Jump to Navigation


Login or create an account

Want to make an edit to this page? Log in or register, and you can contribute right away!

mikeb's picture

Magic works slightly differently in the Dark Golden Age compared to the standard Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Magic before the Collapse was much different than it is now. Among the Collapse's impact on magic already in place, all arcane casters lost the ability to perform magic or create magic items. Within a couple years though, the surviving casters had discovered how to work magic once again. Around the same time, divine casters came into existence.

Arcane Magic

All classes that cast arcane spells prepare or ready them in order to refresh their regain their daily spell allowance. These classes need two components to be able to either prepare or ready their spells. The first component is a magic item that existed prior to the Collapse. This magic item focus can be as powerful as a Mirror of Life Trapping or as weak as an Everburning Torch. The second component is an alchemical mixture called caster's emollient. Once caster's emollient has been applied to the magic item, the caster can prepare or ready her spells.

The base component of caster's emollient is a palm-sized amount of salve made from berries, herbs, and oil. The cost of these components is 1 GP for a week's supply. The base emollient must then have life essence from a creature with a soul added to it. For most casters, this life essence is their own, a token amount of blood. While painful and uncomfortable, this life essence causes no other harmful effects. For other casters, they choose to tap into the life essence of others, sometimes in the form of blood but sometimes drawn from another being's very soul.

Besides enabling arcane casters to be able to regain spells, caster's emollient can also be prepared and applied to the focus to grant the caster access to metamagic feats without possessing the actual feats. For more on preparing these metamagic caster's emollient, visit the Caster's Emollient page.

Divine Magic

Divine magic did not exist on Gondal prior to the Collapse. While religion was common in areas where arcane magic was less common, most places saw little need for religion, seeing it as useless superstition. After the Collapse, divine magic began to appear in places as especially reverent individuals were able to manifest their faith into magical power. Deities do not seem to actually exist to most individuals, and the rise of divine magic after the Collapse has made many of those who previously relied on arcane magic suspicious of divine magic users.

Divine casters represent the ideal they follow by choosing two cleric spell Domains. A cleric with Law and Liberation believes in freeing others from slavery and servitude through legal means. A druid with Good and Fire believes in the cleansing nature of fire to remove evil from the lands. Table 1 lists what Domain combinations are allowed. At the end of a session, if the other players agree that a divine caster has done something significant which is in line with their alignment Domain, the GM may grant the player a Divine Metamagic point. Divine Metamagic points can be spent to apply metamagic feats spontaneously to a spell with one point granting one level of metamagic feat. For example, a metamagic feat that increases the spell level by 2 costs 2 Divine Metamagic points.

Table 1
Class Alignment Domains Non-Alignment Domains
Cleric All All
Druid All Animal, Plant, Weather, Fire, Water, Earth, Air
Inquisitor All All
Oracle All All (must match with Mystery, approved by GM)
Paladin Law, Good All
Ranger All All

Examples of worthy accomplishments in the Dark Golden Age

Chaos: liberate a person or group from bondage; undermine a poweful authority figure; invent something new and significant; innovate with an idea or tactic which catches on with those around you; come up with a novel solution to a problem - that works; counsel someone else in making a decision to break a law or tradition

Evil: betray someone for your own benefit; intimidate or mainpulate someone into doing something they know is wrong; save yourself cost or effort by forcing others to work or pay for you; kill a sentient being for sport or just to prove a point; counsel someone else in making a decision that will hurt themselves and/or others but benefit you

Good: put yourself in danger to protect innocent people; spare the life of an enemy who surrenders; demonstrate generosity to those in genuine need; counsel someone else in making a decision that is best for all involved

Law: permanently change a community for the better (build an orphanage or drainage system); capture a wanted criminal and deliver them to the authorities; keep your word at significant personal cost; use lawful means to replace an unjust authority figure; counsel someone else in making the most equitable decision possible

When a divine spellcaster gains a level that gives him access to new spells, he must spend one Divine Metamagic point to do so.  This point only needs to be spent once, after which the caster has access to all spells he would normally have access to.

Life as a Spell Caster

Living as a spell caster can be dangerous and a cause for suspicion. Many humans resent the fact that magic failed and that they must now work to survive. They will often take out this resentment on spell casters that they meet. Beastfolk often see spell casters - arcane or divine - as would-be oppressors and treat them as such.

Availability of Magical Services and Magic Items

While magic was very common prior to the Collapse, it has become significantly harder to acquire through simple commerce. Single-use items like potions and scrolls as well as items with charges like wands and some wondrous magic items can still be purchased in some places, but permanent magic items are typically hoarded rather than sold in a magic shoppe. Magical services such as Remove Curse or Remove Disease are hard to find as most divine casters have yet to establish a church or temple with a permanent congregation. All casters are wary of offering magical services because of the suspicions from most common folk and to avoid becoming a target of witch hunters.

Magical Services from the Core Rulebook

The Pathfinder Core Rulebook lists the cost of spellcasting services on page 159 as "Caster level x spell x 10gp".  For spells only available to divine casters, however, this cost will only apply for established members of a given religion.  For non-members the cost of spellcasting is usually tripled.  Also, note that divine spells of 4th level and higher are very hard to locate because of the rarity of individuals capable of casting them.

Magic Items

The majority of magical items did not survive the Collapse - whatever caused it seems to have also interrupted what were thought to be permanent magical enchantments.  Those that remain tend to be in private collections, reliquaries, vaults, and in the hands of powerful movers and shakers in the Dark Golden Age.  This means that magical items are rarely available for sale in the marketplace. Instead, they will be awarded by patron organizations or powerful individuals as the precious commodities they are.  Prices from the Core Rulebook for magic items are unchanged - it is more of a case that before the Collapse, they were far cheaper and more ubiquitous.


