A rough sketch of vague thoughts of an idea for Pathfinder Magic
I don’t have time for it, but there’s a more flexible form of spellcasting I have often wanted to play with, as a design space.
In it’s simplest form, it would work something like this.
You prepare a number of effects for the day, in the same way an arcanist currently prepares spells. You’d also prepare a number of Descriptors, like charm, and fire. You might get one per ability score bonus, I dunno.
Effects might look like this:
0-Level Effect: Bolt (1d3 Descriptor damage, ranged touch, short range)
Detect Magic (Detect magic, identify Descriptor)
1st-Level Effect: Enamor (become friendly toward caster 1 minutes/level, if Charm Descriptor double duration, if other descriptor target deals 1dr Descriptor damage when adjacent to you).
Spray (1d4/level Descriptor damage, 15 ft cone, save for 1/2)
You’d have a set number of Effects/day, but each time you used it you could pick or effect (so if you got 3 1st-level effects per day you could use Enamor three times, Enamor twice and Spray once, or whatever). (Or the system could use Spell Points.)
Each time you cast an effect, you choose from your available Descriptors. Then Descriptors would be like:
charm: Unless an effect specifies otherwise for this descriptor – Damaging spells deal nonlethal damage. If target fails save by 5 or more, or you hit target’s AC by 5 or more, it takes a -2 penalty on attack and damage rolls against you and saves against your effects with the charm Descriptor for 1 minute.
fire: Unless an effect specifies otherwise for this descriptor – Damaging spells deal fire damage. If target fails save by 5 or more, or you hit target’s AC by 5 or more, it catches on fire.
That’s just the most basic sketch, but the core idea is that there’s a big list of effects, and a small list of Descriptors. Each Descriptor makes a small change to how spells work (or, in a few cases, a big change), and maybe some effects can’t be used with some Descriptors (no shadow Light effects perhaps). A caster would have a wide range of options by combining a smaller set of rules, and if you want to play an Ice Mage you’d never have to worry about burning hands, scorching ray, and fireball being your best offensive choices.
There are question that would have to be answered (what does fire Cure Light Wounds look like? Should the Divination school become the divination descriptor, or does fire augury require a fire to look into to cast it? How many descriptors is too many for the system, and how do we decide which ones a spellcaster gets?)
But, seriously, it’s not something I have time to work on…