View Full Version : What would make a dual-caster useful?

2007-03-24, 07:58 PM
I've seen the arguments explaining why without ur-priest/sublime chord, dual caster classes are generally trash. Has anyone tried building a more effective version? Even just taking, say, a mystic theurge, and dropping some of the pre-reqs a little? Is it possible to find a nice balance between nerf-tacular and power overwhelming? I kind of like the flavor of a devout Boccob-worshiping, knowledge seeking, Wizard/Archivist/mysteriousdualcastingprestigeclass x, and wanted to know if I could make one that doesnt entirely blow, and since my DM likes my idea, and recently became aware of how awful MT is normally, I wanted to whip up some sort of reasonable proposal. Help?

2007-03-24, 08:10 PM
Allowing people to take more than 10 levels of mystic theurge would be a good start, though that doesn't help until the last levels. Since the problem is lack of the highest possible level of spells, and that is the whole limiting factor of the class, there's not much to be done. If the player knows what they're doing, clever spell combos and ways to cast more spells per turn have a chance to make up for it, but it's like TWF vs THF.

Notice how all the MT style classes that are based around a specific pair of classes get extra abilities. Find one of those you like, or homebrew one, find a way to overcome your lack of the highest level spells by combining your lower level ones and you can still be a productive party member.

Edit: also, try to stay away from MAD (Multiple Attribute Dependency). The cerebremancer (psionic/arcane) for example, can go psion/wizard, both of which use intellegence as their primary attribute. This doesn't make you any more powerfull, but it means that you don't have to worry about two different stats, and your save DC's will be the same for both classes. If you are using something like cleric/wizard, one side will most likely have lower save DC's than the other, which can be annoying. The more splatbooks you have, the easier this will be.

And, though it probably goes without saying, stay away from classes that get spells later (sorcerer, wilder, etc), as that will be even more levels you are behind the others (though I always liked the idea of a shugenja/sorcerer, cha basesd theurge with spontaneous casting on both sides.

Just remembered, the Ultimate Magus gets progression in two arcane classes, and some great abilities otherwise.

2007-03-24, 08:13 PM
It's tricky.

On the one hand, if you push the requirements down too much, then there's no downside, and you end up with an overpowered character towards the end.

On the other hand, as is, you'll usually end up with a mechanically weak character for most the career.

Hmm... maybe something easy to get into, and runs long, that has spellcasting dead levels?

So, say, 1st level arcane and 2nd level Divine spells (or vise versa - unlike most PrC's, you can get in with just four levels) the PrC runs 16 levels, but it misses out on advancement at, say, 5th and 10th (while somehow requireing you to take either the PrC itself or one of your two base classes).

2007-03-24, 08:21 PM
Wait, Jack_Mann, are you suggesting some kind of long leveled prestige class that would actually require that in the middle of it, you take more base class levels? That sounds strange, but could work... so early entry to prevent you from sucking too much in the very beginning, but forcing you to add in base class levels later, to stop you from getting too mighty? Or maybe something like Ultimate Magus does, where at certain levels only one of them gets buffed? I'd imagine as he'd ultimatly be a servant of Boccob, his arcane casting would be the more important one. Maybe at a few of the levels, only his arcane casting improves, but the rest both do, so that he'd really just end up being, say, 2 levels behind in arcane casting, and more like 2, then 3, then later 4 behind in arcane? Is any of this starting to sound balanced?

2007-03-24, 08:21 PM
I like the idea of looking at other, later takes on the Mystic Theurge, namely the Ultimate Magus. Granted, this is a different beast entirely, but it still offers you access to 9th level Arcane spells if you only dip for your spontaneous class, and then gives you ways to -use- your abundance of spell slots in strange and nifty ways.

If I had to make any changes, though...that's where it kind of breaks down. Maybe look at the Archmage and Geomancer and get some ideas for smaller, side abilities: throw a divine slot of equal level when you cast an arcane Fireball and you get to count it as Divine rather than Arcane for Spell Failure and the like? Dunno.

I think you could add a few abilities that draw on your resources to open some interesting options without overpowering the class.

2007-03-24, 08:26 PM
Well Ultimate Magus could be a good point to start if you want to build class that is not useless. Though it combines two aspects of arcane spellcasting you could modify it to be arcane/divine PrC. Also Arcane Hierophant is nice class if you lower down requirements to let us say 1st lvl arcane or divine spells that would allow you to access class earlier. I think it is nice class anyway since it gets some abilities which while not that great are better than MT's nothing.

