Monday, September 2, 2013

House Rule - The Highly Experimental Metamagic Rule

There are some house rules that I am confident of. There are other house rules that I have had kicking around in my brain that I think will work, but I am uncertain as to whether they will cause huge problems if they are implemented. This rule is one of the ones I am uncertain about. But, because there is no way to actually evaluate a rule without actually putting it into play, I am going to implement the Highly Experimental Metamagic Rule.

The main reason that I don't know how this rule will affect play is that in my experience almost no one actually uses metamagic. Quite simply, the opportunity cost of taking a metamagic feat and then placing spells in slots one, two, three, or more levels higher than they normally require to gain a benefit that gives the spell longer range, or longer duration, or some other effect, is simply too high. Players don't want to invest the resources. Eventually, someone might buy a metamagic rod and use that, but that only happens in reasonably high level campaigns, and the metamagic rod eliminates the increased spell level for spells affected by its powers.

Even more telling in my mind is that when I play as a character, I almost always play spell casters, and I have never been tempted to take a metamagic feat. As a result, an entire aspect of the game system is never used. So, in practice, I have not seen a lot of metamagic use by spell casters, and I have not used metamagic when playing a spell caster.

Hence, this rule:

The Highly Experimental Metamagic Rule

A spell caster does not need the feats described in the Player's Handbook (Empower Spell, Enlarge Spell, Extend Spell, Heighten Spell, Maximize Spell, Quicken Spell, Silent Spell, Still Spell, and Widen Spell) in order to apply the metamagic effects as described in those feat descriptions. A prepared caster merely needs to prepare the modified spell in the higher spell slot, noting the effect that has been attached to the spell. A spontaneous caster may apply such effects on the fly, taking a full round to cast the spell and increasing the level of the spell slot used as appropriate. For reference, the spell slot increases required by a particular effect is as follows:

Level Increase
Empower Spell
+2 levels
Increase spell's variable, numeric effects by 50%
Enlarge Spell
+1 level
Double spell's range
Extend Spell
+1 level
Double spell's duration
Heighten Spell
Cast spells as higher level
Maximize Spell
+3 levels
Maximize spell's variable, numeric effects
Quicken Spell
+4 levels
Cast spell as a free action
Silent Spell
+1 level
Cast spell without verbal components
Still Spell
+1 level
Cast spell without somatic components
Widen Spell
+3 levels
Double spell's area

Other than not needing the feat to use the metamagic effect, spell caster must observe all of the other requirements and limitations associated with these metamagic effects. For example, spontaneous spell casters cannot use the Quicken Spell metamagic effect, bards may not use the Silent Spell metamagic effect, and so on.

Players may still take the specific metamagic feats. Instead of unlocking the metamagic ability, taking the feat reduces the spell level increase associated with that particular metamagic effect by one. This means that a caster with a Widen Spell metamagic feat could prepare or spontaneously cast spells with the Widen Spell metamagic effect by using a spell slot two levels higher than normal rather than the standard three levels higher. Note that this means that any caster who takes the Enlarge Spell, Extend Spell, Silent Spell, or Still Spell feats can prepare all of his spells at their normal caster level and have them enhanced with the metamagic effects associated with those feats.

The Heighten Spell metamagic feat allows a caster to prepare or cast a spell as if it were a level higher than the spell slot used for it.Therefore, a caster with the Heighten Spell metamagic feat could prepare a fireball spell in a third level spell slot as if it were a fourth level spell slot for all effects dependent upon spell level such as saving throw DCs. In effect, when preparing a Heightened Spell, a caster with the Heighten Spell metamagic feat gets a "free" bonus level of heightening the spell level.

This rule currently only applies to those metamagic feats found in the Player's Handbook. As I am able to get to them, I'll evaluate other metamagic feats from other sources, and make a decision as to whether this house rule applies to them as well. As I do that, I will post additional updates to this rule here, delineating what metamagic feats this rule applies to, and what metamagic feats it does not. Because this rule is highly experimental, I'm not entirely sure what its full effects on game play will be, so use of this rule is provisional. If it turns out to cause problems in play, I'll revisit the issue and either modify the house rule or eliminate it.

Additional Metamagic Abilities Covered by This Rule1

Chain Spell+3 levelsAny metamagic featRedirect spells to affect secondary targets
Delay Spell+3 levelsAny metamagic featSpell effects are delayed 1 to 5 rounds
Energy Admixture+4 levelsEnergy SubstitutionDouble energy spell damage by adding an
additional energy type
Explosive Spell+2 levels-Creatures are blasted to edge of spell area
Fortify Spell+1 level-Cast spells at higher caster level to overcome
spell resistance
Nonlethal Substitution+1 levelAny metamagic feat,
Knowledge: Arcana 5+ ranks
Energy spells deal nonlethal damage
Persistent Spell+6 levelsExtend SpellFixed or personal range spells last 24 hours
Repeat Spell+3 levelsAny metamagic featSpell is automatically cast again next round
Restrain Spell+1 levelSpellcraft 8+ ranksSpell inflicts nonlethal damage
Sculpt Spell+1 levelAny metamagic featAlter spell's area
Split Ray+2 levelsAny metamagic featRay spells affect one extra target
Strafing Spell+1 level-You can expand the range of creatures affected by a cone or line spell
Transdimensional Spell+1 level-Spell affects creatures in coexistent plane
and extradimensional spaces
Twin Spell+4 levelsAny metamagic featSimultaneously cast a single spell twice

1Note that to use these metamagic abilities a spell caster must meet all of the prerequisites associated with the ability.

Metamagic Feats Specifically Excluded From This Rule

Black Lore of Moil
Born of the Three Thunders
Cooperative Spell
Corrupted Spell
Energy Substitution
Lord of the Uttercold
Sanctum Spell
Sudden Empower
Sudden Extend
Sudden Maximize
Sudden Quicken
Sudden Silent
Sudden Still
Sudden Widen
Violate Spell

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