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Class Struggles

The spellthief, introduced in Complete Arcane is a stealthy skill-based class that focuses on removing abilities from opponents, or even turning an enemy's attacks back on them. A spellthief's abilities are definitely not straight-forward though and it can take some thought to be able to effectively use this unique class.

Spellthieves are not quite rogues, and not quite sorcerers, but an effective hybrid, not unlike how a paladin is a fighter/cleric hybrid, or a ranger is a fighter/druid hybrid.

Spellthief Strengths

  • Ability to spontaneously cast arcane spells.
  • High Will saving throws.
  • High number of skill points.
  • Armored spellcasting.
  • Ability to deny an opponent their abilities.
  • Ability to 'recharge' spell slots temporarily.

Spellthief Weaknesses

  • Low Fortitude and Reflex saving throws.
  • Inability to naturally cast destructive magic.
  • Low number of spells available.

Playing a Spellthief
A spellthief can have many roles in a party. In a pinch, they can act like a rogue, using their skills, stealth and precise attacks to their advantage. In later levels, they can gain access to magic that can further augment their abilities or perform any number of feats. The key ability of the class is the option to lower their sneak attack damage in order to 'steal' an unnatural ability possessed by the target: everything from spells to energy resistance and use it for themselves.

This means two things which will have a major impact on the gameplay. First, if you are in a low-magic campaign, you may want to reconsider playing a spellthief character. Without regular access to magical effects, this class loses much of its appeal and becomes the lame step-sibling of the rogue class. Secondly, you'll want to make sure that you will be able to make regular sneak attacks. If your party lacks those who can create a reasonable distraction, such as a melee based fighter, or if you are adventuring in a setting that has an excess of monsters not vulnerable to sneak attacks (such as undead, constructs, etc.), you will have a difficult time.

In order to take full advantage of their spellcasting, a spellthief will need a minimum Charisma score of 14. Higher scores mean bonus spells, which can be advantageous. Beyond that, they will need a high Dexterity score. All other ability scores are helpful in their own way, but Constitution and Intelligence should be high priorities.

Consider using your absorb spell ability to resist a cure spell cast by the party's healer. If you can successfully absorb the spell, you will be able to hold it for up to 1 hour; something that may come in extremely handy in an emergency.

Race Suggestions
Several races can be good spellthieves. Mostly look for a high Dexterity or Charisma. Many racial abilities also mesh well with this class, as do several racial feats.

Humans, like they do in most other cases, make up the majority of the members of the spellthief class. While they don't have any special abilities that augment their class features, they do have bonus skill points and a bonus feat that can both be put to good use enhancing the character and providing them with more options that were not previously available.

Since they're small, gnome spellthieves are harder to hit, but they also have higher Constitution scores, which make them tougher as well. They also have access to several spell-like abilities which can come in handy as well as a bonus when casting illusion spells; one of the magical schools spellthieves cast from.

Elves have both a higher Dexterity as well as immunity to sleep effects and enchantment spells, making them faster and more able to keep their heads in the thick of battle against spellcasters. In addition, elven spellthieves are generally more martial than those of other races since they have proficiency in several martial weapons, such as longsword.

Drow (Monster Manual), despite their high level adjustment, are excellent spellthieves. They have a high Charisma score, spell-resistance and bonuses to Will saves against spells, all of which enhance their ability to cast spells and keep spells from being cast on them. Combine that with a number of useful spell-like abilities, a library of racial feats that can be used to enhance those abilities (see Drow of the Underdark for these feats, especially the ones that work with darkness) and weapon proficiencies and you have a lean, mean, spell-stealing machine.

While they lack a good Charisma score, whisper gnomes (Races of Stone) can make excellent spellthieves. Their natural spell-like abilities are extremely useful, as are their racial feats. Silencing strike especially can be used to good effect by allowing the character to both steal a spell from their target and then prevent them from casting most of their remaining spells for a length of time.

Catfolk (Races of the Wild) are also good choices as they both provide bonuses to Dexterity and Charisma, Armor Class and land speed: all things that can be extremely useful to a spellthief. In addition, with the catfolk pounce feat, the character can make devastating attacks against unprepared spellcasters.

The mephlings (Planar Handbook), especially the air mephling make good spellthieves. They are small, charismatic, generally dexterous and the fact that some varieties can fly and all have breath weapons can make them very powerful.

Other races like half-dragons, aasimar and tieflings can also make excellent spellthieves, despite their level adjustments. When choosing a race for your spellthief character, look for abilities first and see how they mesh with the class. For instance, although the spellscale race (Races of the Dragon) has a high Charisma score, their racial abilities are not exceptionally helpful. Generally speaking though, if the race makes a good rogue, it might make for a good spellthief too.

Feat Suggestions
The spellthief class unfortunately is extremely specialized, and not many feats were made just for them. There are however some choices that you can make with your feats that can make for a great character.

