Hello, there! I’m Logan Bonner, Pathfinder Lead Designer, here to discuss some of the changes to spells and spellcasting in the remastered books, especially Pathfinder Player Core. James recently went over some details about the remastered wizard, and I’m going to cover the changes to spellcasting overall.
If you want to read some more on the subject, the Core Preview file goes into detail about the term “spell rank” replacing “spell level,” the removal of spell schools, the new spell format seen in the following examples, and some more information about focus spells and the remastered Refocus action.
As we’ve mentioned in several places, we’ve removed spell components from spells for several reasons:
- They were highly tied to OGL content. We’re moving away from them.
- They were mostly redundant with traits. Though there were some shades of nuance here, most of the time, the player needed to remember that material, somatic, and focus components added the manipulate trait to a spell and verbal components added concentrate. The new system adds those traits directly and cuts out the middleman (the components).
- There were a ton of exceptions to make classes play as intended. You can see in the sidebar on page 303 of the Pathfinder Core Rulebookthat the bard, cleric, druid, and sorcerer all had exceptions for how their components work. This removal lets the classes work as intended without having to learn the system and then having to learn which parts of that system you could ignore.
- Classes wanted more freedom to define how they cast spells. As the game has grown, both over the course of 1st Edition and 2nd Edition, more class concepts came up that wanted to cast spells with different particulars and presentation. Ultimately, we decided we preferred to let the classes define how they cast and let the theme dictate their mechanics rather than to have a “consistent” system that must either restrict classes or be undermined by them.
If you’ve looked at the War of Immortals playtest classes, you may have noticed that the animist is “Trained in spell attack modifier” and “Trained in spell DC.” Why doesn’t it say “divine?” This represents a change to spellcasting for all characters who get spells, whether it’s from a class, innate spells, an archetype, or any other source. You no longer need to track proficiency separately for each tradition; there’s just one proficiency now. To update an existing character, you’ll simply use the highest proficiency you already have for all your spells. Why has this changed?
- Reduce tracking. Having multiple proficiencies could be annoying to keep track of, especially for a complicated character.
- Enable interesting character concepts. Though you might think it would be fun to play a cleric with a bard archetype, the spell statistics could be so much worse that it wasn’t worth pursuing.
- Let the attributes do the work. We already have another way that the secondary spells you acquire can be worse—they likely use different attributes. In the above example, you’d still need Wisdom for cleric spells and Charisma for bard spells. That’s enough of a difference to account for without tossing in a gulf between proficiencies that pushes the stats further apart. It also allows you to eliminate the gap entirely if you choose options that use the same attribute.
We’ve made several revisions to damaging cantrips, with the broadest change being to use only damage dice rather than adding an attribute modifier. Like with most changes we made to the system, this was decided after examining multiple factors that were causing problems together.
- Consistency with how other spells work. Most spells deal just dice for damage, and cantrips were an outlier. Making spells look and function more consistently across the board helps in understanding the rules, especially for new players.
- Match their damage to our intended spell benchmarks. One-target cantrips were supposed to deal around 6 damage, with focus spells and spell slots dealing a bit more. Adding the spellcasting attribute modifier pushed all the damage numbers off their baseline.
- Avoid penalizing characters who have damage cantrips from innate spells or multiclassing twice. Characters who got damaging cantrips from multiclassing or as innate spells from ancestry feats or the like often have a lower attribute modifier than a dedicated spellcaster and were dealing with both a lower chance of success and lower damage if they hit. This is a smaller issue, but often led to players being unhappy with their character options.
- Cleaning up how cantrips work for monsters. This is another smaller issue, but a pain point for GMs. It was unclear how to apply the spellcasting attribute modifier for monsters with cantrips.
A good example of a cantrip built in a new manner is caustic blast, which now uses a burst and works a bit more like other spells rather than having a player need to learn how splash damage works for the purposes of a single spell the way acid splash did.
Caustic Blast [two-actions] Cantrip
Acid, Cantrip, Concentrate, Manipulate
Traditions arcane, primal
Range 30 feet; Area 5-foot burst
Defense basic Reflex
You fling a large glob of acid that immediately detonates, spraying nearby creatures. Creatures in the area take 1d8 acid damage with a basic Reflex save; on a critical failure, the creature also takes 1 persistent acid damage.
Heightened (+2) The initial damage increases by 1d8, and the persistent damage on a critical failure increases by 1.
We’ve also revamped many of the non-damaging cantrips. Here you can see both read aura, which needed adjustment due to the removal of spell schools and now speaks more directly to identifying the item, and light, which incorporates both parts of the original light spell and the removed spell dancing lights to provide players with an alternative that allows for more creativity and flexibility.
