View Full Version : Complete Arcane vs. Complete Mage

Magic Myrmidon
2011-02-03, 03:13 AM
3.5 DnD, of course.

I guess you can just use whatever criteria you want, but I've always related them, since they're kinda similar.

I've only really looked at the Prestige Classes, but it seems to me that Mage has the flavor that I prefer with my magic. Powerful, fancy, flashy, fancy stuff. Arcane seems like it's more geared toward the corrupting nature of magic, and some twisted forms of things.

That's just my thoughts. Yours?

2011-02-03, 03:40 AM
Well Arcane introduced three new base classes which was a plus.

Unfortunately one is Oriental, and reprinted from Oriental Adventures (you know the book I'd actually get to use Oriental stuff).

Another is a reprint of a 3.5 class, and is of questionable usefulness (it might not be good, but I personally like it).

The last, and first in the book, is awesome in that it actually expands the game significantly. While I prefer true casters to invokers, warlock adds some really neat options.

Complete Mage on the other hand has ACFs for all the core classes and then some.

Focused Specialist is awesome, but I've learned to avoid it unless I want to do some breaking.

Umm... there are other ACFs but I can't remember any of them off the top of my head so apparently they aren't that important.

Now on to PrCs.

Complete Arcane has... Initiate of the Sevenfold Veil which I actually don't allow in my games. It has a Polymorph specialist which would be neat, except it gives up too many CL and by the time you get really neat abilities you've almost got Shapechange if you didn't take the class and Shapechange is better than all its class abilities.

It also has Sublime Chord which seems really awesome for a bard (not game mechanically specifically), a bunch of PrCs updated from Tome and Blood (none of which were the most impressive to begin with), and Wild Mage which I love although unless Practiced Spellcaster can be used to overcome it's -3 to CL is really not worth it (and even then it's 3 feats for it and there are many, much stronger ways to build a character).

Complete Mage has Abjurant Champion which is awesome for gishes, as in makes making one fun again. It has Eldritch Theurge and Champion which build upon warlock with theurge classes (my favorite type of classes). It has Master Specialist which I really like, but gets a little too juicy combined with Focused Specialist. It also has Ultimate Magus which is awesome (I love Theurge classes).

Spells... well I normally use the Spell Compendium for CA's spells but they are better.

Feats I'm giving to Complete Mage though (Fiery Burst... removing the crossbow from my wizards for a while now).

Fluff... there's more of it in Complete Arcane but it's... I couldn't read it all. Tome and Blood did it better and the focus on mechanical and optimization aspects in Tome and Blood was too much compared to Sword and Fist which had fluff suggestions that actually intrigued me.

So in the end... Complete Arcane. While the PrCs let me down (except for Wild Mage I love it's fluff) it introduces good general purpose spells (Mage is just filling in the gaps of my spell lists when I want something neat) and it introduces warlock which is a delightful addition to the options in the game.

2011-02-03, 05:40 AM
I wasn't really impressed with the 3 new classes in CA.

Conversely, CM brought me focused specialist, master specialist, reserve feats, alacritous cogitation and a new line of polymorph subschool spells.

In terms of crunch, I think I would find CM more useful.

2011-02-03, 06:45 AM
Alacritous Cogitation was errata'd so it doesn't work on spells with casting times greater than 1 round.

I like Complete Arcane because of the potion tiles :smalltongue:

Otherwise, I'm pretty impartial. Both have useful stuff I considered playing.

2011-02-03, 07:09 AM
Complete Mage understands what being a caster is about (REAL UNLIMITED POWER!!!), and the mechanics reflect that. The PrCs and ACFs are downright good. Complete Arcane instead has cool ideas but, from a mechanics standpoint, are quite weak. Spellsword, Greenstar Adept, I'm looking your way.

2011-02-03, 07:15 AM
Spellsword is actually in complete warrior, but we get your point. :smallwink:

2011-02-03, 08:59 AM
I wasn't really impressed with the 3 new classes in CA.

1) It's three more than CM had. :smalltongue:
2) Warlocks are awesome, and Wu Jen make fabulous gishes. (*Unfriends Warmage on Facebook.*)

2011-02-03, 09:17 AM
Warlocks also, in general, have some of the most interesting homebrew.

That's not really anything Wizards is responsible for.

2011-02-03, 09:22 AM
Umm... there are other ACFs but I can't remember any of them off the top of my head so apparently they aren't that important.Divine Magician? Favoured Enemy (Arcanist)? :smallcool:

2011-02-03, 09:30 AM
IMHO the developers began to understand the game better between the release of CArc and CM, which is apparent in the balance of the presented material.

Overall, CArc material has much more balance issues. Some options are incredibly strong (Initiate of the 7-fold Veil, Sublime Chord, in come cases Sculpt Spell), others were brokenly weak (Green Star Adept and Wayfarer Guide are the prime examples, but virtually every PrC with 5/10 casting progression counts). Still other stuff opened the odd can of worms (Precocious Apprentice and Sanctum Spell as means of meeting certain prerequisites early). It still had some perks (the Warlock was nice - if weak, Battle Caster a much-needed option for gishes and the Mage Slayer feats were interesting), but that doesn't quite make a good supplement.

On the other hand, CM has (generally) found a better balance, and the options offered are actual options. The ACFs are, overall, decent (Arcane Hunter, Divine Magician, Elemental Companion, Focused Specialist), and come with relevant tradeoffs. Similarly, reserve feats are great in that they are real options, i.e., not a default choice. A lot of options are strong, but not overwhelmingly so (Alacritous Cogitation, Eldritch Disciple, Lyric Thaumaturge, Ultimate Magus, etc.). Of course, one might argue that some options are strictly better than the default (Master Specialist and Abjurant Champion), and that CM's dual progression classes can be broken with certain tricks, but on the whole I'd day it's more balanced than CArc.

2011-02-03, 10:35 AM
Divine Magician? Favoured Enemy (Arcanist)? :smallcool:

I should have remembered Favored Enemy (Arcanist) I love taking it. In my defense it was almost 4 AM when I posted.

Fox Box Socks
2011-02-03, 10:59 AM
I loved Complete Mage and was mostly ambivalent towards Complete Arcane.

Here's a fun experiment: run a campaign where the only allowed materials are PHB, PHB2, Complete Mage, and Tome of Battle. THEN tell me with a straight face that 4e came completely out of left field.

2011-02-03, 11:16 AM
I roll with C.Mage, on the basis of "it's actually better constructed" and "Warmage sucks, Wu Jen is a reprint, and Warlock isn't a wizard, the thing I bought the book to acquire options for". I love me some Warlocky fun, no denying it, but over all, it's just not what I wanted from the book.

C.Mage, on the other hand, has a ton of badass ACFs, spells not reprinted anywhere else, PrCs that are both balanced and fun, a new "theurge", which I just looooooove as a character concept, and other awesome stuff, including some fun dissertations on the nature of magic, the thematics of magic, and other such things, which I dearly love reading and writing about.

2011-02-03, 11:16 AM
I love complete mage for the classes, but Arcane has some interesting feats and gear in it.

I usually use both, but if limited to one, Complete Mage.

2011-02-03, 11:34 AM
CArcane has the better PrCs (cooler anyway, I'll leave the power discussion to others) and the base classes (even if I'm not partial to any of them). CMage has reserve feats and the ACFs. CArcane has the better spells, but they got duplicated in Spell Compendium, which makes it's value as a resource somewhat less. Flavorwise, I like CArcane's weird magic (alienist, acolyte of the skin, blood magus) over CMage's cast-'n'-blast approach just because it's different than what's offered in the other sourcebooks.

No answer to the question, just some thoughts.

2011-02-03, 12:28 PM
building an arcane character without access to both makes me cry a little bit, honestly.

that said, complete arcane is a little more friendly to new players who aren't looking to fine-tune a caster build for additional power...provided you ignore initiate of the seven-fold veil twinkery. Warlock and Warmage (the latter is a reprint from the miniatures handbook, by the way) are both easy to use if you've never played a caster before...or even D&D, so it's good to have around if you want to get new players involved and want to give them something that's hard to screw up but is still fun and useful.

complete mage seems like it was meant for more advanced players looking for some additional ways to tweak their wizards after having played several thousand of them already.

basically it comes down to why you want the book. beefing up a wizard? complete mage. looking for something that casts but isn't strictly a wizard? complete arcane.

2011-02-03, 01:07 PM
1) It's three more than CM had. :smalltongue:
2) Warlocks are awesome, and Wu Jen make fabulous gishes. (*Unfriends Warmage on Facebook.*)

Dunno, I like Warmage. It's not great, but the idea behind it is solid. Warlock is also awesome.

Wu Jen, now...feh, it's just "Im a wizard, but oriental". We already had that, in the oriental handbook.

Sure, Warmage was also printed in the miniatures handbook, but that's a much different situation, as that's where you go for mini-info, not info on caster classes.

T.G. Oskar
2011-02-03, 03:57 PM
I'm not a fan of arcane classes (aside from those who mingle with melee combat, such as Duskblade, Hexblade or melee/arcane PrCs such as Eldritch Knight, Abjurant Champion, Spellsword to an extent and probably oddballs such as Havoc Mage, alongside the "melee that grants arcane casting" such as Suel Arcanamach and Knight of the Weave), but if I were to determine one good book...

Complete Arcane: Not a fan of Wu Jen, since while it's a refluffed wizard by another name, I would have expected something beyond odd taboos and spell secrets; being the book that goes after Complete Warrior, you can expect it's not that balanced. Warmage is a really neat class with lots of potential, but that gets shot in the foot because of what it really gains (heck, why do you think I made a retooling out of it!?) Warlock, on the other hand, with the introduction of invocation mechanics and the huge fluff behind it is spectacular, though I find most invocations to have odd uses (24-hour invocations, when you could simply have those active at all times and spare the formalities of recasting them every day and when they get dispelled) and a slight lack of focus (arcane/skillmonkey? Face with some spells and a SA expy?)

The PrCs are a mixed bag. Some really needed a much more appropriate reskinning (Acolyte of the Skin has great fluff but seems too vanilla for what it's worth), some need to be reconstructed from the beginning (Green Star Adept, what the heck are you!?) and some are just underrated compared to other PrCs (Seeker of the Song; a wonderful idea, but the fact that it ruins two out of the three pluses of being a bard for a mild boost of the third and trying to make it a sort of blaster character doesn't make for a good PrC; on the other hand, it could have done a wonderful Bard/Truenamer PrC out of the fluff only). Many of the classics are there (Iot7V, Sublime Chord or "how to get 9th level spells without much effort", Mage of the Arcane Order) and some whom are nice (Suel Arcanamach, a nice way to get decent arcane spellcasting for a gish character).

Feats...well, I'm not surprised by the ones that grant spell-like abilities (really, you'd take Mage Hand or Soul of the North?), but rather from the Mage Slayer line which works somewhat well with the anti-psionic feats from Expanded Psionics Handbook. Practiced Spellcaster is definitely a godsend for most classes (namely gishes, and oddly enough Paladins and Rangers), but then you get Twin Spell and Precocious Apprentice and...

As for the rest: here's the original version of the ever-useful Magebane, and this version was extremely good; the "potions and scrolls by any other name" makes a nice feel (specially with the odd ways to craft potions and scrolls gained by the Blood Magus), but it has its share of broken items (Thought Bottle!!) Monsters are pretty similar: Elemental grues are pretty weird, Monoliths are the kind of thing you want to control, Effigies are constructs I'd love to make as an Artificer, but why do spellstitched undead have to exist!? That's giving a rocket launcher and intellect to a RE zombie, haven't you learned that's noxious to your health!? And then there's the fluff, which has stuff from arcane duels and how to deal with arcanists, but at a primarily "in-game" perspective.

Complete Mage: on the other hand, instead of 3 classes, you gain ACFs for several others. I love ACFs because they are a sort of culmination between the racial substitution levels and the optional classes info from Unearthed Arcana, tidbit-sized changes that can remove an ability you might not use for one that you might use, and that's generally useful overall. Spell Reflection and Spell Sense are two good examples, and Arcane Hunter is just awesome to behold; Divine Counterspell on the other hand isn't that impressive and since it doesn't allow you to qualify for Turn Undead attempts...

Feat-wise, I love the concept behind reserve feats. While they're evidently weak, the fact that you get something that allows you to save your strongest feature (your spellcasting) and grants you more options is a big plus. Not very surprised of the other feats, which range between "improve the watchful spirit thingie of the Wu Jen" or "meh options for specialists". There's some love for spontaneous spellcasters and those who dare to use wands, as well as some love for UMD.

PrC-wise, it has some of the most flavorful and useful PrCs I've seen so far. Abjurant Champion is a given, and so does Master Specialist, Ultimate Magus and Unseen Seer, but I have a soft spot for Lyric Thaumaturge, a way to give more power to Bards without having to go for Sublime Chord, and subtly strengthening sonic damage spells, of which between this book and Spell Compendium they get a lot. Very few PrCs merit an un-mention (Nightmare Spinner being the top and probably the only one) in any case.

Fluff-wise, I like the idea of giving an approach to different kinds of arcane spellcasters, but they could have used the ideas of the forums instead of trying to dangle it on their own. Some choices are just inimical (I can't withstand the bizarre philosophy behind the opposed schools, aside from abjuration <-> conjuration, divination <-> illusion even if the latter is impossible, the trio between evocation, enchantment and necromancy, and transmutation being neatly left behind because everybody loves themselves some buffs), and despite a good effort and a way to observe all classes in a mechanical perspective, still require some fixing.

As for the rest...well, all I see is options. Lots of options.

So, in conclusion, which one should I choose? None really captivates my attention more than the other (though I strangely incline towards Complete Mage because it offers some nice options). I notice that Complete Arcane offers introductions, while Complete Mage offers complements; CM is incomplete without CA, but CA is unsurprising without the power provided from CM.

Now, between Complete Divine and Complete Champion...

2011-02-03, 04:01 PM
Well, let me take a look and compare them. Obviously this is all from my perspective, but I'm just looking at things that are either known to me for being useful or for things that I see mentioned here a lot. I will certainly miss a few things. I'm comparing their relative usefulness to players and likelihood of being used in a real game.

{table=head]CA Class | What it is
Warlock | Warlocks are very user-friendly caster classes without limited or overwhelming quantities of resources to track. Experienced caster players can treat them as preset 'packages' of existing spellcasting abilities to whip out in five minutes or so when you don't feel like building a full caster, because they are fairly heavily outclassed at it. Hellfire Warlocks and Eldritch Glaives are from other sources, but IMO these two things make Warlocks decently strong and interesting spellcasters.
Warmage | Warmages are kind of the next step between a Warlock and a blaster caster, with this one's prepackaged spell set actually being ordinary spells and in roughly the same quantity as a core spellcaster. Aside from casting in armor, getting a couple Evocation spells and gaining a non-casting stat to spell damage, its class features are pretty barren. I could've sworn these bastards at least got medium BAB or a good Fort save, but apparently they don't, relying on armor and d6 hit dice to set them apart as warrior mages. This is also a reprint from Miniatures Handbook.
Wu Jen | Another reprint, but this time from a 3.0 book so at least there is an excuse. If it hadn't been reprinted it probably wouldn't have what little support it gets outside of this book. I should just confess right off the bat that I don't know enough about it to accurately judge it. It has a number of unique spells that no other classes get (or even get counterparts to), casts like a Wizard, and gets class features that amount to permanent metamagic on certain spells. They are kind of neat and flavorful IMO, with the Taboos being a sort of enforced-roleplaying that probably helps some groups get more immersed in the game, without actually being as stick-in-the-mud disruptive as Codes of Conduct. People who actually play Wu Jen talk about them in a positive light, so that sounds good to me.[/table]

{table=head]CM ACF | What it is
Arcane Hunter | ie Favored Enemy: Significant Targets. This ACF allows you to make arcane spellcasters - in general - your favored enemies. This is a spectacular option, with a higher correlation between 'arcanists' and 'dangerous foe' than any mere creature type.
Divine Magician | A Cleric trades one domain for essentially a custom domain comprised of any Abjuration, Divination or Necromancy spell off the Wizard list. Cool.
Focused Specialist | A Specialist Wizard trades another school and one spell slot of each level they cast from for two more specialist spell slots. This is even more powerful than it sounds at first, because its benefit is not proportionate to the amount of spells you'd get from the default table. A generalist gets 1 spell slot for his highest level spell when he gains access to a new level of spells. A Focused Specialist gains three (amounting to four with a high Int). There's no gradual introduction to a new tier of casting, you just have it right away like a master magician. Conjuration Specialists don't even care about the drawback because they can do nearly everything already.
Spell Reflection | Instead of Evasion, you can send any spell that misses you with an attack roll straight back to its caster. I don't know why nobody talks about this: it is absolutely awesome.
Stalwart Sorceror | You trade one of your highest level spells known for +2 HP per Sorceror level (effectively, averaged d8 hit dice) and Martial Weapon proficiency. The benefits aren't too good but the penalty is at least more bearable than the Battle Sorceror variant, although it does give the impression that it is supposed to be used together with it. Both are fairly awful given the proliference of gish prestige classes, but are at least simple options for players interested in a simple character.[/table]

This is a tough call. I'm actually going to give it to Complete Arcane, because it introduced a new class and at least made some headway in popularizing two other decent classes, which I feel is a more significant addition to the game than the benefits CM hands out as ACFs (even Focused Specialist). Warlocks actually find a niche of their own when some other sources are in use, including the Complete Mage itself which continues to expand their options.

