A New Ssyle of Magic

I'm working on a new style of magic (tentatively: Psychic Magic), one that uses a radically different casting system, and I'd like some advice.

Rather than using spell levels as a flat rate, the caster has "spell points" that stack with hit points; spell points are gained like hit points, once per level. A class with a d6 hit die and a d6 spell die would then gain an average of 7 spell points per level. I'm working on a formula to balance spell casting; the current model uses (spell level)2, which isn't horrible, except for level 1 spells. No more than 4 build points can go towards hit dice and spell dice; spell dice build progression is as follows:

0: no spell points; 1: spell points = hit points; 2: spell points = 1d4 + hit points; 3: spell points = 1d6 + hit points; 4: spell points = 1d8 + hit points

While spell points are above hit points, casting simply uses spell points. However, once spell points equal hit points, casting does 1 point of nonlethal damage per 1 point used - that is, if a caster have 20 spell points and 10 hit points, casting a 3rd level spell (9 sp) doesn't hurt him at all. However, casting a 4th level spell (16 sp) does 6 points of non-lethal damage to the caster. Casting a spell that would drop you below 0 hp is not allowed, nor is casting a spell that costs more spell points than you have available. That has two effects - spending all your spell points will knock you out and force a roll on the mortal wounds table, and getting damaged will affect how many spells you can cast in a day. Healing damage (non-lethal or otherwise) will restore the ability to cast those spell points, if available, but will grant no new spell points.

This has the odd effect of allowing a lot more spells to be cast (a level 14 d6+d6 caster could cast, if at average health, 98 first-level spells), higher-level spells to be cast (the same caster could cast 2 7th level spells), but also a lot fewer spells (the same caster could cast only 3 5th level spells, 1 4th level spell, 1 2nd level spell, and 3 1st level spells in a single day).

No spellbook is required; the full list of spells (5-10 per level, similar to divine magic) is available, as long as spell points can be spent, and is known automatically. I haven't worked out ritual magic yet; there may not be any for this class. This is mental magic, so it'll be heavy on death (psychic blasts), enchantment, movement (telekinesis), and illusion, but light on walls and summoning (if any). Casters will not be able to research spells, scribe scrolls, or create potions or crossbreeds, though will be able to create items usable only by psychics (psychic foci), and grant un-life.

The only problem I'm having is the level 1 spells. Fully maxed spell points can only cast 4 7th level spells a day, plus a small handful of 1-3 level spells... but even an average caster with only a single build-point could cast 35 1st level spells a day! My only idea on how to fix that is to make the first level spells super weak, largely utility, and the (single) damage-dealing spell being attack-throw based, and/or avoided with saves.


Nonlinear spell costs always result in the issue arising of “I could cast two high-level spells or a million first level spells”.

This is why in PoTM I ended up with a linear progression of power costs.

It’ll also lead to some oddities with spells per day at first level; if you max spell points like you do hit points, then a Psychic 4 would have 12 spell points (4 hit points) at first level. That’s 8 first level spells with no penalty, 11 and remaining conscious, 12 if you push all the way.

I like the channeling mechanic though!

I was definately planning on not allowing spell points to be maxed. Or, now that I think of it, possibly not adding spell points at all for the first level; I'll have to do the math on that. I think if I make most first level spells unuseable in combat, it shouldn't overbalance anything - or make them dangerous, like haste; you get a boost to speed, but it costs 2 years of life. Or, there simply are no first level spells; instead, the caster gets some number of spell-like abilities that he can use each day, like the gnome's illusions or the warlock's hex. Hmm.

Hmm. A single casting of cure light wounds will restore an average of 4.5 hp; That's enough for this class to cast four first-level spells, or a single second-level spell. That seems a bit much bang-for-buck, at first level. Worse, a ring of regeneration (or similar magic) could give this class the ability to regain 100 hit points (and thus effective power points) per turn - that's enough to fully restock an average level fourteen character's hit points in five minutes, far less than the average time between encounters. Practically infinite power!

Even if you prevent power points from being restored by common healing spells, I think the issue is that your casting costs are too low at low level and too high at high level; Having ~4 spells per day at level one means you'll be able to keep throwing spells long after equivilent-level casters of other classes have retired, and running out of spells entirely after only a few high-level spells makes high-level spells almost useless during dungeon crawls, while they remain viable choices for other classes.

Have you considered using another formula for power point costs for spells - perhaps a linear one, such as (spell level *3)? That's enough for one first-level spell per day at first level, and about two spells of each level per day at level 14 (depending on what the maximum spell level is for this class). Yes, reducing the power point cost of higher level spells would let a caster blow all their power points on high-level spells, but the effect wouldn't be that bad; An average 14th-level caster who blew all their power points on 6th-level spells would still only get five spells off before running low.