Prior to the Collapse of magic, arcane magic was the only sort of magic to exist. To capture how magically-dependent a given place was in the Dark Golden Age prior to as well as after the Collapse, we use the term Arcanization. Arcanization is a way to represent how common magic was in a given area to give the players and the GM a feel for a given location. Typically there is a shift from higher arcanization before the Collapse to lower arcanization after the Collapse. The greater the shift, the harder life has become for those used to an easier existence.


mikeb's picture

I added a page to explain

I added a page to explain what magic was like before the Collapse. The purpose is to help people who come into the setting to see how we are not trying to make Pathfinder magic weaker due to the baseline prior to the Collapse being the same as Pathfinder. Instead, it was much more powerful than baseline Pathfinder, and it is now much weaker by comparison.

mikeb's picture

Additional metamagic and "blood" connection

After more contemplation and input from Rob who plays a Witch in the online game, I'm thinking about adding the ability to take damage in exchange for spontaneous metamagic. Please offer your thoughts on these 4 possibilities. Each of them is a once per day ability of arcane casters, and only one metamagic feat can be applied.

  1. Damage is same as levels added by metamagic feat
  2. Damage is same as total spell level of spell being cast including metamagic increases
  3. Damage is double #1
  4. Damage is double #2


I'm thinking 2 or 4.  In both

I'm thinking 2 or 4.  In both cases, the most likely result is damage equal to the highest level spell the PC can cast - say, at level 5, that's level 3 for many pure spellcasting classes.  That would be 3 damage, which is not negligeable, but less than they'd take from an average hit from an opponent, or 6 damage.

I think I would go with twice the adjusted spell level, or option 4, myself.  This is a cool effect, and I would want it to be a significant choice.  If it deals 3 damage, I would do it all the time as a PC at level 5.  Dealing 6 damage, it's tougher - can I risk it?  Will I get hit again?  Etc.  Either way, 2 or 4, and I'd pick 4.

I would suggest making it a

I would suggest making it a multiplicative, to keep the cost significant throughout the life of the caster. Spells caster level * metamagic adjustment

The thing is that we want to keep the cost something to consider throughout the life of the caster. Having a set value such as two, or four, means a lot at level one, and hardly anything at all at level 10 or 15.

A first level caster could still spell something by paying 1 hitpoint, or maximize it by paying 3 hitpoints - about half his base hp pool.

A 12th level caster could still spell something by paying 12 hitpoints, or maximize something by paying 36 hitpoints. Now, at level 12, you're looking at 6hp plus 3.5*11, or an average of 41 hitpoints. However, the caster can prepare/cast spells at a lower caster level, reducing the cost, and effect of the spell.

Whatever we end up doing, I don't think a non-moving scale will work.

Just when you thought a solution was in hand...

I’m a late-comer to this discussion, and may be bringing back ideas that have already been discarded, but I've got a couple cents burning a hole in my pocket that might as well be tossed into the ring.  

If the intent is to create a setting and rules for wide adoption, I’d prefer not to use an mechanic which requires multiplication, adjusting the cost to caster or spell level, or paying for the cost of the original spell which was otherwise already covered by the character’s abilities and/or training.  If the target is a small group of hardcore gamers who would be making up their own house rules if they didn't like what was in front of them anyway, then I don't see the multiplier as causing much difficulty.

I am also unclear as yet whether this is seen as a class feature or an adopted feat or trait.

Immediate response:

“Painful Empowerment” - With the infliction of a wound upon themselves as part of the spell casting process, a Light magic arcane caster is able to spontaneously apply a meta-magical affect when casting a spell.

  • This ability is limited to one use per day.  (Unless it is decided that the ability improves with leveling.)
  • The spell caster must possess the appropriate meta-magic feat for the desired affect. (Directly or through an appropriate emollient.)
  • 1d4 damage to caster per spell level adjustment of the applied meta-magic feat.
  • Healing this damage during the spell duration brings an immediate halt to the spell and any healing effects on these wounds do not actually take effect until the beginning of the round following the termination of the spell, but the spell caster can accept healing to other wounds while maintaining the damage to the wound associated with this ability.  (In cases where the healer and spell caster are in contention, conduct a skill check to see which influence wins out - but under no circumstances does the healing resolve before the spell effect ends.)
  • Overall effect of spell after spell level adjustment is limited to the highest in-class spell level the caster is otherwise able to cast.

To my thinking, the fact that higher level characters also face more dangerous opponents, and the loss of even a few of their many hit points can provide a significant risk when they are taking huge damage with each strike is balance enough.  

Possible alternatives:

  • Instead of dice, the cost could be 1 pt of bleeding damage per spell level adjustment.  (Or this could be the cost during combat, while the d4 could be used outside of combat - less pressure, so more care can be taken with the wound.)
  • Continue requiring the expenditure of a memorized spell or unspent spell slot (depending on class particulars) of either the modified spell level, or additional spell levels to match the meta magic spell level adjustment. (Unless the wound is supposed to be the trade off for the spell level cost.)
  • As the arcane spell caster increases in levels, the ability could be expanded to include additional uses per day, or to allow multiple meta-magic impressions in a single casting.
  • The familiar could bear a matching or commensurate wound penalty.  (Assuming that familiars remain part of the world setting.) This requires considering healing for both.

To me, these guidelines feel like simpler bookkeeping and use than the by level and circumstance multiplier.  I've tried to include clearer guidelines and restrictions that I was assuming still needed determination from the original posts.  If the one use per day restriction to the ability remains in place, then there isn’t that much game imbalance anyway, as the spell caster is basically gaining one additional meta-magic use per day regardless of the cost, which isn’t particularly out of line with the benefits granted by some feats.

Of course, since this lens is strictly one of opinion, if the Swarmies disagree with me, I am necessarily wrong in this.  :)

Well, the limitation of spell

Well, the limitation of spell duration will help with it being used for hour-long buffs, but won't really affect blast spells. 


To try to clarify your above questions, this is neither class feature, adopted feat, or trait. Instead, it's a basic change to how magic works in the system. As such, it should be available to any magic user, or at least actual spellcasters if not for spell-like-abilities.

