Slotless caster ideas


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion


So... the one thing that PF2 does not have, that I would dearly like for it to have is a true slotless caster - someone who threw around magical effects as their primary means of doing business, but wasn't really working with daily resources in a meaningful way. Now, we've talked about what that might look like as a Kineticist, and we've talked about what a slotless shifter might look like, and there's the pretty obvious "witch, but juice the hex cantrips way up". That's all fine. At the same time, they seem to like throwing out new classes from time to time. I'd like to solicit ideas for what those might look like. What are your ideas for cantrip casters that aren't Kineticist/Shifter/Witch derivatives? What kind of mechanics would you suggest to get them up to a competitive level? What kind of fluff or concept might fit?

And, just to start us off, I'll toss in something rudimentary: the blitz caster. They forgo all efforts as more powerful magics in order to focus on getting the easy stuff out fast. There's a few ways to do this, and a degree fo mix-and-match, and I'm not actually sure about the balance, but...
- A number of single-action combat applicable focus spells and focus cantrips
- An action that takes three actions and lets you cast two cantrips. Possibly consumes a focus point.
- A two-action flourish that lets you cast a standard two-action cantrip and also take a single action of some other sort (possibly even any other sort).
The basic idea is that this is the monk's "I have action efficiency instead of raw power" concept applied to the caster side of things, but blitzing out relatively weak spells, rather than the Summoner's schtick of splitting time with their eidolon. They'd probably have focus cantrips that they could use as reactions as well.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I'd be interested in ideas that don't have much to do with focus points. When you lean on focus points, they start to feel very much like an ultra limited version of spell slots, and sort of defeat the purpose.

To be sure, I'd much rather see what the Kineticist does before entertaining this discussion, since it's hard to come up with "ideas for cantrip casters that aren't Kineticist derivatives" when we don't actually know what a Kineticist looks like yet.

However, a slotless caster that feels very little like a kineticist could focus on things like the Religion skill feats that give you combat abilities. It'd be fascinating to just roll skill checks to have spell-like effects as a class's main thing, especially for an untapped skill like Arcana.


WatersLethe wrote:

I'd be interested in ideas that don't have much to do with focus points. When you lean on focus points, they start to feel very much like an ultra limited version of spell slots, and sort of defeat the purpose.

To be sure, I'd much rather see what the Kineticist does before entertaining this discussion, since it's hard to come up with "ideas for cantrip casters that aren't Kineticist derivatives" when we don't actually know what a Kineticist looks like yet.

However, a slotless caster that feels very little like a kineticist could focus on things like the Religion skill feats that give you combat abilities. It'd be fascinating to just roll skill checks to have spell-like effects as a class's main thing, especially for an untapped skill like Arcana.

...and part of the reason I'm having this discussion is in reaction to some of what's going on over on the kineticist side of things, where people are (for example) starting to ask that it be done as an extended martial, where your kineticist blast is actually a form of weapon attack that you can then slap modifiers on. There's also a lot of talk about burn as being an important part of it, thematically as well as crunch-wise. I don't actually want to harsh that buzz, because it sounds like the results might be kind of cool, but it's also wouldn't be the thing that I personally am hoping for.

For me... I've wanted something that was like the old 3.x warlock or dragonfire adept - have a library of various magical abilities that they could use all day long, where they were limited by flexibility rather than endurance. The PF1 Witch was... not that, exactly, though it was drawing at least some from the same well. The PF2 Witch is even less that. Of course, we're not real likely to get anything quite as crazy as some of what the Warlock could pull off, or some of what the Dragonfire adept could manage with metabreath feats, but that's just because wackiness levels in PF2 are lower in general. The overall idea can still fit... and my thought with this thread is just to come up with a few, and have people poke at them, and see if we can churn out anythign that the devs might find at least a little inspiring. I mean, I figure that if we can somehow churn out something that makes one of the devs sit up and think "Oh, hey - that would be cool", then that's a meaningful step on a path that might (eventually) result in a new class. (or class archetype, or whatever).

If it helps, assume for the purposes of this discussion that the Kineticist winds up with some decent utility, and some sort of satisfying burn mechanic, but is pure martial, with no casting proficiency or use of existing spells at all. In my mind, the class has some variant on "cast standard cantrips and possibly also focus cantrips" as their primary form of damage dealing, but that's not strictly speaking necessary.


So for something that has caster proficiency but no slots, I could see it being a cantrip slinger. It would have to have good focus cantrips and metamagic options to support them. It would be strange but strange works. It could be a class that has some truly spectacular metamagic effects that work because you're not using slotted spells.


