Cantrips underwhelming


Skills, Feats, Equipment & Spells

1 to 50 of 87 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Obviously i speak just for my group(but apparently even for a portion of the reddit pathfinder_rpg community) but we feel that cantrips are way too much underwhelming. I'm coming here to post this because i've seen that many complains about other things got considered by the game designers so i feel that this little aspect of the game could get some love too.

So my take is that if a caster(expecially a divine one) decides to contribute to a fight with damage (which imo is a legit desire that should be accomplishable by every player at the table of every class)he can't stand up to the others, by a long run. I explain.

Now that you only have 3/4 slot of spells per level you must be very careful about spending your resources, expecially damage wise, unless you use 1 min concentration spells (and Flaming Sphere is a "ref negates" instead of "ref half" even in this edition), or you will drain you spells immediatly.

Second take: items do not supply enough resources in this manner to be meaningful. A staff basically just give you 1-2 bonus spells per day and wands eventually get outscaled (and they are expensive nontheless).

So there are 2 ways to add oomph to casters: auto-eightening to all spells(so that even at class lvl9 those lvl1 spells are meaningful) or making their at will spell more impactul. Becaus at this point, cantrips leads to a pattern of being a simple attack roll-damage roll in between phone sessions(we just finished Lost Star and for our Wizard it was like this).

My proposal (and TL:DR of the post) is this scaling. They start by adding half the class skill modifier (it may seem stupid but adding +2 damage is something) than proceding with the current damage scaling anticipating everything by 1 spell lvl. In this way cantrips (and never forget that they cost 2 actions) deal 2 damage dice at class lvl 7 instead of 9 whereas martials get their magic weapon at lvl 6. Casters are still behind but not so absurdly behind.

Another take could be to leave the damage numbers like this but remove the attack trait from all cantrips so you chain them with attacks at no malus. This would be an even more dinamic pattern (but with less sense).


7 people marked this as a favorite.
Excaliburrover wrote:
which imo is a legit desire that should be accomplishable by every player at the table of every class

Eh. I like mechanical diversity. I have no problem with the default Bard, for instance, not being good at damage and instead focusing on other useful abilities. If a Bard really wants to be good at damage dealing they should have that option via feats/archetypes/Prof/equipment - but it should require an investment and cost some of their versatility in my opinion.

I think there's general agreement that casters were overnerfed and I have no problem with them being strengthened a bit (not anywhere near their old excesses) but I'd rather not see all classes contribute in the same way. The playtest has a rich tactical chassis...it would be a shame to see it revert to everyone just dealing damage.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Clerics don't get damaging cantrips, but domains offer a lot of good weapons to use. And an Elf or Gnome divine caster can poach a damaging cantrip with their Ancestry feat.

But yeah, having GMed for Sombrefell Hall, an all-Divine party is going to be severely lacking in consistent damage output.


EberronHoward wrote:

Clerics don't get damaging cantrips, but domains offer a lot of good weapons to use. And an Elf or Gnome divine caster can poach a damaging cantrip with their Ancestry feat.

But yeah, having GMed for Sombrefell Hall, an all-Divine party is going to be severely lacking in consistent damage output.

Your post has some imprecision: clerics have Chill Touch as damaging cantrips.Cantrips you take with ancestry feats scale at half level and thus are even worse.

For clerics, resorting to weapons to do damage is ok but i'd like to have more choices.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Cantrips that dish damage are pretty sexy.

Acid Splash is probably the weakest and you can rightfully ignore it.

Chill Touch does a nice little bit of damage equal to swinging a 1d8 weapon (with a better-than-level-appropriate rune). For a caster who does not have high strength, this is very strong in melee, esp Vs undead.

Disrupt Undead is the ranged version of Chill Touch, but focuses only on undead. It's a massive 1d10 damage, with again a better-than-level-appropriate rune on it. The downside is that it allows a Fort save for half.

Electric Arc can ping TWO targets for damage, making it a twin-attack feat that many martials get.

Just a few, alphabetically top of the list, examples... and they're all pretty good.

Cantrips aren't supposed to light the world on fire, but be the bread-and-butter "reserve" spells. To that end, they're really good and the design space is yet unexplored. Think of a spell like Shield that can sorta turn your character into a mage-tank. If Shield was designed to not have the 10-minute cooldown, you could totally spam that and it is character defining, or nearly so. That's kinda amazing.

As for casters in general, the level difference makes Magic Missile into a godsend. On my Sorcs, I prefer to use one of their Spontaneous Heightening options on Magic Missile. Every time. Why? Because on a monster that is higher level than me, Magic Missile is going to be the best damage the party has to offer. It might well be the ONLY damage that the party has to offer. So while the Fighter is going in with his move-miss-raise combination every turn, I'm dishing 3/6/9/etc missiles.

I totally agree that something needs to be done to allow players to work in tandem to reduce the level difference. As it is, you get only 2 penalties to apply, along with making a character flat-footed. And there's not a single penalty debuff a player character can apply that gives the maximum of -4. This needs to change, such that players can debuff something down to their level if they work together more tactically.


For my non play test gaming I’ve already gone through and dropped them from odd levels to even, starting at 2, and added a 10th level heightening. Damage scales better that way.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Excaliburrover wrote:
EberronHoward wrote:

Clerics don't get damaging cantrips, but domains offer a lot of good weapons to use. And an Elf or Gnome divine caster can poach a damaging cantrip with their Ancestry feat.

But yeah, having GMed for Sombrefell Hall, an all-Divine party is going to be severely lacking in consistent damage output.

Your post has some imprecision: clerics have Chill Touch as damaging cantrips.Cantrips you take with ancestry feats scale at half level and thus are even worse.

For clerics, resorting to weapons to do damage is ok but i'd like to have more choices.

They are heightned as a full spell

FIRST WORLD MAGIC:
Choose one cantrip from the primal spell list (see page 201). You can cast this spell as an innate primal spell at will. The cantrip is heightened to a spell level equal to half your level rounded up. For more information about spells, see page 192.

The cantrip is heightened to a spell level equal to half your level rounded up.

