Creating New Spheres

Sometimes, the existing spheres don't quite match the concept you want to work with. In these cases, you can create a new martial or magical sphere to focus exclusively on your concept. This page includes some general guidelines and practices to help you make spheres that better integrate with existing systems. These guidelines are not absolutes, because any rule can be broken with a good reason, but they should help you better understand the process of creating a new sphere. These are not official guidelines, though they were created in consultation with published writers, and should help regardless of whether you want to make things for home games or submit rules for publication.

What is a kit? For the purpose of this page, a kit is a set of talents that share a descriptor, such as (blast shape) or (exertion). Kits usually follow the same general rules for activation and use, but have different individual effects. For example, (blast shape) talents all offer different ways to shape blasts, while (exertion) talents augment brutal strikes. Most basic abilities describe how kits apply to them (when this is relevant). Kits generally augment the base ability of the sphere or provide new abilities separate from the base effect of the sphere, but not both.

Some spheres have de facto kits that share traits but do not have a descriptor. Whether or not a kit should be given a descriptor depends on the sphere you're making, but it's usually appropriate any time you're giving similarly-styled options.

What are packages? Packages are basic abilities that players can choose from when they first get the sphere. Packages may or may not have kits tied to them, and spheres with packages almost always have an option to gain the other package(s) through a talent. The key distinction here is that players can only get one of the packages to start with, and these are useful when combining thematically similar abilities that are too mechanically powerful to give as the base sphere.

If you have an idea that thematically fits an existing sphere but is mechanically separate, consider the merits of offering it as a package instead of creating a separate sphere.

General Guidelines For New Spheres

  • Respect each niche. This is the most important principle for creating both new talents and new spheres. Each Sphere has an area of focus, and too much crossover between them can make certain spheres more powerful than they should be.
  • Each sphere should focus on a single concept or theme, normally expressed in 1-2 base powers or packages. For example, the Destruction sphere focuses on "dealing damage", while the Protection sphere focuses on "protecting people". Most spheres should not have more than 2 base powers, although more is acceptable when it's necessary for basic functionality. Spheres may have any number of base packages, depending on the theme, but usually only have two (or zero).
  • This concept or theme should be the fundamental thing tying the design of the sphere together. In other words, all design elements when it comes to abilities and kits should reflect the central idea of the sphere. For this section, an "augment" is a type of kit that improves the base ability (normally, you can only get one augment per kit on any one use of the base ability), while an "alter" is an alternative option for for the base ability (like totems or aegises). Here are the most common formats:
    • 1 Base Ability, Kits Augment: In this format, the sphere has a single basic ability that all of the kits augment in some way. A good example of this is the Destruction sphere, which has the basic talent and the (blast shape) and (blast type) kits that augment its form. In these cases, each kit should augment the basic ability in a different way.
    • 1 Base Ability, Kits Alter: In this format, the sphere has a single basic type of ability and gives one of those abilities, with each kit granting additional abilities of each type. An example of this is the War sphere, which centers around (totem) abilities and gives you one of these, with the option to gain many more.
    • 2 Base Abilities, Kits Augment: This format grants two base abilities (or two base effects on a single ability), then allows both of them to be augmented. This is relatively unusual, but as in the Duelist sphere with (bleed) and (disarm) talents, it can be done. Sometimes, kits may augment only one of the base abilities, rather than both. This can be a good choice when a sphere would be too small or weak with just one power and needs a second power to be on-par with other options.
    • 2 Base Abilities, Kits Alter: This is similar to 1 Base Ability, Kits Alter, but the sphere has two basic powers instead of one, and each kit grants further choices for the abilities. You can see an example of this with the Protection sphere, which has both (aegis) and (ward) powers from the start.
    • Base Packages, Kits Augment: This is the final standard design format. Spheres that start with packages give players the option of choosing from two or more base abilities that influence which other talents are relevant. The Guardian sphere is a good example of this because it grants the choice of challenging foes or patrolling an area. Many spheres with base packages also have a universal base ability, such as bonus skill points or a special power tied to the sphere.
    • These are the most common formats, but not the only ones. You are free to deviate from these patterns if a concept requires it, but understand why you are deviating before you do so.
  • Sometimes, spheres offer kits that provide entirely new types of abilities that may or may not have anything to do with the base ability. For example, the Warp sphere has (space) talents that function differently from the basic teleportation power of the sphere, while the War sphere has (mandate), (momentum), and (rally) talents. This is both normal and acceptable for spheres, and is a good way to add new thematic powers and options to an existing sphere without front-loading it too much.
    • If you have an idea that thematically fits with an existing sphere, consider whether or not it should be added as a package and/or kit, rather than as a new sphere.
    • Spheres that offer access to talents of varying themes should not be as good at that as spheres that focus exclusively on one theme. For example, the Bear sphere allows a little bit of shapeshifting, but is obviously inferior to the Alteration sphere in flexibility and power for shapeshifting.
  • When spheres offer packages, non-kit talents should generally apply to all packages (directly or indirectly), even if they need to have multiple effects. The original form of the Nature sphere is a good example of how not to do this, since in later reviews, the sphere was found to be too spread out and too talent-heavy for the amount of options it provided.
    • You do not need to have every non-kit talent affect every package, but most should. See the Guardian sphere for an example of how to do it correctly.
  • Each kit should have about 10 different options in it. This is enough to give people genuine choices and multiple abilities if they choose to specialize in that kit, but not so many that people are likely to get overwhelmed by the choices.
  • The initial sphere description should describe how each kit works, even if it does not grant any related talents or abilities to start with.
  • Aside from any kits, spheres should have about ten more generic talents that improve the user's ability to use that sphere (or twenty talents if the sphere does not have kits at all). This includes things like:
    • Ally talents (which make it easier to use the effects on your allies)
    • Instill talents (which let you put magical effects into a potion that other creatures can consume later, and are marked [instill])
    • Lengthened talents (that let effects last longer when you spend a spell point for that)
    • Lingering talents (that let effects last longer without concentration)
    • Mass talents (which let you affect lots of people at once, and are marked as [mass])
    • Package talents (which grant access to additional packages if players have to pick one when they first get the sphere)
    • Range talents (which let you use effects on creatures further away than usual, and are marked as [range])
    • Strike talents (which let you channel effects through standard action attacks or attack actions, and are marked as [strike])
      • Not every sphere should have every type of generic talent associated with it, but this is a good place to start looking. Consider looking at the closest existing sphere for inspiration.
      • Kits can have more than 10 talents when it makes sense to do so. For example, the War sphere has a bunch of Totems that provide different party buffs (because different groups may prefer different buffs to complement their character choices), while the Enhancement sphere has various options for creatures, animated objects, and gear. A kit shouldn't have options just to have options, especially if those effects should be in another sphere instead, but it's not inherently inappropriate to have more than 10-ish talents in a kit. Just be sure you understand why you're adding more.
  • Magical spheres should provide a Sphere Specialization for the Incanter and Imbue Sequences for the Prodigy. Martial spheres should provide a Sphere Specialization for the Conscript and Integrated Techniques for the Prodigy.
  • Spheres of Might and Spheres of Power are interconnected systems. They can be used separately, but because they can also be used together (by the same character!), keep in mind that characters from the other system may use it and try to balance things accordingly.

