Best spell system - need thoughts / help


3.5/d20/OGL


I am not fond of the memorize and forget system of the standard 3.5 rules and I've tried to write my own version using Spell Points and fatigue but if anyone has a homebrew or even store bought system that works well I would love to read it.

Other highlights of what I'd like in a spell system.

I want casters to roll a spell check in stress situations just like a fighter swings his weapon. I am currently using a d20 instead of the take '10' on spell resists. Basically resisting a spell is now the caster's d20 roll, plus spell level, plus stat instead of 10+level+stat.

I would like to have all spells based on this have a 1 failure 20 crit chance unless you took a feat like fighters to double the crit threat range. This would include having fireball spells possibly do 20d6 on a crit etc, BUT at the risk of failing every cast in a desperate situation.

I also want to have the system be robust enough to allow overcasting for desperate situations or something that you could take feats into allowing you to cast spells over your standard level but at great risk, mental fatigue and chance to blow yourself or allies to tiny pieces at thy mercy.

If anyone has a system that can do "some" of this I'm all eyes/ears :)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Well, you could always use the official spell point system from UA:

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/magic/spellPoints.htm

To be fair, this is more an idea than a balanced system. In particular, it dramatically increases the power of the wizard, who hardly needs the boost.

The Exchange

Readling between the line, you could set up something like 4th Edition might be. They seem to be making Savings Throws into Armor class. So as an example, you take your Reflex save bonus and add it to 10 to get a Reflex Armor Class. Then the spell caster rolls d20 and adds his ability modifier (maybe some other stuff also) and must achieve the Reflex Save Armor Class to hit when he casts a Reflex based spell. '20' does double damage. So the wizard does an attack roll to hit each round.

Also I am guessing Shadow Mage from Tome of Magic will model spell casting. Basically, you start with memorized spells. But when you reach 7th level, 1-3rd level spells you do 3 times per day but you still memorize higher level spells. When you reach, 13th level, 1-3rd level spells are 'at will' and 4-6th level spells are 3 times per day but you still memorize higher level spells. Eventually, I think even 4-6th level spells become 'at will'. Maybe you should make this more generic and say he can cast spells 3 levels before his highest 3 times per day. Spells 6 levels lower than his max spell level he can cast 'at will'.

Shadow Mage spells I think were a little more restricted into lists and you get more than Sorcerers but less than Wizards. But I like the flavor of spell lists.

(I want to throw in a little Arcana Unearthed also. Basically, spell casters can increase or decreas the power of spell by one level. But I don't know how to work it in.)

Anyways, you basically can have the wizard making attack rolls each round. He also would have to memorize his more powerfull spells (whatever high is for his level) but he can blast at will his low level spells.

This is all from memory and may have gross errors. It is also based on no 4th Edition threads I have read. And no play testing either. Heck, even reading this post might be dangerous.


There are a few DMs who simply port over the power point system from psionics to the magic classes.

I don't recommend allowing crits on AoE spells because that could turn into an encounter breaker. If you want spells to crit, have the double damage affect only the target at the spread's center.

Paizo Employee Sales Associate

Tequila Sunrise wrote:
I don't recommend allowing crits on AoE spells because that could turn into an encounter breaker. If you want spells to crit, have the double damage affect only the target at the spread's center.

Or increase the area of effect by 1.5, or add a burn/bleed effect, or just draw a card. :)

[/plug]


Oh my God! I have actually BEEN using the official UA spellpoint system without realizing it. I thought I made it up! I just converted spells per day into a point system based on psionics (which I am quite a fan of), and it seems to work out pretty well. I still limit the non-spontaneous caster in a small way though. They still have to prepare spells sort of. If a caster is limited to 4/day of a certain level for example, he can "know" four different spells of that level per day, but can cast them until he is out of spellpoints.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Skuldin, drop me an email at lpotter5<at>tampabay<dot>rr<dot>com and I'll send you the Spell Point variant we use. It has tables and stuff, and wouldn't translate well to a messageboard post.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

After reading this, I'm dying to give it a try...


DitheringFool wrote:
After reading this, I'm dying to give it a try...

I have that

it's interesting. I was hoping for a "cast all you want" system but that isn't it
it is a interesting alternative though


Luke wrote:
Skuldin, drop me an email at lpotter5<at>tampabay<dot>rr<dot>com and I'll send you the Spell Point variant we use. It has tables and stuff, and wouldn't translate well to a messageboard post.

I sent you an email. Thanks!


Well really, the "use and forget" spellcasting model died its death in 2nd edition. 3.0 introduced a really interesting reinvisioning of that that I enjoy. It works a ton better.

It's spell preparation. During that time in the morning when mages are getting their spells ready for the day--they aren't re-learning them. They are doing 90% of what is really a long elaborate ritual, saving just the completion actions (tossing a bit of bat guano, making the last physical gestures and magic words) to do when they need it. Metamagic feats allow you to finish more and more of the spell in advance, so you have already done all the gestures required, or said all the words. It's more like making a bomb and then just lighting the fuse rather than putting the whole bomb together right there on the spot.

