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Would 9th-level casters be more balanced if they had limited buff spells?


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I have heard some people say "I hope they do not introduce 9th-level casters to Starfinder." And I understand where they're coming from, as I'm sure the designers have learned plenty of lessons about OP wizards from Pathfinder.

But, it occurs to me that a lot of the "god wizard" strategy is based around buffing and contingencies. Take away the wizard's contingency and his emergency force sphere and his freedom of movement and his mirror image and his anticipate peril and his protection from energy and his stoneskin and his mind blank, and what you're left with is a cool character who can still do lots of powerful cool things, but is no longer an untouchable god.

Would that be more palatable? You could criticize the "rocket tag" aspect, but considering how long high-level combats take to resolve in general, maybe "rocket tag" is a feature rather than a bug. Or maybe you mitigate the rocket tag some other way.

What do people think about the inclusion of 9th-level casters in Starfinder in general? And could limiting their buff abilities be a balanced way to introduce them?


You mean what 5th ed did with only having one Concentration typed spell active at a time?

I've always approved of such things on the simple merit it cuts down severely on all the fiddly math that turns high level pathfinder into a total drag of tallying up all your esoteric bonuses and durations.

That said I still don't want 9/9 casters in Starfinder. I frankly have no confidence in Paizo for balancing out high level spells and I honestly would prefer if Starfinder kept staying the course of all the classes at least having a viable back up to their main schtick rather than going back to the old 9/9 paradigm of "Whelp, out of (my good) spells, call it for the adventure day folks"


Rocket Tag is in no way a feature rather than a bug. 9th level casters are also trouble because of the sheer, massive versatility they have. They can do so much that non-spellcasters can't even try to do, you'd need to massively widen the sorts of stuff a Soldier or Operative can do before a 9th level caster seems reasonable to me.


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Isn't nearly every spell you mentioned lower than 7th level? Most buff spells, like stoneskin, do have replacements, as well resistance to energy (Resistant Armor spell).


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I think that by removing a lot of the bonus types, they've already done a LOT to handle the buff spell problem of casters. If they also keep the philosophy of the current spells (higher level spells for better benefits, rather than higher CL for better benefits), that also does a lot to help with buffing. It doesn't fix it, but it helps.

I don't think that the buffing was the problem, only a symptom of the problem, with spellcasters. I think the problem has always been that full spellcasters can be be as good or better than non-casters at everything. A good player could use their spells to dictate the flow of the game, and it's hard for the other players or DM to prevent that. Being able to buff themselves into un-hittable combat monsters was one of the ways a given spellcaster might implement that, but even if you fix that, it doesn't, by itself, 'fix' casters. You also have to really limit what their spells can do in relation to what everyone else's class features can do. That's probably going to take a lot of the joy out of wizards (having exactly the right spell for the problem), but it's probably necessary for the long-term health of the game.

I hope that they do introduce more classes and more archetypes and more themes in the very near future. I think those are the primary areas where the CRB is really lacking when compared to PF/DnD. In my own group, I expect I'll have a couple players that are only interested in one to three of the given options, and once they've played those, they aren't going to want to play again. It seems absurd to me that they can pick from something like 30 races right out of the gate but only 7 classes and two (meh) archetypes (essentially this games PrCs/ACFs). It's going to get redundant really quickly without more options.


No, the best way to balance 9th level casters is to make them 6th level casters. The Schrodinger’s Wizard you described only really exists on the furthest levels of powergaming and system mastery. The real issue has always been the perfusion of spells that render a wide array of challenges trivial and numerous other classes redundant. With 6th level casting, a lot of the more egregious offenders are removed and what remains has a far more balanced progression.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

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I personally hope and expect to see 9th level casters at some point for Starfinder. Wish and miracle already exist, and they are by far two of the more potentially problematic 9th level spells.

Really, what's so bad at level 7+?

simulacrum
create demiplane
gate
polymorph any object
time stop

and maybe a few others. You could remove/heavily revise the problem spells and still have a relatively robust 7th-9th level spell list which doesn't break reality. "Mass" versions of lower level spells aren't bad. Power words aren't bad. The high level mobility and scrying spells are generally just slightly improved versions of spells in the 3rd-5th level range.

Nobody's breaking high level play if they show up with mage's sword, polar ray, and meteor swarm.

Dark Archive

I more fundamental difficulty of 9th level casters is that 7th level spells must be more potent then 6th and so on. Outside of straight damage where you could easily just scale the expected damage to the expected HP by level other aspects of spells get much more complicated to subdivide into that many levels. And it is an asymmetric problem if you mess-up and the spell is too powerful everyone wants it, but if it is too weak no one takes it so there is no balancing. The accessibility of wish and miracle is much lower then in Pathfinder since it is a class feature not a spell anymore. So no casting it until you are at the highest levels.


ryric wrote:

I personally hope and expect to see 9th level casters at some point for Starfinder. Wish and miracle already exist, and they are by far two of the more potentially problematic 9th level spells.

Really, what's so bad at level 7+?

simulacrum
create demiplane
gate
polymorph any object
time stop

and maybe a few others. You could remove/heavily revise the problem spells and still have a relatively robust 7th-9th level spell list which doesn't break reality. "Mass" versions of lower level spells aren't bad. Power words aren't bad. The high level mobility and scrying spells are generally just slightly improved versions of spells in the 3rd-5th level range.

Nobody's breaking high level play if they show up with mage's sword, polar ray, and meteor swarm.

My problem isn't really with individual spells but the focus on it as a class feature. A full caster must have less non spell options, which is harder in SF because everyone can spend two feats and be competent without class abilities.


ryric wrote:

I personally hope and expect to see 9th level casters at some point for Starfinder. Wish and miracle already exist, and they are by far two of the more potentially problematic 9th level spells.

