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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    GnomeWizardGuy

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    Default Using Spells as Powers; Non-Vancian Spellcasting [3.5]

    In an attempt to change the Vancian spell-casting mechanic in 3.5 to a more superhero style, I'm considering the following system. Please let me know if you think the three different sources of magic are unbalanced. I'm not really concerned if the system as a whole is stronger or weaker than traditional DnD, just if you as a player would consider one of the three choices as superior.

    Homebrew Rules:
    Only two classes are available: Generic Expert or Generic Warrior.
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    These classes give a decent amount of flexibility, but they have no spellcasting and no dramatic class features. Those will be provided by the spellcasting section, below.

    Additionally, pick one Cleric Domain (subject to DM scrutiny). You gain that domain's granted power. You may cast the spells on that list at will. You may only cast a spell that has a spell level equal to or lower than your character level. You may choose to cast your spells from any mental ability score you want, but once chosen this cannot change. The ability score you choose will determine save DC's, but there is no minimum score needed to cast spells of a certain level, and there are no bonus spells.
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    All PC's are spellcasters! In this setting, if you're not a spellcaster, you shouldn't be adventuring. It's supposed to be a superhero-style setting. In that, not everyone has the amazing powers the PC's have, but rivals and enemies will. The cleric domain limitation gives the players lots of different themes to choose from for their hero, but once they choose a theme they are locked into it, and need to learn how to use their powers creatively to overcome their problems. Luckily, their narrow focus gives them unlimited spells per day. Also, the access to high level spells (you get ninth level spells at level nine) will help to make them feel powerful, even though their limited spells known makes them somewhat more predictable to the DM (this is a good thing). I know there are a lot of spells that are completely borked if you let them be cast at will (Wish, Gate, etc.) but each spell will be considered very carefully before it's allowed into the game.

    You must pick the source of your power (these replace Arcane, Divine, Psionic, Invocations, etc):

    Mysticism- You cast your spells using mystic powers and body movements. You may cast your spells at will without restrictions, but all your spells have verbal and somatic components, so you invoke ASF chances when casting in armor or while carrying a medium or heavy load. Additionally, casting time for your spells is always at least one full-round action, or the normal casting time, whichever is longer.
    Good for: Battlefield Control, Team Buffers
    Metamagic: Metamagic increases casting time to 1 full round (different from a full-round action). Spells with a longer casting time than a full-round action increase their casting time by 1 full round. Quicken Spell metamagic has no effect.
    Possible feats: Ignore ASF for light armor.
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    These casters are the closest thing to standard Vancian magic. They are unarmored and vulnerable, and extremely slow casters. They do have the ability to completely spam the battlefield with control spells, or to buff the entire party with everything they have before the battle starts, but since they cast so slowly, they will often need to decide between casting a spell or moving out of danger. Without the wide variety of defensive spells a wizard would usually have, their lack of armor actually matters, although their hit points aren't any lower than anyone else's. They also get the most out of a variety of metamagic, since they can use it every round, but it emphasizes their weaknesses even more because it can so easily be interrupted by attacks. I'm still worried that these guys are the most powerful in the end, but I don't know. I hope that their melee vulnerability prevents them from just spamming battlefield control until everyone else in the party is bored.

    Psychic- You cast your spells using your mind to reshape reality. Only one of your spells may be active at any one time, because it is difficult to maintain focus. You do not require any particular movements or words to cast, and so you do not invoke ASF penalties. Maintaining an already cast spell requires no actions, but casting another spell automatically ends the first effect.
    Good for: Armored Blasters, Healers
    Metamagic: After casting a spell modified by metamagic, you may not cast another metamagic'd spell until you have used a full-round action to regain focus.
    Possible feats: You can maintain a spell with an unexpired duration for one round after casting a second spell, but no more.
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    Psychic casters borrow a little bit from Psionics (mechanically), but not too much. They're pretty bad at battlefield control and buffing, since those strategies require using many spells at once, but they're great at blasting. They're the only source that can fire off a quickened spell and a regular one in the same round. They also cast while fully armored (although heavy armor proficiency is only available through the feat) so they can stand on the front lines and use spells as their primary source of damage, without worrying about running out of spells. They're slightly more limited than optimized DnD blasting, but they get access to strong spells earlier. I'm not worried that they are the most powerful choice, but they should still hold their own and be lots of fun.

