Recently we mentioned kineticist as a clear outer edge for balance and its usefulness in evaluating a third party class for inclusion in your home game. Today we want to give an example of such an balance evaluation for a relatively recent and amazing class from Purple Duck Games, the eternal mage. Now the name alone might scare off a GM if it follows up on its promise (which it does) but some clever design choices might make you re-evaluate its place.
Establishing Benchmarks: Sorcerer, Wizard and Kineticist
When the average Pathfinder thinks about limitless cosmic power, they will point our sorcerer with its 33% edge over wizard when it comes to work. In the Core Rulebook they are the definition of longer workday caster. Most “days” in CRs assume around 4 encounters before resources are taxed.
- Workday: Mid-Range. With bloodline abilities and advantaged slots a potential of at least 2 encounters longer than its workday limited peer wizard.
- Versatility: Mid-Range Fixed Versatility. Same options as most versatile casters, locked at level, free to move between know magics and overpay if needed. 50% increase in daily casting as a general rule compared to wizard. 90 daily spell levels over wizard at 20th level.
- Resources: Standard. Daily Required. Power Output Stable.
- Damage Potential: High. 1d6/level.
- Action Economy: Standard.
Comparing this to kineticist we see that limited versatility and varied resource costs free up its workday immensely. Resource costs and impacts to action economy slow down its endless workday:
- Workday: Extreme with Resource Management.
- Versatility: Extremely Narrow. One or two small groups of narrow effects.
- Resources: Optional Daily. Burn may be avoided for many abilities with action economy cost sacrifices to activate the Gather power resources. Burn increases vulnerability of character. Burn recovers daily.
- Damage Potential: High. 1d6/level plus Constitution modifier.
- Action Economy: Variable. Costs of move or full round actions can extend workday and mitigate burn.
Essentially by moving the balance sliders of Versatility and Action Economy down we were able to move the Workday potential up. The kineticist can do less things, less quickly but can do them more often. These benchmarks give us some areas to work with when looking at new classes and considering their place in our games.
Balance Check: Eternal Mage
A caster with endless magic that is balanced? How can that be? Lets have a look.
The eternal mage (eternal) is a caster with a lot in common with the sorcerer. The spells known table is even identical, but versatility is still limited. The eternal is only allowed 3 of the sorcerers 8 schools of magic. Denying them massive versatility. Sin magic specialization for wizards grants them two slots per level for losing access to 2 schools permanently, another 33% increase. On this restriction alone the class would merit an almost silly 5 slots above sorcerer per spell level (225 spell levels).
Additionally, the class has a “burnout” mechanic that drops their caster level and DCs when they cast a spell. This drop recovers during rounds they are not using magic. One effective caster level is lost per level of the spell cast and each 2 levels lost penalizes their DCs. This adds a cool-down mechanic reminiscent of occultist (binders) from Radiance House. A small pool of “overdrive” allows you to ignore this a few times per day.
Lastly, a limited concentration mechanic prevents the eternal from having more than a few duration spells in play at a time. Another HUGE hit to versatility. Core buffs like mage armor are either unavailable to you or take one of your few active spells.
So we see:
- Workday: Extreme with Resource Management.
- Versatility: Very Narrow. Three groups of narrow effects. Extreme duration limitations in place. (Less than sorcerer, slightly more than kineticist)
- Resources: Optional Daily. Burnout points recover or can be ignored by expending a daily resource. Burnout takes far longer action economy limits to recover outside of daily expenditures. Burnout weakens output of character. (More limits than kineticist, power impacted compared to sorcerer)
- Damage Potential: High. 1d6/level. (Both sorcerer and kineticist have more frequent access to full strength casting)
- Action Economy: Variable. Multiple rounds of restricted action or weakened caster level to avoid daily expenditures. (More limited than kineticist or sorcerer)
Evaluating the class then we see that despite its amazing eternal abilities, the action economy constraints, overdrive limits, narrowed versatility and limited duration abilities make this cleverly designed class extremely table safe. A few games might run into issues if an eternal attempted to set up shop as a service mage, but most players don’t pursue this angle and their are plenty of social solutions to the behavior. Generally speaking, the Eternal Mage passes the balance test with flying colors in a games allowing kineticist and still is a solid offering in games that don’t.