The Dungeons and Dragons mage who specializes in wearing armor and casting verbal-only spells has a limited choice of spells. Even if the verbal mage is set up with the most effective ability scores, features, and items, what are the best tactics to take advantage of the combination of casting spells in armor?
At the lowest levels, your most effective offensive spell is True Strike, which gives you a +20 to hit on your next single attack. What should that attack be? Attacking with a staff (probably the best weapon a wizard is trained to use) does 1d6 damage (plus a Strength bonus, if any), but requires getting into combat. Of ranged weapons, a heavy crossbow is a decent option, but it takes a round to reload, a round to cast True Strike, and then a round to fire. That's 1d10 damage every third round. We can do better.
If you are an elf, you already know how to use a longbow. The damage (1d8) is not the greatest, but it has a good range, and you know how to use it. At higher levels you can shoot multiple arrows a round (only the first shot benefits from the True Strike).
Alchemist's fire is a nice choice, since it does 2d6 damage (over two rounds). But it is pricey -- 20 gold pieces a shot. And no Strength bonus damage. An even better option is a thrown weapon that does a lot of damage. Take trident, for example. It does 1d8 damage on a throw, plus Str bonus. There's a -4 penalty since mages aren't trained in it, but with the +20 to hit, the net +16 is still sweet. And even sweeter -- throw a large trident -- one sized for an ogre, say. Yup, it takes two hands to throw, and it's a full round action to do it, and there's a -2 penalty because it is inappropriately sized, but the damage rises to 2d6+Str. So for a net +14 to hit, you do 2d6+Str damage. Take that, Magic Missile! There's a range penalty, too: -2 if 10 to 20 feet away, -4 if 20 to 30 feet away. But with the True Strike, that's still at +12 or +10.
All the foregoing assumes you are a medium-sized character, such as a human, elf, or dwarf. If you are a gnome or halfling, stick with the alchemist's fire, even though it is expensive, since the smaller weapons that you can weild are not as effective.
Other good things to throw include tanglefoot bags and thunderstones.
Also note that if you are wearing heavy armor with which you are not proficient, then you take penalties to attack with those, too.
If you pick up a couple levels of cleric, fighter or paladin, you gain the ability to use armor without penalty. Your ability to use weapons is broader, too, and you may be proficient with tridents or some other decent weapon. If you are a cleric, you might consider the War domain, which you can use to gain proficiency with trident.
At middling levels, you get good defensive spells (Blur, Displacement, Dimension Door). Blindness, Suggestion, and Shout become your mainstay attack spells. Make friends with the rogue in your party -- she gets sneak attack damage against any opponent you blind. Cast Darkness on a pebble, and she can walk around hiding in the dimness the spell generates. She'll want to put it away in a lightproof container before she attacks, though: any opponent she is near also gains the advantage of concealment, which negates sneak attacks. Of course, all the front-line fighters will love you for your Displacement spells: who would not love a 50 percent miss chance? By the time you are approaching 7th to 9th level, think about taking that Still Spell feat or buying a Metamagic Rod of Still Spell (or two). That gives you some spells with somatic components to play with.
At higher levels, your attack spells really shine. Mass Suggestion and Charm, Irresistible Dance, and the Power Word spells are all awesome! Keep your prime stat (Intelligence or Charisma) as high as possible to boost those save DCs. Buy (or make) the best armor and shield you can.
Now you really are a tank!
This is the third in a four-part series on Arcane Tanks:
- Part one - List of spells with no somatic components.
- Part two - Picking the best race, class, and otehr options for your arcane tank.
- Part three - Best-practice strategies for your arcane tank.
- Part four - A few custom magic items for your arcane tank.