Character Generation and other animals

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I’m very excited. This is the last post in the Pathfinder: The New Deal series of posts. After this I will have covered every house rule in the game that I thought might have been worth saving or at least worth mentioning. Once our discussions are done here, then I’ll publish a summary of all the changes we are making – the places we are deviating – from the published Pathfinder rules. It won’t be many.

I know there’s something a little perverse about covering Character Generation after Epic Levels, but this post also includes a quick overview of all the other tiny little house-rules that we’ve been using over the years. Some of these I’m happy to jettison, while others I want to keep. Have a read through and let me know if you agree with my choices.

Hit Points

From level 2, you can either roll your hit points or take the average result. The rules as written round the average result down. Therefore a cleric can either add 1d8 hit points or 4 hit points at each level. My house rules, rounded up the average result thus giving the player far more incentive to take the static figure than roll a die.

Barbarians roll 1d12 or take 7 hit points; fighters, paladins and rangers roll 1d10 or take 6 hit points; bards, clerics, druids and monks roll 1d8 or take 5 hit points; wizards and sorcerers roll 1d6 or take 4 hit points.

The reason these house rules exist is that it’s far better for me as a GM (and you as players) if I have a more specific idea of what your hit points are. Encounter are much easier to balance that way. And it prevents certain players (I’m looking at you, Steve) having such fundamentally poor hit points that they are likely to be rendered unconscious by a violent sneeze.

So I would recommend that we keep this rule. It’s also the rule that’s being used in 5th Edition, although my house rule predates this.

Saving Throws

If you remember, the house rules introduced new saving throw tables for core classes and prestige classes that replaced those in the official rules. I don’t think that there’s any justification in keeping those rules in light of our new policies. Therefore all base saving throws need to revert to their correct values as stated in the Core Rules. If you are a single class character, then you’ll notice no changes. If you are a multiclass character then your saving throws might increase if you have a lot of base classes, or decrease if you have a lot of prestige classes. I’m sorry that you need to recalculate them again.

Weapon Proficiencies

Since Unearthed Arcana was published back in 2004 we’ve been using the rules for Weapon Group Feats. I would like to stop doing that now. I want to revert to the official Pathfinder rules which defines all weapons as either Simple, Martial or Exotic weapons. The official rules are on the Pathfinder PRD. They are identical to the rules we used to use in the 3.0 days.

I apologise that this might result in a certain rejigging of the character. Those of you who regularly use more than one exotic weapon may find that the change in rules costs you a feat. However, the Pathfinder rules are more forgiving when it comes to exotic racial weapons. A dwarven waraxe is not an exotic weapon for a dwarf, for example.

Languages

Here we come to a house rule that I really want to hang on to. The old house rules are still compatible with Pathfinder, although they need to changed slightly to take into account the Linguistics skill. Here are the house rules in their entirety:

Languages are divided into spoken tongues and scripts (alphabets). If you learn to speak a language you do not necessarily know how to read and write the language. When you learn a specific script, then you automatically know how to read and write any language you can speak that uses that script. For example: Norandon, Salmayan and True Hadradan are spoken languages that sound pretty different; however they all share the same Hadradan script. Therefore when I character who knows how to speak these three languages learns how to read the Hadradan alphabet, he is then able to read and write Norandon, Salmayan and True Hadradan as well.

At character generation all characters know 2 + their Intelligence modifier in languages and scripts. They choose from the list I have for Iourn: there is no Common language, although some languages are more common than others! What languages and scripts they know depends on their character background. Usually certain races will know their racial tongues, but not always. Some players may choose for their characters to be illiterate, and this is a perfectly valid choice.

After character generation, characters gain access to new languages and scripts by adding ranks in the Linguistics skill. For each rank they have in this skill, they can add one spoken language or one script to the number of languages and scripts that they know.

In the written rules there is no distinction between speaking and reading/writing a language. You start with two languages (usually Common and a racial tongue) and a number of bonus languages depending on your intelligence bonus. The choice of bonus languages is limited by race and class with very little wiggle room. I’ve always preferred the house rules, and I don’t want to give them up. It’s never made any sense to me that you can’t have illiterate PCs in an environment where almost everyone is illiterate. Extra languages conferred by certain classes (such as the secret language of the druids) can be an exception to these rules and known in addition to other languages and scripts.

Arcane Spell Failure

And so we come full circle. I don’t like Arcane Spell Failure, and would rather it was completely excised from the game. I don’t see what the big deal of wizards in armour is. Clerics can do it, after all. For me arcane spell failure falls into the same category as Spell Resistance: something that seems as though it’s just there to slow down play and be annoying.

