Beyond Vancian magic and Spell Resistance
Jim likes to talk about how most people who are in favor of Vancian spell slots per day have never read the Dying Earth, the book the idea came from. Today Owen brought up something on his Patreon/Blog about changing the all or nothing nature of Spell Resistance and one of the things that Damage Resistance created was a you must be this tall to fight the creature issue where parties without the right materials could not complete the encounter. Creatures with too high a Spell Resistance feel the same way for casters.
Owen’s blog, you can go read it here, but it says maybe overcoming spell resistance should require extra time (actions) or spell slots, or resources (resolve points) and while I like that, as far as it goes, that might just drain resources away the party could use elsewhere. The caster is better off trying to identify the creature’s weakness and using their backup ranged weapon while the martials do the real damage.
So while I was thinking that he’d change the all or nothing nature of spell resistance to a sliding scale, what he suggested got me thinking about a more free form casting paradigm where pushing beyond your X spell slots per day limitations might require you to roll vs fatigue for 1st level spells beyond your daily limit, roll vs exhausted for seconds and thirds, maybe. There might options where you take nonlethal damage instead, but you’re hurting yourself by putting part of yourself into the casting or just doing too much. To demonstrate this overexertion, you could even use temporary ability damage. Sure the cleric might be able to fix the conditions and the damage, but they would need some kind of caster level check to overcome the fact you’re magically fucked up.
Vive la résistance!
So if spell resistance isn’t save or suck, what is it? Losing a spell is like losing a turn, you’re not playing the game you’re penalized and looking at your phone. Damage Resistance used top have this problem in 3.x where if the party didn’t have what it took to overcome the monster’s DR they should just go home and hire better adventurers to do their job for them.
Je ne sais quoi
What is the answer to Spell Resistance was the same as Damage Resistance? What if the caster had to have a certain something to help overcome the SR? Can the caster get a spell over on the vampire while brandishing a holy symbol, can you fight werewolves with silver, wolfsbane, or something equally rooted in their mythology? Could a craftsman ken (know) what thing was used to power the evil wizard’s golem and use that to make it susceptible to the spells of the party’s caster?
The One ring could only be un-made in the fires of mount doom from whence it came. There’s a lot of power in creation, that gives us a little more depth to our casters resource management which is already a lot for some casters. Would you add a few more resources to your bag of tricks if it meant now wasting spells against creatures with SR 20-50% of the time? We probably would not want having the correct alternative focus items become an instant win button, how about a +5 to your spell penetration check? +1 or +2 to the Save DC for the creature to resist the effects? +1 more point of damage per die or treat all ones as twos?
What if Spell Resistance was just resistance and not invulnerability? What if the creature got SR vs spell level 1-3 but not higher, the demon and devils with SR might go 1-5 or 6, but the higher you go beyond 6th level spells the more rarified the spell slot, the more penalized for playing their character a caster is for even trying if the spell penetration check doesn’t succeed. Could I wish away a CR 10 Golem? There’s a point where Earthquakes and the power to stop time and bend reality to your whim overcomes the tin man some wizard made in their basement. Maybe it’s not a blanket bypass, but every spell level beyond 3rd gives you some kind of bonus on the SR check? It makes you use higher level slots, but there’s less chance of you wasting them too.
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