Common Ground

Friday, July 13, 2018

When it comes to using game rules to simulate a fantasy setting, one thing that's always been in the background in Pathfinder has been the idea that certain monsters, types of armor, and so on are more common in some areas than in others. For instance, Pathfinder First Edition's rules for the Knowledge skill rely on the fact that some monsters are more commonly known, though it doesn't really define which are which. Meanwhile, there are circumstances such as the spell Echean's excellent enclosure from Rival Guide where knowledge of a spell is closely guarded by its creator (in this case, an evil 20th-level wizard).

To make it easier for players and GMs to engage in worldbuilding, whether playing in Golarion or your own setting, we've created a formalized framework for the Pathfinder Playtest—using the categories common, uncommon, rare, and unique—that you can use to help determine the tone of a setting, region, or adventure. These are relative terms; while we list suggested rarities for various rules elements, they naturally vary from place to place even within the same campaign setting. For instance, in the playtest, a longsword is listed as common, and a katana is listed as uncommon, but in a game focused around Japanese fantasy (or, in Golarion, Minkai or Minkai-influenced nations in Tian Xia), a katana would be common and a longsword might be uncommon.

Common

Something is common if it's ubiquitous in its category, like any of the core races and core classes, longswords, fireball, bracers of armor, and the like. All characters can select common options without restriction.

Uncommon

Something is uncommon if it's a little rarer, but still possible to find or use if you are deeply interested in it. These options are a bit weirder, more complicated, or known to fewer people, so they haven't spread across the world as much. Many uncommon options explicitly become available to a character as they proceed along a path that teaches them about that option. For instance, all domain powers in the playtest are uncommon spells, but clerics are granted access to domain powers through their deities. Characters from a given region, ethnicity, religion, or other group in your world might gain access to uncommon options associated with it. To go back to our previous example, even in a game set in the Inner Sea region of Golarion, if your character hailed from Minkai in her background, you and the GM might decide that you should gain access to Eastern weapons instead of, or in addition to, Western ones.

Story events in your game are another way a character could gain access to uncommon options. For instance, Stephen previously mentioned in the blog on alchemical items that you would have to get the formula for drow sleep poison from the drow; it's an uncommon option. But in your campaign, if your alchemist was captured by the drow and forced to brew poisons for them, the GM might add drow sleep poison and other uncommon options to the formulas available to your alchemist! Uncommon options make amazing rewards to find in adventures, and they can be found at a much higher rate than rare options, since they are more common in the world.

Rare

Something is rare if it's extremely difficult to obtain without doing something special in-world to find it. This means that rare options involve interplay between the player and the GM, or are granted by the GM directly. There's no way to get access to these through choices in your character build alone. Rare options are spells known only to the ancient runelords, techniques passed down by the grandmaster of an ancient monastery in the Wall of Heaven mountains, golem-crafting secrets of the Jistka Imperium, and the like.

Unique

Something is unique if there's only one. Most artifacts are unique, as are certain monsters, like the Sandpoint Devil or Grendel. No artifacts appear in the Playtest Rulebook, so in the playtest only a few Doomsday Dawn monsters and hazards are unique.

Uses of Rarity

So how is this system useful to you?

Worldbuilding and Emulating Genres

First of all, your group can really alter the flavor and feel of the game by changing around the commonness of certain elements, allowing for a wide variety of genre play and settings through a relatively simple system. This is a big tool in your toolkit for worldbuilding. What would a world be like where the wizard was uncommon, or where all healing magic was rare? You can create a new subgenre or setting simply by shifting around the assumptions of what elements are common, uncommon, and rare. The rarities in the Playtest Rulebook are meant to show a good baseline for a typical Pathfinder campaign and make for a solid default if you're not straying to far from classic fantasy, but I can't wait until people start posting their modified schemes for all sorts of different concepts, from prehistoric to horror, and from low-magic (all magic is uncommon or rare) to super high fantasy mash-up (everything is common!).

Mechanical Diversity without Cognitive Overload

While some groups go for a kitchen sink approach to available options, many groups want to allow options from other books but are tend to stick to the core content because of the sheer mental load of learning, using, and preparing for all of those options, especially on the GM. With rarity, you have a framework for adding more material without just opening the fire hose: you start with common content (for a new group, probably the things labeled as common in the book) and you expand into mastering uncommon and rare content only as it appears in your game. If a particular rare spell hasn't shown up in the game, you don't have to worry about how it might interact with your character's build or your NPC's plot in the same way you might otherwise. A player can bring some desired uncommon or rare options to the GM, who can get a feel for the rules involved and decide when and how to introduce those options to the campaign. If the PC is interested in spells and items from ancient Osirion, perhaps the PCs find a new quest that takes them there, or is contacted by an Osirionologist NPC who's willing to trade her Osirian secrets for the PCs' help with a different adventure.

We love games with plenty of options, but we also want to consider fans who've told us that though they love new options, they started becoming overwhelmed by just how many options there are in Pathfinder First Edition. With the rarity system, you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

Awesome Rewards

One thing that can be tough in Pathfinder First Edition is giving a reward to a PC whose player has already looked up all the options and bought or crafted all the items they really want, learned all the spells they really want, and so on, even if some of those items and spells really seemed like they wouldn't be available on the open market. Rarity allows a GM to give rewards that aren't easily available without needing to homebrew a brand new item or ability every time, and allows players who gain rarer options to feel special and important.

When you emerge from a Thassilonian tomb with a rare spell few have seen in millennia, wizards' guilds might start salivating over that knowledge. Will you keep it to yourself? Will you sell it to select wizards for a pretty penny? Will you spread the knowledge to all who desire it, possibly making the spell uncommon or even common in your setting? Or will you keep it to yourself to show off for the spellcasters you meet who have never heard of it? Only you can decide, giving you the power to make a permanent mark on the setting.

