Wand and Staff runes


Homebrew and House Rules


So, I reckon there is room for improving casters in PF2. (If you believe casters are just fine, please just move on - this thread's not for you. Thank you)

Here's an idea: wand runes and staff runes, partly to give casters a bit of a boost, but mostly to give casters too something really significant to look forward to buying or looting.

Note: In both cases, the rune effects apply both when the caster is casting a spell from the wand or staff itself, and when the caster is merely wielding the wand or staff while casting that spell normally (using a spell slot). Wielding a wand or staff adds a somatic component to the casting, if not present already.

Wand runes are duplicates of weapon runes, except they are etched onto magic wands, and give their effects to spells with a spell attack roll only. The GM is free to say a particular weapon rune don't exist as a wand rune.

Example: you could now find or buy a +1 striking corrosive wand of acid arrow. The potency rune would give you +1 on your spell attack rolls (whether you cast acid arrow or another spell with a spell attack roll). The striking rune would add one damage die (so one +1d8 acid for acid arrow or +1d4 negative for chill touch etc). Finally the corrosive rune would add +1d6 acid damage (and more on a critical) exactly as the corresponding weapon rune.

Staff runes are special (new) runes that are etched onto magic staves. They give their bonus only to castings of the specific spells of the staff (again, whether you use a staff charge or your own spell slot doesn't matter). Here are three such runes:

Staff Focus rune: gives its bonus to your spell DC.
I'm gonna use the armor resiliency rune as my template, seeing this is kind of its opposite.
Staff Focus (+1) Item 8 340 gp
Staff Focus (+2) Item 14 3440 gp
Staff Focus (+3) Item 20 49,440 gp

Staff Area Striking rune: Adds dice to spell damage if the staff's spell has a burst, cone, emanation, or line.
Positioning this half-way between single-target (wand) striking and the above focus rune (since damage is less unbalancing than higher DC).
Staff Area Striking (+1 dice) Item 6 275 gp
Staff Area Striking (+2 dice) Item 13 3,475 gp
Staff Area Striking (+3 dice) Item 19 44,475 gp

Staff Recapacitation rune:
Yep, this is what you've been fearing ;) - a rune to void the Incapacitation trait from a single casting of a single spell with a spell DC. A recapacitation rune has one charge, recharged daily. The rune tells you the maximum DC the rune can "recapacitate" for you (meaning that if you're wielding a staff with the DC 30 recapacitation rune, even if your spell save DC is 32, the target only needs to save against DC 30).
Staff Recapacitation (DC 16) Item 3 65 gp
Staff Recapacitation (DC 21) Item 7 380 gp
Staff Recapacitation (DC 26) Item 11 1,550 gp
Staff Recapacitation (DC 30) Item 14 5,000 gp
Staff Recapacitation (DC 36) Item 18 27,000 gp

PS. Cross-posted here.


Now, I'm very much in the "Casters are fine" camp (I've put +1 and +2 spell attack runes into my game, but mostly just as a way to see how they affect things and might not include them in future campaigns) but I think I might wanna warn you about something.

The recapacitation runes aren't really going to do what you want. Take the level 7 version. At level 7, you're usually going to be fighting level 9 creatures as bosses. A moderate saving throw for a level 9 creature is +18, which means they have a 5% chance of crit failing, 5% chance of failing, a 50% chances of succeeding, and a 40% chance of critically succeeding. Compared to if you ran the rules RAW against a DC 27 (without your DC-increasing items) a 5% chance of failure, a 40% chance of success, and a 55% chance of critical success. So it hasn't actually added a whole lot, mainly just a 5% chance of trivializing your boss fight.

And on that note, I won't try to convince you that these are all bad ideas, but from a GM's perspective the recapacitation runes are a very bad idea. I've had boss fights lose all challenge and become unsatisfying for everyone involved because someone got a lucky stun in another system. The incapacitation trait is fantastic for making those things effective against on-level or below enemies but while still keeping a semblance of challenge for bosses.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

People who think that making it easier to one-shot bosses is something they will enjoy are a classic case of the fact that sometimes what you ask for and what you really want are not the same.


Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Hey Zapp, questions for you...

If using a wand to get the item bonus to attack rolls, you mention that it adds a somatic trait/action to it. I'm not clear on if you are just saying it might add the somatic trait to the casting, or if it adds an extra action (as if wand metamagic casting action) with somatic trait, that allows the wand's bonus to be applied to the attack roll. Certainly adding an extra action to get an item bonus to their attack roll might be worthwhile in some circumstances, but I'm not sure that was your intent. And some might consider that too weak.

A concern about the striking and properties runes, is that I'm not sure that the die choices of spells really were made with the idea of having a striking rune adding damage dice to their damage was particularly something they were keeping in mind, and that might have some notable impact causing certain spells to come out as definite winners which would then be must have striking rune bonuses for those spells. It would be something to watch out for. I might actually instead pose the question of instead of striking increasing the number of dice, it could potentially increase the damage done as if the spell had been heightened one level (but only increase damage, not perhaps other effects from heightening)

Property runes you admit GMs would need to adjudicate which ones are available. It might also be relevant what they can be attached to... because you might have a spell that has a really long range, but minimal damage, or specific limitations to damage, but with a property rune, you can get that damage at that long range bypassing the spells normal damage limitations.

@Salamileg
Good point on it not having a super large impact on the chances, but that might have been somewhat intentional. I think Zapp was trying to keep it from being too good. I think that they wanted to at least have a small chance of getting a critical failure out of the individual, and have a noticeable reduction on the critical success portion, which it seems like it does, even if only a bit. And in addition to that, they limited it to once a day. Not saying I'd want the item in my games, but I at least recognize it as an attempt to be reasonable and not blow the hinges off of the Incapacitation trait.

I will say however, the name recapacitation seems way too meta-gamey. I figured out what it was meant to mean, but it just doesn't seem like something it would actually be named. Traits are named the trait names are, because they would mean something to us. They wouldn't necessarily be called that if someone were to study the behaviors within the game world from within. It would be easier to imagine them actually being called an Incapacitation rune, rather than a recapacitation rune.


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First off, thank you both for reading and considering these changes.

Salamileg wrote:

Now, I'm very much in the "Casters are fine" camp (I've put +1 and +2 spell attack runes into my game, but mostly just as a way to see how they affect things and might not include them in future campaigns) but I think I might wanna warn you about something.

That's fine. We, on the other hand, have found the Wizard underwhelming in almost every way.

The only cantrip worth its while (damage-wise) is Electric Arc. This change would make spell attack cantrips more competitive, which adds variety, which is good.

Sure area spells (like Fireball) deal more damage than a martial, but only just, and we simply disagree it's worth playing a fragile character just to be able to slightly top the constant damage-output a few times a day. It just seems all-around *better* to play another martial. (To be honest, when Fireball comes online at level 5, its average damage of 21 feels like a joke considering how the martials all have Striking runes by then)

In our view area spells can deal quite a bit more damage (actually more than the small boost given by runes) and still feel balanced. (I am certainly not a proponent of the LFQW situation in d20 - I just think 5E struck a better balance allowing magic to remain awesome while still making martials good.)

Quote:
And on that note, I won't try to convince you that these are all bad ideas, but from a GM's perspective the recapacitation runes are a very bad idea. I've had boss fights lose all challenge and become unsatisfying for everyone involved because someone got a lucky stun in another system. The incapacitation trait is fantastic for making those things effective against on-level or below enemies but while still keeping a semblance of challenge for bosses.

In our opinion, the only alternative to loosening the draconian Incapacitation rules is... to never see them in play (by players).

We just don't find it fun to spend save or suck spells against mooks. And we don't consider it a catastrophy if the wizard gets to say the say once in a while.

Thing is, the main contribution of martials is pure damage. When the wizard is dealing damage he acts in concert with his team, working towards the same goal, his effort accumulating with the others. Any spell that doesn't deal damage must have a compelling upside to justify preparing instead of yet another damage spell. Taking out a mook is not exciting, and it can just as well be done by dealing damage.

