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Stark Rost, look away!

One of my players is an Imperial Sorcerer focused on lightning magic - he has Sudden Bolt, Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, and Electric Arc currently. I'm hoping to reward them with an ability as a result of a quest:

The ability would function as a Wand of Electrifying Body (see below), but be integrated into their character (so they wouldn't need to hold it, but couldn't sell it, give it away, etc.). They won't be able to use the spell except through the wand. A failed overcharge would result in it stopping functioning for a day while the character becomes Drained 2 (or increases their Drained condition by 2 to a max of 4). For reference, I've tried to balance this ability similar to Fiery Body and Corrosive Body. My primary concern is the balance and theme of the spell itself.

The Spell

Electrifying Body (Level 7) | Cast: two actions (somatic, verbal) | Duration: 1 minute

Electricity arcs across your body, and your form rapidly shifts to become nothing more than sheer electricity vaguely resembling a humanoid shape. You gain immunity to electricity. You gain resistance 10 to precision damage, but you are flat-footed against attacks made with metal objects (like most weapons and ammunition). Any creature that touches you or damages you with an unarmed melee attack or non-reach melee weapon takes 3d6 electricity damage, and your unarmed attacks deal an additional 1d4 electricity damage.

Your electricity spells deal one additional die of electricity damage (of the same damage die that the spell uses). You can cast Electric Arc as an innate spell. When you cast Electric Arc, you can choose up to three targets.

In electricity form, you gain a +10 circumstance bonus to your speeds when Striding across a fully metal surface. Additionally, you can attempt to Burrow through metals with a Burrow speed of 100 feet, but this is inherently risky as your form is pulled in many different directions. You must make an Arcana check against your Spell DC. On a failure, your form is too spread out for your magic to contain, suffering 10d6 force damage, and you can only Burrow 5 feet. On a critical failure, you still take 10d6 force damage, but do not move at all, and are forced to dismiss the spell to prevent your form from being ripped to shreds.

Goal

My goal is partially narrative (and the above does accomplish that, so I'm not worried about that), but also wanting to reward the player with a unique and thematic ability that they'd enjoy. I don't want the player to become too powerful, such that they outshine the rest of the party. I'm hoping for a spell that aligns well with Golarion and Pathfinder, but I couldn't really find good inspiration in existing creatures, mechanics, or abilities in either PF1e or PF2e. (I'm not the most Pathfinder 1e fluent, especially about higher level stuff).

Things My Player Enjoys

Said player tends to enjoy glass-cannon like abilities, and likes the idea of making exchanges for power. However, said player also skews towards being avoidant of uncertainty. I think this ability's upsides are a little more powerful than equivalents of that level, but I tried to balance that out with stronger drawbacks (flat-footed to metal seems way worse than weakness to cold and water).

Other Considerations

The players will be level 14 when they acquire this. The other players are a Sword and Board Fighter, Thief Rogue (ranged/melee striker), Angel Summoner (melee striker), and Thaumaturge (melee defender/striker/support). So the backline is usually pretty safe. This player is an Imperial Sorcerer, and likes lasers. We're playing Age of Ashes in Golarion. They mostly sit in the back line and cast spells.

On Balance

Balance can be somewhat subjective, but my hope is that this doesn't become a "I need this every encounter" ability, nor a "I'm so much stronger than other characters with this" ability. I'm okay with it being a strong option for the level, or even a somewhat defining ability. The other player's characters are generally pretty well built; this player is also built well but being a blaster caster has a lower floor and ceiling. I wouldn't say they are currently overpowered compared to the rest of the group. The group as a whole is pretty close in power level though.