I'm still of the opinion that a set amount of damage isn't going to suffice to create the *decision* atmosphere we're looking for, and it's one of those things where the more levels one has, the more useful being able to sacrifice hps for metamagic is, and the less important 1d4, or even 3d4 worth of hitpoints may be.

Setting up a multiplactive formula here will allow us to create an easy-to-read chart for regular players to use, with a basic formula that can be used to extrapolate costs with new metamagics and home-brew abilities. Basically, it's no different in my mind than determining the same formula that dictates what stats a weapon can have. We might not get to see the formula as written, but it does exist, and its underpinnings govern the weapon charts.

Now, with a limiter of 1 use a day, some limited number of uses per day, I'm happier with a set damage amount. Though I'm not partial to bleed effects for damage, since most bleed effects don't stack. With 1 use/day, or 1 use a day at first level + 1 additional use for every four levels, I'd be much more comfortable with 1d4 damage per metamagic level adjustment.

I much prefer a set,

I much prefer a set, easily-calculatable (multiplicative) amount for a simple reason - less dice-rolling.  Players can just subtract the hp when they use the ability.  Otherwise, it just adds another dice-roll to a spellcasting situation.  This I realize is a style issue, though (I go for as simple as possible when I run games and take shortcuts to do so).  

I think that it is also simpler to have set damage for these effects, though, to make the system easier to understand at a glance for players new to the setting.  Even if someone isn't 100% sold on the magic system, if the change is simple, and can be used to their advantage once a day, I that makes it a somewhat easier sell.

I think (hope!) I am getting it...

I don't entirely disagree about reducing the die rolling.  The two stumbling blocks I am having are:

  • The multiplicative - Assuming that the long term vision is a larger distribution of the setting is there any game time multiplication already existing for a player?  If so, I am not placing it.  I DO remember what a positive change it was supposed to be when THAC0 and subtraction vanished with 3rd Ed.  On the GM and game prep side, there's plenty of multiplication involved... but other than the occasional doubling or add-on kind of multiplying because a crit was landed I don't associate multiplication with the game play.  Not a problem for house rules, but it feels wrong to me for a published setting.
  • The lack of uncertainty - With the results so specific, my impression is that use of the system will be governed entirely by the mathematical benefit and not by the setting.  I get the desire to not add die rolling, but I feel the random element really fits the setting where magic is being rediscovered.

I'm not actually that concerned about defending the changes I proposed, but as a "new player" interpreting the proposed rules, my impression was not one of a simple change.

The easy version to me would be something like a class feature or setting based feat for Arcane casters allowing them to sacrifice one class level in hit dice of damage for a bonus spell level of casting.  Leave metamagic out of the rule altogether.  Place a limit of use equal to class or character level.  To me this gives setting flavor, added utility for the player and is about as simple as it gets.  (Sorry about the die rolling.)

"Hey!  I get to cast some extra spells.  Hmm... the cost per level matches a level of my hit dice.  This could be risky, but will probably come in handy sometimes."

I totally get that my suggestions are far enough from the original idea that I'm not quite matching the whole collaborative bySwarm philosophy, and I do regret that.  But my impressions from the rules I was seeing was that they were feeling very house rules rather than Pathfinder/D&D3.?E.  Just to show that I am giving some consideration before commenting, and really do respect the work put into this discussion board and setting, I've also looked over the suggestions for new beast-races, and let me reassure you all that the hard work to make each race fit in with the base system and game balance totally shows.  Fantastic!

Thanks for your patience.  I think I'd be struggling to put up with me from your point of view and have been impressed by the respectful restraint shown in putting down my heretical suggestions.  :)


Well, I'll point out again

Well, I'll point out again that the multiplactive would be on our side, to allow us to calculate values out for a variety of situations. The published work would, again, have a chart listing the derivatives of the formula for easy player use.

As an example, the formula for a rogues bab could be described as level*.75 rounded down. That's not what the players see. They see a chart that tells them their bab at any given level. However, with the formula, we can extrapolate the bab of the rogues class into epic levels if we choose to keep using it.

I think its important to belabor this point, because it seems you are getting the wrong impression about the multiplactive, and I want to get you on the same page. An average player in the setting would have a chart, similar to the spells/day chart, that listed the actual hp cost. They wouldn't have to do any calculations. We, however, are building the underlying theory behind it. So we get to see (and build) the formulas that will result in easy-to-read tables for the players.

If we do go with dice, we should decide on an *average* cost that we want, and then base the d4's around that. Each d4 is an average roll of 2.5, so if we wanted an average of 10 damage, we'd use 4d4, or 6d4 for an average of 15 damage. Over time, it equals out. I guess the question is--how fun is rolling for yourself the damage you're going to take? Would it be less fun than just applying a set number?

Personally I like the idea of

Personally I like the idea of rolling out the damage, I think the chance that you might roll high or low is what makes playing this game so much fun.  Just imagine if there wasnt any dice rolling and everything had a set outcome based on numbers.  Sure it might still be entertaining but it loses that randomness that can create so many fun situations (everyone here knows what I am talking about).

I'm liking a bunch of this actually

There are parts of this I really liike.


With all of the ideas tossed out I am latching onto:

1) Limit to the number of enhancement levels equal to your caster level or highest level of spell you are capable of casting

2) Damage (something variable) for each level of enhancement (quickened equals 4xWhatever)

3) No healing of damage caused in this manner (essentially reducing temporary Max HP)


It seems simple, elegant and effective. It isn't free, it certainly makes wizards feel powerful... I'm not sure about high level balance, so I would like to see how that plays out - as has been pointed out, it wouldn't be uncommon at higher levels to sacrifice a few HP to extend some buffs - especially since you won't miss 1d4 HP as much then as you would at 1st level (or even 5th...)

Eeeek... that is really high...

