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View Full Version : Magic Limitation System for 3.5 - PEACH



centuriancode
2010-12-09, 11:57 PM
I'm putting together a campaign for 3.5 and I'm trying to figure out a way to alter the rules for magic a little so that casters aren't quite as superior to non-casters as they are in the rules as written. I want to maintain the versatility of the 3.5 magic system (4th ed, in my opinion, kills off that versatility and therefore kills of the point of being a caster leaving only severely weakened blaster-casters behind). In short, this is an attempt at a more subtle rebalancing, whilst maintaining the viability and fun of primary casters.

I apologise in advance, this is going to be wordy and poorly laid out.

Part 1: Casting DC and the Casting Roll

In order to cast spells, all casters will have to succeed on a check against the casting DC, which will be derived as follows:

DC = 11 + Caster Level + Miscellaneous Modifiers

The Miscellaneous modifiers would be added by the DM as required. This could represent things like magic dampening fields (though not outright cancellation - that would function as normal), distractions, or the DM just feeling that the spell would probably be unhelpful to the campaign. The current spell failure due to armour could be added in to this, thereby removing the need to roll separately for it. This would be at a rate of +1 to DC per 5% spell failure chance.

For the purposes of the Casting DC, the Caster Level is variable. If a character wanted to cast a spell, but more weakly than usual, they could reduce their effective caster level. Alternatively, if they wanted to make a spell more likely to succeed, they could do the same thing. This would result in weaker effects of the spell, but the probability of the spell succeeding would be higher.

The purpose of this is to make it approximately as difficult to cast spells as it is to succeed on attack rolls. For that reason, the roll to pass the Casting DC would be made up of the following:

d20 + Ability modifier + Caster Level + Equipment Bonus + Miscellaneous Bonus

Primary Casters have their Caster Level equal to their HD, just as primary mle characters have a BAB equal to their HD. Secondary and Support Casters have a Caster Level that is a fraction of their HD, just as Secondary and Support Non-Casters have a BAB equal to a fraction of their HD. That is how I arrived at the components of the Casting Roll.

NOTE: For the roll to beat the Casting DC, the character's Caster Level is constant. It remains at maximum regardless of how it alters for the purposes of determining the Casting DC.

An example of how this would work is below:

A 3rd Level Sorceror (Caster Level 3) with Charisma of 16 (+3) wishes to cast Magic Missile (cast at Caster Level 3 for maximal effect) on a giant rat. Because s/he's stupid, s/he's wearing Chain Mail (Spell Failure Chance 30%). The Sorceror is wearing a headband that gives +1 to casting attempts.

DC: 11 + 3 (Caster Level) + 6 (Armour) = 20

Roll: 13 (d20) + 3 (Caster Level) + 3 (Ability Modifier) + 1 (Item Bonus) = 20, so the spell is cast successfully, even though Sorcerors should not wear armour.

This is similar in concept to the 4th ed. attack roll when casting spells, but hopefully executed a bit better. In addition, if the spell is not successfully cast, then it is not lost (except at the DM's discretion, should s/he choose to include an additional effect to make a dungeon harder). Only successfully cast spells are used up from the spells for the day list. Failed concentration checks, however, will still lose the spell. This is because a failed casting check represents a caster being unable even to summon the magic for the spell, whereas a failed concentration check represents the caster losing control of the magic summoned.

Part 2: Interaction of the Casting Roll with Saves and Pre-Existing Attack Rolls

The major problem that I see with this system is how the Casting Roll interacts with spells that already have either a save or an Attack Roll. It would be unfair to effeectively make a caster attack twice with a spell for no apparent reason. What seems (to me, at any rate) to be an equitable solution is as follows.

If a ranged touch attack would be required, then add the following to the Casting DC:

Target's Touch AC - 10 - Caster's Dexterity Modifier

My reasoning for this is that 10 points of the Touch AC are already accounted for in the Casting DC ("11 + Spell Level + ... "), and the Caster's Dexterity Modifier would normally have made the attack roll easier, so the same should be true of the Casting Roll. This could potentially mean that the above addition to the Casting DC for certain spells would be negative, thereby reducing the DC. This is not, to my mind, a problem, because that reflects that it's a lot easier to hit an Hill Giant with an Acid Arrow than it is to hit a mouse wit the same spell. This would mean that the Caster would not have to worry as much about the accuracy of the spell, which would make it easier to cast. Sloppiness would be more acceptable.

For most spells with a Will Save, such as Dominate Person, I think that it makes sense that the save becomes a contested check. What the caster rolls to cast the spell (assuming that it is successfully cast) versus a normal save roll (in the case of Dominate Person, a Will Save).