I would love to say that I’m changing the rules here and removing spell failure from the game, but I’m not. It’s back, it only applies to arcane casters (sorry Jon), and it functions in exactly the way the rules state. Circumventing it is only possible if you find a class or prestige class that allows you to circumvent it: which means a new version of the Spell Sword class down the road for Ravenna. No rush, as we won’t return to her until the weekend game after next.

It’s too a big a thing to pluck out of the game, which is a pain. But there we are.


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Epic Levels

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To say characters of level 21 and higher have always proved problematic in D&D is akin to bemoaning the fact that rain is always so wet. No edition of D&D has managed to conquer the problems inherenet in high levels, and for most those problems start a lot earlier than level 21. It’s unsurprising to learn that Pathfinder is no exception to this rule. Very high level characters are extremely complex: so complex that the advice from Paizo is not to run them at all, and finish your campaign at level 20.

There are no comprehensive rules for level 21+ in Pathfinder, bar for a few brief guidelines in the Core Rules. Largely, these rules advise GMs to finish their campaigns as quickly as they can once their PCs pass 20th level. There’s a very good reason for this, as the maths behind third edition doesn’t really work at these high levels.

However, I have a party of characters that is marching quite solidly into the realm of Epic Characters and so I’ll need to have some rules and guidelines to cope with those chararacters. In this post, I intend to go through the Epic Rules that we have available and gather consensus on the best way to move forward. There are several options as we will see.


Advancement Tables

While the Core Rules presents guidelines on the XP needed to acquire insanely high levels, there isn’t actually an advancement table. So this is the Epic Level advancement table extrapolated out to 30th level. As you can see the amount of experience required to advance increases exponentially over these levels. Even on the fastest progression, you need 1.4 billion XP to reach 30th level!

Character Level Experience Point Total Feats Ability Score
Slow Medium Fast
21st 8,350,000 5,700,000 3,800,000 11th
22nd 14,350,000 9,900,000 6,600,000
23rd 26,350,000 18,300,000 12,200,000 12th
24th 50,350,000 35,100,000 23,400,000 6th
25th 98,350,000 68,700,000 45,800,000 13th
26th 194,350,000 135,900,000 90,600,000
27th 386,350,000 270,300,000 180,200,000 14th
28th 770,350,000 539,100,000 359,700,000 8th
29th 1,538,350,000 1,070,700,000 717,800,000 15th
30th 3,074,350,000 2,145,900,000 1,434,600,000

A new advancement table, also necessitates an expansion to the table of Challenge Ratings. Here is the Total XP awarded by encounter for challenges up to a CR of 35. That should be enough to keep even the highest level parties on their toes. I haven’t extrapolated out the rest of this table, as I won’t be using it when I calculate XP.

CR Total XP
26 2,457,600
27 3,276,800
28 4,915,200
29 6,553,600
30 9,830,400
31 13,107,200
32 19,660,800
33 26,214,400
34 39,321,600
35 52,428,800

And that inevitably leads to a new table for the amount of wealth a PC should acquire per experience level. Extrapolating this table out is more of an art than a science, although I think the following is generally in the spirit of the game:

PC Level Wealth
21 1,115,000 gp
22 1,405,000 gp
23 1,755,000 gp
24 2,165,000 gp
25 2,640,000 gp
26 3,190,000 gp
27 3,820,000 gp
28 4,453,000 gp
29 5,325,000 gp
30 6,215,000 gp

Armed with these tables, it’s easy to see how I can go on setting challenging encounters and rewarding PCs appropriately into the highest levels of the game. However: we can’t just soldier on beyond 20th level blindly. I might be able to give out the correct amount of Wealth per level, but there are no epic level magic items in Pathfinder as there were in third edition. PCs simply acquire more items that are of a diminishing relative level as they continue to advance. We need to be sensible.

It’s possible that when details of Mythic Items are properly released (I’ll cover the impending Mythic Rules in more depth below) that I’ll be able to tailor rewards more closely to the power level of PCs. In any event, the added wealth will allow PCs to create or commission more of the magic items they actually want, as well as being able to afford the things they’ve always wanted: such as a standing army, a floating castle or the world’s largest navy.


Here are some options, most of which come from published sources. Where a source offers various options of approaching epic levels, I’ll make it clear what my preferred option is. It’s possible, that we might use some or all of them to a degree – epic levels should be about choice above all things.

The 3.0 Epic Level Handbook

There are comprehensive rules for epic characters in the Epic Level Handbook (2002). These rules were updated to version 3.5 in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (2003). The 3.5 DMG managed to condense 320 pages of material into only 5. It is my great hope that we agree to ignore all the epic rules published in third edition.

