Regarding spells and PC spell lists...


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


I occurred to me recently that at almost every spell level, there are spells that are "right answers" and others that are comparatively underpowered, based on the lists in the book. This is a relic of 3.5, not a new thing to Pathfinder, but still, why would anybody (and by anybody, I mean anybody trying to optimize their character's overall utility/power level) take, say, Interposing Hand at spell level 5, when they could have Wall of Force instead? And why is Interposing Hand even spell level 5 anyway? I just seems like some spells are not only completely outclassed by others at the same rank, but pale in comparison to LOWER level spells too. Compare Ice Storm and Shout to Fireball. Fireball wins, even if it were a spell level 4 spell, which it's not, it only uses a level 3 slot, which means you get it two character levels earlier and can thus slot up more of them per day. Fireball (from a level 7 caster) does more damage than Ice Storm or Shout and the latter requires the caster to get a lot closer to use it, and cannot penetrate the area of a Silence spell. If it were up to me, Shout and Ice Storm would be level 3 and Fireball (and maybe Lightning bolt) would be level 4. As a level 5 caster, both Shout and Ice Storm would still be really good to cast at level 5-6, but would be outshone by Fireball and Lightning Bolt later when I get to level 7-8, which seems more appropriate to me.

All this makes me want to go through the spell list and reorder everything so that spells of the same spell level all seem like an even-money choice compared to each other. Has anyone ever tried this?

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Interposing Hand vs Wall of Force

Wall of Force you can cast to block a doorway, to block a corridor, and does not move. Once something breaks through it, spell ends.

Interposing Hand grants you an AC bonus and moves with you. It's does not go away just because a creature gets through it and can be moved to be in the way again.

I'm not going to discuss your Ice Storm and Shout vs Fireball comparison. I have yet to find a group that finds it acceptable for the Wizard to drop a Fireball on THE GROUP to maximize the damage they can do, where as with positioning of the cast, SHOUT, can be maximized. Shout is also a great Bard spell. :P


FrinkiacVII wrote:

why would anybody (and by anybody, I mean anybody trying to optimize their character's overall utility/power level)

Your problem: That definition of anybody.

A lot of spells aren't there to maximise power level.


SirUrza hit the nail on the head for Interposing Hand vs Wall of Force

Situationally, certain spells are better for different styles. Fire Resistance is fairly common as FIreball is in EVERY arcane casters 'book of tricks' these days, at least it seems to me. In my games, PCs are real keen on sonic based attacks as almost no one stacks up on Sonic Resistance. It pays off till the group gets known for that style of attacks.

Although, I have a high level group at the moment that uses 2 very fire resistant dwarves as ground zero for Maximized Fireballs in large fights that are going south on em. Broken Arrow mentality.

It's all about PC playstyles. You're gonna find folks that like to take Spells from the Island of Lost and Unwanted Spells and make em work to be different. Makes for some interesting moments in games.

Have Fun out there!

~ W ~


This is an issue with every RPG using spells divided into levels or point costs or whatever that I've ever played. There are always some spells that the majority of folks (or at least the majority of folks that are combat optimizers) take at each level, because they do the most damage. Actually, I think with each edition of D&D, and now into Pathfinder, they have done a better and better job of balancing the spell lists out. You'll never solve the problem completely, though.

Funny that in the example you used two of the spells that I like the best, Ice Storm and Shout. Haven't used these spells in PF yet because my campaign is still at lower levels, so haven't seen if they changed, but in 3.5 I liked Ice Storm because 1) there is no save; 2) the damage comes equally from cold and impact, meaning it isn't useless against cold resistant creatures; and 3) it can convert the ground around your opponents into icy, difficult terrain. Shout I liked for the reasons Wallsinghma stated above.

However, if you want to reorder the spells in your own campaign world, however, have at it and enjoy, so longer as your players are good with it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Brian Bachman wrote:


Funny that in the example you used two of the spells that I like the best, Ice Storm and Shout. Haven't used these spells in PF yet because my campaign is still at lower levels, so haven't seen if they changed, but in 3.5 I liked Ice Storm because 1) there is no save; 2) the damage comes equally from cold and impact, meaning it isn't useless against cold resistant creatures; and 3) it can convert the ground around your opponents into icy, difficult terrain.

This.

