Just a quick post today. It’s something that came up as I was putting together the rules for spellcasting. The rules for Concentration have changed in the Pathfinder game. This is what they were like in third edition, and this is the newly minted Pathfinder version. In brief: the Concentration skill has been replaced by a level check.
Now, I’m not a big fan of Concentration checks and I’ve been wanting to simplify the system for some time. While I still think that you should be able to disrupt spellcasting, I don’t think the rules for Casting Defensively work particularly well. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a spellcaster fail that check, and it’s just another die roll clogging up an already crowded combat system. So here’s my alternative:
Concentration and Disrupting Spells
It simply isn’t possible for most spellcasters to cast a spell and pay attention to the battlefield around them. Casting a spell while you are within mêlée range of an opponent provokes an attack of opportunity from that opponent. If the attack of opportunity hits (and doesn’t immediately kill or bloody the target), then the spellcaster must make a special concentration check or the spell is disrupted.
The caster must roll 1d20 + caster level + relevent spellcasting ability score modifier (e.g. Intelligence for a wizards, Charisma for a bard or Wisdom for a cleric). The DC of the check is 10 + the damage dealt + the level of the spell you are trying to cast.
If the check succeeds then the spell is cast normally. If the check fails then the spell is disrupted. A disrupted spell has no effect, but it still disappears from the mind of Acquired casters, and still prompts a languor check from Instinctive casters.
Spellcasters can defend themselves against these attacks of opportunity by selecting the Combat Casting feat. Spellcasters with combat casting do not provoke attacks of opportunity when casting their spells in mêlée.
However, even characters with combat casting may still find the spells disrupted by canny opponents. Any attack that strikes and damages the spellcaster during the moment of casting prompts a concentration as above. For spells that are cast as one standard action, the attacker must actively ready an action that is contingent on the casting of the spell. However, some spells take rounds or minutes to cast. Any attack during this time, whether readied or not, calls for a concentration check.
Other distractions: Inflicting physical damage is the most common way to disrupt spellcasting, but it isn’t the only way. The spellcaster might be hit by a non-damaging spell, they might be grappled, bundled to the floor or riding a rollercoaster. In these circumstances a concentration check is called for, although the DCs for the checks differ slightly. See the table below.
|Injured while casting||10 + damage dealt + spell level|
|Affected by non-damaging spell while casting||DC of the attacking spell + spell level|
|Grappled or pinned while casting||10 + grappler’s CMB + spell level|
|Inclement weather (wind, rain or sleet)||5 + spell level|
|Extreme weather (hail, debris, blinding rain)||10 + spell level|
|Vigorous motion (riding in a wagon)||10 + spell level|
|Violent motion (on a galloping horse)||15 + spell level|
|Extremely violent motion (caught in an earthquake)||20 + spell level|
Maintaining Spells: The effects of some spells last for “as long as the caster maintains concentration”. What this means is that the caster is spending some of his attention on maintaining a spell effect. Spending concentration in this way is usually a free action, but this concentration can be disrupted in the same way as normal spellcasting.
And here’s the text of the Combat Casting feat:
Combat Casting [General]
Once you start casting a spell, it is very difficult to disrupt or distract you.
Benefit: You may cast spells without provoking attacks of opportunity from enemies in mêlée range. You also gain a +4 bonus to concentration to defend against attacks that try to disrupt your spellcasting.
So what we’re left with is a much shorter explanation of the Concentration system – which can only be a good thing. Casting spells in melee combat becomes an either/or situation: you either don’t have combat casting and provoke attacks of opportunity, or you do have it and don’t provoke attacks of opportunity. There’s no middle ground here.
This fits in with the way that ranged weapons (such as bows) work in melee combat. If you use a bow when there’s someone within melee range of you, then you provoke an attack of opportunity. There’s no roll you can make to mitigate that, you can’t “pull bowstring defensively”. The only way you can use a bow in melee combat is by way of a special ability. The same is now true for spellcasting: you need to have the feat.
The rest of the rules are pretty much undisturbed. I can still ask for a concentration check if I think there is something afoot to distract the spellcaster, and wily fighters can still disrupt the spellcasting of powerful wizards if they are quick and patient enough.
On the whole this change feels right. The number of times as a GM that I have forgotten to ask PC spellcasters to make concentration checks, and forgotten to have my NPC spellcasters make these checks is enormous. I just can’t seem to remember the rule, and the times I do remember it the results are a foregone conclusion. If that’s how the rule for casting defensively is working in practice, then that’s a good enough reason to get rid of it. Yes?