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    Default Skill-based casting system [3.5] [peach]

    Skill-Based Spellcasting System

    Just about every class requires a d20 roll to see if they succeed with an action, be it an attack, a skill, whatever. In combat, no class can function without one. That is, no class except a spellcaster (I’m including psionic manifesting classes in this category). They automatically succeed in casting their spells, rarely needing to roll except with a ray or a touch attack. I think that’s crap.

    Spellcasters are channeling cosmic flippin’ forces, but never need to make a check to make sure they don’t get fried. If there was an electrician skill, there’d be checks to see if he got zapped, even with relatively low amounts of electricity. Casters are channeling more power than a high-tension line leaving a power plant, but never need to worry about it. I created this system to change that. If you like your casters the way they are, you needn’t read any further.

    I decided that there should be a Spellcasting skill. Then, as I thought about it more, I decided that there should be more than one. I thought each school of magic was different enough in thought and execution that there should be a skill for each (thank you, Harry Dresden). While different, there are enough similarities that there will be synergies between them. I also thought there should be penalties for failure. If they’re channeling that much energy, Very Bad Things should happen if they screw up.

    I don’t think it should end up very complicated, but more rolls per round will be required.

    I checked the SRD for a guide for setting the DCs for each spell level. Then I checked the maximum skill ranks a person could have at each level. I also guestimated what the average stat bonus would be at each level. I wished to make it reasonably easy for the lower-level spells and much more difficult (and dangerous) for the higher level spells. The table below is what I came up with.

    {table=head]Caster level|Spell level| DC |Max Ranks|Avg. Stat Bonus
    --|
    0
    |
    10
    |
    4
    |
    +2

    1|
    1
    |
    13
    |
    4
    |--
    2| -- | -- |
    5
    | --
    3|
    2
    |
    16
    |
    6
    | --
    4| -- | -- |
    7
    | --
    5|
    3
    |
    19
    |
    8
    |
    +3

    6| -- | -- |
    9
    | --
    7|
    4
    |
    22
    |
    10
    | --
    8| -- | -- |
    11
    | --
    9|
    5
    |
    25
    |
    12
    |
    +4

    10| -- | -- |
    13
    | --
    11|
    6
    |
    29
    |
    14
    | --
    12| -- | -- |
    15
    | --
    13|
    7
    |
    33
    |
    16
    |
    +5

    14| -- | -- |
    17
    | --
    15|
    8
    |
    37
    |
    18
    | --
    16| -- | -- |
    19
    | --
    17|
    9
    |
    41
    |
    20
    |
    +6

    18| -- | -- |
    21
    | --
    19| -- | -- |
    22
    | --
    20| -- | -- |
    23
    |
    +7 or more
    [/table]

    For epic spells, add +5 to the DC for each additional spell level.

    Now, obviously a spellcaster with 2 skill points per level won’t be able to do much. I considered just increasing their skills per level, or giving them a few “free” skill points per level for casting skills. I finally decided to go with 4 skills per level, with full caster classes getting an additional +1 skill per level that must be placed in a spellcasting skill. I figured that a caster could keep max ranks in 2-3 schools easily this way, and still have decent ranks in other skills. They’ll no longer be able to be masters of every school, which I think is a good thing.

    This will likely end up favoring Int-based casters more than other casters – they’ll get extra skill slots and a higher bonus to their check while only needing one stat to do it. The only solutions I can think of is to: a) remove Int as a casting stat, and just use Wis and Cha, or b) use Con as the casting stat for all casters. Those present their own set of problems, though. Suggestions?

    SPELLCASTING (Int, Wis, or Cha; Trained only, Class only)
    Check: You can cast spells of a certain school of magic. The DC is based upon spell level (see table).
    Action: As spell being cast, or as per Spellcraft (for identification effects)
    Try Again: No, see Failure table for any penalties.
    Take 10: Yes, if you are not threatened.
    Take 20: No.
    Special: There are eight different subcategories of Spellcasting. Each must be taken separately. They are: Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, and Transmutaion. All Arcane casters gain Universal as a free skill (bonus equals the highest bonus of known schools).