Make it spell level * metamagic effect. I can tell you myself that if it was caster level * metamagic I would never use it. Ever. That would mean that the 1st level spell that I was quickening before for 4hp (which is a full level of HP for an arcane caster) would cost me 20HP at 5th level; it only gets uglier from there on up. I would never do that. That puts me into the '1 hit and dead' category and that is just not going to happen.

If it is by caster level it essentially puts a low level caster on the same field as a high level caster in regards to their ability to manipulate magic - which doesn't sit well from a story aspect to me.

If you want the more powerful meta effects to cost a lot more, make it (spell level * (2*meta adj)) = HP drain. Alternatively you could make it (spell level +meta adj = adj spell level)*2.

To lay it out:

Option A)

FIreball [3] * (2*(quickened[4])) = 24HP (average 5th level arcane caster will have 6+(4*(level-1))+ maybe 1 more for either con or favoured class adj - that works out to 27HP - this would essentially kill them, but quickened is a powerful effect for their highest castable spell)

Option B)

(Fireball [3]+Quickened[4])*2 = 14HP

Either way, it is a big hit. If you do it by caster level, it gets ugly really fast and won't be used. I think a static scale will work - it makes it so that higher level casters are actually powerful. I don't think there are too many arcane casters that will want to take the chance that they can burn away all of their HP casting maximized spells all day long.

The one thing I would do though is limit the maximum level adj of the effect by your caster level. Maybe you need to be Caster level *4 of the modifier before you can use it? So, level 1-7 (still, silent, extend etc.) 8-11 (can't remember off-hand what these meta's are) 12-15 (maximized) 16-20 (quickened).

That will prevent it from getting out of hand too quickly and still make it relevant and flavourful. IMO anyway.

I also think that party dynamics will play a role in the impact of the system. If you are with a cleric who can be burst healing all of the time, you can essentially let the mage burn away as many HP as they want to without worry (which would be bad) whereas if you have a party like ours, the amount of meta applied will have to be very closely monitored (since we don't have ready healing).

Well, spell level * metamagic

Well, spell level * metamagic effect goes like this:

3rd level caster extends a first level spell. 1*1=1

5th level caster extends a second level spell 2*1=2

or empowers a 1st level spell 1*2=2

7th level caster extends a third level spell 1*3=3

or empowers a 2nd level spell 2*2=4

or maximizes a 1st level spell 3*1=3


The third level caster has 3d6 hp, or an average of 13 hp.

The fifth level caster has 20 hp

The 7th level caster has 7d6 hp, or an average of 27 hp.


If we jump down to a 15th level caster, we're looking at an extended 7th for 7*1=7

empowered 6th for 6*2=12

maximized 5th for 5*3=15

quickened 3rd for 3*5=15

and an average hp of 55 hp.

The best the 3rd level can do is 1/13th of his life per use.

The 5th gets 1/10 of his life per use.

The 7th level caster gets 1/6.75

And the 15th level caster gets 1/3.66 of his life per use for the highest cost. However, to simply extend his first level spells, like the 3rd level caster, he's only paying 1/55th of his life.

Basically, it becomes almost a requirement to cast every longer duration buff at the beginning of the day, and lose 8-15 hitpoints doing so, and then have the healer toss a single low-level healing spell on you. 1d8+5, possibly 2d8+10 if you went all out. In any situation where the caster is not actively being attacked, there is no reason not to burn a paltry couple of hitpoints to increase the power of ones spells.

Or, put another way, the wizard might have 8 castings of a particular spell level. Normally, to boost that, the wizard would give up a higher level spell slot. As a 15th level caster, given the opportunity to lose 12 hitpoints which will probably be healed by the party cleric's channel next round anyways, or using up a spell slot two levels higher, it seems almost a given that most of the time, you'll burn those hitpoints.


I guess what I'm looking for is something to make it more of a decision, instead of an automatic *yeah, I'll burn some life to extend my mage armor* thing. Maybe something like reducing the current and total number of hitpoints until restored through natural rest, or limiting the amount of hitpoints you can sacrifice each day to your total caster level, or your highest caster level if you have multiple classes that provide a caster level.

High level casters are already considered the most powerful classes in the game. We don't really need to make them that much more powerful. Actually, I'm kind of liking limiting the amount of hps you can sacrifice to your caster level. Though we should consider something we can offer to non-caster classes so they don't feel even more out-classed than they already are.

mikeb's picture

Let's try your idea in the

Let's try your idea in the online game and see how it works. Since you're the only actual "caster", it will be fair. :)

mikeb's picture

I'll run with multiplicative

I'll run with multiplicative this Saturday at the Gamerati tour visit. Might as well try the most extreme to see if people use it.

mikeb's picture

The only caster was a Ranger,

The only caster was a Ranger, so it never came up. ;)

Hehe :p

Hehe :p

I agree, especially when

I agree, especially when dealing with something as powerful as metamagics. 

I am curious though, forgive me if this was already covered and I just missed it, but does the same restrictions on these apply as normal metamagic?  As far as I know that was the main reason casters never used metamagic feats is due to the increase in spell level.  If this mechanic bypasses that restriction then there should certainly be some sort of scaling involved, if it doesnt scaling might not be as big of a deal since they are still suffering the increase in spell level to cast.

mikeb's picture

I thought we were saying all

I thought we were saying all casters would have the focus requirement with divine having the extra alignment-based benefits. Did I have that mixed up?

I think so - at least, that

I think so - at least, that isn't what I was thinking.  I assumed that the emollient was only necessary to arcane casters, who lost their power in the Collapse and had to regain it.  The new divine casters, I was assuming, didn't need it - though they still have all written requirements as far as PF is concerned.  Their cost/benefit is in the Divine Metamagic points, which they require to open up new spells when they level, but can also get more than the minimum and use them as written.

mikeb's picture

Aha! I think it's cool that

Aha! I think it's cool that we end up with a very fine distinction between arcane and divine casters. I also like that this really makes being a divine caster mean something.