I have two ideas that might work for a slotless caster.

The first is a pure academic who rather than using slots has to roll the associated skill check whenever they cast. It would probably need a penalty for critical failure just to avoid excessive casting out of combat. I'm not sure if this would be good or bad but if the DC is based on the level of the spell then they could potentially cast lower level magic all day without restriction.

The other idea is a stage magician who doesn't cast spells at all and just produces effect that look like magic. They could get several pseudo spells, similar to inventor abilities like explode and megavolt, that they can use as much as they want.

Horizon Hunters

Personally I would be happy with modified version of what we have currently have with the monk.

-Give caster proficiencies and give unique cantrips/focus spells
-Give weapon proficiencies if the character is supposed to combine magic+attacks.
-Then just give unique feats that alter how the character uses these abilities.
-Create unique mechanics specifically for the class.

I think they have a pretty solid foundation for making slotless casters/hybrids. Now for making more "out of the box" casters I am not sure. It really just how far Paizo wants to go with making crazy and weird mechanics.


Too modes of doing a spotless caster to me are the first exhaustion (fort save based) basically casting a spell requires you to make a Fort save against a dc based on the spell level or become fatigued and can't cast anymore. With feats and class features for managing fatigue and scaling penalty for casting more spells after the first.

The second is have a spellcaster based on a gather power mechanic that limits what spells you can cast depending on how many actions you take.

Both are probably to big a departure to ever fit in 2e but I think both would be pretty cool.


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siegfriedliner wrote:

Too modes of doing a spotless caster to me are the first exhaustion (fort save based) basically casting a spell requires you to make a Fort save against a dc based on the spell level or become fatigued and can't cast anymore. With feats and class features for managing fatigue and scaling penalty for casting more spells after the first.

The second is have a spellcaster based on a gather power mechanic that limits what spells you can cast depending on how many actions you take.

Both are probably to big a departure to ever fit in 2e but I think both would be pretty cool.

You could have a caster combine those ideas, the gather power action uses a skill check to determine results with the DC made lower for each action used. You'd essentially gain temporary spell levels in a pool that are used up by casting spells. So a 5th level character might gain 5 spell levels on a critical success, 4 on success, 3 on failure, and 2 plus stupified 1 on a crit fail.

The tricky part would be making it so that you don't end up in a two-round loop of gathering energy and casting your highest level spell, repeating until enemies are finished as that is too slow for easy fights and over-tuned in longer combats. You could make feats that let you start each battle with a set number of spell levels in your pool to solve needing to charge for a round in easy fights and have the DC scale with each check to stop longer battles from being trivialized.

Liberty's Edge

Cantrip caster with Focus spells that add extra oomph. Like add a target, use a Metamagic feat with a free action, get a free heightened above your level, poach one or two cantrips from another list for 1 minute ...


Expand the ritualist archetype into a full class. Add 10 minute rituals only the ritualist can cast.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I suppose it depends what you mean by 'caster'; are we talking blasting, utility, or both?


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I don't think you can have the problem solving capabilities casters have and give it to another class without them expending resources for that.

As I see it, we already have an slotless caster in Alchemist. Can create both damaging and buffing/debuffing effects while also heavy utility tied to a resource.


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

Ok, slotless caster that isn't limited to Cantrips.

Cantrips, we already have regular cantrips, and we have focus cantrips (although they may have flavors/hex/composition/etc). We might have a new variation on cantrips that have AMPs coming.

But what if there was a Stance type spells.
you start the casting by Entering the stance potentially spending an action, choosing the stance spell.

The spell defines the entrance and completion requirements. Some parts of the spell might likely have to be decided at entering the stance. Most stances will require paying an action to sustain the casting. The stances include spells (cantrips) that can be cast in lieu of sustaining to maintain the stance. Casting these specified cantrips, either take the place of sustaining the spell, or empower the spell, making its eventual unleashing more powerful on its completion.

Any round following a round that a stance spell has been started, where the stance has been maintained, the spell may be completed, by paying the spells completion cost. It produces the effect defined in the spell. In addition to heightening of spells based on spell level the caster is capable of casting, commitment of certain other actions and spellcasting can increase the effect of the spell via Empowerment as defined in the spell.

So a Primal caster might start combat entering a Flame Strike stance. It takes 1 action and has to choose either a Melee or Ranged version of their spell. To sustain their casting they have to spend an action sustaining the casting it, or cast a primal cantrip with a fire trait. If the spell takes two or more actions it counts as being empowered that round. After starting the stance, and casting a couple produce flames for a couple rounds, they cast another produce flame and then complete their stance spell choosing a target per the completion requirements (and the target having to be ranged or melee according to their original choice).

