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The Tome of Magic has the Binder class and the Anima Mage prestige class.

Let's assume a Binder/Sorcerer wants to take the Anime Mage prestige class as soon as possible.

Probably he would want the Improved Binding feat, because then he would be able to bind 2nd level spirits while he had just one level of Binder.

Possibly he might be able to use the "Precocious Apprentice" feat to cast a 2nd level arcane spell with just one level of Sorcerer.

However, the prestige class also requires a metamagic feat.

Ideally, one could have Binder 1/Sorcerer 1/Anima Mage 1. But I don't know if there's a way to get enough metamagic feats.

I assume the player gets two feats at level 1 and one feat at level 3. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

Is it legal to say that the character can enter 3rd level, take the metamagic feat without having a class, and then take the "Anima Mage" class?

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Welcome to the site! Please take a look at the tour and the help; they're a useful introduction to the site. And once you have 20+ rep, feel free to join the chat! –  Tridus Mar 23 '14 at 10:38
Welcome to the site! A word of advice, since this is your first question: Wait at least 24 hours before marking an answer as "accepted". While this is generally a good idea to make sure different viewpoints have time to emerge, it is especially important in this case - I happen to know there are some very different opinions on how this should be handled floating through the community. –  Ernir Mar 23 '14 at 13:15
Thank you, Tridus and Ernir. I've noticed some controversy about the use of "Precocious Apprentice" - apparently the designer wanted to issue errata saying it shouldn't be used in the manner I described. –  dataquerent Mar 24 '14 at 13:08

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Zero Binder Levels

Stupidly, anima mage does not require levels in binder at all. The Bind Vestige and Improved Bind Vestige feats are sufficient to meet the binding prerequisite:

Special: Ability to bind a 2nd-level vestige

That’s all there is to it, and Improved Bind Vestige says this:

Benefit: When you bind a vestige using the Bind Vestige feat, you do so as though you were a 5th-level binder. Thus, you have access to vestiges up to 3rd level, though you still can bind only one at a time and gain only one power from it.

(emphasis mine)

Worse, the sloppy wording of the anima mage's Soul Binding class feature means that if you have no levels in binder, anima mage levels "stack" with your zero levels, so that you make pacts as a binder of the same level as your anima mage level would.

Soul Binding Bonus: At each anima mage level, your soul binding ability improves as if you had also gained a level in the binder class. Your anima mage levels and binder levels stack for the purpose of determining your bonus on binding checks, the effectiveness of your vestige-granted abilities, your ability to bind higher-level vestiges, and the number of vestiges you can bind. You do not, however, gain any other benefit a binder would have gained.

Nothing in there says anything about “existing” binder levels or levels in a binding class you had before taking the prestige class. Compare the very next section, on the anima mage’s spellcasting:

Spellcasting: At each anima mage level, you gain new spells per day and an increase in caster level (and spells known, if applicable) as if you had also gained a level in an arcane spellcasting class to which you belonged before adding the prestige class level.

(emphasis mine)

So, for example, a wizard 3/anima mage 3 casts spells as a sixth-level wizard and binds vestiges as a third-level binder.

It goes without saying that doing this makes the two feats worthless, except for avoiding binder levels.

Effective Character Level: cannot be 1st

You can never take anima mage as your first level character level because prestige class prerequisites must be met the level before you take the class, and you'd never get the spellcasting requirements without class levels anyway.

Achieving the minimum-level entry: ECL 2 (many options 1/Anima Mage 1)

It is possible to enter anima mage at second level, however, as a human with flaws. You need four feats: any metamagic feat, Bind Vestige, Improved Bind Vestige, and Precocious Apprentice from Complete Arcane (page 181, not with the rest of the feats), or some other single-feat early-entry trick for 2nd-level spells.

There are also skill requirements to worry about: 4 ranks each of Intimidate and Knowledge (the planes). Strictly speaking, the level-up rules have you choose skills before feats or gain class features, so you have to be a class that gets both of these as class skills; you cannot rely on a feat to give them to you if you want 4 ranks at 1st level.

For several classes (bards, beguilers, maybe shadowcaster, and arguably warlocks oddly enough), this is all you need, since those classes have Intimidate and Knowledge (the planes) in-class.

For wizards, that means being an enchanter with the Social proficiency variant from Unearthed Arcana. As a variant class, the social proficiency enchanter gets Intimidate in-class natively, not as a separate class feature.

Sorcerers and others: minimum ECL 4 (Sorcerer 3/Anima Mage 1)

Sorcerers can get Intimidate by taking the Battle Sorcerer variant from Unearthed Arcana, but I can find no variant that gives sorcerers Knowledge (the planes) in-class (the Planar Sorcerer substitution levels have it, but the earliest you can take one is Sorcerer 5). So for a sorcerer, the minimum ECL is 4, as the sorcerer needs to take a feat to get Knowledge (the planes) in class but neither has the option of getting such a feat at 1st (already spent all his feats) nor could he choose his skills from 1st level after taking the feat even if he had one, so he has to wait until 3rd level to get another feat.

Several other classes (e.g. dread necromancer, warmage, wu jen) are in a similar situation (lacking one or both of Intimidate and Knowledge (the planes) in-class, and have the same minimum. Non-enchanter wizards are almost in this situation, but the Fighter Bonus Feat variant allows the wizard another 1st-level feat, which could get Intimidate in-class and allow entry as Wizard 2/Anima Mage 1 (ECL 3).

I strongly recommend all DMs ban this, however

With a single binder level and the Improved Binding feat, you qualify for anima mage and actually have the Soul Binding class feature to progress. This is far more balanced and appropriate, so I strongly recommend that DMs require that single-level dip.

Preventing Improved Binding from working, and requiring three levels of binder, is going too far. That makes anima mage a huge self-nerf that doesn’t seem appropriate.

Banning Precocious Apprentice and other early-entry spellcasting tricks is also strongly advised.

So the result is prepared-caster 3/Binder 1/Anima Mage 1 or spontaneous-caster 4/Binder 1/Anima Mage 1. So I suggest that you consider ECL 5 the first level you could take as anima mage as a sorcerer.

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Thank you. After I posted the question I saw some rumors that my proposed use of Precocious Apprentice had either been denounced or errata'ed by the rule designer, but I couldn't find any actual proof. –  dataquerent Mar 24 '14 at 13:10
@dataquerent Errata definitely didn't happen. People occasionally argue about needing spells, plural, while Precocious Apprentice only gets one, but that argument is weak (sorcerers, for example, can also only cast one spell of a given level the first time they access that level). I have no idea, nor do I personally care, what the designer has said afterward. I ban early-entry abuse most of the time in my games because I think it's bad for my games. Doesn't matter to me what the designer thinks. –  KRyan Mar 24 '14 at 13:29
@KRyan I just want to add a bit... If I remember well, on the Prestige Classes from the DMG, there was a section about designing your own PrCs. There was some directives, if I remember well, saying that a DM should prevent any character from getting a PrC before 5th level. When I get home I will check this up. –  Thales Sarczuk Jul 2 '14 at 20:37
@ThalesSarczuk Regardless of what the DMG said about DM-designed PrCs, they explicitly broke that rule on occasion (e.g. master specialist from Complete Mage), so that apparently did not apply to their own stuff. Even a reasonable, non-cheesy entry to anima mage is binder 1/wizard 3/anima mage 1 (i.e. qualifying as ECL 4). –  KRyan Jul 2 '14 at 20:42

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