So how are you most excited to use the new rarity system?

Mark Seifter
Designer

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Tags: Pathfinder Playtest
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Deadmanwalking wrote:
BryonD wrote:
Whatever. It is a good way to manage "things". But it is a DM tool and not a mechanic. I think making it official is just kinda weird.

It's a mechanic because it interacts with mechanics. For example, we know that Druids are still prepared casters, but instead of being able to prepare any Druid spell (including all the obscure ones that make no sense) they are now only able to prepare Common ones by default (they could presumably gain access to others in various ways like anyone else).

That's a mechanic. And a very relevant one.

You've dodged the point I made.

If this was rolled out as a spell list modification for classes which can prepare any listed spell (such as druids and clerics), then ok, I'll bite.

But, as with resonance, they have taken a solution to a corner case issue which has been tolerable for literally decades, and applied it as a universal system into parts of the game that don't remotely need it.


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Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Many years ago when I ran a D&D 3.5 campaign for people new to gaming, I told the players "anything from the Player's Handbook is fine, but I'll need to look at stuff from other official books to make sure they're balanced before I allow them in." For the first several months, everything was fine, but as they slowly discovered the path of the power gamer, I got asked more and more often to look at various feats, spells, equipment, etc., more and more often. It got to the point where I was literally getting several e-mails a week between sessions and it was even causing me stress at work.

So when I started Rise of the Runelords, I did the opposite: full inclusion of anything that wasn't 3rd party. That has saved me a lot of time, but I suppose, predictably, has led to several overpowered PCs in the party that have made many challenges trivial.

So in sum, I see this rule as a really nice way to save me the constant cognitive load of saying "that's in, that's out." It also makes the reveal of treasure exciting, because it allows for the disbursement of cool rare items that PCs can't just buy for themselves.


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I like the idea that Deity specific spells might be more obscure and difficult to ID by anybody not familiar with that religion. There could be similar for particular Arcane colleges who developed their own spells, e.g. Jatembe's Magaambyan arcane college. Basically the same for obscure race's/ancestries' 'racial spells' etc.

EDIT: This gets back to disparity of "Core Race" common classification and actual Golarion rarity of Elves, "Elf spells" would be Common...
unless as band-aid they arbitrarily classify all Elf spells as rare. (obviously if you are an Elf, Elf spells are Common for you)

Although that gets into general aspect...
A race can be Common, a class can be common, but wouldn't the combination of X Class * Y Race make that particular subset Uncommon or Rare?


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I like this system a lot. It should cut down on some of the absurdity of players combining tons of options that make no sense, and also amend some of the confusion when a splatbook implies but doesn't require that a spell or a feat or whatever is limited to such-and-such group, or how to have something in the game intended for use by an enemy group and not PCs without restrictions that look scummy OOC.


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Mark Seifter wrote:

\Aroden's Victory

Requirement: You must be Aroden to cast this spell
Effect: You win.

This just in:

Mark revealed the secret of what really happened to Aroden!


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Jhaeman wrote:

Many years ago when I ran a D&D 3.5 campaign for people new to gaming, I told the players "anything from the Player's Handbook is fine, but I'll need to look at stuff from other official books to make sure they're balanced before I allow them in." For the first several months, everything was fine, but as they slowly discovered the path of the power gamer, I got asked more and more often to look at various feats, spells, equipment, etc., more and more often. It got to the point where I was literally getting several e-mails a week between sessions and it was even causing me stress at work.

So when I started Rise of the Runelords, I did the opposite: full inclusion of anything that wasn't 3rd party. That has saved me a lot of time, but I suppose, predictably, has led to several overpowered PCs in the party that have made many challenges trivial.

So in sum, I see this rule as a really nice way to save me the constant cognitive load of saying "that's in, that's out." It also makes the reveal of treasure exciting, because it allows for the disbursement of cool rare items that PCs can't just buy for themselves.

I don't think this will stop the power gamers, unless common is relegated to core-only, because presumably anything that they print they presumably think is reasonably balanced. But the rarity system won't prevent things from slipping through the cracks or unbalanced combos getting through. All it does is gate certain things, mostly based on region, religion, ancestry or faction/organization. And if those categories drove balance problems in 1e, maybe this would be right, but I feel like it wasn't the case, afaik.


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Even though this is mostly a GM's tool, I have to say this is a very important GM tool. Like if you had no experience with Rise of the Runelords, there's no way you would know that Blood Money was not supposed to be a generally available spell, particularly if you found it by reading spell lists on some SRD somewhere.

Like if we want the GM to be able to allow options from books they have not personally read, we need something like this.


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BryonD wrote:
Whatever. It is a good way to manage "things". But it is a DM tool and not a mechanic. I think making it official is just kinda weird.

Agreed. If the presentation of this is as an "optional" ranking system or something for the benefit of DMs who might find it a streamlined way of setting up some guidelines for their campaigns, that's one thing. But the blog makes it sound as if in PF2 this is going to be a mechanic (or for those who don't seem to like that term being applied to it, another TRAIT to be applied to weapons, armor, items, spells, and other things), then it seems like overreach to me in a revision that had as one of its goals rules simplification.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Cthulhudrew wrote:
then it seems like overreach to me in a revision that had as one of its goals rules simplification.

For some of us, this IS simplification.

Liberty's Edge

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BryonD wrote:
You've dodged the point I made.

No, I clarified the factual error that this was 'not a mechanic'. It's a mechanic. It may not be one you like, but it sure is one.

I also disagree with your general point, but that's a pure opinion thing so I thought I'd just address the factual error.

BryonD wrote:

If this was rolled out as a spell list modification for classes which can prepare any listed spell (such as druids and clerics), then ok, I'll bite.

But, as with resonance, they have taken a solution to a corner case issue which has been tolerable for literally decades, and applied it as a universal system into parts of the game that don't remotely need it.

