Spheres of Power
Pathfinder is a versatile ruleset with a heaping helping of options, although its magical system remains essentially Vancian. Drop Dead Studios, a third party publisher, created an alternate magic system to replicate a wider variety of fictional spellcasting. People have used the Spheres system to replicate magical characters from a variety of popular fiction, from Avatar the Last Airbender to Naruto.
There are various magical "spheres" of influence themed around concepts such as Alteration, Life, and Nature. Instead of being gated off by class or level, characters can choose what spheres they want and Magical Talents from among said spheres, but certain classes grant bonus talents in themed spheres or faster progression in the amount you gain. Fans say that this givess them greater freedom over the mechanics and flavor of building spellcasters, and is easier to keep track of and without arbitrary restrictions of the standard system like being unable to cast fireball reliably in full plate (although one can create spellcasting traditions which impose restrictions in exchange for more Spell Points) as well as the ability to focus on what you really want. In a nutshell, each sphere has two Core abilities, and Talents which grant you new abilities or lets you modify the core abilities in new ways. Instead of being limited by a per-day format, many spheres have at-will powers, and more powerful talents require the spending of a daily limit of Spell Points. There are also optional rules, such as Advanced Magic which replicates the zanier powers high-level D&D is known for. In addition to new classes, Spheres of Power included new archetypes for uniting the Spheres system with existing Pathfinder classes.
Spheres of Power proved popular in the Pathfinder community. It had an extensive playtest on the Giant in the Playground forums, ran a successful Kickstarter for the Spheres of Might (a martial equivalent) and another for an Ultimate Spheres of Power Kickstarter, consolidating and streamlining all of the supplementary material released in sourcebooks over the years. Even a year after Pathfinder's discontinuation, DDS is still releasing supplements for the Spheres systems.
The Spheres provided are as follows:
- Alteration - Shapeshifting spells, both for you and for others.
- Conjuration - Conjuration. You can either focus on one summon or getting multiple specialized summons.
- Creation - The making and destruction of items.
- Dark - Make shadows for various benefits.
- Destruction - Your basic fireballs and whatnot that scale by levels.
- Divination - Split between the detecting things like alignment and zombies and improving senses.
- Enhancement - All your improvements.
- Fate - Your basic blessing and curses. The supplement book for this sphere added to this with Tarot motifs.
- Illusion - No explanation needed.
- Life - All your healing and status removal.
- Light - Like Dark sphere, this made Light to create improvements or debuffs.
- Mind - All your mind control spells.
- Nature - A massive pile of random thematic things about controlling the elements.
- Protection - All your shields and walls.
- Telekinesis - Move things with your mind!
- Time - Restricted to mostly slowing or accelerating time, but you have ways to do other things as well.
- War - Gives both totems to influence things within its reach and other minor buffs to pull for your allies.
- Warp - TELEPORTING!
- Weather - All your large-scale weather influencing spells, though it can be more localized with the supplement book.
There are also three official supplement spheres that were released in later books:
- Blood - Use blood as both weapon and tool for status conditions.
- Bear - The April Fools 2019 sphere. Now you too can turn into a bear or take bear characteristics, or "Bearacteristics" as you will.
- Fallen Fey - A sorta catch-all sphere that gives various fey gifts.
- Mana - A sphere focused on the manipulation of Mana (aka Spell Points). You have packages to either straight-up blow up their points, create zones that rewrite the game logic (such as forcing everything to deal one type of damage or forcing everything to roll one specific save) and create magical tethers to freely control the flow of magic.
The third party Legendary Games created a third party (for a third party) sphere
- Technomancy - Interact with technology by making sprites execute specific commands like you're A less obtusely-designed Decker
Spheres of Might
Released several years after Spheres of Power, Spheres of Might did to martials what its predecessor did to casters. This has spawned the inevitable comparisons to Path of War, Pathfinder's third-party equivalent to The Book of Weeaboo Fightan Magic. Whereas Path of War goes for adding tactical variety within combat, Spheres of Might focuses more on granting more options to martials both in and out of combat. It is possible to focus on talents which boost or modify existing basic attacks and maneuvers as opposed to the special move accumulation that happens with leveling up in Path of War. Similar to psionics, you also have the concept of Focus, which you can expend for either taking 13 on a Fortitude/Reflex save or for a number of other things depending on your feats and talents. Later supplements also included Stances, temporary boosts that open up particular perks rather than PoW's consistent boosts.
One of the nifty things Spheres of Might does is the concept of Associated Feats. Certain sphere core abilities and talents replicate the effects of existing feats and count as them for the purposes of prerequisites. But since talents require nothing but the base sphere to take (barring Legendary Talents which are akin to SoP's Advanced Talents), you don't have to worry about the burdensome requirements and feat chains which plagued basic Pathfinder martials. The other nifty thing is those spheres that give you automatic skill ranks, alleviating the other great burden of most other classes, but mostly martials: the limitations of skill ranks per level.
Your Combat Spheres are as follows:
- Alchemy - Lets you craft better versions of alchemical items as well as poisons.
- Athletics - Gives you improved means for all movement, including the less common swimming and climbing. Advanced talents even grant a poor man's flight.
- Barrage - Shooting lots of things at once or just shooting one thing several times in a turn.
- Barroom - Split between either gaining tricks involving drunkenness or benefits on using improvised weapons.
- Beastmastery - Lets you better tame pets or gain your own.
- Berserker - Gives you a mini-rage for temporary health and a super-attack. Later supplements let you swap out the HP boost for some other perks, including a mundane-ish sort of minor shapeshifting.
- Boxing - A barehanded-focused sphere filled with counter-attacks.
- Brute - Where a bundle of the combat-maneuvers are moved to, alongside a really convenient mini-attack.
- Dual Wielding - Where two-weapon tricks reside.
- Duelist - Split between either dealing bleed damage with ordinary attacks or improving disarms.
- Equipment - A mandatory sphere. This is where all your proficiencies are placed, and a few other quality-of-life improvements that don't fit anywhere else.
- Fencing - Dedicated to feinting and giving a Sneak Attack.
- Gladiator - Made for bragging, scaring, and showing off your skills.
- Guardian - Split between either challenges or being able to intercept hits from far away. Either way, you have a means to sort of stall when you take damage.
- Lancer - How you impale suckers and then twist them about.
- Open Hand - The miscellaneous barehanded sphere with some focus on tripping.
- Scoundrel - Focused on stealing shit from under people's noses.
- Scout - Lets you pick out weaknesses in an enemy. Also included are some other sensing tricks and stealth.
- Shield - Gives you a reaction to improve the bonus your shield provides as well as some riders on it.
- Sniper - Focus on one target and deal a deadly blow.
- Trap - Make your own affordable traps, since the Ranger's traps are so fucking atrocious.
- Warleader - The more command-based sphere, letting you bolster allies.
- Wrestling - Your grappling-only house.
As with Spheres of Power, there are supplements for other spheres as well.
- Leadership - Gives you man-shaped companions in place of the oft-contested Leadership feat, either in single ally or faceless mob flavors.
- Pilot - Another Legendary Games sphere, this time focusing on building and driving vehicles.
- Tech - A massive sphere with drones, personal improvements, and other sorts of gadgets, all powered by batteries.