    Supernatural- Your spells derive from the supernatural ability of your body. Your casting does not require any words or particularly difficult movements, and you may have multiple spells active at once. However, you may not cast the same spell more than twice per encounter, and all beneficial spells with a range of touch instead have a range of personal. You do not need your hands free to cast your spells.
    Good for: Self-buffers
    Metamagic: You may only use metamagic if you have two castings of the spell left this encounter, and it consumes both castings.
    Possible feats: Casting limit increases to 3/encounter; One of your spells with a range of touch is no longer limited to personal range only.
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    The supernatural route is best for self-buffers who don't rely on spells as their primary source of damage. Mystics aren't good at frontlining, and psychics aren't good at stacking buffs, so this role falls to supernaturals. As a Gish, they will rarely need to cast a spell more than once in a battle, so the limitations shouldn't affect them too much. They can still fight in full armor, and should be an extremely capable combatant. However, they won't be able to do much to help out other members of the party besides standing in the way of the enemy. They could conceivably be used for battlefield control, but will quickly be outpaced by Mystics once metamagic comes onto the table.


    Let me know if you see any balance concerns, or if you think the whole system is great/terrible. Thanks!
    Last edited by Sitzkrieg; 2011-07-29 at 12:58 AM.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Using Spells as Powers; Non-Vancian Spellcasting [3.5]

    At-will casting at your character level is extremely powerful with most spells. One example that comes to mind is the Healing domain. If one party member has that, then the group can fight indefinitely and has no real limit to encounters per day. Now, if that's what you want, then that's okay. I'm just saying it radically changes the group dynamic from standard D&D.

    I would recommend you make a table for spells by level (probably using the wizard table). You should also include feats that characters can take to improve their spells or learn new spells. You should also figure out how to keep Fighters from being better than anyone else at magic by virtue of having feats (probably not too hard, you can just say "only Experts may take these feats as bonus feats.")

    Other than that, it does look like an interesting way to do magic. I would want to try to playtest it to see how it would work.

    EDIT: Another way to balance it would be to require a Will save everytime they cast. DC 10 + spell level, and if they fail they take 1 point of ability burn in their key casting stat. If you follow the normal rules for ability scores determining the highest level of spells you can cast, that would be a decent limit.
    Last edited by Thomar_of_Uointer; 2011-07-29 at 11:47 AM.
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    Default Re: Using Spells as Powers; Non-Vancian Spellcasting [3.5]

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomar_of_Uointer View Post
    At-will casting at your character level is extremely powerful with most spells. One example that comes to mind is the Healing domain. If one party member has that, then the group can fight indefinitely and has no real limit to encounters per day. Now, if that's what you want, then that's okay. I'm just saying it radically changes the group dynamic from standard D&D.

    I would recommend you make a table for spells by level (probably using the wizard table). You should also include feats that characters can take to improve their spells or learn new spells. You should also figure out how to keep Fighters from being better than anyone else at magic by virtue of having feats (probably not too hard, you can just say "only Experts may take these feats as bonus feats.")

    Other than that, it does look like an interesting way to do magic. I would want to try to playtest it to see how it would work.

    EDIT: Another way to balance it would be to require a Will save everytime they cast. DC 10 + spell level, and if they fail they take 1 point of ability burn in their key casting stat. If you follow the normal rules for ability scores determining the highest level of spells you can cast, that would be a decent limit.
    As OP said, these are intended for a superhero game, so they're meant to be very powerful. For a game of lesser heroics, you could say that you only get the spells once your character level is twice the spell level, eg. you get the first domain spell at level 2, and the next one every other level.
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    Gideon Falcon's Avatar

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    Default Re: Using Spells as Powers; Non-Vancian Spellcasting [3.5]

    However; as written, you get 9th level spells at 9th level. That's not powerful, that's broken.

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    GnomeWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Using Spells as Powers; Non-Vancian Spellcasting [3.5]

    Well, I prefer playing between levels 3-8, but even at level 9 you get a single 9th level spell, and anything too broken (gate) would be nixed. Is that still too powerful?

    I'm also more concerned about the balance between the three different sources, if anyone can comment on your impressions on those. Which would you prefer to have if your character had to choose one?
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    Default Re: Using Spells as Powers; Non-Vancian Spellcasting [3.5]

    Quote Originally Posted by Sitzkrieg View Post
    Well, I prefer playing between levels 3-8, but even at level 9 you get a single 9th level spell, and anything too broken (gate) would be nixed. Is that still too powerful?

    I'm also more concerned about the balance between the three different sources, if anyone can comment on your impressions on those. Which would you prefer to have if your character had to choose one?
    I would make them get spells like a Wizard, they get them at will so it's pretty powerful already. Maybe powerful enough to make being a warrior a bad choice. 2nd level spells at 3rd, 3rd level spells at 5th, etc.