I strongly disagree. The problem applies to Archetypes, Classes, Spells, Magic Items, Feats...really you name it.

Dervish Dance, for example, is thematically intended to be very specific, but is so mechanically useful it is often taken in ways and by characters that make no sense in-universe. Ditto Butterfly Sting. Ditto...well, a lot of things really. Being able to say 'Those are Uncommon, you need to explain how you learned that.' is a huge boon to GMs who care about preserving the flavor of the world in regards to things like that.

If you're willing to reflavor things (as I often am), you can also do that easily enough, but there's much less 'I am entitled to pick this thing that makes no sense'. It gives the GM some moral authority to restrict player choices down to a meaningful number without being 'the bad guy', as well as allowing better calibration of game expectations and aiding in the clearer communication of same.

For example, my usual game probably falls under something like this if converted:

"Common stuff is all allowed, no more than one Uncommon Ancestry character, Uncommon Classes are all allowed, and you can probably have one or two other Uncommon choices with a backstory justification. Common magic items are all available, Uncommon ones are available in big cities. Individual Rare things may be available, request something specific and we'll talk."

My long-term players and I have a decent rapport, so I don't need to say this to them for them to get a decent idea of how my games work, but I don't even know how I'd impart that information to a new player in PF1. In PF2, I just did it in three sentences. That's priceless as a communication aid.


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dragonhunterq wrote:
gwynfrid wrote:
Most importantly, it's forward-looking: It covers not only the present books, but the ones that will be published during the course of the game.
I don't get this. In my games something is either available or it isn't. I will limit things according to theme far more often than how powerful they are (assuming that in general the more rare the item the more powerful it is).

First, nothing in the blog says that the more rare something is, the more powerful. That may or may not be the case.

You're free to limit by theme if you want. But then, that responds to a different need: A need for world-building consistency. There's no contradiction with the goal of this blog, which is to restrict access in ways that are simple to understand, and easy for the GM to tweak as needed.

MerlinCross wrote:
gwynfrid wrote:

You're saying this as an experienced GM. There's also a decent number of beginner GMs that don't have the time or expertise to do this organically. Even for me as a fairly seasoned GM, I find this mechanic very convenient as a shortcut for party creation, then leveling. Instead of listing a whole bunch of books that are accepted / banned in my game, I can just say, for example: You get unlimited access to Common options, and up to 2 Uncommon ones provided your backstory justifies them in some way; more will become available during the course of the campaign. This saves me quite a bit of work (and debate time, too, with certain types of players).

Most importantly, it's forward-looking: It covers not only the present books, but the ones that will be published during the course of the game.

I'm experienced yes but I wouldn't call myself an expert or smart when it comes to things. I goof on any number of things but this seems like something that didn't need to be codified. At worst, it's a way of saying "I might let you get this if you're good" from the DM being actually written into the rules.

Take that party creation a step further. I rule, as a group, 1 Uncommon race or Class. Who gets its? Who dislikes the fact they didn't get it? And you will STILL have those certain players arguing with you, because we have them now. I don't see putting an extra hurdle stop them. I can see this stopping some characters or ideas dead in their tracks or making them a harder sell now(Hey can I have this? "I don't know it's Rare and Rare tier has busted stuff so no")

And about moving forward; If I know half the stuff in a book is going to be Uncommon or Rare, I'll not pick it up. That stuff is borderline restricted from the word go now.

For every beginner DM, I can see Bad players or DMs either not caring about this or using it to impede builds they just don't like. This however is something we can only see after it happens so we can probably just drop that line of thought though.

Or course, players who argue with you will always argue with you. But now, the arguing terrain will be much simpler: Common vs Uncommon, or number of Uncommon elements. Period. Compare this to discussing every single book, or, in the worst cases, every single spell, item, or feat. Besides, the Common mechanic is backed by the Core rules, so it sounds much less like GM fiat than saying "sorry, not this book."

I wouldn't tell my players, 1 Uncommon thing among the entire group. That would cause conflict between players. I'd say, you get one each, of your choice.

Bottom line: This is a highly simplified restriction mechanic. It's completely flexible, as the GM can decide to classify stuff differently than the Core rules. It will be hated by power gamers, but then, I see that as a feature, not a bug. If as a GM one prefers universal access to everything, no problem: This is a pretty easy thing to houserule out.

Dark Archive

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What should be the price difference for a common spell and a rare spell. is the Rare spell 10x the price of the common spell of the same level?


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Cthulhudrew wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:

\Aroden's Victory

Requirement: You must be Aroden to cast this spell
Effect: You win.

This just in:

Mark revealed the secret of what really happened to Aroden!

Yeah, he forgot to prepare his spells for the day.

Liberty's Edge

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brad2411 wrote:
What should be the price difference for a common spell and a rare spell. is the Rare spell 10x the price of the common spell of the same level?

I'm pretty sure Rare stuff is mostly not for sale. They are the secret trick of this particular guy or small group rather than the sort of thing that gets sold on the open market.

That's sort of the point.


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Wizard has 2-3 Rare spells.

What's his CR now?


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So is this going to reduce the number of Paladins who were abandoned in the woods and the number of Maguses who summered in Minata looking for spells?