Champions of the Spheres
Much smaller of a sourcebook than either Power or Might, CotS is the gish book of the spheres system. It introduces three new classes which can draw from both Power and Might, as well as new archetypes, feats, and traditions for incorporating them into previous sourcebooks.
|The Third Party Classes of Pathfinder|
|Psionics:||Psion - Psychic Warrior - Soulknife - Wilder |
Aegis - Cryptic - Dread - Marksman - Tactican - Vitalist
|Path of War:||Stalker - Warder - Warlord - Harbinger - Mystic - Zealot|
|Akashic Mysteries:||Daevic - Eclipse - Guru - Nexus - Radiant - Rajah - Stormbound - Vizier - Zodiac|
|Spheres of Power:||Armorist - Elementalist - Eliciter - Fey Adept - Hedgewitch - Incanter |
Mageknight - Shifter - Soul Weaver - Symbiat - Thaumaturge - Wraith
|Spheres of Might:||Armiger - Blacksmith - Commander - Conscript |
Savant - Scholar - Sentinel - Striker - Technician
|Champions of the Spheres:||Prodigy - Sage - Troubadour - Dragoon - Mountebank - Necros - Reaper|
|Pact Magic:||Pactmaker (formerly known as Medium)|
Seeing as Pathfinder was being slowly outmoded by a new edition, DDS decided to port over the Spheres systems to 5E. This has required a lot of changes to the systems, as there's not as much you can fit into a character in 5E and the action economy isn't quite as deep.
- The introduction of the Universal Sphere in SoP. This allows for a few things: Dispelling, Metamagic feats (A system that was Sorcerer-exclusive thus far), Dual-Sphere abilities (Made to talents due to 5E's sparsity with feats), managing Wild Magic, and building a magical tether you can use to aid allies and weaken foes (The Mana sphere from PF SoP).
- The Tech sphere is revised into the Tinkerer Sphere. Though drones are no more, various gadgets and upgrades are included from the PF Technician's improvements.
- The Boxing Sphere is relabeled the Retribution Sphere and now works on all weapons by default. Of course, there is a way to turn it back to only affecting fists.
- Backgrounds are now templates to build martial traditions around if you don't feel like making your own. As usual, this also requires trading in all proficiencies for the non-magic focused classes, though the Fighter and Paladin gain a bonus Equipment talent as perks for being the ones with the most proficiencies. The Monk kinda can't trade out proficiencies due to their uniqueness, but their multi-attacks can be tied to any talents that ride off attacking twice like the Dual Wielding sphere. Spherecasting traditions, for the most part, remain identical. Sphere-based drawbacks on both are just relabeled as "Variants".
- Said martial classes can gain actual progression like a practitioner, but it will cost them their archetypes and will only gain two talents at any point the archetype would otherwise grant a feature.
- The new classes are considerably different from the PF iterations.
- Alter Egos are essentially less borked Troubadours (Or just Vigilantes for 5E), not so easily able to build as many alternate personas, though management is still a bit of a hassle. Each persona still gains a whole list of talents as well as a certain "trope" (a generalized gimmick that's the theming of the persona). The second persona is tied to an archetype as such: Chemist (Go Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with a concoction turning you into a monster), Empowered (Gain partial casting, which can be stacked with a casting trope into something more like a half-casting casting, as well as a few Warlock invocations), Possessed (Swapping out with a completely different person with unique stats, which is ripe for cheesing, though transforming is more limited in exchange for being easier to do), Troubadour (Said original class, able to take many personas and gimmicks) and Vigilante (Become Batman, complete with the perfectly believable civilian identity with separate antics)
- Armigers remain fairly unchanged, with the weapon-swapping being the central premise. The archetypes are as follows: Antequarian (Your weapons can cast spells), Commando (Follow-throughs on all attacks and disadvantages) and Polymath (Gain partial proficiency in all weapons as well as fighting styles)
- Artisans are essentially generalized Blacksmiths, though they remain able to maximize the power of their weapons. Your archetypes are as follows: Chef (Make food to boost saves and resistances, on top of making potions), Sapper (Trap sphere focus), Smith (The original blacksmith, crippling enemy gear while bolstering your allies' gear) and Technician (Build drones, vehicles, and armored suits as well as repairing them)
