View Full Version : [3.5] Skill-based Arcane/Divine Spellcasting [PEACH]

2008-11-13, 03:47 PM
This idea isn't totally complete, neither is the other half of anything i post here but I wanted to hear constructive criticism from people who aren't in my own D&D group.
I've browsed many skill-based spellcasting methods and the common theme I find among all of them is that by every spell you cast, the dc increases by +X. This is usually to combat the ability to have a high enough ability score (or item to grant a bonus to said skill) to potentially make any DC passable, even on a natural one.
So, what I've tried to do is eliminate the ability to make any DC passable in this system and make spellcasting almost a hit-and-miss sort-of thing with the spellcaster's highest level of spells.
Old, unrefined version.

(No Key Ability, Trained Only)
(Bullet form because right now it's just a collection of ideas)

Actually two skills, one for divine spells, one for arcane spells
Every spell level has a specific spellcast DC
{table]Spell Level|0|1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|9
Spellcast DC|12|14|16|19|21|23|25|28|30|32[/table]
To clarify, no ability modifier is added on to this skill, when rolling to see is a check is made, it's simply how many ranks in spellcast you have versus the dc, with a d20 roll, of course.
A caster's caster level is equal to ranks in spellcraft - 3 (minimum 1)
Fatigue increases any spellcast dc by +5 and exhaustion increases any spellcraft DC by +10. Other conditions, such as shaken and sickened, affect the player's ability to use skills as normal. The same for a raging character or similar effect, if I player is normally unable to cast spells by normal means, then they can't under these circumstances either.
Metamagic feats do not increase spell level, instead they increase the spellcast DC by twice what they would spell levels. For example, a stilled spell would add +2 to the spellcast DC, while a quickened spell would add +8.
Control Magic: Spellcasters, depending on their spellcasting ability modifier, can alter the magic behind the spell to make them have more/less devastating effects or harder/easier to resist. A spellcaster's ability to modify his magic is determined by his spellcasting ability modifier. This number (the modifier) is called the "Control Score." Spellcasters may alter their spells by increasing/decreasing the save DC/caster level of their spells. This score represents the spellcaster's ability to control the magic they cast.
Save DC|+2 Control points|-2 Control points
Caster Level*|+1 Control point|-1 Control point[/table]
* Caster level may not decrease past one
Example to clear things up (so far):
When casting a spell, the control a spellcaster has on the spell is zero. If they choose, they may increase or decrease Save DC or Caster Level.

For every +1 a spellcaster uses to increase the power of their spell, the spellcast DC also increases by +1. Inversely, for every -1 a spellcaster uses to dampen the power of their spell, the spellcast decreases by one.

A spellcaster's controlling of spells may never exceed +-(plus minus)their Control Score. In other words, a spellcaster's total positive or negative control points may never exceed a spellcaster's control score.

Extended Example for Clarification!:
A wizard with an intelligence modifier of 3, thus a control score of 3, may control his spell with +1 to the save DC, constituting +2 control and increase caster level by one, increasing control by 1. The total, 3 (2+1), also increases his spellcast DC by 3.This satisfies his Control score and all positives add up to be smaller or equal to his positive control score and all his negatives added up are equal to or smaller than his negative control score.

Also, spells where caster level does not affect the spell including duration and range, cannot be controlled to have their caster level increased or decreased.
Spells that do not have a saving throw to resist their effects may not be controlled to increase or decrease their save DC.
(Edit #2)
Spellcast cannot have any bonus modifiers (inheritance, nameless, enhancement, etc). This is basically in place simply to disallow breakage of the game.
There is one exception, spontaneous casters gain a +1 bonus to spellcast checks at 1st, 10th, and 20th levels.
Skill Focus (Spellcast) is a feat that does not exist while playing this variant.
Spellcast is a class skill for all casters with six or nine spell levels while remaining a cross-class skill for spellcasters with only four spell levels.

One other thing I was thinking about introducing but not sure so I'll mention it anyway. If a caster fails the spellcasting check by 5 or more, the caster takes twice the spell level in non-lethal damage.

New! Exciting Version!

