Pathfinder Advice: Why I Hate At-Will 0-Level Spells and How I Fixed Them

I hate at-will 0-level spells with the blazing passion of a thousand fiery suns.

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)


It’s not that I think they unbalance the game or turn the PCs into super characters. Rather, the reasons for my distaste of 0-level spells falls into two categories:

Why I Hate Them: Flavour 

On the face of it, at-will 0-level spells solve one of the perennial problems of playing a spell caster: what do you do when you run out of spells? Having a store of inexhaustible magic means you can (in theory) always do something. However, for me, this erodes the flavour of the game. I like a gritty campaign in which magic is actually wondrous. I think at-will 0-level spells erode that wonder. Consider:

  1. Light/Dancing Lights: Even the lowliest adventuring party has no real need of mundane light sources—light and dancing light aren’t exactly rare or esoteric choices for spellcasters. Sure everyone should carry a couple of torches or a sunrod just in case, but in practise they are rarely used.
  2. Detect Magic: Every group has at least one spellcaster who knows detect magic. In practise this means they use this spell in every area they explore, which somewhat cuts down on the level of player skill required to find hidden treasures (and indeed magic traps!) In practise, magic traps are normally much harder for a thief to find than normal traps, but this is not the case if someone can cast detect magic! Of course, countermeasures for both instances—lining treasure niches with lead, casting nondetection on traps—are possible, but extensive use of such measures just ends up nerfing a PC’s abilities. In effect, at-will detect magic means the party rarely misses out on magic treasure and rarely suffers a magic trap’s effects.
  3. Create Water: On the face of it, what’s the harm in at-will create water? It’s not like you could flood a dungeon, after all! True, but the presence of at-will create water does somewhat reduce the environmental challenges involved in a trek through the desert or the badlands or even a long sea voyage. Don’t worry about securing a supply of fresh water—just memorise create water and you are golden!

Why I Hate Them: Resource Management

Part of my enjoyment of the game is the resource management facet of running a character. This might make me seem even geekier than the normal player, but I think it’s a vital, enjoyable part of the game. For example, with at-will detect magics there’s no real reason to only use the spell when you suspect the presence of hidden treasure or a magic trap—just wang off a detect magic in every area and Bob’s your uncle.

Similarly, create water removes a large part of the challenge of travelling through inhospitable terrain. No need to look for an oasis or island at which to replenish your fresh water supplies—just have the cleric fill barrel after barrel—or flask after flask—with fresh water. Doesn’t that somewhat reduce the unique challenges involved in travelling across a desert!

Finally, consider the case of mending:

  • Mending: Never run out of arrows, bolts or other missiles again! Ammunition that misses their target has a 50% chance of breaking. This means archers and the like must choose their shots wisely and make sure they carry enough ammunition for their adventure. Similarly, they must carefully consider whether to buy special ammunition (silver, cold iron or adamantine arrows, for example) and when to use them. With mending, worry no more! Simply collect your broken arrows after the battle and fix them all—even the expensive ones tipped with special materials! How convenient.

My Solution

Since the beginning of my Borderland of Adventure, I’ve banned the use of at-will 0-level spells. In their place, I use the following house rule:

Spellcasters’ 0-level spells do not represent an unlimited resource and a spellcaster cannot treat them as at-will powers. Rather, a spellcaster memorises, knows or has access to 0-level spells as normal but can only cast a limited number of such minor magics per day.

  • At 1st-level, a spellcaster can use his 0-level spells a total of 3 + spellcasting stat’s modifier per day. Thus, a 1st-level wizard with an Intelligence of 16 could use his 0-level spells a total of 6 times per day.
  • Spellcasters gain an extra use of their 0-level spells for every two level of the relevant spellcasting class they gain.

So what do you think? Am I worrying too much about verisimilitude and flavour? Am I just a grumpy old man? Do you have a house rule that handles 0-level spells in a different fashion? Let me know in the comments below!


Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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62 thoughts on “Pathfinder Advice: Why I Hate At-Will 0-Level Spells and How I Fixed Them

  1. I think your solution is probably a fine one. It will keep the aspect of resource management around while still giving the character a goodly number of options. You could also accomplish the same kind of thing by changing what spells are available as unlimited 0-level spells. The whole issue is really about having options in combat, so remove those non-combat spells from the list. A guy who can cast Acid Splash once per round as often as he wants, probably isn’t a big deal.

    I, personally, think this is an issue with the whole Vancian magic that D&D (and derivatives) employ most often. I really don’t like the whole system.

  2. Another alternative would be to reduce the daily allotment of 0 Level spells to zero but allow spell casters to *swap out* any prepared spells with a 0 level spell (much the same way clerics can with cure spells).

    This ensures that the spell is always handy – but with real consequences for the caster if they choose to use them.

  3. I’m thinking that you’re just a grumpy old man 😉

    Sure PF (and 3e in general) is higher magic than many of us old men wistfully recall from the game on which we grew up. It’s a different game. From verisimilitude, I accept it and run with it. I think most still have their eyes in a prior edition/form and are using that judgement against them.

    A cleric memorizes endure elements and create food. Is this a horrible game destroying thing, or is it accepted? Why is create water any different for example? The resource used is in terms of which 0 levels are known/memorized rather than the Vancian one shot spell slot.

