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Words of Power Pros and Cons


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion


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I'm sure this has been debated back and forth before (so if anybody can point me to that thread i'd be grateful as I can't find it) but now that the Words of Power system has been out for a while what are the pros and cons of it compared to regular casting?

From what I can see it does offer a reasonable amount of versatility, especially for spontanious blaster casters in that they can adapt their magic to a greater degree to suit what they're facing, facing cold immune mobs? just swap out the cold word for an acid word, prepared casters can do the same but only to th extent that they can read their GMs mind and guess what they're likely to face.

But they seem to offer a significant number of disadvantages to the caster, all the targetting words have greatly reduced ranges if you don't use the boost word which bumps the spell level up dramatically, I believe the standard example is fireball vs 'burst fire blast' where without boosting the wordspell has a close range and a 10ft radius instead of a long range and a 20ft radius, an exact match isnt possible but to get the 20ft radius you have to boost the spell by 2 levels to spell level 5 and to get the long range (and a 40ft burst) you have to boost by 4 levels to spell level 7 (which is a fairly steep cost to do 10d6 of damage at 13th/14th level)

Some word spells lose damage but gain versatility, the word spark only does 1d4 damage compared to the nominally similar shocking grasp which does 1d6 but can be used as a ranged touch attack not just a melee one on the other hand it doesn't get the +3 hit bonus for touching metal armour.

Or vice versa, the word force bolt (the closest equivalent to magic missile) begins life one level higher than MM at level 2 does more damage at first as it reaches its maximum of 5d4 dmg at caster level 5 while MM does (effectively) 3d4+3, evens out in overall damage by level 7 and loses ground by level 9 and loses the ability to target multiple creatures (the word only says that it acts like MM for the purposes of spells that negate or absorb force effects)

Not to mention the fact that there are just no words that duplicate or even come close to duplicating certain spells.

TL:DR version

What are the pros and cons of Words of Power, as far as I can see

Pros:
More versatile with regards to damage type (especially for the spontanious casters)

Cons
Short ranges and smaller AoEs unless they are boosted which puts up the spell level significantly
Similar effects are generally weaker for the same spell level
There are some spells that just cant be duplicated by words of power.
Some words start out at a higher level than their closest spell equivalents

Either/Or
Some spells gain versatility but lose damage
Some spells lose versatility but gain damage


I had a similar post a while back. I was pointed to a great pod cast that discussed all of your questions. My take away was Words of power not better than normal casting just different and in many cases more versatile.

Believe the pod cast was called the gamers guide to pathfinder.


Mage Evolving wrote:

I had a similar post a while back. I was pointed to a great pod cast that discussed all of your questions. My take away was Words of power not better than normal casting just different and in many cases more versatile.

Believe the pod cast was called the gamers guide to pathfinder.

Thanks Mage Evolving!!!

The podcast we did is here: The Gamers' Guide to Words of Power

If you are interested you can find more episodes on other subjects at www.35privatesanctuary.com where we are one of several great podcasts on their gaming shelf. You could also subscribe through iTunes or if you would like I can post a direct feed.

Sean Mahoney


Sean Mahoney wrote:
Mage Evolving wrote:

I had a similar post a while back. I was pointed to a great pod cast that discussed all of your questions. My take away was Words of power not better than normal casting just different and in many cases more versatile.

Believe the pod cast was called the gamers guide to pathfinder.

Thanks Mage Evolving!!!

The podcast we did is here: The Gamers' Guide to Words of Power

If you are interested you can find more episodes on other subjects at www.35privatesanctuary.com where we are one of several great podcasts on their gaming shelf. You could also subscribe through iTunes or if you would like I can post a direct feed.

Sean Mahoney

Sweet! listening to your take on the party loot and loving it.

Shadow Lodge

The versatility is lost because of the very few number of words that a spontaneous wordcaster is allowed to learn. I think that it should have been increased, maybe 3 words for every one rote spell that a "normal" spontaneous caster would learn.


Sean Mahoney wrote:
Mage Evolving wrote:

I had a similar post a while back. I was pointed to a great pod cast that discussed all of your questions. My take away was Words of power not better than normal casting just different and in many cases more versatile.

Believe the pod cast was called the gamers guide to pathfinder.

