Where did the magic go?


Homebrew and House Rules


So i am going to be running a homebrew campaign where magic is basically non-existent. The PC's may only take levels in non-caster classes (sans gunslinger) and are each going to have a random spell-like ability, and this is the only form of magic in my campaign. Does anyone have any experience or advise for running such a campaign?


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Honestly, pathfinder is not a very good system for running a no-magic game. It's a high fantasy system based on the expectation that magic is relatively common. You might have better luck running a grittier fantasy system like riddle of steel or specifically adapting a universal system like GURPS.

If you are absolutely set on running this is pathfinder, there's a few things you need to consider:

a) Have you talked to your players about this idea? Are they excited or ambivalent? Do they have any suggestions?

a) If there are no magic items, you may need to implement something to replace magic items. Otherwise PCs will fall behind in their weakest areas (weak saves etc).

b) Are you going to have supernatural abilities and monsters? If so, how are your players going to deal with things like incorpreal, swarms or flying creatures? These things can TPK a no-magic group pretty easily, especially at higher levels.

c) How are you going to compensate for the limited scope of your adventure? If you cut all spellcasting and supernatural abilites you are left with only a few classes and very few monsters. Are the players going to be stuck at low level fighting humans and wolves their whole career? Will it be more of an intrigue game (in which case again pathfinder isn't optimal)? You need to think about the expectations of your group and whether this kind of 'gritty' game is going to be fun for them.

Really though, I cannot stress enough that Pathfinder is not the right system for a no-magic game. You have to cut and rearrange so much you may as well start with a new system from scratch. I highly recommend you look elsewhere rather than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.


So what classes will be available? Fighter, Rogue, Cavalier and (maybe) Monk?

Dark Archive

Be extra careful with healing necessities and time needed for getting back in action. Try something alchemical to make up with the lack of magic, maybe with some fun after effects.

Same with large groups of bad guys swarming the PCs, as they'll sorely miss crowd control spells.

Take care using monsters that feature really high AC values. These take into consideration magic buffs to be properly dealt with, and relying only on class levels, feats and ability scores could be dangerous, especially at higher (8+) levels.

That said, you'll discover that player ingenuity and creativity will solve most problems, and some "fodder" monsters will take back their nastiness.
A small giant type critter (leveled ogre, hill giant) is no longer just a sack of HPs waiting to be drained, it's a freakin' nightmare.
If played well, a funnier game than the superpowered high fantasy taken as the baseline.


Monster stats are built with the expectation of certain player attack bonus, AC, and Save scores. These expectations presume certain amounts and types of magic items.

A level 10 melee character is likely to be throwing down a solid +5 more attack bonus just from various magic items, and even more with buff spells. Thus, if you throw a nonmagical level 10 character against a CR 10 creature, it will have a much higher AC than you'd like.

Nonmagical Pathfinder would work well if you run one the modification where you cap the level at 6 or 8 (I can't recall the term... E6?)


Not to mention that without access to magical healing you are going to end up doing two combats (3 at the very most) and then go rest for a week (at first levles) or for a few months (at higher levels).


I tried something similar, and for the reasons already discussed, it didn't work well. What I ended up doing was changing the theme to a "magic is dying" world. Only a few special people have magic ability and I also added plants and herbs that had "magical" healing powers. Most magic weapons were long-lost and if the PC's found one it was priceless.

Capping levels and using a system like E6 is definately a help here. That's where you stop leveling up at level 6 and at each "leveling" point thereafter, the pc's get new feat(s) and/or skill ranks.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
leo1925 wrote:
Not to mention that without access to magical healing you are going to end up doing two combats (3 at the very most) and then go rest for a week (at first levles) or for a few months (at higher levels).

No where near a few months. Remember that a character heals their level in hit points per day of rest. Complete bed rest doubles that.

So consider the very lucky barbarian who rolled maximum on all 20 of his d12 hit dice. That is 240 hp. Lets say a Con mod of +5, for an additional 100 hitpoints, bringing the total up to 340. If brought all the way down to 0 HP, then that would take (340 divided by 20) 17 days to heal, with the barbarian still adventuring during that time. If he took complete bed rest, thats only (340 divided by 40) 9 days.

And remember, that is someone with the largest hit die size available, who rolled maximum on all dice. With more average numbers, the healing time drops to 12 days (with adventuring) and 6 days (complete rest).