  4. For something like Light to maintain the same utility it had in 3.5, you’d have to increase the duration. Other than that, it seems a good way around the “I always see magic” problem I’ve run into with Pathfinder too.

  5. I think the rule is okay (though I would simplify it to read 2 + 1/2 caster level + spellcasting modifier). Unfortunately, I think some of the cantrips are okay – every character should be able to do something when resourced out, just at limited effectiveness. Ultimately, if your issue is with just a few effects, I’d limit or change those spells. Light is made unlimited mostly because tracking light sources just isn’t fun. Create Water and Purify Food and Drink and Dream Feast are unlimited because tracking rations isn’t fun.

    That said, I’m also for making per-day resources management important, but only because I feel adventures move too fast. All too often, if you look at the life of an adventure through a campaign, it’s entirely likely to go from 1st level at age 16, to 15th level at age 21 – that’s insane.

  6. Perhaps you are going too far…. perhaps the real problem with many of the 0’s is duration….. reduce their duration “concentration” and suddenly it becomes a whole new ballgame….. Players won’t want to loose light in a combat….

  7. These types of at-will castings should take a toll on the caster. These draw from a different sort of channel, and should be fatiguing. To mend your last broken silver pointed arrow should cost the caster a wave of fatigue, -1 to every stat for a round at least. Same with the others; want ‘Light?’ with lighting a torch, -1 all stats for a round. Make the magic-user a necessity, but make her have to question it’s use, if the situation is not an emergency. Magic is a sacrifice of power for power. For both clerics channeling from a deity or casters from latent magic sources, immediate, unprepared access requires a jolt from the caster. Period.

  8. If the reasons are not mechanical, but based on personal flavor or what you tend to enjoy as a plAYER, then I would posit that your house rule isn’t bad or unbalanced…but maybe your solution isn’t the more apt or (even more problematic) might be removing the joy and fun for players.

    Your workaround might get more of that old school flavor….but it isn’t really ADDING anything cool or meaningful. It also somewhat forces you to double check every adventure you run…as many writers are just going to assume that there will be an unlimited amount of 0th level spells floating around.

    It’s workable, but inelegant. Also one of your reasons was based on what you enjoyed as a player…well…you aren’t a player; you’re the DM. Changing rules in that manner, as long as your players feel the same way, can be great…..but there are other players who are going to feel cheated out of class features when their caster takes an arbitrary hit but none of the other character do….because the GM doesn’t like this caster ability. But only this one.

  9. I like it. I’m always (and the only one) concerned about such trivial matters in my group, though.

  10. I’ve played in a years-long 3.5e campaign and one PF adventure with characters at levels 5-7 and it’s exactly this issue that played a large part in turning me off. At-will powers (and over optimized BABs) made it feel like I was playing an unnamed MMORPG or… ROLL playing vs. roleplaying. It definitely took the focus off of the story and characters and I would argue that it actually exacerbated the resource management issue. Every room or encountered involved making sure the appropriate at-wills were “up”.

    My suggestion is to keep them unlimited but make them like minor rituals. Duration is limited to “concentration” and casting time is lengthened to something like one minute or more. This makes resource management something that the players have to be conscious of within the game and not just during character creation and leveling up. It becomes a real decision to spend time detecting magic and run the risk of wandering monsters or having the trap spring in the meantime.

    You could justify it by saying that there are no formulae or components; the increased casting time reflects reflects the extra personal effort and lack of reliance on ANY materials. Maybe then there are metamagic feats focusing on specific cantrips.

    Also, get rid of damage causing cantrips or nerf them to 1pt of damage. Play a fighter if you need to attack every round or encounter.

  11. I’d lean toward you being slightly more on the ‘grouchy old man’ side of things, although that’s my personal take. My groups always houseruled at-will 0-level spells, even in the 3.0 days, because they didn’t make that huge a difference. Our games were never focused on the minutiae of arrow management or environmental hazards, except when it became important. Our key was to focus on the notion that 0-level spells were just that: 0-level spells. They rarely exceed the utility of a 1st level spell, and while they can definitely take the place of tools in certain situations, every one of those is another option not selected.

    Were I looking to limit the impact of magic in a campaign for a grittier feel, I’d probably knock out spellcasting base classes and crib a feat-based system (like Midnight 2nd had), or haul out the Mage and Sorcerer prestige classes from D20 Modern and modify them to be in line with Pathfinder. In either case, magic becomes special because it requires significant amounts of time and resources devoted to it. Should players be willing to make that investment, they can reap the rewards of a better quality of life for their characters…at the cost of achievement in another field that might yield more tangible results.

    (I’m certain that there are other 3rd party Pathfinder resources that would do the job better than the two 3.0/3.5 era books I mentioned, but those were off the top of my head)

  12. I suppose I can understand. When I started DM Advanced D&D I had a similar bit of frustration. After all, the first things players sought in my world was an everburning torch, (or a coin with perm light) and a ring of sustenance. In many ways that felt like it took something out of the experience.

    As a player I loved the 0-lvl spell rules, because it meant that my wizard could be useful in cannon fodder fights with out using up important magic. I did feel that having Detect Magic as a 0-lvl was too much. Every time we defeated a enemy the other players would be prompting me to cast detect magic. It really felt like overuse.