It’s not because I don’t like the rules per se, but the fact is that they don’t fit in with Pathfinder. The rules for epic feats, epic magic items, epic spells and so are at odds with the approach Pathfinder takes to epic levels which is: characters continue to advance in much the same way and gain access to the sort abilties they’ve always had (just more of them).

Also, the bulk of the Epic Rules are two revisions removed from the third edition ruleset we’re going to be using. This creates issues. Some of the epic feats from the Epic Level Handbook were downgraded to regular feats in the 2003 update, and I have a feeling that eight years later there will be plenty of other material that either renders them obsolete or unbalanced.

The 3.5 version of the epic rules are online at the d20 SRD, so do remind yourselves of them. However, their general incompatibility with Pathfinder in regard to everything from skill DCs to saving throw progression to epic item creation feats makes it problematic to use anything from the book as it is printed. It works well as a GM guide for managing high level characters, but doesn’t work as well as a resource for players any more.

The Mythic Rules

Paizo have no intention of publishing a version of the Epic Level Handbook. Instead, in 2013 they are publishing a book called Mythic Adventures. If you want to get an idea of what these rules will entail, there’s a 54-page playtest document that you can download for free over at Paizo.com.

To briefly summarise: the mythic rules are designed for characters of all levels, not simply epic levels. In fact, they may be less suitable for epic level characters as they succeed in making characters even more complex. There are ten ranks of mythic power, and at each rank you gain extra abilities some of which improve the way your class works, and some of which are more utilitarian. These mythic ranks are gained in parallel with class levels. You don’t earn them by gaining experience points, you earn them by doing great deeds. So you could have a 20th level character with 1 mythic rank, or a 1st level character with 10 mythic ranks.

Obviously, Mythic characters are more powerful than your average adventurer, so there’s a lot of rules for balancing encounters and devising mythic villains for them to face. If I’m being honest, this is the first set of rules released for Pathfinder that I’ve been uttely baffled by. I can’t really see the point of them, as I can’t envisage that there’s any adventure that you must use the mythic rules to tell. Also, the “great deeds” characters are expected to perform read like an achievement or trophy guide for a games console which irks me a little.

The Mythic rules won’t offer us a solution to what to do after 20th level. But they do give us insight into the way Pathfinder wants to approach the game. They seem to be taking the view that there’s always been a great deal of cool things characters can do at high level, but very few players get to enjoy those perks as so few characters even reach those rarified heights. The mythic rules bring god-like power down to the small-town adventurer level and gives everyone an equal shot at world-changing glory.

You may not buy that, and I’m not at all sure that I do either. However, this is another example of Pathfinder’s reluctance to produce support for a part of the game that has been shown time-and-again not to work particularly well. I think at the very least the mythic rules will be useful in providing memorable adversaries and items for epic level characters. When we see them in their final form, they may spark more excitement from me.

Class Levels Beyond 20th

Now, we’re getting into what guidelines Pathfinder does offer for characters of level 21+. These rules, and most of what follows, are on the Pathfinder PRD if you want to see them whole-cloth. In regard to class advancement beyond 20th level, Pathfinder gives us two options:

1) Characters simply continue to advance as they did before. If it’s possible to extrapolate an advancement progression of class features then do so – e.g.  a fighter’s bonus feats, a monk’s AC bonus or a rogue’s sneak attack can continue to increase normally. If there is no obvious progression, such as cleric’s domains, the druid’s extra powers or the monk’s many powers then the class stops acquiring such powers at 20th level.

2) The highest published level in a character class is taken as a hard limit on class advancement. So you can’t progress any further than 20th level in a core class, or 10th level in most prestige classes. You can still go beyond 20th level, but you need to multiclass to do it. So if you have reached level 20 as a single-class monk then you’ll have to multiclass when you reach level 21.

My preference is for option two. It’s easier to manage, and there won’t be any disagreement about what constitutes the class’s epic progression. More importantly, character classes (especially in Pathfinder) are self contained units. Most have a capstone ability at 20th level that completes them. After you’ve reached 20th level as a monk, or a druid, or a fighter then there’s really nowhere else you can do. Yes, you can extrapolate some abilties and advancements, but you don’t get anything interesting after 20th level. You might as well pick a prestige class or another core class and start again.

This is not to say that certain class-defining features (e.g. arcane spellcasting) can’t continue to advance beyong level 20, you just have to pick the right class to move into. The wizard who reaches 20th level has nothing left to learn as a wizard, but instead he can become an archmage, or a Blackfire Adept, or an Arclord of Nex. That’s the approach that makes most sense to me.

