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    Default [3.5] Which spells would work better as Incantations?

    A bit of a disclaimer before starting: this is a discussion regarding the use of a variant from Unearthed Arcana to modify a few concepts about the spells in the 3.5 Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. I believe it's better to discuss it here rather than in the Homebrew section, given that the idea would be to gauge the viability of this before actually engaging into the actual conversion. If the mods believe that this suits better the Homebrew section, feel free to move it; otherwise, any attempt to do such a conversion should be discouraged. This is only to discuss how viable that would be.

    That said...

    We all know that, mostly in the Core rules, there are spells that are just TOO powerful. The line of polymorph spells, starting from Alter Self and going all the way to Shapechange can make or break a game, and can definitely serve as a reason why spellcasters >>>> melee characters given the same degree of optimization between players (assuming that optimization can be quantified instead of qualified, or qualified to a degree that would assume equality, the spellcaster has a rising degree of utility over the martial character; that would be explained in other terms). Gate, of course, is another of the makers or breakers, specially since there's a magic item that does the same. Then there's also Wish. Or Miracle.

    I'm referring to those spells, which despite their consumption of XP they still are quite powerful. Stuff like Sleep, Color Spray, Glitterdust or Web are still strong and useful, but they rely upon a mechanic that they still allow teamwork (Glitterdust makes enemies go blind, but you still have to do damage to them). Save or Die/Lose/Suck spells are also pretty reasonable to retain as they are, since they have natural defenses against.

    But in the case of the spells on the first paragraph, the ones that usually cause headaches and are really unfair to martial characters...wouldn't it be better to turn them into incantations?

    For the uninitiated, incantations within the game are ways to deliver pretty much "custom-made" powers that anyone with the right money and skills can use. Summon Monster I could only be used by spellcasters, but "Summon Cookie, the Goblin from Blackrock Forest that has 9 years old and is pretty good with a sling" is meant to be an "incantation" that anyone who knows about it could use, from the lowly Commoner 1 to the Expert 5 to the Wizard 5/Incantatrix 10/Archmage 5, to the mythical Monk 20...granted, that they meet the requirements of skills and whatnot.

    There's a system in 3.5 that works similarly (the dreaded Epic Spellcasting rules from the oft-maligned Epic Level Handbook), and the system was transported to 4E/Essentials as the Rituals that only people with a feat could learn and use...mostly spellcasters, but since 4E is pretty streamlined, it's not like that would matter.

    So, removing the idea that incantations HAVE to be specific and mostly using the existing mechanics to convert those spells; would this help to reduce, even a bit, the abyss between spellcasters and martial characters? I'll state a few points that may do so:

    First; that the spells would be removed from the lists but still in existence. That way, they wouldn't cease to exist within the core frame of the rules, and they don't have to be immediately banned. Which leads to...

    Second; they would make them easier to ban. Or restrict. You can't assume the DM will say "no, you don't have access to that spell with your spells learned by level because I say so"; it usually aligns with the idea that everyone has agreed that those spells are technically off-limits to most people (spellcasters mostly), but that if there's any need to use them, they may be used.

    Third; what's equal is not a disadvantage. As an incantation, technically everyone could use it. A Fighter that somehow gets a scroll of the incantation "Shapechange" could transform into a gold dragon (but have the very real chance of dying in the ordeal), while the Wizard couldn't simply take a day to prepare it and use it in one round. Which leads to...

    Fourth; "realistic" casting time and results. Realistic is within quotation marks because evidently, transforming into someone else is unreal; but, within the game, such spells should have a much more rational casting time (hence, not real; rational). A spell that allows you to transform from human/elf/dwarf to dragon/hydra/titan in 6 seconds? But of course, this leads to one truly important point...

    Fifth; it would make them plot spells. Really, these spells scream "plot devices" to everyone! Imagine: in literature, you can expect a cabal of wizards pouring their arcane powers to create a gate that connects this world with a world of utter darkness, in hopes that they can draw more power to themselves. A group of heroes takes wind of that and hopes to stop them. In literature, this takes time, has a considerable cost, involves a deadly risk, and usually serves as the end of a quest. But hey, in 3.5, a Wizard can do this in six seconds, wasting no more than 1,000 xp for the secondary function, and with means to really unmake a game! But of course, there are reasons: these are legacy spells, much like how the Paladin's code existed that way, and how the Monk was constructed. Really, read Basic Dungeons & Dragons, or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1E or 2E) if you manage to find it and on your free time. Since there was no concept such as that, and since the idea of Incantations and Rituals within game was crafted after the release of the rules, they essentially transplanted that into the new rules.

