The Power of Prepared Casting
A Pathfinder RPG Guide
Over my many years with Pathfinder Classic as an RPG, I've run into a lot of players who simply refuse to play prepared casters. Wizards, clerics, druids, magi, warpriests, witches, and others, it doesn't matter the flavor of the class or how powerful its spells are, they simply will not consider these classes when putting together their characters.
And I get it, because I was once one of these players. However, I had several realizations that helped me get a better handle on prepared casting, the advantages it provides, and how to mitigate the downsides of it. So I thought this week that I'd lay out my case for prepared casters, and see if it gives anyone a Green Eggs and Ham moment regarding these classes.
The Advantages of Prepared Casters
While there's been a lot of back and forth on this topic, and different classes all have vastly different features and abilities, there are two, distinct advantages that come with prepared casters; variety of spells to choose from, and metamagic preparation.
First, let's talk about the number of spells you have access to.
One of the major bonuses you get as a prepared caster is that you have access to a larger number of spells. Divine casters like clerics and druids get access to their entire list every day, and arcane casters like wizards, magi, alchemists, etc., can add any spell books they come across to their own, ensuring they can use those new spells later. This provides you with a truly colossal amount of flexibility when it comes to choice, making sure that you have an extremely varied toolkit.
Now let's talk about metamagic.
Metamagic feats in Pathfinder Classic allow you to alter the effects of spells. Whether it's increasing the area of a spell, making it knock your opponents onto the ground, increasing the effective spell level so it hits harder, or any of a dozen other effects, these feats allow you to bend the laws of reality even further than magic already does.
And while spontaneous casters like sorcerers can use metamagic feats, doing so makes casting the spells take longer. As anyone who has played a spellcaster knows, time is of the essence, and there's few things more frustrating than the spell going off when it's too late... or worse, getting clobbered before you can finish casting it. Prepared casters, on the other hand, can simply prepare their spells with all of the metamagic feats beforehand.
For example, say you wanted to use Maximize Spell on your fireball so that all the damage is maxed out without any dice rolling. Your wizard can simply prepare that slot as maximized fireball, whereas the sorcerer will need to take extra time, and it's possible that by the time they've finished the casting the targets have died, the party has moved into the blast zone, or the sorcerer has become a pincushion as all the enemy archers all got a shot off before the fireball dropped.
Overcoming The Difficulty of Prepared Casting
While it might sound like I'm a convert singing the praises of prepared casters, I will be the first to admit they also come with challenges and frustrations. The first is, of course, all of the bookkeeping and reading associated with them. After all, if you have access to such a massive amount of spells that means you're going to be doing a lot of reading, and a lot of digging, to find the spells you want/need for your character and plot.
I highly recommend notecards. It's a pain in the ass writing your spells out, but it helps to have them on-hand. If you're someone who enjoys a bit of meta at your table, you might also want to consider checking out Organize Your Spell Cards With a Portable Spellbook for a unique card wallet that can make playing a wizard feel just a bit more immersive.
The other difficulty with prepared casters is that you have to choose your spells beforehand, and a lot of players get decision paralysis when it comes to choosing which spells to use, and how many times they want to have it available.
So how do you overcome the fear/danger of picking the wrong spells, or not having enough uses of the right spells? Well, there are two real ways to do this:
- Leave some slots open. Most prepared casting classes allow you to leave slots open for the day, and then you can fill those slots with a few minutes of study/ritual. This is too much time to pick a spell in the heat of combat, but it is very useful in basically all other situations.
- Use magic items. Scrolls, wands, and even potions allow you to keep a variety of spells on-hand that you might not need all that often, but which you will definitely want in the situations where they are appropriate.
Will using these two options guarantee that you'll always be able to get the right spell for the right situation as a prepared caster? Of course not! But it does give you some extra flexibility, and it allows you to minimize the situations where you find yourself sighing and saying, "Man, if only I'd prepared X today instead of Y..." However, a little bit of forethought can go a long way when you're running a prepared caster, and the benefits of having a bigger toolbox that you can modify with any metamagic feat you qualify for is not something you should turn your nose up at without at least considering the benefits.
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About the Creator
Neal Litherland is an author, freelance blogger, and RPG designer. A regular on the Chicago convention circuit, he works in a variety of genres.
Blog: Improved Initiative and The Literary Mercenary
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