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The rules say:

Time of Day: A divine spellcaster chooses and prepares spells ahead of time, but unlike a wizard, does not require a period of rest to prepare spells. Instead, the character chooses a particular time of day to pray and receive spells. The time is usually associated with some daily event.

There's probably nothing more to allow for GM/setting choices, but as is, would you say this time choice is definitive from character creation? If it could be changed, how often would be fair? Should it only be related to specific events, such as changing faith?

EDIT: I'm approaching this question as both a GM and a player, so I'm interested in the possible intent of the rules (is it flavor? balance?). The question of what breaks if you allow frequent change is also of interest. Any official answers would also be appreciated, if they exist.

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I don't see why you couldn't change it as often as you want as long as the new time is more than 24 hours from the current time – Eric B Aug 26 '13 at 14:11
@EricB So if I prepare my spells at 9am one day, I can't prepare them at 8am the next? I would need to keep preparing later and later until I skip a day of prayer? – dlras2 Aug 26 '13 at 14:20
@dlras2 Yes. This isn't something that happens frequently enough for it to really matter anyway. Besides only the most draconian DM would actually forbid you from switching from 9 AM to 8 AM. – Eric B Aug 26 '13 at 14:29
Why would you want to change your praying time ? If this is just to renew your spells when needed, it will break the game and won't be fair, no matter how rarely you do it. – Trajan Aug 26 '13 at 14:57
@Trajan: I don't so much want to change the time as I'm wondering if it's possible and what it may do. It seems to me that being able to change constantly would be unbalancing... but maybe not so much? – leokhorn Aug 26 '13 at 17:46
up vote 16 down vote accepted

The Pathfinder rules for preparing divine spells has this to say about the time at which prayer occurs:

[A divine spellcaster] chooses a particular time of day to pray and receive spells. The time is usually associated with some daily event. If some event prevents a character from praying at the proper time, she must do so as soon as possible. If the character does not stop to pray for spells at the first opportunity, she must wait until the next day to prepare spells.

In short, you can’t change your time, but you don’t lose out on your opportunity to prepare spells if you cannot make the appointed time.

However, be aware that in many settings, particularly those coming from Dungeons and Dragons, the time to pray for spells is set by the god/religion, not the spellcaster. For example, sun gods will typically have you pray at high noon; gods of darkness and secrets tend to like midnight. It’s usually supposed to be whatever time your god is most powerful, though I could see, say, a sun god wanting you to pray at dawn (for the return of the sun, triumph over the dark, etc.) or at dusk (to see you through the night, maybe).

So in these cases, it’s really not up to the caster, either initially or later. I could see a god giving a favored champion special dispensation, however, assuming that in your setting it is the god’s choice (rather just the time at which that god is capable of responding with spells, which in some settings it may be). So you should talk to your DM about that / you as a DM should consider that.

Mechanical-balance-wise, the time is completely unimportant so long as you have a minimum of 24 hours between praying because if you can refresh your spells more often, you effectively have more spells “per day.” Spellcasters are generally overpowered to begin with; we don’t need to be adding more on top of that.

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I was just thinking that becomes tricky from an RP standpoint. If I have 9AM one day, but the next day am running behind and worship at 9:03AM, then the next day it's 9:04AM... A "minimum" of 24 hours makes sense for balance, but not for RP. A better wording might be "a specific time of day plus or minus a little bit up to the DM's discretion.", which prevents the overpoweredness, but also plays nicer with RP. – Mooing Duck Aug 26 '13 at 18:22
@MooingDuck And my answer is that you cannot do that anyway: you have to pray at the same time every day, barring special dispensation from your god to change it, which is most likely going to be a one-time event wherein you establish a new time, not just praying whenever you get around to it. So every morning you pray at 9 AM, period. How much leeway before and after your god is willing to give you is up to the DM. – KRyan Aug 26 '13 at 18:25
Being confronted with the edited quote again I realize that it has to be a fixed time, otherwise the mentioned "risk" would not even exist. As for the "missing your divine appointment" part, how lenient would you say it is? Is it forever OK as long as the caster did not miss it on purpose (such as being unconscious)? Or is there a limit past which you just have to wait for the next event? – leokhorn Aug 27 '13 at 8:12
I agree with your answer but what about those who "dedicate themselves to a divine concept worthy of devotion" ? – Trajan Aug 27 '13 at 8:51
@Trajan: I think it could be said such believers would still impose a given time on themselves based on symbolism. As much as test of your own dedication to the concept as a way to structure your life. The only problem, I guess, is if you worship chaos. – leokhorn Aug 27 '13 at 12:15

i think its reasonable to assume that "time of prayer" is not granular on the scale of seconds or minutes, but on the scale of "breaking fast" or "when the sun is at its highest".

nor should "minimum of 24 hours" be taken too literally, lest the accumulation of minutes lead to a worshipper of the sun god praying for spells by dark.

what you cannot do is pray for spells at dusk, adventure until half past midnight, and then pray for spells again. the gods will smite that sort of foolishness.

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Good points, but perhaps this should be a comment on another answer rather than an answer in its own right? – GMJoe Aug 27 '13 at 4:16
Drow, can you turn this into a full fledged answer to the question, instead of commentary on other answers? – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Aug 27 '13 at 4:59

While I agree with Eric B's statement that prayer times should be flexible as the new time is more than 24 hours from the previous time, it should be noted that particular gods have favoured prayer times depending on their domains.

Worshippers of sun gods tend to have their prayer times either at dawn to be thankful for the new day or the noon when the sun is at its peak and at the hight of its glory, Lathander worshippers would be a good example of this. Similarly for gods of Shadows, Darkness or the Moon it would make sense that their prayer times would be dusk or midnight.

Ultimately it depends on just how roleplay focused the group is and how much these little details would add to the game.

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I could see some deities allowing faithfuls to choose among various times of day, if only to allow nocturnal agents, where appropriate. – leokhorn Aug 27 '13 at 14:03

I think this rule is essentially for balance, to keep power gamers from getting more spells by shortening time between prayers. The descriptions for Clerics (and all spellcasters) mentions a number of Spells per day, not a number of spell between two prayers.

It is also strongly flavorful since some religions tend to be strict and heavily traditional, especially old ones. Changing the prayer time might be regarded as heresy by the rest of the cult if the cleric belongs to an established one. If he's more of an independant, choosing to pray for a god or a concept his own way, then keep in mind faith is not a matter of "when is it convenient". IMHO, as a GM, a cleric has to be consistent and faithful every hour, day and night. He's not your average believer, he's devoted to a deity or a concept, offering his life.

As a GM, you could allow a player to have a cleric who prays twice a day for the flavor (muslims pray 5 times a day), but mechanically, renewing his spells twice as fast would completely break the game. OR you can split his spell slots between the number of daily prayers, allowing him to prepare fewer spells at each praying time, but even then, this cleric would be far more flexible than the official one, and that must be pondered.

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