So if you are level 11 : 2 = 5.5 = heightened spell level 6. The only difference it's that use you use your Charisma modifier as your spellcasting ability.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Yeah, I'd rather see the actual spells brought up to relevant numbers than have cantrips buffed.

I could see room for a cantrip based class that could cast them with a single action or do significantly more damage with them, kind of playing like a kinericist in PF1.


5 people marked this as a favorite.

Attack cantrips may as well not exist as far as I can tell. Two actions for an attack worse than any other weapon seems like a curious choice of something to leave in the game. The utility of acid splash and telekinetic projectile make those worth taking, but there's no need to consider their combat applications.

You're better off moving, taking cover, intimidating, or distracting in most cases.


Just to clarify: the half-level scaling only applies to the part of the spell that says "Heighten", right? You'll deal less damage and get weaker effects, but your to-hit/saving throw bonus would be the same as your highest level spell?

Grand Lodge

The heighten is what gives it more damage.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
EberronHoward wrote:
Just to clarify: the half-level scaling only applies to the part of the spell that says "Heighten", right? You'll deal less damage and get weaker effects, but your to-hit/saving throw bonus would be the same as your highest level spell?

I'm not sure what exactly you mean. Your DCs/to-hit aren't based on spell level, independent of whether they're cantrips or not, and cantrips are heightened to your max spell level anyway (for innate cantrips, half level rounded up is exactly the same as when you get new spell levels, and for non-innate spells they're just automatically heightened to the highest level you can cast).


Yeah, just confirming it.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
EberronHoward wrote:
Just to clarify: the half-level scaling only applies to the part of the spell that says "Heighten", right? You'll deal less damage and get weaker effects, but your to-hit/saving throw bonus would be the same as your highest level spell?

All spells use the same to hit and save bonus now, So enemies resist against your first level spells the same as your high level ones.

Spells when heightened first become a that higher level, so a 3rd level dispel magic heightened is now a 5th level dispel magic and affects 5th level and lower spells.

Finally, if a spell has a heightened entry, it uses the extra increase according to what it's new spell level is. If you cast a 1st level spell heightened at 9th character level to 5th level; 9/5 = 4.5 round up to 5th, (depending on what the inconsistent rounding says, first world is rounded up, Paladin is rounded down for powers). Then you look at the heightened entry and see if is says something different for a different level (ie, 2nd level this, 4th level this) or whether is has positive increase depending on level ; +1 level +2d6 (so 2nd +2d6, 3rd +3d6)
or +2 levels 1 more missile per action (3rd +1 missile per, 5th +2 missiles per)


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Dante Doom wrote:
Excaliburrover wrote:
EberronHoward wrote:

Clerics don't get damaging cantrips, but domains offer a lot of good weapons to use. And an Elf or Gnome divine caster can poach a damaging cantrip with their Ancestry feat.

But yeah, having GMed for Sombrefell Hall, an all-Divine party is going to be severely lacking in consistent damage output.

Your post has some imprecision: clerics have Chill Touch as damaging cantrips.Cantrips you take with ancestry feats scale at half level and thus are even worse.

For clerics, resorting to weapons to do damage is ok but i'd like to have more choices.

They are heightned as a full spell

** spoiler omitted **

The cantrip is heightened to a spell level equal to half your level rounded up.

So if you are level 11 : 2 = 5.5 = heightened spell level 6. The only difference it's that use you use your Charisma modifier as your spellcasting ability.

100% of my players misread this to mean 1/2 caster level. (Paizo staff attempts to craft clear rules. They rolled a natural 1, what happens).

Grand Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

There is no such thing as a caster level.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

The term "caster level" may not exist anymore, but a level 5 wizard still casts spells as if they were a level 5 wizard.

I believe the assumption was that the feat meant you would cast the spell as though your were a wizard or druid of 1/2 your level.

Like feats with the "press" descriptor, if the majority of players are misinterpreting the rules, then the rules need better clarification. In fact counter intuitive writing of the rules and poor book layout is about 1/2 of my group's complaints.

Liberty's Edge

9 people marked this as a favorite.

Mark me down with the "Cantrips are fine" camp.

They're not SUPPOSED to be an infinitely reusable source of reliable damage, they exist so you can something better to do with your turn than go Full Defense or just shoot a garbage crossbow at enemies you have a terrible chance to hit on.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

The problem is that firing a crossbow into the crowd is now better than cantrips.

At level 1 a hand crossbow does 1d6 compared to a produce flame that also does 1d6 (and takes 2 actions)

At level 20 a hand crossbow +5 does 6d6 compared a produce flame that does 4d6 + (Ability modifier) (and takes 2 actions)


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Produce flame is far better than the hand crossbow. You need to load your crossbow, so it also takes 2 actions, hit AC instead of TAC, and you do less damage on a hit. Not to mention you need to spend loads of money on the crossbow for it to keep up.

Cantrips do okay amounts of damage; they’re there in order to make sure you don’t wast turns or spell slots inbetween uses of your real spells.


WhiteMagus2000 wrote:

The problem is that firing a crossbow into the crowd is now better than cantrips.

At level 1 a hand crossbow does 1d6 compared to a produce flame that also does 1d6 (and takes 2 actions)

At level 20 a hand crossbow +5 does 6d6 compared a produce flame that does 4d6 + (Ability modifier) (and takes 2 actions)

At level 1, Electric Arc deals 2d6 over two targets compared to 1d6 to single target. Disrupt Undead deals 1d10 compared to 1d6 (average 2 points better). Ray of Frost deals 1d8 (average 1 point better) against an easier defense target (TAC rather than AC).

At level 20, those numbers get better for Cantrips in comparison.

My playtest experience is that Cantrips are where they need to be in some cases, could use slight positive adjustments in others (that is for Cleric, Druid, and Wizard testing). What seems false to me is that Cantrips need large adjustments from where they are to be competitive options in most situations against default ranged weaponry, as seems to be the standard for comparison.

That people want them to be something other than what they are is understandable. Wanting something different does not change the fact that they are eminently useful, and workable, as currently implemented (for the most part).

Grand Lodge

Are we forgetting about the persistent damage of produce flame? Crits with that bad boy will be extra happiness.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
WhiteMagus2000 wrote:

The problem is that firing a crossbow into the crowd is now better than cantrips.

