Instinctive Casters – The Results

Right then. The polls in the last blog post have been running for two weeks and I think it’s time to draw a line under them. I think that everyone who cares has either had their say or cast a vote, so I’m going to move on. Which is not to say that I won’t read or take notice of any further feedback. If you have an opinion let me know.

Even taking into account Neil’s undocumented opinions, and Daniel’s last minute conversion to a Freecasting system, the winning proposals are obvious: and have a clearer mandate than any government elected in this country in the last seventy years. The majority wants instinctive casters to move to a Spell Points per Encounter system, and for the number of spells they know to be determined by Rounded Spell Levels.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s decided.

However, before I start writing up these new rules, there are three things that I would like you to decide upon.

How Many Spell Points?

We have a bit of a dilemma. Normally, I’ve converted spell points directly from the number of spells a caster can cast in a day in the published spell system. As we are resetting spell points after each encounter, that approach won’t work any more. There’s no poll to vote on in this regard as I only have one idea. However, if you have any other thoughts that you think will work better then please say so in the comments..

The number of spell points depends on your progression. Characters who cast all nine spell levels like a sorcerer have 2 spell points per level + their ability score per level. Those that cast up to level six (like a bard) have 1.5 spell points per level + their ability score per level (round down!). Those that cast up to level four spells (like a hexblade) have 1 spell point per level + their ability score.

So does this work?

A 1st level sorcerer with a  Charisma of 17 has a total of 4 spell points, and knows 2 levels worth of spells. A 10th level sorcerer with a Charisma of 17 has a total of 23 spell points. That sorcerer knows 44 levels of spells (from levels 1 to 5), so she won’t be able to blow through all her spells without taking a rest. However, given how long combats tend to last she’s unlikely to run out of spellcasting options before the end of the final round. By eighteenth level, the same sorcerer with a Charisma of 22 (let’s call her Ravenna) would have 42 spell points, but know 102 levels of spells.

A 1st level bard with a Charisma of 17 also has 4 spell points, and knows 2 levels worth of spells. At 10th level the same bard has a total of 18 spell points, and knows 28 levels worth of spells. By 18th level that bard (now with a Charisma of 22) has 33 spell points and knows a total of 74 levels of spells.

Does all this sound about right to you? Let me know in the comments. If you don’t say then I won’t know! I think the number of spell points seems fair as it looks as though a spellcaster can cast the most powerful spell they know four times before running out of spell points. I haven’t double checked that for every permutation of class and level, though.

Overcasting

Jon proposed that sorcerers (or other instinctive casters) should have the ability to carry on casting magic even if they ran out of spell points. Doing so should drain them in some fashion, meaning they would only attempt such a thing in dire circumstances. I have a few suggestions as to how this might work in practice. Have a read, then please vote below:

Option One: No Overcasting

A simple option. We just don’t go down the overcasting route. We keep things simple. Sorcerers and their ilk have a set number of spell points and no more. It may not be quite as evocative, but it keeps things nice and easy for everyone. I should point out that we had a form of overcasting in the rules for years, but no-one actually used it.

Option Two: Make a check or nauseated

When the instinctive caster overcasts magic they must make a Concentration Check. The DC is the same as casting defensively: 15 + double the spell level + spell levels over their normal spell point total. If they fail the check then the spell fails and the sorcerer is nauseated for a number of rounds equal to the spell level. Successive overcast attempts result in further Concentration checks, at an increasing difficulty as the number of spell levels they have tried to cast over their normal total also increases. If the spellcaster overcasts (whether successful or not) it takes 1 hour instead of a short rest (5 minutes) to regain their spell points.

This is the only option I’ve presented that requires the roll of a die. I don’t think that would be as much of an issue as the languor system as instinctive casters should only be overcasting very infrequently. The price of failure (the “nauseated” condition) is deliberately high. If you are nausaeted you can only take a single Move action on your turn: and no-one wants that in combat. The additional delay to regain your spell points (up from 5 minutes to 1 hour) if you overcast should discourage using this option outside combat unless absolutely necessary.

