Spheres Gestalt Rules
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Wiki Note: The following have become an official (albeit optional) rule for Spheres of Power.

Gestalt is a variant of traditional Pathfinder meant to represent characters with a wider variety of powerful abilities than normal. Originating in an earlier version of the world’s most popular tabletop roleplaying game, gestalt has been adapted by many GMs to other systems in their own way.

In this campaign variant, characters functionally gain two classes at each level and gain the best aspects of each. In many ways, it is similar to multiclassing, but characters gain the full benefits of their classes at every level. If the two classes have aspects that overlap (such as their Hit Dice, base attack bonus progression, saving throws, or specific, non-spell class features available on more than one class such as sneak attack or uncanny dodge), you gain the better version of each. A gestalt character also retains aspects that do not overlap.

This rule is especially effective when a game has three or fewer players in the group - or when players like the complexity of characters with multiple classes and want characters with enhanced power. This rule should only be used if every PC in the campaign is using it. Note that gestalt almost always results in complicated characters, and these complications may overwhelm new players, so experienced GMs and players should actively offer help to any members of a group who are struggling with these rules.

It is inadvisable to use gestalt to create particularly powerful characters unless everyone at your table agrees to do this, particularly in low-player games. Instead, we suggest spreading your talents out to fit multiple character roles and being able to do more things, rather than the same thing but better.

Note On Powerful Characters: While it is possible to make an unusually powerful character with the gestalt rules, this is a bad idea unless everyone at the table is in agreement. The main reason for this is that not only is it more challenging for the GM to create foes that are enjoyably challenging for everyone, but other people at the table may feel left out or even irrelevant if somebody uses specific power combinations to make themselves drastically better than anyone else. In other words, even if something is rules-legal, it may be inappropriate.

This ultimately varies by table, but in general, a key aspect of good gestalt play is knowing how and when to hold back. You do not need to run at maximum power all the time, and in fact probably should not do so. By willingly holding back to match the rest of your party, you can retain options for tough situations while still ensuring the other people you are playing with have fun. This is a social game, and making a character that is appropriate for the social dynamics and expectations of your group is just as important as making a character you enjoy playing. (Of course, if your table likes going full throttle all the time, do that! The point is that whatever you do, you should try to ensure that everyone at the table is having fun.)

Building A Gestalt Character

To make a 1st-level gestalt character, choose two classes from those the GM is accepting in a campaign. (You can also choose any variant classes and archetypes, though you cannot combine two versions of the same class.) Build your character according to the following guidelines.

Hit Dice: Choose the larger Hit Die. For example, an armorist/incanter would use d10 as their Hit Die and have 10 hit points (plus Constitution modifier) at 1st level.

Base Attack Bonus: Choose the better progression from the two classes.

Base Saving Throw Bonuses: For each save bonus, choose the better progression from the two classes. For example, a 1st-level gestalt conscript/striker would have base saving throw bonuses of Fortitude +2, Reflex +2, Will +0 — taking the good Fortitude and Reflex saves from their classes and remaining with a low Will save because neither grants that. Meanwhile, a 1st-level gestalt striker/thaumaturge would have base saving throw bonuses of Fortitude +2, Reflex +2, Will +2.

  • When using the fractional base bonuses rule from Pathfinder Unchained, a character uses the better of the two possible fractional bonuses from their two classes.

Class Skills: Take the number of skill points gained per level from whichever class grants more skill points, and consider any skill on either class list as a class skill for the gestalt character. For example, a gestalt soul weaver/technician would have 6 + Intelligence modifier skill points and all class skills from both classes.

Class Features: A gestalt character gains the class features of both classes. A 1st-level gestalt elementalist/eliciter, for example, gets the casting class feature with all magic talents (+2 bonus talents), a spell pool, weave energy, enchanter, fascinate, hypnotism, and persuasive. Class- and ability-based restrictions (such as the alignment requirement for the warrior of the holy light mageknight archetype) apply normally to a gestalt character, no matter what the other class is.

A gestalt character follows a similar procedure when he attains 2nd and subsequent levels. Each time he gains a new level, he chooses two classes, takes the best aspects of each, and applies them to his characteristics. A few caveats apply, however.

