Vetting Magic Spells (Care, wall of Text)

Greetings all!

Recently in our campaign, my hardworking mage finally ascended to level 5 (after a mishap with Eyes of are they not a cursed item? :P) and with it grasped the untold power of 3rd level spells. Along with the mystical arcane power, he also was finally allowed to start playing with the spell creation rules.

Given my status as the most 'powergamey' of our group (at least since one member left the country) and the fact that I likely have the best grasp of the magic system in our group (as I don't have to make an entire campaign world and make sure a bunch of idiots don't burn down everything each session) my magnanimous, but somewhat wary GM has instructed me to get all proposed spells I create vetted via these forums, lest I break the gameworld assunder. Not that I'd do that. Unless it was *very* funny.

My first order of business is to create a spell for the mage that was my master up until this point (about to reach level parity) as a sort of masterpiece (using the more...classical definition of the word) and thank you for everything. The master is described as a generalist leaning towards spells that are helpful as opposed to burning things to the ground.

Spell A.

Detect Lost Keys

Simple spell here, mainly for locating lost things 
Detect Known Object withinin 100 miles, duration of 1 turn per level. Spell takes 1 turn to cast & and can only be performed once per week. Level 2 Spell.

(8x0.8x0.2x1x8x2x1x1 = 20.42 - Level 2 Spell)

Spell B.

I'm drunk and which way was home again?

Again a fairly simple spell, Teleport to a specific destination (Master's home) as long as you're within 10 miles. Level 3 Spell.

(600x0.66x1x0.8x0.75x.01x1=23.76 - Level 3 Spell)

Spell C.

Summon *Helpful* Faeries

Getting into slightly more grey territory here. This spell summons 3d4 Pixies to assist in cleaning up a house. Level 3 Spell. Unfortunately I don't think the Unseen Servant spell was created with any of the systems, which means I can't really use them to come up with a souped up version of the spell. The Pixies last 6+level turns, take 1 turn to cast and can only be summoned once a week. They are also released if they perform some great feat, which I figure getting Pixies to actually clean a house would qualify. This ones a bit more iffy and would likely require a few more restrictions to bring it in line with Unseen Servant (alas the base rules don't really have concrete rules towards the more 'creature comfort' style spells for some reason :D).

(500x0.15x0.7x0.8x0.8x1x1x1x0.66x1x1=22.18 - Level 3)

Spell D.

Summon Curmudgeons

Again a more 'greyey' spell, but this one is because I'm not sure how the *actual* rules work with regards to this area. The point of this spell is to Summon a group of 4 Dwarves preferably Dwarven Machinists but really, Dwarven Craftsman of some form or another. I'm not sure how summoning humanoid type creatures would work. Basically the point is to be able to summon Dwarves that are capable of repair, building, general labor that sort of thing. Depending on what that would require as the base summoning (what HD and what amount of special abilities) there should be no problem with having a decent duration on the spell (33 1/3 days or until specific task). As an aside, the thread awhile ago about using spells to build things really would benefit from simply being able to summon workers on top of transmuting stone to mud to make it easier to work and the like.

(Example, 150 (4 creatures)x0.15 (Creature up to 1 HD)x1 (1 Special ability max)x0.7 (Limited to Dwarves)x0.8 (One turn to cast)x1 (thin air)x1 (10' Range) x1.75 (33 1/3 day duration)x1 (Arcane)= 22.05 - Level 3 Spell)

Spell E.

Change Class to Cleric

Honestly this spell is probably the one I'd most like to be able to use, but also probably the most powerful. Basically, the jist of the spell is that you summon and control a Lammasu. Main reason for this is to basically allow a Mage to use the healing/restorative powers of the Cleric class as opposed to actually using the Lammasu as a combat creature. 

For this I'd actually like to see an alteration to the rules for Summoning spells with the "Can only be cast once per week" rider. I feel it'd actually be really cool and likely more mythical if (perhaps as part of spell creation) any spell of this type involved Summoning a single (or group if thats the spell I guess) being of the type and making a sort of Contract with it. Making each time you cast the spell, you summon that particular being, and as you continue to use the creature, it would judge you based on how your initial contract went. In this case, if you summoned a Lammasu to do evil, it would likely go against any contract that the Lammasu would set, and it would likely attack the summoner in protest. I really feel that this would actually add a bit more flavour to the 'disposable shock troops' nature of summons. Also this would mean I'd have to create a seperate 'version' of the spell if I gave it to my master as the Lammasu would only contract with a single spell.