{table=head]CA Feats | What it is
Arcane Preparation | Spontaneous casters do like to benefit from "prepared-only" options from time to time, and this is the way to do it.
Craft Contingent Spell | Probably one of the most overpowered feats in the game. I don't know if I should count this against the book or for it. Basically you can set a certain amount of spells to go off on various arbitrary conditions of your choosing. It beats the Contingency spell itself IIRC.
Obtain Familiar | Gives you a familiar if you don't have one. People like familiars, apparently. For the price of a feat you can replace what you already traded away for something better :smallbiggrin:. Mostly it's great for giving one to classes that don't get one.
Practiced Spellcaster | Improves caster level by 4 up to your hit dice. Ultimate Magus wouldn't even be good without this.
Repeat Spell | It's +3 metamagic but it's still a lower adjustment to get more spells in the same actions compared to Quicken or Twin's +4.
Sculpt Spell | Just a great metamagic feat, letting you pick between several different shapes for the spell's AOE, often covering more area than the spell usually would and easily works around your allies instead of them having to work around your spell. One of the few that's worth it without any reducers.
Split Ray | This is the best 'multispell' metamagic feat as far as I know, splitting any ray spell for a mere +2 adjustment. Only Ocular Spell from LoM matches it as a 'multispell' feat but it uses up two spells and turns them into rays anyway (so you might as well use them both!).
Sudden Still | When you're grappled, chained up or otherwise incapacitated, sometimes you need to cast a spell with a somatic component without preparing it as such and using up higher slots. This is the emergency measure for people who aren't Craft Contingent Spell users (due to either level or manners).
Sudden Silent | I'd say this is a weaker emergency measure than Sudden Still, used for covert casting while hidden. The Conceal Spellcasting skill trick from Complete Scoundrel is a lesser cost and subsumes a lot of Sudden Silent's uses, but you need to have good Sleight of Hand for it to work and lots of casters don't get Sleight of Hand.
Sudden Widen | Widen on its own comes out to a cumbersome +3 spell slot adjustment. If you were only going to use it once or twice a day, you might as well take the free version. Instant Widen Spell on some AOE Conjuration is enough to ruin a whole army's day and changes certain moderately-strong spells into straight up encounter-enders.
Twin Spell | Quicken's poorer cousin. A +4 metamagic that casts a spell twice. With Quicken you could cast a 5th level spell and a 1st level spell, but this would just let you cast one 1st level spell twice. The upside is that it only uses one slot, and is part of heavy metamagic combos that are already using Quicken.
Collegiate Wizard | A 1st-level Wizard feat that lets you take 6+Int 1st level spells and gain 4 new spells every level instead of the regular 3+Int and 2 spells/level. If you level-up in the field, don't have access to magic marts or just want to save some time and money, this is a fantastic feat that really helps a Wizard emphasize the superiority of prepared casting.
Precocious Apprentice | Another 1st-level feat, this one lets you cast 2nd level spells right out of the gate, so it's part of some easy early-entry stuff that makes things like Mystic Theurge actually good. It's just a waste of a feat after 3rd level if you're not doing early-entry, though.[/table]

