Escalation Mage (Prestige Class)

“In the hinterlands of magic, the might of the Shadow is absolute—all can hear the promise of untold power in its whispered call. Still, only the worthy find the strength to face the price of that power.”
—Lovos, the Shadow of the Wolf

Many know the tale of the shadow of Aureon, god of law and knowledge, coming into a life of its own as an evil deity. According to legend, the unholy divestiture was the price Aureon paid to master the arcane arts. Millennia later, mortals who walk the paths of the escalation mage still benefit from Aureon’s sacrifice. By giving themselves over to the Shadow and focusing on the dark side of magic, these arcane spellcasters learn how to “bargain” with their god to make their spells more effective—for a price.
It is an ongoing dialogue. Such devotees must entreat the Shadow for aid before casting every spell they wish to enhance, and success is not guaranteed. As a general rule, the more control the caster has over magic, the greater the likelihood of maintaining that control. Yet even tried and true incantations can take unexpected tolls on occasion, as a boosted spell becomes too much to handle. This process of arcane enhancement through silent prayer is known as “escalation,” and while the rewards can potentially be great, few arcanists are quite so faithful as to risk life and limb merely for the possibility of greater efficacy. Those who take these risks are known as escalation mages, and if they survive their early years, they can grow into the most powerful mages to walk the face of Eberron.


Although this is an arcane spellcasting class, the most important characteristic of any who would enter is abiding faith. Only those who truly believe that they will become greater spellcasters by the grace of magic’s dark half stand a chance of making the hope a reality, and they must be prepared to pay whatever price the Shadow demands. The wizard’s path is potentially the shortest to becoming an escalation mage, but any arcane spellcaster can qualify with ease, including sorcerers and even warlocks. The Dark Six worshipers’ propensity for rhyme even produces a disproportionate number of bards who enter the class. In addition to the character’s normal casting ability score, Charisma (for certain class features) and Constitution (for the hit point loss exacted by the Shadow) are the key abilities for any escalation mage.


Skills: Concentration 4 ranks, Knowledge (arcana) 8 ranks.
Feats: Any metamagic feat.
Special: Caster level 5th, must worship the Shadow.


Level Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Special Spellcasting
1st +0 +2 +0 +0 The shade within +1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class
2nd +1 +3 +0 +0 Escalation (shadow focus) +1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class
3rd +1 +3 +1 +1 Escalation (shadow power) +1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class
4th +2 +4 +1 +1 Escalation (shadow growth) +1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class
5th +2 +4 +1 +1 Escalation (shadow haste) +1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class
6th +3 +5 +2 +2 Soul of shadow +1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class

Class Skills (2 + Int modifi er per level): Bluff, Concentration, Craft, Decipher Script, Hide, Intimidation, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (the planes), Knowledge (religion), Profession, Sense Motive, Spellcraft, and Use Magic Device.


