View Full Version : The Workings of Magic [3e attempted fix, work in progress]

2008-12-13, 05:19 PM
This thread is the start of an attempted fix for 3e magic, hopefully curbing the worst abuses - such as pun-pun - while retaining much of the flavour and style of the existing system, and hopefully extending it.

I'm concentrating mainly on the casting rules and spells here, hopefully getting a single sphere of magic out of the way every few days.

Any work on classes that I do I'll probably post in another thread, and place a link here.

This is the first project that I've posted into a forum, so there will probably be mistakes or points that I may have missed. Any criticism would be greatly appreciated.

Arcane Fields:


These are the new groups into which I've divided spells. Cleric and Druid spells will get a similar treatment, probably with a similar number of groups.

Defensive spells are being slightly harder to work with. They will probably be the last thing I post, because I want to make sure that wizards have no way to become invulnerable. There will be three groups encompassing most Abjurations plus a few other defensive spells.

EDIT - The reason for this massive increase in the number of divisions is that I'm trying to group magic into smaller units, which are all thematically similar. My wizard class will basically have access to 15 or 16 of these arts, plus additional ones purchased with feats if the DM is in a good mood. There will be an option to specialise through feats as well. My specialisation mechanics are going to apply equally to sorcerers and provide the basis of metamagic in my system, rather than extra spell slots.

Contingency and Permanency are not going to be spells. They will probably be class features, and quite limited.

2008-12-13, 05:22 PM
This post is mostly concerned with new descriptors and rules that might apply to a range of Arts.

Effects belonging to any sphere may have one of the following new descriptors:

An Enduring enchantment cannot be dispelled, except by Break Enchantment, spells which explicitly state that they can break enchantments and specific reversal spells. A character who has an enduring spell known or prepared can expend it to cast the specific reversal spell (essentially the final incantation is spoken backwards). Many Enduring spells have risks associated with being broken by anyone other than the original caster.

An Undying enchantment carries sufficient power that it cannot be dispelled by normal means, short of a Final, Epic or Deific effect. The exception is reversal by the original caster*. Non-final spells of this level often require additional components in order to affect unwilling targets.

An Eternal spell is always permanent, and cannot be dispelled except by specific means detailed in the spell description, or reversal by the original caster.

A bound spell has at its core an expensive mundane item. This item carries the energy of the spell as well as whatever it restrains. The spell can be ended by destroying its bound item. There may be restrictions on the means used to destroy the bound item. In some cases, a spell may be cast which will automatically shatter the Bound Item.

A Final effect represents the pinnacle of non-epic mortal spellcasting, and is capable of things which would be completely impossible for a lesser spell. Most Final spells are the most powerful effect in their particular sphere. Wish, Reality Revision and Miracle are the most prominent examples of Final spells. However, other examples include Freedom, True Resurrection and Mage's Disjunction.

Other new rules:

Craft points (or preventing XP expenditure):
The most powerful supernatural effects in the game require additional magical resources to manifest, particularly the spell types described above. These resources are represented by what I am currently referring to as a 'Craft Pool'. A spell or ability may incur a Craft cost, indicated by the CP component line. A character should probably get about 10-12 points of Craft per level - d4+8 sounds about right. At present, that generally implies that no more than one really powerful effect or spell will be performed each level. I will probably rework that in the near future.

Magical Bonuses to Skills:
A magical effect can make a task easier for someone to accomplish, or provide the means for someone to reach an end, but it cannot make an unskilled character into a skilled one. This means that only those with actual skill in a given field can exploit magic designed to make these skills easier.

As a result, the bonus a character can gain from magical skill bonuses is capped at 4 + half the character's ranks in the skill in question. Exceptional magical effects, such as Invisibility may be able to bypass this rule.

Magical Enhancements to ability scores:

Only the most powerful magic can fundamentally alter a character's being. When this happens, it is permanent.

A character's 'ability score', or 'fundamental ability score' is the value determined at character creation, plus any bonuses applied from levels, and any Inherent Bonus applied. Spells and abilities with an effect controlled or determined by an 'ability score' refer to this attribute.

