Arcane Dissector (3.5e Prestige Class)

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The Search for Knowledge[edit]

The Dissector, as by the name, constantly seeks to know more about the world, the magic, the plane, the dimension she or he lives in. They are very inventive people, constantly seeking new discovery, in the broader range of things, like finding that the secret of a powerful Paladin is that her sword is actually a Demon, controlling her so that when she accumulates enough followers the Demon will kill them all and her in one fell swoop, or on a smaller scale, like charting which nerves in a creature are best affected by spells of the electric descriptor.

Becoming a Dissector[edit]

This class is very becoming of a Wizard, merely because it allows their intellect to benefit them in combat. It isn't a class for the weak, however, so a Fighter not as fond of the sword and shield (or bow and arrow, or whatever) could use their combative strengths well in the class. Rogues also work well as Inquisitors, their natural agility helping them to avoid an untimely death. Bards might be able to play this class, I'm not sure how well it would compliment their existing skills. Barbarian, also a maybe, obviously Illiteracy would be an impediment. Sorcerers and Paladins are both Charisma based, and I don't think Paladins would find the Inquisitors code of conduct...Honorable enough...

Entry Requirements
Alignment: Any Non-Lawful.
Skills: At least 6 ranks in four separate Knowledge skills, must have ranks in Survival or Heal.
Feats: Track (Or Ranger ability), Magical Aptitude.
Spellcasting: Caster level (Arcane or Divine) 3rd.

Table: The Dissector

Hit Die: d8

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Saving Throws Special Spellcasting
Fort Ref Will
1st 0 2 0 2 Dissection, Preserve Corpse, Studied Attack, Nerve Spot 2d6 +1 Existing Arcane Class
2nd 1 3 1 3 Canny Defense, Improved Tracking +1 Existing Arcane Class
3rd 2 3 2 3 Nerve Spot 4d6, Poison/Disease Resistance +2, Poison Use +1 Existing Arcane Class
4th 3 4 2 4 Mind Over Matter, Dissect Magic +1 Existing Arcane Class
5th 3 4 3 4 Gaze Resistance, Poison/Disease Resistance +4 +1 Existing Arcane Class
6th 4 5 3 5 Indomitable Will, Nerve Spot 6d6 (x2 Str) +1 Existing Arcane Class
7th 4 5 4 5 Evasion, Poison/Disease Resistance +6 +1 Existing Arcane Class
8th 5 6 4 6 Bonus Feat +1 Existing Arcane Class
9th 6 7 5 7 Nerve Spot 8d6, False Pretenses (Bonus Feat, Unearthed Arcana), Poison Resistance +8 and Disease Immunity +1 Existing Arcane Class
10th 7 7 6 7 Mindcage (Ex) +1 Existing Arcane Class

Class Skills (6 + Int modifier per level)
All Knowledge, Spellcraft, Concentration, Decipher Script, Heal, Survival, Diplomacy, Handle Animal,

Class Features[edit]

The Dissector prestige class is all about preparation and the careful dissection of the situation. All of the following are class features of the Dissector.

Spellcasting: At each level, you gain new spells per day and an increase in caster level (and spells known, if applicable) as if you had also gained a level in a Arcane spellcasting class to which you belonged before adding the prestige class level. You do not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained. If you had more than one Arcane spellcasting class before becoming a Dissector, you must decide to which class to add each level for the purpose of determining spells per day, caster level, and spells known.