As you advance in level, you learn how to parlay with the Shadow to increase your spellcasting prowess.
Spellcasting: At each 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 an arcane spellcasting class to which you belonged before adding the prestige class level. You do not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained. If you had more than one arcane spellcasting class before becoming an escalation mage, you must decide to which class to add each level for the purpose of determining spells per day, caster level, and spells known.
The Shade Within (Ex): When you first embark upon the path of the escalation mage, you draw strength from the Shadow to prepare for the dangerous road ahead. At 1st level, you permanently gain a number of hit points equal to 1 + your Cha modifier (minimum of 1). At each subsequent level, you gain 1 additional hit point. For example, an escalation mage who reaches 5th level would have received a total of (5 + Cha modifier, minimum 5) extra hit points.
Escalation (Su): By appealing to the arcane mastery of the Shadow, you put yourself at risk in exchange for the promise of power. Beginning at 2nd level, you learn how to instantly work such appeals into your arcane spellcasting, mimicking the effects of metamagic feats. These escalations do not actually change the spell’s level or casting time. The more escalations you master, the more powerful your spells potentially become, but the greater the risk to yourself. You can use escalation a number of times per day equal to your class level.
Using an escalation effect requires a swift action unless stated otherwise in the text below, and applies only to the next spell you cast as long as it is within 1 round. You can use only one escalation effect per spell. You can use escalation effects in conjunction with metamagic feats, but doing so involves additional risk, as you must use the spell’s new level (including the metamagic effect) to set the caster level check DC (see below). Each escalation effect requires a caster level check of varying difficulty; if you fail the check, the escalation effect still functions, but Shadow exacts a toll from you.
If you take damage as a result of failing the required check, you must also succeed on a Concentration check (as if taking damage during the casting of a spell) or lose the spell entirely.
Escalation effects can be applied to spell-like abilities just as if they were spells.
Shadow Focus: Upon reaching 2nd level, you unlock the first secret of the art of escalation. You can attempt to increase the effective level of a spell by +1, as though using the Heighten Spell metamagic feat. The caster level check DC is 10 + twice the spell’s level. If you fail the check, you immediately take 1
point of damage per level of the spell.
Shadow Power: Beginning at 3rd level, you learn to escalate the potency of your spells. You can attempt to increase all variable numeric effects of the spell by one-half, as though using the Empower Spell metamagic feat. The caster level check DC is 12 + twice the spell’s level. If you fail the check, you immediately take 2 points of damage per level of the spell and become fatigued for a number of rounds equal to the spell’s level.
Shadow Growth: Upon reaching 4th level, you learn to bargain with the Shadow to shape your magics. You can attempt to increase any numeric measurements of a burst, emanation, line, or spread spell’s area by 100%, as though using the Widen Spell metamagic feat. The caster level check DC is 14 + twice the spell’s level. If you fail the check, you immediately take 3 points of damage per level of the spell and become shaken for a number of rounds equal to the
spell’s level.
Shadow Haste: By the time you reach 5th level, you can entreat the Shadow to catalyze your spellcasting. You can attempt to cast the spell with a casting time of 1 full-round action or less as a swift action, as though using the Quicken Spell metamagic feat. (The activation of this ability issubsumed within the casting time of the spell.) The caster check is DC 16 + twice the spell’s level. If you fail the check, you immediately take 5 points of damage per level of the spell and become slowed for a number of rounds equal to the spell’s level. Unlike other escalation effects, failing this check also means that the spell is not cast (though you don’t lose the spell and can attempt to cast it again using the normal casting time, assuming you have sufficient actions remaining in the round).
Soul of Shadow (Ex): At the culmination of your studies, you master enough of the Shadow’s capricious nature to exert some small measure of control over your escalations. You can employ each of your four escalations (shadow focus, shadow power, shadow growth, and shadow haste) once per day without a caster level check. These uses are in addition to those normally granted by your class level. One restriction exists: you may not apply any free escalation to the highest level of arcane spell you are capable of casting. For example, a 5th-level wizard/6thlevel escalation mage can cast 6th-level wizard spells, but can only apply her free escalation effects to spells of 5th level or lower. (Her normal escalation effects can be applied to any of her spells.)


Given the nature of their beliefs and activities, the majority of escalation mages are evil-aligned. This tendency makes them somewhat ill-suited to be PCs, but this need not be the case. Whatever your moral outlook, you worship the Shadow genuinely, if not exclusively, and truly believe in the god’s superiority to its “creator,” Aureon.
You are often a solitary individual, walking a narrow road with only scholarship and faith for companions. The rigors you endure also ensure that escalation mages are never very prevalent. An exception could be a cult of mages devoted specifically to the power of the Shadow. Such cults are rare and extremely diverse, however, and
most of you have little to no affiliation with the others, making discovery difficult.


As with other arcane casters, you devote yourself to magical advancement and therefore become a powerful spellcaster. Usually, you focus on schools of magic that enhance your association with the Shadow, using spells of a martial or damaging nature, as befits the god’s tastes. You are generally weak in physical combat, preferring instead to hang back and launch magical attacks. However, at the cost of some mental resilience, you are surprisingly tough: You gain extra hit points and greater physical fortitude.
You truly come into your own at 2nd level, when you acquire the ability to escalate the power of your spells. You can potentially increase the effectiveness of any spell you cast, though you must be careful not to risk such escalation too often, lest the Shadow ask for too much in return.
At high level, you can be one of the most terrifying spellcasters to face. While your spell selection is no greater or worse than any other spellcaster of equal level, you have the potential to make any spell much more effective, without sacrificing higher-level spell slots in the process. By 6th level, you can even call upon such abilities in times of need without risk of harm.