    On the flip side, when I DM, I have always used a house rule we call “the 10 minute rule.” Any spell caster can cast a spell that is available to them (ie in the wizards spell book) the long way. Casting the long way involves all of the prep that a caster would do when preparing their spell in the morning as well as the actual casting that is normally done later. The catch is that it takes 10 min to cast a spell like that. It allowed my casters to take battle appropriate spells for spell slots and still be able to cast utility spells like alarm when needed.

    Further, I have always wanted to run a game with the spell casting as a skill options from Sword and Sorcery’s advanced player’s guide. (I did some modifications to the version I want to present to my players.) So basically I have moved in the other direction. (I love the crit and fail tables they presented for it too.)

    I don’t often push resource management in my games, but maybe I should think about it again. there is something important about making sure you have enough food and water on a long trip.

    • I’m a big fan of resource management–shockingly. I think it is an important part of the game. Of course, you could take it to extremes but to me tracking things like water, food and ammunition aren’t extremes. I like it when I overcome a problem because I have the right piece of kit or spell. It forces me to think more creatively, tactically and strategically about the game I’m playing.

  13. As far as Mending goes the 10 minute casting time to fix d4 damage means it isn’t going to fix all your arrows
    Create Water definitely does ease provisioning of course it also doesn’t last so if the cleric goes down…
    Detect magic takes time to narrow things down and a couple of times when the pcs get hit because of non-detection or similar goes a long way…
    Dancing light’s duration is short enough that it needs to be renewed in most combats, yes Light means you don’t need torches, until the cleric or wizard goes down, but really very few groups pay that much attention to light sources – and most adventurers can afford an ioun torch after an adventure or two

  14. If 0-level spells are bothering you, Pathfinder RPG’s magic system is probably not for you.

    • I love Pathfinder–and almost its entire magic system; it’s just at-will 0-level spells I have a problem with. I don’t have a problem with 0-level spells themselves, though; I’m fine with them. I just feel that even small amounts of magic should be wondrous; at-will spells somewhat erodes that wonder (at least for me).

  15. Sounds like you’re aiming for a slightly more generous version of the original 3.x rules on cantrips/orisons, and that’s fine if it’s what your campaign needs. Those spells you mentioned do reduce the worry about sufficient light, clean water, and item repair.

    If you implement this rule, be sure to give casters the option to use a higher-level slot to prepare an extra 0-level spell — if they select the same one twice, they’d get double the number of uses. Also consider adding a trait and/or feat that increases the number of castings allowed.

    One thing worth noting for spells like Detect Magic. Concentrating on a spell requires a standard action each round. Walking at your speed (or less) in a turn is the same pace you would use when walking casually, without hurry. This means someone can maintain concentration on a spell while exploring at a normal pace.

  16. Though your house-rule has merit, I don’t see the 0-level spells in such a light as to limit them, unless there is a player who is milking them for all their worth.

    IMO, the 0-level spells are useful only at lower levels, or when the caster suddenly needs something so “magically mundane” like water or light. To me, that is part of “magic” power, to have a character draw light from the darkness to follow the path, or draw water from a stone to solve a sphynx’ riddle.

    Or to see a map at night or not die of thirst, also good reasons for at-will spells.

    Mending pushes that limit, though, and might qualify as a 1st level spell.

    0-level spells should be unlimited to let players try and wring every last ounce of utility from them.

    ‘Cuz Magic!

  17. Mending will only fix things with the broken condition. When you hit (0r 50% of the time when you miss) ammunition is destroyed (or lost). So it does not do what you think it does. Light has it limits, only one light spell at one time is a big one that most people miss. Detect Magic I agree with and have often thought of making it a 1st level spell.

  18. Have you considered instead maybe utilizing a SPELL POINT system? I tweaked the one from the 3.5E D&D Unearthed Arcana and am currently playtesting it with my group. So far, as 50% of the party are spellcasters and of 10th lvl or better, the system really seems to be working and enjoyable by all. If you’d like to see what I have done you can check out the House Rule file at the following link:

  19. I agree 100% and restrict them even more. You only get your stat modifier in # each day of the ones you have memorized. No swapping, no increasing. You still end up with too many detect magics and light spells but at least they can’t use them in every room.

  20. I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, at-will detect magic is annoying as a GM (though I’m slowly coming to terms with it!). On the other hand, my group’s sorcerer has made prestidigitation a part of his character. I would have to think long and hard before implementing something that changed that, though I do like your rule.

  21. I must admit to having the same concerns when i started on the Beta test (probably for the same reason having started on AD&D) but having played several campaigns since then its never really come up as an issue.

    Yes it does take out some of the old Resource management activities – but they always had level 1 spell solutions anyway which just penalised casters for supporting the party.
    Yes it does change the flavour of the game. But not in a game breaking way. in fact you can make this part of your game (Nomads getting restless – could it be their shaman has just been injured and their getting thirsty?)

    Personally i’d review a lot of the level 0 & Level 1 spells anyway for balance: for level 0 i’d reduce most ranges down to touch (Detect magic ? then stick your hand in the coffin… go on… i dare you…), and even weaken some of the lesser used level 1 spells to make them level 0. that also would increase the variety and force some tough decision making.

    The principle is fine IMHO, just a few tweaks here and there to improve the flavour.

