Kirthfinder - World of Warriorcraft Houserules


Homebrew and House Rules

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Tarek Alatrach GRC wrote:
How would you do them in kirthfinder?

Good question. The closest I've come to even thinking about it is with some of the siege engine-mimicking spells in Appendix 8a. Oh, and they would use your Knowledge (warfare) skill in place of BAB, as indicated in Chapter 4.


That's what I thought. My concern is more of a simulationist one: What is a light ballista? What is a cannon? and so on.

For example, in pathfinder raw, a heavy ballista has 4d8 damage, needs like a crew of 3-4, and 5 rounds total reload+aiming. with 180 ft range increments.

But why is that the case? These are apparently 20 lbs bolts. Only 4d8? Seems quite underwhelming. Also, most of the siege weapons strike only one target somehow. Even a cannon ball. This is not in agreement with common sense.

The ruleset you created seemed to approach weapons from a common sense perspective (eg: See crossbows).

For consistency's sake, for example, ballista need to somehow work on similar principles to crossbows.


Also, after running my campaign with kirthfinder for 6 months now, and also starting another one concurrently, I've come to dislike some rogue skill tricks. The main reason for my dislike is not the skill trick itself, but the ability for rogues to use them infinitely.

Some of these abilities provide fun tools for the GM and the player (eg: Compelling question, innocence, and so on), but others (Like expeditious retreat, vanish/invisibility) that imo would break the way mortal low level characters should behave. Imagine if every other 1st/2nd level rogue thug could run around vanishing or running like sonic the hedgehog willy nilly?

I really would like to introduce some kind of limitation other than the skill roll.

I was personally thinking of giving them uses per day based on spontaneous spell casting, or spell-like abilities uses table.


The original playtest group (Houstonderek, Jess Door, Silverhair, Andostre, TOZ, and others) were 100% dead-set against ANY fighter/rogue abilities being "X/day," so that's the direction we went.


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Kirth Gersen wrote:
The original playtest group (Houstonderek, Jess Door, Silverhair, Andostre, TOZ, and others) were 100% dead-set against ANY fighter/rogue abilities being "X/day," so that's the direction we went.

I think the thinking was that rogues were a non-magic using class that didn't rely on any sort of energy source other than their own caloric intake. While a wizard can be limited in the number of times per day their brain can process Vancian arcane knowledge, but a fighter can hit someone really hard as many times as he wants while he still has the strength to stand*, the rogue should be closer to the latter because an arbitrary limit on abilities didn't make in-game sense.

Granted, I think this discussion was before Kirth started exploring the idea of a rogue picking up magical and magical-equivalent tricks as he advances in experience (which makes total sense and addressed the issue with many rogue tricks being invalidated by party members' spells).

So, if you're interested in following this same logic and still want to impose limits, it makes sense to add them for rogue tricks that are magical in nature. In the example above where the rogue throws a flask equivalent to a fireball, you can say they have to craft the flask and tie it to KF's wealth system.

*I recognize that KF's wounding system (at half hp and quarter hp) adds complexity to this somewhat.


Andostre wrote:
Kirth Gersen wrote:
The original playtest group (Houstonderek, Jess Door, Silverhair, Andostre, TOZ, and others) were 100% dead-set against ANY fighter/rogue abilities being "X/day," so that's the direction we went.

I think the thinking was that rogues were a non-magic using class that didn't rely on any sort of energy source other than their own caloric intake. While a wizard can be limited in the number of times per day their brain can process Vancian arcane knowledge, but a fighter can hit someone really hard as many times as he wants while he still has the strength to stand*, the rogue should be closer to the latter because an arbitrary limit on abilities didn't make in-game sense.

Granted, I think this discussion was before Kirth started exploring the idea of a rogue picking up magical and magical-equivalent tricks as he advances in experience (which makes total sense and addressed the issue with many rogue tricks being invalidated by party members' spells).

So, if you're interested in following this same logic and still want to impose limits, it makes sense to add them for rogue tricks that are magical in nature. In the example above where the rogue throws a flask equivalent to a fireball, you can say they have to craft the flask and tie it to KF's wealth system.

*I recognize that KF's wounding system (at half hp and quarter hp) adds complexity to this somewhat.

The spell-like abilities are indeed my biggest concern. When a relatively low level rogue can become invisible essentially at will, it becomes really problematic. Either these abilities are removed, or a limit is introduced somehow.


I was looking at some feats my players wanted to get, and one thing that jumped at me was the spirited charge ability "Deadly Charge":

Deadly Charge (Ex): If you have at least 6 skill
ranks and If your BAB is +6 or greater, once per
day you can attempt a deadly charge (declare this
before rolling to attack, so a miss ruins the
attempt). On a successful hit, you deal triple
normal damage (quadruple damage with a lance).
This benefit does not stack with the normal effects
of the Spirited Charge. For each +3 to your base
attack bonus above +6 (i.e., at +9, +12, +15, and
+18) you may use this ability an additional time
per day.

The limited uses per day contradicts with the design philosophy that physical extraordinary abilities (Such as rogue tricks) should not be limited in such a manner. Why was this written this way?


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I don't think there is much of a problem with being invisible at will.

If a 4th level rogue uses vanish to stay invisible he has to roll renew the effect every 4 rounds. That's 1/4th of the time spent standing still. That's also a lot of skill checks with a lot of opportunities to roll a 1.

And it gives him a +2 to stealth. Not that much considering he is probably already running around with +10 or so.