Few arcane spellcasters make the conscious choice to incorporate faith into their magical techniques, but arcane followers of the Shadow know that it is the way to power. You are the result of focusing on this dialogue with the divine to the exclusion of other paths. Even so, your path does not involve forsaking any magical studies. The Shadow merely enables traditional arcane mastery through faith and occasional self-sacrifice; it doesn’t replace or alter it in any way.
As you advance in this class, your relationship to the Shadow strengthens, allowing you to uncover new escalations while growing more confi dent in your ability to call upon known ones. This process is a powerful religious experience. By the time you reach the culmination of the class, you feel as deep and potent a connection to your god as does even the most pious priest.
It is unthinkable for you to abandon this path once begun. While some of you take periodic breaks (often because of injury from calling upon the Shadow too much), few choose to interrupt their progression in the class. Because the Shadow would never ask you to forsake magical study, even briefly, the only reason to take levels in another class would be to pursue a nonarcane path. Such individuals exist, but they are rare.


As an escalation mage, you have access to whatever resources are common to members of your previous class by the time you’ve reached a given level of arcane mastery. Some of you are intimately connected with temples to the Shadow and can look to your priestly counterparts for divine magical assistance. Otherwise, the only special resources to which you have access are those possessed by other escalation mages in your cabal.


“They are heretics. And like all heretics, they will pay for their heresy—if not in this life, then in the next.”
—Tellerson Fenster, high priest of Aureon

Escalation mages, though rare, are dangerous because they are not restricted to a particular region or environment. Wherever the lure of arcane power is strong, the escalation mage arises. Some serve the Shadow (and themselves) from within the ranks of other organizations or even other faiths, where their true allegiances remain all but invisible in the course of day-to-day affairs. In other areas, such as in Droaam, escalation mages walk the streets as arcane nobility.


Escalation mages have no real organization. However, the class does contain arcane cabals, which concentrate local influence.
The arcane cabal has no predetermined structure. It is simply a gathering of like-minded mages who put their faith in the Shadow. In this regard, each cabal is more akin to a cult of the Dragon Below than anything else. In some areas, it is known as a “ring,” in others a “cell,” and in certain city-based cases, a “salon.” The only rule that applies across the board is that might makes right: The most advanced mage in the cabal determines policy.
Much of a given cabal’s activity depends on the circumstances surrounding its foundation. Some are very politically involved and operate as underground cells, subverting the local government or predominant faith in the Shadow’s name. In wilder areas, particularly where the goblinoid races are strong, a cabal might act as tribal council and even contain priests of the Shadow. In more civilized venues, arcane cabals are little more than social groups—“clubs” of spellcasters devoted to the Shadow and to exploring its mysteries. Whatever else it does, the arcane cabal always exists to increase the magical might of its members, and any individual mage who wants to get ahead had better have something to offer the group.
The arcane cabal is thus doubly merit-based. Not only is arcane mastery the gauge by which status is measured, but a member’s direct benefit to the cabal determines how much aid and magical learning she can expect to receive. Higher level does not always equate to higher involvement, however. Some of the most advanced spellcasters do the least to better their colleagues’ situations and thus are the least inclined to require or receive aid. By the same token, a lower-level mage who actively assists and betters his fellows is likely to receive a great deal in return, even from those who did not benefit directly.

NPC Reactions

Secrecy is a strength of the escalation mage. Nothing outwardly distinguishes an ordinary arcane caster from an escalation mage (except, perhaps, when he calls on the Shadow to boost his spellcasting). Thus, common citizens react to an escalation mage much as they would to any other wizard, sorcerer, or bard. If an escalation mage uses his powers to terrify and destroy, and makes his allegiance known in the process, he is likely to be met with hostility, fear, and resentment.