  22. spellcasters are meant to be just that to be honest. they manipulate energies to solve problems. why penalize a mage for bringing light into the world constantly when a fighter can alsways swing a sword with no fatigue rules?
    i like high magic campaigns, even my steamworks DnD campaigns are high magic. it allows players to get involved. if a player decided not to carry a torch and use light spell that is them saying i have solved this using my character and not in the normal way, this is me beating the system.

    that sentence involved a lot of the words I amd MY, as in its my opinion. i have also played in campaigns that are low magic and had just as much fun, campaigns like ravenloft where the use of magic was rare. thats what made the difference.

    If the mage wants to leap in with detect magic and nullify the rogues use as a trap finder then the rogue may get a bit miffed, commence roleplaying the situation. if the mage wants to work with the rogue and help out with detecting traps awesome, commence roleplaying. Detect magic only shows the caster aura types and so on if they can see them, so yeah there is abjuration magic on the front of the chest but whether that is a trap or a preservation spell you have no idea. Also the auras of the magic items in the chest can blur the auras of others so the end answer is basically ‘ yes there are varying types of magic there but you cannot define which’ pass the ball back to the rogue…
    My personal opinion is that if its suits the campaign or the game world you as a DM are playing then do it, but not as a personal preference as a DM. Most DMs have had that smug player that dominates thier game and mushes monsters and story lines alike with thier easy solutions and cookie cutter characters, but at the end of a day they smile and take a lot away from the table.

    its the player abusing the system not an imbalance in the game.


    • I guess that’s a problem–determining if the class feature (at-will 0-level spells) is imbalanced or if the players are abusing it. I had a player–for example–who cast guidance and resistance every minute at low-level. Every time someone makes a skill check out of combat he cast guidance. Mechanically, that’s no problem–a +1 isn’t going to break the bank–but it just seemed a tad cheesy to me.

      • very true, but if he roleplayed praying for guidance for said actions it would have been even better. unfortunately i find that people have stepped away from roleplay and just started number crunching, i am possibly the worst one for this.
        even had a rogue with a single level of sorcerer just for the cantrips. 🙁

  23. If zero level spells break your game that’s a sad day, Detect Magic is a cone, just put the trap around a corner use a mundane trigger plate. That or if you caster is always up front use a non magic trap. See how long that Wizard takes point LoL. Create water is great, but no food to go with it is even better.

  24. You could categorize 0-level spells into something like “combat” and “utility” and allow unlimited use of combat spells (ray of frost, etc.) while restricting the use of utility spells. This allows the GM resource control and gives the player something to do every round in combat.

  25. In a world where the PCs have unlimited cantrips, the NPCs do, as well. In addition, *everyone* knows it! “Oh, a spell-slinger, eh? Well, we can hire our own to cast Nondetection or Magic Aura or similar. Or we can build an antimagic area. Or we can use a lot of lead. Or we can target him with reflex-save effects or arrows. Or…” Basically, NPCs act just like PCs and will treat PCs just like PCs treat them.


  26. I agree with most of it. Table top rpgs are NOT video games. I prefer the feel of a novel full of dangers and hurdles than the feel of “oh, when in situation A, just press X 3 times and you’re done”. The desire to transform tabletops into videogame-lookalikes just reduces the options of the players stealing the creativity afforded by them. BTW, if this had been broken to start with, then spellcasters in RPGs would have disappeared from the game entirely in the first 3 months back in 1974. RPGers complain of Vancian magic well because we love to complain about everything but still love the game.

  27. You kind of are being a grumpy old man. If it bothers you that much, make a spell-point system ( like spell cost = 1 + spell level squared, so 0 = 1, 1 = 2,
    2 = 5, 3 = 10, etc thru 9 = 82), so that those who have to put up with no infinite casting can at least save up their points on days when they don’t cast for when they need to. Going with that, you could easily make Arcane Casters gain a certain number of spell points daily, based on their main stat’s bonus, and have Divine Casters receive lump-amounts from their Deities…. So, resource management remains a big thing, it’s just a few more kinds of ammo to count up and rely on.

  28. I think you’re being a grumpy old man too! I’m happy with PC spellcasters having at-will magic available, particularly things like light, mage hand, prestidigitation, and a very basic attack cantrip (such as ray of frost) to help cut down on the 5 minute adventuring day. Having said that, I much prefer how 5e handles detect magic – it’s a full 1st level spell, can be cast as ritual (so takes 10 minutes, caster doesn’t need to have it prepared) and it requires concentration. Mending is also a bit too good as written.

  29. I agree with you Creighton, however that is exactly why I don’t play Pathfinder. Paizo is great people though and their enthusiasm for gaming is infectious.
    In this I would make light a first level spell and detect magic too. Although I might tie Detect Magic to an Arcana roll with a 10 minute cast time, once per day per item. Light might be a 0 level spell if there is a priest or light or some-such but otherwise you gotta pay resources for photons. Mending should be a first level spell, with a quiver of arrows roughly equal to one casting of the spell. (Arrows are tricky, did the magic repair the arrows spine? Is the fletching still spiraled?) Create water should be a second or third level spell and I would put out a first level spell, dowse water. Zero levels spells SHOULD have a range of touch. But that’s my take on it, YMMV.

  30. I agree with why you don’t like them for the most part, but maybe make Acid Splash and Ray of Frost and any other level-0/1d3 spells that I don’t know about unlimited so you really don’t run out of spells per day? That’s the part that always worried me about playing my Sorcerer in 3.5.

