Gaming My Way

08 Oct

House Rules for Spellcasters

This is unabashedly about Dungeons and Dragons 3.x. Personally, I think the casters are fine as they are, and don’t actually need to be houseruled. However, different groups feel differently about this, and I think some house rules are still appropriate, and others can be appropriate for certain circumstances. So, here are my ideas on some common house rules, and some that I like to use for my games when warranted.

1) All casters cast spells spontaneously. Seriously, don’t use this one. Well, ok, it can be fun in certain games, but those are generally the exception more than the rule. First off, don’t expect anyone to play a sorcerer unless you give them a way to learn more spells or gain many more castings of the ones they do know. The extra castings per day alone don’t make up for the limited spell list when compared to classes like the cleric and wizard.

Furthermore, your noncaster characters just got shafted hard. Anyone not playing a cleric, druid, or wizard just became a second class citizen to the awesome might and power of the three primary casters. To make up for this, you might consider giving them vorpal weapons that function on any crit, not just double twenty’s. That might even the odds a bit. As long as it’s in addition to the normal wealth by level guide.

Of course, for a game featuring just clerics, druids, and wizards, this could actually be a fun variant if everyone is looking for a crazy high-powered game. Just make sure you’re ready to GM that kind of game first.

2) Casters who prepare spells can take fifteen minutes to change their spell selection anytime they have the time to focus on repreparing spells. This is one I came up with when I got sick of the party resting for eight hours every time they needed the wizard to have an identify or the cleric to have a commune. The book already has a rule that allows wizards to leave spells unprepared and fill the empty slots later with 15 minutes for up to a quarter of their capacity, and the rest can be filled with time appropriate to percentage of spells being filled. Now, I just let them do the same thing with slots that have spells placed in them. This rule doesn’t let players prepare for an encounter sprung on them, and it avoids having so much downtime when the players want the casters’ less used talents. I allow all casters who prepare spells to do the same thing, despite the lack of rules to support this for divine casters.  I chalk it up to them praying to their god for new spells to help them through their new circumstances.

3) Domain spells function as normal spells, and domain spell slots function as normal spell slots. This one is appealing, because it helps make clerics with different gods feel more set apart from each other. Of course, this is only true when the domain allows access to a fair number of unique spells or spells not normally available at a given low level. Despite this, it might be a bad idea, since it makes clerics who choose good domains significantly more powerful than clerics who make a less calculated selection. On the flip side, it is cool to see nature clerics tossing around some extra lightning bolts, or causing storms of massive destruction. This one comes down to balance vs. roleplaying opportunities I think.

4) No spell components required. There are three basic variants of this. One is simply that all casters gain the benefit of eschew materials. This is fairly benign, and doesn’t change the course of the game too much… aside from the obligatory prison break adventure, in which the casters will actually be able to cast spells if they can get their hands free. As long as they still have any prepared.

The next step up is to do away with costly material components, making resurrections, stoneskins, and other exceedingly powerful magic much more common. This provides a significant advantage to spellcasters, and will likely make the party more likely to take dangerous risks since resurrection is much closer to free now… though there’s still the xp penalty. You do use the xp penalty on resurrection spells, right? Of course, a true res can fix that at high levels anyway, so no biggie for the risk takers. Not recommended for most games, but can be fun if you want really powerful casters.

The final bastion of sanity is the xp cost. Removing this component makes wizards, clerics, and sorcerers the undisputed masters of the universe via wish and miracle. Actually, it makes wizards and sorcerers the undisputed masters of the universe via wish, since miracles can be denied via the cleric’s source of magic. Expect all of your players to have +5 inherent bonuses to all of their stats if you use this variant… and that’s just to start. The clerics will make liberal use of planar allies and gates, the best summoning spells of the game, now with no significant drawback. Do not use this variant in a high level game unless you are looking for crazy, crazy things to happen. If you are looking for crazy, make sure your villains take advantage of this too. Also, consider vorpal and brilliant energy weapons for the noncasters in the group. They’ll thank you for keeping them relevant.

5) All casters gain use magic device as a class skill. The logic is there. Casters are already familiar with magic, so it stands to reason they could figure out how to use another discipline of magic more easily than their nonmagical rogue brethren. However, this logic fails to account for the fact that rogues are better at fiddling with things (magical and nonmagical alike) to make them work as the rogue wishes. Also, it makes the casters a fair bit more powerful than they already are, particularly sorcerers, while taking away some of the best stuff that bards and rogues get. Of course, the flip side is that magic items cost loads of money, so it’s still not a huge advantage until the party has gobs of gold lying around. In the end, this one is probably best left to individual groups to decide on their own. It’s not a huge change, but it’s not trivial either. Perhaps flavor will decide this one more than balance, though balance should certainly still be considered.

So there you have it, some common and not-so-common house rules that may or may not work with your game. If nothing else, use most of these with caution as they can significantly change the flavor and power level of a campaign. Not to mention shortchange our good non-casting friends.

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5 Responses to “House Rules for Spellcasters”

  1. 1
    Moop Says:

    I have an idea that I am going to try on my next campaign in regards to spell memorization. “Any caster can use a spell regardless of whether or not it was memorized earlier however if a non memorized spell is used the caster suffers a penalty of 2x the spells level.” So lv 0 suffers no penalty and lv 5 has a -10 to the roll. But memorized spells cast as usual.

  2. 2
    Eclipse Says:

    Hey Moop, sounds like an interesting idea, though still one I’d caution you to use only for a high spellcaster power game.

    That said, which roll are you penalizing, or does it depend on the spell? Lots of spells don’t require a roll to hit on the part of the caster. Would you apply this penalty as a bonus to saving throws instead for these spells?

    Or are you talking more about damage rolls? If so, at low levels, the penalty might be significant, but at high levels it would be very negligible. Also, not all spells cause damage. Particularly buff spells. For those, you just cast them and they happen. No one would bother memorizing buffs under a system like this.

    If that’s the game you’re looking for, then by all means, give it a try and see how it works. I’m just not sure how thought out this is, given the wide array of spells and the different ways in which those spells are used.

    That, or I simply don’t understand what you were getting at.

    Either way, good luck with your game.

  3. 3
    Moop Says:

    Very good point. I will need to tweak this a bit more before I impliment it.

    But mostly penalty on to hit. If it does not roll to hit but requires a saving throw then the saving throw has a modifier for non memorized. If it does not require a to hit or a saving throw then I might need to work out a spell failure system for non memorized spells, such as buffs.

    Or maybe just a base spell failure system for all non memorized spell regardless on which roll it requires.

  4. 4
    Eclipse Says:

    If you’re looking at spell failure systems, there are probably a couple ways you could do it. You could do something like arcane spell failure, and then give every level a flat rate based on how difficult you want it to be to succeed with unmemorized spells of that level.

    Alternatively, you might look at adapting the epic spellcasting system for spells from 0th to 9th level for use when someone wants to try casting an unmemorized spell. It would take some work to do it right, but it might work out pretty well.

    Of course, these are just some ideas, there are naturally lots of other ways you might consider as well.

  5. 5
    tulley bider Says:

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