Really, what's so bad at level 7+?

simulacrum
create demiplane
gate
polymorph any object
time stop

and maybe a few others. You could remove/heavily revise the problem spells and still have a relatively robust 7th-9th level spell list which doesn't break reality. "Mass" versions of lower level spells aren't bad. Power words aren't bad. The high level mobility and scrying spells are generally just slightly improved versions of spells in the 3rd-5th level range.

Nobody's breaking high level play if they show up with mage's sword, polar ray, and meteor swarm.

Simulacrum, PAO, and Time Stop I can live without, but how dare you go and disparage Gate and Create Demiplane. Those are two of the most FUN fluff spells around.

Imagine gate-powered steam engines propelling starships with water and fire plane portals, or all the fun that can be done with Demiplanes.


You can change the level that 9/9 casters get spells so that they are using the same spells as 6/6 casters, just a level or 2 earlier and make 9th level spells roughly comparable to 7th and 8th level spells of pathfinder. This would balance the power of the class a fair amount.

The real problem is that a full caster is generally incentivised very heavily to have short powerful adventuring days where as non caster classes want to keep going. This creates a situation where either the full caster is upset that they are having to keep going but are out of good spells, or the soldier is pissed he can only go 2 encounters before the wizard wants to sleep again. This also needs to be addressed before you bring 9/9 casters to the table.


Hazrond wrote:

Simulacrum, PAO, and Time Stop I can live without, but how dare you go and disparage Gate and Create Demiplane. Those are two of the most FUN fluff spells around.

Imagine gate-powered steam engines propelling starships with water and fire plane portals, or all the fun that can be done with Demiplanes.

Gate is also one of the most game shatteringly silly powerful spells about. Remember, it's a summoning spell that allows you to summon basically anything in existence and control it.

The issue with spells of such power is...how does a Soldier or Operative compete with that? Operatives, for example, are more strongly a non-combat class than a combat one (Soldier vastly outdoes them if you want someone to fight at higher levels). What can an Operative do, as a non-combat class, that matches up to Create Demiplane or Gate?


A soldier competes, by having giant BFGs that let them shoot a Gate-d critter, and reduce it to incandescent plasma. :)

An operative, meanwhile, competes by having considerably better skill bonuses than the Gate-d critter, thus being better at sneaking, stealing, hacking, deceiving, piloting, etc. Or, in strict combat, by using said superior skill codes to get an opening, and Trick Attack about six inches of quantum forged neutronium blade into the Gate-d critter's eyeball. ;)

Basically, Gate is only some insurmountable game breaking problem in Starfinder, if the spell rules make it so. The game mechanics don't *have to* allow a character to summon any arbitrarily high CR being and control it utterly. Something simply like "Any being summoned whose CR exceeds the caster's level is free willed, unless the caster meets special criterion set at the sole discretion of the GM" would solve many problems. Sure, you *can* Gate a CR 22 critter at CR 18, but they do what they *choose* to do, which should be more than enough downside to discourage abuse.


Alternatively: We don't have Gate as it doesn't really add anything to the setting. Like, basically none of the 7+ spells really add much to the setting beyond 'Stuff non-spellcasters can't compete with'.

+6 to skills doesn't really match up with 'Makes demiplanes' and the Operative is the non-combat guy here.


Metaphysician wrote:

A soldier competes, by having giant BFGs that let them shoot a Gate-d critter, and reduce it to incandescent plasma. :)

The problem is the Wizard can spend 2 feats and use the same BFG decently well. Likely just not full attacking.


Starfinder Superscriber

Historically the balance to 9 level casters was the sheer difficulty in getting there. D4 hit dice, More EXP required per level, etc. Over time those drawbacks were taken away for the sake of friendliness of play, which means there isn't nearly as much of a drawback.

I want a 9 level caster. I also don't want it gimped. At high levels, they aren't SUPPOSED to be balanced. That's like saying Merlin should be balanced with a Marine. But its the how in getting there. At age 18, 19, 20, etc, that Marine can one shot Merlin perhaps. Eventually that curve does (and should) shift. But the Space-Wizard should still be fragile.

So how to balance?

Within the rules themselves:
D4 hit die for any 9 level caster, even a space-cleric.

Unable to take toughness (the magics interfere).

Keep low skill points (2+)

Unable to modify body with technology (interferes with ability to tap into magic forces. This includes excluding some races).

Never any heavy armor or powered armor (see above). Maybe even no light armor (or wearing light armor lowers the casters spell casting abilities by a level or two, so eventually a space-mage must resort to magic instead of armor to survive in certain areas increasing their vulnerability for power)

Increased stabilization requirements.

Within play:
Don't allow for long rests when not appropriate.

Play enemies intelligently. If you're facing a squad of intelligent creatures (humanoids, dragons, whatever), they would logically go after the squishiest and most dangerous guy first.

The goal in balancing would be to find a happy place for 9 level casters to become "the most powerful" classes.


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KapaaIan wrote:

Historically the balance to 9 level casters was the sheer difficulty in getting there. D4 hit dice, More EXP required per level, etc. Over time those drawbacks were taken away for the sake of friendliness of play, which means there isn't nearly as much of a drawback.

I want a 9 level caster. I also don't want it gimped. At high levels, they aren't SUPPOSED to be balanced. That's like saying Merlin should be balanced with a Marine. But its the how in getting there. At age 18, 19, 20, etc, that Marine can one shot Merlin perhaps. Eventually that curve does (and should) shift. But the Space-Wizard should still be fragile.

So how to balance?

Within the rules themselves:
D4 hit die for any 9 level caster, even a space-cleric.

Unable to take toughness (the magics interfere).

Keep low skill points (2+)

Unable to modify body with technology (interferes with ability to tap into magic forces. This includes excluding some races).

Never any heavy armor or powered armor (see above). Maybe even no light armor (or wearing light armor lowers the casters spell casting abilities by a level or two, so eventually a space-mage must resort to magic instead of armor to survive in certain areas increasing their vulnerability for power)

Increased stabilization requirements.

