rockym93 dot net

A rant about Pathfinder's dumb magic system.

What I want is something elegant, flexible, and easily accountable.

What I have is forty years of bedraggled cruft which has been copypasta'd from edition to edition since tie-dyed shirts and minivans were pretty damn cool.

For christ's sake. It's called d20. They call the 'roll-d20-and-compare-to-DC' the Core Mechanic. So Why do they chuck it out as soon as magic comes into play? Why even have a separate magic system at all? Why isn't there just a DC on every spell, and you roll against it to cast? Why is there all this screwing around with slots and memorising and crap? Why are spells on a different level system to the characters? A bunch of them appear on different lists at different spell levels anyway, so why not just put down the bloody character level for each class? It's all just so thoughtless.

How It Should Work™

Assign every spell a level. Not a 'spell level', a character level, representing the minimum level a given class needs to cast that spell. Then, assign every spell a DC based on that level - something like 10+[level]x2. Set the scale up such that you have a [desired]% chance of success on spells of a given level, at a given level.

To make this casting check, you just make a skill roll. Or hey, even better, give every class a base casting bonus progression. Then you could just add your ability bonus and your equipment bonuses. And you could have critical casts, or critical fails. It'd work just like Attack rolls. Or saving throws. Or skill rolls. Or CMB rolls. It'd actually fit the rest of the system.

Spells no longer scale automatically with caster level. In order to do that, you have to increase your casting DC. Otherwise, they'll just work at the minimum. This would also apply to spell chains like Invisibility/Greater Invisibility. They're the same spell, but the more powerful version is attained by increasing the DC.

You could track spells using spell slots, or spell points, or hit points, or whatever dang system you wanted. The process of spell difficulty and power is entirely independent of whatever you're using to track them. If you tuned your probabilities right, you mightn't even need them. The chance of failure would make it its own self-limiting system.

What about saving throws? I'd go two ways. I'd replace the 'reflex save for half damage' with damage reduction or something like that. And I'd leave the existing 'will save ends' for illusions and mind control and stuff. I know making two checks on the same thing makes it harder, but damnit, dominating someone's mind should be hard.

If you had a straightforward system like that, you could add subsystems for flavour wherever you like.