    Now, of course, there is one single point that defeats all of these: regardless of how it may be concocted, it won't be much more than a homebrew. But, hey; if this catches some wind, maybe more people may wish to use it on the rules, no? A second point I could consider is that the rules for Incantations are...well, rather quirky. That, however, can be fixed; it is homebrew, after all, and this is a good place to ask for advice. However: were that to be possible; would spells such as Shapechange, Gate and Wish be best turned into Incantations with the caveat of limited access in-game, and remove them from the spell lists while still allowing them to exist in-game? Or is it a bad idea to reduce the unlimited power of spellcasters?

    That'd be the idea, and that's hopefully the point of the discussion. It's...perhaps something that may have been already discussed, but that would be thread necromancy unless it is used as a citation or as an appendix to the discussion. Who knows; maybe someone starts applying those rules officially (*coughcoughPathfindercoughhackwheeze*)...
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    Default Re: [3.5] Which spells would work better as Incantations?

    Well, the obvious ones are Resurrection-type spells. Teleporting(as means of long-distance and/or interplanar travel) as well.



    Polymorphing effects are probably best resolved as sanctum-only spells - everyone knows that powerful druids can morph into giant bears to protect their sacred grove, but they certainly aren't morphing far away from these places where nature's power is strongest.

    Similarly, the evil wizard transforms into a dragon when cornered in his tower, but if he's outside hunting for a relic/searching for ingredients for his ultimate potion of doom, he doesn't.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Which spells would work better as Incantations?

    That there is a nice idea, actually. Make an incantation which converts an area in your personal sanctum. Hallow does something like that already. Then allow certain spells only to be cast there.

    Most spells with permanent or very long lasting results belong on this list. Major Creation. Wall of Iron. Permanency.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2010-10-18 at 04:15 AM.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Which spells would work better as Incantations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aldgar View Post
    Well, the obvious ones are Resurrection-type spells. Teleporting(as means of long-distance and/or interplanar travel) as well.

    Polymorphing effects are probably best resolved as sanctum-only spells - everyone knows that powerful druids can morph into giant bears to protect their sacred grove, but they certainly aren't morphing far away from these places where nature's power is strongest.

    Similarly, the evil wizard transforms into a dragon when cornered in his tower, but if he's outside hunting for a relic/searching for ingredients for his ultimate potion of doom, he doesn't.
    Well...do note that the idea is that incantations *could* be used by anyone, not just druids. The druid that turns into a giant bear or elemental entity to protect sacred groves could also give way to the barbarian who finds the same incantation and turns into a bear by unleashing the power of his inner frenzy (or just uses runes; most of the time Barbarians are related to Vikings, and they knew and used runes almost like nothing; that doesn't mean Barbarians <-> Vikings, though), or the fighter who wishes to draw a bit more of power by dabbling into some sort of unified magical structure.

    An incantation that would gather the full potential (and perhaps more) of Polymorph/Shapechange would be long, fraught with peril and have a quite decent duration (a Polymorph-like incantation could last up for a day or something, and up until the form is needed), but the idea is to take them out of the spell lists and add them to a more generalized list that anyone could use, but that are rare and perilous enough to merit their very rare use. Most enemies could make use of them, and they could be acquired as treasures, but the DM would have a more logical control of their utility.

    Now, I do agree about Teleport, and perhaps Reincarnation/Resurrection. Stuff like short jaunts are better left as spells (such as Dimension Door), but stuff like actual Teleport or Teleport Circle are best left as incantations; that way, you can learn how to travel fast, and anyone could make a good use of it (even a Fighter!), but the chances of getting one (and the backlash) are much greater. Resurrection would also be quite perilous, but that's a double-edged sword; the last you want is doing it like Wizardry or Ultima, where there was dead -> ashes -> lost, and once lost you cannot revive your character, ever. And even True Resurrection has its flaws in that kind of system. Maybe Raise Dead would serve as an incantation that can only revive the dead, Resurrection as an incantation that can revive those turned into ashes as well, Reincarnation as an incantation that can only revive those turned to ashes but gives them a new body, and True Resurrection the one that can revive the lost (and consequently the rarest of them all, perhaps unknown by ANY priest).

