General Discussion: Spells and Magic


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Paizo Employee Lead Designer

This thread is for general discussion of the Spells and Magic system, found in the Occult Adventures Playtest document. This thread should be used for general impressions and overall concerns and ideas. Feedback on a specific concept or rule should have its own thread created by you.

As a reminder, please be polite and courteous to your fellow posters. We are all here to endeavor to create a better play experience with these rules and excessive arguing and insults are inappropriate.

Thank you again for participating in the Occult Adventures Playtest!

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer


i dig the new components, T and E, because the difference between a component and display is the difference between an input and output. cleverly done.

bummer no Mind Blank and Psionic Blast though...


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Nice resurrection of the 1e psionic attacks and defences...

Paizo Employee Lead Designer

Mind Blank is already a spell. As for psionic blast, I am sure that will find its way into the game at some point.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

"Psionic Blast" actually, otherwise known as "mode A".


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First impressions out of the box...

I do like the approach taken by the first class, the kineticist, that is to not use spells or spell slots but instead draw heavily on spell-like abilities and supernatural powers, much like the old 3.5 warlock (but with better concept and mechanics)...

I do not like the other five being just other vancian spellcasters with some perks and tweaks... It seems to me that they could just be variant classes for other older classes (psychic = sorcerer, spiritualist = summoner etc.) or class archetypes...
Maybe there could be a way to make these other classes into slotless magic users? The occultist, for example, could gain access to powers through his implements at will, but risking burning those out in a way similar to the kineticist, if he overuses them (they get damaged and can be destroyed, so he loses access to those powers until he's capable of replace the related implement)... And does the medium really need those few spells he can use? His spirits are already an awesome and versatile feature, which could be tweaked so to not need any extra vancian magic (maybe they could just be supernatural powers or spell-like abilities usable at will but at the risk of gaining more spirit influence at each use after the first).

Thought and Emotion components are really a nice addition... They should be used even by the slotless class(es), since they add really a lot of flavour...


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I would like to start with statement that I love undercast rules! In fact I think that undercastish-rule should be in effect for all spellcasters - knowing one spell should let you know its lesser versions (be it lesser/greater or I, II, III, IV...)


That said, the final sentence of ego whip I saying that this attack has no effect on creatures without intelligence is generally redundant because of [mind-affecting] type that already covers that.
Unless that sentence is deliberately added to make that spell useless on mindless creatures even when using abilities that allow using mind-affecting effects on creatures immune to mind-affecting effects, but in such case I would suggesting a second type [mind-dependent] that would be defined as 'as mind-affecting except it takes no effect on creatures without minds even when used in conjunction with abilities that allow ignoring immunity to mind-affecting effects'.


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Instead of saying "this spell can be undercast" I would add type [undercast].


Mind thrust isn't mind-affecting ability?


Tower of iron will: the statement (whatever arcane or divine in origin) is needless at best and misleading at worst because there is lots of effects that are neither.


I like the Thought and Emotion components, and the emphasis on personally important items to use instead for material components. That sells the occult concept really well. Inspires some fun RP things there.

I'm not digging the overlap in mechanical effect on a few of the spells. Intellect Barrier and Thought Shield in particular just seem odd. The only difference is how many people are affected by them. I get the scaling psychic spells, and I do like how having a higher level version of one saves you on learning the earlier versions.

I am noticing a lack of pyramidal hats, though.


Uh, for some reasons the forum hadn't show me the thread when I was starting this one. Could someone move my posts to the other thread and delete this one, please?


Mudfoot wrote:
Nice resurrection of the 1e psionic attacks and defences...

You know those abilities were part of the psionics in 3rd edition? Right?


A few things about psychic spells, just to clarify. Please correct me if I am wrong in this;

1. Psychic spells are not in any way influenced by armor (similar to divine spells).

2. While psychic spells are purely mental and can be performed in a pin, the caster would still need to make a concentration check in order to cast. The same goes for any other casting that requires a concentration check (such as mounted casting and violent motion).

3. Psychic spells still provoke attacks of opportunity unless cast defensively.

Are these correct?


The concept of an undercast spell is excellent and would be a huge benefit to import it back into the ordinary magic system. Only problem is I can't figure out how it would work with prepared casting, which notably doesn't occur in psychic magic at all -- logically enough.


Seems so.


Paladin of Baha-who? wrote:
The concept of an undercast spell is excellent and would be a huge benefit to import it back into the ordinary magic system. Only problem is I can't figure out how it would work with prepared casting, which notably doesn't occur in psychic magic at all -- logically enough.