Option Three: Constitution Damage

An instinctive spellcaster can overcast their spells. However, any additional spell levels they spend over their normal spell point total is converted into Constitution damage. For example, a sorcerer has a maximum of 20 spell point but has already cast 18 spell levels. If the sorcerer casts a fifth level spell then they spend their last two spell points, and take three points of damage to their Constitution score. This ability damage heals normally.

This option has the advantage of being quick and easy to adjudicate. It’s also rather brutal as any damag to Consitution automatically affects the sorcerer’s current and maximum hit points. However, it is invocative of the sorcerer metabolising his own body and turning it into magic: a desperate last resort.

Option Four: Borrowing from Yourself

In this system, a sorcerer that overcasts borrows spell points from the spell points he would have had if he had the chance to take a short rest. The price he pays is lowering his maximum spell point total until his next extended (8-hour) rest. For example: a sorcerer has a maximum of 20 spell points. She casts all 20, but still needs to cast magic and opts to overcast. She casts a second and a third level spell using up 5 more spell points. When she takes a short rest to regain her spell points her maximum total is now 15 and not 20. Her maximum total remains 15 until she takes an extended rest at the end of the day.

This option requies a little more paperwork on the part of the player, and has the potential to make the instinctive caster more powerful. If the instinctive caster overcasts more than twice his spell points (40 spell points in the example above) then the overflow at thay point would be converted to Constitution damage as per option two.

Words of Power

The rules for Words of Power can be found on the Pathfinder PRD. I’m not going to try and explain the mechanics. Have a read and see if you can understand them. It is a magic system without spells. The idea is that you take the fundamental elements of a spell and build a magical effect on the fly. If you ignore the Pathfinder-flavour it’s an extremely evocative and appropriate system for untrained, instinctive spellcasters.

Daniel has proposed that we adopt this system. If we did, then I’d want to apply it across the board to all sorcerers, oracles, wilders, inquisitors and the like. The Words of Power ‘spells’ would replace the class’s normal spell list. The class wouldn’t be able to select normal spells, they would choose words of power instead. Any additional spells granted by class abilities – such as a sorcerer’s bloodline powers, or an oracle’s mysteries – would still be spells from the normal spell list.

We’d still use spell points per encounter and rounded spell-levels if we adopted Words of Powers. The mechanics of the system wouldn’t change, just the content of the individual class’s spell lists.

Be under no illusion: this would be a massive change to the way magic works in the game. Certainly in keeping with Iourn thematically, but a sharp right turn for those players who have instinctive casters as their characters.

What’s Next?

Once we’ve made these last decisions, I’m going to consolidate the rules for the final time and then get them up on Iourn.com. I’m not planning on introducing any further house rules for third edition/Pathfinder. I wouldn’t like say that I’m done with the system, but I’m not sure there’s any thing else I want to fundamentally alter. What the future holds is converting third and fourth edition material in to the new rules. I’d like to see the warlock and the swordmage properly supported in the hybrid game.

Looking to the far future, I like a lot of what I’m reading regarding 5th edition – I am cautious, however, as I liked most of what I read about fourth 4th edition as well. I also envisage not running games set on Iourn as much as I have in the past decade. These hybrid rules that we’ve worked on for the last few years will become the system I use to run games on Iourn. However, I think I might just be adopting 5th edition for any new campaigns set outside that setting.

Instinctive Casters – a Final Decision

Right, ladies and gentlemen. The time has come to put this whole business of instinctive spellcasters behind us. Ever since the release of third edition gave us the Wizard and the Sorcerer, it’s been a bit of a thorn in my side having two distinctive rules for magic users. But, that’s the version of D&D we’re playing, and I don’t intend to mess about with anything quite so fundamental. The rules for Acquired casters work well, but their Instintive counterparts – the sorcerers, wilders, oracles, inquisitors and hexblades – are still lacking solid mechanics.