    If you are a specialist wizard, you gain a +2 on Spellcasting checks in your specialty school. If you have the Magical Aptitude feat, you gain a +2 on Spellcasting checks to two schools (chosen at the time the feat is chosen).

    Clerics and other divine casters use their highest modifier for their Domain spells, they do not have a separate skill for Domain spells.

    Synergies: If you have 5 or more ranks in Knowledge: Arcana, you gain a +2 to all Spellcasting checks (arcane spellcasters). If you have 5 or more ranks in Religion: (your deity), you gain a +2 on all Spellcasting checks (divine spellcasters).
    For every 5 ranks you have in one school of Spellcasting, you gain a +1 to all other Spellcasting schools you have ranks in.
    If you have 5 or more ranks in Spellcasting, you gain a +2 to Use Magic Device checks (specific to school).

    {table=head]Spell Level| DC
    0|10
    1|13
    2|16
    3|19
    4|22
    5|25
    6|29
    7|33
    8|37
    9|41[/table]

    MANIFESTING (Int, Wis, or Cha; Trained only, Class only)
    Check: You can manifest powers of a certain psionic discipline. The DC is based upon power level (see table).
    Action: As power being manifested, or as per Psicraft (for identification effects)
    Try Again: No, see Failure table for any penalties.
    Take 10: Yes, if you are not threatened.
    Take 20: No.
    Special: There are six different subcategories of Manifesting. Each must be taken separately. They are: Psychometabolism, Psychokinesis, Psychoportation, Clarsentience, Metacreativity, and Telepathy.

    If you are a psion, you gain a +2 on Manifesting checks in your specialty discipline. If you have the Psionic Affinity feat, you gain a +2 on manifesting checks to two disciplines (chosen at the time the feat is chosen).

    Synergies: If you have 5 or more ranks in Knowledge: Psionics, you gain a +2 to all Manifesting checks.
    For every 5 ranks you have in one discipline of Manifesting, you gain a +1 to all other Manifesting disciplines you have ranks in.
    If you have 5 or more ranks in Manifesting, you gain a +2 to Use Psionic Device checks (specific to discipline).

    {table=head]Spell Level| DC
    0|10
    1|13
    2|16
    3|19
    4|22
    5|25
    6|29
    7|33
    8|37
    9|41[/table]

    Metamagic and Spellcasting checks:

    Use the new spell level as the base DC for the check.

    Spellcasting checks and Spell-Like Abilities:

    SLA’s are also subject to skill checks and failure. However, SLA’s, due to their innate nature, do not suffer penalties for check failure. The DC for an SLA is 10 + spell level. Casters use their relevant spellcasting modifier, while non-casters use their Hit Die + appropriate stat modifier (if any) as their modifier. Warlocks count as casters (Cha) , but have only one spellcasting skill. Their skill points become 4 per level, but they will not gain the +1 skill point per level for their spellcasting skill.

    Familiars/focus items:

    Having a familiar or focus item becomes important. A familiar helps a caster focus his energy for casting. A focus item is any specially prepared item (wand, staff, ring, amulet, crystal, etc) the caster uses to focus his energy for casting. This can include Item Familiars, Imbued Staffs, etc. Gaining a focus item will require a new feat (or be an ACF to Familiars) except in the case of Item Familiars or Imbued Staffs. The cost/time for creating a focus item is the same as the cost/time for summoning a familiar. A caster will either: a) gain a +2 bonus to their check if they have a familiar (within arms’ reach) or focus (in physical contact), or b) suffer a -2 penalty to their check if they don’t. I prefer option b, myself, but you can decide which is right for your game. You can have both a familiar and a focus (or multiple foci, with a separate feat for each), but you can only gain the benefit from one at a time. Perhaps you should need a separate focus for each school? Nah…