Also, with regards to the "Summoner must concentrate to control the creature(s)" modifier, instead of controlling the Lammasu mentally, it would change to the difficulty of maintaining the 'magical essence' of such a powerful creature in this plane. This way the caster is not effectively mind controlling a creature of pure good. That would likely seem quite evil. This is also may be less useful, as assuming that the caster is good, it would be actually not too unlikely that the Lammasu might simply help out if the caster ceases to concentrate on the spell. That would make the hefty .5 no where near as disadvantageous as it should be.

So, the spell would effectively be:
Summon a Lammasu for 1 turn per level, the Caster must Concentrate to maintain the spell for the full duration. This spell can only be cast once per week. 

Summon One Creature (65)x0.8 (Creature may have up to 10 HD)x2.33 (Creature may have up to 3 Abilities)x0.7 (Restricted to Lammasu)x0.5 (Caster must concentrate to control creature)x0.8 (Spell can only be performed once per week)x1 (Arcane)=20.35 - Technically level 2, but I'd honestly just increase to level 3 as it seems waaaay too good for a level 2 spell. 


So, please go ahead and point out everywhere I've messed up, taken advantage of poor, innocent rules and any general abuse you wish to hurl my way. Also accepting condolences for my poor GM. Something about giving an inch and teleporting a mile?


Kind Regards




I am not familiar with the spell creation rules, so I'm just looking at these as a DM thinking about my games.

My first instinct is to question the 1/week limit on so many of them; that seems like a suspicious way of shaving points.

Find Known Object: I have no objections. Seems reasonable.
Teleport Home: Same. If anything, seems kinda week for a 3rd level spell. If anything, I'd buff the range and make it morrowind's Mark and Recall.
Pixies: Hmmm. I'd probably work with the DM to just eyeball a price on Greater Unseen Servant rather than work with pixies, if that's what you're going for.
Dwarves: See above. Maybe call this one Greatest Unseen Servant, note in the spell thematics that they might actually be Seen Servants in most traditions.
Llammasu: I'm pretty sure this sort of thing is why people complain about 3.5, so I'd slap on some weird limitations. 

As someone who gleefully tries to break things with the spell creation system, I can honestly say that none of those spells seem overpowered, though like susan_brindle, I feel the "once a week" bits may seem a little weasel-y (an unnecessary):

Spell A: for that range, length of time doesn't really matter. So, drop it to 1 round/level. Also, make it 1 object, since you're likely going to be looking for "nearest patch of woundwart" or "my housekey that was on my belt a minute ago I swear." Take off the once-per-week part, and you have: 8*0.8 *0.7 *8 *0.25 *1 *1 = 8.96 = level 1.

Spell B: This is spot on, nicely done. As a Judge, I may allow "teleport to a specific location" be a cart or a boat, as long as it's the same cart or boat every time, but that's up to your judge.

Spell C: This seems ok, though I would take off the "once per week" part; it doesn't change the cost at all. It'll be a level 3 spell either way.

Spell D: This seems fine, too, though I would add "May be dismissed at will", which brings it up to 30.32, and thus still a level 3 spell. These would likely be level 1 vaultguards, at best, mind you. As a judge, I would allow you to summon dwarves with a specific general proficiency (ie, you can choose at the time of summoning that the dwarves are engineers, laborers, etc.), since they aren't fighting folk.

Spell E: If you want cleric-powers-via-mage, it may be easier just to summon a cleric. Otherwise, you end up with the problem of summoning the Llammasu in the middle of dinner and it being quite cross to begin with and refusing to help. Summoning a level 10 cleric solves the problem nicely. Otherwise, I don't see a problem with it. If you wanted to make it a level 3 spell, add "May be dismissed at will", as above. If you wanted to make it more of a "beg for help" spell, you could do the following:

(65)*0.8 *2.33 *0.7 *0.8 *0.8 *1 *1 *0.5 *1 *1 = 27.14 = Level 3

Summon a creature. Creature may have up to 10 HD. Creature may have up to 3 special abilities (***). Summoning restricted to certain monsters. Summoned creature(s)s passively hostile to caster. Spell takes one turn to cast. Targets summoned from thin air (alternative plane, etc.). 10'. 1 turn. No saving throw permitted. Arcane.

