Streamlining spell casting


Prerelease Discussion


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It sounds like spell casting is going to be getting a pretty major overhaul, and I for one think that could be awesome. Please, for the love of consistency and avoiding some of the chaos that pathfinder spell lists have become, have a serious and dedicated Editor for spells that makes sure that language stays consistent between different spells. Heck you all might be able to off load this to your play testers/online forum boards by creating a PF society-like group that is the "Magic Academy" whose job it is to look over every possible new spell before it sees print. Please lets avoid absolute disasters of contradictory spell descriptions and saving throw text like the spell the spell "haunting mist."

I know that 4E kind of destroyed the magic of magic by making it mechanically the same as every other class, and I am NOT calling for that. I also know that Pathfinder allows for clearly inferior/sub-optimal choices and so not all first level spells are going to be balanced with each other for every situation or according to the wishes of every player, But there should either be a greater degree of separation between the types of magic, with a specific editor for each type that has a clear an concise vision for how different aspects of magic work (illusions, conjurations, etc.) or it should all fit together well enough that it doesn't require a law degree for the DM to figure out what a spell can and can't do in a manner that feels fair to their players.

Yall, designers and players, are smart and I have faith that this is something already under consideration, but the magic system of pathfinder and its openness to creativity is definitely something that brought a lot of players over when D&D went to 4E, but it has grown into something of a beast to embrace in its entirety. The more I think about it, the more I condone considering the possibility of having a dedicated online magic academy for your second edition that looks at and discusses every spell (preferably before it sees print) to at least get a sense of what experienced gamers make of what it does and doesn't do.

I know this is asking a lot, but I guess I am just asking that some serious thought go into to keeping magic magical, but either less dependent upon rules lawyering over every new description (something like here is a general description, figure it out at your table and avoid having overly complicated spell descriptions), or a system more streamlined in its language so that spells that are supposed to act the same utilize exactly the same language to do so.


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I will probably get flamed for this, but when talking about "fixing" magic, lets get rid of saving throws for things that don't directly affect a character. For example, Illusions should never have granted saving throws. They should require a perception check to sense through. Invisibility cannot be saved against, why can disguise or an illusion. Weak illusions can then have lower DCs and increase as they get more powerful and difficult to see through.

Liberty's Edge

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Unicore wrote:

For example, Illusions should never have granted saving throws. They should require a perception check to sense through.

I have some good news for you: this is exactly how it worked in the playtest podcast. Not only that, but the magically inclined party members were able to use Arcana instead of Perception to see through the illusions, using their knowledge of magic to figure out what was going on.


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Also, Pathfinder magic is different from other fantasy settings. Magic is prevalent and a fundamental part of the way that the world and the nations in it work. Other roleplaying games have gotten into some trouble with their bases by losing sight of what makes magic magical in the pursuit of balance. Please be careful with this. Trying to make magical weapons more magical feeling is cool and all, but the existing world of golarion already treats basic magic as a something akin to refining processes in terms of its accessibility. Stripping that magic back out of the world to make armies previously equipped with +1 swords now just use more masterfully crafted swords is doing something significant to the way the world works. If magic is not going to be a daily part of life, that is a pretty big shift in world dynamics. I hope this has been carefully considered.


JRutterbush wrote:


I have some good news for you: this is exactly how it worked in the playtest podcast. Not only that, but the magically inclined party members were able to use Arcana instead of Perception to see through the illusions, using their knowledge of magic to figure out what was going on.

I like that a lot.


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I think 5e missed a chance to do something right to make all stats relevants: tie saving throws to all of them. While this is theorically true, in practice most "will" saves are tied to Wisdom.

Intelligence would work well as a save vs Illusion imho. However, Perception, "insight"/Sense motive, or Arcana, might work too. If so, then "athletics", "endurance" or "acrobatics" could work for other saves, maybe.


gustavo iglesias wrote:
Intelligence would work well as a save vs Illusion imho.

I agree with this, I would like if illusions allowed an Int saving throw (if they allow one at all.)


I agree Gustavo, I think this is a fabulous idea that has a lot of "simplifying" potential without sacrificing flexibility.

