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Mastering Magic

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 92
Anyone can be a spellcaster. If you can crack open a book and knuckle down in your studies, you can probably become a passable wizard. If you can devote yourself in body and soul to a god—and why wouldn’t you, when there’s such a variety to choose from?—you may find yourself endowed with magical powers simply for having faith in your god’s (and your own) righteousness. Oracles are chosen without their consent, far-roving rangers pick up magical tricks and traps, druids channel the will of nature, sorcerers get their abilities as dubious presents from philandering ancestors, and bards find magical inspiration in performance and art. Magic is everywhere in the Pathf inder Roleplaying Game, and many of the movers and shakers in towns and cities of any significant size have a spell or two up their sleeves.

But those are just ordinary people who have access to magic. Basic hedge wizards may make a fine living crafting glowing swords, and a priest with the ability to heal broken bones is a must for any church that wants to win itself a congregation, but such everyday spellcasters are hardly the stuff of legend. Instead, those magic users who get remembered as heroes and legends—rather than simply magical craftsmen and merchants—take these same techniques and build upon them, seeking out ever-more-elusive knowledge and crafting new spells of magnificent power. It is with these esoteric practices that the greatest make names for themselves; these potent arts set the masters apart from mundane practitioners.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 94
Spellblights are rare and unusual magical conditions that uniquely affect spellcasters, including creatures that use spell-like abilities. Spellblights are curses, some functioning continuously and others manifesting only when the afflicted creature attempts to cast a spell or use a spell-like ability. A creature that lacks the ability to cast spells or use spell-like abilities cannot usually be afflicted by a spellblight.

Unlike many magical effects, a spellblight usually persists in an antimagic field, though because they often affect spellcasting, their effect is typically lessened in such a field.

Spell Duels

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 99
Spellcasters are no strangers to battle, but there’s a difference between the chaos of a huge melee, with dozens of feral monsters seeking to tear the caster limb from limb, and a more civilized duel between rivals seeking to settle a dispute. Make no mistake, these duels can be just as deadly, but the rules surrounding them make for a different style of combat—one in which both combatants can attack and defend with ease, allowing the true skill and power of each to determine the victor.

Starting a Duel

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 99
A spell duel is a form of combat, but unlike ordinary combat, the participants must all agree to willingly enter the duel and abide by its rules. If either side breaks the rules, it is considered the loser of the duel, regardless of any other outcome, and if its members continue aggressive action, the fight returns to the standard rules for combat.

The rules for a duel between spellcasters are usually very simple, but can be changed and altered by the participants, so long as both sides agree. Such discussions typically happen before the duel, allowing both sides to properly prepare, but as with all elements of a duel, this is not always the case. Most duels utilize the following simple rules.
  • Each participant must fight alone and can receive no help from outside sources, with the exception of familiars or other bonded creatures.
  • Each participant must fight with magic. The use of melee or ranged weapons is forbidden, with the exception of bonded objects and weapons that can cast spells, such as staves.
  • The use of summoned or otherwise conjured creatures is forbidden, unless the duel expects such creatures to combat one another at the behest of the participants (rather than directly attacking the dueling opponent). This sort of creature duel is common among druids, summoners, and conjurers.
  • The duel lasts until one of the casters has been knocked unconscious or otherwise prevented from continuing. Spells such as hold person do not end duels, but flesh to stone certainly does, assuming the target fails her saving throw. Some duels go to the death and are only ended when one duelist or team is a smoking pile of ash.

Duel Combat

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 99
A duel functions much like ordinary combat, with a few notable exceptions that make for a more exciting and challenging encounter.

At the start of the duel, each participant makes an initiative check, just like in standard combat. Because duels are always planned and expected, there is never a surprise round. Alternatively, some duels start off with each side facing off, waiting for the other to flinch or break resolve. In such cases, substitute a Bluff, Intimidate, or Sense Motive check in place of the standard initiative check. The skill used is decided by the individual participants and is reflective of their approach to the duel.

At the beginning of each round, the participants check the status of the duel (the GM may want to mark the beginning of each round in some way during initiative tracking as a reminder to check this status). So long as all participants agree to continue dueling, the duel goes on. If any one of the participants withdraws from the duel, the duel immediately ends for all participants, even those who want to see it continue. The participant or side that ended the duel is considered the loser of the duel. The duel’s remaining participants can, among themselves, agree to resume the duel, but this is considered a separate duel from the previous one and does not involve those who withdrew from the duel.

Each participant in a duel can act normally on her turn, but if she casts a spell, that spell must affect or target either herself or one of the other duel participants (whether this participant is an ally or an opponent). For example, a dueling mage could not cast haste on her allies and exclude herself, but she could cast it on herself and her allies. The same goes for offensive spells, such as fireball—the dueling caster must include one of her opponents in the duel among the targets of the spell, and could not affect some nearby creatures to the exclusion of her opponent.

In addition to the normal set of actions a dueling caster can perform each round, each participant in a duel may take a special counterspell action called a dueling counter, as noted below.

Duel Counter

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 100
Each participant in a duel can take a special action once per round called a dueling counter. A dueling counter is similar to a counterspell, but is easier to use.

When a dueling opponent tries to cast a spell, the targeted spellcaster can make a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + the spell’s level) as a free action. If the check succeeds, she identifies her opponent’s spell and can attempt a dueling counter. If it fails, she cannot attempt a dueling counter against that spell.

A dueling counter is an immediate action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity. To attempt a dueling counter, the countering duelist must expend a spell or a spell slot of a level equal to or higher than that of the spell being cast. Note that characters who cast spells spontaneously (such as bards and sorcerers) must choose what exact spell they are using to counterspell in addition to the slot being used. The countering duelist must then make a caster level check against a DC of 15 + the spell’s caster level. Unlike when using a true counterspell action (which requires a readied action), even expending an exact copy of the spell being cast does not guarantee success. The caster attempting the counterspell receives a bonus or penalty on her check depending upon the level of the spell slot expended and the exact spell used, as noted in Table 2–3. If the check is successful, the spell is countered—it is negated and the spell is lost. If not, the spell happens as normal and the duelist attempting to counter the spell takes a –2 penalty on any saving throws made against the spell’s effect.

Alternatively, a spellcaster can use dispel magic or dispel magic, greater as a dueling counter. When a dueling spellcaster does so, she does not need to identify the spell being cast, can counter a spell of any level, and must succeed at a caster level check against a DC of 11 + the spell’s caster level. When dispel magic is used as a dueling counter, it is not modified by any of the circumstances in Table 2–3.

Because readying to counterspell is its own action, a participant can choose to ready to counterspell and make a dueling counter in the same round. This is only useful if the participant is facing multiple opponents or someone with access to Quickened Spell or other abilities that allow casting two spells in the same round.
CircumstanceCheck Modifier
Spell is of a different school-2
Spell is of the same school, but not the same spell+2
Spell is a higher level than the spell being countered+1 per level higher
Spell is the same as the spell being countered+10

Duel Results

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 100
While duels can be treated as another form of combat, they are usually done to resolve a dispute between colleagues or rivals and are not usually intended to end in death. As a result, duels are usually fought with a specific prize in mind. Arcane academies are known for having duels to assign important faculty positions and as competitions between students for valuable prizes. In some places, magical duels of this kind are so common that special areas are constructed specifically for duels. Such dueling yards are sometimes made with special magic that can be activated for dueling competitions, converting all damage to nonlethal damage and preventing or reversing magic that instantly slays a foe or does permanent harm. That is not to say that accidents don’t happen, and more than one student has lost a limb or even her life while on such “safe” fields.

Regardless of the conditions, most duels are serious affairs, with each side putting pride, honor, treasure, and even their lives on the line to win the day. While villains might try to cheat the rules and exploit every advantage, the more noble duelist sees the competition as a chance to prove her superiority and skill on the field of battle, using only her magic and wits.

Binding Outsiders

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 101
One of the most potent tools a spellcasters can wield is the command of summoned creatures; the most powerful of these spells call forth allies mightier than mere flesh, reaching from the depths of Hell to the peaks of Heaven, and even stranger places beyond the pale. When reaching for knowledge and forces from other planes, a spellcaster must have control over the strengths and weaknesses of their targets, or face doom far worse than any that might be visited upon them in the Material Plane. A spellcaster wishing to bind such creatures who cannot play to the desires of his summoned captive will surely lose control, and may find himself torn from his reality as a plaything of the multiverse’s cruelest tormentors.

Calling Outsiders

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 101
The first step in calling extraplanar assistance is to determine the method of bringing the outsider to the Material Plane. If the caster is a cleric, the spell of choice is planar ally; wizard, sorcerers, and summoners rely primarily on planar binding (or summon monster, which controls without requiring binding). However, none of these necessarily bind the outsider to the caster’s needs, and a wise spellcaster augments the summoning with additional encouragement, usually in the form of gifts or bargains.

Clerics and Oracles

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 101
Clerics and oracles find the job of summoning and binding outsiders much easier than arcane spellcasters do. A cleric calls upon her deity to send a like-minded creature by way of one of the planar ally spells. That outsider is in the service of the god, and its desires almost always align with the cleric’s goals, or at least run in parallel with them.

The cleric must bargain with the deity’s servant for a payment agreed upon before the outsider will perform the task: gold, magic items, gifts, sacrifices, or promises by the cleric to achieve certain goals particular to the conjured ally. The greater the task, the greater the payment required, with a minimum of 100 gp worth of goods or services, sometimes extending into the thousands—and sometimes the ally simply refuses the cleric’s binding if the job is too dangerous or beneath its dignity.

Wizards, Sorcerers, and Summoners

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 101
The arcane method for binding outsiders is more difficult. First, a binder must create a trap, a magic circle focused inward. Typically the circle is outlined in a substance that is anathema to the outsider he wishes to summon. He must protect this circle against any sort of disruption, for even the smallest variation in its energies opens the circle and allows the escape of the creature he has summoned. It is for this reason that most binders’ lairs are in high towers or deep dungeons, far from wind or pests.

When an arcane caster speaks the words of the planar binding spell, the outsider can resist via a Will saving throw, with no aid from its spell resistance. If it fails the save, the magic circle draws it inexorably into the trap. Once there, the outsider can pit its spell resistance as a check against the caster’s level, attempt to flee via dimensional travel, or attempt to overcome the spell by imposing its spiritual presence with a Charisma check (DC 15 + 1/2 the caster’s level + the caster’s Charisma modifier). Succeeding at any of these checks breaks the binding, and a fortunate binder suffers no additional harm from such a breach; the annoyed outsider just leaves. This is not always the case, however.

Some outsiders lash out at their failed binders. Because of this, many binders take additional precautions: a second magic circle in which they can stand, and dimensional anchor cast within the magic circle to prevent the conjured outsider from fleeing instantly. A tremendously powerful wizard or sorcerer might even use trap the soul on his victim, forcing it into a prepared vessel until it agrees to the binder’s strictures.

Smart arcane binders often make deals with the creatures they call. Like clerics using planar ally, they bargain and shower the outsider with gifts in exchange for their services. While it is always good for an arcane spellcaster to make these deals from a position of strength, it is much better to get the outsider to come to mutually agreed upon terms for the service, rather than forcing it to commit actions against its nature or desires.

True Names

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 101
There is one method of outsider coercion that helps guarantee that a binder can bargain from a position of relative security. Many spellcasters believe that a true name is inscribed on the essence of every creature, a secret word that describes it so perfectly and utterly that to speak the name is to define the being. For mortals, this name is buried in the soul, hidden away from prying and dangerous eyes. Outsiders’ true names take the form of sigils carved upon their very essence. In Hell, these sigils change as the devil changes in stature, and some that may once have held power over certain devils have become outdated. It is said that some outsiders have assumed names and that they use the aliases to lure foolish mortals into using for summoning; the outsider pretends to be under the control of the binder, but merely bides its time before it strikes.

To discover a single outsider’s true name, a spellcaster must spend at least a month in a library or on a quest of discovery to uncover occult mysteries and riddles hidden in the pages of books, scrolls, and glyphs written millennia ago, buried in ancient temples or found among the ravings of madmen’s spellbooks. At the end of this month, the GM makes a Knowledge (planes) check for the character. The DC is 10 + the creature’s Hit Dice. The GM can increase the DC by +2, +5, or even +10, based on the power of the outsider or the circumstances of the true name search. A failure by 5 or more turns up false information that may expose researchers to unexpected dangers.

For most outer-planar outsiders, knowledge of the creature’s true name is a powerful weapon. In summoning, if the name is spoken correctly (requiring knowledge of at least one of the outsider’s languages, or a Linguistics skill check with a DC equal to 10 + the creature’s Hit Dice), the target takes a –5 penalty on the Will save to resist being conjured, and if its name is inscribed in the protective magic circle, the outsider takes a –5 penalty on all checks to escape or breach that circle.

For elementals (including geniekind), such true names are not binding as they are for fiends and other outsiders, and do not give the creature a penalty to its Will save to resist being summoned. However, if the caster speaks the true name of the elemental, the elemental will most likely be intrigued enough to listen—a wizard with power and cunning enough to find an elemental’s true name is a wizard with guile and strength, and elementals treasure these qualities.

Not all outsiders have true names. The chaotic and primeval nature of proteans defies the strange logic of true names, as does the writhing chaotic nature of the qlippoth. It is unclear whether aeons have true names. There are those sages who believe each aeon has two true names, and only by finding out both names can a creature gain some control over the aeon, but such matters are purely conjecture.

Dealing with Outsiders

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 102
All outsiders love that which makes them strong. They seek to promote those qualities that offer them the greatest power, and covet their own survival. As beings—some might even call them concepts—of thought, will, and power, outsiders reward those who help them make their core concepts immortal. In short:
  • Aeons are dedicated to their often obscure and contradictory goals.
  • Agathions love the defense of good without regard for law and chaos.
  • Angels love beauty and things that destroy evil.
  • Archons love pure souls and order.
  • Azatas love beauty and freedom.
  • Daemons love death and oblivion.
  • Demons love suffering.
  • Devils love souls of any sort.
  • Elementals love power.
  • Inevitables and axiomites hate chaos and are focused on their goals.
  • Proteans love chaos and want to return the multiverse to its original chaotic state.
  • Qlippoth hate all intelligent life, as it is the engine of sin, and want it destroyed.
The reward outsiders offer may be actual aid, grudging service, or even just agreeing not to devour the binder’s soul. Regardless, it is always—always—in the binder’s best interest to make the summoning as painless as possible for the target, or else to overawe the summoned creature with the threat of utter destruction or millennia of endless pain. Attempting to treat outsiders as equals and the pact as a mere negotiating tool almost always ends in disaster. More specifics for each type of outsider are described below.

Offering appropriate gifts to the summoned creature can provide the caster a +2 bonus on the opposed Charisma check to keep it on the Material Plane. Indeed, if the gift is sweet enough, the outsider may choose not to break the strictures of the summoning, even if it has the opportunity to do so. All gifts, whether or not they are good enough to please the outsider, disappear at the spell’s conclusion. Only the worst sorts of gifts are rejected; such a rejection indicates that the summoned creature feels gravely insulted.

Anathematic Substances

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 102
All outsiders have vulnerabilities, and those who deal with them must know what these vulnerabilities are. Some binders even use weapons composed of anathematic substances to create or draw their magic circles, or may even grind such valuable weapons up to create the powder to make the circles.

For every 5,000 gp of an anathematic substance used, the caster gains a +1 bonus on the opposed Charisma check to bargain with the outsider. This destroys the substance.

Anarchic: Infused with the power of chaos, anarchic weapons are anathema to many lawful outsiders, even those who are not specifically vulnerable to the weapons.

Axiomatic: Empowered by law, axiomatic weapons are harmful to chaotic outsiders, dealing extra damage even if the outsider is not particularly vulnerable to its effect.

Alchemical Silver: While a weapon made of alchemical silver reduces damage by 1, with a minimum of 1 point of damage, it may be more effective than other weapons against certain outsiders. It has 10 hit points per inch of thickness and hardness 8.

Cold Iron: Effective against daemons, demons, and fey, cold iron has been drawn from deep beneath forbidding mountains and forged with the least heat possible. Because of the delicacy and difficulty of the process, a weapon made of cold iron costs twice as much to make, and every magical enhancement increases its price significantly. It has 30 hit points per inch of thickness and hardness 10.

Holy: A holy weapon is any weapon imbued with holy power, which allows it to bypass damage reduction for specific evil creatures and inflict an additional 2d6 points of damage on those monsters. Evil outsiders that do not have a specific vulnerability to holy weapons still take that additional damage if the weapon overcomes the creature’s damage reduction.

Mithral: Most outsiders react to mithral in the same way that they do to actual silver.

Silver: Long revered for its purity and ability to harm lycanthropes and devils, silver is also used to trap certain kinds of good outsiders.

Unholy: The opposite of the holy weapon, an unholy weapon inflicts its damage on good-aligned outsiders, but is in other respects the same.

Outsider Categories

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 103
The following sections give a general overview of the major outsider classifications, examples for each category (and their spell resistance, if any), their interests, their vulnerabilities, and what substances they dislike.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 103
Alien, unemotional, and distant, aeons are difficult to deal with because of their strange form of communication, known as envisaging, in which they employ mental imagery and sounds instead of the symbolism of speech or writing to communicate their goals. Furthermore, aeons are often unyielding in their dichotomies, and are not swayed by argument or emotion toward any end. A spellcaster who binds an aeon had better hope his goals are in concert with those of the strange outsider, because that is the only way an aeon will offer its aid.

All aeons are immune to cold, poison, and critical hits, and have resistance to electricity and fire.

Akhana (SR 23): Concerned with the duality of death and life, akhanas hunt for imbalances and rectify them with strange, seemingly random, efficiency. They do not justify their decisions or goals, which many summoners find intensely frustrating.

Bythos (SR 27): Guardians of time and planar travel, bythos search for those who abuse time travel. They make deals with binders who have similar goals, and care nothing for the motivations of binders who do not share their concerns.

Paracletus (SR 7): The most common aeon to interact with mortal spellcasters, paracletus actively search out spellcasters with strong emotion and logical capabilities. Some paracletus become familiars, experimenting upon their bonded casters with their emotion aura.

Pleroma (SR 31): Many binders believe pleromas are too powerful to call and bind, and even if such a task is possible, trying to deal with such creatures of creation and destruction may be impossible. Of all the aeons, pleromas employ logic and methods that are least describable.

Theletos (SR 18): These guardians of freedom and fate often aid spellcasters in the pursuit of the former and the implementation of the latter, but like all aeons, their views on these subjects typically seem contradictory, and they are difficult to fully control or understand.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 103
Creatures of good with little regard for the cosmic struggles of law against chaos, agathions take on bestial aspects that reflect both their nature and their goals as negotiators and meddlers for the cause of good. When bound, they often bargain for terms for their service and release in good faith with good-aligned binders, but attempt to trick and coerce evil-aligned ones.

As agathions are intensely proud of their beastlike shapes, summoners who insult their forms or imply that they are somehow lycanthropic take a –4 penalty on all Charisma checks when dealing with a bound agathion.

Agathions are immune to electricity and petrification. They have resistance to cold 10 and sonic 10, and a +4 racial bonus on saving throws against poison. They are vulnerable to unholy weapons.

Avoral (SR 20): Often bound to serve as spies and scouts, avorals delight in the challenge of such activities when bound, as long as the cause is just and worthy of their attention. They hate being confined, so evil-aligned or neutral-aligned binders typically use imprisonment as punishment or coercion.

Cetaceal (SR 26): Protectors of good aquatic races, cetaceals are often called and bound by good spellcasters for protection of aquatic territories and to serve as ambassadors or emissaries. Unscrupulous binders often make deals with cetaceals on dry land, only letting them roam the water when a bargain for service is reached.

Draconal (SR 31): Powerful, haughty, and removed from mortal affairs, these direct agents of the gods are often aggravating to deal with once bound. Patient pursuers of long-term plans, many draconals seek to wait out mortal spellcasters rather than bargain for their services. Those who wish to bind and use the power of a draconal must be epically powerful and have perfect timing, know the draconal’s true name, or be lucky enough to have plans running in concert with the agathion’s goals.

Leonal (SR 23): Coveted as bound protectors and hunters, leonals are often straightforward in their negotiations with binders. They desire simple (and good) goals, as well as definitive terms for release from their obligations.

Silvanshee (SR 13): Curious but cautious, silvanshees are often bound as familiars by neutral good spellcasters. Sometimes large groups of them are summoned and bound by powerful spellcasters to serve as spies and scouts, especially in cities where they can meld into cat populations.

Vulpinal (SR 17): These foxlike agathions deal with those who bind them into service with an outspoken friendliness. They often bluntly state their dissatisfaction with their current fate in the most diplomatic terms, frequently accompanied by a smile and a wink. They prefer to be used as messengers and emissaries in the service of good, and if bound for any other purpose, they trick their way into the resolution of their bargains as quickly as possible.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 104
All angels have numerous immunities and damage resistances, allowing them to travel across many planes of the multiverse without fear of damage. Interestingly, they can still take damage from poison, but they are strong enough to withstand most ill effects and punish those who would inflict such treacherous pain on them. They are exceptionally vulnerable to unholy weapons; solars are also vulnerable to epic-strength weapons and artifacts. Angels’ protective auras grant them protection against attacks made or effects created by evil creatures, as well as protecting those creatures around them. Any mortals who wish to deal with angels should be armed with humility and knowledge.

Angels are immune to acid, cold, and petrification effects. They also have resistance to electricity 10 and fire 10.

Astral Deva (SR 25): Astral devas are the messengers of the gods of good—or, if one were to be cynical, the gossips of the heavens. The appropriate gift for an astral deva is knowledge of a place it cannot reach: a rival temple, the location of evil cultists, or some other evil that has a direct bearing on the Material Plane

. Cassisian: The weakest sort of angels, cassisians serve as the messengers of more powerful angels, and frequently serve good spellcasters on the Material Plane as familiars. Formed from the souls of pious soldiers, they are often simply appeased with gifts that allow them to join the fray against evil creatures.

Monadic Deva (SR 23): Watchers of the Ethereal Plane and the Elemental Planes, monadic devas usually serve those who summon them only in purposes that deal with their duties on those planes. Stubborn in their causes, they demand outrageous gifts of servitude toward their own lofty goals.

Movanic Deva (SR 21): Soldier angels who often patrol the Positive Energy Plane, Negative Energy Plane, and Material Plane, these devas battle undead and the strange creatures that hunt the hungry void. When summoned to the Material Plane, they serve as forthright soldiers for the cause of good, and are appeased with gifts that allow them greater power to hunt undead and sceaduinar.

Planetar (SR 27): As the leaders of celestial armies, planetars seek knowledge and information regarding the plans of their infernal foes. Providing valuable data regarding the movement of evil forces, the locations of caches of evil weapons, or the locations of portals to the netherworld gives the binder a +2 Charisma bonus when dealing with planetars.

Solar (SR 34): The greatest warriors of goodness, solars do not typically treat directly with mortals. To summon a solar and bargain with it, a wizard must destroy an item of great evil in the solar’s name, crush a powerful evil in the world, or offer an evil relic as part of the summoning.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 104
As creatures of law and good, archons seek order, justice, and the protection of the weak against the depredations of the strong. They believe in transformation from within, whether through wholesale, systematic change of governance or personal epiphany.

All archons are immune to electricity and petrification attacks, and all have DR 10/evil. The magic circle used to summon them is made of powdered silver.

Hound (SR 15): Disciplined soldiers and vigilant sentinels, hound archons are valiant defenders of all that is good and holy. They value movement and swift yet thoughtful action, and delight in crushing evil; therefore, the best sacrifices when summoning a hound archon are magical shields imbued with holy power, ensorcelled rings or boots that grant swift or unfettered movement, or weaponry of great power.

Lantern: The least of the archons, lantern archons are friendly, and their greatest ambition is to see the cause of good advanced. To gain their favor, one should engage in a week’s worth of charity or make a sincere offering worth 100 gp to a good cause in the name of Heaven.

Shield (SR 21): Solid, stoic, and often defensive even in personality, shield archons are highly skeptical of those who attempt to bind them, but if they can work in the defense of the common good or opposed to the machinations of fiends, they commonly ask their binder to care for and protect a shrine or temple as a gift for their service.

Star (SR 30): Brilliant, wise, and constantly strategizing the protection of Heaven or the defeat of the forces of evil, star archons often chafe under the bindings of mortal spellcasters. Negotiations often devolve into the star archon blasting his binder for shortsightedness and wasting the archon’s time. Star archons demand outrageous gifts even when the cause is just. Only when the archon’s and the binder’s goals work in close concert are the gifts the archon demands nearly attainable.

Trumpet (SR 25): Mighty warriors and messengers, trumpet archons are the leaders of Heaven’s strike forces and the heralds of gods. To gain their favor, one must prove worthy of their presence; rather than making offerings of things, trumpet archons ask for sacrifices of service and time, and any binder who offers an exchange of services—and intends to keep her word—gains a +2 Charisma bonus. Those who renege on their bonds see their fortunes begin to vanish, and take a –2 Charisma penalty when dealings with good extraplanar creatures until they set matters right.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 105
Those who follow the precepts of freedom, individuality, and goodness find that summoning azatas is the best course in finding extraplanar allies. Few azatas agree on the particulars of specific issues, but they are determined to see evil’s defeat. Azatas are whimsical but determined, and recognize that the best way to bring good to the multiverse is not by enforcing their desires, but by example and word.

Except for lillends, azatas have DR overcome by cold iron and evil weapons. They are immune to electricity and petrification; lillends are additionally immune to poisons of all sorts.

The magic circle needed to summon an azata is made of cold iron.

