Spell Slots and Action Economy considerations.


General Discussion

Horizon Hunters

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I just recently got into this playtest. I may not see the big picture yet.

I really love the 3 action economy going on. This is a great new change that makes things simpler.

I also really like that some spells take longer to cast than others. That seems like a neat consideration.

And historically, ever since the days of AD&D I had a hate-hate-hate relationship with spell slots and mechanics that imposed hard limits on how often I could cast a spell.

I generally prefer systems like Shadowrun and Mage the Awakening, where your spellcasting resources don't have hard limits, but "soft" ones. By that I mean, you can pace yourself and make your spells less powerful in order to cast more of them, or to really push your luck and potentially blow your own head clean off to deliver a crazy alpha strike. This approach seems more "fun" for me because it's more interesting than "You have 5 spell slots, use them wisely, because after that you're done, I'm cutting you off. Last call, closing time, go home you're drunk."

Apologies if mentioning other systems by way of example is a no-no.

So as I started reading the spell descriptions I realized that most of them don't use the action economy the way I expected and I had a sad moment.

My expectation was that each spell could be cast at "low power" with just one action, and then other actions could be spent to buff it in some way. There are some examples of this, but the use is not widespread. I wish more spells had options to spend extra actions in wild gestures and incantations to make them more powerful and/or dangerous for all involved.

The other way that the dreaded Spell Slots and action economy could interact would be to let a "tapped out" spellcaster spend extra time in an activity channeling to "create" an extra spell slot.

For example, a spell that you already know that usually takes 2 actions to cast if you have a spell slot to burn would now take 4. You don't have 4 actions, so you complete the casting on your next turn, and during this channel time any attack on you can disrupt the cast.

Or, even simpler, you're out of spell slots... it costs 3 actions to create a level 1 spell slot, or 6 actions to create a level 2 spell slot. So you just stand there and meditate in the middle of a fight. But eventually, if you're left to your own devices you can be useful to the team again.

Anyway, action economy good, spell slots bad. Thanks for reading.


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Well for starters, PF (rather like DnD before it) is married to "Vancian" casting, AKA the spell slot system you're dissatisfied with. I'm afraid the chances of that changing is slim if not non-existent.

Besides that though, one thing to note is that any activity with a duration measured in Actions (like your Recharge activity would be) is capped at 3 Actions, because in Encounter mode (the only time Actions and even Rounds are used) you explicitly cannot split an Activity across multiple rounds. So the idea of taking 4 actions to cast a 'burned out' spell, or 6+ actions to recharge a spell slot straight up are impossible with the system as it stands. If it didn't oppose design philosophy the Recharge system could work as an activity measured in minutes to be applied during Exploration, but sadly the core of Vancian-derived casting opposes it ever existing.


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Even 5Ed does a better job with spell slots than PF2E, though. And 4E proves that D&D is not necessarily wedded to Vancian casting.

I agree with the OP, though, that this is a big miss of the system.

The really interesting wrinkle (you can't really call it a major innovation) of 5Ed casting is the heightening system.

So when I heard that PF2E had a 3-action system, and that the spellcasting system interacted with it--Heal being a prominent example--I looked forward to a nicely-articulated system.

I don't think you need to imagine my disappointment when I discovered that Heal and Magic Missile, IIRC, are the ONLY spells to really interact with the system.

I fully expected a LOT more of their system than what was delivered. Low-power options at one action would fill a much-needed gap in the action economy... what does the discerning spellcaster do with their 3rd action? Moving (oh, sorry, Striding) is a definite option. Other than that?

One of the players in my (aborted due to player disinterest) playtest was an Animal Druid, so you'd think that he'd be 'cast spell, sic pet' by default. But no... he saw himself mainly as 'sic pet, move... wait, cannot cast a spell now'... he was constantly frustrated by the number of actions. While I sympathized, I also noted that this breeds tactics.

If he'd had a 1-action spell--single only targeting of Electric Arc maybe?--he'd've had a lot more fun.

Edit: Oh, and there could easily be an Activity for creating spell slots. 3-action Activity, create a spell slot of at least 1st and not your highest level, is probably perfectly balanced. The only issue is that it can only work with spontaneous or 5Ed casting. Full Vancian casting balks at it.

But that's an argument against full Vancian casting, not against having your spellcasters being spellcasters all day.


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I love the spells like Magic Missile (do more damage with each action), Heal (gain benefits with more actions - even turning it into an almost completely different spell), Cone of Cold (add another action to increase the area).

Its a great use of their new action economy system that I LOVE.

But we need more of that!!!!

Take advantage of the best part of this new edition's mechanical changes!


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Vancian Magic is garbage. It was borrowed by Gygax from a book series where the mage is a bumbling idiot who always ran out of spells to be useful. Those books are 70 years old.
This is Paizos chance to forge something new, and they dropped the ball with the magic system. I don't want to houserule an entire magic system to make this game work for me, and I can only hope it's not too late for them to overhaul the system entirely.


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Calvin Starbanger wrote:
Vancian Magic is garbage.

I despise Vancian casting but... Mechanical diversity between classes is not a bad thing. In the playtest only three classes use Vancian casting. I'd personally love to see that drop down to one or two but I don't think it needs to be removed completely. Make the Druid and Cleric Arcanist style hybrids. Make the Wizard the last stand out of pure Vancian magic.

Calvin Starbanger wrote:
I don't want to houserule an entire magic system to make this game work for me, and I can only hope it's not too late for them to overhaul the system entirely.

Just ban Wizards, Clerics, and Druids. Sorcerers cover the bases pretty well. No overhaul needed.


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The Once and Future Kai wrote:
Calvin Starbanger wrote:
Vancian Magic is garbage.
Calvin Starbanger wrote:
I don't want to houserule an entire magic system to make this game work for me, and I can only hope it's not too late for them to overhaul the system entirely.
Just ban Wizards, Clerics, and Druids. Sorcerers cover the bases pretty well. No overhaul needed.

The best part is that you will actually be doing your players a favor as GM banning those classes. I mean as of right now all but one of those classes are dead weight compared to any martial, and the one class that isn't completely dead weight only exists as a channel energy bot so the martials can keep carrying him.


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Normal Pathetic Caster wrote:


The best part is that you will actually be doing your players a favor as GM banning those classes. I mean as of right now all but one of those classes are dead weight compared to any martial, and the one class that isn't completely dead weight only exists as a channel energy bot so the martials can keep carrying him.

As a playtester of the Wizard, Druid, and Cleric classes, this is false. Unconstructive generalizations and hyperbole risk derailing the thread and creating an unnecessarily negative environment.


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The Once and Future Kai wrote:


Make the Druid and Cleric Arcanist style hybrids. Make the Wizard the last stand out of pure Vancian magic.

I can get behind this, actually.


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Pathfinder PF Special Edition Subscriber
Calvin Starbanger wrote:

Vancian Magic is garbage. It was borrowed by Gygax from a book series where the mage is a bumbling idiot who always ran out of spells to be useful. Those books are 70 years old.

This is Paizos chance to forge something new, and they dropped the ball with the magic system. I don't want to houserule an entire magic system to make this game work for me, and I can only hope it's not too late for them to overhaul the system entirely.

I can understand the feeling towards Vancian casting, but I want to say a word for the books the idea comes from. Jack Vance, who passed away 5 years ago, was a genius storyteller, inventor of incredible worlds and fascinating characters. The mages in the Dying Earth series aren't bumbling idiots, but men of terrifying power: The reason why spells are so rare is that they're so powerful (and would break the story if access to them were easy). If Vancian casting is questionable in a RPG, it's more because it wasn't invented with low-level magic in mind.

With all of that said - the OP has a point. For the final book, I'm hoping for many more spells with effect dependent on the number of actions invested.


Shinigami02 wrote:

Well for starters, PF (rather like DnD before it) is married to "Vancian" casting, AKA the spell slot system you're dissatisfied with. I'm afraid the chances of that changing is slim if not non-existent.

Besides that though, one thing to note is that any activity with a duration measured in Actions (like your Recharge activity would be) is capped at 3 Actions, because in Encounter mode (the only time Actions and even Rounds are used) you explicitly cannot split an Activity across multiple rounds. So the idea of taking 4 actions to cast a 'burned out' spell, or 6+ actions to recharge a spell slot straight up are impossible with the system as it stands. If it didn't oppose design philosophy the Recharge system could work as an activity measured in minutes to be applied during Exploration, but sadly the core of Vancian-derived casting opposes it ever existing.

I'd really like this rule to go away. It would be very easy to get rid of.


Pathfinder PF Special Edition Subscriber
sherlock1701 wrote:
Shinigami02 wrote:

Well for starters, PF (rather like DnD before it) is married to "Vancian" casting, AKA the spell slot system you're dissatisfied with. I'm afraid the chances of that changing is slim if not non-existent.

Besides that though, one thing to note is that any activity with a duration measured in Actions (like your Recharge activity would be) is capped at 3 Actions, because in Encounter mode (the only time Actions and even Rounds are used) you explicitly cannot split an Activity across multiple rounds. So the idea of taking 4 actions to cast a 'burned out' spell, or 6+ actions to recharge a spell slot straight up are impossible with the system as it stands. If it didn't oppose design philosophy the Recharge system could work as an activity measured in minutes to be applied during Exploration, but sadly the core of Vancian-derived casting opposes it ever existing.

I'd really like this rule to go away. It would be very easy to get rid of.

I think it would be cool for sure, but such a change is far from easy. It would allow casters to cast 3 spells every 2 rounds routinely, a major balance change that would require compensation in some way. The only mitigating factor is the possibility that a spell being cast over 2 rounds may be disrupted by enemy action - not enough to make such a power increase OK without other changes.

Horizon Hunters

I'm surprised nobody mentioned that being able to recharge spent spells or spell slots during an encounter would disrupt the daily spell economy, where you need to rest for 8 hours a day to regain your abilities.

Since these spells are balanced around limited use, something would have to give with such a system, such as lower the power of rechargeable spells across the board, or impose some other penalty for going over your limit.

Oh hey, look, Resonance. Come here, I'm going to make you recharge spell slots now. Hint, hint. :)


Oakblade wrote:
I'm surprised nobody mentioned that being able to recharge spent spells or spell slots during an encounter would disrupt the daily spell economy, where you need to rest for 8 hours a day to regain your abilities.

Spells per day is pretty undertuned right now (along with spells in general), so at the moment it wouldn't be that big a deal.

If magic in general was buffed, then it would be.

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