    Failing a Spellcasting check

    {table=head]Miss by|Effect (cumulative) (X=spell level)
    1-2|Failure
    2-4|Cannot cast spells for X rounds
    5-6|Xd4 nonlethal damage
    7-8|fatigued X minutes
    9-10|Xd4 nonlethal damage, Xd4 nonlethal damage 5’ radius
    11-12|Stunned X rounds
    13-14|X Constitution burn, cannot cast X minutes
    15-16|X Casting stat burn, Xd6 lethal damage, Xd6 lethal damage X x 5’ radius
    17-18|Cannot cast for X hours
    19-20|Dead, body reduced to ashes[/table]

    All damage is typeless damage, not subject to DR, ER, or any other R, and bypasses regeneration (caster only).

    A natural 20 does not grant automatic success. It does remove any penalty effect beyond failure of the spell.

    A natural 1 means automatic spell failure.

    Other modifiers to the DC and/or check bonus:

    Casting Defensively gives you a -4 to your check (you’re concentrating on NOT being a target, and it impairs your casting)

    Arcane spell failure gives a -1 to your check per 5%

    You have a -1 to your check per 2? Or 1? hit point damage you received that round, -1 per 3? Or 2? hit points of continuous damage per round.

    Some of the feats will need a little alteration to work with this system.

    Arcane Focus: you may take 15 on a Spellcraft check (instead of a Concentration check) by expending your focus. Your focus check is a Spellcraft check (your highest bonus) instead of a Concentration check.

    Combat Casting: replace “Concentration check” with “Spellcasting check”

    Feats that increase caster level (such as Arcane Thesis) will apply to only one school, and increase the maximum ranks you can put in that school by the CL bonus, in addition to increasing the caster level.

    Feats that grant a bonus to Spellcraft (like Precocious Apprentice), will grant that bonus only to the Spellcraft aspect of Spellcasting, not the actual Casting checks.

    The Mage Slayer line of feats also imposes a -4 Spellcasting penalty to any threatened caster, and a -8 penalty to Spellcasting for the feat user. These are cumulative for each feat in the line (to a total of -12 / -24).

    That’s what I’ve got. Now tell me what you think.
    Last edited by Melayl; 2010-04-11 at 07:25 PM.

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    Default Re: Skill-based casting system [3.5]

    Since the damage taken during casting adds 1 to the DC per damage, I would say general damage that round should be +1 DC/2 points, making continuous damage +1 DC/3 points.

    I've always had an idea for a skill-based casting system, I'm glad someone else has taken initiative on it.

    Familiar/Focus should be -2 penalty if it's not near/equipped, in my opinion.

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    Default Re: Skill-based casting system [3.5]

    Addressing your observation that such a system favors those with higher intelligence, I propose that divine magic is not spellcasting per se, but requesting a miracle. So you use the Appeal (wis) skill, identical to your spellcasting skill, except that in the case of failure there is no bad effects, your deity was just not willing to expend divine power at that time, probably because you forgot a sacrifice or some such. Perhaps clerics get a +2 bonus for casting domain spells.

    Sorcerers on the other hand, for one, have fewer spells to cast, so are more predisposed to focus on fewer schools that a wizard, so will need fewer points. Additionally, magic is in their blood, it is natural for them. As such they get a flat +2 bonus on all spellcasting skills related to using sorcery.

    Bards get to be the exception to the rule, they only use a single skill for all schools, perform, because their magic is not of the same sort of other spellcasters (that is channeling arcane energy or asking a deity to channel said energy through you) but is rather unique. However Bardic music may never benefit from Still, Silent, or Quicken spell feats and all Bardic music spells require semantic and verbal components regardless of whether the spell normally lacks them. Maybe allow exceptions, such as a bard who is a mime casts all spells with the benefit of a silent spell feat, with no level adjustment, but because he is a spontaneous caster this results in all his spells taking a full round to cast.

    Wilders work as wizards, Psychic warriors can have just as many ranks as a Psion in a skill, but they have lower level powers and so the DCs are lowered. They don't need anything else.

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    Default Re: Skill-based casting system [3.5]

    Thank you both for your comments.

