Eddy the Arcane caster

Back in 2009, I played around with describing myself in terms of the way the game Dungeons and Dragons describes its characters. I've since explored variation in the results from time to time. Here, I explore the details of what it would take to describe me (in D&D 3.5) as the Wizard/Sorcerer (4/3) that first came up in this frivolity. You almost certainly won't find this page even remotely interesting unless you're amused by DnD.

There are two ways to approach the frivolity: one is to try to make choices that would make the DnD-me resemble the real me as closely as possible; the other is to consider which choices I would make, if I were actually living in a world that works according to the game's rules, given the rough sketch of me as start-point. The former may be somewhat hard, precisely because our world doesn't work much like that of DnD; while the latter is of course an entirely silly thing to consider.

As a general rule of thumb, I'll treat DnD's magic as sort-of-equivalent to science and (particularly computer) technology, based on the somewhat geeky nature of each in its world and absence from the other's world.

Regardless of my choices, I have (using the first set of results I ever got)

although the last may get some enhancements from the choices below. Most of the above wouldn't depend on the precise mix of how many levels I've put into Wizard and Sorcerer, variously. I can read and write.

One of my feats and one skill point per level come from being human; which also eliminates any penalty from my multiclassing. I move at 30 ft per round when carrying up to 43 lb (i.e. less than 20 kg) and am middle-aged, albeit not far from becoming old; in youth, my Str, Dex and Con were higher while my Int, Cha and Wis were lower, by one each; once I'm old, I'll lose another one from the first three. My height of 6'2" is 16" above base, so my height modifier is 16; this is high in the 2d10 range but entirely feasible. My weight is c. 107 kg or c. 235 lb; this is 115 lb above the human male base-line; dividing by 16 (height modifier) gives 7 (and a fragment), which is again high in the 2d4 range but still feasible. I'm almost too fat (for my height) to be an adventurer !

As I'm large and a bit tougher than average (Con and Str > 10), I might actually be quite effective with a wizard's seldom used quarterstaff; and I could probably pass for a Monk, if I chose to dress suitably (and my familiar is good at hiding among my clothes). The confusion that might cause for opponents could work to my advantage; and some of the feats it might make sense for me to take could enhance that confusion. After all, delivering a touch attack with an unarmed strike could both enhance impact and obfuscate just what exactly I did to my opponent.


I get to chose:

along with various details like which weapons and equipment I carry around and how I've spent the roughly 19 thousand gold pieces I can reasonably be supposed to have accumulated by level seven. I probably don't wear armour (unless you count the leather gauntlets I wear in winter – I should probably have those enhanced in some way).

For the familiar, a rat would be a good choice (it improves my Fortitude to +con+2+2 = +4); but, in reality, no animal accompanies me – unless you count assorted effigies; a china cat and a glove-puppet Tigger. (Tiger isn't available as a familiar, although a Druid at level 7 can have one as animal companion. Having a cat familiar (which appeals because I like cats) helps an arcane magic user move silently; but that's not really something I attempt often.) Then again, see the Improved Familiar feat, discussed below.

I don't see any particular specialisation to match a schools of magic; and certainly didn't make one at level one, which is when that decision has to be made. Given the long association of draconic with wizards, the geeks of their world, I guess that's a reasonable choice for one of my languages (albeit loosely the game's surrogate for Latin, which I was taught without ever becoming fluent). In reality, I used to be almost fluent in French, until (lack of practice and) learning Norwegian displaced much of my vocabulary; rolling with the general impossibility of matching game languages and real-world ones, I'll observe that Scots English has a clear flavour of Norwegian in it, so replace the common caricature of dwarves speaking with a Scottish accent and use Dwarven as my surrogate for Norwegian.

Skill ranks

Each class has its own list of skills that come naturally, called class skills; when taking a level in a class, its class skills cost one skill point per rank; all others are termed cross-class and cost two skill points per rank; I spent five points at each level, except level one when I spent four times as many. I'm not allowed more than (character level +3 = 7+3=) ten ranks in any class skill or more than five (half as many) in any cross-class skill. There's a good bit of overlap between the lists of class skills for Wizard and Sorcerer, so it's worth classifying skills according as they're cheap for both, for one or the other or always expensive. Of the latter, I won't list all available skills, just a select few that I think may be worth spending some ranks in anyway, or that I actually do have some competence in:

Concentration (Con)
Pretty important for spell-casters; and my constitution modifier is zero, so I need ranks to do well in it.
Craft (Int)
This covers each of several crafts, in which I'd need to take ranks separately. Item creation feats (see below) typically take a relevant non-magical (but often masterwork) item as raw material for magical enhancement; having a suitable craft skill can enable the magic user to save on the cost of that, or to have it available when none are in supply. Artisan's tools (especially masterwork) can help a lot with craft checks. Some of the more relevant variants:
Making assorted special materials and related things. Technically, I studied chemistry (which naturally corresponds to alchemy) until I was eighteen (it fell by the way-side to let me focus on physics and mathematics); but that lead more to knowledge than skill ! An alchemist's lab (albeit expensive and heavy) can help a lot with this.
armorsmithing, bowmaking, trapmaking, weaponsmithing
Making and repairing the indicated types of equipment. Not something I've ever learned in real life.
Knowledge (arcana) (Int)
Requires training. See below (Wizard) for general remarks on Knowledge. Covers knowledge relating to ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols, cryptic phrases, constructs, dragons and other magical beasts. I chose to treat it as cover, in real life, the obscure details of information technology, with which I'm reasonably familiar.
Profession (Wis)
Requires training. Like Craft, this covers several cases; I'm not sure which (if any) are interesting. Examples (found by searching the d20srd): miner, hunter, forager, bookkeeper, herbalist, siege engineer.
Spellcraft (Int)
Requires training (i.e. must take some ranks to exercise this skill). Obviously fairly important to all spell-casters; particularly so for wizards, as some uses of this skill are specific to them. Skill in Knowledge (arcana) can help with this; while this skill and Use Magic Device can reinforce one another.
Decipher Script (Int)
Requires training. Enables reading materials despite not being fluent in the script or language involved. Quite useful for arcane magic-users. In real life, I entertain the delusion that I'm moderately good at this (all those years of learning Latin left me with negligible knowledge of the language, but a peculiar ability to make guesses about related languages).
all flavours of Knowledge (Int)
Requires training. For Knowledge (arcana) see above, as Sorcerer also gets it. In real life, I've devoted a lot of time and effort to acquiring knowledge, albeit some of it more out of curiosity or for amusement than for utility; at least the topics covered by geography, history and local; a bit of architecture-and-engineering, nature and religion; maybe some the-planes if you count astronomy as corresponding to it; otherwise (dungeoneering, nobility-and-royalty) not so much.
Bluff (Cha)
Covers diverse ways of misleading others; feinting in combat, creating diversions and pretending to be doing one thing while doing another, as well as the flavours of lying that the term naturally means.
Balance (Dex)
Covers walking on any kind of tricky surface, whether because it's narrow, slippery or merely uneven. Related to Tumble. Confident in activities with listed DC around 15, nervous beyond.
Climb (Str)
Covers everything from cliffs to trees. I spent much of my childhood scampering around in trees; but never learned to climb rock. Confident up to c. DC 15.
Diplomacy (Cha)
Covers (honest) persuasion, rhetoric and negotiation (contrast Bluff) of both other folk and (wild empathy checks) beasts; oddly, I seem to manage quite well at the real-world equivalent, at least with strangers, even before I took a course in rhetoric. Reasonably confident up to DC 15.
Jump (Str)
What it says. It's been a while since I've done much jumping, but I used to be good at it (long bones help); and all that tree-climbing gave me plenty of practice at jumping down. Again, confident to c. DC 15.
Listen (Wis)
My familiar gives me a +2 bonus on Listen, when within 5 ft of me; combined with my wis=3, that gives me a +5 modifier without any ranks. Given that I don't actually hear particularly well, that sounds like I don't have any ranks in it.
Ride (Dex)
Modelled on riding a horse. The game is absurdly generous in how easy it makes that sound; enough so that my dex=3 alone is enough to ensure basic competence in riding, which is as much as I claim.
Spot (Wis)
Determines when and whether you notice approaching creatures and the like. With a +2 bonus from my familiar and wis=3, I have +5 before I take any ranks, as for Listen; but I think I'm better at noticing things visually (as long as I have my glasses on) than by hearing; and (with my glasses on) I have fairly good eyesight. So may deserve some ranks.
Swim (Str)
Covers one's ability to avoid drowning and to keep going while swimming. I've coped well with rough water and am fairly good at holding my breath, so suppose I have a modifier significantly better than the +1 my str gives me.
Tumble (Dex)
Requires training. Models agile movement, particularly dodging the movements of others while moving near them. Includes the ability to land more safely than usual from a fall, even when unexpected. I am relatively competent at these things, although dex=3 can account for at least some of that; still, I've danced vigorously on a ship in a storm during which others barely dared get up and walk when they had furniture to hold onto, and I'm used to dancing through the spaces between others on a crowded dance-floor, usually without spilling their drinks. Five ranks here would imply synergy bonuses of +2 to Balance and Jump, plus a 50% improvement in how well defensive combat works.
Use Magic Device (Cha)
Requires training. Can get synergy bonuses from Spellcraft and Decipher Script, both cheaper for me.
Use Rope (Dex)
Relates to all the things one normally does with a rope. I'm reasonably proficient at knots but not especially so at the other things the skill covers. With dex=3, it wouldn't take many ranks to match that.