So incapacitation spells just don't see any use whatsoever at our table. It's just better to focus on other kinds of spells.

These houserules are meant to change that. And yes, we're quite willing to pay the price of having one or two boss fights getting won a round or two early. We would be especially excited to see the Wizard punching above his weight class once in a while!

Quote:
The recapacitation runes aren't really going to do what you want. Take the level 7 version. At level 7, you're usually going to be fighting level 9 creatures as bosses. A moderate saving throw for a level 9 creature is +18, which means they have a 5% chance of crit failing, 5% chance of failing, a 50% chances of succeeding, and a 40% chance of critically succeeding. Compared to if you ran the rules RAW against a DC 27 (without your DC-increasing items) a 5% chance of failure, a 40% chance of success, and a 55% chance of critical success. So it hasn't actually added a whole lot, mainly just a 5% chance of trivializing your boss fight.

Thank you for your feedback. Perhaps I didn't give it enough thought when I simply used the "DCs per level" (minus 2). I'll adjust the DCs.

I can tell you my intention: I wanted to go from -10 (which the Incapacitation trait effectively amounts to) to about -2 when used in the optimal case (which you correctly identify): when you loot the rune at two levels lower than the item level. Furthermore, the intention was for the rune to slowly fade into nothingness over the course of four levels or so - where another recapacitation rune presents itself.

I will definitely use the moderate save guideline instead of the class DCs! (Though I assume this will mean the rune's restriction will actually be *higher* than the Wizard's spell DC at first...?)


Loreguard wrote:

Hey Zapp, questions for you...

If using a wand to get the item bonus to attack rolls, you mention that it adds a somatic trait/action to it. I'm not clear on if you are just saying it might add the somatic trait to the casting, or if it adds an extra action (as if wand metamagic casting action) with somatic trait, that allows the wand's bonus to be applied to the attack roll. Certainly adding an extra action to get an item bonus to their attack roll might be worthwhile in some circumstances, but I'm not sure that was your intent. And some might consider that too weak.

Thanks! I definitely meant only "if you cast a spell using a wand you will be waving your hand around = somatic component".

I did not intend any extra cost in actions, just that any spell cast in this way has a somatic component even if the spell otherwise doesn't. I'll clarify.

Quote:
A concern about the striking and properties runes, is that I'm not sure that the die choices of spells really were made with the idea of having a striking rune adding damage dice to their damage was particularly something they were keeping in mind

Absolutely.

Quote:
, and that might have some notable impact causing certain spells to come out as definite winners which would then be must have striking rune bonuses for those spells. It would be something to watch out for.

I can absolutely see that. However, I'm willing to overlook that in the interests of keeping it simple.

Quote:
Property runes you admit GMs would need to adjudicate which ones are available. It might also be relevant what they can be attached to... because you might have a spell that has a really long range, but minimal damage, or specific limitations to damage, but with a property rune, you can get that damage at that long range bypassing the spells normal damage limitations.

Thank you for thinking about the implications of the rule.

However, we're still just talking three extra dice tops. But I'll keep a watch out when and if these runes see playtesting.

Cheers


Thinking about this a bit more.

A spellcaster's spell DC progresses something like this (level+ability+proficiency+10):
Level 3: 3+4+2+10=19
Level 7: 7+5+4+10=26
Level 11: 11+5+4+10=30
Level 15: 14+6+6+10=36
Level 19: 19+7+8+10=44
(not counting the +1 to +3 from my Focus rune)

That is, a level 7 Wizard will attack level 9 bosses with DC 26 (you arrived at DC 27). A level 7 recapacitation rune should therefore be DC 24-25.

The fact the monster will have +18 doesn't really change this. You still increase your chances considerably. Whether it's enough to make the caster actually start preparing Incapacitation spells is another issue.