And lastly you are in a world where invisibility is a 2nd level spell. Every halfway intelligent person and monster should know that and behave accordingly:
If there is a sound it might not just be the wind even though you don't spot anything.

Similar things apply to other effects.

Fly involves movement in my opinion so you better land at the end of your turn. etc.

The one thing I completely restrict are damage spells. If you want to be throwing bombs around take grenadier.


Tarek Alatrach GRC wrote:
The limited uses per day contradicts with the design philosophy that physical extraordinary abilities (Such as rogue tricks) should not be limited in such a manner. Why was this written this way?

Sheer laziness - was having a hard time coming up with a reasonable limiting factor. That's been on my list of things to fix for a long time now.

The X rounds/day use of the Defiance feat, and of the fighter's Grit, are other examples that bother me a lot less, insofar as it's easy to talk myself into thinking people can only "psych themselves up" so much before they have to rest and recover. Spirited charge, as a simple physical attack, can't really use that justification.


Updates: Am revising demons and devils, using spell construction rules to fix SLAs, and showing attribute allocations so that everything is transparent. Will upload soon.


Awesome! Seeing as my campaign is focused on a devil prince takeover of an empire, this is great! Please check out the SR values as well!


Yep, SR will be along the lines of a challenge-appropriate passive Concentration check: 11 + 3 + CR + Cha modifier.


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Typo to report: the Reach Spell metamagic feat specifies Close range as 25 ft. + 5 ft/level, everywhere else has 5 ft/2 levels as base PF rules.


Vil-hatarn wrote:
Typo to report: the Reach Spell metamagic feat specifies Close range as 25 ft. + 5 ft/level, everywhere else has 5 ft/2 levels as base PF rules.

Thanks!


Found another conflict: Skills chapter states Spellcraft DC to apply metamagic is 20 + spell level, Spells chapter says the base is 15. Latter is an auto-succeed while taking 10 for anyone with reasonable bonuses, former isn't until somewhere in the 5th-8th level range. Does this affect spell preparation time for characters unable to make the check while taking 10, or is it intended primarily for combat application of metamagic?


Yet more metamagic/spell construction questions, figured I'd stop cluttering up the game's discussion thread. How do you handle metamagic synergy cost reductions when applying metamagic to a premodified spell (i.e. any non-seed spell)?

Here are a few test cases to demonstrate the issue:
personal extended mage armor + Augment to +6 (+2 metamagic) = 3rd level
vs.
mage armor + Extend Spell (+1) + Personal Spell (-1) + Augment to +6 (+1) = 2nd level

fireball + Explosive Spell (+2) = 5th level
vs.
jet of flame + Reach Spell close to medium (+1) + Shape Spell ray to burst (+2) + Explosive Spell (+1) = 4th level

Is this intentional, to encourage casters to 'start from scratch' when possible? If not, it may be worth a note in the metamagic rules.

I'd also like to talk about lightning bolt. Your attempt to bring it in line with other 3rd-level spells did not go unnoticed, though you left out Variable Spell in the writeup--I think it should be: electric arc + Variable Spell (+1) + Reach and Ray Splitting (+2) or Reach and Shape ray to line (+2).

Unfortunately, it's still suboptimal. With the metamagic synergy rules, either the Reach or Shape on the classic bolt mode can be increased a step without changing the spell level, to unfortunately poor effect--cones don't benefit from Reach (though sample constructions e.g. caterwaul suggest a spell should have range close before conversion to a standard 60-ft. cone), and there's little obvious application for a 500-ft. long line effect. Maybe that's okay--a 120-ft line sounds fair enough for a 2nd-level AOE, and a 500-ft. line is honestly pushing it--but maybe there's some way to clean up some of the rough edges between range and shape of spell effects...


Next up: entangled/grappled/pinned conditions derived from bind spells. 1) are victims of these effects able to break free in later rounds (as with Pathfinder's entangle)? 2) how are the Concentration DCs set for affected spellcasters--non-magical grapple is set at 10+CMB, should the caster's Concentration be substituted as per push, or do these fall under the general header of 'non-damaging spell' and use the spell's DC as the baseline (in which case it becomes utterly ineffectual against high-level casters)?


Vil-hatarn wrote:

Yet more metamagic/spell construction questions, figured I'd stop cluttering up the game's discussion thread. How do you handle metamagic synergy cost reductions when applying metamagic to a premodified spell (i.e. any non-seed spell)?

Here are a few test cases to demonstrate the issue:
personal extended mage armor + Augment to +6 (+2 metamagic) = 3rd level
vs.
mage armor + Extend Spell (+1) + Personal Spell (-1) + Augment to +6 (+1) = 2nd level

Personal extended mage armor has, by definition, been modified by metamagic. Subsequent metamagic applications would be eligible for the synergy discount.

Personal extended mage armor (1st level) + Augment to +6 (+1 level) = 2nd level.


I'll fool with lightning bolt and see what I can come up with - maybe something along the lines of what I did with cone of cold.


Escape Artist (Ch 4) should probably be referenced in the Bind seed. My intent was that you could either stop what you're doing and make active checks to try and get loose, or else keep fighting and accept the condition.

I'll look at Concentration DCs for metamagic as well - thanks.


Kirth Gersen wrote:
I'll fool with lightning bolt and see what I can come up with - maybe something along the lines of what I did with cone of cold.