My only concern is that if it all is a straight level bonus, then we will see a lot of the same kinds of problems that people are complaining about in other threads where things outside of your particular level range are going to be either impossible or exceedingly easy. It sounds like, and I hope this is true, that characters with +30 or more to certain skill checks will be a thing of the past and the entire curve of skill DCs is brought lower so that extreme bonuses are no longer necessary to be functional at certain things, and entirely unnecessary to do others, an issue that will become even more noticeable if the skills are tied to more vital game play functionality like making saving throws. A lot of that boils down to whether the designers want level 20 characters to be 20x better than level 1 characters or 400x better than level 1 characters. Personally I fall more towards the former than the later, but certainly for folks wanting to push high fantasy to its fantastical limits, I see the appeal of pushing higher level characters out of the realm of humanly possible.


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one other point on illusions. They are apparently immune to Detect Magic if the caster is lower level than the illusion.


I just want spells like this one gone: http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/ultimateCombat/spells/tacticalAcumen.htm l#tactical-acumen

I like spells that alter reality or minds in a way that players can understand without referencing the spells mechanical bonuses or penalties. What did the wizard do? He covered the magic sword with grease. What did that druid cast? Well, she's surrounded by a obscuring mist now.

Liberty's Edge

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Greylurker wrote:

one other point on illusions. They are apparently immune to Detect Magic if the caster is lower level than the illusion.

As I recall, it's actual spell level. No matter what your caster level is, you can't use a cantrip to see through a 2nd level illusion, for example .


JRutterbush wrote:
Greylurker wrote:

one other point on illusions. They are apparently immune to Detect Magic if the caster is lower level than the illusion.

As I recall, it's actual spell level. No matter what your caster level is, you can't use a cantrip to see through a 2nd level illusion, for example .

I think they were specifically talking about Detect Magic in the Podcast, so unless we are doing the 5E thing of using any spell slot for your spells it would have to be caster level

Liberty's Edge

Greylurker wrote:
JRutterbush wrote:
Greylurker wrote:

one other point on illusions. They are apparently immune to Detect Magic if the caster is lower level than the illusion.

As I recall, it's actual spell level. No matter what your caster level is, you can't use a cantrip to see through a 2nd level illusion, for example .
I think they were specifically talking about Detect Magic in the Podcast, so unless we are doing the 5E thing of using any spell slot for your spells it would have to be caster level

Except there will likely still be spells like arcane sight and so on, which are higher level spells.


JRutterbush wrote:
Greylurker wrote:
JRutterbush wrote:
Greylurker wrote:

one other point on illusions. They are apparently immune to Detect Magic if the caster is lower level than the illusion.

As I recall, it's actual spell level. No matter what your caster level is, you can't use a cantrip to see through a 2nd level illusion, for example .
I think they were specifically talking about Detect Magic in the Podcast, so unless we are doing the 5E thing of using any spell slot for your spells it would have to be caster level
Except there will likely still be spells like arcane sight and so on, which are higher level spells.

I think spells prepared in a higher lvl slot will work against lower lvl spells. It should count slot lvl.

Liberty's Edge

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JRutterbush wrote:
Greylurker wrote:

one other point on illusions. They are apparently immune to Detect Magic if the caster is lower level than the illusion.

As I recall, it's actual spell level. No matter what your caster level is, you can't use a cantrip to see through a 2nd level illusion, for example .

Cantrips are no longer 0-level. They are the highest spell level you can cast for mechanical purposes (they just have their own separate slots and can be used at-will). There are also no more caster level comparisons, just spell level ones.

Which does effectively mean that a 2nd level character casting Detect Magic can never see through a 2nd level Illusion spell cast by a 3rd level Wizard (since his Detect Magic is a 1st level spell)...but it's an important mechanical difference nonetheless.

Shadow Lodge

Is detect magic still a cantrip? It really shouldn't be.

Liberty's Edge

Dragonborn3 wrote:
Is detect magic still a cantrip? It really shouldn't be.

Why wouldn't it be? Why shouldn't it be?


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Dragonborn3 wrote:
Is detect magic still a cantrip? It really shouldn't be.
Why wouldn't it be? Why shouldn't it be?

I do think Cantrip is probably not the right name for scaling powers. Cantrip usually means trick or something minor, but cantrips in PF2 are shaping up to be almost signature abilities for wizards. Detect magic is one of those that will probably be cast far more often than many other spells and has traditionally been one of the most powerful at-will spell abilities in the game.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:
Dragonborn3 wrote:
Is detect magic still a cantrip? It really shouldn't be.
Why wouldn't it be? Why shouldn't it be?

Why wouldn't it be? Because I believe it has been said that spells like Detect Magic have to be cast at a higher level than the target's spell level to detect Illusions. This means that Detect Magic is either a level 1 spell that can be upcast, or it scales with your level and thus low level characters can't detect stronger Illusions at all.

Why shouldn't it be? So PCs can't be annoying and spam detect magic every waking moment. Luckily, I haven't had someone like that in years. (I had a Paladin that would cast detect evil on EVERYTHING!!!)

I'd be okay with it having a casting time of 10 minutes and making it a cantrip, but then we need to be able to have a chance to detect higher level illusions with it somehow.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:
Dragonborn3 wrote:
Is detect magic still a cantrip? It really shouldn't be.
Why wouldn't it be? Why shouldn't it be?

Apart from illusions which are somewhat solved now, there's still the case of other subtle magics. Like, if you use detect magic and see that a friendly NPC is under the effects of Suggestion (well, you wouldn't necessarily know it was suggestion, but you'd reasonably know that they were under the effects of some enchantment spell. Maybe this doesn't necessarily take away from the mystery, but, for example, Jessica Jones would be a very different show if she could just look at someone for 20 seconds, and know if they've been Kilgraved.

I'm not saying that it's necessarily bad for detect magic to do that, but I think it does go beyond the power level of what I'd expect for an at-will ability

Shadow Lodge

Thflame gets it.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
thflame wrote:


I'd be okay with it having a casting time of 10 minutes and making it a cantrip, but then we need to be able to have a chance to detect higher level illusions with it somehow.

Isn't that what perception checks are for?

Besides, if Detect magic scaled with your level OR you upcast it, aren't low level characters screwed either way? Cantrips are essentially upcast to your highest spell level anyways, so I fail to see the distinction between an upcasted level 1 spell or a spell that automatically scaled when it comes to beating an illusion. An argument can be had that it is too strong for an at-will ability, but I don't agree. Golarian is a world where magic is very common. Being able to see its influence should be pretty common as well.

As to the comparison to Jessica Jones, yes, it would have been a different show had it taken place in a world with detect magic cantrip. It would have been a different show also because Kilgrave wouldn't have been unique (uniquely strong, maybe), because if he WAS, the spell wouldn;t have yielded usable data. "I'm reading primal enchantment magic on this person...but no primal magic does that, does it?"

Edit: I'm not trying to say it would've been a better or worse show. Just different. Maybe Kilgrave was the first witch, and primal mages around the globe looked at his example to learn hexes and at-will charms. And Jessica would have spent the show conflicted over telling the world that witches exist, and primal mages could learn these spells that didnt think they could, or seeming like she did the things she did of her own will.


Deadmanwalking wrote:


Which does effectively mean that a 2nd level character casting Detect Magic can never see through a 2nd level Illusion spell cast by a 3rd level Wizard (since his Detect Magic is a 1st level spell)...but it's an important mechanical difference nonetheless.

What this does effectively mean is that a party of PCs will be unable to ever detect a CR-appropriate illusion, given that the enemies generally have a higher CR than APL.


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I think outsourcing spell review may be a good idea. Might also stop some unanticipated consequences from powerful combinations. Sometimes I think some players understand PFe1 better than some of the AP authors.

Shadow Lodge

There are a few examples of that in NPC statblocks

example:
like a kasatha using Two-Weapon Fighting with two-handed weapons despite no rules for doing that being anywhere.


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For what it is worth, I don't think gives you as much information anymore-- it just lets you detect the presence of magic from a 30 foot radius pulse. I don't think they even got the location of the magic from it, and they definitely didn't get schools or anything. The one improvement it has is it lets you ignore the magic possessed by you and your allies.

So in the mind control example, detect magic would you just tell you there's something magical going on, but you can't tell if it is a curse, and enchantment, or an abjuration. Or hell, just some magic innate to the person or their equipment. One imagines skill checks will come into play for figuring out what is going on. This also assumes Enchantments aren't "cloaked" from lower level Detect Magic like Illusions are. I could certainly see some Enchantment spells getting that treatment.

As for the Jessica Jones example, I think you've got to keep in mind the difference in narrative conventions. I think there are a lot of reasons the plot of the show wouldn't work great as a table top RPG regardless of detect magic.


Captain Morgan wrote:

For what it is worth, I don't think gives you as much information anymore-- it just lets you detect the presence of magic from a 30 foot radius pulse. I don't think they even got the location of the magic from it, and they definitely didn't get schools or anything. The one improvement it has is it lets you ignore the magic possessed by you and your allies.