A character's 'effective ability score' is usually the same, but also includes bonuses from spells, worn magic items and also any penalties due to poison, curses and debuff spells. This score is cross-referenced against tables to determine ability modifiers, and so has more scope than the fundamental ability score.

Spells and Uses of spells:
Some spells can be used in ways other than simple casting - for example, a Water Breathing can be cast as a hanging spell which casts itself when needed. A spell cannot be made permanent or contingent, or stored in a casting item (wand, power stone, scroll, potion, staff, psicrown or similar) unless specified in its description.

Access to and learning spells:
I'm planning on introducing a feat-based system for gaining access to spells, in addition to the current in-game activity requirements. This will resemble the way in which fighters work - feats that improve spellcasting in an Art in which you are proficient will become available. The idea is that Art Specialisation will enable you to apply metamagic or other advanced abilities to spells from that sphere, while the metamagic system will become a class feature. In this way, mages will have to choose between flexibility, and having a wider range of available spells.

2008-12-13, 05:24 PM
The Art of Death is one of the darkest and most innaccessible spheres of magic in existence. In many mage circles, merely coming into possesion of a scroll or tome of the Art is grounds for the death sentence, carried out immediately, without mercy, and without regard to extenuating circumstances. The Art allows a mage or a theurgist to attack the life force of an enemy directly, weakening them, injuring them and even killing them.

At the DM's discretion, the weakest spells of this Art might be tolerated in mage circles. The more powerful spells are likely to be very rare, and found only in the most evil and depraved circles. (but there are probably a few archmages with a few of these scrolls on hand). These spells are intended to be scary, but I am trying to make blasting more effective than save-or-die effects. These spells will be quite exclusive, and not necessarily worth the effort to acquire. In mechanical terms, there will be feat expenditure required to acquire them for many magic users, and RP and fluff effects will probably be relatively harsh.

Spells of the Art of Death allow a mage to kill, enervate or fatigue enemies. Any spell belonging to this art, even if it does not have the [death] descriptor, is considered a 'death effect' and can be warded against by certain spells.

None of these spells can affect undead, constructs or objects. They are also incredibly obscure, even by Arcane magic standards. This is reflected in the prerequisites for the spell mastery feats pertaining to these spells.

The following common rules apply to all of these spells:

A spell with the [Death] or [Weakness] descriptor can be used to kill or weaken an opponent. Spells with the [Death] descriptor are only able to affect targets with up to a certain limiting number of hitpoints, and in addition, most permit a save to their targets as well. If the save is failed, the target is killed and cannot be resurrected, reincarnated or otherwise revived for the listed spell duration. This is usually permanent but can be dispelled by powerful magic. Both descriptors indicate that the spell is part of the field of Death magic, and therefore cannot affect a target with immunity to death effects.

2008-12-13, 05:51 PM
The following Core spells are considered part of the Art of Death:
Touch of Fatigue (gains the [weakness] descriptor) Ray of Enfeeblement (gains the [weakness] descriptor) Chill Touch (gains the [weakness] descriptor) Ray of exhaustion (gains the [weakness] descriptor) Vampiric Touch (gains the [weakness] descriptor) Enervation (gains the [weakness] descriptor) Waves of Fatigue (gains the [weakness] descriptor - yawn!) Death Spell(will replace Circle of Death) Waves of Exhaustion (gains the [weakness] descriptor) Finger of Death (see new version below) Power Word, Kill (see new version below) Wail of the Banshee (see new version below) Energy Drain (gains the [weakness] descriptor)

These spells are all quite useful to casters. The prohibition on metamagic is because many of these spells have variable hit point limits. Against a character with poor Fortitude saves, an empowered Finger of Death - or a Maximised Death Spell - is going to easily defeat them. Direct damage effects should now easily outstrip these revised save-or-dies, because they do at least as much damage on a failed save as the new spell hp limits!