At level 1 a hand crossbow does 1d6 compared to a produce flame that also does 1d6 (and takes 2 actions)

At level 20 a hand crossbow +5 does 6d6 compared a produce flame that does 4d6 + (Ability modifier) (and takes 2 actions)

You're making the assumption that the person with that crossbow has invested their gold in that potency rune. In reality, my melee characters through this playtest have had a backup ranged weapon doing 1d6 OR they've been Wizards w/ Fighter MC and relied on their cantrips to do much larger damage.

Simply put, you've got it backwards on secondary weapons. Casters, dropping cantrips, have the advantage over weapons experts using off-weapons.

And, c'mon, it's entirely unfair to list crossbows as having 1-action firing when they have reload times. Just ridiculous a comparison.


Excaliburrover wrote:

Obviously i speak just for my group(but apparently even for a portion of the reddit pathfinder_rpg community) but we feel that cantrips are way too much underwhelming. I'm coming here to post this because i've seen that many complains about other things got considered by the game designers so i feel that this little aspect of the game could get some love too.

So my take is that if a caster(expecially a divine one) decides to contribute to a fight with damage (which imo is a legit desire that should be accomplishable by every player at the table of every class)he can't stand up to the others, by a long run.

Playtest example from last session, Cleric of Iomedae at level 7 against an incorporeal undead:

Disrupt Undead, two actions, 1d10+4 (average 9, rounding down). Third action, +1 Ghost Touch Longsword, 2d8+4 (average 13).

22 points damage on average, more with a critical failure on opponent part or critical hit for Cleric. In actual anecdote, enemy critically failed the save and the Cleric rolled well on the Longsword hit, but that is only one path things could take, thus we look at that 22 damage - which is better than a 6d6 Lightning Bolt presuming failed save, on average, with abilities the Cleric can use every round indefinitely.

This particular Cleric was built for melee tanking, using Enduring Might domain power, and we were particularly glad to have that side of things. The damage never felt weaker than other classes, despite not having a damage focus.

Part of my rambling here is to point out that Cantrips do not exist in a vacuum and have many ways to synergize with other class abilities and concepts. Exploration of the rules set and testing ideas will discover some solid options for using them.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Let's do a DPS comparison between a Wizard casting Chill Touch and a Fighter using a generic d8 weapon. The Wizard boosts INT and DEX at Levels 5, 10, 15, and 20, while the Fighter boosts STR.

Chill Touch DPS vs Equal Level Target (16 DEX + 18 INT):

Items: Spell Duelist's Gloves (+1 at 9, 13, 17, and 20), +INT item at 15.
1: 2.7
2: 3.15
3: 2.7
4: 2.7
5: 5.95
6: 5.95
7: 5.1
8: 5.1
9: 7.8
10: 8.4
11: 7.7
12: 7.7
13: 11.1
14: 11.1
15: 10.725
16: 11.7
17: 14.4
18: 19.2
19: 14.4
20: 17.5

The one outlier is Level 18, where average TAC goes down for some reason.

Compare to a 1H Fighter with a d8 weapon.

d8 Fighter DPS vs Equal Level Target (18 STR):

Items: Weapon Quality Increases (+1 at 3, 8), Potency Runes (damage boost at 5, 9, 13, 17, and 20. Accuracy boost at 13, 17, and 20.), and +STR boost item at 15.

1: 5.95
2: 5.95
3: 6.8
4: 6.8
5: 10.4
6: 10.4
7: 9.1
8: 9.1
9: 12.25
10: 14.8
11: 12.95
12: 12.95
13: 16.1
14: 16.1
15: 19.2
16: 14.4
17: 19.95
18: 22.8
19: 15.675
20: 23.8

Chill Touch is a pretty good damage cantrips compared to the others, but it's pretty much always outdamaged by a single attack from a Fighter using one of their lower-damage weapons. The cantrips also take 2 Actions to cast, while the Fighter attack costs 1.

Other cantrips may compare more favorably, but I'm not quite in the mood to input all the numbers into my Spell Damage Calculator while on my phone. Once I get a good spreadsheet set up I'll compare them all.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
LuniasM wrote:


Other cantrips may compare more favorably, but I'm not quite in the mood to input all the numbers into my Spell Damage Calculator while on my phone. Once I get a good spreadsheet set up I'll compare them all.

I look forward to it. In the interim, let us look at a simplified version using a different spell choice, Electric Arc.

An advantage for Electric Arc - Range 30 rather than melee. A situational difference, which could be advantageous or disadvantageous depending - it optimally deals damage to two targets rather than a single target.

Because of how spell saves work against even level opponents, and the two target nature of Electric Arc, we can presume that on average one will succeed and one will fail. That leaves us with average damage for Electric Arc at 6d6+7 (rounding down for the save success), 28 damage across two targets at level 17 through 20...which is strictly better in applied damage numbers terms than the attack of the Fighter as you have listed it.

To add a dimension of inquiry to the analysis, Ray of Frost is going to deal the same damage as Chill Touch but can be used against any target within 60 feet. How does that advantage of considerably better than melee range get accounted for when comparing possible application of damage numbers in a practical context?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

If you are going to do this comparison, let's keep the money fair on both sides.

Spell Dueling +4 (glove or wand) is 70,000 gp.

A +5 Potency Rune is 53860 and legendary weapon to put it on is 6500gp (65000 sp), for roughly 10000 gp in more weapon property runes... Which is say, Returning, Frost, Greater Shock for example, with money to spare. A +5 Returning, Greater Shock, wounding javelin is doing 6d6 + str + 1d6 cold + 1d6 electrical + 2d6 persistent electrical , for a total of 10d6 + str, 2d6 of which is persistent, per hit.

Never mind something like a two-handed sword. Or You might do better with a composite short bow, and Ghost ammunition - which is cheap at only 550 gp...

Dark Archive

3 people marked this as a favorite.
pad300 wrote:

If you are going to do this comparison, let's keep the money fair on both sides.

Spell Dueling +4 (glove or wand) is 70,000 gp.