  31. I just started a bard character in a PF campaign. Since we have a cleric and an alchemist, my bard is the arcane “spellslinger” for the most part. We have only played a half dozen times, but I have cast detect magic three times total, when we found things that looked like they may be magical or cursed/evil. I have cast mending once, and I am the only character with a bow in the party. I don’t think the problem is with the 0-level spells, I think it is with your players. A lot of roll playing going on there and very little roleplaying. Seriously, what adventurer would toss up detect magic in EVERY room he walked into? Would Gandalf? Would Merlin? Your players have made your game into a computer RPG, and as the GM you’ve allowed it. Its like the thief that had to check for traps every single 10″ square in a corridor. Or someone checking for secret doors literally everywhere. If they are going to play stupidly then you need to run stupidly. They will get the hint pretty quick.Just take a big handful of dice and throw them without looking and say “no traps here” If they cast detect magic in every room start having some sort of magic backlash at the caster, in every room. And mending is simple. The arrow head is blunted from hitting a wall. Mending wont fix that. There are easy ways around most of these problems without altering the rules.

  32. We’ve been debating this very subject in our gaming group to some degree. I posted in reply the proposed solution that you have and that I kind of like. One of the other DM’s in the group replied to it in the manner below. Additional thoughts?

  33. For some reason it lost the additional notes.

    I would say even 3 + 1/2 level + stat per day is too much for Spells like purify food or mending. Some of those spells need to be returned to the 1st level list, or possibly higher…

    I have no problem with offensive spells, or even at will offensive cantrips, as I like combat to be overwith as fast as possible, as it should be the minority of any game session. For the game’s I want to run though, most utility Spells are significantly overpowered.

    Look at “Purify Food & Drink” for example. It is always measured in Cubic Feet per caster level. 1 cubic foot is only slightly less than a bushel. A bushel of apples contains ~125 apples, or roughly 45 pounds of food, enough to feed a small hamlet. Converting an entire bushel of rotten apples into fresh edible food is Miracle-level stuff, not the sort of thing a 1st-level caster should be able to do, and certainly not something he should be able to do multiple times per day…
    Purifying a whole bushel (or multiple bushels) of food should probably be a 2nd-level spell at least. It’s the kind of thing that is almost guaranteed to win the passing cleric some solid converts if the people are having a bad harvest year, or their potatoes are afflicted with a blight…

  34. Create water creates 2 gallons of water per caster level per casting, your argument there is pretty much moot without banning the spell outright as your average group won’t need more than one or two castings of it a day. You obviously don’t know how detect magic works, I suggest you actually read how the spell works, it’s far from oh I autosee magic. As for light, well there’s little difference between light and a few torches, meh. Finally, unless you are perpetually playing low level games, these issues are pretty much negated at even a moderately high level, who needs an oasis when I can just take 10 and get a 30 on survival. Oh look I have an everloaded weapon/extradimensional ammo storage/magic item that creates arrows, oh look a Ring of Sustenance costs 2,500gp. Really you are just giving the shaft to low level characters and ignoring what you can get even around level 5 or so, unless you are going to be a dick and deny your players from buying basic PHB magic items, in which case I’d say find new players because you DM like a jerk.

    • I sense you and I have radically different play styles! (which is cool).

      I fear, you wouldn’t enjoy playing at my table as I do indeed restrict magic item purchases. I hate the concept of magic item shops with the fiery passion of a thousand blazing suns.

      In any event, I hope you enjoy your games!

  35. On 5th edition, which is now my preferred system. I am thinking that cantrips should be done a number of times equal to Proficiency bonus plus stat bonus. This resets with a long or short rest.

    So in effect most first level casters will be able to cast around 5 cantrips until a long or short rest. Maybe 11 for a 20th level character. They will still have “basically unlimited” cantrips. Yet in a big combat, in a mega-dungeon they can and will run out. With limited ability to rest it could also mean a higher sense of drama.

    I guess my main issue is for archers. They run out of arrows, while a wizard will never run out of firebolt. The only advantage the 1d8 Long bow has is a max range of 600. Firebolt has a range of 120 and does 1d10 but increases to 2d10 at 5th level and again at 11th and 17th. The archer won’t ever get better. He is capped at 1d8 with if you choose the archery combat option for fighter or ranger giving +2 damage.

  36. This is not a problem that needs fixing in Pathfinder. Yes, Level 0 spells are more capable and their use is unlimited, but so is everything else in Pathfinder. Feats come more frequently, HP are higher, there fewer “dead levels”, no multiclassing XP penalty, etc. Everything has gotten a power up (though some things have been nerfed to fix obvious power issues with 3.5).

    But the key thing here is that the monsters have gotten power-ups, too, with CR set to match with these new player abilities. If you start stripping away these class features then you are lowering the party’s effective level. The assumption behind CR is that you have a balanced party with full HP and access to the wealth and abilities of their level. Mess with any of those, and you have to adjust the encounters, too, or you have made them more deadly.

    If you are willing to do that work, then fine. But by default Pathfinder is a high-magic fantasy, designed to give characters more specialization and more capability so that they can face off against more unusual opponents earlier on. If you don’t do the work you are hamstringing the PC’s.

  37. Another option would be to down-calculate the charts to 0 level, but allow a caster to replenish them with an hour of study/meditation. This makes them fairly trivial, and makes resource management important, while allowing casters to have useful 0 level spells and only cast them intermittently. Fluff-wise, casting spells causes a mental fatigue that prohibits concentration, but 0 level spells are so trivial and rote that with just a bit of rest you can re-prepare the rituals, regardless of how much magic you’ve already worked today.