I mean, these specific options likely weren't going to make it into PF2 anyway, but I stuff like it might otherwise.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

ThePuppyTurtle wrote:
JoelF847 wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
Cantriped wrote:
Voss wrote:
But it doesn't explain why there would suddenly be spare katanas hanging around in vampire crypts (or whatever) in the middle of Ustalav, or in Aztlanti ruins, or... (etc, etc)
You wouldn't need there to be. At most you'll need four katanas during the course of your career (unless there is magic to obviate the eventual desire for a legendary katana). Weapons from the dungeon are valuable because the Potency and other Runes they hold can be transfered to your Katana, and the remaining salvage sold to fund your fondness for exotic weaponry.
You can actually reforge your weapon at a higher quality too.
Yuck, not a fan. I can understand melting down your weapon and using the sentinmental metal from your dad's sword in a new one, but that's essentially making a new sword and having a bit of cool background flavor. I hope you can't "reforge" an expert sword into a legendary one at some reduced cost.
The inability to do so has a serious negative side effect: If you can choose to either upgrade now or wait until you can afford a better upgrade, you're much better off just toughing it out if you can and saving up for something you'll buy in a few levels. And of course by the time you get there, you'll be just a few levels away from the next thing. The result of this is that you want to buy gear as seldom as possible if that gear will be something you could get to a better version of by waiting.

So like real life you mean? I buy a cheap table at Walmart because I need a table now. Later, when I can afford a much nicer table, I can't subtract the price of my cheap table from the nice high end furniture store table I want, nor can I somehow salvage the parts of my old table and use it to make a higher quality table cheaper than making a new table from scratch. My old table is cheap, it's component parts aren't really useful to make a high quality table.

Why should it be any different for magic items? Or for non-magic items which are a higher quality tier? That pig iron sword you had at 1st level just isn't going to be useful to make a meteorite high carbon steel sword of Master quality.

Liberty's Edge

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MerlinCross wrote:

Wizard has 2-3 Rare spells.

What's his CR now?

The same. Rarity doesn't make something mechanically superior. Just rarer.

Rarer things that PCs go actively looking to acquire are probably mechanically good, but it sounds like rarity is irrelevant in terms of how powerful things are designed to be.

PossibleCabbage wrote:

So is this going to reduce the number of Paladins who were abandoned in the woods and the number of Maguses who summered in Minata looking for spells?

I mean, these specific options likely weren't going to make it into PF2 anyway, but I stuff like it might otherwise.

Yeah, I'd imagine it will more firmly place this sort of thing under the GM's discretion (which doesn't mean it won't come up...I actually had a player create a Paladin raised by the Fey without Fey Foundling in a game, being a kindly soul I pointed the Feat out to him, but he made the background before knowing of its existence).

I could easily see PFS having a rule that limits characters to one or two Uncommon choices for free with additional ones being on Chronicle sheets or available as boons, or something like that.


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brad2411 wrote:
What should be the price difference for a common spell and a rare spell. is the Rare spell 10x the price of the common spell of the same level?

Rare spells probably wouldn't be offered for sale in the first place, and even if someone wanted to - they likely wouldn't know how to price it because there isn't an easy comparison for its value.

If it was something that was just discovered and put to sale (i.e. we found this scroll in a hidden tomb containing a spell we've never seen before), it would probably go into an auction for the highest bidder. There's no telling what the final price will end up as, since it would depend on who's interested and how much they're willing to offer - which could actually make for a very interesting RP scene.


As someone spoke of guns here, I wish to see them at least in the final PF2 CRB (as for the playtest the ship seems to have had sailed), at the very least the earlier ones even as an uncommon rarity.

Liberty's Edge

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Lucas Yew wrote:
As someone spoke of guns here, I wish to see them at least in the final PF2 CRB (as for the playtest the ship seems to have had sailed), at the very least the earlier ones even as an uncommon rarity.

This will simply not happen. They've specified they want a focused playtest on gun rules before printing them, so guns are not going to be in the corebook.


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
dragonhunterq wrote:

I am conflicted.

I feel I should like this more than I do.
I know some people disapprove of the practice, but there are also many who like to know where they are going mechanically and for them this will make planning characters more challenging.

As a referee I've always felt disappointed when players have a planned build out to a massively high level and can't be swayed from those choices no matter what comes up in the campaign or what the rest of the party is like.

I know its not the intent but if someone walks into my campaign at level 1 with a planned build and item shopping list all the way out to level 20 or similar, it feels like they are making a statement that nothing in my campaign (or in anything other players do) could be interesting enough for them to let it influence their character's choices.

I think this system gives a nice compromise - people who want to plan ahead know they can rely on at least the common stuff being available but there's a sense that accepting some unpredictability and engaging with the campaign will earn more interesting or potent rewards.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:

Wizard has 2-3 Rare spells.

What's his CR now?

The same. Rarity doesn't make something mechanically superior. Just rarer.

Rarer things that PCs go actively looking to acquire are probably mechanically good, but it sounds like rarity is irrelevant in terms of how powerful things are designed to be.

"You mean to tell me that a Rare spell I get at the end of a dungeon slog isn't going to be better than something I can pick up for a few gold from the local wise man?" - Irate player.

Why yes there is a difference between Rare because reasons(This Ice Spell is rare because it's the middle of the desert) and Rare because good(Hello Time Stop).

But forgive me if I don't expect some pretty clear power spells being locked into Rare. And since base game gives them a rarity and difficulty of getting, much like gear, I see no reason to not expect what spells a creature has fully effecting their CR now. Or whatever they go with(It's just levels now right?).


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I mean, CR is not all encompassing. A level 20 wizard and a level 20 core rogue have the same CR in PF1. So there's no reason to expect there won't be a range of power levels in multiple dimensions within a given CR.


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Well, I actually liked it.
I'll have to wait and (re-)create my own world so I can see how much this is useful to world-building, but in the core setting's context, it's actually very useful to regulate stuff like spells, magic items and so on. So that a novice DM won't put a Vorpal Sword in sale at the magic items shop in a rural village. That happens to people more than it looks - it can happen with experienced DMs!
In any case, I can see why it's helpful: instead of climbing the wall, you have stairs. It gives a beginning for DMs ^^


PossibleCabbage wrote:
I mean, CR is not all encompassing. A level 20 wizard and a level 20 core rogue have the same CR in PF1. So there's no reason to expect there won't be a range of power levels in multiple dimensions within a given CR.

