What is spontaneous about spontaneous spellcasting?


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The thing that is not clear in the rule book is, "what is a spell slot?"

There is no clear description of what a spell slot is, in world, or as a mechanic, that help makes this a clear conversation to have.

Spell level is a very clear concept that exists both in world and as a mechanic, and we know that spells and their spell level interact with this thing called a spell slot, but is a spell slot a container in which a spell is stored until used (as prepared casters)? That conceptually makes sense, and for prepared casters, they can stuff any spell in that slot and it becomes a spell of that level. No one gets confused here.

But what is a spontaneous spell slot? It is a potential reservoir of a spell, that is not filled until it is used, at which point it is just gone. We know that forcing a spell into a spell slot of specific level can only become a heightened spell if the spontaneous caster has the heightened spell in their repertoire, or have the spell as a signature spell. But is there something inherent about spontaneous spell slots that makes them incompatible with lower level spells or not?

The rules just not explicitly clear about this and we get a lot of "can"s and "appropriate"s that are not great words for narrowing down an explicit definition.


“stating what slot your using versus...”
*you’re

That was an embarrassing typo.

Grand Lodge

I'm going to take my argument to its logical extreme now. This example is a Sorcerer, and for each spell level they took a signature spell of that level (no no lowering spells). I am not counting 10th level slots. At level 20 this Sorcerer would have 4 Spells available per level, plus the signature spells for all slots, so they would have 12 possible level 9s, 11 level 8s, etc all the way down to 4 level 1s. That's a 68 possible Spell combinations available.

Now allow them to use higher level slots to cast any spell they know, without heightening them. That skyrockets to 180 spell combinations available. The level 9 slots would have 36 possible choices alone, which is all your spells. This more than doubles your options available over all. Meanwhile, Wizards choose their spells ahead of time and are stuck with the 36 spells they get per day.

Spontaneous casters already have a leg up on Prepared in the number of spell combinations available to them each day, they just can't change their kit as easily. To say they're "weak" just shows you aren't thinking about them in the right way.


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Having 180 options, 168 of them being essentially wasting a 9th level slot is not really a source of ultimate magical power.

If anything, the biggest argument against allowing it might be that it could possibly encourage sorcerers to get in the habit of relying on underperforming spells that they got comfortable with at previous levels and not taking advantage of the higher level spells they have available to them.

Being an 18th level sorcerer and casting 2nd level acid arrows with 1st level true strikes is seriously not a very good idea.

Using acid arrow to make a ray of enfeeblement stick is not a good idea either unless you are out of all your other spell slots and just have level 1 slots left.

casting a 1st level fear spell out of a 4th level slot 1 time, might be an interesting trick (probably not though). Doing it twice might mean it is really time to consider retraining your spell slots.


Ravingdork wrote:
Themetricsystem wrote:

How does this interact with Counterspell for Spontaneous Casters/Sorcerers?

To me, it seems like this interpretation allows for top-level Counteract Check for a number equal to 2-8 times as many spells as a Wizard since the Slot is the only thing that matters here for them unlike for Wizards who need to have the specific spell prepared in a specific slot.

This is easy.

Did you heighten it?
Yes > It is harder to counteract.
No > It is very likely to be counteracted.

Note that using a higher level spell slot to cast a lower level spell is not the same as heightening it to that slot.

Honestly, at this point we're just talking about homebrew rules, and you know what, go for it if you want (Though, this isn't the place for homebrew discussions). In fact, I'd agree that IF this was allowed, this is how you'd want to homebrew counterspell to work, but again, it requires reading intent into the rules where none is specifically given. I mean, I guess due to how the English language works what you're saying isn't absurd, but it would require a great deal of incompetence on Paizo's part to not mention it if it was their intention. After all, there isn't a single reference anywhere in the entirety of the PRD that mentions being able to cast a spell using a higher slot than it's level outside of the heightening rules (which we all agree on). Not in Sorcerer / Spontaneous casters, not in counterspell, not in the rules on spell slots, nowhere. Don't you think if that was allowed they'd mention it somewhere?

It seems like it keeps coming back to the following:
1. "I think Sorcerer is too weak without it" [An irrelevant personal opinion]
2. "That's how pf1 did it" [An irrelevant appeal to a former game system with very different rules]
3. "Nothing says I can't do it." [Okay, so you want the book to 100 times as long then?]

Also there's the Reddit thing, but I don't think anyone was really claiming that was a definitive source anyway, so I won't attribute that to the opposite side unfairly. It was simply a reference that was thought to help backup claims, not to prove them, and I respect that, though I disagree, as the Dev could've easily not understood the question being asked.


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Ravingdork wrote:

A friend just pointed out to me that there is no rule in P2E allowing spontaneous casters to cast lower level spells in higher level slots.