  38. I usually master in the Forgotten Realms pre-spellplague setting, so I really don’t mind magic being “too common”, it kinda already was. I bypass the “detect magic” issue by putting nearly everything under a Magic Aura spell, I particulary love to see players in a dungeon where everything, or nothing, seem to be magical. They become paranoid as fuck. As for Light, carrying torches is quite annoying even for me, so you’re right but I still don’t mind.
    Anyway, I agree about Create Water and Mending. But, Create Water allows players to go further than anyone could do till now, like deep in the desert, and uncover great mysteries and live great adventures that weren’t possible as well till now… not for low-level players at least… and maybe for good reasons, mwahahah.
    Ok, ehr, I’ll quit being sadistic, for now.
    About Mending, yes annoying it’s annoying, but I was under the idea that Mending could only mend little damages, if your arrow is badly broken and there are some pieces missing, I don’t think Mending would do, since “all of the pieces of an object must be present for this spell to function” (good luck finding all the splinters you little lamer player).

  39. Lol, youre funny. i use something similar, but without the increase with caster level, and I can still never use all of my 7-10 per day each cantrips. In the magic item rules, anything that can be used 10 times a day is usually cheaper to just make use avtivated or continuous, so it stands to reason that a caster who can cast a spell 10 times a day just knows that spell and can cast it.

    On a side note, I also strongly dislike the Vancian magic system and personally prefer so ething more akin to Elder Scrolls, simply because it’s more Terran realistic. I would prefer a limited number of spells know that could always be cast, like Spell Mastery, with everything else having to be cast from a resource, but still using the caster’s magival energy. But cet la vi.

  40. I realize this is commenting on a somewhat closed topic, but I really wanted to speak directly to Detect Magic. When run properly, Detect Magic is a spell that most players would find FAR too headachey to spam.

    Bear in mind, the spell’s duration is Concentration. Meaning that a character has to concentrate to utilize its effects. This would be a standard action, which would mean the caster couldn’t take other standard actions without dropping the spell. This alone means that even in noncombat situations, a caster would need to forego any additional standard actions for the time that they wanted to spend detecting magic.

    Now, to the spell’s description:

    You detect magical auras. The amount of information revealed depends on how long you study a particular area or subject.

    1st Round: Presence or absence of magical auras. (Concentration check #1, and all you get is “yes, there’s magic.” Or “no, there isn’t.”)

    2nd Round: Number of different magical auras and the power of the most potent aura. (Concentration check #2, and the only information gleaned is how many auras you sense, and their potency.)

    3rd Round: The strength and location of each aura. If the items or creatures bearing the auras are in line of sight, you can make Knowledge (arcana) skill checks to determine the school of magic involved in each. (Make one check per aura: DC 15 + spell level, or 15 + 1/2 caster level for a nonspell effect.) If the aura emanates from a magic item, you can attempt to identify its properties (see Spellcraft).

    (Concentration check #3, and you can finally ATTEMPT to determine the magical school from which the spell is drawn…but still can’t identify the spell itself. For that you need Identify, I believe)

    Magical areas, multiple types of magic, or strong local magical emanations may distort or conceal weaker auras.

    Bearing in mind that auras (by definition–and I believe that’s the intent here.) are INVISIBLE. A dragon’s Aura of Fear isn’t some sort of visible thing…it’s an emotional/mental impact that has no visible component outside of the dragon’s actual appearance. A paladin’s aura of courage doesn’t give off light or the like, it’s just something that emanates from them and affects allies, much like a charismatic and courageous soldier can inspire fellow soldiers to better performance. I’ve seen a lot of people treat detect magic as if it ‘lights up’ an object that has magic on it, but there’s no indication of that here (in fact, the point that the object has to be within line of sight and it takes three rounds to even be able to identify a spell school seems to indicate that there’s no visible “glow.”) So a sorcerer who throws down Detect Magic has to spend 3 full rounds doing nothing but focusing on a single direction, gleaning information as they do so. That’s 24 seconds to scan each cardinal direction (which would not, given that it’s a cone-shaped emanation, allow for an entire room to be searched, unless the room is small enough that the cones overlap snugly), plus an additional 12 seconds in any direction where an aura is detected to ATTEMPT to identify the spell school. Assuming the Arcana check is made first try. This means the caster can’t make Perception checks, concentration checks on anything else, or anything similar while utilizing the spell, they’d have to turn at least 4 times to examine an entire room (at minimum), and they MUST use a standard action to concentrate, or the spell immediately ends.

    So no, a mage does not automatically invalidate magical traps, or any other gimmick a GM wants to utilize from a magical perspective, and the spell is time-intensive, even outside of combat. When played as written, and not just hand-waved, like many players and GMs I’ve encountered. I’m not judging those who do that — if that works for you, and you and your players have fun with it, great! I’m just saying that the spell is limited and restrictive enough as it was created that it’s not just a “spam this just for safety’s sake” kind of spell. This is why I don’t mind it being a level 0 spell.

    • I realized after typing ALL OF THAT, that concentration wouldn’t be a standard action outside of combat, but free. So not AS restricted, but still not a one-shot spam.

