3 Reasons Why Spellcasters Are Not Overpowered

I’ve heard this refrain over and over again my entire gaming career, ” Spellcasters are overpowered. Their power needs to be nerfed.” While I do understand that a spellcaster’s power can overshadow the martial characters with a single spell, once that single spell is used, they probably do not have much left. This is doubly true at the higher levels. Here are my reasons why I believe that spellcasters of all stripes are not overpowered.

1) You’re Not Playing the Same Game

Playing a martial character is all about tactics. Fighters and paladins need to position themselves where they can stop the monsters from advancing upon the spellcasters. Rogues need to get themselves into a position where they can sneak attack. Barbarians should be where they can hit as many targets as possible. Rangers should find someplace where they can use their bows to hit whoever needs to be taken down. Monks need to stay mobile, moving through the battle space.

That is not the spellcaster’s game. Instead, a spellcaster needs to focus on resource management and opportunity costs. “Is the one fireball I prepped today best used now or later?” “This is my best spell, but the monster has resistance to its damage type. Should I use it or save it and use some other spell that does much less damage?” “Would it be better to buff the fighter or take out the monster attacking the cleric?” These types of questions are asked by every gamer that plays a spellcaster. Every spell they cast is a question of now vs later. They never know if what they’re doing is going to be overkill or a complete waste of resources. So when a spellcaster completely overwhelms the enemy with a single spell, it probably means that they will have very weak spells when they really need them. Spellcasters are more difficult to get right than most martial classes.

2) A Poorly Prepared Spellcaster is Useless

in my current home game, my 2nd-level cleric prepared protection from evil. We didn’t fight any evil creatures today. As such, that is one spell slot that sat useless. When you only have 4 slots, that is a quarter of the character’s main power. So I had to resort to my mace, and I rolled poorly. So my character was useless. But that’s beside the point.

A fighter can have a golf bag of bane swords on their back and can select the right weapon at the start of combat or switch it up in the middle as the dynamics of the battle change. Spellcasters don’t have that option. The spells they prepped at the start of the day or chose when they got their last level are all they have. If what they prepped does not work for this particular combat, they are probably staying in the back using their crossbow, if they have a crossbow.

What’s even worse is when they prepared well but the circumstances completely change on the group. If you are going into an ice cave and the spellcasters prepared fire spells, they are useless if the group gets sucked into a portal that takes them to the plane of fire. All those martial characters, they’re just as effective as before. Spellcasters can go from running the table to running away pretty quickly.

3) Combat Effectiveness Can Be Limited by Utility

Spellcasters a considerable amount of out-of-combat utility spells at their disposal. Whatever situation they run into, there is a spell somewhere to handle that. Putting aside whether or not they prepared the spell that day, there is an opportunity cost to it. Prepare knock to open a locked door? That is one less scorching ray they can do. Need to teleport a long distance? That comes at the cost of one less cone of cold. Making a mud wall so you can turn it into a stone wall with transmute mud to rock to protect the town from an enormous monster? Then they will have one less opportunity to cast hold monster that day. I can go on and on, but you get the idea. Rogues, unlocking one door does not mean they have to sacrifice their next sneak attack for it. Fighters, they don’t need to make mud walls, they can just pile the stones on top of one another to make the wall stone from the beginning.

Then there’s my personal favorite example: greater invisibility. While this example is PF 1e, the basic principles apply to any game system. Greater invisibility is a 4th-level spell, so you have to be minimum 7th-level to use it (8th for arcanists and sorcerers, 10th level for bards). So lets say it won’t see regular use until 10th-level. With it you can attack and stay invisible.

Compare that with sniping that anyone can use with he Stealth skill. But lets look at it with a rogue. At 1st-level, the rogue takes a –20 to Stealth checks to hide after attacking that round. That’s pretty bad, sure, but when you check out the Perception entry, you discover that if the person is distracted (like because they’re in combat), the hiding person gets a +5 bonus. And then there’s a +1 bonus per 10 feet the hiding person is away from the looker. Sniping requires a minimum of 10 feet, so that’s a minimum bonus of +6, making that penalty now –14. Naturally, the rogue would have a skill point in Stealth, the +3 bonus for it being a class skill and minimum Dex bonus of +3. Now that penalty is –7. Its opposed by the looker. If the rogue chooses someone that has no skill ranks in Perception and probably doesn’t have a Wisdom bonus, like a wizard or sorcerer, then they don’t have any bonuses at all to the roll. Still, at 1st level, that’s a sizable difference.

