Revised Magic System for Pathfinder

I’m currently embarked on running a new series of ad hoc Iourn vignettes. Run under the Pathfinder rules, and set in and around The Old Utavran Inn, these scenarios are designed to be played through in one session. The only linking element between sessions is the Inn itself; characters will be disposable commodities as players will take on the role of new characters with each new scenario.

To that end, and given that time is of the essence in these sessions, I don’t want to spend any table time mucking about with preparing spells in advance. It’s an unnecessary complication at the table that is just going to slow things down. And because most scenarios are set within one day, it’s not a part of the rules that’s going to see much play anyway. So I’ve gone through my old notes and plundered the Advanced Class Guide and the 5th Edition Rules to come up with the following.

It’s not my intention to use these rules for any other ongoing Iourn campaign. These are just for the Tavern Tales. But if they prove easier to manage and more popular then I’d have no problem using this as the default system for spellcasting in third edition and/or Pathfinder. I prefer them, certainly.

All Spellcasters

In a change to the rules, the difficulty class of all spells is equal to 10 + Half Caster Level + Ability Score Modifier and not 10 + Spell Level + Ability Score Modifier. You’ll see why this is important as you read on. Round up any fractions, so a 1st level caster’s spells have a DC of 11 + Ability Score Modifier. As a result of this rules change the Metamagic Feat, Heighten Spell, is removed from the game.

Instinctive Casters

Instinctive casters are spellcasters who are born with magical power or acquire it through some sort of traumatic event. These are the classes that cast spells but don’t need to prepare them in advance. This includes bards, sorcerers, inquisitors, oracles and summoners as well as numerous other published classes. These classes know a limited number of spells, but are able to cast their spells freely.

Instinctive casters now operate under the following rules. Unless otherwise stated (or deliberately contradicted) all other rules governing these classes still apply.

Spells Known: The rules for the number of spells known has not changed. Refer to the information for each individual class description. Instinctive casters who gain levels can still choose to forget a previously known spell in favour of something else.

Spell Points: Instead of using spell-slots, instinctive casters now cast their spells using spell-points. Each caster has a pool of spell points derrived from their class, their level and the ability score that drives their spellcasting: e.g. Charisma for a Sorcerer. Details of these spell points can be found in the tables below. Those classes with a full spellcasting progression (from levels 1 to 9) use the Sorcerer table to calculate their spell points. Those with a reduced spellcasting progression (from levels 1 to 6) use the bard table.

Bonus spell points based on ability score modifiers are cumulative. Casters need to be able to cast a spell of a particular level in order to benefit from the spell points regardless of their ability. So a 1st level sorcerer with a Charisma of 18 would get 1 bonus spell point at level one when she could cast first level spells, rising to a maximum of 16 (1+3+5+7) at level seven when she can cast fourth level spells.

It costs a number of spell points equal to your caster level to cast a spell. It is up to the spell caster to decide what caster level their spell will be cast at each time he casts a spell. For example, a ninth level sorcerer can choose to spend one spell point to cast magic missile. The spell would produce one magic missile that inflicts 1d4+1 damage. Or he could choose to cast the spell at his full caster level (ninth). He would spent nine spell points and, in the case of a magic missile this would mean the spell launched five missiles each inflicting 1d4+1 damage.

Instinctive casters cannot cast a spell at a lower caster level than the minimum required to by the spell: so a fireball would need to be cast at a mimimum of fifth caster level because it’s a third level spell that’s gained at level five. Remember that DCs are now calculated based on caster level rather than spell level, so spells that cost less spell points are easier for foe’s to resist.

Cantrips and Orisons: These zero level spells can be cast at will. They do not require spell points and are always cast at the character’s maximum caster level. The number of cantrips known is unchanged.

Metamagic Feats: Using a metamagic feat increases the effective level of the spell. This means that they require a higher caster level and thus more spell points. However, spending more spell points to add a metamagic effect does not increase any other elements of the spell. For example, The Quickened Spell feat adds four levels to the effective of level of the spell when it is used. A quickened fireball is effectively a seventh level spell requiring a thirteenth level caster. If a quickened fireball was cast at thirteenth caster level then it would still only inflict 5d6 damage. Casting a quickened fireball that inflicted 10d6 damage would require an eighteenth level caster and cost 18 spell points.

Remember that extra spell points spent to fuel a metamagic effect do not increase the DC of the spell. Using the above examples, the 5d6 quickened fireball would be DC 13 + Ability Mod. The 10d6 quickend fireball would be DC 15 + Ability Mod.

Using a metamagic feat does not increase the casting time of a spell for an instinctive caster.

Regaining Spell Points: Generally speaking instinctive casters must rest for eight hours in order to regain any spell points. After the eight hours they spend about fifteen minutes in quiet contemplation to top up their spell points to the maximum. Some specific classes may have different rules, so be sure to check. If an instinctive caster does not get eight hours rest then they do not regain any spell points. However, any unspent points from the previous day are still available.