I would add one small house rule to this: If a character has advanced to 20th level in his favoured class, then he can select another core class as his favoured class. I think that’s fair.

Base Attacks and Saving Throws Beyond 20th Level

A few things to mention here. The rules for way base attack bonuses and saving throws progress after 20th level are different in Pathfinder than in third edition, so pay attention!

Attacks per Round

First, let’s make something very clear. The one point that third edition and Pathfinder are agreed upon is that the number of attacks you have per round does not increase beyond four. A 20th level fighter attacks four times with a base bonus of +20/+15/+10/+5. No matter how high that base bonus goes, no additional attacks per round are gained.

Where Pathfinder differs from third edition is that if you still gain additional attacks per round as your base attack bonus rises to +20, even if you haven’t reached that bonus by 20th level. In third edition, there was a cut of point where if you hadn’t got your fourth (or third) attack per round by 20th level you never got it. Pathfinder is more forgiving here.

These rules also apply to class features that run off base attack bonuses. So at 20th level a Monk has a base attack progresson of +15/+10/+5 and a flurry of blows progression of +18/+18/+13/+13/+8/+8/+3. When the monk gains additional levels and gets another +1 to his base attack bonus he would have an extra (4th) regular attack per round. However, although the attack bonus with his flurry of blows also increases by +1 he will never get any more than seven attacks per round with this class feature.

Base Attacks

In third edition, characters of level 21+ had a standardised progression for base attack bonuses. Every class abandoned their original progression at level 20 and adopted the “epic attack bonus” scheme which was +1 to hit at every odd-numbered level after level twenty. Pathfinder doesn’t go in for that, it just says use the base attack progression of your chosen class instead.

Now the reason why third edition had this rule is obvious. The maths of third edition break down after 20th level. If base attack bonuses continued to increase at the same level then very soon fighters would be able to hit anything in the game by rolling a 2 or more on a d20, while wizards would need to roll a natural 20 hit anything. The disparity between the classes would inevitably increase. The theory was that while some disparity is necessary, too much is a bad thing. Therefore the rules fixed the gulf at the size it was at 20th level.

The reson why Pathfinder doesn’t bother with his is because the game doesn’t expect you to progress beyond 20th level very far. If you plan to wrap up the campaign by 23rd level at the latest (as the rules advise) then it isn’t going to cause the same mechanical problem as if you’re running character up to level 50.

In my opinion, I think we stick with the Pathfinder guidelines here. The epic attack bonus strikes me as an unnecessary complication for our purposes. You may disagree, of course.

Saving Throws

Everything I’ve just said about base attacks also applies to saving throws. In third edition all saving throws were standardised, with all classes receiving a +1 bonus to all saving throws at each even-numbered level above twentieth. Again, the Pathfinder guidelines are for the character class’s base saving throw progression to continue to advance normally.

Pathfinder recognises that this is more of problem for saving throws than it is for base attack bonuses. Choice of class and multiclassing can create enormous differences between the highests and lowest base save in a party at normal levels. At epic levels this is greatly exacerbated. The official advice from Pathfinder on this is for characters to make shoring up their poor saving throws a priority. This means that epic level fighters should be carrying something that improves their Will saving throw as a matter of course.

Despite this, I still recommend using the Pathfinder rules. It’ll just be one thing less to think about when advancing characters, and that has to be a good thing when we’re dealing with PCs of this complexity.

Spellcasting Beyond 20th level

The caster level of spellcasters continues to advance by one for each level they take in class that normally advances their spellcasting. So a wizard 20/archmage 5 has a caster level of 25; and he would use that caster level when calculating the variable effects of spells and attempting to overcome spell resistance.

Acquired Casters: At every odd-numbered caster level above 20, the character gains a new spell slot one level higher than the highest level he can currently cast. So a wizard gets a 10th level spell slot. This slot can be used to prepare spells augmented by metamagic feats, or any other spell the character knows of a lower level. At every even-numbered caster level above 20 the character gains a number of spell slots equal to the highest level he can cast, that he can distribute as he sees fit. So a 22nd level arcane caster gains 10 spell slots. He can choose to have a second 10th level spell slot, two 5th level spell slots or any possible combination as long as they total spell slots add up to 10. Classes gain new spell levels at a slower rate (e.g. paladins and rangers) would also gain these benefits at a slower rate. Pathfinder isn’t clear on what that slower rate should be.

Instinctive Casters: Spellcasters like sorcerers or oracles can gain the same benefits as acquired casters if they choose. However, this only increases the number of spells they can cast each day, and not their repetoire of known spells. At any level they can forego the benefits they would have received in order to learn two new spells of any level they can cast.

I think that these rules for spellcasters are head and shoulders above the 3.0 versions, where caster level was fixed at 20th, and spellcasters needed to choose special feats to be able to learn new spells or advance their spellcasting powers at all. If I’m honest, I think instinctive casters have a bit of a raw deal when compared to their acquired brethren but it’s not something I’m tempted to change: Pact of Minimal Tinkering and all.

Epic Destinies

Okay, here come the House Rules. These rules are intended to replace anything you’ve just read. They are simply a further option for customisation that I would like to support from 21st level. My view is that after spending 20 levels toiling through a character class, you should all have the option to advance your character in exactly the manner you wish.

After 20th level all players should have the option to create a new charater class that is unique to them, and that includes the abilities and powers that they think are most important to their character.

Let’s take Elias as an example. We can use Elias for an example for almost anything, he’s great! Elias Raithbourne, has reached 20th level and he is made up of a mixture of the following classes: Sorcerer, Fighter, Rogue, Paladin, Pious Templar and Glorious Servitor. He also has a blue dragon bloodline. From 21st level we could invent a single class that encompasses the essence of Elias.

This isn’t about creating a class that’s more powerful than any other class, simply one that better defines the character. So maybe Elias’s epic destiny is a class where his paladin smite continues to progress, as does his ability to shapechange into a dragon, that has a good base attack bonus (as he is a warrior) and grants him some nifty draconic abilities from his bloodline. That’s probably not the way Marc would see the character going, but you get the idea.

Of course, no-one has to have an epic destiny, or you could defer your epic destiny to a more appropriate level. For example, Arvan is currently a Druid 15/Warshaper 3. Maybe he wants to stick with druid now until level 20, and not start his epic destiny until level 24.

Obviously, creating this new content for the game would be time consuming, but the onus would be on the player (not the GM) to come up with an appropriate progression for their character, and then for the GM to decide whether it was suitable and to make the necessary changes. Any prospective class should also be reviewed by other players at the table.

For me: I think that epic characters need to be special, and a unique character class (an “epic destiny” in 4e-speak) goes a long way to achieving that. Raza the 21st level monk is borning. Raza the Monk 20/Godspeaker 1 is unique! What I like about these suggested house rules is that they don’t require changing any of the rules and guidelines that already exist in the game.

In Summary

You can’t raise your class level above 20 in a core class, or 10 in a prestige class; but through multiclassing your character level can be as high as you like. Base attack bonuses and saving throws continue to accrue at the normal rate after 20th level, although you can’t have any more than four base attacks. Spellcasting automatically improves as your caster level improves. Epic characters can devise their own unique classes, or “epic destinies” if they wish.

What do you think? Enough to keep us going?

Teleportation Spells

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As I said in my post on Summoning Spells, I don’t have a mechanical problem with any spell in the game functioning as it is written the rules. Teleportation magic is no exception. However, I have produced quite a large wodge of house rules on Teleportation over the years and I’m wondering if it isn’t more flavourful to hang onto some aspects of them.

Basically, the house rules said this:

  • For short-range teleportation, like dimension door, the character must have line of sight to his destination. Therefore such teleportation couldn’t be attempted while blindfolded or in pitch darkness, or onto the other side of a closed door.
  • Normal teleportation can be cast anywhere, but for he 5th level Teleport spell, the destination must be an existing teleportation circle.
  • Higher level teleportation don’t need for the destination point to be an existing teleportation circle, but if casters try to teleport “off the grid” then a chance of error applies.
  • Teleport only allows travel on the same plane of existence. Plane Shift spells are required to go elsewhere.

This is the full text of the house-ruled spells. Some of these will also appear as Domain Spells, but I haven’t added those details in yet. For comparisson you can find all these spells in the Pathfinder PRD’s spell index.

Dimension Door
Conjuration (Teleportation)
Level: Bard 4, Sor/Wiz 4
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Components: V
Range: Long (400 ft. + 40 ft./level)
Target: You and touched objects or other touched willing creature
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: None and Will negates (object)
Spell Resistance: No and yes (object)

You instantly transport yourself from your current location to any spot that you can see within the range of this spell. You must have line of sight to your destination in order to use dimension door. After using this spell, you cannot take any other actions until your next turn.

