Thursday, February 4, 2016

Questions about Class: the Magus

Once again, a warm welcome to you, readers! We are creeping up on Valentine’s Day, and magic is in the air. Things are getting hot enough to melt the snow away. To clarify, the heat is pouring from our presses and the magic you feel is emanating from an exciting double-bill of products. Of course, I’m referring to the upcoming releases of Into the Breach - the Magus: 2nd Wave and Tides of War – Magus/x: Multi-classing Feats for Magi.

So, to get us warmed up for these fun and powerful books, we have fellow Pincushioneer Dylan Brooks to give us a little more insight on the Magus class.

DM: First off, thanks a lot for taking the time to let us pick your brain.

DB: You’re welcome! The magus is one of my favorite classes, and I’ve got a lot of content in the upcoming Into the Breach – The Magus: 2nd Wave book. I’m happy to chat about it.

DM: Please, tell us a little about yourself and your contributions to Flying Pincushion.

DB: I’ve been a gamer for longer than I care to think about, ever since the old Gold Box computer games back in the 90s. I’ve been playing and running games since then, in a wide variety of systems over the years. My mainstays these days are Pathfinder and Savage Worlds.

I started with Flying Pincushion when Frank invited me to join based on some stuff I posted on the Paizo forums, where I go by SteelDraco. I’ve also been in Wayfinder several times. Personally, I live in the Great White North of Anchorage, Alaska with my girlfriend and several pets, and work in IT.

DM: So, what exactly is the big draw of the Magus class; what makes a player say “I want to play a Magus”?

DB: Because they want to be awesome, of course! All of my favorite characters have had some mixture of fighting ability and magic – I find I don’t really like playing characters who can do only one thing, and I like having lots of tactical options and choices I can make, especially if I can be clever with how I use powers. Magi are great at that. Is this the right round to buff yourself, blast fire all over your opponents, or hit one target for a pile of damage? How about using a spell in a clever way, or take control of the battlefield? The right magus can do all of that.

DM: From a roleplaying standpoint, how easy (or difficult) is it to integrate Magi into a campaign as a PCs, or even NPCs?

DB: I don’t find it’s difficult at all from the RP side. Magi can fit well into any setting where arcane magic has been around for a while, and that includes most Pathfinder settings. The magus is someone who’s perfected a blend of magic and combat ability; the magus fits anywhere that a wizard does.

You run into trouble if magic is still new or mysterious. A magus doesn’t fit as well in something like Conan, where magic isn’t well understood and is mistrusted. That kind of a lower-magic setting tends to stick closer to the “squishy wizard” tropes, and so the magus doesn’t fit as well there.

In setting, I expect elves are the most magus-oriented of the common races. Elves almost always have a strong magical tradition in Pathfinder, and are usually good with a blade as well. The magus fits that archetype perfectly – just look at the Elf from the old D&D arcade game and you can see how far back the magus goes.

One thing that I’ve found difficult is that there aren’t established traditions for how you expect a magus to look and act in settings, unlike both warrior-types and wizards. You know what a fighter’s training yard or wizard academy should look like, and there are examples of that sort of organization all across the hobby. There’s no similar idea of a magus school, so the GM has to add that sort of thing to his setting. That can take some effort, but I think it’s really cool when the GM takes the time to add that level of detail. For example, in one game I was playing, the GM and I worked out two opposing schools of orcish magi. Since orcs thought of the traditional wizard as a weakling, the magus became the most important arcane caster to them, and there were several different lodges of them – the Lodge of the Burning Blade focused on fire magic, while the Dead Brothers preferred necromancy. Those two traditions made their way into ItB: Magus 2nd Wave as the elemental champion and ebon blade archetypes, respectively.

DM: From a technical standpoint, do you feel there is any “wrong” way to optimize a Magus?

DB: Well, the magus class as it stands makes a lot of decisions for you. You can’t typically fight with a two-handed weapon or a shield unless you’re using an archetype because of how spell combat works. You need to use a melee weapon to use spellstrike, so you can’t normally use a bow or a thrown weapon as your primary fighting style. So that means mostly you’ll be using a one-handed melee weapon.

Spellstrike strongly encourages high-crit weapons, like your rapiers and scimitars. The Dervish Dance feat means that a vast number of Pathfinder magi are followers of a certain deity – while this is a powerful option, I don’t think it’s that interesting. I like a rapier or bastard sword more for my magi, though the one I’m currently playing is actually an arcanist/magus who uses a battle axe and switches all his magic to cold spells. Certainly not optimized, but I had a miniature I wanted to use for him and he’s a lot of fun.

One of the things I love about Pathfinder is that there’s a way to build just about any idea you want and make them contribute, so it’s more than possible to play the shield-magus, or the archer-magus with the right archetype. That means it’s hard to say any particular way is “wrong”

– just different preferences.

DM: Magus arcana help provide the players with a wide variety of ways to make their Magus unique. What is your favorite Magus arcana?

DB: That’s a tough call, and it varies considerably between the magi I’ve played. Accurate Strike is really good, especially with my high-Strength, Power Attacking half-orc magus who could tear through just about anything. Arcane Dealer makes the magus into a very cool and flavorful version of Gambit from Marvel Comics. The one I’m most excited to try out right now is Flamboyant Arcana, which lets you combine the mechanics of the magus and the swashbuckler.

DM: Did you ever feel intimidated by the idea of playing a Magus before actually trying it?

DB: Not at all. I read Ultimate Magic and within a few weeks I asked my regular GM if I could switch characters (from an elven ranger/wizard/arcane archer to a half-orc magus). I really liked playing that magus until the campaign ended, at 15th level. We had to hash out how a few things worked (like switching the grip on your weapon from one-handed to two-handed, and how many attacks you get when you spellstrike) but I very much enjoyed it.

Most of the early issues I experienced have been clarified now, by the way. Switching your grip on a weapon is a free action, and spellstrike means you can get two attacks (the free touch attack you get from casting a touch spell can be made with your weapon via spellstrike, and then you get the normal weapon attack).

DM: You’re trying to sell someone on the idea of trying a Magus, but they seem reluctant. What do you tell them?

DB: I would say that the magus can be made to do just about any “magical warrior” concept you might want to play. Do you want to be the big, hulking warrior with a few tricks up his sleeve? You can do that. How about the swift, clever elf with a quick blade and magic to hop all around the battlefield? You can do that. The dwarven runemaster, infusing his weapons and armor with powerful magic to beat his foes into submission? Yup, got you covered there too. If your character concept includes both kicking ass and casting spells, the magus is the class for you.

DM: What do you feel is, bar-none, the most useful class feature of the Magus?

DB: That’s tough. It’s either spell recall or spell combat. Spell recall gets you more spells, which is huge. Spell combat is probably the most efficient action economy boost in the game, as it lets you make a full attack and also cast just about any spell you want. Most other action economy boosts in the game like that are limited use (like Fervor from the warpriest) or are severely limited in what they apply to how how easy they are to get (like Pounce, which is usually really tough to get). A magus can spell combat with every spell they cast in the day, and honestly they have a pretty good reason to do so.

DM: If there was one thing you could change about the Magus class, what would it be?

DB: I would probably expand the weapon properties you could add to your weapon with the arcane pool ability. There are a lot of very useful non-core weapon abilities that could be added to the list. I’d also consider some kind of protection from dispel magic built into the class, as right now they’re very vulnerable to anyone who can dispel their buffs.

DM: Well, thank you, Dylan, for taking the time to chat!

DB: You’re very welcome, David! I encourage everybody to check out the magus and play one if they haven’t yet!