What is the logic behind uncommon and rare spells?


Skills, Feats, Equipment & Spells


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What is the logic behind uncommon and rare spells? I can understand uncommon mundane items and uncommon magic items, but spells seem stranger to assign uncommon and rare tags to. Is it a matter of game balance? Are uncommon and rare spells supposed to be "stronger" than common spells? If so, then why are they not just common spells at a higher level?

How are GMs for Doomsday Dawn and Pathfinder Society supposed to be by-the-book and adjudicate whether or not to allow such spells to players?


And why doesn't the spell description include the rarity information?


Thematically a rare spell might be one researched by a reclusive wizard somewhere, and only taught to his apprentices.

Mechanically they are fun rewards the GMs can give players, or simple ways of communicating different worlds (one example I’ve seen is a GM declaring all resurrection magic in his world as rare).

In PF1 some GMs we’re giving out rewards at the end of quests and story arcs, and finding that players had already bought everything they wanted.

They aren’t necessarily more powerful, though I think underpowered rare abilities will be relatively unusual.

Blood Money is a good example from PF1.


Joe Mucchiello wrote:
And why doesn't the spell description include the rarity information?

It does, actually.

https://s22.postimg.cc/4aaxy8wgx/spell-rare.png

There's a color difference. Rare spells are a brighter orange to Uncommon's dark red (and Common's black).


What decides whether a spell is an uncommon spell, or a common spell of a slightly higher level? I cannot quite parse the rhyme and reason here.


Colette Brunel wrote:
What decides whether a spell is an uncommon spell, or a common spell of a slightly higher level? I cannot quite parse the rhyme and reason here.

Who knows.


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Colette Brunel wrote:
What decides whether a spell is an uncommon spell, or a common spell of a slightly higher level? I cannot quite parse the rhyme and reason here.

That is too f---ing subtle. The red and the orange are hard to distinguish in low light, such as one finds in a poorly lit basement play area. Certainly not colorblind friendly.


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I'm still disappointed they not only moved Teleport from 5th to 6th level, but also made it Uncommon.

Because, y'know, not many people would want to know how to travel a hundred miles in an instant.


Joe Mucchiello wrote:
That is too f---ing subtle. The red and the orange are hard to distinguish in low light, such as one finds in a poorly lit basement play area. Certainly not colorblind friendly.

I am talking more about the overall design; what makes a spell appropriate as an uncommon spell of X level, but not as a common spell of X+1 level?


Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Joe Mucchiello wrote:
Colette Brunel wrote:
What decides whether a spell is an uncommon spell, or a common spell of a slightly higher level? I cannot quite parse the rhyme and reason here.
That is too f---ing subtle. The red and the orange are hard to distinguish in low light, such as one finds in a poorly lit basement play area. Certainly not colorblind friendly.

In another thread

Vic Wertz wrote:
Nothing will rely exclusively on the presence of color-coding in the actual second edition. (That was one of the very first changes we committed to making, pretty much right as we were sending it to the printer.)


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The division between common and uncommon/rare spells seems to track spells that are potentially plot breaking in a lot of adventures. (Adventure to find the missing item X? Just use locate object! Adventure to accompany the heir across the mountains? Just use teleport! Need to find the heir because the king was just murdered? No need — just resurrect the king! And so on.) So they’re made these spells uncommon to make it easy for the DM to restrict access to them if they’d ruin the plot.

Interestingly, Spheres of Magic split some spells into the Legendary category for precisely the same reason. And the kinds of magical effects Spheres of Magic chose the make Legendary lines up nicely with the magical effects PF2 has made uncommon.


Oh, good. That was a very... odd color decision. I'm not color blind and can't seem to distinguish find any.
[The ridiculous icons also look like they're supposed to be a different color, but its really faded with the background]

I know they have 'u' and 'r' in superscript in the spell list, but I can't seem to find any 'r's. THough part of that is the tiny size and the font for the superscript, H, U and R blend a bit at that size.

Edit: Ah. Antimagic Field. That's a nasty shade of orange.

Scarab Sages

JDLPF wrote:

I'm still disappointed they not only moved Teleport from 5th to 6th level, but also made it Uncommon.

Because, y'know, not many people would want to know how to travel a hundred miles in an instant.

It’s not because people don’t want or know how to do that. It’s backed it can be very disruptive the GM’s campaign. Lord of the Rings wouldn’t be as fun if they had teleport.


To clarify, martials handle themselves just fine in combat, but they are still quite lacking in the noncombat utility department, especially given the lackluster high-level skill feats.

This is not something that will be apparent in the Doomsday Dawn playtesting cycle, because Doomsday Dawn's prime activity is straight-up fighting, and its secondary activity is dungeon-crawling. Even the skill-monkey-oriented adventure is mostly just dungeon-crawling.

Where this gets muddled, however, is common vs. uncommon/rare spells. As per James Jacobs, Paizo wants GMs to have full freedom to allow and forbid various pieces of content. Unfortunately, that means that it is on the GM to balance spellcasters by being strict with uncommon spells' availability. It is rather disheartening to know that one of the main balance points behind spellcasters is "the GM can always fix things."


redpandamage wrote:
JDLPF wrote:

I'm still disappointed they not only moved Teleport from 5th to 6th level, but also made it Uncommon.

Because, y'know, not many people would want to know how to travel a hundred miles in an instant.

It’s not because people don’t want or know how to do that. It’s backed it can be very disruptive the GM’s campaign. Lord of the Rings wouldn’t be as fun if they had teleport.

That is because LotR is level 4th, so is several levels behind Teleport


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I suspect the prime intent is to try and provide a system that stops casters from *always* picking the usual suspects for their spells every single time they make a caster.

One good way to do this would be to simply grant wizards of a school of magic access to uncommon spells of their school. That way something like fireball can be uncommon and you only get access to it by default if you are an evoker. If you want a fill a spell slot with a damage spell and your wizard isn't an evoker, then try something non-staple or have your character start trying to find an NPC evoker and roleplay your want into getting them to show you the fireball spell.

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