Has 2E Finally Made “Low Magic” Viable?


Homebrew and House Rules

Liberty's Edge

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Between the new multiclass system and the reduced emphasis on magic items to maintain minimal competency, I think Pathfinder Second Edition may be the version that finally makes the fabled “low magic” campaign viable without major rule adjustments.

My initial thought is to ban the casting classes, but not their multiclass archetypes. Magic remains, but it’s an extra rather than the focus of any given PC.


I think that after watching out new rules for a while, we can recreate the Spheres of Power rule with only cantrips and focus spells, with their low power but relative spam-ability to play with. Oh, and some metamagic feats too.

That's my take on another low-magic but fun setting, so...


Yup, just build striking, potency, and resilience runes into level progression, skip the magic-focused classes, and you're good to go - but still nice and "fantasy" despite the low-magic involvement because mundane skill is now sufficient to do amazing things.


thenobledrake wrote:
Yup, just build striking, potency, and resilience runes into level progression, skip the magic-focused classes, and you're good to go - but still nice and "fantasy" despite the low-magic involvement because mundane skill is now sufficient to do amazing things.

Yes, and since the items come labeled with levels, you know exactly when to assign them. They already stagger well with class progression. Items which give other bonuses, like to skills, should likely be woven in for PC's main shticks.

One issue is some of the extra runes like Flaming or Returning throw off the math slightly. Whether you want those to be "natural" or absent should be mentioned in campaign set up.

ETA: In-combat healing might be a major issue.
And the lack of magic might make MCDs into a spell-casting class too important for the party to ignore. Much depends on the enemies faced too, i.e. lots of Trolls will encourage getting access to fire magic (even though alchemy's available).

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Between mundane out-of-combat healing and skills no longer being shackled to "peak ordinary trained human" cap yes, this looks like a workable low magic edition.


thenobledrake wrote:
Yup, just build striking, potency, and resilience runes into level progression, skip the magic-focused classes, and you're good to go - but still nice and "fantasy" despite the low-magic involvement because mundane skill is now sufficient to do amazing things.

4e did this as an optional rule called “inherent bonuses” that I adores.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

A low-magic version of PF was always possible, and "viable". All this talk about having to have certain magic items in order to remain "competent" was misguided.

This said, PF2 does lend itself well to a low-magic setting. No need for any added "intrinsic" bonuses. Characters can get along quite well without any magic runes of any sort.

And there are many non-magical options for healing. Few, perhaps, for in-combat healing, but players can work around that if they are clever and careful. Sure, the DM will have to adjust the adversaries he throws at players if there are no magic items available. But adjusting the difficulty of encounters has always been a thing. Nothing new here.


The only thing that would really be necessary (IMO) is rolling the weapon potency and striking runes into character progression rather than buying them.

And I think it's doable, we just have to analyze when to grant them and how much to reduce WBL by.

Since the doubling ring allows you to grant the fundamental weapon runes to two weapons I think this should be an ability of the characters that they grant to their weapons (for damage dice increase) and just an inherent accuracy increases for the characters.

I think you could probably just grant the accuracy increase at the level when they normally become available. The striking rune is a little more difficult. I think I'd only grant the first two levels for free and leave 1 (high level version) of the rune which increases the damage. Mostly because on theoretical characters I've built the 3rd striking rune is so expensive that it really inhibits your ability to buy other things, so I haven't actually purchased it.


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Wheldrake wrote:
A low-magic version of PF was always possible, and "viable". All this talk about having to have certain magic items in order to remain "competent" was misguided.

How so?


Another variant you can use is replacing potency runes with item quality like we had in the playtest.

Also, the alchemist becoming nonmagical helps on this front.

Castilliano wrote:
thenobledrake wrote:
Yup, just build striking, potency, and resilience runes into level progression, skip the magic-focused classes, and you're good to go - but still nice and "fantasy" despite the low-magic involvement because mundane skill is now sufficient to do amazing things.
One issue is some of the extra runes like Flaming or Returning throw off the math slightly. Whether you want those to be "natural" or absent should be mentioned in campaign set up.

Most folks who don't like mandatory magic items seem to be cool with magic weapons that do cool thing like flaming or returning, at least in my experience. It is just when it becomes too Central to the damage dealt or just does boring things like raise accuracy or AC that it gets annoying to them.


