Simple yet possible solution to help keep high-level casters in check


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


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A simple, yet possible, solution to help keep high-level casters in check.

How about simply letting other casters (as well as people appropriately trained*) have a chance to sense the casting of powerful magic (higher than 5th level) up to miles away? It may take awhile (longer than the duration of a combat) to be sensed.

The reactions of the high-level people who sense this magic can be modified to suit any campaign (they may note it for future rumor mongering may come read to fight, they may just be apathetic).

*'appropriately trained' does not necessarily mean 'full-caster' it may mean skilled in a relevant knowledge.


Your going to need more of explanation here. I see nothing in this suggestion that would do much of anything to reign in how powerful casters are. All this would do is allow residents of high level dungeons possibly become aware of another caster. Oddly enough, this benefits casters since evidently they automatically get the ability to sense powerful spells, while others have to train for it. The solution reigning in magic is not magic must fight magic.


Just do a spell point system, only instead of converting the existing spell table into points, assign spell points similarly to skill points.

Let a caster have up to his ability modifier in spell points per level, and let him assign them the way you want. don't make scaling spells use more points, however, because it really screws it up.

Lower level casters are much more versatile this way and are capable of actually BEING casters instead of a glorified crossbowman.

Also high level casters aren't able to just spam high level spells one after another.

with 1+int modifier for lower magic games, (and 2+int modifier for high magic games in spell points), a 10th level wizard with 18 intelligence can have 50 spell points (using 1+int), letting him cast 10 5th level spells if he blows all his power into them. or 7 5th level spells, 10 first level spells a single third and a single 2nd.

Compare that to the 'traditional' spell point system that allows a 10th level wizard with 18 int to have 88 points.

This method really makes having a wizards Staff much more useful, because a single staff could conceivably double a mid level wizards high level spell power for a day. A staff with a 5th level spell as its highest level that only takes 1 charge seriously would double a 10th level wizards magical power in this system.
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Seriously, the best way to limit high level casters is to instead tie spell capacity progression to their ability modifier, and to make it into a linear progression in power, rather than the exponential progression casters currently have.

make it "linear fighter, linear wizard" rather than "linear fighter, quadratic wizard"

I like the idea of a 2nd level wizard being able to ~10 spells, albeit low level ones while a high level wizard could spam roughly the same number of their highest spells, only to have nothing left.

This method also makes metamagic more fun, to me at least.


Or you could make them roll fortitude DC 10+ spell level every time they cast a spell. Failure= sickened for a number of rds equal to the spell level. Save for 1 rd duration.

That ought fire this bad boy right up!


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Rocket, in my custom campaign world there is a world-spanning cabal of high level casters who quite literally monitor magical emanations all over the world and investigate anything they find to be unusual.

Not sure how this is supposed to do anything about balancing the game though. They just decide what to get involved in or not based on their own agenda. And when they do get involved, the way they resolve the situation is....

they cast spells.

Scarab Sages

Mr.Fishy wrote:

Or you could make them roll fortitude DC 10+ spell level every time they cast a spell. Failure= sickened for a number of rds equal to the spell level. Save for 1 rd duration.

That ought fire this bad boy right up!

Cool idea.

Can we do the same every time a martial does a full-attack action?

After all, its hardly fair they get to swing weapons all day without resting.


Justin Rocket wrote:

A simple, yet possible, solution to help keep high-level casters in check.

How about simply letting other casters (as well as people appropriately trained*) have a chance to sense the casting of powerful magic (higher than 5th level) up to miles away? It may take awhile (longer than the duration of a combat) to be sensed.

The reactions of the high-level people who sense this magic can be modified to suit any campaign (they may note it for future rumor mongering may come read to fight, they may just be apathetic).

*'appropriately trained' does not necessarily mean 'full-caster' it may mean skilled in a relevant knowledge.

Why is this important so much as to nerf?

Anti scrying magic is common. Defensive magic can block most range attacks.

Counter PC magic with more magic and the problem is solved.


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Mr.Fishy wrote:

Or you could make them roll fortitude DC 10+ spell level every time they cast a spell. Failure= sickened for a number of rds equal to the spell level. Save for 1 rd duration.

That ought fire this bad boy right up!

Artanthos wrote:


Cool idea.

Can we do the same every time a martial does a full-attack action?

After all, its hardly fair they get to swing weapons all day without resting.

