Magic School Specialization


Combat & Magic


A Fighter that specializes in ranged weapons doesn't get penalized when he swings a dagger. Why should a wizard that focuses on a specific school of magic be penalized when he decides to cast from other, arbitrarily chosen, opposing schools?

He's simply better at casting one type of school? Why the hell should he be worse at another? Lost study time? Opposing magical energies?

Magic is magic.

If anything, school focus should encourage the use of the chosen school rather than discourage the use of other spells.

Give Players an enhanced effect so that they are more likely to spend spell slots on their specialty school. That is the economy that rules where a Wizard is most likely to make decisions surrounding their prepared spells.

Make it more attractive to use a school, rather than other schools look less attractive. Don't slap players for making choices. If they need that spell from necromancy, but they know they'll also have to rely on their transmutation focus, why should they pay for making a choice at 1st level?


I may be inclined to agree. If universal "specialists" are already getting benefits for their choice, then I'm not sure if it's needed to give specialists particular restrictions.

On the further subject of magic school specialization, Speak with Dead needs to be on the list of granted powers for a Necromancer, since it is certainly the most archetypal necromancer ability in folklore (though creating hoards of zombies and skeletons has eclipsed it in modern fantasy). Actually, I've always felt it should be on the wizard spell list in general, though on the Necromancer list doubly so.

Also, I found that the idea of conjurer getting an armor class bonus to be very bizarre. Protection from damage is a power I'd more identify with abjuration than conjuration.

Oh, and the names of the school specialists should be mentioned in the wizard's entry (necromancer, transmuter, conjurer, etc.), as it adds a lot more colour to the school specialization choices.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

If you look at the new system, it seems to encourage specialization much more then the 3.x system does.

The vancian magic system(The prepared spell system D&D uses) was built this way, probably primarily for mechanical balance reasons. You can play a generalist wizard and be equally capable in all schools, essentially having divided your time up among them, or you focus in one school and are better at that then others can be, at the cost of giving up access to other schools. Its more power for a penalty essentially, specializing in any way, magic or otherwise, makes you more powerful when dealing with what you specialized and less so when you aren't.

The new system has adapted it so that you can be a specialist mage and gain bonus powers from it, but you can temporarily give up those powers to make use of even your weaker schools. This essentially means that for a day you can act more like a generalist if you need those powers. That adds a lot more flexibility to specialist wizards then they ever had before.

To use your example further, a fighter who specializes in a weapon -does- give up power with other weapons. Rather then focusing on feats that give him strengths for all weapon groups(imp trip, power attack, whatever) he has made himself considerably stronger when using the weapon he has developed with. However, should he ever find himself without that weapon, then he is less skilled in general combat then a fighter who isn't so focused. Its all a mechanics balancing act.

-Tarlane

Jon Brazer Enterprises

Tarlane wrote:
The new system has adapted it so that you can be a specialist mage and gain bonus powers from it, but you can temporarily give up those powers to make use of even your weaker schools. This essentially means that for a day you can act more like a generalist if you need those powers.

Except for the extra metamagic feat that generalist wizards get as well as the faster magic item creation.


Tarlane wrote:
If you look at the new system, it seems to encourage specialization much more then the 3.x system does.

Agreed there, this school focus system is superior in many regards.

Tarlane wrote:
The vancian magic system(The prepared spell system D&D uses) was built this way, probably primarily for mechanical balance reasons. You can play a generalist wizard and be equally capable in all schools, essentially having divided your time up among them, or you focus in one school and are better at that then others can be, at the cost of giving up access to other schools.

Why? A fighter is equally proficient with all weapons, until he chooses to specialize. This does not force him to abandon or eschew the use of other weapons at a detriment. He'll always be great with his specialized weapon, just normal with his others.

Tarlane wrote:
Its more power for a penalty essentially, specializing in any way, magic or otherwise, makes you more powerful when dealing with what you specialized and less so when you aren't.

I understand the design rationale, I just thing it's outright wrong. Allowing a character to specialize inherently pushes him away from being a generalist. It makes one path more attractive and more optimal than another. Why penalize at all if this is the case? It's an arbitrary Gygaxism, restrict in one area when an advantage is given in another.

Tarlane wrote:


The new system has adapted it so that you can be a specialist mage and gain bonus powers from it, but you can temporarily give up those powers to make use of even your weaker schools. This essentially means that for a day you can act more like a generalist if you need those powers. That adds a lot more flexibility to specialist wizards then they ever had before.

