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In a pathfinder game I'm running something has come up that I've never gone through before. A player is about to be lvl 17. He is about to get his first 9th level spell and wants to make a signature spell that the world will know him by so he would like to research a brand new custom spell.

I'm not sure if it's too much, too little or just fine. Truth is I've never done a custom spell before and I thought it would be a learning experience for both of us. Anyway here it is.

Viscerate's Hunting Ground
School: evocation (darkness) (shadow) [darkness] [shadow] (and or) illusion (darkness) (shadow) [darkness] [shadow]
Level: sorcerer/wizard 9

CASTING

Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S

EFFECT

Range: personal
Area: 40-ft.-radius emanation
Target: you
Duration: 1 round/level (D)
Saving Throw Will negates
Spell Resistance yes

DESCRIPTION

Viscerate's Hunting Ground has four functions.

The Dark: You radiate an area of total darkness. The darkness is impenetrable even to darkvision, but you (and any familiar you have) can see normally within it. Creatures outside the spell’s area cannot see through it. As you move the area of effect of darkness persists in any area it has touched until the duration of the spell has ended. Hunting ground counters or dispels any light spell of equal or lower level. Any light spell of equal level counters or dispels Hunting Ground.

The Step: While Hunting Ground is active as a swift action you can transport yourself (and any familiar you have) to any spot under the affect of The Dark. If you are subject to a reflex save that would normally deal half damage to you and pass you may as an immediate action transport yourself (and any familiar you have) up to 40 ft. away negating any damage that would normally happen, so long as the new loacation is within the area of The Dark.

The Trap: You pin all creatures except yourself (and any familiar you have) within the area of effect of The Dark to their current location, causing the targets to become entangled and preventing them from moving farther than 5 feet from their original positions. Each round on its turn, a target can attempt a new saving throw to end the effect as a full-round action. A flying creature can only hover in place or fall while entangled in this manner. Spell Resistance applies to this part.

The Kill: if you use The Step function to transport yourself to a spot where you threaten an enemy with a melee attack you may use a full attack to gain an extra attack per normal attack you have at a -2 for the first attack roll and an additional -2 for each extra attack after.

I can tell he is trying to combine Shadow Trap, Shadow Step and BlackLight. I'm not sure where he got more attacks from if he did get it from anywhere but it makes sense for his PC he likes to to get in the thick of it so buffed his melee. I like the theme of the spell and he does have all the spells listed above so his PC experimenting and trying to combine them into one can make sense

So i have six questions:

  1. Should this be a 9th level spell?
  2. Is this spell overpowered?
  3. Is it underpowered?
  4. Should it be reworded?
  5. If it should be reworded how so?
  6. And out of the two schools which should it be or can it be a mix of the two?
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closed as too broad by V2Blast, Oblivious Sage, Jason_c_o, Aguinaldo Silvestre, Tiggerous Aug 1 '18 at 5:17

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 27 '18 at 3:11
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That spell is too powerful, but not by much

Normally, you cannot simply combine spell levels and stack their effects. You have to take the action economy (heavily) into consideration. This is the major factor that increases a spell's general power in the game. Doing two effects instead of one is always a better option and thus should cost more. Also, higher level spell effects are generally more powerful than the combination of lower level spells, or even casting the same spell multiple times. Naturally, there are exceptions to this, casting two fireballs (3rd) is probably a better option than casting one cone of cold (5th), depending on your level.

Note that metamagics feats that increase the spell's number of targets (Bouncing Spell, +1), or increase a spell's area (Widen Magic, +3), or even that increase a spell's overall effect (Empower Spell, +2), do often take this into consideration and adjust the spell's level accordingly.

The Dark simulates the effects of Blacklight, which is a 3rd level spell (and never actually got converted to Pathfinder), it has a 20-feet wide emanation and 1 round/level duration. Your spell has twice that area of effect, and thus you could say it has Widen Magic applied to it and should be considered at least a 6th level spell effect, even though Widen is expensive for what it actually does.

Also take into consideration that there are no [light] spells of 9th level or higher, other than heightened spells. So, you would have trouble, either creating a new spell effect to counter that part of the spell, or having to explain that his enemies heard about his newly-researched spell and prepared a heightened Daylight against it. Consider that casting a Widened (+3) and Heightened (+3) Blacklight (3rd) would produce a similar effect while still being effectively a 6th level spell using up a 9th level spell slot.

