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.
|Caster level||Spell level|| DC ||Max Ranks||Avg. Stat Bonus|
|2|| -- || -- |
|4|| -- || -- |
|6|| -- || -- |
|8|| -- || -- |
|10|| -- || -- |
|12|| -- || -- |
|14|| -- || -- |
|16|| -- || -- |
|18|| -- || -- |
|19|| -- || -- |
|20|| -- || -- |
+7 or more
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)
You can cast spells of a certain school of magic. The DC is based upon spell level (see table).
As spell being cast, or as per Spellcraft (for identification effects)
No, see Failure table for any penalties.
Yes, if you are not threatened.
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.
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).
MANIFESTING (Int, Wis, or Cha; Trained only, Class only)
|Spell Level|| DC |
You can manifest powers of a certain psionic discipline. The DC is based upon power level (see table).
As power being manifested, or as per Psicraft (for identification effects)
No, see Failure table for any penalties.
Yes, if you are not threatened.
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).
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).
Metamagic and Spellcasting checks:
|Spell Level|| DC |
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.
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
|Miss by||Effect (cumulative) (X=spell level)|
|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|
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.