Unsurprisingly, Spellcasting is one of the most complicated elements in Eclipse: The Codex Persona – even sticking with the basic spell progressions and base caster level.
So we’re going to break it down a bit.
At the base, we have four basic elements – how many spells of each level you are capable of using, what spells are theoretically available to you, what spells you actually know, and how well you use the ones you do know.
The easiest way to pick up a supply of spell slots, spell points, or power – the energy-handling capacity you need to create significant magical or psychic effects – is to buy levels in a Spell Progression. As a spell progression continues, the user will acquire the ability to handle both more total power and to either channel or bind more of it at once and in more complex ways – creating higher-level effects.
Spell progressions vary in quality of course. Most of them never provide higher-level abilities or – in the case of spontaneous-caster-only progressions – only allow a very limited selection of available spells. They can also be Specialized and Corrupted in a wide variety of ways: reducing the cost is simplest as always – but you can also increase the effective level of the progression, the number of spell slots or amount of power provided at each level or – for spontaneous casters – the number of known spells. You can also buy them more than once, retaining the same spell list if you wish to simply multiply your power.
What spells are available to you is a bit more complicated. Every spell list has some sort of theme, ranging from the extremely restrictive, such as “sensory illusions” or “healing spells”, on through relatively narrow lists, such as the classic paladin and ranger lists – or the sample alchemical magic list on page 22 of Eclipse. As the expense goes up, we find relatively broad lists, such as the cleric and druid lists, and then on up to the extremely broad lists, such as the sorcerer/wizard list with it’s generic theme of “unsubtle occult lore”.
Unavoidably, this is always a bit of a judgement call for the game master; there are simply too many possibilities to list, much less go into detail on. The basic principle is simple enough however: lower-priced spell progressions offer far more restrictive spell lists, and – especially if they extend to higher levels – often have somewhat inferior or more specialized spells. You can take the Cleric and Druid Spell Progression, change the limitations accordingly, and take a spell list made up of arcane spells – but it’s going to have to be a far narrower list than the Wizard or Sorcerer’s, and it’s not going to include a lot of the most desirable spells and effects.
Once you have a list of what spells are available within your theme, you can start acquiring them. Spontaneous casters usually have it easy; they only get a limited number of spells to use, but they usually get them instinctively (if they have to go out and learn them, the list usually counts as corrupted – which may be used to increase the number of spell slots or known spells available to them). Other characters with the “Studies” limitation must find their spells, although those without it need merely choose them from their spell list.
Unfortunately, most characters lack the ability of a spontaneous caster to channel and shape large amounts of energy on the spur of the moment, as well as the instinctive knowledge of spell structures that allows them to make it do something besides blow up in their faces. They have to have a source to help them envision those structures while distracted by raw power running through their heads – and the structure needed is made far more complex than that needed by a spontaneous caster by the need to build up each segment of the spell bit by bit and to bind the energies into a semi-stable state at each stage of the process while leaving them still ready for instant release. Given that, a spellcaster “preparing spells” will slowly (and presumably cautiously) build up their spells from the trickle of energy they can handle*.
*This is why many spellcasters need reference works to help them prepare their spells. Quite a lot of such spellcasters call this “memorizing a spell” – and say that once they cast a spell, it’s been “forgotten” – but you could almost as well apply that description to scuffing your feet on a carpet and then zapping someone with the electrical spark; you haven’t “forgotten how to do it”, or how an electrical spark works – you just don’t have one ready to go at the moment, and will need a carpet to help you build up another one. Sadly, this poorly-chosen phrase in the flavor text has been confusing people about the operation of the “Vancian” magic system since first edition.
The final item is your Base Caster Level. Like your Base Attack Bonus, Base Caster Level is how generally skilled you are with whatever magic you know, just as the Base Attack Bonus is how generally skilled you are with whatever weapons you know how to use. It determines:
All those “per level” factors in a spell – if a spell lasts “ten minutes per caster level” or inflicts “1d6 damage per caster level”, your base caster level is what it’s talking about.
Your chance of getting a spell past Spell Resistance.
Unless the game master opts to allow otherwise, it also restricts how sophisticated a spell you can use: you need a Base Caster Level at least equal to (twice the level of the spell minus one) to use a spell. That helps keep the special abilities under control.
It determines how high a caster level you can use in an item you’re creating.
