Roleplaying Resources

Low Magic Casters

Published by the DM on 2013-04-18

In D&D 3.5, magic tends to get out of control at the higher levels, while being overly weak at the lower levels. Here are some simple adjustents to balance it out, and give the entire campaign a lower-magic feel.

General changes

All spellcasters cast spontaneously, in most cases from a smaller spell list. Casters generally have more spells per level each day, but they gain access to higher spell levels more slowly. They can only access the highest levels using a new mechanic called Ritual Spells.

Caster level is always reduced by 2, for the purpose of all level-dependent numerical values, to a minimum of 1. For example, a Fireball cast at 10th level does 8d6 damage and has a slightly shorter range. There is no change to caster level for other purposes, such as Spell Resistance checks.

Full Casters

Clerics, sorcerers and druids, and other full-casting classes use the following progression for spells per day and spells known. They may swap out spells known like a sorcerer does. Wizards and other classes that prepare spells from a spellbook use the spells per day, but not the spells known.

Spells per Day Spells Known
Level 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1 5 3 4 2
2 6 4 5 2
3 6 5 6 3 1*
4 6 6 3 6 3 2
5 6 6 4 6 4 3 1*
6 7 6 5 6 4 3 1*
7 7 6 6 3 6 4 4 2 1*
8 7 6 6 4 6 4 4 3 1*
9 7 6 6 5 6 4 4 3 1* 1*
10 8 7 6 6 3 6 4 4 4 2 1*
11 8 7 6 6 4 6 4 4 4 3 1* 1*
12 8 7 6 6 5 6 4 4 4 3 1* 1*
13 8 7 7 6 6 3 6 4 4 4 4 2 1* 1*
14 9 7 7 6 6 4 6 4 4 4 4 3 1* 1*
15 9 7 7 6 6 5 6 4 4 4 4 3 1* 1* 1*
16 9 8 7 7 6 6 3 6 5 4 4 4 4 2 1* 1*
17 9 8 7 7 6 6 4 6 5 5 4 4 4 3 2* 1* 1*
18 10 8 7 7 6 6 5 6 5 5 5 4 4 3 2* 2* 1*
19 10 8 8 7 7 6 6 6 5 5 5 5 4 4 3* 2* 2*
20 10 8 8 7 7 6 6 6 5 5 5 5 5 4 3* 3* 2*

* These spells known can only be used for ritual spells.

Cleric

Clerics have one domain instead of two. They continue to get a bonus domain spell per day for each spell level. Clerics gain the “Cure Wounds” spells and “Remove X” (remove curse, remove disease etc), as well as their domain spells, as bonus spells known.

Wizard

Rather than using the spells known table above, wizards cast every spell in their spellbook spontaneously. Spellbooks are more expensive to fill, and wizards cannot cast spells directly out of another wizard's spellbook. Since wizards do not have a limit to spells known, they are in the unique position of being able to cast ritual spells well above their level.

Wizards learn two new spells for free at first level. At subsequent levels, they may spend eight hours finalizing their research of up to two new spells. This sort of research has the same materials cost as scribing a scroll, but no XP cost.

Warlock

Warlocks gain invocations two levels later than normal. They never gain access to dark invocations.

Partial Casters

Bard

Bards and other classes that can normally cast up to 6th level spells use the following progression for spells per day and spells known:

Spells per Day Spells Known
Level 0 1 2 3 4 0 1 2 3 4 5 6
1 1 4
2 2 5 1*
3 3 6 1*
4 4 1 6 2 1*
5 4 2 6 3 1*
6 4 3 6 3 2*
7 4 4 6 4 2* 1*
8 4 4 1 6 4 3 1*
9 4 4 2 6 4 3 2*
10 4 4 3 6 4 4 2* 1*
11 5 4 4 1 6 4 4 3 1*
12 5 4 4 2 6 4 4 3 2*
13 5 5 4 3 6 4 4 4 2* 1*
14 5 5 4 4 1 6 4 4 4 3 1*
15 5 5 4 4 2 6 4 4 4 3 2* 1*
16 5 5 4 4 3 6 5 4 4 4 2* 1*
17 6 5 4 4 4 6 5 5 4 4 3* 1*
18 6 5 5 4 4 6 5 5 5 4 3* 2*
19 6 6 5 4 4 6 5 5 5 5 4* 2*
20 6 6 5 5 4 6 5 5 5 5 4* 3*

* These spells known can only be used for ritual spells.

Rangers and Paladins

Rangers, Paladins and other classes that can normally cast up to 4th level spells use the following progression for spells per day and spells known. Classes with this progression may choose to forgo spellcasting in exchange for a bonus fighter feat at levels 10, 15 and 20.

