As a character gains caster levels under the normal magic system, the efficacy of her spells can swing wildly, necessitating a constant reevaluation of each spell’s utility. These rules are meant to keep spells’ power more tightly tiered by spell level and reduce the amount by which a caster’s power level escalates.
When using these rules, all spells are cast at the minimum caster level and with the minimum required ability score. The minimum caster level of a spell is fixed at 2 × the spell’s level – 1, and does not change based on class levels.
A spell’s level can vary by class; therefore, different classes may have different minimum caster levels for the same spell. The minimum ability score for any spell is 10 + the spell’s level, so the save DC for each spell (10 + the spell’s level + the caster’s ability score modifier) is also constant. These values are listed below on Table: Limited Magic for ease of reference. The CL (9) column lists the minimum caster level for casters who get up to 9th-level spells, such as the cleric, druid, or wizard.
The CL (6) column covers casters who get 6th-level spells, such as bards. The CL (4) column covers casters who get up to only 4th-level spells, such as paladins and rangers. If a class’s spellcasting progression differs from these minimum caster levels, it always overrides the numbers on this table.
|Spell Level||CL (9)*||CL (6)||CL (4)||Ability Score||DC|
Spells from magic items use the same rules as above. That means a fireball cast from a wand created by a sorcerer or wizard has the same save DC and amount of damage dice as a fireball cast by any sorcerer or wizard. When calculating the base cost or price of a magic item, always use the minimum CL as defined by this system (even if the item’s creator would have had a higher caster level). Potions and scrolls always default to the appropriate cleric, druid, or wizard spell level to determine their base costs.
Under this system, spells can still be improved using Heighten Spell. A heightened spell uses the minimum CL, but does so as though it were a higher-level spell. For example, a fireball heightened to 5th level would have a DC of 17 and deal 9d6 points of damage, the same as a cone of cold cast in the same slot.
Limited magic can take some getting used to. It reduces the power of most spellcasters dramatically, but can speed the game up by requiring less research into the caster levels of monsters, NPCs, and magic items. Limited magic can also encourage better-rounded spellcaster characters, especially if you’re using the purchase system to generate ability scores, as there’s less reward for focusing solely on their spellcasting attributes.
Using this system means that if a class gets a spell at a lower level than another class does, that spell’s effects are weaker for the former class. A bard’s heroism is not as good as a wizard’s. However, classes with slower spell progressions (such as the bard, paladin, and ranger) have other abilities that keep them competitive when limited magic weakens the overall power of spells.
Consider altering other rules to account for a landscape with lower average DCs. For instance, Great Fortitude, Iron Will, and Lightning Reflexes might provide only a +1 bonus on saves, or the increases to spell DCs from Spell Focus and Greater Spell Focus could go up to 2.
With Esoteric Spell Components: This system works especially well with esoteric spell components system. Using both systems means that spellcasting in the campaign is weaker overall, but can be boosted on occasion by characters willing to spend money to increase the potency of their spells.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Unchained © 2015, Paizo Inc.; Authors: Dennis Baker, Jesse Benner, Ross Beyers, Logan Bonner, Jason Bulmahn, Robert Emerson, Tim Hitchcock, Jason Nelson, Tom Phillips, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Thomas M. Reid, Robert Schwalb, Mark Seifter, and Russ Taylor.