Why don't spontaneous casters have undercasting?


Rules Discussion


I have a hard time seeing how undercasting would make spontaneous casters too powerful or too versatile compared to prepared casters. It's a nice lateral boost in flexibility since it only really affects the use of lower level spell slots.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

From everything said the issue with spontaneous has nothing to do with power and everything to do with having so many options slowing down the game, in testing it was at higher levels deemed to simply be too many options. (I don't agree as every player is going to have completely different thresholds on that, but it is what it is.)

Unless you are referring to using a 4th level spell slot to cast a second level spell at no benefit? (It's been argued that might be possible, as the ruling is vague).

However I read under cast as I know Fireball 5th level, I can cast it as Fireball 4th and Fireball 3rd with the correct slot. So you would need to be more clear.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Allowing all spontaneous spells to be cast at any level has two problems:

1) It pressures players to pick only spells that heighten well, which is a fraction of the spell list

2) Combinatorial explosion of the number of spells to pick from every turn


lordcirth wrote:
Allowing all spontaneous spells to be cast at any level has two problems:

Not what OP said. He specifically just mentioned undercasting.

Quote:
1) It pressures players to pick only spells that heighten well, which is a fraction of the spell list

I'm not sure I really by this either. Good utility spells that are worth picking up are... still good and worth picking up.

Besides, the opposite is true, if your spell is stuck at one level then spells that lean heavily on scaling effects get much worse.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

One fundamental reason is that it changes the dynamic of spell balance by requiring scaling spells to be weaker than non-scaling spells because of the increased versatility.

Basically, if option A gets you Spell A plus several lower level spells, while option B only gets you Spell B, then Spell A needs to be weaker than Spell B.


Lady Melo wrote:
From everything said the issue with spontaneous has nothing to do with power and everything to do with having so many options slowing down the game, in testing it was at higher levels deemed to simply be too many options. (I don't agree as every player is going to have completely different thresholds on that, but it is what it is.)

I have a hard time believing that, since I've played/GM'd a lot of D&D5e where all casters can spontaneously heighten and undercast. Even at level 15+ the option to cast at any level was never an issue, because you're not mathing out the effect of each slot at the table. The spell just tells you what to roll for what level slot, rather than adding/subtracting/multiplying a whole bunch of modifiers like how some PF1e extra options work. Kineticist suffered from that kind of game slowdown due to the way its options work. A slot based caster shouldn't.

So if players are having a hard time figuring out how to cast from a different slot level, the problem sounds like a formatting issue rather than an undercasting issue.

MaxAstro wrote:

One fundamental reason is that it changes the dynamic of spell balance by requiring scaling spells to be weaker than non-scaling spells because of the increased versatility.

Basically, if option A gets you Spell A plus several lower level spells, while option B only gets you Spell B, then Spell A needs to be weaker than Spell B.

This sounds reasonable on paper, but undercasting is rarely a completely different option. They're almost universally a less powerful version of the higher level effect, so the versatility provided is solely in spell slot usage rather than the amount of extra options. The only spell I can think of where you might actually prefer the lower level effect to higher level is Invisibility. Most spells just lets you deal more damage or target more creatures when heightened.


MaxAstro wrote:

One fundamental reason is that it changes the dynamic of spell balance by requiring scaling spells to be weaker than non-scaling spells because of the increased versatility.

Basically, if option A gets you Spell A plus several lower level spells, while option B only gets you Spell B, then Spell A needs to be weaker than Spell B.

For one, scaling spells are already often weaker. Heightening your low level blast is rarely as good as simply casting the higher level blasts out of their normal slot. So learning a lower level, weaker spell as a top level option is already coming at a premium.

For two, I'm not even sure that's accurate. Learning burning hands as a 6th level spell so you can undercast it as a 3rd level spell for less damage doesn't make Clairaudience or Wall of Wind suddenly worse options for third level slots.

In fact, Wind Wall is probably going to be a better use of my third level spell slots than an undercasted burning hands at level 12 in a pretty significant number of situations.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Frogliacci wrote:
Lady Melo wrote:
From everything said the issue with spontaneous has nothing to do with power and everything to do with having so many options slowing down the game, in testing it was at higher levels deemed to simply be too many options. (I don't agree as every player is going to have completely different thresholds on that, but it is what it is.)