You can bring along objects as long as their weight doesn’t exceed your maximum load. You may also bring one additional willing Medium or smaller creature (carrying gear or objects up to its maximum load) or its equivalent per three caster levels. A Large creature counts as two Medium creatures, a Huge creature counts as four Medium creatures and so forth. All creatures to be transported must be touching one another, and at least one of them must be touching you.

Plane Shift
Conjuration (Teleportation)
Level: Cleric 5, Sor/Wiz 7
Casting Time: 1 hour (see below)
Components: V, S, F (a forked metal rod attuned to the plane of travel)
Range: Touch
Area: 10 ft. radius
Duration: 1 round/5 levels
Saving Throw: None and Will negates (object)
Spell Resistance: Yes

This spell functions as teleport with the exception that the magic is solely used to cross planar boundaries. You can’t use plane shift to travel to a permanent teleportation circle on the same plane, but you can use it to travel to a specific teleportation circle on a different plane of existence.

Divine casters who know this spell usually only know the sigil sequence to travel to a particular location on the home plane of their god (although there is nothing stopping them learning other addresses in time). Arcane casters will discover one sigil sequence when they learn this spell, and will probably go out of their way to discover more.

As with teleport you can use an existing permanent teleportation circle as the origin point of this spell. This reduces the casting time down from 1 hour to 1 minute. Planar travel is more complex than travel on the same plane.

Plane Shift, Greater
Conjuration (Teleportation)
Level: Cleric 7, Sor/Wiz 9
Casting Time: 1 hour (see below)
Components: V, S
Range: Touch
Area: 10 ft. radius
Duration: 1 round/5 levels
Saving Throw: None and Will negates (object)
Spell Resistance: Yes

This spell is similar to plane shift except that it is based on the greater teleport instead of the teleport spell. Greater plane shift allows travel between planes of existence, without the need for the destination to be a permanent teleportation circle. However, such jumps require a roll on the table presented in the greater teleport spell description.

Teleport
Conjuration (Teleportation)
Level: Sor/Wiz 5
Casting Time: 10 minutes
Components: V, S, M (powder, chalks)
Range: Touch
Area: 10 ft. radius
Duration: 1 round/5 levels
Saving Throw: None and Will negates (object)
Spell Resistance: No and yes (object)

You create a shortcut across the fabric of the world, linking your location with a permanent teleportation circle somewhere else on the same plane. With a step, you can move from one circle to the other. As part of performing the ritual, you must sketch out a 10-foot-diameter circle in various chalks, inks and powders. Some wizards use ominous candles, but this is purely an affectation. This temporary teleportation circle must exactly match the permanent teleportation circle at your destination. It disappears at the end of the spell’s duration.

You must know the unique sequence of runes and sigils that corresponds to the portal to which you are trying to connect. When you learn the teleport spell you will also discover two or more sequences of sigils (at the GM’s discretion). Other sequences can be found, stolen or purchased. Having a sequence of sigils does not guarantee entry through the destination portal, as some portals can still be warded. If this is the case, then the teleport spell fails and the caster is aware that warding is in place.

While the portal is open, any creature that enters the circle at the origin point instantly appears at the other location, along with anything the creature holds or carries. Any number of creatures of any size can use an open portal; the only limitation is the number that can reach the circle before it ends.

The conjured portal is opaque: you cannot see what is on the other side. It is also provides two-way transportation. Anyone on the other side of the portal can come through to the caster’s side given sufficient time. However, environmental effects at one end of the connection don’t affect the other end, so you can’t open a portal at the bottom of the ocean and flood your current location.

Teleport can link to any permanent portal on the same plane of existence. It cannot cross planar boundaries.

You can use a permanent teleportation circle as the origin point for this spell. This saves the caster having to draw his own temporary circle on the ground. If a permanent circle is used as the origin point then no material components are required, and the casting time of this spell is reduced from 10 minutes to 1 standard action.

Teleport, Greater
Conjuration (Teleportation)
Level: Sor/Wiz 7
Casting Time: 10 minutes (see below)
Components: V, S, M (powder, chalks)
Range: Touch
Area: 10 ft. radius
Duration: 1 round/5 levels
Saving Throw: None and Will negates (object)
Spell Resistance: No and yes (object)

This spell functions like teleport with the exception that your destination does not have to be a permanent teleportation portal. Teleporting ‘off the grid’ is extremely dangerous, and becomes more dangerous if the caster is unfamiliar with his destination.

If you use greater teleport to reach a destination that is not a permanent teleportation portal, the you must have some clear idea of the location and lay-out of your destination. The clearer your mental image, the more likely the teleportation works. To see how well the spell functions, then roll 1d100 and consult the following table. The definitions are given below.