Within play:
Don't allow for long rests when not appropriate.

Play enemies intelligently. If you're facing a squad of intelligent creatures (humanoids, dragons, whatever), they would logically go after the squishiest and most dangerous guy first.

The goal in balancing would be to find a happy place for 9 level casters to become "the most powerful" classes.

I 100% disagree with everything you've said. To me, that sounds awful - casters are no fun at low levels because you are in constant threat of death, and martials are no fun at high levels because the caster has paid his dues and now he can just dominate you. Oh, and by the way, we're taking away half of the available character customization options that might allow you to build a new and interesting character.

I really don't think it's in any way impossible to balance casters and martials. Just be mindful of what spells you put on the spell lists, and make sure the caster cannot overshadow another class at that other class's main role. And maybe make sure they have relevant at-will abilities so they aren't useless once their spells/day are expended.


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RumpinRufus wrote:
KapaaIan wrote:

Historically the balance to 9 level casters was the sheer difficulty in getting there. D4 hit dice, More EXP required per level, etc. Over time those drawbacks were taken away for the sake of friendliness of play, which means there isn't nearly as much of a drawback.

I want a 9 level caster. I also don't want it gimped. At high levels, they aren't SUPPOSED to be balanced. That's like saying Merlin should be balanced with a Marine. But its the how in getting there. At age 18, 19, 20, etc, that Marine can one shot Merlin perhaps. Eventually that curve does (and should) shift. But the Space-Wizard should still be fragile.

So how to balance?

Within the rules themselves:
D4 hit die for any 9 level caster, even a space-cleric.

Unable to take toughness (the magics interfere).

Keep low skill points (2+)

Unable to modify body with technology (interferes with ability to tap into magic forces. This includes excluding some races).

Never any heavy armor or powered armor (see above). Maybe even no light armor (or wearing light armor lowers the casters spell casting abilities by a level or two, so eventually a space-mage must resort to magic instead of armor to survive in certain areas increasing their vulnerability for power)

Increased stabilization requirements.

Within play:
Don't allow for long rests when not appropriate.

Play enemies intelligently. If you're facing a squad of intelligent creatures (humanoids, dragons, whatever), they would logically go after the squishiest and most dangerous guy first.

The goal in balancing would be to find a happy place for 9 level casters to become "the most powerful" classes.

I 100% disagree with everything you've said. To me, that sounds awful - casters are no fun at low levels because you are in constant threat of death, and martials are no fun at high levels because the caster has paid his dues and now he can just dominate you. Oh, and by the way, we're taking away half of the available character...

Agreed, any sort of balance that is built around a 5 year campaign in which you don't reroll new characters at any point and for a good portion of it you are either UP or OP is not good balance. It might work in a videogame where those tradeoffs happen in a matter of minutes/hours/days but not on the months long timeframe of rpgs.


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I hope they never introduce 9th level spell casters.

Making them extra fragile so they theoretically can't survive to god mode isn't a solution. God mode is the problem.

The technomancer and mystic don't have god mode. They have some spells that are pretty solid, but nothing that is so overwhelmingly powerful, except for their 20th level capstone ability to cast miracle or wish.

The current balance of spell casters seems just about perfect to me with Starfinder.

If your idea of balance is "kill the spell caster first" it perfectly illustrates how the game is unbalanced.

Ideally there shouldn't ever be a single "most powerful" class. 9th level casters were that in Pathfinder. I hope the devs have learned the lessons of their mistakes and don't ever repeat them.


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

In Starfinder, the game is set up so that everyone has at least light armor, so depriving spellcasters of armor really won't work. That is also the reason that anyone designing a Monk equivalent for Starfinder would have his work cut out for him.

Also, having 9 levels of spells vs. having 6 levels of spells is actually an issue of granularity to the levels of spell power rather than overall power. The difference is that in Pathfinder the power levels of the different spell levels are set by the spell lists of the classes with 9 spell levels, so any classes with 6 levels of spells have to be balanced so as not to overshadow them at any level (thus the spell list changes for the Unchained Summoner).

In Starfinder, the core spellcasting classes have 6 levels of spells plus a pseudo-7th level spell level as a capstone ability. Any new spellcasting class with 9 levels of spells would have to be balanced so as not to overshadow the abilities of the two core spellcasting classes. If anyone uses 6th level spells from the core spellcasting classes in Starfinder as a suggested power level for the 6th level spells of a spellcaster with 9 spell levels and then appends three additional spell levels on top of that, then of course the result would be unbalanced. The 2-3 added spell levels for such classes would need to be interpolated among the 6-7 spell levels of the existing classes to maintain balance.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Man, I love so many thing about 9th-spell level casters that people here hate (though certainly not everything). Alas, seems my preferences shan't be accommodated, if some of the more vocal critics have their way. That suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks for me and any who share my preferences, but ah well.


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Tacticslion wrote:
Man, I love so many thing about 9th-spell level casters that people here hate (though certainly not everything). Alas, seems my preferences shan't be accommodated, if some of the more vocal critics have their way. That suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks for me and any who share my preferences, but ah well.

Do you mind elaborating on what your personal preference would be for 9th-level Starfinder casters?


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KapaaIan wrote:
I want a 9 level caster. I also don't want it gimped. At high levels, they aren't SUPPOSED to be balanced. That's like saying Merlin should be balanced with a Marine. But its the how in getting there. At age 18, 19, 20, etc, that Marine can one shot Merlin perhaps. Eventually that curve does (and should) shift. But the Space-Wizard should still be fragile.

I dunno, Merlin is part demon and the Doom Marine has proven that if it's demon he's very good at beating it. I'd say they should be balanced.

I also disagree with this vehemently, as this is why we have CHARACTER LEVELS. Two PCs of equal level should be equal in power. The weakness of getting punched in the guts by the other guy early game in exchange for punching the other guy in the guts late game only works as a balancing factor in short-term games like DOTA and LoL where you will see someone go through early and late game both in a single session.

The bigger issue with balance than combat (And one you rather ignored) is that of non-combat. We currently have 2 rather non-combat focused classes (Envoy and Operative. Not useless in combat but they are the kings of non-combat). Introducing 9th level casters has the issue of 'So what balancing factors is there, outside of combat, to make the Envoy and Operative not feel miserable about their choice?'. As sessions that are mostly non-combat make even limited spellcasting less of an issue, as not every day is a dungeon crawl.


Powerful but squishy is a reasonable way to balance high level casters, but if that is how they are balanced it needs to be maintained through higher character levels, or it isn't really balancing.

As for how to balance 9/9 casters utility/noncombat capability. This should be easy to do. We have 6/6 casters and no one seems to be complaining they are broken. The way to have 9/9 caster balanced is to make them more like 6/6 casters.

Honestly I think the easiest way to create classes that are mostly caster and less anything else is to stay within the 6/6 confines that starfinder has started with, and simply give full casters more spells per day, more known, and slightly earlier access. The 7-9 level spells are the problem with full casters. So limit this, but give them an ability to almost always be casting a spell. It would play a lot like a sorcerer. Then give each full caster class class abilities that can allow them to do thing that are nova like but infrequently. Like cast two spells in a single turn. Or that allow access to certain spells that other casters don't have, like how wish and miracle ARE in the game, but are capstones. This allows for a much more limited access to such game breaking options to each individual character so a smaller (read: more easily balanced) set of choices shouldn't feel so restrictive. Also by staying withing the 6/6 framework you don't have to fiddle with creating new spell lists or end up with things like the "well I have the wizard version of this spell amp so it's cheaper" crap.


Starfinder Superscriber

"Two PCs of equal level should be equal in power"

That's not logical (or practical, or to me satisfying). That's basically saying that at all periods of a persons career, at even experience and training, combat effectiveness should be the same (though different). Each class has a different power curve that factors in their different abilities and different classes can and should jockey for position as they go up.

If power were a simple number, you could say for instance that a solider had a power level of 2X+2 where X is their level. A operative may be .5*X^1.5, and a mage a power level of .5x + .005X^3

All of these three examples converge around roughly level 16 to 18, each is the highest at certain points. In practice it wouldn't be a neat equation due to when certain powers come online, but it shows the point.

I want my classes to feel different and be different levels of power. That's how they work with different play styles, skill levels and so on. Too much balance ends up with an MMO where the different classes just blur together.

A 9th level magic user is supposed to be hard to play, and dang it it is supposed to be rewarding for that. And yes, the squishiness should stay. A mage should always have to be on their game when out and about. If not, they are a target and a easy one.

As for non-combat, I think it is reasonable for more anti-magic tech to be out there. There's no reason to think a good pawn shop broker wouldn't invest in an anti-magic field or something around him when in his shop.

Someone above asked (of someone else) what the preference is for 9 level casters. For me it is taking the thinking way out of a problem and it being in character. Figuring out some weird way of using a spell to some a problem that no one else has thought of. It is the class I think many of us in the hobby identified with first in games and literature. We may not all be able to be super fighters, or charismatic singers, or so on. But I bet a lot of us were the kid with the books, who if we were told we could study magic, would jump at the chance. More than any other class, a 9 level mage (thematically) exemplifies that with enough hard work, eventually, you can be the best.


KapaaIan wrote:

"Two PCs of equal level should be equal in power"

That's not logical (or practical, or to me satisfying). That's basically saying that at all periods of a persons career, at even experience and training, combat effectiveness should be the same (though different). Each class has a different power curve that factors in their different abilities and different classes can and should jockey for position as they go up.

While I find the idea that two PCs should not be equally useful to be utterly abhorrent from a game design and moral level. The idea of going 'We've reached the point where you matter less than I do' is something I cannot stand.

KapaaIan wrote:
We may not all be able to be super fighters, or charismatic singers, or so on. But I bet a lot of us were the kid with the books, who if we were told we could study magic, would jump at the chance. More than any other class, a 9 level mage (thematically) exemplifies that with enough hard work, eventually, you can be the best.

And if someone wants to be the very best...and not a spellcaster? Should you tell them 'Sorry, you could have been a bookworm'? PCs are heroes, all PCs should be able to be the very best and matter just as much as each other. The level 20 martial should be just as world shaking as the level 20 spellcaster rather than playing second fiddle. After all the Soldier worked just as hard as the spellcaster did to get there, why should his hard work matter less?

You mentioned MMOs but 'I am good late game' really is the thing that smacks of video game logic to me, as in a video game you can experience early and low level every session you play. In an RPG, you will have weeks and months at any given level of play.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Um. I really don't think that it's 7-9th level spells that are the problem, either. At least, not exclusively. Most of the casters that I build/play are easily OP in the 9-15 character level range as compared to non-casters. If I'm playing a one-shot at 5th or even 3rd, I can build for that and be pretty awesome at that level, too. Even if I don't really try, by the time I reach mid-levels, I have access to enough spells and spell options that I generally have (one of) the highest ACs in the group, a number of defenses/immunities, a number of get out of jail free cards, a number of attack and battlefield control options, lots of utility spells, and a number of ways to avoid/end (almost) any encounter.

I'm playing a 12th level wizard right now. If the guy playing the corpse (rogue) doesn't show up to play, I have ways to get around every trap. If the tank doesn't show up, I have ways to absorb damage (summons). If the glass cannon doesn't show up, I have ways to do damage. If the face doesn't show up, I have ways to deal with social encounters. I'm not as effective in all of the party roles as some of them (they optimized for those things), but I can do all of them better than a non-optimized character could, and more than adequately to handle the challenge. Plus I can provide a lot of convenience (teleport, shelters, fabricate, et cetera ad nauseum) on top of that. At this point, the druid's the only one that can effectively manage everything as well as I can.