  • Class features that two classes share accrue at the rate of the faster class, except for sphere talents, which the character always gains the full amount of for both classes.
    • In gestalt games, the sage’s ki pool does not stack with any other ki pool from class features. It is essentially a spell pool and should be treated mainly as that, despite the name. Also, the sage’s ki should not interact with magical items that affect ki usage without explicit GM permission (unless those items were published specifically for Spheres of Power games). Certain items can allow extremely powerful exploits, and this is not the intended usage of the rules.
  • Spherecasters only get the two bonus talents one time.
  • Gestalt characters with more than one Spheres class combine their talents (and spell pools, if applicable) and use the higher of their caster and/or practitioner levels. Note that classes that give access to certain spheres at a higher level (such as the shifter using their class level, rather than caster level, for the Alteration sphere) still cannot get a ‘basic’ power level with that sphere higher than what a High-Caster could. In other words, a 5th-level incanter/shifter would only have CL 5th with the Alteration sphere.
    • For spell pools, this means that you should calculate each spell pool separately (from level, ability mod, bonuses from boons, etc., but not the Extra Spell Points feat), then add them together. This is a rare case where a character may effectively be able to add their ability score modifier twice to something, and it is intended for it to work this way.
  • Multiple increases to a sphere’s effective caster level from getting it as a class ability do not stack. This is most likely to come up when using archetypes. These abilities never intend to offer more than “full” progression, and gestalt characters should respect that intention. For example, a gestalt elementalist/incanter would not have their Destruction sphere abilities progress at any rate greater than 1 caster level per character level.
  • If you have classes with conflicting casting or practitioner ability modifiers, choose one CAM and one PAM to use for those two classes. (For example, if one class requires you to use Charisma and the other requires you to use Wisdom, you can choose to use either Charisma or Wisdom for both of those classes.) This only applies to the classes you gain at first level. Any classes gained later use their normal casting/practitioner ability modifiers.
    • In Ultimate Spheres of Power, casting ability modifiers are set by casting tradition instead of by class. The guidelines for determining which to use are fundamentally the same as when it is set by class.
    • This applies separately for each type of modifier. Thus, for example, you cannot make an incanter/striker gestalt to use Constitution as your casting ability modifier.
  • Characters with two spherecasting classes gain twice the number of bonus spell points from their casting tradition (if any).
  • A gestalt character can combine two prestige classes or a prestige class and a regular class at any level. Prestige classes that are essentially class combinations - such as the arcane trickster, bokor, mystic theurge, and eldritch knight - may be prohibited or restricted if you are using gestalt classes, because they unduly complicate the game balance of what’s already a high-powered variant (unless they are taking both sides of the gestalt, anyway). Because it is possible for gestalt characters to qualify for prestige classes earlier than normal, the game master is entirely justified in toughening the prerequisites of a prestige class so it is available only after 5th level, even for gestalt characters.
  • A gestalt character may trade feats for combat talent progression (under the normal rules in Spheres of Might for doing so) even if they have a High-Caster class on one side of the gestalt, but only if they have at least one class that is not a High-Caster at any level. If the character has two High-Caster classes at a given level, that level does not count for the purpose of combat talent progression from trading feats. Remember that this combat talent progression does not stack with class levels that grant combat talents normally - you cannot get extra combat talents for classes that already provide combat talents through this trade.
  • Game masters should consider limiting any “combined” powers, such as having a destructive blast using the caster level from an incanter added onto a full attack from a mageknight. The best way to do this is by saying that when such things are combined, the magic will only take effect at the lower progression. Because gestalt characters are extremely complicated and many such combinations are situational, we cannot predict all of them. Instead, GMs should review the combos and determine whether or not they are appropriate for the game being run. Players should explain these combos as early as possible - if a GM rejects a particular combo, this makes it much easier to change your planned build.
    • If a class does not have a caster level, treat their effective caster level as inverse to their base attack bonus. (So high base attack bonus is a Low-Caster, 3/4ths base attack bonus is Mid-Caster, and low base attack bonus is High-Caster.)
  • Characters who trade in proficiencies to gain a martial tradition (rather than starting with one) must trade in their proficiencies from both of their classes, even if one of those classes does not use Spheres of Might.
  • Characters may take up to two extra (discipline) talents (and/or Armor Training) from the Equipment sphere for each martial class beyond the first that they start with, representing their training with additional weapons from a second martial class. GMs may allow a character to gain two extra (discipline) talents even if the second class does not use martial spheres if the backstory, class theme, or character theme justifies it.
    • As a general rule, all high-base-attack-bonus classes and most 3/4ths base attack bonus classes (except those limited to unarmed strikes) qualify for the extra (discipline) talents, as do all classes that would normally grant a martial tradition or qualify to take a martial tradition by trading in their proficiencies. Equipment proficiencies gained after first level are added normally and are not affected by martial traditions.
  • For all circumstances not covered by these guidelines, the GM should use their best judgment.

