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I'm trying to build a Dragonwrought Kobold Ultimate Magus, but I'm having trouble deciding whether I want to do it based off a Wizard/Sorcerer or Wizard/Warmage. On one hand, Sorcerer is a Kobold favored class and lets you choose what spells you want to know as you level up (including some decent-looking Sorcerer-only spells from books like Races of the Dragon and Dragon Magic), but doesn't seem to have very many spells known. On the other hand, Warmage allows for use of light armor and the application of your INT modifier to spell damage (being a Dragonwrought wizard with some very good dice rolls, I have quite the INT modifier) as well as a decent-sized list of spells known, but with the downside of having a pre-selected list of primarily offensive spells with little room for customization.

Anyone have any information or experience that may help me decide?

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Related: KRyan's answers in rpg.stackexchange.com/a/21978/5901 and rpg.stackexchange.com/a/18336/5901 –  Ernir Feb 14 at 20:59

3 Answers 3

Warmage: Just a bad class

The warmage spell list is pretty awful, and Warmage Edge just doesn’t add enough damage to be worth it.1 Armored spellcasting is much too easy to do to get excited by it as a class feature.

Finally, note that warmage class features frequently don’t help wizard spells:

Armored Mage (Ex): [...] Nor does this ability apply to spells gained from a different spellcasting class.

and

Warmage Edge (Ex): [...] The bonus from the warmage edge special ability applies only to spells that he casts as a warmage, not to those he might have by virtue of levels in another class.

Neither of them is worth much in general, but they’re worth much less to you.

Long and short: adding wizard to a warmage certainly helps the warmage, but it doesn’t help the wizard much.

1 In fact, Warmage Edge isn’t even worth investing in Intelligence for a single-classed warmage above, say, level 5; the damage just isn’t enough to justify diverting resources from Charisma, Constitution, and Dexterity. At very low levels, it can be a kind of significant amount of damage, possibly justifying some investment.

Sorcerer: Far more powerful, broken with dragonwrought shenanigans

Sorcerer gets a far better spell list than the warmage, and with Greater Draconic Rite of Passage, you can make up one of your missed levels. With Loredrake (which you arguably might qualify for but a DM would have to be insane to let you), you can make up a lot more.

Ultimately, I recommend sorcerer, but not the shenanigans. They aren’t necessary and just break the game.

Beguiler: Not mentioned, worth considering

The enchantment/illusion version of the warmage, but without a lot of the problems. Like the warmage, the beguiler comes with a more-or-less static list of spells, but knows all of them. Unlike the warmage, that list is quite good, and moreover beguiler spellcasting is based on Intelligence, which works quite nicely for a wizard. Finally, it’s a 6+Int skill class, so it makes a great choice for ECL 1 when you get ×4. Just throwing it out there. Ultimately, you can probably do more with the sorcerer because the sor/wiz list is so great, plus there’s always dragonwrought shenanigans uniquely available for sorcerer, but beguiler is in many ways easier (less diving for spells) and more elegant (all Int-based).

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Warmage

On the other hand, Warmage allows for use of light armor and the application of your INT modifier to spell damage (being a Dragonwrought wizard with some very good dice rolls, I have quite the INT modifier)

It's worth noting that these things only apply to your Warmage spells. When casting one of your Wizard spells, you don't get the damage bonus and you have to deal with arcane spell failure. That detail is on page 12 and 13 of Complete Arcane.

Nor does this ability apply to spells gained from another spellcasting class.

The bonus from the warmage edge special ability applies only to spells that he casts as a Warmage, not to those he might have by virtue of levels in another class.

Given that, if you have to use one of your Wizard spells in combat while wearing medium armor, you are going to have some problems with arcane spell failure. It's not as great a mix as it sounds due to that problem, but if you plan your spells correctly it can be a good combination. Use your Warmage spells in combat, and use your Wizard spells as buffs, utility, or with the Still Spell metamagic feat to negate the arcane spell failure chance). Spells without a somatic component will also not have problems.

Ultimate Magus gives you some abilities to help with this:

  • Augmented Casting would let you use a Warmage spell slot to spontaneously apply Still Spell to a Wizard spell, allowing you to negate the armor check penalty on the fly if the spell is within the allowed levels (1/2 UM class level).
  • Expanded Spell Knowledge lets you take a spell from your Wizard list and add it to your Warmage list, and when cast as a Warmage it would gain the benefits. This is on top of the Warmage's Advanced Learning ability.

Sorceror

Sorceror has fewer spells known, but a much wider list of available spells. It also doesn't have abilities that will stop working if you need to cast a Wizard spell. Because of that it's an easier option to work with. It can fill gaps in your Wizard spell list, cover for a forbidden school, and so on. It 'plays nice', as it were.

Some thoughts on the comparison

Which one you'd want to use is going to depend on your comfort level with the problems that come with mixing Warmage and another caster. If you are okay with dealing with having to apply Still Spell or risk spell failure a lot if you use your Wizard spells, then being able to wear armor can be helpful. If you're not okay with that, Sorceror is a much easier to work with choice and plays more nicely with Wizard.

Personally I don't believe that light armor (and eventually medium if you put enough levels into Warmage) is worth all the tradeoffs considering that Wizards have a lot of other ways to gain defensive toughness, but it can work pretty well if you expect to get attacked a lot.

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Performing the Greater Draconic Rite of Passage will grant you a 'free' level of sorcerer spellcasting if you are a sorcerer. This is helpful to make up for the 'lost' levels, at least a bit.

Another benefit of the sorcerer is that he can pick spells the wizard is disallowed because of school specialization.

Finally, as a Sor/Wiz/UM, you would most likely choose the 'spells that fvcking kill people' on your sorcerer, while as wizard, you would prepare useful utility and defensive spells.

Therefore, I would suggest you go with Sor/Wiz/UM. Warmage as a class is not a good choice, with or without UM.

Still, for ultimate power, you should probably choose a wizard with a different prestige class - or even none. UM is more for flavour than for optimization, because trading a few higher level spells for many lower-level ones in D&D 3.5 is generally not a good trade.

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The question is asking for a comparison of wiz/sor/UM and wiz/warmage/UM; in order for this to be a good answer you should probably mention the warmage. –  BESW Feb 15 at 23:57
    
I thought it was clear that sor/wiz is by far the better combination in this context than wiz/warmage - but i added a line for you. Still, why the downvotes? The highest-voting answers just repeat my main points... –  Mala Feb 16 at 8:14

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