Divine Alignment Stuff

So just to get a start on the basic alignment lockdown, I'm rolling out a few ideas. Instead of doing all nine alignments separately, I decided to hit the five points as it were. Whatever said divine magic user's alignment is, he/she must follow the rules on both axis.

Lawful - Must follow and respect the laws of whatever land you happen to be in at the time. Must hold one's companions to the same stricture. If witness to an unlawful act, must actively attempt to interfere/stop said act, and must report said act to legitimate authorities if possible.

Neutral - Must side equally with good and evil, lawful and chaotic. Must strive to do no more good than harm, no more harm than good, unless actively pursing a greater balance. Must actively pursue balance in whatever lands you happen to be in at the time, whether that means joining a rebellion, putting one down, or just participating in the occasional larceny.

Chaotic - Must ignore the laws of whatever land you happen to be in at the time. Must never allow anyone to order you around, or to restrict your movement or behavior.

Good - Must protect innocent life whenever possible. Must stand against evil when it is recognized, no matter the cost.

Evil - Must actively pursue evil ends. Must take actions against good creatures, though action does not need to be direct.

mikeb's picture

Since Clerics can't be True

Since Clerics can't be True Neutral in DGA, you could cut it down to law, chaos, good and evil since every Cleric will be at least one of those.

robosnake and I were chatting on IM tonight, and we'd like to have a Google Hangout with the two of you to nail down the final details. Would you guys be interested? If so, add me on Google+ via Mike Bohlmann. We'll schedule it once we know you're interested in a voice/text chat. If you aren't on Google+, Skype would be a backup option.

Can't get into G+

They are not accepting any more people :(

mikeb's picture

PM me your Gmail address.

PM me your Gmail address. I'll send you an invite.

Btw, I'm thinking Saturday morning will be a good time to hangout.

I would interested in jumping

I would interested in jumping in on this, what time?

I'm on Google+, as Doug

I'm on Google+, as Doug Hagler.  Add me and keep me posted on the conversation as to time to 'hangout'.  Overall, I tend to be busy but flexible.

So I literally joined google+

So I literally joined google+ today :p I added you to my... circle? I'd be interested in working out the final details so we can get it set out for the upcoming books.

mikeb's picture

Quick comment while I prep for Gen Con

I'm working on the final details for the Gen Con events, and I think Ultimate Magic and the GameMastery Guide might have given us some new options: spellblights and wild magic.

Spellblights - http://www.d20pfsrd.com/magic/spellblights
Wild Magic - http://www.d20pfsrd.com/gamemastering/environment/the-planes

I see Wild Magic as being something that exists in specific places that were extremely high areas of magic previously. For Spellblights, it could be similar, be one of the causes they mention, or perhaps a target rolling a natural 20 on a save.

Added and expanded some

Added and expanded some things - feel free to edit and cut back if you see fit. Just embellishing based on what we've been talking about, as I understand it.

I guess I am a little confused

While I get that magic is supposed to have failed in its previous incarnation, wouldn't it be easier from a rules aspect to state that magic was more powerful that the PF setting (core rules etc.) previously and now it is functioning in a reduced fashion (which happens to be equal to the current rules)?

I think if society was truly 'high magic' before and it was common enough that it was in every household, I have the impression that everyone (humans at least) could cast cantrips and likely even had some minor wizardly training or arcane investment? Such as a smith being able to imbue items with basic magic traits, and most children taught mage hand at an early age? A time when even a lowly wizard had fireballs at their disposal and the truly powerful ones could raise flying citadels - when magic to compel your beast servants lasted days instead of minutes or hours - when no one needed to rub two sticks together to get fire...

It saves us from inventing rules that don't need to be invented and still accomplish feeling as though magic is somehow more precious and reduced in power today. IMO anyway.

That is an easier way to

That is an easier way to handle it, but it would also mean that there wasn't any new 'flavor' to magic in the DGA, and that was something we were going for. Since arcane magic is the centerpiece of this setting, we wanted it to be different from other settings; for DGA spellcasters to function a little bit different from other D20 settings.

As written, the new rules don't come into play except when leveling and getting new spells, for the most part (not including new spells we create for the setting and so on). What we were going for was something that changed the flavor, and touched upon the mechanics a bit, but was still simple to implement, and reinforced a theme of the setting, which is that magic is suddenly scarce and somewhat unpredictable.

We could also just have arcanotechnological ruins in the background of a setting where magic functions exactly like it does in the core Pathfinder setting - but to me at least that would be a lot less interesting. We can also always just fall back on that idea, but I at least like what we discussed above, or something similar, to set DGA spellcasters apart.

The B word...

I know that 'balance' is a word that is thrown around a lot, but it is something that will come up when people choose which classes to play. While I may be more interested in story over effectiveness, many, many people are not. If they perceive the class as more 'costly' to play without some sort of perceived benefit, what would be their incentive for playing it?

Maybe if there was another effect or benefit to represent the increased cost of the class it would appear more 'fair' in the grand scheme of things?

If it costs more to cast spells, those spells should have extra effect. Maybe all casters get a free meta-magic effect when casting? What is the mechanic for using your own energy versus something else's? Is it striving for a 'Dark Sun' feel to it?

Players need to perceive a benefit or you will end up with fewer people playing arcane casters.

Would sorcerers really be arcane if they had the ability granted by their bloodline? Isn't that magic directly tied to their very being? I can see wizards being manipulators of existing magical power, but I would see the other arcane classes as more of channeling other power – like a priest channeling their god, a sorcerer channels their elemental forces.

If it is going to be flavourful, it should be more than a monetary mechanic.

That's true. There's a lot of

That's true.

There's a lot of extra work that players have to do at the moment if they want to play casters, and no mechanical benefits for doing so. Magic is supposed to have fundamentally changed, which means there needs to be a new mechanic to represent that. However, that mechanic doesn't have to penalize magic users. Players will be the ones who have discovered how to use magic anyways, so adding an extra cost on top of that does seem a bit counter-intuitive.

