Tuesday Tweak: Energy Effects


So those of you who are veteran players know by now that as a spellcaster, blasting is one of your least viable choices. Sure, you need something to fall back on, which is why in Pathfinder most wizards gain a 3+intelligence blast for specializations. But by and large, you have much more powerful effects to layer on enemies. And that’s fine. It’s part of the design of the game: not all spells or choices are created equal.

The problem comes in when you look at all the energy-related (read: evocation blasting) abilities and items you can choose from. Both in the Core book and the APG, there are choices which just aren’t viable. The ability to change energy or elemental effects into another type? REALLY!? It has no game effect whatsoever. Unless you happen to be fighting someone with resistance or vulnerability to a particular energy type, these switch-out abilities are totally worthless. And how many monsters have Resist Water 10?

Even more disturbing is the implication that there’s no flavor difference between different spells because there’s no mechanical difference. Lightning bolt and fireball are basically the same spell with a different shape. It’s a sad fantasy world when a lightning mage is pretty much the same as a pyromage.

To correct this flavor/mechanics oversight, today we present a variant rule: Energy Effects.

Variant: Energy Effects

Spells of a particular elemental type which deal damage successfully or which deal a particular kind of energy damage have a minor additional effect according to the table below. Saving successfully against the spell negates these extra effects as well, although Improved Evasion does not count as an automatic save for this purpose.

Spell Descriptors

Fire: targets find themselves frazzled by the flames, causing them to be fatigued for 1 round per spell level.

Earth: targets are encased in a light layer of stony earth which causes them to be entangled for 1 round per spell level.

Air: targets are caught in a whirling dust devil that causes them to be distracted, as if someone had done an aid another action for all allies. In addition, targets must make a concentration check of 15+spell level to cast a spell. These effects last for 1 round per spell level.

Water: targets are blasted by tumbling water, which causes them to be staggered for 1 round.

Electricity: targets are shocked, their hair sticks out, and they are dazed for 1 round.

Acid: the clinging acid sticks and burns, dealing 1 additional point of acid damage for 1 round/spell level.

Cold: the targets are afflicted by frost all over their skin and bodies, which slows the flow of blood and inflicts a slow effect for 1 round.

Sonic: the tumbling cacophony of sound causes the target to hemorrhage into their inner ear, which inflicts a confusion effect for 1 round.


Obviously, this variant dramatically increases the utility of certain spells. That is the intent, although none of these should be game-breaking.  The flavor and unique quality of different kinds of magic needs enhancing. Always remember that other spells–just look at grease!–will still be more powerful, most of the time.




6 responses to “Tuesday Tweak: Energy Effects

  1. The effects you’ve suggested are pretty strong. I would put forward lowering the wizard’s caster level for energy spells as a possible balance. 7th level wizard but casts energy spells as a 6th or 5th for variable effects.

  2. You’re right. Confusion and Slow are too strong. The others I see no problem with.
    Possibly a feat ought to be required to get such effects going. Whatever it takes to make these spells more interesting than “roll damage” !


      • True, they are. And I’m mostly okay with that, because they only last 1 round and aren’t easy to use under these rules. You have to alter an existing spell via an ability that’s otherwise useless (like a steam fireball) or you have to find a spell that does water damage.
        Not easy. You have to want it.
        I think a feat to gain access to these effects would suffice for most.

      • You are right that water effects are hard to pull off – I can’t think of any / many in the PH but if you were to play something like a wu jen, it could be a problem.

        Lightning is more common though, lighting bolt, chain lightning, call lightning storm – possibly something I’m forgetting. Definately not as prolific as fire.

  3. Hmmm alright I’ll concede that point. Lightning should probably not cause Daze with no HD limit.
    I will edit the post to reflect another concept.
    I should also have pointed out that these effects possess spell descriptors (mind-affecting, etc) which are not part of the original spells. Any creature immune to spells with those descriptors would only be immune to the additional effect in such a case. I’ll add that to the post as well.

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