Why Combine The Talents Of The Classes?

This decision was made based on the normal multiclassing rules. With vancian casting (traditional system) characters, multiclassing casters does not let you combine caster levels or continue gaining spells. In the Spheres of Power system, combining classes does stack your caster level and the talents you get, and progression continues.

This does mean that a gestalt Spheres character will, on average, have more talents at a high level than normal characters could. This is particularly true for spherecasters. However, the action economy limits of the system mean that even if a character knows more spells, they cannot use all of them at once. This prevents them from being too strong at any given time.

What If I Want To Split Talents/Tradition By Class?

Go ahead and do so! The Spheres of Power system is nothing if not flexible. This works particularly well when you want to have a character with multiple traditions/training. For example, an incanter//soul weaver might be created as an “arcane casting/divine casting” character who represents both techniques, and views them as separate sets of powers within the game world. The guidelines here are…

  • All passive effects remain on. You are (usually) not choosing which set of talents is active at any given time.
  • Spell pools are separated and only get their normal increase from casting traditions.
  • Each sphere (martial or magical) is locked to one of your classes, except for the Equipment sphere (which any character that has access to martial talents can take). For example, if you take the Berserker sphere as a conscript, you cannot spend any martial talents as a sentinel in that sphere.
  • Practitioners and Champions only begin with one martial focus, even if you have two classes using martial talents.
  • With your GM’s permission, you may gain one casting tradition for each spherecasting class (applying drawbacks, etc., to bonus spell points, boons, and so on). You may also choose to have the same tradition for both classes. If you gain any boons, they only apply to talents from the class the tradition they are part of is linked to.

*The Manifold Spell Knowledge feat cannot be used to increase your normal caster level in any tradition above your character level.

  • Practitioners only gain one martial tradition, regardless of the number of martial classes they have.

Why are Practitioners more limited than Spherecasters?

Martial traditions represent a character’s initial martial training and will typically cover all of the gear a character wants to use. Most characters stick with 1-2 weapons for their whole career.

The extra (discipline) talents should cover things for all but the most complicated builds. Also, martial traditions come with bonus talents - just like spherecasters should not get their two bonus magic talents from the casting class ability more than once, practitioners should not get free talents from multiple martial traditions.

The extra (discipline) talents represent the potentially-useful proficiencies a character would normally have gotten from another class. They are a replacement for what a character would normally have, not a bonus.

What if my personal plot involves fighting in several styles?

Just flavor it that way. Unlike spherecasting (where different casting traditions produce genuinely different casting styles), martial traditions are mainly descriptive beyond the initial talents they offer (which a character may or may not end up using on a regular basis). You do not need multiple martial traditions to roleplay fighting in different styles. (This is especially relevant for armigers.)

What If I’m Gestalting Spheres and Non-Spheres?

Keep everything separate, especially casting. The GM should carefully review any powers you plan to stack (such as a powerful melee attack and a full-power destructive blast) to ensure they are still appropriate. They may rule that you cannot combine certain things, or that there is a limit on that, even if it is otherwise “legal”.

Remember that Spheres of Power has many ways to increase your caster level. It is not necessarily inappropriate to combine an attack (or other action) with a magical effect that has a CL equal to or greater than the character’s class level - in fact, many Champion classes and archetypes can do exactly this. Given the complexity of gestalt builds, this should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the GM.

Also, martial traditions replace all of a character’s starting weapon, armor, and shield proficiencies.

Sample Gestalt Combinations

Because the player of a gestalt character chooses two classes at every level, the possibilities for gestalt characters are almost limitless. Here are some sample combinations.

