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Ask the Kobold: Caster Level

Ask the Kobold: Caster Level

Skip Williams is one of the designers of 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons. He’s also a regular columnist for Kobold Quarterly. We ran out of room in the upcoming issue for his Ask the Kobold column, so we’re running those questions here on the site, together with Skip’s insights on game design decisions. Enjoy!

QUESTION: How do you determine the caster level for a character with multiple classes? In particular, how do prestige classes that affect spell casting affect your caster level? [More…]

For example, I have the Craft Arms and Armor feat. When crafting a magic item, the creator’s caster level must be at least three times the enhancement bonus of the weapon or armor. Let’s say I’m a Sorcerer 10/Dragon Disciple 2. Do my levels stack for purposes of Crafting, thus allowing me to Craft +4 Arms, or not stack, and thus only allowing me to Craft +3 Arms and Armor?

ANSWER: Dragon disciple doesn’t improve your caster level for any purpose; it just gives you bonus spells, so the character in the example has a caster level of 10th and could create only +3 armor or weapons.

In general, your caster level for a spell, is the same as your level in the class that gave you access to that particular spell. Your caster level for a feat such as Craft Arms and Armor is the highest caster level you’ve managed to attain for any of your classes. If you have multiple classes, your levels in different spell-casting classes usually don’t stack when determining your caster level.

For example, if you’re a 9th level wizard and a 6th level cleric you have a caster level of 9th for wizard spells and a caster level of 6th for cleric spells. If you craft a magic item using the Craft Arms and Armor feat, your caster level is effectively 9th, and you’d create the item just as any other 9th-level wizard would. If for some reason you’d like to create an item as a cleric, there’s no reason why you could not use your lower cleric level, provided that you still meet all the prerequisites for using the feat and for making the item. Any level-based variables for the item will be based on your lower caster level; in this case, the highest enhancement you could create in a weapon or armor would be +2 (one-third your cleric level). If you had only 4 cleric levels, you could not craft magic weapons or armor as a cleric at all, because you need to have a caster level of at least 5th to use the Craft Magic Arms and Armor feat.

Sometimes, your caster level for a class will be less than your class level, check the class description to be sure. For example, a paladin’s caster level is one-half his paladin level (a paladin of 3rd level or lower has no caster level at all).

If you’ve taken a prestige class, it’s possible that your levels in that class will stack with levels in another class to determine your caster level. As we have seen, the dragon disciple class doesn’t improve your caster level. On the other hand, you stack your levels in the archmage class with levels in another arcane spellcasting class to determine your spells per day (and spells known, if applicable). This also increases your caster level. For example, a 13th level wizard/2nd level archmage casts spells as a 15th level wizard, including caster level.

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