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    That there is a nice idea, actually. Make an incantation which converts an area in your personal sanctum. Hallow does something like that already. Then allow certain spells only to be cast there.

    Most spells with permanent or very long lasting results belong on this list. Major Creation. Wall of Iron. Permanency.
    Agree on that as well. Specifically on stuff like Hallow or Consecrate. Though, limiting them to sanctums would be a bit too restrictive; perhaps allow all incantations of a specific kind work better in a specific "sanctum"; thus, incantations that deal with nature (such as Animal Shapes) could work better on a sacred grove, and stuff that deals with religion (such as Resurrection or Animate Dead) could work better upon the altar devoted to the character's deity, and it has to have a connection in order to provide the bonus. That would imply a "sanctum" bonus to use the incarnation OR a reduced backlash effect.

    It would also remove a bit other spells and make their use saner. Fabricate + Wall of Iron would be two separate incantations, each with their own chance of failure, and quite probably so hard to use chained that creating items out of it (even of mundane quality) is a challenge. Hence, the Fabricate + Wall of Iron trick to generate money would be reduced in potency.

    So...anything else? Keep in mind that some spells may not be turned into incantations yet still be powerful; making the Celerity line a set of incantations is a bit counter-intuitive, and perhaps Fly, but Overland Flight works well turned into an incantation since you're using it for long speeds.
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    Quote Originally Posted by firebrandtoluc View Post
    My friend is currently playing a paladin. It's way outside his normal zone. I told him to try to channel Santa Claus, Mr. Rogers, and Kermit the Frog. Until someone refuses to try to get off the naughty list. Then become Optimus Prime.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Which spells would work better as Incantations?

    I would, however, still give casters a better ability to use Incantations. Either as the UA rules suggest by tying Knowledge checks to them, or like 4Es rituals, by requiring a feat for using them and handing it out to casters for free.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Which spells would work better as Incantations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    I would, however, still give casters a better ability to use Incantations. Either as the UA rules suggest by tying Knowledge checks to them, or like 4Es rituals, by requiring a feat for using them and handing it out to casters for free.
    Well...most incantations might require a Knowledge check for it, and a few more might require Spellcraft. Epic Spells, after all, require a Spellcraft check so it's reasonable enough.

    Now, one spell that's really hard to determine is Time Stop. It's a spell that can work mostly as a battle-related buff, so it's not the thing for an incantation; however, it is on the list of broken spells for more than one reason. Finally, since melee characters can't buff themselves, only casters get a benefit; thus, making it so that all allies get those extra rounds of time but limited to causing no damage to enemies still might not be that effective. Maybe keeping it as a spell and causing a Concentration check while allowing allies to move might be the answer, but...that's a tough one.

    Disregarding that (yet keeping it as an example of which spells may be hard to deal with)...which other current spells may work better as incantations? So far, there's Alter Self, Polymorph, Shapechange, Teleport, Teleportation Circle, Major Creation, Fabricate, Wall of Iron/Stone/Force, Limited Wish, Wish, Miracle, Gate, Consecrate/Desecrate, Hallow/Unhallow, Permanency (and possibly Contingency too), Raise Dead, Resurrect, True Resurrection and Reincarnation. Any others I might be missing?

    Off the top of my mind, Guards and Wards (not the most broken spell, but still a lengthy one) and quite probably Forcecage (Otiluke's Resilient Sphere does somewhat the same) might get in. Forcecage is hard to work with since it's meant to be a trap spell, but otherwise workable if made as a trap. Also, not sure about the Glyphs and Symbols, which seem to work best as incantations but aren't too powerful to merit their exchange.
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    Quote Originally Posted by firebrandtoluc View Post
    My friend is currently playing a paladin. It's way outside his normal zone. I told him to try to channel Santa Claus, Mr. Rogers, and Kermit the Frog. Until someone refuses to try to get off the naughty list. Then become Optimus Prime.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Which spells would work better as Incantations?