Why I'm asking

I'm normally fairly confident in homebrewing PF2e, but there are a few concerns I have:

  • Lightning spells are often d12s, so the extra die of damage is roughly double the effectiveness of Fiery Body. The few acid spells are generally d8s, so this is +2 average damage over those. Fire is much easier to AoE with (Chain Lightning can be disrupted, and Lightning Bolt is difficult to land, especially with our large front line), so I'm thinking I shouldn't be too worried about this, but I'm not confident, hence why I'm asking).
  • The Burrow ability is 100% an "I have no idea if this is any good". My player is ranking up Arcana (behind Crafting), so the check should be usually successful, and only crit fail on a natural 1. The players already have an Insistent Door Knocker (the level 6 one), though, so I don't think it will break anything.
  • I was very surprised to find this spell didn't exist in either version of Pathfinder, and I didn't find creatures very thematically similar on Archives of Nethys for PF2e. I was thinking about adding a weakness (like Fiery Body), but settled on Flat-Footed as none of the creatures with the electricity trait had the appropriate weakness.

So, is this thematic and balanced? (Thank you so much if you got this far, and lemme know if there's any irrelevant information you think I can trim from this very wordy question).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just checking, did you mean resistance to precision damage, like Fiery gave, or piercing as you wrote? I can't see why a lightning form would be any more resistant to piercing than fire... \$\endgroup\$
    – Alan
    Feb 21, 2023 at 22:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ To clarify the overcharge element, are you proposing that if the player attempts the overcharge and fails the DC10 flat check that they are subject to the Drained 2 condition in lieu of the wand being destroyed? Or are they just subject to the Drained 2 condition on a successful DC10 flat check in lieu of gaining the broken condition? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2023 at 22:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Alan good spot, I actually just misread Fiery Body, but the intent is to do the same there (both are similarly amorphous forms); I'll edit that in. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Feb 22, 2023 at 1:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical in lieu of the wand being destroyed, although in lieu of broken and keeping the destruction would be interesting... I've edited that in for clarity, good question \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Feb 22, 2023 at 1:02

1 Answer 1

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The spell seems unbalanced.

Fiery body and Corrosive body both have damage buffs of +1 die. Fiery body adds flying speed and removes need for breathing. Flying is always good. Breathing is situational, though a character that has access to level 7 spells can likely conjure such buffs anyway. Corrosive body adds temporary HP potentially every round, offering superior survivability boost and adds a large AoE to Acid splash. Damage resistances are a bit different on those two, since Corrosive body doesn't give a damage weakness.

Electrifying body adds damage buff of +1 die and damage resistance combined with a debuff condition. +1 target for electric arc. More on the debuff later.

The striding bonus is situational, where would you fight on a metal street anyway? Would be better a fit on Starfinder. Burrowing speed is more impressive - if you fight on an iron mountain. However, it has serious penalty on failed check, so why would that ever be a sensible option? For example, fourth level Dimension door is way superior method for rapid movement.

Having one extra target for Electric arc is nice, but not significant. It has range of 30 feet, which doesn't allow long-range sniping. Conrast this to Acid splash' AoE, which would affect potentially many more enemies. The downside for AoE is that the spells hit everyone on the area, which EA doesn't. Heightened EA scales with half the caster's level, bonus die would make EA act as +2 caster level. For a cantrip with base damage of d4 that is just +2 extra damage.

The killer feature, pun intended, is the debuffing condition. Being flat-footed against about every physical attack save natural weapons is a huge penalty. Remember that an attack roll exceeding AC with 10 makes a critical hit. A sorcerer likely doesn't have a high AC to start with, and 6 HP + constitution modifer / level makes one as fragile as a Wizard or a Witch. Any archer would have a field day for such an easy picking.

Verdict: +2/+6 average damage, extra EA target, damage resistance and very situational stride bonus do not offset wearing a flashing "aim here for instakill" hat.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ interesting - I wasn't concerned about it being underpowered at first. I'll stew on that for a little bit and see where it might be good to tune up. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Feb 22, 2023 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ You forgot the strongest feature, 3 targets on Electric Arc. But still too weak, so upvoted \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Feb 22, 2023 at 20:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András Good catch. Updated. \$\endgroup\$
    – user72703
    Feb 22, 2023 at 21:17

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