Characters with Knowledge (religion) or bardic knowledge can research escalation mages 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: Some arcane spellcasters offer prayers to the Shadow in hope of earning favor.
DC 15: The most devout arcanists receive an answer to their prayers, gaining an occasional surge of great power in their spellcasting, though often at a terrible price.
DC 20: These surges of the Shadow’s power are known as “escalations,” and some mages spend their lives dedicated to discovering and mastering them.
Anyone who witnesses an escalation in use can attempt a DC 25 Knowledge (arcana) check or a DC 20 Knowledge (religion) check to discern that the caster is one of the Shadow’s favored arcane disciples.


Player characters need not realize that they have encountered an escalation mage until you feel the time is right. And even if the PCs know they are dealing with an arcanist who worships the Shadow, they cannot be sure he is actually an escalation mage until they see him use escalations in combat. Escalation mages also provide great narrative context, making equally interesting temporary allies against shared foes, or hidden masterminds behind long-term campaigns.
Like other arcane spellcasters, escalation mages make poor front-line fighters, and the DM should ensure that any encounter featuring an escalation mage provides proper distance from the PCs, at least initially. Use lower-level ground troops to act as blockers or fodder— undead are always a good fit with the Shadow.


Although the concept and methods of the escalation mage clearly link it to the Shadow, the class can easily be adapted to suit other faiths or even entirely different settings. The idea of “power at a price” is an archetypal one and need not necessarily require deity worship. The class could work just as well with an archfiend as its focus,
for example.

Sample Encounter

Its peculiar mix of faith and arcane mastery makes the escalation mage an interesting addition to any game, whether as ally or antagonist.
EL 10: The shifter mage known as the Shadow of the Wolf is devoted utterly to his divine namesake. He sought out the Shadow at the close of the Last War, seeing in the dark god a way to overcome the weakness that had resulted in the deaths of his battalion-mates in combat, leaving him the sole, guilt-ridden survivor. Since then, he has endeavored to erase all sense of both guilt and weakness in himself, though his reckless use of escalations betrays the sadness still anchored to his heart.
Lovos seems to have a death wish—this impression is not far from the truth.


Male longstride shifter sorcerer 6/escalation mage 3
CN Medium humanoid (shapechanger)
Init +2; Senses low-light vision; Listen +2, Spot +1
Languages Common, Gnome
AC 15, touch 12, fl at-footed 13 (+2 Dex, +3 armor)
hp 51 (9 HD); DR 2/silver when shifting
Saves: Fort +10, Ref +5, Will +7
Speed 30 ft. (6 squares); 50 ft. when shifting
Melee +1 spear +5 (1d8+1/×3)
Ranged light crossbow +6 (1d8/19–20)
Base Atk +4; Grp +4
Atk Options shifting 2/day (9 rounds)
Special Actions escalation (shadow focus), escalation (shadow power)
Sorcerer Spells Known (CL 9th):
4th (4/day)—dimension door, enervation (+6 ranged touch)
3rd (6/day)—dispel magic, fly, lightning bolt (DC 15)
2nd (7/day)—invisibility, Melf’s acid arrow (+6 ranged touch), protection from arrows, see invisibility
1st (7/day)—endure elements, disguise self, magic missile, ray of enfeeblement (+6 ranged touch), shield
0 (6/day)—acid splash (+6 ranged touch), detect magic, flare, light, message, open/close, resistance, touch of fatigue (+6 ranged touch, DC 12)
Abilities Str 10, Dex 14 (16 when shifting), Con 16, Int 11, Wis 11, Cha 14
Feats Great Fortitude, Healing Factor*, Longstride Elite*, Scribe ScrollB, Shifter Defense*
Skills Balance +4, Climb +2, Concentration +8, Hide +4, Jump +2, Knowledge (arcana) +6, Knowledge (religion) +3, Listen +2, Move Silently +3, Spellcraft +2, Spot +1 Possessions bracers of armor +3, +1 spear, light crossbow, amulet of health +2, periapt of Wisdom +2

Source: Faiths of Eberron

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