Specialist Mages, Spell-Like Powers, & Caster Level

I've been playing with the "spell-like powers" from the ACKS Player's Companion to build some custom classes for my home campaign.
Specifically, I've made several specialist mage subclasses based on the Warlock build. These include the Pyromancer & Cryomancer, Necromancer, and Illusionist. Each subclass gets specific spell-like powers related to their specialty, but cast as a mage of 2/3 their actual level.
Pyromancer & Cryomancer: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B5LxDfEgdX7NSFNMREhWcnduYk0
Necromancer Class Description: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B5LxDfEgdX7NTUwwUVhRajhIS2s
Illusionist Class Description: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B5LxDfEgdX7NUUdpQXdUdUFRZEE
One thing that I realized after creating these is that the characters are supposed to act 1st-lvl casters when they first receive a spell-like power, then increment each level thereafter.
Instead of tracking separate caster levels for each power (and to avoid issues with higher-level spells), I'm going to declare that my specialist mages use their spell-like abilities at their normal caster level (2/3 arcane progression).
Thoughts and opinions?

This may be a bit off topic, but this discussion and the other one you've responded to is making me wonder if maybe there's not a better way to do this sort of thing.

In some more modern versions of D&D, you still have daily spell slots, but some of the spells you can prepare are "at-will" or "per encounter" for whatever definition of encounter that game uses.

How hard would it be to use the PC rules to make a spell that, once you cast it, gave you a mini-effect you could utilize either every round, every 10 minutes, or some other interval?  Essentially something to allow a mage to trade a single big effect for a regularly recurring ability.  And if it wouldn't be hard to do this, would it be something worth adding to a game?

It would take a fair amount of fiddling to create secondary effects for spells, although I recall seeing a similar proposal a few years back on net.

EDIT: Found them:

  • http://trollsmyth.blogspot.ca/2008/06/playing-with-magic.html
  • http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.ca/2013/04/on-effects-of-magic-1st-level-wizard.html

I was thinking something more to the effect of

Drowsy          Range:    Self
Arcane 1    Duration:    special
When the spellcaster spends one full round casting this spell, for the rest of the day they gain the following ability, castable once per hour:
The spellcaster chooses a target within 30'.  The target must immediately make a saving throw vs. spells or become intensely tired for one round, standing still and taking no actions for one round, even in the thick of combat.

Acid Orb    Range:        Self
Arcane 1    Duration:    Special
When the spellcaster spends one full round casting this spell, for the rest of the day they gain the following ability, castable a number of times equal to their spellcaster level plus their intelligence modifier.
The spellcaster lobs a ball of acid to a range of 20'/40'/60' at a single target. On a successful ranged attack throw, the target takes 1d2 acid damage. Small items on the outside of the target may become damaged, and worn armor will become blemished but will be no less effective.

One option is simply to create spells that have a long duration.

I’ve created some damage over time effects by having them deal damage once per round for their duration. (A Blast spell dealing a flat 1d4 damage every round for one round per level, single target, 150’ range, no save would be a first level spell at 8 points, doing it this way.)

I prefer to consider the per-round damage instead of the total damage because that spell would be terrible as an 8th level spell.

edit: (Actually, Choking Grip shows that I’m doing this right and it’s RAW, not just my interpretation, since it has a max damage of 1d and deals 1d6 each round that it is maintained. It’s also worth noting that since Death spells can have a maximum duration up to 1 day, you could easily use them as the basis for this.)

Another option would be to look at the reserve feats from 3.5 and use them as a basis for proficiencies or custom powers, allowing you to use a spell-like effect at will as long as you had a specific spell available. (In ACKS repertoire, it would likely be something like ‘have a 3rd level or higher spell slot remaining and a fire spell of 3rd level or higher in your repertoire’. A slightly longer phrasing than 3.5’s, but still pretty understandable.) I’d probably want to limit this to custom powers instead of proficiencies, in large part because I think most of them would require more than one power.

Based on some of the discussions from this forum, I've updated my specialist classes. Each now explicitly gets a "+2 effective caster level" for their specialty, which keeps them better or on-par with standard mages until 8th level in their area of expertise.

That means that these classes now receive +1 bonus power compared to what they should have from the ACKS Player's Companion. I'll swipe CharlesDM's suggestion that "a specialist mage’s master will always teach a spell of the specialist’s selected spell type when a new spell level is gained" and call it even.

Been playtesting for a few more months now and have made further modifications to the specialist mages (links above are to newest versions, or see my Mages & Specialists post).

  • Characters can now pick their Signature Spells from a short list, instead of being assigned a specific class spell.
  • In practice, the spell-like effects with different cadences (1/hours, 1/8 hrs, 1/day, etc.) were difficult to keep track of. I ended up just changing everything to 1/day.
  • Power level really lagged vs. Mage after 3rd level. I moved up each Signature Spell to the equivalent level in which it came available to a Mage. The standard Mage is still more powerful (and flexible) above 5th level, but the specialists get a boost at lower levels.
  • I tweaked the XP requirement down slightly to 2000XP base (same as fighter).

These changes move the classes further away from the "canon" versions generated using the ACKS Player's Companion, but we've been really pleased with the implementation in my home campaign.

Oh; my Mages get Overcasting (from Axioms Issue 1), but not Specialists.