2008-12-13, 06:26 PM
I'm a bit wary of Save-or-Die spells, so I've made a few changes. These spells now change saving throw type depending on the target's hp - weaker targets use their weakest save while strong targets use a strong save. This makes direct damage quite handy, as it offers the chance to debuff people's saves against these spells - which have been made scarier by introducing the option to burn some Craft/Essence/Spirit/Personal Power to prevent the target's resurrection (except by truly awesome spells)

Death Spell
Necromancy [Death, Undying]
Level: Art of Death 6 (Sor/Wiz 6)
Components: V,S,CP
Casting Time: Standard Action
Range: Medium (100ft + 10ft/level)
Area: 40ft burst
Target: One living creature
Duration: Permanent(Undying); see text
Saving Throw: Fortitude, Reflex or Will negates (see text)
Spell Resistance: Normal
Common Defenses: Death Ward, various class features

This potent spell can kill multiple creatures within its area, but is most effective against weak creatures. Any creature in the area which fails to save is slain, but the spell cannot affect a target with hitpoints greater than four times your caster level.

As an area effect, it may be possible to evade the full force of this spell, while as a death effect it targets the creature's soul, and might be equally resisted by force of will or sheer physical endurance. A creature with 20 or fewer hitpoints remaining must use its weakest saving throw bonus against the spell. In contrast, a target with 21 or more hitpoints may use its strongest saving throw bonus with an additional +2.

If you paid the higher Craft Cost, then a target slain by this spell is bound by a powerful enchantment which blocks resurrection magic from working on them. This can be undone by an appropriate spell with the [Final] descriptor, or you may personally end the enchantment.

Craft Cost: 0 points or 10 points. You may choose which when casting, but before determining results.
Additional Uses: This spell may be scribed, but not employed in casting items or as a contingent effect. For some targets, this spell also has a permanent effect.

Finger of Death

Necromancy [Death, Undying]
Level: Art of Death 7 (Sor/Wiz 7; Drd 8)
Components: V,S,CP
Casting Time: Standard Action
Range: Close (25ft+5ft/2 levels)
Target: One living creature
Duration: Permanent(Undying); see text
Saving Throw: Fortitude or Will partial (see text)
Spell Resistance: Normal
Common Defenses: Death Ward, various class features

This spell potentially kills a target and prevents their revivification except under certain circumstances. If the target saves, they take 3d6 damage, +1 point per caster level. Any creature who fails to save or is reduced to zero or fewer hitpoints is slain.

Death magic targets a creature's soul, and could be resisted through both force of will and sheer physical endurance. A creature with 40 or fewer hp must use the weaker of its Fortitude save or its Will save, while a creature with 41 or more hp uses the stronger save. A weakened creature is naturally easier to affect.

If you paid the higher Craft Cost, then a target slain by this spell is bound by a powerful enchantment which blocks resurrection magic from working on them. This can be undone by an appropriate spell with the [Final] descriptor, or you may personally end the enchantment.

Craft Cost: 0 Craft or 5 Craft. You may choose which cost to pay at the time of casting, but must do so before determining the final results of the spell.
Additional Uses: May be bound into a scroll. May not be enhanced by metamagic, or bound into items.

Wail of the Banshee
Necromancy [death, sonic, undying, final]
Level: Art of Death 9
Components: V,CP
Casting Time: Standard Action
Range: Close (25ft + 5ft/2 levels)
Duration: Permanent(Undying); see text
Targets: Up to one living creature per caster level
Saves: Fortitude, Reflex or Will negates
Spell Resistance: Normal
Common Defenses: Silence, Death Ward, Bardic Countersong
You emit a piercing screech which can kill and maim those who hear it. Living creatures and characters in the area can be affected if they have 150 or fewer hitpoints remaining. If the target has 40hp or fewer, then they must use their weakest save against this spell. If the target has 41hp or more, they may use their strongest save. In all cases, a successful save means that the target survives, and a failure means that they are slain.

If you paid the higher Craft Cost, then a target slain by this spell is bound by a powerful enchantment which blocks resurrection magic from working on them. This can be undone by an appropriate spell with the [Final] descriptor, or you may personally end the enchantment.
Craft Cost: 5 or 15 points. You may choose which when you cast the spell, before determining the result.
Additional Uses: May be scribed, but not used as a contingent spell or casting item.

