Translating 3.x spell mechanics to 4e

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I wanted to ask about converting some 3.x spell mechanics to 4e, particularly the concepts of “caster level” and “saving throws”.  As a caveat, I should say I only played maybe 3 games of 3.5 before 4e came out, so most of my understanding is based on reading the rulebooks, not how things actually played out.  Please pardon my thinking out loud. 


Caster level seems to mostly affect how “big” the spell is – either lengthens duration, makes more of the effect (ie number of Magic Missiles), or otherwise increases it in some way.  Increasing your caster level just changed your starting point on a sliding scale of effect.  But 4e spell mechanics don’t really have durations other than “save ends”, and if you want a bigger AoE you take a feat to do that.  So to phrase this as a question with a particular example, if there was a 3.x ability that says “Add +2 to the effective caster level of the spell”, what does that mean in 4e terms?


And the same question for saving throws against spells.  As I understand it, it’s basically the “to hit” mechanic, only reversed from 4e.  In 4e, the attacker rolls to hit, while in 3.x the target rolls to not get hit.  Either way, both are hoping to roll high to determine whether an attack lands or not.  So if a 3.x ability says “Add +2 to the DC to the spell save”, you are making it harder for the monster to roll it’s save by 2 – the 4e equivalent of lowering its target defense by 2.  Am I interpreting this correctly, that a save vs spell at +2 is the same as an attack at -2?


For the curious, the reason I’m asking is that I’m trying to convert a 3.5 FR gem mage to a 4e character.  The basic schtick is that for an additional cost, you can include a particular sort of gem in the creation of a magic item, which enhances the item’s properties (the sort/amount of enhancement varies with gem type).  For instance, if you use a 5000gp Ruby in the item, it raises the save throw to any evocation spell you cast by +2, or if no save allowed, raises the effective caster level by +2.  I’m wondering what that means in 4e terms, because if my interpretations above are correct, for a 5K extra investment, I can get a permanent +2 to [insert keyword] attacks and/or some other effect boost.  That seems pretty powerful…?


Any input or insight would be much appreciated, thanks!

first thing's first: 4th ed defenses are the reverse of 3rd ed saves.

whereas in 3rd ed you would have an active save of Will 7, in 4th ed it's a passive defense of 17. the flipside is that in 3rd ed you're rolling save VS spell DC (we'll say the DC is 17) whereas in 4th ed you don't do anything: they're trying to bypass your defense by rolling at +7

the onus of rolling is on the initiator.

now that that's settled...

there is no real "+ to spellcaster level" equivalent for the most part, since "larger more powerful effects" is represented by taking a similar power but of higher level.

my honsest recommendation would be that you create a particular paragon path that uses gems for various added effects on wands/rods/staves:

Sapphire adds 1 to Burst/Blast radius, Ruby adds +2 damage, Quartz adds +1 to accuracy, Opal allows you to sustain 1 effect for X rounds as a free action, Lapis Lazuli gives enemies a -2 penalty to saves, etc... most of these should be once per encounter or allow their effect after you've seen if you hit/miss.

the character can only have one "active" implement at a time. if you want to, you can have it cost X amount of money to buy new gems, create the implements in particular or simply give them free as part of attaining the PP (over time the PC has been getting the gems and attuning them, blah blah blah). how powerful it is will vary, but i don't see it causing too many ripples if it only adds a +1 or +2 here and there, maybe with a capstone ability of using 2 at once?

how that gels with the existing improved implements... eh... but it's something to think about

but i honestly know nothing about the "Gem Mage"
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Generally speaking in 4e you trade up to higher level spells/powers instead of getting better at existing ones, so they don't level scale. That being said there's SOME scaling in there. You get more accurate as you go up in levels and you get higher enhancement bonuses and ability mods, so even a level 1 power will be stronger in the hands of a level 10 PC, and a level 20 PC will have traded up for a higher level version of the power (or something different).

Yes, a save at -2 is now effectively a +2 to-hit. I'd just observe that to-hit bonuses are the very most highly sought-after bonus in the game and are stronger than ANY other type of bonus except in a few corner cases. The game also is built around limited stacking of these bonuses so that you can't just hit everything all of the time. You'd want your bonuses in general to NOT stack with other common ones, which means generally speaking they are enhancement bonus (and thus your 'gem wand with a +2 to-hit' is just a +2 Wand and the gem is simply an ingredient used to enchant it).

The 'gem mage' thing seems to me to be basically the same thing as the 'superior implement' rules in PHB3. Superior implements let you have a 'better' implement that adds some property that makes it more potent. The 4e implementation is they just cost a slight bit more but they aren't magical and they can be enchanted as per a normal implement of their type (so an Accurate Wand is +1 to-hit and can be made into a Wand of Magic Missile that is thus +1 to-hit, but you have to take the feat Accurate Wand Proficiency in order to get the bonus).

You could fluff this however you want. 4e doesn't have any rules for making these types of items (or for making mundane non-superior implements either). I'd say this all is a pretty limited thing for a class to be based on as it stands in 4e though. You can certainly construct a different mechanic for it.
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Yes we would need more info on how the Gem Mage works.  In 4e most all spell casters have special magical implements which buff there spell casting ie the penetration of their spells ... I would reflavor any implement as a Gem. A focusing gem which gains precision kind of like a lazer ;p could then be mechanically you wizards wand ie the Wand Wizard gets a bonus to targetting if I remember correctly.  If you want to be making your own implements that can be done too. (there is a background at minimum).

Gems could also be the form of all your ritual components. (its just reflavoring but the DM can get on board with it and treasure with gems takes on a different concept for you.)
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In Third and other previous editions, spell level and character (Class) level were seperate things. In 4th edition, it is the same. (So you have some levels that do not have spells, but overall they range from lvl 1 to lvl 30). Each class has it's own spells, though the damage is about the same. (Keeping a lid on over the top effects and damage was (no longer in some cases) the overall design in 4th)

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Kit Build - A class build that is self sustaining and has mechanical differences than the normal scale. Started in Essentials. Most are call their own terms, though the Base Class should be said in front of their own terms (Like Assassin/Executioner) Power Points - A mechanic that was wedged into the PHB3 classes (with the exception of the Monk) from the previous editions. This time, they are used to augment At Wills to be Encounters, thus eliminating the need to choose powers past 4th level. Mage Builds - Kit builds that are schools of magic for the Wizard. A call back to the previous editions powering up of the wizard. (Wizard/Necromancer, for example) Unlike the previous kit builds, Wizards simply lose their Scribe Rituals feature and most likely still can choose powers from any build, unlike the Kit Builds. Parcel System - A treasure distribution method that keeps adventurers poor while forcing/advising the DM to get wish lists from players. The version 2.0 rolls for treasure instead of making a list, and is incomplete because of the lack of clarity about magic item rarity.
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They will Essentialize the Essentials classes, otherwise known as Essentials2. The new sub-sub-classes will be: * Magician. A subsubclass of Mage, the magician has two implements, wand and hat, one familiar (rabbit) and series of basic tricks. * Crook. A subsubclass of Thief, the Crook can only use a shiv, which allows him to use his only power... Shank. * Angry Vicar, a subsubclass of warpriest, the angry vicar has two attacks -- Shame and Lecture. * Hitter. A subsubclass of Slayer, the Hitter hits things. * Gatherer. A subsubclass of Hunter, it doesn't actually do anything, but pick up the stuff other players might leave behind. Future Essentials2 classes include the Security Guard (Sentinel2), the Hexknife (Hexblade2), the Webelos (Scout2), the Gallant (Cavalier2) and the Goofus (Knight2). These will all be detailed in the box set called Heroes of the Futile Marketing. (Though what they should really release tomorrow is the Essentialized version of the Witchalok!)
These are all pretty much the same limitations I had come up with too, so thanks guys for verifying my conclusions.    It's definitely something I will be working out with my DM.  I just don't understand enough about the nuances of 2e/3e to know what an appropriate translation of bonuses looks like.  Obviously, a +2 to all attacks is HUGE, even if it's keyword specific, and not something to be handed around for 5Kgp.  Heck, looking at Dragonshards (which are thematically similar to what I'm looking at), you pay 9K for +3 typed damage.  In my opinion that's a little too far the other direction, but it's official at least.

