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I'm thinking of picking a magus to play, but I'm nervous that I'll at some point pick the wrong spell and make the party worse off. Is this a legitimate fear? Or am I just paranoid?

I'm nervous to pick the wrong spell and mess up myself and the party by being useless.

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That's not really something to worry about.

Generally, your spell selection should be pretty broad, with most of your spells being applicable in many situations. For example, as a magus, you will probably want a bunch of spells that can take advantage of your Spell Combat, and maybe a few buffs.

However, you don't need to worry about "not having the right spell" in a vast majority of situations. Unless your GM specifically says that the only way through a situation is to use a particular spell, you will very rarely end up hurting the party by not having the right spell prepared.

In addition, prepared spellcasters can always leave some of their slots open to be prepared later in the day. For example, a wizard with 4 5th level spell slots might prepare cloudkill and teleport, and leave the other two open. Later in the day, if it turns out that what you really need is break enchantment, the wizard can spend 15 minutes to fill one of those empty slots with that spell. That way, you can learn a bunch of situational spells that are rarely useful, and only prepare them right when you need them.

In the past ten years that I've played 3.X games, I've never seen a time when a prepared spellcaster preparing the wrong spell caused anything worse than a minor annoyance, typically easily rectified.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn't know you could take time to fill slots during the day. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 3, 2015 at 18:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ My worry was more along the lines of I put an evocation spell of some sort in a slot and instead need teleport or something to get the party to escape some disaster like a bomb going off or a ship sinking \$\endgroup\$ Apr 3, 2015 at 18:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, make sure you always have an "oh crap" escape spell handy, and you never have to feel that way! \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Apr 3, 2015 at 19:10
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It is a legitimate fear, though I don't think it's one that should paralyze you into not making a decision. You're never guaranteed to have the right set of spells at all times, just like in real life you're never prepared for all contingencies.

In fact, some of the most fun occurs when you don't have the spell you need, and you have to cleverly think of a way to use the ones you do have. You choose Fireball instead of Stone to Mud, and need to get through that stone door? Why not use the Fireball to superheat the stone and make it crack instead?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My paranoia was more the level of I pick something like bull's strength instead of fireball and there's a swarm of dire zombie rats coming towards us, but I think your answer is great. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 3, 2015 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Swarm of dire zombie rats coming? Bull's Strength works great for that! Just cast it on the strongest character in the party and have them throw something massive and heavy at the swarm! \$\endgroup\$
    – Dorian
    Apr 3, 2015 at 20:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, you actually can prepare for everything all the time. That's kind of the issue with prepared casters. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 4, 2015 at 1:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dorian I'm sorry... That made my day right there. I know it shouldn't be so funny, but the fact that exactly what I thought to say and you're like "that would be perfect!" is hilarious \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2015 at 1:23

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