There might be some Stance Focus powers that might be bought with a feat that might let them use a focus power to 'reset a choice required to be made at the start of a stance' for the cost of an action (equivalent to sustaining) and a focus point.

They would be a caster who commits to building up power by casting cantrip spells to unleash a planned spell later on.

Concept being perhaps building up such spells pulls energy, above and beyond that normally used to cast the spell to the area. These casters specialize in siphoning and forming these energies into the spells they want, rather than powering them with Slots of stored energy they cart around through themselves.

Maybe These stance spells might be relatively few to start, and limited in what they can do, but perhaps the casters as they gain level, gain different boosts they can deliver into the spell via their empowered actions. (like maybe a spell starts melee only and with an empower it gains the option of gaining a range)

There might thus be action cost/commitment to a particular effect... but granting the flexibility to build up its power by using your appropriate cantrips (again, limiting your choices some, thus a strategic cost) and the end benefit is at a subsequent round getting to let lose a relatively strong spell without using a daily resource.

So play for the character would be different from round to round. Ideally starting a stance, and building to where they have a strong casting potentially with buffed circumstances, and take down a foe, or do significant damage. Then start the cycle again likely with a different foe or such. A build and release cycle.

In retrospect, it is a little similar to some of the Ampd concept, but that was kind of binary, and this seems like it offers options to build up more than one boost potentially, to provide some extra variance in strategy based on how many rounds you can build before completing the spell.

AS a separate note, although it might be able to be included in the above concept as a particular 'stance', I liked the idea of characters being able to build 'auras' to buff allies or debuff their opponents as a supernatural ability, kind of inherent to them. I think they could make definitely reasonable stance type effects, giving people within so far from you some sort of buff as long as you maintain your stance by staying within certain limitations. Something akin to an Inquisitor's judgement ability might make a reasonable stance, and flavor on the judgment could provide limitations on the inquisitor's actions, in return for the buff. Could replicate some concepts enabled by the Marshall or Dragon Shaman (or as mentioned the inquisitor).


Loreguard wrote:

Ok, slotless caster that isn't limited to Cantrips.

Cantrips, we already have regular cantrips, and we have focus cantrips (although they may have flavors/hex/composition/etc). We might have a new variation on cantrips that have AMPs coming.

But what if there was a Stance type spells.
you start the casting by Entering the stance potentially spending an action, choosing the stance spell.

The spell defines the entrance and completion requirements. Some parts of the spell might likely have to be decided at entering the stance. Most stances will require paying an action to sustain the casting. The stances include spells (cantrips) that can be cast in lieu of sustaining to maintain the stance. Casting these specified cantrips, either take the place of sustaining the spell, or empower the spell, making its eventual unleashing more powerful on its completion.

Any round following a round that a stance spell has been started, where the stance has been maintained, the spell may be completed, by paying the spells completion cost. It produces the effect defined in the spell. In addition to heightening of spells based on spell level the caster is capable of casting, commitment of certain other actions and spellcasting can increase the effect of the spell via Empowerment as defined in the spell.

So a Primal caster might start combat entering a Flame Strike stance. It takes 1 action and has to choose either a Melee or Ranged version of their spell. To sustain their casting they have to spend an action sustaining the casting it, or cast a primal cantrip with a fire trait. If the spell takes two or more actions it counts as being empowered that round. After starting the stance, and casting a couple produce flames for a couple rounds, they cast another produce flame and then complete their stance spell choosing a target per the completion requirements (and the target having to be ranged or melee according to their original choice).

There might be some Stance Focus powers that might be bought with a...

This stance idea could do some very interesting things. You could make spells that require you to have gone from one stance into another stance to cast. So you might have the option to move and enter a stance in round one and then either use that stance to unleash a spell or transfer into another stance, use a cantrip or focus spell and then go for a powerful effect on turn three. If you add a higher level feat that allows entering a stance and casting a spell to be bundled you could allow them access to these nastier spells on round two instead of three.

You could build something pretty cool if you had a class that had, as an example 5 stances with a few spells per stance, and then 10 combination spells that each requires moving from one stance into another. You have flexibility but changing stances is a cost and you need to think carefully about when changing stances is better than just using another effect.


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A stance based caster that's as versatile and potent as a monk with stances would be really cool. I like this one the most so far.


Call it "Spelldancer" or something. It would be kind of like the Magus with recharging spellstrike. You could always enter the stance that you need by just spending the entry action (or actions) but that winds up being really action-inefficient, so instead you engage with the flow of thigns and plan out your moves ahead of time.