Familiarity On Target Off Target Similar Area Splinched Adrift
Very familiar 01-90 91-95 96-99 100
Studied carefully 01-85 86-91 92-97 98-99 100
Seen casually 01-80 81-88 89-95 96-98 99-100
Viewed once 01-70 71-80 81-90 91-95 96-100
False destination 01-50 61-90 91-100

Familiarity: Very familiar is a place you have been very often and feel at home. Studied carefully is a place you know well, either because you can currently physically see it, or because you have been there often. Seen casually refers to places that you have seen more than once, but with which you are not very familiar. Viewed once is a location that you have only seen once, or only seen by scrying. False destination refers to a location that does not exist. The caster may have been fooled into thinking the location was real, or he may be trying to teleport to a known location that no longer exists.

Note that you can’t use greater teleport to visit a place you haven’t seen at all – you cannot define “Princess Jasmine’s bedchamber” or “the nearest hawthorn bush” and hope for the spell to work. Such attempts result in an unavoidable mishap (GM discretion). Scrying unseen destinations first before teleporting is the wisest course of action.

On Target: You appear where you want to be. Rejoice.

Off Target: You appear safely at a random distance from the intended location, and in a random destination. The distance off target is 1d100% of the distance that was to be travelled. The direction is determined randomly.

Similar Area: You arrive in an area that is visually or thematically similar to the target area. Distance isn’t a factor in this dislocation, the spell simply homes in on the most similar alternative location.

Splinched: Not all of all of you reaches the destination, and the body parts that do are often twisted beyond all recognition. Take 5d6 damage and roll again on the table. Unlucky rolls could result into you being repeatedly splinched to death.

Adrift: You are splinched (taking 5d6 damage) and cast loose into the Astral Plane. It’s up to your ingenuity and the GM to work out how you get home from here.

Interplanar travel is not possible with a greater teleport spell: the start and destination point must be on the same plane of existence.

True Teleport
Conjuration (Teleportation)
Level: Sor/Wiz 9
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Components: V
Range: Personal
Duration: Instantaneous
Spell Resistance: No and yes (object)

Using this spell, the caster can instantaneously transport himself to a designated destination on the same plane of existence. No lengthy preparation for the spell is required, the caster simply wills himself to be somewhere else and disappears.

If the target destination is a permanent teleportation circle then the caster arrives safely with no chance of mishap. If this is not the case, then the caster must roll on the potential mishap table found in the description of the greater teleport spell.

These are quite significant house rules, and they fly in the face of our Pact of Minimal Tinkering, but I like them. They’re about the only rules in fourth edition that I did like. I think this makes teleportation more evocative… more interesting.

Now, I know I’ve gone to a few lengths to introduce the above as the way teleportant magic works on Iourn. There’s a narrative reason to keep it working this way rather than revert to the house rules. However, this is so major a mechanical shift from Paizo’s published work that I am willing to ignore the story-elements in this case. If you want to use the published rules instead of the above then so be it.

So what’s it to be? The house rules, or the published rules?


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Summoning Spells

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Over the course of the years I’ve introduced many rules to reduce the power and effectiveness of certain spells. Teleportation and Divination magic have often been on the top of my hate list. However, as I look at the rules as they are written for the first time, I see that many of the problems I had with certain spells stemmed from the magic system we were using. Teleport or Detect Thoughts are not game-breaking if you character can only do it once per day. It’s when the spell can be cast repeatedly and in a short space of time that problems tend to arise.

So: in principle I have no issue with any spell operating in the way it is written. As long as the spell comes from an official Pathfinder source, I’m not going to disallow it. Spells from older third edition material will still need to be checked to make sure they’re not doing anything too anti-Pathfinder.

This largely means I don’t have much to say about spells. The only points worth raising are house rules that I think enhance the game, or improves the flavour of it. Which is largely where I am with the Summoning spells at the moment.

Summoning Spells

There are eighteen ‘core’ summoning spells in Pathfinder. Wizards and clerics have access to Summon Monster 1-9, and druids have access to Summon Nature’s Ally 1-9. Each of these spells grants the caster access to a fixed list of creatures that can be summoned. For example, Summon Monster I can be used to summon a dire rat, dolphin, eagle, fire beetle, poisonous frog, riding dog or a viper and nothing else. This works well from a rules point of view, but is terribly boring.

Wouldn’t it be more interesting to for casters to be able to personalise the list of creatures they can summon? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for clerics to summon creatures more in keeping with their faith? I think it would. The question is whether the extra work (and the extra rules) are worth the pain.