Maybe add Cascade inertia? You're still stuck applying that first and getting no synergy discount on Reach and Shape though, so you can't even Extend the flat-footed condition. Maybe there needs to be some kind of fractional synergy discount on +1 effects, netting -1 for stacking 3-4 of them? So you could make electric arc + Cascade inertia (+1) + Extend inertia (+1) + Reach medium (+1) + Shape line (+1), but have it come out at 3rd level? Or use Conductive instead of Extend. My gut sense is that compares reasonably well with fireball (more targets/easier to aim), Explosive lightning bolt (extra damage/relocation instead of status effect), and cone of cold (Dex penalty, lingering damage = +2 levels).


If you want to nerf Rogue Skill Tricks to stop them from being infinite, I'd say just include a clause that says, "Every time you use a particular Skill Trick, the DC to do it again increases by 1" or something similar. The exact increase in DC can be fiddled around with at your discretion.

This way, they can't turn Greater Invisibility into permanent Invisibility, and have to spend more resources buffing their skill checks (which means less resources spent on killing things). This should definitely make Rogues a bit more cautious as to how often they can spam Skill Tricks.


Here's some test cases for that suggestion, since I'm not immediately seeing any spells in C8 that would be affected directly. So, to be specific, let's say that metamagic with a +1 modifier receives a -1/3 synergy adjustment, but the final spell level always round up, so you need to have three +1 adjustments, not counting the first, to see any benefit.

electric arc (0) + Reach medium (+1) + Shape line (+2/3) + Conductive (+2/3) + Cascade inertia (+2/3) = 3rd level. ~100 ft line deals 1d6/level (max 10d6), Reflex half at -4 vs metal, failed save inflicts flat-footed for 1 round.

inertia (0) + Extend 1 round/level (+1) + Cascade bind (+2/3) + Fell Entangle (+2/3) + Disruptive Spell (+2/3) = 3rd level. Target at close range is entangled and flat-footed for 1 round/level, Reflex entangled 1 round. Target makes Concentration checks at -3.

bind (0) + Augment grappled (+2) + Reach medium (+2/3) + Fell Entangling (+2/3) + Extend double (+2/3) = 4th level. Target at medium range is grappled for 2 rounds/level, Reflex reduces to entangled.

scorching ray + Transdimensional Spell (+2/3) + Still (+2/3) + Silent (+2/3) + Quicken (+1) = 5th level. Swift action scorching ray with full effect on incorporeal beings.

The first two would make pretty sad 4th-level spells, and the third is identical to the currently legal construction Reach (+1) Augment (+1) Fell (+1) Extend (+1). The fourth highlights an edge case that might require special treatment, much as Quicken Spell already specifies that it does not synergize with Still or Silent Spell.


Following from my investigations into resist energy...I find the use of Irresistible Spell to expand coverage to non-spell effects a little...odd? It feels like something that would be an augment on most other spell seeds, and it's not high on the list of metamagic feats I would want to give an abjurer.
Also, the language is a little unclear in the description--I believe it means to say that warding itself is not a spell/seed, instead you have warding (invisibility), or warding (jet of flame), and so on? Similar to bestow feat.


I'm looking into synergy. Specifically, the build I'm interested in is the following: Barbarian 4 / Fighter 4 / Ranger 4 / Monk 4 / Prestige Paladin 4.

From what I can tell, there's simply not enough levels to get all of the class synergy options. So the next best thing appears to be focusing on a single class and boost it as much as possible. For this, I chose the Barbarian, who also has the least in-class synergy options to start with.

Fighter takes Primal Warrior
Ranger takes Savage Hunter
Monk takes Savage Fist

Paladin gets an Archetype to boost all of them.

Each non-Barbarian class gets you Strong Synergy to your Rage, having you end up as a Virtual level 16 Barbarian. Instead of rage powers, you can choose Fighter Talents, Advanced Fighter Talents, Ranger Lore, Advanced Ranger Lore, as well as Monk Sutras, and Advanced Monk Sutras. You might even be able to get Paladin Spells as a Rage Power.

Funnily enough, the most effective way to level this would probably be to just take 1 level of each class, get their Barbarian synergy + Paladin archetypes going, then take your second level in Barbarian at level 6 with an effective barbarian level of level 5, assuming I've done my synergy calculations correctly.

At that level, you get your first rage power, which can be any of those basic things mentioned above. At which point, you only have 1 more rage power remaining. But, when you get to your 3rd level in any other non-Barbarian class though, you gain a talent that can be traded out for a Rage Power, and that Rage Power can be traded out for any of the aforementioned talents.

In that way you could sort of use synergy to cheat the system, but it cost a lot in getting there - all the synergy talents, for one. YMMV on whether this build is better or worse.


Kaouse wrote:

I'm looking into synergy. Specifically, the build I'm interested in is the following: Barbarian 4 / Fighter 4 / Ranger 4 / Monk 4 / Prestige Paladin 4.

From what I can tell, there's simply not enough levels to get all of the class synergy options. So the next best thing appears to be focusing on a single class and boost it as much as possible. For this, I chose the Barbarian, who also has the least in-class synergy options to start with.

Fighter takes Primal Warrior
Ranger takes Savage Hunter
Monk takes Savage Fist

Paladin gets an Archetype to boost all of them.

Each non-Barbarian class gets you Strong Synergy to your Rage, having you end up as a Virtual level 16 Barbarian. Instead of rage powers, you can choose Fighter Talents, Advanced Fighter Talents, Ranger Lore, Advanced Ranger Lore, as well as Monk Sutras, and Advanced Monk Sutras. You might even be able to get Paladin Spells as a Rage Power.