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The upcoming Gamemastery Guide I expect will have explicit guidelines for running a low-magic campaign. Not having +1 and +2 runes affects the math. The math is tighter, and so one can't be as fast and loose as in 5E and say "Here's a +2 sword for you." And so hopefully the GMG will give us some concrete advice and data on the effects that magic items (and the lack thereof) have on encounters.

Fortunately, since the systems are unified and modular it appears quite easy to "turn dials" in PF2, to make characters less supernatural (fewer feats, change the per-level XP requirements) and magic items less common (e.g. adjust the expected magic-item distribution tables and starting wealth table in the CRB downward).


Orville Redenbacher wrote:
Wheldrake wrote:
A low-magic version of PF was always possible, and "viable". All this talk about having to have certain magic items in order to remain "competent" was misguided.
How so?

Adjusting encounters, trimming out monsters that require certain spells to deal with their after effects, or at least greatly increasing their CR.

Throwing CR=APL encounters at underequipped players instead of multiple CR+3 or 5 enemies, etc.

Way more work to do in PF1 than PF2 though.


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PF2e is low magic compared to PF1e as a system. Good, bad, or indifferent. Heavily nerfed, casters, previously magic enemies tend to just punch it out now with some cool abilities.

If you're talking about an almost no-magic system, bad news, magic items are still required for martials to keep up.

You could very easily (probably better than 2e ironically) make a low magic campaign in 1e without much effort. I've done it before. Automatic bonus progression and all that, or just stick to E6/E8.

That all said, I think a low magic campaign in 2e could be a lot of fun with more focus/love on martials. You'd still need to deal with the expected magic item bonuses backed into the system.


Artofregicide wrote:
That all said, I think a low magic campaign in 2e could be a lot of fun with more focus/love on martials.

Agreed, I've thought about a low magic game in PF1 but it just turns into standing there and whacking each other even more than it already was. It would at least be more tactically interesting in PF2.


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Never understand the low magic campaign craze. It is after all a fantasy role playing game.


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Some people want Lord of the Rings instead of more traditional D&D fantasy.

Both are equally good, just depends on what you prefer.


Claxon wrote:
Some people want Lord of the Rings instead of more traditional D&D fantasy.

To me, lotr and dnd/pathfinder are both high fantasy.

“What happened over there.”
“Oh, a wizard did it”

When I say “low fantasy”, I mean sword and sorcery, such as REH’s Conan. For example, using a torch instead of a light spell just to see; I’ve got a magic finger for ya - my middle finger. J/k; haha.

I am newb to PF as a whole. I am a gm of, among other pulpy systems, Modiphius’ Conan in an Age Undreamed Of 2d20 system/setting, but miss the inclusion of non-human playable races.

For those out there who understand P2 mechanics well, do you think PF2 sword & sorcery adventures are possible? Is there any news of such rules coming in the Gamemastery Guide?


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randall s. wrote:
Claxon wrote:
Some people want Lord of the Rings instead of more traditional D&D fantasy.

To me, lotr and dnd/pathfinder are both high fantasy.

“What happened over there.”
“Oh, a wizard did it”

When I say “low fantasy”, I mean sword and sorcery, such as REH’s Conan. For example, using a torch instead of a light spell just to see; I’ve got a magic finger for ya - my middle finger. J/k; haha.

I am newb to PF as a whole. I am a gm of, among other pulpy systems, Modiphius’ Conan in an Age Undreamed Of 2d20 system/setting, but miss the inclusion of non-human playable races.

For those out there who understand P2 mechanics well, do you think PF2 sword & sorcery adventures are possible? Is there any news of such rules coming in the Gamemastery Guide?

I would strongly disagree, the Lord of the Rings as presented in the Hobbit and the trilogy are quite low magic as it's commonly defined.

Low magic doesn't mean powerful magic isn't around, it means it's rare. Which is true for Middle Earth, at least at the time we see it. Our heroes don't commonly have magical weapons, though some do acquire them throughout the course of the story, but it's not expected. We have 3 wizards that we meet, Gandalf, Tom Bombadil, and Radagast. They're the only sources of magic casting that exist that we encounter during the adventures.