A +5 Potency Rune is 53860 and legendary weapon to put it on is 6500gp (65000 sp), for roughly 10000 gp in more weapon property runes... Which is say, Returning, Frost, Greater Shock for example, with money to spare. A +5 Returning, Greater Shock, wounding javelin is doing 6d6 + str + 1d6 cold + 1d6 electrical + 2d6 persistent electrical , for a total of 10d6 + str, 2d6 of which is persistent, per hit.

Never mind something like a two-handed sword. Or You might do better with a composite short bow, and Ghost ammunition - which is cheap at only 550 gp...

If my goal was to show off just how much an optimized Fighter blows Cantrip damage out of the Water, I would've used a d12 weapon and added runes, Multiclassing, class feats, etc. Problem is, no matter how good cantrips were they'd never stack up to that just by virtue of class balance - Cantrips shouldn't match or come close to matching the most optimized Martial damage at any level, because that devalues martial classes. Why play a Fighter when you can deal the same damage as a Wizard at-will and have tons of spells for versatility?

The purpose of this comparison was to show how two similar builds matched up. Both classes have the same level of proficiency by the final levels, have identical ability score scaling, use the same base damage dice, and only use two items - a stat-boosting item and an attack/damage boost item (Weapon + Potency vs Spell Duelist's Gloves). The point I'm making is that, even when compared to an unoptimized Fighter, Cantrip damage falls behind. I personally feel it should be a little higher - perhaps starting at 1dX+MOD and scaling to 5dX+MOD - but I need to do more math to determine if cantrip damage is actually falling behind too far. How does it compare to other classes with lower Proficiency? What about cantrips that target a save, or hit multiple creatures? How does Persistent Damage affect it? These are all questions that should be answered, which is what I aim to do.

And for the record, money was not a factor in the calculations. I use Table 11-2: Character Wealth on Page 348 to determine when items are available and factor those into my calculations. In PF1 the actual GP cost would be a huge factor, but in this edition you're expected to have both a certain amount of gold and a number of permanent magic items. Both a +5 Weapon Potency Rune and Supreme Spell Duelist's Gloves are Level 20 permanent magic items, so they are factored in at Level 20 (which is the only level I use or allow Level 20 items in calculations, since all other items are only available at Character Level = Item Level +1). Actual GP cost is only really relevant when considering consumables or lower-level magic items that don't fall within the 4-level range that Table 11-2 gives us.


LuniasM wrote:
The point I'm making is that, even when compared to an unoptimized Fighter, Cantrip damage falls behind. I personally feel it should be a little higher - perhaps starting at 1dX+MOD and scaling to 5dX+MOD - but I need to do more math to determine if cantrip damage is actually falling behind too far. How does it compare to other classes with lower Proficiency? What about cantrips that target a save, or hit multiple creatures? How does Persistent Damage affect it? These are all questions that should be answered, which is what I aim to do.

I'd include this question as well: At what point does Cantrip damage exceed the damage dealt by a 1st level spell slot?


LuniasM wrote:
pad300 wrote:

If you are going to do this comparison, let's keep the money fair on both sides.

Spell Dueling +4 (glove or wand) is 70,000 gp.

A +5 Potency Rune is 53860 and legendary weapon to put it on is 6500gp (65000 sp), for roughly 10000 gp in more weapon property runes... Which is say, Returning, Frost, Greater Shock for example, with money to spare. A +5 Returning, Greater Shock, wounding javelin is doing 6d6 + str + 1d6 cold + 1d6 electrical + 2d6 persistent electrical , for a total of 10d6 + str, 2d6 of which is persistent, per hit.

Never mind something like a two-handed sword. Or You might do better with a composite short bow, and Ghost ammunition - which is cheap at only 550 gp...

If my goal was to show off just how much an optimized Fighter blows Cantrip damage out of the Water, I would've used a d12 weapon and added runes, Multiclassing, class feats, etc. Problem is, no matter how good cantrips were they'd never stack up to that just by virtue of class balance - Cantrips shouldn't match or come close to matching the most optimized Martial damage at any level, because that devalues martial classes. Why play a Fighter when you can deal the same damage as a Wizard at-will and have tons of spells for versatility?

The purpose of this comparison was to show how two similar builds matched up. Both classes have the same level of proficiency by the final levels, have identical ability score scaling, use the same base damage dice, and only use two items - a stat-boosting item and an attack/damage boost item (Weapon + Potency vs Spell Duelist's Gloves). The point I'm making is that, even when compared to an unoptimized Fighter, Cantrip damage falls behind. I personally feel it should be a little higher - perhaps starting at 1dX+MOD and scaling to 5dX+MOD - but I need to do more math to determine if cantrip damage is actually falling behind too far. How does it compare to other classes with lower Proficiency? What about cantrips that target a save, or hit multiple...

I don't necessarily agree that cantrips need to be boosted, or at least as much as you say, as I think this puts them a bit too high, given the spells a caster also gets, but I will say I think your assessment is solid, but the main thing I wonder is if the Spell duelist gloves/wand are appropriately called out in the rulebook, as the coveted objects section of p395 fails to mention them along side weapons and handwraps. Because I've seen people fail to account for them, and I don't know what the solution to that is. Maybe spell gloves/wands could follow the same potency rules for weapons, and have their additional spells be similar to property runes for weapons. Might help in some of this.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
LuniasM wrote:

Let's do a DPS comparison between a Wizard casting Chill Touch and a Fighter using a generic d8 weapon. The Wizard boosts INT and DEX at Levels 5, 10, 15, and 20, while the Fighter boosts STR.

** spoiler omitted **

The one outlier is Level 18, where average TAC goes down for some reason.

Compare to a 1H Fighter with a d8 weapon.
** spoiler omitted **

Chill Touch is a pretty good damage cantrips compared to the others, but it's pretty much always outdamaged by a single attack from a Fighter using one of their lower-damage weapons. The cantrips also take 2 Actions to cast, while the Fighter attack costs 1.

Other cantrips may compare more favorably, but I'm not quite in the mood to input all the numbers into my Spell Damage Calculator while on my phone. Once I get a good spreadsheet set up I'll compare them all.

