(Excerpt from Complete Mage, By Ari Marmell and Skip Williams) (link to article on WotC site)
"You insist on attempting to master magic, but magic is no one's slave. Treat the magic as your partner, as I have, and you too may reach enlightenment."
-- Kalind Leschay, an ultimate magus
Sorcerers channel unknowable powers, and wizards are expert in ancient lore, but few individuals have as thorough an understanding and mastery of arcane magic as the ultimate magus. By combining both sorcerous and wizardly abilities into a unified whole, the magus empowers herself in ways even the greatest archmage can't duplicate.
Becoming an Ultimate Magus
Due to the specific requirements of the ultimate magus, levels in both sorcerer and wizard are the most common method of gaining entry into this class. It might be possible for members of other spellcasting classes to do so under specific conditions, but such an occurrence is as rare as cockatrice teeth.
Skills: Knowledge (arcana) 4 ranks, Spellcraft 8 ranks.
Feats: Any metamagic feat.
Spellcasting: Able to spontaneously cast 1st-level arcane spells, able to prepare and cast 2nd-level arcane spells from a spellbook.
As an ultimate magus, you are a connoisseur of both prepared and spontaneous magic. You not only learn to cast both types of spells, but to use one art to augment the other -- particularly in the realm of metamagic effects.
Spellcasting: At each level except 1st, 4th, and 7th, 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 both a prepared arcane casting class and a spontaneous arcane casting class to which you belonged before adding the prestige class level. You do not, however, gain any other benefit a character of those classes would have gained.
At 1st, 4th, and 7th 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 your arcane spellcasting class with the lowest caster level. For example, a 4th-level wizard/1st-level sorcerer who gained one level of ultimate magus would gain increased spellcasting ability as if he had gained a level of sorcerer (since that class's caster level is lower than his wizard caster level). If all your arcane spellcasting classes have equal caster levels, you can apply this benefit to any of your existing arcane spellcasting classes. You do not, however, gain any other benefit a character of those classes would have gained.
Arcane Spell Power (Ex): At 1st level, your caster level for all arcane spells increases by 1. It increases again at 4th level, 7th level, and 10th level (to a maximum of +4).
Expanded Spell Knowledge (Ex): At 2nd level, you can select one 0- or 1st-level arcane spell from your spellbook and add it to the list of arcane spells known for a spontaneous casting class, even if you can't yet spontaneously cast spells of that level.(In this case, you would know the spell but wouldn't be able to cast it until you had spell slots of the appropriate level.)
You can add another spell from your spellbook to your list of spells known every two levels thereafter. At 4th level, this can be a 0-, 1st-, or 2nd-level spell. At 6th level, this can be any spell of 3rd level or lower. At 8th level, this spell can be of 4th level or lower, and at 10th level it can be of 5th level or lower.
Augmented Casting (Su): Starting at 3rd level, you can choose to sacrifice a spell or spell slot from one of your classes to apply the effect of a metamagic feat that you know to a spell cast using another arcane class. (For instance, you could sacrifice a sorcerer slot to apply a metamagic effect to a wizard spell.) This sacrificed spell or slot is lost (just as if you had cast the spell) in addition to the spell you are actually casting.
The level of the spell to be augmented can't exceed 1/2 your class level. For example, when you first gain this ability, you can only apply a metamagic effect to 1st-level spells. A 10th-level ultimate magus can affect spells of 5th level or lower.
The level of the spell slot sacrificed must equal or exceed the spell level adjustment of the metamagic feat. To empower a spell, for example, you would have to spend a 2nd-level or higher spell. You can't use this ability to augment a spell already affected by a metamagic feat.
You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + 1/2 your class level.
Bonus Feat: At 5th level, and again at 9th level, you can select a bonus metamagic feat for which you meet the prerequisites.
Table 3-9: The Ultimate Magus Hit Die: d4
|Level||Base Attack Bonus||Fort Save||Ref Save||Will Save||Special||Spellcasting|
|1st||+0||+0||+0||+2||Arcane spell power +1||+1 level of lower-level existing arcane casting class|
|2nd||+1||+0||+0||+3||Expanded spell knowledge (1st level or lower)||+1 level of existing prepared arcane casting class and +1 level of existing spontaneous arcane casting class|
|3rd||+1||+1||+1||+3||Augmented casting||+1 level of existing prepared arcane casting class and +1 level of existing spontaneous arcane casting class|
|4th||+2||+1||+1||+4||Arcane spell power +2, expanded spell knowledge (2nd level or lower)||+1 level of lower-level existing arcane casting class|
|5th||+2||+1||+1||+4||Bonus feat||+1 level of existing prepared arcane casting class and +1 level of existing spontaneous arcane casting class|
|6th||+3||+2||+2||+5||Expanded spell knowledge (3rd level or lower)|
|7th||+3||+2||+2||+5||Arcane spell power +3||+1 level of lower-level existing arcane casting class|
|8th||+4||+2||+2||+6||Expanded spell knowledge (4th level or lower)|
|10th||+5||+3||+3||+7||Arcane spell power +4, expanded spell knowledge (5th level or lower)|
Class Skills (2 + Int modifier per level): Concentration, Craft, Decipher Script, Knowledge (all skills, taken individually), Profession, Spellcraft, Use Magic Device.
Playing an Ultimate Magus
You possess a fascination with magic and lore greater than that of most wizards. You see magic not as a tool, but as a natural part of who and what you are. It is a part of the world in which you live, not an implement to be exploited when necessary and discarded. Everything you do, everything you see, and everything you learn is examined and analyzed as it relates to magic first, and to all other concerns second. You know that you possess great power, but you feel certain that secrets and understanding yet elude your grasp.
This doesn't mean that you have no other goals or other loves. You might adventure alongside your friends, serve your king as advisor, or fight on the battlefield for a cause in which you believe, just like any other character might. Even in the midst of all this, however, you learn and study constantly, seeking to understand how magic fits into the events around you and what insight those events can grant you that apply to your magic.
You are, if anything, even less of a melee fighter than other arcane casters. Your levels in multiple casting classes do little to improve your base attack bonus, to say nothing of your hit points. Stay back out of the fray and take advantage of the vast array of spells to which you have access. You are best served by area spells or spells that prevent enemies from getting too close to you. Where possible, focus on groups of enemies, letting the fighters in the group tackle the single foes. When you must focus on a specific opponent, do what you can to take him out as fast as possible, before he recognizes you for the threat you pose and does the same to you.
Particularly at early levels, use the spells from your higher-level arcane class for offensive effects. This strategy maximizes both the spells' likelihood of success (due to a higher save DC) and the overall effect (due to a higher caster level). Later on, your two classes likely balance out, so this becomes less of an issue.
Although you'll always lag behind a single-classed arcane caster in terms of sheer power -- your highest-level spells are a level or two lower than those of such a character -- your caster level keeps up reasonably well (meaning your fireball is just about as good as his). Also, your array of spells can last up to twice as long in an adventure as that of a single-classed character, and you have a few tricks up your sleeve that he can't easily match.
You were heavily devoted to the study and mastery of magic even before you entered this class. Perhaps you were a born sorcerer, and wished to better understand the nature of your powers. Perhaps you were a wizard, and the discovery of your spontaneous abilities led you to question the knowledge you had already gained. Whatever the case, you are a driven soul with no goal outside a true understanding of arcane magic in all its forms.
You spend all your available time advancing your skills and knowledge. Whether this means battling monsters in the dungeon, unearthing ancient lore, or simply reading books at the university, nothing is more important to you.
You'll want to keep skills such as Knowledge (arcana) and Spellcraft high, if not maxed out. Choose feats that benefit both your casting styles, such as Spell Penetration and Spell Focus. Even with your extra metamagic feats, it pays to learn as many as you can (particularly those with low level adjustments).
You'll face the complex conundrum of where to assign newly learned spells. Adding a spell to your spellbook means you're not necessarily stuck with it when you don't need it, but adding it to your list of spells known means you can cast it more frequently. It's probably best to focus on spells you need only occasionally for the bulk of your spellbook, such as identify, disguise self, resist energy, see invisibility, and the like. That frees up your sorcerer spell slots for always useful spells such as magic missile, shield, ray of enfeeblement, web, and so on. Always keep your caster level in the two classes in mind -- spells that don't benefit from a high caster level are good choices for your "weaker" class.
Although no organization is devoted exclusively to your particular mix of talents, you might well hold a position, or at least possess contacts, within a wizards guild or similar organization. Such cabals are fascinated by your abilities and eager to learn whatever mystic secrets you have uncovered. While they aren't likely to support you with finances or magic items, they might aid you in researching specific topics, or offer you the opportunity to trade spells with wizards, wu jen, or other preparation casters.
Ultimate Magi in the World
"I find them both fascinating and worrying, these so-called ultimate magi. Fascinating because they suggest that we have so much more to learn about magic, and worrying because they suggest that so much of what we do know may be wrong."
-- Mialee, elf wizard
Ultimate magi, though rare, are found either in greater metropolises or in complete isolation. In this regard, at least, they fit the stereotype of the obsessed wizard. They might be part of a guild or a government or they might seek complete seclusion, but in either case their purpose is the same -- study and knowledge. The development of ultimate magi is a logical result of the existence of both wizards and sorcerers, so DMs should have little trouble justifying their existence.
Ultimate magi have no organizations of their own. That said, many hold positions of high esteem in various arcanist guilds, or in other groups that normally allow wizards or sorcerers.
Most individuals have difficulty telling a sorcerer from a wizard, let alone recognizing an ultimate magus, and thus react to a member of this class as they would any other arcane caster. Sorcerers and wizards, however, recognize that the magi are privy to secrets they themselves lack. Arcane casters who seek knowledge and a better understanding of their powers (often, but not always, the good-aligned ones) begin one step nearer to helpful than they otherwise would. Arcane casters who master magic to gain power over others (often, but not always, the evil-aligned ones) begin one step nearer to hostile.
Ultimate Magus Lore
Characters who have ranks in Knowledge (arcana) or the bardic knowledge ability can research ultimate magi to learn more about them. When a character makes a successful skill check or bardic knowledge check, read or paraphrase the following, including the information from lower DCs.
DC 10: Ultimate magi are individuals able to progress in both prepared and spontaneous varieties of arcane magic.
DC 15: I heard of one magus who claimed to be able to apply the tricks learned as a wizard to her sorcerer spellcasting prowess.
DC 20: I once watched a magus decimate a whole horde with spells far more powerful than she should have been able to cast. It wore her down, though, like she was burning magic to empower magic.
DC 30: Characters who achieve this level of success can learn important details about a specific ultimate magus in your campaign, the areas where she operates, and the kinds of activities she undertakes.
PCs who wish to meet with an ultimate magus should make every effort to contact the nearest arcanist guild. Even if the organization boasts no such member, odds are good that its members can suggest the next place to search.
Ultimate Magi in the Game
An ultimate magus can appear anywhere a wizard or other studious caster would fit in. She might hold a high position in a city or wander the world like any adventurer. It is entirely possible that the PCs have met or heard of one before without even realizing it, having mistaken a magus for a traditional wizard or sorcerer.
Players who enjoy playing arcane spellcasters should find the ultimate magus an absolute delight. Although the class costs them some power, it opens up an enormous variety of options that no other single arcane casting class can provide.
The ultimate magus requires little adaptation, since the prestige class fits into any setting with both wizards and sorcerers, or any similar classes. That said, it would not be inappropriate to make the magi members of an elite order, rather than lone individuals. Perhaps only a select few have learned these techniques, and these masters are highly selective about whom they teach. Alternatively, in a setting in which either sorcerers or wizards are persecuted, the arts of the magi might have been developed to allow one such class to masquerade as the other.
Another variant might be one that melds two spontaneous casting arcane characters, such as a sorcerer and a warmage, allowing the two to blend their spell lists in a manner similar to the benefit of the expanded spell knowledge class feature.
PCs are likely to encounter ultimate magi when on a quest for knowledge or items of great arcane power, or when researching ancient secrets. That said, it is certainly possible to encounter a mighty magus battling the forces of evil, or an ambitious one leading an army of summoned minions. Essentially, a magus can appear in any circumstances when a sorcerer or wizard would be appropriate.
EL 9: Kalind Leschay was an apprentice to a powerful wizard when her sorcerous abilities first manifested. She remained with her mentor for several more years, until it became clear that he was more interested in studying her than teaching her. She now uses her abilities to learn more about arcane magic, as well as to protect others. When the PCs encounter her, she has placed an entire village under her protection -- partly because of a nearby ancient ruin, which she is convinced possesses a few tomes in a long-dead tongue. Powerful as she is, however, she has bitten off more than she can chew, since evil powers also seek the tomes. The PCs must either stand with her or abandon her, and the village, to a dark fate.
Kalind Leschay CR 9
Female human wizard 4/sorcerer 1/ultimate magus 4
NG Medium humanoid
Init +1; Senses Listen -1, Spot -1
Languages Common, Draconic, Elven
Proposed Extension of Levels
|Level||Base Attack Bonus||Fort Save||Ref Save||Will Save||Special||Spellcasting|
|12th||+6||+4||+4||+8||Expanded spell knowledge (6th level or lower)|
|13th||+6||+4||+4||+8||Arcane spell power +5||+1 level of lower-level existing arcane casting class|
|14th||+7||+4||+4||+9||Expanded spell knowledge (7th level or lower)|
|16th||+8||+5||+5||+10||Arcane spell power +6, Expanded spell knowledge (8th level or lower)||+1 level of lower-level existing arcane casting class|
|18th||+9||+6||+6||+11||Expanded spell knowledge (9th level or lower)|
|19th||+9||+6||+6||+11||Arcane spell power +7||+1 level of lower-level existing arcane casting class|
Bonus Feat: At 11th, 15th, 17th and 20th levels, you can select as a bonus feat any feat involving magic for which you meet the prerequisites. Unlike the feats at 5th and 9th levels, you are not limited to metamagic feats. You may also select magic item creation feats, epic magic feats, spell penetration or resistance feats, or anything else directly related to the practice of magic.
Possible rule (if DM approves): Once the effective caster levels and the effective level for spells per day of the prepared and spontaneous arcane classes are equal, then for all later levels gained in Ultimate Magus the "+1 level of lower-level existing arcane casting class" is replaced with "+1 level of existing prepared arcane casting class and +1 level of existing spontaneous arcane casting class" so that both classes will remain at the same level. (If this rule is not used and additional levels in Ultimate Magus are earned, then the character's spellcsting ability in the lower-level arcane class will begin to exceed that of the other arcane class.)
Note: In the published levels of this prestige class (levels 1-10), the "+1 level of lower-level existing arcane casting class" is always matched with an increase in the Arcane Spell Power special ability, except for the 10th level. I suspect this might be an error in the class, and that the proper Spellcasting benefit for 10th level is to increase both classes by +1.