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Tabletop Game / Spheres of Power

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A series of Sourcebooks for 1st Edition Pathfinder by Drop Dead Studios, Spheres of Power started out as an alternate magic system that attempted to avert Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards. Rather than use Vancian Magic, it treats magic more like a Tech Tree. This prevents the Clerics, Druids, and Wizards from being all powerful, as there are only a limited amount of points to invest. It also makes a balance between the various magical classes by having magical skill (shown via caster level) be inverse to martial skill (base attack bonus); High Casters are Squishy Wizards have the best bonus to magic, but the worst to physical combat. Low Casters are Magic Knights have the best at martial skill; but are far behind the curve on magic. Meanwhile, Mid Casters get to be Jack-of-All-Stats, having equal martial and magical ability.


Another thing this system has going for it is that all the Game Breakers and other spells that have the potential to radically change the game world are restricted to advanced talents that the GM can disallow easily. Also, there is a bit of Equivalent Exchange in that caster can have a casting tradition; a number of drawbacks that show the style that in which they wield their magic, mechanically giving them extra spell points or special Boons, and the greater the restriction, the more bonus spell points.

A wiki with all the relevant rules can be found here.

A successful Kickstarter campaign has allowed there to be a sister book called Spheres of Might, aiming to allow non-magical characters to rival the versatility of their spellcasting brethren, and a joint companion book called Champions of the Spheres, which is about using both systems. Another successful Kickstarter has also allowed for an Updated Re-release called Ultimate Spheres of Power, compiling several books of the Power line into the core sourcebook along with adding the Fallen Fey & Blood spheres along with the Wraith class.


Drop Dead Studios also plans to expand the Sphere system into 2nd Edition Pathfinder and 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. The 5th Edition Spheres (nicknamed "5pheres") Kickstarter, which includes both Power and Might, reached its goal in less than 24 hours, and playtest documents have been released as of this writing. Stretch goals include more classes.

Not to be confused with a Sphere of Power (though you could make one easily enough).


This sourcebook provides examples of:

  • Addictive Magic: A drawback, Addictive Casting. The caster has to save vs. his own magic power level whenever they spend a spell point, or get addicted to spending spell points.
  • April Fools' Day:
    • In 2019, the company released a handbook for the Bear Sphere, a magic sphere ostensibly about channeling a bear's power (and which can be played seriously), but it's mainly an excuse to make terrible bear puns (A Step Too Fur, Unbearable Rawr) and references (Think Think Think, Smarter Than The Average Bear).
    • In 2020, they released The Jester's Handbook, which introduced new — and, again, actually legitimately useful — talents for every spheres, combat and magical (including Bear) that were all based on bad puns, silly ideas, or both (like the new Blood sphere talent Hemo Goblin, which summons a goblin made of blood that relentlessly attacks the person whose blood it was made from for 24 hours, or the new Fencing sphere talent Expert Fence, which lets you build a "metaphorical fence" out of nothing that actually blocks attacks).
  • Armor and Magic Don't Mix: Averted by default, but you can take the Somatic Casting drawback up to two times in order to enforce this.
  • Barrier Warrior: The entire point of the Protection sphere.
  • Black Mage: The Elementalist, or anyone that invests into the Destruction sphere.
  • Black Magic / White Magic: Averted in most circumstances; while there are a few abilities that interact with alignment, no ability is inherently good or evil (unlike the original system).
    • There is a Hedgewitch path explicitly called "Black Magic", which lets you place curses and hexes on targets, but it likewise is not alignment-based.
    • But it's played straight by the Covenant path, whose abilities are all based around the Hedgewitch's alignment.
    • Also played straight by Holy Smite and Unholy Smite in The Destroyer's Handbook, which can only be selected by someone of the appropriate alignment and do sacred/profane damage, respectively.
  • Blood Magic: One of the default casting traditions.
  • Cast From Hit Points: While not literally, the Draining Casting drawback deals unhealable nonlethal damage to you each time you use magic.
  • Chain Lightning: One of the shapes you can have your destructive blast be (even if it isn't lightning)
  • Curse: One of the Death sphere's talents, as well as the main focus of the Black Magic Hedgewitch path.
  • Dispel Magic: The Counterspell feat lets you do this. On the Spheres of Might side, Scholars can do this with some Material Impositions (Lead or Silver; if they have both, they can do a Greater Dispel) and Technicians can dispel magic with their Trapmaster line of abilities (starting out being able only to dispel magical traps, eventually becoming able to dispel all magical effects on any target).
  • Elemental Punch:
    • The Destruction sphere's destructive blast, especially with the Destructive Touch drawback.
    • The Nature sphere also lets you do this with Nature's Weapon (Earth and Fire variants).
  • Energy Ball: The Energy Sphere blast shape definitely qualifies, though the base destructive blast can easily be described this way.
  • Entropy and Chaos Magic: The Wild Magic drawback, which gives every sphere ability you use a 10% chance to act... strangely. There's detailed charts for each sphere. There's also feats that let you increase the chance of a wild magic event occurring by 50% or even to 100% in exchange for bonuses to the spell itself, reduce the chance in exchange for making the spell take longer to cast, accept Constitution penalties instead of a wild magic event), or force enemy spellcasters to unknowingly get a 50% (or higher!) chance of causing a wild magic event even if they're not normally subject to that chance.
  • Expy:
    • The example on how to use the rules to define magic is obviously a homage to Avatar: The Last Airbender.
    • The armorist base class, both in mechanics and the accompanying art, is essentially Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail.
    • The Everforge sample setting is clearly based on Furycrafting from Codex Alera
    • With Throw Bash and Throwing Mastery, you can throw a shield and have it return to you.
    • Several talents in the Brute sphere are references to The Incredible Hulk (Thunderous Clap and Smash) and/or Juggernaut (Unstoppable).
    • The Sage class is basically Shounen Protagonist: The Character Class. The Ki Blast abilities even include attacks like Dragonball Z's Special Beam Cannon and Destructo Disc (as "Piercing Beam" and "Severing Ki Disc").
    • The Mageknight archetype Divine Lariat gives up all its spellcasting powers in exchange for a Magic Lasso.
    • The Investigator archetype Nightblazer is a clear reference to John Constantine.
    • The Alchemy sphere's Dynamite Throwing Form stance talent from the Youxia Handbook is based on Jackal's Nanto Bakusatsu Ken / Dynamite-Fu "style" from Fist of the North Star.
  • Forced Sleep: The Mind sphere's Sleep talent and Alchemy sphere's Drowsy Venom, among others.
  • Flash Step:
    • The base Warp ability lets you teleport short distance, and the Quick Teleport lets you attack immediately afterward.
    • The Athletics sphere has a legendary talent explicitly called Flash Step which lets you perform this.
    • Some Runesinger movement abilities (particularly Light) let you do this as well.
  • Geas: An advanced talent in the Fates sphere, along with Greater Geas.
  • Healing Magic Is the Hardest:
    • Played with: one of the Life sphere's base abilities only grants temporary hit points, while actual healing requires spending spell points. But it's not any harder than casting, say, a full-power destructive blast.
    • Averted by the Scholar class, who can easily heal allies or create healing salves without using any magic at all (and the Doctor archetype cranks that healing up even higher), though it can only be used a limited number of times per day per person.
  • Instant Runes / Power Echoes / Power Glows: Possible manifestations of the Magical Signs drawback.