    Also, many high-level spells rely on the user having a high caster level for most of their effects. There's also the issue of saving throws.
    Last edited by Thomar_of_Uointer; 2011-08-01 at 09:17 AM.
    "...I worry that modern gaming is gradually shrinking the wide spectrum of gameplay mechanics into a single narrow red bar with "KILL" written on it sideways. Exploration, navigation, puzzles, platforming, all gradually shrinking away until only one thing remains, being taken by the hand from room to room, moving on only when nothing remains alive in each one." - Yhatzee Crosshaw

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    Default Re: Using Spells as Powers; Non-Vancian Spellcasting [3.5]

    No matter whether or not you get rid of the broken spells, 9th level spells at 9th level is cheesy and broken. Aside from Divine Crusaders and Ur-Priests, the soonest anyone gets 9th-level spells is 17th level. Getting spells 8 levels early, especially when they get them at will, is always broken.

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    GnomeWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Using Spells as Powers; Non-Vancian Spellcasting [3.5]

    Well, also keep in mind that there won't be any warrior PC's. The only two classes available are Generic Warrior or Generic Expert. With those you can build pretty much any warrior or skillmonkey base you want, and everybody gets spellcasting, since it's supposed to somewhat resemble superpowers.

    Are there any specific examples where an at-will high level spell will disassemble the game? I don't regularly use the higher-level spells, so I'm completely in the dark here. It seems like since they mainly rely on saving throws or caster level to be useful, it would stay somewhat sane, but I could be completely wrong. Do you guys have examples of how you'd abuse a domain? If anyone can share an experience I'd be really grateful. My main opposition is that I want the PCs to have access to the cool stuff before they gain so many hit points and bonuses on their main character chassis as to make all the level 5 aristocrats completely irrelevant.

    Secondly, given the three choices I've offered to limit combat cheese, do you think they would be effective?

    EDIT: I'm looking at some of the core domains, and all the summoning spells are definitely balanced for a higher level of play, since the summons would completely destroy the PCs at that level. Maybe you guys are right, and the spellcasting progression should be slowed. If I did that, would the three different sources be reasonable?
    Last edited by Sitzkrieg; 2011-08-01 at 06:53 PM.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Using Spells as Powers; Non-Vancian Spellcasting [3.5]

    Meteor Swarm. If you overlap the areas (as you're usually going to), you can deal 24d6 damage. If you target all the blasts at the same creature, then that creature (who will likely not have that high a touch AC) takes 32d6 damage, no save.

    Since no domain actually grants that spell: Elemental Swarm. Summon Monster IX. Prismatic Sphere. Weird. Mage's Disjunction. Almost every 9th level spell would break down the game at 9th level, and many of them don't require a large caster level to do so. You say that the spell's reliance on saves is a balancing point, but the saves for ninth level spells are 19+ ability modifier, which is much more difficult to make at 9th level than at 17th level.

    Really, I don't know why you had them gain the Spells so quickly in the first place, rather than giving them at the speed a cleric gains them.
    Last edited by Gideon Falcon; 2011-08-01 at 10:39 PM.

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    GnomeWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Using Spells as Powers; Non-Vancian Spellcasting [3.5]

    Yeah, you're definitely right. Any input on the three different types of spellcasting though?
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    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: Using Spells as Powers; Non-Vancian Spellcasting [3.5]

    Hmm, I think going with Cleric Domains might be the wrong way to go. It ends up not being a whole bunch of abilities, and a lot of domains are going to give a lot of bad spells. Cure Light Wounds is worthless if you have Cure Serious Wounds at will. Summons are also broken here (except for the psychic perhaps), since the others can pump out a ton of summons every encounter. I think generally you'd end up with pretty stale gameplay, with a lot of spamming of the same spell over and over.

    You might want to consider adapting Tome of Battle for this. By that I mean the basic class mechanics for maneuvers, though the abilities there also max out at a more sensible place than spells do. Use them as a guideline to develop new disciplines.

    So you want something like the Human Torch? You figure out how to manage a Fire Discipline. There could be stances that engulf you in flame, others that are fire attacks, etc. In the end you'd have a guy who had a wide variety of fire-based attacks that were USEFUL.

    You could even take a page from SW SAGA and Force Powers (with an optional rule). Have everyone get a daily number of Power Points, say 3. You can spend one to supercharge an ability in some fashion (how exactly would be described in the ability).

    I grant this is more work. It's a lot more work, even. The end result would be a lot better though.
    Last edited by Drachasor; 2011-08-04 at 10:04 AM.

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