Thanks Mage Evolving!!!

The podcast we did is here: The Gamers' Guide to Words of Power

If you are interested you can find more episodes on other subjects at www.35privatesanctuary.com where we are one of several great podcasts on their gaming shelf. You could also subscribe through iTunes or if you would like I can post a direct feed.

Sean Mahoney

Some interesting points there (love the Lock Ward trick :p )

It's something I might take a look at if I had a specific character idea in mind for a spontanious caster (magus aside I wouldn't touch this system with a 10ft pole if I play another prepared caster) although I think you do run the risk of falling into the "I want to be a swiss army knife character" trap only to realise that it doesn't really have anything much in the way of utility spells, most of the words there are are fairly combat oriented.

Kthulhu makes a point about the limited number of words that a spontanious caster would be able to learn, I'm not entirely convinced it's as bad as he says, in terms of the words of power system a level 20th Sorcerer will know approximately 1/4 of all available words of power up of levels 0-6 and approximately half of 7-9, which is a larger proportion of effects available to them than with regular casting (although the pool of possible effects is smaller which reduces the versatility somewhat) and if you play in a campaign where you will never reach level 20 (PFS, E6, E12 etc) then you may feel that you just don't get enough variation to actually be able to combine them well.

Anybody who has actually used this system in a live game care to chime in with how versatile it actually is in practice? Do you feel limited by the number of available words at lower levels?

Shadow Lodge

It doesn't matter if he knows 1/4 of all available words when the total number of words themselves are so amazingly limited in the scope of their effects.


Kthulhu wrote:
It doesn't matter if he knows 1/4 of all available words when the total number of words themselves are so amazingly limited in the scope of their effects.

Oh I don't disagree, a WoP caster is never going to have the utility available to a regular caster amd it suits the blaster type more than others the versatility people keep talking about with regards to WoP isnt the same as the wizard' "i've got a spell for every situation" but more "I can't use a fire spell so i'll use ice instead" and being able to combine effects, you need to take an enemy out of action so you combine a fear effect with a damage effect or the barbarian is charging in to hand to hand combat against a dragon so you give him an AC boost and a Str boost in one spell


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Banjax wrote:

I'm sure this has been debated back and forth before (so if anybody can point me to that thread i'd be grateful as I can't find it) but now that the Words of Power system has been out for a while what are the pros and cons of it compared to regular casting?

From what I can see it does offer a reasonable amount of versatility, especially for spontanious blaster casters in that they can adapt their magic to a greater degree to suit what they're facing, facing cold immune mobs? just swap out the cold word for an acid word, prepared casters can do the same but only to th extent that they can read their GMs mind and guess what they're likely to face.

But they seem to offer a significant number of disadvantages to the caster, all the targetting words have greatly reduced ranges if you don't use the boost word which bumps the spell level up dramatically, I believe the standard example is fireball vs 'burst fire blast' where without boosting the wordspell has a close range and a 10ft radius instead of a long range and a 20ft radius, an exact match isnt possible but to get the 20ft radius you have to boost the spell by 2 levels to spell level 5 and to get the long range (and a 40ft burst) you have to boost by 4 levels to spell level 7 (which is a fairly steep cost to do 10d6 of damage at 13th/14th level)

You are mis-reading the burst target word description (granted, the typo of "this effect word" instead of "this target word" didn't help). Normally, a burst wordspell is close range, affects a 10 ft radius, and is minimum level 1; using boost on the burst target word, the spell is medium range, affects a 20 ft radius, and is minumum level 3; alternately, a boost burst wordspell can be long range, affect a 40 ft radius, and is minimum level 5. So both the burst fire blast and the boost burst fire blast wordspells are 3rd-level (burst minimum 1, fire blast minimum 3; boost burst minimum 3, fire blast minimum 3).

Words of Power is a slightly "weaker" version of spellcasting that allows a greater degree of flexibility/power in some cases, while being less versatile than normal spellcasting. As stated, it's very good for spontaneous blasters (as well as controllers; they can both mix and match targeting and effect words to the circumstances at hand); since all wordcasters know all the targeting words for free, being able to cast a 1d4/level damaging spell (either electricity or fire) as a 10 ft burst at close range, a 10 ft cone, a 20 ft line, or touch spell/ranged touch (ray) spell at close range by learning one effect word at level 1 is actually a pretty good deal.