That is, you summon the Llammasu, and it is indeed irritated at being summoned; you must convince it to help you, or it will simply return to whence it came. If you do convince it to help, it will cast spells or fight or whatever; if you make it mad, you may be running from an angry Llammasu!

Honestly the main reason to use "Only once per week" as a rider are 2 reasons. One, it means that the spell has less usefulness as a combat spell, and two, it's thematically appropriate for summoning of powerful creatures. 

With regards to using it on the detection, that was mainly done as a limiting factor as opposed to a way to get more power out of the spell. As Arman said, the best option is simply to lower the duration to round/level and you can drastically lower the level of the spell (Level 1 with same version, level 2 if you increase range to 100 miles). 

For the Faeries, thinking about it again (though the once per week was again meant to limit combat effectiveness) the best option would simply be to change the "Summon 3d4 creatures" to "Summon creatures totaling up to caster's level in HD". This *drastically* reduces the power of the spell (and actually I think may be the most powerful option to go for creating summoning spells, especially if you're a full divine caster like a priestess or witch) as that brings the Spell level to 75x0.15x0.7x1.1x1.25=9.84 - Level 1 spell. This results in 6 Pixies being summoned for the duration of a day, with them also being dismissable. 

Thinking about it now, that actually might be the best option. Basically it turns into a spell you cast at the beginning of the day, to summon a bunch of Pixies to follow you around and help you do minor household chores. And they're invisible. They'd also likely have similar strength to the Unseen Servant spell and then you just dismiss them at the end of the day.

I doubt the Llammasu would be annoyed at being summoned while at dinner, as that sort of thing is handwaved away with all the similar Summoning spells such as Call Dragon and Summon Djinni. Basically, I'd avoid having the "Passively Hostile" rider as that *really* implies that you're controlling a being of pure good against it's will. That's pretty evil. Maybe not Evil with a capital E, but still an evil nonetheless.

Also, I *reaaaally* want to avoid going down the rabbit hole of letting mages summon more powerful level PCs. Otherwise you could have something crazy like Summon a level 14 Mage as a level 2 spell (65*1*1.66*.7*.8*.5*1*1*.6*1.1*1*1) (passively hostile and must be controlled, can be dismissed). Also youd GM would kill you if you had to roll random spells *every* *single* *time*. So yeah, giving all your level 3 mage henches the ability to effectively turn into level 14 Mages seems like a recipe for disaster. Awesome, sparkly, arcane disaster. But disaster nonetheless. 

I don't see any real issue with any of your spells. They're pretty fun.

For the dwarves, since you want the ability to select the specific proficiencies of the dwarves at the time of casting, I'd perhaps add some sort of modifier. It's an ability that could be easily abused (e.g. imagine if summon berserkers could be dynamically adjusted to get alertness, dungeon bashing, or other proficiencies--it would be much more valuable than a spell that always has a fixed package of proficiencies.)  Perhaps "select general proficiencies of summoned creature x1.2". On the other hand if the spell was always the same type of crafter, or if it was just general labor, then I'd not change it.

Nimas, I think your concern is spot on. There probably should be a general limitation that no spell can allow you to summon a creature of more than twice the HD/level you'd have to have as a minimal level caster of the spell. So no 1st level spell can summon more than a 2HD monster, no 2nd level spell can summon more than a 6HD monster, no 3rd level spell can summon more than a 10HD monster, no 4th level spell can summon more than a 14HD monster, no 5th level spell can summon more than an 18HD monster (and maybe that no 6th level spell can summon more than a 22HD monster).


Hmm, with regards to the profs, maybe something that means they don't fight in combat? I mean, there are plenty of monsters that have the "Don't fight" rider, so maybe there might be an addendum. Something to think about either way. 

With regards to the high level HD, my major concern wasn't that it was specifically a high HD creature (as there are good trade offs alot of the time with regards to single high HD creature being easy to gang up with many low HD creatures), my main concern was with the ability to effectively summon higher level PC's. So you could theoretically make a spell that effectively turns any level 2 Mage henches you have into Level 14 mage henches. This seems like a bad idea :P. Maybe the ability to somone 'PC' like characters was a lost art from long ago, with only Summon Hero being the last remaining version, and Summon Beserkers a spell made after looking into Summon Hero?