Funnily enough, the most effective way to level this would probably be to just take 1 level of each class, get their Barbarian synergy + Paladin archetypes going, then take your second level in Barbarian at level 6 with an effective barbarian level of level 5, assuming I've done my synergy calculations correctly.

At that level, you get your first rage power, which can be any of those basic things mentioned above. At which point, you only have 1 more rage power remaining. But, when you get to your 3rd level in any other non-Barbarian class though, you gain a talent that can be traded out for a Rage Power, and that Rage Power can be traded out for any of the aforementioned talents.

In that way you could sort of use synergy to cheat the system, but it cost a lot in getting there - all the synergy talents, for one. YMMV on whether this build is better or worse.

There's also the question of Theurgy to consider. There is a Ranger Lore that allows for theurgy between Ranger spells and Monk Ki powers. Furhtermore, Prestige Paladin can choose to apply theurgy to one prior class as well. Even Barbarians have the option to go for the Spirit Totem, which lets them apply Weak Theurgy to a spellcasting class of their choice.

That spellcasting class right now can be either Ranger, or Monk. Given how Monk looses a level of spellcasting capacity, I'm inclined to choose Ranger for this purpose.

In order to gain maximum Theurgy, we need to also select the Fighter Talent, Templar, to gain Weak Spellcasting Theurgy with the Ranger. This leaves us with the following:

Barbarian Rage Power: <UNUSED>
Barbarian Rage Power: <UNUSED>
Fighter Talent: Primal Warrior
Fighter Talent: Templar (Ranger)
Monk Sutra: Savage Fist
Monk Sutra: <UNUSED>
Ranger Lore: Savage Hunter
Ranger Lore: Asectic Hunter

So now at this point you can choose a bunch of stuff for talents, but you don't really have a lot of choices to make. You do still end up with Full BAB and Ranger Spellcasting Capacity 10, and while you don't have many high level abilities, you do still have synergy boosted lower level abilities, including Level 16 Mighty Rage and Level 12 Unarmed Mastery.

Each class still has it's own damage booster, so you'll definitely still be more than capable of dealing damage. But you'll lose out a bit on some of that "world-altering" power that Kirthfinder classes are meant to gain at high levels. Course, this can be easily solved with just taking the Leadership feat and being halfway decent at skills, I guess.

What I wonder now though, is if there's a way to use the Human Paragon along with the Prestige Paladin archetypes to break this further. Maybe by replacing the Fighter levels, I guess?

Also, level 8 Prestige Paladin might be a better stopping point, due to gaining 2 bonus feats (which can be spent on Fighter talents, if need be. Maybe replacing the Monk levels?


UPDATE: New spell seed!

INURE
School: Abjuration
Level: arcane 0, divine 0, druid 0
Components: V, S, DF
Casting Time: standard
Range: touch
Target: creature or object touched
Duration: 1 minute/level
Saving Throw: Fortitude negates (harmless); SR yes

Description: The creature touched gains resistance 5 against one energy or damage type (acid, bludgeoning, cold, electricity, fire, negative energy, nonlethal, piercing, positive energy, slashing, or sonic), chosen when the spell is learned/prepared. Because adamantine weapons bypass hardness of 20 or less, they also bypass the protection afforded by this spell.

Improvement: Variable Spell (choose type at time of casting), Heighten Spell (at 1st level or above, the resistance increases to 5 per 2 caster levels, with a cap as shown in the table below).
Final Spell Level -> Maximum Resistance
0 -> 5
1st -> 15 at CL 6th
2nd – 4th -> 30 at CL 12th
5th – 7th -> 40 at CL 16th
8th – 9th -> 50 at CL 20th

Irresistible Spell (bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage reduction not overcome by adamantine weapons); Maximize Spell (gain full scaling bonus regardless of caster level); Tenuous Spell (DR overcome by, e.g., evil weapons, magic weapons, silver weapons, etc.).

Endure Elements: Inure (fire; 0 level) + Variable Spell (Versatile Evocation: cold; +1 level) + Extend Spell (1 min./level to 1 hr./level; +2 levels) + Reduce Spell (30 to 5; -2 levels) = 1st level (ranger 0); grants long-lasting resistance 5 to heat or cold.
Resist Energy: Inure (0 level) + Variable Spell (select energy type at time of casting; +1 level) + Extend Spell (1 min./level to 10 min./level; +1 level) = 2nd level; subject gains resistance 5/2 levels (max. 30) against the specified energy type for 10 min./level.

Stoneskin: Inure (slashing; 0 level) + Energy Admixture: bludgeoning and piercing; +0 levels) + Extend Spell (1 min./level to 10 min./level; +2 levels) + Maximize Spell (+2 levels) = 4th level; subject gains DR 10/adamantine for 10 min./level.


Kaouse wrote:
I'm looking into synergy. Specifically, the build I'm interested in is the following: Barbarian 4 / Fighter 4 / Ranger 4 / Monk 4 / Prestige Paladin 4.

I generally find it counterproductive to look at 20th level builds, which finally kick in right as the game is ending. Your 6th level example was a lot more illustrative, to me.


Kirth Gersen wrote:

UPDATE: New spell seed!

INURE...

Looks great! A few metamagic thoughts at a glance:

1) endure elements can offer protection from heat and cold simultaneously at the same spell level by using Cascade (Inure: cold) instead of Variable Spell.
2) Does Variable Spell on resist energy only allow for the 5 elements covered by the original spell? Technically Variable Spell allows any number of options but 11 choices seems like a stretch, should probably disallow the physical types at least (i.e. no DR).
3) Clever use of Energy Admixture for stoneskin. If one wanted to stack rather than divide resistances, I gather this would be an appropriate application of Mass Effect (+2 for two elements, +3 for a few, +4 for all)?