But I'll shoot for something like this thanks to your feedback:

Staff Recapacitation (DC 17) Item 3 65 gp
Staff Recapacitation (DC 24) Item 7 380 gp
Staff Recapacitation (DC 28) Item 11 1,550 gp
Staff Recapacitation (DC 34) Item 15 8,000 gp
Staff Recapacitation (DC 42) Item 19 45,000 gp

Do note that Recapacitation doesn't really stack with Focus. Sure, Focus can make you reach the Recapacitation limit a level early or so, but once your own DC equals the Recapacitation limit, a Focus rune does you no good (for that casting).

Z

Dataphiles

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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Not sure about staff focus runes to be honest. Some staves (particularly Major Mentalist’s Staff) already have good spells that scale well... not sure those spells really need +3 to DC, considering DCs are mostly ok where they’re at and spell attacks are the ones that fall behind.


Exocist wrote:
Not sure about staff focus runes to be honest. Some staves (particularly Major Mentalist’s Staff) already have good spells that scale well... not sure those spells really need +3 to DC, considering DCs are mostly ok where they’re at and spell attacks are the ones that fall behind.

That is absolutely a valid concern. Thank you. Yes, if the goal is to shore up spell attacks relative to spell DCs, the focus runes defeat that purpose. Unfortunately there really isn't a way to price some items as "more expensive" (relative to their level) than others - you would simply consider it as an item of a higher level (and once the character is past that level, it will be cheap to him or her).

What did you think about the other runes, Exocist?

Dataphiles

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Zapp wrote:
Exocist wrote:
Not sure about staff focus runes to be honest. Some staves (particularly Major Mentalist’s Staff) already have good spells that scale well... not sure those spells really need +3 to DC, considering DCs are mostly ok where they’re at and spell attacks are the ones that fall behind.

That is absolutely a valid concern. Thank you. Yes, if the goal is to shore up spell attacks relative to spell DCs, the focus runes defeat that purpose. Unfortunately there really isn't a way to price some items as "more expensive" (relative to their level) than others - you would simply consider it as an item of a higher level (and once the character is past that level, it will be cheap to him or her).

What did you think about the other runes, Exocist?

I haven’t played with high level spell attacks enough to really say anything definitive on wand runes. There’s so few slotted spell attacks, so really you’re buffing focus spells and cantrips. Spell attack cantrips are weak comparative to electric arc, so could be good for those, but spell attack focus powers tend to have some of the best in the game (Winter Bolt, Fire Ray, Elemental Toss), not sure if those really need more.

Area Striking only applies to staff spells but I worry about the damage dice differential - for instance major striking would give lightning bolt +3 levels, but fireball only +1.5, it’s clearly slanted towards spells with lower #, higher size dice which I don’t think those spells’ damage dice and scaling really considered when they were made.

Recapacitation I don’t agree with. You’re effectively paying GP to transform a low level slot into a top level one simply because incap spells (de)scale with spell level rather than with spell effect. A 3rd level Blindness is still crippling all the way to 20th for instance (effects very comparable to spells of a much higher level), only held back by incapacitation. If you can pay money to remove that, then you can transform your 3rd level spells into spells of the highest level.


Exocist wrote:
I haven’t played with high level spell attacks enough to really say anything definitive on wand runes. There’s so few slotted spell attacks, so really you’re buffing focus spells and cantrips. Spell attack cantrips are weak comparative to electric arc, so could be good for those, but spell attack focus powers tend to have some of the best in the game (Winter Bolt, Fire Ray, Elemental Toss), not sure if those really need more.

Thank you. Yes that is good feedback.

Quote:
Area Striking only applies to staff spells but I worry about the damage dice differential - for instance major striking would give lightning bolt +3 levels, but fireball only +1.5, it’s clearly slanted towards spells with lower #, higher size dice which I don’t think those spells’ damage dice and scaling really considered when they were made.

Yes, I got that feedback earlier. However, the fact all spells aren't boosted equally does not necessarily have to be a bad thing (bad enough, that is). Just as all spells weren't created equal by Paizo, all spell boosting here doesn't have to be equal either. For instance, if this makes my player start casting some Lightning Bolts instead of sticking to Fireball, that's just variety!


