View Full Version : spellpoint system and sorcerer class for low magic campaign

2008-10-17, 12:40 PM
Hey people. I'm thinking of running a low-magic campaign, but don't want to ban spellcasting classes. I've modified the arcane spellcasting rules here to follow a spell point system similar to the psion powerpoint system. It represents a significant drop in power to spellcasters, especially at higher levels, and I'm aware of this. I know it's been done before but I'd like a critique of my work, particularly from more experienced players about how well my rules would have a caster scale with a noncaster.

I messed around with a lot of numbers to try to come up with something I liked, including totalling the total spell levels available to the sorcerer at each level (ranging, iirc, from 3 at first to 247 at 20'th) and noticing that levels adding new spell levels tended to give massive, nonlinear increases in spell levels. I reworked the sorcerer class to hand out a smoother (almost linear) curve of spell level availability, which I think will go a long way towards stopping the sensation of casting classes spiralling out of control. Moving to a spell point system enables this without forcing the aquisition of higher level spells to be spread very far apart.

I tried a lot of weird mathematical relashionships between spell levels to determine costs but eventually found a very simple system that I liked. At the caster level at which any given spell level becomes available, you can cast that spell 3 or 4 times. The number of times you could cast the next-level lower spell is usually 6, and the level below that, 8 or 9. The key thing is these totals are mutually exclusive and if you cast your best spell twice, your possible total from the third highest level is down to more like 3. However I don't want my casters to run out of things to do completely (just out of nukes), so I moved a couple of damage spells to 0th-level where they can be cast for very, very cheap.

The other major change I made was to duration by caster level, which I implimented because the spell point system opens up the option of spamming a metric ton of low level spells and I didn't want every one to take someone out of the fight permanently. I allow an option to pay extra and extend them, though, which still works out cheaper than using higher level spells.

So here's part 1, the overview of the new system.

Spell Point System Description
Instead of spell levels and spells per day, arcane casters cast spells by paying for them from a pool of spell points. Their spell point pool is determined by their class level. A character with a spell point pool may receive extra spell points for having a high ability score. To determine this, refer to the table detailing bonus spells granted for high ability scores. Each bonus spell the character would have received adds the spell point cost of casting a spell of that level to the character's spell point pool. An arcane caster's pool of spell points is rejuvinated after a full night's rest according to the usual stipulations.

Arcane casters who cast spontaniously may cast any spell they know any number of times so long as they can afford the spell point cost of the spell they wish to cast. They are limited only by their spell point pool and spells known list.

When arcane casters who prepare spells do so, they may pay the spell point costs of any spells in their spellbook at that time, including the cost of metamagic feats and increased duration*. Once paid for during spell preparation, those spells are available to cast at any time. 0th-level spells may be cast spontaniously and only need to be prepared if the character wishes to pay for metamagic feats or increased duration.

When an arcane spellcaster begins to prepare spells, all previously prepared spells are immediately lost. Arcane spellcasters who prepare spells may prepare any spell in their spellbook any number of times, provided they have the spell points available to pay for them. They may leave any number of spellpoints unspent when preparing spells. In addition, they qualify for the following feat:

Unprepare Spell
As a free action, a spellcaster with at least one prepared spell available to cast may choose any such spell. That spell is removed from his list of spells prepared and cannot be cast that day. The character gains unspent spell points equal to the number of spellpoints spent to prepare that spell.
(note: the character may not prepare a new spell with these spell points without resting and preparing spells in the usual way, but they may be used to spontaniously cast 0th-level spells).

*(see below: modified spellcasting rules)

I think spontanious 0th-level spells for spellbook casters is completely fair and removes the need to agonize over whether adding a couple detect magic will make you run out of magic missiles, which I moved down to 0th-level.

Note there is an interesting vaguery relating to preparing spellcasters; you could read it in such a way that it enables you to sleep, prepare your whole spellpoint pool, sleep again, and wake up with all of yesterday's spells still prepared, plus a pool full of unspent spellpoints that can be spent on 0-level spells. I'm not sure whether to explicitely write this out or not (I speak below about the issues of balancing the wizard class compared to the sorcerer and mention wizard will probably be an npc class in this campaign). I know at first glance this seems absurd but practically free 0 level spells might be fine with the wizard's neccecarily-reduced pool compared to the sorcerer. Please read below before commenting on this. I'm aware leaving it in will probably require a multiclassing stipulation.