IMO, the flexibility from combining effect words at higher levels is really where the system shines. For example, frost fingers cramp as a 3rd level spell to do 5d6 cold damage (can be increased with Intensified Spell), with a save against the staggered condition and half movement for one round; depending on the target word, the damage may also be saved against for half damage.


Dragonchess Player wrote:
You are mis-reading the burst target word description (granted, the typo of "this effect word" instead of "this target word" didn't help). Normally, a burst wordspell is close range, affects a 10 ft radius, and is minimum level 1; using boost on the burst target word, the spell is medium range, affects a 20 ft radius, and is minumum level 3; alternately, a boost burst wordspell can be long range, affect a 40 ft radius, and is minimum level 5. So both the burst fire blast and the boost burst fire blast wordspells are 3rd-level (burst minimum 1, fire blast minimum 3; boost burst minimum 3, fire blast minimum 3)....

If that's definitely the case then that's great but are you certain?

If you look at the second example on page 165 the Selected Ice Blast Life Leech it starts off as a level 6 spell but says
"Ultimate Magic wrote:
A sorcerer or wizard can boost the target word to make this spell affect multiple targets but doing so increases the spell's overall level to 9

The Selected targetting word does have a different wording to its boost effect in that it says "This boosted target word increases the level of all the effect words in the spell by 3 levels" compared to the "boosting this effect word increases its level by X" which all the others have, I just would have expected boost to affect all the targetting words in the same way.

I suppose Selected might have its own rules due to the fact that there are a significant number of effects which you just cant use with words like burst, cone or barrier so being able to extend them out to multiple targets is a huge boost to them which would come with a corresponding level increase but you could argue that doubling the radius of the burst spell ought to come at the same cost as you can use that to hit more targets.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Banjax wrote:

If you look at the second example on page 165 the Selected Ice Blast Life Leech it starts off as a level 6 spell but says

"Ultimate Magic wrote:
A sorcerer or wizard can boost the target word to make this spell affect multiple targets but doing so increases the spell's overall level to 9

The Selected targetting word does have a different wording to its boost effect in that it says "This boosted target word increases the level of all the effect words in the spell by 3 levels" compared to the "boosting this effect word increases its level by X" which all the others have, I just would have expected boost to affect all the targetting words in the same way.

I suppose Selected might have its own rules due to the fact that there are a significant number of effects which you just cant use with words like burst, cone or barrier so being able to extend them out to multiple targets is a huge boost to them which would come with a corresponding level increase but you could argue that doubling the radius of the burst spell ought to come at the same cost as you can use that to hit more targets.

A boost selected wordspell is very powerful: one target per caster level, without a limit other than "no two of which can be more than 30 feet apart." No chance of allies being caught in an area.

Ice blast and life leech are both 4th-level effect words. A boost selected ice blast life leech would raise both effect words to 7th-level. Per Table 4-1: Effect Word Combinations, that's a 9th-level wordspell.


Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I rather like the Words of power system, but it didn't go quite as far as I would have liked. The scope of a lot of words is quite limited especially when you want to combine words for new effects.

Over all thought I think it's a nice middle ground between the regular system and the True Sorcery System Green Ronin made.


Dragonchess Player wrote:

A boost selected wordspell is very powerful: one target per caster level, without a limit other than "no two of which can be more than 30 feet apart." No chance of allies being caught in an area.

Ice blast and life leech are both 4th-level effect words. A boost selected ice blast life leech would raise both effect words to 7th-level. Per Table 4-1: Effect Word Combinations, that's a 9th-level wordspell.

Oh yeah I see that I was just unsure whether the rest of the targetting words were supposed to follow the same template as Selected or not, you pointed out the typo where the boost text says effect word instead of target word I was wondering if that was the only typo (i.e is it just a cut and paste job that got missed in the proofreading and they should all say the same as selected?).

I assume this has been errata'd and somewhere there is an answer that says what this should be, are the errata answers stored somewhere or can you only find them by digging through the threads where people submit them?

edit: after searching for 30 minutes (seriously how hard is it to find those FAQs?) it seems that this has yet to be an FAQ candidate. So I shall defer to your interpretation and see about drafting myself a wordcaster sorcerer reserve character


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I recently played a wop cleric in Carrion Crown. The standard action summonings (which I always boosted) and the ranged healing made for an interesting character. Yes, there were certain things I was not very good at dealing with, but overall it was a surprisingly powerful character.