Bralani (SR 17): Bralani azatas are fierce and wild, and constantly seek to prove themselves in battle or in contests of wits. If a wizard suggests a game of strength, wits, or dexterity that the bralani has not played, or develops a new one for the bralani to take back to Elysium, he receives a +2 Charisma bonus when negotiating with the azata.

Brijidine (SR 28): Lovers of fire, poetry, and spicy food, a brijidine can be successfully wooed with rare (and fireproof ) scrolls of poetry or a gourmet spicy dish. Binders should be aware, however, that brijidine have exotic, expensive, and particular tastes.

Ghaele (SR 25): Ghaeles are strong hunters, courtly and knightly, and pursue great foes. Offering them evidence of the binder’s mighty hunts (at least 3 CR higher than the binder), or summoning them to a locale where they can pursue dragons or fiends provides a Charisma bonus to the caster.

Lillend: The most artistic of the azatas, lillends love stories, histories, tales, poems, and songs. Offerings to summoned lillends include original songs, performances, or other art forms; they also adore magical instruments.

Lyrakien: Musicians among the azata, lyrakien can be persuaded to service with gifts of wondrous musical instruments and rare bits of music—especially fey music.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 105
All daemons have a common goal: bringing death, destruction, and pain to mortals. They eat souls, and stop at nothing to sate their hunger for them. Daemons are not to be trifled with. The greater lords of the daemons— the deacons and the Four Horsemen themselves—are almost never summoned. Whether this is because they force others to arrive in their place, or because they have somehow anchored themselves to the plane of Abaddon, none can say with certainty.

Daemons are immune to acid, death effects, disease, and poison, and all are vulnerable to good and/or silver weapons. They have resistance to cold 10, electricity 10, and fire 10.

Astradaemon (SR 27): Powerful but relatively dim hunters of souls, astradaemons can only be bribed into service by two things—a feast of souls and the promise to spread death.

Cacodaemon: Savage and hungry, most cacodaemons cannot suppress their savage natures long enough to make deals. At best, the binder can trick a cacodaemon toward actions in concert with her purposes.

Ceustodaemon: The most common daemons summoned to the Material Plane, ceustodaemons are relatively easy to deal with, though none know if this is because of some deliberate action by more powerful daemons. They are often called guardian daemons, as they are frequently bound to that task.

Derghodaemon (SR 23): No one summons a derghodaemon unless they are stupid, desperate for the services of a savage killer, or both. Less intelligent than cacodaemons and twice as vicious, derghodaemons do not deal with any creature, and relentlessly attempt to escape their binding, usually with brute force.

Hydrodaemon (SR 19): On their home plane, these vile creatures swim the River Styx; on the Material Plane, they are often called to serve as guardians in swamps and sanctuaries of unscrupulous spellcasters. More pliable than most of their fiendish kin, hydrodaemons take treasure and the promise of souls as gifts for their services.

Leukodaemon (SR 20): Leukodaemons are the deacons of the Horseman of Pestilence, and on the rare occasions that they are summoned, they make any deal a binder wants, as long as it somehow results in the spreading of disease and devastation.

Meladaemon (SR 22): As deacons of the Horseman of Famine, meladaemons are rarely summoned by mortal spellcasters, and typically only agree to actions aligned with their own agendas or those of their lord.

Olethrodaemon (SR 31): The mammoth olethrodaemons often make deals with mortals wishing to evoke devastation on rival lands, sometimes even asking only half the normal offering for the privilege. Even those olethrodaemons serving one of the Four Horsemen as paragons can be summoned, though it is often assumed that such a feat is done only at their master’s whim.

Piscodaemon (SR 21): Lovers of misery, especially that of the strong and powerful, piscodaemons eagerly make deals with mortals who wish to use them as soldiers against the powers of good—especially armies composed of or led by paladins.

Purrodaemon (SR 29): Steadfast servants of the Horseman of War, purrodaemons may be the easiest deacon daemons to summon. It seems their master often gives them leave to spread war on the Material Plane, but their service to any binder is often brief and violent, for both daemon and spellcaster.

Thanadaemon (SR 24): As deacons of the Horseman of Death, thanadaemons are hardly ever summoned by mortal spellcasters, and when they are, the event portends a near-apocalyptic end of mortal life.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 106
The great weakness of demons is a holy or other good weapon. Such weapons overcome every demon’s natural resistances, and are one of the few types of weapons that all demons fear equally. When dealing with demons, it is best to remember that they abide by no contract other than power, and displaying power—or at least hints of it—is key to keeping them under control. Their magic circle is made of powdered cold iron.

All demons are immune to electricity and poison effects. Many have other resistances based on their forms and chaotic natures.

Babau (SR 17): Any sacrifice for a babau must involve an intelligent creature, which the demon must be allowed to rend and utterly destroy.

Balor (SR 31): Balors do not come when summoned, and actively resist calls. Only the offer of a bound CR 15 lawful or good outsider, or a helpless paladin or cleric of 15th level or higher, dims their rage at being snatched from their home. Even thus placated, they will surely seek revenge unless the mortal they face demonstrates a greater power.

Dretch: As the slave labor of the infinite Abyss, the lot of the dretch would be pitiable if the creature weren’t so contemptible. The best sacrifice for a dretch is the promise that it can spend at least a third of its time in servitude resting.

Glabrezu (SR 24): These treacherous demons peddle in secrets that destroy, and to bring them to the Material Plane as interested negotiators, the caster must know secrets that can destroy influential families, bring down nations, or otherwise befoul the bedrock of society.

Hezrou (SR 22): Expensive poisons and powerful potions worth at least 500 gp can pique the interest of these toadlike demons.

Marilith (SR 28): Either powerful magic weapons (+2 enchantment or greater) or the promise of the command of armies of cults can lure a marilith; any offer less than this earns the caster a –6 penalty on the Charisma check.

Kalavakus (SR 21): These horned demons almost always barter for slaves in return of their services.

Nabasu (SR 19): These demons love nothing more than devouring or enslaving humanoids so they can grow fatter and stronger.

Nalfeshnee (SR 25): These demons love knowledge, especially that within their specialties of manipulation and greed. Nalfeshnees bargain knowledge for knowledge, but never give more than they gain.

Omox (SR 23): These slimy demons enjoy the destruction of beautiful things. For their services, they often take “gifts” that involve the destruction of beautiful things—in particular an attractive young man or woman as sacrifice.

Quasit: Even more pathetic than the dretch, the quasit seeks only the assurance that it can return to the Abyss when its task is complete.

Shadow Demon (SR 17): The shadow demon asks merely for the shell of a beautiful person to wear for the duration of its servitude. It does not care whether that shell is pure or impure.

Shemhazian (SR 27): These powerful demons serve mortal spellcasters for only one price—when their service is done, they get to kill and devour the binder. This makes attempts to control them very rare. Sometimes they demand the life of the binder’s family or friends as well.

Succubus (SR 18): The primary joy of the succubus is in destroying innocence and love; offering a child, virgin, or a beloved family member of the caster suffices to gain the interest of the succubus.

Vrock (SR 20): The vrock loves to despoil and befoul things of great beauty. Artwork worth at least 250 gp or a living, intelligent creature to destroy are equally desirable sacrifices. As their dance of ruin attack is more powerful the more vrocks are involved, they are often conjured and bribed in groups.

Vrolikai (SR 30): These transformed nabasus hate being summoned to the Material Plane, believing their time there is over and they are meant for greater things. When summoned, they typically ask for twice the normal amount in gifts. These demands are often accompanied by outrageous, sometimes impossible demands. They can eventually be reasoned with, but only when binders demonstrate power over them.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 107
Devils regard both holy items and silver as deadly substances, and instinctively shy away from contact with such items. Even those for whom silver presents no danger avoid its touch whenever possible. Binders who want to deal with infernal outsiders as putative allies keep these substances at least 60 feet from the summoning circle; however, if they wish to threaten their infernal subjects, they keep them close at hand. The powdered silver used to create the magic circle is a warning and a trap, but it is not an overt threat—summoned devils recognize it as part of the procedure to call them to the Material Plane. Note that even silver candlesticks or bells can be used as weapons of opportunity, but the best defense, should the wizard choose to display force, is a weapon bonded with alchemical silver.

An even better defense against devils, however, is a holy weapon. As with demons, a holy weapon is strong enough to drive through any devil’s natural defenses, and the presence of such an item in the summoning chamber is an affront to more powerful or subtle devils.

Note that all devils are immune to fire and poison; the blasted landscapes of their home plane quickly destroy any who show vulnerabilities to these effects. All devils can withstand acid and cold as well, though to varying degrees, and few of them show any fear of suffering that damage. They have resistance to acid 10 and cold 10.

Additionally, one can enhance summoning for specific kinds of devils by appealing to those devils’ specific natures.

Accuser Devil: Popular among conjurers and summoners as spies and infiltrators, accuser devils often forgo haggling on gifts for their services, as the information they gain is worth more than any gift of treasure the binder can offer.

Barbed Devil (SR 22): Extraordinarily jealous of their duties and even more so of their time, barbed devils may grudgingly accept offers of rare treasures and gems worth more than 2,000 gp, with the usual +2 Charisma bonus to summoning—but only when the task takes less than 24 hours to complete. If the service takes any longer, the binder takes a –2 Charisma penalty.

Bearded Devil (SR 16): The best way to attract the eye of a bearded devil is to offer a restrained victim for its bloody use, so that it might painfully murder its target.

Belier Devil (SR 28): These massive masterminds are rarely summoned to the Material Plane, but when they are, they often try to finagle their way out of such circumstances as quickly as possible.

Bone Devil (SR 20): These devils adore secrets and infernal lore, and those who provide hellish tomes or evidence of influential mortal vices gain a +2 Charisma bonus on their summoning checks.

Erinyes (SR 19): As the spirits of corrupted angels, erinyes are bitter and rage against the heavens. To entice an erinyes, offer it a significant holy item for it to despoil, or the cleric of a good-aligned god to ravish and ruin.

Handmaiden Devil (SR 25): Deals made with handmaiden devils are often extremely hard bargains. They typically ask for the unthinkable, such as the lives of innocent children—the younger the better.

Horned Devil (SR 27): As the elite of Hell’s armies, horned devils value strength and daunting power; anyone who offers them an intimidating weapon enchanted to +2 or better gains the +2 Charisma bonus.

Ice Devil (SR 24): As the schemers and planners of Hell’s devils, laboring in their personal machinations, gelugons are extraordinarily difficult to summon. However, casters willing to offer an exchange of services—one in which the caster is likely to see the short end of the deal—may earn a Charisma bonus. Those who renege on their bargains with gelugons often learn what it means to displease Hell.

Immolation Devil (SR 30): These devils often ask for lands on the Material Plane as gifts. If such lands are granted, they use these places to launch attacks on neighbors, further expanding the territory of Hell.

Imp: Imps prefer small and bloody sacrifices that show the binder’s desire to do evil—for instance, a heart torn from a living dove grants a +2 Charisma modifier on the summoning check.

Lemure: Lemures prefer reminders of their former lives, and so the best offering is food or pornography.

Pit Fiend (SR 31): Pit fiends, the greatest of all the nonnoble devils in Hell, are rarely tempted to answer a summons; when called, most of them come to see the stupidity or the arrogance that brought them to the Material Plane before snatching the wizard away for an eternity of torment. Only the greatest of promises, such as a noble offering the enslavement of an entire empire, a priest offering the destruction of holy relics, or an antipaladin pledging the delivery of a helpless and noteworthy angel for the pit fiend’s pleasure, might induce the pit fiend into service.

Elementals and Genies

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 108
True elementals are simple creatures, thriving spirits animating bodies of pure elemental matter. They regard their lives as an eternal struggle to best themselves and each other. Each elemental type is uniquely suited to adapting to conditions on its particular plane, and is arrogant about its powers when surrounded by its element... and uniquely frightened and cowed when shown a greater power or encased in an element not its own. Most elementals do not bargain for favors—they respect only strength. Genies are the more human-like denizens of the elemental planes, both in shape and mentality. They consider themselves physically and culturally superior to true elementals.

In general, one summons an elemental for brute work and combat, and a genie for magical power or ancient wisdom, and would thus use summon monster and planar binding for those tasks, respectively. However, should a conjurer wish to bind an elemental as he would a genie or fiend, the ritual is one of wrestling with the elemental’s creativity in reaching its home element. Elementals are immune to bleed, paralysis, poison, sleep effects, and stunning. They are not subject to critical hits, precision-based attacks like sneak attack, or flanking.

Genies seek and value power, though they are more brash and boastful than most. It is said the best way to secure the attentions of a genie is to speak its true name, and to offer it aid in battles against its political enemies—a wise conjurer researches the inner battles of geniekind before summoning a genie, or else is prepared to cow the genie with strong magic.

Air Elemental: When summoning an air elemental, inscribe the magic circle with diamond powder, and release the elemental only once it has acquiesced to the caster’s power. This costs an additional 2,000 gp but adds +4 to the Charisma check.