Also, in a setting like this, playing a magic user is a HUGE draw. There are few people with your kind of power! There are fewer people who understand it! It's an opportunity to really be set apart as unique in the setting, and that's going to draw people in if we do it right.

In game terms, an arcane caster pays an additional 21,000g in total just to be able to cast spells.

Maybe we can switch things up a bit. Keep the arcane focus item except that it functions as a container, have it use an item slot, but instead of it requiring gold to activate, have it require a significant amount of the users' blood to activate. Then, in place of various material components, the caster would use some of this blood. "I remember blood magic being tossed around in a discussion." Possibly some hitpoint damage when daily preparation is going on. And the arcane focus would be an absolute necessity to cast spells, without it the arcane caster must pay for their spells on a hitpoint/spell level*3 cost. 9th level spell would cost twenty-seven hitpoints to cast without the container. That leaves a caster useful if they've had their focus stolen or destroyed, but only until they run out of hitpoints.

Then, the payoff. In addition to functioning as an arcane focus, the arcane caster can enchant it as a magical item as though he had all the required feats. Additionally, as long as he can succeed on the skill check to create the item, he does succeed. But only with his arcane focus. He can only use this ability to turn his arcane focus into a pre-designed magical item of the appropriate type. It cannot be used to create custom items. The arcane caster must still pay all the costs associated with magical item creation.

Divine casters... hrrmmm...
As they are right now, they'll cost 21,000g or more just to be able to cast spells.

They seem a bit more tricky to me. I really like the idea of a sacrifice of some sort, but I'm not sure that it should be tied to a specific value. For example, the divine caster might have to perform a specific mission for his/her deity. Then again, deity/player contact isn't really going on yet, beyond the granting of spells. Then again, perhaps the deities are happy at being worshipped again, so they provide an extra boon. Like once per level, granting them the ability to cast a spell that is one level higher than they currently have access to. In return, they might be more stringent about their precepts, perhaps even laying down an individual *code* similar to a paladin's code, but more specific to the deity at hand. Granted, that would require coming up with nine basic codes *one for each alignment combination*, but it would add more flavor to the setting.

I can see sorcerers and wizards doing the same thing in different ways. For example, the wizard uses high-level magical mathematics in order to tap into the magical well and create powerful effects. The sorcerer uses his force of will to breach that barrier and create the same effects. In this situation, the well is dry, so both the sorcerer and wizard have to create their own "well" of magical energy. Wherever the caster was *channeling* their power from, that source refuses to give away any more power.

You know I am rather curious

You know I am rather curious as to the whole blood magic concept, it seems to be a major story plot point but I have yet to actually see it implemented (at least in our game).

It might be interesting to come up with a mechanic for it, maybe a character has to sacrifice HP each time they cast a spell rather than having spells per day?  Or if that seems too taxing maybe stick with the spells per day but then add an additional option for casters to continue casting past that but they need to make a fortitude save or go unconscious?

I may just be spouting terrible ideas but something like this would actually make me want to play a caster even more as it adds a sense of danger to simply casting spells, but makes them all the more satisfying when they go off XD

What we're discussing right

What we're discussing right now, it seems, is a system to sort of tweak and augment what already exists.  We'll be keeping the basic spells-per-day system that Pathfinder uses because getting rid of that would just be too hard to manage for products that we want to be basically compatible.  Right now we're looking at adding Spell Blights, and using our system to manage those, as well as the possibility of spending hp to cast extra spells as long as an arcane caster has their blood-focus with them.

There's going to be a Google hangout sometime when hopefully we'll nail down more of the details for the magic system.  It's definitely changing compared to what's written above, but I definitely think it's changing for the better.


I don't agree that playing a caster is a huge draw. You are counting on role-playing elements to balance mechanical elements.

Wizards already have an arcane focus as an option, or they have a familiar. You would be modifying a core class to fit a setting, and in my opinion, that isn't necessary. The focus grants an extra spell, the familiar has a 'feat-like' benefit.

When you are designing for a 'home brew' you can do a lot of things to make the game fit for your specific mix of players. When you are trying to design a setting for publishing, you will run into difficulty taking that approach.

If a new mechanic is designed, it has to take into account all spell-casting classes - wizards, paladins, rangers, bards, oracles, inquisitors, even alchemists. Rogues can gain access to spell-casting through rogue talents.

If you leave the mechanic alone and instead guide GM's to focusing on the flavour, you have less balancing to do. And I believe that flavour is what is really desired here.

If you fundamentally change the way magic works, it has to be across the board - and that should include 'supernatural' effects as well. Magic is magic - either the cupboard is bare or it isn't. If there is a new pantry, people just figure out how to access it. If you just change the ingredients, you can change the flavour without fundamentally altering mechanically what you are doing. Think of it like soup - carrot soup is still soup, so is tomato soup, and so is chicken noodle. Do they taste the same? No, but they are all essentially the same thing, with different ingredients.

Unless the goal is to turn soup into a sandwich, you don't need to alter the mechanics.

So what is the real goal here? Is it to make a new system, or a new setting?

If it is a system, then it needs to be addressed from the ground up, across the board. If it is a setting, use what exists and change the flavour. The beast-folk are a good example of flavour, and not mechanics. They exist in many forms already, and the ones that don't are added using common rules. They don't break anything.

It seems like what is happening here is more akin to the 'words of power' system they introduced, which is a whole new way of doing magic.


:/ I didn't say anywhere that having magic be a draw in this setting had ANYTHING to do with balancing mechanics. It's a draw because many people find new caster mechanics interesting, and there's an appeal to not being the 927th person in this world to hit 7th level cleric spells. You personally might not feel that way, and you're welcome to that opinion. However, it doesn't invalidate my opinion that, done right, it'll be a draw.

And yes, this setting premise specifically changes how several core classes work. That's part of the very basic, underlying premise of the setting. In other words, the intent for the setting has always been thus.