See, I actually didn't like that. In some ways it's nice to have, but in others, it's just a really, really gnarly rule; one which adds way too much efficiency to a caster's list of "hey I can kill everything!"-ability.

And if Psychic Casters are the only ones who get that, then good LORD that's just asking for balance to be tipped not just farther from non-casters, but even from traditional casters as well.

Even if the Psychic Spells there aren't that bad, setting that precedent is just asking for trouble.

The fact that you actually need to prepare or learn Summon Monster [n] or any other graded spells multiple times was a limiting factor that helped curb the god-mode qualities of many caster classes (need we forget just how stupid Polymorph used to be before IT was chopped up like a diced onion?); giving casters that level of spell efficiency shouldn't really be allowed


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Just to double-check: there's nothing preventing the casting of psychic spells in fullplate, is there?

I'm kind of in agreement with Undercutting. It's a nice mechanic in theory, but especially since the Psychic casters are all spontaneous, it just leads into a lot more efficiency in their spell slots than the comparable non-Psychic casters. If I ran a Psychic I know I'd be trading up my spells as often as possible.

That said, the mechanic itself is nice. I just think it either needs some sort of drawback, or the classes that can use it should have a built-in drawback. Perhaps fewer spells known?

Dark Archive

Is the lack of a damage type for most of the psychic spells on purpose? I am uncertain if there are spells that deal typeless damage in older books, but most of the ones that pop into head either do an element, force or P/B/S.

Shadow Lodge

I am disappointed by the lack of Empathic Transfer and Empathic Transfer, Hostile (or something similar) taking the damage of others or forcing one owns damage onto others seems like something at least one of these classes should be able to accomplish.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32

I can't say I'm terribly thrilled with the thought and emotion spell components.

From a publishing perspective, spell component categories specific to psychic spells have the potential to eat up word count in future products. If, for example, Paizo creates a new arcane class that includes one of the spells from OA on its spell list, Paizo would have to include more than just an "OA" superscript next to that spell; it would also need a footnote explaining how "T" and "E" have to be back converted into "V" and "S" when the arcane class is casting the OA spell.

That obnoxious footnote in a future product could be avoided by having all of the OA psychic spells retain "V" and "S" as components in their spell descriptions, confining all mention of thought and emotion components to the description of psychic magic as a category.

Which leaves several other objections I have to thought and emotion components.

The emotion component in particular isn't clicking with me, thematically or mechanically. Why do harmless emotion spells not prevent psychic spellcasting the same way non-harmless emotion spells do? Both effects are creating equally counterfeit emotions, are they not? The privileged status of harmless emotion spells seems completely arbitrary, because there's no reason that feeling good is somehow more conducive to psychic events than feeling bad. If anything, the list of emotions associated with spiritualist phantoms implies that negative feelings are more conducive to psychic phenomena.

Also, can an android (with the emotionless racial trait) cast a psychic spell with an emotion component? That isn't specifically addressed in the rules. While common sense would dictate that an emotionless creature would not be able to cast psychic spells with emotion components (a.k.a. nearly all psychic spells), I can imagine android characters that would very logically be psychic. One that originated as a human mind imprinted on psychic media contained within an android brain, for example...

Thought spell components bother me less than emotion components, but I think they could be implemented better. Thought components should work more like the alternate material components described in the playtest document: you can use them in place of the normal spell components, but you don't have to. I don't see any reason why psychic casters shouldn't be able to mutter mantras and make dramatic gestures to improve their concentration while focusing their minds upon psychic effects (a.k.a. cast using verbal and somatic components to avoid the thought component concentration penalty when spellcasting).


My immediate concern with the emotion component is that it makes psychic magic really easy to shut down - there's a lot of "shaken no save" or "you're shaken even if you passed the save" effects floating around, and unless I'm really mistaken a shaken psychic caster can't use emotion component component spells.

Meaning nuisance effects like fearful presence (or Dazzling Display!) can actually shut down a psychic caster for the entire fight.

I can understand why non-harmful emotion effects don't screw you up (being locked out of your spellcasting because the bard cast good hopewould be complete rubbish) but it could probably stand to be more lenient on the negative effects - like a concentration penalty or a reduced caster level instead of a complete shutdown?

Hmmm.

Also, I admit I grinned at seeing the attack and defense modes as spells.

Shadow Lodge

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I. Love. Undercasting. It's a great mechanic, wish we could see it backported.


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Ninjaxenomorph wrote:
I. Love. Undercasting. It's a great mechanic, wish we could see it backported.

*cough* Pathfinder Unchained? *cough*


I honestly think that mind thrust I is a tad too weak in its current state.

I can't find a reason why I would ever cast it instead of magic missile (a spell also on the psychic list). I get that since it has the undercast quality you can evolve it for free at higher levels, but that kind of forces you to select at least one of its upgraded versions.

My suggestion would be to add a minor debuff effect if the target fails its saving throw. Something like -1 or -2 to will saving throws for 1 round.

occult adventures wrote:


MIND THRUST I
School divination; Level psychic 1
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components E
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target one creature
Duration instantaneous
Saving Throw Will half; Spell Resistance yes

By focusing your psychic energy on a single target, you cause the
creature to suffer severe mental damage as your power tears at their
mind. This attack deals 1d6 points of damage + 1 point of damage per
caster level (maximum +5). The target can attempt a Will save for half
damage. This has no effect on creatures with no Intelligence score.


Dylos wrote:
I am disappointed by the lack of Empathic Transfer and Empathic Transfer, Hostile (or something similar) taking the damage of others or forcing one owns damage onto others seems like something at least one of these classes should be able to accomplish.

To be fair, they'll likely add more spells to the final product before release, and those are pretty iconic effects.


I'm not 100% sure if this is the place for this question but...

Any chance of getting some sort of guidelines or something to determine what Player Companion, Campaign setting and 3pp spells would be on the psychic caster's spell lists? I kind of have this problem with the Shaman class from the ACG. With Bloodrager it's easy enough to say that anything new the magus gets, the bloodrager gets but with shamen and the psychics I feel like I have to do it on a case by case basis.

Shadow Lodge

Advanced Class Origins solved the issue for Shamans, but for 3pp you'll have to rely on 3pp, not paizo.


Dylos wrote:
Advanced Class Origins solved the issue for Shamans, but for 3pp you'll have to rely on 3pp, not paizo.

I guess they can live without 3pp spells if they get some player companion support.

But another question, since psychic magic doesn't have somatic or verbal components are they not obvious? Like if in a courtroom that bans magic so that no one is manipulating things could someone using psychic magic get away with it? Can someone tell that you're casting?

Shadow Lodge

It would not be obvious, as psychic magic users do not make gestures (a somatic component) or verbally announce that they are casting a spell (verbal component) as the play-test states, psychic spells are purely mental actions, and they can be performed even while the caster is pinned or paralyzed.

However, fear effects would prevent casting of psychic spells, so the court could include someone who intimidates everyone every round in order to prevent psychic spells if they think they would occur.

EDIT: I want to note how powerful this makes the Psychic if they choose to multi-class into certain PrCs, mainly Pathfinder Savant. This allows the Psychic to get spells which are much more powerful then the ones naturally on their list without the restricting Verbal and Somatic Components, heck a Psychic 5/Pathfinder Savant 3 can cast Fireball for 8d6 damage (assuming they have the trait to bump their CL loss) without anyone knowing that they are the one who cast the spell. Additionally, how the heck is counter-spelling supposed to work with Psychic magic if there is no obvious sign that someone is casting a spell?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Dylos wrote:

It would not be obvious, as psychic magic users do not make gestures (a somatic component) or verbally announce that they are casting a spell (verbal component) as the play-test states, psychic spells are purely mental actions, and they can be performed even while the caster is pinned or paralyzed.

However, fear effects would prevent casting of psychic spells, so the court could include someone who intimidates everyone every round in order to prevent psychic spells if they think they would occur.

Intimidates... SUCCESSFULLY. Psychics will have good will saves, after all.

Paizo Employee Designer

Dylos wrote:

It would not be obvious, as psychic magic users do not make gestures (a somatic component) or verbally announce that they are casting a spell (verbal component) as the play-test states, psychic spells are purely mental actions, and they can be performed even while the caster is pinned or paralyzed.

However, fear effects would prevent casting of psychic spells, so the court could include someone who intimidates everyone every round in order to prevent psychic spells if they think they would occur.

There's a thread from Jason near the beginning of Pathfinder (so a whiles back) where people asked him this question about spell-like abilities and silent stilled spells. At the time, he said that they all have some obvious manifestation, thus allowing people to take their AoO or roll Spellcraft (both of which still work on SLAs and stilled silent spells).

