The Wizard’s Arcane Thesis provides an additional feature which customizes how your wizard approaches spellcasting. Where your Arcane School helps determine what spells you cast, your Arcane Thesis is more about how you cast them.

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RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

Arcane Thesis Options

Yes, I’m aware the plural of “thesis” is “theses”, but the title of the page needs to match what folks type into search engines, so here we are. If you and I are ever fortunate enough to meet in person, I hope that we can have a good-natured laugh about.

Experimental Spellshaping (PC1)

Effectively two additional Class Feats. The effectiveness of Experimental Spellshaping depends heavily on the effectiveness of the Spellshape feats available, and we don’t get new ones very often, so if you’re not excited about the existing feat options, skip this.

Improved Familiar Attunement (PC1)

A familiar, an extra ability for your familiar, and 3 more as you gain levels. You can still add Enhanced Familiar for two additional abilities, too. Just the 3 to 6 that you get are already excellent, of course.

If you’re very excited about familiars, consider whether the Familiar Master archetype may be a better choice than Improved Familiar Attunement.

Spell Blending (PC1)

The ability to trade 1 spell slot for 2 additional prepared cantrips and/or trade 2 spell slots for one slot two Ranks higher. This reduces your total number of available spell slots, but having more high-impact spells is often worth the trade. Drop a huge spell on turn 1 which sets the course of the encounter, then spend the rest of the encounter relying on low-Rank spells and cantrips.

Spell Substitution (PC1)

If you can’t decide what to choose for your Arcane Thesis, Spell Substitution is a great option. Wizards are generally stuck with the options that they picked at the beginning of a day, and you can rarely predict your needs with perfect accuracy even if you’ve spent 20+ years thinking about how to be a wizard like I have. This is great for when you encounter unexpected obstacles and don’t have time to spend 8 hours resting in order to re-prepare spells, which is a constant occurrence while adventuring.

Staff Nexus (PC1)

Before you go any further, go read the rules for Casting Spells from a Staff and Preparing a Staff. If you don’t know those rules, none of the advice I’m about to give you will make any sense.

The Makeshift Staff starts off very weak, but grows in efficacy as you gain levels, and takes a massive jump when you upgrade it to a real magic staff. At levels 1 and 2, basically all that it does is give you an extra prepared cantrip per day since you still get to prepare your normal number of cantrips. You get one 1st-Rank spell in the staff, but you need to spend a 1st-Rank slot to get 1 charge, so you’re effectively turning a 1st-Rank spell slot into a 1st-Rank slot, leaving you right where you started.

Normally, when you Prepare a Staff, you get some free charges, but the Makeshift Staff doesn’t get that benefit (until you turn it into a real staff), so you need to expend a spell slot to get any use out of the Ranked spell in your staff. As you gain access to higher-Rank spell slots, you can turn them into multiple slots for repeated castings of your 1st-Rank spell, so it’s really important that the spell which you choose is going to remain useful throughout your career without Heightening. Choose carefully.

When you eventually turn your Makeshift Staff into a real staff, it’s a huge upgrade. Magic staves are available as early as level 3, but most are either level 4 through 6 at their lowest-level version. Once you upgrade, you add your cantrip and 1st-Rank spell to your upgrade staff, giving you a totally unique item. You could have a Staff of Ice that can also be used to cast Produce Flame and Force Barrage (not great examples of a powerful combo, but a good example of the mechanic). Keep in mind that you get no special benefits to perform this upgrade, so you’ll need to put some Skill Increases into Crafting.

As you gain levels, you can put more spell slots into the staff, potentially giving you a huge number of charges well in excess of what a normal staff can hold. If your staff contains many of your favorite spells, this can be a very efficient use of limited resources.

If you’re going to take Staff Nexus, you need to be prepared to do two things: first, you need to like how staves work and want to use them; second, you need to craft magic items (mostly your staff, but your party is inevitably going to ask you to make other stuff). If you’re okay with that, and if you don’t mind suffering through low levels with the Makeshift Staff, you should be okay.

However, one gap in the rules needs to be addressed: There are no rules for upgrading your staff into a different staff. If you choose to craft a staff at low levels, you may be locked out of better staves as you gain levels. It would be perfectly reasonable to subtract the cost of your current staff from the cost of your new staff when crafting it, but RAW there is no such rule. If your GM will allow you to craft your staff into a new staff, I consider Staff Nexus green.