There are only two feats meant specifically for the spellthief class, both from Complete Scoundrel, and both assisting them with multiclassing. Master spellthief allows the character to become a specialized spellcaster, by allowing their steal spell ability to advance as the character gains levels in an arcane spellcasting class. More likely than not, this kind of character will be a sorcerer, bard, or some other kind of spontaneous caster. The combination will undoubtedly be more 'spellcaster' than spellthief, but they can use their steal spell ability to continually 'recharge' their spell slots and become better armored in the bargain.

The other spellthief feat is psithief, which allows a spellthief/psionicist to steal power points with a sneak attack. Combined with the equally sneaky lurk (Complete Psionic), a character could use their psionic power points to manifest powers, and deal devastating sneak attacks, while being able to recharge those abilities in the process.

Thematically, with their extreme exposure to magic, spelltouched feats (Unearthed Arcana) make great choices for spellthieves as do reserve feats (Complete Mage). Such a character could explain that their training in resisting magical effects resulted in lingering effects or a stronger primal connection to the forces of the arcane.

Since nearly their entire list of class features is based around reducing sneak attack damage to provide a secondary effect, spellthieves also work well with ambush feats. These feats come from many sources, but all would allow the character to reduce their sneak attack damage for a variety of different results such as stunning or blinding. Spellthieves are limited by a smaller number of sneak attack dice than rogues though, and not all ambush feats may be available to them.

Higher-level spellthieves can take advantage of the arcane strike feat (Complete Warrior) which allows them to sacrifice one of their spells to gain a bonus to attack and damage rolls. This can prove extremely useful for spellthieves, especially since they can use stolen spells to power this feat.

If you need more assistance on the battlefield, consider taking the obtain familiar (Complete Arcane) feat along with improved familiar (several sources, but consider the ones from Complete Warrior). This will allow your character to get a powerful ally on the battlefield.

6th Krenshar
6th Lynx
10th Blink dog
10th Elemental, Small
14th Hippogriff
14th Mephit, any

Alternate Class Features
Spellthieves have a small number of alternate class features available to them. Strictly speaking, there are five: cursed blow, hamper magic, spelleater, spellskill and trickster, all from Dragon Magazine #353.

Cursed blow reduces your sneak attack damage and allows you to place curses on foes you sneak attack by expending spell-slots. Although it seems like a good idea, simply splashing a few levels of hexblade in your character build would better diversify you, and with hex feats, you could curse people without hindering your spellcasting abilities.

Hamper magic removes your ability to steal energy resistance or spell-like abilities, but you gain the ability to dampen the magical, spell-like or supernatural abilities of enemies you sneak attack. This can allow you to change your spellthief into a very potent anti-mage, who disables spellcasters instead of simply taking energy from them.

Spelleater allows you to consume spells or spell-like abilities that you steal in order to heal yourself or remove status ailments from your character. The downside is that you no longer have the ability to absorb spells that you are able to withstand through a successful saving throw.

Spellskill removes all ability to cast spells as a spellthief (although they can still cast stolen spells), but provides you with the ability to provide yourself with an enhancement bonus on a number of skills. Combining this with hamper magic would create an anti-mage who could easily take levels in a class that prevents spellcasters from entering, or even a prestige class with a sympathetic outlook like occult slayer (Complete Warrior).

By reducing the number of class skills they have, the number of skill points they have access to, the trapfinding ability and most of their sneak attack damage, a spellthief can take the trickster class feature. This allows the spellthief the ability to cast many more spells per day, learn several more spells, provides them with more spell levels and with the ability to cast bard spells as well as spellthief spells.

Multiclass Suggestions
As stated above, spellthieves multiclass best with psionic and arcane spellcasting classes when augmented with the master spellthief or psithief feats. Both choices provide your character with a brand new path to follow, but you typically lose your spellthief identity.

Spellthieves multiclass well with hexblade. The abilities of both classes compliment each other well, and both are able to cast spells from their respective lists while wearing light armor. The acrobatic attacks of the swashbuckler class can provide new avenues for attack, while something as simple as combining with fighter can also be extremely beneficial, especially if augmented with the armored spellcaster feat.

It should be noted that spellthieves have two feats that allow them to synergize well when multiclassing: psithief and master spellthief (see above). Although both are very unspecific as to which class would multiclass better with spellthief, they do provide some additional options.

Consider combining spellthief with duskblade (Player's Handbook II). The character benefits from being able to use several more stealthy abilities than an ordinary duskblade, but they lack protection. Taking the armored spellcaster feat (Complete Arcane) would alleviate this somewhat by allowing the spellthief to cast their spells in medium armor.