At 7th level (the minimum level to cast greater invisibility), the rogue added skill ranks to Stealth, bumped up their Dexterity ability, and probably even took the Skill Focus (Stealth) feat. Meanwhile, the spellcaster probably didn’t do anything to increase their ability to see someone. That net –7 is now a +3. That means the rogue has a better than even chance of doing exactly the same thing as greater invisibility every single round with absolutely no resource cost. In fact, Stealth is better than greater invisibility since Stealth is invisible to tremorsense, see invisibility, and true seeing while greater invisibility is not.

Wait until 10th level—when a bard can cast it at all—and a rogue can take the stealthy sniper advanced talent and take 10 off the penalty figured into the mix. That means, the rogue would have a net +19. Literally, the rogue would have to roll a 1, and the wizard would have to roll a 20 for the wizard to know where the rogue is.

Mind you, the wizard would be all too aware where the rogue is approximately and can send a fireball their way, but the rogue will probably pass the DC and take no damage thanks to evasion.

My point is, a wizard can cast greater invisibility once each time it is prepared. Rogues can sneak and snipe all day long. No limit.

I know I rambled on that last point, but you get the idea. Spellcasters are not nearly as overpowered as people think they are and attempts to even out their power generally make a difficult class to play far more difficult.

Download all of JBE’s products at DriveThruRPG, the Open Gaming Store, and Paizo.

One DnD: My Initial Thoughts

Wizards make ogres taste the rainbow.
Image by Luis Salas Lastra

If you haven’t seen it yet, Wizards of the Coast announced the playtest of their new edition, which they’re calling One D&D. I’m not going to tell you what’s in it; you can read it for yourself and see the direction they want to go.

Personally, I like some things and I don’t like some things. But frankly, what I don’t like is such a minor quibble that it’s not worth mentioning. What do I like about it? Well, it seems like there will be more mechanical options.

That was my single biggest gripe with 5e. You choose your subclass at it before third level, and that’s the last choice you have for your class. I left 5e because the simplicity was not to my taste. I never felt the more complex options were not what I wanted. To compare it to bikes, I would describe 5e as ranging from a bicycle with training wheels to a tricycle. Meanwhile, I want a performance unicycle with someone balancing on my shoulders. But again, that’s my personal tastes; to each their own.

To me, it looks like 1DnD will be more complex, and I can only see that as a good thing. I’m sure there will be plenty of low-complexity options, and that is a good thing. New players need easy-to-play options, and some more experienced people just prefer that play style.

Now to a prediction: I don’t expect to see this edition to have an OGL. Oh, it DEFINITELY will have the DMs Guild. That money maker WotC will never get rid of. But the OGL, nope. I fully expect to see them walk away from that.

If you want a more complex game, I recommend checking out Pathfinder, either 1e it 2e. And you can grab our titles for these games at DriveThruRPG, the Open Gaming Store, and Paizo.

PF 1e: The Art of Spell Codex Volume 2

The Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 2 was released earlier this week. We’ve shared several spells in the book already, like planned assault and conjure deadfall, as well as discussing the winners of the book. Something we hadn’t shared yet is the artwork within.

Above is several images within. Mind you, they’re all black and white. That is not how they’re presented in the book. The white is transparent, letting the parchment background show through. This means that on every page, the imagery appears like it belongs there like it is part of an ancient tome. Unless you’re looking at it in the included printer-friendly version, then all these images appear as above. Check on the images to see a larger version of themselves.

Download the Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 2 today at DriveThruRPG, the Open Gaming Store, and Paizo.

PF 1e: Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 2

Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 2

The Collected Knowledge of a Hundred Spellcasters

Bringing together all the spells from two dozen companion sources, the Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 2 has something for everyone. These spells have been updated for clarity and expanded to cover classes introduced after their original publication. Gathered together for the first time, these spells will give your character the edge you’ve been looking for.