So, the point of the post wasn't necessarily the gem mage idea, that was just the background on why I was asking the other questions.  What I was looking for was more how to translate the mechanics.  BUT, since ya'll asked, I'll elaborate (and hopefully not derail my OP too far). 

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"Gem Mage" isn't an actual class, just a reference to spellcasters who use gems to create additional effects to their magic.  It could be any arcane class; in 4e I would probably start with an Artificer for the free item creation rituals.

It started in 2e with a FR sourcebook "Volo's Guide to All Things Magical".  It had an extensive list of gemstones and their magical properties.  Some of it was just fluff, ie "Turquoise is a common component of spells related to flying."  Some of it was situational effects, like "this stone glows when invisible creatures are within 20 feet of it."  Some of it was pretty powerful effects, like "this stone, when exposed to flame, explodes and does 6d8 damage in a 20' radius, 4d8 damage in a 30' radius, and 2d8 damage in a 40' radius."  But there were no limits on it; your character could have a whole charm bracelet of little gems that glowed, reduced received Magic Missle damage by 1 point/damage die, negated petrification, added +1 damage to evocation spells, etc.  You could carry around a whole pocket full of 1000gp 6d8 gem bombs if you could afford them, and other ridiculous things like that.  It could get out of hand pretty quickly.

3e FR simplified it all a bit in the "Magic of Faerun" book.  Instead of a list of 175ish stones, it limited it to about 25, all the really expensive 1K or 5K ones.  You paid the extra cost of the gem when creating a magic item, and it added an effect to the item, mostly "Add +X to the saving throws of [type] spells, or if no save is allowed, add +X to the effective caster level of the spell."  As noted in my OP, that's what I'm trying to understand is how that mechanic can be updated to 4e.

There was also another aspect to it, where you took a feat which let you "attune gems".  Basically it let you cast a spell into a gem and set the conditions of its release (usually triggered on touch or time).  Cast a fireball into a gem and set it in a doorhandle; when someone tries to open the door, the fireball goes off.  Cast a cure x wounds into a pendant, and get free action self healing.  Cast gemjump into a gift for the king and set the timer for 12 hours; when it goes off you teleport to the gem's location in his castle (sneaky, right?).  Those sorts of things I can work out with my DM as rituals, lots of fun to be had there.


Anyways, I'm beginning to think (as you guys mentioned) that its just a matter of fluffing existing mechanics.  Or maybe as oxybe suggested, I could work with my DM to write some new powers that thematically emulate the powers of gems in editions past.  Dragonshards are similar in theory, but my personal opinion is that they are way overpriced for the benefit they provide, and I'd prefer not to use them as a model for re-fluffing.

Thanks for the input, keep it coming!
Typically caster level affected:

Duration (for extended duration spells, especially zones and buffs)


  • 4e variant: maintain a sustain minor spell as a free action 1/encounter

  • OR target takes -5 to save against an ongoing effect


Damage dice (usually number)


  • 4e variant: increase damage die size of the spell using the weapon die size charts (e.g. a d10 becomes a d12) 1/encounter

  • Or just add some extra dice to the spell, maybe 2d6 (3d6 at 11 and 4d6 at 21)


Number of attacks (for spells that created flaming bolts/arrows/missiles/rays)


  • 4e variant: roll the attack die twice and use the higher result 1/encounter

  • OR use an at-will as a minor action 1/encounter


Spell level determined saving throw DC, which is now an attack. A 3e spell that gave targets -2 to save would give the user +2 to attack in 4e.



A lot of those gem efects you mentioned in your sblock could be statted out as consumable items - they could be used once to augment a power when you use it. Most of those aren't too terribly overpowered if they're only useable once.
using them once per encounter or as a daily item power makes them a little more powerful, but still workable - they'll be of much higher power (read: higher level items) than they would be back in 3.5, though...
As for using gems in magic item creation to give items different powers above and beyond their normal ones, that's kind of difficult to do in 4E - Dragonshards are probably the closest things you'll find in 4E...
Attuning gems could either be statted out as rituals, as you said, or possibly another type of consumable item.

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Well, you can also just make custom rare items. Basically if you were say to add a power to an existing item it is basically the same as granting a boon. So just merge 2 items, add up their costs, and create a 3rd unique item. It doesn't even dent the existing parcel system. So basically just decide what each gem does, you can figure that out case-by-case as the players ask about it using old material as a guide however much you want. Take an existing item, add its property as the 'gem' to the base item and you're there.
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A lot of those gem efects you mentioned in your sblock could be statted out as consumable items - they could be used once to augment a power when you use it. Most of those aren't too terribly overpowered if they're only useable once. using them once per encounter or as a daily item power makes them a little more powerful, but still workable - they'll be of much higher power (read: higher level items) than they would be back in 3.5, though... As for using gems in magic item creation to give items different powers above and beyond their normal ones, that's kind of difficult to do in 4E - Dragonshards are probably the closest things you'll find in 4E... Attuning gems could either be statted out as rituals, as you said, or possibly another type of consumable item.



Alchemical items were one of the ideas that came to my mind
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

Reagents are pretty much what you want as far as consumables go, they specifically bump spells of certain types when used. They're in the Adventurer's Vault I think?

Alternatively, you could simply flavor "I expend more money to make my item more powerful" as "I can create items that are higher level then I am" and grab either Mark of Making or multiclass Artificer and grab Master Crafter. That'll let you produce all-around better items at the cost of extra money, which seems to be what you're aiming for.
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I'd been looking at consumables and alchemy, I agree that they are probably what most closely resemble the 2e take on this.  I think the 2e stuff was fun, but got out of control pretty quickly, so I'm interested in emulating the flavor if not the specific details.

Dragonshards are similar thematically, but like I said, IMO they are too expensive for their value.  For 13K I can get a shard that does +3 [type] damage, or I can get a whole nother 12th level magic item.  +3 damage, or second magic item...  Not hard to choose.

I was thinking something along these lines, for example (historical theme, minimum gem value for effect):
- Fire Opal (fire, 1K): 1/enc, adds 1/2/3d6 extra fire damage when an attack with the weapon/implement hits.
- Emerald (healing, 5K): Daily, until end of encounter gain regen 5 while bloodied.
- Orl (luck, 1K): Daily, add 1d4/6 to a d20 roll you just made.
- Tomb Jade (undead control, 1K): Daily, reroll a failed Turn Undead attack.
- Water Opal (divination, 1K): Daily, add +2 to a divination ritual check.

Some things like that.  Some gems add typed damage bonuses, or maybe allow a free saving throw, or have utility sorts of effects.  You've made some great suggestions like "sustain minor as free 1/enc", "at-will as minor 1/enc", or "roll attack twice".  I like that.  There's lots of ways to get X extra damage, so I like the idea of gem enhancements doing other things.  Some of these ideas imitate racial or class abilities, which I think is good, because it creates some variety for the players (presumably an artificer with the Gem Attunement feat would craft items for his buddies to use too) without un-balancing the system.  Powers would have to be limited to dailies, or if encounters, "you can only use one gem enc power per enc".

Thoughts on that?

Its sounding more and more like the 3e mechanic isn't really translatable, and we'll have to go straight creative on a 4e application.  Which is awesome!  Just wanted to do my due diligence on precedent before I went there... 
Its sounding more and more like the 3e mechanic isn't really translatable, and we'll have to go straight creative on a 4e application.



Nail on the head.

There is no way to directly, mechanicly translate things from 3E to 4E. The best approach is to start with how the old concept was supposed to FEEL, and then make something in 4E that helps give you that feel.
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