In this blog post I’m going to present a number of choices of how the system can go forward. Some of the options are very similar, but all have their distinct advantages and disadvantages. At the end of post is a poll in which you can vote. While reading through this post, I’d ask you bear in my the core concept of the instinctive caster -whatever class or tradition she is from. Namely:

The instinctive caster is a magic-user who knows a limited number of spells, but can cast any of her spells repeatedly.

How we interpret that is key to how the class will work. Where acquired casters know many spells, but can only cast each one once before taking  a short rest, instinctive classes know less spells but don’t have the acquired caster’s limitations. If they want to cast fireball nine times in a row then they can. However, casting spells “repeatedly” is not the same thing as casting them without limitation. We may decide that some limit per day (or per encounter) should be placed on the instinctive caster’s powers.

We also need to look at the number of spells an instinctive caster can have access to in the system. Should it be less than they have now? Should “Spells Known” be a block of spell levels from which the player determines which spells of which level the character knows, or should it be more prescribed with the character only being able to learn x number of spells of a certain level? The number of different spells available will influence whatever spell-casting system we choose. The more generous we are on how often the instinctive caster can use his magic, the more limiting we might want to be on the number of spells he has access to.

Proposed Instinctive Magic Systems

I’m going to try and keep this as simple as possible. First we’ll look at the different systems we can use for instinctive casters and then a little further down the post we’ll examine the number of spells such a caster should know. Everyone ready? Off we go.

Option 1: Freecasting

This does exactly what it says. The casting of instinctive spells are free. Aside from casting time or availability of components, there is no limit to the number of times per day an instinctive caster can unleash her magic. She could cast fireball once per round, every round, throughout her entire waking hours. Or to put it in fourth edition terms: all her spells are “at-will” abilities. After all, casting a spell is no more tiring to a sorcerer than swinging a sword is to a fighter – so why regulate it all? Give the sorcerer her glory! Let her be a living battery of spell energy.

There is actually precedence in the system for this approach. The invocations of the third edition Warlock were all at-will spells. And these weren’t a few measley cantrips – these were proper game-breaking magicks: shadow walk (at will!), baleful polymorph (at will!), Evard’s black tentacles (at will!)…. the system has born this excess once, why not again? It’s not as if the Warlock was a forgotten experiment like the Healer or the Wu Jen. It was one of the notable successes of third edition. Why not borrow from it?

Of course, the Warlock knew significantly fewer spells than a sorcerer. Using the rules as written, if we compare a 20th level sorcerer and a 20th level warlock , the sorcerer would know a big bag of cantrips plus six spells of each level from one to nine (54 spells in total); while the warlock would know three spells of each of his four invocation levels – least, lesser, greater and dark – for a total of just 12 spells. A massive reduction in versatility, but perhaps the price what would need to be paid for this system to work?

Pros: This system is really simple to implement, because it’s not really a system. The character has spells, she casts them…. end of story. No other option on the list is more evocative of the sorcerer’s role as a being of magic.

Cons: Cast spells at will? Are you crazy? Even if the number of spells known was limited to warlock levels, the warlocks had a deliberately small list of abilities to choose from… bards, sorcerers and oracles have a much larger pool of potential spells from which to make their choice. Who knows what bizarre combinations of mutually beneficial spells players can come up with? It won’t all be all mage armour and fireball. And don’t get me started on spells that augment the sorcerer and his friends. If spells like bull’s strength or heroism could be cast at will, wouldn’t they be running all the time? Wouldn’t the sorcerer use detect thoughts on everyone he met? That might make sense as a logical progression of the sorcerer’s role, but it’s not much fun in a roleplaying game is it? Or is it?

Option 2: Subdual Damage

This is the system we used for sorcerers on Iourn from 2000 until 2010. The casting of a spell inflicts subdual damage onto a sorcerer equal to level of the spell. Subdual damage was renamed nonlethal damage in version 3.5, and has retained that name into Pahthfinder. However, the mechanics of how subdual damage works hasn’t really changed. You can read about it over at the Pathfinder PRD if your need a reminder.