Some of the more interesting possibilities...

resist everything: inure + Mass Effect (all types, +4) + Irresistible (+2) + Extend (1 min/lvl to 1 hour/lvl, +2) = 8th level. All-day DR/- or resistance = 5/2 levels (max 50) against all non-force damage.

resist elements: inure + Mass Effect (acid, cold, electricity, fire, +3) + Extend (1 min/lvl to 1 hour/lvl, +2) = 5th level. Resist acid, cold, electricity, and fire 5/2 levels (max 40) for 1 hour/level. Add sonic at 12th level, negative at 15th, positive at 18th.


Kolmac wrote:

Some of the more interesting possibilities...

resist everything: inure + Mass Effect (all types, +4) + Irresistible (+2) + Extend (1 min/lvl to 1 hour/lvl, +2) = 8th level. All-day DR/- or resistance = 5/2 levels (max 50) against all non-force damage.

The amount of the DR would be the same as the resistance, but yes, that would be legal. And it's about what you'd expect from an 8th level spell.


Clarification:

Ray Splitting [Metamagic]

You can attack multiple targets with a ray spell.

Benefit: This feat functions similarly to Manyshot, but it applies to ray attacks. One ray can instead be used to attack two different targets; each attack takes a -2 penalty to the attack roll. If your base attack bonus is at least +6, you can make iterative attacks as well (or instead of) splitting the ray as described above. For example, a caster with a base attack bonus of +6 could attack with three rays at +4/-1/-1, or with two rays at +4/+4 or +6/+1.

§ For spells that deal damage, calculate the damage or cap (see Heighten spell, above) as if for a single target, based on the final spell level. Add one die per final level of the spell to the cap, and divide the total among the total number of rays to determine the damage for each ray. For example, scorching ray (essentially, a Split jet of flame) is a 2nd level spell, which has a damage cap of 10d6 against a single target, or a total damage cap of 12d6 for multiple rays. A BAB +6 caster can attack with 2 rays at +6/+1 for 6d6 each, or with 3 rays at +4/+4/-1 for 4d6 each (the latter is similar to the scorching ray spell in the Core rules for a 12th level caster, but with a lower attack bonus).

§ For spells with other effects, add the spell level to the total effect and divide among rays. For example, a split ray of enfeeblement (q.v.; final spell level 2nd) would inflict a total penalty of 1d6+2 +1/2 levels (+12 max.), divided among the rays.

§ If the effect is not variable, divide the duration instead, again adding the spell level to the total number of units.

Metamagic Cost: +1 level.

Synergy: If you also have the Reach Spell feat, you can use it to modify Ray Splitting to allow multiple melee attacks instead, using touch spells (Reach Spell to Close range, making the touch a ray; then apply Ray Splitting; then apply Reach Spell again to reduce the range back to touch).


That's helpful, I was just looking at rays of bind since I realized the attack roll replaces the Reflex save. Is the change to the metamagic cost intentional (used to be +2)?


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Sorry in advance, I got a little carried away...

Analysis of the Dispel Seed

Discussing details of the spell slot drain effect of the dispel seed with Kirth in our game thread inspired me to dig deeper into some of the corner cases. I’ll start with some notes on dispel as a whole, then break down where spell drain goes off the rails and make some suggestions on how to address it.

The basic premise of dispel’s counter and dispel modes is using your action and spell slot to reactively negate an enemy action and spell slot, with a default chance of success near 50% (see below: inconsistencies in counter/dispel checks). Comparable effects targeting action economy include 2nd level daze monster, 3rd level dazing, or a 3rd level bind effect (pinned for 1 round), all of which leave the target with spell slots intact but can be used proactively and against non-casters for a significant net advantage. Still, a 2nd level dispel+Reach isn’t an unreasonable use of a spell slot if you’re expecting to use it, and the metamagic cost to Cascade dispel onto your AoE spells for an action-efficient debuff is minimal.

Unlike the other spells listed, all of which offer a saving throw, the success rate of dispel is readily shifted in the caster’s favor. Improved Dispelling and Improved Counterspell offer a +4 bonus (~70% success); Skill Focus Concentration grants a similar bonus which scales up to +10 (>90% success) by 20th level; one can also get +10 for +1 spell level via Cascade skill enhancement (Concentration, 0th) + Maximize (+3), Extend 1 round (-2), and Effect-Specific (counter/dispel only, -1); and for +2 spell levels (with synergy) Irresistible Spell bypasses the check entirely. This makes counterspelling and dispelling a strong option for characters willing to invest the feats, and both scale reasonably well with level (dispelling via Bouncing, Mass Effect, or Shape Spell metamagic; counterspelling via the improved action economy of Improved Counterspell).

dispel checks and DCs:
Counter: Concentration + counterspell level vs. 10 + enemy Concentration + spell level, and counterspell must be equal or higher level, and -4 penalty if counterspell from different school (no penalty for dispel. Automatic for identical or opposed spell.
Dispel/Suppress Item: Concentration vs. 10 + enemy Concentration.
Drain: Unspecified, assumed as counter.
Penetrate SR (modified dispel): Concentration vs. 14 + CR + Cha.

The interesting tension here is that counterspells want to be as high level as possible (more valid targets and higher chance of success), while dispel effects want to be the lowest level possible, or at least tacked onto other spells to save slots and casting time (zero dependence on spell level). I had actually assumed all of these checks used the counterspell formula and was quite surprised when I realized that wasn’t the case. Unsure if this is intentional, or something Kirth might prefer to unify to a single formula?

