Master Eldritch Secrets and Formidable Power
Myth and mystery surround those who wield the awe-inspiring might of arcane magic. Whether through ancient knowledge, innate talent, or supernatural gift, these formidable and versatile spellcasters command powers beyond measure.
This supplement for the D&D game provides everything you need to expand the power of arcane magic for characters of any class. Along with new base classes, prestige classes, feats, spells, monsters, and magic items, Complete Arcane provides guidelines for spell duels, arcane organizations, and other aspects of a campaign world imbued with magic.
Complete Arcane (2004), by Richard Baker, is one of the best of the class expansion books for D&D 3.5, hands down. A more comprehensive reworking of 3e D&D's Tome & Blood, Complete Arcane manages to deliver an absurd amount of well-balanced and flavorful character options for players with arcane characters. It's 192 pages of magic-weaving, eldritch goodness, full of spells, magic items, feats, prestige classes, and monsters.
Showing Real Class. One of the first things you note about Complete Arcane is the vast amount of new character options. There are three new classes, with the wu jen converted from Oriental Adventures and the war mage ported over from the Miniatures Handbook. The new class that particularly shines is the warlock.
There was great furor about the warlock when the class was released, with impassioned (and sometimes a little bit frothing) concern that the introduction of at-will spellcasting would prove to be dramatically overpowered. Nevertheless, it was a significant step away from Vancian magic and the creation of a fun, playable class that had a fairly low learning curve for newer players. The warlock managed to combine fun new mechanics with superb flavor, something that's not particularly easy.
Almost 20 new and converted prestige classes fill more than 50 pages. Almost all are well balanced, although a few are relatively esoteric - you don't find many acolytes of the skin wandering around adventuring worlds, for instance - but a few have firmly established themselves in D&D's canon. The alienist, with its tentacular revelations and twitching insanities, makes a return. So does the wild mage, a concept generally beloved by players and hated by everyone else at the table since early editions of D&D.
Of particular note are new prestige classes for bards, a fun class that had traditionally garnered less support in supplements than other spellcasters. It's also worth noting that every prestige class has a stat block for NPCs, making it simple for DMs to pull one in as an adversary.
Feats of Strength. The feats presented in Complete Arcane are generally interesting and well thought out. One in particular is worth calling out: Practiced Spellcaster (giving the spellcaster +4 to their caster level, maxing out at their actual Hit Dice) puts every multi-classed spellcaster and spellcasting race with a level adjustment back on an even keel with other single-classed characters. It had become clear over time that dipping out of a spellcasting class could be crippling to a character's overall power. Practiced Spellcaster did a good job in evening things out.
This section also provides great love for sorcerers looking to expand their draconic heritage and all spellcasters looking for new metamagic feats.
Items, Spell, and Beasts to Slay. Any book for arcane casters is bound to have new magic items and spells. The spells here are heavy on orb spells and tactics to discourage "scry, buff, teleport" (or as some have called it, "scryoport") strategies. "Anticipate teleportation" makes such ambushes a lot dicier for the heroes. In any event, any spell list with a "flensing" spell can't be all bad.
Essential for Arcane Players. This book might not be necessary for players who already own Tome & Blood; that depends on how comfortable you are converting and kit-bashing old prestige classes. If you don't, or if you're interested in the warlock, this book is a must-buy for 3.5 players with arcane characters.
About the Creators. Origins award-winner Rich Baker is a former naval officer who joined TSR in 1991. Baker co-designed the Alternity science fiction game and the Birthright campaign setting, and during his tenure at TSR and WotC he worked on the Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Planescape, and Dark Sun. He is the author of several novels set in the Forgotten Realms.
About the Product Historian
History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.