Shouldn't the comparison be a Wizard's cantrip DPR Vs a Str Fighter's ability to use a bow? Afterall, the Wizard and Fighter are using these "fall back" options, not using their regular "best" abilities.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Greg.Everham wrote:


Shouldn't the comparison be a Wizard's cantrip DPR Vs a Str Fighter's ability to use a bow? Afterall, the Wizard and Fighter are using these "fall back" options, not using their regular "best" abilities.

That would depend on how frequently each type of character had to rely on their fall back. At early levels, casters are using their fallback option almost every round, but that changes as they get further along in levels. At some point it would come down to the individual relevance of their spells, and how long and how frequent combats were during the day.

The comparison between cantrips and weapons illustrates how much of a gap there is in sustained abilities that needs to be made up by consumable abilities. If combats are long enough that its worth casting spells, or spells last long enough that they don't need to be recast during combat, then casters can be shorted on their at will combat options since they have ongoing abilities that function as a sustain ability. If however you have several short combats and few spells, casters will rely heavily on their at will abilities which would need to be comparable to a martial's.

TLDR: It depends on character level and how well optimized characters are to their environment.

Dark Archive

StratoNexus wrote:
LuniasM wrote:
The point I'm making is that, even when compared to an unoptimized Fighter, Cantrip damage falls behind. I personally feel it should be a little higher - perhaps starting at 1dX+MOD and scaling to 5dX+MOD - but I need to do more math to determine if cantrip damage is actually falling behind too far. How does it compare to other classes with lower Proficiency? What about cantrips that target a save, or hit multiple creatures? How does Persistent Damage affect it? These are all questions that should be answered, which is what I aim to do.
I'd include this question as well: At what point does Cantrip damage exceed the damage dealt by a 1st level spell slot?

Depends on the spell, and also on which cantrips you're looking at. The following is as compared to Chill Touch:

Character Level 2: 3-Action Heal/Harm. Varies greatly by number of targets.

Character Level 5: Burning Hands, Grim Tendrils, 2-action Heal/Harm, and 1-action Magic Missile. The first two vary by the number of targets.

Character Level 9: 1-Action Heal/Harm, 2-Action Magic Missile, and Shocking Grasp.

Character Level 13: 3-Action Magic Missile

Magic Missile is the true MVP for dealing damage with very low spell slots thanks to the 100% hit rate and damage type, so long as you cast it with 3 actions.

Dark Archive

Greg.Everham wrote:
LuniasM wrote:

Let's do a DPS comparison between a Wizard casting Chill Touch and a Fighter using a generic d8 weapon. The Wizard boosts INT and DEX at Levels 5, 10, 15, and 20, while the Fighter boosts STR.

** spoiler omitted **

The one outlier is Level 18, where average TAC goes down for some reason.

Compare to a 1H Fighter with a d8 weapon.
** spoiler omitted **

Chill Touch is a pretty good damage cantrips compared to the others, but it's pretty much always outdamaged by a single attack from a Fighter using one of their lower-damage weapons. The cantrips also take 2 Actions to cast, while the Fighter attack costs 1.

Other cantrips may compare more favorably, but I'm not quite in the mood to input all the numbers into my Spell Damage Calculator while on my phone. Once I get a good spreadsheet set up I'll compare them all.

Shouldn't the comparison be a Wizard's cantrip DPR Vs a Str Fighter's ability to use a bow? Afterall, the Wizard and Fighter are using these "fall back" options, not using their regular "best" abilities.

I went for a d8 STR weapon because they shared similar stats - both add the user's full ability score modifier to damage, used the same base damage dice, and benefited from the class's proficiency modifier. That way, the comparison would be as close as possible. But most importantly, it turns out my calculator has no function for adding damage that applies on a crit only, which I didn't realize until I had finished running the numbers and was looking for a decent Thrown weapon to compare to (hint: Tridents have the best damage die and a 20' range). What I can tell you is that, discounting Deadly, Cantrips caught up around Level 12 and passed Longbows at Level 18. With Deadly added, I'm not sure just yet. I will get back to that once I update my sheet.


6 people marked this as a favorite.

One of the big problems that casters in general have in PF2 is that they lack good 1-action offensive options. And that's not really something you want to be without. So by and large, most casters are going to end up picking up a magic weapon as a standby DPR option. If you have a 1-action attack with a magic weapon, why would you ever spend 2 actions to cast a cantrip that is probably dealing less damage?

This is part of a larger conundrum where casters have lost their traditional niche. It's no longer possible to incapacitate enemies or control the flow of battle effectively. It didn't matter in PF1 that caster cantrips were terrible; DPR and at-will attacks wasn't their job in the first place. It wouldn't matter if cantrips were weak if casters could reasonably contribute with a few well-placed mid-level spells and then let the fighter clean up. In PF2 you need everyone pulling their weight DPR-wise, because that is the only metric by which combats are won.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
WhiteMagus2000 wrote:
100% of my players misread this to mean 1/2 caster level. (Paizo staff attempts to craft clear rules. They rolled a natural 1, what happens).

I don't think they critically failed. I'd say they definitely got a few failures, but that is because Write Clear Rules tends to have a pretty high DC.

_
glass.


LuniasM wrote:
I went for a d8 STR weapon because they shared similar stats - both add the user's full ability score modifier to damage, used the same base damage dice, and benefited from the class's proficiency modifier. That way, the comparison would be as close as possible. But most importantly, it turns out my calculator has no function for adding damage that applies on a crit only, which I didn't realize until I had finished running the numbers and was looking for a decent Thrown weapon to compare to (hint: Tridents have the best damage die and a 20' range). What I can tell you is that, discounting Deadly, Cantrips caught up around Level 12 and passed Longbows at Level 18 . With Deadly added, I'm not sure just yet. I will get back to that once I update my sheet.

Is this with a rune-inscribed weapon? I would not have thought that cantrips ever caught up to a level-appropriate weapon...


3 people marked this as a favorite.
LuniasM wrote:

Let's do a DPS comparison between a Wizard casting Chill Touch and a Fighter using a generic d8 weapon. The Wizard boosts INT and DEX at Levels 5, 10, 15, and 20, while the Fighter boosts STR.