Moving on to my main point. Spell drain, as originally written, removes one spell slot (default highest) from the target on an opposed Concentration check (see above: checks and DCs). It has the significant drawback of having no impact on the enemy’s action economy (as compared to using the same dispel as a counterspell), but you get to use it on your own terms. Regardless, this mode should never be used except when Cascaded onto more impactful spells, or when modified itself to hit multiple spell slots—wiping out an opposing mage’s entire stock of top-tier spells is real damage.

Let’s look at some sample spells; I’ll use the same constructions as benchmarks for suggested alternatives.

Spell Constructions:
drain spell, 1st level: dispel + Reach (close, +1).
mana bolt, 4th level: bolt of force + Cascade (dispel, +1) + Reach (medium, +1).
spell shatter, 4th level: sound lance + Cascade (dispel, +1) + Reach (medium, +1) + Ray Splitting (+1).
dark lightning, 5th level: electric arc + Cascade (dispel, +1) + Reach (medium, +1) + Shape (line, +1) + Mass Effect (1/3 levels, +2).
mana leak, 5th level: dispel + Disruptive (+1) + Reach (medium, +1) + Mass Effect (1/level, +3).
mana drain, 7th level: dispel + Disruptive (+1) + Reach (medium, +1) + Mass Effect (1/level, +3) + Irresistible (+2).

Spell Effects As Written:
drain spell: opposed check removes highest spell slot, increased spell level increases failure chance but a character with maxed Concentration can seriously abuse it to punch up.
mana bolt: ray deals 1d6/level (max 15d6) and opposed check removes highest spell slot.
spell shatter: rays deal combined 1d6/level (max 14d6) and opposed checks drain highest spell slot on each ray. Ray miss chance offsets the extra drain effect on average for 2 rays, but 3 rays starts to look quite strong.
dark lightning: line deals 1d6/level (max 15d6) and opposed check removes 1 spell slot/3 levels, starting with highest. That’s 3 slots at minimum CL, enough to (potentially) wipe out an equally matched character’s entire highest spell level. Also note the absence of miss chance as compared to spell shatter thanks to the AoE.
mana leak: opposed checks remove 1 spell slot/level, starting with highest. Oh, and they’re at -5 to cast spells next turn too. That’s 9-20 of the target’s best spells. Note that you still only get 1 attempt per slot, so you probably don’t wipe out all of their best spells, but it’s enough to seriously mess with any prepared caster.
mana drain: target loses their 13-20 best spells, no rolls required. Plus the Disruptive rider in their following turn. Magical rocket tag all the way!

So we start to see some issues in multiple areas. I think the following adjustments bring everything into a semblance of balance:
1: limit level drained to the level of the dispel effect, effectively treating the drain as a proactive counterspell. This fixes the primary issues with both the basic drain effect and Ray Splitting by providing a numerical value that can be worked upon, resulting in spell shatter draining a 4th level spell per ray with 2 rays, or a total of 8 levels split across 3 rays (individual max of 4).
2: decouple Mass Effect from the built-in Heighten effect, so mana leak, which is 2nd level without Mass Effect, would target 1 slot/level of 2nd level or lower. This is closer to an appropriate power level, but substantially less useful, so
2b: allow mingling and redistribution of spell levels from Mass Effect, similar to Ray Splitting. So a 10th-level caster casting mana leak gets 20 spell levels to work with (5th level minus Mass Effect cost of 3 = 2nd level spells, 1 slot/level) which they can distribute as desired among up to 10 target spell slots. Given equal Concentration bonuses, that gives a drain of 2 5th level spells on average, which given the action disadvantage seems fairly reasonable for a spell of this level.

2a could also reasonably be applied to Ray Splitting, in which case spell shatter would hit two 3rd level spell slots or 3 2nd level. Ray Splitting at any level would result in a 1-level reduction of the spell level drained (assuming synergy) when split across two rays, which sounds more correct to me.

Altogether: spell drain effect targets one spell slot (default highest valid), maximum spell levels drained equal to final spell level, drains on Concentration check as for countering (maybe benefit from Improved Counterspell?). Metamagic: Irresistible (no check required), Ray Splitting or Mass Effect (subtract metamagic modifier, including synergy discount, from final spell level when determining spell level affected, may redistribute spell levels between target slots up to final spell level).

As a final check, I tallied the total levels drained for all combinations of spell level and multi-targeting metamagic; the 8th and 9th level totals for 1 slot/level are a bit much but I know Kirthfinder tends to embrace such extremes at high levels.

Total Levels Drained (minimum level for mass2, mass3)
Level Basic RayS Mass1 Mass2 Mass3
2.........2.......2........0........0........0
3.........3.......4........4........1........0
4.........4.......6........6........4........7
5.........5.......8........8........9.......18
6.........6......10.....10.......12.......33
7.........7......12.....12.......20.......52
8.........8......14.....14.......30.......75
9.........9......16.....16.......35......112


Vil-hatarn wrote:
That's helpful, I was just looking at rays of bind since I realized the attack roll replaces the Reflex save. Is the change to the metamagic cost intentional (used to be +2)?

Yes, it is. The original cost per the Dragon Compendium was around +2, but then I realized pretty much everything was getting metamagic synergy-ed to +1 anyway (often through some comically elaborate spellcrafting), so straight-up making it +1 ended up making life a lot easier and simpler all around.