Power Word, Kill
Universal [death, final]
Level Art of Death 9
Components: V
Casting Time: Standard Action
Range: Close (25ft. + 5ft/2 levels) or 5+(1/2 CL) squares
Target: One living creature
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: not permitted
Spell Resistance: Normal
Common Defenses: Death Ward

One of the most dreaded spells known to any mage, this devastating spell can kill, maim or stun a single opponent.

The targeted creature does not receive a saving throw against the effect.

If they have 60 hitpoints or fewer, the target is killed instantly.

If they have between 61 and 120 hitpoints, the target suffers d6 damage per caster level, is blinded for d4+1 minutes and stunned for d4 rounds

A target with between 121 and 180 hitpoints takes d6 damage per caster level, and is stunned for d4 rounds.

A target with 181 hitpoints or more takes d6 damage per caster level
Craft Cost: 5 points
Additional Uses: May be scribed.

2008-12-14, 10:24 AM
I'm making a change to the instant death spells - all of them will now have a randomly-determined hitpoint limit, except for Power Word: Kill. Additionally, most will still permit saves. However, they will revert back to save-or-die.

The balancing factor is that the restrictions on bringing back someone who died due to a death effect will be much harsher. I want death to be more dangerous in general - at present, it is sometimes worse to fight a rust monster and kill it than it is to die fighting the Tarrasque (105,450gp for a raise dead, 200,000gp for a sword - and I've doubled the estimated cost of the lost level as well.)

As before, please feel free to critique, yoink, adapt or comment on anything you see in this thread.

Baron Corm
2008-12-14, 12:52 PM
Power Word: Kill's 60-100 effect is MUCH less harmful than its 100+ effect. Stunned for d4 rounds with no save or other conditions is too powerful for any spell.

Death Spell would not likely be taken by any adventurer. I don't think it's common for your enemies to resurrect themselves, and the spell otherwise deals equivalent damage to a 3rd level spell, except without the damage part if it doesn't kill them, and it sometimes offers two saves. I suppose it does have its uses, if you're killing a BBEG and you don't want him to come back, but it really takes the POW out of death spells; you might as well get rid of them altogether, and create a line of "prevent resurrection" spells. Some of these already exist, too. I can think of two: barghest's feast (Spell Compendium I think) and trap the soul.

Edit: A little note on the balance of the other two: Finger of Death seems about equivalent to delayed blast fireball and Wail of the Banshee seems about equivalent to meteor swam.

2008-12-14, 01:20 PM
I see what you mean - a blinded target can still act, even if they are flat-footed against any attack. The idea was to ensure that Power Word: Kill competes with Finger of Death, by having it also incorporate the lesser Power Word effects.

Death Spell is basically Circle of Death, which has never really felt like a big deal to me. I'm trying to increase its utility to 'finisher'.

EDIT - I've changed the description of the Power Word: Kill. The 61-120hp effect now includes a 2d4 round stun, and stunning is capped at 180hp (after which the spell just does damage)

I've also tried a few different systems. Finger of Death and Wail of the Banshee should now be at a 'fair' level of balance. They work best as finishing attacks. They probably aren't worth what it costs to actually acquire them (I'm currently designing a character class to use the revised system)

I've also made a few changes to some of the spells, which now have a chance of targeting a weaker saving throw if the target is below a certain number of hitpoints - with the tradeoff being that they target a stronger save if the target has many hitpoints.

2008-12-14, 03:03 PM
Spells of the Fallen:
The Art of Death is not the only forbidden art of magic. It also has an even darker cousin, known variously as the Art of Undeath, the Realm of the Dead or the Art of Awakening. While the Art of Death enables a mage to attack the life force of his enemies, this Art allows the mage to command those he slays, binding their spirits and infusing their bodies with unholy power. Such power does not come without danger, however, for the wizard may lose control of his creations. Such an event means certain death for the wizard, but these uncontrolled undead remain a danger...

These spells allow a mage to command and raise the undead. Additionally, they include spells that allow the caster to take on some of the powers of the undead, and which bolster the undead against an enemy. Many of these spells are probably going to become nastier. Like the Art of Death, the key word is 'scary'.

