3.5 Classes for Pathfinder: Complete Arcane

Pathfinder is, after all, supposed to be backwards-compatible. But how compatible are those old 3.5 classes compared to the power-creep Pathfinder core classes?

Well, for the most part, they only need a bit of revision, and since Pathfinder was so nice in terms of codifying everything, this bit is a cinch.

Here are some of my (quick and dirty) notes on converting the classes over to Pathfinder; it’s kind of startling how little really needs to be done on some, and yet how many levels worth of class abilities and features need to be crammed into the emptier classes. I started with Complete Arcane, partly doing things in alphabetical order and partly because of the Warlock and Warmage.

Also, a free bonus: the Artificer, since I didn’t have to do much with the class, and because it’s necessary for a Pathfinder Eberron game.


The iconic class of Eberron, the Artificer already exists in one form via Adamant Entertainment’s Tome of Secrets. (Anything with mad science as a class ability is ok in my book.)  There’s also another version, a bit closer to the original source, on the Pathfinder Database. I have a few problems with both of them. At higher levels they just crap out in terms of special abilities, instead getting infrequent bonus feats. (Another holdover of 3.5… but what the hell is the Artificer going to prestige into?) Also, why does the PF Database one have Fly as a class skill? The other one, with its weird devices focus, feels more suited to flying, yet isn’t skilled in it! Eugh.

Regardless, they’re fairly solid builds, going off of two separate but related ideas, so I won’t bother renovating what’s already fixed. For filling in those gaps, I’d give it more item creation abilities, extend the mad science out a bit, and give it an ability to create devices which use spells higher than 5th level… but with a % chance to backfire, fizzle, or just plain explode. Say, 10% chance per level over 5th, which means a 9th level spell still works over half the time. A variable error range for fizzles to backfire damage and we’re good to go.


Probably the most controversial official class in 3.5, the Warlock is definitely a powerful class.  Much like the Soulknife, it’s a one-trick pony—but it does that one trick very well.  It’s a magic class without the option to cast many spells, instead changing and manipulating its Eldritch Blast ability (think a magic version of the Soulnife’s soulblade).  While it’s pretty damaging at higher levels, and needs a ranged touch to hit (!), at first level it’s 1d6 per round, much like a bow. Yet, at first level, any tricked-out archer will easily compare to that (Point-Blank Shot/Rapid Shot/Manyshot, with Precise Shot and Weapon Focus: Bow being next in line). On top of that, the Warlock gets few options at high levels, being greatly limited in Eldritch Blast forms. Powerful as it is in 3.5, it’s roughly on par with the Pathfinder classes, with less of a noticeable gap in terms of power.

Hit Die: d8. The Warlock is closer to the tactical-fighter Rogue than a true spell-caster (after all, it has Use Magic Device as a class skill). Also, the class has an average BAB progression, which coincides with a d8 hit die in Pathfinder.

Class Skills:  Bluff (Cha), Craft (Int), Disguise (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Fly (Dex), Knowledge (Arcana) (Int), Knowledge (the Planes) (Int), Knowledge (Religion), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Cha), Spellcraft (Int), Use Magic Device (Cha).  The Warlock doesn’t have any of the Perception skills, and with only one Acrobatics skill (Jump), the class just doesn’t feel very acrobatic.

Skills per level: 4 + Int modifier. While neither of the other arcane casters got a skill point increase, they don’t have the Warlock’s impressive skill list, nor its Rogue-like focus as a deceptive tactical fighter.

Class Features: Warlocks already have the necessary 1 feature per class level, so it’s mostly fine as-is. Changes are minor, and are as follows:

Invocations:  As written, the Warlock is nearly screwed out of getting invocations.  They’re fairly limited in scope, and only a few books even cover them: Complete Arcane, Complete Mage, Dragon Magic, and Cityscape.  If you have access to all the books, or made some yourself, consider offering them at one per level while retaining the level caps (1st/6th/11th/16th).

Eldritch Blast: The damage/level changes from every other level to every third level at 11th for some reason. Change it back to every odd level, ending it at 10d6 at 19th level. Not a major change, but it flows better and balances a bit nicer.

Fiendish Resilience: This ability is negated somewhat since it’s a free action. Change that to a swift or immediate action and we’re in business.

Energy Resistance: The ability could be beefed up a little. Leave the 10th level Resist 5, add in a Resist 10 at level 15, and change level 20 to Resist 15.

Feats:  Lower the level requirement of Extra Invocations to 1st level; if everyone else can get them that low (Extra Rage, Extra Perform, etc.), then Warlocks should to.

The Warlock starts off quite powerful: it goes DR/5, average BAB, and a fairly powerful at-will ranged-touch attack, on top of fast healing X minutes/day and energy resistance. However, it is still a bit weak in some areas, which I tried to correct for above; it’s still a powerful one-trick pony, but at least it’s slightly less of a glass cannon.


As written, the Warmage is very interesting, if not terribly strong.  Essentially, it’s a wizard who can wear armor, and at later levels, gains Sudden feats. The class is also heavily Charisma-based, including for spellcasting. A rebuild should take in mind the focus on evocation and war, as well as the Cha as the primary ability, and go hog-wild on the Sudden feats as class abilities. I based some of it off this Pathfinder rebuild, but instead of the new abilities, I gave it Spell Focus and Spell Penetration since they do roughly the same thing.

Hit Die: d8.  Like the Warlock, the Warmage was originally meant to be a bit tougher than the normal wizard, and should remain so.

Class Skills:  Craft (Int), Intimidate (Cha), Fly (Dex), Knowledge (Arcana) (Int), Knowledge (History) (Int), Profession (Wis), Spellcraft (Int). No change, except the loss of Concentration and gain of Fly.

Skill per level: 2 + Int modifier. Same reasons as the Warlock; it’s skill list is tiny, and neither of the core arcane classes got skill point increases.

BAB: Average. As the hit die increases, so does the attack progression.

Class Features: Notice all those dead zones in the Warmage’s class progression? Those need to be filled somehow.

Armored Mage (light) at 1st, and (medium) at 8th as written. The light and medium armor proficiencies are nice, but the picture clearly has the Warmage carrying a shield. Give the class Shield Proficiency at 4th level, roughly halfway between when it gets light and medium.

Warmage Edge at 1st level as written.  Instead, add 1/2 your caster level plus Intelligence modifier. It gives the class a nice reason to level in-class, and a little extra go-juice later in life.

Sudden Still at 2nd level. Still Spell, and its Sudden variant, are not as useful as everyone thinks, but are nice to have around at lower levels.

Arcane Strike at 2nd level.  It feels like this feat was made for the Warmage.

Advanced Learning starting at third as written. Increase to once every three levels. Also, allow a Warmage to pick non-evocation spells, but as one level higher (Web as a 3rd level spell instead of 2nd). This would give a Warmage the Advanced Learning ability at 3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th, and 18th levels, giving two more known spells off the Warmage spell list.

Martial Weapon Proficiency at 4th level. This is also the same level the class gains Shield Proficiency. By now, it should have figured out the “war” part of Warmage, and gains proficiency to reflect this.

Sudden Silent at 5th level. Again, not the most powerful of all the Sudden feats, but another useful one at lower levels.

Spell Focus: Evocation at 6th level; the class’s bread and butter is evocation, and should learn how to cast them better, for free, as it levels.

Sudden Empower at 7th as written.

Sculpt Spell at 8th level. This is one of the most powerful battlefield feats in the game, and should come in later in the class’s progression to reflect this.

Spell Penetration at 8th level, to help overcome SR.

Greater Spell Focus: Evocation at 10th level. Again, the class should get these for free; the only reason it doesn’t get them earlier is so it isn’t as front-loaded.

Sudden Enlarge at 11th as written.

Sudden Widen at 12th level.

Greater Spell Penetration at 12th level, to further overcome SR.

Sudden Extend at 14th level.

Sudden Quicken at 17th level.

Sudden Maximize at 20th as written.

Feats: Change all the Sudden feats from 1/day to 3 + modifer per day. In the case of the Warmage, this would be from 1/day to 3 + Cha modifer per day.

This build gives the Warmage all the Sudden abilities they can shake a stick at. There’s some notable tweaks to battlefield spellcasting, with Evocation spell focus and Sculpt Spell to make the Warmage effective on the battlefield. With the weapon and armor proficiencies, Arcane Strike, and hit die/BAB increase, the class can hold its own with a Cleric (only in medium armor) as a combatant.

Wu Jen

Probably the most difficult to translate over into Pathfinder of the Complete Arcane stuff. Look at that list of abilities… it’s barren. Not only that, but they all fall under one category: metamagic. So, we have a caster focused on elemental magic and metamagic feats. Let’s roll!

Hit Die: d6. The Wu Jen is on par with the Wizard and Sorcerer.

Class Skills: Craft (Int), Fly (Dex), Knowledge (all, taken individually) (Int), Profession (Wis), Spellcraft (Int). As standard for most spellcasters, the loss of Concentration and the gain of Fly.

Skills per level: 2 + Int modifier. Too few skills to need more.

Spells:  The Wu Jen has one of the smallest spell lists in the game of a hard-core spellcasting class. Oriental Adventures, Rokugan, Complete Arcane, and Complete Mage are the only ones off the top of my head to contain spells. From there, it’s up to the GM, but here are the standard short rules. Any Sor/Wiz spell with an elemental focus (e.g., [fire], [cold], etc.) is added to the list, along with some select Druid spells with an elemental focus.

Class Features:  Spell Secrets and Elemental Mastery are the key here. Increase both of them to make the class a bit more interesting.

Taboos as written; yes, that means one per Spell Secret. Heh.

Lesser Elemental Mastery: At 2nd level, the Wu Jen chooses a favored element, and gains a domain from the Cleric list corresponding to their chosen element: earth, fire, metal (Metal subdomain), water, or wood (Plant). This closes the gap between the Wu Jen and the rest of the party, gives some bonus spell options, and offers some spells and abilities that a normal Wizard doesn’t have.

Spell Secret should be increased, to one every level starting with third, except for the levels where a Wu Jen gains Elemental Mastery. In this case, open up the choices to any metamagic feat (or, perhaps just the core Pathfinder ones). Obvious choices are Quicken and Maximize; put a level cap on those (minimum 10th or 12th maybe?) so those aren’t chosen every single time.

Elemental Mastery: As written, but also gives the benefits of Spell Focus and Spell Penetration to spells of the favored element. 6th level is a good place to put this, in the middle of low-level progression. Elemental Mastery applies to the same elemental type as the favored element at level 2.

Greater Elemental Mastery: At 12th level, the Wu Jen gains the benefits of Greater Spell Focus and Greater Spell Penetration to the favored element. In addition, the Wu Jen adds any Intelligence modifier to the duration and damage rolls of spells in the favored element.

This build gives a wider range of options in terms of Spell Secrets, allowing plenty of spells to be tweaked out. The Elemental Mastery beef attempts to put the character closer to a Cleric or Wizard, especially with the favored element and Elemental Mastery. As further mods, I considered instead offering Elemental Mastery every 6 levels (so, 6, 12, and 18), giving three favored elements. Another option I considered was a final elemental mastery ability at 20th.  Feel free to do whatever you like; I’m still not sold that the class is as powerful as the core Pathfinder ones.

3 thoughts on “3.5 Classes for Pathfinder: Complete Arcane

  1. Nice food for thought. I’m not that good with the numbers and why i should play certain classes over others. I just play… well… anything that is fun. This more technical way of looking at a character is equally important. but i am not good at it. Thats why i like this post :)

    1. Thanks. :)

      It’s kind of ironic, personally I prefer more freeform, cinematic systems, but I love digging in and working with the d20 system, especially Pathfinder. Dead simple, and very orderly, in comparison. Once you start going in-depth with the guts of the system and examine how it works, it starts to click and things just fall into place.

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