Vil-hatarn wrote:
Sorry in advance, I got a little carried away...

I LOVE THIS POST. I am going to bookmark it and study it. The main thing these rules have NOT been getting is intense corner-case analysis, theory-crafting, and destructive play-testing. If these things reveal issues with my attempted solutions to other issues, the game is better for it.

My feelings are NEVER hurt by attempts to improve the mechanics of the game, because my goal is to improve the mechanics of the game!

That said, part of what I'm shooting for is rules that encourage the following:

1. If you let people cast spells at you at leisure, they will turn you into slime. In other words: spells are powerful.
2. If you make a reasonable effort to keep them from doing so, then, everything else being equal, they can't. In other words: counterspelling or disrupting is way more powerful.
3. However, if they have someone with lots of immediate actions and movement, who is willing to eat your rays for them, they'll succeed anyway. In other words: this needs to be a team game.
4. Therefore, you need allies, too, to prevent their allies from preventing you from short-circuiting them.
5. (etc.)

I'm reminded of the Krav Maga instructor who had a Brazilian Jui-Jitsu fighter come to the dojo.

Spoiler:
While the BJJ guy was rolling around on the floor with his opponent, the KM instructor kicked him in the head. When the BJJ guy exclaimed (reasonably), "WTF?" the KM instructor said, "Sure, one on one you'll always beat him. But what do you think his friends are doing in the meantime?"


Yeah, the +2s are kinda funny that way. Seems fair anyway, the attack penalty makes the extra damage/targets a pretty fair trade (especially since you don't see the benefits until high levels), you don't start seeing real payoff without additional feats or class bonuses that benefit each ray separately.


I love doing this type of analysis, though my tendency to go overboard with it is probably half the reason you have a complete set of rules and I don't, haha. Feel free to point me at any specific areas you'd like stress-tested.

In the vein of disruption being more powerful...here's a solution that might help at both the high and low ends of the spell drain spectrum. Instead of targeting spell slots (and having to potentially set limits on what level slots can be hit, etc.), what if spell drain targeted 1 spell level/level (automatically continuing to additional slots when legal), with caps equivalent to the number of dice on the evocation table? This would drastically improve the value of the basic drain effect, generally allowing you to 2-for-1 the target on spell slots which helps justify the poor action economy. It works cleanly with Ray Splitting (treating as 'other effect', you get an extra ~50% spell levels to split amongst your rays). It basically turns off Mass Effect though.

For that matter--maybe Mass Effect just shouldn't work with spell drain? It makes sense for a dispel effect since you're targeting multiple ongoing spell effects, but for drain you're ultimately targeting a creature. Specifically 'targeting' spell slots is very meta. This shuts down the 'neuter an opposing caster' shenanigans, but you still have some options between Ray Splitting and Empower Spell for increasing the number of affected spell levels to a point where you can wipe out an equally matched caster's highest spell level in one shot.


Vil-hatarn wrote:
Specifically 'targeting' spell slots is very meta.

Going with the analogy of spell slots as electrons in Bohr model, you're simply stripping electrons off an atom. Spell levels are a thing because there are discreet energy levels. Higher-level slots get targeted first because they're in the outermost rings.

There's a reason I wanted to rename "spell level" as "valence." (I got soundly shot down on that by all the other participants voting unanimously against, so that particular nomenclature never got off the ground. Similarly, I preferred "mojo" to numen, and was again outvoted.)


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I have a geo/chem background, so I'm 100% on board with the valence terminology (or something similar e.g. 1st sphere, 2nd sphere).

Still think Mass Effect probably shouldn't apply here--if you think of spell drain as a sort of alternate damage, like ability damage, then it follows that the target is a single creature. You're basically sending a blast of countermagic at their spell 'cloud' and stripping off whatever you can, rather than targeting X specific electrons, so it should be treated the same as other direct damage and/or drain spells for targeting purposes.


An additional stray thought on the dispel seed...

The modality of the seed introduces some awkwardness when it comes to metamagic effects, namely, a good drain spell (Empower, Reach, Irresistible) will generally make a lousy dispel spell (Augment, Shape, Widen, Mass Effect) and vice versa. Maybe, like other seeds with multiple effects, dispel should have versions chosen when learned/prepared, one for spell drain and one for dispel/item suppression? Either version could still be converted into a counterspell, as the only variable that matters there is the spell level.


Vil-hatarn wrote:
Maybe, like other seeds with multiple effects, dispel should have versions chosen when learned/prepared, one for spell drain and one for dispel/item suppression? Either version could still be converted into a counterspell, as the only variable that matters there is the spell level.

That was the intent, but I failed to spell it out. I'll add the appropriate text.


Vil-hatarn wrote:
I have a geo/chem background

Haha, professional hydrogeologist here! (Fist bump)


Woo, geo buddies!

Makes sense, the precons all read that way now that I look.


From the PBP Discussion:

Kolmac wrote:
Looping back to arcane aim, I see that most prebuilt spells built off of enhancement include a -2 Item-Specific Spell modifier. (a) Given that my version will apply only to rays, is it valid to include that in the construction? (b) If so, does that rule out Personal Spell, as stacking the two seems a tad abusive?

(a) Yes; (b) the ray is the target of the enhancement; you are not, so, no, that won't work. Also remember the minimum cost for Cascade Spell is always +1, which your construction violates in a few places.

