Eclipse – Magic and Metamagic Part II

Hatley Castle, near Victoria, British Columbia...

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And here we have the last couple of Alzrius’s current questions.

How can I make a spell last a truly long time in a sort of “stasis” until I activate it? I know that Persistent metamagic will extend a spell’s duration for a varying length of time depending on the increase in spell level, but that’s for an active spell. I’m talking about a spell that, once cast, remains dormant until activated (e.g. a conscious contingency effect). This is the old “Remember back when I clasped your shoulder in a friendly way all those years ago? I cast a spell on you then, and now *snaps fingers* I’ve got you,” routine. Given how similar this is to Triggering metamagic, perhaps a better way to ask would be, can you somehow extend the duration of a Triggered spell after it’s been cast, since you can’t otherwise make a Triggered spell last more than a few days normally?

This one is tricky – and should be; after all, if you can set long-term triggered spells on people without some other special cost or limitation, what’s to stop you from – say – setting up all your friends with a dozen convenient preset spells each? Or even more if “Dispel Magic” isn’t a common threat or doesn’t work on spells that aren’t actually active yet?

  • You could buy it as an Immunity to the normal time limitations on the Triggering Metamagic. Now that’s an effect which could let a subtle mage have thousands of triggered spells waiting – perhaps a fireball on every everburning torch in the royal castle, with the magic of the torches themselves to cover up the magical traces of the waiting spell. A most unpleasant surprise there for anyone who happens to be in a room when twenty fireballs go off in it on a single command word. Why not use the same word throughout the building, then cast Ventriloquism and shout that word from afar? Destroy the entire government in a single moment!

Perhaps fortunately, this is a natural-law immunity, and probably an epic one – and thus is both very expensive and requires special permission from the game master. I wouldn’t be inclined to grant that permission personally. This is just too easy to abuse.

  • The most general way to do this is to learn Spell Storing for placing spells on living things with the “Simple Action” activation modifier (or learn Craft Wondrous Item with whatever modifier the GM demands to enchant living creatures) then use the Forge of Will spell (from The Practical Enchanter) to enchant people with one-shot command-word-triggered spells with a simple touch. That drastically ups your costs – but in Pathfinder that won’t cost you any XP (and not too many in standard games) and it’s still relatively cheap as long as you stick to just a few uses of low-level spells. It may lead to complex bookkeeping though, and probably won’t let you have spells ready to go that you cast on someone years ago until years have gone by in the campaign. This route is expensive unless you limit it, but item-crafting feats can be quite useful anyway.
  • If you want to manage without long-term costs, but with relatively few preset spells, you could use Power Words with the Spellform and Sendings modifiers, Specialized and Corrupted/the spell must be attached to someone else, the target cannot be changed, and the sendings must be triggered by verbal command from the caster rather than having limited autonomy. That would give you a modest pool of spells you could leave hanging around other people – although, since the pool is modest, you probably wouldn’t want to leave them committed all THAT long (especially since it would risk them becoming living spellforms). Still, it’s only 6 CP.
  • If you want to almost always have a hidden trick that “you set up long ago” available, take Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized in “having set up a contingent effect”. Throw in Rite of Chi with some Bonus Uses, and you’ll be able to afford to invoke a few such effects each day – more if you make it more plausible by sticking with spells you actually know, make it a point to touch people at random while muttering under your breath, and only pull it on creatures that you might reasonably have had prior contact with. In fact, if you apply all of those as limitations, you can cut down the cost of 3d6 Mana with Reality Editing and Rite of Chi with Bonus Uses down to a mere 12 CP or two Feats – and you’ll be able to start using “effects that you set up years ago” several times a day right now. While that makes no logical sense, and fails utterly to explain why the character hasn’t been using those options he supposedly set up long ago before now, it also gives the character the ability he or she apparently wants to have and makes it a significant part of his or her abilities right away. A more straightforward “set up abilities in advance on specific opponents” power, it may well never enter play; in most campaigns a lot of enemies are once-offs, never seen before their initial appearance and never seen again after it – and characters often don’t have time before the campaign ends to harvest the fruits of any long-term plans. I’d still really only recommend this method for a new character being brought into the game though, unless your game master has a very loose approach to casualty.
  • The simplest, and probably the most limited, approach is to go for a basic spell. In this case, use a variant on Mark of Justice; reduce the triggering option to your verbal command (for -1 spell level), give it a normal save (possibly made when it’s triggered) for -1 spell level, and take off the extended casting time for +1 spell level. That gives our “Delayed Bestow Curse” a net level of four. Given the immense variety of options for Bestow Curse – “you may also invent your own curse” – this provides plenty ways to have nasty things happen to people. Since a curse can effectively Slow an opponent forever, or reduce their constitution by six points, or drain their spellcasting attribute to the point where most of their spells become unusable, I’d say that having all their weapons vanish, or bursting into flames for a fair amount of damage (as a once-off), or finding that all their attacks do half damage, would all work too. Sadly, while this is simple, and very cheap (all you need is the ability to cast fourth level spells – which a spellcaster will almost certainly be developing anyway – and a single spell formula), it’s also unlikely to be all that useful. After all, it doesn’t offer any method of providing beneficial effects, it doesn’t have any secondary utility, and it only works if you actually get to meet opponents well before you’re going to be fighting them – and yet still know that they’re going to be opponents. After all, you can’t afford to be casting fourth level spells on everybody; they’re expensive!

Is there any iteration of the Temporal metamagic (part of the Easy theorem) that will let my character cast a given spell as an immediate action?

  • Yes there is; it’s simply a less common application, since it raises the base cost of Temporal from +1 to +3. After all, all the actions in a round are – in theory – actually happening at the same time, so an “immediate” action must actually be taking place in the middle of your usual actions. Evidently immediate actions work a bit like Time Stop; the user can interrupt his or her primary actions, use the immediate effect, and pick up his or her primary actions again without missing a step. I personally think that’s a good trick, and well worth +3 spell levels to make it possible.
  • Alternatively, and far less expensively for a lower-level caster, you can simply take Reflex Training (the three times per day variant) and specialize it in spellcasting. That will achieve much the same effect, if only a few times per day – which is probably more often than you’d want to stack that much metamagic onto a prepared spell anyway.

2 Responses

  1. Might I suggest using Reflex Action to hang spells as well. Specialize for having to set those spells ahead of time and add on a very limited Immunity: non-antimagic effects which would prevent spellcasting using Reflex Action.

    • I think that would also call for some Mana as Generic Spell Levels (to simulate the “I cast this long ago, so it’s no drain on me now” effect), Evasive (to avoid AOO while casting such spells), and an Immunity to the range restrictions of spells that you cast this way (to simulate the ability to have left touch-spells on targets).

      Still, those could all be specialized enough to be relatively cheap, since you only want them for this specific purpose and won’t need them many times per day. I’d have to work out the math on it to see what the cost would be though.

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