Make Iceball Interesting

Rules and supplements that present alternate spells for GMs and players normally don’t take any space for iceball, the cold-damage dealing version of fireball. That’s because it’s extremely obvious, and doesn’t really add much to a game. For a variant spell to be worth any space, you need to change how it works more than just swapping out the damage type.

But it IS often useful to be able to alter existing spells when trying to build thematic characters. Having iceblade instead of flameblade makes for a great iconic spell for a Druid of Winter. Giving a Siege Sorcerer forcebolt makes for great cinematics when he uses it against the city gate.

So for GMs looking to have quick and easy rules to alter every acid, cold, electricity, fire, force, and sonic spell out there, here is a simple system for making iceball interesting.

Swap dice down by one die size. So the d6s of fireball become d4s, and so on. For the most part, it is assumed the iconic damage types of classic spells are most common because they are most efficient, so people pick fireball over acidball because it does more damage. But you then also add a new effect based on the damage type you switch the spell to deal.

Acid: On failed saves damaged targets get fumes in their eyes and suffer painful corrosion, taking a penalty to all Perception checks, concentration checks, and ranged attack rolls equal to the spell’s level for 1 round.

Cold: On failed saves damaged targets have their movement rates halved for a number of rounds equal to the spell’s level.

Electricity: On failed saves damaged targets jerk and move unevenly, taking a penalty to all Acrobatics, Climb, and Swim checks and melee attack rolls equal to the spell’s level for 1 round.

Fire: On failed saves damaged targets catches on fire and burns for hp equal to the spell’s level each round until extinguished.

Force: On failed saves damaged targets are impacted by a bull rush combat maneuver with a CMB equal to quadruple the spell’s level.

Sonic: On failed saves damaged targets are deafened for a number of rounds equal to the spell’s level.

Of course you can also use this for metamagic feats, magic item special powers, new domains, bloodlines, mysteries and so on, wild magic zones, and so on. Perhaps the Arena of Flames is altered to ALL spells become fire spells, orroc rage-shamans mostly use scream-magic and deal sonic damage, or the cloak of the winter queen makes three spells of the wearer’s choice per day cold spells.

You can apply these effects to things other than spells, of course. Maybe the fire drake is exactly the CR you need, but the encounter takes place in the Storm Tombs? Just swap fire breath for electricity breath and apply the effects above. In such cases, instead of basing effects on spell level, base it on half the level or CR of the source.

Have fun with it. 🙂

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About Owen K.C. Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a full-time ttRPG Writer, designer, developer, publisher, and consultant. He's the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, and has served as the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief for Evil Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps. He has a Pateon which supports his online work. You can find it at

Posted on March 23, 2017, in Game Design, Pathfinder Development and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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