We both knew about heightened/signature spells, but I was under the impression that, even without it (as is the case with someone multiclassing into sorcerer for example), you could still use your higher level slots for lower level spells, they just wouldn't get the heighten benefits.

Is it really true that you must use the exact slot and, if so, I ask: What exactly is spontaneous about spontaneous spellcasting then?

Surely, it's just a mistake by ommission. If this was the intent of the developers, then I think I'm going to hop into the "spellcasters were overly nerfed" crowd.

Oh, and to answer your original question, because things have really gotten far away from where they started at some point.

First of all, you answered your own question in your original post: "There is no rule in PF2 allowing spontaneous casters to cast lower level spells in higher level slots."

Second, regarding "what's so spontaneous about them?":
1. Signature spells. Not only can they do what you're looking for, they can even gain additional benefits from it (if it's a hightenable spell).
2. Spontaneous casters have more options throughout the day, since they only need a spell in their repertoire once at any given level to cast it multiple times at that level, whereas each spell slot prepared for a prepared caster gets used up upon being cast, and casting multiple fireballs in a day would require preparing multiple of them.
The benefit of prepared casters obviously being the reverse. They're not as flexible throughout the day, but they have more options at the start of the day when they're choosing which spells to prepare.

And last but not least, regarding the statement "Surely, it's just a mistake by ommission." That would be a pretty major omission, as it's mentioned nowhere and is relevant in multiple places throughout the rules. I think from your original question you already know the answer, but don't want it to be true. And that's okay. Homebrew it.


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Unicore wrote:

Having 180 options, 168 of them being essentially wasting a 9th level slot is not really a source of ultimate magical power.

If anything, the biggest argument against allowing it might be that it could possibly encourage sorcerers to get in the habit of relying on underperforming spells that they got comfortable with at previous levels and not taking advantage of the higher level spells they have available to them.

Being an 18th level sorcerer and casting 2nd level acid arrows with 1st level true strikes is seriously not a very good idea.

Using acid arrow to make a ray of enfeeblement stick is not a good idea either unless you are out of all your other spell slots and just have level 1 slots left.

casting a 1st level fear spell out of a 4th level slot 1 time, might be an interesting trick (probably not though). Doing it twice might mean it is really time to consider retraining your spell slots.

Even if we consider sub-par usage or return of investment it still would have to be considered a power increase as a Sorcerer that can freely use lower level spells in higher level slots has many additional options available and less choices to make.

I can't tell if Slow or Fireball are still a decent choices at level 18 or if you should use other spells instead, however if this still was what it takes to cripple the action economy of boss monsters, Slow would be the exact spell I would learn at level 3 and would possibly spam bottom-up every single round of boss fights (considering successful saves) althewhile still having top-down applications of Fireball available because with Slow covered I could easily select this one as my signature level 3 spell.

Not every spell has effects that are worth heightening and more important whos effects necessitate heightening. And as long as those spells do exist using spells in higher slots without heightening may pose a threat to character and game balance (i.e. whatever Paizo intention was on how this should be handled).


Cordell Kintner wrote:
Ray of Enfeeblement is another good spell to have a lot of, as the Enfeebled condition can really help the party out. And again, the Attack roll doesn't change whether it's level 1 or 9, only the counteract level.

Why not combine it with a True Strike which you could also use in any slot too: so you could get 18 true strike-ray of enfeeblement. Works with Telekinetic Maneuver though you can only true strike-telekinetic maneuver 16 times/day.

Grand Lodge

graystone wrote:
Cordell Kintner wrote:
Ray of Enfeeblement is another good spell to have a lot of, as the Enfeebled condition can really help the party out. And again, the Attack roll doesn't change whether it's level 1 or 9, only the counteract level.
Why not combine it with a True Strike which you could also use in any slot too: so you could get 18 true strike-ray of enfeeblement. Works with Telekinetic Maneuver though you can only true strike-telekinetic maneuver 16 times/day.

It's indeed a good combo, but you should have to choose them as signature spells if you want to spam them. Being able to spam them as level 1 spells when it's convenient while also having Signature spells at levels 1 and 2 is just breaking the game.


Cordell Kintner wrote:
graystone wrote:
Cordell Kintner wrote:
Ray of Enfeeblement is another good spell to have a lot of, as the Enfeebled condition can really help the party out. And again, the Attack roll doesn't change whether it's level 1 or 9, only the counteract level.
Why not combine it with a True Strike which you could also use in any slot too: so you could get 18 true strike-ray of enfeeblement. Works with Telekinetic Maneuver though you can only true strike-telekinetic maneuver 16 times/day.
It's indeed a good combo, but you should have to choose them as signature spells if you want to spam them. Being able to spam them as level 1 spells when it's convenient while also having Signature spells at levels 1 and 2 is just breaking the game.

