Weapon damage vs Cantrip damage


General Discussion


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pawns Subscriber

I've been both a player and a GM for this playtest and have aired and received many complaints about the damage that low level casters output in comparison to non-caster classes. The complaints surround the multiple actions it requires to cast cantrips that do less damage than a single attack from a weapon.

I've searched these forums and found people debating both sides and stating that because casters have Spells, the damage levels out, but my players and I have found this simply not to be the case, most especially at low levels.

The debate seems to go:
"I as a caster can cast 1 damage spell or cantrip a round(2 actions), doing d4/d6/d8 damage depending which spell im using. Then I could try and hit something or fire a ranged weapon at -5 with a stat I dont have points in.

They as a non-caster can attack 3 times (1 action each), doing d4/d6/d8/d10/d12 damage Each Time depending which weapon they're using. Yes, they get a -4 or 5 penalty for each subsequent attack, but its using a stat they have points in.

Enemies have a fair bit of health, so what this equates to is me doing on average 4-8 damage a round and my non-casting allies on average doing 12-20 damage a round. Over and over and over again until the creature is finally dead."

Having heard this back and forward debate and having many of my players unhappy and the non-casters Agreeing with them and feeling sorry for them, I decided to try my hand at making a series of cantrips to even the playing field at my table. Here's what I came up with: (I'd like some feedback)

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Cantrip: Summon Melee Weapon
Casting Material Casting or more
Targets Self Duration Concentration or 1 minute

You summon a spectral one handed melee weapon into your hand. When Casting this Spell, you can choose the type of damage that weapon does (Bludgeoning, Piercing or Slashing). Attacking with this weapon uses your Key Ability rather than Strength. The weapon deals 1d4 damage plus your Strength modifier. When Casting this Spell, you can increase the casting by a Verbal Casting action, a Somatic Casting action, or both. For each component you add, select one of the weapon improvements below:
-The weapon's die increases by 1 increment
-Add 1 Keyword to the weapon from the following list: (agile, backswing, deadly (same as weapon die), fatal (same as weapon die), forceful, shove, sweep, trip, two-hand)
If you have your concentration broken by an external force, you must pass a spell roll at the start of your turn before you can recast this spell. The DC is equal to the source that broke your concentration (trap, creature or set by the DM). If you fail 3 consecutive times, you may recast this spell.

Heightened (3rd)
The summoned weapon counts as a +1 magic weapon
Heightened (5th)
The summoned weapon counts as a +2 magic weapon
Heightened (7th)
The summoned weapon counts as a +3 magic weapon
Heightened (9th)
The summoned weapon counts as a +4 magic weapon

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Cantrip: Summon Ranged Weapon

Casting Material Casting or more
Targets Self Duration Concentration or 1 minute

You summon a spectral 1+ handed ranged weapon into your hands. When Casting this Spell, you can choose the type of damage that weapon does (Bludgeoning, Piercing or Slashing). Attacking with this weapon uses your Key Ability rather than Strength. The weapon deals 1d4 damage. When Casting this Spell, you can increase the casting by a Verbal Casting action, a Somatic Casting action, or both. For each component you add, select one of the weapon improvements below:
-The weapon's die increases by 1 increment
-Add 1 Keyword to the weapon from the following list: (agile, deadly (same as weapon die), fatal (same as weapon die), propulsive, volley)
If you have your concentration broken by an external source, you must pass a spell roll at the start of your turn before you can recast this spell. The DC is equal to the source that broke your concentration (trap, creature or set by the DM). If you fail 3 consecutive times, you may recast this spell.

Heightened (3rd)
The summoned weapon counts as a +1 magic weapon
Heightened (5th)
The summoned weapon counts as a +2 magic weapon
Heightened (7th)
The summoned weapon counts as a +3 magic weapon
Heightened (9th)
The summoned weapon counts as a +4 magic weapon

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Cantrip: Weaponify
Casting Material Casting or more
Targets 1 object you are holding Duration Concentration or 1 minute

You shape an object you are holding into a melee weapon. When Casting this Spell, you can choose the type of damage that weapon does (Bludgeoning, Piercing or Slashing). Attacking with this weapon uses your Key Ability rather than Strength. The weapon deals 1d4 damage plus your Strength modifier. When Casting this Spell, you can increase the casting by a Verbal Casting action, a Somatic Casting action, or both. For each component you add, select one of the weapon improvements below:
-The weapon's die increases by 1 increment
-Add 1 Keyword to the weapon from the following list:(agile, backswing, deadly (same as weapon die), fatal (same as weapon die), forceful, shove, sweep, trip, two-hand)
If you have your concentration broken by an external source, you must pass a spell roll at the start of your turn before you can recast this spell. The DC is equal to the source that broke your concentration (trap, creature or set by the DM). If you fail 3 consecutive times, you may recast this spell.

