The Power Gamer's 3.5 Wizard Strategy
(The 100% Official Guide to Kicking Monster Butt and Winning the
Strategy guides and hint books for computer adventure and
role-playing games have a long history , existing almost as long
as the games themselves. I remember long before the internet,
reading walk-throughs and hints from Scorpia in Computer Gaming
World and on the dial-up service GEnie. They've now become almost
an industry to themselves, with virtually every game getting at
least one official guide and many popular games get one or two
However, a strategy guide or a hint book to a pen & paper
roleplaying game is somewhat novel. I can't think of any before
this series, "The Power
Gamer's 3.5 ___________ Strategy Guide" from Goodman Games (in this
It's dedicated to helping players create characters who excel in
combat (and all around adventuring) created purely through the
use of the actual core-rules, not additional splatbooks.
I guess for one reason, creating characters to take advantage of
the rules system or maximizing a characters abilities according
to the rules is often given a bad name, "Min-maxing" or
it's like watching reality TV. A lot of people do it, few people
Another thing, few companies want to admit their rules systems
are broken or can be
exploited, and so won't publish a book on it themselves and
other companies really can't (or won't). Since d20 lets anyone
publish, not just the company that put out the original rules,
other companies can.
Although the name of the book say it's for wizards, it's actually
also for sorcerers as well. On the other hand, it says for other
arcane spellcasters, but the other arcane spellcaster, the Bard,
isn't really covered. So it's just for Wizards and Sorcerers. Or
"Mages" as the book collectively refers to those two
It's solely based on stuff in the d20 SRD, so it's 100%
"official", that is, no 3rd party feats or skills or
spells or such. So if you are a player, the advice in this book
should apply to you unless your DM has house rules. And even if
he does, then it will at least get you thinking strategically and
tactically when it comes to your character.
The Book Itself
The book divides spellcasters into 4 archetypes - Blaster,
Controller, Saboteur, and Support Specialist. Blasters deal
damage to enemies, Controllers manipulate and weaken opponents,
Saboteurs alter the battlefield and and Support Specialists make
the rest of the party better. By picking one (or maybe two)
archetypes, the mage can do that job better than if he tries to
do something of everything.
The first part of the book deals with creating a character. That
is, which races work the best, and how to assign a character's
stats, as well as feats and even which familiar is best.
While some of this is obvious, a lot depends on what sort of role
the mage will play. For instance, while everyone needs a high
intelligence (or charisma for sorcerers), "blasters"
will need a high dexterity to help them with their ray and touch
attacks. While not every archetype has a different priority,
there is some difference.
Spellcasters have two special sorts of important feats: metamagic
(which improves spells cast) and magical crafting (which lets
them make magical goodies). The wizard gets a fair amount of
feats, but a sorcerer doesn't, so just which feats to pick can be
Which is the better metamagic feat, "Empower Spell" or
"Maximize Spell"? In most cases, according to the
guide, "Empower Spell" is better since it costs one
fewer spell level. Similarly, just which item creation feats are
best to get? What are the downsides of each one? And how about
other general feats, which ones are worth taking? Most players I
know take "Combat Casting" to help spellcasting in
combat, but this book makes an excellent case that "Skill
Focus (Concentration)" is an all around better pick.
What spells a mage casts is just as important as how well he
casts them, so there is a large chapter on spell selection.
For damage spells, there is a handy chart which displays the
average amount of damage done by that spell by each level of the
spellcaster. Including lower level spells maximized and empowered
by metamagic and how much damage is done if the target makes
Spells for other archetypes aren't as obvious, but each gets a
breakdown on which spells are worth using and which spells sound
useful but aren't.
Some of the advice could be clearer. For instance, there's a
section called "The Half Life of Burning Hands" which
discusses how some spells are more useful at lower levels, but
then get to be less useful as the casting level increases. It
shows a chart of an empowered Fireball vs. Cone of Cold and how
Cone of Cold does more damage at higher levels.
I would have liked to have seen charts (or simply a list) of
other spells that are also less useful at high levels. It
mentions that "Scorching Ray" is starting to get long
in the tooth at 15th level, but provides no alternative to it.
They say clothes make the man, and there is certainly some truth
to that when it comes to what sort of gear a mage has. This guide
shows which items are generally too costly for what they deliver,
while what other items are bargains.
This is especially useful for players who are familiar with
earlier versions of D&D, but not 3.5. Because some magic
items have changed dramatically in their usefulness. For
instance, Bracers of Armor. They used to be pretty decent. But
now they cost more than the bonus they give is really worth,
since a similar result to a +4 Bracers of armor can be achieved
by using 2 pearls of power to simply cast "Mage Armor"
twice a day with a savings of about 14,000 gp.
So you've finally got your mage statted up, feats selected,
spells picked, decked out with magic items. Time to chew
bubblegum and kick ass. But how to best deal with a type of an
opponent? Well, that's covered here, too.
Opponents are broken up into five different categories. Critters
(animals, oozes, plants, vermin), Fiends (outsiders, elementals,
dragons), Terrors (aberrations, constructs, fey, some magical
beasts), Toughs (giants, humanoids, teamsters), and Undead (me
after that last joke). With further advice with dealing with
Each archetype of mage is given advice on how to tackle that
given category of opponent, along with a more specific example of
an opponent in that category.
Lastly there is an appendix listing which spells are best for
each mage archetype as well as various probability charts. I'm
not sure you'd want your DM to see you use this book, so I don't
know how useful those are in practice, unless you want to
photocopy them and hide them in your copy of the PHB.
The book is apparently aimed more for function than looks. It's
nice and clean looking, but has no artwork in it except for the
occasional diagram or chart. As it is, the book is pretty much
full, so I guess there is no room for artwork, but if there had
been, I think some cartoon/comic style illustrations similar to
some in the original Dungeon Master's Guide would have been
The book is a well written (and often funny) and fascinating
analysis of the wizard and sorcerer classes, and in a way, of the
magic system of d20. It's not just for power gamers or munchkins,
any d20 player will gain insight into the arcane magic system.
Also it seems quite valuable for would be game designers,
especially ones making new spells, to accurately gauge the power
of their new spells. It's also just the thing for DMs who want to
make their player's lives miserable, yet stay within the rules.
It's not perfect though. I would have liked to have seen more
info on multi-classing and prestige classes. There's really very
little info on that, just a small bit in the feat section
analyzing some possible feat selections for a fighter/wizard or
paladin/sorcerer. The exclusion of prestige classes is somewhat
glaring, since I would suspect most high level characters would
take one, but aren't sure if some of the abilities are worth the
loss (for instance, the Arch Mage gives up some slots to get some
other slots, so which is better is hard to say without a rigid mathmatical analysis that this book thrives on). I also would have liked to have seen some prebuilt sample mages at various levels.
So it seems to me, they could have made a more comprehensive
book, including that (particularly info on prestige classes, as
they are important to mid to high level characters) and perhaps
some artwork and made into a 128 page book (which also generally
are a better deal for the consumer, since they only cost a few
dollars more). Still, not being the publisher, I just don't know
how feasible that was. A few typos (including the dreaded page XX
error) are about the only flaws in this product. B+
(4.5 for Substance rounded up since it really is useful, 3 for style)
(And yes, my blurb doesn't make much sense, but at 4 am in the morning it was amusing enough...)