Shadow Lodge

Mark Seifter wrote:
Dylos wrote:

It would not be obvious, as psychic magic users do not make gestures (a somatic component) or verbally announce that they are casting a spell (verbal component) as the play-test states, psychic spells are purely mental actions, and they can be performed even while the caster is pinned or paralyzed.

However, fear effects would prevent casting of psychic spells, so the court could include someone who intimidates everyone every round in order to prevent psychic spells if they think they would occur.

There's a thread from Jason near the beginning of Pathfinder (so a whiles back) where people asked him this question about spell-like abilities and silent stilled spells. At the time, he said that they all have some obvious manifestation, thus allowing people to take their AoO or roll Spellcraft (both of which still work on SLAs and stilled silent spells).

At least counter-spelling should work then.


So there's still a 'spell light show' when it happens. Mechanically AoOs are still viable so I guess that's true.


LazarX wrote:
Dylos wrote:

It would not be obvious, as psychic magic users do not make gestures (a somatic component) or verbally announce that they are casting a spell (verbal component) as the play-test states, psychic spells are purely mental actions, and they can be performed even while the caster is pinned or paralyzed.

However, fear effects would prevent casting of psychic spells, so the court could include someone who intimidates everyone every round in order to prevent psychic spells if they think they would occur.

Intimidates... SUCCESSFULLY. Psychics will have good will saves, after all.

Will save has little to do with Intimidation DC. It's 10+HD+Wis bonus.

Paizo Employee Lead Designer

Couple of quick points.

1. We do not intend to make undercast an option for a wide variety of spells. It was done for these and they are specifically designed to use the undercast option.

2. This by no means an complete exploration of the spells that will appear in this book. There are going to be a fair amount more, many of which will only be available to psychic casters.

3. As of the current version of the rules, psychic spells can be cast in armor with no chance of spell failure.

4. The new components will not be carried over to other books. That is why these have a translation metric (verbal equals thought and somatic equals emotion). We don't want to have to add to the spell descriptions of every book going forward.

Thats it for now.. carry on.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer

Paizo Employee Developer

Lord Twitchiopolis wrote:


A few things about psychic spells, just to clarify. Please correct me if I am wrong in this;

1. Psychic spells are not in any way influenced by armor (similar to divine spells).

2. While psychic spells are purely mental and can be performed in a pin, the caster would still need to make a concentration check in order to cast. The same goes for any other casting that requires a concentration check (such as mounted casting and violent motion).

3. Psychic spells still provoke attacks of opportunity unless cast defensively.

Are these correct?

Yes, yes, and yes!


How much the Emotion component affects the rues? How much of it is just fluff?

e.g.: Can a character that is Shaken or under effect of a Fear spell use spells with a component based on a completely different Emotion (joy, glee, pride, etc) without any problem?

Paizo Employee Designer

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If you're shaken, you're not casting an E spell (without the metamagic feat to remove the E anyway). Think of it in some ways as the martial's response to psychics (since tying them up or gagging them won't work)


Mark Seifter wrote:
If you're shaken, you're not casting an E spell (without the metamagic feat to remove the E anyway). Think of it in some ways as the martial's response to psychics (since tying them up or gagging them won't work)

I'm all for boosting martial versatility, but this feels a bit extreme. From a roleplaying perspective, if a psychic caster is effected by crushing despair, for instance, I'd rather see them struggle to compose themselves emotionally than just opt for a workaround like metamagic. Why not use a similar mechanic to the thought component, where you can overcome it? Maybe it's impossible to cast without a move action to compose yourself, at which point you can roll v.s. psychic spell failure (10% per spell level?). Players would still invest in workarounds like they do verbal/somatic.


Logan Bonner wrote:
Lord Twitchiopolis wrote:


A few things about psychic spells, just to clarify. Please correct me if I am wrong in this;

1. Psychic spells are not in any way influenced by armor (similar to divine spells).

2. While psychic spells are purely mental and can be performed in a pin, the caster would still need to make a concentration check in order to cast. The same goes for any other casting that requires a concentration check (such as mounted casting and violent motion).

3. Psychic spells still provoke attacks of opportunity unless cast defensively.

Are these correct?

Yes, yes, and yes!

Sorry, why would a spell with no verbal or somatic components provoke an attack of opportunity? How would your opponent even know that you're casting a spell?


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An AoO is caused by letting your guard down, not the actual act of casting a spell. Body language will still change, because it's still a standard action of intense concentration.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Mark Seifter wrote:
Dylos wrote:

It would not be obvious, as psychic magic users do not make gestures (a somatic component) or verbally announce that they are casting a spell (verbal component) as the play-test states, psychic spells are purely mental actions, and they can be performed even while the caster is pinned or paralyzed.