Dissection: By examining a creature, the Dissector retains certain information and gains insights about its strengths and weaknesses. The Dissector must have an Alchemists kit, or be in some kind of medical facility, laboratory or academic study with the proper tools to perform the identification of his specimen. The specimen can be alive or dead, though by the DM's discretion freshness of a specimen might yield to better results before decay sets in. After 30 minutes of study, the Dissector is able to determine the creatures diet, most of its natural attacks (of course the obvious, like a monstrous scorpions tail, but perhaps retracted claws or stingers, where poisonous attacks lie), the reach of its attacks, and whether or not the creature bore disease. The knowledge from dissecting a creature gives the Dissector a +1 insight bonus to AC versus that specie of creature. The number of different insight creature bonuses he can retain is equal to 3 plus his Intelligence modifier, for an unlimited amount of time. She can inform her allies so that they receive the same bonus for a duration of one day. With an hour of dissection and a knowledge check DC 10 + Monster's HD, she can also determine the creatures weaknesses and resistances, along with weak points on their body. This allows the Dissector to ignore a number of points of the creatures natural armor bonus equal to her class level. After this point the Dissector can make an appropriate check to determine if anything could be gained from further investigation, such as testing for elemental weaknesses and so on.

Studied Attack: A number of times per day equal to her class level plus her Intelligence modifier, the Dissector may declare a 'studied' attack. The Dissector makes an appropriate Knowledge check against the creature~ the check fails automatically if the creatures type doesn't correspond with the check (If there is no appropriate check, make an Intelligence check instead). If the check is substantial (above the DC of just knowing the simpler things about the creature or its type), the Dissector adds her Intelligence bonus to attack and damage rolls against the creature, along with her normal modifiers. The Dissector does not know whether or not she succeeded on the check, but does know what information about the creature she recalled in the the process of the check. The Dissector can automatically make a studied attack against a creature she has dissected for at least 1 hour, and gains a +5 bonus on the Knowledge check against creatures similar to those in her memory.

Preserve Corpse: Using an alchemists kit, the Dissector can replicate the effects of Hold Portal or Gentle Repose on any freshly dead body. Using a Craft (Alchemy) check to determine how many days the effects last, the corpse/auras are preserved for a number of days equal to the check result.

Nerve Spot: As an alternative to a studied attack, the Dissector is able to use the anatomy of a creature to deal extra nonlethal damage with a unarmed strike, provoking no attacks of opportunity. The Knowledge check for the attack is the same, but the non-lethal damage + Strength and Intelligence modifiers to both to-hit and damage roll can be much more useful in capturing live specimens. This damage increases with level, along with the Strength multiplier for the attack, if applicable. These attacks do not count toward the daily limit of studied attacks, and can be used during a grapple or pin as an unarmed strike would. The creatures touch AC is used to determine whether or not the attack connects or not. One feat may be spent to treat this attack as though using the Stunning Fist feat, one additional time per day plus a number of uses equal to their Intelligence modifier, as well as using their Intelligence modifier for the Fortitude save involved with the attack. [1]

Canny Defense: By second level, the Dissector is capable of applying his intelligence modifier to his AC against creatures he has dissected, up to it's Dissector class level. [2]

Improved Tracking: The Dissector gains a +4 bonus on Survival checks made to track any Magical Beasts, Outsiders or creatures with spell-like or spell-casting abilities the same as or similar to one that it has dissected or studied, because of the Dissectors experience with reading auras. This ability also negates certain terrain modifiers that would affect the Dissectors ability to track a magically-inclined subject, simply because he is following their aura not their snow-covered tracks. Additionally, those wielding magic items of any degree of power leave behind a traceable aura, and can be considered targets of this ability.

Poison/Disease Resistance: Through research and experimentation, along with the copiuos study of the Arcane and meditation, the Dissector builds resistances against ill effects like poisons or diseases.

Mind Over Matter (Su): Once per day, the Dissector can force herself to supernatural limits. In a split second, the scream of the mind can force the body to perform at amazing heights of power. This ability allows the Dissector to employ her Intelligence bonus on any Strength or Dexterity based check, or add the bonus to any saving throw. When this ability is used, it sometimes even allows the Dissector to retry a failed saving throw or check with the new bonuses when applicable (At DMs decision).