Belker: These dull-witted creatures enjoy expensive incense and exotic green woods that create heavy smoke.

Crysmal: Unlike other elementals, crysmals do bargain, but agree to a binder’s demands only if offered a substantial amount of crystal, which they use for reproduction.

Djinni: Tomes of knowledge or powerful wondrous items tempt djinn and grant the caster a +2 bonus on the Charisma check.

Earth Elemental: Prepare the summoning chamber with swirling wind- and air-based spells to prevent the elemental from touching the floor. Maintaining this state for 5 rounds demonstrates the binder’s superiority over the elemental, and grants a +4 bonus on the Charisma check.

Efreeti: These warlike creatures value weapons with enhancement bonuses of at least +2 and scrolls of 4th-level or higher spells; these provide a +2 bonus on the binder’s Charisma check. Efreet also appreciate attractive humanoid slaves, which give a +1 bonus on the binder’s Charisma check for every 10 slaves offered.

Fire Elementals: When summoning a fire elemental, enclose the casting chamber with stone, remove flammable materials from the room, and prepare a magic circle and spells to protect against fire. Keeping large blocks of ice in the room saps the elemental’s power and cows it into submission more quickly, giving the caster a +4 bonus on the Charisma check to trap the elemental.

Ice Elemental: Binders use actual fire, fire spells, protections against cold, and sometimes even fire creatures to keep ice elementals at bay during summoning. An ice elemental often yields to its binder as soon as serious melting occurs.

Invisible Stalker: The tactics used to bind invisible stalkers are similar to those used for binding air elementals. Unlike many elementals, invisible stalkers bargain for their services, which is why they are often summoned by mortal spellcasters.

Janni: The weakest of the genies, the jann are also proud and prone to insult. Gifts of rich fabrics, gems, or jewelry worth 1,000 gp or more soften their outlook and give the conjurer a +2 bonus on her Charisma check.

Lightning Elemental: Lightning elementals are similar to air elementals in that the same bindings work on them, though binders would do well to reinforce such bindings and themselves with protections against electrical damage.

Marid: Capricious and unpredictable, marids love performance and art—providing them artwork worth 1,000 gp or playing a DC 30 Perform (any) piece (whether performed by the binder or his ally) piques their interest long enough for the conjurer to gain a +2 Charisma bonus.

Magma Elemental: Magma elementals are composite elemental creatures, taking some aspects from earth elementals and fire elementals. Unsurprisingly, a mix of binding strategies from those two types of elementals often keeps these savage things at bay.

Mihstu (SR 19): The strategy for binding and commanding these creatures is similar to that for an air elemental. Unlike other elementals, mihstu typically bargain with the binder, as many wish to haunt the dark places of the Material Plane.

Mud Elemental: While mud elementals vary in consistency, all of them fear becoming too watery or too dry, as both conditions have adverse effects on them. Using air spells and petrification spells as punishments for noncompliance usually makes these elementals more willing to take direction and enter into negotiations for appropriate gifts for services rendered.

Sandman: Subtle and craftier than other elementals, these creatures nearly always bargain with their binder, but are arrogant and headstrong. Even after their task is done, they voluntarily remain on the Material Plane to wreak as much havoc as possible.

Shaitan: As the most dense and brash of the genies, shaitans like games of chance and physical skill best of all. Should the caster offer services in exchange for a throw of the dice or a wrestling match—and go through with the offer—he’ll receive a +2 bonus on his Charisma check.

Thoqqua: Natives of the harsh landscape where the Planes of Fire and Earth collide, thoqquas are dangerous creatures to summon and bind, and typically rage against their confines, even when properly bound. Those wishing to bind a thoqqua frequently use mephit intermediaries, as those creatures seem to understand thoqquas enough to calm them.

Water Elemental: When summoning a water elemental, remove sources of water from the room and prepare a bonfire. A ring of fire around the magic circle exposes the elemental to its hated enemy the instant it appears on the Material Plane, distracting it long enough for the binder to seize control. This is an opposed Will check, granting a +1 bonus to the caster for each large fire in the room; success grants a +4 bonus on the Charisma check.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 109
Originally created by the axiomites (see page 36 of the Bestiary 2) as an unflinching army to fight the chaotic proteans, inevitables used to fight an explicit war against those creatures but now wage an indirect war against them. Most inevitables fight this war by tracking down and rectifying egregious violations of law. Incorruptible in its mission, when bound by a being who wishes to subvert it, an inevitable often waits the binder out. Inevitables simply refuse to deal with binders who wish to use them against their designed and decreed purpose.

Arbiter (SR 13): Arbiters are the scouts and spies of the inevitables, and are typically bound to serve as familiars to lawful spellcasters, especially those who fight the taint of protean chaos.

Kolyarut (SR 23): As the enforcers of bargains, kolyaruts can be bound into service to enforce a bargain. The binder needs to beware, though—if she fails to keep a bargain with a kolyarut, she can quickly become the subject of its punishment. Kolyaruts never bargain with known breakers of such agreements.

Lhaksharut (SR 31): Concerned with keeping the various planes separate, lhaksharuts often make deals with mortal spellcasters working in concert with those goals. They are always willing to destroy links between planes, but sometimes agree to let a gateway stay open and serve as its protector as long as such a mission serves its primary function in some way. They never work against the separation of the planes.

Marut (SR 26): Maruts hunt those who artificially extend their lives though powerful magic. They bargain with binders who call them for the express purpose of hunting down such a creature. All other bindings are stubbornly ignored, even under duress.

Zelekhut (SR 20): Zelekhuts often answer the call of binders who wish to use them to search out and even execute those who seek to evade justice.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 110
Slithering creatures of pure chaos, proteans claim they were the masters of the multiverse before the first gods created the other planes from the pure chaos of the primeval beginnings. They seek to tear down the multiverse and restore it to its original chaotic form. Bound proteans seek to find a way to achieve this goal even when bargaining with those who dare summon and bind them.

Proteans are immune to acid and have resistance to electricity 10 and sonic 10. Their amorphous anatomy grants them immunity to polymorph effects and resistance to critical hits and sneak attack damage. They are protected by a continuous freedom of movement, as per the spell.

Imentesh (SR 21): These heralds of chaos often heed the call of binders who wish to utilize the power of proteans. In conversation they are often talkative, seemingly helpful, and polite, but they are always plotting their escape in order to unleash as much chaos as possible.

Keketar (SR 28): The most zealous of all the proteans, keketars see it as their sacred duty to return all existence to its true chaotic state. These creatures are extremely arrogant, and often seek to manipulate those foolish enough to bind them toward their own entropic purposes.

Naunet (SR 18): These bestial proteans are hard to control. Those who bind these dangerous bundles of rage and destruction are lucky if they can wield the naunets’ destructive power for their own purposes—at least for a short while.

Voidworm: To most other proteans, these tiny creatures aren’t true proteans at all, just pale reflections of protean powers manifesting in the twisting currents of Limbo. Mortal spellcasters sometimes call these creatures to serve as familiars.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 110
Only the most insane or desperate spellcasters dare to call and bind a qlippoth. The qlippoth’s unpredictable nature, horrific appearance, and hatred for all mortal life make them some of the most dangerous outsiders to summon. They were once rulers of the Abyss, but were overthrown when the souls of mortal sinners arrived and transformed into the first demons. While qlippoth may bargain with mortal spellcasters, they don’t feel bound to follow such agreements, and often blatantly disregard the orders of their binders, no matter the consequences.

Qlippoth are immune to cold, mind-affecting effects, and poison. They have resistance to acid 10, electricity 10, and fire 10. All but the least have an aura of fear and madness.

Augnagar: Stupid and ravenous, these cannibalistic qlippoth rarely bargain with their binders, but can be threatened into what passes for qlippoth service.

Chernobue (SR 23): These flopping and writhing things are only concerned with spreading their vile poison. They do not bargain with binders.

Cythnigot: The most common type of qlippoth found on the Material Plane, cythnigots are called by some chaotic evil spellcasters to act as familiars; a cythnigot latches on to a Tiny animal familiar the spellcaster already has.

Iathavos (SR 31): The powerful and singular iathavos never answers the call of a binder, even an epic one.

Nyogoth: These hungry, abyssal bottom feeders heed the calls of spellcasters, but typically only to find new things to eat in far-off places. Though not stupid, nyogoths are hard to reason with, and only respond when offered new and interesting things to eat.

Shoggti: Next to cythnigots, shoggti are the most common qlippoth found on the Material Plane. These masters of mind manipulation are always on the hunt for living slaves for their inexplicable plans. A shoggti quickly heeds the call of a binder, hoping to eventually turn her into its newest thrall.

Thulgant (SR 25 vs. lawful spells and creatures): These powerful qlippoth are too arrogant and self-important to answer the call of a spellcaster wishing to bind them.

Other Outsiders

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 110
While the groups above detail all the major types of outsiders, the Great Beyond is called great for a reason, and there are countless other outsiders that a potential binder can call. In theory, any outsider can be called and a binder can attempt to press that creature into service, though the proper strategy for doing so is contingent on the abilities, desires, and goals of the particular outsider.

There is one group of outsiders that it is more difficult to bind: the native outsider. A native outsider cannot be called and bound from the Material Plane. In order to call any outsider, it must be on a different plane from the binder. Native outsiders (or other outsiders currently manifesting on the Material Plane) can only be called and bound by spellcasters on a different plane.

Building and Modifying Constructs

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 111
The Craft Construct feat allows a spellcaster to create all manner of permanent constructs in a process much like magic item creation. Each construct has a purchase price and a crafting cost, along with a list of requirements and the skills used to create them. Some require special materials in addition to the cost for basic crafting supplies, generally for the construct’s body. Special material costs increase both the purchase price and the crafting cost of the construct. The DC to craft a construct is 5 + the default caster level of the construct, just like for a magic item. Like when crafting magic items, a creator with a sufficiently high skill bonus may ignore these requirements. Each missing requirement increases the Craft DC by 5. Regardless, the creator must meet all item creation feats and minimum caster level requirements. Crafting a construct takes 1 day per 1,000 gp in the item’s base price, excluding any special material costs. This process is identical to the process for crafting a magic item, including the rules for accelerating creation and handling interruptions.

Animated Objects

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 111
Not all constructs are built with the Craft Construct feat. Spells like animate objects allow a caster to temporarily animate an existing object. These constructs are in many ways weaker than manufactured constructs, as they are susceptible to dispelling and antimagic.

A caster can use the animate objects spell to instantly create a temporary construct. A permanency spell cast upon an animated object makes the construct permanent; however, it can still be dispelled or suppressed by antimagic. Craft Construct creates permanent animated objects not susceptible to dispelling and antimagic. The CR of a potential animated object depends on its size and abilities, as explained in the animated object monster entry.

New Animated Object Abilities

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 111
The following are new abilities that can be applied to animated objects, whether created by the animate objects spell or with the Craft Constructs feat. Adding to these abilities requires the expenditure of Construction Points (CP), as described in the Animated Object monster entry.

Augmented Critical (Ex, 1 CP): Increase the threat range for the animated object’s melee attacks by 1 or the threat multiplier by 1. This cannot combine with itself or with the piercing attack or slashing attack object abilities.

Exceptional Reach (Ex, 1 CP): The object gains +5 feet of reach with one melee attack. Increase reach on all attacks for an additional +1 CP.

Improved Attack (Ex, 1 CP): All the animated object’s melee or ranged attacks do damage as though it were one size category larger. A crafter must purchase Improved Attack separately for melee and ranged attacks.

Piercing Attack (Ex, 1 CP): Replace one melee attack with an attack that does the same amount of piercing damage and has a ×3 multiplier. Replace all melee attacks for an additional +1 CP. Object abilities that specify slam attacks do not work on piercing attacks.

Ranged Attack (Ex, 2 CP): Replace one slam attack with a ranged attack. It does the same amount of damage, and has a range of 20 feet. Replace all attacks for an additional +2 CP. Object abilities that specify slam attacks do not work on ranged attacks.

Slashing Attack (Ex, 1 CP): Replace one slam attack with an attack that does slashing damage and has either a 19–20 threat range (for blade-like attacks) or a ×3 threat multiplier (for axe- or scythelike attacks). Replace all melee attacks for an additional +1 CP. Object abilities that specify slam attacks do not work on slashing attacks.

Trip (Ex, 2 CP): The object gains the trip special ability with one of its slam attacks.

Building New Constructs

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 111
Constructs typically have no Intelligence score, an average Wisdom score, and a Charisma of 1. Their dexterity is usually poor to average, though exceptionally nimble constructs do exist. Nearly all constructs of size Medium or larger have high Strength scores; constructs never have a Constitution score.

The monster creation rules in the Bestiary serve as your best guide for designing a new construct. New constructs should stick fairly close to the Monster Statistics by CR table found on page 291 of the Bestiary or the expanded table on page 293 of Bestiary 2. As they are usually mindless combat brutes, most use the “high attack” column, with damage falling in between the High and Low average damage columns. Note that all the construct’s saving throws are likely to be poor, and they have no favored saves. Lacking a Constitution score, a construct’s hit points also tend to be low in comparison to creatures with similar CRs. Consider giving any construct that doesn’t have either damage reduction or hardness a higher AC to compensate.