  41. Okay I’m late to this but meh I’ll comment. This is coming from someone who prefers martials to casters and thinks some spells can be OP and think meh nothing wrong with 0 level spells

    Light/Dancing Lights: If that’s the case what’s stopping players from just picking classes with dark vision? Believe it or not I’ve played with players who prefer races with such than the spell due to the fact it allows sneaking a bit more easier. And even then at least in the games I played, we’ve had torches as just in case if magic gets shut down. But either way if you want to limit a spell because it negates resource management then you might have to consider negating classes with dark vision because why should they use torches?

    Detect Magic: Okay it’s a cone and it requires 3 rounds and knowledge skills for you to be able to get any milage out of this. This might be good when you take out a big boss but if you’re in a more hostile area this might not be so good as it means you have to keep going. Also yeah it sounds as though it’s more an issue with players. When I started playing, I only remember one guy who spammed this spell but this was because the enviorment was known for its crazy magical properties and so it was used for security reasons. Other times when I gmed, players would only use it after combats to see if the opponents had any magical items on them and there was one time they used it to help detect a drider who was wielding a magical weapon and had just tried to use ghost sounds on them (which I think was a good strategy). As for detecting traps, well they still have to deactivated, right?

    Create Water: Water disappears after a day and it won’t solve your food problem. Also if you’re campaign’s more in an urban setting it becomes useless. If you want to make a dessert campaign have players face the problem of their cleric or druid being kidnapped by bandits or other dessert dwellers who see the spell as a valuable resource for them both personally or financially. Also I think someone said this can also be replicated with the survival skill (not only can they find water but food as well again something the spell doesn’t fix). Maybe you can house rule that but some might argue that’s a nerf to martials who are the most common to have the skill

    Mending: Only used this spell like once and it was to repair someone’s dress that was ripped during a fight. Maybe more people use this I do but personally I just never saw much use for this.

    There’s also the thing of they’re suppose to help keep a character useful. I think someone did point out that why should spell casters have to conserve their 0-level spells but a fighter won’t get fatigued for swinging a sword all day.

    And as said from what I see, yeah it’s the issue with players not the spells. If you want to fix this, make it clear to players that you want RP not spam spell characters.

    Also finally what about class abilities that give this same ability. The paladin can cast detect evil at will (which makes sense for the character). Does that mean you rewrite that? Personally I’m playing a paladin and haven’t used it yet mostly because IC wise my character has no reason to use it so far although I’ve heard players will use this Everytime they try to talk to someone. Again this goes to players not the ability.

    Conclusion: You’re idea isn’t bad and in some ways I get your POV but I don’t agree with the way especially if some of these spells can be replicated with spells and/or race abilities.

  42. If you take away the might a warrior has, ok deal. But resource based classes are always behind the warrior, you want to take away even more.

    Remove Speels that’s would sabotage the components of a game you and your players want to enjoy and let them keep the rest, tiny Ice damage is nothing compared to the warrior always smashing everything at full power. I hate the days of even 3.5 where all wizards/sorcerers/etc. had to grab an crossbow after the first half of the day, while the warrior still couldn’t care less.

  43. It depends on the kind of game you want to run. A low-magic or ‘magic is wondrous’ game is the perfect setting for implementing this kind of house rule. I usually run on the high fantasy end of the scale, usually in the Forgotten Realms or my own created world and so the 0-level spells being as they are isn’t an issue.

  44. I think I’ve come to this thread many years too late. But I love the system, and I think there are some arguments that have not been made.
    Only one can be active at a time. This is a real restriction. What are you losing, having to buy torches, which are like 3cp, and more importantly carrying them, for they weigh half a pound. Which can add up quickly. I as a dm, never ask my players to strike off a torch every hour and police weight rules. As an adult, I don’t have nearly as much time as I would like to dedicate to roleplaying. And neither do my players. We are not going to devote time to tracking cps and half pounds. We like to slay dragons, woo princesses and accumulate wealth and power, not keep painstaking track of it. We use “reasonable” weight rules. Only carry what’s reasonable considering how strong your character is.
    Detect Magic
    Magic traps DO NOT detect with detect magic. It’s part of their trappiness. Look them up in the gamemastering section of the CRB. Certainly, if the opposite were true, it would be SO overpowered. Removing half the need to have a trapper in the party (the other half being actually disarming them). That being cleared, what are you really losing? Your players sometimes missing out on what you say is the rare and woundrous magic in your campaing. What’s good about that??? If it’s loot, they can just gather it all and use a single Detect Magic at the end of the day. If there is some important plot element that would be disrupted by Detect Magic, it’s probably a crappy plot if it can be undone by a common cantrip, and then there’s Magic Aura, which can foil Detect Magic. Also, varying thicknesses of materials block Detect Magic.
    Mending takes 10 MINUTES to cast, so it has 0 use in combat. Repairs a single point of damage to items as long as it still has AT LEAST 1 remaining hp and has some limitation I don’t specifically recall repairing magic items. What do you lose? The adventure no longer has to come to a halt because someone sundered the fighter’s sword. Your fighter will no longer avoid taking sunder because it amounts to destroying loot. I don’t miss that. If it’s an important plot element for something to be broken, then it is almost definitely outside the purview of mend to repair. And ARROWS!!!! …Sorry for the caps and exclamation marks, but this is a pet peeve of mine. I played an archer with 5 attacks/round in a campaign with NO LOOT. I had to make my own arrows every day. I was able to make 1.5 to 2 rounds worth of arrows a day. And then would have to wade into melee, completely contrary to my character concept, just because I didn’t have arrows. What does counting arrows (nonmagical arrows worth next to nothing) bring to the game?? Nothing. Your archer, and your whole party, will be far more entertained by imagining the archer killing 5 orcs per round, Legolas style, than counting how many arrows you have left.
    Create Water
    Here, I do sort of agree with you. In most campaigns, water will be easy to come by, and the effect of this cantrip will be 0. You will devote no game time to the characters casting it. Just as you would devote no time to the characters going to the town well and filling up their waterskins. But if you want to make survival an important part of your campaign, I find the system, as written, is stacked against you.
    In that case, Create Water is not your enemy. Survival, the skill, is. The checks to keep a party hydrated and fed are WAY too easy to make, and scale very slowly. I personally assume the difficulty outlined in the CRB is for rural agricultural, or urban settings, where hunting small game, collecting edible vegetables or getting water is not particularly challenging. In a desert setting, I raise the base difficulty depending on how harsh the environment is, and the scaling to one additional cared for individual for each 5 or even 10 points by which it is exceeded.
    As to Create Water, I rule that the reason why deserts are desertic is because the elemental plane of water is particularly distant or inaccessible in these locations, or maybe the elemental plane of fire is particularly close. Same difference. Ultimately the effect is that Create Water takes far more effort to cast, raising the level of the spell in proportion to how inhospitable the area is.