Dissect Magic (Sp): Through constant study, the Dissector gains even more knowledge regarding magical auras and the like. The Dissector gains the ability to spend one hour to replicate the spell Identify, five minutes to replicate the spell Detect Magic (for another five minutes, the radius of this ability doubles, but only once), and thirty minutes to replicate the spell Dispel Magic, adding her Dissector level and her Intelligence bonus to determine caster level. These abilities are cast from the Dissectors notebook, after having jotted down a few magic symbols and incantations, and can be cast a number of times per day equal to the Dissectors class level plus her Intelligence modifier, as the casting process resembles that of a Wizard.

Poison Use: [2] It allows the use of various poisons, with no risk penalty of applying them. The Dissector can still be poisoned, however, just not from the poison she is applying herself at the time of the application.

Gaze Resistance (Su): [3] The Dissector gets a +10 bonus on saves made v.s any gaze effects influencing her thanks to her research in the matter.

Indomitable Will: Through their studies and dissections, Dissectors gain very strong willpower. This ability gives the Dissector a +2 bonus to resist any mind-affecting or compulsion effects.

Evasion: Learning to be particularly agile people because of their exploits, Dissectors gain Evasion as per the Rogue ability of the same name. Where they succeed a Reflex save to take half damage where applicable, they instead take no damage. [4]

Bonus Feat: May be spent on any Item Creation feat for which the Dissector meets prerequisites, or Apply Graft (Fiend Folio, Wizards of the Coast) without need of meeting prerequisites.

False Pretenses (Ex): [5] If the Dissector succeeds on a saving throw versus a charm or compulsion effect, the creature attempting the charm believes that you failed your save. You can play along voluntarily if you wish to. Telepathic commands from the creature from the effect can still be received, though the user of the feat is not obliged to comply. As a Dissector ability, in addition to the standard feat, it also provides a +4 bonus v.s charm or compulsion effects.

Mindcage (Su): This ability is the most powerful of the class. At tenth level, the Dissector has discovered the final secret of her trade. To learn this power, the Dissector must seek out another Dissector of tenth level and study under them for an entire year. At this point, however, they advance to the tenth level and gain the Mindcage. With their notebook of carefully sketched arcane runes and designs, and hours of information about creatures and their anatomy trapped inside of it, their mind becomes tied to its pages, granting truly supernatural abilities. Henceforth, the Dissector no longer needs to review the book to prepare or cast spells, nor does she need to look at its pages to review creatures noted within. By merely touching the book it confers to her all of the information within, providing a permanent +4 bonus on all Knowledge checks regarding creatures of any kind. In addition, finally, the Dissector can perform her most fearful attack. Labeled within each of the now infinite pages of the powerful magic book is a symbol representing the Imprisonment spell. To use the effect, the Dissector must make a ranged touch attack, adding her Intelligence modifier to the attack roll. Success means that the target must make a Will save, against a DC equal to 10 + half caster level + her Intelligence modifier. If the Dissector has analyzed a creature like it before, it instead takes a -4 on the Will save. Success on the Will save means the creature is unaffected, but becomes much more wary of the Dissector, usually immediately attacking her until death. Failure means that the creature affected is Imprisoned within the book, becoming nothing but a page of text within. The Dissector immediately gains all knowledge about the creature, as though having completely dissected it already, merely by touching the book. Additionally, she may summon the creature from the pages of her book, treating it as though she had summoned it by the usage of a Summon Monster spell, enacting full control over it until the duration of the spell ends, a number of minutes equal to her Arcane caster level plus her intelligence bonus. After the duration, the Dissector may choose for it to remain as is or send it back to exactly the place she captured it. Either way, the creature recalls nothing pertaining to the Dissector or its capture, but can still attack her if it sees fit and she seems a viable target (Assuming she allowed it to remain after its summon). At that point, the creature is free of the book, and the text departs from its pages, the Dissector losing the knowledge recorded by Imprisoning the monster. This ability may be used a number of times each month equal to her intelligence modifier. Summoning does not count towards the uses of the ability, and the book can contain a number of monsters equal to 10 plus her Intelligence modifier.

  1. The feat otherwise functions as the Stunning Fist feat, described on P101 in the 3.5 Players Handbook as published by Wizards of the Coast, July 2003. Nerve Spot was also an idea published by Wizards of the Coast, in a book called the Ultimate Prestige Classes Guide, a class feature of the Prestige class "Monster Captor". I adapted the ability slightly for the class, so don't assume the Monster Captor's Nerve Spot ability functions in exactly the same way. Not that you would, or that I'm accusing you of anything.
  2. 2.0 2.1 This ability was not, in origin, my idea, I believe it first appeared as a class feature of the Duelist in the 3.5 Version of the Dungeon Masters guide, under the Prestige Classes section. It is intended to function in the same way as that ability. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "refname2" defined multiple times with different content
  3. I didn't think of this ability, it was a class feature of the "Monster Captor" mentioned above.
  4. Identical to the Rogue ability of the same name, Players Handbook, Wizards of the Coast [Ver 3.5, P50].
  5. As seen as the Spelltouched Bonus feat in Unearthed Arcana published Feb 2004 by Wizards of the Coast (P93).


Dissectors who become lawful usually choose that path to study deeper in medicine or healing, and once they do so they cannot gain further levels in the class until they change back. They retain the knowledge they have gained, however. Dissectors who choose to no longer follow the path, for most reasons, are still able to retain the benefits of the study and experiments they performed while advancing in the Dissector Prestige class. Usually, though, when someone decides to no longer be a Dissector, they do not turn back.

Campaign Information[edit]

Playing a Dissector[edit]

Combat: Typically, the Dissector avoids combative encounters unless she has made the proper preparations. The element of surprise is the Dissectors weakness, which is why she almost always keeps company. If there is a fighter, hang back a few paces, flank the enemy, but make sure the fighter is the one taking the damage.

Advancement: Most Dissectors progress into the prestige class from Rogues or Wizards, or some mix of the two. The Arcane Trickster prestige class (3.5 Dungeon Masters Guide, Wizards of the Coast) seems like it would compliment the class nicely. Taking levels in some class resembling the Monk would also greatly assist the Dissector, adding to the damage of Nerve Spot and providing bonuses to AC.

Resources: Dissectors almost never run into each other, since the career is such a rarity. When they do though, they view each other as artists, exchange notebooks, and sometimes form lasting friendships. On the other hand, sometimes a Dissector can be insane enough not to tolerate the others intellect, and would plot to kill them. Either way, it would be an interesting experience, but a rarity among rarities. There are certainly some guilds of Dissectors, working with Rogues and Wizards in the shadows of great cities, but they conceal themselves well~ Even from those of their own kind.

NPC Reactions: Most characters in the campaign would probably get a bad first impression if they met someone who was cutting up and examining a dead body. The Dissector always has a slightly mad or eccentric look about her, frazzled from not getting enough sleep because of research, or possibly with an (almost always accidental) unconcealed bloodstain from the last dissected monster. They certainly don't get along all that well with those of their race, or clan or even closest family, making them a lonely people. Often, they befriend those in the lower workings of the city, those as insane and as dark as themselves.

As NPCs, the Dissector can fill the role of the insane Wizard-like person, locked away in a tower performing diabolical experiments. They could be the Necromancer's, creating troops of undead, the Illusionist, stealing and meddling with sacred artifacts, the wicked Enchanter, luring fresh specimens into their keep with their mysterious and beguiling magics. Either way, it is a class meant to fill a large persona, Player controlled or not.

Adaptation: Big shoes to fill. It can be the last puzzle piece to fit in, if you orchestrate it well. However, characters who start taking levels in the Dissector class may be likely to get on your nerves a bit, or you to they. There needs to be information, knowledge worked into the campaign, some kind of intriguing discovery for them to follow. Otherwise, they just become a dull blade, not quite owning up to the expectations of the Rogue, the Wizard or even the Bard of the group. Bards! That is somewhat what you could consider the class to be, except even more Knowledge-dependent and less people friendly. That would be the easiest thing to compare them to, kind of an odd support character, able to help a little bit on several fronts, but with some rather eccentric strong points.

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