I like this idea. The magic feels different from other settings and drips with flavor. Spell points or exhaustion just don't feel like D&D. They feel like Final Fantasy or Wheel of Time. Meh. I would much rather dig into the meat of how magic using is actually supposed to feel in D&D, flesh out the details so it's a fun and dynamic process, and then make the mechanics bend to the fluff--rather than just plug and play a whole different system in that doesn't belong.

Then again, I've also felt that Sorcery and Wizardry should have entirely different mechanics--that they shouldn't even share spells. Clerical magic likewise needs to have its own flavor text created, that feels more like entreating the gods intervention with offerings and petitions rather than "god magic". If more stuff felt like what Moses did to Egypt, then clerics would be right where they need to be. Druid magic, on the other hand, doesn't even make any sense at all. What exactly is getting magic "from nature"? I've kinda' always played it as a sortova' magical version of kung-fu monks learning martial arts from cranes and snakes. But really there's just no detail to it at all.

Sovereign Court Contributor

A long time ago I found a link on WotC's boards for a mana point system, based on the Spell points from UA and power points from psionics, but it had been fleshed out much better. I adopted a lot of it for my use, but I seem to have lost the link. I'll try and dig it up later.


Grimcleaver wrote:

Well really, the "use and forget" spellcasting model died its death in 2nd edition. 3.0 introduced a really interesting reinvisioning of that that I enjoy. It works a ton better.

It's spell preparation. During that time in the morning when mages are getting their spells ready for the day--they aren't re-learning them. They are doing 90% of what is really a long elaborate ritual, saving just the completion actions (tossing a bit of bat guano, making the last physical gestures and magic words) to do when they need it. Metamagic feats allow you to finish more and more of the spell in advance, so you have already done all the gestures required, or said all the words. It's more like making a bomb and then just lighting the fuse rather than putting the whole bomb together right there on the spot.

I like this idea. The magic feels different from other settings and drips with flavor. Spell points or exhaustion just don't feel like D&D. They feel like Final Fantasy or Wheel of Time. Meh. I would much rather dig into the meat of how magic using is actually supposed to feel in D&D, flesh out the details so it's a fun and dynamic process, and then make the mechanics bend to the fluff--rather than just plug and play a whole different system in that doesn't belong.

Then again, I've also felt that Sorcery and Wizardry should have entirely different mechanics--that they shouldn't even share spells. Clerical magic likewise needs to have its own flavor text created, that feels more like entreating the gods intervention with offerings and petitions rather than "god magic". If more stuff felt like what Moses did to Egypt, then clerics would be right where they need to be. Druid magic, on the other hand, doesn't even make any sense at all. What exactly is getting magic "from nature"? I've kinda' always played it as a sortova' magical version of kung-fu monks learning martial arts from cranes and snakes. But really there's just no detail to it at all.

While I see your angle I personally want my game to have a literature or movie feel to it rather than a "game" feel to it. My meaning behind that is in no literature that I've ever read (I havent read the Vancian books) did a wizard-type character cast a spell and then later on in the same day say "I can't cast that again because I only prepared it once." It's usually along the lines of "The magic it took to keep the Balrog at bay almost did me in (IE mental/physical fatigue)". If a system can't imitate literature or books then in my humble opinion it needs to be revised.

The semantics of 2.0 to 3.0 magic are just that; semantics. They can call it what they want but basically it is fire and forget magic. The explanation they gave still does not satisfy me because then how do you explain preparing say vampiric touch more than once in a day? If I prepared the ritual ahead of time then I should know what it takes to complete it all the time. If I have enough bat guano for three fireball spells why would it be that I can prepare the ritual twice but not finish it the third time? See it just doensn't make sense in my mind.

Sovereign Court Contributor

In Zelazny's second amber series, Merlin prepares some of his spells in advance, leaving just one word so he can say them quickly, IIRC. I remember reading that and thinking 'Zelazny must play D&D or ICE.'


Well the premise is that casting a spell is a long process--ten minutes of lighting candles, reading long evocations, making chalk diagrams and passing around arcane foci. You do all of this work, and then just leave a little bit off the end--the finishing words and gestures. If you prepare two fireball spells, you go through the same 10 minute ritual twice that morning--finishing one, then wiping down your ritual space and setting everything up again and preparing the second. Thus when you're finished you have two partly constructed dwomers laying inactive. When you do the finishing words and gestures, the magical effect takes place. When you do the same finishing words and gestures again, you are completing another spell that you had begun that morning. They are rituals 90% done--hence the bomb analogy, and so you can have any number of the same spell prepped separately with an individual ritual you had to do for each. I have to imagine an early era in magical history when people could only do magic on the spot by breaking out their ritual gear and performing the whole ceremony in one long go. Magic was powerful, but not as portable nor quick enough to cast to really be practical. Later, wise archwizards were able to create these "fire and forget" spells to expedite the magic using process.

I really like it.

Now that's not at all to say that if you're emulating magic from another kind of setting that you shouldn't--that my way is the best for everyone. It's just to say that it does work for me, and I really think it's a fun and fresh system for the game. My personal favorite.


