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Spell XP Cost Variant

posted Tuesday, June 20th 2006 by Jonathan Drain
Game DesignThird Edition

Back in April I wrote about a Magic Item XP Cost Variant, a system wherein a person can substitute an expensive material component for the XP cost when making a magic item. Here’s a similar system applied to spells with an XP cost.

In the standard rules, the idea of the XP cost is to make certain spells “expensive” to use. This means that the spellcaster will have to think hard before using the spell, and will only use it on rare occasions when it is absolutely necessary. A similar effect can be achieved by making each spell require a unique material component, something which is both very expensive and very rare. Such a component costs 10 gp for every experience point that would normally be spent.

The item for each spell should not be easily come by or reliably purchased by conventional means, since the rarity of the item is an important balancing factor here. A character should have no more than one or two material components for a spell, at least until higher levels when that spell’s XP cost becomes almost negligible. In general, such items should be dropped as treasure, or can be given out by an organization such as a church who has an interest in the spell being cast. Any spellcaster capable of casting a spell which would normally have an XP cost, automatically knows the material component. I’m leaving the choice up to the DM as to whether or not a spellcaster can still pay the XP cost if he doesn’t have the item, although the reason for this variant is to help keep the spellcasters in the party from being behind the rest of the party in XP.

Here’s a list of components that you can use.

  • Atonement: Incense prepared from the golden firs of Arborea, worth 5,000 gp
  • Awaken: Aromatic spirits painstakingly prepared from the rare silver moonflower, worth 2,500 gp
  • Commune: A small piece of spiritstone from the deity’s plane, worth 1,000 gp
  • Gate: A fist-sized piece of spiritstone from the outsider’s plane, worth 10,000 gp
  • Limited Wish: The skull of a long-dead forgotten archmage, worth at least 3,000 gp
  • Miracle: A drop of your deity’s blood, given willingly, worth 50,000 gp*
  • Permanency: Ancient Suloise magical tomes each worth 5,000 gp, one tome per caster level above 8th
  • Planar Ally: Willingly given blood (or equivalent) from a reasonably powerful outsider of the appropriate plane, worth 2,500 gp
  • Planar Ally, Greater: Willingly given blood (or equivalent) from a very powerful outsider of the appropriate worth 5,000 gp
  • Planar Ally, Lesser: Willingly given blood (or equivalent) from a moderately powerful outsider of the appropriate plane, worth 1,000 gp
  • Restoration, Greater: The universal panacea, a healing potion worth 5,000 gp
  • Simulacrum: An amount of the mythical Ice That Never Melts, worth 1,000 gp per HD (minimum 10,000 gp)
  • Vision: Four strips of ivory made from the tusks of the legendary rare dragon elephant, worth 1,000 gp in total
  • Wish: A major artifact worth at least 50,000 gp (the artifact is returned to its creator upon casting)*

* As an alternative to the hard-to-get material components for miracle and wish, the following can be substituted. Firstly, the caster can sacrifice his own life, after which he refuses to be raised. Secondly, the caster of a powerful miracle may sacrifice a cleric of a good aligned deity – only evil deities accept this. Finally, the caster of either spell may sunder a favoured weapon of their deity or a magical staff that is unique in nature, that is worth at least 50,000 gp, and that they have been using as their primary weapon or staff for at least four levels prior. The DM may accept similar sacrifices as payment, or invent other, impossibly rare items.

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