You might have one stance, for example (Finale), that took a full three actions to enter, and would let you cast two two-action spells at once (but then immediately release the stance). Rarely worth using that way, as you're basically turning three actions into two, and also later in the fight, but if you can get there by chaining through other stances efficiently, it can be a pretty potent send-off.


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@Loreguard I'm actually surprised you typed all of that up without even mentioning Wild Winds Initiate.


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Not sure how this would work with current lore for rune magic in Golarion, but here is an idea I had.

Runewright
You write runewords, sequences of runes that you can later channel magic through them to create effects both great and small.

During daily prep you can write x runewords. You can write these words on objects and willing creatures. More runes/day at higher levels.
You have the Channel Power activity. 1-3 actions, targets 1 runeword within 30ft. You activate the runeword's 1, 2, or 3 action ability.

Here are a couple of example runewords I have tossed together.
Valor, write on a creature
1 action- The runeword creates a 5ft aura for 1 round, granting allies in the aura a +1 status bonus to attack and damage rolls.
2 actions- As 1 action, but the aura is 15ft and lasts 2 rounds.
3 actions- The creature the runeword is on may Stride or Strike as a reaction and is quickened 1 for 2 rounds. The extra actions can only be used to Stride or Strike.
Ice, write on a creature or object
1 action- The runeword creates a 10ft burst of difficult terrain within 30ft of itself. This terrain lasts 1 round.
2 action- The runeword grows ice on an enemy within 30ft of itself, that enemy makes a Fort save. Success: clumsy 1 for 1 round. Failure: clumsy 1 and slowed 1 for 1 round.
3 action- A wave of cold blasts out in a 30ft cone from the creature or object the runeword is on. The cone leaves difficult terrain for 1 round and deals xd8 damage (basic reflex) to each creature in the cone.

Feats
Meta-rune feats: Meta-rune feats would work like metamagic except instead of spending extra actions to enhance spells, you write them into one runeword each during daily prep. Might need some reworking.
Runedance: Focus spell or once per 10 minutes action that swaps runewords between two creatures/objects.
Feats that temporarily consume runewords for cool effects. Perhaps do things like get extra actions for Channel Power, recharge Focus, or just blow up runes that don't normally do damage.

Subclasses
Safety Words: Gain a reaction that reduces damage from a hit on a creature you have runes on, based on how many runes are on that creature.
Re-writer: You can spend 10 minutes to erase one of your runewords and write a new one. Perhaps scaling to a better rate at higher levels.
Meta-writer: Your meta-rune feats can apply to an additional runeword each day.

It would be good to make the runes use the spell lists for future proofing, but I didn't come up with a way to merge those systems well.


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BaronOfBread wrote:

During daily prep you can write x runewords. You can write these words on objects and willing creatures. More runes/day at higher levels.

You have the Channel Power activity. 1-3 actions, targets 1 runeword within 30ft. You activate the runeword's 1, 2, or 3 action ability.

Okay, I've apparently been really unclear here. The whole point was to solicit ideas for magic-wielders who weren't tied to daily resources. No X per day, no "do this until you get fatigued, then you have to long rest", nothing like that. It's lookign for interesting stuff (especially interesting fluff that can then have interesting crunch to support it) that works off of the idea of a magic-wielder who's mostly running on cantrip effects, possibly boosted by focus spells.

roquepo wrote:

I don't think you can have the problem solving capabilities casters have and give it to another class without them expending resources for that.

As I see it, we already have an slotless caster in Alchemist. Can create both damaging and buffing/debuffing effects while also heavy utility tied to a resource.

I know that you wont' get the same level of... anything with a pure at-will caster as you do with standard casters burnign spell slots. that's kind of the point of daily resources - it lets you concentrate your awesome.

At the same time, they'd naturally have more than just a pile of standard cantrips, because when you cash in all of your daily slots, you ought to get something back. The trick is what, exactly. I mean, we coudl make something that would be a bland pile of cantrips and focus spells, and do math tweaks until the balance came out right, but that's not actually interesting. So...

- It's never going to be a major damage-dealer. It's got more utility than a martial, just from having a pile of cantrips in the first place, and it doesn't have the burst damage concentration of spell slots. "Primary damage dealer" isn't the role.
- It's not going to be a tank. Totally out-of-theme.
- It's not going to be a healer, because in-combat heals tend to be daily resources, for good and sufficient reason.

So it's gotta be flexibility, utility, and control.

