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Spheres of Power - Pathfinder

   
Spheres of Power - Pathfinder

I'm not sure if this is the best place to ask or if maybe I should have put it in gaming discussion. I have a few questions in regards to Spheres of Power third-party content for Pathfinder. Perhaps I should find a game where I can play with it, or see it in play first before considering implementing it into my homebrew campaign. From what I read it allows for more flexible casters without a lot of what makes full-casters powerful toward end game (like the wish spell), which would be ideal for the setting I have in mind. I don't want to just eliminate full-casters and only allow classes that go up to 4th or 6th level spells, so I was trying to think of some sort of alternative.

1. Is it best to use that material in place of caster classes entirely or is it okay to intermix with Paizo spellcasters?

2. What about the martial classes? Is it best to use Spheres of Might if I am using Spheres of Power?

3. Those of you that have used it or are using it, do you alter NPCs to use the Spheres as well, mostly leave them as is from the bestiary, or is it case-by-case basis?

4. Does anyone have a game currently running that is using the Spheres of Power and that wouldn't mind me reading along to see it action?

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1. Is it best to use that material in place of caster classes entirely or is it okay to intermix with Paizo spellcasters?
From my experience it is best not to mix spherecasters and spellcasters (although other people have had good results from mixing the two).
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2. What about the martial classes? Is it best to use Spheres of Might if I am using Spheres of Power?
Personally, if your players aren't familiar with either Spheres of Power or Spheres of Might, I would allow martial players to use standard martial classes. But to answer your question, I would say yes, it is best to to use both Spheres of Might and Spheres of Power in the same game.
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3. Those of you that have used it or are using it, do you alter NPCs to use the Spheres as well, mostly leave them as is from the bestiary, or is it case-by-case basis?
If using only spheres of power, I would suggest leaving NPC spellcasters as they are; However, if you choose to utilize spheres of might, I would highly suggest giving NPC martials a free martial tradition (if not a full conversion). However, I think it is worth mentioning that Spheres of Power has published a small bestiary (Fantastical Creatures and How to Survive Them), and that Spheres of Might contains a small bestiary aswell (see Practitioner Bestiary within the Spheres of Power wiki).
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4. Does anyone have a game currently running that is using the Spheres of Power and that wouldn't mind me reading along to see it action?
Sorry, I am not currently running any games with Spheres of Power (or Might), if I had I'd be sure to invite you to watch. Although, the Giantitp and Paizo forums have a bunch of play-by-post games that utilize Spheres of Power, you might check there.

There have been quite a few games here recently making use of Spheres of Power, and I'm quite sure some of the DMs would be OK with you following along. Here's one (it's a slightly weird one though, owing to the premise, and gestalt) I'm playing in right now. Arklytte has a game where he's used SoP to simulate Dragon Age stuff (also unusual since there are many other houserules). Here's Llyarden's (also gestalt) one. You could try pinging one of them - though maybe you also want something more "typical" (i.e. not gestalt, etc).

I'm far from an expert with the system but I've played around with it a bit now, enough to get a bit of a feel for it. As far as third party stuff goes, it's not bad (there is some editing and design weirdness but there is even in first-party stuff sometimes) and seems reasonably well-balanced. It's kind of like Mutants and Masterminds, in that you have a fairly limited set of powers (spheres) to pick from so it's relatively easy to get familiar with (as compared with understanding every single spell in 3.5/PF) and doesn't allow any of the T1 overpoweredness of certain 3.5/PF casters, but also you just can't do some things (some of which are things that you might not want people to be able to do, but still, it's more limited). A lot of it is kind of like the more magical Path of War disciplines or the 3.5 Warlock - you can do magical stuff, but it's typically more 4e-style/less "persistent"/less complex as compared with Planar Binding and Wish and all that kind of stuff, if that makes sense.

To address your specific questions:
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Originally Posted by Tesselia View Post
1. Is it best to use that material in place of caster classes entirely or is it okay to intermix with Paizo spellcasters?
There's not much that goes wrong with intermixing them, it's just that they use slightly different rules. You get a bit of a transparency question (just as you do with Psionics) - can Dispel Magic dispel sphere powers, etc? You're not going to want people to use the Magical Knack trait with spherecasting, for example (contrast with Gift for Magic from SoP). For the most part, though, it's not different to using any other classes with different rulesystems in the same game as spellcasters (from 3.5, Psionics, Incarnum, Soulbinding, etc; first-party PF has fewer of these but Occult classes still have different rules, and then you have classes like Ninja with supernatural Ki abilities but not spells, etc).

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Originally Posted by Tesselia View Post
2. What about the martial classes? Is it best to use Spheres of Might if I am using Spheres of Power?
Personally, I am not a very big fan of Spheres of Might. IMO it's much messier than SoP, mostly due to terminology issues and the fact that a lot of it is just not very clear. Everything is built around the attack action and they've embraced Paizo's incorrect/confusing terminology a la Vital Strike, plus it's a slightly weird design decision that I'm not sure I like. The intent is to make single attacks better so that martials aren't as reliant upon full attacks. However this means that you have to invest a bit before you're not just playing catch-up and it also means that there aren't many options for certain styles of characters (such as those who really do want to make full attacks still). There are also just some gaps in what the spheres offer, I think.

Perhaps most crucially, SoP is a fairly stand-alone system which works as a drop-in replacement for spellcasting. SoM necessarily has to interact with existing PF rules, and it doesn't do this terribly well. That's where all these "Associated Feats" (sphere abilities which act similarly to existing feats and so count for prereqs) and some of the confused language and things come from.