So let's try:

SkillClassAbilityMiscRanksModifierCostSynergy ID
Knowledge (arcana)W,Sint=2575Ka
Decipher ScriptWint=2575DS
Use Magic Devicecha=3(+2[DS]+2[SC])14(+4)2
Use Ropedex=33
Craft (alchemy)W,Sint=2131
Knowledge (geography)Wint=2131
Knowledge (history)Wint=2131
Knowledge (local)Wint=2131
Knowledge (architecture and engineering)Wint=2131
Knowledge (nature)Wint=2131
Knowledge (religion)Wint=2131
Knowledge (the planes)Wint=2131

Each [bracketed] item in the Misc column is an indication of where the preceding numeric item comes from; some are Synergy IDs from other rows of the table; rat indicates a bonus from my familiar (if I had one); Ath a bonus from the athletic feat (see below). Entries in (parentheses) only apply to some, not all, uses of a skill.


As noted above, I get Scribe Scroll automatically due to being a Wizard; I get to chose four others (one each at levels 1, 3 and 6 plus a bonus at level 1 for being human), and have two more coming at relatively imminent levels. Potentially interesting candidates:

Item Creation
In parallel with the importance of the Craft skill, enhancing equipment is an important business for magic users. They can save a lot of money by crafting their own magic items and adding their own magical enhancements to existing items; all of which is controlled by a relevant one of these feats (once the caster has attained the level given for CL). The feats' names (here split; the verb links to the feat, the nouns link to lists of the items to create) strike me as self-explanatory enough:
Enables one to adapt a spell in some way, at the expense of needing to use up a higher-level slot for the spell; numbers (in parentheses) beside each indicate how much higher the slot is. Spells lacking the attribute improved by a feat are not affected by it.
Empower (2)
Gain a 50% increase in the variable numeric effects.
Enlarge (1)
Doubles the range of many spells.
Extend (1)
Makes spells with numeric durations last twice as long.
Heighten (chose)
Increases the effective level of the spell; useful when this makes it more effective.
Maximise (3)
Make random numeric values in the spell's effects take their maximum possible values; can be combined with Empower, above.
Quicken (4)
Reduces the casting time of a prepared spell, provided it could be cast in one round, to instantaneous, leaving one's hands free to do other things in the same round (including casting other spells); also avoids attacks of opportunity.
Silent (1)
Skip the verbal component of a (non-bard) spell.
Still (1)
Skip the somatic component of a spell (i.e. avoid the need to flap arms around while casting).
Widen (3)
Double the area affected by spells of certain types.
Eschew Materials
Eliminates the need for cheap enough material components.
Improved Counterspell
When countering a spell (for which a counter-caster normally needs to be ready to cast the same spell or a specialised countering spell), any spell of the same school and higher level will do.
Spell Focus
Chose a school of magic; gain +1 to the difficulty foes experience saving against spells of this school. Has a greater extension that increases the +1 to +2.
Spell Mastery
Chose int (2, for me) wizard spells; learn them well enough to be able to prepare them without need of a spell-book.
Spell Penetration
Gain +2 on checks to overcome a foe's spell resistance. (I could interpret the foe's spells as bugs in programs, to have this model my ability to find and fix them.) Has a greater extension that improves the +2 to +4.
Generally, these burn a feat to achieve results that can equally (and in some respects better) be achieved by taking ranks in relevant skills. Given that I have only four feats to chose, compared to fifty skill points to spend, that's not generally a good trade-off. However, they do avoid the limit on skill ranks and aren't sensitive to whether the skill is class or cross-class.
Combat Casting
Assorted Concentration (see above) checks, relevant to arcane casters get a +4 bonus. This is worth less than four skill points.
Appraise and Decipher Script checks get a +2 bonus. Worth nearly six skill ranks, as Appraise (Int) is cross-class – but not listed above because it's not one of my high priorities.
Swim and Climb checks get a +2 bonus. Both are cross-class, so this is effectively worth (nearly) 8 skill points. It's a half-way decent way to model my greater proficiency in these two skills, relative to other strength-based skills; albeit taking ranks in Swim and Climb would equally do that.
Tumble and Jump checks get a +2 bonus. Both are cross-class, so this is worth (most of) 8 skill ranks.
Magical Aptitude
Spellcraft and Use Magic Device checks get a +2 bonus. (The result is a bit like being particularly good at working out what a technology does or how it works.)
Heal and Survival checks get a +2 bonus.
Skill Focus
Chose one skill and get a +3 bonus on all its checks. May be worth applying to one (or two) of the skills most crucial to arcane casters (see first few lines of the table above).
Helps with various stamina-related checks decided by constitution. I have done various long walks that I doubt the game rules would allow, without this, with my con=0 modifier. Has Diehard as a follow-on feat, that I certainly don't (presently) have; might be nice to take at a later level, though.
Improved Familiar
This expands the list of available creatures to serve as familiar. Since I don't actually have a resident animal, I'm eligible to acquire a familiar (and lack the +2 bonuses to Spot and Listen tagged rat in the skills table above), so this would be a reasonable option to consider for one of my imminent levels. As my alignment is true neutral, it imposes no constraint on the alignment of the creature I could adopt; and I like the phrase Almost any creature of the same general size and power as those on the list makes a suitable familiar. A pseudodragon sounds quite excellent and is, in any case, on the given list; I'm high enough level, with alignment close enough to neutral good, to have one as familiar.
Improved Unarmed Strike
This would support the subterfuge of appearing to be a Monk at first sight.
Lightning Reflexes
Reflex saves get a +2 bonus.