I'm seeing... the first thought is that this is a spellcaster who's focused on the weaker magics for some reason. The other casters keep refining higher and higher levels of spell slots and learning more and more spells to put in them, and these... just keep refining their cantrips. I'm seeing...

Call it a hedge mage, or perhaps a dabbler.

You start with a pile of cantrips, but somewhat more than normal, and not necessarily restricted to one tradition. Your spellcasting proficiency is not tradition-specific. (For example, you might have proficiency in Occult, but you have a class feature that lets you use it for cantrips of any tradition. Possibly you start with 4 occult cantrips and 3 of any tradition... or something.) As you go, you pick up a series of cantrip-only metamagics (some automatically, but you can get more/better with class feats). Some of these might be for specific cantrips, some might be for any cantrip. Most would be free actions, and none of them would be on daily timers. Possibly they have focus metamagic? So, you get a more or less standard supply of focus points, but all of the focus "spells" you get are one-action or free-action metamagics for various cantrips. They also have their class focus cantrips... all of which have relatively minor but useful effects, take a single action, and are flourishes. Their whole thing in combat is mixing and matchign which cantrips, which focus cantrips, and which metamagics they're throwing around. They're still relatively weak on total damage output, and good-but-not-great on raw control... but they have a whole bunch of flexibility. Primary player skill is in picking the right selection of abilities of all three kinds to cover various situations, and then juggling which ones to deploy when.

Subclasses... probably borrow from other classes. Like, you could totally have one of those "lesser alchemist" subclasses (which absolutely should include alchemical tools... and maybe nothing else). You could have one that would just be "You get druid wild shape, and you get access to the druid class feats that require wild shape at the same rate the druid does." You could get one that was just "you get extra class feats at appropriate levels, but they have to be spent on archetypes". You could get one that would get a bunch of extra skill proficiencies... that could only take skills up to trained. I recognize that these are not balanced against one another particularly well, but the point here is that this class is something of a trickster and a dabbler, and their subclass is reaching out to some other area of endeavor and making themselves even more flexible.


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Sanityfaerie wrote:

- It's never going to be a major damage-dealer. It's got more utility than a martial, just from having a pile of cantrips in the first place, and it doesn't have the burst damage concentration of spell slots. "Primary damage dealer" isn't the role.

- It's not going to be a tank. Totally out-of-theme.
- It's not going to be a healer, because in-combat heals tend to be daily resources, for good and sufficient reason.

So it's gotta be flexibility, utility, and control.

That sounds vaguely like Starfinder Witchwarper. Somewhere between Infinite Words (but as a cantrip) and Paradigm Shift effects.


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Apparently I didn't make it clear, but the idea is that the runewords last until your next daily prep and you don't expend them when you activate them. When you write your runewords for the day you are selecting which magical effects you have and where they will come from, similar to a prepared caster working with cantrips.


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BaronOfBread wrote:
Apparently I didn't make it clear, but the idea is that the runewords last until your next daily prep and you don't expend them when you activate them. When you write your runewords for the day you are selecting which magical effects you have and where they will come from, similar to a prepared caster working with cantrips.

So, the 3.5 Binder? He summons and binds his vestiges at the beginning of the day, and he can only bind so many at a time, but while they're bound, the abilities they grant him are mostly inexhaustible (a few have per-day abilities, others had 5-round recharge times, but most were "you do this all day long").

Like that, but with rune-based fluff?


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It would have some similarities to the Binder, in that they choose from a list of "Powers for a day". That said, I don't think the similarities go much past that.

The Runewright should get 3-4 runewords from level 1 instead of the Binder's one vestige until level 7(?) so they have in-the-moment choices right off the bat. The Runewright should also be limited by the action economy instead of cooldowns, mixing various-action abilities together to create something closer to a caster in feel instead of a psuedo-martial with some magical powers. This class could also lean towards a more backline style by putting runewords on other party members that are frontliners, though it would be cool to have a subclass that enables them to frontline by putting all the runewords on themselves.

As I mentioned in my original comment, it would be nice to somehow make use of the existing spell lists instead of making runewords sit by themselves like vestiges do, but I didn't come up with anything I thought was any good for that.

And also the cool rune fluff.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Sanityfaerie wrote:
At the same time, they'd naturally have more than just a pile of standard cantrips, because when you cash in all of your daily slots, you ought to get something back. The trick is what, exactly.

Don’t have anything new to add to this thread, which is why I’ve been quiet (pretty much all my slotless caster ideas I’ve said already), but one suggestion I have for this is not to ignore skills as an alternate power budget. Caster class power budgets are generally too tight for a lot of skill interactions or bonus skill feats, and the exception, bards, kind of proves the wisdom of that restriction. But a slotless caster should have plenty of power budget to spare.