Pricing a New Construct

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 112
This section provides guidelines for those seeking to calculate the costs of crafting their own constructs. As a rough guideline, a construct’s price is equal to its challenge rating squared, then multiplied by 500 gp. Constructs with a fractional CR rating base their price on that fraction of 500 gp. For example, a CR 1/2 construct has a price of 250 gp. The cost of magical supplies for the Craft Construct feat is half this price, with the construct taking 1 day to create per 1,000 gp of the construct’s base price. Some constructs, particularly golems, have additional raw material costs that must be paid in full, regardless of whether the creator possesses the Craft Construct feat. Raw materials typically cost somewhere between 5% and 10% of the construct’s base price.

Constructs with multiple special abilities cost more to create. The first special ability is included in the construct’s base cost. The next two special abilities increase the calculated price by +1/2 CR per ability. Thereafter, any additional special abilities add +1 CR per ability. Examples of special abilities include having a higher DR value than a typical construct of its CR (above DR 5 for CRs 1–8, above DR 10 for CR 9+), monster statistics that exceed those recommended for the construct’s CR (see page 291 of the Bestiary), the standard golem immunity to magic, DR or hardness that can’t be overcome by all adamantine weapons, ability to be fully healed by a single spell, and most special attacks and special qualities.

Particularly powerful special abilities, such as an iron golem’s exceptionally high attack bonus, count as two lesser abilities. Animated objects are a special case— their base price is not increased by any abilities paid for with Construction Points (see the Animated Object monster entry), since these abilities are already factored into an animated object’s CR. In addition, golems and homunculi created with extra Hit Dice, the advanced template, or shield guardian abilities should all be priced as described in the Bestiary, rather than by adjusting pricing for their new CR.

Abilities that weaken or potentially place a construct at a disadvantage rarely reduce the construct’s price. An exception is the berserk ability. Constructs that have a chance of going berserk receive –1 CR adjustment to their calculated price if control can be reestablished (like a flesh golem) or –2 CR adjustment for permanent loss of control (like a clay golem).

The following is an example of the calculated costs for creating a stone golem (CR 11). A stone golem’s special abilities are golem immunity to magic, full healing from transmute mud to rock, a high to-hit bonus (+22 vs. the +19 typical for CR 11), and the ability to slow its foes. Further, since its spell vulnerabilities are not tied to common spells or effects, its immunity to magic cost is doubled, giving the stone golem a total of 5 special abilities. The first special ability doesn’t affect the cost, the next two increase the cost by +1/2 CR each, and the final two each increase the cost by +1 CR individually, making its effective CR for pricing equal to 14. This produces a calculated price of 98,000 gp, rounded up to an even 100,000 gp.

When designing a new construct, keep in mind that the above pricing formula only serves as a guideline. As with magic items, construct pricing remains more art than science, and like magic items, compare new constructs to existing ones for guidance. If you’re not sure, err on the side of a higher price.

Repairing Constructs

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 113
Even with the best of care, most constructs will eventually become damaged. Unless a construct suffers some sort of structural damage that radically alters its physical form, the construct continues to function at its full efficiency, and only falls apart once reduced to 0 hit points. Ideally, however, a construct should see some repair before it reaches that point. The make whole or rapid repair spells provide the easiest way to keep a construct in good condition. Both spells repair damaged constructs, even magic-immune ones like golems.

Failing that, a crafter can repair a construct with the Craft Construct feat. When repairing a construct, its master spends 100 gp per Hit Die of the construct, and then makes a skill check as if he were crafting the construct with a DC of 5 less than the DC for crafting that construct. With a success, the construct regains 1d6 hit points per Hit Die of the construct. Completing a repair takes 1 day per 1,000 gp spent on the repair (minimum of 1 day). Repair in this way can only be performed while the construct is inanimate or nonfunctioning. At any time, a construct’s creator can deactivate a construct under his control with a touch and a standard action.

A construct that has been completely destroyed cannot be repaired, though at the GM’s option some of the materials may be usable in the construction of a new construct. Additionally, some constructs have special means of repair, usually involving spells related to the golem’s nature (such as the use of acid damage to heal a clay golem.)

Construct Modifications

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 113
Standard constructs can be modified to enhance their base abilities, alter their appearance or function, or perform a variety of tasks beyond the intentions of their basic designs. Performing a modification provides a construct's creator with a simple way to create a unique construct. A modification can only be performed while the construct is inanimate or nonfunctioning.

Performing modifications on one's own construct requires the Craft Construct feat, and the creator must pay any additional crafting requirements and/or costs associated with the modification. Completing a modification requires 1 day per 1,000 gp of the modification's base price (minimum 1 day).

A list of all construct modifications can be found here.

Basic Modifications

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 113
These modifications are used to alter a construct’s basic properties: Armor Class, Hit Dice, and weaponry.

Armor Modification: This modification adds an enhancement bonus to the construct’s natural armor bonus or adds a magic armor property. The cost for magical enhancements equals the cost for creating magic armor as described in the Core Rulebook.

Hit Dice Modification: Hit Dice represent the overall strength and power of a construct. They affect a number of subsequent abilities, including hit points, saving throws, and base attacks. Determine the effects of a Hit Dice modification using the rules for adding creature Hit Dice on pages 290–291 of the Bestiary. Because a construct’s size is limited, a Hit Dice modification cannot increase its size. Therefore Hit Dice modification can never increase the base construct’s Hit Dice beyond 50% of its total HD. Some constructs have a defined cost for increasing Hit Dice. To calculate the cost per Hit Die of other constructs, divide the construct’s construction cost by its existing Hit Dice.

Weapon Modification: This modification enhances a construct’s physical weaponry. This process includes adding actual weapons (such as blades or spiked chains) to the physical structure of the construct or enhancing existing weapons with additional magical properties. Structural changes alter the construct’s damage only. A construct is automatically considered proficient with any weapon added to its structure as a weapon modification. The cost for adding a weapon is determined by the cost of the weapon or weapon enhancement added. The cost for magical enhancements to these weapons is the same as the cost for creating magic weapons as described on page 468 of the Core Rulebook. Performing a weapon modification also requires the Craft Magical Arms and Armor feat.

Ability Score Modification: Using this modification, a crafter can permanently increase one of the construct’s ability scores by +2 per modification. He cannot increase any abilities with a score of 0. The cost for permanently increasing an ability score is 5,000 gp.

Complex Modifications

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 114
These modifications represent more complex changes to the structure and function of the construct. The cost is equivalent to the minimum level to cast the spell × the spell level × 250 gp.

Designing Spells

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 128
Designing spells for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is a complex task that is part art, part science. This section describes what you need to think about when designing balanced, playable spells for your campaign.

Unlike magic items, spells have predefined power levels corresponding to the spell levels already in the game. When you design a spell, you have to take those power levels into account by comparing the new spell to existing spells in the Core Rulebook—a spell has to fall into the narrow range of power for one of the nine spell levels (plus cantrips or orisons). In contrast, prices for magic items are strongly granular, and are calculated to the gold piece based on precisely what features the item possesses. In other words, if you add more power to a magic item, you just increase its price to compensate, but if you add too much power to a spell, you have to make it a higher-level spell, which means you then have to compare it to a different set of example spells.

The Golden Rule

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 128
Compare your spell to similar spells, and to other spells of its intended level.

Unlike when pricing magic items, there are no formulae for how to correctly “price” a spell. The entire process is a matter of comparing the new spell you’re creating to other spells and evaluating whether your spell is weaker, stronger, or about the same as that spell or group of spells. Designing a spell requires a firm understanding of all the game’s rules, not just those related to spells. Furthermore, it requires an understanding of some unwritten game assumptions, most of which are discussed throughout this section.

Example: If you look at the spell list in the Core Rulebook, you’ll notice that there isn’t a 1st-level wizard spell that deals sonic damage. You may decide to design a spell to fill that niche, modeling it after burning hands, except dealing sonic damage instead of fire—perhaps you’d call it sonic screech. However, there’s a reason there aren’t as many sonic spells in the game: “sonic” as an energy type is a late addition to the rules, and very few monsters have any resistance to sonic damage because most monsters existed before “sonic” was defined as an energy type. Because there are fewer creatures with sonic resistance than creatures with fire resistance, sonic screech will almost always be a better spell than burning hands. That means if you introduce sonic screech into your game, you’ll see savvy players selecting it instead of burning hands. If a new spell displaces an existing spell from the roster of most spellcasters, it probably means it’s better than the other available choices—and if it’s so good that it’s obviously the best spell choice, it’s probably overpowered. Understanding the entire system of rules can help you avoid mistakes like this.

Spell Terminology

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 128
It is essential for you to understand the terminology used in the game to describe spells and the effects they can create. Before designing a new spell, familiarize yourself with “Chapter 9: Magic” in the Core Rulebook. In particular, be sure you understand the various schools and subschools and the spell stat block categories (components, range, and so on).

The following sections address aspects of spell design in order of their importance and relevance to making a balanced spell. For example, the components of a spell have very little to do with its power level unless an expensive focus or material component is involved, so components are discussed well after damage, range, duration, and saving throws.

Intended Level

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 128
Before you start, you typically need an idea of the general power level of the new spell—probably because you have a specific PC or NPC in mind who’d like to use it, and making the level too low to be significant or too high for that character to cast defeats the purpose of designing the spell. Once you know the general level of the spell—a two-level range is close enough at this point—you can progress to the next issue.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 128
The intended function is the most important consideration when designing a spell. Specifically, function refers to the tangible game effects of the spell, such as dealing damage, applying a condition such as sickened, or giving a bonus on saves or attack rolls. Everything else is cosmetic at this point—it doesn’t matter if it’s slashing damage or fire damage, makes a target sickened or confused, grants an insight bonus on saves or an enhancement bonus on attack rolls, or looks like unicorns or fire demons. Some sample functions include:
  • Deal damage to one opponent
  • Deal damage to multiple opponents
  • Apply a condition or effect to one opponent
  • Apply a condition or effect to multiple opponents
  • Give a defensive bonus to one ally
  • Give a defensive bonus to multiple allies
  • Give an offensive bonus to one ally
  • Give an offensive bonus to multiple allies
  • Heal one ally
  • Heal multiple allies
A spell can do several of these things at once, or give the caster a choice between several options, but such spells should always be less powerful than a single-purpose spell of the same spell level, so keep that in mind when designing the spell. Note that “condition or effect” is the broadest category in the above list, which includes actual conditions like sickened and panicked, as well as effects like teleportation.

Spell Research

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 129
The game rules for what a caster must do to create a new spell are very vague (see Independent Research from the Core Rulebook). This is because, like the details of creating magic items, the nitty-gritty of what the caster is doing for this research isn't important for the progress of the campaign. Just as it's not necessary to know whether a wizard is using squid ink or ink from a rare plant when crafting a scroll of burning hands, it's not necessary to know whether he's modifying gestures described in Irulark's Incunabulum or altering the pronunciation of words detailed in Murlost's Great Grimoire to create a new 1st-level attack spell. While it's fine to include these elements for flavor, particularly in a high-narrative campaign, they don't affect the outcome of the item crafting or spell research, both of which largely take place outside of game time. Therefore, this chapter is about the game mechanics of a player or GM designing a new spell, not the in-world requirements of a character researching a new spell.

Spell Damage

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 129
One of the easiest ways to measure an offensive spell’s power is to look at how much damage it does. Offensive spells are the easiest spells to design in the game, and there are dozens of examples of them in the Core Rulebook. A typical damage spell deals 1 die of damage (typically a d6) per caster level for an arcane spell (for example, shocking grasp or fireball), or 1 die of damage (typically a d6, but sometimes a d8) per two caster levels for a divine spell (for example, searing light).


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 129
The simplest spells only affect one target, whether that target is a creature, an object, or just the caster. Technically, a spell that only affects the caster (with a range of “personal” and target of “you”) is slightly weaker than one with a target of “one creature,” because being able to cast the spell on anyone makes it more versatile and thus more powerful. However, the slight decrease in power from making a spell “caster-only” should not be used to justify designing the spell at a lower level. In most cases, the caster-only spells are designed that way either because they’ve always worked that way, or because they provide a bonus that is unique and advantageous for that class, but that could get out of hand if you allowed anyone to get the benefit of the spell by casting it on them or drinking a potion of that spell; these spells should remain caster-only, but you should examine their power level as if you could cast them on anyone.

Example: Shield and true strike are both 1st-level spells that only affect the caster. If you could cast those spells on others, they’d still be at the right power level for 1st-level spells—they aren’t 2nd-level spells that you knocked down a level because you designed them as caster-only. Shield has always been a spell that only affects the caster, and there’s a game-balance reason to keep it that way: because shield grants a shield bonus, casting it on a melee character means the fighter could drop his actual shield and start wielding his weapon two-handed for extra damage. True strike was deliberately designed as a caster-only spell so a sorcerer couldn’t just cast it every round on the fighter, who’d be guaranteed a hit against a difficult monster even if he used Combat Expertise (for extra AC) and Power Attack (for extra damage). Making those spells caster-only doesn’t really weaken the spells, but it does prevent players from exploiting certain combinations that would make encounters too easy.