Once again, this isn’t a system that I just plucked out of the air. Well, I did – but it’s so obvious that Wizards used it as well. This is the system that is used in the first d20 Star Wars roleplaying game for Force Users. When such characters tap into the Force, they gain nonlethal damage. So there’s precedence within the d20 system for this sort of thing. Why not just return to this?

Pros: The subdual damage system is tried and tested. A very similar system to this has actually be used in a d20 product. And it has the benefit of making use of rules that already exist and are supported in Pathfinder. Plus after eleven years, all the players are very familar with it.

Cons: There are two main problems with this system. The first is that nonlethal damage is restored by simply casting a healing spell. This means that as long as sorcerers have allies who can heal them they effectively have infinite spell points. In fact, once they get hold of vampiric touch, they do have infinite spell points. That’s certainly problematic. However, a more glaring flaw is how this system interfaces with the multiclassing system. Taking a one level dip into sorcerer or oracle becomes disproportionately useful. Because spellcasting is tied to a character element that is unrelated to your class (i.e. hit points) any level in any class makes you better at spell casting. The Oracle 1/Fighter 19 is not noticeably worse at fighting than a Fighter 20. However, the former has a handful of first level spells that he can effectively cast at will: what’s 1 hit point of nonlethal damage to a character with more than 200 hit points? So we have a fighter who can can effectively cast cure light wounds restoring 1d8 hit points at-will. Third edition is based on the premise that you have to have levels in a related spellcasting class in order to get better at spellcasting. The subdual system turns that on its head. It’s not how the system was designed to work, and that’s largely why I got rid of it. You might think that was a mistake.

Option 3: Spell Points per Day

I don’t know why it never occurred to me to use spell points for instinctive casters before. I must have had a mental block. The spell points system was what we used for Acquired casters prior to HD&D. Now acquired casters are happily using the recharge mechanic, this leaves spell points free to be used for something else. In a traditional D&D spell point system, the number of spells a caster can cast in a day is converted into a spell point total. Casters can then cast any spell they know at a cost in points from this total.

There have been a few spell point systems in D&D before. Netheril: Empire of Magic from second edition saw a very similar one to my house rules. In third edition we had the Psionics Handbook, the Expanded Psionics Handbook and the new Pathfinderfriendly psionics update that’s being produced by Dreamscarred Press. Traditionally my house rules have had a spell-point cost equal to the level of the spell being cast. The psionics material had a spell point cost equal to the level you needed to be to cast it. So a 9th level spell cost 17 spell points to cast. That’s a decision that can be made if we adopt spell points, but we should consider spell points on its own merits first.

In this system the caster is given a big bag of spell points each morning after 8 hours rest. He can then use those spell points on his magic throughout the course of the day. If he runs out of spell points then he can’t replenish them until the following morning – or until he receives eight hours of rest. And yes, there could be feats that gave you extra spell points.

Pros: It’s spell points. I’ve used them in all my D&D campaigns since 1993. We know they work. There’s probably no more simple mechanic for regulating magic use beyond not having any rules at all. Instinctive casters still have the freedom to cast what they want when they want, but they need to be careful they don’t burn through all their magic in one go. After all, casting spells is spiritually tiring. You need a good night’s rest to recharge your arcane batteries.

Cons: There’s a trick to balancing spell points at high level. What we have found as the game as progressed is that high-level casters have too many spell points, which means they can effectively cast what they want whenever they like. So we would need to look at exactly how many spell points a higher level character really needs.

Option 4: Spell Points per Encounter

These are Jon’s flux rules as seen in the last blog post. The idea is that we still have spell points and they work in the same way as Option 3 above. The difference is that casters have less spell points, and these points return after a short rest (five minutes) instead of an extended rest (eight hours). And when I say “less spell points” I mean many less spell points. Maybe 2 points per class level, plus your Charisma bonus if you’re a sorcerer.

Now, this fits in with the way that Acquired casters work. After all, it only takes a five minute rest for a wizard to ‘re-learn’ all the spells in his spell-book, so why shouldn’t it take the sorcerer the same amount of time to reset her spell points? I can certainly see the logic there, the question is can you?

As a brief aside, Jon mentioned the idea of instinctive casters being able to “overcast” their magic beyond normal limits. That’s definitely not off the table, but it’s an added complication that we don’t need at this point in the design process. If we decide to go with spell points (option 3 or 4) then we can discuss overcasting then.

Pros: We know spell points works, and this new way of looking at them may be what’s needed to keep them fresh in the system. It brings Instinctive casters on par with Acquired casters. They both now regain their spellcasting powers in the same amount of time. It also preserves the mechanics of the languor system, in that a short rest remains important to instinctive casters.

Cons: Reducing a character’s spell points to something that works on an encounter basis looks like a limitation: but is it really limitation? Even if an instinctive caster finds herself in fights where she blows through all her spell points, she’ll still get them back five minutes later. My main worry with this approach is that how it affects things outside combat. Is the instinctive caster likely to use her powers more often than she otherwise would, knowing that a short rest is all that is required to get them back? Or could this argument also be applied to Acquired casters, and is therefore a non-argument?

Option 5: Languor (Classic)

This is the system we’re using at the moment. The idea is that all instinctive casters can cast the spells whenever they like, but every time they cast a spell they need to make a languor check. Fail the check and they get progressively more weary until they fall unconscious. We’ve had problems with this system for a while, and I don’t perceive that it’s a very popular solution. The main stumbling block has been finding a fair level for the DCs of the languor check – something that applies to all characters of all classes.

In this version of the Languor system we try and keep things as close to how they have been before. The languor check is rolled on 1d20 + caster level + ability score modifier, and compared to the DC on a table. The higher the spell you’re trying to cast, the higher the DC. Casters are divided into three groups: those that cast their spells over nine spell-levels (e.g. sorcerers); over six spell-levels (e.g. bards); and over four spell levels (e.g. hexblades). Each group has their own languor check table with different DCs. Characters that multiclass between intinctive casting classes, use the table appropriate to the spell they are casting from the class they are casting them from. Failed languor checks make a character Weary, Fatigued, Exhausted and Unconscious as before.

Pros: It mimics the way the actual rules work in the book pretty well, but at the same time gives instinctive casters the ability to cast spells ad infinitum. It introduces an element of uncertainty into instinctive casters: their magic is not reliable. It also marks them out as very different to Acquired casters, which must be a good thing.

Cons: There’s a lot of dice rolling. An instinctive caster might well have to make a Concentration check, a Languor check and an attack roll just to cast one spell. Isn’t that too much to ask? Plus, I haven’t got the DCs for the languor right so far… do we have any faith that I’m going to do a better job this time? Also, it’s very complicated having multiple tables for different classes. Too complicated, in my opinion.

Option 6: Languor (Static)

This was my proposal in the last post on this blog. Basically, we accept that the DCs for the languor checks are never going to work so we just include a static figure. A character has a 25% of succeeding on a languor check for the highest level spell he can cast. The chance then improves by 5% for each successive diminishing spell level. So a 17th level sorcerer would have a 25% chance of making a languor when casting a ninth level spell, but a 40% of making the check when casting a sixth level spell. The system could be personalised, a little, by adding the ability score modifier as a percentage into the roll.

Pros: Many of the same pros as Option 5, but with the added assurance that this version of the languor system will work as we want it to work.

Cons: We still have an issue with the excessive rolling dice. Additionally, one size fits all is not always the best approach. The inability to modify the languor check, and personalise it with feats and the like seems contrary to the spirit of third edition. You may find this approach a little soul-less.

Option 7: Languor (4e-style)

We simplify the languor system even further. Forget your level, your class, or even the level of the spell you’re casting. Let’s do away with having a languor table at all, and instead use the same mechanics as the fourth edition saving throw. You have a 50/50 chance of making a languor check. You either succeed or you don’t. Flip a coin, or roll a d20 (11 or more is a success). You fail languor checks as often as you make them.