Spells Per Day Spells Known
Level 1 2 1 2 3 4
4 1*
5 1*
6 0 2
7 0 3
8 1 3 1*
9 1 3 1*
10 2 0 3 2
11 2 1 4 2 1*
12 2 1 4 3 1*
13 3 2 4 3 2*
14 3 2 5 3 2* 1*
15 3 3 5 4 3* 1*
16 4 3 5 4 3* 2*
17 4 3 5 4 3* 2*
18 4 4 5 5 4* 3*
19 5 4 5 5 4* 3*
20 5 4 5 5 4* 3*

* These spells known can only be used for ritual spells.

Other Casters

Adaptations should be made for other casters as well, with the following guidelines:

  • Spells per day are increased, especially for low-level spells.
  • Availability of spell levels are reduced, such that 20th level casting is two or three levels lower than normal.
  • Casters with a fixed spell list must select spells known, based on one of the progressions above, as appropriate to the strength of their normal spellcasting.

Ritual Spells

Casters can learn and cast spells of a higher level than they could normally cast. Casting such a spell is difficult:

  • It uses up two spell slots of the next lowest level. These slots can be accumulated from lower levels as well. For example, you can cast a 7th level spell using two 6th level slots, or one 6th level slot and two 5th level slots, or four 5th level slots.
  • For each spell level above the maximum you can normally cast, make the following adjustments:
    • Materials and XP costs are multiplied by ten, to a minimum of 100gp and 10xp.
    • Casting time is multiplied by ten, to a minimum of ten minutes. This time is spent performing the ritual. The final round of spellcasting can be delayed up to ten minutes after the spell is prepared.
    • There is a 10% cumulative failure chance. There is no way to avoid this. This failure chance exists even for scrolls of ritual spells.

For example, Shapechange is a 9th level spell. If a 13th level wizard, who can normally only cast 6th level spells, attempts to cast it, it requires:

  • Eight 6th level slots, or a combination of lower-level slots, such as four 6th, five 5th, four 4th and four 3rd.
  • 10,000gp and 1,000xp.
  • 1,000 minutes (16.7 hours) of preparation.

Once the casting is complete, there is a 30% chance that the spell fails.

Scrolls and Wands

Scrolls and wands are crafted at higher caster level than normal. Start at the new minimum caster level, based on the new spell progressions. Then increase it by 2. For example, a wizard casts Fireball at a minimum of 7th level. A scroll of Fireball cannot be scribed at lower than 9th level. This means that the wizard must be 9th level to scribe such a scroll, and that the cost is increased to 25 * 3 * 9 = 675gp.

7th, 8th and 9th level spells can be worked into scrolls or wands as ritual spells at caster levels 18, 19 and 20, but they are treated as epic items, meaning their cost is increased tenfold. For example, a 7th level scroll costs 25 * 7 * 18 * 10 = 31,500gp. 5th and 6th level bard spells are crafted at 18th and 19th level. 3rd and 4th level ranger and paladin spells are crafted at 14th and 16th level. XP and materials costs are not multiplied by 10, so a scroll of Limited Wish costs 10 * (25gp * 7 * 18) + 5(10 * 300xp) = 46,500gp, while a scroll of Wish costs 10 * (25gp * 9 * 20) + 5(1000 * 5000xp) = 25,045,000gp.

Spell Level Wizard Cost Bard Cost Ranger Cost
0 37.5gp (cl 2)
1 100gp (cl 4) 300gp (cl 6) 400gp (cl 8)
2 300gp (cl 6) 500gp (cl 10) 600gp (cl 12)
3 675gp (cl 9) 975gp (cl 13) 10,500gp (cl 14)
4 1,200gp (cl 12) 1,800gp (cl 18) 16,000gp (cl 16)
5 1,875gp (cl 15) 22,500gp (cl 18)
6 2,700gp (cl 18) 28,500gp (cl 19)
7 31,500gp (cl 18)
8 38,000gp (cl 19)
9 45,000gp (cl 20)

Copying Spells

Spellcasters are rare, and spellbooks are guarded closely. On the rare occasion when wizards allow you to copy spells, they typically charge half the cost of buying scrolls of the same spells. The treasure value of found or stolen spellbooks rises accordingly.

The 100gp per spell level in materials required to write a spell into a spellbook is unchanged.

Wealth by Level

Standard wealth by level is reduced to the following:

Level PC Wealth NPC Wealth
2 500 gp 500 gp
3 1000 gp 800 gp
4 1,800 gp 1,500 gp
5 2,800 gp 2,500 gp
6 4,000 gp 3,000 gp
7 5,500 gp 4,000 gp
8 7,500 gp 5,000 gp
9 10,000 gp 6,500 gp
10 13,000 gp 8,000 gp
11 17,000 gp 10,000 gp
12 23,000 gp 13,000 gp
13 31,000 gp 17,000 gp
14 41,000 gp 22,000 gp
15 55,000 gp 28,000 gp
16 75,000 gp 36,000 gp
17 105,000 gp 46,000 gp
18 150,000 gp 58,000 gp
19 210,000 gp 76,000 gp
20 290,000 gp 96,000 gp