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Optional Magical Pathway: The Toll of Magic

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Since this is a setting where magic collapsed and is slowly building back up, one way to change the mechanics to make magic more rare while not having to rewrite the whole system is to just give magic an extra cost.

Every time a character attempts to cast a spell or use a spell-like ability, they must make a Concentration check (or Fort or Will save maybe?) against a DC of 15 + the level of the spell, just as if they took damage while casting - because they do.  If the succeed on the roll, they take 1 damage for each level of the spell or spell-like-ability used.  If they fail the roll, they take 1d3 Constitution damage. 

Maybe this cost is too high, but the idea I have is to make magic more costly, which will have the automatic effect of making it more rare without having to reinvent the spellcasting classes.


Arcane foci instead of spell components?

Given the "Magic" document, I think it is a good idea to have this high-cost method of spellcasting the thing that happens when a character does not have their arcane focus with them - when they are deprived of it, they have to draw on their own power, which involves the painful loss of life-energies - but unlike lacking material components, one can still manage.

Speaking of which, I would like to propose that we get rid of the requirement for material components. Everyone I've played with has tended to ignore them anyway, and I always take the Eschew Materials Feat :)

mikeb's picture

Some quantity and quality ideas based on robosnake's ideas

"Squeezing blood from a turnip" - This is the idea behind these mechanical ideas. The magic is there, but it's really, really hard to tap into. A caster has to call upon their own being to do it.


  • Casting a spell does damage to self - always does spell level in damage
  • Creating a magic non-single use or non-charge item costs 1 permanent Con
  • Caster level check - a 1 results in a fizzle and d3 temp Con loss
    DC 10 plus spell level (15 might be too hard)
    Additional damage equal to how much the caster fails by


  • No metamagic feats
  • Collapse die - determines additional effect on second table - d3
    1. Decreases the caster level
    2. Decreases the range
    3. Decreases the duration

I'm not sure the quality

I'm not sure the quality component is even needed. Given how Pathfinder handles Concentration, it could just be DC 10 + twice the spell level, since it is spell level + damage taken, and you know you're going to automatically take damage.

I like the sacrifice idea - maybe the energy from the sacrifice can even be stored temporarily, so you don't have metagaming Wizards carrying a backpack of housecats to sacrifice in combat and the like (I've met many players who would do this - "can I get housecats in bulk?"). Maybe you can purchase some kind of reservoir, developed by necromancers in Sascria, that soaks up sacrifices and holds them for 24 hours. This also adds a cool effect wherein casters, when they pray or study for spells in the morning, are also making occult sacrifices, say before a big battle or adventure. I like the flavor of that, and it gets a little bit away from the Vancian system.

mikeb's picture

Since the sacrifice feature

Since the sacrifice feature borders on "evil", that should probably be a feat or a class feature. There's also the practicality of carrying around a bunch of house cats if someone went that route. There's a reason the phrase "like herding cats" implies something difficult. ;)

Satyr did talk about Sascria rounding up the Gifted (and perhaps sacrificing them) in order to maintain their magical power. Perhaps there's a central place that the Sascrian wizards sacrifice the Gifted to maintain their power.

I think the quantity magic mechanic will work well - Concentration DC 10 + spell level x 2. One of the nice Pathfinder features is that all the classes that had low hit dice were increased. What do you think of the temporary Constitution loss on a roll of 1? That would be instead of the damage. I was initially thinking that the Concentration check would be to determine whether or not you took damage, but using the book Concentration mechanics would imply that the spell fails completely if the check fails.

I'm starting a Dark Golden Age game very soon, so I'm going to try out the quality mechanic to see if it adds anything.

Raemann's picture

Twisted thoughts from a twisted mind ...

I have been dubbed the Master of the Master of Macabre by those who many might consider beyond salvation.
Just an intro ... thatz all.
Why not consider this. There have come forth a group of persons from the ranks of the mundane which have genetically become different from their fellows. These persons have altered physiology that allows them to focus arcane energies in a fashion quite different from the current mages. These people are the Psionicists and they can cast magical affects that the masters can no longer control.
In response the wizard and mage population uses all forms of sacrifice both personal and forced to do whatever they can to hold on to the shifting powers which are, only now being given over to the very persons that once they subjugated and abused. In the ranks of once noble and powerful masters of the arcane there rest a wicked hatred so palatable that it stifles all but the most heinous of souls.
In the melieu that I write of (Maenatae) the Aelves cast using power centers in their mind. Casting a spell as a human in the fashion that the elves do is a death sentence. No one attempts such casting, however the mind of man can focus powers that are inaccessible to the others ... through The Psyche, Id, Psionics.

Somethin to think on, because although making it a challenge to cast is a very good concept and I am 100% behind it, if it is too hard to do no one will want to play it. Kinda like those Spelljammers that used a Forge that destroyed magical items, you don't see allot of those cruisin' the cosmos. So the entire thing rides on the delivery of the concept which, so far, is well conceived and very logical, now is challenged to be created in a usable and entertaining craft.

mikeb's picture

Quality and Quantity

Pathfinder has a slightly different mechanic to Concentration than 3.5 did:

A simple thing could be to force every spell to make a concentration check with the DC starting at 15 plus spell level. The damage or DC could be potentially mitigated by sacrificing a living creature with HD equal to the spell level - 1.

The difficult part is finding a way to capture the quality component without making the system burdensome.

Raemann's picture

I like this, it works

If you have a damage die roll that is based on the level of the spell then you could add that to the concentration check whenever a person attempts to cast without some focus device or alternative power source.

I think that having no

I think that having no metamagic feats is enough for Quality. That, or metamagic feats could cost temporary Con or something, since players will still probably want to take them.

I think the sacrificing should take place outside of combat where most spells are used, and might actually be a class feature. There are just too many ways to game the system in order to have HD worth of critters on hand for spellcasting.