I do disagree with most people though about WoP's versatality. It really isn't. Once you figure out what the "best" spells are at each level then that is all you will ever cast. For arcane types it's summons and then blasting, for divine types it's summons and then ranged healing. If a class doesn't have access to these words then it isn't really worth it.

I would like to see some additional words get released. I wonder, are WoP open for 3rd party to develop? Heck, how would I even find that out!


Banjax wrote:

Pros:

More versatile with regards to damage type (especially for the spontanious casters)

Cons
Short ranges and smaller AoEs unless they are boosted which puts up the spell level significantly
Similar effects are generally weaker for the same spell level
There are some spells that just can't be duplicated by words of power.
Some words start out at a higher level than their closest spell equivalents

Either/Or
Some spells gain versatility but lose damage
Some spells lose versatility but gain damage

That seems like a reasonable list, but I'd add one more "Pro" (as noted above):

  • More versatile with regards to area of effect, and you get area effect spells earlier than non-words of power (e.g. level 0 cones and level 1 bursts).

    And I'd add another few "Cons":

  • Many wordspells are arbitrarily limited in terms of what target words can be applied (e.g. Wall words can only be barriers and most other wordspells cannot be turned into multi-round barriers at all).
  • Spell lists are very skimpy at high levels (e.g. there are only 2 level 7 oracle words and there are only 3 level 3 inquisitor words).
  • Some effects require a higher level spell slot and a meta word use, effectively double-charging you (e.g. the Words of Power version of Mass Bull's Strength costs a 5th level spell slot just like the non-WoP version, but it also costs a meta word use in order to boost the target word).


  • Pros:
    -Versatile effects for Spont Casters, especially Sorcerors
    -Some effects are unique to WoP (ranged cures that can crit, for example)
    -Some unproduceable effects in standard casting are available in WoP (Mass Fly, etc.)

    Cons:
    -Limited possibilities due to lack of material converted (pretty much only Core Rulebook spells were converted)
    -Bad for prepared casters, especially Wizards/Magi (the rules specifically call out that it's difficult for Wizards/Magi to locate additional Effect Words to copy into their spellbooks)
    -Limited range on all spells without use of Boost, Reach Spell, Extend Spell, or the range increasing Meta Word (Long? Far? I can't remember what it's called)

    Andoran

    My group has a 9th level human cleric who casts spells the traditional way but has taken Experimental Spellcaster for every feat. Here are some pros and cons I've noticed, some of which are tied specifically to hybrid trad/WoP casters:

    Pros:
    Extremely versatile to the point of filling both the healer and blaster role in the party;
    A player dedicated enough can make WoP spells that are better than their traditional counterparts;
    Because the nature of WoP spells change every casting, the WoP player's turn takes twice as long because it is accompanied by an explanation of the spell every time.

    Cons:
    As a subsystem, there is more onus on the GM to understand the rules or on the player to use them correctly (and truthfully, depending on your player);
    I often get confused between the playtest WoP and the published WoP.


    Banjax wrote:
    There are some spells that just cant be duplicated by words of power

    I just can't see this as a con. If you wanted to cast fireball and magic missile, why pick words of power as your spellcasting?


    Banjax wrote:
    Anybody who has actually used this system in a live game care to chime in with how versatile it actually is in practice? Do you feel limited by the number of available words at lower levels?

    I'm playing a level 2 Words of Power oracle at the moment. I think there's just barely enough level 1 words that are worth taking, but not enough so that I could create two completely different oracles out of it. Some of the level 1 words are just kind of lame (Radiance should be level 0, Fortify is a dud, Spook is a waste for a spontaneous caster).

    Azten wrote:
    I just can't see this as a con. If you wanted to cast fireball and magic missile, why pick words of power as your spellcasting?

    The fact that the list of Words of Power spell effects for sorcerers is (almost) a strict subset of regular spell effects is a disadvantage.

    Note that for other classes, there's less overlap between the list of WoP and non-WoP effects. For instance, druids get quite a few wordspells that aren't really on the normal druid spell list.