A spell that affects multiple creatures is more powerful than a spell that only affects one creature. Multiple-creature spells tend to either be area effects such as cones and spheres (like fireball), or allow the caster to select multiple targets as long as no two targets are more than a set distance apart (like slow). A burst effect like fireball can potentially affect many more enemies than a pick-your- targets spell like slow, but you never risk hitting your friends when you use slow. Select which type is most appropriate for the spell, but understand that selecting multiple targets is generally more powerful except at the lowest caster levels (where a low caster level means few targets compared to a burst which can affect many).

Damage Caps

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 129
Low-level damage spells are not as good as medium- or high-level damage spells—the game is designed so lowerlevel spells eventually reach a maximum amount of damage they can deal. This is because if low-level spells continued to increase in damage without hitting a maximum amount, they’d rival some higher-level spells for effectiveness, and the game isn’t as interesting if casters are using the same spells at 20th level as they were at 1st.

The maximum damage depends on the level of the spell and whether the spell is arcane or divine. This is because arcane magic is deliberately designed to be better at dealing damage to balance the fact that divine magic is better at healing. A “single target” spell only damages one creature (like shocking grasp), or divides its damage among several creatures (like burning hands or magic missile). A “multiple target” spell applies its full damage to several creatures (like fireball).

For example, a 1st-level single-target wizard spell like shocking grasp can deal a maximum of 5 dice of damage (specifically 5d6). Magic missile can be used against a single target, or the caster can split up the missiles to affect multiple creatures, dividing the single-target damage among them. Burning hands initially looks like it doesn’t obey the damage cap table because it deals multiple dice of damage against multiple creatures, but this is offset by the fact that it only deals d4s instead of d6s, and it has an extremely close and limited area of effect.

When looking at the Maximum Damage tables, also keep in mind that arcane spells usually use d6s for damage and divine spells usually use d8s, and these tables assume d6s; when looking at the damage caps for divine spells, count each d8 as 2d6. Thus, searing light is a 3rd-level single-target cleric spell that deals up to 5d8 points of damage; treating each d8 as 2d6, that counts as 10d6, which is on target for a 3rd-level cleric spell. (Note that the 1d6 per level and maximum 10d6 points of damage against undead are still correct for a spell of this level, and the slightly higher damage against light-vulnerable undead is offset by the reduced damage against constructs).

Tip: If your spell does more damage than the amount defined on the table, you should reduce the damage or increase the spell’s level.

Tip: If your spell does less damage than the amount defined on the table, you should increase the damage or add another effect to the spell. An example of this is sound burst, which only deals 1d8 points of damage (this amount never increases), but can stun creatures in the area.

Table 2-5: Maximum Damage for Arcane Spells

Spell LevelMax Damage (Single Target)Max Damage (Multiple Targets)
1st5 dice-
2nd10 dice5 dice
3rd10 dice10 dice
4th15 dice10 dice
5th15 dice15 dice
6th20 dice15 dice
7th20 dice20 dice
8th25 dice20 dice
9th25 dice25 dice

Table 2-6: Maximum Damage for Divine Spells

Spell LevelMax Damage (Single Target)Max Damage (Multiple Targets)
1st1 die-
2nd5 dice1 die
3rd10 dice5 dice
4th10 dice10 dice
5th15 dice10 dice
6th15 dice15 dice
7th20 dice15 dice
8th20 dice20 dice
9th25 dice20 dice


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 130
Spell range plays a significant part in the power of a spell. Requiring the caster to touch a target with a hostile spell means the caster is in or very close to melee combat, and is risking retaliation from enemies and attacks of opportunity from threatening opponents. Similarly, while close-range spells give the caster a little more breathing room, a hostile target is generally within the range of a single move or a charge, allowing an opponent to close and attack the caster—even at caster level 14, a close-range spell only reaches 60 feet.

In indoor situations, most medium-range combat spells may as well have an infinite range, because at the level the caster gains access to the spell, the caster can reach 150 feet or more, and few encounters deal with ranges that far—the caster can hit anything he can see. Even outdoors, a spell with a 150-foot range can hit anything in sight on a typical game mat like a Paizo GameMastery Flip-Mat (24 inches by 30 inches is 120 feet by 150 feet). Long range is likewise all-encompassing, with a 400-foot minimum range translating to almost 7 feet on a game mat—longer than many tables used for gaming. Long range only comes into play in abstract situations like launching a fireball at enemies across a large prairie, using dimension door to return to an earlier (and safer) part of the dungeon, and so on.

Obviously, touch-range spells are the weakest type of spell, close-range spells are better but not extremely so, and medium- and long-range spells may as well be identical for most purposes. Given that the Enlarge Spell feat doubles a spell’s range at a cost of +1 spell level, and the Reach Spell feat increases the range by one category (from touch to close, close to medium, medium to long), at a cost of +1 spell level, it’s reasonable to balance a spell by assuming a +1 increase in level corresponds to increasing the range category by one. For example, a spell that works like cure light wounds (normally 1st level) at close range instead of touch is appropriate for a 2nd-level spell.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 130
There are no hard-and-fast rules for determining how long a spell should last at a particular level; a weak spell may last hours, while a powerful one may only last a few rounds or be spent in one action. Your best bet is to compare your spell’s effect and duration to those of similar spells of its intended level and spells one level below and above that. Make sure you are fully aware of the differences between “instantaneous” spells and “permanent” spells.

Saving Throw

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 131
Most spells that directly affect creatures with a magical effect should allow a saving throw. Spells that create nonmagical materials that then strike or impede creatures (such as ice storm and sleet storm) do not normally require a saving throw.

Spells that require the caster to make an attack roll to hit (even if it’s a ranged touch attack) may or may not require a saving throw (enervation and searing light do not, disintegrate does). Attack effects that do not require rolling damage should always allow a saving throw to reduce or negate the effect; otherwise, the spell becomes an obvious choice for anyone of the level to cast it.

Tip: When deciding whether or not the spell should have a saving throw, consider how you’d feel if someone used the spell on your favorite PC. If your PC didn’t get any chance to resist the effect with a save or to dodge it entirely because of a failed attack roll, would you be annoyed, embarrassed, or angry? If so, you should give the spell some kind of save or attack roll, just so it’s not an always-effective option.

Fortitude Saves: Spells with Fortitude saves usually physically transform the target, apply an effect you’d normally resist with a Fortitude save (such as disease or poison), or are a form of attack that sheer physical toughness is enough to resist. In general, making a successful Fortitude save means the effect hits, but the target toughs it out, like a bear shrugging off the stinky musk sprayed by a skunk. Note that if your spell only affects creatures—not objects—then nonliving creatures such as constructs and undead are immune to the spell. For example, this makes them immune to creature-oriented polymorphing spells, but not spells such as disintegrate, which can attack objects.

Reflex Save: Spells with Reflex saves usually create a physical burst or spread in an area, like an explosion, which the target is able to dodge with a successful saving throw. In general, making a successful Reflex save means the target dodged the effect, or the effect rolled over or around the target with a lesser effect. Note that you shouldn’t build a spell where the caster makes an attack roll and the target also makes a Reflex saving throw; doing so brings Dexterity into play twice for the same spell (once for the target’s AC, once for the target’s Reflex save modifier).

Will Saves: Spells with Will saves are mental, mind-affecting attacks; the target resists with pure mental power, by using evasive thoughts or noticing flaws in the spell’s assault that can negate its effectiveness. A Will save is like a mental version of a Fortitude save; the effect “hits” the target, and whether or not it succeeds depends on the target’s willpower. Most direct-attack Will-save spells (such as sleep and phantasmal killer) are mind-affecting effects (see Descriptors, below).

Some spells can be cast on objects, and the object only gets a saving throw if it is a magic item or is held by a creature; these spells should have “(object)” listed after the type of saving throw (see shrink item).

Helpful spells and spells that do not harm the target in any way either should have no saving throw, or should allow a saving throw but have “(harmless)” listed after the type of saving throw (see fly).

Spells that only affect the caster never require a saving throw (you’d never try to resist a beneficial spell you’re casting on yourself ), so you don’t list a saving throw for those spells at all (see true strike).

Spell Resistance

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 132
Whether or not spell resistance applies to a spell depends mostly on whether or not it is an instantaneous or ongoing magical effect. Spell resistance applies to instantaneous magical effects (such as fireball) and ongoing magical effects (such as wall of fire), but not to nonmagical effects or spells that create nonmagical effects, whether instantaneous or ongoing. For example, wall of stone conjures an instantaneous wall of stone that cannot be dispelled; spell resistance doesn’t help you walk through the spell’s wall any more than it would if you tried to walk through a mortared stone wall in a castle—neither wall is magical, and both walls remain there even if you use dispel magic or antimagic field on them.

The general rule is that most spells allow spell resistance. Only when you’re deliberately designing a spell that creates a nonmagical object or nonmagical effect is spell resistance likely to be irrelevant. You can use move earth (instantaneous duration) to create a hill, and spell resistance won’t help you get over or through the hill because the spell moves the earth and thereafter stops being magical; likewise, you can use move earth to create a pit, and spell resistance won’t help you ignore the pit because it’s a nonmagical pit, just as if you had created it with a shovel. Magic stone adds magical power to stones, but spell resistance doesn’t help protect against being hit by the stones any more than spell resistance helps protect against a +1 arrow because the magic is focused on the stones, not on the creature with spell resistance.

It’s a common trick to design a spell that doesn’t allow spell resistance so the caster can use it against creatures who have spell resistance. In many cases, the idea behind the design is just silly, like a spell that creates a sphere of burning oil and hurls it at the intended area, where it bursts in an explosion of flame; clearly the intent is to create a nonmagical fireball that bypasses spell resistance. Golems in particular are often the intended targets of these spell designs, as their immunity to magic ability makes them completely immune to any effect that allows spell resistance. You should avoid letting these sorts of trick spells into your campaign, as they meddle with the balance of encounters (some monsters are designed to be harder for melee characters to fight, some are designed to be harder for spellcasters to fight, and some are just supposed to be difficult all around).

Whether or not a spell allows spell resistance is not an indicator of the spell’s power; for most encounters, spell resistance isn’t a factor.

If a spell’s saving throw entry is marked as “(harmless)” or “(object),” the spell resistance entry should say that as well.

Casting Time

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Almost all spells meant to be cast in combat should have a casting time of “1 standard action.” Avoid the temptation to invent spells with a casting time of “1 move action,” “1 swift action,” or “1 immediate action,” as that’s just a cheesy way for spellcasters to be able to cast two spells in 1 round, and there’s already a mechanism for that: the Quicken Spell feat. Making combat spells with faster casting times devalues the Quicken Spell feat; even if you design the spell to be similar to a quickened spell, including the +4 level boost, it steals from casters who actually learn that feat, and your spell would become a common combo for high-level casters who can afford extra spells of that level. For example, if you create a 5th-level quickened magic missile spell that acts just like a magic missile spell with the Quicken Spell feat, any 14th-level wizard (who has at least three 5th-level spells available) is going to be tempted to learn this spell just because it allows him to add 5d4+5 extra points of damage to any high-level combat spell he casts, which is a way to get around the spell-damage cap. Furthermore, allowing spellcasters to routinely cast two spells per round means they tend to use up their spells more quickly and push their allies to camp and rest rather than continue exploring.

Spells that summon creatures to help in combat should have a casting time of “1 round.” This is to give a reasonable action cost for a character casting the spell. If the caster could summon a monster using a standard action and have it act that same round, it’s like the spell didn’t cost him any actions at all.

Spells that call an outsider to serve for more than a few rounds (such as planar ally and planar binding) should have a casting time of 10 minutes; more powerful spells may have even longer casting times. Note that gate can be used to call creatures and only has a casting time of 1 standard action, but when used this way, it requires a 10,000 gp material component, so that faster casting time doesn’t come cheaply.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 133
For the most part, a spell’s components have very little to do with its overall power level unless it requires a costly focus or material component or has no component at all. Most spells in the Core Rulebook have verbal and somatic components, and new spells should follow this trend.

The advantage of spells that don’t require verbal components is they can be cast in an area of silence, and thus there is the temptation to create silent versions of common combat spells. However, doing so devalues the Silent Spell feat, just like making swift-action spells devalues Quicken Spell, though not to such a great extent (casting two spells per round is a more serious problem than having a backup spell to counteract an unexpected silence). If casters decide they’d rather prepare a silent magic missile instead of acid arrow, or a silent acid arrow instead of fireball, they’ve deliberately chosen weaker options, and that’s fine.