In PF1 magic was practically required to overcome challenges, because the enemies would have magic that made it impossible to get to them without it. Magic weapons and armor are everywhere. Practically every class get access to some sort of magical or supernatural abilities.

PF2 has toned it down a lot, though I would say is still fairly high magic. It just feels a lot less magical because being a wizard isn't absolute god tier like it used to be.


Luke Styer wrote:
Between the new multiclass system and the reduced emphasis on magic items to maintain minimal competency, I think Pathfinder Second Edition may be the version that finally makes the fabled “low magic” campaign viable without major rule adjustments.

5E does that pretty well too.


Claxon wrote:

Some people want Lord of the Rings instead of more traditional D&D fantasy.

Both are equally good, just depends on what you prefer.

It seems to me that there are other systems far better equipped to handle LotR style play than Pathfinder, which generally is geared toward high fantasy. The “let’s make Pathfinder low magic” thought process always seemed to be trying to make a square peg fit a round hole.


Claxon wrote:
We have 3 wizards that we meet, Gandalf, Tom Bombadil, and Radagast. They're the only sources of magic casting that exist that we encounter during the adventures.

I'm not sure Tom is actually a wizard, but you're right that he does have magical powers of some variety. Remember, he was given the name "Eldest and Fatherless" by the Sindarin. Even Gandalf calls him "the eldest being in existence."

But you're right that there are very few actual spellcasters in the books.


Stephan Taylor wrote:
Claxon wrote:

Some people want Lord of the Rings instead of more traditional D&D fantasy.

Both are equally good, just depends on what you prefer.

It seems to me that there are other systems far better equipped to handle LotR style play than Pathfinder, which generally is geared toward high fantasy. The “let’s make Pathfinder low magic” thought process always seemed to be trying to make a square peg fit a round hole.

I would agree with you on this, very much so for PF1 anyways.

In PF2, I think you could turn armor runes (for saves and AC) and weapon runes (for attack and damage) into things characters just grow into at specific levels and remove all the other magical gear and the game and you would be okay. There would be certain challenges that still probably couldn't be mitigated except with magic, but PF2 is much more low magic friendly than PF1 was.


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Quote:
Has 2E Finally Made “Low Magic” Viable?

PF2 IS low magic, nothing to change :D


Pathfinder Unchained had rules for making magic item bonuses an inherent part of leveling (I believe it was called automatic bonus progression) which could probably be pretty easily adapted to PF2 for the purpose of reducing the magicness of the setting.

I would personally leave property runes though - have the striking and enhancement runes be just included in the math for characters levelling up, but have property runes be one step rarer than they currently are, so you can have the occasional flaming sword (that is literally JUST flaming with no other bonuses) as that can be a fun element in low magic settings (think the various flaming swords in game of thrones and lord of the rings, both of which are pretty low magic settings).


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
Zapp wrote:
Luke Styer wrote:
Between the new multiclass system and the reduced emphasis on magic items to maintain minimal competency, I think Pathfinder Second Edition may be the version that finally makes the fabled “low magic” campaign viable without major rule adjustments.
5E does that pretty well too.

In my opinion, however, martials in 5e are incredibly boring, and between PF2 and 5e there is no competition into which gave more love to martials and made martials more interesting and customizable and unique, so I think it lends itself infinitely better than 5e


Sanguine Lupus wrote:
Zapp wrote:
Luke Styer wrote:
Between the new multiclass system and the reduced emphasis on magic items to maintain minimal competency, I think Pathfinder Second Edition may be the version that finally makes the fabled “low magic” campaign viable without major rule adjustments.
5E does that pretty well too.
In my opinion, however, martials in 5e are incredibly boring, and between PF2 and 5e there is no competition into which gave more love to martials and made martials more interesting and customizable and unique, so I think it lends itself infinitely better than 5e

Yeah, I feel like both the different action economy and breadth of customisations makes P2Es martials a lot more fun than D&D5Es. I played a 5e monk for a long time (probably the martial class in 5e with the most choices to make during combat) and still felt like there as much variety in what I could do each turn or with the character in general (its basically just pick a class, pick a subclass and that's your character).

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