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This is another one of my theory crafting dives:

Factotum grants the Arcane Dilettante (Sp) feature at 2nd level.

In summary it is a spell like ability that lets you choose a limited number of spells each day to cast as spell like abilities. There is a limit to the maximum spell level that can be emulated, and it uses your class level as it's caster level.

Found in the feats section of Monster Manual 3 are two feats that allow you to enhance spell like abilities with either Empower or Quicken, similar to standard meta-magic. Each is usable 3 times per day, and there is a math formula to how high of a simulated spell can be altered with the feat (based on caster level).

My questions are:

  • Do these feats interact with the Arcane Dilettante (SP) class ability? If so, how?
  • Does this mean I get to add 3 applications of empower or quicken per day to any spell I can cast through this feat so long as spell level limits are observed?
  • If they don't interact with the class ability, can they interact or be applied to the actual spells being emulated and casted as spell like abilities?
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I’m not really clear on what you’re asking in the second bullet point. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 21, 2021 at 12:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Basically - its an overall concept check. 3 times per day I get to prepare a spell like ability that has quicken and/or empower on it without actually raising the needed "Spell Slot" of the spell like ability. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 21, 2021 at 19:17

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I love the factotum, but it is notorious for its poor editing. This is just another example. Note that Dungeonscape never received errata. Frankly, the fact that the class was written by Jason Bulmahn, who later created Pathfinder, which is equally-notorious for its failure to correct mistakes, seems telling.

The Sp almost-certainly refers to the fact that arcane dilettante gives you spell-like abilities, not that it is itself a spell-like ability. The process of preparing arcane dilettante SLAs, itself, makes little-to-no sense as a spell-like ability, and frankly leaves us no good answer to questions like yours (though I’ll try, below). This is out of keeping with the standard practice in 3.5e, where abilities that give you a set of abilities are untyped—contrast the “Invocations:” on Complete Arcane page 7, which is a feature that allows you to pick out some SLAs but isn’t, itself, marked with “(Sp).” On the same page, we have “Eldritch Blast (Sp):” which is, because eldritch blast is the name of the SLA itself.

So arcane dilettante shouldn’t have the Sp. Or, if it does, it should, supposedly, mean the actual preparation process described in the arcane dilettante feature is itself spell-like, and that doesn’t make any sense, so this is a “proof” (ish) by contradiction. That makes your questions fairly easy to answer:

  • Do these feats interact with the Arcane Dilettante (SP) class ability? If so, how?

No, because arcane dilettante isn’t, itself, a spell-like ability; it just lets you prepare things that are spell-like abilities. No interaction.

  • Does this mean I get to 3 "Free" castings of empower or quicken if I take the feat so long as spell level limits are observed?

I’m not actually sure what this means, but taking a feat is hardly “free” here, so no? If this is stemming off of assuming a “yes” to the previous bullet point, then also no.

  • If they don't interact with the class ability, can they interact or be applied to the actual spells being emulated and casted as spell like abilities?

Yes. Arcane dilettante explicitly says that the spells prepared through it are cast as spell-like abilities—that means the meta-spell-like feats apply to them.

Trying to puzzle out RAW: can’t just ignore the Sp tag

OK, all that is well and good, but ultimately, Dungeonscape has the “Sp” tag on this ability—at least from a RAW perspective, we can’t just ignore that, even though we probably should. What, then, does it mean?

We’ll start with precedent. There is one other possible RAW case for an ability that lets you pick out other abilities being, itself, an ability of a certain type: “The manifestation of powers by a psionic character is considered a psi-like ability,” Expanded Psionics Handbook page 65. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, no one really knows what that means, either. Most likely, it just means that when you manifest a psionic power, it counts as using a psi-like ability and triggers any “when you use a psi-like ability” rules. It’s not even clear whether “the manifestation” here means the fact that you have powers at all is, itself, a psi-like ability (and it’s utterly unclear what that would mean), or if each individual “manifestation” (read: “casting” equivalent) is psi-like (which is still a bit unclear). So this is our only precedent, and it does not help.