So, moving right along to the crunch of the changes:

Modified Spellcasting Rules

The following table shows the spell point costs for a spell of each level:

0: 1
1: 3
2: 5
3: 7
4: 9
5: 11
6: 13
7: 15
8: 17
9: 19

Spells with duration based on caster level have a base duration based on their spell level. You may pay additional spell points when casting these spells. For each additional spell point paid in this way, increase the spell's level by 1 for the purposes of calculating it's duration, up to your caster level.
example: grease is a first level spell with a duration of 1 round/level. It will have a duration of it's spell level, 1, if cast for 3 spell points. As a 5th level sorcerer, Mizzen may pay up to 4 extra spell points when casting Grease, and each additional spell point spent in this way increases the duration of his Grease spell by 1 round.
Note that this option does NOT increase the spell's level for any other purpose, including saving throw. The Extend Spell metamagic feat will apply to the modified duration. A spell cast with the Heighten Spell metamagic feat has its base duration calculated from its modified spell level. Cantrips with by-level duration have a base duration as if a first level spell.

Spells which deal a number of damage dice dependant on caster level have their dice caps removed. Similarly, spells that resolve a damage effect a number of times dependant on caster level (such as Magic Missile bolts or Scorching Ray blasts) have their caps removed. Spells with a secondary effect do not benefit from this rule.

The following spells are 0th level spells:
burning hands
magic missile
magic weapon
tenser's floating disk

The following spells are banned:
time stop
celerity and greater celerity
all spells involving the word "polymorph"
all spells involving ability damage

Players may request to learn first-level spells as 0th-level spells. These requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. This function will primarily be used to grant low-level spellcasters access to a cheap-use basic damage spell of their preference.

I'm pretty sure I managed to cover all my bases there but this is one of the major places I expect to hear about. Considering the reduced power level of casters I'm shooting for I'm open for suggestions of more outright-unfair spells to modify or ban. I'm curious to hear if the idea of having cantrip magic missiles and stuff seems cool to people, especially in light of the spell point table in the next section. You can cast 14 magic missiles a day without bonus spell points at first level, if you want, though once you start casting level 1 spells that number drops fast. I want a player who uses my system to feel like they can still cast powerful magic, just less often, without feeling like they run out and do nothing all the time.

Sorcerer Class

This is the modified spellcasting progression table of the Sorcerer. Their base attack bonus and base save bonus progressions, hit dice, skill points per level, class skills, and the other attributes of class remain unchanged. They may still gain a familiar at first level if they so choose. In addition, they receive Eschew Materials as a bonus feat at first level.

Level// Spell Points// Maximum Spell Level
1__ 14__ 1
2__ 17__ 1
3__ 21__ 2
4__ 24__ 2
5__ 28__ 3
6__ 31__ 3
7__ 35__ 4
8__ 38__ 4
9__ 42__ 5
10__ 45__ 5
11__ 49__ 6
12__ 52__ 6
13__ 56__ 7
14__ 59__ 7
15__ 63__ 8
16__ 66__ 8
17__ 70__ 9
18__ 73__ 9
19__ 77__ 9
20__ 81__ 9

The sorcerer uses the Spells Known table from the players handbook, but uses the entry for one level higher than his class level. Thus, a third level sorcerer would use the entry data for a fourth level sorcerer and know one second level spell, three first level spells and six zero'th level spells. At any level at which a sorcerer gains a feat, he may instead learn a spell. The spell he learns must be a spell from the sorcerer spell list which he is high enough level to cast. Alternatively, he may choose to know all 0th-level spells instead of gaining a feat.