However, fear effects would prevent casting of psychic spells, so the court could include someone who intimidates everyone every round in order to prevent psychic spells if they think they would occur.

There's a thread from Jason near the beginning of Pathfinder (so a whiles back) where people asked him this question about spell-like abilities and silent stilled spells. At the time, he said that they all have some obvious manifestation, thus allowing people to take their AoO or roll Spellcraft (both of which still work on SLAs and stilled silent spells).

AOOs and Spellcraft are two very different things. AOO's aren't "oh, so you're casting as spell! I attack!" they arise from the dropping of defenses that spellcasting entails unless you cast defensively. Spellcraft analysis is a different kettle of fish than AOO issues. The Occult mysteries book needs text explaining the impact on spellcraft observation due to the modes it uses for casting.


Mark Seifter wrote:
If you're shaken, you're not casting an E spell (without the metamagic feat to remove the E anyway). Think of it in some ways as the martial's response to psychics (since tying them up or gagging them won't work)

That seems excessive... It's incredibly easy to force the Shaken condition. Many ways of doing it don't even offer a save. Needing a metamagic feat just to not be neutralized by such a common effect is pretty bad...

A psychic caster should at least have a chance of controlling his emotions without a metamagic feat. Couldn't it it be a spell-failure chance or difficult concentration check?


The emotional component isn't so bad. It's definitely a bit trickier than the verbal component (though it has the advantage of already being an optimal social caster), but to think it cripples the class assumes a lot of metagaming. It's very unlikely every enemy you face is going to assume that in the world of magic you are the specific type of caster that is vulnerable to emotional effects. By the time things like scrying come online there are some options to deal with these sorts of effects. Maybe shaken could have 50% failure chance instead, but I still don't think it's all that bad and it's nice flavor.


Unsure if there is an option for this already in Pathfinder, but there should be a Psychometry spell in the book. Always loved that power and I think that'd be awesome.


Create Mr. Pitt wrote:
The emotional component isn't so bad. It's definitely a bit trickier than the verbal component (though it has the advantage of already being an optimal social caster), but to think it cripples the class assumes a lot of metagaming. It's very unlikely every enemy you face is going to assume that in the world of magic you are the specific type of caster that is vulnerable to emotional effects. By the time things like scrying come online there are some options to deal with these sorts of effects. Maybe shaken could have 50% failure chance instead, but I still don't think it's all that bad and it's nice flavor.

I don't think it "cripples" the class... Just that it's excessively harsh. There are lots of feats and spells that cause fear effects. Many of them make your character Shaken on a successful save.


Lemmy wrote:
Create Mr. Pitt wrote:
The emotional component isn't so bad. It's definitely a bit trickier than the verbal component (though it has the advantage of already being an optimal social caster), but to think it cripples the class assumes a lot of metagaming. It's very unlikely every enemy you face is going to assume that in the world of magic you are the specific type of caster that is vulnerable to emotional effects. By the time things like scrying come online there are some options to deal with these sorts of effects. Maybe shaken could have 50% failure chance instead, but I still don't think it's all that bad and it's nice flavor.
I don't think it "cripples" the class... Just that it's excessively harsh. There are lots of feats and spells that cause fear effects. Many of them make your character Shaken on a successful save.

Cast a spell without Emotional components? Plan ahead and make sure to have one that's useful? Bring a weapon?

Q: Wands require "a single word that must be spoken".

Do Psychic magicians speak the word or do they... emote?


LazarX wrote:


AOOs and Spellcraft are two very different things. AOO's aren't "oh, so you're casting as spell! I attack!" they arise from the dropping of defenses that spellcasting entails unless you cast defensively. Spellcraft analysis is a different kettle of fish than AOO issues. The Occult mysteries book needs text explaining the impact on spellcraft observation due to the modes it uses for casting.

If that's true (it's not about them realizing that you're casting a spell), then that changes the ball game with regards to social encounters and spells.

In other words, if you can get away with detecting thoughts by simply staring at someone and fondling a copper piece in your pocket, or Charm someone just by, you know, being near them and staring off into space for three seconds, and the target is none the wiser upon a failed save and if he doesn't automatically realize it was you who tried to charm him on a successful save...

... yeah, I'd say that's pretty much worth not being able to cast spells with somatic components when you're shaken.

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