Fireball sounds all fine and dandy if you want to be a pure blaster type but Ice Storm gives you amazing battlefield control, different damage types and won't get halved/negated by reflex saves or evasion.

Difficult terrains means no charging, a halving of move speed and no 5 foot steps. It's brutal to be stuck in the middle of it.


Toward the Shout spell
- Deafens creatures - good against spellcasters (20% spell failure chance).
- Damages brittle objects - (might or might not even work on potions in backpacks or other more exposed locations), can certainly break held items. Lesser collateral damage (try casting fire or acid spells around the rope bridge you want to use afterwards, in a library, ...).
- Only Verbal components - no sulphur and guano, no waving hands.


Did you just disrespect Ice Storm?

I think he just disrespected Ice Storm.

Witness.

Quote:


Great magical hailstones pound down upon casting this spell,
dealing 3d6 points of bludgeoning damage and 2d6 points of cold
damage to every creature in the area. This damage only occurs
once, when the spell is cast. For the remaining duration of the
spell, heavy snow and sleet rains down in the area. Creatures
inside this area take a –4 penalty on Perception skill checks and
the entire area is treated as difficult terrain.
...
Heavy Snow: Heavy snow has the same effects as
normal snowfall but also restricts visibility as fog does
(see Fog).
...
Sleet: Essentially frozen rain, sleet has the same effect
as rain while falling
(except that its chance to extinguish
protected flames is 75%)
...
Rain: Rain reduces visibility ranges by half, resulting in
a –4 penalty on Perception checks. It has the same effect
on flames, ranged weapon attacks, and Perception checks
as severe wind.

...
Severe wind ... -4 on ranged attacks
...
Fog: Whether in the form of a low-lying cloud or a mist
rising from the ground, fog obscures all sight beyond
5 feet,
including darkvision. Creatures 5 feet away have
concealment (attacks by or against them have a 20%
miss chance).

So, in conclusion- Ice storm does 3d6 cold, 2d6 bludgeoning, bursts a 40ft. realm of difficult terrain, bursts a 40ft realm of heavy fog, and bursts a -4 on all ranged attack rolls while also putting out generally all unprotected flames (such as torches) and also putting out all protected flames (such as lanterns) with 75% efficiency.

Ice Storm is a spell you drop on someone you hate. It essentially removes anyone you want from the fight for the next 7+ rounds.

When you just look at the damage the spell does, yes, it looks underwhelming. But you're not thinking-- you don't notice. Ice storm is not a damage spell; like fireball has the side-effect of sometimes destroying items, ice storm has a side effect of sometimes dealing damage.


Wall of Force protects your enemy as much as it protects the caster. Interposing Hand only protects the caster.


I'm not saying any of the spells I mentioned are bad in general (alright, Interposing Hand at level 5 is just bad, IMO, sorry), just that when you make a side-by-side comparison of any spell at a given level to any other one at that same level, you often say "How is this spell even close to this other one in terms of usefulness? Clearly I take <Spell A> every time over <Spell B>." I just wish that there was more parity across the list in the sense that most of the spells at a given level should feel about equal in usefulness. That way you get the feeling that your choices of spells to learn are more of an aesthetic choice and not one where the rest of the party goes "You took WHAT? WHY?!?! Take Fireball, DUMB@$$!!!"

Going back to specifics again:

1. Ice Storm. Not a bad spell, in my opinion, but the part where it says "same effects as fog" basically makes all that stuff about -4 to hit and perception moot, because you just plain can't see anything more than five feet away, period. I mean, what kind of problem is it to tell me I get -4 to hit something I can't even see in the first place? Either of those two effects (no line of sight alone versus -4 to hit alone) pretty much make the ranged attack option a really bad idea, and thus your gilding the lily giving me both at the same time. Also, I don't expect the monster to stay in the affected area of the spell all day long, do you? In order to avoid dropping the same problems on your fighter, cleric, and/or rogue, you have to pick a target spot that only includes the monster, which usually means he's at one edge of it, and thus can probably get out fairly quickly. Lastly, the effects, but for the damage, are basically not as good at crowd control as what you get from the spell-level 3 spell Sleet Storm, which affects a much larger area. All I'm saying is, I'd like this spell a lot more if it were spell-level 3 and giving me damage comparable to other caster-level 5 spells, and even then I'd stop preparing it by caster level 8-9 or so in favor of Fireball, if that were still a spell-level 3 option. As such, I think Fireball should should be more like spell level 4, and Ice Storm more like spell level 3. Not saying either of them are bad, just that if you switched their places on the list you might see people use Ice Storm more often, at least at lower levels, and you might see them choose to learn Ice Storm first over other spell-level 3 options (which in this case would not include Fireball, since that would be spell level 4 now). This move, however, I will admit, leaves us with the problem of what to do with Sleet Storm. I guess I'd replace it with Ice Storm outright in all likelihood, not sure whether to make Ice Storm a Conjuration or leave it an Evocation at that point...

