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A GM I played with used to rule that a quickened spell always reduced the casting time of a spell by 1 round, and reduced a 1 round casting time or a standard action casting time to a swift action, and a swift action to a free (or immediate, he was somewhat inconsistent) action.

Thus I only recently realized that RAW, quicken only does the second to last of those things (standard or 1 round to swift)

If I, as a GM, were to attempt to find a balanced way to allow players to metamagic their spells into immediate actions, what level of metamagic would that be? My thought so far is to create a new metamagic feat that allows you to turn a swift action casting time into an immediate action casting time - thus, it stacks with quicken (so I don't have to deal with rules about applying the same metamagic twice), and forces casters to commit two feats if they want to double-quicken their spells into immediate actions.

But if I do it this way, there's nothing that a priori says this new metamagic feat would have to also be a +4 spell level feat. So, my question is... what's the ability to make a swift-action spell immediate worth, in terms of spell-level adjustment?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you using immediate actions as described here or can a creature take an immediate action literally at any time, such as after knowing the result of a die roll but before the effect is resolved? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 12 '15 at 12:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ And welcome to the site! Take the tour. Have fun. Thank you for an interesting question. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 12 '15 at 14:08
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This cannot be balanced

The power you suggest would be immense. It would open a wealth of exceedingly powerful options to the already-most-powerful classes. The ability to act more than you are supposed to, à la Quicken, is one of the most powerful abilities in the game – but it falls well short of being able to act when you shouldn’t be able to act at all – which is what you propose.

This metamagic feat would be close a super-contingency, and contingency may very well be the most powerful spell in the game, limited only by the fact that you can only establish a single contingency at a time. With this, you can make as many spells as you like contingent, and you don’t even have to set the trigger ahead of time, you can just react immediately. In 3.5, there was a Craft Contingent Spell “item” creation feat, which was very-frequently banned, even in the highest optimization games, as one of the most overpowered options in the game.

There is no price you can put on this that wouldn’t allow someone to break the game. Even if you literally gave it a +10 adjustment, making it impossible to use under normal circumstances, someone would find a way around the cost. Magical lineage and metamagic master traits, spell perfection feat, or even just a simple metamagic rod.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Nice answer. I hadn't thought of the consequences of this, but preparing a single "double-quickened" teleport (for example) would effectively render a spellcaster invincible. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman May 12 '15 at 14:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ A Metamagic Rod of Quicken should be enough to let you cast any 5th level spell as an Immediate action at high enough level (that is, in a 9th level slot). \$\endgroup\$ – Erik May 12 '15 at 14:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Interested to know if you think it can't be balanced, even with an added: "This feat is not a metamagic feat, and thus abilities such as divine metamagic do not apply to this nor can rods be crafted to apply this. This cannot apply to any spells already modified by metamagic, whether via feats, rods, or any other source and spells effected by this feat cannot have any metamagic applied to them." \$\endgroup\$ – Scott May 13 '15 at 6:09
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Tread carefully!

You've thought about this. You've played in a campaign allowing it (albeit the effects were capriciously adjudicated). Thus if you want to try this, despite KRyan's accurate and firm warning against it, you should. Here's one way to do so.


With caution and careful management, metamagic changing a spell's casting time from a 1-round action or less to an immediate action could adjust a spell's level by +8 (but see below)

Casters are already the most powerful beings in the game. A feat allowing high-level casters to cast low-level spells off-turn probably won't significantly change the game's balance. But making such an ability easy and obvious is hazardous because then the ability can be exploited easily and obviously. That makes unbalanced a lone feat changing a spell's casting time from a standard action to an immediate action, even if the feat increases the spell's slot by +8. Such a feat would, for example, lend itself to extrapolated metamagic rods and metamagic-level-reducing shenanigans.

But a feat that changes a spell's casting time from 1 swift action to 1 immediate action, on its surface, isn't particularly unbalanced, especially if limited to high-level casters. For example, consider this homebrew feat:

Immediate Spell (Metamagic)

You can cast spells even faster.
Prerequisites: Spellcraft 15 ranks, Quicken Spell.
Benefit: A spell modified by this metamagic feat can be cast as an immediate action. Only spells with casting times of 1 swift action can be modified by this feat. Casting a spell modified by this feat doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity.
Level Adjustment: +4.
Special: You can apply the effects of this feat to a spell cast spontaneously without increasing the spell's casting time.

