Kevin has been playing tabletop games for almost as long as he can remember and currently edits for Jon Brazer Enterprises.
The arcane bomber archetype (Ultimate Combat) probably sits in the shadow of the spellslinger to many. Guns were the biggest addition to Pathfinder in the new material, so it’s no surprise that the spellslinger stole the show. However, the arcane bomber does provide a useful niche: it’s a straight-forward way to create a wizard with a solid blasting ability without having to waste prepared spells on them.
Like the spellslinger, the arcane bomber gives up his arcane bond, his cantrips (gaining detect magic and read magic as 1st-level spells), and has to choose four opposed schools. The last of these is the most painful loss, but the good news is that the arcane bomber doesn’t have to use his spells as often when it comes to dealing damage, so there are some schools he can afford to give up. We’ll go into detail about that after we cover the arcane bomber’s two abilities.
At 1st level, the arcane bomber gains the bomb ability, which works like the alchemist’s bomb ability, except that the arcane bomber can choose the energy type for his bombs, rather than being limited to only fire at 1st level. Unlike the alchemist, the arcane bomber can’t take discoveries to alter the energy type of his bombs, but given his wide variety of spells, he’ll still have plenty to do in a fight where his enemies are immune to his bomb damage. Personally, I recommend acid as the energy type of choice, as resistance to acid is far less common than fire resistance, though cold and electricity are decent choices as well.
Like the spellslinger, the arcane bomber also gains his other class feature, spellblast bombs at 1st level. When throwing a bomb, the arcane bomber can sacrifice a spell slot to gain a bonus on the bomb’s attack roll equal to the spell’s level and a bonus on its damage roll equal to twice the spell’s level. In situations where your prepared spells are ineffective, you can still make use of them by enhancing your bombs.
With those out of the way, it’s time to talk opposed schools. Choosing four schools to avoid is always painful, but thankfully, it’s less painful for the arcane bomber than it is for the spellslinger. Because you have your bombs for situations where direct damage is helpful, you can give up evocation without much difficulty—the majority of the spells there do the same thing that your bombs do, more or less.
Of the remaining schools, I’d probably want to keep conjuration and illusion (since these have some wonderful battlefield control and other great spells). The other schools all have great spells in them, and you can consider the needs of your group when deciding what schools you want to have ready access to. I find that abjuration and divination have a lot of functions that other characters (especially clerics) can cover, so I’d recommend making them opposed schools as well, but the choices are ultimately up to you and the strengths of your party.
Like most wizards, arcane bombers are not particularly feat dependent, so any sample build will largely be a matter of opinion, generally. The following example grabs Extra Bombs so you have to worry less about running out on a long day of adventuring and otherwise takes fairly standard wizard feats. As always with the wizard, elf is a great choice for the race, but it’s not one that will make or break your character.
Elven Wizard (Arcane Bomber) 5
Ability Scores (15 Point Buy): Str 8, Dex 16, Con 13, Int 17, Wis 10, Cha 8
- 1 Extra Bombs
- 3 Improved Initiative
- 5 Extend Spell
Other feats to consider include Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot, if you plan on making heavy use of your bombs, but they aren’t strictly necessary for you, since you always have a wide variety of spells to fall back on. As a wizard, you can also consider Spell Focus (conjuration) and Augment Summoning if you want to make heavy use of summoning spells. Avoid Empower Spell and Maximize Spell, since you shouldn’t really have any spells that make use of them with your bombs.
Whether you choose these feats or others, you’ve still got all of the strength of the wizard to fall back on, so your arcane bomber should be a solid addition to your party. I hope you found this article featuring Ultimate Combat builds helpful.