Grimcleaver wrote:

Well the premise is that casting a spell is a long process--ten minutes of lighting candles, reading long evocations, making chalk diagrams and passing around arcane foci. You do all of this work, and then just leave a little bit off the end--the finishing words and gestures. If you prepare two fireball spells, you go through the same 10 minute ritual twice that morning--finishing one, then wiping down your ritual space and setting everything up again and preparing the second. Thus when you're finished you have two partly constructed dwomers laying inactive. When you do the finishing words and gestures, the magical effect takes place. When you do the same finishing words and gestures again, you are completing another spell that you had begun that morning. They are rituals 90% done--hence the bomb analogy, and so you can have any number of the same spell prepped separately with an individual ritual you had to do for each. I have to imagine an early era in magical history when people could only do magic on the spot by breaking out their ritual gear and performing the whole ceremony in one long go. Magic was powerful, but not as portable nor quick enough to cast to really be practical. Later, wise archwizards were able to create these "fire and forget" spells to expedite the magic using process.

I really like it.

Now that's not at all to say that if you're emulating magic from another kind of setting that you shouldn't--that my way is the best for everyone. It's just to say that it does work for me, and I really think it's a fun and fresh system for the game. My personal favorite.

I've even been working on "on the fly" magic. Basically I have DCs that you make spell checks against using three charts. I have the highest DC chart be the "free form" magic that is basically a wizard creating magic on his own. As wizards figured out formulae to these spells they began to write them down and thus cloistered magic was born (this is the standard SRD spells). Finally as wizards began to band together forming orders there became an even more specialized form of magic known as "order" magic that is the easiest to cast. For example a 9th level Free Form spell is dc38, cloistered dc34, and order is dc30.

As you can see I've reworked the magic in the world quite a bit.


There is a unique quality to the spell preperation that Grim is talking about, and that's the little-talked about rule that says you don't have to fill all your spell slots first thing in the morning. As long as you rested the night before, you can save slots to be filled later with only the required 15 minutes or whatever study time.

In effect, Wizards can be seen as a spellcaster with a very wide selection of spells at their fingertips with only the limitation of the time it takes to cast them and their own limitations of how many times they can do it per day. If you think of the spell memorization as an added bonus to what is nominally a book-based spell system, maybe you'll get some ideas for making it a more versatile spell system and one that's vastly different from the book-less Sorcerer approach.


Luke wrote:
Skuldin, drop me an email at lpotter5<at>tampabay<dot>rr<dot>com and I'll send you the Spell Point variant we use. It has tables and stuff, and wouldn't translate well to a messageboard post.

I sent you an email too, hope you dont mind


Skuldin wrote:

I want casters to roll a spell check in stress situations just like a fighter swings his weapon. I am currently using a d20 instead of the take '10' on spell resists. Basically resisting a spell is now the caster's d20 roll, plus spell level, plus stat instead of 10+level+stat.

I just wanted to point out that this is covered by "Players Roll All the Dice" feature in the Unearthed Arcana, pg 133.

Just as you said, the caster "breaks the save" of the.. castee?.. target :) - by rolling d20 + mods (spell level, stat, spell focus, etc.) against the targets Reflex Score (11 + normal Reflex Save).

So, normally, a Burning hands spell from a Sorcerer with a 16 Charisma and spell focus Evocation having a DC of 15, and a particular goblin has a +1 to their Reflex save against it. With this the caster has a +5 to meet and break the Goblin's Reflex score of 12.

In the first case, the goblin needs a 14-20 to save (35% chance). In the second the caster needs a 7... ... ... My goodness. I've been using this for years, and I would have sworn the odds were the same. But it looks like due to the switch in who wins ties (the one rolling the die), it's different... Huh. Oh, only 30% chance of the goblin saving. So I guess it really should be 12+Save.

Examples help :)

Dark Archive

Skuldin wrote:
As you can see, I've reworked the magic in the world quite a bit.

Imagine that.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

a lot of this can be covered by the UA, which i love mostly for the class feature and paragon class options.

but i really like the current spellcasting system. people have been trying a spell-point system for years, but to me it's as much 'videogaming' the rpg as the current system is 'oversimplifying'.

wizards have levels, secret societies, hierarchies. it follows they should learn spells as such. sorcerers develop spell abilities and run out of juice until they rest and refocus. clerics - i have long thought clerics should be more like spontaneous casters. some miracles just don' interest some gods - pray for the things they feel they'll need and trust in their own wisdom to ask for the right things.

the system isn't just iconic, it is well-explained, and it doesn't hold up game play. rather than replacing it, i would suggest a few feats that resturcture spell memorization. like breaking down a ninth level spell slot into nine levels of slots, or dismissing a prepared spell/slot to activate a metamagic feat for another spell, or sacrificing a memorized spell to cast a lower level spell from the same school/domain you hadn't memorized. some of those feats are already out there. i think i'll text up the last one in case i make a spellcasting villain for superstar.


Try "True Sorcery" by Green Ronin. I bought it and while I have yet to use it, I will as soon as I get a chance.

Here's my review

Dark Archive

Check out the Midnight setting. Best d20 magic system ever.

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