I had a sudden image of a caster that focuses on athletics, acrobatics, and maybe stealth, and gets a lot of magical and semi magical bonuses to using those skills. A himbo wizard, if you will.


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I quite like the idea of flow casters, you start of using an opening at will, then you use a flow focus power level spell and finally a full power spell and then you have to build up again to cast another full power spell.

With the option as you level either to maintain full power for longer (say two turns for two turns build up) or to build up quicker.


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Slotless casters in the Pathfinder universe (including variant rules): Wordcasters, Pacts (since you can bind outsiders to cast for you), Ritualists, Soul, and Kineticist.

If we include 3rd party ideas things expand a lot more, but there is a matter of whether Paizo wants to copy a 3rd party.

Some options Paizo has implied and could expand: Ley lines, Wellsprings, and a few other I might be forgetting.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I'd love to be able to play a character like Sypha Belnades from Netflix Castlevania series. Might work as a kineticist who is also good at ritual casting though.


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So how I imagined a flow caster working would be having spells like this.

Spark (two Actions)
Range 30ft Targets 1
Saving Throw Basic Reflex
Sparks leap at target. You deal electricity damage equal to 1d6 plus your spellcasting ability modifier.
Special: You gain the Charged 1 condition
Heightened (+1) The damage increases by 1d6.

Spark Dance
Actions 2
Duration Sustained
Special: Requires (the Charged 1 condition, gain the charged 2 condition)
Range Self
Electric Sparks Dance around all creatures adjacent to you take 1d6 plus your spellcasting ability modifier electric damage.
Sustained: Sparks continue to dance around you and enemies that hit you with unarmed attacks or metal weapons take 1d6 electric damage.

Heightened (+2 the damage increases by 2d6 for the initial damage and 1d6 for the damage from the sustained effect)

Lightning Bolt (As the third level spell)
Special: Requires Charged 2, Consumes all charges once cast)

So basically full spells are balanced by the fact they can't be cast more than once every three rounds and you stick to elemental spells or ones that aren't problematic if they are cast at will out of combat.

Liberty's Edge

I don't see any way that Rune Casting could be reasonably made or balanced, we already have one historical example of something experimental like this that worked to try and get away from a predefined list of spells, Wordcasting, and that system was best described as DOA as it never received meaningful additional support, it wasn't balanced, and frankly, I'm not sure that many folks even cared enough to TRY it, let alone continue making, using, and appealing for more Wordcaster spellcasting.

A Cantrip Repertoire + Focus Spells + Focus Cantrips + a limited number of daily Innate Spells is as far as I see Paizo going to make any kind of "Slotless Caster" for PF2, otherwise, they'd be repeating their own hard leaned mistakes and would end up publishing 5-10 pages of content for an, at best, optional ruleset/archetype that, at the end of the day, is missing the 35+ years of "playtesting" that traditional Vancian slot casting has had.


siegfriedliner wrote:

So how I imagined a flow caster working would be having spells like this.

Spark (two Actions)
Range 30ft Targets 1
Saving Throw Basic Reflex
Sparks leap at target. You deal electricity damage equal to 1d6 plus your spellcasting ability modifier.
Special: You gain the Charged 1 condition
Heightened (+1) The damage increases by 1d6.

Spark Dance
Actions 2
Duration Sustained
Special: Requires (the Charged 1 condition, gain the charged 2 condition)
Range Self
Electric Sparks Dance around all creatures adjacent to you take 1d6 plus your spellcasting ability modifier electric damage.
Sustained: Sparks continue to dance around you and enemies that hit you with unarmed attacks or metal weapons take 1d6 electric damage.

Heightened (+2 the damage increases by 2d6 for the initial damage and 1d6 for the damage from the sustained effect)

Lightning Bolt (As the third level spell)
Special: Requires Charged 2, Consumes all charges once cast)

So basically full spells are balanced by the fact they can't be cast more than once every three rounds and you stick to elemental spells or ones that aren't problematic if they are cast at will out of combat.

I like this idea, the set up and payoff play style is reminiscent of swashbuckler panache. I might be inclined to simplify it to a focus cantrip that allows you to build up the condition you want before casting your spell but I think it works the way you have it written too. I think it would be important to tie this caster to a spell list, this would allow new spells added to the spell list to become available to the flow caster. I feel like a spell repertoire feels like the way to go after that. Tie the conditions to a spell trait, for instance charged 2 allows you to cast a spell from your repertoire with the electricity trait.