Our group has always had a sort of gentleman's agreement to keep full casters in line. If they want to bring full casters back (and as a player, I hope they do, because I love playing them, even if they are broken), I think they're going to have to do something other than removing a couple of spell levels. Every spell available to a wizard is going to have to be balanced against every ability at every character level. I think they generally did a very good job with the spells they have so far. I think they'll also need to give spellcasters some pretty painful weaknesses on top of it (for their full lifetime) to keep them in line. I don't envy the dev that tries to tackle that problem.


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I dont want them to bring in 9th level casters. I have played D&D (and pretty much always make wizards) since the early days. 9th level spell casting is an artifact from back in the days of when Gary Gygax was literally just making stuff up as he went along. It became a "sacred cow" when they designed 3rd edition and has never really left any incarnation of the game until Starfinder.

I am very happy with how they have made the casters in Starfinder. It has been a great change. You still get powerful spellcasters but not the godlike powers of high level wizards.

If you absolutely have to have 9th level spells back the biggest thing you need to fix is the "Morning spell matrix". One of my highest level characters from back in the day have about 20 spells he would cast every morning as defenses/buffs. Trying to account for every possible attack. Can you imagine how boring this really would be and how quickly a real human would stop doing this or just get sloppy or lazy about the routine. It is easy to say "My character spends every morning doing this." It would be much harder to every morning add 20 to 30 more morning rituals. I have a hard enough time with the few I do in real life (Expel waste, cleanse teeth, cleanse body, dispose of facial/body hair, summon clothes, dress, summon raw food, cook food, eat food)

It got bad enough that in some campaigns you would have to lead every combat with a disjunction spell just start a fight so that you would "only" be facing a casters back-up/contingency defenses.

Ugg, No thank you.


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The issue with 9th level casters has never been the damage they can do, every class in Pathfinder had a build that could one shot the Tarrasque if built right and abused a GM who let the player do weird things.

It has always been that a 9th Level caster has a spell for every situation and could potentially neutralize any encounter before it can begin. This is usually the main complaint I see when people tell stories of how the Wizard trivialized the encounter, it's not because he landed a critical Fireball into the monsters face. Sure there are ways to get to some truly absurd damage output on spells, but it's usually always faster and easier to just debuff the monster into oblivion than it is to burn them.

And while magic is well, magic, this lends to the rule of if you can imagine it there is a spell that can do it. Now while 5th ed. has the one concentration spell at a time, this will only affect part of the problem, when the party meets a locked door, the rogue picks the lock, the wizard decides if they want to go through the door, wall, floor, ceiling, astral plane or just remove the door from existence all together. So in a more tech based world where people use Biometric Scanners and Facial Recognition, the wizard would have spells that affect those, so either the wizard could use magic to disguise themselves or to screw with the machine. At which point the Technomancer is redundant.

So to this, I think the Shadowrun approach is best, tweaked, but still a good basis.

For those unfamiliar with Shadowrun, cybernetics tear at ones soul in a sense. So too much cybernetics and you are no longer even a person.

So I think a true 9th level Caster, would need something similar. That magic is an affectation on the living realm, it does not draw on the machines as the A.I. God has prevented that type of magic from infesting his domain. This does a few things, clearly draws a line between what Magic the 9th level caster can do, so it never crosses the line and makes the Technomancer irrelevant in design. It helps to decide not what a Magic class can do, but what it Can't do. This is far more important.

So you additionally can incorporate a similar Burn feature that the Kineticist has, that their ability to affect the living realm is tied to their own life force, thus introducing the first Constitution based class in Starfinder. So to prevent them from overshadowing the Mystic in terms of spells, they have a give and take mechanic with their magic. Want to heal someone, you can do it slowly and they would receive something similar to full rest over a short rest, this could be a 1/day/X Levels deal. A moderately fast, where you give Fast Heal of a number but the Wizard takes half that damage a turn, so you give Fast Heal 10 but you take 5 damage a turn until you sever the link, then you have the Oh S#@~ give health now. Which could do Xd8+Con but you take Xd6+Con in damage to give a massive amount right away.

Obviously the numbers chosen could be adjusted based on level and maybe incorporate the D10 and D12 more often, my favorite dice, but least used.

As the balance would be on how much are you willing to give up to get something.


Dan Batchelor wrote:
If you absolutely have to have 9th level spells back the biggest thing you need to fix is the "Morning spell matrix". One of my highest level characters from back in the day have about 20 spells he would cast every morning as defenses/buffs. Trying to account for every possible attack. Can you imagine how boring this really would be and how quickly a real human would stop doing this or just get sloppy or lazy about the routine.

That's what I'm saying!

Limit the buffs.

Take away any spell that does X class's main shtick better than X class.

Nerf the god spells like Gate and Time Stop.

Add relevant at-will abilities to accommodate long adventuring days.

And the wizard is fixed.


RumpinRufus wrote:
Dan Batchelor wrote:
If you absolutely have to have 9th level spells back the biggest thing you need to fix is the "Morning spell matrix". One of my highest level characters from back in the day have about 20 spells he would cast every morning as defenses/buffs. Trying to account for every possible attack. Can you imagine how boring this really would be and how quickly a real human would stop doing this or just get sloppy or lazy about the routine.

That's what I'm saying!

Limit the buffs.

Take away any spell that does X class's main shtick better than X class.

Nerf the god spells like Gate and Time Stop.

Add relevant at-will abilities to accommodate long adventuring days.

And the wizard is fixed.

But essentially isn't this what has been done with mystic and technomancer? They both have attack spells that scale up as well as many other options like charm, disintegrate, and stone to flesh that old style casting had.

So the real question becomes what is it that you would like them to add back in by adding in 3 more levels of spells?


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The difference is that the technomancer and mystic don't have enough spells to be able to cast all day. To offset this they have a 3/4 BAB and can do respectable damage by taking a couple of feats.