** spoiler omitted **

The one outlier is Level 18, where average TAC goes down for some reason.

Compare to a 1H Fighter with a d8 weapon.
** spoiler omitted **

Chill Touch is a pretty good damage cantrips compared to the others, but it's pretty much always outdamaged by a single attack from a Fighter using one of their lower-damage weapons. The cantrips also take 2 Actions to cast, while the Fighter attack costs 1.

Other cantrips may compare more favorably, but I'm not quite in the mood to input all the numbers into my Spell Damage Calculator while on my phone. Once I get a good spreadsheet set up I'll compare them all.

why did you put in accurancy boosts for the figther and NOT for the caster?

touch attacks uses spell proficiency modifier, so they get an "accurancy boost" at 13/16/(wherever the legendary is)

secondly, that comparison is 100% irrelevant.

"hitting with a weapon" is the MAIN thing of a fighter.
"doing damage with a cantrip" is the LEAST thing a caster can do.

So, you're basically coparing one class' BEST feature, to another class' WORST feature.

If they were even remotely close, balance would be terrible.


Dasrak wrote:

One of the big problems that casters in general have in PF2 is that they lack good 1-action offensive options. And that's not really something you want to be without. So by and large, most casters are going to end up picking up a magic weapon as a standby DPR option. If you have a 1-action attack with a magic weapon, why would you ever spend 2 actions to cast a cantrip that is probably dealing less damage?

This is part of a larger conundrum where casters have lost their traditional niche. It's no longer possible to incapacitate enemies or control the flow of battle effectively. It didn't matter in PF1 that caster cantrips were terrible; DPR and at-will attacks wasn't their job in the first place. It wouldn't matter if cantrips were weak if casters could reasonably contribute with a few well-placed mid-level spells and then let the fighter clean up. In PF2 you need everyone pulling their weight DPR-wise, because that is the only metric by which combats are won.

because a "level appropriate weapon" is frigging expensive that is.

You can have a nice staff, thatnot only grants up to 10-12 spells known by default, but also automatically adds free spell slots equal to your highest spell slot per day.

you can have spell dueling wands, which not only boost all your touch attacks, but also grant pretty nice daily spells as well.

You also need magic armor and magic +skill items

you can have invisibility cloaks and etc

a magic weapon, so that once per round, you have a chance of doing like 50% more damage than a cantrip, if you sacrifice your movement, is the least of your item priorities.

If anything, one can compare cantrips to (potency -1) weapons, that at least can be pass-me-down from other characters.


6 people marked this as a favorite.
Greg.Everham wrote:

Cantrips that dish damage are pretty sexy.

Acid Splash is probably the weakest and you can rightfully ignore it.

Chill Touch does a nice little bit of damage equal to swinging a 1d8 weapon (with a better-than-level-appropriate rune). For a caster who does not have high strength, this is very strong in melee, esp Vs undead.

Disrupt Undead is the ranged version of Chill Touch, but focuses only on undead. It's a massive 1d10 damage, with again a better-than-level-appropriate rune on it. The downside is that it allows a Fort save for half.

Electric Arc can ping TWO targets for damage, making it a twin-attack feat that many martials get.

Just a few, alphabetically top of the list, examples... and they're all pretty good.

Cantrips aren't supposed to light the world on fire, but be the bread-and-butter "reserve" spells. To that end, they're really good and the design space is yet unexplored. Think of a spell like Shield that can sorta turn your character into a mage-tank. If Shield was designed to not have the 10-minute cooldown, you could totally spam that and it is character defining, or nearly so. That's kinda amazing.

As for casters in general, the level difference makes Magic Missile into a godsend. On my Sorcs, I prefer to use one of their Spontaneous Heightening options on Magic Missile. Every time. Why? Because on a monster that is higher level than me, Magic Missile is going to be the best damage the party has to offer. It might well be the ONLY damage that the party has to offer. So while the Fighter is going in with his move-miss-raise combination every turn, I'm dishing 3/6/9/etc missiles.

I totally agree that something needs to be done to allow players to work in tandem to reduce the level difference. As it is, you get only 2 penalties to apply, along with making a character flat-footed. And there's not a single penalty debuff a player character can apply that gives the maximum of -4. This needs to change, such that players can debuff something down to their level if they work...

These comments make me wonder if you have played a wizard in playtest. The cantrips do not play as your bread and butter "reserve" they play as your main line damaging spells after a cast or three. If you as a caster want to do ANYTHING in combat you will end up using cantrips as the spells you cast most often.

Making magic missile the most effective options a joke. There was a PFS1e wizard in my area that would only ever cast magic missle. Heightened magic missile, quickened magic missile, maximized magic missile, tripping magic missile; you name it he memorized it. And all the players hated his wizard because of it. Now to make magic missile and the cantrips the "power of a wizard" vs. a fighter getting in position and making multiple attacks is very disappointing.

While playing a wizard in the playtest I am the weakest character on the board. I have the lowest hit points, lowest ac, and the weakest attack options. This game was always based on a high magic concept for decades.
Now I just don't have fun playing it anymore.....

Liberty's Edge

I almost wonder if it would be beneficial to allow each spellcaster to choose a single 1st level Spell on their list and to spend a Spell Point to treat it as a Cantrip for the duration of the current encounter. This way they can have their "Signature" attack that doesn't just suck when you run out of Spell Slots, but they'd still have to "invest" in being able to do so.

This way you could let your Wizard have his unlimited auto-heightening spell of choice available for a given combat without it being super weak.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Themetricsystem wrote:

I almost wonder if it would be beneficial to allow each spellcaster to choose a single 1st level Spell on their list and to spend a Spell Point to treat it as a Cantrip for the duration of the current encounter. This way they can have their "Signature" attack that doesn't just suck when you run out of Spell Slots, but they'd still have to "invest" in being able to do so.

This way you could let your Wizard have his unlimited auto-heightening spell of choice available for a given combat without it being super weak.

some first level spells would have to be severely nerfed for that though.

i mean, true strike, shocking grasp, HEAL, and etc as at-will for the whole encounter seems pretty broken imo.