The wizard class will probably be an NPC class in the setting I'm thinking of, so certain issues to work out with them aren't as big of a concern to me immediately. You'll notice their advantage of learning higher level spells sooner is gone, and that maintaining the sorcerer's flavor of many spells per day will be awkward to solve fairly in the spell point system. Perhaps offering wizards less spell points but a class feature that gives discounts on cost when they prepare things... maybe a limited number of spells for half price (obviously best used on higher level spells) or something like that.

Note that while a 20th level sorcerer doesn't have 20 times as many spell points as a first level sorcerer, a 9th level spell does not cost 9 times as much as a first level spell. Trying to work out spell levels as a linear currency proved ridiculous.

Lastly here's what I'm thinking for metamagic.

Metamagic Section

Metamagic feats increase the spell point cost of the spell they are applied to. Determine the spell slot the metamagicked spell would require and pay the spell point cost for a spell of that level. Metamagic feats may not raise the spell point cost of a spell beyond the cost of the highest level spell you can cast. Note that spell points paid to increase a spell's duration do not count towards this total.

The following metamagic feats are banned:
quicken spell
sudden quicken
persistant spell
twin spell

the following metamagic feats cost 1 spell point each to apply:
silent spell
still spell

The first section I feel should be pretty intuitive. I've gone ahead and banned metamagic that gives an action advantage, which might be just a little overboard but I think the combination of the ability to essentialyl trade lower level spells up for spontanious quickens wouldn't lead to fun. I also made silent and still essentially cost half a spell level to use, which seems far from overpowered to me.

Energy Admixture works out to provide a free virtual action advantage by letting you spend the cost of two fireballs to cast two fireballs at once, but if you want to spend 2 feats to cast big fireballs I'm pretty sure that's fine.

I only looked at PHB and carcane metamagic feats so clue me into anything else that will play havoc with this system.

Lend me your thoughts.

(lastly, I may use this system as a template for a similar rework of the cleric, any issues jump out immediately?)

2008-10-17, 02:56 PM
You might want to take a look at the official spell point varient (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/magic/spellPoints.htm).

The major thing to worry about is Save-or-Die spells. They never need augmenting.

2008-10-17, 03:15 PM
That version directly gives the caster 1 spell point per spell level they would have available. I was going for a reduced power variant, not a sorcerer who can cast Wish 14 times a day. A major goal here was to have my casters scale more comparably with non-casting classes.

In fact, doesn't the srd document, by further nerfing damage spells and offering the ability to cast exactly the best thing more often, excaberate the batman issue?

2008-10-17, 03:18 PM
Then just halve the number of spell points they get per day or something.

2008-10-17, 05:57 PM
That version directly gives the caster 1 spell point per spell level they would have available. I was going for a reduced power variant, not a sorcerer who can cast Wish 14 times a day. A major goal here was to have my casters scale more comparably with non-casting classes.

In fact, doesn't the srd document, by further nerfing damage spells and offering the ability to cast exactly the best thing more often, excaberate the batman issue?

Actually, it gives the number of spell points they would need to cast the same number of spells (which I assume it what you meant). However, the Unearthed Arcana totals are wrong: after 10th level they take off around 10 points randomly every few levels. They also get fewer spell points than psions do power points. Presumably the psion's extra points are meant to make up for having to augment most of his lower level powers to keep their caster level up, while the spell point arcanists still have quite a few spells that don't need to be augmented.

I would also recommend the vitalizing spell point variant (and it's sub-variants) offered with the spell points in UA: bonus spell points based off constitution, low spell points causes fatigue, and when you run out of spell points you can burn hp to cast a couple more spells (obviously you'd have to state that this damage can't be healed by magic).

Reducing spells per day to just 4 top tier spells will definitely decrease overall power. Since most of those extra slots after the top 2 or 3 levels available just go into buff spells that approach invincibility, removing them brings arcanists back into glass cannon, instead of adamantine cannon surrounded by walls of force that teleports away if you get near it. It will also drop healing to almost nil without wands (which won't be for sale everywhere with the low magic), unless you use a different mechanic for divine casters.

2008-10-17, 06:33 PM
Divine casters are to be a headache for another day. I may split their spell list, giving them limited access to things that aren't healing and buffing. Not sure yet.