OH, and then there is the Heal skill. A successful DC 15 check (for long-term care) lets the patient heal double the normal amount for they day (So 4x the characters level with complete bed rest.) You just can't provide this care to yourself, but the healer can provide it to up to 6 other people. That brings our mighty barbarian down to 9 days of healing with adventuring, or 4 days with complete bed rest. Again, the average 20th level barbarian would reduce those numbers to 6 days while adventuring, or 3 days of bed rest.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Go for it neronoxx! The system is more robust than most give it credit for.

I would point out to your players some of the issues that arise (as mentioned above) and to plan for that reality. For instance, being a stealthy group is a great way of avoiding the need for as much healing, by avoiding encounters and getting surprise rounds.


Ok i was wrong on the months, but it can still be a week or two.


*points up at Jeraa's Heal skill paragraph.
A Fighter with a +2 Con, or Rogue with a +3 Con, has about 8 hp per level. That's two days with Heal skill and bed rest. From Zero.


What about (EX) abilities? A lot of those can take you into gray areas. The entire Alchemist class is a gray area too. Will they be encoutning any form of DR? Think hard about that one before hand. Consider a high point buy, or allot extra points for buying stats at certain levels to keep derived values competitive with what the bestiaries think they'll be at.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I played in a low-magic RotRL once with no full casters. Our only healing was a paladin with LoH. We died, early and often. The system expects the party to be able to "top off" between encounters.

If you're homebrewing rather than using a published adventure, don't plan for your PCs to have to face several encounters in succession the way they do in the unmodified game. Also, you might consider the strain/injury variant rules, where most damage (with the exception of crits and a few other things) heals naturally with a short breather between encounters.


Majuba wrote:

*points up at Jeraa's Heal skill paragraph.

A Fighter with a +2 Con, or Rogue with a +3 Con, has about 8 hp per level. That's two days with Heal skill and bed rest. From Zero.

Yes and if you use treat deadly wounds* in addition to long term care it's even less time, but the issue still remains that after 2, meaningful, combats (3 if you really stretc it) you need to go and rest (and not do another combat) for at least a couple of days.

*although this requires a proper (level 5) physician


Majuba wrote:

*points up at Jeraa's Heal skill paragraph.

A Fighter with a +2 Con, or Rogue with a +3 Con, has about 8 hp per level. That's two days with Heal skill and bed rest. From Zero.

And when you're in the field, there's random encounters while you rest. We spent over a month trying to travel what should have been three days. Fun..... of a mild sort.


I'd recommend giving everyone over a specific level fast healing 1. Actually, I'd recommend this in a normal game, but it is particularly important in a no-magic game.


Go for it. My friend is currently running one and they are at level 7 now with only 3 character deaths. Remember in a no magic, enemies wont be as buff either because alot of them are stated because of spells and such or magical items. Dont throw a caster at said party either unless its a bbeg at the very end of the game.
no magic relys on players using tactics such as aid at times. Be careful with said monsters u use as well and as many u use too. But it is very doable but u need to tweek some things here and there. But very doable.


Except stories that dont have high levels of magic available to heroes tend to have impressive levels of plot armor where they wont need such things anyways (i.e. how often was a hero in LOTRs ever actually injured without then taking months to recover?). In a game where probablity is determined by dice rolls that same effect cant be counted on without the GM stepping in and fudging rolls all the time which then breaks the immersion/tension. It can still be done but requires a lot of planning on what challeneges to use and how the party will be able to recover from them.


Thank you for everyone who has contributed to this thread, but i want to clear up a few misconceptions.
1. Setting. This campaign will take place in a setting where magic is extremely rare. The only people capable of performing magic are called 'Pact-makers' due to the fact that each has a ritual that must be enacted after having used said magic (if this sounds familiar, check out "Darker than Black.") The PC's will all be servants of a royal family currently trying to decide which son/daughter of the dying king will inherit the throne. This results in a large amount of intrigue, as each PC may be serving different members of the family.
The campaign starts as this, but eventually will grow into something i cannot discuss here (as my players frequent these boards.)
2. The party WANTS to play this style of campaign. To those who think i am 'forcing' it on them, you can probably take a hike; i doubt you have anything constructive to add past that i am a terrible DM.
3. Encounters. This is primarily a human inhabited world. Not a whole lot of monsters, just mainly people. The players are people. The bad guys are people. Therefor i am not really concerned about "balancing" encounters too much.
4.Healing. As stated above, i don't think that healing will be an issue.
With those clarifications, shall we continue?

Paizo Glitterati Robot

Removed some posts. A discussion on high magic and low magic games is probably better off in it's own thread. Let's not derail this one, thanks!


