I love wizards but I really hate prepared casting. I was thinking of what ways I might make it more enjoyable, and wanted to run it by others to check for something glaringly obvious before taking it for a test run.
The first change is that a wizards bonus spells from their school (this is ignoring universalists, which I will probably continue doing) are cast spontaneously as signature spells. I don't foresee a ton of issues with this change, it's a slight power boost, but I don't think enough of one to fuss over.
The second change is that there are no longer prepared spells. While spellslots remain the same, spells are cast by consulting the spellbook directly, which I'm thinking should require an extra action and/or an Arcana check. This is where I'm not too sure on how to balance it.
My first thought is to make it cost an extra action (or take 1.5x as long) and require an arcana check using the Learn a Spell DC's. Crit Success would cast the spell without requiring the extra action/time, Success would cast the spell with the extra action/time, Failure would mean the spell fails but you keep the spell slot, and Crit Failure would mean the spell fails and you lose the spell slot.
This means Assurance is helpful on the lower level spells, but you still have to roll for your higher level spells, or if you want to try and preserve your action economy.
I'm also thinking that if you cast spells from your school from the spellbook, you automatically get a degree of success higher.
I really want to make wizards be more thematically distinct, both from other wizards and other spellcasters in game, while still preserving their iconic thing (their spellbook). I also wanted to try and help with my personal decision paralysis that always happens with prepared casters. This change manages to both give more options (you have your entire spellbook to choose from), while making the decision making process easier (for me at least, it's easier to decide what's best right here and now rather than decide what might be best later). And even if the choices are still hard, you have a base pool of options that should always be thematic.
Thank you in advance for any thoughts or critiques.
Making casting spells cost more actions would probably make it unplayable. 3-action spells would literally be uncastable. 2-action spells (the most common type) would take your entire turn to cast - meaning that you couldn't also move or do any other defensive actions. Even Shield as a 2-action spell would be a huge disadvantage to just using a buckler.
I would recommend just using the more arcanist style of Flexible Casting and just tinker with it a bit. Remove the spell slot cost if that is a deal-breaker and make each spell only castable at the level that it was prepared at (rather than being able to heighten to any spell level at will).
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Well, generally taking the guessing game out of prepared spellcasting is going to make the casting more powerful. It means that you don't risk having unused spell slots at the end of the day.
Spontaneous spellcasting compensates for this by locking you into a specific spell list for entire adventures at a time. You can swap out spells during downtime or to a limited extent during leveling up mid-adventure.
But compensating for being able to cast any spell in your spellbook by using more actions seems a bit high. Another option to look at is something similar to the Spell Substitution Wizard thesis. Maybe a 1-action to swap out a spell for a different spell in your spellbook. You would still cast the spell normally, so you could split the action cost across different rounds - like reloading a crossbow on one round and firing it on a different one. The benefit being that you aren't locking yourself in place and defenseless for an entire round or two in order to cast anything.
I'll note that the "one-action swap" cost effectively means that they can reshuffle effortlessly between fights. They also have full access to their spellbook in every encounter that's even a bit slower than combat time, which is *huge*. That's really the biggest issue as I see it. For comparison, the alchemist gets a version of "I can cast any spell in my spellbook at will" and pays *through the nose* for it. The Sepll Substitution thesis gives you access to that ability... but it costs 10 minutes for every slot you do it with.
Boosting by a degree of success is effectively giving yourself +10 to hit while also ensuring that you cannot critfail. That's... broken. Don't do that.
You came here with an opening statement that boils down to "I really like wizards, but I want to make them even more awesome". That's a dangerous place to start from in general. PF2 really doesn't need the return of the kind of wizard that trivializes half of the rest of the party.
Unfortunately, I don't really know what the right answer to this is. I will say that considering the Spell Substitution Thesis might be useful for trying to balance the thing.
My issue with the adding an action is that it pretty much ruins meta magic for wizards, which is a lot of their most thematic feats. If you don’t like meta magic feats and this homebrew is for your own table, then that might not matter but it will be difficult for people to build many different types of wizards with this system.
The spell substitution thesis comes very close to what your goal here is, it just can’t happen in combat. Maybe consider designing a feat that lets you do the spell slot flexing in combat once per day and see what that does to game balance at your table?
My issue with the adding an action is that it pretty much ruins meta magic for wizards, which is a lot of their most thematic feats. If you don’t like meta magic feats and this homebrew is for your own table, then that might not matter but it will be difficult for people to build many different types of wizards with this system.The spell substitution thesis comes very close to what your goal here is, it just can’t happen in combat. Maybe consider designing a feat that lets you do the spell slot flexing in combat once per day and see what that does to game balance at your table?
You could even have a series of them. Require the Spell Substitution thesis so that you don't have to worry too much about costing in the out-of-combat utility effects. First feat lets you change 1/day as a free action (lvl 1 or 2). Second (6 to 8ish?) lets you recharge via refocus or 10-minute "manual" substitution. Third lets you just do it at will and is probably somewhere in the lvl 14-18 range.
In PF1, prepared casters could leave some of their slots empty during daily prep, and as a ~15m activity prepare spells into those later in the day. Maybe that's something to bring back, as a 10m activity?
You'd need to alter spell substitution a bit otherwise it becomes irrelevant, but this might boost the adaptiveness of prepared casters a bit. Pretty often, you do have a good spell for a particular dungeon, but only after the first one or two encounters do you know what kind of theme you're dealing with.
So, keeping the actions at the normal, so as not to bite metamagic which is also supposed to be a wizard thing (there's even a thesis for it).
PF2 really doesn't need the return of the kind of wizard that trivializes half of the rest of the party.
I mean, PF1 wizards did that with overwhelming spells. I don't think making spell options a bit more flexible is really on the same level.
Flex Prep is honestly close to a solution, it just feels kind of expensive for what it gives you (which I think is kind of telling about strong this kind of option actually is) ... and it feels kind of bad your school slots still work normally. Feel like tweaking that is a good starting point.
... making some adjustments to Flex Prep might make it more functional for other classes too, because as rough as Flex prep Wizard feels, Flex Witch and Flex Magus feel like an absolute joke (Paizo really phoned in these casting archetypes).