2007-03-24, 08:36 PM
Use overpowered base classes for spellcasting, like Ur Priest or Sublime Chord, then use something like Fochlucan lyricist to increase spellcasting to the max. Yes, it's cheese.

2007-03-24, 09:07 PM
I've always wondered that if high-level spells break the game so badly that they're "necessary" for high-level play, how do these dual-caster classes really break the system? Don't they fix it, by removing the mechanic that breaks it the most?

2007-03-24, 09:14 PM
Well, the way I see it is: sure, the high level spells are overpowered, but when you really need to get past something, that's when you turn to the wizard and ask him to bring out the grilled cheese. If the party is running on lower level spells, they will be easier to challenge, but you have to keep the kid gloves on a bit because they don't have the mega-cheese to fall back on if you go too far.

2007-03-24, 09:17 PM
I've always wondered that if high-level spells break the game so badly that they're "necessary" for high-level play, how do these dual-caster classes really break the system? Don't they fix it, by removing the mechanic that breaks it the most?The problem is more that the dual-casting is very, very painful at low levels, and ONE FEAT completely obliviates 90% of the need for the class.

The Wiz-3/Cleric-3/Mystic Theurge 1 is a 7th level character casting 2nd level spells... while the Wiz-7 and Cleric-7 are casting 4th level spells.

Meanwhile, the Cleric-7 and Wiz-7 can have Leadership, and have a 5th level Cohort casting 3rd level spells of the opposed type. One feat makes the PrC kinda pointless (except for the possiblity of eventual tricks, like a Contingent Heal or Ressurection in later levels). Most such PrC's (as-is) cap out after 10 levels (a 16th level character casting as a Wiz and Cleric 13) while Leadership at that point can get you a 14th level Cohort... who can still advance as you go up (so between you and your cohort - one feat, mind - you cast as an Wizard/Cleric-16 while your cohort casts as a Cleric/Wizard-14... vs. the Mystic Theurge who's casting as a Wizard/Cleric-13). And with the Leadership option, you can still take PrC's that advance your spellcasting power in other ways (like, say, Loremaster, Incantatrix, Radiant Servant of Pelor, or whatever) which you can't with the Mystic Theurge types.

2007-03-24, 09:19 PM
They don't break system because they suck. They only break it if you take PrC that gives you lvl 1-9 spells over 10 lvls of that class (like Ur-priest).

2007-03-24, 09:20 PM
Leadership is not an ordinary feat, it's an ability granted by DM fiat which just happens to also require a feat slot.

2007-03-24, 09:59 PM
It's all about breaking the speed of progression. Get a class on each side(Ur-Priest for Cleric, Sublime Chord for Arcane 4-9) that acquires spell levels at double the normal rate, and the Theurge(or similar) is now counting as 4 levels(2 of each) of the equivalent PHB class(Cleric, Wizard). Sure, you don't get all the "nifty" class features(like better Turning{who gives a rat's ass? Everyone and his brother uses Divine MetaCheese anyway}, better Familiar{Again...}, and Bonus Feats{every 5 levels? Not really worth it.})

The main limiting factors to "double-classers" are a lack of actions(You can only cast 1 spell a round, barring swift-action/quickened spells), and MAD(barring some crazy combination of classes that use the same base stat).

2007-03-25, 01:39 AM
I think the best thing would be dual casting as a base class with a limited list of spells from each source - something along the lines of the warmage and beguiler lists (maybe there will be equivalent divine casting classes in Complete Champion). So a god of whomping stuff might still use the standard cleric, while a god of trickery would have the beguiler and divine whatever lists or just a stripped down list of cleric spells.

You have your standard progression of save DCs and spell power rolls and can specifically exclude things that synergize too well. You can also wrap a few minor abilities around it to give it more style than the Mystic Theurge.

Another option is creating a dual-casting PrC that allows busting the level caps on lower level spells, increasing caster level, increasing spell DCs and increasing spell power as abilities gained over time (and writing the abilities in a way that they don't become dip-fodder for enterprising optimizers).