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Themetricsystem wrote:

I don't see any way that Rune Casting could be reasonably made or balanced, we already have one historical example of something experimental like this that worked to try and get away from a predefined list of spells, Wordcasting, and that system was best described as DOA as it never received meaningful additional support, it wasn't balanced, and frankly, I'm not sure that many folks even cared enough to TRY it, let alone continue making, using, and appealing for more Wordcaster spellcasting.

A Cantrip Repertoire + Focus Spells + Focus Cantrips + a limited number of daily Innate Spells is as far as I see Paizo going to make any kind of "Slotless Caster" for PF2, otherwise, they'd be repeating their own hard leaned mistakes and would end up publishing 5-10 pages of content for an, at best, optional ruleset/archetype that, at the end of the day, is missing the 35+ years of "playtesting" that traditional Vancian slot casting has had.

So, you're argument is "we tried doing stuff that wasn't pure vancian casting this one time, it didn't work out all that well, so we must never try it again"? I mean, you're not even supporting your own argument well. Wordcasting was eating daily resources just like slot casting. By contrast, the 3.x warlock/dragonfire adept and the kineticist were both notably slotless casters, and both of them got a fair bit of interest and support.

So... you hate the idea of casters being anything other than this one specific pigeonhole that they've always been? Well, okay. Duly noted. I dont' think you're correct, though. Paizo has been trying out new mechanics and new features with just abotu every new class they've published, one way or another. I don't knwo that they're particularly likely to try an a la carte casting system any time soon, but it looks like slotless is quite plausible.

/************/

but this gets off the topic. We're looking for ideas here. So, for another idea... what about a slotless take on the Intercessor (Inquisitor)? They might or might not have cantrips. What they would have is a lot of focus spells... and a variety of ways to recover focus points. They'd be about as martial as a Magus, with the focus spells (and recharge of same) being the main thing that brought them up to par. So... they might have a few Blessing aura spells (30 foot radius, all allies gain some boon, lasts until end of fight), and some judgement spells (deals some damage immediately, plus a meaningful until-end-of-fight debuff). Class subtypes would be the things that controlled the focus point recovery - like a Martyr subclass that has a reaction that let it take a hit instead of an ally, and regained a focus point when you did, or one that kicked in when you managed a critical hit with a melee weapon. Probably have something in place to say that the recovered points could only be used on Intercessor spells, in order to limit the chances of cheese being an issue.

They'd also get a bunch of feats that gave them action efficiency aroudn their focus spells - like one that would just let you cast a blessing aura as a free action on rolling initiative. That feels like maybe 6-8 to me. You'd have a much higher-level one (16-20) that would let you have two blessings at a time. There'd be some limit that would ensure that you couldn't use more than one Judgement per turn no matter how fast you got your focus points back... and a lvl 20 feat that upped that to 2. In the meantime... judgments would generally be single-action or possibly reaction. There'd be a feat that would let you free-cast a judgement every time your subclass feature fed you the point for it, though. There might be another that gave you a second subclass feature, but if you wanted both of them to let you free-cast, you'd have to take the free-cast feat twice.

You wouldn't need all that many focus spells for them (3-5 blessings, and maybe 5-8 judgments). Their whole thing is running around the battlefield trying to set things up so that their trigger features go off and they get more of the spells to cast. Once they get their focus point, though, the spells are simple, straightforward, and useful. They fire it off at the next good opportunity, and go right back to tryign to earn another.

Admittedly, you'd need a bit of work to make sure that there weren't any really broken multiclass combos, but if you could manage that, I think it would be a fun and flavorful way to play the "divine murderblender" archetype, and it shouldn't be *that* hard to balance.

Liberty's Edge

Sanityfaerie wrote:
So, you're argument is "we tried doing stuff that wasn't pure vancian casting this one time, it didn't work out all that well, so we must never try it again"?

It's not just that it didn't work out well, it's that it was disastrously bad to the point of being nearly unplayable and an immense burden on both the participating player as well as the GM.

You're supposed to learn lessons from mistakes you make, especially as a business, not endlessly repeat them in an attempt to create or support novel concepts and experimental rules... this is even more important when considering that including this kind of gambit would actively tax the book of dozens or more additional options that aren't essentially throwaway playtest rules.

Leaning into interesting new concepts is neat and I think should continue to be encouraged but inventing a whole new unique set of rules that do not and cannot mesh with the existing spellcasting functions and traditions at all is altogether different. They did have plenty of success trying new stuff such as the Arcanist which did break the mold quite a bit, but appealing for a class that requires essentially an entirely new chapter for magic rules and effects isn't something I really think is worth their time nor the consumer's dollar.

Just my 2c though, and I figured I'd chime in given that we've seen the company make almost exactly this kind of mistake in the past in an effort to appease the vancian haters.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

Okay sure, but then they did kineticists and shifters. They even tried to make binders work via the medium class.

So I would say they DID learn, just not the lesson you’re saying they should have. Specifically that slotless casters that play like martials (big hits, good accuracy, limited utility compared to full casters) mostly work.

And also Martial’s that give up accuracy and damage for utility, like the alchemist, are a bit more controversial.


Sanityfaerie wrote:


So, for another idea... what about a slotless take on the Intercessor (Inquisitor)? They might or might not have cantrips. What they would have is a lot of focus spells... and a variety of ways to recover focus points. They'd be about as martial as a Magus, with the focus spells (and recharge of same) being the main thing that brought them up to par. So... they might have a few Blessing aura spells (30 foot radius, all allies gain some boon, lasts until end of fight), and some judgement spells (deals some damage immediately, plus a meaningful until-end-of-fight debuff). Class subtypes would be the things that controlled the focus point recovery - like a Martyr subclass that has a reaction that let it take a hit instead of an ally, and regained a focus point when you did, or one that kicked in when you managed a critical hit with a melee weapon. Probably have something in place to say that the recovered points could only be used on Intercessor spells, in order to limit the chances of cheese being an issue.

What if instead you had free action or reactions with specific triggers that allow you to cast focus spells for free. This would give a similar effect while safeguarding against cheeses without the extra book keeping that restricting regenerated focus points would cause.


Sanityfaerie wrote:

Call it "Spelldancer" or something. It would be kind of like the Magus with recharging spellstrike. You could always enter the stance that you need by just spending the entry action (or actions) but that winds up being really action-inefficient, so instead you engage with the flow of thigns and plan out your moves ahead of time.

You might have one stance, for example (Finale), that took a full three actions to enter, and would let you cast two two-action spells at once (but then immediately release the stance). Rarely worth using that way, as you're basically turning three actions into two, and also later in the fight, but if you can get there by chaining through other stances efficiently, it can be a pretty potent send-off.

Speaking of "Spelldancer".

That used to be a Magus archetype for elves. The basic premise was that instead of Arcane Pool enchanting your weapon, it enchanted your body to be faster/better at avoiding getting hit.

Having said that. I can see a spelldancer working a lot like Swashbuckler's panache but getting more magical effects similar to Monk stances. I am not sure how casting would work thou as I hate bounded casting and I don't think slotless would fit the theme much.


Temperans wrote:
Sanityfaerie wrote:

Call it "Spelldancer" or something. It would be kind of like the Magus with recharging spellstrike. You could always enter the stance that you need by just spending the entry action (or actions) but that winds up being really action-inefficient, so instead you engage with the flow of thigns and plan out your moves ahead of time.

You might have one stance, for example (Finale), that took a full three actions to enter, and would let you cast two two-action spells at once (but then immediately release the stance). Rarely worth using that way, as you're basically turning three actions into two, and also later in the fight, but if you can get there by chaining through other stances efficiently, it can be a pretty potent send-off.

Speaking of "Spelldancer".

That used to be a Magus archetype for elves. The basic premise was that instead of Arcane Pool enchanting your weapon, it enchanted your body to be faster/better at avoiding getting hit.

Having said that. I can see a spelldancer working a lot like Swashbuckler's panache but getting more magical effects similar to Monk stances. I am not sure how casting would work thou as I hate bounded casting and I don't think slotless would fit the theme much.

The "stance based caster" always felt like it would play out like Invoker from DotA 2, you have weird fundamental spell concepts, you burrito them together on the fly, then yeet a fireball, or tornado, or ice blast, or... Though for balance reasons I see that working more as a "points based caster" than "slotless" since that level of flexibility might have the cost of non-infinite use. Or it could not and it's what might actually happen!


This isn't quite what you were asking for but I personally find this 3.5 variant rule extremely interesting: https://dnd-wiki.org/wiki/Mana-Based_Spellcasting_(3.5e_Variant_Rule)

Basically it is a reverse mana system where points go up instead of down. What I particularly like is that you can make it a feature to go beyond you strain limit into your health and basically going all psychic with a bleeding nose from over exertion. I don't think that is quite in the variant, but I personally love that as an option. Taking damage, perhaps becoming enfeebled or something as a result of going over board

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