You really can't have a full caster. They are meant to be casting pretty much exclusively and fighting only when buffed, or as in desperate situations. This could be done in the 6/6 frame work as I pointed out earlier, but it would mean some changes. I do think that there could be a balanced wizard/sorcerer and cleric/druid. And they should be powerful with their particular schitcks. Again I think this is doable. I just don't want to see the crazy antics that the wizards could do before coming back.


baggageboy wrote:

The difference is that the technomancer and mystic don't have enough spells to be able to cast all day. To offset this they have a 3/4 BAB and can do respectable damage by taking a couple of feats.

You really can't have a full caster. They are meant to be casting pretty much exclusively and fighting only when buffed, or as in desperate situations. This could be done in the 6/6 frame work as I pointed out earlier, but it would mean some changes. I do think that there could be a balanced wizard/sorcerer and cleric/druid. And they should be powerful with their particular schitcks. Again I think this is doable. I just don't want to see the crazy antics that the wizards could do before coming back.

But wizards never had enough spells to cast all day. You have two varieties in most campaigns. Which type would depend on how often your GM let you camp. Caster type #1. Burn through the cream of your spell crop in two or three battles then camp. Caster type #2. Cast conservatively having very little effect on most battles and unload on the mini-boss and boss battles.

Caster type #1 is really the only cast all day type and that is because her day is about 3 hours long and then she is sleeping again.

In Starfinder you would essentially be trading out +5 BAB for more and higher damage spells. Your BAB becomes so low that using weapons is never really an option. It just seems innately broken.


That and you'd have economy issues if you allowed spell-casters to go 'I don't ever need a gun' as guns are an expensive part of your WBL.


Ikiry0 wrote:
That and you'd have economy issues if you allowed spell-casters to go 'I don't ever need a gun' as guns are an expensive part of your WBL.

I don't see that being a problem, with Solarion Solar Weapon, they can just say, I have a magic sword I don't need to buy a weapon. And there isn't many people saying that is over powered because they understand that the Solarion would be pretty gimped if they only have their solar weapon and no other means to attack with. Or Pathfinder Monks/Brawlers, really any class with scaling builtin weapons, no one claims it breaks them because they have more money. Usually that money gets spent on stuff like Magic Fang or shoring up their weaknesses. Which tend to be very apparent.


steven lawson wrote:
Ikiry0 wrote:
That and you'd have economy issues if you allowed spell-casters to go 'I don't ever need a gun' as guns are an expensive part of your WBL.
I don't see that being a problem, with Solarion Solar Weapon, they can just say, I have a magic sword I don't need to buy a weapon. And there isn't many people saying that is over powered because they understand that the Solarion would be pretty gimped if they only have their solar weapon and no other means to attack with. Or Pathfinder Monks/Brawlers, really any class with scaling builtin weapons, no one claims it breaks them because they have more money. Usually that money gets spent on stuff like Magic Fang or shoring up their weaknesses. Which tend to be very apparent.

Solarians, monks, and brawlers still need to buy weapons you know. Those weapon crystals/Mighty Fist Amulets aren't for show you know.


steven lawson wrote:
I don't see that being a problem, with Solarion Solar Weapon, they can just say, I have a magic sword I don't need to buy a weapon. And there isn't many people saying that is over powered because they understand that the Solarion would be pretty gimped if they only have their solar weapon and no other means to attack with. Or Pathfinder Monks/Brawlers, really any class with scaling builtin weapons, no one claims it breaks them because they have more money. Usually that money gets spent on stuff like Magic Fang or shoring up their weaknesses. Which tend to be very apparent.

A Solarian without any crystals is in a very sad place, as a whole.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
RumpinRufus wrote:
Tacticslion wrote:
Man, I love so many thing about 9th-spell level casters that people here hate (though certainly not everything). Alas, seems my preferences shan't be accommodated, if some of the more vocal critics have their way. That suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks for me and any who share my preferences, but ah well.
Do you mind elaborating on what your personal preference would be for 9th-level Starfinder casters?

Nah.

There's a lot I love about the Starfinder system, but it's much harder for me to envision how I'd change the base system (compared to, say, PF, or other d20 systems) as it has intentionally moved further away from internal consistency - a facet that, if present, inspires me, and if not leaves me with fewer ideas to build off of, either mechanically or story-wise.

I love Starfinder as a setting, and there are very cool elements to the system, but I'm still exploring them, and thus between the shift away from internal consistency and the still-feeling-out its limits, I cannot really come up with a decent argument for or against.

None of this even covers the complete restructuring of many 7th-9th level spells squashed into 6th level casting, which means that I'd have to take a good, loooooooooong and deep look at how they chose the spells and why (both clarifying what the theme was, as well as the re-balancing efforts they applied to them, and any lore-based elements derived from them), which I frankly don't have time for. I'm playing my second ever SF game (the first of which I'm a player), and doing so as a technomancer.

So far, in that game I've:
- been disappointed that charm isn't on his list (as it makes more sense for how I envisioned a charisma-based magical trickster)
- mostly used prestidigitation token spell to make people happy (except the one time I scared them by distracting them so I could sneak under the ship table and pop up into my chair; I didn't expect to succeed that well or for most of them to get that frightened), and that one that lets me breathe and have a safe environment in various conditions/locations as a party-trick to sink under the water for a long time
- chatted about things a lot

In the other game, we had:
- an envoy
- a solarian

... so not enough significant experience with magic to say, there, either.

And I'll need significant experience and deep system dives to intelligently comment on the current system, much less how I'd expand or alter it. You've got to consider items, resistances, saves, (de)buffs, and all that jazz, not to mention current design philosophy that has taken (in some ways good) steps away from older editions. That needs more internalization from me, before I start adding.

There's also the problem that several lacking spells either cause problems with the setting as-presented (somewhat mitigated if you presume usually-low-level - or at least low enough to to care -; I don't have enough setting data to know if that's presumed, and SF is fundamentally a setting as much as it is a system) or don't really fit the flavor of the setting (though simulacrum, for example, can be re-flavored as some sort of ooze-based cloning system, or something).