Also try combining this class with one of the meldshaping classes from Magic of Incarnum. In addition to the power and protection that soulmelds provide, spellthieves benefit from several incarnum feats like indigo strike and incarnum spellcasting and there are a few spells that they can learn that allow them to invest essentia in order to amplify the results.

Prestige Class Suggestions
There aren't a lot of prestige classes that provide the spellthief with other abilities that compliment their own. That's not to say there aren't other good choices. In fact, there are several prestige classes that can combine spellcasting and skulldrudgery.

The hellbreaker (Fiendish Codex II) provides additional ability to steal spell-like and supernatural abilities along with a host of abilities meant to lock-down not only fiends, but many kinds of outsiders. It may be the only prestige class that was ever conceived with the spellthief in mind.

Although it takes them a bit longer to meet the prerequisites, the arcane trickster (Dungeon Master's Guide). This class is quite a bit less combat-oriented, although they can take advantage of the impromptu sneak attack class ability to guarantee that the target will be losing spells.

Becoming a child of night (Tome of Magic) keeps the spellthief from advancing their spell-stealing abilities, but provides them with spellcasting along with a host of shadow-related powers, along with several abilities that can help them make sneak attacks more often or protect them from harm.

Without having to multiclass, spellthieves can easily qualify for the daggerspell mage class (Complete Adventurer). The ability to convert spells into energy damage and cast spells through dagger attacks can be very helpful. Although the spellthief doesn't receive many damage-dealing spells, they can use a small number of spells, like enchantment and illusion in conjunction with these abilities.

Also, consider the spellfilch class from (from the Dragonlance book Age of Mortals). A spellthief benefits from the ability to expend spells to gain bonuses to skill checks, sneak attack damage, Reflex saves, AC or to an attack of opportunity. They also benefit from the ability to 'choose' a specific spell that they can then cast a number of times per day in addition to their normal casting. They don't gain any traditional spellthief abilities, but the trade-off is well worth it.

New Material

New Feats
Spellthieves suffer from a severe lack of feats that benefit them above all other classes. Included here are five new feats for spellthieves that enhance their abilities or provide them with new directions. Defense against the supernatural can be found in Tome of Magic.

Consume Magic [General]
You can quickly expend stolen magical energy in order to heal yourself.
    Prerequisites: Absorb spell, heal 2 ranks.
    Benefit: After you steal a spell or a spell-like ability you can, as a swift action, choose to consume it in order to heal for a small amount of damage. For each level of the spell stolen, you heal 2 points of damage. Once you have consumed a spell it is considered expended and you cannot cast it. You may only consume spells that you have stolen.

Cursed Spellthief [General]
You have learned to channel destructive magical abilities, even while training in the subtle arts.
    Prerequisites: Hexblade's curse, steal spell.
    Benefit: Your hexblade and spellthief levels stack for the purpose of determining the number of times per day you can use your hexblade's curse ability (but not for determining the power of your curses). For example, a 4th-level hexblade/4th-level spellthief can use hexblade's curse two times per day, as if they were an 8th-level hexblade, but they do not have the ability to use a greater hexblade's curse.
    Your hexblade and spellthief levels stack for the purpose of determining what level spell you can steal. For example, a 4th-level hexblade/4th-level spellthief can steal spells of up to 4th level, as if they were an 8th-level spellthief.

Steal Alignment [Ambush]
You can replicate some of your opponent's ethos with a well-placed attack.
    Prerequisites: Bluff 3 ranks, steal spell.
    Benefit: When you strike an opponent with a sneak attack you can choose to forgo 1d6 points of sneak attack damage. If you do, you are treated as having the opponent's alignment for 1 minute for all purposes.
    Detection spells register you as having the stolen alignment, and you can use magic items as if you had that alignment as well.
    For instance, if a lawful-good spellthief stole the alignment of a chaotic-evil fighter, they would be able to use anarchic and unholy weapons without penalty for the duration of this ability.

Steal Essentia [Ambush]
By striking precisely against users of incarnum, you can siphon away some of the essentia they use and put it to your own purposes.
    Prerequisites: Con 13, meldshaper or 1 point of essentia, steal spell.
    Benefit: When making a sneak attack against a character with essentia, you can choose to forgo 2d6 points of damage to deal 1 point of temporary essentia damage to them instead. You gain 1 point of temporary essentia, which remains in your pool for 1 minute, after which it dissipates. You may use this temporary essentia just like ordinary essentia.
    The essentia damage you deal the opponent is temporary and fades after 1 minute. Afterwards, they regain the lost point of essentia and can use it as normal.

Steal Supernatural Ability [Ambush]
By striking at your opponent's weak point you can take control of one of their supernatural abilities.
    Prerequisites: Defense against the supernatural, steal spell-like ability.
    Benefit: When making a sneak attack, you can choose to forgo 2d6 points of damage to steal a supernatural ability from your target. This feat otherwise functions exactly as the steal spell-like ability class feature.

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