{table=head]CM Feats | What it is
Alacritous Cogitation | Spontaneously cast a spell you know once a day by leaving a spell slot open if you're a prepared caster. It's apparently intended for wizards, but do you actually know spells? Well, either way you rule it, Uncanny Forethought from Exemplars of Evil lets you do this Int times per day, rendering this feat relatively useless to those with the right books.
Cloudy Conjuration | You make a very localized sickening cloud beside you or your target when you cast a Conjuration spell. This is an okay effect for minorly-debuffing your foes... but wait! It's a cloud that grants you total concealment! This is a good defensive measure that costs you no extra action. Just cast spells from your favourite school.
Melodic Casting | Sing while casting spells. Bards suddenly got a whole lot better - this feat is borderline mandatory for them.
Metamagic School Focus | Reduce up to 3 levels of metamagic adjustment in your specialized or Spell Focused school per day. It's very easy, early metamagic reduction.
Metamagic Spell Trigger | Use metamagic with spell-trigger items. Artificers enjoy this, but you can only take it at 12th level! :smallfrown:
Rapid Metamagic | Spontaneous casters get to use metamagic like they always should have been able to, starting at 9th level. It's better than the Sorceror ACF but doesn't help early on.
Residual Magic | If you cast a spell with metamagic and then cast the same spell again the next round, you can apply the metamagic again for free. This is situational, but is a powerful effect for those who find themselves repeating metamagic combos, effectively making it a kind of 'free' metamagic. I'd use this if I made a straight blaster, but generally a Wizard is going to be better off casting a different spell each round.
Retributive Spell | A +1 metamagic that lets you prepare 1 spell that you can choose to target anyone who strikes you in melee. It's a very cheap action advantage that should only be used by the beefier spellcasters or someone who has made themself beefy. Otherwise this is just planning for failure - you have failed to keep out of melee, your party has failed to protect you, etc. It would be an emergency measure that happens after the problem.
Somatic Weaponry | I'm told that gishes enjoy casting while armed. This feat lets you cast spells with somatic components when your hands are full. I can't remember whether this is any good or not - if you can cast with one hand you can just hold even a two handed weapon in the other as long as you're not attacking with it, can't you?
Summon Elemental | Summon a small, medium or large elemental of your choice at will depending on the highest level summoning spell you have available. While they aren't very strong combatants, they can be limitless tools of utility and are good at triggering traps. They can still be decent to have in minor skirmishes as another body in the way of the enemy if nothing else.
Toughening Transmutation | DR 5/magic to you or your target for 1 round when you cast a Transmutation spell. It's not great, but for Transmuters it only costs one feat and will generally give you a lot of use before everything has magic weaponry and/or huge damage.
Reserve feats that deal damage | Acidic Splatter, Fiery Burst, Storm Bolt: limitless ranged touch attack or line or short radius burst to deal 1d6 damage per level of your highest available spell of the corresponding type. They aren't especially strong, but an unfortunately obvious parallel must be drawn between taking just one of these feats as a normal caster, and being a default Warlock or Dragonfire Adept. It doesn't make them look good.[/table]

I'm also going to give this to Complete Arcane. Practiced Spellcaster is mandatory to even get proper use out of a couple of CM's PrCs, and just includes far more options that your players will almost certainly use time and time again for their spellcasters despite containing a roughly comparably number of noteworthy feats. CM's actually seem to cater to specialized builds more.

Prestige Classes
{table=head]CA Prestige Class | What it is
Enlightened Fist | One of the few options for Monks + arcane caster gishes. You don't lose much casting out of this... but you're still a Monk. It's hard to grade this as an improvement for Monks or a waste for casters.
Fatespinner | Fatespinner is virtually costless entry spellcaster class that is good for 4 levels, but doesn't provide many benefits.
Initiate of the Sevenfold Veil | This is almost the quintessential example of spellcasters being a little too invincible and trading far too little for prestige class benefits.
Mindbender | An easy, essentially free dip (requires only skills) for Telepathy.
Mage of the Arcane Order | A good prestige class where Sorcerors with Arcane Preparation try to mooch utility spells off of all the other Sorcerors who joined for the same thing (:smalltongue:).
Sublime Chord | A well-known class for making Bards into Sorcerors in just 10 levels (very powerful!).
Suel Arcanamach | People talk about this as if it was something resembling a passable gish for some reason, but I haven't played one so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.[/table]

