Idea for making lower level spells more useful


Prerelease Discussion


Since it has been all but confirmed that spells will have to be cast at higher levels for stronger effects, and there has been some concern that this would make lower level spell slots much weaker, I thought I would offer a potential solution.

In 3.5, there was a Feat in one of the splatbooks called Versatile Spellcaster. It allowed a Spontaneous Arcane caster to spend 2 spell slots of the same level to cast a spell one level higher. You weren't allowed to dump 4 spells of a lower level to cast a spell 2 levels higher, so players weren't running around with just a bunch of 9th level spells.

As it stands, I allow the feat in my Pathfinder games, as written, except you aren't allowed to convert cantrips into 1st Level spells (that would result in infinite 1st level spells).

I was thinking this would be useful as a standard feature of all casters. Prepared casters would obviously have to do this when they prepared their spells.

The end effect, if taken to the extreme, results in a caster having about 50% more spells of his highest level and half as many spells per day of all of his other levels and no 1st Level spells. It sacrifices efficiency for versatility.


Apparently this is already a thing. I think Fly was the example. At lower levels it becomes Featherfall. Also I think it's confirmed that Spell DCs scale so lower slots are already useful.


While I'm actually not a big fan of 5E, they did kind of solve this problem already with the 5E Warlock and I wouldn't mind seeing PF2E spellcasters go in this direction. Namely, they get a certain number of spell slots per day, but all these spell slots are always at the highest level the character can cast. So if you cast Magic Missile when you have access to 5th level spells, you always cast it as a 5th level spell.

Now, I doubt Paizo will actually do this. But what they could do is something similar, where after you hit, say, 4th level spells, you start losing your lowest level spell slots. So all your spells get constrained into the highest three spell levels you have access to. So if you have access to 5th level spells, this means the lowest you can cast a spell at is 3rd level. This way, low level spells still keep some relevance, and you also reduce bookkeeping of dozens of spell slots per day spread over 10 spell levels.


Fuzzypaws wrote:
While I'm actually not a big fan of 5E, they did kind of solve this problem already with the 5E Warlock and I wouldn't mind seeing PF2E spellcasters go in this direction. Namely, they get a certain number of spell slots per day, but all these spell slots are always at the highest level the character can cast. So if you cast Magic Missile when you have access to 5th level spells, you always cast it as a 5th level spell.

Do Warlocks actually work out in play? I saw the that in the rulebook and I've been wondering if it works or not. They top out at 4 spell slots, but they can apparently recover them during a short rest...

Fuzzypaws wrote:
This way, low level spells still keep some relevance, and you also reduce bookkeeping of dozens of spell slots per day spread over 10 spell levels.

Well, not all low level spells are useless. Keep in mind that Detect Magic isn't a cantrip anymore. With your suggestion, it becomes a 5th spell level spell once you gain access to 8th level spells.

Are we still even using Vancian magic now by the way? If it's a spell point system or something like that, the limited usefulness of low level spells might be offset by their very low cost.

Fuzzypaws wrote:
So if you have access to 5th level spells, this means the lowest you can cast a spell at is 3rd level.

A quibble here: there are times when you don't want to blast at maximum strength. You might want to spend that third level slot as a first level in some circumstances. Say for instance, you want to capture an enemy; perhaps they're actually dominated good person and going full murder-hobo on them isn't called for.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Kerrilyn wrote:
Do Warlocks actually work out in play? I saw the that in the rulebook and I've been wondering if it works or not. They top out at 4 spell slots, but they can apparently recover them during a short rest...

5e warlocks (as a single classed character) are highly dependent on how often the DM lets you get a short rest. If you don't get 2-3 short rests a day the class feels weak.

As a 2 level dip class Warlock mostly serves as a way to get access to the Eldritch Blast and the Agonizing Blast invocation. In that case you're less limited by the short rests, the extra spell slots are just a bonus.

Liberty's Edge

I think low level spells will be fine. They won't end a high level fight instantly, but with DC scaling on caster level and not spell level, your low level spells will always have a use. Even low level debuff and control effects will remain useful when their save DC's don't fall off as you gain levels. And damage dealing spell will still be useful for clearing mooks, too.


Well, they should do more multi-action affects like Heal (CLW) became.

Acid Splash should be a to ranged touch for 1, but 2 actions as a splash attack.
Burning Hands: Ranged touch for 1, but 2 actions for fire Cone like normal.

