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Chapter 2: Tools / Building Creatures

Spells

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 65
Your creature might have magical abilities that are best represented by spells. If you’re making a highly spellcasting-themed creature, give it prepared or spontaneous spells. For a creature that has spells due to its magical nature, especially if that magic isn’t its core focus, consider giving it some innate spells instead. How many spells you should give a creature depends on how you expect it to spend its actions in combat. If it’s primarily going to be making Strikes, it might not have any spells, or it might just have a few to help it move around better or protect against certain types of magic.

When choosing spells, lean hard into the creature’s theme. While many PCs choose spells to cover a wide variety of situations, creatures are more evocative the more focused they are. Consider selecting about three-quarters of the spells based on relevance to the theme and the remainder for other things. However, make sure the spells aren’t one note—selecting fireball for most of a creature’s spell slots doesn’t make for a compelling fire creature in the way a diverse selection of fire spells would.

When choosing spells, some spells won’t be very useful if cast at an extremely low level compared to the creature’s levels. Most notably, damaging spells drop off in usefulness for a creature that’s expected to last only a single fight. A damaging spell 2 levels below the highest level a creature of that level can cast is still potentially useful, but beyond that, don’t bother. Spells that have the incapacitation trait should be in the highest level slot if you want the creature to potentially get their full effect against PCs.

Spell DC and Spell Attack Roll

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 65
Set the creature’s spell DC and spell attack roll using Table 2–11 on page 66. Most creatures use the same DC for all their spells, even if they have multiple types, such as a creature with both prepared spells and innate spells.

Use the high numbers for primary casters, and the moderate numbers for creatures that have some supplemental spells but are focused more on combat. At 15th level and higher, the extreme numbers become standard for spellcasters. A few creatures might use the extreme numbers at lower levels, but they tend to be highly specialized, with very weak defenses and Strikes. Secondary spellcasters can go up to high numbers if they’re above 15th level and have offensive spells. There is no low value—the creature shouldn’t have any spells in the first place if it would be that bad at using them!

Table 2–11: Spell DC and Spell Attack Bonus

LevelExtreme DCExtreme Spell Attack BonusHigh DCHigh Spell Attack BonusModerate DCModerate Spell Attack Bonus
–119+1116+813+5
019+1116+813+5
120+1217+914+6
222+1418+1015+7
323+1520+1217+9
425+1721+1318+10
526+1822+1419+11
627+1924+1621+13
729+2125+1722+14
830+2226+1823+15
932+2428+2025+17
1033+2529+2126+18
1134+2630+2227+19
1236+2832+2429+21
1337+2933+2530+22
1439+3134+2631+23
1540+3236+2833+25
1641+3337+2934+26
1743+3538+3035+27
1844+3640+3237+29
1946+3841+3338+30
2047+3942+3439+31
2148+4044+3641+33
2250+4245+3742+34
2351+4346+3843+35
2452+4448+4045+37

Prepared and Spontaneous Spells

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 66
Spell slots work best for creatures that are meant to play like PC spellcasters. Choose the magical tradition best suited to the creature. You aren’t strictly limited to that tradition’s spell list, though sticking close to it will make your creature’s connection to that tradition more clear. The decision to use prepared or spontaneous spellcasting should align with the creature’s theme: a spontaneous spellcaster fits well as a one-off creature, since spontaneous spellcasting grants greater flexibility in the middle of battle, while a prepared spellcaster makes for a great recurring character who can change their spells between appearances.

For a creature that can cast as many spells as a PC spellcaster, the highest spell level the creature can cast is half its level rounded up. It gets five cantrips. If the creature’s level is odd, it gets two spell slots of the highest spell level (plus three spell slots of each lower level), or three spell slots of that level (plus four spell slots of each lower level). If its level is even, it gets three spell slots of the highest spell level (plus three spell slots of each lower level), or four spell slots of that level (plus four spell slots of each lower level).

Because creatures tend to be “on stage” for only a short time, you usually don’t need to fill every spell slot. You can often fill just the top three levels of spells, pick cantrips, and slot in a few thematic backup spells in the fourth level down. For a recurring foe, you might give it a full complement.

Innate Spells

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 66
Unlike prepared and spontaneous spells, innate spells can be of higher level than half the creature’s level rounded up, and you can choose how often they’re used—they can even be used at will or be constant effects. The most notable innate spells tend to be top-level ones that make a big impact but can be used only once, at-will spells that strongly reinforce the creature’s theme, and constant spells that give it an ongoing benefit. A spell that’s usable a limited number of times and falls at a lower level than the top tier is typically less likely to come up in combat; however, that’s a great spot for utility and recovery spells, such as dispel magic or restoration.

Sometimes a strongly thematic innate spell is of a higher level than the creature would normally be able to cast, but it’s so fitting that it belongs there. Be careful when doing this, as PCs might not have access to the appropriate countermeasures for the spell. This option works best for support, action denial, or battlefield control spells that change the odds of a fight without outright killing anyone, such as the succubus’s dominate spell. These should make the fight more interesting, not end it. Keep the number of such spells very low, typically just one.

Though you can achieve all sorts of things with innate spells, always start with the theme and an idea of how you want the creature spending its actions. And though you could give the creature a tool to counter every kind of PC attack or trick, remember that the players chose those options to enjoy using them, rather than to be constantly foiled by an effectively invincible creature.

Rituals

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 67
Since rituals happen during downtime, giving them to a creature is usually a purely thematic choice. You can skip even looking at rituals in most cases. If you decide a creature needs to have a ritual for your story, add in the ritual whenever you need it.