCAr: The effect sounds awesome, but using two types of energy means potentially twice as much resistance, making this a bad idea if your enemy has small amounts of multiple resistances. Doubling your damage with a spell essentially doubles the average, meaning that this does exactly as much as Maximize Spell, but with the additional drawback of the multi-resistance problem.
  • Energy SubstitutionCAr (+0): Converting all of your spells to one energy type makes it easier to capitalize on the Caster Level bonus from Reserve Feats, and the ability to change your spells means that you don't need to know as many. You can reasonably create copies of spells with differing energy types if your DM allows you to do so, so you may not need this. If your DM lets you do so, throw this on a rod.
  • Explosive SpellCAr (+2): I want so badly for this to be good, but it just isn't good enough for two spell levels. Very few spells have enough radius that you will get more than 1d6 bonus damage, and tripping enemies isn't good enough by itself.
  • Fiery SpellSS (+1): This will effectively be +1 damage per caster level. I'm not sure yet how effective this might be. If it's good, it becomes a tax on every [Fire] spell you cast. If it's bad, it's always bad. Remember that one extra caster level typically gets you 1d6 (3.5) damage, so this can add considerably more damage than many options which could add a caster level boost.
  • Invisible SpellCs (+1): If you want to be sneaky, Invisible Spell is a great way to keep people from noticing your spells. Sometimes this is useful, especially if you're invisible, but generally it's not important.
  • Lord of UttercoldCAr (+0): Corrupt Spell and Consecrate Spell add abusable alignment tags to the spell, and their damage types don't heal undead enemies, but they also increase spell level. Undead are frequently resistant to Cold damage anyway, so if you're dedicated to cold damage you should bring some other options for dealing with undead.
  • Maximize SpellPHB: The math for a Maximized spell is actually very good. A Maximized fireball does more damage than many 7th-level spells for a few caster levels, but by the time you can cast 7th-level spells, you have enough caster level boosts that the higher level spells will overtake Maximized fireball and similar spells.
  • Nonlethal SubstitutionBoED / CAr: Lol. Nonlethal solutions are for pansy spellcasters like Enchanters and Illusionists. If you have a problem with someone, they're going to die in a fireball.
  • Ocular SpellLoM (+2): You can only have two ready at a time (you can cast more ocular spells into your eyes later in the day), but casting two spells as full round action is pretty great. Even at high levels, combining two low levels spells is still a fantastic option.
  • Piercing ColdFb (+1): Ignore resistance to Cold damage (removing the need for Piercing Evocation), and enemies with cold immunity still take half damage (removing the need for options like Consecrate Spell). Cold subtype enemies are still immune, but enemies weak to cold take even more damage than usual.
  • Purify SpellBoED (+1): Assuming that your party is all good-aligned, this is a great way to drop AOE spells on fights without murdering your allies. Of course, there are other ways to do this that aren't alignment-based, and don't increase spell level.
  • Quicken SpellPHB (+4): At high levels Quicken Spell defines the Wizard's action economy.
  • Reach SpellCD (+2): Not useful enough that you should spend a feat on it. There are very few decent spells which have Touch range, and for the few that do you can get a rod.
  • Repeat SpellCAr (+3): It's hard to know when to use this, especially if your initialy casting is going to end the encounter.
  • Sculpt SpellCs / CA (+1): Very useful, but you can usually use smart placement to avoid your allies, so just put this on a rod.
  • Searing Spell (+1): Piercing cold for fire damage enthusiasts.
  • SnowcastingFb: In Frostfell campaigns this tree can be extremely potent and abusable, but if there isn't snow on the ground at all times it's worthless.
  • Split RayCAr (+2): This is Twinned Spell for rays. Don't use this on Scorching Ray, as it only adds one additional 4d6 ray.
  • Storm MagicFb: How often are you in a storm? Too situational.
  • Sudden XCAr: Sudden metamagic spells are very tempting, especially considering you can get Sudden Quicken, but their 1/day limitation makes them very expensive compared to a comparable rod.
  • Transdimensional SpellCAr / CD (+1): Cast a force spell. Evokers have a lot of them.
  • Twin SpellCAr (+4): Very expensive, but at high levels you can combine this with Quickened Spells to cast three spells per round, completely wrecking the action economy.
  • Violate SpellBoVD (+1): The effect is identical to Corrupt Spell. I think the fact that this exists is an editing error.
  • Widen SpellDMG (+3): I really don't like Widen Spell. It adds +3 to the spell's level, and the effect isn't that useful. Higher level spells will frequently have bigger AOE's which will solve the problem.

