I now started playing Pathfinder: Kingmaker which is based on Pathfinder and I wanted to take the Eldritch Scoundrel class.

The class can use Cantrips and I read that those are like small spells I can use anytime and as often was I want. But how exactly do they work?

Question: Whats the difference between a Cantrip and a normal spell in the normal tabletop game lorewise and how powerful are they in comparison?
Do they get stronger or always just stay lvl 0 spells?
I think that when the character levels up and still has to use lvl 0 spells it is pretty weak.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Small point, Pathfinder: Kingmaker is based on the RPG Pathfinder, which is an off-shoot from D&D3.5. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cyberspark
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 8:01
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Questions about video games - even ones based on Table-top, Pen & Paper RPGs - are off-topic here and better off asked on the Arqade stack. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 8:53
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleMonkey Yes i am asking this because i plan to play this game, but i am interested and curios about the general works of the pathfinder universe and just because mentioning my current use of this information does not make this question imho off-topic because it is formulated to be applicable as information for the general tabletop pathfinder game :) \$\endgroup\$
    – MansNotHot
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 8:56
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Then you should probably edit your question to mention that you're specifically asking about the Pathfinder TTRPG mechanics and not the video game (which is how the question comes off as currently written). It's fine to mention that you've started playing Kingmaker but you definitely need to separate that from the actual question and make it clear that you're not actually asking about the video game. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 9:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ This question's closure is being discussed on meta here: Why was my question about Cantrips put on hold? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 13:34

2 Answers 2


Pathfinder: Kingmaker (the videogame) is based on the Kingmaker Adventure Path published by Paizo for their Pathfinder roleplaying game.

Now, Pathfinder is heavily based on D&D 3rd edition (3e) and especially on the 3.5e revision of the ruleset, for that ruleset came with an Open Gaming License that allowed third party publishers to legally build on top of their system.

When 3.5e publishers moved to D&D 4e, which had a way stricter license, Paizo wrote their own ruleset, trying to win the 3.5e audience.

In 3.5e, cantrips (and their clerical counterpart, orisons) are just level 0 spells. These spells usually don't scale in damage or effect (only their chance to have an effect raises with the general competence of the character, which means increased to-hit and save difficulty checks that the opponent has to save against) and apart from not receiving extra 0-level spell slots because of an high ability score and a rule that states that these actually count as level 1/2 spells when determining how many pages they take on a spellbook or the cost of acquiring a scroll, they are effectively spells like any other.

What really changed in Pathfinder, making Cantrips and Orisons a different affair (and eventually having the cure minor wounds orison removed from the game), is that 3.5 Wizards, sorceres and other spellcasters had very powerful spells but supposedly very few of them, so that they couldn't keep spamming spells all day long, needing to revert to more mundane ways to deal damage and solve problems. Pathfinder authors decided that the cantrips were not that powerful and instead of having wizards switch to crossbows, they gave them infinite cantrips per day, so that they could keep being magical all day long. (Crossbows are still better than straight damage spells, but some other spells are really useful, like being able to spam previously useless spells like "+1 to the next skill check" or "light" or "create water").

Anyway, the idea that you leveled up but still had access to low level spells is familiar to the players of all three editions. Usually those spell slots get filled with utility spells, backup spells in case you end up spending all higher slots on a taxing day or spells that don't care about save DCs and keep being effective throughout the game despite their low level.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I've removed the “based on D&D 3.5e” on the question. It was a misconception that would force answers to devote far too many words to an almost enetirely insignificant detail. Now it says “based on Pathfinder”. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 13:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelspooker still, the evolution of cantrips from "just weak spells" to at-will seems important enough to me when defining what a cantrip is or isn't (and why a cantrip has this huge advantage over regular spells) \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 17:25

From Paizo core book:


[..] These spells are cast like any other spell, but they are not expended when cast and may be used again. A wizard can prepare a cantrip from an opposition school, but it uses up two of his available slots (see below).

A cantrip is usually a really low power spell with some utility. Think something like create light or water or moving a small object from distance.
In Pathfinder first edition (the edition on which the videogame is based) the cantrips do not increase in power with level up. They are not even close to a 1st level spell. That is the nature of cantrips. They are weak but you can use them every round.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That means they are more useful for utility than anything combat related? \$\endgroup\$
    – MansNotHot
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 7:54
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Well...you can use them in combat if you want but passed the 2nd level they are useless in regard of dealing damage to opponents. The utility part, instead, it will remain. Keep in mind the tabletop game is different from the videogame and i don't know how much utility will be necessary to end the game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mouza
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 8:01
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, they are utility spells. They are spells you learn before you graduate on your wizard school, they are magic tricks, things you do to impress kids and girls. There is one misinformation in this answer, though: They do increase in power, just not as you are expecting (more damage), they get increased range, or simply get a better effect as you level up (Mending), and some of them never cease being useful (Detect Magic), no matter your level. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 11:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ They are often interesting in combat, as they can be reused and often don't have many requirements, but yeah, once you get some really high levels, you can mostly rely on spells. Many do help with utility, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – TheCentaur
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 15:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .