Afternoon of the Wolf
Battle Mage Strategy Guide
The archetypal blaster-caster, players of this class are looking to do one thing very well – damage. Nothing else. While there is some variety in the flavour of damage, it’s a pretty simple class – although that doesn’t diminish its tactical importance to the game (if not to a given party).
Like most casters, your spells rely on Fai, so that needs to be as high as reasonably possible. Most of your spells do cost a great deal of MP, so having Int high as well can give you those extra few points, and let you run Observation when there isn’t anything to kill (and with Initiative rolls, you’re probably going to want to shoot the enemy before they take formation or your meatshields get in your way). Useful for dual-classing with other casters as well. Otherwise, Dex will let you throw in some dodge and give you at least some defence, a chance for winning Initiative, and movement. There is not a lot that Str can do for you, as Battle Mage is a class focused around dealing damage and that is pretty much all Str has to offer as well (aside from Endurance).
Battle Mage skills are laid out with a short prerequisite chain – with a key skill much like the Warrior attack. The further down the chain, the more advanced the spells get, giving you more options in combat. They get progressively cheaper to acquire as well, to compensate for the need to sink so much xp to get there. There aren’t a lot of Battle Mage skills overall (of those, not a single one is useful outside of combat), and some of them will be easier or harder to use depending on your playstyle and that of your party, but following at least one chain (even if dual-classing) is important for raising synergy.
Ball Lightning: This is actually a very weird skill which bears some explanation, since the description is fairly concise. It’s effectively a summon/area of effect hybrid, in that it doesn’t move but instead damages everything within its radius of several metres. When it hits, it hits pretty hard (always at d12) to the point where it is generally consumed immediately if it does anything at all, especially against multiple opponents. If it’s dodged or blocked, it might have enough strength to fire off next turn. So it basically is just an AoE with some weird conditions attached, though a spell which fails to hit initially may drive opponents out of its radius. Costly to cast (8MP, sustain 2MP), especially if it lasts for more than a round, and it requires Divine Arrow and Lightning Bolt to get any ranks, but overall good damage if you can get the positioning right.
Chain Lightning: A more family-friendly style of AoE and a staple of many fantasy games. You hit multiple opponents but because you have control over the path it takes, you can usually move it to hit only enemies and not allies. When faced with two enemies close together, you can bounce it between them for massive damage – although if their defence is successful, the effect is diminished significantly. Potentially great damage and great tactical flexibility makes it a good choice, though like its partner Ball Lightning it costs a lot to cast (10MP) and has a couple of prereqs to get in the way. Cheap to acquire (1xp).
Divine Arrow: Much like the Warrior’s Attack, this is your bread and butter. Reliable, cheap (3MP) ranged damage against one target, limited by its being costly to acquire (4xp). You are probably going to be casting this every second turn on average while you wait for the battlefield to shift into a position that best suits your area spells. There’s no reason to put it any higher than it needs to be though, as despite its MP efficiency in comparison to your other spells, its damage output just doesn’t compare. Your other spells are much better for lifting your synergy, as well.
Fireball: Another fantasy staple, and a simpler sort of AoE spell than the lightning series, lower down the prereq chain and cheaper (2xp) too. Usage is straightforward – except be aware that you won’t know the range or the radius until you cast the spell. Radius is half the range of the spell, which tightens up the effective range somewhat especially if you have allies in the way. There is a slight boost on damage when you can reliably hit 5 or more unblocked successes, where targets get set on fire (accounting for an extra few points of damage or costing them a couple of actions), although if you’re struggling to get 5 you’re probably being blocked or dodged half the time anyway.
Inferno: Like fireball, but more powerful, wider and centred on the caster. This makes it incredibly difficult to use effectively, though rewarding if you can manage it. You would need to be in a position where your allies aren’t near you, your enemies surround you (or at least, there are enough of them that your spell will do serious damage), but you’re somehow not in any serious danger despite playing a build with limited defences. It’s doable, but the number of situations where it’s more viable to attempt to use it than apply another spell for similar results is limited. Quite expensive to cast (10MP) as well. While the lightning series seems to offer superior tactical options, you will get slightly more damage out of a well-placed Inferno, and spend less xp. Just don’t expect to use Inferno very often.
Lightning Bolt: The prerequisite for the more complex AoE lightning spells, this one is much more straightforward, pun not intended, and easier to deploy without friendly fire (again, pun not intended). However its use is almost completely eclipsed by Chain Lightning – for only 2 more MP and one less roll, you surpass the straight line limitation and potentially deal more damage. Or for significantly less MP you can cast Divine Arrow, affecting only a single target. Unless all your enemies are already in a straight line, Lightning Bolt is a bit of an empty prerequisite, but since those spells it permits are quite good, it’s difficult to dispense of Lightning Bolt.
Redirect: Your defence skill. It’s costly to use (4MP a pop – as a defence, this really adds up) though cheap to acquire at a high enough level to counter most attacks that come your way. Given that it not only stops attacks but then deals damage makes it extremely useful, but its MP cost coupled with the high costs of your other combat spells may make it worthwhile to pick up a cheaper defensive measure from another class.
Will of Arthur: A powerful, general buff/debuff enabling you to boost any ally’s attack or defence and lower those of your enemies. Straightforward and effective, but expensive to cast.
Abilities: Will of Arthur is worthwhile provided that you aren’t using any other classes, as usual. Battle Mage synergy gives access to Mana Shield, a curious ability which allows you to burn MP instead of taking damage (Necromancers receive a spell which is similar and more efficient, but expensive to acquire). Given how expensive your spells are you probably won’t use it much, but if you’re concerned that the next hit will drop you it’s worthwhile to give it a spin. Otherwise choose the same as you would with any other caster, it’s all pretty much flavour.
Dual-classing a Battle Mage
The narrow scope of your skills means that you’re almost certainly going to want to dual-class just to have something to do other than blow things up. Warrior and rogue is generally a bad fit – while the idea of an exploding melee fighter may be appealing, it’s difficult to spare the xp to take enough Inferno. Those classes are quite capable of dealing damage, and they don’t really work as well with the spellcasting of Battle Mage. Other caster classes, especially those without round-by-round activity or any sort of damage output, can work very well with a chain of Battle Mage spells. This is a bit less viable for Channellers with Void, though.