In a few cases, such as Inherent Spells and other “natural” talents, your effective caster level is automatically equal to your hit dice or to your Base Caster Level, whichever is better.
Some characters will want an unrestricted Base Caster Level – at the full cost of six character points per level. That works well for dabblers: if you have a Base Caster Level of nine and pick up one level of the Cleric Spell Progression and the standard Clerical Spell List, you’ll only have first level clerical spells to play with – but they’ll have an effective caster level of nine.
A Corrupted Base Caster Level costs only four points, and normally applies to only two aspects of spellcasting. A Specialized Base Caster Level costs only three points, and only applies to a single aspect of spellcasting. Corrupted AND Specialized Base Caster Levels only apply to a limited sub-aspect of spellcasting.
Some of the possible aspects include:
Particular Spell Progressions, such Clerical, Druidical, Adept, and Wizard.
Particular types of spells, such as Evocation, Fire-Related, or Ritual Spells.
Particular situations, such as during the hour before and after twilight, when throwing spells at demons, or when attempting to penetrate spell or power resistance.
Single-progression spellcasters normally buy a Specialized Base Caster Level, just for the spell progression they’re pursuing.
Dual-progression spellcasters normally buy (or upgrade to) a Corrupted Base Caster Level that covers the progressions they’re pursuing.
Characters who dabble in many kinds of magic may want to buy, or upgrade (in whole or part) to an unrestricted Base Caster Level.
Of course, characters are free to complicate things. As an example:
Ethan the Immolator of the Dead has the Wizard Spell Progression (Spontaneous Caster variant) with the standard Wizard Spell List and the Paladin/Ranger Spell Progression with a speciality Spell List – “Bane of the Unliving”, full of spells that either only target the undead or protect against their powers. Now he’s picked up a few levels of the Cleric Spell Progression with the standard Cleric Spell List (but an extra Components restriction, since he doesn’t wear armor anyway and wants to bring down the cost) in order to gain access to some healing magic.
As for his Base Caster Levels:
Ethan had seven Corrupted Base Caster Levels (28 CP), applicable to his Wizard Spell Progression and his “Bane of the Unliving” Spell Progression. He also had two Specialized and Corrupted (for triple effect) Base Caster Levels limited to Wizard Spell Progression Evocation and Necromancy spells (12 CP) and one Base Caster Level Specialized in his Wizard Spellcasting Progression (3 CP). Having picked up two levels of the Cleric Spell Progression, he spends 6 CP buying an Unrestricted Caster Level and 4 CP buying off the Corruption on two of his existing Corrupted Base Caster Levels.
So what caster level does this give him?
For his Clerical Spell Progression, it gives him a caster level of 3 (three unrestricted base caster levels) and would allow him to cast spells up up to level two – except for the fact that he doesn’t know any past level one and couldn’t handle that level of power or complexity (for lack of spell slots) in this field if he did.
For his Bane of the Unliving Spell Progression it gives him a caster level of 8 (three unrestricted Base Caster Levels plus five applicable Corrupted Base Caster Levels) and would allow him to cast spells of up to level four.
For his Wizard Spell Progression it gives him a caster level of 9 (three unrestricted Base Caster Levels plus five applicable Corrupted Base Caster Levels plus one applicable Specialized Base Caster Level) and would allow him to cast spells of up to level five – EXCEPT for Wizard Spell Progression Evocation and Necromancy spells, for which he has a caster level of 15 and could cast up to eighth level spells.
Presumably Ethan’s various spell progressions are an equally tangled mess of Specialization and Corruption. Fortunately, our over-complicated Mr Ethan is for purposes of illustration only.
Are there other ways to do this in Eclipse? Certainly. You could – for example – buy raw power-handling capacity as Mana, using the generic spell levels option, buy some formulas, and buy a casting level, and then specialize and corrupt it to build your own chart. You can buy any of the (numerous) other magical systems in Eclipse. You can buy the Spell Conversion, Spell Flow, Spell Mastery, and Spell Pool abilities, and tinker with things that way. You can Corrupt or Specialize a Spell Progression to simply provide spell slots or power without any direct access to actual spells, and use that potential to power other abilities, such as Witchcraft, Dragonfire from the Path of the Dragon, or other types of magic. We even have an example character up (HERE) designed to accommodate someone who wanted to buy each spell, and a caster level for it, individually.
Still, this should be quite enough to start off with.