    @Kuma Kode:
    I agree on the familiar/focus penalty instead of bonus. As to the penalty from damage, I haven't run any numbers yet to see what an "average" amount of damage might be, so I don't yet know which I favor.

    @Ihala:
    I'll think on your suggestions. I'm not sure thats the direction I want to take, but I definitely appreciate the feedback. As to divine casting, I have (on a far back burner) a feat-and-skill based system that they will use instead of this (when it actually gets done). It is inspired by/based on a thread on the Wizards' boards some years ago.

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    Default Re: Skill-based casting system [3.5] [peach]

    I really like it! There could one for Tome of Battle Initiators. I think it would work. Maybe universalizing BAB as well wouldn't be so bad, but then again I will probably be wrong.
    Last edited by Dante & Vergil; 2010-03-31 at 05:14 PM.

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    Default Re: Skill-based casting system [3.5] [peach]

    Just a bump for further comments/reviews.

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    Default Re: Skill-based casting system [3.5] [peach]

    Well, I built a similar system a while back, though that was designed to account for the fact that there's no items in my system.

    It looks like there could be some issues with the "cast as much as you want until you mess up" thing, simply because the DCs are based on few feats and no items.

    If you want to plunder anything from my work, feel free, but as i said, non-standard play system. http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=122664
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    Default Re: Skill-based casting system [3.5] [peach]

    they still follow all the other normal rules for casting (spells per day/level, etc). The skill check is just to see how successfully they channel the energy.

    Thanks for the link to your thread. I'll have to check it out and see what I can glean.

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    Default Re: Skill-based casting system [3.5] [peach]

    Well, I feel compelled to point out that this makes casters roll twice for success: Once to see if the spell goes off, and a second time for the touch attack/saving throw. Possibly a third time if SR is involved.

    Other than that, the system seems to encourage heavy specializing. Because bonuses from specialization, Magical Aptitude, and Skill Focus are important, it is more useful to focus on one or two schools than try to be good in all of them. Conjurers, Transmuters, and Illusionists will likely become far more common than the others, simply because of how varied their schools are.

    Classes that didn't care about the magic school previously, such as Clerics, get hurt pretty badly. Want to heal, ward, AND buff? There goes half your skill points, and basically all your feats if you're picking up Skill Focus for them all. Don't even try anything fancy like the occasional direct damage spell.

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    Default Re: Skill-based casting system [3.5] [peach]

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    Well, I feel compelled to point out that this makes casters roll twice for success: Once to see if the spell goes off, and a second time for the touch attack/saving throw. Possibly a third time if SR is involved.
    Yes, they will need to roll more often, occasionally. Spells requiring a touch/ranged touch attack are, if I am correct, less than 1/4 of their list. (and, to be correct, the target rolls the save, not the caster, same with SR).

    Other than that, the system seems to encourage heavy specializing. Because bonuses from specialization, Magical Aptitude, and Skill Focus are important, it is more useful to focus on one or two schools than try to be good in all of them. Conjurers, Transmuters, and Illusionists will likely become far more common than the others, simply because of how varied their schools are.
    Encouraging specializing was part of the point. I didn't want them to be masters of every school. I wanted their choices to be along the lines of "Jack of all trades, master of none," or master 1-2 schools and barely be able to cast from the rest.

    Classes that didn't care about the magic school previously, such as Clerics, get hurt pretty badly. Want to heal, ward, AND buff? There goes half your skill points, and basically all your feats if you're picking up Skill Focus for them all. Don't even try anything fancy like the occasional direct damage spell.
    Clerics might hurt a little, but they were already near the top of the stack to begin with, so I'm not caring so much about that. They don't need to be masters of every school, either. And they may be able to cast spells from each school, just not at maximum level with any safety. I should put in that their Domain spells use their highest school's modifier. Also, I'm not planning on having divine casters use this system forever. I'm working (slowly) on a feat-and-skill-based system that will be somewhat more favorable to them.
    Last edited by Melayl; 2010-04-11 at 07:23 PM.

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