(Note that while I have not playtested this feat, I've played a fair amount of high-level Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 and Pathfinder campaigns. My personal experiences in such campaigns color the remainder of this answer. Also, such a feat should not exist in a Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 campaign.)

On its face, the feat is limited to...

  • 0-level through 5th-level spells with casting times of 1 swift action,1 and...
  • 0-level and 1st-level spells with casting times of 1 round or less that are already modified by the feat Quicken Spell.

For most campaigns, such effects shouldn't be a problem. Most campaigns never even see level 15 characters (or end soon after seeing them), and a Wiz17 who uses his highest-level spell slot to cast an off-turn grease or color spray just isn't disrupting the game with his abilities. However, not all campaigns are most campaigns.

Pathfinder contains the bloodrager archetype metamagic rager, the oracle archetype seeker's supernatural ability seeker magic,2 the feat Spell Perfection,3,4 the trait Magical Lineage,3 the trait Metamagic Master3 (né Waywang Spellhunter), the spell arcane concordance,5 and, doubtlessly, will contain other effects in future supplements.

The presence of these effects means such a homebrew feat must be carefully monitored by the GM, requiring the GM to consider carefully if, when these already present and future effects combine with his homebrew feat, his homebrew feat grants to casters power far beyond that already possessed.

With such careful management and attention the feat's just another possible interesting tool in the caster's toolbox rather than the only or best tool in the caster's toolbox.


1 I checked spells with Casting Time: 1 swift action and while some are kind of spiffy off-turn (e.g. the 2nd-level Clr spell peacemaker's parley, the 6th-level Sor/Wiz spell cold ice strike, the 9th-level Sor/Wiz spell ride the lightning, the litany of line of spells) none appear horribly unbalanced as immediate action spells. (This could, of course, change with the next Pathfinder supplement.)
2 At level 15 this archetype allows the casting of 0-level through 6th-level spells and 0-level through 4th-level spells, respectively, when such spells are granted by the oracle's mystery. The reduction doesn't combine with other reductions, however.
3 When picked affects 1 named spell ever. Choose wisely.
4 The feat Spell Perfection has as a prerequisite 15 ranks in the skill Spellcraft (and 3 metamagic feats), likely limiting it to characters of level 15 or higher.
5 Limited to small set of metamagic feats; this spell is used here as a placeholder for other effects employing similar mechanics (e.g. the amulet of grasping souls, the incense of meditation).

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Like KRyan said, there's no way to make this balanced in a general-use scenario. However, you can achieve similar effects safely by ditching the idea of it being a Metamagic feat and providing a different, highly limited mechanism to do so.

One example of this would be the Hero Point system from the APG. You can spend a Hero Point to take an action when it's not your turn (as if you had readied an action and it just triggered) or to take an extra standard or move action on your turn, among other things. However, you can only do this once a turn, you only get one Hero Point per level by default, and you can only have a maximum of three stored up at once, so they're very scarce. (GMs can also explicitly give them out for significant plot points, helping the gaming group, or anything else they want, but the maximum is still a limit.)

This permits the occasional emergency spell cast when you shouldn't be able to, and (unlike adding more levels to the spell) doesn't have a restriction on what type of spell can be cast, but also keeps it a rare occurrence. This does provide a significant power boost to the PCs, but not the game-breaking level that KRyan addresses.

Other examples could be a feat or class ability which lets the character do this once per day, or a plot artifact which includes it as a power, or so on. The idea is A) It's not metamagic (with all the repercussions that causes), and B) It's very limited in use.


As a side thought: Whenever you're considering adding a new rule, consider what the PCs would say if a NPC used it against them. Most BBEGs should be stronger than the party, so if a PC can immediate-cast 1st level spells, a BBEG should be able to immedate-cast 2nd or 3rd level spells. Would the players be OK with that? Would they protest? Obviously, not every NPC should take advantage of a new rule, but some certainly should...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Ultimately, I maintain my objection here: a standard action out of turn is almost worthless to a mundane character. For a spellcaster, it’s quite possibly the most powerful thing you could have. It’s limited, but it’s still a massive exacerbation of the existing balance problems. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 12 '15 at 18:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, hero points are rare, til someone takes a couple levels of Cleric. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer May 12 '15 at 19:00

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