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 is currently developing an Ultimate Spheres of Power Kickstarter consolidating all of the supplementary material released in sourcebooks over the years.
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 acclerating 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.
The third party Legendary Games created a third party (for a third party) sphere
- Technomancy - Interact with technology,
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 own 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, Champions are 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.