Heightened (3rd)
The summoned weapon counts as a +1 magic weapon
Heightened (5th)
The summoned weapon counts as a +2 magic weapon
Heightened (7th)
The summoned weapon counts as a +3 magic weapon
Heightened (9th)
The summoned weapon counts as a +4 magic weapon
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Cantrip: Mystic Imbuement
Casting Verbal Casting
Targets 1 weapon you are holding Duration 1 action

If the next attack you make with the enchanted weapon hits, use your Key Ability for extra damage rather than Strength. If the next attack you make misses, this spell fades and cannot be used again until your next round.


I think Cantrips should just be 1 action casts. Either Verbal or Somatic. Then have them take a Multi Cast Penalty the same as the Mult Attack Penalty.

Yes they can now cast multiple spells in a round. Yes You could get a Fireball and then a Fire Ray (for lack of a better term for an actual Cantrip) in a round. I dont do math so I cant tell if its unbalanced or not but I feel it would bring Cantrips in line with. Or heck just add in a tag line that you can only do so if you have not cast a 1st level spell or higher.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pawns Subscriber

I don't think having them as a single action would break anything, but thats my opinion. An alternative I suppose, you could add an option for cantrips that you can cast the same cantrip a second time in a round using whatever spellcasting action you didn't use for the first cast (which would incur the mutliple attack penalty as normal).


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Casters can cast a lot of strong spells at every level that while very limited, are also very impactful and bound to get stronger and stronger.

But here's the thing everyone should be focusing on: Cantrips are just a bonus on top of everything casters already have. There's no point in making them significantly stronger other than further increase the power these classes.

Accept this for what it is: Cantrips are really good now, but don't mistake them for what they are, they're still limitless spells and their power should be gated because of that, but they are way better to use now instead of dealing measly 1d3 points of damage like before.


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But if you have a damaging spell that you can use endlessly, I think they should fall into a similar design space to manufactured weapons.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
RazarTuk wrote:
But if you have a damaging spell that you can use endlessly, I think they should fall into a similar design space to manufactured weapons.

So long as we start giving martials their upgraded potency weapons for free.


RazarTuk wrote:
But if you have a damaging spell that you can use endlessly, I think they should fall into a similar design space to manufactured weapons.

That would be very reasonable indeed. If martial characters could teleport great distances with very ease, create huge barrier walls in under six seconds that divide the battlefield as they please, fly for long periods of time, significantly increase the capabilities of their allies, summon a variety of monsters with their own set of abilities and even spells, shape the terrain itself through various means ranging from creating a rain of rocks to summoning tentacles that can grapple anyone in the area. Let's not forget about illusions, divination and the massive AOE damage that a lot of spells can cast. Also, Wish and Miracle.

So yeah, it may seem like it's casters getting the shaft for not being able to behave the same way as a weapon, but in fact is that cantrips are actually worth their actions now and I think they should be viewed as a bonus on top of everything casters get, not their only mean of play.


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Matt McAdam: I'd love to offer useful feedback on your homebrew, but I'm afraid it's trying to solve a problem that is really overstated, IMO. I'll elaborate below:

Lightning Raven wrote:

Casters can cast a lot of strong spells at every level that while very limited, are also very impactful and bound to get stronger and stronger.

But here's the thing everyone should be focusing on: Cantrips are just a bonus on top of everything casters already have. There's no point in making them significantly stronger other than further increase the power these classes.

Accept this for what it is: Cantrips are really good now, but don't mistake them for what they are, they're still limitless spells and their power should be gated because of that, but they are way better to use now instead of dealing measly 1d3 points of damage like before.

Yeah. There's a lot of other stuff people miss when they compare when damage to cantrips:

They compare melee weapon damage to cantrips, which are ranged. Ranged weapon damage is significantly more modest. The default martial weapon is probably the composite shortbow, which only does d6 and half strength, so a dex based martial is lucky to get +1 damage to it, where a caster gets their full casting mod.

Cantrips usually target touch AC. The utility here varies depending on what you are fighting, and might wind up offset to weapons getting item bonuses and increased proficiency easier. But I've seen this be as much as a 6 point swing.

Ability boosts make it pretty easy to keep your dexterity competitive.

Cantrips trigger elemental weaknesses. This can be huge and has really carried some fights. It gives casters deceptively high damage.

Cantrips require no investment. The alternative a caster can use by default is a crossbow, which is effectively 2 actions per attack anyway and gets no damage modifier. Cantrips are obviously better than that. A wizard can gain proficiency in better weapons, but they need to invest a feat.

Regardless, any character who wants to use weapons needs to spend gold to keep that weapon scaling. Not so for cantrips. At most they eventually may get a spell duelist wand.

Cantrip damage doesn't compare favorably to a greatsword. And it shouldn't. The greatsword user got proficiency instead of spells, invested gold to improve the weapon, has to be up in melee to make swing it (costing actions to move up to foes and risking greater damage), can't change his damage type without dropping and drawing new weapons (which are less strong than main), can't trigger elemental weaknesses without having exactly the right property rune, doesn't have a hand free to open doors or draw a potion...