Also more cantrips like Shield.


As long as they're not damage spells, low level spells are still insanely useful in PF2. All of your spell DCs are based on the highest spell level you have access to. They buffed god-mages and nerfed the already suboptimal-yet-popular-because-cool blaster-mages.


rooneg wrote:
Kerrilyn wrote:
Do Warlocks actually work out in play? I saw the that in the rulebook and I've been wondering if it works or not. They top out at 4 spell slots, but they can apparently recover them during a short rest...
5e warlocks (as a single classed character) are highly dependent on how often the DM lets you get a short rest. If you don't get 2-3 short rests a day the class feels weak.

With the power of cantrips and the versatility of Eldritch Blast, Warlocks are very viable. Your third level pact choice will also be a big impact. Pact of the blade and the hexblade becomes a rogue-like mixed combattant, pact of the tome gains other class cantrips so you can go full caster. They're versatile in options (like every class), though as casters rely on heavier hitting cantrips moreso than their 2-4 powerful spell slots.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Isaac Zephyr wrote:
rooneg wrote:
Kerrilyn wrote:
Do Warlocks actually work out in play? I saw the that in the rulebook and I've been wondering if it works or not. They top out at 4 spell slots, but they can apparently recover them during a short rest...
5e warlocks (as a single classed character) are highly dependent on how often the DM lets you get a short rest. If you don't get 2-3 short rests a day the class feels weak.
With the power of cantrips and the versatility of Eldritch Blast, Warlocks are very viable. Your third level pact choice will also be a big impact. Pact of the blade and the hexblade becomes a rogue-like mixed combattant, pact of the tome gains other class cantrips so you can go full caster. They're versatile in options (like every class), though as casters rely on heavier hitting cantrips moreso than their 2-4 powerful spell slots.

Oh, no argument there, you're always going to be a fine Eldritch Blaster and there are plenty of ways the pact choice figures in, but there's a significant amount of the class's power tied up in those short rest renewable spell slots (especially since they are always of the highest level you can cast). A character who can cast two 5th level spells per day is significantly different than one who can cast four or six or eight 5th level spells per day, and that's the sort of difference you get depending on how many short rests you see in an adventuring day.


Bloodrealm wrote:
As long as they're not damage spells, low level spells are still insanely useful in PF2. All of your spell DCs are based on the highest spell level you have access to. They buffed god-mages and nerfed the already suboptimal-yet-popular-because-cool blaster-mages.

That’s a somewhat limited take on things, I think. Buffing is weaker because spells now grant non-stacking spell bonuses, and buffs don’t get free scaling either. Summoned creatures sound like they no longer get as many actions (but act faster). Save-or-suck has been evened out to do less (Command wastes part of a turn on a failed save instead of effectively two turns) (but they might do something minor on a successful save). Blasts of your top-level spells do more damage, and crit-failed saves result in double damage. Also, touch attack spells now get a wider crit range. There are pros and cons for all the spell types. Blasters got a reduction in the amount of the adventuring day they could do their primary focus at higher levels, but had their nova potential buffed, as far as I can tell.

As far as low-level slots go, though, charms and illusions seem like good options.


QuidEst wrote:
Bloodrealm wrote:
As long as they're not damage spells, low level spells are still insanely useful in PF2. All of your spell DCs are based on the highest spell level you have access to. They buffed god-mages and nerfed the already suboptimal-yet-popular-because-cool blaster-mages.

That’s a somewhat limited take on things, I think. Buffing is weaker because spells now grant non-stacking spell bonuses, and buffs don’t get free scaling either. Summoned creatures sound like they no longer get as many actions (but act faster). Save-or-suck has been evened out to do less (Command wastes part of a turn on a failed save instead of effectively two turns) (but they might do something minor on a successful save). Blasts of your top-level spells do more damage, and crit-failed saves result in double damage. Also, touch attack spells now get a wider crit range. There are pros and cons for all the spell types. Blasters got a reduction in the amount of the adventuring day they could do their primary focus at higher levels, but had their nova potential buffed, as far as I can tell.

As far as low-level slots go, though, charms and illusions seem like good options.

If those changes are accurate, it further reinforces the impression I got that you're not supposed to be a blaster or a controller, and instead every mage is supposed to use high level slots for blasting and lower slots for utility.

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