Magic-less Pathfinder. Worth it?


Homebrew and House Rules

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LeDM wrote:
MagiMaster wrote:
Actually, I meant a guide that laid out the various ways of interpreting low-magic and no-magic and what's needed for a GM to pull them off, as well as warnings about how not to do it.
Sounds like a tall order. :) I'd be very interested in reading it myself. I don't personally know of anything with such a broad scope though.

I guess that was the cue I was waiting for...

'findel


Say you wanted to go about it so that the players had less access to magic than the world at large?

For instance, you have your party (mostly martial and skill monkeys) with one 'caster' who can do all manner of low level magic, but the casting times are much longer because it's not 'natural' for mortals to cast it. Meanwhile there are supernatural creatures that do strange things (like incorporeal undead, or fey things that grant wishes, or animated statues that guard ancient tombs). Certain magical beasts could be retained, refluffed, etc.

I kind of like the idea of it taking a number of rounds to actually cast spells and keeping them as a limited resource, but allowing them to be somewhat more potent.

Not sure how popular that sentiment is.


I've actually had this discussion before with friends. Basically saying, guys, we don't have to have spellcaster parties, or even spellcasters in our party.

Suggestions I made:

A party of ninjas and rogues.
Barbs and rangers.
Marshal and melee classes.
Bards and barbs.

My dreams have been answered actually by the latest small party I'm dming for, one char is a barb, one is a knight. They've done this for three levels now. It is very cool actually. They have recruited some magical supporting characters just recently, but the problem is, these will need a lot of protection to survive the rounds, but if they are kept alive, they will really help.

Throwing in spellcaster npcs also allows something I am happy to see, spellcasters that are not op. None of the spellcaster npcs has a con of 14, none have a mental stat of 20. They have their strengths and they have their weaknesses and it is amazing how balanced it is at the moment. When players have gone for spellcasters, balance hasn't always resulted.

Basically, the players are now heroes, making up the melee, while the npc aides are the magic support.


The only area in which a game suffers noticeably from lack of magic, is in healing. It simply means you need to run away more. If greater challenge is more fun to you, then by all means, the system works just fine. Proof of this is the d20 Modern game. You could play that through with straight-up cops and robbers and/or mysteries. It was essentially 3.5, but with a few things re-arranged for the modern world.

So the question is really moot: and entire branch of the system was regularly played and played without magic.

Now, you could work magic into it, and psionics were available, too. But my point is, the game could stand without it. Likewise, D&D and PF can be played without.

We played a "real-world" 3.5 game some years back, set in Romania. For the first three levels, there was no magic, and only a hint of monsters. It worked fine. Slowly, magic items began to appear in the game, as the monsters revealed themselves. It was freaking awesome.


Some pretty nice "low magic" ideas here. I have run this and it works. xoth.net

Not a large step to no magic.


I would think it would be easier just to find a different system. However if you truly want to balance pathfinder so it can be low magic then you need a lot of house rules.


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Robespierre wrote:
I would think it would be easier just to find a different system. However if you truly want to balance pathfinder so it can be low magic then you need a lot of house rules.

I'm not sure about that last part. It all depends on your definition of "balance" I guess, but most of the imbalance would come from the party vs typically CR-appropriate encounters. That can be addressed without houserules or at the most, simple guidelines.

The other part would be to balance PC spellcasters with martial PCs in order to make sure that none feel cheated by the game, and define what it means to be a caster in a low-magic setting. I would expect this to be done with minimal houseruling.

If you want to run a low-magic Pathfinder and expect things to run exactly the same, then indeed, it might take more significant houserules.

Otherwise its a matter of habits and expectations. There are many systems where recovering from an encounter takes 2 or three days, but we are not accustomed to this when playing D&D/Pathfinder therefore we see that as unacceptable. Some of these systems do not even try to achieve balance between martial characters and casters. But once we forget "what Pathfinder is suppose to be", we see that the d20 system is a solid and flexible engine that can easily be adapted to many genre.

'findel


That's sort of what I was getting at earlier. If you take away enough, you're left with d20, not Pathfinder. Not that I think that's a big deal, but it's something worth thinking about.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If you're looking to radically change or eliminate magic entirely from a Pathfinder or D20 type of game, you might want to look up Monte Cooke's "Iron Heroes" to give you a comprehensive guideline. What you have to consider is far beyond even multiple posting lengths.


Does it work with no magic?

The best answer will always be "try it and see." It may work for your group where it doesn't work for mine.

You have to throw out the vast majority of classes, since they rely on magic for some or all of their "spotlight balance"... and that means throwing out encounter balance metrics; which are the crown jewel of Pathfinder, in my opinion.

If all you're looking for is a skill/attack resolution mechanic and some simple level based advancement, and you don't care about measuring relative power or, you know, using monster abilities, it should work fine. Sub-optimally, in my opinion, but you can game with it.

