Breaking D&D 3.5: The Muscle Wizard or, How to Rage Your Way to Infinite Spells
Last night some friends and I discussed a fascinating character concept I’ve heard of but not truly understood until now: the Strength Caster. Boosting strength in D&D 3.5 is easier than boosting any other ability score. Spells like the Bite of the Were___, Animal Growth, Draconic Polymorph, and Righteous Might all let casters enjoy having strength as high as or higher than the party Fighter or Barbarian. There’s a human sub-race called Illumians from Races of Destiny. Illumians have customizable sigils that float around their heads and alter their characters in subtle ways. One of those ways is to let a mage derive bonus spells per day from strength rather than a mental stat. You could just call it there, and persist spells that boost your strength so that when you prep spells in the morning you are magically strong. But persist takes effort to cheat for the spells that are really awesome, and that direction has a lot of limits and the spells you net are mostly reinvested into the resources to make the build work, and all that makes me really, really… angry.
I’m so angry that if I’m angry at one thing for at least a year, I might develop a magical ailment from Book of Vile Darkness called Festering Anger. Festering Anger manifests as dark boils across the skin, and erupts after incubating for at least one fury-filled year. When it finally does, each day the afflicted suffers 1d3 Constitution damage, but gains a cumulative +2 enhancement bonus to strength. Also, the afflicted must make a daily DC 22 Will save or “be obsessed with taking actions against the focus of his anger.” While not completely heedless of danger, the afflicted will Lash Out at symbols, minions, or allies of whatever makes him mad if the focus itself is inaccessible.
Healing 1d3 Con damage daily isn’t all that hard (spells, items, etc), but that can drain resources, require access to clerics, and really feels like we’re fighting the disease rather than embracing it. And that makes me really, really angry!
Enter the Cancer Mage, a prestige class also from Book of Vile Darkness. Among the grosser Prestige Classes, Cancer Mages revel in filth, disease, and decay. Their allies are vermin, assassins, and undead. At first level of the class, Cancer Mages acquire the “disease host” ability. Cancer Mages suffer no ill effects of disease except purely cosmetic ones (like Festering Anger’s black boils). That means ignoring Festering Anger’s daily Con damage, while enjoying a daily escalating strength score. Within a week, the Cancer Mage has a +14 enhancement bonus to Strength. After a month, he’ll have a +60 bonus to strength. And he’ll be really, really ANGRY!
With a strength score of 70 and an ability modifier of 30, an Illumian gains 8 bonus 1st and 2nd level spells, 7 bonus 3rd to 6th level spells, and 6 bonus 7th to 9th level spells. But let’s say the rage continues for an entire year more. At a year of living with Festering Anger, the Cancer Mage has hopefully found a good support group for coping with lifelong illnesses (and refrained from angrily slaughtering them), and probably has learned to be careful everywhere he or she goes. When your strength score is about 740, you could sneeze and take out a village. With a strength modifier of roughly 365, you’d have 92 bonus 1st level spells, 91 bonus 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th level spells, and 90 bonus 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th level spells. That’s a lot of spells. And as long as you can avoid a Cure Disease spell, you’ll just keep accruing strength every day! Be sure and make your will save, otherwise you might Hulk out and destroy a continent.
As with most degenerate combos in D&D, run this by your DM before trying it; it is poorly suited to conventional campaigns and is one of those things that tends to ruin games. And that’ll make everyone really, really ANGRY!
As a footnote, Book of Vile Darkness first appeared in 3rd edition, and received a purely cosmetic update to 3.5 later. While that technically makes Cancer Mage and Festering Anger 3.5 legal, some DMs might not count that as 3.5 for their campaign. Then again, no DM should really let this fly unchecked in a sane campaign.
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