    • Super duper late to reply but entirely agree with everything you said. Casters at high level have so many utility spells at their disposal and can overcome so many obstacles. Does that mean you should nerf every single one of them, why even play casters at all then. Fly is such a quintessential skill and it happens to ruin a lot of encounters/puzzles/terrain difficulties/traps but you have a problem with the Light spell (which you can only have one of and have to recast every 10 minutes), I guess you (the op) just really LOVE lighting torches. If level 0 spells are such a problem then I believe the poster just lacks creativity in coming up with problems for the party to solve. Like everything you (the OP) has a problem with could be fixed with like 2000g. Are you going to just not give the party gold either? Stop penalizing your players because you’re not creative enough to come up with solutions or better puzzles, like half your job as a DM is taking account of your party and create appropriate encounters, not create encounters without a single thought to the composition of the party and then get mad when they have items/spells that can overcome them.

      • Also I assume you just blanket ban characters with dark vision because that ruins dark dungeons. Here’s a list of items that recreate, for cheap, the cantrips people tend to take. Better ban these too!

        Mage Hand: Hand of the Mage 900gp

        Mage Hand AND Prestidigitation: Apprentice’s Cheating Gloves 2200gp

        Light AND Detect Magic: Lantern of Auras 2000gp

        Arcane Mark: Ring of Arcane Signets 1000gp

        Create Water(2 gallons a day): Goblet of Quenching 180gp

        Purify Food and Drink(Liquid Only): Tengu Drinking Jug 1000gp

        Detect Poison: Tyrant’s Friend 3000gp

        • We only use the core book most of the time so I’m not sure what most of those items are! The only one I recognise is hand of the mage which, if I recall, is a mummified elf’s hand. I don’t recall anyone ever buying one of those!

      • In my games, magic item purchasing is not always a thing. I hate magic item shops as they don’t feel like D&D to me. I suspect you’ll disagree with me, but as long as you are enjoying your game it’s all good!

  45. What if you simply re-interpret the meaning of “at will” to mean something other than “unlimited”; like “not needing memorization” each day or “casting time”, but still only able to “power” the spell a certain number of times per day? So, a higher level sorcerer or wizard has, 3 “at will” 0 level spells. For example: Detect Magic, Light, and Mending. OK, they no longer need to memorize them each day, because they know so them well, and they no longer need full casting time or materials because they can power the spell themselves but only so many times per day.

  46. I think it’s a good solution, almost identical to the idea I had to fix the issue. The idea was to base cantrips around the spell-like abilities usually granted by domains and such. You won’t believe to what length the players would sometimes go casting them all over the place, especially at those low levels.

    Limiting the amount and warning the players of this before the campaign starts, however, yielded some very good results. I feel less bothered as a GM and the players have their focus on the story instead of trying to get a +1 skill check here, +1 to resistance there, detect magic over the entire world. Or, if they do, it is a situation they feel is very important, so there’s some resource management involved.

    I never give my players infinite resources in anything. In my opinion, it’s a bad practice, even if it’s minor like cantrips.

  47. If you’re playing PFRPG in Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance, your rules replacements are fine. But aren’t you kind of breaking Golarion if you arbitrarily decide that, all of a sudden, magic-users can’t cast Level 0 spells at-will anymore? I mean, what impact would it have on Golarion society if, Irori forbid, your Wizards had to depend on candles to stay up reading at all hours of the night? Or if battle clerics were limited to stabilizing three dying soldiers in a day without carrying around healing kits? Or if druids had to carry compasses to figure out which direction was north?
    I mean, most of the complaints you list are handled equally well by equipment in other settings, and PCs have never let a thing like carrying limits get around their ability to bring along an entire caravan’s worth of equipment.
    In Golarion, there’s a built-in reason they don’t have to. That’s pretty elegant, don’t you think?