They're supposed to be, but one can argue with a bad spell list the wizard is CR 20 maybe 21, while someone leaning over to the "God Wizard" side of thinking can probably ratchet that up to stupid levels.

Still the CR mention was more to point out "Hey how strong are the Rare spells going to be". As I said there's a difference between Rare(Not here) and Rare(We limited this because it's so strong).

As an example, I can see Greater Teleport being assigned to Rare in the core rules. I can see Instant Summons, Greater being in there. Time Stop too and I can probably go on for days about what could Rare. Heck even Blood Magic. But against such big spells, what other... less effective spells could be assigned to Rare just because "Well no one practices them".

In my experience, Barbed Chains would be rare. Because no one has that spell, no one knows that spell, and no one uses that spell.

So yeah, I don't actually expect Rare spells effecting CR or things like that. But I do believe assigning them as "Rare" will have an effect on some players and GM.

Paizo Employee Designer

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MerlinCross wrote:
Deadmanwalking wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:

Wizard has 2-3 Rare spells.

What's his CR now?

The same. Rarity doesn't make something mechanically superior. Just rarer.

Rarer things that PCs go actively looking to acquire are probably mechanically good, but it sounds like rarity is irrelevant in terms of how powerful things are designed to be.

"You mean to tell me that a Rare spell I get at the end of a dungeon slog isn't going to be better than something I can pick up for a few gold from the local wise man?" - Irate player.

Why yes there is a difference between Rare because reasons(This Ice Spell is rare because it's the middle of the desert) and Rare because good(Hello Time Stop).

But forgive me if I don't expect some pretty clear power spells being locked into Rare. And since base game gives them a rarity and difficulty of getting, much like gear, I see no reason to not expect what spells a creature has fully effecting their CR now. Or whatever they go with(It's just levels now right?).

Uncommon and rare spells are not intended to be a power boost, no. There's not going to be like a "Logan's Awesomer Fireball" rare 3rd level fire spell that does twice as much damage as regular fireball. Common effects are powerful and efficient at what they do. Now, of course, whatever is uncommon in your game, even if you chose it by random dice rolling as an exercise when creating a new campaign setting (hmm, interesting creative exercise, might have to try that), the mere fact that something is harder to get makes it more meaningful in that setting, and the case could be made that it makes it more powerful because not everyone could get it, pretty much regardless of what the option is.

Here's an example: I'll pick something I don't think anyone would name on their list of "most powerful spells." Suppose that all magic that allows understanding languages is rare in your setting. This is not true in PF2, but let's say it is in your setting. Suddenly effects involving gaining languages or communicating relatively seem "more powerful" than they did before. But this happened as a natural result of the rarity, not because we picked something that people would have listed as more powerful otherwise.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Mark Seifter wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:

So is it possible for a spell to be unique? What would this mean exactly? I can think of a few possible meanings.

- the spell can only ever be cast once.
- the spell can only be known by one person in the universe at a time.
- there is only one copy of the spell, but if it's found and copied it ceases to be unique.

We certainly do not have a spell that is unique right now. While it's not something you would actually really need, I could see a unique spell like this (the main point is the requirement):

Aroden's Victory
Requirement: You must be Aroden to cast this spell
Effect: You win.

Just before Aroden died, he tried to cast this.

The murderer had already cast Aroden’s Spellbane.


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Mark Seifter wrote:

Uncommon and rare spells are not intended to be a power boost, no. There's not going to be like a "Logan's Awesomer Fireball" rare 3rd level fire spell that does twice as much damage as regular fireball. Common effects are powerful and efficient at what they do. Now, of course, whatever is uncommon in your game, even if you chose it by random dice rolling as an exercise when creating a new campaign setting (hmm, interesting creative exercise, might have to try that), the mere fact that something is harder to get makes it more meaningful in that setting, and the case could be made that it makes it more powerful because not everyone could get it, pretty much regardless of what the option is.

Here's an example: I'll pick something I don't think anyone would name on their list of "most powerful spells." Suppose that all magic that allows understanding languages is rare in your setting. This is not true in PF2, but let's say it is in your setting. Suddenly effects involving gaining languages or communicating relatively seem "more powerful" than they did before. But this happened as a natural result of the rarity, not because we picked something that people would have listed as more powerful otherwise.

And yet if Summon Creature 9 is actually a Rare spell, that's a power boost compared to Summon Creature 8 or lower that's stuck in Uncommon to Common. As an example that is. With the whole Actions and casting at higher spell levels, I do believe most "Level" spells are going to die out.

I don't expect every rare spell to be a power boost, though I do fully expect some spells that people have issues with(Anything that allows for Scry and Fry as an example) to be put into Rare by default. And if I'm rewarded a less than stellar Rare spell, well I feel my effort was wasted if said spell is never useful.

Say in your example I do reward someone with Comprehend Language. There, that's a big increase to their social powers... but I didn't change anything about how Linguistics skill works in my setting. 1-2 members of the party can cover from the lack of it and to the person I gave the spell to, that suddenly feels like "Thanks for playing" reward. Especially if the other spell caster got say "Control Weather". Okay that might be a VERY unfair comparison but if the other spell caster got something that's far more useful, then I'd be maybe a little peeved.

Simply getting a Rare thing as a reward isn't that nice if said thing ends up collecting dust. Spells, Feats, Magic items, etc. I'm not saying it has to be battle ending or "WOW this is so cool" but if the GM doesn't take steps to allow that reward to shine well, what was the point in giving it to the player in the first place?


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Mark Seifter wrote:
Here's an example: I'll pick something I don't think anyone would name on their list of "most powerful spells." Suppose that all magic that allows understanding languages is rare in your setting. This is not true in PF2, but let's say it is in your setting....