I have a hard time believing that, since I've played/GM'd a lot of D&D5e where all casters can spontaneously heighten and undercast. Even at level 15+ the option to cast at any level was never an issue, because you're not mathing out the effect of each slot at the table. The spell just tells you what to roll for what level slot, rather than adding/subtracting/multiplying a whole bunch of modifiers like how some PF1e extra options work. Kineticist suffered from that kind of game slowdown due to the way its options work. A slot based caster shouldn't.

So if players are having a hard time figuring out how to cast from a different slot level, the problem sounds like a formatting issue rather than an undercasting issue.

Well for one you read and responded to something different then what I actually said. No one said it was too hard or to complicated to figure out at all. It's that players were taking too long deciding what spell to cast given so many options. Nothing to do with figuring anything out or formatting, obviously not an issue seeing as signature spells still exist.

I have played plenty of 5e and have no personal trouble at all. However there is nothing to have a hard time believing, that is exactly what the Dev's said and why they made the choice they did, based on there testing. If you don't have an issue with it, congratulations like many highly invested fans your more skilled/focused then the average player, but the game and it's choices are still based around your average player (and PFS games), since as a home game you could effortlessly tweak it.

Also you still didn't explain which version of under-casting you mean. If you learn 5th level fireball you can cast the 4th and 3rd versions? Or if you know 3rd Level fireball you can spend a 4th or higher slot to cast them as if a 3rd level.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Squiggit wrote:
For two, I'm not even sure that's accurate. Learning burning hands as a 6th level spell so you can undercast it as a 3rd level spell for less damage doesn't make Clairaudience or Wall of Wind suddenly worse options for third level slots.

You are misunderstanding my point. I don't mean it somehow makes your other 3rd level spells worse, I mean it makes 6th level spells that have undercast options more versatile and attractive than 6th level spells that do not have undercast options.


MaxAstro wrote:
Squiggit wrote:
For two, I'm not even sure that's accurate. Learning burning hands as a 6th level spell so you can undercast it as a 3rd level spell for less damage doesn't make Clairaudience or Wall of Wind suddenly worse options for third level slots.
You are misunderstanding my point. I don't mean it somehow makes your other 3rd level spells worse, I mean it makes 6th level spells that have undercast options more versatile and attractive than 6th level spells that do not have undercast options.

And, again, I fundamentally disagree with that premise, both because, again, spending your top level slots on a weaker spell kinda sucks, and because spells that can't be heightened often have unique utility to them, making them fundamentally incomparable anyways.


I always figured Signature Spell had undercasting kinda built in.


Perpdepog wrote:
I always figured Signature Spell had undercasting kinda built in.

Sort of, pretty sure op meant being able to do it freely. Which I would support, but apparently there's some problems with it that I'm not quite getting. It gives too many options and makes spells harder to choose from or something...

Grand Lodge

I don't think that houseruling that a Sorcerer gets another class feature (below), would break the game. Getting this at level 5 also means that a player has gotten used to the system. I wouldn't give this to Bard to be honest, as they already have enough moving pieces.

MAXIMIZED SIGNATURE SPELLS 5TH
You've learned that all magic can flow into the world however powerful your mind forms it. You are no longer limited to one spell per level to be signature spells, but all spells that you know which can be heightened, can do so.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Can't say the same thing for Divine and Primal Sorcerers but at the very least Arcane and Occult Sorcerers have a very high level of flexibility.

I'd recommend looking at the Arcane Evolution, Occult Evolution, and Greater Mental Evolution class feats because that's what you'd be competing against in order to find something balanced within the current system.

Outside of that there are always house rules where you can just do whatever you want.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Perpdepog wrote:
I always figured Signature Spell had undercasting kinda built in.

Signature spells do have undercasting built into them. When you have a spell set as a Signature Spell you can cast it in any of your spell slots so long as it's a high enough level slot to cast the spell.

For example, you can cast Haste in a 3rd level slot or higher no matter what level spell haste is in your repertoire.


Gloom wrote:
Perpdepog wrote:
I always figured Signature Spell had undercasting kinda built in.

Signature spells do have undercasting built into them. When you have a spell set as a Signature Spell you can cast it in any of your spell slots so long as it's a high enough level slot to cast the spell.