Read Aura Cantrip 1
Cantrip, Concentrate, Detection, Manipulate
Traditions arcane, divine, occult, primal
Cast 1 minute
Range 30 feet; Targets 1 object
You focus on the target object, opening your mind to perceive magical auras. When the casting is complete, you know whether that item is magical. You (or anyone you advise about the aura) gain a +2 circumstance bonus to Identify Magic on the item. If the object is illusory, you detect this only if the effect’s rank is lower than the rank of your read aura spell.
Heightened (3rd) You can target up to 10 objects.
Heightened (6th) You can target any number of objects.
Light [two-actions] Cantrip 1
Cantrip, Concentrate, Light, Manipulate
Traditions arcane, divine, occult, primal
Range 120 feet
Duration until your next daily preparations
You create an orb of light that sheds bright light in a 20-foot radius (and dim light for the next 20 feet) in a color you choose. If you create the light in the same space as a willing creature, you can attach the light to the creature, causing it to float near that creature as it moves. You can Sustain the spell to move the light up to 60 feet; you can attach or detach it from a creature as part of this movement.
You can Dismiss the spell. If you Cast the Spell while you already have four light spells active, you must choose one of the existing spells to end.
Heightened (4th) The orb sheds light in a 60-foot radius (and dim light for the next 60 feet).
We’ve already mentioned and shown several changes to how Focus Points work in the Core Preview document. Mainly, the number of points for your focus pool is always equal to the number of focus spells you know, to a maximum of 3, and you can Refocus for 10 minutes to regain 1 Focus Point regardless of how many points you’ve already spent. If you want to see the new Refocus rules for yourself, take a look at the Core Preview document.
This alone should make focus spells more dependable and simpler to use and track. Additionally, we’ve taken a look at a few of the focus spells that didn’t function well as focus spells and tuned them up. Let’s look at waking nightmare, for example. It can now make a creature paralyzed instead of fleeing and can make the creature take extra mental damage.
Waking Nightmare [two-actions] Focus 1
Uncommon, Cleric, Concentrate, Emotion, Fear, Focus, Manipulate, Mental
Range 30 feet; Targets 1 creature
Saving Throw Will; Duration varies
You fill the creature’s mind with a terrifying vision. The target must attempt a Will save. A creature frightened by this spell takes 1 additional mental damage each time it’s hit by a Strike.
Critical Success The target is unaffected.
Success The target is frightened 1.
Failure The target is frightened 2. If it’s asleep, it wakes up and is paralyzed for 1 round.
Critical Failure As failure, but frightened 3.
Heightened (+1) The mental damage increases by 1.
Many focus spells with longer casting times, like read fate and safeguard secret, have had their casting times reduced, so you can use them in the middle of an encounter or scene.
What About Normal Spells?
So, you’ve heard about cantrips and focus spells, but what about all those other spells? For the most part, spells cast from slots work similarly to how they did before. Let’s look at a couple of those spells! First is thunderstrike, which replaces shocking grasp. It starts off with lower damage, but it becomes ranged instead of being a melee spell and heightened versions increase its damage output.
Thunderstrike [two-actions] Spell 1
Concentrate, Electricity, Manipulate, SonicHeightened (+1) The damage increases by 1d12 electricity and 1d4 sonic.
Traditions arcane, primal
Range 120 feet; Targets 1 creature
Defense basic Reflex
You call down a tendril of lightning that cracks with thunder, dealing 1d12 electricity damage and 1d4 sonic damage to the target with a basic Reflex save. A target wearing metal armor or made of metal takes a –1 circumstance bonus to its save, and if damaged by the spell is clumsy 1 for 1 round.
Second, we have tree of seasons, which we’ve previously mentioned in streams and such. It’s taking the “explosive seeds” spot formerly held by fire seeds, but with a bit more variety, higher damage, and the option to create the tree farther away from you.
Tree of Seasons [two-actions] Spell 6
Concentrate, Manipulate, Plant, Wood
Range 60 feet
Duration 1 minute
You cause a Small tree to instantly sprout in an unoccupied space on the ground. Four seedpods grow from the tree, each filled with the magic of a different one of the four seasons. A creature can Interact to pluck one of the pods and can then either throw it up to 30 feet as part of the same action or do so with a separate Interact action later. When thrown, a pod explodes in a 5-foot burst, dealing 6d6 damage with a basic Reflex save against your spell DC. The damage type depends on the season of the pod: electricity for spring, fire for summer, poison for autumn, or cold for winter. When the spell ends, the tree withers away and any remaining pods rot, leaving behind non-magical seeds.
Heightened (+1) The burst’s damage increases by 1d6.
Pathfinder Lead Designer
Player Core Preview: Spells and Spellcasting, Remastered
Thursday, September 21, 2023