Within these 96 pages, the Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 2 contains:

  • Over 180 spells for all 26 spellcasting classes. From wizard to bloodrager, cleric to paladin, psychic to medium, you’ll find spells for your character here.
  • New short descriptions, making it easy for you to discover and find that perfect spell.
  • Artwork to make this feel like a true spellcaster’s tome.
  • Two fully bookmarked PDFs include a spell-tome-inspired design and printer-friendly version.

With this essential compendium, your character will be prepared for the road ahead.

Download the Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 2 today at DriveThruRPG, the Open Gaming Store, and Paizo.

Bosses and Resurrection In Camp Dungeon Crawl

Previously, we talked about how to make your adventuring party, how to create dungeons, and sending your adventurers into the dungeon in Camp Dungeon Crawl. Today, we’re going to talk about adventurers coming back to life and the bosses that live in a dungeon.

As you move through the dungeons in the game, we introduce a number of additional rules to the game. The first is the ability to bring dead adventurers back. Remember, this is camp, so it is no fun to have campers sitting on the sidelines watching others having fun. Before starting the second, third, and fourth dungeons, you get to bring an adventurer that died back into your party. So you get to read their stats to your adventuring party. This can make a difference for your group if things are going badly.

The next rule that is added as the game progresses involves bosses. There is always a boss at the end of a dungeon, and we wanted to include them in the game. Bosses are more difficult than your typical dungeon segment. The last person that chooses a segment for the third and fourth dungeons decides which boss is in the dungeon. Bosses include things like avatars of banished deities, quelling restless tombs, dragons, kaiju, eldritch horrors, and of course, a one-eyed, one-handed lich. Mechanically, bosses work the same. Each boss has three skill checks, two easier and one hard. If your group passes two of the three checks, they defeat the boss and get the listed reward. Rewards for bosses are much better than a typical dungeon segment’s reward. Boss rewards allow every living member of a group to increase a skill, frequently letting individual adventurers to choose between two skills. Any failed check with a boss still results in a Wound for an adventurer. So if you pass two of the skill checks, one adventurer still takes a Wound. Additionally, as many adventurers as you want can cash in their reward for erasing a wound. So it is entirely possible for a group to not get any rewards because they are all erasing wounds.

Order or download your copy of Camp Dungeon Crawl today at DriveThruRPG.

PF 1e: Conjure Deadfall

Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 2

With the Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 2 nearly finished up, we’re talking about what is inside this gem. Previously I shared one of my favorite spells in the book: planned assault. Today we’re talking about another of my favorites: conjure deadfall.

While this spell reminds me more of the original Super Mario Brothers Thwomp, I call this “The Kirby Spell.” The single biggest reason is that if you cast the spell, it is fighting for you, something a Thwomp didn’t do in that game. Kirby could turn into a rock or weight or some other object that land on their enemies is closer to the sense of this spell. No matter what you call it, this is a fun spell that should be added to anyone’s game.

If you haven’t already, grab yourself the Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 1 at DriveThruRPG or the Open Gaming Store.

Conjure Deadfall

School conjuration (creation); Level arcanist/sorcerer/wizard 4, magus 5, spiritualist 5
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M (fistful of mithral tacks)
Range medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Area see text
Effect one spiked, falling block
Duration instantaneous
Saving Throw Reflex negates (see text); Spell Resistance yes

You conjure a large metal cube covered in sharp spikes. If you conjure the block so that it appears in midair, it immediately plummets downward onto all creatures below it. When you cast this spell, you select the size of the square area you wish it to affect. If you choose to create a deadfall over a single 5-foot square, the block deals 1d6 points of bludgeoning damage per caster level (maximum 15d6) to each creature in the area. A deadfall over a 10-foot square deals 1d6 points of bludgeoning damage per 2 caster levels (maximum 7d6), a deadfall over a 15-foot square deals 1d6 points of bludgeoning damage per 3 caster levels (maximum 5d6), a deadfall over a 20-foot square deals 1d6 points of bludgeoning damage per 4 caster levels (maximum 4d6), and a deadfall over a 25-foot square deals 1d6 points of bludgeoning damage per 5 caster levels (maximum 3d6). Only creatures that are on the outer edge of the area affected by a conjure deadfall spell can attempt Reflex saves to avoid the effect; creatures whose space does not touch the edge of the deadfall do not receive a save.