Exocist wrote:
Recapacitation I don’t agree with. You’re effectively paying GP to transform a low level slot into a top level one simply because incap spells (de)scale with spell level rather than with spell effect. A 3rd level Blindness is still crippling all the way to 20th for instance (effects very comparable to spells of a much higher level), only held back by incapacitation. If you can pay money to remove that, then you can transform your 3rd level spells into spells of the highest level.

But are you disagreeing because you're defending Incapacitation, or are you disagreeing because you identify an abuse case you think I haven't identified? (I can't really tell)

If the former, I've already explained that in my experience Incapacitation shuts down too many spells entirely, and that using them to off mooks isn't good enough in my opinion to justify the rather crude rule.

If the latter, could it be that you're warning me the way PF2 spells are auto-heightened mean you can use a level 1 Charm freely on BBEGs? Because I don't fully understand your talk of paying gold to get a high-level slot. An Incapacitation spell cast at a BBEG is useless no matter what slot level it's cast in, since the BBEG is invariably higher level than you. Or am I misunderstanding you?

Thanks,

Dataphiles

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Zapp wrote:


If the latter, could it be that you're warning me the way PF2 spells are auto-heightened mean you can use a level 1 Charm freely on BBEGs? Because I don't fully understand your talk of paying gold to get a high-level slot. An Incapacitation spell cast at a BBEG is useless no matter what slot level it's cast in, since the BBEG is invariably higher level than you. Or am I misunderstanding you?

Thanks,

It’s not necessarily the BBEG. Pretty much all of the “boss” encounters in APs aren’t solo, for a variety of reasons. A level+2 boss and their 2 level +0 “mooks” would be warranting of a max level spell, yet recapacitation would let you use something like a 1st level colour spray to take out the mooks (as an example), greatly increasing the efficacy a 1st slot should have. I’m not going to say the crit fail effect on colour spray is worse than the one on Fear (they’re both fairly encounter ending) but the failure effect is definitely a lot stronger.

Incapacitation is trying to solve the issue of blasts needing level scaling where Save or Sucks don’t. I would houserule Incapacitation to be different (whether that is changing it to be +X to save if opponent is higher level rather than +Degree of Success, to make the transition from level+0/1 to level+1/2 less extreme, or to make it only CF->F, possibly F->S as well, but not S->CS) rather than introducing a fix that causes a problem which Incapacitation was trying to solve.

Liberty's Edge

I first thought getting a bonus to hit would be indeed fine and in line with what martials get. Then I remembered that many attack spells are AoE. So, the caster would be getting their bonus several times VS the martial's once (not counting multiple attacks since AoE do not get MAP per target). So not balanced with martial.
It might be okay for spells with a single target, but then the caster becomes equal to the martial in single target attacks and far better in AoE which is very clearly not the intended roles that the maths go for.

Of course that is far worse for Striking Runes. That is what Heightening is for after all.

And Recapacitation feels like a must buy so likely broken by the system's math.


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I've added Cantrip Attack Wands that only work with Attack Cantrip spells that can have a rune of potency of +1 to +3 on them. They don't break the game because they only work on Attack Cantrips. They are fun little magic items that my casters enjoy using.

Liberty's Edge

Krugus wrote:
I've added Cantrip Attack Wands that only work with Attack Cantrip spells that can have a rune of potency of +1 to +3 on them. They don't break the game because they only work on Attack Cantrips. They are fun little magic items that my casters enjoy using.

Interesting.

Do the martials still feel they can contribute sufficiently or do they start feeling a bit overshadowed by the casters?

Honest question, because I feel the balance can be very precarious here.

Especially interested to know how a ranged martial would feel.


Overshadowed by Attack Cantrip?

How so?

The ranger with their bow out damages any Attack Cantrip Caster with ease.

Don't get me started on the two rogues in the group.... my poor npc's are still having nightmares about them in the afterlife.