    The main problem with WoP is that it doesn't have any of the Effect Word equivalents to compensate for 3 full source books of Vancian spells. APG, UM, and UC all have a ton of spells and none of them are covered by WoP. In all likelihood, WoP will not be expanded in official content, so a 3rd party publisher is probably going to have to take on that mantle, which raises that specter with the GM.

    While many of the Effect Words look like direct rip-offs of existing spells, a couple are particularly good by comparison to normal. Corrosive Bolt, for example, can do ridiculous damage if properly supported with Intensify Spell (Metamagic feat) and the Lengthy Meta Word. If you Boost Selected with it, you can have a level 6 spell doing 10d4 per round for 4 rounds against as many targets as you feel like hitting with rays. Otherwise, it's a level 3 spell that does 10d4 per round for 4 rounds against 1 target as a ray.

    By the way, it can crit and I haven't heard one way or the other as far as whether ALL the damage is doubled or if just round 1 is doubled. I challenge anyone to find a spell in Vancian casting that duplicates this. Moreover, I challenge someone to make a Crossblooded dip Blaster to maximize this. Yes, I know that violates my earlier post about Wizards not effectively utilizing WoP compared to Sorcerors.

    There are real gems out there if you know where to look.


    Serisan wrote:
    I challenge anyone to find a spell in Vancian casting that duplicates this.

    If you're looking for a spell that allows you to fire one ray at each creature within a certain area, I think that's only a Words of Power thing. So you win, I guess.

    If you're looking for a spell that can do damage each round for multiple rounds, there are a few spells like that (e.g. Ball Lightning from the APG).

    Serisan wrote:
    There are real gems out there if you know where to look.

    I don't think anyone is denying that there are some Words of Power spells that are better (in some aspects, at least) than their non-WoP equivalents.


    Shane LeRose wrote:
    I would like to see some additional words get released. I wonder, are WoP open for 3rd party to develop? Heck, how would I even find that out!

    That is going to be a tricky one for the publishers I would expect, certainly I think there are some fairly glaring omissions (they have the physical stat buffs but not the mental ones for example) but they will have to be very careful about what words they release, too many words and the system becomes overpowered as it can do everything regular casting can do but with the ability to combine spells, the wrong "type" of spells and they lose the effect that they're going for with wordcasting being a more primal less developed form of magic.

    Personally I'd certainly like to see them release more and until then you could always come up with your own and persuade your GM to houserule them in.

    Azten wrote:
    Banjax wrote:
    There are some spells that just cant be duplicated by words of power
    I just can't see this as a con. If you wanted to cast fireball and magic missile, why pick words of power as your spellcasting?

    That's not quite what I meant despite my choice of example (I play an Evoker Wizard normally so those are just the spells I'm most familiar with).But there are lots of functions that WoP just can't reproduce, utility spells like Knock, Purify Food and Drink, Create Water, all of the mental stat buffs, Make whole etc

    Granted depending on your character choices you may not have chosen them anyway, a lot of them are more the wizard's bailiwick than the spontanious casters as they can learn them with a fair amount of impunity but those are options that you're giving up by choosing WoP over Vancian.


    I liked the concept of words of power, but thought that it was to Restricted being based spell levels.at low levels words of power are almost worthless. I think the words of power system would work better on a point buy system like 3.5 psionics. This would allow the versatility that words of power are supposed to grant.


    Cren wrote:
    I liked the concept of words of power, but thought that it was to Restricted being based spell levels.at low levels words of power are almost worthless. I think the words of power system would work better on a point buy system like 3.5 psionics. This would allow the versatility that words of power are supposed to grant.

    May I direct you to Lock Ward, A.K.A. Brew Potion without the feat or level restriction (ok, ok, it caps at Effect level 7)?


    Serisan wrote:
    Cren wrote:
    I liked the concept of words of power, but thought that it was to Restricted being based spell levels.at low levels words of power are almost worthless. I think the words of power system would work better on a point buy system like 3.5 psionics. This would allow the versatility that words of power are supposed to grant.
    May I direct you to Lock Ward, A.K.A. Brew Potion without the feat or level restriction (ok, ok, it caps at Effect level 7)?

    That would work as a great bridge until your high enough level to make use of words of power hmm..

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