Leaving that aside, if we are to treat arcane dilettante itself as a spell-like ability, the first thing we need to know is its spell level. Every spell-like ability has to have a spell level; it’s part of the saving throw DC calculation, and it interacts with tons of things that SLAs might interact with, such as the meta-SLA feats you note. Arcane dilettante doesn’t mimic any actual spell—which most SLAs do but the rules for SLAs do explicitly note the possibility for SLAs to not do that—so we expect the rules for arcane dilettante to define its spell level. Those rules do not.

This does sort of lead us to an answer to the question of how arcane dilettante interacts with meta-SLA feats: when the feat asks “does this SLA have a spell level below X?” then for arcane dilettante we basically have to answer “we don’t know that it does,” and since the feat requires us to answer with “yes,” we can’t use the feat.

But not all such feats actually concern themselves with spell level. So what about those? Well, first of all, unless the feat specifically says something to indicate it, there’s no reason to assume that the effects of the feat are transferred to all the spells you prepare—you would need to use the feat on those spells individually. Using the feat on arcane dilettante itself only affects the use of arcane dilettante itself, not the SLAs you get as a result.

  • Boost Spell-like Ability (Book of Vile Darkness)—Preparing spells with arcane dilettante doesn’t trigger any saving throws, so boosting its undefined DC doesn’t matter.

  • Consecrate Spell-like Ability (Book of Exalted Deeds)—the act of preparing your arcane dilettante SLAs is now has the [Good] descriptor. That probably makes it a good act (though ask your DM because that’s never actually defined). It doesn’t seem to have any other effect that I can think of, unless you have some other ability that triggers when you cast something with the [Good] descriptor or something.

  • Corrupt Spell-like Ability (Book of Vile Darkness)—evil counterpart to Consecrate, see above.

  • Purify Spell-like Ability (Book of Exalted Deeds)—basically the same as Consecrate, except it also makes the spell do no damage to good creatures, less damage to neutral creatures, and extra damage to evil creatures. Arcane dilettante doesn’t deal damage, so that’s irrelevant; see the above discussion of Consecrate for details on the [Good] aspect.

  • Spell-like Ability Focus (Races of Faerûn)—identical to Boost Spell-like Ability; see above.

  • Spell Stowaway (Tome and Blood)—this epic feat lets you “gain the magic’s effect” when someone else uses the spell-like ability you chose with this feat. So if you chose arcane dilettante, and someone else used arcane dilettante, “you also immediately gain the magic's effect as if it had been used on you by the same caster.” That is pretty awesome, as the effect of arcane dilettante is getting several additional SLAs. You would still have to use your own inspiration points to cast them, and could only use each once, but it’s still a substantial expansion of your capacity. But since it requires 24 ranks in Spellcraft, I don’t particularly care.

  • Supernatural Transformation (Savage Species)—no spell level concerns, but arcane dilettante isn’t “innate” for any creature, so no one can use this feat on it.

  • Violate Spell-like Ability (Book of Vile Darkness)—like Corrupt, but it also changes the SLA to deal vile damage. Arcane dilettante doesn’t do any damage, so that doesn’t matter. So this ends up being the same as Corrupt, which means see the discussion of Consecrate and switch the descriptors around.

And those are all the feats I could find that might have an interaction—the only meaningful one is Spell Stowaway, and that’s epic, and even then it only matters if you have another factotum to use it with.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Most of these have the description that you need to name a specific (singular) spell like ability, chosen at the time you pick the feat. Does that mean I have to name only a single spell that can be used 3 times per day, or do I get to reassign the spell like meta every day when I prepare my spells? Or do I not get to prepare them at all because I can't name a specific persistent spell like ability at the time I take the feat? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 21, 2021 at 19:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, and thank you, as always, for putting together such a detailed answer. ^.^ \$\endgroup\$ Aug 21, 2021 at 19:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PlayPatrice RAW, it does look like you’d have to choose, say, your fireball arcane dilettante SLA, and it would only apply to that when you chose to prepare that. Doesn’t really seem reasonable in this case; talk to your DM about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 21, 2021 at 20:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am the DM.... lol \$\endgroup\$ Aug 21, 2021 at 20:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PlayPatrice Correct, that rule doesn’t apply. These are augmented separately from that rule, the same as other SLAs. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 21, 2021 at 22:34

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