DrDeth wrote:
Neronoxx wrote:
So i am going to be running a homebrew campaign where magic is basically non-existent.

Try Iron Heroes. Honestly, PF does not mesh well with this. WHY do you want to try hammering the square peg of "no magic" into the round hole of PF?

I'd also suggest giving Iron Heroes a try. It's another d20 based game so most Pathfinder/DnD vets can catch on to it pretty fast. However it's built from the ground up with martial characters in mind and has mechanics in place to make such characters really shine.

Also, why are Gunslingers banned? Could've just reflavored them by giving them bows or crossbows and a freebie Crossbow Mastery feat. It's a bit of a nerf for them, but it's still better than flat out banning it because you don't like Firearms.

Dark Archive

Each player having a random spell like ability is Sking for trouble. Expect one or more players to be extremely happy with a pure lucky roll determining what they get, which just so happens to be good for them. Then watch everyone else act frustrated thier ability java no good use, or is.so situational, it is.next to worthless.

If you really want people to have a "random" spell like ability. Make a list, have Ty Ben choose or draft off of it. Make sure the.last drafter still has at least 3 choices.

You may want to look up the spell like abilities of dragon marks from the 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting. You do not have to usethe setting or even the idea behind dragon marks or the families associated with them. It is just a list you can look at as examples.

Do not give one player fireball while another get Ray of frost. In itbet words don't give a cantrip level if power to one players and a 3rd level spell to another.

Co.spider giving attack spells to the combat weak players and utility spells to the combat heavy players.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Neronoxx wrote:

Thank you for everyone who has contributed to this thread, but i want to clear up a few misconceptions.

1. Setting. This campaign will take place in a setting where magic is extremely rare. The only people capable of performing magic are called 'Pact-makers' due to the fact that each has a ritual that must be enacted after having used said magic (if this sounds familiar, check out "Darker than Black.") The PC's will all be servants of a royal family currently trying to decide which son/daughter of the dying king will inherit the throne. This results in a large amount of intrigue, as each PC may be serving different members of the family.
The campaign starts as this, but eventually will grow into something i cannot discuss here (as my players frequent these boards.)
2. The party WANTS to play this style of campaign. To those who think i am 'forcing' it on them, you can probably take a hike; i doubt you have anything constructive to add past that i am a terrible DM.
3. Encounters. This is primarily a human inhabited world. Not a whole lot of monsters, just mainly people. The players are people. The bad guys are people. Therefor i am not really concerned about "balancing" encounters too much.
4.Healing. As stated above, i don't think that healing will be an issue.
With those clarifications, shall we continue?

If the vast majority of encounters are human, there wont be as much of a balance issue except in extreme cases, monks odly enough generally present a balance issue in low magic or no magic campaigns as they often perform best when lacking magical reasources.

In terms of healing, I am not sure what you have planned, but if the majority of it is about intrigue in civilized areas, it can work, just both you and the players need to understand potential pacing issues. If there is a 'combat encounter' where significant injury occurs, it will take at least several days for the party to recover. The story needs to be paced accordingly.


Neronoxx wrote:

4.Healing. As stated above, i don't think that healing will be an issue.

With those clarifications, shall we continue?

I'm curious how you'll handle this. Just use regular rules along with GM planning?

Also, I think your premise sounds cool. If you're looking at a mostly human world, then you may want to consider what level of healing the pc's foes will have available. The higher the class status the more potent the healing skills available to them might be. You could also work in scarring and maiming from infections as reasons for antogonists to have a grudge (that cut you gave me on my cheek got infected and after the gangrene was cut away I now look like this!).

Really, though, I think it'll be a success overall. I'd suggest being rules-flexible for unforseen circumstances. Other than that, go for it and have fun!

The Exchange

I'm not familiar with the latest Conan RPG, but when you say "humans only, no magicians, low magic" I can't help thinking you could probably crib a lot of ideas from the Hyborian Age.

One thing to be wary of is condition removal. PF throws these around very generously because it assumes that the party has access to means of overcoming little problems like blindness, leprosy, or being dismembered. If one of those "random" SLAs your party has includes, say, cleanse from the APG, that character's going to be mighty popular!

When I start to think of how popular, I begin to suspect he'd constantly be harassed and abducted by NPCs who want the 'miracle worker' for their own ends... Could be a decent adventure hook, even if it does put one PC in 'the spotlight' a bit too much.


Neronoxx wrote:
So i am going to be running a homebrew campaign where magic is basically non-existent. The PC's may only take levels in non-caster classes (sans gunslinger) and are each going to have a random spell-like ability, and this is the only form of magic in my campaign. Does anyone have any experience or advise for running such a campaign?