That's why the challenge is to make it creative and balanced enough that people find the differences interesting instead of offputting, and part of the draw of the setting. Flavor is important, but without any crunch it becomes easily ignored and might as well not exist. The goal is to make a setting with changes to the system. Much like forgotten realms, eberron, dark sun, really any successful campaign setting does. It's part of the process of making a unique world with a unique flavor.

If you'll notice, the mechanical elements are set to arcane casters and divine casters. As such, if you're an arcane caster - be it bard, wizard, or sorcerer, you follow those mechanics.

And if you're a divine caster, cleric, druid, oracle, paladin, ect., then you follow those mechanics. Though you do have an interesting point about spell-like abilities. We should decide if we want SLA's to require foci to activate, or whether bloodletting or something similar as part of the material components would be more appropriate. I vote that they function similarly to ki points, in that the battery is already the caster.

One does not have to replace the whole car to change the hubcaps. We're not looking for a words of power level overhaul. We're looking for a *gee, that's a cool new fender* overhaul.

I don't think this changes just the hubcaps though

It seems more like we are changing the the whole wheel, rim, tire, etc. And we are just making it more expensive on the Ford, but leaving the GM & Toyota's etc. alone.

I'm in favour of a new mechanic that is in balance with the rest of the classes. A pure monetary mechanic doesn't seem to really enhance the flavour of the setting; it just seems to make it more painful to play a caster.

If we are going to require some sort of personal investment, the value of the investment should at least offset the cost of equivalent enchantment. And I think casters should always have the option of using blood. There are mechanics already to support something akin to that with a wizard that loses their focus. They have to make difficult spellcraft checks just to cast, but they can do it.

I know what you are saying about if it is only flavour it gets ignored, but if the mechanic is too punishing, it too gets ignored. I look at the number of campaigns that don't use strict XP anymore - it just became too much work to figure out XP by party level so people stopped. Even one of the game's designers has an alternate method that he uses.

THe part you mention about being able to enchant their focus as though they had the required feats is interesting, and flavourful, and rewarding to the caster - but it shouldn't be an additional cost just to cast. They should always get a benefit from the investment.

I also found that of the settings you mention, only Dark Sun had a truly unique mechanic for casters. The Realms and Eberron were just flavourful, but there was no additional mechanic. Yes, Eberron introduced the artificer, which was very cool, but it was still essentially just the exact same mechanics.

I do think the Ki point suggestion works - maybe casters should have something akin to that as well - a certain level of stamina in casting before they get tired, but make it a trade-off where they can choose to cast a spell without a ki point and it works as normal, but if they invest ki into it, maybe it adds a point of damage or has some minor enhancement. Make it interesting instead of just expensive.

Well, FR added in wild magic,

Well, FR added in wild magic, the weave, nodes, and other setting specific mechanics.

Eberron basically rebalanced the whole game to a much higher power level.

You're right that if the mechanic is too punishing, it gets ignored. That's why we need to find a balance between mechanics and flavor. In any game, there are a number of houserules that come up at the table. What we want is for people to like the mechanics and flavor of our spellcasting enough that most folks don't houserule them out of the setting.

We are definitely open to suggestions on the matter :p I tend to agree with you about the gold cost for the focus. My earlier post about switching things up was "instead of the gold cost" and not "in addition to the gold cost".

Of what's been described

Of what's been described above, I personally like the necessary arcane focus, blood-cost in casting, and specific codes for each alignment combination.

I definitely want to avoid the idea of having GM suggestions or "flavor" being the entirety of a difference in setting, rather than mechanics. Flavor will always be different, but flavor never balances out mechanics. If we have a setting where arcano-technological wonders have recently catastrophically collapsed, and where divine spellcasting has not existed until a few years ago, that has to re reflected in the mechanics of spellcasting in my opinion. Otherwise the changes don't have any teeth; it's just re-skinning existing mechanics.

An example we've discussed in the past is the original Dragonlance setting. Things like the Tests of High Sorcery, and the change in how characters became Clerics, and the fact that there were tons of charlatans and false-Clerics running around and almost no divine magic - those things made the setting stand out. If it had amounted to just some GM suggestions or flavor only, the impact would have been diluted a great deal I think.

So, for my part, I definitely am in favor of a mechanical change. Not having it be a material cost is fine with me - the previous conversation that led to the above system took place months ago with different people - it wasn't my ideal either, it was a compromise. My priority, though, is changing how spellcasting works in some way. I think that is a core element of the setting as it has developed so far, no less than bestfolk and the setting-specific prestige classes we're working on, etc.

The challenge is for arcane magic to be far weaker than in the past of the setting - however we represent that mechanically - and for divine magic to be new and raw and rare - however we represent that mechanically.

I like the arcane focus because it is something that comes up in other games but not usually in other D20 style settings.

I like the cost being blood because that is strongly supported in the setting material that's been written thus far on the topic.

I like the codes for divine magic and some other kind of cost, whether it comes with an extra bonus or not, because I see divine forces being new and relatively vulnerable at this stage, and buy into the idea that the actions and sacrifices of worshippers 'feed' deities.

Overall, I like any mechanic that forces a player to make hard decisions. Hard decisions = interesting story, for me anyway.

If the majority of us are against the idea of making playing a caster more 'punishing' (I'm fine with that, but I might be the only one right now) then we can have magic be higher-cost and higher-power, both. More bang, but for more bucks. My original hope was for spellcasters to function as periodic adventure-engines. They need to go do X Y and Z in order to gain new divine powers, uncover new artifacts and lost lore from before the Collapse, and so on. The material/gp cost of spellcasting was just a shortcut to that effect that we came up with months ago.


So here are some thoughts on the subject. If we go with Divine Casters using those alignment codes (mechanics), then we can add on a (flavor) element for the other requirement. Say, at each level the divine caster is required to complete a mission or quest for his/her faith. Only on completing this quest will the caster be able to gain another level in a class with divine spellcasting. This allows players to work on the quest ahead of time, so when everyone else is leveling up, they don't have to START a quest. They can be wrapping it up and leveling up as well. This also puts half the burden on the player, and half on the dm, who can weave it into whatever quest line they're working on.