All in all, it's OK, but I'd rate it below SoP. It's certainly far from necessary - though if you are using SoP there are some "Champions of the Spheres" options which blend both which people may want to be able to use.
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Originally Posted by Tesselia View Post
3. Those of you that have used it or are using it, do you alter NPCs to use the Spheres as well, mostly leave them as is from the bestiary, or is it case-by-case basis?
I've never run a game with it, but certainly for some of the abilities it's probably quite easy to make an NPC with Sphere abilities. You can easily throw together a Destruction-based blaster, for example. If you are using both SoP and regular spellcasting in the game, I'd probably want to convert some on a case-by-case basis so that PCs come up against both. I'd be less inclined to convert martials to SoM but again I'd probably throw in a few.

I'm not running a spheres game but I have played spheres characters, so I will add my opinion on only the first two questions.

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Originally Posted by Tesselia View Post
1. Is it best to use that material in place of caster classes entirely or is it okay to intermix with Paizo spellcasters?
Generally speaking, I would suggest that if you're going to use Spheres of Power, you replace all casting with it. There are archtypes to let you do so and still use all the old Paizo classes. Obviously you can mix them, but the result is that regular casters pretty much eat the Sphere casters' lunches.

That's because the SoP system is clearly designed to reduce the power and versatility of spellcasting. A sphere caster is never going to have the flexibility of preparing a different set of spells on a different day, and they're not even going to have as wide a set of tools as a sorcerer or oracle. A sphere caster is basically going to have one sphere that they are really good at and a few others that mostly supplement it—and the overall power level of super-specializing in one sphere still only manages to reach a degree of raw strength equal to that of a 5th- or 6th-level spell, for most spheres. For example, a sphere "summoner" can sink all their talents into getting a companion creature that is equal to a standard Paizo summoner's eidolon...but the Paizo summoner can still cast a bunch of potentially varied spells every day that the spherecaster can't. Even a high-level Incanter, theoretically the pinnacle of spherecasting, is only going to manage maybe 3 spheres that they've tricked out to significant levels. In that way, it is attempting to solve the old "linear fighter, quadratic wizard" problem by making wizards more like fighters: really good at a few things and kind of worthless at everything else. Therefore, mixing regular wizards back in undercuts that intent.

The caveat I would give is if you're doing something like gestalt, because then a given spellcaster can be both a sphere wizard and a standard wizard. They can super-specialize in one or two spheres and still have a wide catalogue of spells available on the side. This is obviously an immense amount of power and flexibility, but if that's the kind of game you're running and everyone has access to it, it actually works pretty well.

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Originally Posted by Tesselia View Post
2. What about the martial classes? Is it best to use Spheres of Might if I am using Spheres of Power?
I don't think it's better or worse, really. Either one works. Unlike SoP, SoM aims to slightly increase the flexibility of martial classes, so that the two systems meet in the middle. It is less successful at that goal than SoP, but it's fine.

I do have one warning: I don't recommend mixing SoM (or SoP) with Dreamscarred Press' Path of War classes, unless you're doing a crazy gestalt free-for-all. The PoW stuff is meant to bring warrior-type characters up to the power level of the standard ultimate-flexibility Paizo spellcasters, and therefore is very strong. So strong that it will utterly blow SoM and SoP characters out of the water. And adding in the SoM to PoW allows for some kind of iffy combos, like is a PoW strike also an SoM "attack action"? If you're at all worried about balance and power levels, I would pick one or the other.

Thanks guys. This was the sort of information I was hoping to see. Even though they are gestalt or a little different I'll take a look at some of those games to see if I can glean anything from them. Zamorra even answered the next question I had about Path of War. That was another source of material that I was looking at. The homebrew game I have in the works has two primary factions, at least that are playable, with one being much more martially focused due to background and beliefs. The other is quite the opposite, with magic being pretty much a part of their daily lives. I was hoping to narrow the gap in strength between casters and martial classes, even if just a little.

Eh, part of this really just depends upon how your players play in practical terms. Like, sure, Wizards rule the world, except some players just throw Fireballs and Magic Missiles all the time. Even the ones that play somewhat smartly frequently don't crack open all the Planar Bindings and Wishes and stuff that they're able to because those aren't the kinds of games they're in (it's like superheroes in superhero comics/movies; speedsters can tidy their houses super-fast but aren't actually all that much better than anyone else in combat, Superman doesn't just end every single threat by flying backwards in time, etc).

So in practical terms you can easily have characters running the gamut from Fighters to Wizards in the same game, even towards the higher levels (the higher you go, though, the more pronounced the differences become). If you add the Spheres of Power classes, that hardly makes life any worse; yeah, they won't compete with the "real" "T1" casters and maybe not even the T2s but then neither will any of the martials.

Path of War takes a very different approach. PoW classes still don't match casters, but they're much more like Magi or maybe Oracles or whatever. There are things I dislike about PoW too (actually a lot of it is magical, so they've not so much bumped up martials as added new casters-by-another-name; there's too much +damage, which is the one things martials could already do; it's a bit messy and in particular there's a hell of a lot of feature creep; etc) but it's based off ToB which was good and in terms of quality it's probably the best PF third-party stuff around after DSP's first lot of Psionics (which was only slightly changed from the 3.5 version, so admittedly they got a leg up there).

PoW and Spheres of Might don't interact terribly well, though this is mostly because IMO SoM just does not interact terribly well with anything. Manoeuvres definitely aren't attack actions (though you'd be forgiven for being confused, because SoM essentially redefined what "attack action" means) but consequently that means that there's very little synergy there. You're mostly best using PoW boosts with SoM attack actions or PoW manoeuvres with some of the SoM move-action stuff. You can also just cherry-pick one or two things from SoM as and where they help you out (e.g. take a martial tradition, get tailored proficiencies and maybe like the Athletics sphere or something).








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