Finding the Path: Universal
Copyright lcrangirl.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

Hello everyone, and welcome to the final installment in a series of 9 articles covering the basics of each of the various schools of spells for a Sorcerer, Wizard or other Arcane caster in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, focusing on the spells available in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook (and possibly any that stand out from elsewhere). The goal for each of these is to provide you with a quick overview of useful spells at each level as well as the people who use these spells.

That said, welcome to this week’s article on the arcane school of Universal magic.

The Universal spell school is special in that it is the only spell school that every wizard will gain access to, and which you cannot choose as your opposed school. It is also the smallest of the schools, but it still has a specialist dedicated to it, so let’s take a look at this Universalist wizard. If we look in the Core Rulebook, we find that it is described as “Wizards who do not specialize (known as universalists) have the most diversity of all arcane spellcasters.” – While somewhat true, it’s not quite true. Unlike some games, in Pathfinder, wizards can still cast spells from opposing schools, it simply takes up more spellslots to do so. What I would say is that Universalists have the greatest FLEXIBILITY of all the various wizard types, in that they can adapt their spells to the given situation, without suffering a drawback in doing so, though they do not gain the advantage that specialists do for other spells.

The Univeral school itself, as said, is small, consisting of only 5 spells. So let’s dive into them.

Arcane Mark
Allowing you to place your personal brand/rune/signature on any surface, which can be both visible or invisible, depending on the wishes of the caster. The trick here is that the Arcane Mark is personal, so it cannot be forged. It, therefore, makes for an excellent anti-theft measure, as it cannot be faked. It can be placed upon any surface, though on non-permanent surfaces (like skin), it’ll eventually wear off. Otherwise, it requires an erase spell to remove. In certain campaign settings, such as the 2nd edition Forgotten Realms, the unique signatures of powerful wizards are well-known, and people would tend to avoid those marked with the brand of a known spellcaster, knowing that the person might come for their property at any time. A Game Master could even build up an entire portfolio of individual marks for spellcasters, and use them as ways to introduce new NPCs into the game. Similarly, a PC might use an invisible Arcane Mark on objects he wishes to trace, or in the case of a particularly enterprising PC, use it on a chest, arrange for it to come into possession of the main villain, wait for a month or two and then use instant summons on it, gaining control of whatever the villain had put into the chest.

This is one of the most flexible spells in the game, in that it can do all minor actions. Things like cleaning (which can be handy for anyone in a swamp wishing to avoid disease), coloring (handy for disguises), chill meat or food (for preservation), warm things (useful for food, or warming up a blanket in the middle of a blizzard), and even adding flavor to things. In short, it can be used for all the little things in life, to make things just that bit easier or more comfortable. Personally, for smart uses (like using it to clean your clothes in a dirty environment or warming your blanket in the cold), I allow it to add a +2 circumstance bonus to skill checks, and if combined with other reasonable measures, even saving throws. However, as it is a 0-level spell, I specifically do not allow it to affect combat actions, skill checks and saving throws. That is what other spells are for, but I believe that players should be rewarded for innovative uses of this spell.

Permanency used to be one of the required spells for creating permanent items. It wasn’t possible to create a permanent +1 magic sword for example, without the use of this spell. However, that has been toned back in Pathfinder. It still allows you to make certain spells permanent (in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook they specifically call out a number of spells that can be made permanent), all of which enable you to have the effect of that spell permanently, without sacrificing spell slots for it. And things like Tongues should be handy to most groups. The important thing though is this note: “The GM may allow other spells to be made permanent.” – I encourage all GMs to allow creative use of this spell. Defensive spells like a permanent blade barrier make for excellent examples of powerful combinations of spells. I’d even go so far as to allow things like Charm Person (Dominate Person might be going a bit too far) to be made permanent, AS LONG AS IT ADDS TO THE GAME. The moment you believe that a PC is abusing the system, say no (like a permanent Truestrike for example). If you find yourself on the fence about a particular spell, have the PC spend a number of gold, equal to what it would cost to create it as a magical item, on research, to make the spell work. Should he still be willing to pay that cost, I would allow it. (After all, you can always, as the GM, undo it again with a Disjunction or Greater Dispel Magic or whatever method you prefer).