In this case, I will probably enhance the undead you can create. I'm also trying to reduce the reliance on Command Undead against your own creations.

A couple of necromancy spells which defend against the undead will be moved to one of the Abjuration-themed spheres of magic.

I'm also having a little trouble thinking of an adequately evocative and descriptive name for this sphere. 'Spells of the Fallen' is the current plan.

2008-12-15, 12:10 PM
List of Spells for the sphere of Awakening:
0th - Disrupt Undead (deal d6 damage to an Undead) 1st - Cause Fear (One target is frightened for d4 rounds) 2nd - Ghoul Touch (Paralyses an opponent who then exudes a sickening stench) 2nd - Spectral Hand (extrude some of your own life force as a disembodied hand that delivers touch attacks) 2nd - Command Undead (undead creature is charmed; or falls under your control if nonintelligent) Scare Halt Undead (Up to three Undead are held for 1 round/level or until targets take damage) Animate Dead (Creates skeletons and zombies, but will get much cooler, trust me) Magic Jar (Enables possesion of another creature, whose soul is trapped in a receptacle) Create Undead (Creates intelligent undead) Control Undead (gives you total control of any undead for a short time) Clone (makes a duplicate of a creature which awakens on its death) Create Greater Undead (Creates more powerful intelligent undead) Soul Bind (Imprisons the soul of a dead creature in a gem, which can be mined for Craft Points)

2008-12-16, 10:25 AM
The Art of Fate

I'll try and work out the fluff, but I expect to end up creating a divine prestige class dedicated to preventing this manipulation of Fate at some point. Probably once I've finished grouping all of the spells and figuring out what to add.

Sorry for the sudden shift in focus. I'll put the remaining spell re-writes up after the spell lists, and then get rid of the Death Spell Re-write list. I've kind of rethought this, and I'd probably like to start playtesting all of the Arts and Aspects.

The Art of Fate comprises the following spells:

True Strike (gain a +10 Luck bonus on your next attack roll). I've cut the bonus, but Luck bonuses = easier stacking cheese until I cut quickening these spells.
Heroism (now grants luck bonuses to make a particular creature stronger in battle)
Keen Edge (you get lucky strikes in more often)
Bestow Curse (target suffers a debilitating curse)
Remove Curse (target is relieved of any curses)
Geas (conditional curse which affects subject if they fail to complete some task)
Eyebite (possibly the 3.0 version)
Limited Wish (Craft Cost!)
Wish (Craft Cost!)

This one will probably need the most work. Curselikes feel like they should be an entire niche of magic, along with some positive spells, so expect this Art to get a whole load of new spells.

I'd like to apologise for the less than frequent updates as well.

2008-12-17, 11:32 AM
The Art of Summoning:
The Summoners are a small sect of magi from the deep south with the cabacity to bind creatures from beyond their own plane into service. They are prepared to teach their lore to any who seek it.

Summoners and Weavers are generally tolerated amongst other mages. Summoners are some of the better battle magi, and their followers can be exceptionally powerful. Such creatures do, however, often need payment.

I'm planning on cutting low-level summoning spells during the re-work, instead moving to a Least Summons, Lesser Summons, Greater Summons model. I'm also considering the possibility of throwing out the Vancian model for theurges (Clerics and Druids), in favour of a Pathfinder Paladin style healing pool, with side powers (and no spells) as granted by their chosen Aspects

The Following Spells can be considered part of the Art of Summonning:

Summon Monster I - IX - nine spells, each providing a list of monster options and the option to summon one of the spell's level, or two or more of a lower level.
Planar Binding, Lesser - attempts to trap a creature of up to 8HD until it submits to service
Planar Binding - As Lesser Planar Binding, but up to 16HD
Planar Binding, Greater - As Lesser Planar Binding, but up to 24HD
Broken Summons - Calls a powerful and possibly unique being from another plane

Note: Broken Summons is just a renamed Gate. I've left it as a stopgap until I re-write these spells. Naturally, you should only use this spell as a calling spell, if at all(!)