  • Invisibility: One of the Illusion sphere advanced talents.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: One of the abilities of the Alteration sphere, and one of the abilities of the Hedgewitch class taking the Transmuter path. (A Hedgewitch can do both, of course)
  • Kamehame Hadoken:
    • The base Destruction ability, though elemental variants of the blast exist. (There's even simple rules for making your own elemental blasts, with all the elemental varieties in the book being considered just examples)
    • The Sage class has a Ki Blasting specialization, along with some very familiar-looking abilities.
  • Magic Dance: While the Skilled Casting drawback is usually meant for Magic Music, Full-Contact Magic, or Geometric Magic, there's nothing stopping you from using Perform: Dance to break-dance someone back to life.
  • Magic Enhancement: The Enhancement sphere, obviously. The base ability lets you temporarily add a +1 (or higher) bonus to a piece of gear. Some other enhancements include making allies move faster, buffing their ability scores, or bringing objects to life. It also includes "enhancements" that are negative, like slowing a foe to half speed, blinding them, or making them unable to perform a specific type of action (like talking or flying).
  • Magic from Technology: Some classes in Spheres of Might are based around this. The Technician replicates many magic-like effects using technology (up to and including lasers and jetpacks), while the Scholar replicates them using chemistry and alchemy (including an infinite-use flashbang grenade that can be enhanced to deal damage similar to the traditional Fireball spell). There's also a Tech sphere that can do similar (though more complicated and slightly less effective) effects as the Technician.
  • Magically Inept Fighter: Downplayed but present among the new classes the game introduces. The Armorist and Mageknight have the best fighting skills but the worst casting abilities (though they have their own magical abilities), in contrast with the Squishy Wizard classes (Incanter, Fey Adept, and Soul Weaver) that have full casting but middling close-combat abilities. The rest of the classes are either somewhere in between or the Thaumaturge, which gets full casting and an average BAB but in exchange for Crippling Overspecialization due to its limited talent allotments.
  • Magic Knight:
    • The primary theme of Champions of the Spheres, given that it is about options that allows using both the magic abilities of Spheres of Power and the martial-classed abilities of Spheres of Might without multiclassing.
    • Even in just Spheres of Power, the Mage Knight and Armorist are full martial classes with magic powers. They can access the same magical spheres as other Spherecasters (classes), they just get fewer talents and lower base caster level. Instead, they get specialized powers for their class (which are also magic, like adding magic damage to weapon strikes, or magically creating and animating weapons).
  • Magic Music / Musical Assassin: The Skilled Casting (Perform) can let you play one of these.
  • Magic Staff: Doubles as both a weapon and Amplifier Artifact
    • Not technically magic, but one of the options for the Scholar class in Spheres of Might allows them to get a quarterstaff enhanced with alchemy that lets them shoot lightning and eventually control the weather.
  • Mana: Spell points. Worth noting that even when you have no spell points left, you can still use many base talents; you just can't augment them anymore.
    • Fey Adepts have a secondary resource called Shadow Points, used to fuel their class-specific abilities. There is a limited ability to use Shadow Points as Spell Points and vice-versa. Hedgewitches with the Umbral path also gain Shadow Points and limited Fey Adept abilities. You can also gain Shadow Points for any class by taking certain feats, dubbed Surreal feats.
    • Other classes and feats have their own numerical resources that fuel their abilities: resolve (Conscript specialization), reserve (Sentinels), guile (Hedgewitches with the Charlatan path), and kismet (Ordained Hunters, Lucky Bastards, and anyone with a chance feat), as well as first-party holdovers grit, panache, inspiration, and ki, which get new uses. The Sage class explicitly uses its ki pool instead of a spell pool to cast sphere magic.
    • The Tech sphere uses vaguely-defined "charges" (which can be magical with the Mana Engineering Drawback) to power its devices.
  • Mana Meter:
    • A Striker's tension pool functions like a Street Fighter super meter; moving, getting hit, and and hitting with unarmed strikes or combat maneuvers all add to it, and you can spend that tension to give yourself bonuses, extra attacks and movement, and other such goodies. It's important to note, even though it has a Mana Meter, the Striker doesn't have spell points, the Mana of the system.
  • Mind over Matter: The Telekinesis sphere is this by default, though it can get refluffed as Whatevermancy with the Limited Telekinesis drawback (which only lets you affect one type of material).
  • Not the Intended Use:
    • The Skilled Casting drawback ties your magic to a Perform, Profession, or Craft check. This is so you can do flavorful things, like Magic Music (via perform), or being able to control the weather because of how skilled a sailor you are (via Profession), or making runes to hold your magic (via Craft). However, any perform, profession or craft check can be used, so you can declare your ability to summon lightning be tied to how well you can make cupcakes.
    • The Alternative-Brew, Alternative-Craft, and Alternative-Trap drawbacks in Spheres of Might work similarly for the Alchemy, Tech, and Trap spheres, substituting other skills (that the DM, not the player, chooses) for their normal Craft (Alchemy), Craft (Mechanical) and Craft (Traps) respectively. The Field Medic Martial Tradition gives you this drawback for Alchemy from the start, allowing you to make Heal checks instead of Craft (Alchemy).
  • Painful Transformation: The Twisted Transformation talent in the Alteration Sphere (intended to be used when transforming others, not yourself) causes this, letting you seal the target's eyes, hobble their legs, or displace their stomach so that they're constantly nauseated until they transform back.
