Thoughts on Spheres of Power

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I feel like the best way to review Drop Dead Studios' "Spheres of Power" is to just post a reply I made to another gamer about my take on this system:

"It's ridiculously good. It's much better balanced than Vancian casting, uses a point-based mechanic that should feel comfortable and familiar to people who like psionics or mana casting, and instead of cantrips you get scaling at-will abilities. An example of one of the scaling at-wills would be the Life sphere's Invigorate ability, that lets you give an ally your level in temp hp.

The way the system works is that you've got spheres like Life, Conjuration, Destruction, Darkness, Light, Illusion, Mind, Nature, etc.

Full casters get 1 magic talent per level, which can either be used to buy a new sphere and its base ability (or abilities), or purchase additional talents from a sphere you've already gained access to. 2/3 casters, like the Bard or Inquisitor get 15 points over the course of 20 levels, and 1/2 casters get 10. Since spheres use a completely new system all together, they avoid almost all of the issues inherent to the legacy Vancian casters; you're generally going to see Tier 1 level power nixed completely, Tier 2 much more limited, and a lot of stuff falling solidly into Tier 3.

In addition to the system being set up so you can automatically use it with any Vancian casting class, there's also 12 new base classes:

  • The Armorist - Full BAB, 1/2 caster progression equivalent. Can create special bonded weapons and armor with preset enchantments and swap between them in combat. Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail.

  • The Elementalist - 3/4 BAB, 2/3 caster equivalent. Gets Destruction for free with boosted power, mixes elemental spells and abilities with martial combat. Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

  • The Eliciter - 3/4 BAB, 2/3 caster equivalent. Messes with peoples emotions in various ways. Kind of like the Mesmerist from the Occult Adventures playtest.

  • The Fey Adept - 1/2 BAB, full caster equivalent. Specializes in shadow and nature themed abilities. Think the Leanansidhe from Dresden Files.

  • The Hedgewitch - 3/4 BAB, 2/3 caster equivalent. Does a good job of emulating the various witch concepts out there with Casting Traditions that provide a set of thematic abilities.

  • The Incanter - 1/2 BAB, full caster equivalent. This basically your build-a-caster. In addition to full casting progression, you get a set of points at character creation that you can spend on things like specializing in a particular sphere, gaining channel energy, gaining a sorcerer bloodline (sans spells and arcana), or picking up bonus feats. Really well executed for a grab-bag class.

  • The Mageknight - Full BAB, 1/2 caster equivalent. This is your custom built Ranger, Paladin, or Bloodrager equivalent. Gains resistance to magical harm, Arcane Strike using level as caster level, and a selection of other abilities. This is a little light on its own identity, but you can build a paladin equivalent of any alignment and combine the Life Sphere with Destruction for a knight of a vengeful deity, or Darkness with Illusion for a warrior of Mask, god of thieves, or whatever else you really want to do. Picks their casting stat from the 3 mental stats at 1st level.

  • The Shifter - 3/4 BAB, 2/3 caster equivalent. You turn yourself and/or your allies into nature-themed natural attacking murder beasts.

  • The Soul Weaver - 1/2 BAB, full caster equivalent. Dichotomous caster who can be healer, necromancer, or both. Gains a Blight/Blessing class feature that determines where your class abilities fall on the life/death spectrum. Super cool.

  • The Symbiat - 3/4 BAB, 2/3 caster equivalent. Members of this class have a psionic aberration pulled from the Far Realms and fused to their soul, giving them facility with the Mind sphere and aberrant qualities. Think of the Daelkyr half-bloods from Eberron.

  • The Thaumaturge - 3/4 BAB, full caster equivalent. It's like a cross between a warlock and an oracle. Kind of like an Occultist from the Occult Adventures playtest without the implements.
With this, Ultimate Psionics, Path of War, and Akashic Mysteries, I may not be looking at the class section of the Paizo books for a long time. The Armorist is basically your magical Fighter, Mageknight covers all the other arcane/divine gish concepts, Incanter can be a Wizard, Cloistered Priest, or Mystic Theurge right from level one, and the other classes cover pretty much any other concept I can't find in my DSP books. I'm for real hooked."

Spheres of Power and other Drop Dead Studios products are available for purchase @