Limited Wish / Wish
I’m going to cover these two spells under one heading, due to their similar nature, but what I’ll write concerns mainly Wish since it is the more powerful of the two. Everything said here applies to Limited Wish as well, but since it is a less powerful version, parts of it can be ignored for that.

Wish can copy almost any spell of a lower level, it can give an inherent bonus to a stat, though you’ll need to stack them at the same time to get a higher than +1 Inherent bonuses. And a whole host of other stuff. But these are all rather boring and are already covered in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook.

In order to get some input for this, I actually put up a call to the Pathfinder RPG community to share their stories, and here are a few of them: (These are direct quotes (though changed for grammar), chosen for their Roleplaying purposes, NOT their mechanical effects, like wishing for an automatic critical hit (as that’s a bit too meta-gaming, and really is covered in the basics of the spell)):

1) “Big epic fight, knew that wishing for all my spell slots as a caster back instantly wasn’t going to work BUT that a ‘I wish I would fall asleep for 1 round and wake up refreshed as if I’d slept 8 hours and studied up same spells I already had taken’ and as I would be spending a full round unconscious and helpless, GM ok’d it — everyone just defended me for a round.

2) I limited wished for a major NPC to be cured of their alcoholism. They relapsed anyway.

3) I had a player use a deitic wish to have her character’s zombie dragon mount become a living follower. Brand new soul for the dragon, and the character became a mommy.

4) I wish for a million gold pieces. It begins raining gold, dealing AoE damage.

There are a few things for any wisher to consider, and the GM as well, as to whether he should corrupt the wish (i.e. make sure the player regrets being greedy). These are:

The caster: Do you trust the person casting the spell? Someone who is untrustworthy is more likely to try to corrupt the wish. I.e. getting a Wish from a Pit Fiend (Lawful Evil) requires a lot more care than getting it from a Lawful Good goddess. Depending on the caster this can be lethal (like the raining gold example from above).

Be clear: Keep the Wish simple and clear. Overcomplicating the situation makes it very difficult to prevent any disaster from happening. Like the relapsing character mentioned above, as opposed to the sleeping wizard.

Be Modest: Wishing for yourself tends to get messy, whereas if you’re wishing to benefit others, it comes across far less complicated and far safer, to both you and them. Trying to reshape reality can go wrong. I.e. The million gold example from before. The GM seems to have gone “here’s your gold, out of thin air, bang it hits your head,” but he COULD have gone “Here’s your gold. No immediate repercussions… Well, that is until you find out you just stole the hoard of a powerful wizardking or dragon,” which presents greater opportunities for the game.

Finally, of course, should a GM corrupt wishes? – Well, that really depends on the person using Wish. If they fulfill the criteria above, I would say that he shouldn’t, but a careless Wish, one out to only benefit the caster, and which takes into account no one else, well, THAT should be corrupted. I don’t think I need to come up with ideas for you to corrupt your players wishes (since it depends entirely on what they wish for), but if you’re lacking ideas, check out things like “One Thousand and One Arabian Nights” and the Aladdin cartoon, as well as adventure called “The Final Wish” that was released by Paizo as part of their Legacy of Fire adventure path.

With that, we conclude our look at the spells of the Wizarding Schools, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

Next time, we are going to delve into the Domains of the Clerics, tackling each Domain in turn, and giving you not only the Domain and a rundown of the abilities and spells, but giving you details for using a god from our world’s religions in your game (for example, once we get to the Trickery domain, I plan on giving you Loki. But next week, we have the Air Domain coming up.).

I hope you’ve enjoyed these articles and I look forward to seeing you next week, and as always, please feel free to give hints and stories about creative spell usage and amusing anecdotes in the comments.

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Kim Frandsen

Kim Frandsen

37 years old, and a gamer since I was 13. These days I freelance as a writer for various companies (currently Fat Goblin Games, Flaming Crab Games, Outland Entertainment, Purple Duck Games, Rusted Iron Games and Zenith Games) as well as editing the Pathfinder and D&D 5th edition lines for D20PFSRD Publishing. I've dipped my hands into all sorts of games, but my current "go-to" games are Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classics and SLA Industries. Unfortunately, while wargaming used to be a big hobby, with wife, dog and daughter came less time.
Kim Frandsen

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