View Full Version : [3.P] Changes to Vancian Magic [PEACH]

2011-04-12, 11:18 PM
I like Vancian magic, but it is a widely-held, and in my opinion true, belief that Vancian magic in 3.5 is extremely powerful compared to other natural and supernatural systems including mundane combat, incarnum, Tome of Battle maneuvers, and to a lesser extent Psionics. Rather than try to completely reinvent or reimagine the default magical mechanics, I want to make some simple but wide-ranging changes that will change Vancian magic enough to eliminate some of the most egregious advantages it has. I am not trying to reduce the potential power of spellcasters, but rather make them slightly less devastating in combat.

A primary design goal is to change the magic system, not the classes involved. At this time I am not considering changing how the wizard can learn hundreds of spells or the cleric's Divine Metamagic shenanigan capabilities.

This is still a work in progress. I suspect that some of the numbers, factors, and details should be altered in order to obtain the balance I am looking for. Please give me your honest, constructive comments and criticisms.

Item 1: Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizard
New Rule: A prepared spellcaster can only prepare a number of spells per day equal to his primary ability modifier + 1/2 his spellcaster level (round down), and may prepare a number of his highest-level spells equal to 1/2 his primary ability modifier. A spontaneous spellcaster can cast a number of spells per day equal to 1-1/2 times his primary ability modifier + 1/2 his spellcaster level (round down), and may cast a number of his highest-level spell slots equal to his primary ability modifier. Spellcasters do not gain additional spells beyond those listed here for having a high ability score. For the purposes of determining spells per day, a caster's primary ability is the ability that in the old system governed his bonus spells form having a high ability score.

Examples: Harben the cleric has a Wisdom modifier of +6 and a cleric level of 9. He can prepare a total of 6 + 1/2*9 = 10 spells, no more than 1/2*6=3 of which can be 5th-level spells. Terra the sorceress has a Charisma modifier of +5 and a sorcerer level of 4. She can cast a total of (1-1/2)*5 + 1/2 * 4 = 9 spells per day, no more than 5 of which may be 2nd-level spells.

Item 2: Action Economy
New Rule: All spells (with exceptions detailed below) with a casting time of 1 standard action or 1 full-round action have their casting time increased to 1 round. Spellcasters cannot take immediate actions in the time between their turns while they are casting a spell. All damage the spellcaster takes while casting a spell is cumulative for the purposes of making a Concentration check to cast despite the damage, which is made at the beginning of the caster's next turn, immediately before the spell takes effect.

Examples: Harben the cleric casts prayer. He uses a full-round action this turn to cast the spell, which takes effect at the beginning of his next turn. Terra the sorceress casts scorching ray, using her full-round action to do so. Between her turns, she is hit with a magic missile which deals 4 damage, is sneak attacked by a rogue for 11 damage, and takes 1 damage form a falling object. Immediately before her next turn, she must make a DC 26 (10 + 4 + 11 + 1) Concentration check or lose her spell.

Item 3: Ultra-Powerful Spells
New Rule: Some of the most powerful spells are eliminated or altered. A list appears below and will be updated as more spells are considered.

Eliminated Spells

Alter self and all derivative spells
Polymorph subschool spells that do not remove the caster's spellcasting ability while in the alternate form
Time Stop

Altered Spells

Celerity and its lesser and greater versions now have a swift-action casting time. Replace the phrase "you are dazed" with "you may take no actions" in the text of all three spells
Wish, limited wish and miracle are limited to the explicitly defined effects given in the spell descriptions

2011-04-13, 11:56 AM
I mean, I guess making all caster virtually unplayable is fixing the power issue. Item 3 is all that's really necessary.

Gamer Girl
2011-04-13, 12:51 PM
Item 1--This one won't work. You can do it, it's just pointless. Even sense 3e all characters have had god like stats. So every cleric will have a wisdom of 20+. So the limit won't mean anything when everyone has 20+ for ability scores. (back in the old 2E you would play a character with any score, for example having a cleric with a wisdom of 10. No modern gamer would play a cleric with a wisdom of 10...)

Item 2--This is way, way too much. Spellcasters have to stand there for a whole round? That is a long time. Kinda make combat magic useless. So all the other characters get to play and have fun, but the spellcaster will just sit there and cast a spell?

And worse is the damage. The caster gets a whole round of damage, cumulative! Just look at your example of a DC of 26. And that is at the low end.

2011-04-13, 12:57 PM
This nerfs every reasonably balanced class with some magic when it's really only aimed at full casters. If you must nerf casters, go after the problematic classes, not magic in general.