2. Shout. A pretty good spell, IF you want to get close enough to use it. If it were level 3, you'd be casting it at caster level 5 and doing 5d6 damage, same as a CL5 Fireball, though still much shorter range. The sound vs. fire resistance issues are less relevant at lower levels, because most stuff has no energy resistance at all at that point. Likewise, the range is less of an issue at level 5, I mean Scorching Ray's range is comparable to Shout's, and that's a bread and butter evocation at caster level 3+. The main differences between the two at higher levels are a) the Shouter has to get closer to Shout and b) the Shouter still only does 5d6 damage, whereas the Fireballer can do up to 10d6, at longer range, without having to worry about whether or not the target has a Silence effect on him. Granted the Fireball get's resisted more at higher levels, but then the Shout only does 5d6 damage in the first place. So one is occasionally/often resistance-gimped and the other is always pre-gimped by only doing 5d6 in the first place. Having no real info about what I'll be facing that day, I would generally prepare more Fireballs. As far as the part about shattering delicate crystalline objects goes, why would you WANT to break them? It's probably something expensive and valuable that you'd rather take off the guy's corpse and go sell, isn't it? The deafening effect is only relevant against spell-casting monsters, and again, no guarantee you'll face any of them on any given day. Deafness doesn't effect spell-like abilities either (no verbal components).

3. Interposing Hand. Puh-lease. In my opinion, all of the "formerly-known as Bigby's blankety blank" spells are just crud (for the spell levels at which they're listed). Strictly interpreted from the text, only the CASTER get's the +4 AC cover effect, though as a DM myself I admit I can't see anyone actually taking that hard-lined of a stance, granted, but still, there are several lower level spells that protect you just as well or better, like Greater Invisibility, Mirror Image, Mage Armor, etc. I've got no room for this spell on my Sorcerer list, and I'm not going out of my way to learn it as a Wizard.


Quote:


1. Ice Storm. Not a bad spell, in my opinion, but the part where it says "same effects as fog" basically makes all that stuff about -4 to hit and perception moot, because you just plain can't see anything more than five feet away, period. I mean, what kind of problem is it to tell me I get -4 to hit something I can't even see in the first place? Either of those two effects (no line of sight alone versus -4 to hit alone) pretty much make the ranged attack option a really bad idea, and thus your gilding the lily giving me both at the same time. Also, I don't expect the monster to stay in the affected area of the spell all day long, do you? In order to avoid dropping the same problems on your fighter, cleric, and/or rogue, you have to pick a target spot that only includes the monster, which usually means he's at one edge of it, and thus can probably get out fairly quickly. Lastly, the effects, but for the damage, are basically not as good at crowd control as what you get from the spell-level 3 spell Sleet Storm, which affects a much larger area.

The difference in Ice Storm and Sleet Storm is the difficult terrain. Dropping Ice Storm on a grease spell, natural difficult terrain, or on Black Tentacles makes each square cost 3 squares of movement. It seriously shuts down people. DC 10 Acrobatics to move through means most monsters can just roll the dice with a 50% success rate. Ice Storm is guaranteed.

Also, the point of removing monsters from the fight is to divide and conquer, not to divide and then let him walk out of the area. Ice Storm is a very securely "not near the party" spell, a screwball for monsters approaching the party from a distance. Drop it on the center of them and then spend the next round preparing for their arrival instead of charging them.

It's really got more serious application than fireball in every case. Fireball does more damage. That's nice. Monsters fight just as well at 1 as they do at 381. Unless the monsters have as much HP as the dice you're dropping, fireball is generally not the best choice. If the monsters have more HP than the average damage of fireball, it's not even a good choice.