On the other hand, what do you do when a player comes to you and says "I want to play a Bard this time!" Do you feel like scratch building a non-magic bard class? Do you run the same class without the "magic"? Is bardic performance magic?

You want to include a dragon? Now you're dealing with SLAs and in many cases actual spells ... and while it may be okay for NPC monsters to have magic in a no-magic world, the encounter balance metrics all assume that the PCs will have magical countermeasures, including "basics" like flight.

There's only one way to answer these questions: draft a campaign that does what you want it to do, see if 1d20+Key Ability+Ranks/Bonus is the mechanic you want, if leveling is the advancement you want, and play it.


Good luck fighting monsters with DR/magic without magic weapons. And without stat boosters. And without magic armor.


Enchanter Tom wrote:
Good luck fighting monsters with DR/magic without magic weapons. And without stat boosters. And without magic armor.

Tommy, that's easy, you just lower the DR. If the players don't have gigantic stats, you limit the gigantic stats of monsters. I for one am getting tired of seeing pathfinder monsters without weaknesses and no low ability score. I've done this on the fly, and it is easy. All part and parcel of using pathfinder material for 3.5 games.


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Might I reccommend checking out Kirthfinder while not magic-less or even really low magic it handles magic items and spell casting in a way that helps keep it more in check and more flavorful.

For instnace instead of +2 ring of protection +3 amulet of natural armor and +4 cloak of resistance to accompany your +3 shadow armor it becomes a single item with these abilities that grows as you do with out the need for spellcasters to upgrade it.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I've looked at a kind of "inherent bonuses" system for PF. My approach to the DR problem (in the interests of simplicity) was to subtract the attacker's level from the defender's DR (unless they have an appropriate weapon which is better than that). It does mean heroes can do heroic things beyond what normal people can, so it might rankle with those of a simulationist bent.

Dark Archive

Kazarath wrote:

One of my fellow players claims that the D&D 3.5/Pathfinder ruleset simply does not work without spellcasters and magic. I think this is just silly. If one made an entire setting specifically designed without out it, new classes, new monsters, and the equivalent of most magic items (technology maybe), I think it could work.

What does the community think?

I think that's called Iron Heroes and it's something I've always wanted to play. :)

Seems far easier than going through every PF/3.5 book and finding the spell-less versions of every class.

(That said, is there a version of the Bard without spellcasting in any d20 book or supplement anywhere? I'd love to see it.)


If you just want to avoid "crazy" levels of magics, have a game where only the partial casters (6th level spells at level 20) are allowed.

You still have magic enough to handle most modules but you won't have many of the spells that seem to give designers and DMs fits.


Diabhol wrote:
Kazarath wrote:

One of my fellow players claims that the D&D 3.5/Pathfinder ruleset simply does not work without spellcasters and magic. I think this is just silly. If one made an entire setting specifically designed without out it, new classes, new monsters, and the equivalent of most magic items (technology maybe), I think it could work.

What does the community think?

I think that's called Iron Heroes and it's something I've always wanted to play. :)

Seems far easier than going through every PF/3.5 book and finding the spell-less versions of every class.

(That said, is there a version of the Bard without spellcasting in any d20 book or supplement anywhere? I'd love to see it.)

Monte Cook's Iron Heroes is what you are looking for. It uses an expanded feat and skill system instead of magic with new base classes that essentially make up for their being no magic. It was designed to be compatible with the 3.0 bestiary and specifically quotes having 20th level iron heroes without magic killing a pit fiend.

Grand Lodge

My non casting bard gives the bard a free feat every time they go up a spell caster level (inc. level 1)... it can be ANY feat.


Low-magic dragons are super-easy. Use all of the physical traits: ability scores, speed, HP, natural armor, etc, and just nix the SLAs and spells. Keep the breath weapon if it suits you (I would), but even without it, a dragon is still a beast when a party is without certain magical aid.

Even if you get rid of the majority of spell casting, that doesn't mean you want to do away with ALL of the fantasy elements, does it? Is that what's going on here?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Kazarath wrote:
Well, half of my RPG group is saying they'll leave if its not Pathfinder. Does that answer your question?

Have you considered that half your group might not want a no-magic game? Perhaps you should find players that do and pick a game that does no magic better. Warhammer FRPG or Green Ronin's The Black Company campaign setting might be more suited to what you want.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
Kazarath wrote:
Well, half of my RPG group is saying they'll leave if its not Pathfinder. Does that answer your question?
Have you considered that half your group might not want a no-magic game? Perhaps you should find players that do and pick a game that does no magic better. Warhammer FRPG or Green Ronin's The Black Company campaign setting might be more suited to what you want.

Cubicle 7's The One Ring is another beautiful system. Its designed explicitly for Tolkien's Middle Earth, so not suitable for high fantasy, but a saxon-danish influenced epic saga-type game could use this ruleset without problem.

'findel

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

...now I have another system to explore. *shakes fist*

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