Your ban list doesn't include Gate or Planar Binding. And hits Alter Self, which is pretty inoffensive in Pathfinder. If this is really for 3.P, you might read the PF spells more carefully before you ban them.

The Cat Goddess
2011-04-13, 01:06 PM
1) Not giving a specific number of spells per day of each level makes a non-spontanious caster more confusing, and a spontanious caster more powerful.


The 9th level Cleric you mentioned can only cast (memorize) 10 spells, of which only 3 can be 5th level. Does that mean the other 7 can all be 4th level?

A 10th level Sorcerer with a Cha bonus of +7 can cast 16 (assuming rounding up) spells per day, of which only 7 can be 5th level. Does that mean that the other 9 can all be 4th level? And if they can, why should a 1st level spell require the same amount of "effort/knowledge/energy/what-have-you" that a potential 4th level spell does?

2) Some spells are balanced around being full-round actions. Hail of Stones is a full-round spell that does the exact same damage as Burning Hands (a standard-action spell). Both spells have a similar area, yet Hail of Stones has a range, while Burning Hands is only right in front of you. Further, Hail of Stones does not allow Magic Resistance, while Burning Hands does.

Thus, the spells are balanced against each other by Hail of Stones' longer casting time.

3) Adding all damage taken while casting a spell to calculate the DC of the Concentration Check is pretty fair... but not if all spells are full-round actions.

2011-04-13, 01:27 PM
Regarding point one, this is still enough spells to strongly influence an encounter. One Grease at first level is a big deal. One Solid Fog at 7th level could split an encounter into two smaller encounters. One Disintegrate might kill a dangerous but fragile opponent in round one. One Banishment can turn a climactic fight versus a devil into a one spell victory. And so on. Scrolls and wands exist. This will make the adventuring day even shorter, if the PC's have their way. Time sensitive quests solve this problem but require resource management. The party power level will fluctuate based on the decisions of the caster PC's which makes DM'ing more difficult.

Point 2 means that the party will hire ~6 dudes with crossbows who are there solely to shoot at enemy casters. The DM is even more capable of dealing some damage at a range. If everyone plays intelligently spells will rarely be successfully cast, barring shenanigans like hiring old people to pretend to be spellcasters so the other side is not sure who to shoot. That is a clever plan once, but for it to be necessary is worrisome.

The list for point 3 is not long enough. Gate is too good. Solid Fog et al are spells that require a counter(teleporting, usually) or they will win encounters. Knock makes the rogue seem redundant. Daze is useful for low level boss fights. Ray of Enfeeblement is a significant debuff, but is it too strong? This list will continually require answering "is it too strong?".

The problem is that spells matter more in a given round/situation than more mundane classes usually do. Which is more helpful in the first round for a 5th level party fighting 6 orcs: the fighter charging and attacking once or the wizard casting Haste (or even Fireball, honestly)? Who is more helpful for bringing the party in to a camp of ogres: the rogue who can probably sneak himself in, or the wizard who can cast Invisibility Sphere? If the party finds a magic sword, can the ranger identify it?

All of this extra power is supposed to be balanced by limited hit dice, limited armor, and limited spells/day. In some games that works, and in some games it doesn't. Players in games of the second kind should either intentionally work to make everyone feel necessary or just all play full casters.

The Cat Goddess
2011-04-13, 07:04 PM
All of this extra power is supposed to be balanced by limited hit dice, limited armor, and limited spells/day. In some games that works, and in some games it doesn't. Players in games of the second kind should either intentionally work to make everyone feel necessary or just all play full casters.

And then they go and create spells which overcome limited hit dice, overcome limited armor, overcome limited attack bonus, and even overcome limited spells/day.

And those aren't even considered the "broken" spells!

2011-04-17, 06:08 AM
2 rule would be good. One of the things that break casters is that they can use super powered options as a default action. Back in AD&D, the most powerful encounter-ending spells required a caster to concentrate on his spell for a couple rounds. A lot of people cry foul if they feel their action economy powers is threatened, though (i.e.: sorcerers are "weak" because they can't quicken spells). I mean, look at the comment "stand still for a whole round"... Is spending a round to too much? Wat.

Seriously, everytime someone suggests a nerf to casters, people get up in arms.

Just increase that casting time (instant -> default -> full round -> +1 round), except for evocation (that's the battle-based one, supposed to be fast).
The Quicken Spell feat can be split in 2, Quicken Spell (increases speed in one step, increases spell level in 2) and Improved Quicken Spell (increases speed one extra step, and spell level 2 extra levels).

Now wizards will have use for meat shields, because they can't just fling world-altering spells in the time of a sneeze. If you think it's a nerf too hard, just don't use it.