Ki Powers

Before I jump into the next topic, a quick word on the poll from the last post. The results don’t give any choice a clear mandate… but I’m going to lump for the one with the most votes. Therefore overcasting spells drains the ability score that an  instinctive caster uses to cast her spells. Normally this is Charisma, but I’m sure there are instinctive casters out there who use different ability scores.

As with all the decisions we’ve taken over the last few posts, I’m still going to see how all this works in play. Marc suspects that instinctive casters may now be too versatile compared to acquired casters. He may be right. But I don’t want to make any further changes to the system unless I can avoid it. So without further ado…

The Problem of Ki

Magic is not the only way in which characters can create fantastic effects. Many classes have supernatural abilities that are powered by the character’s ki (soul energy for want of a better term). The Monk and the Ninja are the obvious examples of Ki-using characters in Pathfinder. However, I like the idea of Ki and I believe that the same mechanics can be used to convert the Incarnum-using classes, the classes from the Book of Nine Swords and the 4e Swordmage into Pathfinder.

However, we have a bit of a problem. Ki works fine using the rules as they’re written, there’s no question of that. Ki users aren’t as versatile or powerful as spellcasters, and nor should they be. That said there’s a certain parity between the monk, the sorcerer and the wizard. Our house rules for acquired and instinctive magic throw that balance out of the window.

Here’s how ki works at the moment. I’ll use the Monk as an example. All monks have a number of ki points equal to half their level plus their Wisdom modifier. These points make up their ki pool. The monk use this ki pool in one of two ways. He can spend points to trigger supernatural abilities, such abundant step (aka dimension door), making an extra attack or dodging a foe. Secondly, as long as he keeps at least one point in his ki pool, he maintains the ability to use some supernatural abilities (such as ki strike) at will.

A monk’s ki pool is a daily resource. It is replenished after an extended (8 hour rest) and with very, very few exceptions the monk cannot get any ki points back without such a rest.

And that’s our problem. We’ve moved to a 4e-like system where acquired and instinctive casters replenish their magic after each encounter. Monks and other ki-users are still stuck on a daily recharge system. That makes their abilities relatively less useful when compared to other party members. The parity that the rules assume between these classes is no longer there.


You can see where this is going by now, can’t you? I have some ideas on how to go forward with the monk. If we can fix him then I can use that as the template for all other character classes that use ki. Here are my ideas (following by a poll), but if you think of anything else or want to make any further points, then please use the comments below.

Option One: The Rules as Written

It’s certainly an option to leave the monk exactly where he is. We keep his powers on a daily recharge schedule. In doing so we’ve inadvertently elevated magic users even further above the monk in terms of usefulness and power, but on balance we’ve decided we don’t care about that. There are other classes (such as the Barbarian and the Bard) that have daily resources to manage – so the monk can manage with daily resources too.

I will only counter that argument slightly by saying daily resources for bards and barbarians bug me a little to. And if we do go through with changes to the way Ki works, I’d certainly consider testing some of the ideas I’ve had for Barbarian Rage and Bardic Music to bring all the classes into line.

Option Two: More Ki Points per Day

The easiest modification, perhaps, is to simply increase the number of ki points a monk has. Instead of half his level plus his Wisdom modifier, why not make it his full level plus his Wisdom modifier? The monk still manages his resources daily instead of by the encounter, but he has more resources to play with – hopefully making his a little more versatile.

Option Three: Ki Points per Encounter

Alternatively, we can just use the same system for monks as instinctive casters. The monk still has the same number of ki points (which is less than any instinctive caster – including the hexblade) but they all replenish every time the monk takes a short rest. This is how things work for all spellcasters. Why not ki-users as well?

Option Four: More Ki Points per Encounter

A combination of options two and three. The monk has more ki points (his full level plus his Wisdom modifier) and all those points are replenished after each short rest. This is the most powerful option for the monk.

Option Five: Limited recharge per encounter

The monk has the traditional number of ki points (half his level + his Wisdom modifier) and he spends them normally. After each short rest he replenishes his ki pool to half his maximum total, rounded down. So a monk with 10 ki points who spends 8 of them, may take a short rest to restore his ki pool to 5. However, the same monk who spends only 3 points won’t get any benefit from a short rest as his current total (7) is above half his ki pool’s maximum limit. The only way to restore a ki pool to its maximum total would be to take an extended (8-hour) rest.

This is the system that Marc uses to govern Daily and Encounter powers in his 4e campaign, and I think it works rather well. There’s a little more book-keeping involved, but I like the fact that it preserves the idea of ki points as a daily resource while at the same time giving the monk more versatility, and the ability to hold his own against spellcasters.

Options Six: More Ki Points, limited recharge per encounter

This is a mix options two and five. The monk’s ki pool is bigger: his full level + his Wisdom modifier. A short rest allows a monk to replenish his ki pool to half his maximum total. This has the advantage of option six, but also gives the monk a little more poke as the adventuring day continues.


So those are the options as I see them. You may come up with something else. Please vote in the poll below. At the moment, I quite like option six. I like the way the system is just that little bit different from instinctive casting, but still extremely simple. Don’t let me sway you though!


Instinctive Spellcasting – The Finale

Okay. We’re nearly there. The results of the voting on the previous two blog entries give us the following results:

  • Instinctive characters will use a Spell Point system that will renew after each encounter.
  • We will use my Rounded Spell Levels total to determine how many different spells instinctive casters can know.
  • Instinctive casters can overcast their spells – this will drain their Constitution score.
  • We will use the standard spell lists and not use Words of Power.

Those results bear a little explanation and possible modification depending on the comments and the vote below:

Regarding Words of Power: The vote between those who wanted to use the Words of Power rules, and those that did not, is tied. Bearing in mind that not everyone who plays instinctive casters has voted, I have decided to err in favour of the status quo. BUT because there seems a fair interest in Words of Power I propose that we test it in game and see how well it flows. I’m not sure when exactly, but perhaps when the weekly game recommences, or the next weekend game.

Regarding Overcasting: Constitution damage was the favourite approach by far, but questions were asked over whether Constitution was the most appropriate ability score. I am therefore wondering if many of you thought Ability Damage was best solution, and voted for Con Damage because that was the only option on offer. So here’s another poll which offers a more specific choice. When you vote imagine the process of casting instinctive magic. Is it draining to the mind or the body? Do sorcerers who overcast burst blood vessels, or are they dazed by the experience?

And there we have it. Thanks very much to everyone who has taken the time to thrash this out.