I think the point in having the -4 penalties on Ice Storm is meant to account for the situations when the ranged attack is not guided by sight. For example by someone with blind-sight or wearing items that allow to see through fog (?Goggles of Fog?).

Don't forget that Shout is a bard spell as well. These guys waltz around a bit more often than typical pointy hat does. For Wizard it may be a good spell for covering escape. Drop something blocking sight, then shout and leave as the opposition stumbles around unable to detect you.

And toward the interposing hand - the key would be the cover bonus, which stacks with the Mage Armour and Shield and... Although I aggree that it could be lvl 4


Zmar wrote:


And toward the interposing hand - the key would be the cover bonus, which stacks with the Mage Armour and Shield and... Although I aggree that it could be lvl 4

Interposing hand in a hallway prevents line of effect against the entire party. Let's see the bad guy cast any spells at me at all without it.

It's so cool.

So situational.


Every spell is situational. Maybe the GM doesn't give you the situations where those spells can shine. Even cantrips can turn the tide of an entire battle if you're clever. Ray of frost can be an amazing boon if you need to: quickly put out a torch from a distance, turn a puddle into a trap, chill your ale, piss off a drunk so your rogue can pick his pocket easier because he's too busy yelling at you, freeze your leftovers, make a path across a lake, etc. Ice Storm is amazing. Interposing hand? Come on! ANYTHING that makes me harder to hit is my friend. Shout? Isn't stone technically crystaline? Walls of Jericho? And just btw, Zmar, you shouldn't Shout in Libraries, it's rude.


When I first played casters I was all about damage and took the artillery approach to wizards. As I've played through the various editions (2nd ed -> PF) I've shifted away from loading up on the damage spells and now its all about having a mix of options. I still take a few blast spells, but really a decent spellcaster has a mix of spells to always ensure you have options to influence a battle.

I think when evaluating a spell's power you need to consider more than just damage. Its something worth factoring in, but so are a number of other things. Things I consider when I build my spellbook are bonus/penalty type, damage type, versatility, double up, saves (want a mix), casting difficulty, a mix of options(utility/defensive/offensive) and how influential the spell is on combat. And of course does the spell fit the character concept (I once played in a group where a warmage called Pyro kept casting sonic spells....)

I do agree with the OP though that there are some spells that are a far more effective than some of the higher level spells that have similiar effects and uses. Mirror Image is a classic example of an insanely good low level spell. From the moment you first have access to it right through to the end its great. Its a very efficient spell in that it uses a low level slot to give a significant defensive effect.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Ironicdisaster wrote:
Ray of frost can be an amazing boon if you need to: quickly put out a torch from a distance, turn a puddle into a trap, chill your ale, piss off a drunk so your rogue can pick his pocket easier because he's too busy yelling at you, freeze your leftovers, make a path across a lake, etc.

Ray of Frost can be lethal in the hands of a clever Arcane Trickster. :)

But if you look at Treantmonk's guide Damage is far from a Wizard's top priorities. More important is Battlefield control, and Ice Storm is a very handy tool in that box.


It's all situational. I can remember having a discussion on this board wherein someone stated that anyone who chose Fireball when they could take Hold Person didn't know how to play a wizard. (I couldn't believe it either.) But for his DM and in his campaign, it might have made sense.

On the Ice Storm/Fireball debate, I'll add one thing that has been left out, that I do believe justifies the level 4 for Ice Storm - Spell Resistance. Especially as you move to higher levels, you'll see more and higher spell resistance rolls. To be able to do damage regardless of spell resistance.....

And that's not a 3.0 thing, that goes all the way back to 1st edition. It was always - you take fireball for the mooks, when you get a chance you take Ice Storm - less damage, but it lets you hurt Drow and other spell resistanct types. Anybody play through the old G1-G3, D1-D3 and Q1 modules? Lousy 3rd level drow taking no damage from M.M. and Fireballs. Ice storm (then 3d10) had a decent chance of taking the whole bunch out.

Final point - Ice storm is a defined area - fireball in a small room or tunnel will expand to fill the available space - including where the party is.


And it also replaces that book you needed with a fine coat of ash. But I wonder, does a fireball inside of a pipe cause a blowtorch effect? Cause I could come up with SO many uses for THAT!

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James Jacobs wrote:
For the same reason I might go eat sushi for lunch but Erik Mona might go eat a hamburger. Because different people have different tastes.