In the old house rules, I did two things. Firstly, I increased the CR of all summoned monsters to equal 75% of the caster level of the summoner. That rule has gone out of the window now, sorry. Secondly, I introduced rules to allow casters to customise their summoning lists. That way no two summoners would necessarily have access to the same summonable creatures. It would make combat less predictable, and offer a further way for a player to make their character unique (always a good thing).

I am keen to keep something like this in the game. I think it would be cool if Jumah’s list of summonable creatures could continue to be surprising and unique. However, we are left with the question of how to implement this, or if we implement it at all.

The Old House Rules

These rules simply said that when the caster learns a summon monster or summon nature’s ally spell he learns how to summon one creature of an approrpriate CR. Everytime he gains a level he learns one new creature for one summoning spell that he knows. However, he can also learn how to summon additional creatures in the same way that wizards can research and learn new spells.

We need to fix an appropriate CR to summon based on the level of the spell. That’s going to be less than my original estimates in order to bring the power-level in line with the published spel.  Looking at the spells that are currently printed then the CRs would probably be along these lines: Summon Monster I (CR less than 1); Summon Monster II (CR 1); Summon Monster III (CR 2); Summon Monster IV (CR 3-4); Summon Monster V (CR 5-6); Summon Monster VI (CR 7-8); Summon Monster VII (CR 9-10); Summon Monster VIII (CR 11-12); Summon Monster IX (CR 13-14).

Now we’ve played with these rules for a while so we should be able to judge if they are any good. The problem as far as I see it is that the more we increase diversity in the summoning spells the more chance we have for unforeseen circumstances. The generic lists of summoning monsters have been chosen for a reason: to be useful… but not too useful.

The Pathfinder Approach

Every month Paizo produce a 96-page adventure that is part of their Adventure Paths. In addition to the adventure, these books add further details of the default Golarion campaign setting as well as introducing new monsters and other game elements. In some volumes they present a more detailed overview of the Pathfinder gods, which included rules for customising their summoning lists.

The customisation went as far as adding a handful of additional monters that could be summoned by clerics of a specific god. Nothing was taken away from the summoning lists, just a few extra nasties squeezed in at certain levels. So for example, worshippers of Erastil (detailed in Adventure Path #32) gets to add the Celestial Elk to their Summon Monster II or Summon Nature’s Ally II summoning lists, and a Celestial Dire Boar to their Summon Monster III and Summon Nature’s Ally III summoning lists. Irori (Adventure Path #53) grants his worshippers the ability to add an extraplanar giant mantis and an extraplanar tiger to their Summon Monster IV lists.

These are the only official rules that Pathfinder has on this subject: they inflate the summoning lists of clerics (and druids who worship gods) with certain extra monsters. But there’s nothing for other summoners to get their teeth into. Not even a wizard who is a specialist conjurer has any means to increase the number, or alter the type, of creatures that can be conjured by general summoning magic. Not even the Summoner himself has any more freedom here.

I find this a bit unsatisfying. Obviously, we can obey these rules. We can add a few extra monsters here and there into summoning lists of clerics if we deem it appropriate, but it seems to be an unnecessary amount of work.

Unearthed Arcana

The Pathfinder ruleset is not so far removed from version 3.0 of Dungeons and Dragons that we can’t make use of the suggested optional rules from Unearthed Arcana. They are also happily online over at the d20 SRD, so please go and take a look.

I quite like the “Individualized Summoning Lists” at the end of the article. The Themed Summoning Lists are good too, but there’s no reason that an oraganisation couldn’t be made up of individual summoners with similar creatures in their repetoire. This is actually fairly similar to the house rules we were using, so I guess I must have been channelling the Unearthed Arcana when I thought of them.

Again if we adopted these rules, we would have to come up with a CR range for each summoning spell (the list above would probably be fine). I think that adding “one monster to one summoning list when a new level is gained” is the right approach – and that’s how the examples on the d20 srd are built. Of course, I think I’d also allow PCs to research or find new summoning formulae in the same way a character might find or develop a new spell.

Or we do nothing

The final option, of course, is not to tinker with summoning spells at all. We leave well alone and use the book rules. That would be simpler, but I’m tempted to say here that I prefer the Unearthed Arcana approach to the rather random rules that have graced the Pathfinder Adventure Path books over the last few years. The Unearthed Arcana is a published source, and doesn’t strike me that it’s doing anything against the spirit fo the changes that Paizo made to third edition.

Adopting the Unearthed Arcana rules would place more work on the part of the GM and the players. Is it worth it for the extra flavour and versatility, or should we just use the rules as they are written?


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