So I think my two feats at first level (one all players get plus one for being human) were probably Athletic and Endurance, acquired at the same time as Scribe Scroll from my first level in wizard; at least, I had Endurance and Athletic by the time I graduated, and could already write computer programs. At level three, I think I took Craft Wondrous Item (which requires CL 3); once I'd been working in my profession for a while, I became proficient at creating the wondrous things (computer programs) it's expected to produce. For my feat at level six, I guess Magical Aptitude (interpreted as noted above) is not wildly unrealistic. That just leaves me to think think about what else to take at level nine and my next wizard level.


My four levels in Wizard enable me to (learn, prepare and) cast spells up to level five (Int minus ten); as a Sorcerer, up to level six (Cha minus ten). My int = 2 grants me one bonus Wizard spell per day at each of levels one and two; and my cha = 3 grants me one bonus Sorcerer spell per day at each of levels one, two and three. (I'm not entirely sure of the mechanics of spell-casting, so I'm not entirely sure of this next part; but I'm guessing I can only cast, via each class's mode, the spells available to me via that class's mechanism.) As a third level sorcerer, I know five zeroth-level spells and three first-level spells; each day, I can (without needing any preparation) cast six zeroth-level spells and six first-level spells (the one spell each at levels two and three, from the cha=3 bonus, don't help me because I don't know any spells of those levels yet).

As a wizard, I started out with all zeroth-level spells recorded in my spell-book, plus 3+int = 5 first-level spells; as I gained each level, I added two new spells to my spell-book, for a total of eight. Those had to be spells of levels I could cast, but my bonus spells per day from int = 2, along with my Int−10 = 5 spell-level limit, meant I could cast spells up to second level from the start; so those eight spells are split between levels one and two any way I want. (Even if I was allowed spells up to level five, I'd have stuck with this so as to be able to use them before Wizard level nine.) I might have transcribed some spells from other sources, too. Each day, after a full night's sleep (eight hours) I can prepare (and subsequently cast) up to four zeroth-level spells, three first-level spells and two second-level spells; preparing them takes an hour, without interruptions. I have to chose which spells when preparing (and can prepare several uses of a single spell) and I can only prepare spells from spell-books available to me – typically only my own.

Now, in reality, I can't cast any spells and none of the spells matches particularly sensibly as an analogue of things I can do, so it's not sensible to try to model myself; it's only sensible to consider which spells I would in fact select, in each category, if I were really able to cast them. As a Wizard, spells are only really useful to me in so far as I'm apt to have actually thought to prepare them, on the morning of the day that I have occasion to cast them. Spells that are apt to be useful randomly, without one having any real chance of anticipating the need, are of little use to a Wizard; but they're ideal for a Sorcerer, since no preparation is needed. So it makes sense for me to have, in my spell-book, the spells whose use can be anticipated; and to know, as a Sorcerer, spells whose usefulness can't usually be anticipated.

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