Death Ray Sorcerer (3.5e Optimized Character Build)
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Many new players are attracted to the Evocation school because it represents a lot of damage in a tight package. You need to know a lot of tricks and rules to make your fighter the boss of the room, but all you need to know with Evocation is that a fireball causes big hurt to a bunch of guys right now.
Wizards are good for this. Sorcerers can be better. It's all about metamagic, of course. But hurting enemies is blase. Let's add a battlefield control aspect that goes beyond your non-blast spells.
All you need to know is that sorcerers get "free" metamagic built into spells if they so choose. Your role as a Death Ray Sorcerer is to take Energy Admixture, Born of the Three Thunders, and Rapic Metamagic, and turn your foes into pudding by causing 24d6 damage with a level 2 spell. With no reflex saves to protect the enemy.
The Death Ray Sorcerer, as far as optimized and tuned casters go, is about tier 2. It's not a Gnome Shadowcaster or a Red Mage abusing Simulacrum, but it's because it's tier 2 that you can probably get away with building it in a midrange to high level campaign. It's powerful, but not strictly unfair.
- Player's Handbook
- Complete Arcane (Energy Substitution, Energy Admixture, Born of the Three Thunders feats)
- Complete Mage (Rapid Metamagic feat)
- Complete Scoundrel (Any skill tricks you want, but specifically the Spellwarp Sniper PrC)
- Unearthed Arcana (Flaws, if permitted)
- Dungeon Master's Guide (Optional - let's you see what Metamagic Rods you can abuse)
 Game Rule Components
Take Energy Substitution at level 1 and pick electricity. This makes Born of the Three Thunders work.
Having a decent Int score will help you get some extra skill points at level 1, which is necessary to buy 4 ranks of Knowledge (Nature). You need that to acquire the Born o/Three Thunders feat.
Blasts you're most likely to want:
- Scorching Ray (Lvl 2 Evocation) - ray deals 4d6 fire damage; extra ray every four levels past 3rd, up to three rays (12d6)
- Fireball (Lvl 3 Evocation) - bead of fire bursts into 1d6/level, max 10d6; reflex for half
- Cone of Cold (Lvl 5 Evocation) - cone of cold energy causes 1d6/level, max 15d6; reflex for half
Between the above three spells, the Energy Sub/Admix feats, and the Born o/Three Thunders feat, you'll be able to deal all forms of energy damage minus acid. That hole in your damage suite will occasionally come up if your DM is paying attention, so picking up Orb of Acid (Spell Compendium) can save your life.
Other spells you'll like having:
- Invisibility/Greater (Obvious reasons)
- Dimension Door (Sometimes you need to run)
- Black Tentacles (Covering your team's flank is important)
- False Gravity (If you can shoot from ten feet up a wall, what's a fighter going to do?)
You don't outright need items, but you'd be a fool not to have them.
You're a sorcerer, so you're squishy. Push to get the best rings of protection, bracers of armor, and gloves of dexterity that you can. You should also try to find a good item to buff up your constitution. More hit points makes for a better sorcerer.
Charisma is what drives your spells, as well as Born o/Three Thunders' saving throws. A good cloak of charisma will serve you well.
Potions that provide buffs to dexterity, constitution, and charisma are more than welcome to you.
Finally, once you start getting big money (or moderate money AND you have an Artificer in your party), try to pick up a rod of metamagic for the Empower or Maximize spell feats. Lesser works fine for the Death Ray Sorcerer; you'll be relying heavily on Scorching Ray and Fireball to do your business. If you find yourself in a pinch, you'll suddenly be doing even more damage than you should be.
Starting Ability Scores (Before Racial Adjustments): Assuming 32 point buy: 8 14 16 14 8 16
Race (Templates): Because this build is feat intensive, it almost has to be a human.
|Saving Throws||Feats|| Class
|1st||Sorcerer 1||+0||+0||+0||+2||Energy Substitution, Born of the Three Thunders, Dodge/Skill Focus: Concentration, Toughness||Spells, Summon Familiar||Two flaws that don't effect ranged combat|
|3rd||Sorcerer 3||+1||+1||+1||+3||Point Blank Shot|
|6th||Sorcerer 6||+3||+2||+2||+5||Energy Admixture||Make sure you have 8 ranks in Concentration and Spellcraft|
|7th||Rogue 1||+3||+2||+4||+5||Sneak Attack +1d6, Trapfinding||You may want to dump a ton of ranks into Tumble and Use Magic Device|
|8th||Spellwarp Sniper 1||+3||+2||+4||+7||Spellwarp, +1 lvl to Sorcerer||Keep up your Spellcraft skill|
|9th||Spellwarp Sniper 2||+4||+2||+4||+8||Rapid Metamagic||Sudden raystrike +1d6, +1 lvl to Sorcerer|
|10th||Spellwarp Sniper 3||+5||+3||+5||+8||Precise Shot (bonus)||+1 lvl to Sorcerer||Fireball is now a ray|
 Other Components
Remember that if your target is denied its dexterity to armor class, you add your sneak attack damage to your rays.