Also, despite being a favorite, stuff like polymorph any object is something that bothers me in PF, as presented, not because it's bad, but because it (again) displays a movement away from my preferences as both a designer, a GM, and a player - going further into SF, I don't know how the Devs would presume to handle such things.

(Again, I heart lots about SF. I'm being frank because we're discussing what we would change, and the context of 9th level casters.)

If they end up bringing in 9th level casters, I'll likely be pretty happy (in theory - I have to see if they hold up in practice), but as for how I'd do it, it has no bearing, and my input isn't particularly useful in this regard - the design team has long ago left my magical-style rules particulars and sensibilities in the dust (not to mention my strong preference for point-based/psionic systems being effectively verboten for, what I consider, a very deeply held false belief/misunderstanding of the rules system), which means magic just... isn't a thing I can comment on, yet, except to say that, given the system's design, I do like the current classes, and would not be opposed to 9th level casters in theory.

All that said... my earlier comment was mostly to oppose the idea that 9th level casters are terrible and should feel terrible as a principle - at least, oppose it insomuch as my opinion matters.

They are not terrible, and should not feel terrible.

While it is a truth worth acknowledging that they can cause problems in the games of many, I've always enjoyed having them in my games when I run, and I love playing them when I play. If they enter the realm of SF, they're going to have to go through some restructuring, and presuppose that many of their more powerful elements are going to be held by 6th casters; in other words, "Summoner"-design holds the day, here, and that's not necessarily a bad thing (especially as it's more balanced in the system over-all). But 9th level casting can have its place.

As Dan Batchelor noted, their god-tier abilities have currently been reduced by... literally removing them, and as baggageboy indicated, a full caster would need spells that go all day long.

I did design a PrC that might live up to that potential (based off the mystic theurge; it goes up to 6th level spells, but not 9th level), but, as always, it requires work to get into, and I'm not sure if anyone wants that in SF.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Ikiry0 wrote:
That and you'd have economy issues if you allowed spell-casters to go 'I don't ever need a gun' as guns are an expensive part of your WBL.

I'm going to disagree with this.

From everything I've seen, because of the kind of multiple redundant restrictions on items inherent in the system, you can dump tons of "cash" on your players and never worry that they're too over-powered.

"WBL" is really not that important when you can't rely on anything more than one level above yours ever being available to purchase, and while those can make a difference, the class abilities make just as big an impact or more than if you've got a your-level or a your-level+1 weapon in most situations.

Ikiry0 wrote:
A Solarian without any crystals is in a very sad place, as a whole.

This, however, is very true. You do need stuff. WBL just isn't that important, as a limiting factor, from my experiences so far.


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This ^. Also nothing says that a full casters equivalent of a weapon or frequent casting needs to be as strong as weapons. Ideally they would have enough spell casting to get through most of the day using their spells wisely and have something that would be equivalent to a crappy small arm.


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Firstly, I refuse to stand by a class that pushes a separation between magic and technology on principle. So I disagree with anybody recommending that a lack of tech items or cybernetics should be a balancing point.

Secondly, the chassis would need to be rebuilt. In PF, low attack bonus is not an issue since touch AC is very low. In SF, 1/2 BAB is unlikely to cut it against the comparatively much higher EAC. Thus, making somebody who can hit with spells but cannot effectively use a weapon in order to conserve spells requires accuracy boosters applied only to spells. Which may result in the class being primarily a dip for other casters more suitable to the general form of scenarios.


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*cough* Without spending too much time in the weeds ( and bluntly, anybody who says that one class *should* be notably more powerful than another? Is wrong, flat out )?

1. A lot of the issues people have with full casters seem like they are dependent on having all the spells available all the time. Even a PF wizard has to choose which spells to memorize, and so theoretically being able to cast a "clear a social encounter" spell doesn't do any good if you haven't actually memorized it.

Starfinder goes even farther, in just flat out not using memorization at all, and putting a fairly hard cap on the number of different spells a spellcaster knows. So, no, a 9-level caster following those guidelines is not going to be able to Do Everything. They'll have to make hard choices, just like every other class.

( If you want to keep the "broad capacity" element for Space Wizards, best way would be to have a class ability that lets you cast spells from a proverbial spellbook. . . as a form of extended ritual casting. So you have a whole bunch more spells available. . . as long as your willing to deal with casting times like "ten minutes" or "one hour". )

2. If individual spells are the problem, its probably because those individual spells are broken, not that 9-level casters are. Maybe the problem with Time Stop is, well, Time Stop? Etc.


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
steven lawson wrote:
It has always been that a 9th Level caster has a spell for every situation and could potentially neutralize any encounter before it can begin. This is usually the main complaint I see when people tell stories of how the Wizard trivialized the encounter, it's not because he landed a critical Fireball into the monsters face.

That would seem to be more of an issue with prepared (vice spontaneous) spellcasters than with 9-level (vice 6-level) spellcasters. I have never heard of sorcerers being able to do this even though they may actually have more raw blasting power than wizards of the same level.


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In my opinion, adding 7th-9th level spells and the classes that use them would just ruin Starfinder. Each class has a list of roles that they excel at, and aside from a few select things (Computers skill for Technomancer and Mechanic, damage output for most of the classes, etc.) they don't really step on each others' toes.

While I've got my share of issues with the system, one of the things I love is that they avoided the Linear Warrior, Quadratic Wizard trope to the best of their ability. The stealthy character isn't being pushed aside by the Wizard just because the Wizard can turn invisible, the heavy-hitting guy isn't being overshadowed by the Cleric gating in something that could challenge the whole party by itself, the berserker with multiple attacks isn't being outclassed by the self-buffing wild-shaping Druid...