Dark Archive

Dasrak wrote:

One of the big problems that casters in general have in PF2 is that they lack good 1-action offensive options. And that's not really something you want to be without. So by and large, most casters are going to end up picking up a magic weapon as a standby DPR option. If you have a 1-action attack with a magic weapon, why would you ever spend 2 actions to cast a cantrip that is probably dealing less damage?

This is part of a larger conundrum where casters have lost their traditional niche. It's no longer possible to incapacitate enemies or control the flow of battle effectively. It didn't matter in PF1 that caster cantrips were terrible; DPR and at-will attacks wasn't their job in the first place. It wouldn't matter if cantrips were weak if casters could reasonably contribute with a few well-placed mid-level spells and then let the fighter clean up. In PF2 you need everyone pulling their weight DPR-wise, because that is the only metric by which combats are won.

I've done a spreadsheet called "PF2 - Hit Rates and Damage" that details the DPS of each class when using a STR-based melee weapon (1d8 for 2H, 1d6 for 1H is the best Simple Weapons get). Each starts with the highest-possible STR score for their class, increases it at every available opportunity, and purchases the exact same items as the Fighter example from my first post. What I found is that 2H builds only deal 1-2 more damage on average than the Chill Touch numbers above. Sorcerers and Wizards could take Magical Striker to improve that by another 1-2 points, but action economy makes it very hard to pull off. Taking Fighter Dedication and Weapon Expert brings the numbers up to the following:

2H STR, 1d12 Weapon:

1: 4.125
2: 5.225
3: 5.225
4: 5.225
5: 10.2
6: 10.2
7: 9.35
8: 9.35
9: 12.925
10: 12.925
11: 11.75
12: 10.575
13: 13.5
14: 15
15: 19.2
16: 16
17: 21.175
18: 23.1
19: 17.325
20: 22.5

1H STR, 1d8 Weapon + Magical Striker:

1: 3.575
2: 4.125
3: 4.125
4: 7.2
5: 7.2
6: 12.25
7: 10.5
8: 10.5
9: 13.2
10: 13.2
11: 12.1
12: 11
13: 13.25
14: 14.575
15: 19.95
16: 15.675
17: 19.8
18: 23.1
19: 16.5
20: 16.5

Chill Touch (for comparison):

1: 2.7
2: 3.15
3: 2.7
4: 2.7
5: 5.95
6: 5.95
7: 5.1
8: 5.1
9: 7.8
10: 8.4
11: 7.7
12: 7.7
13: 11.1
14: 11.1
15: 10.725
16: 11.7
17: 14.4
18: 19.2
19: 14.4
20: 17.5

As you can see, the above Magical Striker build has about a 50% damage advantage. However, using it requires casting a spell first, and unless you've prepared a boatload of Heal/Harm, Magic Missile, and True Strike spells in your lower-level slots then you'll need to spend 2 actions casting and 1 making the weapon attack, which means you don't have the required actions to move or concentrate on spells for buffing purposes. Plus, at that point you're putting enough of an investment in your backup attack that it isn't exactly a backup strategy anymore - getting to those numbers requires using a Permanent Magic Item on the Potency Rune, 3 class feats, and requires either specific spells prepared to cast and attack in 2 actions or gives up buffs and mobility (until much higher levels) to sustain its damage.

And just for comparisons sake, I added a Crit Damage function to my calculator to accurately reflect the Deadly property bonus damage (for the record, it barely changed the results).

Sorcerer/Wizard Longbow + Magical Striker:

Starts at DEX 16, STR 14, INT 18, which is as high as you can get without lowering INT to support weapon damage. Only Elves can get this array, and then only if they take an 8 CON. Gets a +DEX item at 15 for accuracy.

1: 3.3 (Trained), 2.2 (Untrained)
2: 3.3
3: 3.3
4: 5.775
5: 10.7
6: 10.7
7: 8.975
8: 8.525
9: 11.95
10: 12.55
11: 11.55
12: 10.55
13: 12.8
14: 14.025
15: 18.25
16: 14.3
17: 18.225
18: 21.95
19: 15.325
20: 15.325

If you're going for a backup weapon, a Shortbow or Longbow plus Magical Striker are probably the best options, but they require a lot of investment for a 50% damage increase on what is intended to be a backup option. Besides, they end up being about as good as they would just using a d12 weapon and earing the action to grip with 2 hands when necessary. Of course, True Strike + Magical Striker + Deadly is probably worth it, but I'm not entirely certain how to calculate that.

Dark Archive

pad300 wrote:
LuniasM wrote:
I went for a d8 STR weapon because they shared similar stats - both add the user's full ability score modifier to damage, used the same base damage dice, and benefited from the class's proficiency modifier. That way, the comparison would be as close as possible. But most importantly, it turns out my calculator has no function for adding damage that applies on a crit only, which I didn't realize until I had finished running the numbers and was looking for a decent Thrown weapon to compare to (hint: Tridents have the best damage die and a 20' range). What I can tell you is that, discounting Deadly, Cantrips caught up around Level 12 and passed Longbows at Level 18 . With Deadly added, I'm not sure just yet. I will get back to that once I update my sheet.
Is this with a rune-inscribed weapon? I would not have thought that cantrips ever caught up to a level-appropriate weapon...

In the case of using a Longbow as a backup weapon for a STR-based Fighter build, counting Potency Runes, yes. This is due to two factors - Fighter's have lower Proficiency with any weapon outside their chosen weapon group, and a STR Fighter has a lower DEX score than you'd optimally have on an archer. That accounts for a -3 accuracy penalty they don't take on their primary weapon choice.


Mulgar wrote:


As for casters in general, the level difference makes Magic Missile into a godsend. On my Sorcs, I prefer to use one of their Spontaneous Heightening options on Magic Missile. Every time. Why? Because on a monster that is higher level than me, Magic Missile is going to be the best damage the party has to offer. It might well be the ONLY damage that the party has to offer. So while the Fighter is going in with his move-miss-raise combination every turn, I'm dishing 3/6/9/etc missiles.