Some experience here.

From what I've seen, the system works quite well with one exception: monsters are designed with the assumption that magic is available. CR is a good scale for parties for which magic is available.

As long as you take that into consideration; the game works perfectly fine.


Non-Caster classes aren't too bad (Cavalier, Barbarian, Rogue, Fighter and Monk) still that is only 5 classes and two of those classes are still heavily magical (monk and barbarian) so your options for non-magic classes are fighters, rogues and cavaliers. Which really doesn't give you much room for variance.

Archers are the king of this game style without any of the normal magical countermeasures they can rain death from above. Trip martial's would be really good for a change because humans have two feet and are easily tripped. AC remains the most important defense throughout the game and tanks can actually do there job(when not faced with Archers).


don't forget that the Heal skill has "Treat Deadly Wounds" as well, that restores the creature's level in Hit Points + maybe some extra if the Heal check is really good.

There are spell-less options for the Ranger; Skirmisher and Trapper.

Advanced Class Guide will be adding Brawler, Slayer and Swashbuckler to the list of not-magic classes and there are a few others out there if you start looking at the 3rd party stuff.

I would also consider the Vigor/Wounds optional system from Ultimate Combat. At low levels it creates a much larger buffer against dying.


Wind Chime wrote:
two of those classes are still heavily magical (monk and barbarian)

??

Literally none of the barbarian's abilities are magical [edit: by default]. They are all (Ex).


137ben wrote:
Wind Chime wrote:
two of those classes are still heavily magical (monk and barbarian)

??

Literally none of the barbarian's abilities are magical. They are all (Ex).

That's not entirely true. Many of Barbarian's Rage Powers are supernatural.


Suma3da wrote:
137ben wrote:
Wind Chime wrote:
two of those classes are still heavily magical (monk and barbarian)

??

Literally none of the barbarian's abilities are magical. They are all (Ex).
That's not entirely true. Many of Barbarian's Rage Powers are supernatural.

You are right, I was referring to the base class features, which are all (Ex). You can choose from some (Su) rage powers. In a no-magic setting, it may be appropriate to only allow (Ex) rage powers.


leo1925 wrote:
Majuba wrote:

*points up at Jeraa's Heal skill paragraph.

A Fighter with a +2 Con, or Rogue with a +3 Con, has about 8 hp per level. That's two days with Heal skill and bed rest. From Zero.

Yes and if you use treat deadly wounds* in addition to long term care it's even less time, but the issue still remains that after 2, meaningful, combats (3 if you really stretc it) you need to go and rest (and not do another combat) for at least a couple of days.

*although this requires a proper (level 5) physician

You can get the heal skill pretty high at 1st level if it is a class skill and the appropriate trait is used. There are 5 traits that make Heal a Class Skill - I'd recommend Caretaker, as it provides a +1 on all healing checks. There is also a rogue talent (Survivalist) that makes Heal and Survival class skills. The Self-Sufficient Feat grants a +2 on Heal and Survival skills. Fast Healer feat allows you to heal faster (1/2 CON modifier each day). A Healing Kit provides a +2 circumstance bonus on Heal checks. If focused on healing, it is easy to get Long-Term Care into Take-10 territory. (The trait + a wis of 12 would do it at 1st level).


Healing Salve: An alchemical product in an old 3.0 splatbook that was basically a potion of CLW except it only healed 1d8 (no +1), took a full-round to apply, and was made with alchemy. There's a lot of alchemical stuff out there, no harm in adding this one.

Not all spell like abilities are created equal, nor are they all obviously useful or synergize with all character classes. Prestidigitation is really, really nice from an RP perspective but useless in combat. Even a mighty Fireball is useless against a particularly thick and locked door, and a rogue with acid splash is worth more than a wizard with meteor swarm against a critter with high DR and fire immunity. LOT of arguments as to "teh best spell" and the spell-likes that work best in intrigue situations are the really vague spells like Major Image, where the effects are largely DM fiat. That is an issue, not insurmountable but also undeniable.

Have back ups. I know you're all plot over fight and intrigue and white wolf but let's be real, Game of Thrones isn't WRONG when it's rare-magic medieval world has a really freaking high mortality rate with total anti-climax death scenes. It's REAL easy to get croaked in the dark ages by all kinds of surprise tantrum-murders, especially among the nobles during a succession struggle. Players gonna need some back up characters.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Homebrew and House Rules / Where did the magic go? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Homebrew and House Rules