TABLE: SORCERER PROGESSION

Caster Level Spell Points
1 3
2 4
3 5
4 15
5 18
6 36
7 44
8 70
9 82
10 116
11 132
12 174
13 194
14 244
15 268
16 326
17 354
18 420
19 452
20 486

TABLE: BARD PROGRESSION

Caster Level Spell Points
1 1
2 2
3 3
4 6
5 10
6 13
7 18
8 26
9 32
10 39
11 51
12 61
13 70
14 86
15 100
16 111
17 131
18 149
19 169
20 180

TABLE: BONUS SPELL POINTS

ABILITY SCORE Maximum Spell Level
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10–11 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
12–13 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
14–15 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
16–17 1 3 5 0 0 0 0 0 0
18–19 1 3 5 7 0 0 0 0 0
20–21 2 3 5 7 9 0 0 0 0
22–23 2 6 5 7 9 11 0 0 0
24–25 2 6 10 7 9 11 13 0 0
26–27 2 6 10 14 9 11 13 15 0
28–29 3 6 10 14 18 11 13 15 17
30–31 3 9 10 14 18 22 13 15 17
32–33 3 9 15 14 18 22 26 15 17
34–35 3 9 15 21 18 22 26 30 17
36–37 4 9 15 21 27 22 26 30 34
38–39 4 12 15 21 27 33 26 30 34
40–41 4 12 20 21 27 33 39 30 34
42–43 4 12 20 28 27 33 39 45 34
44–45 5 12 20 28 36 33 39 45 51

Acquired Casters

These are spellcasters that were not born with the ability to cast magic but instead learned it from a intense study, a patron deity, or a mentor figure. The wizard, druid, cleric, ranger, paladin, magus, and witch are examples of Acquired casters. These are the rules that govern such spellcasters:

Preparing and casting spells: The progression table for each acquired spellcasting class (under “Spells per Day”) shows how many spell slots the caster has to cast spells of 1st level and higher. Bonus spells per day are granted to casters with a high ability score modifier as per the Pathfinder Core Rules. To cast one of these spells you must expend a spell slot of the spell’s level or higher. You regain all expended spell slots after eight hours of rest.

Acquired casters prepare spells in advance from a list of spells that they know. The description of each class states how many spells an Acquired caster should know at any given level. For some (such as clerics) they have an extensive and established list from which to choose from. Others (such as wizards) build up their own unique list of available spells that they record in a spell book. Generally, there’s no limit to the number of spells an Acquired caster can know, although how you add spells to the list depends on the GM.

When preparing spells, the acquired caster chooses a number of spells from the list of spells they know equal to twice their caster level + the ability score modifier than governs their spellcasting (i.e. Int for wizards, Wis for a cleric etc). The spells must be of a level for which they have spell slots.

For example, if you are a 5th level wizard with an Intelligence of 18 you have four 1st, three 2nd, and two 3rd level spell slots available. You are able to prepare fourteen spells of 1st, 2nd or 3rd level in any combination. You can cast a prepared spell in a higher level spell slot if required, but you cannot cast a spell with a slot of a lower level. Casting the spell doesn’t remove it from your list of prepared spells, you can freely choose to cast any spell you have prepared until you run out of spell slots.

Unlike instinctive casters, the spells cast by Acquired Casters are always cast their maximum caster level

Cantrips and Orisons: The number of zero-level spells known is as stated in the rules for each Acquired caster. Most Acquired casters can learn any number of cantrips or orisons and start knowing all the ones listed in the Core Rules. Others (notably paladins and rangers) can’t cast cantrips at all. All Acquired casters can cast the cantrips they know at will at their maximum caster level. These minor magics are always available, even if the character has not had eight hours rest or had the chance to study their spell book or pray etc.

Metamagic: Acquired casters who know metamagic feats do not need to prepare metamagic versions of spells in advance. They can apply the metamagic to a spell when they cast it, as long as they can expend a spell slot of the appropriate level to cast the metamagically enhanced spell. Doing this does not increase the casting time of the spell.

Regaining Spells: You must have eight hours of rest in order to regain spent spell slots. After eight hours of rest, you must spend an additional hour preparing your spell list. Some classes must have access to a spell book to do this, others pray to a deity. If you do not (or cannot) spend the hour preparing spells then you have no spells to cast – unspent slots from the previous day do not ‘carry over’ after eight hours of rest.

Playtesting

I’ll be interested to see how well these work side-by-side in in play. I’ve been mulling over these rules for a while, but I felt I wanted to do something a little different with spell points than we had in the past. I think these rules differentiate between acquired and instinctive casters very well – the mechanics reflecting the different approaches, strengths and limitations of the different types of spell-casting. And it fits with the established history of Iourn. I worry a little that Spell Points might be too complicated and fiddlesome (especially regarding metamagic) but I want to leave them like this for the time being.

Any thoughts?

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