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Shadowcraft Mage Handbook

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Shadowcraft Mage Handbook
A summary of concepts and tricks used to create the Killer Gnome, originally brought to light by Snow Savant.
Further credit goes to Michael Tree, Garjon, and Zweanslord for their discoveries of the Heighten Spell, Earth Spell, and
Arcane Disciple techniques. The original build can be found here. The Killer Gnome has come a long way
since Snow first posted her build, and that thread is essentially a log of the character's evolution from merely solid to
freakin' awesome.
(click to show/hide)
You see a gnome looking impatient, you back away. Slowly.
All spellcasters are faced with the same problems. They have access to a limited selection of spells throughout the course of any given day, necessitating a great deal of planning in order to maintain utility over several encounters. Further, a spellcaster can only increase the save DC of one school of spells at a time through feats like Spell Focus. The Killer Gnome build template is a way to mitigate these difficulties by allowing one school, and indeed one spell, to do the work of three schools. It will allow the character to cast many spells with a high save DC and will do so while maintaining versatility.
The heart of the character is the third level ability of the Shadowcraft Mage prestige class from Races of Stone, so if you don't have access to that book, then this character is not for you, although some of the tricks used may still be of interest. The class's third level ability is called Shadow Illusion, and from it we will construct one of the most versatile spellcasters around.

--- Quote ---Shadow Illusion (Su): Beginning at 3rd level, a shadowcraft mage is able to infuse some of his figments (see the list below) with material from the Plane of Shadow, making them partially real. The subschool of these spells changes from figment to shadow. A shadowcraft mage can use the altered spell to mimic any sorcerer or wizard conjuration (summoning), conjuration (creation), or evocation spell at least one level lower than the illusion spell. The altered spell functions identically to the shadow conjuration or shadow evocation spell, except that the spell's strength equals 10% per level of the figment spell used. A shadowcraft mage can apply shadow illusion to any of the following figment spells: silent image, minor image, major image, persistent image, and programmed image.
--- End quote ---

Effectively, Shadow Illusion swaps the entirety of a figment spell's text with that of a level-dependent shadow conjuration/evocation.

On the Proper Application of Shadow Illusion
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Not so much this ...
Shadow Illusion is a powerful ability, allowing a Wizard who has prepared an image spell to achieve either the spell's original, completely illusory effect or alter it to create quasi-real mimicries of any Sorcerer/Wizard evocation, conjuration (creation), or conjuration (summoning) spell.
Some subtle points to remember about these Shadow Illusions:
[*]Mimicked spells follow the rules for shadow evocation/conjuration spells. This means subschool, components, casting time, range, duration, SR=yes, etc.
[*]While mimicked spells all allow SR, note that instantaneous spells that create lasting effects (e.g. wall of stone) allow SR only at the moment of casting. In the case of a shadow wall of stone, SR only applies to someone you're trying to form the wall around--like, trapped inside the stone, not surrounded by a ring.
[*]Mimicked spells all allow Will (disbelief). Objects automatically make this save, but they only receive it in the first place if they are either attended or magical.

Even without optimization, the versatility gained from this ability is astounding, allowing an illusionist to prepare as many image spells as he cares to, thereby also preparing every spell of the appropriate levels from the mimicked schools. We can do better, though.

Shadow Illusion specifically depends not upon the spell used, but instead upon the level of that spell. Therefore, if one of the image spells were to be level nine, we would be able to use it to mimic spells of level eight or lower. While none of the spells listed is ninth level, the PHB itself gives us the tool that we need: Heighten Spell.

--- Quote ---Heighten Spell [Metamagic]
Benefit: A heightened spell has a higher spell level than normal (up to a maximum of 9th level). Unlike other metamagic feats, Heighten Spell actually increases the effective level of the spell that it modifies. All effects dependent on spell level (such as saving throw DCs and ability to penetrate a lesser globe of invulnerability) are calculated according to the heightened level. The heightened spell is as difficult to prepare and cast as a spell of its effective level.

--- End quote ---

Note that Heighten Spell specifically states that "all effects dependent on spell level" are calculated according to the heightened level. So we treat a silent image spell heightened to ninth level as a ninth level spell for Shadow Illusion, as capabilities of a Shadow Illusion are dependent upon spell level. We can now, using any image spell Heightened to ninth level, mimic any Sorcerer/Wizard evocation, conjuration (creation), and conjuration (summoning) spell of eighth level or lower. And at 90% quasireality to boot, 10% higher than shades.
Heighten Spell is the second linchpin of the character. It should be included in every Killer Gnome build. With it a character need know only silent image in order to cast nearly every Sorcerer/Wizard evocation, conjuration (creation), and conjuration (summoning) spell ever published. All spellcasters will derive great benefit from this: Sorcerers effectively break their spells known limits into tiny pieces, while Wizards can prepare as many images and come close to Sorcerer in terms of spontaneity.
It rankles that we can't mimic ninth level spells, though, doesn't it? Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able mimic meteor swarm, summon elemental monolith, or detonate? You'd think that there would have to be a way.
There is, and its name is Earth Spell.

--- Quote ---Earth Spell [General]
Benefit: ..., you can use Heighten Spell to added effect. If you cast a spell using a spell slot one level higher than the spell's actual level, the spell is treated as a spell of two levels higher and your effective caster level is increased by one. If you use a spell slot two levels higher, the spell is treated as three levels higher and your effective caster level is increased by two, and so on. ...
--- End quote ---

So if, for example, we were to heighten silent image to ninth level, Earth Spell would further increase that to tenth level, letting us mimic ninth level and lower spells at 100% quasireality.
Earth Spell is the final piece of the puzzle that turns the Shadowcraft Mage into the Killer Gnome. Keep in mind that it's also in Races of Stone. There are even some high-powered substitution levels for gnome Illusionists that synergize with all of this. The Shadowcraft Mage truly is a Single Supplement Superstar. Since all your stuff comes from one book, you don't even trip that multi-splat BS sensor that so many DMs seem to have.

Revel in perfection.

More like this.
On Breaking the Game
(click to show/hide)Thus far our gnome creation is a paragon of versatility, capable of "spontaneously" using battlefield control, blasts (which actually scale favorably with level, due to Earth Spell), figments, and random utility magic like Leomond's billet and create magic tattoo. However, while all of this is exceptionally powerful, none of it is really broken.

Let's fix that. Or more accurately, break that.

Residual Magic

This unassuming tactical feat from Complete Mage does two things, and both of them are borked for us.

It gives us ... a lot more spells per day.
By casting a spell modified by a metamagic feat in one round, the feat's Enduring Potency ability becomes active on the next. This ability allows you to use a spell trigger item of the previously cast spell as though it were from your own daily allotment of spells for all purposes. 

So on round one, the Killer Gnome casts a heightened silent image. On round two, he casts a heightened silent image from a 750gp wand, applying all his shadow illusion nonsense. Effectively, this means a high-level shadowcraft mage can spend 15gp to get an extra use of his highest-level shadow illusion. Talk about staying power.

That's all well and good, but here's the truly broken part:

It negates the cost of Heighten Spell.
By casting a spell modified by a metamagic feat in one round, the feat's Lingering Metamagic effect can apply that metamagic feat to a spell in the next round, but with one benefit: the metamagic causes no adjustment to the level of the spell slot required to cast the spell.

So in the case of the Killer Gnome, he casts a silent image heightened to tenth level in a ninth level slot. The next round he does the same thing, but this time that tenth level silent image occupies only a first (or cantrip, for certain illusionists) level slot! He could even load up on other metamagics the second round. These would, of course, adjust the level of the required spell slot as normal, but with eight levels of metamagic to play with, a lot of things are possible. How does a Twinned, Repeated crushing fist of spite sound to you, maybe further maximized via a metamagic rod? I thought so.
Residual Magic doesn't track the degree of the metamagic feat that triggers it. That is, it doesn't remember that you Heightened the spell by 8 levels on round one, and thereby give you 8 levels of metamagic to play with. No, it's more, much more busted than that. It merely notes the specific metamagic feat used, then ignores the cost of that feat on the next round. If that's unclear, here's an example.

Suppose you're a 10th level ScM (Wiz 7/ScM 3 with no sub-levels) and your 9th level feat was Residual Magic. On round one you cast a shadow illusion from a 2nd level slot in order to duplicate glitterdust. Residual Magic notes that you used Heighten Spell on silent image. On round two, Residual Magic reads its note from the previous round and makes Heighten Spell free for silent image this round. So you cast a shadow illusion from a 1st level slot, and Residual Magic heightens that to 9th level for free.

(This is also true when using Enduring Potency from a wand.)

All right. You've managed to get your character to mimic ninth level spells, but you're still chafing at something. You can only mimic all the spells from one and a half schools. How unfair is that? Miracle is an evocation spell. If only it were on the Sorcerer or Wizard spell lists, then we could mimic it and thereby mimic any spell of seventh level or lower. Well, it's time to shatter the game and stomp on its remains, cackling in a little, gnomish soprano, because that's what Arcane Disciple (luck) does. For a Sorcerer or Wizard, Arcane Disciple (Luck) adds miracle to the class spell list, meaning it's a sorcerer or wizard spell for that character. So what does mimicking miracle do for us?

When using a shadow conjuration or shadow evocation spell (or Shadow Illusion) to mimic a given spell, the mimicked spell is not actually cast. For example, a mimicked summon monster spell does not actually summon a monster; rather, you create a quasi-real monster using material from the plane of shadow. Likewise, a mimicked forcecage does not actually cast the spell and neither does it evoke energy, instead forming a cage of shadow force.
Extending this to a mimicked miracle, we note that we are not actually calling for deific intercession - or, indeed, any divine intercession - we are simply creating a quasi-real version of the spell's effect from shadow stuff. So here's the thing: there is nothing preventing us from creating an illusion of miracle's greater effects through Shadow Illusion. The spell is capable of greater things than mimicking spells of lower than 9th level, and since we are not actually requesting the result, just creating it whole cloth from shadow stuff, we are not limited by deity or alignment review.
Spontaneously casting miracle is not in itself unplayably game breaking, even if it does grant enormous versatility. After all, a Favored Soul can do it by default. However, being able to do it through Residual Magic is total nonsense. (See the dirty tricks chapter for details on just how far it can be pushed.) Only choose this feat if you're on very good terms with your DM, and he knows what's in store, or if you're not going to use the "greater effects" option.

Note: Dragon Magazine #325 has a feat that is strictly better for specialist wizards (or anyone with a prohibited school): Diversified Casting. This feat adds any three spells from a prohibited school to your spell list. Like ... I don't even know what they were thinking when writing this feat. The writer probably didn't understand how prohibited schools work, mistakenly believing that prohibiting Evocation removed fireball from your spell list. If this feat is available, prohibit Evocation and pick up miracle and two more non-Sorcerer/Wizard spells from any list. Go nuts.

Nota bene: Feats aren't the only way to achieve this effect. For example, the Wyrm Wizard prestige class allows you to add arbitrary spells to your spell list.

That's genesis he's casting. As a standard action. For free. From a cantrip slot.

On the Base of the Killer Gnome's Power
(click to show/hide) Three base classes make good, standard entrances to Shadowcraft Mage. These are the Beguiler, Sorcerer, and Wizard. Each has its pros and cons, yet each is a solid choice for the character. Standard color key applies.
Pros: Spontaneous casting from a large and varied spell list of some of the most useful non-blasty spells out there. Automatic knowledge of all spells on the class spell list. A huge skill list and the skill points to make use of it, due to six base skill points per level and Int-based casting. You also get a bunch of useful and flavorful class features. Ignore ASF in light armor.
Cons: No transmutation spells, so no polymorph. As the class uses its own spell list, the Arcane Disciple cheese does not work. New spell levels on even class levels, as Sorcerer.
Overall: A Beguiler based Shadowcraft Mage will have the versatility that a normal Beguiler lacks, having the ability to directly damage his enemies, summon allies, and create many other effects that otherwise would be unavailable. Heightened legion of sentinels lets a Beguiler qualify without need of Advanced Learning.
Pros: Spontaneous casting from the Sorcerer/Wizard spell list. Can use Arcane Disciple (luck) to mimic miracle.
Cons: New spells on even levels. No class features to speak of. Few skill points.
Overall: A Sorcerer based Shadowcraft Mage sidesteps his small number of spells known, choosing to learn mostly spells that he cannot emulate via Shadow Illusion. Unlike other Sorcerers, he has the freedom to choose any spells he wants, even very situational, utility style spells as his spells known, since he knows that everything else he can do via silent image.
Pros: Int-based casting. Can use Arcane Disciple (luck) to mimic miracle. Can use the racial substitution levels from Races of Stone, or the variant Illusionist features from Unearthed Arcana. or ... any number of awesome variant abilities and features.
Cons: Prepped casting wants Signature Spell, Uncanny Forethought, or Dweomerkeeper to make optimal use of Shadow Illusion. Few spells per day.
Overall: Potentially the most powerful of all the Shadowcraft Mage bases, the Wizard's array of options allow for the combination of the many feats and class features. With Shadow Illusion, he enjoys situational flexibility comparable to that of the Sorcerer while maintaining his signature strategic superiority.
Pros: Light armor casting. Great skills. Bardic music. d6 HD.
Cons: Maxes out at 6th level spells. Arcane Disciple cheese does not work. Late entry into Shadowcraft Mage (no illusion (shadow) spells until 10th level). Just grab either dead end or dark way from the Spell Compendium, and you can use one of the dirty tricks for early qualification.
Overall: A straight Bard/Shadowcraft Mage build provides the Bard character with a lot more versatility. To make the most of a Bard entry requires Sublime Chord. A Bard 7/Incantatrix 3/Sublime Chord 1/Shadowcraft Mage 5/Incantatrix 4-7 would work quite nicely.
Pros: You can make use of all the standard Cleric tricks like Divine Metamagic. D8 HD, armored casting, healing spells, ... Is there anything bad about being a Cleric with full access to the Wizard's best blasting spells?
Cons: Requires the use of a domain that grants silent image; e.g., Gnome or Illusion, which in turn pretty much requires the use of Domain Spontaneity from PHB2, Dweomerkeeper, or similar.
Overall: It's like being a Mystic Theurge, but with one pool of spell slots and without having any delayed progression. Walk around all day with persistent greater consumptive field and watch the caster level for your shadow illusions soar. Maybe go Dweomerkeeper and use limited wish and a reach metamagic rod to persist owl's insight via limited wish for a minimum +10 insight bonus to Wisdom. Go nuts.

On the Selection of Feats
(click to show/hide)There are quite a few feats that are provide special benefit to the Killer Gnome. These feats provide more benefit to him than to most other spellcasters. You should remember, however, that a Shadowcraft Mage is even more feat strapped than other characters, as four of his feats are set in stone from the beginning (Spell Focus [illusion], Earth Sense, Heighten Spell, and Earth Spell.) That leaves a Sorcerer-based character but three remaining feats.
Choose wisely.

As is the norm for these guides, I'll be using font colors to facilitate quick skimming.

Horrible: Known by the color of the feces they're made from, I'm only going to list a few of these, and then only because they seem to be traps.
Average: These options are situationally useful or just not good enough to be worth taking until you've exhausted the better options. Sometimes, they're prereqs for good things, though, so ...
Tax: These are the things you take to get your abilities to work in a non-suck way.
Good: Recommended choices. These will help you, but sometimes require support to make good or are only good after you reach a certain point in your progression.
Great: It's dangerous to go alone. Take these, because they're always good and need no support.
Busted: And lo, there was a great, deep quake throughout all the lands, as though the game itself had broken.

Ability Focus: Ability Focus gives +2 to the DC of a chosen special attack. Now, even if you don't allow Ability Focus (spells)--which is arguably legit--it's still kosher to choose Ability Focus for shadow illusion or silent image, and that's still +2 DC for one feat.

Arcane Mastery: The ability to take 10 on caster level checks (even under stress - check the errata) is great for anyone who uses a large number of spells that allow SR. As all shadow illusions allow SR, this is obviously a good thing. With nothing else to boost caster level, a 20th level Shadowcraft Mage can automatically beat SR 30 with his spells; and Earth Spell makes even higher levels of SR meaningless.

Arcane Thesis: Arcane Thesis has the potential to add significant power to the Shadowcraft Mage. The feat is normally somewhat restrictive, needing to be applied to a single spell. This is no drawback to the Shadowcraft Mage, whose bread and butter actually is one spell, silent image. A +2 bonus to caster level is always helpful for the increased duration, resistance to dispelling, and ability to punch through SR. The reduced metamagic cost, while specifically not applicable to Heighten Spell, applies to everything else. So load up on low cost (+1 and +0) metamagic feats via whatever method you want (I suggest Incantatrix) and blast away with silent, stilled, enlarged, widened, and doubly extended Shadow Illusion at no slot-level adjustment.

Easy Metamagic: This feat from Dragon #325 functions like (and stacks with) Practical Metamagic (see below) except that it can be acquired by any spellcaster and has the [metamagic] tag, so it can be had via a bonus feat. So strictly better.

Enhanced Shadow Reality: Adds 20% extra quasireality for all damage on your shadow illusions. The only difficulty is that the feat is from Dragon (#325), so getting access to it may be a trial. Remember, this is only for damage, but it does help you get to 100% quasi-reality with lower-level slots, freeing up higher-level slots for more impressive effects. Statistically, this represents a 5-15% increase in expected damage, which means it's probably not worth the opportunity cost.

Extend Spell: The quintessential buffing metamagic. There isn't a better +1 SLA metamagic feat in the books. The fourth level Shadowcraft Mage specifically stacks with this feat, to boot, giving you durations that make your enemies cry. You're still likely better off just using metamagic rods, but the option is valid. Additionally, you can further stack this with the 5th level gnome Illusionist substitution level to get those durations to a total of TIMES EIGHT. (Yes, duration doublers stack the good way.)

Greater Spell Focus (illusion): You get more bang for your buck from illusions than anyone else. Your save DCs should be as high as possible, and every +1 helps, but this feat is pretty much just gravy, as it is only required for entrance into the Shadowcrafter PrC (see below).
Melodic Casting: Every Bard-based ScM with a significant inspire courage bonus will want this feat. Don't even bother arguing with me. It's like Natural Spell for Bards, making it so they never have to choose between singing or casting.

Metamagic Feats not Previously Mentioned: If you have the feats free and have Residual Magic (discussed below) you can get some massive power out of Quicken Spell, Twin Spell, Repeat Spell, and Energy Admixture. If you're an Incantatrix, you're of course picking up Persistent Spell, in which case you'll also want Invisible Spell -- because you are persisting arcane spellsurge, right? For more on metamagic feats and getting the most out of them, see Metamagic and You: A Thesis.

Metamagic School Focus: This feat allows one to apply any metamagic feat to a spell of the appropriate school at reduced cost thrice per day. So three times per day you can mimic a spell a level higher than normal, even past what Earth Spell alone would allow. More controversially, some argue that the feat's 3/day lowering can all be applied to a single casting of a spell, allowing for accelerated access to mimicked effects and early PrC qualification. Seems bogus to me, but if you can get it to float, this becomes great.

Practical Metamagic (Heighten Spell): Practical Metamagic reduces the spell level adjustment of the selected metamagic feat by one, to a minimum of +1. So this means that a magic missile heightened to third level occupies a second level slot.* Heightened to ninth, it occupies an eighth level slot. So we can mimic a spell of level X in a slot of level X, as long as X is less than nine. The limitation exists because Heighten Spell can only increase a spell's level to a maximum of ninth.
By way of this feat and Earth Spell, a Sorcerer can mimic spells of one level higher than the slot used (except for ninth level slots, which, as mentioned above, are unaffected by the Practical Metamagic adjustment). So he can cast a 100% real meteor swarm from an eighth level slot, and it will be treated as a tenth level spell for all purposes, including save DC.
*Note that it is occasionally debated whether the use of Heighten Spell constitutes a spell slot adjustment, so a DM may argue that Practical Metamagic and Easy Metamagic do not work with Heighten Spell. This is a failure of exegesis and basic reading comprehension, but you have been warned. ;)

Rapid Metamagic: For Sorcerer, Beguiler, and Bard ScMs this eliminates the casting time penalty of applying metamagic. A very good feat that has been too long in coming. It is also quite important for spontaneous casters who are not Sorcerers (who have an applicable alternative class feature in PHB2), allowing them to retain mobility in combat.

Reserve Feats: Yes, all reserve feats are bad. A spellcaster has better things to do with his time. The reserve feats don't have the power to be significant against strong enemies, and you might as well let the Fighter feel useful every now and then by letting him take on the mooks singlehandedly. Seriously, stay clear. Unless you intend to retrain them later or Dark Chaos Feat Shuffle them away. Then go ahead.

Shadow Weave Magic: As I mentioned before, spells' save DCs are important for most Shadowcraft Mages, and another +1 can't hurt. The important thing, however, is that it opens access to several other feats that can be gained through one level in Shadow Adept, and all of them synergize quite well with the class features of Shadowcraft Mage.

Signature Spell: Signature Spell can be a boon to prepared casters like Wizards, as it allows them to load up with nothing but utility spells. By choosing silent image for the feat, the Wizard can then spontaneously convert any prepared spell into a heightened silent image and alter that spell with Shadow Illusion. The Spell Mastery requirement holds this one back. There's a better alternative coming up soon (hint, it's called Uncanny Forethought).

Spell Penetration: Spell resistance is your bane. Statistically speaking, however, you get a much more significant benefit from Arcane Mastery. It's not like having this feat will hurt you, except inasmuch as taking it means you're not taking a feat that actually matters.

Talfirian Song: This feat allows Bards to trade uses of bardic music for extra spell levels, and--unlike Metamagic Song--it isn't capped by the maximum spell level you can cast. It's a do-it-all feat that gets you early entry and early access to high-level effects. You do have to be human, but see later in the guide about how to enter Shadowcraft Mage as a non-gnome.

Uncanny Forethought: Now this is how we spontaneously cast things and make the Sorcerer cry (even more than he or she already was). While it still requires Spell Mastery, the versatility it affords is simply astonishing. It even has its own built-in cheese that lets you get around some spells' long casting times. For instance, it could let you cast geas as a full-round action, making it an actual combat option. Considering it even shares same prereq as Signature Spell, there's no reason to take that rather than this.

A Digression on Pathfinder
(click to show/hide)Spell Perfection: Spell Perfection's gotta be your go-to if you've got access to it. The feat doubles numerical bonuses from other feats (e.g., Spell Focus) and allows you to apply one metamagic feat for free (i.e., no adjustment to casting time or slot level). That shit's busted enough on its own, but think what it means in Pathfinder. Add the first Gnome Illusionist sub level (see below) to make silent image a cantrip, and you suddenly can cast all these spontaneous shadow illusions at-will, all day long. Add Earth Spell and Arcane Disciple, and you can cast shadow miracles all day long.

On the Acquisition of Prestige
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There are relatively few PrCs that synergize well with the abilities of the Shadowcraft Mage. The truth is that you probably don't even need anything more than shadow illusion, Residual Magic, and Arcane Disciple to break the game. Hell, you probably don't even need Arcane Disciple. 

The same rating scheme for feats applies.
Feat Prereqs: Any item creation feat, any metamagic feat
Special: Must be able to cast arcane AND divine spells; must have the Magic domain
Benefit: The important thing that we gain from DK is Supernatural Spell. Supernatural spell can either help us punch through SR with shadow illusions, or it can ignore material/XP components on spells like limited wish and wish. Which is just stupidly awesome. The Mantle Of Spells ability can serve as a replacement for Uncanny Forethought or Signature Spell. All in all, if you can get into this class without harming your spellcasting progression, then go for it.

Earth Dreamer
Feat Prereqs: Earth Sense, Earth Spell
Benefit: For those who feel the ScM is strong enough without further PrC shenanigans, the Earth Dreamer class from Races of Stone provides some interesting and flavorful mobility and vision abilities. A Wizard 10/ScM 5/ED 5 could include all three racial sub levels, too, making it a complete one-splat build option.

Feat Prereqs: Iron Will, any one metamagic feat.
Benefits: Aside from the always awesome Metamagic Effect, bonus feats, and slew of other class features, the tenth level Incantatrix ability lessens the spell level adjustments of metamagic feats. See Practical Metamagic in the feats section, above, for an explanation of the effect this can have. If you intend to stack metamagic feats, this is your go-to, if only for the four bonus feats. Just remember to pick up Iron Will from an otyugh hole legendary location (Complete Scoundrel) rather than burning a feat selection. The class also synergizes well with the Free Maximization trick discussed later in this guide.

Mage of the Arcane Order
Feat Prereqs: Cooperative Metamagic, one other metamagic feat
Benefits: Two bonus metamagic feats, spellpool access. The spellpool access continues the versatility thing you've got going, adding access to any Sorcerer/Wizard spell in the PHB. For any other wizard, this'd be a good deal, but you're probably as versatile as you need to be.

Master Specialist: (as a 4-level dip)
Feat Prereqs: Spell Focus
Benefit: The Master Specialist class is a nice four level dip for Illusionists seeking to enter Incantatrix, as the prerequisites fit well with both that class and Incantatrix. The fourth level ability grants a +2 bonus to the save DC of any illusion spell you cast that has an entry of "Will (disbelief)", which is totally awesome, but the rest of the class is less than exciting. Try Illusionist 3/Master Specialist 4/Shadowcraft Mage 5/Incantatrix 8 for barrels of win.
Mindbender: (as a 1-level dip)
Special: Must be able to cast charm person
Benefit: A single level in this terrible class gives 100' telepathy, good Fort and Will, and all social skills as class skills. Telepathy is very useful for a stealthy character, and even more so for an illusionist. If you have the room, try to include the Mindsight feat (Lords of Madness, in the tsochar chapter).

Nightmare Spinner: (after getting 9th-level spells)
Benefit: The Nightmare Spinner provides a nice way to cap off a Shadowcraft Mage build. It doesn't provide any spellcasting advancement at level one, so it should be taken only after ninth level spells have been acquired. However, for that one lost caster level, you get an extra (illusion) spell slot of every level you can cast.

Shadow Adept (as a 1-level dip)
Feat Prereqs: Shadow Weave Magic, any one metamagic feat
Benefits: As a one level dip, the class gives you three feats that add a good deal to your potence as an illusionist: Insidious Magic, Pernicious Magic, and Tenacious Magic. Since you were going to get a metamagic feat anyway (Heighten), and you're probably looking for as many DC boosters as possible anyway, this is almost certainly a great dip. If you're playing in Faerun, a dip in Shadow Adept gets you most of the benefit of Gnome Illusionist 10, saving you four dead levels.

Feat Prereqs: Spell Focus (illusion), Greater Spell Focus (illusion)
Benefits: +4 to overcome SR with shadow spells, +20% quasireality on shadow conjurations/evocations, and more. There isn't much point in taking this class past level eight, however, so you should plan an exit strategy. Using this class it is possible to get 140% quasireal shadow illusions (160% with Enhanced Shadow Reality).

Benefit: This is for all of the non-gnomes that want to enter the Shadowcraft Mage Prc. The thrid level of Stoneblessed allows the character to count as a gnome for all purposes, including meeting racial prerequisites. So with three levels of Stoneblessed, a human could enter Shadowcraft Mage, provided that he can meet the ScM prereqs, of course. The problem with Stoneblessed is that it offers no spellcasting advancement, so it would be preferable to use the ScM spellcasting advancement to further a fast spellcasting PrC, such as Sublime Chord. The simplest and least optimized example of such would be Bard 7/Stoneblessed 3/Sublime Chord 5/Shadowcraft Mage 5.

Sublime Chord
Special: Bardic music
Benefit: This is the prestige class that makes a Bard-based ScM work at all. If you're a Bard, you take this. If not, then not.

Wyrm Wizard: (as a 2-level dip, after getting 9th-level spells)
Benefit: Two levels of Wyrm Wizard lets us add any one spell from another class's list to our own. Thus, two levels in this class can net us a benefit similar to Arcane Disciple. It could even be combined with that feat in order to get at a spell not replicable by miracle; e.g., true creation.

On the Substitution of Levels and the Variation of Class Features
(click to show/hide)Here are a few substitution levels and variants that are of potential benefit to a Shadowcraft Mage. I have only included the worthwhile options, as no one needs to see the poorer ones, but even here there's a pecking order.

Substitution Levels
[*]Gnome Illusionist 1: You learn illusion spells earlier and get a bigger caster level boost from Earth Spell. What could be better?
[*]Gnome Illusionist 5: Your illusions' durations are doubled. This explicitly stacks with Extend Spell, so it stacks with the ScM ability. Combining both and a rod of extend spell nets us x8 duration. That's nuts. N-V-T-S nuts.
[*]Gnome Illusionist 10: True seeing and the like don't automatically penetrate your illusions, instead requiring the user to make an opposed caster level check. Versus our Earth Spell enhanced craziness? Bwa ha ha ha! This might actually be a reason to take 10 levels of Wizard.
Variant/Alternate Class Features
[*]Metamagic Specialist: Sorcerers looking to make the most of the Shadowcraft Mage PrC would be well served to make use of the Metamagic Specialist variant from Player's Handbook II. Your familiar would only be a liability without continued advancement, so you're losing nothing, really, especially since you can get a familiar from a feat.
[*]Chains of Disbelief: [replaces familiar] Makes it harder for people to help others save against your illusions, and makes people who auto-disbelieve have to make a save in order to see through your figments. Even this minor benefit is a good trade off for a familiar. Unfortunately, there's a better way to get rid of your familiar coming up ...
[*]Illusion Mastery: [replaces bonus spells from specialization] The Illusion Mastery variant dramatically increases the character's spells known and reduces his dependence on his spell book. Furthermore, it may provide us with the necessary requirements for Signature Spell or Uncanny Forethought. This is a good trade off if you get one of those feats.
[*]Focused Specialist: This feature is just full of fun and joy. You give up an extra school of magic and one generalist spell slot per spell level to get two extra illusion slots. I'll let FrankTrollman talk about this one.
--- Quote from: FrankTrollman ---Focused Specialist is the Power and the Glory. All who see it must bow. Focused Specialization is the last fvcking nail in the coffin of any argument that Sorcerers ever had any purpose under any circumstances.

It gives you 3 spells at first level. It gives 6 spells of each level in the long run. Does that sound familiar to you? It's the fvcking Sorcerer spellcasting progression. Except you get your new spell levels on time and you can still learn spells out of books.

The Specialist limitations are meaningless in the face of specializing in any vaguely general school. It is the way and the path, the greatest power creep ever printed.
--- End quote ---
[*]Immediate Magic: [replaces familiar] Int mod/day, create a double (as mirror image) until struck or the start of your next turn, whichever is first. A 50% miss chance against targeted effects is pretty good. It's a good candidate for low- to mid-level play, after which you retrain into something like ...
[*]School Mastery: [replaces familiar] This alternate class feature from Dragon 357 may suck for everyone else, but it's the bee's knees for illusion. +1 caster level for illusion spells and an extra 10% quasireality for all your illusion (shadow) spells. This for the low, low price of your familiar? Sold.

On the Aggregate of What Has Come Before
(click to show/hide)
Be careful or you'll be as OP as this guy.
Now let's take a look at a few sample builds, each making use of all five levels of Shadowcraft Mage and the Earth Spell feat. Keep in mind that these are simply templates to be personalized--Shadowcraft Mage builds are very flexible, and your priorities are your own.
The Iconic Shadowcraft Illusionist: Illusionist 10/Master Specialist 4/Mindbender 1/Shadowcraft Mage 5.
(click to show/hide) Level Class Level Feat(s)

  1 Gnome Illusionist 1    Spell Focus (illusion)
  2 Illusionist 2
  3 Illusionist 3          Earth Sense
  4 Illusionist 4
  5 Illusionist 5          Heighten Spell
  6 Master Specialist 1    Earth Spell, Skill Focus (Spellcraft)
  7 Master Specialist 2
  8 Shadowcraft Mage 1
  9 Shadowcraft Mage 2      Residual Magic
  10 Shadowcraft Mage 3
  11 Shadowcraft Mage 4
  12 Shadowcraft Mage 5      Arcane Disciple (luck)
  13 Master Specialist 3   Greater Spell Focus (illusion)
  14 Master Specialist 4
  15 Mindbender 1       [Feat]
  16 Illusionist 6
  17 Illusionist 7
  18 Illusionist 8       [Feat]
  19 Illusionist 9
  20 Gnome Illusionist 10
This character gets just about everything discussed in this guide, casting shadow miracles by level 12. From that point on, he can use the Dark Chaos Feat Shuffle (via shadow miracle) to change his feats on a whim.

In all honesty, this build, played to the hilt, is almost certainly too strong for any real campaign. Trust me, I've tried. Walking around with an unlimited number of miracles at level 12 removes too many decision points from the game. It's not that everything looks like a nail when all you have a is hammer. It's that you're walking around with a magical hammer that turns every problem into a nail.

The Hidden Gnome: Beguiler 14/Mindbender 1/Shadowcraft Mage 5
(click to show/hide) Level Class Level Feat(s)

  1 Beguiler 1 Spell Focus (illusion)
  2 Beguiler 2
  3 Beguiler 3 Darkstalker
  4 Beguiler 4
  5 Beguiler 5 (Silent Spell)
  6 Mindbender 1 Heighten Spell
  7 Beguiler 6
  8 Beguiler 7
  9 Shadowcraft Mage 1 Earth Sense
  10 Shadowcraft Mage 2
  11 Shadowcraft Mage 3
  12 Shadowcraft Mage 4 Earth Spell
  13 Shadowcraft Mage 5
  14 Beguiler 8
  15 Beguiler 9 Residual Magic
  16 Beguiler 10 (Still Spell)
  17 Beguiler 11
  18 Beguiler 12 Mindsight
  19 Beguiler 13
  20 Beguiler 14
This character uses the first level Shadowcraft Mage ability combined with the Hide in Plain Sight of a collar of umbral metamorphosis (Tome of Magic) to allow him to hide in anything short of full daylight. Because of the Darkstalker feat, he can remain hidden even from creatures with extraordinary senses. Finally, his Mindsight feat allows him to find all the creatures who are trying to hide from him.

J-A-R-N-O's Archivist Entry: Archivist 5/Shadowcrafter 10/Shadowcraft Mage 5
(click to show/hide)Level Class Level Feat(s)

  1 Archivist 1 Spell Focus (illusion)
  2 Archivist 2
  3 Archivist 3 Greater Spell Focus (illusion)
  4 Archivist 4
  5 Archivist 5
  6 Shadowcrafter 1 Heighten Spell
  7 Shadowcrafter 2
  8 Shadowcraft Mage 1
  9 Shadowcraft Mage 2 Earth Sense
  10 Shadowcraft Mage 3
  11 Shadowcraft Mage 4
  12 Shadowcraft Mage 5 Residual Magic
  13 Shadowcrafter 3
  14 Shadowcrafter 4
  15 Shadowcrafter 5 Earth Spell
  16 Shadowcrafter 6
  17 Shadowcrafter 7
  18 Shadowcrafter 8 [Feat]
  19 Shadowcrafter 9
  20 Shadowcrafter 10

--- Quote from: J-A-R-N-O ---This character is not as powerful an Illusionist as his specialist Wizard brother, because he lacks, for example, those great substitution levels and the UA variant, and is very tight on skills at the early levels, but he has the potentially amazing Archivist casting to make that up. The potential to learn nearly all divine spells coupled with his amazing shadow spells make him one versatile SOB.
--- End quote ---

PhaedrusXY's Cloistered Cleric Entry: Cloistered Cleric 5/Shadowcrafter 2/Shadowcraft Mage 5/Divine Prankster 8
(click to show/hide) Level Class Level Feat(s)

  1 Cloistered Cleric 1 Spell Focus (illusion) [Special: Gnome domain]
  2 Cloistered Cleric 2
  3 Cloistered Cleric 3 Greater Spell Focus (illusion)
  4 Cloistered Cleric 4
  5 Cloistered Cleric 5
  6 Shadowcrafter 1 Heighten Spell
  7 Shadowcrafter 2
  8 Shadowcraft Mage 1
  9 Shadowcraft Mage 2 Divine Metamagic (Heighten Spell)
  10 Shadowcraft Mage 3
  11 Shadowcraft Mage 4
  12 Shadowcraft Mage 5 Earth Sense
  13 Divine Prankster 1
  14 Divine Prankster 2
  15 Divine Prankster 3 Earth Spell
  16 Divine Prankster 4
  17 Divine Prankster 5
  18 Divine Prankster 6 (Free)
  19 Divine Prankster 7
  20 Divine Prankster 8
Note that this build is using the Domain Spontaneity variant from PHB2 to use the Gnome domain spontaneously.

--- Quote from: PhaedrusXY ---Can spend 1+X Turn Undead attempts to Heighten spells by X effective spell levels. Divine Metamagic is not capped by the normal max spell level you can cast. Can spend 1 Turn Undead attempt to add +10 to Figment save DCs. Can spontaneously change any spell into a Silent Image, and then turn that into a Shadow Evoc/Conj spell which gets bonuses to its quasireality percentage.
So, all together, this means that this character can, at level 12, cast any Conjuration/Evocation spell of up to 8th level spontaneously, using any level spell slot he feels like (even 1st). The only components any of these spells need are Somatic. At 18th level, this increases to include 9th level spells, thanks to Earth Spell. Using Divine Meta: Heighten like this will burn through turn attempts like mad, though.
You could leave out Shadowcrafter entirely if you want. However, it overlaps with Shadowcraft Mage for feat prereqs, and lets you meet the skill prereqs for Divine Prankster more easily. It's not like GSF: Illusion is a bad feat for this build, either.
With another feat (from a Flaw, or leaving out Shadowcrafter entirely), you could spend his Comedic Performances to apply Heighten Spell by using Metamagic Song. This is limited by the normal spell level he can cast, and he only has 8 uses of this ability at level 20. It is still worth a feat I think.

--- End quote ---

Shadowcraft Shepherd - because sometimes having just ONE of the most powerful classes isn't enough ...
(click to show/hide)Level   Class Level       Feat(s)
1    Druid 1             Education [ECS]
2    Druid 2
3    Druid 3             Greensinger Initiate
4    Druid 4
5    Druid 5
6    Planar Shepherd 1    Natural Spell
7    Planar Shepherd 2
8    Planar Shepherd 3
9    Planar Shepherd 4    Heighten Spell
10    Planar Shepherd 5
11    Planar Shepherd 6
12    Planar Shepherd 7    Earth Sense
13    Planar Shepherd 8
14    Planar Shepherd 9
15    Contemplative 1      Spell Focus (illusion) [Illusion domain]
16    Shadowcraft Mage 1
17    Shadowcraft Mage 2
18    Shadowcraft Mage 3    Earth Spell
19    Shadowcraft Mage 4
20    Shadowcraft Mage 5
This is just an example of some of the weird directions you can go with the class, due to its relatively short length and openness.
Be sure to choose a plane that will be useful with only 14th level wild shaping.  Syrania, for example, will let you be a planetar all day at level 14.  Illusion domain gives us the illusion (shadow) spell we need, and suddenly the Planar Shepherd is also a Shadowcraft Mage.

On the Quasireality of Illusions
(click to show/hide) Quasireality is one of the more interesting and flavorful aspects of shadow illusions. When the percentage is low, failing the disbelief save means the opponent you treat the illusion like the real thing. In essence, just like Morpheus says in the Matrix,your mind makes it real. With a Shadowcraft Mage, it is actually possible to get over 100% quasireality, where failing the disbelief save actually protects you from the extra power infused into the spell. Where your mind makes it real with low quasireality, your mind rejects the Lovecraftian truth of high quasireality. Just as in Call of Cthulhu, ignorance of arcane and eldritch truth is safer past a certain point. This gives us insight into the metaphysics of D&D world: the mind tends toward Material Plane ontology.
The quasireality level of your Shadow Illusions depends on the build you're using. Let's assume you go Wizard 5/Shadowcrafter 2/Shadowcraft Mage 5/Shadowcrafter 3-10.
Feat selection might be something like:
1) Spell Focus (illusion)
3) Greater Spell Focus (illusion)
5) Heighten Spell
6) Earth Sense
9) Earth Spell
12) Easy Metamagic (Heighten Spell)
15) Enhanced Shadow Reality
18) Residual Magic
Okay, so at level 10 (the level we get Shadow Illusion) we can make use of Earth Spell. That nets us a total of +20%/+10% quasireality to the slot used for conjurations/evocations. This works out as 5th level slot (6th level spell due to Earth Spell) which is a base quasireality of 60%, to which we add the 10% of Shadowcrafter when using mimicking conjurations. So ...
At levels 10-11:
 Slot Level -- Reality Conjuration/Evocation

    1st -- 30%/20%
    2nd -- 40%/30%
    3rd -- 50%/40%
    4th -- 60%/50%
    5th -- 70%/60%

This stays the same until level 12, when we add another +20% due to Powerful Shadow Magic, bringing us to +40%/+30% to the slot used. But now we also have Easy Metamagic to consider, which effectively gets us another 10% to each side, due to casting a level X spell in a level X-2 slot. So we're at +50%/+40%
At level 12:
 Slot Level -- Reality Conjuration/Evocation

    1st -- 60%/50%
    2nd -- 70%/60%
    3rd -- 80%/70%
    4th -- 90%/80%
    5th -- 100%/90%
    6th -- 110%/100%

At level 13, Shadowcrafter adds another 10% to evocation illusions, evening things out with conjurations. (+50%)
At level 13:
 Slot Level -- Reality Conjuration/Evocation

    1st -- 60%/60%
    2nd -- 70%/70%
    3rd -- 80%/80%
    4th -- 90%/90%
    5th -- 100%/100%
    6th -- 110%/110%
    7th -- 120%/120%

At level 15, we add another +20% to damage done by any of our mimicked spells. (Enhanced Shadow Reality) So that's +50% (+70% for damage.)
At level 15:
 Slot Level -- Reality Conjuration/Evocation (damage)

    1st -- 60%/60% (80%)
    2nd -- 70%/70% (90%)
    3rd -- 80%/80% (100%)
    4th -- 90%/90% (110%)
    5th -- 100%/100% (120%)
    6th -- 110%/110% (130%)
    7th -- 120%/120% (140%)
    8th -- 130%/130% (150%)

By level 17 we gain another +10% to both evocation and conjuration effects. So we're up to +60% (+80% for damage.)
At level 17:
Slot Level -- Reality Conjuration/Evocation (damage)

    1st -- 70%/70% (90%)
    2nd -- 80%/80% (100%)
    3rd -- 90%/90% (110%)
    4th -- 100%/100% (120%)
    5th -- 110%/110% (130%)
    6th -- 120%/120% (140%)
    7th -- 130%/130% (150%)
    8th -- 140%/140% (160%)
    9th -- 140%/140% (160%)

You'll notice that the quasireality level of 8th and 9th level slots is the same. This is because Heighten Spell caps out at 9th level, so we lose the benefit of Easy Metamagic until epic levels (Improved Heighten Spell).

On Spells Deserving Mimicry
(click to show/hide)
Sometimes you blackmail things that don't exist into being your pet.

So there's a nice list of replicable spells here on minmaxboards. I've picked a few that I feel are worth calling out, even just to look at and be aware you have access to them.
[*]create magic tattoo (SpC) - mostly for the +1 caster level that lasts a day (or more)
[*]greater floating disk (SpC) - this can act as your mobile artillery platform, allowing you to fly and still get Earth Spell bonuses by putting a bunch of unworked earth (i.e., dirt) on it
[*]boreal wind (Frost) - huge area of effect, decent damage, and minor battlefield control all in one
[*]whirlwind of teeth (BoVD) - mobile area of effect with good duration and untyped damage
[*]wings of flurry (RotD) - uncapped force damage that doesn't hit friendlies. Limited range, though.
[*]blood wind (SpC) - allows the target's natural attacks to be made at range, and so is a great buff for a hydra-morphed ally
[*]wings of swift flying (RotD) - a tactical movement effect
[*]sleet storm - huge area of effect and only allows the Will (disbelief) save
[*]phantom steed - high mobility, and you hit the cap before other people
[*]slashing dispel (PH2) - a dispel effect
[*]blinding glory (BoED) - no save, just suck. All evil creatures in a 100/level radius are blind.
[*]firestride exhalation (DrM) - a short range teleportation effect
[*]wall of stone / wall of iron - as these are instantaneous, once they're in place, they do not allow SR
[*]sending - long distance communication
[*]sonorous hum (SpC) - concentrates on one spell for you
[*]major creation - aside from the more obvious uses, dropping several hundred gallons of black lotus extract on people is effective
[*]shalantha's delicate disk (LE) - lets you store spells up to 6th level to be used later, allowing your entire party to turn downtime into real power
[*]lingering flames (CM) - solid DoT
[*]amber sarcophagus (BoED) - No save, just die, which becomes Will (disbelief) or die.
[*]reality maelstrom (SpC) - for an ScM that has done the max duration stuff, this is 8 rounds of win. AoE SoD
[*]ray of resurgence (LE) - restores Strength damage
[*]instant refuge (SpC) - a contingent teleportation effect
[*]crushing fist of spite (BoVD) - good damage, lasts through the fight, and has the coolest name and imagery
[*]detonate (PH2) - save or die[/list]

Miracle effects to consider:
[*]death pact
[*]renewal pact
[*]divine power
[*]limited wish - specifically the ability to stack "automatically hits with its next attack" effects. That is, if "automatically hits with its next attack" is okay, then so should "automatically hits with its attack after the next." We can then extend this on inductively, meaning that "automatically hits with its nth attack" is something limited wish can do. So we cast it n times.
[*]holy word et al. - Effective SoD with our boosted caster level.
[*]greater planar ally
[*]create greater undead
[*]greater restoration
[*]spell resistance
[*]bite of the werebear
[*]giant size
[*]acorn of far travel - This allows us to always count as standing under a particular tree, which should let us always have Earth Spell active.
[*]embrace/shun the dark chaos

Basically, anything that
[*]Is a consolation prize for otherwise crappy casting; e.g., glibness
[*]Has an expensive material, XP, or otherwise stupid component; e.g., permanency
[*]Is totally busted and not a Sorcerer or Wizard spell; e.g., giant size
[*]Is on the Sor/Wiz list, but not evocation/conjuration; e.g., planar bubble[/list]

On the Expenditure of Capital
(click to show/hide)WIP

(click to show/hide)[*]headband of intellect/cloak of charisma/periapt of wisdom -- You are a wizard. Or you are a sorcerer. Or you are a cleric. Or something else, but whatever you are, you are a full caster, and you will be maximizing your casting stat. I include this obvious item only to make sure you don't forget it while thinking about the shinies to follow.
[*]collar of umbral metamorphosis (ToM) -- Gives the dark creature template. The collar is extremely affordable for the huge benefits it provides. More than that, though are two things. 1) It provides a Hide In Plain Sight that is enabled by the ScM cloak of shadows. 2) It is part of a combo to make all your shadow illusions maximized.
[*]rod of embassy (A&EG) -- If you are a native of the plane of shadow (perhaps by being a dark creature) then this lets you count as being on that plane. See the dirty tricks section for why this is important.
[*]ring of gnomekind (Dr333) -- Gives a +1 bonus to illusion spell save DCs.
[*]rod of shadowblending (CM) -- Turns your low-level image spells into shadow spells, so you can get a taste of ScM gameplay before you hit level 10.
[*]ring of arcane might (CA) -- +1 caster level
[*]robe of arcane might (MIC) -- +1 caster level
[*]ioun stone, orange prism -- +1 caster level
[*]Caine's flagon of shadows (Dragon Compendium) -- +2 to illusion (shadow) spell save DCs for a total of 15 hours per day, every day
(click to show/hide)Locations (legendary or wondrous):
otyugh hole - CS; grants Iron Will (or others, but that's what we're here for)
Vale of Smoke and Fog - CM; 18,000 gp, +50% illusion spell duration and +1 DC for a year. (not rechargeable)

On Genealogy
(click to show/hide)Non-gnome races are not recommended without removing the class's racial requirement. If that requirement is lifted, then standard racial advice holds. So let's talk about gnomes!

The (sub)races you might choose.

Gnome (rock): This is the baseline for all builds. It gives small size (good for AC and stealth), +2 Con, and +1 illusion DC. It also qualifies for the gnome illusionist substitution levels.
Whisper Gnome (RoS): Everyone's favorite subrace is actually not great here, because it trades away something we care about (illusion DC) for something we don't really (movement speed).
Forest Gnome: Strictly better than rock gnome. Higher stealth bonuses and a bunch of languages (including what amounts to an always-on speak with animals) while retaining the bonus to illusion DCs.
Stonehunter Gnome (DrM): Allows access to some dragonblood feats, specifically Practical Metamagic, which can offset the loss of the bonus to illusion DCs. This does represent a feat tax, however.
Arcane Gnome (Dr291): Lose meaningless stuff, get -2 Wis & +2 Int, as well as UMD as a class skill for all classes.
Chaos Gnome (RoS): No. +1 level adjustment. Even with level adjustment buy-off in play, you're better off by just adding a +1 LA template to a different subrace.
Dragonborn Whisper Gnome (RotD): Dragonborn offsets the drawback of being a whisper gnome by giving access to Practical Metamagic. This does represent a feat tax, however.

Stat Arrays by PB Value
An under-appreciated aspect of the ScM is how well it performs on a low value point buy. Even the 28-pointer that Living Greyhawk used to employ is more than you strictly need.

(click to show/hide)   Base   Racial   Total    Points
Str    8   -2         6          0
Dex    8              8          0
Con   11   +2         13         3
Int   18              18         16
Wis   13              13         5
Cha    8               8         0
Total            24

   Base   Racial   Total    Points
Str    8   -2         6          0
Dex    8              8          0
Con   12   +2         14         4
Int   18              18         16
Wis   13              13         5
Cha    8               8         0
Total            25

   Base   Racial   Total    Points
Str    8   -2         6          0
Dex   10              10         2
Con   12   +2         14         4
Int   18              18         16
Wis   14              14         6
Cha    8               8         0
Total            28

   Base   Racial   Total    Points
Str    8   -2         6          0
Dex   12              12         4
Con   14   +2         16         6
Int   18              18         16
Wis   14              14         6
Cha    8               8         0
Total            32

You'll notice that a perfectly serviceable ScM can be made with just 24 points, and points past that don't actually go toward improving the primary shtick. They really are just gravy, a prime example of why single attribute dependence is great. (In my opinion, all classes should be SAD, because it is easier for players to keep their numbers at benchmark values.)

On Roles in a Party
(click to show/hide)So what role is a Shadowcraft Mage peculiarly suited for? Well, if we take a look at the lists of Utility Magic and Spells That Fucking Kill People, we notice a rather large number of spells fit right in our wheelhouse. So what should we be casting?

--- Quote from: Tempest Stormwind ---Without going into too much detail, monsters tend to have d8 hit dice (or more), and they usually gain more than one hit die per CR. Meanwhile, damage spells tend to deal an extra 1d6 per level, each level corresponds to a +1 CR in the monsters you should be fighting, and the spells still tend to have saves for half. +3.5 damage (or +1.25 if they make the save) doesn't stack up if the monsters gain +9 or more HP per level -- it's an extra round of battle trying to whittle them down, and a monster with 1 HP fights just as well as it did when it had full HP. By the time level 9 hits, you've got good save-or-dies at your disposal, and more and more monsters are showing up with energy resistances as well.

Blasting works really well from level 5 (when you get third-level spells, which are unusually good at blasting at that point, few things have good saves or high HP, and energy resistances are rare) to level 7 (when save-or-dies start to show up and monsters start getting tougher), perhaps all the way to level 9 (when monsters almost completely outclass what most of your damage spells can do but you gain better save-or-dies).

None of this considers the increasing importance of battlefield control, either. Shadowcraft Mages tend to be very, very good at that since most of the good battlefield control spells are Conjuration (Creation), and a few are in Evocation, both of which he's got at his fingertips. The others are in Abjuration or Illusion -- one of these is his bitch, and the other is something he never gives up, so he's in a pretty good spot to be a controller.
--- End quote ---

In addition, the Shadowcraft Mage's ability to get extraordinarily high caster levels and save DCs while casting spells way earlier than normal allows blasting to remain a relevant option for much longer than is typical.

In other words, as a Shadowcraft Mage, all spellcasting tactics and strategies are viable, so you can do whatever strikes your fancy without fear of being a leech on party resources.

On Mistaken Beliefs and Stealth Nerfs
(click to show/hide)WIP

[*]"Illusion spells are weak because enemies get a save every time they interact with the spell!"
Response: This is a common mistake. Like every other spell, illusions allow one save. Once someone has interacted with your spell, they get one save. If that save is failed, they do not get to make additional saves upon further interaction. The alternative is untenable, because interaction—like movement—is infinitely divisible. (Recall Zeno's paradox of Achilles and the tortoise.) If every interaction granted a save, then the victim would be permitted infinite saves. This is absurd, so we fall back to the default behavior of spells and saving throws: one save only.

[*]"But undead (and golems, etc.) are immune to mind-affecting effects, so they are immune to your illusions!"

Response: Undead don't have special eyesight, by Sean K Reynolds

[*]"But Arcane Disciple can't work the way you say! The shadow spells reference the Sor/Wiz list, and that doesn't get modified. Because surely if it did, then some wizard somewhere took Arcane Disciple (Luck), and thereby put miracle on the Sor/Wiz list for everyone!"

Response: Really? We're going here? You make me sad.

Two points. First, the shadow spells do not anywhere mention a list. The word never appears. All that they say is "sorcerer or wizard spell". Everyone seems to agree that wings of flurry can be mimicked with shadow evocation, but that spell is Sor 4, not Sor/Wiz 4. Assuming your interpretation correct implies that wings of flurry is not a valid application. That conclusion, however, is already rejected, so we must reject your interpretation.

Second, let's address the question of Arcane Disciple's modifying spell lists.

(i) A spell is a wizard spell if-and-only-if it is on the Wizard spell list.
(ii) Arcane Disciple adds the spells on the selected domain list to "your class spell list."
(iii) For a Wizard character, "your class spell list" refers to the Wizard spell list.
(iv) By (ii) and (iii), Arcane Disciple (luck) makes it so certain spells are treated as on the Wizard spell list for you.
(v) By (i) and (iv) miracle becomes a wizard spell for you.
The game is rife with effects that interact with lists in this fashion. For instance, some races treat certain weapons as martial rather than exotic. A weapon is martial if-and-only-if it appears on the list of martial weapons, but when a gnome Fighter gets "proficiency with all martial weapons", he/she gets proficiency with gnome hooked hammers. Unless you're willing to argue that (a) gnome Fighters aren't proficient with gnome hooked hammers or (b) human Fighters are? No? Didn't think so.

On the Use of Dirty Tricks
(click to show/hide)Early Qualification!
(click to show/hide) Through the use of feats like Practical Metamagic or Earth Spell, casters can arguably* enter classes that require the ability to cast X level spells earlier than otherwise possible. For example, a Sorcerer normally only qualifies for Shadowcraft Mage at level 8, due to the requirement for 4th level spells. However, by using Practical Metamagic (Heighten Spell), he can heighten a spell to 4th level using a 3rd level slot. So, as soon as he has the feat and a 3rd level slot, he can cast 4th level spells, qualifying him for Shadowcraft Mage.

*Note: I believe this interpretation to be invalid. It relies on an unwarranted assumption of synonymy. Sometimes words and phrases are used to mean different things in different contexts, and ignoring this leads to fallacious equivocation. I'm leaving this early entry trick in the guide solely as a matter of historical record.
Example feat progressions:
Sorcerer or Beguiler (Dragonborn Gnome):
1) Spell Focus (illusion)
3) Heighten Spell
6) Practical Metamagic (Heighten Spell)
1) Spell Focus (illusion)
3) Earth Sense
5) Heighten Spell
6) Earth Spell
Each of the above is ready to enter Shadowcraft Mage.

Extra Reality and Free Maximization
(click to show/hide)For all those sneaky characters out there the Collar of Umbral Metamorphosis from Tome of Magic is definitely a must. For 10,800 gp you can gain the Dark creature template for 10 min a day.    In addition to such goodies as +8 Hide, +6 Move Silently, +10 ft move speed (all unnamed), cold resistance 10, superior low light vision, and Darkvision 60ft, you even get the ex. ability to Hide In Plain Sight which is the real winner.    If you need more than 10min/day, you can have a continuous collar for 22,000gp.

Perhaps just as important as all that together, though is the fact that a dark creature's native plane becomes the plane of shadow. This enables a powerful trick using the spell planar bubble, which creates a 10-ft. emanation of a creature's native plane. The effects of the Shadow Plane are:

--- Quote ---Enhanced magic. Spells with the shadow descriptor are enhanced on the Plane of Shadow. Such spells are cast as though they were prepared with the Maximize Spell feat, though they don't require the higher spell slots.   

Furthermore, specific spells become more powerful on the Plane of Shadow. [*]Shadow Conjuration and Shadow Evocation spells are 30% as powerful as the conjurations and evocations they mimic (as opposed to 20%). [*]Greater Shadow Conjuration and Greater Shadow Evocation are 70% as powerful (not 60%), [*]and a Shades spell conjures at 90% of the power of the original (not 80%).    [/list]

Impeded magic. Spells that use or generate light or fire may fizzle when cast on the Plane of Shadow. A spellcaster attempting a spell with the light or fire descriptor must succeed on a Spellcraft check (DC 20 + the level of the spell). Spells that produce light are less effective in general, because all light sources have their ranges halved on the Plane of Shadow.
--- End quote ---
The trick is then to cast Planar Bubble (level 7 Sor/Wiz/Cleric spell) while using your Collar of Umbral Metamorphosis (continuous or otherwise) to create a 10-ft emanation of the Plane of Shadow around yourself, Maximizing your shadow spells, and even making Greater Shadow Conjuration/Evocation useful with all the reality enhancers you have.

Note that this functions differently for prepped casters than it does for prep-less ones. For a Sorcerer, any shadow spell he casts on the plane is enhanced. For a Wizard, any shadow spell she prepares on the plane is enhanced. They both ultimately attain maximization on everything, but the pathways they take are subtly different and use different cheese.

Entering Shadowcraft Mage as a Non-gnome
(click to show/hide)[*]Racial Emulation: This changeling feat allows a changeling to count as a member of the race he's mimicking for all purposes. So a changeling can qualify for Shadowcraft Mage by assuming gnome form. Note that per the core rules, prestige class requirement only apply to the process of taking the first level.
[*]The Stoneblessed PrC from Races of Stone is a three level class that eventually allows a character to be considered a gnome for the purposes of effects and prerequisites. By taking all three levels of the class you can push a member of any race into the Shadowcraft Mage class, albeit at a somewhat higher level than can be accomplished by a gnome. As Stoneblessed does not advance spellcasting, the use of a fast-progression PrC is recommended. The basic structure might be Bard 7/Gnome Stoneblessed 3/Sublime Chord 5/Shadowcraft Mage 5. You end up with full Sublime Chord casting, so you're epic ready and can be mimicking 9th level spells by 17th level. Keep in mind that this is just a skeleton build; it is far from maximized.
 Limitless Spells (click to show/hide) This trick requires Residual Magic and the ability to cast a shadow miracle.
 Rary's mnemonic enhancer is a 4th level wizard spell that prepares up to three additional levels of spells (cantrips count as 1/2 level). At 4th level, this is spell-level negative; i.e., spend four levels of spells to get three. It's neutral at third level; i.e., cast mnemonic enhancer to prepare mnemonic enhancer. Anything lower than that actually gains more spell levels prepared than it takes to cast.
 So we repeat the following routine for an hour every morning and evening. (For this demonstration, assuming the first-level Gnome Illusionist substitution level is in effect.)
 Round A: Cast a heightened silent image with a first level slot. I prefer mimicking glitterdust for the cool visual effect.
 Round B: Use Residual Magic to cast a shadow miracle from a cantrip slot. This prepares three levels of spells, as such: heightened silent image (1), heightened silent image (1), silent image (1/2), silent image (1/2).
 Thus we spend a first level slot and a cantrip slot and get two first level spells and two cantrips prepared. This process takes two rounds, so after 10 minutes (100 rounds) we have repeated it 50 times, gaining +100 spells prepared.
 After we are done, we then use a shadow miracle to duplicate Mordenkainen's lucubration to restore any real slots we've expended in the past 24 hours.

These threads are relevant to your interests.

[*]Shadowcraft Mage Spellbook
[*]Metamagic and You: A Thesis
[*]Utility Magic
[*]Spells That Fvcking Kill People
[*]Full original Shadowcraft Mage Handbook thread from WotC boards: Text file
[*]Full original Killer Gnome thread from WotC boards: Text file

Suggestion/Request: Move to handbook subforum.

Yeah, I posted in here by mistake. As I said: not enough coffee. I figure mods will get around to moving it at some point.


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