The advantage of spells that don’t require somatic components is they can be cast when bound, grappled, or when both hands are full or occupied, and arcane spell failure doesn’t apply. Just as creating silent versions of spells devalues Silent Spell, making non-somatic spells devalues the Still Spell feat. The premise of the game is that most spells require words and gestures, and new spells should stick with that unless the theme of the spell suggests it wouldn’t require a somatic component, or it was specifically designed to escape bindings or grapples.

The advantage of spells that don’t require material components is they don’t require a spell component pouch (and in the rare circumstance in which if you’re grappled, you needn’t already have your material components in hand to cast the spell). Most material components are part of a spell for flavor rather than to satisfy rules. The guano and sulfur material components of fireball are there because early gunpowder (black powder) was made from guano and sulfur. The fur and glass rod material components of lightning bolt come from the ability to create a buildup of static electricity by rubbing fur against a glass rod. The game could present those spells without material components at all, and it would have a negligible effect on how the game plays (as proven by the “it has whatever I need” spell component pouch, and the sorcerer class getting Eschew Materials as a bonus feat)—they’re just in the spell for fun. Balance your spell assuming it has no material components or free material components, and then add them in if the flavor seems appropriate.

Costly material components should be used to prevent overzealous players from casting the spell as often as they want, because the spell either makes adventuring too easy if everyone in the party has it (such as stoneskin), allows the PCs to bypass key adventuring experiences like exploring and investigating (such as augury, divination, and commune), or allows the PCs to trivialize certain threats (such as raise dead and restoration). Balance a spell without costly material components if possible, usually by raising the spell level if it is too good for the intended level. Sometimes the power level of a spell is on target (like augury, as it makes sense to have a low-level divination spell for clerics), but the spell is valuable enough that players will overuse it if it’s free, so you have to apply a gp cost to moderate how often the PCs use it. Long-lasting defensive spells such as glyph of warding also fit into this category; if they were free, every spellcaster would cover her lair in them, casting one per day for the weeks or months of planning the NPC has before the PCs arrive. By giving glyph of warding a gp cost, it allows for more traditional adventuring—otherwise every square the PCs walk on is a potential trap, slowing play to a crawl as the PCs are forced to slowly and carefully search every square to notice the glyphs (given that a typical 5th-level rogue has +14 to Perception against a DC 28 glyph, meaning she fails most searches unless she takes 20).

Focus components are governed by the same rules as material components—in most cases they’re just there for flavor, and are only relevant if costly. A costly focus is like a costly material component, except it’s a one-time expenditure rather than a repeat expenditure, a barrier to entry that you can ignore once you’ve crossed the threshold. A costly focus is a good way to delay when PCs gain access to the spell, but once they have the materials, it’s essentially just like any other spell without a costly focus. As with material components, balance the spell for its level, and if it seems like the spell is too good and delaying access to it would help moderate it, consider adding a costly focus component.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 133
In terms of balancing the power of a spell, its school isn’t very important—a 6th-level conjuration attack spell should be about as powerful as a 6th-level evocation attack spell. Deciding on the spell’s school is really about choosing what best fits the theme and effect of the spell. Spells that deal energy damage to an area are usually conjuration or evocation spells. Spells that call, summon, or create physical objects or creatures are usually conjuration spells, while those that create things made of energy or force are usually evocation spells. Spells that affect minds are usually enchantment spells, unless they cause fear or affect undead, in which case they’re necromancy spells.

Bonus Type

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 134
There are many types of bonuses in the game. It’s tempting to look at that list of bonuses, find “holes” in the spell list that don’t have spells for certain bonus types, and create a new spell that adds one of those unused bonus types to your favorite statistic or roll. Resist this temptation. Not all bonus types are equal within the game, and many bonus types are only meant for certain things. See Table 2–7: Bonus Types and Effects.

A dash entry (—) in the table indicates there are no common examples of items or spells that grant that kind of bonus. If you’re designing an item or spell and want to include a certain type of bonus to a particular ability or statistic, check Table 2–7 first; if the bonus type doesn’t say it can affect that ability or statistic, use one that does instead. One reason for this table is that some bonuses are better than others (deflection bonuses work against incorporeal creatures and when you are flat-footed, natural armor bonuses do not). A second reason is that allowing any kind of bonus on any roll or statistic makes it really easy to stack many small bonuses more cheaply than a larger bonus, which makes powerful magic items like a ring of protection +5 much less interesting. A third reason is that some of these combinations just don’t make sense, like a deflection bonus to Strength or a shield bonus on Knowledge checks.

Table 2-7: Bonus Types and Effects

Bonus TypeCan AffectSample ItemSample Spell
AlchemicalAbility scores, savesAntitoxin-
ArmorACBracers of armorMage armor
CircumstanceAttacks, checksRobe of blending-
CompetenceAttacks, checks, savesBoots of elvenkindGuidance
DeflectionACRing of protection-
EnhancementAbility scores, AC, attacks, damage, speedBelt of giant strengthMagic weapon
InherentAbility scoresManual of bodily healthWish
InsightAC, attacks, checks, savesDusty rose prism ioun stoneTrue strike
LuckAC, attacks, checks, damage, savesStone of good luckDivine favor
MoraleAttacks, checks, damage, saves, Str, Con, DexCandle of invocationBless
Natural armorACAmulet of natural armorBarkskin
ProfaneAC, checks, damage, DCs, saves-Desecrate
ResistanceSavesCloak of resistanceMind blank
SacredAC, checks, damage, DCs, saves-Consecrate
ShieldACRing of force shieldShield
SizeAbility scores, attacks, AC-Enlarge person
* Spells and magic items should never grant dodge bonuses because dodge bonuses always stack, and it would be a simple matter achieving that AC using the armor, deflection, enhancement, and natural armor bonuses in the game.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 134
The description is the meat of the spell, and what you put here is the most important information of all.

Make sure the spell description is clear and concise. Remember that players are going to refer to the spell description in a hurry during their turn of combat, and if they have to fight their way through flowery language to figure out the details, the resulting delay will annoy other players and the GM. If the spell has several complex effects, put each effect into its own paragraph. If the spell allows the caster to choose from several options, put each option on its own line with an italicized name (see binding for an example).

Anything that appears in the spell stat block doesn’t need to appear again in the spell description—it’s redundant. For example, the fireball description doesn’t say, “The spell can reach up to 400 feet plus 40 feet per caster level.” Extraneous text like that is just more clutter for the player to sift through when looking up the spell’s effects in the middle of combat.

Avoid using language that implies something that the game mechanics of the spell don’t back up. For example, a spell’s description shouldn’t say “using the foul powers of necromancy” if the spell doesn’t actually have some sort of evil effect or the evil descriptor. This sort of mistake is most common with necromancy spells, which include not only many obviously evil spells, but also a fair share of helpful ones as well (such as astral projection, gentle repose, and undeath to death). People who read your spell description may not know your intent, and using flavorful language can trick readers into thinking a spell should have additional effects not explicitly spelled out in the description.

Remember that while you may be designing a spell with a particular character or class in mind, most spells are going to have a broader availability. You have to think of the spell in the hands of the biggest power gamer, and in use by a character who is very different than the one for whom it is designed. Even a simple sorcerer/wizard spell has to deal with two different types of casters: a wizard, who can learn many spells but can only cast a few per day, and a sorcerer, who knows few spells but can cast many per day. A spell that is good for a wizard may be too good when used by a sorcerer because the sorcerer can use it more times per day. Likewise, think of what happens if the PCs can access the spell in potion or scroll form—you may intend for the spell to be rare and for the PCs to not have it most of the time, but a wizard can create scrolls of rarely used spells and save them for just the right opportunity.

When you finish writing a spell description, have others look it over. They’ll notice things you missed, come up with questions your spell needs to address, and find ways your spell can be abused. Use that feedback to revise the spell.

Hierarchy of Attack Effects

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 135
When it comes to attack spells, there is a clear hierarchy of what kinds of effects are better than others. Here are the attack effects in order of best effect to worst, assuming all other factors (specific immunities, number of targets affected, and so on) are equal.

Control: A control spell puts an opponent under your control, turning him into an ally or at least keeping him from being an active enemy for a while. This is the best kind of attack spell because not only does it negate an opponent (the same effect as a kill or incapacitate spell), but it also creates a new ally that the caster can turn against his other opponents. Many of the more powerful enchantment spells are control spells, though their drawback is that they tend to be all-or-nothing (if the creature saves, it’s completely unaffected by the spell). Examples of control spells are charm monster, charm person, confusion, dominate monster, and dominate person.

Kill: A kill spell kills or destroys an opponent outright, bypassing the target’s depletable statistics, typically with a Fortitude saving throw. Kill spells are better than incapacitate spells because they don’t wear off and there’s no chance another enemy can easily reverse the spell (such as with dispel magic). The best of the kill spells still act as damage spells if the target saves, so the caster is guaranteed some effect. Examples of kill spells are disintegrate, finger of death, phantasmal killer, power word kill, slay living, and wail of the banshee.

Incapacitate: An incapacitate spell makes the target unable to act against the caster, effectively removing him from a battle for a period of time (possibly permanently) but at the risk of other opponents reversing the incapacitated target’s condition. Spells that cause an enemy to flee count as incapacitate spells. Incapacitate spells are better than damage spells because they allow the caster to bypass a target’s depletable statistics, sometimes disabling an opponent with a single spell. Examples of incapacitate spells are fear, flesh to stone, hold monster, hold person, power word stun, and sleep.

Damage: A damage spell reduces the target’s depletable statistics, bringing the target closer to the point where that damage incapacitates it. Damage spells are reliable spells because all creatures have depletable statistics of some sort and because most nonmagical attacks affect depletable statistics (which means that the caster’s fighter and rogue allies are helping overcome the opponent). Damage spells are better than penalize spells because damage always stacks (penalties do not) and if the caster and his allies deal enough damage, they’ll eventually disable an opponent, whereas it’s possible to add penalties almost indefinitely and still have a somewhat viable opponent. Examples of damage spells are cone of cold, fireball, lightning bolt, magic missile, poison, and sound burst.

Penalize: A penalize spell gives the target some penalty not related to its depletable statistics, such as an attack penalty, an Armor Class penalty, restrictions on the kinds of actions it can take, and so on. Penalize spells are the weakest sort of spells because in most cases the caster can’t kill an opponent with penalties and the penalties don’t stack with themselves, so the caster and his allies have to deal with the penalized opponent in some other way (typically through damage spells and nonmagical attacks). Examples of penalize spells are bane, blindness/deafness, ray of enfeeblement, and slow.

There are exceptions to the above categories. For example, if dealing with a monster that has a lot of hit points and deals substantial damage but only has a moderate chance of harming the caster’s allies, the caster may be better off trying to give the opponent an attack penalty (to decrease the chance of the monster hitting) than trying to wear down its hit points (because during that time the monster may be dealing a lot of damage to the caster’s allies). In this case, a penalize spell that reduces its attack bonus is better than a damage spell. As another example, the PCs may need to question a defeated opponent, in which case an incapacitate spell is a better choice than a kill spell (unless the PCs have some really good magic that lets them question the dead more effectively than speak with dead).

Spells with variable effects may be more than one type of spell in the hierarchy depending on the results—a confusion spell that causes a monster to babble incoherently is an incapacitate spell, but if the spell causes it to attack one of its allies, it’s a control spell. Likewise, a summon monster spell that summons a fiendish constrictor snake is an incapacitate spell if the snake grapples an enemy, but it’s just a damage spell if it summons a fiendish boar, which only deals damage and has no special attacks. Balancing these spells is tricky, as you have to consider their optimal usage.

Depletable Statistics

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 135
Depletable statistics are any values in a creature or object’s stat block that can be reduced by some form of attack and that can neutralize, kill, or destroy the creature or object when they reach a low value (typically 0). Hit points, ability scores, and levels are all depletable statistics—a creature falls unconscious below 0 hit points and eventually dies; objects, undead, and constructs are destroyed at 0 hit points; creatures are made helpless or killed by bringing an ability score to 0; creatures die when their negative levels equal their total Hit Dice. Many magical attacks and most nonmagical attacks reduce a target’s depletable statistics in some way, eventually defeating the target.

However, attack bonuses, saving throw bonuses, Armor Class, hardness, CMB, CMD, initiative, speed, skill modifiers, and most other game statistics are not depletable statistics because no matter how low these statistics get, the affected creature or object is still able to take actions. For example, a spell that gives a target a –10 attack penalty has little effect on a sorcerer casting fireball, as would a spell that gave her a –10 penalty on her Will saving throws; despite her poor attack rolls and miserable Will saves, she is still quite capable of blasting her opponents to bits, whether these penalties are –10 or –100. Similarly, a fighter with a –10 penalty on Fortitude saving throws can still swing a sword, as can one with a –10 penalty to Armor Class; the fighter is still viable despite these penalties.

“Depletable statistic” isn’t an official game term, but it is a helpful concept when comparing power levels of spells—attacking depletable statistics is a war of attrition that can eventually wear down the target, whereas adding penalties to non-depletable statistics may have no effect at all, as the target may have other attacks that allow them to ignore those penalties.