Midnight Lurker
2007-03-25, 01:43 AM
It's worth looking at True Necromancer from Libris Mortis. After checking this out, it makes me want to do a complete rewrite of the Mystic Theurge.

2007-03-25, 01:51 AM
For the record, leadership should never be considered when talking about game balance, it is a tool for the DM to fill out a party, not something you use to pimp out your character.

That said, the only way I see dual casters being useful is if they gain some abiltiy to cast multiple spells per a round. Quicken spell isn't enough as they lack the high level spell slots neccesary to quicken their good spells. Perhaps creating a mystic theurge varient where they gain the ability to twin cast arcane and divine spells. Then they will be able to be a wizard and a cleric at the same time, and they will be able to use all of their dozens of spells per day.

2007-03-25, 01:54 AM
It's worth looking at True Necromancer from Libris Mortis. After checking this out, it makes me want to do a complete rewrite of the Mystic Theurge.

Why? True necromancer loses two additional levels of spells from each side over the course of it's progression. It's worse than the mystic theurge for the very reasons people complain about. The special abilities are okay, but if you look at the prerequisites, it's really not worth it. 5 lost caster levels on each side by level 16?

Jack Mann
2007-03-25, 06:14 PM
Wait, Jack_Mann...

No, he's Jack_Simth. I'm Jack Mann. Cool mustache? Jack Mann. Weird rainbow bubble things? Jack_Simth.

This has been a special message from JackWatch.

2007-03-25, 07:09 PM
Hmm... I have an entirely different take on this whole issue. I don't think daul-casting PrCs are that much weaker than straight-up, single-class casters. Because we can't look at characters in a vacuum, we have to consider them as part of an entire adventuring party.

The main limiting factor in D&D, I think we all agree, is the amount of actions a character can take. That's why dual-casters aren't anywhere near doubly effective as single-casters. However, rolling two classes into one character frees up a whole nother slot in the party. So let's imagine that instead of two full casters (a cleric and a sorcerer/wizard, say), you have two dual-casters (Mystic Theurges, for this example).

Each round, you can still have one character casting arcane spells and another laying on the healing or divine buffs. They are slightly less powerful than what the two full casters can provide, but the casters can truly be in two places at once, anywhere on the battlefield.
The real advantage, though, is that you can have two arcane casters or two healers at any given moment. Someone fireballs the party? Both casters can heal. Everyone's healthy? Both can fireball the enemy.

Of course, you do lose an armored frontliner -- you no longer have a heavily-armored, buffed caster (cleric) to mete out punishment with their mace. But I'd argue that the ability to continue casting from either spell list even after one of the two casters is incapacitated almost makes up for this.

Now, I know you would never really have two dual-casters in a party. But a similar flexibility can be achieved by adjusting some of the other classes. A paladin rather than a fighter is a good choice (a little more healing), and perhaps a ranger rather than a rogue (that other frontliner). And it opens a spot for a true specialist in a standard four-character party.

As stated above, it's more of a tradeoff than a clear greater than and less than relationship.

2007-03-25, 07:33 PM
I don't know, you are fighting an uphill battle saying that dual casters are even in the same league as full casters. Being a dual caster stunts your access to higher level spells (especially painful at low levels), gives you a low caster level, gives you MAD(in most cases), and requires you to fulfill two party roles even though you can only perform one in any given round. Also, by taking mystic theurge or what not, you are denying yourself the abilities of better PrCs.

Think of it like this, Lets compare a 3 wizard/3 cleric/1 mystic theurge to a 7 wizard. The theurge is caster level 4 in both classes, and has access to 2nd level spells in both classes, while the wizard is caster level 7 and has access to 4th level spells. While the theurge is trying to heal his party with cure moderate wounds(which is allready fairly weak by this point) and hinder enemies using web, the wizard is casting solid fog and dimension door. The theurge just can't compeate.

Sure a lot of these problums get lessened by the time you hit 20th level, but the vast majority of games never reach that level (It seems like most D&D games hit their zenith around 7th-12th level in my experiance), and that you still have to make it to the high levels where you are more useful.

2007-03-25, 07:40 PM
I'd take 2 specialists over 2 generalists any day. If I really need a heal spell they can provide it 3 levels earlier, if I really need a teleport to get the hell out of dodge they can provide it 3 levels earlier. Finally ... if they really need to lay the smack down with spells, they can do it a whole lot better.