I now want a sushi-burger. And don't say it doesn't make sense, your foul logic doesn't work on my stomach!


Major__Tom wrote:
Final point - Ice storm is a defined area - fireball in a small room or tunnel will expand to fill the available space - including where the party is.

Not since 2nd edition...it's a spread, but it only spreads into it's 20 ft. radius area, even if you fire it into a 5 ft. wide, 5 ft. tall hallway.


Major__Tom wrote:

[...]

On the Ice Storm/Fireball debate, I'll add one thing that has been left out, that I do believe justifies the level 4 for Ice Storm - Spell Resistance. Especially as you move to higher levels, you'll see more and higher spell resistance rolls. To be able to do damage regardless of spell resistance.....

Both fireball and Ice storm has Spell Resistance, but Ice storm has no Saving Throw so it's great when facing rogues, monks and all others who have evasion or improved evasion.


Many spells are placed where they are as relics of older editions.

That being said, there are indeed better spells. I mean, for every caster that realizes that Web is pure awesome, there is another who thinks Acid Arrow is the height of battle magic.

There are some kinds of magic that are better than others, and some spells that are designed to be cast when the spellcaster is high level and can't figure out ways to use his low-level slots (the animal buffs like Bear's Strength, for example).

Heck, some spells are just better when played by a better player. Illusions are almost universally in this category, for example.

DnD has a fair amount of game-mastery in it as an artifact of the system. It's a fact, and there is no way to cut it out without writing a new system.


Fireball vs. Shout: Shout is meant to hamper spellcasters. It targets Fortitude, deafens enemies (which imposes a spell failure chance) and has a much more managable area of effect. Additionally, shout is verbal-component-only, as opposed to fireball's verbal-material-somatic, making shout much more convenient to use. Also, all damage types are not created equal. Very, very few creatures benefit from sonic resistance or immunity. Fire resistance, on the other hand, is extraordinarily common.

Fireball vs. Ice Storm: Comparing these two spells is almost silly. Ice storm creates a HUGE area of difficult terrain, which is an amazing crowd-control ability abd the primary draw of ths spell. If cast early and positioned in a narrow passageway, this spell can buy your entire party a couple of turns each (which is a BIG deal). The damage it deals (cold and bludgeoning, easily resisted) is a side-effect of the spell's primary function (crowd control). Also, it is worth noting that ice storm is a no-save spell, making it much more likely that the damage it does deal will get through to characters with Evasion.


K wrote:


There are some kinds of magic that are better than others, and some spells that are designed to be cast when the spellcaster is high level and can't figure out ways to use his low-level slots (the animal buffs like Bear's Strength, for example).

How often will you find someone needing Bear's Str by time it is a low lv slot?

By then most will have +2- +4 Str already.


Starbuck_II wrote:
K wrote:


There are some kinds of magic that are better than others, and some spells that are designed to be cast when the spellcaster is high level and can't figure out ways to use his low-level slots (the animal buffs like Bear's Strength, for example).

How often will you find someone needing Bear's Str by time it is a low lv slot?

By then most will have +2- +4 Str already.

True but the Fighter may not have a +4 Wisdom Item and if you know you are going up against a Mind Flayer or the like. +2 to Will saves would be a nice thing.

Likewise most barbarians are never going to spend the gold or a slot on a +Charisma Item. But if the party finds themselves attending a ball or other social function I know i would dang well force Eagle's Splendor on that Barb for no other purpose than to spare myself some possible embarassment.


Kalyth wrote:
Starbuck_II wrote:
K wrote:


There are some kinds of magic that are better than others, and some spells that are designed to be cast when the spellcaster is high level and can't figure out ways to use his low-level slots (the animal buffs like Bear's Strength, for example).

How often will you find someone needing Bear's Str by time it is a low lv slot?

By then most will have +2- +4 Str already.

True but the Fighter may not have a +4 Wisdom Item and if you know you are going up against a Mind Flayer or the like. +2 to Will saves would be a nice thing.

Likewise most barbarians are never going to spend the gold or a slot on a +Charisma Item. But if the party finds themselves attending a ball or other social function I know i would dang well force Eagle's Splendor on that Barb for no other purpose than to spare myself some possible embarassment.

I'll have you know, I've met many a barbarian who was quite charming when they weren't chasing me with an axe.

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