@Mulgar - If you don't like the PF2 Magic Missile that is 20% better at PF2 level 5 than the PF1 version at level 9, and you don't enjoy spells like True Strike and Shocking Grasp that are comparatively improved from PF1, try out Summon Monster that is also comparatively improved from PF1 for duration and impact at lower levels.

Or explore other options to make work - it is a playtest, after all.

Dark Archive

shroudb wrote:
LuniasM wrote:

Let's do a DPS comparison between a Wizard casting Chill Touch and a Fighter using a generic d8 weapon. The Wizard boosts INT and DEX at Levels 5, 10, 15, and 20, while the Fighter boosts STR.

** spoiler omitted **

The one outlier is Level 18, where average TAC goes down for some reason.

Compare to a 1H Fighter with a d8 weapon.
** spoiler omitted **

Chill Touch is a pretty good damage cantrips compared to the others, but it's pretty much always outdamaged by a single attack from a Fighter using one of their lower-damage weapons. The cantrips also take 2 Actions to cast, while the Fighter attack costs 1.

Other cantrips may compare more favorably, but I'm not quite in the mood to input all the numbers into my Spell Damage Calculator while on my phone. Once I get a good spreadsheet set up I'll compare them all.

why did you put in accurancy boosts for the figther and NOT for the caster?

touch attacks uses spell proficiency modifier, so they get an "accurancy boost" at 13/16/(wherever the legendary is)

secondly, that comparison is 100% irrelevant.

"hitting with a weapon" is the MAIN thing of a fighter.
"doing damage with a cantrip" is the LEAST thing a caster can do.

So, you're basically coparing one class' BEST feature, to another class' WORST feature.

If they were even remotely close, balance would be terrible.

I did include Spellcasting Proficiency - it adds a +1 bonus at Levels 12, 16, and 19. I can see how that wasn't clear - the Accuracy Boost I mentioned for Fighters was for Weapon Quality and Potency Runes, not Proficiency - I hadn't listed the Proficiency increases in the bonuses since they're not items, but that could've been more clear.

More importantly, comparing Cantrips damage to weapon damage (and not even optimized weapon damage, just a d8) is not irrelevant. If the goal is to determine the value of Cantrips, there has to be a point of reference. Just presenting the damage of Cantrips is meaningless, but comparing it to weapon damage gives us an idea of its relative value as a damage option. The Longbow comparison is perhaps more accurate, since it's truly a backup option, but both could be useful.


Greg.Everham wrote:
WhiteMagus2000 wrote:

The problem is that firing a crossbow into the crowd is now better than cantrips.

At level 1 a hand crossbow does 1d6 compared to a produce flame that also does 1d6 (and takes 2 actions)

At level 20 a hand crossbow +5 does 6d6 compared a produce flame that does 4d6 + (Ability modifier) (and takes 2 actions)

You're making the assumption that the person with that crossbow has invested their gold in that potency rune. In reality, my melee characters through this playtest have had a backup ranged weapon doing 1d6 OR they've been Wizards w/ Fighter MC and relied on their cantrips to do much larger damage.

Simply put, you've got it backwards on secondary weapons. Casters, dropping cantrips, have the advantage over weapons experts using off-weapons.

And, c'mon, it's entirely unfair to list crossbows as having 1-action firing when they have reload times. Just ridiculous a comparison.

Exactly. And on top of that, the difference of 2d6 averages to ~6 points of additional damage- which is exactly what a 20th level caster is going to have for their ability modifier: +6. I'll take the guaranteed damage any day over the variable.


glass wrote:
WhiteMagus2000 wrote:
100% of my players misread this to mean 1/2 caster level. (Paizo staff attempts to craft clear rules. They rolled a natural 1, what happens).
I don't think they critically failed. I'd say they definitely got a few failures, but that is because Write Clear Rules tends to have a pretty high DC.

Only because Medium DC continues to scale based on your level. :D

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
PhoenixSunrise wrote:
Greg.Everham wrote:
WhiteMagus2000 wrote:

The problem is that firing a crossbow into the crowd is now better than cantrips.

At level 1 a hand crossbow does 1d6 compared to a produce flame that also does 1d6 (and takes 2 actions)

At level 20 a hand crossbow +5 does 6d6 compared a produce flame that does 4d6 + (Ability modifier) (and takes 2 actions)

You're making the assumption that the person with that crossbow has invested their gold in that potency rune. In reality, my melee characters through this playtest have had a backup ranged weapon doing 1d6 OR they've been Wizards w/ Fighter MC and relied on their cantrips to do much larger damage.

Simply put, you've got it backwards on secondary weapons. Casters, dropping cantrips, have the advantage over weapons experts using off-weapons.

And, c'mon, it's entirely unfair to list crossbows as having 1-action firing when they have reload times. Just ridiculous a comparison.

Exactly. And on top of that, the difference of 2d6 averages to ~6 points of additional damage- which is exactly what a 20th level caster is going to have for their ability modifier: +6. I'll take the guaranteed damage any day over the variable.

Quick note - 2d6 averages to 7. A +7 is still pretty easy to get at Level 20, though, so the rest is accurate.


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Excaliburrover wrote:
So there are 2 ways to add oomph to casters: auto-eightening to all spells(so that even at class lvl9 those lvl1 spells are meaningful) or making their at will spell more impactul. Becaus at this point, cantrips leads to a pattern of being a simple attack roll-damage roll in between phone sessions(we just finished Lost Star and for our Wizard it was like this).

I'd rather see them auto-increase the effectiveness of all of their spells. They'd have to be careful about this, like cantrips, but this would be the best solution.

I've played a wizard at 4th and 5th level and you run out of effective spells too easily, and always run out of all spells (if you even want to use them since they don't scale, cantrips can be better than lower levels spells). More often than not, I was using cantrips all of the time. It's a very redundant and un-fun play style.

I'd much rather be getting use out of buffed level 1 spells, that would be slightly better than cantrips. This is not only for variety, but since spellcasters are so limited now, to keep lower level spells relevant.

1 to 50 of 87 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
Community / Forums / Archive / Pathfinder / Playtests & Prerelease Discussions / Pathfinder Playtest / Player Rules / Skills, Feats, Equipment & Spells / Cantrips underwhelming All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.