    I'll go over the spell list in the SRD later, and make an alphabetic list of what I think should be incantations.

    As for Time Stop: it's a pretty unbalanced spell, but it would not work as an incantation. Why make a ten minute ritual for 30 seconds of out-of-time action? Instead, one could rewrite it, limit the caster to certain actions during the accelerated time frame.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Which spells would work better as Incantations?

    Plane shift. Knock. Overland Flight. Wind Walk. Tree stride/fire stride/swamp stride. Stormwalk. Passwall. Water Walk. Water Breathing. Basically anything that grants a long-duration enhanced movement capability or bypasses a barrier.

    Edit: Also, calling spells. The planar binding and planar ally and dragon ally line.
    Last edited by jiriku; 2010-10-21 at 11:50 AM.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Which spells would work better as Incantations?

    Quote Originally Posted by jiriku View Post
    Plane shift.
    Agree. A-frickin'-gree. Dunno why it's a spell, anyways. Should have worked like Astral Traveler and Astral Caravan IMO. Incantation it (should be), then.

    Knock.
    Now, that I'm not so sure. It has a perfect reason why it must be an incantation, but at the same time you could do it faster with an Open Lock, which would defeat the entire purpose. Still, there's no defining reason why or why it shouldn't be an incantation (a la Time Stop, except Time Stop is better as a spell).

    Overland Flight.
    Agree again. Longer lasting than Fly, and does much better. Make it mass and it'd work wonders.

    Wind Walk.
    Same as Knock, except that this spell isn't as shocking as Fly. Maybe make a lesser version that lasts rounds per level, and make the original an incantation? That'd work nicely.

    Tree stride/fire stride/swamp stride.
    I dunno...seems the same as Wind Walk; better to have a lesser Tree Stride and buff the incantation version to transport between forests without no problem. Same for Fire Stride/Swamp Stride. Lesser Tree Stride would work somewhat like the Blood Magus blood teleportation ability, but as a short scale jaunt.

    Stormwalk.
    I'd have to see that one to work on it. But I feel it might be something as Wind Walk or Tree Stride.

    Passwall.
    Yes, incantation it is. Makes Wall of Force a bit more dangerous, but if WoF also becomes an incantation...

    Water Walk.
    Same as Wind Walk. Lesser version as spell, full version as incantation.

    Water Breathing.
    Dunno...maybe it should go the same way as Wind/Water Walk (lesser version lasting rounds/CL as spell, mass version with same duration as incantation).

    Basically anything that grants a long-duration enhanced movement capability or bypasses a barrier.
    And yes, that's actually a good way to put it. Teleport and Overland Flight are spells that are just too good to be true, especially the latter if extended (less speed than fly, but better overall speed). They aren't as important in battle as they do outside of battle, so it's better for Wizards who can just prepare one on their slots or keep a scroll out of it, so an incantation would fit just as well. Bypassing barriers is another thing, although that would imply Arcane Lock and Knock would essentially block each other, and unless there's someone with the Knock incantation, spells that were Arcane-Locked won't be capable of being opened. That's definitely a hair-puller on most games, when you find the chest or door is magically locked, and the DM has all the reason in the world to make magically locked chests/doors. So...maybe update Open Lock or Disable Device to deal with magically locked chests/doors?

    Edit: Also, calling spells. The planar binding and planar ally and dragon ally line.
    Also a-frickin'-gree. Those "spells" pretty much define what an incantation should be. I mean, one of the three sample incantations (Call Forth the Dweller) is actually a Planar Binding spell with extreme limitations, and the spell already has a strong backlash effect. These are some of the first spells to be turned into incantations if the time ever comes.

    Quite frankly, I dunno how I missed Planar Ally/Planar Binding/GPA/GPB, if I was already dealing with Gate...
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    Quote Originally Posted by firebrandtoluc View Post
    My friend is currently playing a paladin. It's way outside his normal zone. I told him to try to channel Santa Claus, Mr. Rogers, and Kermit the Frog. Until someone refuses to try to get off the naughty list. Then become Optimus Prime.
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