In order to deal damage, the conjured deadfall must start at least 10 feet above the tallest creature in the area to be affected. A conjured deadfall is as tall as it is wide, and the spell fails if you attempt to conjure a deadfall in an area already occupied by a creature or object (including the ceiling). Regardless, a deadfall conjured by this spell disappears as soon as it deals damage or strikes the ground.

PF 1e: The Winners of Spell Codex 2

Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 2

The Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 2 is coming out soon, and we couldn’t be more excited. We really love this series. It makes spells more accessible for GMs and players, all while updating older spells to allow newer classes to cast them. The final list of spells for this book is complete, and only a few spells need that final touch to make them shine like they should. While going over this, I can’t help but notice that some classes in this book are making out like gangbusters.

Despite calling this blog post “winners” I don’t like that term because that implies there are losers, which there are definitely no losers in this book. Every spellcasting class in the game is getting new spells, so they are all winners in at senses. However, a few classes are standing out as gaining some serious benefit from this book.

Arcanists/Sorcerers/Wizards

This one is obvious. No class gains more spells than this group. With the spell list for these classes taking over 3-1/2 pages, there are a serious number of spells for these classes to add to their casting. There are about 30 new spells added to these classes’ capabilities within the second and third levels each. This book is a must-have for players of these classes.

Hunter

While a six-level caster like the hunter does not seem like an obvious choice as a standout, this class most definitely is. Druid definitely gets some excellent options in this book, but hunter is incredibly notable for its additions. Sure, the spell list is just the first six levels of druid, but it also gets ranger spells, and if both classes get the same spell, hunter gets it at the lower level. So spells like ally across time or stone throwing that no other class can cast at 1st level, the hunter can do just that. These spells are 2nd level for 6- and 9-level casters but 1st-level spells for 4-level casters like bloodrager, medium, and of course ranger. Because of this, hunter is the class that can cast some spells before any other class.

Druid, Psychic, Witch

All three of these classes stand out among the 9-level casters because these are the only classes that get new spells across all 9 levels. Neither wizard nor cleric nor shaman get spells across all levels. Only these three classes. Mind you, arcanists/sorcerers/wizards can cast spells like form of the exotic dragon III and temporal regression at 8th level, while druids can cast it at 9th level. Even if you exclude those spells, however, druids, psychics, and witches get threefold form at 9th level while none of the other classes get this spell at all.

Medium

The ranger may get more spells, and the bloodrager gets more damage-dealing spells, but I think the medium gets the most varied list for a four-level caster. By its nature of being able to channel different spirits means a medium can have different abilities from day to day. As such, the medium gets spells that reflect this varied aspect of the class.

Antipaladin

This one is an odd choice, but I’m adding it here. Sure, paladins get more spells, but the options for antipaladin will give GMs a way to surprise and shock their players. This book is a real must-have for GMs that run games that feature such an evil knight.

Rogue

If you thought antipaladin came out of left field, adding rogue is such an odd choice, it is like a basketball player taking up baseball (I’m looking at you Michael Jordon). Having said that, rogue definitely needs to be included on this list of winners. The rogue minor magic talent lets a rogue take a 0-level arcanist/sorcerer/wizard spell and cast it 3 times/day. This book has the perfect spell for every rogue that climbs a tree to scout ahead or perches themselves on a high ledge for sneak attacks: grasp. If you fail a Climb check, you cast this as an immediate action, and you can attempt another Climb check (with a minor penalty). If you succeed, you don’t fall. Seriously, this is going to be the rogue’s new best friend.

If you haven’t already, grab yourself the Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 1 at DriveThruRPG or the Open Gaming Store.

Surviving Dangers in Camp Dungeon Crawl

Lately we’ve been detailing how to play our new game Camp Dungeon Crawl. So far we talked about how to create your adventuring party and how to create dungeons. So now it is time for those two to meet, sending your adventurers into those very dungeons.