Actually, the bigger concern I had after playing my mage for awhile, is what summon spells currently promote. At the moment, it seems to be the best strategy for anything without Dispel magic is just to summon creatures until you run out of spells and then just sort of hang around at the back. This makes mages significantly less interesting, bogs the game down a bit and just feels unfun. Thinking on it, (and suggested this to my GM today too) I think the best solution is that each 'Mage' has their own 'contracted summons' or something like that (maybe just part of the keeping up to date on your spells in repetoire) which they can call on. So that when you cast Summon Beserkers if that mage casts the spell again, all it does is resummon any that have died already. This would prevent a mage with a couple of level 2 mage henches throwing around 24 beserkers into every fight, they'd only have 4 each. So if you had Summon Beserkers, Summon Hero and similar spells it would incentivise using a single spell on the summons, and then trying to use other combinations of spells as opposed to brute forcing it with waves of summons. Or it may make them want to hold onto a spell to resummon them when they get wiped out, which then makes it obvious who the mage is and encourages some counterplay. I'd actually have Summon spells that don't summon a specific creature be able to call multiple creatures, though never of the same type at once. This would make the spells more powerful, but honestly I'd say it they could use a boost compared to the straight power you get with single types.

This also prevents things like making a level 2 spell which Summons your HD in Pixies with indefinite duration. By current rules, I think there is nothing (beyond the GM rightfully slapping you upside the head) of spending a month where everyday you burn your level 2 spells on summoning more Pixies. Assuming level 5 (to create the spell) in a single month, you've summoned 300 Invisible, mostly flying creatures who are frankly a *really* good assassination force (going to deal with a village of creatures? Send in 300 invisble Pixies the night before to take out the casters and leader. Even if they hit on 20's, that's still an average of 37.5 damage in the first surprise round) or other mischief. 

I don't personally have a problem with mages who use summoned monsters to defeat enemies. In fact I think that's probably more true to the literature of fantasy than the notion of mages who use fireballs to defeat enemies. I more worry about the implications of stacked summoning, e.g. summon an invisible stalker ever day.

In the Heroic Fantasy Companion the way I'm addressing summoning is by dividing it into 3 types: calls, conjurations, and true summonings. Calls bring a creature from the nearest lair, traveling under its own power. Conjutions conjure a creature from thin air, but it is hostile and has to be constantly concentrated upon or it breaks from the caster's control. True summonings summon a creature from thin air, which remains in service to due a task for an extended period of time, but they typically take a while to cast and cannot be cast too frequently.

These are implemented simply by applying different philosophies and choices within the spell design system, not requiring much in the way of new mechanics.


Call of the Giant Eagle (4): Summoning, summon a creature (65), creature may have up to 12 HD (x0.9), summoning restricted to certain monster – large rocs (x0.7), range special – creature(s) arrives by means of own locomotion from nearest lair (x0.66), duration 1 day (x1.25), no saving throw (x1), eldritch (x1), total cost 33.8

Conjure Chaos Hulk (4): Summon a creature (65), creature may have up to 10 HD (x0.8), creature may have up to 4 special abilities (x3), summoning restricted to certain monsters – chaos hulk (x0.7), summoned creature actively hostile (x0.5), caster must concentrate to control creature (x0.5), target summoned from thin air (x1), range 240’ (x1.33), duration 6 turns plus 1 turn per level (x1), creature can be dismissed at will while controlled (x1.1), no saving throw (x1), eldritch (x1), total cost 40

Summon Shadows (4): Summoning, summon 1d4 creatures (100), creature may have up to 3 HD (x0.33), creature may have up to 2 special abilities (x1.66), summoning restricted to certain monsters – shadows (x0.7), spell can only be performed once per week (x0.8), summoned creature(s) passively hostile to caster (x0.8), targets summoned from thin air (x1), range 10’ (x1), duration 1 week (x1.5), no saving throw (x1), total cost 36.8 (1d4 creatures)

For the Calls I've created a chart based on the known real-world populations of wild animals in wilderness environments to help the Judge determine how close the nearest wolf, tiger, bear, giant eagle, etc. is likely to be.