  • The Power of Creation: Falls mainly into the aptly-named Creation Sphere, though the Illusion sphere and the Fey Adept class can make quasi-real objects with "shadowstuff".
  • Psychic Link: Achieved via the Project Thoughts and Read Thoughts talents from the Mind sphere.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Best portrayed via Draining Casting or Painful Magic.
  • The Red Mage: It's easy enough to invest equally in the Destruction and Life sphere to both harm and heal. (The Life sphere by itself can be used to deal damage with the Affliction talent, but you still need Destruction for the full range of elemental magic that the Red Mage is known for)
  • Religion Is Magic: Averted, as there is no longer the arcane/divine split inherent to the base Pathfinder system. You can flavor your magic as Arcane or Divine (or Psychic) with Casting Traditions if you wish, but there's no mechanical aspect to this.
  • Rule of Cool:
    • The legendary talents from Spheres of Might are made of this. Unlike Spheres of Power advanced talents, legendary talents aren't necessarily game-breaking, just more magical than some dungeon masters may like. How did you steal someone's polymorph spell, returning them to normal and turning you into a dragon instead? You're just that good.
    • The Youxia Handbook adds even more Rule Of Cool classes and talents to the martial side of the game. It lets you do things like damage people with acupuncture needles, deal unarmed strike damage with splash weapons, or bull rush enemies with a piece of string.
  • Simplified Spellcasting: Played with. Keeping track of spell points and a handful of talents is simple compared to keeping track of how many spells you have prepared of each level and so on and so forth compared to the base Vancian Magic; but the customization options are nearly limitless, letting you easily recreate most of the original spells and then some.
  • Soul Power: The Soul Weaver class, who commands spirits and can use them to conjure and empower undead.
  • Sphere of Destruction: The Explosive Orb talent, while a tad bit smaller than many others, certainly qualifies. The Energy Nova talent does something similar, but centered on the caster (who is unharmed). Ultimate Spheres of Power nerfs both abilities a bit (the removal of the Orb Expert feat likewise removes a caster level buff to Explosive Orb's area and range, while Energy Nova was folded into Sculpt Blast and now costs a spell point)
  • Spontaneous Weapon Creation: The speciality of the Armorist class, in two flavors: bound equipment, which is set once chosen and can't be changed, and summoned equipment, which is flexible but not as powerful. They can also conjure Instant Armor and staves.
  • Squishy Wizard: there's many Spheres of Power classes that don't get armor options, but Spheres of Might adds a non-magical squishy wizard: the Scholar, whose main attack is small grenades called flashbangs that can be created at will (and enhanced with other abilities), and who has the same low hit points and base attack attack bonus as the full spellcasting classes. Like all Might classes, they can wear light armor by default and can get heavier armor proficiencies through talents, but they're better off at range. That said, with the right Knacks, the Scholar can also learn magic, subverting the subversion.
  • Summon Magic: The whole point of the Conjuration Sphere, which summons companions similar to summoner eidolons to fight alongside the caster. The Leadership and Beastmastery spheres are (per Word of God) intended as non-magical equivalents in the Spheres of Might system.
  • Summon to Hand:
    • The main shtick of the Armorist, who can summon any weapon or piece of armor out of thin air.
    • To a lesser extent, the Armiger from Spheres of Might, who can swap weapons in and out instantly.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: The Open Hand, Boxing, Brute, and Wrestling spheres in Spheres of Might, particularly the Legendary Talents. Want to knock someone 30' into the air, jump after them, and slam them back down? Want to literally dispel magic with a bearhug? Want to clap your hands and create a shockwave? Want to punch someone so hard that their soul leaves their body? These spheres can let you do that.
  • Supernatural Sensitivity: Definitely in the realm of the Divination sphere.
  • Tornado Move: An Air Blast with the Energy Aura shape can do this for you, or a Gale Blast can do this to an opponent.
  • Unequal Rites: Can be shown in-universe via different casting traditions.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: One purview of the Alteration sphere.
    • The drawback for your transformations only affecting yourself is called "Lycanthropic"... regardless of whether or not you're a werewolf.
    • There's also a feat called Transformation, which lets you pick almost any Alteration base form (fluffed as any animal - or plant creature - you want) and turn into it at will, even if you don't have the Alteration sphere. Hybrid Transformation is an upgrade.
    • The Shifter class, as its name suggests, is entirely based around this.
  • White Mage: This is what the Life sphere is all about. The basic abilities let you give temporary hit points (for free), heal a target (costs a spell point), or remove status ailments (also costs a spell point), and other talents improve those abilities or add even more healing options.
  • Wild Magic: A possible drawback. It gives every sphere ability you use a 10% chance to have some random effect (with detailed charts for each Sphere).
  • Wrong Context Magic: Possible to pull off if a caster has a vastly different casting tradition from what is standard in-universe. One of the boons (that you can pick if you make a custom casting tradition) is outright called Alien Source.
  • Your Mime Makes It Real: The Skilled Casting drawback has you use a Perform, Profession, or Craft check to use your magic, so you can design a character that uses Perform (acting) to literally mime invisible walls into being.


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