Even if they were to add full casters to Starfinder, there would be a ton of issues with it.
* For one, they'd likely have more spells available (both in variety and spell slots) than the Technomancer and Mystic to accommodate the extra spell levels.
** That also means 9th level caster would need to get their new spell levels earlier than Technomancers and Mystics would, which leads to another problem: any spells that the classes share would either be horribly unbalanced due to a full caster getting them much earlier than intended, or they'd have to be reworked to fit the full caster's progression in which case they'd be too weak for the character level that Technomancers and Mystics finally get them.
*** The only other alternative to this would be for the developers to create an entirely new full-caster spell list from scratch just so they can make the spell progression more suitable to what the other casters get.
* In compensation for the greater spell access, they'd have to strip away a lot of class features so they aren't overloaded. Most likely this would also include lowering the class' BAB and proficiencies, making it harder for them to contribute at all in situations when their spells aren't of any use.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see additional classes added to Starfinder. But full casters are not the type of additions that a sci-fi fantasy setting needs.


The problem with 7-9 is that it puts a focus on the casting, and this is a world of Sci-fantasy. In that kind of setting, the focus is rarely on the actual spellcasting-and if there is a character who is just focused on that, he/she is usually the strongest one in the bunch. It just doesnt work as well in the setting, plus is too strong.

Plus, when you really look at what we have in starfinder, the spellcasting has a pretty even spread from 1-6. If you were to add spells higher than 6, they'd have to be stronger than 6th level spells.

Chain Surge-13d12 of damage
Disintegrate-14d20 of damage
Mind Thrust-17d10 of damage+fatigue/exhaustion
Mystic Cure-20d8 plus possible resurrection

Not much space to go up on some of those.


Starfinder Superscriber

Similar to another discussion on a like subject, to me it just comes down to there logically HAVING to be a completely magic focussed class.

There has to simply be someone in the universe who said to themself "I'm going to just focus on magic, nothing else."

What does that person look like? If you told me that at level 14, they have the casting ability of a level 20 Technomancer, and then hit a wall and can't move beyond it, and then start getting other abilities (and a 3/4 or full bab), I can live with that. The provides an "In Setting" reason and mechanic for there being no full casters. Or that full casters ultimately hit the same limit as a 6 level caster and then have to broaden their studies. But there being no one anywhere who ignores everything to focus on magic breaks my immersion. Someone, somewhere, just does magic.

I actually really like that though as a potential compromise. That provides the pure casting during the important parts, without getting overpowered later and would be fairly easy to balance. It could even be a variant for the existing magic classes. Hmmm.


KapaaIan wrote:

What does that person look like? If you told me that at level 14, they have the casting ability of a level 20 Technomancer, and then hit a wall and can't move beyond it, and then start getting other abilities (and a 3/4 or full bab), I can live with that. The provides an "In Setting" reason and mechanic for there being no full casters. Or that full casters ultimately hit the same limit as a 6 level caster and then have to broaden their studies. But there being no one anywhere who ignores everything to focus on magic breaks my immersion. Someone, somewhere, just does magic.

I actually really like that though as a potential compromise. That provides the pure casting during the important parts, without getting overpowered later and would be fairly easy to balance. It could even be a variant for the existing magic classes. Hmmm.

Isn't that...a technomancer? Since you can't have a lower BAB or a higher spellcasting in the system?


Starfinder Superscriber

Not at all. A technomancer and Mystic never are totally magic focussed.

My primary point was, if I am a newly ensouled android, and I decide to focus on the study of nothing but magic, what does that look like both from a setting/story standpoint and a mechanics standpoint? Some have theorized that something to do with the gap has removed the ability for beings not from a different plane to normally be able to harness those energies, but that doesn't mean that no one is trying.

If the 6th level spell limit is a function of the setting/gap, then you could say there would be two very crude ways of approximating a level 20 technomancer in Pathfinder (just from a BAB and Spell standpoint, ignore class abilities for this).

One would be Bard 20. 3/4 BAB and 6 level spells.

The other would be a Wizard 11, Fighter 9. Ends up being 6 levels of spells, and (approximately) 3/4 BAB.

The first of these technomancers is someone who from day one went out to be a technomancer. Studied weapons, and magic. Well rounded.

The second is a person who studied magic to the exclusion of virtually everything else, then hit a wall, and went to learn to fight. Also well rounded, but wasn't at first.

I'm fine with there being a wall, but I want to take second path.


KapaaIan wrote:
My primary point was, if I am a newly ensouled android, and I decide to focus on the study of nothing but magic, what does that look like both from a setting/story standpoint and a mechanics standpoint? Some have theorized that something to do with the gap has removed the ability for beings not from a different plane to normally be able to harness those energies, but that doesn't mean that no one is trying.

Do you also want a class that doesn't advance BAB or hit points but just raises skills? As that sounds more or less the same category of things. Even pathfinder wizards increased in BAB and saves as they levelled, not just magic. It's the nature of class-based system.

Having a class that goes to 6th level magic faster than a technomancer but then halts any magic progression would also be utter hell to try and balance form a game design perspective.

The Mystic and Technomancer are both pretty damn magical focused, everything they get is in support of being a spellslinger and they have the lowest BAB in the game. Making a 'More magic focused' class would be like making a 'More magic focused wizard' because they are literally the most magical classes in the setting right now.


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The BAB of the mystic and technomancer are the same as most of the other classes. Only solders and solarians have full BAB with the exomechanic approximating a full BAB. You could easily build a class that is magic focussed and balanced. Give the class 1/2 BAB but give it a feature that makes it a full BAB when targeting with spells. Then give it more castings per day as that will be its really only way to contribute in combat. Give it access to something like the eternal spell technomancer hack, probably ealier and maybe let it apply to second level spells at higher levels. It's not a hard thing to build, one would just want to be careful with the balance aspect. There should still be a reason to be a technomancer or mystic. Hopefully the complete uselessness outside of spells would offset the extra spell power.

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