And what I'm saying is that is a fix-it approach to a problem that doesn't actually exist. If you could offer me a concrete system specific example as to why this type of restriction is necessary. Hell, I'd be more inclined to believe your argument. Why shouldn't a specialist be able to use all magic equally? Sacrifice of time spent learning in one area? That's a fluff reason for a system design decision that is an arbitrary restriction. A fighter doesn't sacrifice bows if he chooses blades, not a great example, but I think it parallels things.

Tarlane wrote:


To use your example further, a fighter who specializes in a weapon -does- give up power with other weapons. Rather then focusing on feats that give him strengths for all weapon groups(imp trip, power attack, whatever) he has made himself considerably stronger when using the weapon he has developed with. However, should he ever find himself without that weapon, then he is less skilled in general combat then a fighter who isn't so focused. Its all a mechanics balancing act.
-Tarlane

Actually you're proving my point. By specializing in one weapon, he chooses not to be superior in another. The choice however is his entirely, and not forced on to him by the rules set. In fact, he probably has equal skill in the weapon in comparison to fighters of equal level since he will most likely have the same BAB and modifiers as they do. The variance is minimized at that point, but give him his weapon of specialization, and watch the hell out.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
DrMcCoy1693 wrote:
Except for the extra metamagic feat that generalist wizards get as well as the faster magic item creation.

Right, thats where the 'more like a generalist' part comes in. If there was no drawback at all for acting against your specialist nature then everyone would specialize. Right now how it is generalists are better when you are going to be using all the schools. Specialists are better when using their preferred school(or at least not prepping their opposed schools). Seems how it should be, both have a benefit depending on your play style.

-Tarlane


Tarlane wrote:
DrMcCoy1693 wrote:
Except for the extra metamagic feat that generalist wizards get as well as the faster magic item creation.

Right, thats where the 'more like a generalist' part comes in. If there was no drawback at all for acting against your specialist nature then everyone would specialize.

-Tarlane

And this is bad how?

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'll give a more detailed answer later tonight when I have more time, but as you pointed out a specialized fighter is giving up the chance to specialize in other forms by specializing in a single weapon. He's choosing to devote his time(and feats) to focusing on it. Its his choice rather then a rules choice. That I agree with completely.

My point is just that its the same for wizards. Specializing is their choice, there aren't any rules that force it. In fact if they don't specialize they get a few bonuses of their own(I know there is a crafting bonus, but I'm sure there were a few others I can't remember off hand).

-Tarlane


Just wondering, how does this system encourage someone to play a specialist?

A 3.5 specialist had 2 prohibited schools (painful choice, sure, but it made some sense), for the benefit of 1 extra spell per spell level and a bonus on spellcraft checks regarding those types of spells (useful at lower levels, insignificant at higher levels).

Under this system a Specialist has 2 sorta' prohibited schools (you can use them, but you suffer a penalty), in exchange for that sacrifice, you gain the powers of your chosen school instead of the powers of a generalist (which, as far as I can see, means you give up the more powerful set of powers because you chose to specialize - unless Prismatic Sphere is equivalent to Wish). I honestly see no incentive to play an abjurer in these rules.

There's no benefit to being a specialist anymore... nor are there any real draw backs. As an abjurer, if I cast out of my prohibited school I give up resistance 5 v. an energy type I chose at the start of the day. Is it worth giving that up to be able to cast Energy Drain? Probably.


Opposed schools are traditional.

That having been said, PF's approach is quite liberal. Going from "can't learn anything from those schools period" to "lose a certain ability due to magical interferance" is a huge leap.

It's part flavour, and it can make sense in that regard. Magic isn't just a tool like a sword or a hammer. It doesn't follow mundane rules. So you can't complain about specialists having to give up on schools on grounds of a swordfighter not having to give up on axes. Magic's a fickle and jealous mistress. If you can't live with that, the sword is a better choice for you.

Paizo Employee Director of Game Design

As has been noted, we made some changes to the Universalist school to reduce its power a bit. Namely, Universalists do not get a specialist bonus power. To compensate for this, specialists must have some sort of draw back. The limited use of their prohibited schools is just about right.

That said, I am always open to thoughts and ideas.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing

Liberty's Edge

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

How about Skill Focus: Spellcraft as the universalist bonus?

I thought the metamagic feat AND the creation reduction was too much. Now it's just nothing and that's well.. I dunno.

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