Pathfinder PF Special Edition Subscriber

I really don't like this idea. Weapons and armor get runes. Spells get metamagic. Now if you want to add more metamagic options and allow them to be used with staves and wands, that sounds good to me.

Dark Archive

MellowDramatic wrote:
I really don't like this idea. Weapons and armor get runes. Spells get metamagic. Now if you want to add more metamagic options and allow them to be used with staves and wands, that sounds good to me.

Metamagic feats are just feats which augment a spell. They're in the same design space as Stances, not runes.

Liberty's Edge

Krugus wrote:

Overshadowed by Attack Cantrip?

How so?

The ranger with their bow out damages any Attack Cantrip Caster with ease.

Don't get me started on the two rogues in the group.... my poor npc's are still having nightmares about them in the afterlife.

I was thinking in overall terms, not just damage done with an attack. If casters could do damage similar to martials AND have other spells that give them more possibilities, it would be problematic.

I get that your houserule only gives a small boost to some spells and I was wondering if it was small enough to improve the casters' feelings without impinging on the martials' feelings. Or if even such a small boost was enough to have martials feel annoyed or "overshadowed".

From your post, I guess that everyone is still having their fun, which is the best.

Dark Archive

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Potency runes only add + to hit, not damage.

It’s harder for casters to hit AC, as it tends to scale faster than their attack plus has it’s own runes to push it further.

It’s not cool to constantly fail.

Liberty's Edge

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+ hit indeed ends up in more damage.

But the greatest power of casters comes from the variety of defenses they can target.

Where martials only target AC, the casters have a choice to target AC, Will, Reflex or Fortitude. Using the proper spell for a given enemy is really good.

Dark Archive

The Raven Black wrote:

+ hit indeed ends up in more damage.

That's a pretty weaselly attempt to be pedantic. We were specifically talking about potency runes. Yes, we all get that hitting more means more damage, but its not additional damage on top of the base like a striking rune would be.

The Raven Black wrote:

Where martials only target AC, the casters have a choice to target AC, Will, Reflex or Fortitude

That's just straight untrue.

The only martial class which doesn't have, to my knowledge, abilities which target other saves is the Fighter (and I'm not even 100% on that). Casters certainly have more tools which can target different save types, but the "choice" is inherently tied to the spell which means they are restricted by whatever preparation or spell selection method the class has.


Y'all seem to be missing a key point: metamagic isn't cool stuff to buy in the magic mart with your illgotten gains.

In other words: purchasing cool upgrades for your hero is FUN.

Why should spellcasters not get to share in the fun?

The rulebook offers significantly fewer items to spellcasters than to martials, with the big whopper of a difference of course being the striking runes.

In no small part, the idea to offer wand and staff runes is to put more really cool stuff on the shelves for casters to salivate over.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Zapp wrote:

The rulebook offers significantly fewer items to spellcasters than to martials, with the big whopper of a difference of course being the striking runes.

In no small part, the idea to offer wand and staff runes is to put more really cool stuff on the shelves for casters to salivate over.

I think you’ll need to back this claim up with some actual numbers. The armor and weapons in the equipment chapter are available to both martial a and casters, so we’re obviously not discussing those options.

You must then be referring to the treasure chapter. There are a significant number of magic items, potions, etc on those proverbial shelves you speak of - and I’m not convinced that the majority of them are focused exclusively on martials.


Just a side note for the Pathfinder 2E purest :)

Not everyone is playing Pathfinder 2E as written. Some of us homebrew a lot of things that make sense to our worlds not Paizo's I have my own homebrew setting that I have been using for years and in my setting due to what happened in our last campaign, magic after a certain level is rare and hard to come by (not just spells). You don't just go to the local magic store to buy Spells or magical items in my world and Alchemists are Great to have around :)

So while it might sound crazy what some are doing, your really not getting the entire picture of how they have everything set up in their world :)


I like the idea for the runes but i would implement a general spell focus item that is personal to the spellcaster (e.g. a personal wand, amulet, mystical sphere) that you can add the runes on too.

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