The basic game mechanic is pretty simple. A dungeon segment falls for a specific skill with a difficulty number listed next to it. Roll a d12 and add the bonus of your adventuring party. If the resulting number is equal to or greater than the number listed in the segment, you beat that part of the dungeon, and you get a reward. If you get less than the number, you fail and someone in the party gets Wounded. That’s the basics.

So what’s a Wound? Well, you reduce the skill of one of your adventurers by 1. Also, you check one of the Wounded boxes next to the adventurer. A single adventurer can suffer two wounds with no ill effects. If the adventurer takes a third wound, they die and you have to subtract their stats from your adventuring party stats.

If adventurers can be wounded, can they be healed? Yes. Rewards from passing dungeon segments come in two varieties: a bonus for one character or a bonus for two characters. If you get one of the two adventurer bonus types, you can instead have one take a bonus and one gets to erase a Wounded box.

Next time, we will talk about how the rules change over the course of the game. Download Camp Dungeon Crawl today at DriveThruRPG.

PF 1e: Planned Assault

Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 2 (PF 1e)

We’re hard at work on the Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 2. Volume 1 was a huge success and we had so much fun working on this. Right now, we’re in the editing phase and starting the preliminary layout.

But I can’t stop myself from sharing what’s inside. We’re updating some spells that go all the way back to 2009, when the Pathfinder RPG was brand new. Oh, how young of a game you were then. You had no idea what a warpriest was, neither a slayer nor shifter. And now look where the game is all these years later.

*Back from the bunny trail* So yea, this spell comes from a player book that focused on dwarves. I just love the idea of this spell. Maybe it is because I have had sooooooo many groups that can’t stick to the plan. Were I in one of those groups with this spell, I’d totally use it as a way to get the group to actually stick to the plan, when we made a plan.

If you haven’t already, grab yourself the Book of Magic: Spell Codex Volume 1 at DriveThruRPG or the Open Gaming Store.

Planned Assault

School transmutation; Level cleric/oracle/warpriest 3, hunter 4, paladin 3, ranger 4
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, DF
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Area one creature/level, no two of which can be more than 30 ft. apart
Duration 1 minute/level or until discharged
Saving Throw none; Spell Resistance no
This spell increases the effectiveness of a planned action. If the targets spend at least 1 minute studying a situation, they receive bonuses to their first actions in response to the situation. All targets must declare in advance what their intended actions are. If they perform those actions, they receive a +2 sacred bonus to AC, saving throws, and checks for the first round. This bonus increases to +4 at 10th level and +6 at 15th level.
For example, the PCs discover a camp of orcs; the PC cleric casts planned assault, the group spends 1 minute analyzing the layout of the camp, and then declares its actions. As long as the PCs stick to the plan, they gain a +2 sacred bonus to AC, saving throws, and checks for the first round.

1e: Spiderbear

The vast majority of the time, I GM my home game. However, I recently joined an OSRIC game where I’m a player. It has been quite some time since I’ve played 1e or any OSR game, and I’m rather enjoying it. But it didn’t take long for me to get the bug to create something in the system. So I decided to create something simple yet rather memorable. The spiderbear is a favorite of mine so I present it to you for your home 1e game.

Be sure to let us know if you want to see more 1e compatible monsters and more.

Spiderbear

Frequency: Uncommon
No. Encountered: 1d6
Size: Large
Move: 90 ft; 120 ft in web
Armour Class: 5
Hit Dice: 4+4
Attacks: 2
Damage: 1d8/1d8
Special Attacks: Poison, webs
Special Defences: None
Magic Resistance: Standard
Lair Probability: 75%
Intelligence: Low to average
Alignment: Chaotic evil
Level/XP: 4/325+5/hp

Webs: It takes 2 combat rounds to break free from the spiderbear’s webs (+1 additional round for each point of strength below 17).

Treasure: 2d6×1,000 cp (20%), 1d6×1,000 sp (25%), 1d4×1,000 ep (10%), 1d6 gems (25%), 1d3 jewellery (15%), 1d3 magic items (10%).