Sure as soon as it "alters the fabric of reality" or we could give spell casters an eight hour cool down and then a one hour reboot...wait...


My idea is that, since high level magic is detectable, it is impossible to use it in a campaign without alerting your target.

For example, you are wandering through a dungeon. The moment your wizard started casting high level magic and alerted the BBEG, the BBEG scried for you. Whether he could find you or not, the BBEG has been laying symbols, calling on contracts (from Planar Binding), etc. So, by the time you find the BBEG, he's too entrenched for you to defeat. Hopefully, he won't chase you as you flee.

Eventually, the wizard PC learns to avoid using high level magic unless he really, -really-, needs it.


Justin, there are lots of ways for a well designed dungeon to alert the owner of anyone's presence without having to arbitrarily say that high level magic spells are detectable.

In the case of my own campaign world, the cabal has spent generations enhancing and fine-tuning detect magic type spells so that they can monitor the world.

Think of the US Navy's sonar detection system that monitors undersea activity throughout the world. That's essentially what my world has, but only the cabal has the knowledge and power to create the devices and spells that detect magic that way.

If I wanted to do what you are suggesting I'd probably come up with limited duration versions of detect magic that allow for magic of a certain level to be detected if cast within a certain radius. Then the BBEG could use the spell, but it would use up some of his magic resources to do so.

Scarab Sages

Mr.Fishy wrote:
Mr.Fishy wrote:

Or you could make them roll fortitude DC 10+ spell level every time they cast a spell. Failure= sickened for a number of rds equal to the spell level. Save for 1 rd duration.

That ought fire this bad boy right up!

Artanthos wrote:


Cool idea.

Can we do the same every time a martial does a full-attack action?

After all, its hardly fair they get to swing weapons all day without resting.

Sure as soon as it "alters the fabric of reality" or we could give spell casters an eight hour cool down and then a one hour reboot...wait...

It very much alters the physical reality of whoever you hit.

It changes living matter into non-living matter.


Mr. Fishy liked the idea of a cabal of wizards working together reaching across alginment to safe guard their "shared" world. It helps to justifiy why one crazy powerful wizard or demon doesn't go all scorched earth, if they do your cabal can stomp it out or "lead" heroes into the thick of it thus protecting they world and watching thier "brothers" at the same time. You don't want to drop a scroll in that room.


Mr.Fishy wrote:


Sure as soon as it "alters the fabric of reality" or we could give spell casters an eight hour cool down and then a one hour reboot...wait...
Artanthos wrote:


It very much alters the physical reality of whoever you hit.

It changes living matter into non-living matter.

"Physical" Fighters reality altering has a noncool down quailify tag, "Physical".

Scarab Sages

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Mr.Fishy wrote:


Mr.Fishy wrote:


Sure as soon as it "alters the fabric of reality" or we could give spell casters an eight hour cool down and then a one hour reboot...wait...
Artanthos wrote:


It very much alters the physical reality of whoever you hit.

It changes living matter into non-living matter.

"Physical" Fighters reality altering has a noncool down quailify tag, "Physical".

I would rendering living living matter non-living matter is a pretty important change. One of the most important.

No saving throws attached to either.


Artanthos wrote:


I would rendering living living matter non-living matter is a pretty important change. One of the most important.

No saving throws attached to either.

Fine fighters has to roll fort DC equal to 10+ spell level when they hit a monster...so DC 10...Fort...Mr. Fishy will take that. Monster guts ewwwww...roll for sicken.


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Man if only there were this magical thing called "Armor Class" in the game, THEN there would be a "DC" like mechanic for martial characters!


Mr.Fishy wrote:

Mr. Fishy liked the idea of a cabal of wizards working together reaching across alginment to safe guard their "shared" world. It helps to justifiy why one crazy powerful wizard or demon doesn't go all scorched earth, if they do your cabal can stomp it out or "lead" heroes into the thick of it thus protecting they world and watching thier "brothers" at the same time. You don't want to drop a scroll in that room.

The United Nations was supposed to do something similar and hasn't been much success. I don't see a wizard cabal being immune to the kinds of problems the UN has had. Plus, they would have the problems of academics. They'd also have a lack of trust from common people (the real world analogue would be the CERN collider that was supposed to create a black hole)

On the other hand, a council of churches might work since Wis is a prime req for them.