Healing won’t provide new spell points; damage merely limits the amount of spell points, so healing only re-grants access to them. I’m trying other formulas; the trick is using a formula that limits low level spells, but doesn’t allow access to high-level spells until much later levels… Additionally, the level one spells are guaranteed to be low utility - not much damage, requiring attack throws, or simply basic utility spells like floating disc that, while having some use, aren’t powerful. It’s not like a high level caster would have 50 “magic missiles”; that would be way too much. Using a set spell list with weak level 1 spells fixes that problem by making level 1 spells just not that useful, pushing careers into using higher level spells - which they have access to.

After running some numbers, I really don't think a linear progression will work. A 4-point build total (between hit die and spell die) averages 7 spell points per level; on the one hand, if the multiplier is set to 4, the class gets access to level 7 spells at level 4, which is way too powerful. On the other hand, if the multiplier is set to 7, the class can only cast a handful of spells at level 14. Values between the two have both problems.

A standard mage at level 14 has 20 spells total, which for a psychic would cost 303 spell points using the standard x2 value. An absolutely maximized psychic, with +3 con and max health and spell points at each level, only has 210 spell points at level 14; a more 'normal' level 14 psychic, with average hp/sp and a +2 con bonus, would have 126 spell points. On the one hand, that psychic can cast 2 7th level spells in a day, or 31 second level spells, something the mage could not. On the other hand, using even a single high-level spell seriously cuts down on available spells to use; casting one each of a 7th level, 6th level, 5th level, and 4th level spell is the absolute limit of what she could cast, maximizing high-level spells. That's 4 spells to the mage's 20. On average, a psychic will cast a lot fewer spells than a mage.

This class trades safety (that is, the ability to cast without injury) and guaranteed access (that is, an exact number of spells able to be cast per day) for the ability to cast even higher level spells, and the ability to trade higher-level spells for a number of lower-level spells.

Granted, the number of first level spells available are overwhelming; with 126 'light' spells, 'cure light wound' spells, or 'magic missile' spells, a caster could blind, heal, or destroy entire armies, respectively. Instead, I'm going to completely remove first level spells, replacing them with spell-like abilities that open at various levels: a lesser 'light' spell, ESP, spiritwalking, and similar. The more build points put into Psychic, the more spell-like abilities; a 2 HD, 2 Psychic build might equal a 0 HD, 4 Psychic build for spell points, but the latter will have more spell-like abilities. I may have a full build later this week, and do some mock combat testing to see how it works - but first I need to come up with spells!


Ooh! I didn't realise that the only thing limiting your psychics' access to spells was those spells' power point costs; I was assuming that a psychic had to be a certain level in order to cast spells of a certain level, such that a level 1 psychic couldn't use high level spells even if they technically had enugh power points to pay for them.

That's an... Interesting choice. Because the amount of power points a psychic has can vary, some psychics might gain access to high-level spells at extremely low levels, while others could gain them relatively early. It blows ACKs' assumptions about high level spell availability out of the water, since it partially decouples level from casting ability; Even relatively small towns or domains could easily have a psychic capable of casting one top-level spell per day.

Honestly, I don't think this is going to work well in practice. Access to higher-level spells has a much bigger effect on character power level than hit point total; Hit points just allow a character to survive, while spells allow them to change the world that surrounds them; "Psychic mages" will often end up being drastically more or less powerful than other characters with equivilent experience point totals, no matter what you do. Removing first-level spells from the class will just push the issue to a higher level.

Anyway, thanks for clearing up my confusion; I didn't realise that each hit point could only be used as a power point once per day. (I assume a psychic with 10 hp who spends half of those hit points on powers, then gets healed for 5 hp back to their maximum of 10, could spend another five hit points on powers before running out completely - and would remain concious and not have to roll on the mortal wounds table because they still have 5 hit points left?)

On an unrelated note, I notice you keep referring to seventh-level spells. I'm guessing that's the highest level of spells available to this class? It's an interesting choice of benchmark, given that other classes can't cast spells of that level. Or are you counting rituals?

The most limiting factor on Psychic casters will be the spells they can cast - different build points will allow different spells per level. A 1-build-point Psychic will have access to 4 spells per level; 2 points have access to 6, 3 points 8, and 4 build points have the full 10 spells. However, the spells themselves are fairly limited; lots of illusions, charms, telekinesis, protection, etc. Not a lot of damaging spells, though; most blast spells available, for instance, will damage friend and foe alike, which means the psychic will either have to hope his friends survive it, or brave the enemies alone, and hope they don't.

As far as seventh-level spells, I've decided that this class won't have ritual spells; instead, it has access to higher level spells than other classes - namely, 8th and 9th level spells. Something like the Protection spell "Invincibility", a level 8 spell, which provides a 5' radius shell of immunity to all 1st-6th level spells and all normal weapons, for 1 round per caster level, as long as she remains stationary. It's a powerful spell - most creatures will never be able to touch it - but it's also incredibly expensive. Some psychics may never be able to afford 64 points.

This is a chaotic magic class, with a high amount of randomness, much more so than other classes; it may be this class won't ever work out, and it'll be back to the drawing board for me; but hey, that's the fun part of creating, right? :-)