Quote:
arcane aim: enhancement 2nd + Extend (1 min/lvl to 1 round/lvl; -1) + Unskittering Spell (+1) + Cascade (bestow feat Precise Shot; +1) + Augment (BAB +11; +2) + Effect-Specific Spell (ignore concealment only; -2) + Extend (1 round/lvl to 1 round; -1) + Personal and/or Item-Specific (-1/-2/-3) + Augment (+X enhancement) = 1st, grants +1+X enhancement (Heightens to +1 per 2-4 levels) to attacks (rays, if restricted) for 1 round (or current spell, if Cascaded) and ignores deflection (must be a ray) and partial concealment (must be ranged).

You can't apply unskittering spell to a spell that doesn't require an attack roll, although you could get around that by granting that feat and also Sudden Metamagic, I suppose. Still, looking at the Bestiary, more critters have insight bonuses to AC than deflection. I propose:

Arcane Aim: Enhancement (2nd level) + Effect-Specific Spell (rays only; -2 levels) + Cascade Spell [(bestow feat: Precise Shot; +2 levels) + Augment Spell (BAB +11 effects; +2 levels) + Effect-Specific Spell (concealment only; -2 levels)] + Cascade Spell (bestow feat: Chaotic Mind; +1 level) = 2nd level; applies a +1/4 levels enhancement bonus to attacks and damage with rays for 1 rd./level, and they ignore concealment and insight bonuses to AC.


Quote:
Oddball spell idea to run by you Kirth. I want to build a spell drain variant (let's call it mana burn) that causes damage only on a successful drain, similar to the damaging effect on Improved Dispelling.

There are one or two spells in Appendix 8A like that, I think, that use Creature-Specific Spell:

Mana Burn: Dispel (0 level) + Reach Spell (touch to close; +1 level) + Cascade Spell [(bolt of force; +2 levels) + Lingering Evocation (+1 level) + Creature-Specific Spell (subject to the dispelling effect; -2 levels)]= 2nd level; ranged touch eats one spell slot (if opposed Concentration check successful); if successful, also deals up to 10d6 force damage +2d6/rd. until save.


Kirth Gersen wrote:
Quote:
Oddball spell idea to run by you Kirth. I want to build a spell drain variant (let's call it mana burn) that causes damage only on a successful drain, similar to the damaging effect on Improved Dispelling.

There are one or two spells in Appendix 8A like that, I think, that use Creature-Specific Spell:

Mana Burn: Dispel (0 level) + Reach Spell (touch to close; +1 level) + Cascade Spell [(bolt of force; +2 levels) + Lingering Evocation (+1 level) + Creature-Specific Spell (subject to the dispelling effect; -2 levels)]= 2nd level; ranged touch eats one spell slot (if opposed Concentration check successful); if successful, also deals up to 10d6 force damage +2d6/rd. until save.

That's more or less what I had in mind, though harder to build for cheap with my metamagic selection. Might prefer target over ray for the drain, would adding Shape give a save on the damage (that could be overriden with Inexorable if desired)?


Kirth Gersen wrote:

I propose:

Arcane Aim: Enhancement (2nd level) + Effect-Specific Spell (rays only; -2 levels) + Cascade Spell [(bestow feat: Precise Shot; +2 levels) + Augment Spell (BAB +11 effects; +2 levels) + Effect-Specific Spell (concealment only; -2 levels)] + Cascade Spell (bestow feat: Chaotic Mind; +1 level) = 2nd level; applies a +1/4 levels enhancement bonus to attacks and damage with rays for 1 rd./level, and they ignore concealment and insight bonuses to AC.

Was it the Extend reductions that violated Cascade? Would prefer a 1st level product that can Cascade for +1 with synergy, which makes the longer duration questionably worth it.

I was eying the absurd deflection bonuses on some undead but hardly did a full survey, if insight will be more useful I'm happy to take that angle.


How can the "not really a feat" metamagic options such as Creature-Specific Spell be applied during spell preparation (such as the use above for the effect-contingent damage)? Does it have to be part of a full pre-modified spell, or can it be added without a feat like an Augment?

When Cascading spells with different saves, do I pick which one applies?


Breaking down arcane aim for my own benefit...looking at each component separately first.

1. enhancement (2nd) + Item-Specific (rays; -2) + Augment (+1) + Extend (min/lvl to round/lvl) = 0th
2. bestow feat (Chaotic Mind; 1st) = 1st
3. bestow feat (Precise Shot; 1st) + Augment (BAB +11; +3) + Effect-Specific (-2) = 2nd

So you can take (1) and Cascade (2) and get a 1st-level spell that lasts 1 round/level, which I believe can be Extended to 1 round for 0th level, and optionally Augmented another +1 back to 1st level. Where it gets tricky is when you take (1) and Cascade both (2) and (3) for either a 2nd or 3rd level product depending on whether you apply synergy retroactively to the Precise Shot Augment, which I believe you do. Why can that 2nd-level spell not be Extended down to 1 round and 1st level?

In any case, your version should add a +1 Augment from reducing the enhancement duration pre-Cascade to match that of bestow feat.


Vil-hatarn wrote:

How can the "not really a feat" metamagic options such as Creature-Specific Spell be applied during spell preparation (such as the use above for the effect-contingent damage)? Does it have to be part of a full pre-modified spell, or can it be added without a feat like an Augment?

When Cascading spells with different saves, do I pick which one applies?

As noted in its description, Creature-Specific Spell exists in order to make it possible to reverse-engineer a lot of existing spells. It's not really intended for player use, and would have to be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. For example, it would be totally inappropriate to make all your buff spells Creature-Specific (humanoids) for, basically, a free -2 level discount on all of them.

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