If a spell creates an effect that then acts upon the target, even after the caster has finished with the spell (Poison, for example), then I have been thinking that the Casting Roll would function as usual. The target would then make saves as normal, but against the effect rather than the spell (so, after a Druid successfully casts Poison on a Fighter, the Druid no longer matters. The Fighter would then make Fortitude saves every turn to try to fight off the Poison).

For Reflex saves, I would leave the present system alone and simply tack a Casting DC on the front. I have considered adding the amount the caster succeeded by onto the DC of the Reflex saves, but I do not think that would be necessary. The action of the caster to conjure up a Fireball is entirely separate to the action of the target in trying to dodge it. If it were a customised Fireball that the caster guided towards the target, then it would fall under the rules for an Attack Roll, rather than Reflex save, but for the normal spell I think that the less done to Reflex saves, the better. They seem to be working quite well.

Which category any particular spell falls in, if not made clear by the rules the spell would function under in the normal magic system, would be the DM's call. It's not ideal to leave confusion as to categories, but it would also take far too long (without sufficient benefit) to go through every single spell Wizards has released.

Part 3: Save or Die

For me, one of the greatest unbalancing effects on the 3.5 magic system is the presence of the Save or Die spells. These are spells that are almost impossible for non-casters, or even support casters, to match in terms of destructive potential. Vorpal Weapons can come close, but have nowhere near the reliability of Save or Die spells.

I am not sure how I would deal with these spells, though. Preferably, I would like to avoid simply removing them altogether, as they do have an in game purpose, though if another solution cannot be found and they are too potent to be usable in game, then I would resort to it. Exchanging the instant kill effect for a very large amount of damage is another option, though again it does not seem like an especially good one as casters that have access to Save or Die spells generally already have access to high damage spells. For this section in particular, I appeal to the playground homebrewers for help.

So, what do you think?

Gamer Girl
2010-12-10, 12:23 AM
The miscellaneous modifier looks like trouble. The Dm can just tack on +10 or more every time.

So now a spellcaster can loose a spell every time they cast it? So a spellcaster can waste all their spells and not do anything? That does not sound like balance. A mundane character can miss with an attack and their weapon does not fade away.

The 3rd level Sor would have at least 50% chance, DC 11 plus some, of failing to cast a spell?

And making saves worse for just spells? Would this apply to all saves? If a mundane character used poison, for example?


I'm fine with save or die myself, it's only a couple less monsters per day, if the spells do that much.

centuriancode
2010-12-10, 06:36 AM
Thank you for your feedback.


The miscellaneous modifier looks like trouble. The Dm can just tack on +10 or more every time.


Honestly, I'm not worried about the DM being mean. If the DM wanted to make life hard, s/he can do that anyway because s/he sets the DC on everything. Actually having an official Miscellaneous Modifiers just reminds the DM to factor in other things and make it an appropriate challenge.


So now a spellcaster can loose a spell every time they cast it? So a spellcaster can waste all their spells and not do anything? That does not sound like balance. A mundane character can miss with an attack and their weapon does not fade away

Fair point. The loss of spells could be problematic. What I see as the difference between casters losing spells but non-casters not losing weapons is that one successful spell from a caster is equivalent to several successful attacks from a non-caster. Also, as long as the challenge the DM sets is level-appropriate (again, I'm relying on the DM being nice, but in my experience they tend to be), the caster actually has quite decent odds of succeeding on their Casting Roll. I know that in the example given, the Sorceror would need to have rolled a fifteen or above to succeed, but that would not be typical. The reason for the high DC was that, to demonstrate how the miscellaneous modifiers could work, the Sorceror was wearing Chainmail. Also, the Sorceror appeared to have no ability modifiers. Take that away, and the DC would have been 12, requiring a mere 8 to be rolled. Add in a typical ability modifier of 3, and the roll would have needed to be a 5 only. The odds of losing the spell are actually very low. I realise now that the example wasn't clear, so I'll change that. I feel, however, that as long as the DM is not unreasonable with the DC of the Casting Roll, that the potential to lose spells is an acceptable, and indeed desirable, because it redresses the inequality between Linear Fighters and Quadratic Wizards. Even so, thank you for your feedback. I will be keeping that particular part, but the feedback was still valuable.


And making saves worse for just spells? Would this apply to all saves? If a mundane character used poison, for example?

I'm not quite sure I understand the first half of your question. I hadn't intended to make the saves worse, but clearly there is a problem that I wasn't aware of. Would you please be able to elaborate on the issue?

With regards to the second half, if a mundane character used poison, the save would work as normal: the target would take a Fortitude save against the effect of the poison. This is the same as in the example, where, if a caster cast Poison, then, after successfully passing their Casting Roll, the target's saves would be against the effect of the poison rather than the spell, just as if the source of the poison were mundane rather than magical.