This build is modest as far as casters go, but here's the run down: combining Energy Admixture with Scorching Ray and Fireball and then applying Rapid Metamagic is stupid and unfair. The limitation that a normal sorcerer has is that metamagic increases his casting time to full-round action. Rapid Metamagic makes that moot.
By level ten, you cast as a level 9 sorcerer dealing level 18 amounts of damage. Scorching Ray hits for 16d6 on a single target, 8d6 on two targets, and jumps up to 24d6 by CL 11. Fireball deals 20d6 to groups of enemies by level 11. You can open up with a fireball to cripple a group and aid your fighter in the fray with pinpoint ray-fireballs; as a ray, fireball does not allow for the reflex-for-half save. Since Energy Admixture turns your fire spells into electricity spells as well, they qualify for Born of the Three Thunders; this lets you stun your ray targets, and even knock them down. Ever lost a fight to a bunch of monsters that just took 8d6 and got stunned and knocked prone? No? How 'bout that...
Furthermore, as you progress in Spellwarp Sniper, your rays become better and include spells as high as level 5. Also, you can add whatever sneak attack damage to your rays you can get. It thus pays to progress in Rogue a bit, since you get a Reflex boost and Evasion from the Rogue class anyway.
There are a few, to say the least...
- Sorcerers are squishy - with d4 hit dice, usually the best way to handle a sorcerer is just to punch it in the face. Be sure you have high dex and con scores to deal with this weakness.
- Spell Resistance - because this build superpowers low level spells, any monsters with above average spell resistance pose a consistent threat to the Death Ray Sorcerer. What's worse, the Monster of Legend template can grant monsters both improved stats and the Reflective Carapace ability. Watch out for anything described as "mirrored."
- Energy Resistance/Immunity - evil outsiders can be a bit of a challenge for the Death Ray Sorcerer, since demons and devils are immune to electricity and fire damage respectively. Demons also have fire resistance 10.
- Antimagic Zones - the bane of all casters. Beholders thus make for aggravating foes to the Death Ray Sorcerer, since they can produce that horrible Antimagic Cone. If the sorcerer is cornered in that cone and close enough to get chewed up by the beholder, it's over.
- Low, low Fortitude saves - this ties in to being squishy, but has a different nuance. Certain spells can take a huge advantage of this low save, like Implosion. As a DM, try to be nice, but remember this gaping weakness.
- The rays are all ranged touch attacks - as such, enemies with high reflex saves will be irritating at the least, and a huge threat at the most. If the Rogue you pit against the Death Ray Sorcerer has the Spell Reflection ability instead of Evasion (see chapter 2 of Complete Mage), the sorcerer could quickly be eating his own Scorching Ray.
 Side Notes
This is a strong, 10 level build. It deals a lot of damage as a standard action, perfectly complementing a balanced adventurer group; as a designated blaster, you free other arcane casters up to play more specialized roles themselves. But more importantly, the optimizing portion stops at lvl 10. Which means you gain freedom to sculpt your Death Ray Sorcerer.
Also, because it realizes its potential at lvl 10, you are free to do as you will for ten other levels. You might max out on Spellwarp Sniper and take 8 levels in Factotum to get Cunning Surge; an extra standard action each turn means another 20+d6 more damage. You might start taking Rainbow Servant at lvl 11 to get divine magic as a complement to your arcana. Because it relies on charisma as much as the sorcerer and gives you an array of item creation feats, you might find artificer blends perfectly. Who knows, that's the fun. ^-^
If you aren't permitted flaws, you may have to make some heady sacrifices. Of course, if you're jumping right into a mid-level campaign, you won't have as much need for Dodge, Skill Focus, or Toughness. Those help the most at early levels.
This build can't work as it is. Energy Substitution has prerequisites: Know (Arc) 5 ranks, and another metamagic feat. Sorry.
-87PMPV Not to mention that Energy Admixture increase the level of the spell being used to levels that this build can't handle. FAIL
Not to mention that Knowledge(nature) is cross class for Sorcerers, and you won't have the requisite 4 for Born of Three Thunders until at least level 5.