Core is King

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 136
When designing a new spell, you should always compare it to the spells in the Core Rulebook to get a sense of whether the spell is strong or weak for its level. You can compare it to spells in other books as well, but you should use the Core Rulebook as a baseline. This is because if a spell in another sourcebook pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable or balanced, even just by a little bit, it’s easy to push the boundaries a little more with your new spell, which means that over time, new spells end up more and more powerful compared to those in the Core Rulebook. The Core Rulebook spells are the most playtested, optimal versions of spells in the game—new spells shouldn’t be significantly better than them (see also the Benchmarks section on pages 138–139).

Remember that it’s acceptable to make a spell that isn’t as powerful as an existing spell. Just because it’s not the best spell of its level doesn’t mean it won’t get used by adventurers. In fact, that’s why easily crafted scrolls are a significant part of the game—to allow parties access to spells they wouldn’t normally prepare or learn, but may find useful in some circumstances.

Multipurpose Spells

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 136
A spell that gives the caster a choice of multiple options should be weaker overall than a spell that only does one thing. First, a spell that is good at two things is much better than a spell that is good at one thing, so you should reduce the power of the former spell so the two spells remain about equal. Second, because bards, oracles, and sorcerers can only learn a limited number of spells, a spell that can do multiple things is often a better choice for them because it’s almost like learning multiple spells.

Examples of poorly designed spells with multiple, dissimilar options are:
  • A general “emotions” spell that lets the caster project one of several emotions, each of which has a different effect on targets.
  • A fire spell that lets the caster hurl a blast of fire, ignite multiple arrowheads to add fire damage, or make a protective shield of fire.
  • A spell that works like bull’s strength, but lets the caster choose which ability score it affects.
  • A spell that either teleports the caster or can be used to send away an unwilling target.
  • A spell that deals energy damage of a type chosen by the caster to an area.
Rather than create a multipurpose spell that gives a “shopping list” of effects the caster can choose from, keep the spell focused on one or perhaps two similar options. Note that there is a difference between a spell with multiple similar options and one with radically different options. Good examples of appropriate multipurpose spells are alarm (audible and mental alarms are still alarms), beast shape I (Small or Medium animals, specific benefits from a short list), fire shield (two options with basically the same mechanical effect, on par for a spell of its level), the summon monster spells (very versatile but of limited duration, with monsters of a lower power level than other spells of the same level).

Choosing Descriptors

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 137
While spell descriptors are frequently overlooked, they play an important role in the mechanics of a spell. Assigning the correct descriptors is key to finishing the spell. The follows is a list of all the descriptors in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, including several new ones introduced in this book.

Acid: Acid effects deal damage with chemical reactions rather than cold, electricity, heat, or vibration. This descriptor includes both actual acids and their chemical opposites, called bases or alkalines (such as ammonia and lye).

Air: Spells that create air, manipulate air, or conjure creatures from air-dominant planes or with the air subtype should have the air descriptor.

Chaotic: Spells that draw upon the power of true chaos or conjure creatures from chaos-aligned planes or with the chaotic subtype should have the chaos descriptor.

Cold: Cold effects deal damage by making the target colder, typically by blasting it with supernaturally cooled matter or energy. Cold effects also include those that create ice, sleet, or snow out of nothing. They can cause frostbite, numbness, coordination problems, slowed movement and reactions, stupor, and death.

Curse: Curses are often permanent effects, and usually cannot be dispelled, but can be removed with a break enchantment, limited wish, miracle, remove curse, or wish.

Darkness: Spells that create darkness or reduce the amount of light should have the darkness descriptor. Giving a spell the darkness descriptor indicates whether a spell like daylight is high enough level to counter or dispel it.

Death: Spells with the death descriptor directly attack a creature’s life force to cause immediate death, or to draw on the power of a dead or dying creature. The death ward spell protects against death effects, and some creature types are immune to death effects.

Disease: Disease effects give the target a disease, which may be an invading organism such as a bacteria or virus, an abnormal internal condition (such as a cancer or mental disorder), or a recurring magical effect that acts like one of the former. Creatures with resistance or immunity to disease apply that resistance to their saving throw and the effects of disease spells.

Earth: Spells that manipulate earth or conjure creatures from earth-dominant planes or with the earth subtype should have the earth descriptor.

Electricity: Electricity effects involve the presence and flow of electrical charge, whether expressed in amperes or volts. Electricity deals damage to creatures by disrupting their biological systems. It deals damage to objects (as well as creatures) by heating the material it passes through, and thus technically many electricity spells could also be treated as fire spells, but for sake of game simplicity, it is better to just let electricity-based spells deal electricity damage. Electricity effects may stun, paralyze, or even kill.

Emotion: Spells with this descriptor create emotions or manipulate the target’s existing emotions. Most emotion spells are enchantments, except for fear spells, which are usually necromancy.

Evil: Spells that draw upon evil powers or conjure creatures from evil-aligned planes or with the evil subtype should have the evil descriptor.

Fear: Spells with the fear descriptor create, enhance, or manipulate fear. Most fear spells are necromancy spells, though some are enchantment spells.

Fire: Fire effects make the target hotter by creating fire, directly heating the target with magic or friction. Lava, steam, and boiling water all deal fire damage. Fire effects can also cause confusion, dizziness, exhaustion, fatigue, nausea, unconsciousness, and death. Spells that manipulate fire or conjure creatures from fire-dominant planes or with the fire subtype should have the fire descriptor.

Force: Spells with the force descriptor create or manipulate magical force. Force spells affect incorporeal creatures normally (as if they were corporeal creatures).

Good: Spells that draw upon the power of true goodness or conjure creatures from good-aligned planes or with the good subtype should have the good descriptor.

Language-Dependent: A language-dependent spell uses intelligible language as a medium for communication. If the target cannot understand or hear what the caster of a language-dependent spell says, the spell has no effect, even if the target fails its saving throw.

Lawful: Spells that draw upon the power of true law or conjure creatures from law-aligned planes or with the lawful subtype should have the law descriptor.

Light: Spells that create significant amounts of light or attack darkness effects should have the light descriptor. Giving a spell the light descriptor indicates whether a spell like darkness is high enough level counter or dispel it.

Mind-Affecting: Mindless creatures (those with an Intelligence score of “—”) and undead are immune to mind-affecting effects.

Pain: Pain effects cause unpleasant sensations without any permanent physical damage (though a sensitive target may suffer mental repercussions from lengthy exposure to pain). Creatures that are immune to effects that require a Fort save (such as constructs and undead) are immune to pain effects.

Poison: Poison effects use poison, venom, drugs, or similar toxic substances to disrupt and damage living creatures through chemical reactions. Technically, acids and poisons are both chemical reactions, but for the purpose of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, they are categorized as different effects, with acids dealing hit point damage and poisons causing ability damage, ability drain, bleeding, confusion, convulsions, nausea, paralysis, reduced healing, suffocation, unconsciousness, or death. Creatures with resistance to poison (such as dwarves) apply that resistance to their saving throws and the effects of poison spells. Creatures with immunity are immune to poisonous aspects of poison spells, but not necessarily all effects of the spell (for example, a spell that creates a pit full of liquid poison could still trap or drown a poison-immune creature).

Shadow: Shadow spells manipulate matter or energy from the Shadow Plane, or allow transport to or from that plane.

Sonic: Sonic effects transmit energy to the target through frequent oscillations of pressure through the air, water, or ground. Sounds that are too high or too low for the humanoid ear to detect can still transmit enough energy to cause harm, which means that these effects can even affect deafened creatures. Sound effects can cause hit point damage, deafness, dizziness, nausea, pain, shortness of breath, and temporary blindness, and can detect creatures using batlike echolocation.

Water: Spells that manipulate water or conjure creatures from water-dominant planes or with the water subtype should have the water descriptor.


Source Ultimate Magic pg. 138
Some spells in the Core Rulebook are clearly the best of their spell level. Other spells are perfect examples of what a spell of that level or purpose should be able to do. These are “benchmark” spells, and when designing a new spell you should always compare your spell to the benchmark spells. If your spell is better than the benchmark spell, you should reduce its power or increase its spell level. The following is a list of benchmark spells by sorcerer/wizard spell level, with explanations of why they are benchmarks. If you create a spell and it’s better than a comparable benchmark spell, your spell is too powerful.

1st Level

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 138
Burning Hands: This is the benchmark for 1st-level area attack spells. It is even better than sleep because it can affect up to six squares (sleep only affects 4 Hit Dice, which means up to 4 creatures) and affects mindless creatures and undead.

Magic Missile: Perhaps the best 1st-level spell in the game, magic missile may not do a lot of damage, but it requires no attack roll, has a medium range, needs no saving throw, and harms incorporeal creatures. Even if magic missile were 2nd-level, smart casters would still learn it.

2nd Level

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 138
Invisibility: This is one of the best spells in the game, and is only improved on by greater invisibility getting rid of the breaks-on-attack aspect. This spell is great for scouting, great in combat to set up attacks, and great for healers (as healing doesn’t end the spell).

Resist Energy: This defensive spell works exactly like monster energy resistances, so it’s a perfect example of the power level of this sort of spell. It also scales at higher caster levels, keeping it a viable spell even later in the game.

Web: This is a powerful, nonlethal spell that remains viable even at higher levels (even a lich who makes his save against a web has to deal with the difficult terrain and risks becoming stuck if he moves). It even provides cover, and can be set on fire to damage targets in the area.

3rd Level

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Dispel Magic: This spell sets the standard for negating other magic without a specific counter.

Displacement: This short-duration combat spell makes attackers miss 50% of the time, setting the standard for one-target defensive spells.

Fireball: This is the definitive low-level area attack spell. Gaining this spell changes the paradigm of the game, allowing spellcasters to deal a large amount of damage to multiple targets anywhere they can see.

Fly: This is the most important movement spell, usable in combat to great effect and allowing easy maneuverability around the battlefield.

Lightning Bolt: This spell establishes that a line of this range is about the same power level as a 20-foot burst.

Stinking Cloud: Capable of neutralizing many foes at a good range, stinking cloud is the best multiple-target nonlethal spell of its level.

Suggestion: This is the lowest-level spell in which the caster is able to compel the target to act, yet the spell’s control is still limited to “reasonable actions.”

4th Level

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Dimension Door: This is the lowest-level spell that lets you teleport; it has a limited range and disorients you until your next turn.

Enervation: This is the lowest-level spell that gives the target negative levels.

Phantasmal Killer: This is the lowest-level spell that can directly kill a creature, but allows two saves to resist it.

5th Level

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Cloudkill: This spell is key because it automatically kills weak creatures, deals poison damage each round to stronger creatures in the area, persists for several rounds, and moves.

Cone of Cold: This spell is an interesting benchmark because it’s actually a weak spell for its level; at the level you gain it, fireball does just as much damage and at a longer range, and cone of cold's damage cap is only 5 dice higher than fireball. If your 5th-level attack spell is weaker than this spell, you should increase its power or consider making it a 4th-level spell.

Dominate Person: This is the lowest-level spell that allows you to utterly control a hostile intelligent creature (with the exception of self-destructive orders).

Wall of Stone: This is the lowest-level spell that creates a large-scale, permanent (instantaneous) object out of nothing (compare as well to fabricate, which permanently reshapes raw materials into finished goods).

6th Level

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Contingency: This spell lets the caster set up conditions to trigger another spell effect, whether something direct such as a protective spell or something paranoid like an escape-teleport. In many ways it models what an immediate-action Quicken Spell feat would be like. Because it lasts 1 day per level, the caster can prepare the contingency on one day and adventure the next day with a full allotment of spells.

Guards and Wards: Although not often used by PCs because they usually don’t have permanent residences, this spell is important because it establishes that a large-area defensive spell can use multiple effects to protect a home and befuddle invaders.

7th Level

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Limited Wish: This powerful spell lets the caster pick effects from countless available lower-levels spells at the time of casting, even those from different class lists.

8th Level

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 139
Clone: This spell is the key to arcane immortality—it acts like contingency plus raise dead but costs fewer gp, and it can save characters even if all of them die unexpectedly.

Irresistible Dance: While this spell can’t kill its target outright, it does prevent the target from taking actions and give the target huge penalties, and (in a way) it does so without allowing a saving throw (while the spell does technically allow a save, even a successful save applies these effects for 1 round).

Mind Blank: This spell is an example of a very narrowly focused defensive spell that is able to block even higher-level spells from affecting the target.

9th Level

Source Ultimate Magic pg. 139
Gate: This powerful spell combines all of the planar ally/ planar binding effects and can be used to transport many creatures between planes.

Miracle/Wish: The pinnacle of spellcasting, these spells can duplicate almost any weaker spell, obliterate most harmful effects, revive the dead, or even turn back time. If your spell is better than wish, you’re trying to play god.

Time Stop: This is the only spell in the game that lets the caster take multiple rounds’ worth of actions and simultaneously prevents anyone else from doing anything about it.