I love that example. I did exactly this in my very last 3.5 D&D campaign (before converting to Pathfinder). I removed Common (humans, half elves, and half orcs learned human automatically), and made Comprehend Languages, and Tongues Rare.

NPCs replaced 'common' with another appropriate language, which was almost never human unless they were actually human. PCs could replace common with any language, but I required everyone in the party share at least one language.

Ironically the result was that the party suddenly cared a lot more about trying to communicate with their enemies. There was no longer this assumption that everything speaks your tongue, and therefore is just willfully ignoring your attempts at diplomacy.


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Mark Seifter wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:
Deadmanwalking wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:

Wizard has 2-3 Rare spells.

What's his CR now?

The same. Rarity doesn't make something mechanically superior. Just rarer.

Rarer things that PCs go actively looking to acquire are probably mechanically good, but it sounds like rarity is irrelevant in terms of how powerful things are designed to be.

"You mean to tell me that a Rare spell I get at the end of a dungeon slog isn't going to be better than something I can pick up for a few gold from the local wise man?" - Irate player.

Why yes there is a difference between Rare because reasons(This Ice Spell is rare because it's the middle of the desert) and Rare because good(Hello Time Stop).

But forgive me if I don't expect some pretty clear power spells being locked into Rare. And since base game gives them a rarity and difficulty of getting, much like gear, I see no reason to not expect what spells a creature has fully effecting their CR now. Or whatever they go with(It's just levels now right?).

Uncommon and rare spells are not intended to be a power boost, no. There's not going to be like a "Logan's Awesomer Fireball" rare 3rd level fire spell that does twice as much damage as regular fireball. Common effects are powerful and efficient at what they do. Now, of course, whatever is uncommon in your game, even if you chose it by random dice rolling as an exercise when creating a new campaign setting (hmm, interesting creative exercise, might have to try that), the mere fact that something is harder to get makes it more meaningful in that setting, and the case could be made that it makes it more powerful because not everyone could get it, pretty much regardless of what the option is.

Here's an example: I'll pick something I don't think anyone would name on their list of "most powerful spells." Suppose that all magic that allows understanding languages is rare in your setting. This is not true in PF2, but let's say it is in your setting....

Honestly I expect to use this system mostly to explain away spells that would simply render coherent spellcasting in a setting hellish.

As an example. In my current 5e campaign there is some ridiculous power creep, to the extent where elite wizard troops with 7th level spells in a war zone isn't exactly unheard of, just rarish in their own right. But with the sheer number of people in something WW1 style, that's still a lot. Because of how much it affects the dynamic I've had to assume that the secrets of teleportation are remarkably rare, and that only a few tend to stumble upon them. E.g. PCs.

Using this kind of system teleportation wouldn't be calibrated as objectively stronger than common spells of the same level, but it can still be a setting disrupting level of important that gives PCs an edge for knowing it.


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Cantriped wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
Here's an example: I'll pick something I don't think anyone would name on their list of "most powerful spells." Suppose that all magic that allows understanding languages is rare in your setting. This is not true in PF2, but let's say it is in your setting....

I love that example. I did exactly this in my very last 3.5 D&D campaign (before converting to Pathfinder). I removed Common (humans, half elves, and half orcs learned human automatically), and made Comprehend Languages, and Tongues Rare.

NPCs replaced 'common' with another appropriate language, which was almost never human unless they were actually human. PCs could replace common with any language, but I required everyone in the party share at least one language.

Ironically the result was that the party suddenly cared a lot more about trying to communicate with their enemies. There was no longer this assumption that everything speaks your tongue, and therefore is just willfully ignoring your attempts at diplomacy.

Question though, did they pick up "Comprehend Languages" more as a spell/effect or did they put points into Linguistics if that was still an option?

This is slightly off topic but I've wondered how a game like that would work.

The point I was trying to make I can easily see people getting disappointed when getting something Uncommon or Rare that's actually not that good but the GM goes "But it's RARE, you should be happy" while giving the others far better or useful things.


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BryonD wrote:

Whatever. It is a good way to manage "things". But it is a DM tool and not a mechanic. I think making it official is just kinda weird.

It won't make any difference to me. I'll keep doing it more or less as described here only based on my own judgement. Just as I have for years now.

I predict that players who demand their DM give them things will find this makes is worse, not better. Currently there is no guidance so the DM can say whatever they want when a player demands something (and I'm assuming problem / demanding players because non-problem players don't need this "solution"). Now if it is uncommon the player will demand that the books affirms that it just takes enough searching around and if it is rare the problem player will say the DM owes them a quest to go get it.

Obviously the DM can just rule zero the item ranking. But the problem player will feel that much more slighted when the DM actively changes the written description from "rare" to "non-existent" than they will when something with no official guidance is simply not available.

The "reforge your weapon" thing makes me shudder a lot however. Yet another blow against focus on story.

It's certainly a very important thing to not have to constantly DM fiat. Currently, you have to go "no, not that option because X" every time they pick one.

My players would not really be considered as problem players or (except one) heavy min-maxers, yet I still have to deal with constant things like that - things theoretically restricted to a certain area or religion. If it cuts the number of questions of that sort that I have to deal with, it's a good addition for me.

Silver Crusade

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In PF 1st ed. I never used nor liked the random roll for minor, medium, and major available magic items in settlement stat blocks. GMG 204-209. Hopefully this new "commonality" system can replace much of that, as well as applying to more than spells. Perhaps a percentage based on rarity and settlement size.


I agree with Elleth.
There is much stuff that isn't all that powerful, PC wise, but would completely change the setting if they're commonly available. Teleportation spells are a terrific example. Even spells which grant you a magic mount can transform your quasi-medieval setting with Magical Pony Express. And let's not even talking of resurrection spells or even Wish. That last one can mean great destruction more than any other 9/10-th level spell.
In my games, anything related to the planes is very rare - especially the Astral stuff. Reaching the realms of deities and afterlife should be quite difficult (and I won't even talking about the whole "leaving your material possessions behind").

