Converting Pathfinder spells to Dragon Hack, part 1

This is the 1st in a (very) irregular series of posts setting out some thoughts on how we might convert some Pathfinder spell effects to the Dragon Hack mod. This post is primarily about stats and laying the groundwork… I don’t have any answers – yet!

In the PF core rulebook there are 623 spells; DA has 56 in Sets 1 and 2. For reference these are broken down by school of magic like this:

Abjuration          73
Conjuration        103
Divination           50
Enchantment      60
Evocation            81
Illusion                47
Necromancy       61
Transmutation   143
Universal            5

and by class like this:

Bard          163
Cleric        235
Druid        168
Paladin     45
Ranger      51
Sorcerer   395
Wizard      397

Clearly it will not be possible to convert all the PF spells – it would take ages! (Or AGEs even… ha ha!) We should also consider the number of spells available to mages: At 20th level a PF wizard with high Int could probably have access to 40 spells per day (about 4 each of spell levels 0 to 9) – about 10% of the total available to him. A Dragon Hack mage of the same level might have between 13 and 20, depending on talents and specializations. (Interestingly this is similar to a 4th ed character, which has about 17 powers at level 30, discounting racial and feat powers.) One could take this “10%” figure to arrive at a final spell list of 150 to 200 spells or so, roughly 3 to 4 times the size of the current Dragon Age list. Still quite a lot.

Of course, the DH mage can cast as his spells as long as he likes as long as he has the mana for it. But if you were to merely transfer the spell list “as-is” he would have nowhere near as much choice – it has to be cut down somehow.

The first thing we can do is concentrate on spell effects, i.e. don’t have spells that simply duplicate effects but at higher levels. So Cure Light Wounds and Cure Critical Wounds are basically the same; Charm Monster and Mass Charm Monster should be the lumped together;  Restoration, Greater Restoration and Lesser Restoration likewise; Summon Monster I to IX ditto. Applying this “filter” brings the total number of spells down to 539, which unfortunately is still quite high.

Some other possibilities for reducing the number of spell effects to convert include:

  • There are buffing spells for each ability, like Cat’s Grace, Bear’s Endurance etc. These should be fairly easy to convert (see Heroic Offense, for example).
  • A number of spells are effectively Arcane Lance (Magic Missile, Acid Arrow etc). These could be emulated by having magic school talents allow the mage to add that damage type to their Arcane Lance (e.g. Journeyman Primal allows your Arcane Lance to do Fire damage etc).
  • Some effects can be granted by the various degrees of the magic talents. There isn’t much scope for this, but you could save maybe 10 or 12 spells that way. But this would be a good way to simulate cantrips.
  • Following on from the first “filter”, there are many similar effects under different names. Heal, for example, has the same basic effect as Cure Light Wounds. Many of the Divination spells are similar in nature, just varying in degree of effect.
  • Alignment spells (Detect Good, Detect Evil etc) could be combined into “Detect Enemies” and so on.
  • Some spells have the same effect but applied to different types of target, e.g. Hold Person, Hold Monster etc. These could be combine into a single “Hold Creature” spell.

Finally for this post: should we retain the Dragon Age magic schools, or switch to the PF ones? To be honest, I’ve never thought that PF or D&D wizards identified themselves by school particularly, although PF wizards can choose preferred schools. So I’d say we keep the Dragon Age ones and – very broadly – map the PF ones as follows:

Creation: Conjuration, Transmutation, Abjuration
Spirit: Divination, Enchantment, Illusion
Entropy: Necromancy
Primal: Evocation

However, “Entropy” is not really a PF/D&D term. I’d suggest calling it “Destruction” or “Necromancy” just for flavour. Similarly “Primal” is fine as a school, but it could easily be split into “Nature” and “Elemental” if there are enough spells. Druids could then pick one as of these as a preferred school, for example. It would also necessitate an additional Magic talent, which could allow more flexibility.

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3 Responses to Converting Pathfinder spells to Dragon Hack, part 1

  1. joshjarman says:


    Good stuff here, and a lot of it broadly mirrors my thoughts on the difficulty of mapping Pathfinder spells wholesale into Dragon AGE (or Hack). Some of my additional thoughts:

    First, I like what you’ve done with refocusing the plentiful Pathfinder schools into the handful of schools that exist in Dragon AGE. After all, each Dragon AGE school needs not only a focus but a dedicated talent, with novice, journeyman and master levels, which adds a whole ‘nother level of complexity to creating schools for each of those that exist in Pathfinder. That said, I think we could probably afford to match up most spells to existing AGE schools while leaving the door open for adding one or two more schools to the list (and creating the focuses and talents for them). For example: While illusion would fit in the spirit category broadly, there really doesn’t seem to be a lot of spells in AGE canon so far that would fall under the illusion category to use as templates for Pathfinder conversions. And maybe it’s just the old-school DnD player in me, but I would love to see an Illusionist Specialization the way the school was broken out in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition Player’s Handbook (even if we’re veering a lil’ away from a core Pathfinder conversion.) I don’t have an example yet of exactly how I would break it down, but I’m thinking 6-7 spell schools in total, with four of those being the ones from the core Dragon AGE game.