The further you move away from that extreme, like using a one handed weapon or a ranged weapon, the closer cantrip damage looks to weapon damage.


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I'd like to see single action cantrip. But only if the single action didn't do any damage.

For instance, a single action ray of frost could make a patch of ground slippery, or put out a torch.

I'm fine with martial classes doing the damage.


I think cantrip is in a fine spot right now. As others have stated you should compare cantrip more against ranged attacks than vs melee attack (especially greatswords). Cantrips doesn't cost gold, take up hands or have bulk so they already have several upsides compared to weapons.
And just imagine what would happen the second cantrips started outperforming ranged weapons in damage, who would then use a ranged weapon instead of using cantrips? Getting a cantrip is fairly easy even for martial classes so most ranged builds would just be based around cantrips.

EDIT: Just see how well a Ray of Frost does on a rogue as an opener. If you act before the enemy you get a ranged touch attack with decent damage with sneak attack and you don't need to move into position for melee or be ready to change weaponry between ranged and melee weapons. And it only requires an ancestry feat.


Mellored wrote:

I'd like to see single action cantrip. But only if the single action didn't do any damage.

For instance, a single action ray of frost could make a patch of ground slippery, or put out a torch.

I'm fine with martial classes doing the damage.

Yeah stuff like prestidigitation might make for fun single action shenanigans.


Mellored wrote:

I'd like to see single action cantrip. But only if the single action didn't do any damage.

For instance, a single action ray of frost could make a patch of ground slippery, or put out a torch.

I'm fine with martial classes doing the damage.

That would be pretty cool.


Cantrips are not supposed to rival weapons in damage. It would be a problem if they did.


I could agree with these debates if it were nothing more than a combat simulation game.
If all the situations were combat situations, and every class's value to the game were based on how much damage they did, I would 100% side with the arguments (because, in that case, every class should do the same average damage).
But.... they don't. The PF1 boards used to be positively littered with people complaining that they felt like the rogue was underpowered and didn't do as much damage as the fighter. If that were true, my response would be.. okay. So what?
Every class contributes. Some might do less overall damage, but they can magically scout the fortress, or teleport everyone to safety. Or boost everyone's health, or heal everyone.
That isn't to say PF2's math is perfect yet.
But saying this class's damage is less-than and should therefore be raised is hogwash.


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I mean the thing about cantrips is that they are free.

Also, the thing about potency runes is that they cost {65, 400, 1175, 8000, 53860} gp. One of the reasons that a weapon user *should* get more damage is that they are spending a considerable amount of resources on that damage, whereas cantrips cost literally nothing.

Damage on spells that cost slots or powers that cost spell points could stand to be higher, but cantrips are backup options and should not rival a primary damage option.


There are cantrips that can be cast with just one action in the playtest: Allegro, dirge of doom, house of imaginary walls, inspire competence, inspire courage, message, shield, triple time. Of course there could be more, but I don't think we should add any that deal damage (or maybe, very little damage, with no heightening option). I also like the proposed weapon conjuration cantrip, except that it's far too powerful. It would be acceptable if it conjured an existing simple weapon from the list, and if heightening improved its quality, but not magical properties, that's going too far.


I mean, I'm also coming from Spheres of Power, where any caster can pick up the Destruction sphere and get a touch attack that can be used as often as they want. Sneak attack damage progression, bludgeoning by default, and you can spend more talents to get additional damage types. This is kept balanced by two main factors:

* You have a limited number of talents (equivalent in power to feats), so while using one for the base attack is easy to sacrifice, getting more damage types requires specialization

* For the most part, BAB and CL follow opposite progressions. So while things like the Incanter get half their level in dice, something like a Mageknight (full BAB) only gets half their level in caster level and thus a quarter in dice.

IMO, cantrips as weapon substitutes are already balanced by having comparable damage dice to light weapons and not getting any ability-score-based bonus damage. Although I will concede that it'd be better for balance if martials were able to increase damage dice without potency runes, which I've already expressed support for in other threads.


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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I personally would be okay with casters having to buy wands to get higher damage with cantrips. I see no real reason why that wouldn't be okay, as long as the damage still lags behind real weapons due to the various bonuses cantrips have (elemental, range, touch AC, multiple targets, etc)

Another concession I could make would be something like:

1 action = no damage
2 action = normal damage
3 action = 1.5x normal damage


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What about something like: Remove TAC, let casters use their casting stat for spell attack rolls, make cantrip damage only dice (as opposed to weapons being dice+ability), and either give martials a way to increase damage dice without items or require casters to buy wands to increase cantrip damage.


Cantrips already get ability score to damage though. They get it at 5th level. 1dX+4 is actually better damage per hit than most ranged weapons.


Captain Morgan: that wasn't one of the suggestions. In fact, one of the suggestions was to remove the ability value.

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