Pros: It’s very simple. No tables to consult, no modifiers to add. Just roll the dice and you’re done.

Cons: It’s like Option 6, only more so. If you disliked option 6 for taking away customisation and choice, then you’ll really hate option 7.

Spells Known

Right then, that’s the options for spellcasting out of the way – but how many spells should the instinctive caster actually know? Should it be less or more than they do now? Should the number of spells of each level be prescribed, or should the instinctive caster be able to choose from a pool of Spell Levels known? And how do we derrive the Spell Levels? Lots of options here:

Option 1: Perscribed Spells (Rules as Written)

The first option is that we use the rules as they are written in the book. Surely we can’t go wrong with issues of game balance if we simply take the rules as presented in the Core Rules. Can’t remember what they are? I’ve reproduced the relevent tables below. They are slightly modified by my house rules so sorcerers/oracles potentially gain access to new spells at odd numbered levels like a wizard.

‘9-level caster’ – The Sorcerer

Level Spells Known
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1 4 2                
2 5 2                
3 5 3 1              
4 6 3 1              
5 6 4 2 1            
6 7 4 2 1            
7 7 5 3 2 1          
8 8 5 3 2 1          
9 8 5 4 3 2 1        
10 9 5 4 3 2 1        
11 9 5 5 4 3 2 1      
12 9 5 5 4 3 2 1      
13 9 5 5 4 4 3 2 1    
14 9 5 5 4 4 3 2 1    
15 9 5 5 4 4 4 3 2 1  
16 9 5 5 4 4 4 3 2 1  
17 9 5 5 4 4 4 3 3 2 1
18 9 5 5 4 4 4 3 3 2 1
19 9 5 5 4 4 4 3 3 3 2
20 9 5 5 4 4 4 3 3 3 3

‘6-level caster’ – The Bard

Level Spells Known
0 1 2 3 4 5 6
1 4 2          
2 5 3          
3 6 4          
4 6 4 2        
5 6 4 3        
6 6 4 4        
7 6 5 4 2      
8 6 5 4 3      
9 6 5 4 4      
10 6 5 5 4 2    
11 6 6 5 4 3    
12 6 6 5 4 4    
13 6 6 5 5 4 2  
14 6 6 6 5 4 3  
15 6 6 6 5 4 4  
16 6 6 6 5 5 4 2
17 6 6 6 6 5 4 3
18 6 6 6 6 5 4 4
19 6 6 6 6 5 5 4
20 6 6 6 6 6 5 5

‘4-level caster’ – Hexblade

Level Spells Known
0 1 2 3 4
1 2        
2 3        
3 3        
4 4 2      
5 4 2      
6 5 3      
7 5 3      
8 5 4 2    
9 5 4 2    
10 5 4 3    
11 5 4 3 2  
12 5 4 4 3  
13 5 4 4 3  
14 5 4 4 4 2
15 5 4 4 4 3
16 5 4 4 4 3
17 5 5 4 4 4
18 5 5 5 4 4
19 5 5 5 5 4
20 5 5 5 5 5

Under these rules, the instinctive caster gets a prescribed number of spells per day. There is much less freedom to pick and choose. For example, a seventh level sorcerer knows five 1st level spells, three 2nd level spells, two 3rd level spells and one 4th level spells. Under the current rules I’d simply give them 21 spell levels and tell the the player to select spells accordingly. Under the rules as written there is much less freedom. The sorcerer’s repetoire cannot have more than five 1st level spells regardless.

There is a little flexibility in that players can choose to learn a lower level spell instead of a higher level one. So the seventh level sorcerer could know six 1st level spells, and only two 2nd level spells if he wished. In the rules as written, high ability scores do not affect the number of spells you can know.

Pros: It’s the rules as written. We know that they are balanced. It’s not something we’ve really tried before in the game, so it might feel fresh and a bit different.

Cons: It’s not very ‘realistic’ from a real-world point of view. Why is my 20th level sorcerer limited to knowing only six 1st level spells? I can cast <i>meteor swarm</i> why can’t I cast <i>mage armour</i>? It also limits the ways in which a player can personalise her character.

Option 2: Prescribed Spells (Diminished)

This is the same as Option 1, but drastically reduces the number of “Spells Known” for the instinctive caster. This seeks to replicate the much smaller repetoire of the Warlock class. The number of spells per day known would be as follows:

‘9-level caster’ – Sorcerer

Level Spells Known
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1 2 1                
2 3 1                
3 3 1 1              
4 3 1 1              
5 4 1 1 1            
6 4 1 1 1            
7 4 1 1 1 1          
8 5 2 1 1 1          
9 5 2 1 1 1 1        
10 5 2 2 1 1 1        
11 5 2 2 1 1 1 1      
12 5 2 2 2 1 1 1      
13 5 2 2 2 1 1 1 1    
14 5 2 2 2 2 1 1 1    
15 5 3 2 2 2 1 1 1 1  
16 5 3 2 2 2 2 1 1 1  
17 5 3 3 2 2 2 1 1 1 1
18 5 3 3 2 2 2 2 1 1 1
19 5 3 3 3 2 2 2 1 1 1
20 5 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 1 1

‘6-level caster’ – Bard

Level Spells Known
0 1 2 3 4 5 6
1 1 1          
2 2 1          
3 3 1          
4 3 1 1        
5 3 1 1        
6 3 1 1        
7 3 1 1 1      
8 3 2 1 1      
9 3 2 1 1      
10 3 2 1 1 1    
11 3 2 2 1 1    
12 3 2 2 1 1    
13 3 2 2 1 1 1  
14 3 2 2 2 1 1  
15 3 3 2 2 1 1  
16 3 3 2 2 1 1 1
17 3 3 2 2 2 1 1
18 3 3 3 2 2 1 1
19 3 3 3 2 2 1 1
20 3 3 3 2 2 2 1

‘4-level caster’ – Hexblade

Level Spells Known
0 1 2 3 4
1 1        
2 2        
3 3        
4 3 1      
5 3 1      
6 3 1      
7 3 1      
8 3 1 1    
9 3 1 1    
10 3 1 1    
11 3 1 1 1  
12 3 2 1 1  
13 3 2 1 1  
14 3 2 1 1 1
15 3 2 2 1 1
16 3 2 2 1 1
17 3 2 2 1 1
18 3 2 2 2 1
19 3 3 2 2 1
20 3 3 2 2 1

Pros: Much the same as Option 1 above.

Cons: Again, like Option 1 – but even more so. Instinctive casters with access only to this number of spells per level might feel as though they cannot create an effective character with so few tools to work with.

Option 3: Spell Levels (Classic)

I’m all for giving PCs the freedom to customise their characters as they see fit. If that means a 20th level caster who knows a hundred 1st level spells and nothing else, then so be it. The Spell Levels system takes all those “spells per day” from options one and two and simply converts them into a pool of spell levels from which a character can select his spells. This table simply converts the rules as they are written into spell levels. So a character with access to four 1st level spells, and two 2nd spells has eight spell levels.

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

Sorcerer

2

2

5

5

11

11

21

21

35

35

55

55

77

77

103

103

127

127

144

153

Bard

2

3

4

8

10

12

19

22

25

35

40

44

57

64

69

85

94

100

105

115

Hexblade

0

0

0

2

2

3

3

7

8

10

16

21

21

32

36

36

41

43

46

50

Pros: There’s a lot of freedom here for players. They get to decide how their character is built. It also adds relative weight to spell knowledge. A 9th level spell is worth nine 1st level spells. It seems to make sense.