    Second, as you’ve mentioned, there are waaay too many spells in the Pathfinder core book (not to mention resources such as Ultimate Magic, etc.) to transfer into AGE. And I don’t think transferring every single spell should be our goal. One thing that I think will make our job a lot easier (and I discovered as I was converting spells for the upcoming Midgard campaign setting book) is the way that in Dragon AGE spells stack, or essentially have a line of requirements that force a player to pick up earlier/weaker spells in order to cast their more powerful cousins later in the game. For example: A player can start the game with the Flame Blast spell, but can only cast Flaming Weapons (from set 2) if they already possess Flame Blast. If the RPG follows the video game at all, Flaming Weapons will be a requirement in order to pick up the Fireball spell, which will be a requirement in order to eventually cast Firestorm. (If I’m remembering my spells names correctly/it’s been a while since I played the video game). This greatly reduces the number of spells that need to be converted to Pathfinder because in each case we should be looking for spells that fit a theme that can be grouped together by requirements. After all, spells in AGE do not have spell levels, so the requirement entry of the spell description serves that role by limiting what spells a mage can choose at a given experience level or prior dedication to a spell school. Similarly, a group of higher level spells can be grouped together by making the first spell in the “chain” require the journeyman or master level of a spell school talent, meaning the player would have to at least be 5th or 7th level before they could take the intro spell for that chain.

    An example of a possible spell “chain” taken from Pathfinder could include the “acid” line of spells in the conjuration school. 0-level Acid Splash, 2nd level Acid Arrow, 6th level Acid Fog. Because of the differences in the spell levels, we would have to balance the spells out to be an appropriate power level for when a mage could choose them in the AGE game. Because the power of acid is to continue burning, or to find gaps in armor to burn the skin beneath, it should probably have the Penetrating characteristic. So to balance that against existing mechanics, we could say that Acid Splash functions pretty much as the Shock spell, but its a spray of acid coating the creatures in its area of effect. Acid Arrow works like Lightning (though we could reduce the damage a bit, or increase the spell’s TN in order to make its effects last for more than 1 round), and Acid Cloud would do similar damage to the Chain Lightning spell that we can expect to see in the third boxed set, but have game mechanics (it hangs around in a given area) equal to the Pathfinder spell.

    Essentially my thoughts for converting Pathfinder spells to AGE is that while the names and broad effects should be the same, the power level and when mages can acquire them needs to be more in line with what’s available for the base AGE game to keep things balanced. Basically, they need to have Pathfinder flavor, but AGE mechanics. Thoughts?

  2. Pingback: Pathfinder spell conversions: Some thoughts | joshjarman

  3. Vaelorn says:

    My current thoughts on the schools are:

    Creation (as per DA)
    Elemental (split out from Primal)
    Nature (the other half of Primal)
    Necromancy (a bit like Entropy in DA)
    Spirit (as DA)

    There’s no particular logic behind this, but it feels about right, to me anyway! I did a lot of thinking about how to categorise the PF spells into these schools (I have a spreadsheet with all of this stuff in it, if you’re interested!) but you’re absolutely right when you say there are too many spells to convert! My thought was then to pick 10 or 12 spells per school (from the PF list) that represent the core of that school and convert them, using the DA spells as a guide. Some are easy – for example, ‘Bull’s Strength’ is just ‘Heroic Offense’.

    But others do not, as you say, have a proper analogue. It’s interesting that you picked Illusion, as I chose that school for my first attempt! Again, if you focus on the mechanics of the spell then some are easy (‘Blur’ gives +1 defence), some are just descriptions (e.g. ‘Dream’) but others require some thought. For example, ‘Silent Image’, ‘Minor Image’, ‘Major Image’, ‘Persistent Image’, ‘Permanent Image’ and ‘Programmed Image’ all basically do the same thing: create an illusion. So should you have a single ‘Illusion’ spell that simply has a TN that goes up as you try to make it more complex, or replicate that chain? (I don’t know the answer to that one yet!)

    As for chains of spells, yes I think this is exactly the way to go! Having level requirements is not really a DA mechanic. The thing to watch out for is that we don’t make the requirements a ‘tax’ (as in the D&D 4e ‘feat tax’ where you had to take a lot of useless feats to get to the one you really wanted). But given the numbers of spells we’re talking about here, I think that can be avoided easily enough.

    And I agree with your last paragraph too!

    Also, it should also be possible to group some similar spells under a specialisation (as DA does with the Blood Mage and the Spirit Healer). I was thinking of doing this for summoning spells, and healing is another obvious choice: the Healer specialisation gets all of the raise dead type spells. At that point you could create a new school for each specialisation, which I think Green Ronin did for Blood Mages, but not for the Spirit Healer.

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