Oh, I agree: it's why I pointed it out. If you pick all 3 of those it's like getting 3 free signature spells. Plus I always hear that once you get to high level, you're low level slots don't mean much but with this you could use them all up with this combo.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Cordell Kintner wrote:
It's not a "waste" of a slot if it has the same effect as heightening it to that level. If you cast a 3rd level Fear out of a 9th level slot, it has the same effect as a 9th level Fear.

Except that's not something anybody would ever choose to do unless they have no real choice in the matter. If you've got higher level slots available to you, you're likely wanting to use those for higher level spells that have far greater effects than those of lower level spells.


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If one feels that combing true strike and ray of enfeeblement is the better option at higher level slots, then what stops that person from just knowing them at each level. Just pick those two spells, or slow or whatever, as the only spells known at each level. I believe the reason why one doesn’t do that is because it is not a better choice; in fact it would be a worse choice.

But what really is the issue here? One side feels the rule is ambiguous while the other feels it is not. I have serious doubts that these two sides shall meet in a game. If they do, then look to the GM. I can tell you I wouldn’t want to use higher level slots for lower level effects. If I had a player that wanted to do that, I would advise against but still allow.


Lucerious wrote:
If one feels that combing true strike and ray of enfeeblement is the better option at higher level slots, then what stops that person from just knowing them at each level.

No one said it was always the best option but it's a backup that you can ALWAYS be use in place of the normal signature spell mechanic.

Lucerious wrote:
Just pick those two spells, or slow or whatever, as the only spells known at each level. I believe the reason why one doesn’t do that is because it is not a better choice; in fact it would be a worse choice.

Why pick one or the other when you could do both? IE, why pick them as signature spells when you get the benefit without doing so? You are looking at it as an either/or and it's not that.

Lucerious wrote:
But what really is the issue here?

The equivalent of free signature spells?

Ravingdork wrote:
Except that's not something anybody would ever choose to do unless they have no real choice in the matter.

They wouldn't? Spending 2 2nd level spells to crit fish for a one degree of success worse on enfeeble? How about those 2 2nd level spells to crit fish for a true strike-telekinetic maneuver to trip a flying creature so they fall to the ground? And all without touching their highest level spells [saving them for boss fights] and not touching their signature spells.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Low level slots are useful to high level casters, often for the ability to cast some of these spells as late round debuff spells, but more than 4 a day? Enough so that you don’t have a better higher level option? Enough that you won’t just invest in a staff?

Enough that a handful of scrolls won’t cover that odd day that a 5th 1st level spell is a better idea than a second or third level spell?

I have never seen anything like this in all the games I run and play in: where it is a power boost for the caster to cast lower level spells in place of higher level spells. Worrying about it seems to completely miss just how cheap low level casting items are in game.


I really don't see why people are still arguing about power level. This is a rules discussion thread. Power level should be left for general discussions or something similar.


Agreed. Power level is irrelevant unless it's over 9000; the matter at hand is whether something is strictly allowed by the rules, not whether it's wise to actually do it.


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Aw3som3-117 wrote:
I really don't see why people are still arguing about power level. This is a rules discussion thread. Power level should be left for general discussions or something similar.

Yeah, the rules say you can cast a spell in any appropriate slot. There's no real reason to limit that to equal level slots.


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The main reason is that "appropriate" can be interpreted to mean that differently-leveled slots are inappropriate, and the game words features in a way that heavily implies this, but does not at any point explicitly state it in clear, undeniable terms.


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RexAliquid wrote:
Aw3som3-117 wrote:
I really don't see why people are still arguing about power level. This is a rules discussion thread. Power level should be left for general discussions or something similar.
Yeah, the rules say you can cast a spell in any appropriate slot. There's no real reason to limit that to equal level slots.

I will agree with you if you can point to a single point in the entirety of the PRD for PF2 that mentions higher level spell slots being "appropriate" for lower level spells. PF1 cannot be quoted, as it's completely irrelevant to PF2. Rules should not be read into the system. If everything that isn't specifically disallowed is by default allowed, then we don't even have a game anymore.


Technically the only references we have to what IS an appropriate level for a spell are:
1. At level 1, we know 1st level spell slots are used for first level spells.
2. We have the following line in spell slots:
"as you advance in level, you gain more spell slots and new slots for higher-level spells."

As people have pointed out, that doesn't say that you can't use a second level spell slot for a 1st level spell, but it also doesn't say that you can. Nothing says that you can. All we are expressly permitted to use these slots for are "higher-level spells." What higher level, you ask? Well, Paizo seems to assume it's readers can put 2 and 2 together and realize that 2=2, 3=3, and so on up to 10. If it wanted us to also be allowed to use it for other things besides the bare minimum obvious thing that we can do, they'd say so. And, in fact, they do have that. It's called heightening.


