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I have a player interested in ways to improve 0 level attack spells. Mainly, they're looking to not have to carry around a crossbow for attacks when they don't want to cast a spell, and the 1d3 damage from your average 0-level spell is a bit low.

Are there any RAW ways to increase the damage of 0-level spells and/or provide an at-will magic attack?

Also, any recommendations on house rules for something like this? Any reason you'd think this is a bad idea?

As a houserule, I have considered a feat or alternate class feature that would improve (or add) the damage of a particular 0 level spell to be in line with normal ranged weapons, the value depending on if the spell does more than just damage. For examples, Acid Splash would move up to 1d8 damage to be on par with a light crossbow, but say altering Virtue to add a ranged damage component, would maybe do 1d4 or 1d6 and provide the temp hit point to an ally within 5 feet of the target.

This is for a Pathfinder game but I'm perfectly comfortable with 3E or third party d20 options if there's nothing Pathfinder specific.

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Well if you really want you could metamagic them... –  Rob Feb 8 '13 at 23:56
Probably worth pointing out that Acid Splash and Ray of Frost, while dealing less damage then a crossbow require a ranged touch attack, so are more likely to hit the target. –  Quentin Feb 9 '13 at 0:01
@Rob - Hmm.. that's not really the kind of improving that I was asking for - the player is looking to cast slightly more powerful damage spells while still being within the realm of the cantrips ability (infinite 0 level spell casts) or another method of at-will casting. Perhaps I should reword the title or question? –  Steve G Feb 9 '13 at 0:02
There's a spell called "launch bolt." Lets one fire a bolt-sized item as an attack with a cantrip. Effectively a light crossbow, though I'm not sure if it allows additional range increments. –  LitheOhm Feb 9 '13 at 5:31

2 Answers 2

up vote 19 down vote accepted

There are no ways that I'm aware of to improve cantrips (granted, my Pathfinder skills are not that good). However, as you included 3E solutions, I might point out 3.5's introduction of Reserve Feats. Basically, if you're willing to hold onto your higher level spells, you are granted at wills that aren't amazing, but are much better than a crossbow! Lots of them can be found in The Complete Mage.


Fiery Burst (CM 43)

As long as you have a fire spell of 2nd level or higher available to cast, you can spend a standard action to create a 5-foot-radius burst of fire at a range of 30 feet. This burst deals 1d6 points of fire damage per level of the highest level fire spell you have available to cast. A successful Reflex save halves the damage. As a secondary benefit, you gain a +1 competence bonus to your caster level when casting fire spells

For the sake of completeness I will also point out that the Archmage class in D&D 3.5 has a lot of abilities sort of like this. However, I can't recall any of them seeming very...good. But it's there, if your player would like to take a look!

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Reserve feats sound like exactly what the doctor ordered! Sadly, Archmage doesn't provide any at-will potential by itself (though I'm sure it enables some kind of weird cheese combos which might). All its abilities are per-day or require sacrificing spell slots. –  BESW Feb 9 '13 at 2:05
+1 Awesome! Gotta get that book ;) –  LitheOhm Feb 9 '13 at 5:33
Several of the Archmage's High Arcana are very good (Arcane Reach, Spell-like Ability, Master of Counterspelling), though none are relevant here, and no one high enough level to qualify should ever be reduced to cantrips or crossbow. –  KRyan Feb 9 '13 at 5:54
Ah, also, Summon Elemental is sadly the only Reserve feat that's particularly good. Wizards badly overvalued combat actions being at-will, as demonstrated repeatedly in Complete Arcane by the Reserve feats and the Warlock class. Most Reserve feats are better for the CL boost they grant than the ability. –  KRyan Feb 9 '13 at 5:56
I agree, they're not great, or even good, but they are pretty much exactly what he's asking for. The Archmage has some amazing abilities, but they're not what he's after, and I personally consider it a 'dip' PrC –  Melon Feb 9 '13 at 6:16

While you can't improve the cantrips themselves directly, you can improve the accuracy and damage dealt by cantrips slightly by the use of feats. Weapon Focus specifically allows the selection of ray, which would also unlock Weapon Specialisation, although that would also require heavy investment in Fighter levels.

Alternatively, adding Rogue levels allows for the possibility of Sneak Attack adding onto cantrips. Other spells could then support the provision of Sneak Attack opportunities (such as using the Vanish or Invisibility spell)

You could also use Metamagic feats such as Maximise or Empower Spell to improve cantrip performance, or alternatively, Metamagic rods.

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