Creating New Incantations
Designing unique incantations is a tricky balancing act. Incantations are intentionally constructed to be much more idiosyncratic than spells. Since incantations hinge on Knowledge (arcane lore) checks, itís possible for characters to gain access to powerful magic before they are ready for it. Incantations are built from building blocks called seeds, which describe in general terms the magic effect youíre trying to create. When youíre designing your own incantation, youíll first choose which seed (or seeds) you want for the incantation.
Each seed comes with its own Knowledge (arcane lore) DC, which will serve as the base DC for the incantation youíre designing. If youíre designing an incantation with more than one seed, choose the most important one to provide the Knowledge (arcane lore) DC. Other seeds add one-third their Knowledge (arcane lore) DC to the total.
Next youíll apply a number of factors: modifications to the Knowledge (arcane lore) DC based on the specifics of your ritual. Increasing the base range of an incantation, for example, is a factor that will increase the Knowledge (arcane lore) DC. Reducing the duration of the incantation, on the other hand, is a factor that reduces the Knowledge (arcane lore) DC.
The third step is to identify components and options for the incantation. Some of your choices here may modify the Knowledge (arcane lore) DC further. Next, youíll set the effective level of the incantation. In some respects, incantations are like 6th- through 9th-level spells. Assess how powerful the incantation is, and assign it an effective level. The effective level determines a number of relatively minor aspects to the incantation: how many total successes are required, the exact save DC of the incantation, and sometimes its precise range and duration.
Total Successes: Equal to the incantationís effective level (minimum 6).
Save DC: Equals 10 + incantationís effective level + casterís Charisma modifier.
Duration and Range: Assume a caster level of twice the spellís level, using the same formula a spell would. For example an incantation built from a seed with a duration of ďminutesĒ would last 12 minutes if itís effectively a 6th-level spell. The same incantation with Medium range can affect a target up to 220 feet away.
Finally, youíll decide how to put the new incantation in your game. Usually, a Research check will suffice to reveal it to the characters, but some incantations can be powerful tools in the hands of NPCs.
Create with Caution
Fundamentally, itís important to realize that this system is meant as a starting point, not the last word. Anytime you have multiple modifiers to a single DC, the potential for accidental consequences or intentional abuse is there.
To keep incantations under control in your campaign, avoid creating incantations with Knowledge (arcane lore) DCs lower than 30. Conversely, donít allow any feat, class feature, or magic item that provides a large bonus to Knowledge (arcane lore) checks. Bonuses of +2 or even +4 are fine, but larger bonuses might unbalance your game.
GMs should emphasize how much faster, easier, and safer spells are than incantations. Every incantation you create should have at least one component thatís difficult for the caster to deal with, such as an experience point cost, expensive material component, or significant backlash. Because incantations donít require spell slotsóor even spellcasting abilityóyou need to make sure that characters canít simply cast incantations repeatedly, stopping only to sleep.