Rynjin wrote:
Man if only there were this magical thing called "Armor Class" in the game, THEN there would be a "DC" like mechanic for martial characters!

STOP TRYING TO NERF THE FIGHTER. DC 10 fort vs sicken on monster guts,period.


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A much simpler solution is to smash a pair of grapes on the table with a hammer before each game, and just stare at the player controlling the caster.

Silver Crusade

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There are a few ways you could balance casting.

1. Make spells take more time.
Seriously, you're performing a ritual that bends the fabric of reality, it should take you more than 3 seconds (standard action). 0-level spells should take a standard action. Add a round per per every 2 spell levels to casting time. 9th level spells take 4 rounds to cast. The Spell Caster is still powerful, she's still able to cast save or suck. She just needs someone to protect him while she does it. And it doesn't have to be a round per 2 spell levels, it could be a round per 3 spell levels.

2. Make spells cost more money.
You're calling on fell forces beyond your comprehension to transform the very universe to your will, and it only costs you pocket lint? Or a handful of sand? No, you need to have some gold dust or ruby shards or some mother freaking unicorn's blood to cast and you don't get a feat to ignore it, skinflint. You want to cast glitterdust? Cool, you need a handful of gold dust worth 5g to cast it. You want color spray? You need a crystal prism worth 100 gold to cast it (you can reuse it, but why does a Wizard's components cost less than a fighter's dinner knife.

3. Make spells take something from you.
The fort idea is brilliant DC10+2x the Spell level or you're staggered for a number of rounds equal to 4x spell level. Make them cost Hit Points. You cast a 0-level spell it deals 1 HP of Non-lethal damage. You cast a 1st level spell it does 2 HP of Non-Lethal, 2nd Level 4 HP of Non-Lethal, 3rd Level 8 HP of Non-Lethal, 4th Level 16 HP of Non-Lethal, 5th Level 32 HP of Non-Lethal. You get a exponential power increase, you pay a exponential cost. Plus it forces Casters to have at least a 2nd Ability that is important.

4. And really this is something that could fix things a lot easier. Make more combat feats like power attack, that grow in power with progression in level. Shield Focus gives you the +1 at levels 1-3, becomes Missile shield at levels 4-7, becomes Ray Shield at levels 8-11, lets you apply shield bonus to Touch AC at 11-20. Step Up becomes Step Up and Strike, becomes etc...

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Removed some posts and replies. Please keep hostility/personal insults out of the conversation.

Silver Crusade

I didn't take any offense to the response to me, I guess the language was probably a little uncalled for, but he was just voicing disagreement with my suggestions, no worries there.


Mr.Fishy wrote:

Or you could make them roll fortitude DC 10+ spell level every time they cast a spell. Failure= sickened for a number of rds equal to the spell level. Save for 1 rd duration.

That ought fire this bad boy right up!

(3.5 ed) Dragonlance had the "Curse of the Magi" mechanic which worked something like that. IIRC, first failure = fatigued, fail while fatigued = exhausted, fail while exhausted = unconscious. In my experience (having DMed Dragonlance a few times) it made spellcasters more careful about what they cast and when.

I'm also a fan of extended casting times - One round per level is not unreasonable (although it makes spells like Haste a bit of a no-brainer...)


P33J wrote:


4. And really this is something that could fix things a lot easier. Make more combat feats like power attack, that grow in power with progression in level. Shield Focus gives you the +1 at levels 1-3, becomes Missile shield at levels 4-7, becomes Ray Shield at levels 8-11, lets you apply...

Not to go off topic, but (I think I saw this in Kirthfinder, I'll have to check) I like where the same weapon has a simple and martial feat and, if you have the martial feat, you can do more with the weapon (for example, if you have a martial prof in hammers, you get a number of hammer feats, such as weapon bounce, for free).


I know it's almost certainly been said before but...stop taking it easy on high-level parties. Throw large, diverse groups of enemies at them from multiple directions. Make circumstances, if not outright hostile to them, definitely not favorable either. Make the enemy advanced with templates, class levels, spell-casting ability, magic items, and all sorts of other wonky stuff. Then...make a typical adventuring day between 6-12 of these fights long without long and easy breaks and with penalties for withdrawing after 3 fights. I guarantee you, these so-called 'God Wizards' will wither a bit on the inside as they realize they can't handle all this themselves and their all-mighty spells become just another (very handy and versatile) tool in the party's quest to not just win, but survive the attempt.