Magical Sphere Guidelines

  • Magical spheres usually work based on Caster Level. When they don't, it's usually for static abilities that do not change and function identically at all levels.
  • Magical spheres usually have Wild Magic tables. These should be roughly equal for beneficial, negative, and neutral effects, totaling 100 options.
  • Sphere effects are usually instantaneous or, if they provide an ongoing effect, require concentration to maintain. Some talents may make this easier (such as lingering effects that let sphere effects last for 2 rounds without concentration), but ongoing sphere effects should almost always require either concentration or spending a spell point.
  • There are many ways for characters to improve their Caster Level in one or more spheres. Be sure to account for this in the math of your effects, especially when considering how low or mid casters might use the sphere.
  • Magical spheres should not focus exclusively on high casters. Be sure to consider how any math in your sphere might apply to the kinds of characters who have lower caster levels, especially if your sphere provides any long-term buffs.
  • Archetypes usually treat their class level as their caster level for a focus sphere, or at least a thematic part of that focus sphere. For example, the Grim Disciple Mageknight archetype uses their class level as their caster level for curse effects from the Fate sphere, while the Parzivalian Knight Paladin archetype uses their class level as their caster level for concentrations and motifs. It is appropriate for even low casters to get full progression in their theme via an archetype. (This is usually one sphere, occasionally two, and never more than three.)
  • Strike-type abilities (including Warping Strike from the Warp Sphere and Time Strike from the Time sphere) should be compatible with the Spell Attack (champion) feat. Not every sphere should have a strike-type power, but do check these existing options for reference. This is expanded on in Ultimate Spheres of Power.

Martial Sphere Guidelines

  • Martial spheres should work based on the user's BAB and/or their ranks in a skill.
    • If they require ranks in a skill, they should give bonus ranks in that skill, following the general format of 1 point per hit dice (max 5, with the cap increasing by 5 for each additional talent people have in that sphere).
    • In general, offensive spheres tend to use BAB or a mix, defensive spheres tend to exclusively use BAB, and utility spheres (like Alchemy) tend to only use skill ranks. This isn't a firm rule, but new martial spheres should generally follow these guidelines.
    • You can use the same skill as a different sphere if the sphere's theme suggests this. For example, the Leadership and Warleader spheres both grant ranks in Diplomacy. If the sphere requires a skill, pick whatever skill is thematically appropriate, not whatever is sufficiently "different" from existing options.
    • It may be appropriate to offer choices in terms of what skill is given by a martial sphere. For example, if you create a sphere tied to the Perform skill, you might limit it to a specific skill, to any Perform skill that uses the practitioner's voice, or to any Perform skill at all. Remember, you should make decisions based on the overall theme of your sphere.
  • If the sphere is offensive, determine whether or not the base effect should be done as an attack action or special attack action. In general, special attack actions tend to be unique attacks (like barrages) while things that only trigger on attack actions tend to be rider effects (that add additional things to an attack).
  • Spheres of Might generally avoids anything that requires full attacks from its sphere effects, though you may sometimes see them in class abilities. For example, the Mageknight's Penetrating Blow option allows them to resolve all of their attacks as touch attacks, and this is more valuable the more attacks they can make. (Remember, consider Spherecasters as well as Practitioners for effects.)
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