Conscript/Incanter
The ultimate “Champion”, mixing both of the spheres. More talents than any other class combination could possibly conceive of - by a significant margin - and maximum flexibility in choosing what to get. Truly a “build your own” character.

Armorist/Blacksmith
Have you ever wanted to be the true master of gear? Well, now you can be - yours and everyone else’s! This is a gestalt with full base attack bonus on both sides, which means it is inherently biased towards combat powers - possibly a little too much so. Consider taking at least a few martial and magical talents for non-combat choices.

Armiger/Thaumaturge
A warrior who focuses on using their weapons most of the time, but knows a small number of spells they can supercharge for incredible effect. This makes magic into a high-risk, high-reward prospect for a character that usually avoids it, and this could play in well with a good tradition and backstory.

Armorist/Sentinel
Do you want to be unstoppable? Well, no talent combinations actually allow that, but the Armorist can call the right weapons and armor for any situation, with enchantments, and use the Sentinel’s incredible tanking powers to survive practically anything. This is quite possibly the most defensive combination available with the Spheres of Power system.

Eliciter/Soul Weaver
You control the living - and the dead. Come to think of it, this could make for a pretty incredible villain…

Scholar/Technician
You are a master of making things. Regardless of what’s going on, you probably have the gadgets and tools necessary to help a party get through things… and if you do not have them, you can make them. This combo works surprisingly well when using scholar for damage (via options like lightning rod knack), and technician for bonus-providing gear instead of weapons.

Balancing Gestalt Characters

Obviously, this variant results in characters who are significantly more powerful than is standard. But how much more powerful? The simple answer - that gestalt characters are twice as powerful as standard characters — is not accurate. Gestalt characters do not have an advantage in the most important game currency: available actions. Even a character who can fight like a conscript and cast magic like an incanter generally cannot do both in the same round. A gestalt character cannot be in two places at once as two separate characters can be. Gestalt characters who try to fulfill two party roles (melee fighter and spellcaster, for example) find they must split their feat choices, ability score improvements, and gear selection between their two functions.

While a gestalt character is not as powerful as two characters of equal level, a gestalt character is more powerful than a standard character. Hit points will always be at least equal to those of a standard character, saving throws will almost certainly be better, and gestalt characters have versatility that standard characters cannot achieve without multiclassing. Furthermore, a party of gestalt characters has greater durability and many more spell points per day, so they can often take on more consecutive encounters without stopping to rest and recover.

This is not without limits. Some classes are naturally better at combining actions. The GM should monitor things and ensure all characters are still reasonably close to each other with their numbers.

Your players may be excited by the chance to play fighters with powerful tension attacks or spherecasters who can cast any sphere. But as the game master, you know that the only measure of PC power that matters is the comparison with NPC power. By throwing monsters of higher Challenge Ratings at them, you’ll still be giving them significant challenges. Gestalt characters look superior compared to standard characters, but that is a false comparison. With this variant, such “standard” characters do not exist.

Here’s how to build a campaign that can handle gestalt characters.

Challenge Ratings

Gestalt characters can obviously handle more opposition than standard characters. The simplest way to compensate for this is to use adventures with tougher monsters. In general, a party of four gestalt characters can handle multiple encounters with a single monster of a Challenge Rating equal to their average level + 1. If the monster poses a challenge because it forces the characters to succeed at life-threatening saving throws, it is even weaker against gestalt characters, who have few or no weak saves. Characters can handle multiple encounters with such monsters at a Challenge Rating equal to their average level + 2. A shambling mound (CR 6) or a medusa (CR 7) would be appropriate average encounters for four 5th-level gestalt characters. If you take this approach, realize that characters gain levels faster than in a typical campaign, because they are gaining experience points as if those encounters were harder than they actually are. You are obviously comfortable with a high-powered game, so faster advancement may be an additional benefit, not a problem. If you rely on published adventures, this is the easiest option.

If the characters are optimized well, and/or you are strong rules to start with (like powerful races and high ability scores), then the party may realistically be able to handle multiple encounters of their average level + 3 as if those were easy fights. It is ultimately up to you to determine what sort of power level you want your game to have.