The advice here is: Reduce the area back to 20 feet, or even reduce it to 10-feet. So he is still within a darkness area that nobody else can see. This effect isn't that strong because at that level, many enemies have access to True Seeing, and there are a few rare creatures with see in darkness that completely negates it.

The Step has an effect that is difficult to do using other spells, and Shadow Step (4th level) is not a good spell to compare that effect to, as it only allows a single teleportation. Even Dimensional Bounce, which is a 7th level spell that also allows teleportation using a swift action, requires you to define two points that you can switch between them, and you may only teleport up to 5 times while the spell lasts (also 1 round/level). Keep in mind that Quickening spell (so they use a swift action) effects normally increase it by 4 spell levels. So, personally, this effect alone sounds like a 9th level spell and I wouldn't allow it to be combined with the other effects.

The advice here is: Limit the number of teleports he can do. Because then it is similar to Dimensional Bounce, but limited to the area of the spell and thus a weaker effect in general.

The Trap is supposed to work like Shadow Trap, which is a 1st level spell. However, it increases it's effect drastically, by turning it from a single target effect from a multi-target area effect, allowing you not only to hinder their movement (entangle), but to completely prevent them from moving more than 5 feet from their original position, which is a stronger effect. The increase in the spell's area alone is similar to the level difference between a single target spell and their area/communal counterpart, which should be at least two spell levels increase.

The Kill is basically Haste, a 3rd level spell. Even though it has an increased effect, allowing you to make multiple extra attacks (most likely 2 or 3, depending on your BAB), it only affects a single creature (the caster), as opposed to multiple creatures. The only thing that requires clarification here is how exactly it works. I would change that to say "when using the Full Attack action", so it's clear on the intent to allow extra attacks after teleporting and using a full attack, and to say "applying the same penalties on those attacks", or look for a wording similar to Two-Weapon Fighting. Otherwise, each extra attack will be using your full BAB, which the penalties listed.

Finally, consider that Time Stop is a 9th level spell that allows the character to take an additional 2 to 4 actions, which could be used to cast those (existing) spells. So, while allowing two lower spell effects to stack as a single 9th level spell isn't unbalanced, also keep in mind that it also will require extra resources from the character, those spell slots.

However, those spell effects by themselves are not that much stronger than a Time Stop being used to cast two other 9th level spells, or even two other 8th level spells, even considering that it allows you to cast three extra spells on average. In fact, that would be a much more powerful tactic, but also take away stronger resources from the character (the spell slots). Spells that combine multiple effects into one aren't unheard of (ie: Blessing of Fervor), but they are also always very strong options to take.

With a little tuning down on their effects (because you are combining four spells into one), that could easily become a 9th level spell. The reduction on the spell's area alone is enough to nerf half of the spell's problems.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 27 '18 at 3:11
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It’s a 9th-level spell

There is no such thing as a “balanced” 9th-level spell. For that matter, Pathfinder cannot be described as a “balanced” game at levels where 9th-level spells are available, either.

So will your game be balanced if players use this spell? No, it won’t, by definition: they’ll have 9th-level spells. Will this spell make balance worse than other 9th-level spells? Again, by definition, no: gate still exists, and is still better than this.

Anyway...

The Dark

This is a powerful effect, just because it’s asymmetrical. However, non-visual methods of detecting you aren’t very uncommon at this level, which means many targets won’t be significantly hampered. Also, it affects your allies as much as your enemies: only you (and your familiar, but if you actually manage to make a familiar relevant at this level, you’ve earned it) are immune to it.

Overall, this is not, by itself, even remotely a 9th-level effect; it’s more like 3rd level. Like the very similar blacklight.

The Step

Constant short-range teleportation, swift-action movement: pretty good. There is also a dearth of similar effects available, which is somewhat surprising. Ultimately, though, a swift action probably costs a spellcaster more than a move action does, since quickening spells is a very relevant thing at this level. And since ideally nothing can see you anyway, teleportation only matters so much, but it’s still pretty nice.