So in the mind control example, detect magic would you just tell you there's something magical going on, but you can't tell if it is a curse, and enchantment, or an abjuration. Or hell, just some magic innate to the person or their equipment. One imagines skill checks will come into play for figuring out what is going on. This also assumes Enchantments aren't "cloaked" from lower level Detect Magic like Illusions are. I could certainly see some Enchantment spells getting that treatment.

As for the Jessica Jones example, I think you've got to keep in mind the difference in narrative conventions. I think there are a lot of reasons the plot of the show wouldn't work great as a table top RPG regardless of detect magic.

Well, if you can't focus on a target or area for multiple rounds to get more information anymore, that does mostly solve the problem. I assume getting more detailed information would then be the job of Arcane Sight now, which you prepare in a slot, and only cast when your Detect Magic pings and you can't logic out / skill check out what's going on.

There are still holes though. Even without being able to know school or focus, you can still use basic triangulation to find things like illusory walls.

Liberty's Edge

Mekkis wrote:
Deadmanwalking wrote:


Which does effectively mean that a 2nd level character casting Detect Magic can never see through a 2nd level Illusion spell cast by a 3rd level Wizard (since his Detect Magic is a 1st level spell)...but it's an important mechanical difference nonetheless.

What this does effectively mean is that a party of PCs will be unable to ever detect a CR-appropriate illusion, given that the enemies generally have a higher CR than APL.

It means they won't be able to casually see through them with Detect Magic alone, yes. You can still see through them in other ways.

And this is only true if the villain burns their highest level spell slots (or occasionally second highest) on the illusions in question.


Fuzzypaws wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:

For what it is worth, I don't think gives you as much information anymore-- it just lets you detect the presence of magic from a 30 foot radius pulse. I don't think they even got the location of the magic from it, and they definitely didn't get schools or anything. The one improvement it has is it lets you ignore the magic possessed by you and your allies.

So in the mind control example, detect magic would you just tell you there's something magical going on, but you can't tell if it is a curse, and enchantment, or an abjuration. Or hell, just some magic innate to the person or their equipment. One imagines skill checks will come into play for figuring out what is going on. This also assumes Enchantments aren't "cloaked" from lower level Detect Magic like Illusions are. I could certainly see some Enchantment spells getting that treatment.

As for the Jessica Jones example, I think you've got to keep in mind the difference in narrative conventions. I think there are a lot of reasons the plot of the show wouldn't work great as a table top RPG regardless of detect magic.

Well, if you can't focus on a target or area for multiple rounds to get more information anymore, that does mostly solve the problem. I assume getting more detailed information would then be the job of Arcane Sight now, which you prepare in a slot, and only cast when your Detect Magic pings and you can't logic out / skill check out what's going on.

There are still holes though. Even without being able to know school or focus, you can still use basic triangulation to find things like illusory walls.

Only if the illusion is a lower spell level than the PC can cast, in your specific example. Also, I'm not sure that this is a huge problem? If the PCs are spending the time to recast the cantrip and using clever logic to narrow down the location, good on them.

The specific scenario I worry about is magical traps, but triangulation probably won't let you find those without actually triggering them, and that assumes the trap isn't concealed with some kind of illusion or misdirection. Hell, if it doesn't tell you the number of auras, you can fool Detect Magic with decoy magic super easy.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
thflame wrote:
Deadmanwalking wrote:
Dragonborn3 wrote:
Is detect magic still a cantrip? It really shouldn't be.
Why wouldn't it be? Why shouldn't it be?

Why wouldn't it be? Because I believe it has been said that spells like Detect Magic have to be cast at a higher level than the target's spell level to detect Illusions. This means that Detect Magic is either a level 1 spell that can be upcast, or it scales with your level and thus low level characters can't detect stronger Illusions at all.

Why shouldn't it be? So PCs can't be annoying and spam detect magic every waking moment. Luckily, I haven't had someone like that in years. (I had a Paladin that would cast detect evil on EVERYTHING!!!)

I'd be okay with it having a casting time of 10 minutes and making it a cantrip, but then we need to be able to have a chance to detect higher level illusions with it somehow.

I was concerned about this myself, but they’ve done some things that help mitigate my concerns.

1. Spamming Detect Magic is now one of the tactical options for what to do while exploring. You’re giving up moving stealthily, keeping an eye out for enemies, or checking for traps.
2. Detect Magic is less annoying to run. You can ignore your allies’ magic items, it’s no longer a cone but a circle instead, it doesn’t have three rounds of changes, it doesn’t pinpoint, and you don’t have to figure out the spell school each time.

Not giving a school or a location means it won’t be shutting illusion spells down just because they register, but it’s still useful.

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