For example, you can cast Haste in a 3rd level slot or higher no matter what level spell haste is in your repertoire.

Yeah, that's what I figured, and nothing is stopping you from, say, choosing fireball as a 7th-level spell known, picking it as a signature spell, and then undercasting it at 3rd level.


Perpdepog wrote:
Gloom wrote:
Perpdepog wrote:
I always figured Signature Spell had undercasting kinda built in.

Signature spells do have undercasting built into them. When you have a spell set as a Signature Spell you can cast it in any of your spell slots so long as it's a high enough level slot to cast the spell.

For example, you can cast Haste in a 3rd level slot or higher no matter what level spell haste is in your repertoire.

Yeah, that's what I figured, and nothing is stopping you from, say, choosing fireball as a 7th-level spell known, picking it as a signature spell, and then undercasting it at 3rd level.

That works great for fireball, but the rest of your scaling spells are stuck wherever they are. "Nope I can't cast a level 1 burning hands because I learned the level three version, wah wah."


Lady Melo wrote:
Frogliacci wrote:
Lady Melo wrote:
From everything said the issue with spontaneous has nothing to do with power and everything to do with having so many options slowing down the game, in testing it was at higher levels deemed to simply be too many options. (I don't agree as every player is going to have completely different thresholds on that, but it is what it is.)

I have a hard time believing that, since I've played/GM'd a lot of D&D5e where all casters can spontaneously heighten and undercast. Even at level 15+ the option to cast at any level was never an issue, because you're not mathing out the effect of each slot at the table. The spell just tells you what to roll for what level slot, rather than adding/subtracting/multiplying a whole bunch of modifiers like how some PF1e extra options work. Kineticist suffered from that kind of game slowdown due to the way its options work. A slot based caster shouldn't.

So if players are having a hard time figuring out how to cast from a different slot level, the problem sounds like a formatting issue rather than an undercasting issue.

Well for one you read and responded to something different then what I actually said. No one said it was too hard or to complicated to figure out at all. It's that players were taking too long deciding what spell to cast given so many options. Nothing to do with figuring anything out or formatting, obviously not an issue seeing as signature spells still exist.

I have played plenty of 5e and have no personal trouble at all. However there is nothing to have a hard time believing, that is exactly what the Dev's said and why they made the choice they did, based on there testing. If you don't have an issue with it, congratulations like many highly invested fans your more skilled/focused then the average player, but the game and it's choices are still based around your average player (and PFS games), since as a home game you could effortlessly tweak it.

Also you still didn't explain which version of...

All you said was that having too many options slows down the game, which can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. You didn't clarify that the testers said it's explicitly the DECISION that took too long, so I gave an example of the slowest form of "too many options" I've personally encounterd (eg. doing math every round to compute combo permutations in the 1e kineticist).

By undercasting I mean something like the 1e psychic mechanic, where if you know the highest level version of a spell you can cast weaker variants of it using lower level slots.

And I stand by what I said. For the sorcerer and bard as written in PF2e core book, I really don't believe that options slowing the game down could come from the decision-making step. At any time during play, they have about as many options as a 5e sorcerer or bard (perhaps even less, because they can't spontaneously heighten). If 5e doesn't have issues with slow spontaneous casting, then I can't see how UNDERCASTING ITSELF is the source of slowness. I completely believe that players were too slow at the playtest with this mechanic. That's why I said it's a formating issue.

Imagine if all options with the same opportunity cost (eg. the same spell slot level) are listed neatly next to each other in an easy-to-read and easy-to-compare manner. In this case, even new players could quickly figure out what's good for the situation. But you can't actually compare each spell by level quickly with the core book because spells are listed alphabetically. I'm not saying spells SHOULD be listed by level (since all heightened versions of a spell are printed together), it's just that I have a hard time believing anyone would have trouble DECIDING WHAT TO DO if they are given a clear and concise view of their available choices. Maybe with spell cards, apps, or SRDs. I've had great experiences with them DMing D&D5e and PF1e.

The slow decision issue is basically a lesser version of what plagues the 1e brawler. Martial Flexiblity lets them use any combat feat they have the prerequisite for, but combat feats are written all over the place and it can take a long time even for an advanced player to figure out what all of their options are (especially with the amount of trap options that exist). But once they've written down a list of what they want to do with marital flexibility to reference, it hardly slows down the game.

And yes, ever since I heard "slowness" to be the reasoning rather than balance, I have no problem making it a houserule in all of my games knowing it's not going to break anything. It's just that I want to know what the reasoning behind this decision is, and since it has nothing to do with balance, I won't feel bad recommending it to other DMs I play with.


Frogliacci wrote:
By undercasting I mean something like the 1e psychic mechanic, where if you know the highest level version of a spell you can cast weaker variants of it using lower level slots.

Then also like the Starfinder spell lowering mechanics. Where all spellcasters are effectively spontaneous casters; spells are learned at a certain level; and any spell can be cast at that level learned or lower.

So if I learn Fly as a 4th level spell, I can also cast a level 2 Fly spell using a level 2 spell slot. But I couldn't cast a level 5 Fly spell even if I have level 5 spell slots because I don't know Fly at level 5.

As far as game balance, I don't see a good reason not to houserule it in. If a sorcerer picks up Burning Hands as a level 3 spell known, let them cast it as a level 1 Burning Hands using a level 1 spell slot.

Does anyone else know a good reason not to allow this?


breithauptclan wrote:
Frogliacci wrote:
By undercasting I mean something like the 1e psychic mechanic, where if you know the highest level version of a spell you can cast weaker variants of it using lower level slots.

Then also like the Starfinder spell lowering mechanics. Where all spellcasters are effectively spontaneous casters; spells are learned at a certain level; and any spell can be cast at that level learned or lower.

So if I learn Fly as a 4th level spell, I can also cast a level 2 Fly spell using a level 2 spell slot. But I couldn't cast a level 5 Fly spell even if I have level 5 spell slots because I don't know Fly at level 5.

As far as game balance, I don't see a good reason not to houserule it in. If a sorcerer picks up Burning Hands as a level 3 spell known, let them cast it as a level 1 Burning Hands using a level 1 spell slot.

Does anyone else know a good reason not to allow this?

It makes signature spells functionally useless. But the mutanagist alchemist is useless too, so maybe that's balanced.


Donovan Du Bois wrote:
breithauptclan wrote:
Frogliacci wrote:
By undercasting I mean something like the 1e psychic mechanic, where if you know the highest level version of a spell you can cast weaker variants of it using lower level slots.

Then also like the Starfinder spell lowering mechanics. Where all spellcasters are effectively spontaneous casters; spells are learned at a certain level; and any spell can be cast at that level learned or lower.

So if I learn Fly as a 4th level spell, I can also cast a level 2 Fly spell using a level 2 spell slot. But I couldn't cast a level 5 Fly spell even if I have level 5 spell slots because I don't know Fly at level 5.

As far as game balance, I don't see a good reason not to houserule it in. If a sorcerer picks up Burning Hands as a level 3 spell known, let them cast it as a level 1 Burning Hands using a level 1 spell slot.

Does anyone else know a good reason not to allow this?

It makes signature spells functionally useless. But the mutanagist alchemist is useless too, so maybe that's balanced.

No it doesn't, because you still need Signature Spell to cast it at a HIGHER level than you know.


Frogliacci wrote:
Donovan Du Bois wrote:
breithauptclan wrote:
Frogliacci wrote:
By undercasting I mean something like the 1e psychic mechanic, where if you know the highest level version of a spell you can cast weaker variants of it using lower level slots.

Then also like the Starfinder spell lowering mechanics. Where all spellcasters are effectively spontaneous casters; spells are learned at a certain level; and any spell can be cast at that level learned or lower.

So if I learn Fly as a 4th level spell, I can also cast a level 2 Fly spell using a level 2 spell slot. But I couldn't cast a level 5 Fly spell even if I have level 5 spell slots because I don't know Fly at level 5.

As far as game balance, I don't see a good reason not to houserule it in. If a sorcerer picks up Burning Hands as a level 3 spell known, let them cast it as a level 1 Burning Hands using a level 1 spell slot.

Does anyone else know a good reason not to allow this?

It makes signature spells functionally useless. But the mutanagist alchemist is useless too, so maybe that's balanced.
No it doesn't, because you still need Signature Spell to cast it at a HIGHER level than you know.

That's a really good point!

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder Second Edition / Rules Discussion / Why don't spontaneous casters have undercasting? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.