Yeah Alex, that was mainly what I was intending to address with regards to trying to prevent stacking which led to mages in our game just casting all their spells before the fight and then just sending in summons while plinking away at range mostly ineffectively. This led to actual combat being pretty boring for the mage. We've implemented the "One set per Summon spell" rule so we'll have to see how that affects combat from now on.


Anyway, once more I come with spells:

Get me Out of here (2) : Movement, Teleport anywhere within 100 miles (900), chance of error (x0.5), limited to one destination (x0.66), normal carrying capacity (x1.0), only creatures (x0.8), self (x0.75), instantaneous (x0.1), beneficial (x1.0), arcane (x1.0). Total cost 17.82 - This is a spell that will likely be used as the basis for potion creation as a sort of 'emergency teleport' for when someone is in bad enough shape that they need to be sent back to our domain instantly (about to die, etc). It does mean that we likely have to clear a rather large area so that will greatly reduce the chance of the actual teleport instantly killing whoever drinks the potion.

Non-aging Haste (2): Target movement/attack routine doubled (25), Normal Carrying Capacity (x1.0), Only creatures can be targeted (x0.8), Touch range (x1.0), 1 Turn duration (x0.75), Beneficial Effect (x1.0). Total cost 15 - Single target haste without that hideous aging process...because you're worth it.

Summon Refreshing Lizard (3): Summon a Creature (65), May have up to 14HD (x1.0), Up to 1 special ability (x1.0), Restricted to certain monsters (x0.7), Summoned from thin air (x1.0), Range 30' (x1.1), 1 turn per level duration (x0.6), no saving throw permitted (x1.0), Arcane (x1.0). Total cost 30,03 - Summon a Frost Salamander.

Summon Avatars of the Old Gods (5): Summon 4 Creatures (150), Creatures may have up to 18 HD (x1.33), Up to one special ability (x1.0), Summoning Restricted to General type (x1.0), Summoned Creatures actively hostile (x0.5), Caster must concentrate to Control creatures (x0.5), Targets summoned from thin air (x1.0), 120' Range (x1.25), 1 turn per level (x0.6), Can be dismissed at will while controlled (x1.1), no saving throw (x1.0), Divine (x1.2).

Total cost 49.38 - This spell is actually a spell for our cleric/divine casters - Given that our casters are devotees of the 'old gods' of our island and that the current dominant religion is of 'new gods' and we're reaaaally likely to start a holy war at some point, I figure it'd be a good idea to have a spell that represents the religion. This spell summons 1 of each of the 4 elementals as representives of each of the 4 gods which I feel would be a really nice theme for the spell.

Those all look like fun spells! The single-target Haste is not too different from Swift Sword. 

I somewhat suspect that Frost Salamanders might qualify as 2 special ability creatures if you judiciously follow the rules in Lairs & Encounters for building monsters. They are, in any case, certainly on the "high end" of the 1 special ability range. For balance I might say that spell should require a 2 special ability summoning.

Get Me Out Of Here and Summon Avatars are both awesome spells, but they carry substantial risks to use. You do NOT want to lose control of 4 elementals...

Hmm, fair enough. In that case:

Summon Refreshing Lizard (3): Summon a Creature (65), Restricted to certain monsters (x0.7), Takes One turn to cast (x0.8), Cast once per week (x0.8), Summoned from thin air (x1.0), Range 10' (x1.0), Duration 1 turn per level (x0.6), Arcane. Total 29 - This is the same idea but with heavy combat restrictions (which can make it feel thematically more powerful again) and with a...rather important downside. The fact that you summon the creature within it's Aura of cold. So thus you need:

Mage's Warm Coat (1): Immunity to Cold (36), 1 Creature (x1.0), Range 30' (x1.1), 1 Round per level (x0.75), Caster Must remain staitonary (x0.5), Concentration required to sustain max duration (x0.6). Total 8.91 - Frankly, this would likely be better as a slightly more powerful level 2 spell, but for ease this likely will cover the use in this case (though it might be a good idea to 'experiment' at level 7). This also means you have to have a second mage (a hench in this case) sustain a spell to ensure that the summon spell goes off safely, which again kind of feels thematically cool if somewhat impracticle.

Related question, when it says: Takes one turn to cast, is that one turn of concentration like effect, or does it have to be in a single location or can you 'channel' a spell while riding or moving?