Spell Casting (-; Trained Only; Armor Check Penalty)
Use this skill to cast powerful arcane or divine magic to unleash raw energy unto your foes or to enhance your allies to withstand the hardships of adventuring.
Like craft, knowledge, perform, and profession, spell casting is actually two separate skills, one for arcane magic, and one for divine magic. Either of the two skills has no effect on the other.
You can use this skill to cast a spell of a certain level that you know and have prepared (if youíre not a spontaneous caster).
{table]Spell Level|0|1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|9
Spell Casting DC|12|14|16|19|21|23|25|28|30|32[/table]
A spell casterís condition affects how well they can cast spells. Conditions such as shaken, sickened, nauseated, etc. affect the caster normally (providing the normal penalties to skills including this one), except fatigue and exhaustion. Fatigue adds +5 to any spell casting DC and exhaustion adds +10 to any spell casting DC. Penalties that involve percentage dies, such as deafness, instead penalize the casterís spell casting skill by a division of five. Deafness, for example, has a 20% chance to fail a spell while deafened, instead, gives a Ė4 penalty to a casterís spell casting skill.
Arcane spell failure for armors and shields is ignored when casting spells. Instead, the armor check penalty applies to spell casting checks when casting a spell with a somatic component.
If a spell caster ever fails a spell craft DC by five or more, the spell caster takes twice the spellís level in non-lethal damage. If the spell caster is immune to non-lethal damage, they take lethal damage instead.
Controlled Casting:
Spell casters may increase or decrease their caster level or saving throw DC to their spells by increasing or decreasing the spell casting DC. Spell casters are limited in their controlling of magic depending on their spell casting ability modifier (hereby referred to as casting modifier). The casterís casting modifier acts as a limit to how strong or weak the spell is in comparison to the normal spell being cast. Every spell being cast can only use a maximum amount of casting modifier of that of the spell caster. Depending how the spell caster wants to control his spell, the spell casting DC increases or decreases.
{table]*|Increase by 1|Decrease by 1
Saving Throw DC|2 Casting Modifiers|2 Casting Modifiers
Caster Level|1 Casting Modifier|1 Casting Modifier[/table]
*Neither saving throw DC or caster level may descend below 1.
If casting modifiers are used to increase the saving throw DC or caster level, then the spell casting DC increases by as many casting modifiers used. If casting modifiers are used to decrease the saving throw DC or caster level, then the spell casting DC decreases by as many casting modifiers used. Spells that do not require a saving throw to resist the spellís effect (either partial or all) may not have their saving throw DC modified. Caster level may not be modified if caster level has no effect on the spell (except range).
Magic Items:
Spell casters use magical items as normal. No spell casting check is required to use a spell from a magical item.
Metamagic feats no longer increase the spell in questionís level. Instead they increase the spell casting DC by double the amount of spell levels it would normally increase the spell by.
None. At the end of the spell being cast the spell caster rolls the spell casting check to see whether or not the spell was successful.
Try Again:
You may never take ten with this skill. Even when used in conjunction with an ability that allows you to take ten regardless of the situation.
No bonuses may ever be applied to the spell casting skill through magic, items, or any other means.
A character with ranks in spell casting has a caster level equal to the amount of ranks they have in spell casting Ė3.
Spontaneous casters with 9th level spells at level 20 receive a +1 bonus to spell casting at levels 10 and 20. Spontaneous casters with 6th level spells at level 20 receive Ė1 penalty at levels 1, 5, 10, 15, and 20.
Spell casting is a class skill for bards, clerics, druids, sorcerers, and wizards.
If you have 5 or more ranks in spell casting, you get a +2 bonus on spellcraft checks to determine the spell being cast, if it belongs to the same type of magic you have 5 ranks in (arcane or divine).

I hope you like it! Any and all criticisms welcome! Also, these ideas aren't 100% formed, I would like any input on how to make it better. For instance, any glaring mistakes, like item familiar mentioned below, please point out to me. In my group we aren't particularily power gamers and know when something's simply foolishly wrong. But we all mostly agree with this system and I wanted to expand the idea to see how other people thought about it. Anyways, thank you for your time, and hopefully comments!

If anyone can make this apply to psionics and other magics, or has suggestions to do so, please say anything! I'll be more than happy to hear them!

Pie Guy
2008-11-13, 06:37 PM
Item familiar, by the way, will automatically get you to +46 at level 20.

Also, are there actual casting classes that you would have to stick to while taking these? Because a rogue would then just win, with skill mastery.

