Does metamagic in 2e raise the spell level of a spell? If not, why not just it everytime.
It does not. The only effects are those listed in the feat or ability.Nearly all of them use an extra action, otherwise yes, why not use them?
Thing is, if you don't need the metamagic's perk, why use it when you might move into a better position, put up a Shield spell, Recall Knowledge, Demoralize, etc. Which is to say, using an action does have its cost.
2e metamagic spends an action for a fairly situational benefit.
Most of the time you're better off moving or casting shield or trying your luck with demoralise/bon mot than using a metamagic.
The one I've used most is reach (because it's a level 1 class feat so an easy pick for a human/half-human), it's a nice alternative to moving closer when you really don't want to get closer than absolutely necessary.
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The trickiness of reach and especially widen is that they won’t be incredibly useful to you until you are higher level than when it makes sense to take them. So it is easy to not take them and then have much better feat options when they would start getting useful.
For example, 30 ft of range is a phenomenal use of an action if your movement is only 25ft, but the really powerful touch only spell at level 1 is a spell attack roll, so true strike is the much better use of an action to pair with it. But when you get spells like vampiric touch, that reach is a big deal.
Widen also lacks clear uses at levels 1 and 2 but getting even 1 more enemy in a lightning bolt is a better use of an action than a full martial attack.
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I think Reach is more important than that.
It's not just that you get 30' vs. 25' movement or 30' on a touch spell, it's also so you're not (up to) 30' closer to the enemy at the end of your turn. Often a caster has to give up decent positioning to get an enemy within range because so many spells are only 30'. And then they ended up within 30' (one move) of their enemy and become a viable target.
Reach is effectively getting the ability to move 30' forward/cast/return 30' backward. It's a strong reason why I favor the humans for casters.
Of course if one has other options like Demoralize which require being in closer, that changes the paradigm. Some builds simply function better closer or like a War Priest can risk it, but many casters don't because they can't risk it..