Reserve Feats

Reserve feats are good for Evokers because the evocation-centric feats boost your caster level, and the reserve abilities are a great way to clean up an encounter when the enemy is on their last legs and you don't want to waste a real spell.

  • Acid SplatterCM: +1 CL for Acid spells, and the reserve ability work on a touch attack, making it very reliable.
  • Blade of ForceCM: Unless you really like force spells, you can skip this.
  • Clap of ThunderCM: There aren't enough Sonic damage spells to justify this. If you use Born of Three Thunders this is on par with Storm Bolt.
  • Clutch of EarthCM: There aren't enough damaging Earth damage spells to justify this.
  • Fiery BurstCM: +1 CL for Fire spells, and the AOE is nice.
  • Invisible NeedleCM: There aren't a lot of force spells, but the ones that exist are fantastic. This is great for fighting incorporeal enemies.
  • Storm BoltCM: +1 CL for Electricity spells, and the ability is basically a tiny lightning bolt.
  • Winter's BlastCM: +1 CL for Cold spells, but a 15-foot cone is a very dangerous AOE for such poor damage.

Magic Items

The following magic items are in addition to the items normally useful for Wizards.

Rings

  • Ring of Mystic FireMIC: +1 Caster Level for Fire spells, plus some other stuff. Very cheap for a caster level increase.
  • Ring of Mystic LightningMIC: +1 Caster Level for Electricity spells, plus some other stuff. Very cheap for a caster level increase.
  • Ring of Arcane MightMIC: +1 Caster Level increase. Cheaper than an Orange Prism Ioun Stone with the same effect. I'm not sure if they stack, so check with your DM.

Rings

  • ReachCD: There aren't a lot of interesting evocation spells with touch range, but for the few good onces a rod can be useful.
  • SculptingCs / CAr: If your allies are in the way and you really need to drop a fireball, a rod of Sculpt Spell is very handy. Since Sculpt Spell only modifies the spell's level by one, the rod is extremely cheap.
  • SubstitutionCAr: Sometimes enemies will have resistances that you didn't anticipate, so a Rod of Substitution can save you a lot of headache if you like to prepare all of your spells as one element.

Staffs

Staffs are very tempting, but their construction rules make them ridiculously expensive. Unless you can design your own staff with an extremely limited number of spells, don't give staffs a second thought.

Wands

Wands don't use your ridiculous caster level are your boosted save DC, so most of them will be worthless. Your best bet is to pick up ranks in UMD and hand the wand to your familiar.

Wondrous Items

  • Ioun Stone (Orange)DMG: When you're all about Caster Level, and Orange Ioun Stone is an easy choice. Pick on up early, and enjoy your extra damage.
  • Third Eye ClarityDMG: If you use Born of Three Thunders, this gets around the Daze effect once per day.

Multiclassing and Prestige Classes

  • ArchmageDMG: The archmage is a phenomenal option for the Evoker. Master of Elements replace Energy Substitution, Mastery of Shaping replaces Sculpt Spell, and Spell Power gives a permanent +1 to your caster level. The other options are mediocre, so 3 levels is plenty.
  • Master SpecialistCM: A very common prestige class for specialist Wizards. The evocation esoterica are terrible until you get the Major School Esoterica at level 10, but you get two caster level boosts, which are great for Evokers. One level to get Skill Focus (Spellcraft) for free is helpful if you go for Archmage, even if you don't stay in Master Specialist.