I like cantrips. Part of my interest in cantrips was probably inspired by Jon Winter’s article “The Little Wish” in Dragon Magazine #221, where he offers suggestions as to what cantrips from each school can do (this is back in the 2E AD&D days, where there was a spell called cantrip, and it covered all the bases).
I like that cantrips a very minor type of magic. I like that in PF they can be used over and over. I like that there are means for non-spellcasters to learn how to cast them. In a way, PF converting the 3E (expended-like-a-spell) 0-level spells into (at-will-these-are-different-than-spells) cantrips is a precursor to the hex ability of the witch class—something you can use over and over which (unlike preparing a spell) doesn’t expend a daily resource.
(It’s funny that there is pressure at Paizo against adding new cantrips to the game, mainly because the wizard class “begins play with a spellbook containing all 0-level wizard spells” and the witch class’s familiar “begins play storing all of the 0-level witch spells,” and therefore all new wizards and witches would automatically start play with every single cantrip ever published*. This aversion to new cantrips actually resulted in a bunch of cantrips written for Ultimate Magic getting cut from the book.)
Of course, Goody White’s Book of Folk Magic has dozens of at-will hexes, some of which are also low-level spells. I even wrote some 0-level spells for 3E back in the day, some of which later got adapted into not-cantrips.
Basically, I like the game mechanic aspects of cantrips. It’s fun to take an existing spell and see if you can squish its power level down enough that it’s appropriate for an at-will use. Which is a small aspect of how magic in Five Moons RPG works, which I’ll address in a future blog.
What prompted this blog was I woke up this morning thinking about an underused spell in World of Warcraft called Eye of Kilrogg, which creates a floating green eyeball that the caster can move around at normal speed to spy on things. D&D/PF has arcane eye, of course. But how would you make that 5th-level spell into a cantrip? The easiest way is to limit its range to “5 feet,” which means it’s not good for scouting ahead, but is great for looking around corners. Which resulted in this:
School divination (scrying); Level sorcerer/wizard 0, witch 0
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S
Range 5 ft.
Effect magical sensor
Saving Throw none; Spell Resistance no
You create an invisible magical sensor that sends you visual information. You can create the corner peeker within range at any point you can see, but it cannot travel outside your line of sight. A corner peeker can move to anywhere in its square as a move action. It sees exactly as you would see if you were there.
The sensor can travel in any direction. Solid barriers block its passage, but it can pass through a hole or space as small as 1 inch in diameter. It can’t enter another plane of existence, even through a gate or similar magical portal.
(There will be a version of this spell Five Moons RPG but with a much simpler stat block.)
(There will also be something in Five Moons RPG that means you don’t have to list what cantrips mid-level casters have prepare, because that’s annoying clutter in a stat block that needs to focus on important things.)
If you like this post and where these ideas are going, please check out the kickstarter for my Five Moons RPG, which uses these ideas. Thanks!
* Of course, the way to fix that is to errata the two classes so they only get the cantrips in the Core Rulebook instead of “all” cantrips.