- Commanders are less dependent on the Warleader Sphere, letting allies attack or boost damage by a shout. Your archetypes are as follows: Captain (Using the Patrol package of the Guardian sphere to protect allies), Drill Sergeant (Use Gladiator sphere and share a talent to the group), General (Use Warleader sphere for bolstered tactics) and Politician (Use the Leadership sphere and resting place for the Lackey power of the original PF class)
- Conscripts are essentially Practitioner versions of the Fighters, though this costs fighting styles. Your archetypes are as follows: Brawler (Gain riders on disadvantaged foes as well as lifting big things), Fury (Gain Barbarian rage), Knave (Gain sneak attack as well as the ability to hit someone while robbing them), Marshal (Gain Scout sphere with extra riders for damage as well the Ranger's chosen enemy), Mechanic (Focused on Alchemy and Tinker spheres), Paragon (Gain a fighting style as well as some support powers), Sentinel (Formerly a PF class, focused more on the Challenge part of the Guardian sphere) and Warrior (Take Barbarian's Reckless Attack and other risky things)
- Elementalists have their special movement types condensed to just a boost of speed, as well as the ability to use their favored element to boost their saves or AC for a moment. They have archetypes for Aspirant (The old Elementalist who can pick multiple elements), Doomblade (Focusing on elemental weapons to be a gish), Geomancer (Shaping either weather or the land), Inspired Kineticist (Floating talents you can use to pick up temporary Destruction talents) and Primordial (Focus on Alteration to become an elemental)
- Incanters can recharge spell points like Wizards recharge spells. They also have specializations more akin to the Hedgewitch than the PF Incanter's sphere focus. These specializations are: Arcanist (Floating talents to pick when wanted, some spare spell points), Esper (Linking minds to control the battlefield), Fey Adept (Formerly a PF class, focusing on Illusion, Light and Dark spheres), Green Mage (gain a familiar and some more nature-based perks), Necromancer (Death sphere focus), Priest (The cleric-alike, gaining Channel Divinity powers and some generalist rituals), Soothsayer (Divination sphere focus), Summoner (Conjuration sphere focus), Temporalist (Time sphere focus)
- Mageknights are now natively blended, with adding SoM just giving the same tradeoff of proficiencies for talents as well as gaining fighting styles like the Fighter/Paladin/Ranger. The archetypes are as follows: Armorist (Formerly a PF class, lets you summon your own gear and improve it), Spellblade (Essentially a Magus), Psionicist (Use psychic powers to bolster yourself) and Shapeshifter (Alteration sphere focus, likely to replace the Shifter class since it's less copyright-friendly)
- The new fighting styles are as follows: Magic Spheres Adept (Gain spherecasting, though the bare minimum of it), Martial Spheres Apprentice (Gain a martial talent and martial focus), and Natural Weapon Fighting (Natural weapons crit on a nat roll of 19+)
- Prodigies are mostly unchanged aside from archetypes. These archetypes are as follows: Battleborn (Generalist who can hot-swap some martial talents/fighting styles and crit easier like the Champion Fighter), Mimic's Calling (Copy spells and talents you see) and Savant's Calling (Floating spell talents who can swap them out)
- Scholars aren't quite as dependent on crafted things, though they gain special studies as you level up. Your subclasses are as follows: Archaeologist (Skill versatility), Natural Philosopher (Housing the Martial Impositions of the original PF class) and Occultist (The ritual-focused subclass)
- Soul Weavers can spend their souls for temporary spell talents. Their archetypes are as follows: Gothi (Support and empowering allies), Lichling (Infect foes with necrotic maladies), Medium (You can spend souls for less-magical benefits, including swapping proficiencies), Undertaker (Gain martial/pracitioner uses, including tying death powers in your strikes), the White Necromancer (The medic) and Wraith (Formerly a PF class, gain the ability to turn immaterial and possess)
- Strikers are less dependent on bare-handed combat and lack the unarmored defenses as a native feature. The archetypes are as follows: Boxer (The bare-handed original PF class), Bloodriser (Gain limited spells to cast via tension) and Skirmishing Scout (Mobility focused).