Deviance #26 – Spontaneous and Prepared Casters
As I write this entry, I just got back from the Essentials/Red Box Game Day. I would have recorded a segment, but honestly, I don’t think there’s much to say about it that hasn’t been said. I played the Rogue, it felt like a Rogue. As I sat there spamming melee basic attacks, I drfited back in my mind to earlier editions. I’ve played 4E enough now that I’m to the point where I miss a lot of the old tropes; spell lists, multiclass dips, not needing an 18 in a stat to be on the to-hit or damage curve, even THAC0. Maybe it’s time for me to go play Pathfinder, but I don’t think so just yet. I bet I could replicate more older edition feel in 4E without needing to change editions. Essentials does this to some extent with all the melee basic attacks, but that’s not the fun stuff really. In the next few episodes of Aberrant Rules, I’m going to begin disassembling some of the less fundamental assumptions of 4E to try to bring back more of that old-school flavor.
This week, I’m starting something easy, but kinda long, class, so start taking notes. Let’s talk spellcasting. When was the last time your wizard actually used his or her Spellbook feature, hunh? Your feats and powers are probably set up to complement each other so you don’t change them out often. The feature is just too small to be really flexible, so it tends to be forgotten. Rituals are supposed to step in and fill this gap for the Wizard (see also Cleric, Psion, Artificer, Bard and Druid), but again, how often do they get used? They’re too expensive and take up too much time. I never see my players use Rituals for anything and when I try to use them as a player, I get little to no support from the table. It’s really frustrating and needs to be changed – so here’s my fix.
If you get Ritual Casting as a bonus feat, you can spend 1 hour each morning to also prepare rituals for free to be used throughout the day as a standard action each. The total number of rituals prepared is equal to 4 + 1/2 of your level. Because rituals don’t inherently deal damage, there is no level spacing requirement. The only caveat is that if the ritual states that the subject must be present, willing and/or helpless for the duration of the casting, such as Imprisonment or Anthem of Unity, that must be true for the hour you spend preparing them. Furthermore, you can take a power twice in two different slots if you like. That is, if you have Shield as your level 2 Utility and you want to also have it as your level 6, so be it. Same goes for Encounter and Daily attack powers.
That takes care of your prepared casters, but how about spontaneous casters? I would place the Sorcerer, Swordmage, Invoker (minus Ritual Casting, of course) as a Favored Soul analog and maybe the Shaman here. For this group, I would allow a lower-level power to be recharged on the fly by sacrificing a higher-level power as a free action. Normally Encounters recharge Encounters, Dailies recharge Dailies, etc, though I might allow a Daily to recharge a Encounter if you really want.
What about metamagic? Take a look at Mongoose Publishing’s Quintessential Wizard and Svalin Games’ Power Alteration Feats; they’re pretty well balanced and absolutely useful. Thing is, my concept of arcane magic specifically is that it’s very malleable so metamagic shouldn’t be such a problem. I like how WotC dealt with this in the Enlarged Spell feat; -2 damage to each die to increase the size. Let’s mimic that with Arcana checks. How about a DC 35 Arcana check to extend a timed spell for another turn, but if you do, you’re dazed? Maybe a DC 25 to change the energy type on a spell, but you gain vulnerable 5 all until the end of your next turn? I miss the Spellcraft skill… a lot.. and this feels like stuff casters ought to be able to do.
Now this of course opens up a whole different can of worms for me which is the rigid power system in the first place. That’s a far more difficult nut to crack, though, and we’ll hold off on it… for now. I have plans. Give that a run, see if it adds a little bit more complexity and old-school fun to your casters. Next time, we’ll talk about how you don’t need to be 18 to be legal. An 18 hit stat, that is. And not like hitting that.. ya know, this metaphor’s REALLY going south fast. Alright people, I’m out.