Anyway, as for level, the existence of dimensional bounce suggests it’d be pretty high—but dimensional bounce is a terrible spell no one should ever use, so that’s not entirely helpful. For tactical teleportation, the best comparison we have is dimension door with the Dimensional Agility, Dimensional Assault, and Dimensional Dervish feats. So this is a 4th-level spell, plus three feats, on repeat. The earliest you could have all three feats would be 11th level, so that’s a minimum of a 6th-level spell. Having it as a 4th-level spell plus feats saves you high-level slots at the expense of feats: feats are more valuable, so really it’s more costly than a simple 6th-level spell would be. So call it 7th-level: how many 7th-level spell slots is a 9th-level spell slot worth?

(The answer is many.)

Basically, what I’m getting at is that this effect should be the high-level tactical teleportation option, not dimension bounce. It’s probably justifiable as a 7th-level spell, but 8th-level might be a little nicer to someone who burned three feats on this.

The Trap

Meh. The effect is powerful, except freedom of movement and teleportation have been mainstays for about half the game at this point. Even if something fails its save, it should be able to get out of this.

It’s hard to say what level this ought to get: when it works, it’s pretty powerful, but the higher level you are, the more likely enemies are to just ignore it. I’d honestly lean towards 3rd or 4th level: seems to me that solid fog is a much better effect than this.

The Kill

It’s haste, or maybe haste on steroids? It’s kind of unclear; the wording should be tightened up. An extra attack per regular attack means doubling your attacks, which I guess is comparable to the Two-Weapon Fighting feat line.

On your typical spellcaster, the souped-up version is a little silly and pointless, but we’ll assume someone building for it: this probably means a kill, as the name says. Straight-up killing targets is the province of high-level spells, but most of them are a little easier to use than this. Probably around 8th level again.

If it’s just self-only haste, then it’s not even 3rd-level.

Conclusion

We’re looking at a combination of battlefield control that is almost, but not quite, as good as solid fog, but it’s asymmetrical so that’s a huge point in its favor, combined with excellent mobility, and a potentially-large buff depending on the wording.

The battlefield control would not be worth a 9th-level spell slot, nor would the mobility or the buff. All together, though, is a lot of efficiency.

On the other hand, creatures with non-visual detection methods and freedom of movement are almost entirely unaffected by the spell. Anything that can teleport is also probably pretty safe.

So again, I say, this spell is not more powerful than gate. It’s not more powerful than time stop, either—while you could cast similar spells to set up effects like this during a time stop, you could also just cast better spells during the time stop. So yeah, it’s fine as a 9th-level spell, even if it does combine a couple of arguably-8th-ish effects into one. Because 9th-level spells are insane.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to be clear, you are using Gate as comparison by using it's effect that requires 10k in materials per cast, right? \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 26 '18 at 16:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras A 17th-level character really shouldn’t be very concerned about that. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 26 '18 at 16:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is one thing you are not considering, his spell is an emanation centered on the caster, so the battlefield control effect is actually mobile and always present. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 26 '18 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras Sure, but how often does that really matter? It’s the same reason I couldn’t care less about the area; it’s big, it’ll fill the dungeon, it’ll cover the encounter. That’s all that’s really relevant. It doesn’t last long enough that you’re likely to find the next encounter off the same spell, barring a pretty dense dungeon. On a barren plain, that would matter more, but in my experience that’s not really typical. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 26 '18 at 16:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 just for the reminder that spellcasters are basically unbalanced once you're aboe 10th level, let alone having access to 9th level spell \$\endgroup\$ – Lymakk Jul 28 '18 at 0:25
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That's ridiculously powerful. In many ways it's better than time stop. I wouldn't even suggest granting it if he used a wish spell. He's blacked out, so spellcasters and archers can't target him directly. He can automatically make all reflex saves. He can teleport anywhere within an 80 foot diameter sphere. And when he does teleport he gets multiple attacks. On top of that everyone is forced to crawl, and flying creatures fall out of the sky.

You can't combine that many spells into one without it being a joke. He's taking 5 turns in a single turn. So to make it work he would have to have time stop and it would have to be part of the list of spells. So at a minimum it's better than the 9th level spell time stop making it a 10th level spell, which is prohibited.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 27 '18 at 3:11

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