I'm fine with save or die myself, it's only a couple less monsters per day, if the spells do that much.

Perhaps. I shall wait and see what happens in the campaign and see if they become, once again, a major problem, or if the players can be negotiated with so that the spells are'nt major issues.

_Zoot_
2010-12-10, 07:36 AM
I have to say, this looks good. I may need to read over it again when I'm not as tired. :smalltongue:

Drynwyn
2010-12-10, 11:04 AM
The issue with this system is that you are looking at it from a full-world perspective. The system need only work for the PC's. As it is, the nature of the game means that, although spellcasters would be far more powerful than their opponents as far as NPC's go, when you jst need to make it work for the PC's, the spell system is fine.

Roderick_BR
2010-12-10, 12:48 PM
Note: Everytime someone suggests a wizard nerf, someone will spazz, saying that such rules will make wizards become "useless".

Since losing spells are a huge deal, you could just make the spell not work. The caster loses the action, not the resource.

Lower level spells should be relatively easy to cast at higher character levels. Any spell you can beat the DC without even rolling would fizz only with a natural 1.

Your dificulty DC actually doesn't scale well, since you gain 1 new spell level for every 2 character levels. At 1st level, you roll 1d20 +1 to cast a 1st level spell with a DC of 12. At 20th, you roll 1d20+20 to cast a 9th level spell at a DC of 20. Maybe you could, instead, make 10 + caster level, meaning that you can lower your caster level when casting, for easier and weaker effects. Makes a caster ponder if using a low level Hold Person with a lower caster level wouldn't be more useful than a high level Dominate Monster, since it's less likely to fail.

I could suggest using the spell point variant from UA, to increase versatility (you can build your spell list and cast similar to a sorcerer, and still change stuff everyday), since you'll add a mechanic to make casting not so easy (just remove the stupid rule that makes blasting even worse).

Finally, these DCs should apply only at strenuous situations, like combat, escapes, riding horses or wagons... any other tranquil momment, like right before entering the dangeon, crossing a otherwise pacific florest, or healing at home, you could allow casting without any penalty. Also ways to reduce the DC, like spending extra time, extra materials, or extra spell points, just nothing like feats, items, or class features, only situational modifiers.

centuriancode
2010-12-12, 07:08 PM
Thank you all for your feedback.


The issue with this system is that you are looking at it from a full-world perspective. The system need only work for the PC's. As it is, the nature of the game means that, although spellcasters would be far more powerful than their opponents as far as NPC's go, when you jst need to make it work for the PC's, the spell system is fine.

If only this were the case. I long for a party where the group dynamics make this true. However, the various groups I know all operate on some stragne dynamic that has at least half the party wanting to kill each other at any given moment. That means that internal squabbles have to be balanced, or the casters become the only ones allowed to make decisions.


Since losing spells are a huge deal, you could just make the spell not work. The caster loses the action, not the resource.

That's a good idea, I'll incorporate it.


Your dificulty DC actually doesn't scale well, since you gain 1 new spell level for every 2 character levels. At 1st level, you roll 1d20 +1 to cast a 1st level spell with a DC of 12. At 20th, you roll 1d20+20 to cast a 9th level spell at a DC of 20. Maybe you could, instead, make 10 + caster level, meaning that you can lower your caster level when casting, for easier and weaker effects. Makes a caster ponder if using a low level Hold Person with a lower caster level wouldn't be more useful than a high level Dominate Monster, since it's less likely to fail.

Good point. I hadn't thought of that. The variable caster level also creates a lot more versatility with the spells (if you want someone to be lightly crisped, rather than char-grilled). The encouragement to use lower level spells is also something I like. Not having the PCs constantly using the Vaarsuvius (v1.0) approach would be good.


I could suggest using the spell point variant from UA, to increase versatility (you can build your spell list and cast similar to a sorcerer, and still change stuff everyday), since you'll add a mechanic to make casting not so easy (just remove the stupid rule that makes blasting even worse).

I dislike the spell point systems. Just a personal taste thing, they seem perfectly functional, they just annoy me.


Finally, these DCs should apply only at strenuous situations, like combat, escapes, riding horses or wagons... any other tranquil momment, like right before entering the dangeon, crossing a otherwise pacific florest, or healing at home, you could allow casting without any penalty.

That one I was taking as a given. My group treats skill checks and non-explosive craft checks the same way.


Also ways to reduce the DC, like spending extra time, extra materials, or extra spell points, just nothing like feats, items, or class features, only situational modifiers.

Why would you say that feats, items, and class features would be a bad idea for ways to reduce the DC? Not a criticism, just curious.