{table=head]CM Prestige Class | What it is
Abjurant Champion | An arcane gish done right, this class gives full BAB progression, full spellcasting progression, and some class features that help one side of a gish actually benefit the other. Only 5 levels, though.
Eldritch Disciple | A nice option for the otherwise unsupported invocation-user + cleric hybrid character.
Eldritch Theurge | This hybrid between a Warlock and an arcane caster paints a less pretty picture, since most of the latter thoroughly outclass the former at everything they do. Regardless, there are some interesting class features that can augment one with the other at the same time, preventing the combination from being totally worthless. And hey, more options supported is just better, isn't it?
Lyric Thaumaturge | This is a Bard who focuses more on his spellcasting, gaining extra spell slots and some spells known of his choice from the Sorc/Wizard list. Pretty good and gives you lots of extra music too, but doesn't actually advance any Bard abilities outside of spellcasting.
Master Specialist | This has almost become the default class that specialist Wizards enter when they don't know what else to do with their levels, and can be entered as soon as 3rd level instead of the usual 6th. The benefits are somewhat minor and you do need Spell Focus (your school) to enter, so if feats are in high demand for your Wizard he might actually be better off staying Wizard for certain feats.
Nightmare Spinner | This is a decent class that trades a spellcaster level for moar illusion spells (a focused Illusionist Nightmare Spinner would now have 4 bonus illusion spells per day!!) and some decent fear-causing effects. Combined with Fell Frighten (LM) and some fear spells, you could very easily stack enough fear effects to totally screw non-immune enemies straight away without any roll against it. That said... the Dread Witch has what fear-focused casters really need and also loses you caster levels, and dedicated illusionists should always be heading straight into Shadowcraft Mage instead of this. Cool, but outclassed.
Ultimate Magus | Combine two arcane caster classes into one, finally! This long-awaited class lets you combine a prepared and spontaneous caster class, improve your caster level, and sacrifice spells to metamagic-up your other spells for free. Generally speaking, though, this is a terrible hybrid. You're either using a spontaneous casting class and Practiced Spellcaster to improve your prepared casting without too much loss, or you're pouring levels into having one play catch-up with the other to gain extra low-level spells you probably have already. Don't try to make this into a 50/50 hybrid, because it's not and will ruin you for trying.
Unseen Seer | This is an arcane caster and skillmonkey hybrid class, improving Sneak Attack/Skirmish and providing full casting progression as well as 6+Int skills. However, it is Divination-focused and reduces your caster-level for non-Divination spells by 3 over its run, making you cast normally as if you'd lost an extra 3 levels (and the cross-class ranks + Sneak Attack progression encourage further loss earlier). In case this isn't obvious, you can't cast the spells if your caster level isn't high enough even if you have the right level of spell slots! So you need Practiced Spellcaster to make this okay.[/table]

This one is clearly in CM's favour. Mage of the Arcane Order, Sublime Chord and IotSV are pretty much the only commonly used CA prestige classes. CM contains far fewer of them but still comes out with more noteworthy ones, without the feeling that you've just gone dumpster-diving looking for the rare good bits. Nearly every option here is something you can't get anything similar to outside of Complete Mage, combining practical usefulness, interesting abilities and overall a decent level of balance.

I don't really want to root through the spells. I think Complete Mage wins in that department pretty handily, containing new spells for everyone (including Complete Arcane classes), the Heart line, the Sorceror-only Arcane Fusion pair of spells, and they cannot be found in the Spell Compendium.

Overall? I don't know which I'd call a better supplement, but I think getting Complete Arcane first actually improves the value of Complete Mage a whole lot more, and not because I think it's bad by comparison or anything. Complete Arcane broadens the options of arcane casters significantly while Complete Mage narrows down the focus for players looking for that one thing they want to specialize their character for.

2011-02-03, 09:24 PM
Well, let me take a look and compare them. Obviously this is all from my perspective, but I'm just looking at things that are either known to me for being useful or for things that I see mentioned here a lot. I will certainly miss a few things. I'm comparing their relative usefulness to players and likelihood of being used in a real game.

Could you do the highlights of other books too (perhaps in another thread so as not to derail this one)? This was super helpful as a general overview.

2011-02-03, 09:27 PM
Aw hell naw. It took longer than I thought it would. Well maybe tomorrow if I have time. I'm pretty sure you could just look up a book review for any book in 3.5 and find something similar - most roleplaying supplement reviews are done using pretty much the same criteria.

2011-02-03, 10:07 PM
Aw hell naw. It took longer than I thought it would. Well maybe tomorrow if I have time. I'm pretty sure you could just look up a book review for any book in 3.5 and find something similar - most roleplaying supplement reviews are done using pretty much the same criteria.

Was a pretty good read though, so, my compliments as well. :smallbiggrin:

2011-02-03, 10:19 PM
Well thanks guys. :smallredface: