The First Tuesday of every month, I like to try my hand at creating one cool character or another. This month, we have an Eldrich Knight from the world I’m creating in Coldforged: The Killbaran Praetorian, an Eldritch Knight of the finest order on Tysis.
The Killbaran Praetorian is something that has been in the back of my head since I made the Republic of Killbar back in the infancy of the setting. It was a highly trained and extremely skilled warrior that was the guardian of the College Magus’ and of the Consuls and other dignitaries. They weren’t going to be large in number, but they were going to be a formidable force that could turn the tide in many battles.
Further, I had been in an ongoing discussion with my brother about how much I hated the Eldritch Knight class option. It didn’t call to me the same way many other class archetypes did, and I really wanted it to be a stellar class. I was looking for a fighter that supplemented their extreme combat prowess with the devastating power that a wizard would bring. Fortunately, Wizards has a better sense of what they want the archetype to do, and the path isn’t at all what I wanted and expected it to be, so I kept deriding it.
Then, as time went on, it started to wear on me. I would keep going back to the path, trying to suss out what I wanted, what the class did, and how it would perform, and what the path is ultimately meant to do. I got closer and closer to the realization point as came to appreciate that an additional attack as a bonus action when casting a cantrip isn’t losing out on (x) number attacks, but gaining an attack at all when casting a cantrip. Then I looked at the flexibility of the ranged and melee capacity in the same round, and then I looked at Booming Blade and Greenflame Blade, both cantrips that are weapon attacks, which made me look at the ability a bit differently. Instead of losing 2 attacks or more to cast a cantrip, sometimes the cantrip is an attack. I liked it, and I started to settle in on a build for it that felt so in tune with the idea of the Killbaran Praetorian that I just had to do it.
First the Character is a pure fighter, Eldritch Knight the entire way. This is a simple build that has a lot of character, and less mechanical dust behind it. Fighting Style is simple, but not very intuitive. Praetorian wield weapon and shield, but as we find out later, mine don’t wear armor. This pulls out Defense, Great Weapon Fighting, Archery and Two Weapon Fighting right off the table, leaving us with either Protection or Dueling. Dueling is right for an adventuring mindset, as you’ll often be up in the thick of it by yourself, but Protection is perfect for the Legionary fighting Style. Granting disadvantage every turn to the enemies fighting your allies is huge. Second Wind is a great ability to simply gain HP while on the battlefield, and when you’re dealing with as high an AC and all the other problems that these soldiers are going to present, its going to make taking down a maniple of them extremely hard, even at just third level. Action Surge is another huge part of a fighter, enabling them to overwhelm their opponents fairly quickly.
At third level, we get the first choice and the main choice of the build, that of Eldritch Knight. This is going to allow us to be an awesome Fighter-Mage. What more can I say?
Starting at 4th level, and getting 7 over the course of the class, The Ability Score Increases (feats, if you’re playing the “optional” rules) are welcome so often because this build has a very tight set of concepts that both need high stats and some select feats. This high quantity of ASI’s will enable the build to progress faster and become deadlier at early levels. Extra Attacks are the bread and butter of the Fighter Class, and the main problem I had with the Eldritch Knight. When the fighter has to give up all his attacks to cast a spell, it’s hard to justify that spell. It is not always about pure damage or attacks, it’s often about being able to have utility and flexibility that the fighter class does not often have. Indominable allowing you to reroll saves is nice, but not really worth writing home about.
So, lets get talking about the Eldritch Knight itself.
The Spellcasting you gain when you take the class is like a sorcerer, which makes sense, though at the progression of a snail and with Intelligence as your main attribute. You get new spell levels at 3rd, 7th, 13th, and 19th, with only 4 spell levels in total. Without taking a few levels of a pure spellcasting class, you’re not getting anything of 5th level or greater. That does, however, give you access to some very fun classics, like lightning bolt and Stoneskin. You have a pair of cantrips, and learn a third at 10th level. These spells, though, are limited two the two combat schools: Abjuration for protection and Evocation for damage. You can get 4 off-school spells, one at each of the levels after you learn a new spell level. This is, clearly, the focus of the path.
When you take this class, you also gain access to a Weapon Bond, allowing you to bone with, and recall two weapons to your person no matter where you are on the same plane, and preventing you from being disarmed. It’s a cool ability, but not one I really think is anything more than flavor. At 7th level, you gain War Magic, and at 18th Improved War Magic, which allows you to make a single melee attack as a bonus action after you cast a cantrip or a spell as your action, respectively. These seem extremely underwhelming when you look at what you’re sacrificing your action for to gain a spell, but it becomes much more understandable when you compare it to what you are normally able to do when casting a spell, which is to say, nothing. Many spells damage wide swaths of opponents or protect you from damage and danger in the schools you’re allowed to choose, so getting an additional attack on top of that is definitely a bonus. Eldritch Strike, gained at 10th level, is an interesting ability due to how its worded. It seems to be made to work with the bonus action of making an attack when casting a spell to set up that spell for extra success, granting disadvantage, but because of how War Magic works, it’s not possible. Instead, you’re setting up your next turn to be devastating – if the creature survives the rest of your friends. Finally, Arcane Charge is just sweet. The limitation of using it only you use your action surge kinda sucks, but limiting the 30-foot teleportation is probably necessary.
The Imperial College of the Arts of War and Sorcery, better known as the College of War, produces stoic and loyal warriors bound for the ranks of the Praetorian Guard. These skilled warriors and powerful spellcasters are one of the greatest forces that Killbarum can muster, a force of arcane might backed by sword, spear and Shield, each used to deadly effect combined with spells to both keep the warriors safe and wreak destruction among their foes. Though other methods of harnessing spells and combining it with martial prowess exist, none do it as efficiently and as effectively as the College of war.
Gaius Tarquinius, Praetorian
Race: Human While any race can be a Praetorian, due to many of the harsh training regimens that require one to pick up a veritable mountain of skills, a variant human will almost always get ahead of the game in the college. That said, most NPC’s will not be variant Humans, and will instead progress at a standard pace. Other solid choices are Elves, who make the dexterity requirement easier, and Half-Elves, who are able to spread out their ability bonuses more.
Highest Stat: Strength: Its a fighting class, and it’s going to be fighting a lot. Strength for making those attacks accurate and cause the most damage is going to be extremely important.
Second Highest Stat: Dexterity: With the spell list that is being used, Dexterity keeps you safe and is going to make or break the build.
Background: Solider. Clearly. Though, you could take noble or criminal for a different bent
Armor: None. What! You heard me right. Mage Armor is going to be one of the spells taken, and by focusing on dexterity over the ability to take armor, a Praetorian removes the need for care, upkeeps, and creation of armor. With a shield, mage armor, and a dexterity bonus of +3 the Praetorian boasts a healthy AC of 18.
Weapons: Spear and Short Sword. Spears are the typical shield wall weapons, and the Short Sword is a perfect complement to working in tight formation. Spears are also useful for the steady stream of feats that are going to be trained in the Praetorian gains levels.
Skills: Medicine, Perception, Survival. A Praetorian needs to be self-sufficient, and these skills enable both their survival and aids the survival of others.
when the Praetorian gets their first spells at 3rd level, they get 2 Cantrips and 3 first level spells.
Cantrip: Booming Blade and/or Green Flame Blade both make excellent cantrips, granting you an attack as a cantrip, allowing War Magic to get an additional attack in the turn, and being a melee attack as well as a cantrip to take on the opportunity attacks that you get with both Warcaster and later, Polearm Master. Additionally, Firebolt is a very good ranged spell but does have to hit, meaning that you’ll likely need to have a good Int to attack with it, which the rest of the spells don’t need.
1st Level: Magic Missile, Shield, and Mage Armor. Mage armor, covered above, allows greater flexibility in clothing, repair, and maintenance. Magic Missile hits no matter what and does solid damage. Shield both blocks magic missile and increases AC by 5, pushing many Praetorians up to AC 23 (at level 3!) and making them virtually unhittable. Absorb Elements is a good pick at 4th level for the next spell, as you get additional damage and prevent damage, which everyone likes.
A typical engagement for a Praetorian goes something like this: In a shield wall, they prepare for the enemy advance. As one, the formation unleashes a barrage of magic missiles, and braces for impact, casting shield as the enemy reaches the line. On their next initiative, those in the front lines, the veterans, push the enemy back 5 feet with their shields and use their action to attack with a Booming Blade, forcing the enemy to take more damage when they close in once again. The formation holds, and the spears bristle at every angle. Often, it is enough, and the opponent flees.
Fighter Archetype: Eldritch Knight
Fourth Level AGI: This is clearly Warcaster. Maintaining concentration on spells isn’t so much a big deal, but being able to cast Magic Missile and Shield with their hands full of weapons and shields is important, as is being able to cast Booming Blade on opportunity attacks.
Sixth Level AGI: a quick and easy pick is Shield Master. Being able to use your reaction, while in Shield Wall, to reduce area damage to nothing, or to get a bonus on spells that target only you is extremely important, and Shoving people back 5′ with your shield is a very Classic Shield Wall Tactic.
Eight Level AGI: Here you should be picking up either Dex, Int, or Str, whichever will help you the most. You’ve just picked up a second level spell, which is likely to be something that uses INT to attack, finally, as until now, you’ve been getting away with the pretty awesome spell list given out earlier.
Now, you should be able to go with a pretty solid character from here, as you understand where I am going with it. I hope you enjoyed this look into how I made this character, and what I did in order to cement the concept.
Let me know what you think, and if you would ever play a character like this, keep me in the loop, I’d love to hear it.
Until next time!