2008-11-13, 08:40 PM
Thanks for reminding me of a couple points I forgot, namely, that items don't exist that give a bonus to the spellcasting stat, and skill focus (spellcast) isn't a feat. These rules are implemented specifically to disallow any game breakage. I'll include these points in the post above. Thank you!
Also, forgot to mention that you're never allowed to take ten, even when an ability says otherwise.
although you could say that the warlock may "take 10" on his checks... however, this system hasn't expanded to them quite yet.

2008-11-15, 12:46 AM
So, nothing? No goods, bads or uglies?

2008-11-15, 01:36 AM
It's kind of a neat idea, but it's odd because you're trying to fit something fundamentally non-skilled based into the framework of a skill, thus you're having to make a bunch of exceptions to general skill rules. Because of this, it's going to fit in awkwardly with the rest of the system, which is sort of appropriate for magic, but might leave anyone laying with it going "Wha?"

You may want to try to find a way to make it work within the existing framework of skills, making it a class for all spellcasting classes and giving them bonuses to the skill based on their spell progression. You'd also have to give casters more skill points and make the difficulties much higher.

Still, I think you've got a good grasp of the idea and the need to keep it balanced. You also have a lot of great ideas regarding how it should work, especially the damaging consequences (no reason not to go with lethal damage either) and the ability to control the magic.

2008-11-15, 02:40 AM
You might try looking at Kellus's Truenaming System for a similar idea. Still, with out re-writing the entire spell casting system this will be awkward at best.

Plus, Paladins and Rangers don't need to be gimped any more, and taking away their few skill points is just mean.

2008-11-16, 07:19 PM
Thanks for the responses and insight. Currently I'm working it into a normal skill format and going to post it as soon as it's complete. Hopefully it'll be less convoluted than the mess posted in the first place. But thank you for all the advice, it's been really helpful! I may work on a variant spell-casting system where it's the same as above just not a skill. But again, thank you, and I hope you keep your eye out for the revision and variant system!
Thanks for your time!

Baron Corm
2008-11-16, 07:42 PM
You're trying very hard to make it so that a caster has a 50% chance to cast a spell of his level. Instead of "Spellcasting does not function as a normal skill at all." why not just have Level 1 spells have a 90% chance to work, level 2 80%, and so on. Metamagic and increasing DCs and all that other fun stuff can increase or decrease by increments of 5%. If you want the balancing factor of spells to be hit-or-miss, and make it hard to change the chance of success, then I think that's the way to go.

Pie Guy
2008-11-16, 08:28 PM
You're trying very hard to make it so that a caster has a 50% chance to cast a spell of his level. Instead of "Spellcasting does not function as a normal skill at all." why not just have Level 1 spells have a 90% chance to work, level 2 80%, and so on. Metamagic and increasing DCs and all that other fun stuff can increase or decrease by increments of 5%. If you want the balancing factor of spells to be hit-or-miss, and make it hard to change the chance of success, then I think that's the way to go.

And maybe sorc. 20 can reduce all casting percentile by 5, and wizard 20 reduces casting percentile for ten specific spells or something.

2008-11-17, 11:43 PM
@ flyingpoo
My only qualm about that is that it never seems like spellcasting gets easier as the character progresses and feels shallow. A way you could sort of expand that is by saying "your highest level spell has a 10% chance to succeed, and every spell level below your highest has an additional 10% chance to succeed." I think that's what you're saying. and then decrease probability of success by 5% with every spell spot a metamagic feat would add on and have it not modify spell level.

What someone else has mentioned to me is that they liked the variant, but don't use skills to express the system, instead develop a separate system. (I have a feeling I mentioned this before, and I'm sorry if I have). I may or may not try to work it into another system altogether, but until I work out all the kinks it's going to wait.

@ pie guy
I have written on paper, but unfortunately not above that spontaneous castes get a bonus to their spell casting, because in this variant, wizards and other preparing casters dominate all others with their vast knowledge, and, well, that's just unnecessary. But yes, thanks for the little tip!

2008-11-23, 10:51 PM
Okay, I'm really sorry for the double post, but I'd rather double post than make a new thread or blah.

So, the revised version is posted in the second spoiler and I hope you enjoy it! Criticize at will. Thank you!'