Magic System Changes
This alternate system attempts to rebalance all the basic classes to allow spellcasters to multiclass more freely. In 3rd edition, multiclass spellcasters kept two (or more!) distinct caster progressions: caster level, spells known, and spell slots per rest. In practice—and particularly in the case of the Mystic Theurge prestige class—this generally meant giving up your highest level spells in exchange for twice as many lower level spell slots. And the Mystic Theurge was the best case scenario.
All classes have a base magic bonus. There are four progressions: +1/3 levels (barbarian, fighter, rogue), +1/2 levels (monk, paladin, ranger), +2/3 levels (bard), and +1/level (cleric, druid, sorcerer, wizard), as shown in the table at the end. The base magic bonus from each class adds together, just as the Base Attack Bonus combines for melee characters.
The character’s total base magic bonus determines his caster level, his spell slots per rest, and the number of spells he may ready.
At 1st level in any spellcasting class, the character gains access to all spells on a given spell list, adding them to his list of spells known. A wizard does not have to scribe spells into his spellbook, a bard or sorcerer does not have to choose spells known, etc.
After a suitable rest period, the spellcaster chooses the spells he will ready from his total list of spells known.
Ready Spells and Spell Slots
When a spellcaster prepares spells, he chooses (from his entire class list of spells) a subset of spells that he will have access to for spellcasting.
When he casts a spell, he may only cast a spell that he has readied; however, he may cast any spell he has readied, using his available spell slots, in any combination.
Example: Johannes is a 1st level druid. He gains access to all spells on the druid spell list. At 1st level, his base magic bonus is +1. Consulting the table, he notes that he receives three 0-level spell slots and one 1st level spell slot. Due to his high Wisdom, he receives an extra 1st level readied spell and spell slot.
Johannes readies detect magic, know direction, and resistance as his 0-level spells; he readies entangle and shillelagh as his 1st level spells.
Until Johannes rests again, he can cast three 0-level spells, chosen from any of the three he has he readied, and two 1st level spells, chosen from the two he readied, in any combination.
In the course of reaching the dungeon itself, he’s called upon to cast know direction twice, and he casts resistance once as well, using up the last of his three 0-level spell slots. A patrol of goblins catches the party just outside the dungeon, and Johannes casts entangle. He saves his last 1st level spell slot for later, but he’ll be able to cast either entangle or shillelagh as the situation warrants.
A spellcaster may always opt to use a higher-level spell slot to power a lower level spell. He also has much greater flexibility with regards to metamagic. A spellcaster need not ready the metamagic version of any spell; rather, if he has the spell readied, has access to a metamagic feat, and has a sufficiently high spell slot available, he may apply the effects of metamagic as he casts.
Characters who multiclass into another spellcasting class gain access to all of the spells on the spell list of the new class. However, although this adds considerable versatility, their spells readied and spell slots per rest are still calculated solely on their base magic bonus.
In addition, each spell list carries with it certain restrictions. A multiclass character may have access to spells from many different lists, but he must meet all criteria and abide by all restrictions when casting a spell from that list.
• Bard spells are arcane spells, and require a minimum Charisma equal to 10 + spell level to ready or cast. In addition, bard spells usually have a somatic component (playing an instrument) and a verbal component (singing, chanting, etc.) Bards are able to ignore the arcane spell failure chance on their spells when wearing no armor or light armor. Heavier armors interfere with their playing and thus carry a chance of arcane spell failure.
• Cleric spells are divine spells, and require a minimum Wisdom equal to 10 + spell level to ready or cast. Clerics and paladins both gain access to all cleric spells at 1st level. In addition, clerics (but not paladins) may gain access to additional spells through their chosen domains.
• Druid spells are divine spells, and require a minimum Wisdom equal to 10 + spell level to ready or cast. Druids and rangers both gain access to all druid spells at 1st level.
• Wizard spells are arcane spells, and require a minimum Intelligence equal to 10 + spell level to ready or cast. Wizard spells with somatic components require intricate hand gestures, and armor of any kind interferes with casting. Any character wearing armor suffers from a chance of arcane spell failure.
• Sorcerers cast wizard spells, and their spells are the same in all respects, including arcane spell failure. However, sorcerers cast arcane spells through innate power (often derived from a fey, draconic, or even infernal bloodline), as opposed to study and research. A sorcerer must meet the ability score criteria of wizard spells using his Charisma rather than his Intelligence. A sorcerer must have a minimum Charisma of 10 + spell level to cast his spells.
A character with a +1 or higher ability score modifier gains both bonus spell slots and bonus ready spells added to the number listed on Table: Base Spell Slots/Spells Readied Per Rest. Multiclass spellcasters use their highest applicable ability score to determine bonus spell slots per rest and the DC of their spells, regardless of which spell list they use to ready and cast spells.
Maximum Spell Level
Spellcasters are limited to the maximum spell level they may cast in three ways:
1) by their total caster level;
2) by minimum ability score, as listed above;
3) by base magic bonus in the chosen class.
The highest level spell a character may cast from any class spell list is equal to his base magic bonus from that class.
Example: A cleric 2/fighter 9 has a total caster level of 5th (+2 base magic bonus from 2 levels of cleric and +3 from 9 levels of fighter). A 5th level character is ordinarily able to cast 3rd level spells; however, because the base magic bonus derived from his cleric levels is only +2, he is limited to 2nd level cleric spells. Taking a single level of cleric at his next opportunity would increase him to cleric 3/fighter 9, with a total base magic bonus of +6, and access to 3rd level cleric spells due to his +3 base magic bonus from his cleric levels.
Converting Prestige Classes
If you want to use prestige classes in your game, you will need to convert them to this system.
• Classes Without Spellcasting Ability
Increase their base magic bonus by +1 per 3 levels (as fighter or rogue).
• Classes With Supernatural Abilities Only
At your discretion, classes (like the monk) with many supernatural abilities may increase their base magic bonus by +1 per 2 levels, but they do not otherwise gain access to any spell lists.
• Classes With Unique Spell Lists
The caster gains access to all of the spells available to that class. Advance the base magic bonus by +1 as soon the class gains access to 1st level spells (including any ‘0’ entry on the spell slot table). The class should advance by an additional +2 base magic bonus each time the class gains access to a new spell level. Ideally, you will divide this +2 bonus into two +1 increases, spaced out as evenly as possible.
• Classes With ‘+1 level of existing class’
These are the simplest to convert: grant the class +1 base magic bonus each time this entry appears on their list of class features.
*A spellcaster receives bonus Spell Slots and Ready Spells for a high spellcasting ability score.
**Provided the character is a spellcaster (i.e., bard, paladin, or ranger) he may cast 0-level spells. All spells take effect at a minimum caster level of 1.