For arcane spellcasters, I'd really like to work in a mechanic about being able to sacrifice hitpoints to cast additional spells once they've exhausted their prepared/spontaneuos castings. Maybe even a mechanic to cast one spell of a higher level. There is a good argument to be made about bonded items and spellcasting though. Maybe what we should do for arcane casters is require them to take the arcane bond (item) option, and for the classes that don't otherwise have access to a bonded item, to give them the arcane bond feature and require them to select an object. We could add some item types to the list to provide more variety.

We could do that instead of a vessel, allowing the bonded item to absorb their blood and their power at the same time. It would function basically the same as it does now, except that if you lose your bonded item, you can ignore the casting check by sacrificing one hitpoint and using your own blood as a material component in the casting. No extra action required to do so. It's sort of a benefit more than a drawback.

And that way, we're not charging anyone a gold value to gain a level.

As I said, the gold value was

As I said, the gold value was kind of a place-holder to represent some kind of sacrifice or quest or something - a way to standardize it. I prefer the quest concept for divine casters - I also like that these quests will build up what divine organizations look like in the world. In most cases, PCs should be among the most powerful divine casters in the setting.

For arcane casters, to keep them in line with the setting, what if they have to have an item bond with some kind of relic of the pre-Collapse world which, for whatever reason, still function. I'd say that the replacement material component should be 1hp per effective spell level when using your own blood as a material component.

I also would like to add an option of sacrificing something else - the blood of another living thing, etc., particular to use to cast more powerful spells. I would like that temptation to be part of the setting and mechanics, to be one of the ways you know an arcane spellcaster is villainous.

Ooohhh, I like that. So, a

Ooohhh, I like that.

So, a pre-Collapse relic which functions as an igniter for their magic.
Then, sans item, they can sacrifice 1 hp/spell level to cast without it. To cast spells with other people's blood, let's say 2 hp/spell level. It's not like the folks you're sacrificing can cast magic, so it seems to reason that their blood would be less potent, less inherently charged with magical energy.

Ummm... do they have to be willing?

Because i really like the idea of using an enemies blood to cast a spell to hurt them... :)

Maybe give them a fort save to resist?

Ummm.... :/

I'd say that you would probably have to prevent them from acting somehow first. Like having them tied up. Otherwise, you're just going to provoke an aoo when you start casting and trying to use them as a material component. I could see it working with someone under hold person as well. But I don't see it working in the middle of combat against a foe who is free to attack you back. Mainly because it wouldn't be nice for a caster to fire off an offensive spell and get the additional damage of the 2hp/spell level as well.

Thoughts on preparing a sacrifice...


Binding the victim:  A sacrificial victim must either be coerced to cooperate with the ceremony, or restrained so that they cannot resist against it.  A potential victim may resist through Reflex, Will, or Fortitude though in most cases, unless the ritualist is particularly lax in preparations, or significantly less powerful than the target, a potential victim makes only a single saving throw using their best attribute.  A determined ritualist can take measures to negate each of these opportunities:

  • Reflex saves are negated through restriction of movement.  This can entail binding or magically restraining a victim, enacting a ritual while the victim is asleep, or attaching key ritual elements to the victim’s person in such a way that they are unable to separate them at the key moment - such as concealed among clothing, tattoos, or mixed among food or drink the victim has swallowed.
  • Will saves are negated when the victim has no reason to struggle against the influence of a ritual.  This can include unconsciousness, a misunderstanding regarding the purpose of the ceremony, magical charm or enchantment ensuring the cooperation of the victim, insanity, or long term conditioning leading to a subservient attitude on the part of the victim.
  • Fortitude saves are negated when the victim’s body is already struggling to cope with an impairing condition.  This could be illness, nausea, poison, curse, hunger, insomnia, bleeding wounds, or the use of a successful slicing or piercing attack to initiate the ritual - but this intent must be declared prior to the attack roll and may affect the way that the damage is resolved.


  • A healthy person asleep would still be entitled to a Fortitude save.
  • A character incapacitated by wounds would have no save.
  • A character suffering from illness could choose between a Reflex or Will save.
  • An ill-kept slave believing themselves the property of the ritualist would either have a Reflex save or no save at all.
  • A healthy and loyal follower of the ritualist might have a Fortitude save if their body was resisting the dangers of the ritual despite the fervency of their belief.  (Of course, succeeding in the save, the truly loyal follower might then cut up or otherwise abuse their body until they had no remaining save at all.)
  • A character targeted by a ritual initiated by the successful melee attack and subsequent infliction of damage by a Dark arcanist’s ceremonially imbued knife could still attempt a Will save.  (The Reflex save stopped being an option when the attack successfully hit, and the Fortitude save stopped being an option once any damage resistance was overcome... alternatively it could be decided that the Fortitude save remains an option unless Bleeding damage is inflicted.)

My thinking is to give PC victims as much benefit of the doubt as possible, while also encouraging PC ritualists to incorporate some degree of planning or *gasp* roleplaying into their efforts.  It also gives the DM room to incorporate multiple saving throws when the outcome needs to tilt one way or another without making success or failure a completely done deal.

Animal and human sacrifice.

How I imagine this working is in the sense of animal or human sacrifice. You don't draw life energy out of them - you cut or poke them to make blood come out, then use that blood to power your spells, Aztec-style. 2hp per spell level works for me for humanoids and intelligent creatures, and maybe 3hp per spell level for animals and unintelligent creatures. I like the creepy image of a wizard using Hold Person on someone, then cutting and stabbing them to power their spells that they use against their allies. I also like the ongoing temptation - any arcane caster can save themselves the pain of using their own blood and use others' blood instead. They can tell themselves it is for the greater good, etc., but yikes. That's evil however you slice it.