Silver Crusade

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Bruunwald wrote:

This seems a bit intrusive and a bit more unnecessary. Not as intrusive and unnecessary as forcing everybody to play in Golarion or spend hours separating it from the core rules like picking unwanted raisins from a chocolate chip cookie, but I digress.

It seems to me that rarity as relates to setting is something the GM can decide on his own, and for other uses, was perfectly serviced by a mention in a stat block.

Do we really need to service the pedantic and unsophisticated on such an intimate level? I remember when these games challenged you to be resourceful, creative, and to learn a little something along the way.

You know what doesn't challenge you to be resourceful? Being able to acquire every magic item at the Quick-e-Mart.


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ThePuppyTurtle wrote:
Bruunwald wrote:

This seems a bit intrusive and a bit more unnecessary. Not as intrusive and unnecessary as forcing everybody to play in Golarion or spend hours separating it from the core rules like picking unwanted raisins from a chocolate chip cookie, but I digress.

It seems to me that rarity as relates to setting is something the GM can decide on his own, and for other uses, was perfectly serviced by a mention in a stat block.

Do we really need to service the pedantic and unsophisticated on such an intimate level? I remember when these games challenged you to be resourceful, creative, and to learn a little something along the way.

You know what doesn't challenge you to be resourceful? Being able to acquire every magic item at the Quick-e-Mart.

"What do you mean, I cannot just buy a Ring of Three Wishes here? This store sells all sorts of magic items! Even the strongest Bag of Holding or something..."

"Well, you will have to work more to get the ultimate Reality Warper power for 3 uses."

Shadow Lodge

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I kind of like this, want to see how its actually presented in the core rule book, but it appears quite handy here. I can see how this might be rolled into settlement descriptors:

Hamlet (level 1-2 settlement): 75% likely to have any level 1-2 common items available. Unlikely to have uncommon items unless the hamlet contains an unusual NPC.

Small Village (level 5-6 settlement): level 1-6 common items and level 1-3 uncommon items are readily available, 50% chance of level 4-6 uncommon items usually associated with an unusual or powerful NPC in the village.

Sort of thing. Its all behind the screen, but players know its there, so doesnt need to be intrusive.

PC: any possibility i can find a katana here?
DM (rolls dice or just decides): why yes. After some info gathering and questions you hear rumors the blacksmith here is a foreigner from tian xia. Perhaps he can help.

Why hes here is something the DM can flesh out, maybe even link to a possible adventure.

PC seeks him out and asks if he can make him a katana.
DM: it is known to me. I can craft the weapons of my home, but what you ask is a weapon of the honourable. I will not place such a weapon in the hands of one not worthy. Why should i do this thing for you?


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Bruunwald wrote:

This seems a bit intrusive and a bit more unnecessary. Not as intrusive and unnecessary as forcing everybody to play in Golarion or spend hours separating it from the core rules like picking unwanted raisins from a chocolate chip cookie, but I digress.

It seems to me that rarity as relates to setting is something the GM can decide on his own, and for other uses, was perfectly serviced by a mention in a stat block.

Do we really need to service the pedantic and unsophisticated on such an intimate level? I remember when these games challenged you to be resourceful, creative, and to learn a little something along the way.

It's also modifiable by the GM for their setting, they're just giving a generic baseline. Now GMs don't have to go through the (soon to be) very expansive spell list and label each and every one of them if they have a base rarity, just the ones the GM would want to change. It also gives the GM a RAW reason why X or Y can't be found by the PCs when the min/maxer groans about not having [specific item/spell].


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
MerlinCross wrote:
Justin Franklin wrote:
I would think you would do it by region and then have a smaller list that was country or even city specific. Also if we are doing it by tag you could say in Osirian items tagged as Egyptian are common.

Possible but again at the same time, I don't want to look at an item and see a huge is of "Where it can be found" text glaring back at me.

I don't know maybe it's the laid back style I tend to do, the "handle it as it comes up and mark it down" rules/issues, or the fact my players come to me with questions about "Can I do/get X" which we'd talk it out. I also like giving rewards based around the character rather than "Here's your +3 new sword" well now "Here's your Rarity X reward".

At the end of the day though, this doesn't effect my table so all I can do is just shrug and wait for Monday. Though maybe just slap on a "This Setting may be changed due to DM" label near the front of books.

I would expect the tag to be something like Mwangi: Common, elsewhere Uncommon.

Establish an area where you commonly find it, and then say what the assumption is everywhere else.

As another example, Arkenstar would likely have firearms uncommon, everywhere else rare.

Silver Crusade

Igwilly wrote:
ThePuppyTurtle wrote:
Bruunwald wrote:

This seems a bit intrusive and a bit more unnecessary. Not as intrusive and unnecessary as forcing everybody to play in Golarion or spend hours separating it from the core rules like picking unwanted raisins from a chocolate chip cookie, but I digress.

It seems to me that rarity as relates to setting is something the GM can decide on his own, and for other uses, was perfectly serviced by a mention in a stat block.

Do we really need to service the pedantic and unsophisticated on such an intimate level? I remember when these games challenged you to be resourceful, creative, and to learn a little something along the way.

You know what doesn't challenge you to be resourceful? Being able to acquire every magic item at the Quick-e-Mart.

"What do you mean, I cannot just buy a Ring of Three Wishes here? This store sells all sorts of magic items! Even the strongest Bag of Holding or something..."

"Well, you will have to work more to get the ultimate Reality Warper power for 3 uses."

Let me clarify. RAW, the settlement stat blocks place an incredibly severe limit on what you can buy. Literally a handful of different items depending on where you are. That's so intrusive that, in my experience, people don't use it, and just make it anything goes because approving every individual purpose is far too much work for the GM.