Cons: This freedom may lead to unbalanced characters and instinctive characters whose spell lists are simply too long. After all, it’s the advantage of the acquired caster to have an enormous repetoire of spells. With 153 levels worth of known spells, a 20th level sorcerer is going to be equally as versatile as a wizard, isn’t she?

Option 4: Spell Levels (Rounded)

Spell Levels are all well and good, but converting them directly from the published rules for spells known presents a few anomalies. The progression isn’t very smooth. The rules I am currently using for instinctive casters is to polish the progression so that the learning curve is more appropriately spaced out over a twenty level progression as follows:

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

Sorcerer

2

4

6

10

14

18

24

30

36

44

52

60

70

80

90

102

114

126

140

154

Bard

2

3

4

6

8

10

14

18

22

28

34

40

48

56

64

74

84

94

106

118

Hexblade

0

0

0

2

3

4

6

8

10

13

16

19

23

27

31

36

41

46

52

58

The rounded progression sees a more even progression of spells. It means the bard gets slightly less over the mid-to-high levels, and that the sorcerer gets slightly more over the low-to-mid levels. Ultimately, the number of spell levels the character gets at the end of the progression is not very different than option 3 above. But it’s tidier.

Click on the link below to see a comparisson between options three and four in graphical form:

Spell Graphs

Pros: I think this makes for a fairer distribution of spell caster knowledge over twenty levels. If we’re going to use a spell levels system, there’s no reason why it should be slave to the rules as written. It’s a different system, so we can make it different. Otherwise, it has the advantages of option three.

Cons: As with option three, there’s the potential here that the instinctive caster simply knows too many different spells.

Option 5: Spell Levels (Diminished)

This takes the spell levels system presented in Option Three, but significantly cuts back on the spells that are available. Consider it a companion piece for Option Two. Under that this system, this would be total of know spells:

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

Sorcerer

1

1

3

3

6

6

10

11

16

18

24

27

34

38

47

52

63

69

72

79

Bard

1

1

1

3

3

3

6

7

7

11

13

13

18

21

22

28

32

34

34

39

Hexblade

0

0

0

1

1

1

1

3

3

3

6

7

7

11

13

13

13

16

17

17

Pros: All the benefits of the spell level system applies. However, this progression takes great efforts to reduce the versatility of the instinctive caster.

Cons: Versatility may have been smothered rather than simply reduced. Characters know very few different spells at low levels, which isn’t particularly desireable. The progression could be tweaked to make for a more even progression – although I’m not going to do that work unless someone shows particular interest in this approach.

Option 6: Total Spells Known

The psionics system for D&D works on largely a spell-point basis. The number of powers an individual psionicist knows is based on a figure called “Powers Known”. This is a total of all the powers in a character’s repetoire. It is not a list of spell levels from which you shop for spells, nor is it prescribed to a certain number of spells per level. It is somewhere in between. For example, a 20th level Psion knows 36 spells. These can be any spells of any level that she is capable of casting – as limited by rules for retraining and the like.

Under this system, these would be the number of spells know by our instinctive casters at each level:

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

Sorcerer

3

5

7

9

11

13

15

17

19

21

22

24

25

27

28

30

31

33

34

36

Bard

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

Hexblade

0

0

0

3

3

4

4

5

5

6

6

7

7

8

8

9

9

10

10

11

Basically the sorcerer uses the psion progression, the bard uses the psyhic warrior progression, and the hexblade uses a modified wilder progression. As with all the options here, your ability score does not influence the number of spells you know, only the number you can cast in a day.

The Polls

Okay, here we go. If you’ve waded through the mountain of text above, then thanks very much. This is where you can vote on the options available. There are two polls: one concerning the system we use for casting spells, and a second for how we determine the number of spells the instinctive caster has in his repetoire.

Ideally, I’d like to link the results together – so as well as voting could please also leave a Comment indicating how you voted. You may want a Freecasting system that uses the Total Spells Known. If you don’t tell me in the comments how the options you have chosen combine, then I won’t know what you meant!

Poll on Proposed Instintive Magic System

Poll on Spells Known