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Aw3som3-117 wrote:
If [they] wanted us to also be allowed to use it for other things besides the bare minimum obvious thing that we can do, they'd say so.

And, in fact, they did.


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Ravingdork wrote:
Aw3som3-117 wrote:
If [they] wanted us to also be allowed to use it for other things besides the bare minimum obvious thing that we can do, they'd say so.
And, in fact, they did.

Without any explanation on that, it's not super helpful: for instance, you for sure can cast a 1st level true strike heightened to 2nd level in a second level slot without a benefit and that could be what he was thinking. Or he might have been thinking about a 1st level spell that has a heightened affect at 2nd level cast as a 2nd level spell and saying you could use the 1st level effect. Or he could have been thinking about something else...

Given that it was a one off, 3 word comment on reddit that didn't make it into the errata/FAQ for the core that came after the comment, I'd pretty much ignore it as not adding anything to the debate.


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Ravingdork wrote:
Aw3som3-117 wrote:
If [they] wanted us to also be allowed to use it for other things besides the bare minimum obvious thing that we can do, they'd say so.
And, in fact, they did.

Wait, we're back on that again? I assumed that was a minor thing and not the linchpin of the argument. In that case, yeah, Graystone's right.

1. They didn't "tell us", since it's not in the core rules or an errata. Reddit is not an official source. The Dev simply saw a question that he felt he knew the answer to off the top of his head and decided to spare a minute and help a guy out with an answer.
2. The question is unclear, and since his was the first response and he didn't respond to anything after that, there's no way to determine his interpretation of the question.
3. If that's what he meant, then the fact that he answered would've called his attention to the fact that there's nothing in the rules that allows this. Once again, this requires more incompetence on his side to, in the next year, not go and add a couple sentences to an errata to clarify this. It seems much more likely to me [though I can't be sure, because it's pointless to read into 3 words] that he was assuming the poster didn't fully understand the rules about heightening and was explaining that what he was looking for was allowed through that. After all, a poster on reddit isn't necessarily a rules expert. They could've just not known the answer to a simple question.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The language in the CRB is rather permissive and unclear about what a spontaneous spell slot is. It leads to confusion and multiple interpretations. Some people feel like the consequences of those interpretations have major power balance concerns. Really, it doesn’t make that much of a difference either way as building to exploit this inconsistency is a terrible idea. More clarity would be welcome from the developers, but without it, as long as it is established in a session 0, everyone should be able to have fun and build characters they want to play.

Liberty's Edge

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Yeah, I don't think there is much more to be done here other than to hopefully get through the developers so they can actually revisit this with formal and clear Errata to clear this up.

On the note of the Reddit comment: I am confident that since that question was answered the Paizo team was told that they should never do that kind of thing again as it is neither official nor is it helpful given that the question/answer wasn't even clearly worded. This kind of personal perspective on the rules conflicting with the text was a BIG problem for the actual D&D brand some years ago before WotC had made it clear that their writers should also not do this kind of thing as it only confuses and upsets the customer.

EDIT: Trimmed/rewrote inappropriate speculation and non-public information.


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Came across these in an unrelated search and just wanted to throw up the Form Retention and Infinite Possibilities feats as precedent for casting lower level spells in higher level slots while still using the spell's original, non-heightened effects.


what’s on everyone’s mind, wrote:
What exactly is spontaneous about spontaneous spellcasters?

nothing - that lot are the biggest sticks in the mud I’ve ever met

the impromptu tiefling raves, on the other hand ...
you gotta experience one of those!


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Ravingdork wrote:
Came across these in an unrelated search and just wanted to throw up the Form Retention and Infinite Possibilities feats as precedent for casting lower level spells in higher level slots while still using the spell's original, non-heightened effects.

Both of those come with some caveats against calling them precedent, though.

Form Retention works by explicitly replacing the normal benefits of heighten with the duration increase - basically how First Edition's Extend Spell metamagic works.

Infinite Possibilities, for want of a better description, turns the used spell slot into a lesser wish spell: you can cast anything out of your spellbook up to level n-2 - and it's treated as though you used an n-2 slot for all purposes (including heightening, if necessary.)


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Ravingdork wrote:
Came across these in an unrelated search and just wanted to throw up the Form Retention and Infinite Possibilities feats as precedent for casting lower level spells in higher level slots while still using the spell's original, non-heightened effects.

Yeah, of course there's precedent that this is allowed... with those feats. I don't see how you think this is bolstering your point. Both of those feats are explicitly allowing you to do something you normally wouldn't be able to do, and form retention even goes out of it's way to talk about heightened spells with language that clearly assumes that's what you'd be comparing this feat to. Why? Because that's how you prepare spells in higher level slots, of course.

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