Based on fantasy stories, books, movies, and shows, it seems common for an arcane caster to wind up "drained and exhausted" after casting a really high-level spell, whereas he can cast low-level effects like light or levitation all day long without appreciable strain.

So far, a scaling Fortitude save (based on spell level) sounds like the best way to represent that, and to put a leash on the deific qualities of high-level spells while not denying them outright.


I've been debating trying the following:

Magical Strain

When a spellcaster casts a spell, they must make a Concentration Check (DC 10 + 3X spell lvl). Failure does not stop the spell but instead weakens the caster by having the magical energies rebound or go slightly out of control dealing the caster 2 points of non-lethal damage per level of the spell. For the purposes of Magical Strain, Cantrips/Orisons count as having a spell level of 0, requiring only a DC 10 check (not counting any situational modifiers)and deal 1 point of non-lethal on a failed check.


sooo the wizard hides in the back contributes nothing to any subsequent fights except maybe a "yeah good swing dorf the bold" until you reach the bbeg assuming you know it is the bbeg and then lets loose...that doesn't seem very fun.


Lobolusk wrote:
sooo the wizard hides in the back contributes nothing to any subsequent fights except maybe a "yeah good swing dorf the bold" until you reach the bbeg assuming you know it is the bbeg and then lets loose...that doesn't seem very fun.

Agreed. Magic is a class feature, you shouldn't be penalized for using it any more than a monk should be punished for having good saves or a fighter is punished for having a good BAB, etc.

That said, there IS an interesting mechanic that came out with UM to present a unique mechanic for casters to have to worry about: spell-blights. Maybe look at making those a bit more prevalent?


Lobolusk wrote:
sooo the wizard hides in the back contributes nothing to any subsequent fights except maybe a "yeah good swing dorf the bold" until you reach the bbeg assuming you know it is the bbeg and then lets loose...that doesn't seem very fun.

That's what the low-level spells are for... they don't cause any strain and they're perfect for taking out low-level mooks.


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Or you could just make it so that when a spellcaster attempts to cast a spell of their highest level they have to pass a caster level check, if they fail, they get a major/minor spellblight... many of those spellblights can really put a damper on a spellcaster's day...


Cerberus Seven wrote:


Agreed. Magic is a class feature, you shouldn't be penalized for using it any more than a monk should be punished for having good saves or a fighter is punished for having a good BAB, etc.

Striving for balance between classes is not penalizing a class for using their class ability.


Justin Rocket wrote:
Cerberus Seven wrote:


Agreed. Magic is a class feature, you shouldn't be penalized for using it any more than a monk should be punished for having good saves or a fighter is punished for having a good BAB, etc.

Striving for balance between classes is not penalizing a class for using their class ability.

If you want them to be balanced, then you have to solve the weakness of wizards at low levels compared to other classes as well as their power at high levels.

'Balance' by nerfing high level wizards when low level wizards are glorified crossbow mounts is in fact not balance at all.
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The only way ive ever seen to address this issue is by using the modified spell points system with linear, stat based point progression that i posted earlier in this thread.

Their INT bonus (or 1+ or 2+INT bonus in high magic games) spell points per level, and all spells cost their spell levels in points.

You are then able to make lots of low level spells if you want to for endurance, but if you try to load up on higher level spells you quickly find that you only have a very limited number, unless you decided to forgo ALL spells but your high level ones. And even then its only going to last a handful of rounds.

a wizard of 18 INT would have 40 spell points at 9th level. If they blew all their points on high level spells, they could only cast 8 5th level spells then be down to their cantrips. This seems a bit much, until you realzie that it severly limits higher level progression. at 20th level, a wizard with 20 INT only would have 100 spell points. Using the TRADITIONAL spell points system, said wizard would have 267 spell points. Not requiring scaling spells to use more points really allows you to reduce the number of spell points helping to reduce the fruitiness of the spell point system, thankfully greatly limiting high level wizards power, while increasing their endurance using low level spells.

They could load up on quite a bit of first and second level spells, giving them some endurance that doesn't involve crossbows as their only means of offense.

Wizards being wizards.


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JTibbs wrote:


If you want them to be balanced, then you have to solve the weakness of wizards at low levels compared to other classes as well as their power at high levels.

??

Sleep and Color Spray are both "I win" spells at low level. What weakness do you think wizards have at low levels?

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