If you want to keep level advancement at the standard average of thirteen encounters per level, reduce the Challenge Ratings of all the monsters and NPCs in your campaign by 1 (or by 2 if they rely on failed PC saving throws to pose a challenge). The shambling mound and the medusa would both become CR 5 monsters, and the gestalt characters gain levels at the usual rate. Monsters with a Challenge Rating of 1 become CR 1/2, and other monsters with fractional Challenge Ratings have their CRs cut in half (kobolds become CR 1/6, in other words).

Many staple low-CR monsters do not work well against a party of gestalt characters, even 1st-level gestalts.

Adventure Design

Once you adjust the Challenge Ratings, you have one more subtle factor to consider when you design adventures for gestalt characters. You must take into account the greater “adventure stamina” of gestalt characters both when you are preparing an adventure and when you are at the gaming table running the adventure. Because gestalt characters have more hit points, better saving throws, and deeper casting lists than standard characters, they can safely tackle more encounters in a row before they run low on hit points and spell points.

Gestalt characters can, for example, delve deeply into a dungeon on their first foray, when the dungeon denizens may not be expecting them. The defenders of any site in a site-based adventure cannot rely on wearing out a party of gestalt characters.

They have to pose enough of a threat that the gestalt characters retreat because they are worried about their hides, not just because the incanter is almost out of spell points. In event-based adventures, gestalt characters can wreak havoc with timetables because they have more resources at their disposal. Note that the truly game-altering things are locked as advanced talents, and you may want to limit their availability (except, perhaps, for recovery talents) in a gestalt game to a case-by-case basis.

At the gaming table, you may want to plan longer gaming sessions because rest periods for the characters are natural stopping points for the players, and gestalt characters have fewer rest periods (and this is considering the use of the Spheres of Power systems, which are already good for long adventures). If you do stop in the middle of the action, encourage your players to take careful notes of which class abilities they expend, which talents they have active, and other relevant information.

Gestalt characters are complex enough that relying solely on memory is a recipe for trouble. If you use electronics at your table, there are plenty of programs that can help with this.

NPCs

An important aspect of most campaigns is verisimilitude—which may be built on the notion that everything in the campaign world is obeying the same set of rules. Accordingly, important NPCs in your game should also be gestalt characters. It is probably not necessary to have noncombatant NPCs or inconsequential minions pick two classes, but significant enemies and allies should be constructed as gestalt characters.

Prestige Classes

The high-powered nature of the gestalt character variant gives you more room to create unique prestige classes. First, you can create narrowly specialized prestige classes, and they’ll still be compelling choices for PCs because the characters can simultaneously advance in a regular class while taking levels in the prestige class. Players will not feel shoehorned into a very specific prestige class if they have another class they are also advancing in. Second, you can create truly outrageous prestige classes-but add the additional cost that such classes take up both class choices for gestalt characters. For example, a prestige class that offered a d10 Hit Die, +1/level base attack bonus, three good saves, High-Caster spherecasting, and full martial progression would be completely unbalanced in a standard game. But if it takes up both “class slots” for a gestalt character, it is no more powerful than taking a level in the conscript/incanter gestalt.

Campaign Pacing

Once it is adjusted as outlined above, a campaign that employs gestalt characters is not that different from a standard campaign. Gestalt characters do not gain access to key campaign-changing abilities faster than their standard counterparts.

No gestalt character can use advanced talents under her own power before reaching the prerequisite levels, and many spheres have built-in limits on the number of additional talents that can be active at once.

Gestalt characters get to tackle monsters a level or two ahead of time, but they are still fighting gnolls at low levels, rakshasas at middle levels, and balors at high levels. Perhaps the only noticeable difference in terms of campaign pacing is that gestalt PCs are “something special” from the beginning. They are far more powerful than typical 1st-level commoners even at the beginning of the campaign. Again, this difference only matters for a level or two, because standard 3rd level characters are also far more powerful than 1st-level commoners.

Understanding Intent

There is no way for any set of rules to predict every possible combination of abilities, including powers that are similar to, but not quite the same as, existing abilities on another class. When uncertain, follow this rule: Gestalt characters should strive to uphold both the letter and the spirit of these rules. This is why, for example, abilities do not have to be exactly the same in order for the gestalt rules to stop them from stacking. Gestalt characters can already be extremely powerful if players do not hold back when selecting their options, and GMs are free to impose any additional limits they choose in order to manage the power of characters in their game and help ensure that everyone at the table is having fun.


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