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ThePuppyTurtle wrote:
Igwilly wrote:
ThePuppyTurtle wrote:
Bruunwald wrote:

This seems a bit intrusive and a bit more unnecessary. Not as intrusive and unnecessary as forcing everybody to play in Golarion or spend hours separating it from the core rules like picking unwanted raisins from a chocolate chip cookie, but I digress.

It seems to me that rarity as relates to setting is something the GM can decide on his own, and for other uses, was perfectly serviced by a mention in a stat block.

Do we really need to service the pedantic and unsophisticated on such an intimate level? I remember when these games challenged you to be resourceful, creative, and to learn a little something along the way.

You know what doesn't challenge you to be resourceful? Being able to acquire every magic item at the Quick-e-Mart.

"What do you mean, I cannot just buy a Ring of Three Wishes here? This store sells all sorts of magic items! Even the strongest Bag of Holding or something..."

"Well, you will have to work more to get the ultimate Reality Warper power for 3 uses."

Let me clarify. RAW, the settlement stat blocks place an incredibly severe limit on what you can buy. Literally a handful of different items depending on where you are. That's so intrusive that, in my experience, people don't use it, and just make it anything goes because approving every individual purpose is far too much work for the GM.

I speak of this as someone that knows they exist and as an experienced Gm.

But have you heard of apps/sites/programs that will auto roll you items to pick from for the settlements? I found one after a google search quite easily.

I will concede this is a point towards new players who haven't thought to look it up. Or even some players that don't play online as much as I do(I play a LOT of online so I tend to be very willing to just google search anything that makes things run smoother on me)


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Very happy with this.


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ThePuppyTurtle wrote:
Igwilly wrote:
ThePuppyTurtle wrote:
Bruunwald wrote:

This seems a bit intrusive and a bit more unnecessary. Not as intrusive and unnecessary as forcing everybody to play in Golarion or spend hours separating it from the core rules like picking unwanted raisins from a chocolate chip cookie, but I digress.

It seems to me that rarity as relates to setting is something the GM can decide on his own, and for other uses, was perfectly serviced by a mention in a stat block.

Do we really need to service the pedantic and unsophisticated on such an intimate level? I remember when these games challenged you to be resourceful, creative, and to learn a little something along the way.

You know what doesn't challenge you to be resourceful? Being able to acquire every magic item at the Quick-e-Mart.

"What do you mean, I cannot just buy a Ring of Three Wishes here? This store sells all sorts of magic items! Even the strongest Bag of Holding or something..."

"Well, you will have to work more to get the ultimate Reality Warper power for 3 uses."

Let me clarify. RAW, the settlement stat blocks place an incredibly severe limit on what you can buy. Literally a handful of different items depending on where you are. That's so intrusive that, in my experience, people don't use it, and just make it anything goes because approving every individual purpose is far too much work for the GM.

You are aware any item under the Base Value is available 75% of the time, right?

(I usually also allow things to be upgraded even if they'd exceed the base value - the Big Six are too important to block off like that - but I certainly do use the settlement rules.)


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ThePuppyTurtle wrote:


Let me clarify. RAW, the settlement stat blocks place an incredibly severe limit on what you can buy. Literally a handful of different items depending on where you are. That's so intrusive that, in my experience, people don't use it, and just make it anything goes because approving every individual purpose is far too much work for the GM.

Well, the current system obviously fails at what it was supposed to do. Rarity can be a much easier-to-implement one if done correctly.


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I genuinely would prefer to say "all common items are available" and to only worry about any uncommon items which are thematically or narratively appropriate than to have to roll or create full tables.

Silver Crusade

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Cyouni wrote:
ThePuppyTurtle wrote:
Igwilly wrote:
ThePuppyTurtle wrote:
Bruunwald wrote:

This seems a bit intrusive and a bit more unnecessary. Not as intrusive and unnecessary as forcing everybody to play in Golarion or spend hours separating it from the core rules like picking unwanted raisins from a chocolate chip cookie, but I digress.

It seems to me that rarity as relates to setting is something the GM can decide on his own, and for other uses, was perfectly serviced by a mention in a stat block.

Do we really need to service the pedantic and unsophisticated on such an intimate level? I remember when these games challenged you to be resourceful, creative, and to learn a little something along the way.

You know what doesn't challenge you to be resourceful? Being able to acquire every magic item at the Quick-e-Mart.

"What do you mean, I cannot just buy a Ring of Three Wishes here? This store sells all sorts of magic items! Even the strongest Bag of Holding or something..."

"Well, you will have to work more to get the ultimate Reality Warper power for 3 uses."

Let me clarify. RAW, the settlement stat blocks place an incredibly severe limit on what you can buy. Literally a handful of different items depending on where you are. That's so intrusive that, in my experience, people don't use it, and just make it anything goes because approving every individual purpose is far too much work for the GM.

You are aware any item under the Base Value is available 75% of the time, right?

(I usually also allow things to be upgraded even if they'd exceed the base value - the Big Six are too important to block off like that - but I certainly do use the settlement rules.)

Base values are normally very low compared to high-level PC's budgets. They don't go over 16,000 under normal circumstances: Too low for PCs over level 10 or so.


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It seems you are missing my point here. My point is that an adventuring party has very different needs from a fictional world. Things are balanced mostly with PCs in mind - the rarity system may be viewed at least as an attempt to create a rules set that doesn't implode the world if played even barely realistically.
Even if they cost the same, a +5 sword or a ring that lets you cast fireball 3/day are a lot tamer than Reality Warping.


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I really like that you're codifying rarity. When PCs pick an uncommon choice, at least they have to give a reason for this choice to be possible. And someone, an NPC in game, to be grateful to, to make that option possible. Character hooks.

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