A Sourcebook for Pathfinder by Drop Dead Studios, Spheres of Power is an alternate magic system that attempts 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); Squishy Wizards have the best bonus to magic, but the worst to physical combat. Kung-Fu Wizards that use Full-Contact Magic and are the best at martial skill; but are far behind the curve on magic. Meanwhile, Magic Knights 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, 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.
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.
- 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).
- Played straight by Holy Smite and Unholy Smite in The Destroyer's Handbook, which can only be selected by someone of the apropriate 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 deals 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
- Dispel Magic: The Counterspell feat lets you do this.
- Elemental Punch: The Destruction sphere's destructive blast, especially with the Destructive Touch drawback.
- 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.
- Forced Sleep: The Mind sphere's Sleep talent.
- Flash Step: The base Warp ability lets you teleport short distance, and the Quick Teleport lets you attack immediately afterward.
- Geas: An advanced talent.
- Healing Magic Is the Hardest: Played with; The Life sphere's base ability grants temporary hit points. Actual healing is more expensive.
- Instant Runes / Power Echoes / Power Glows: Possible manifestations of the Magical Signs drawback.
- Invisibility: One of the Illusion talents.
- Kamehame Hadoken: The base destruction ability, though elemental variants of the blast exist.
- 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.
- 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, 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.
- 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
- Mana: Spell points. Worth noting that even when you have no spell points left, you can still use your base talents; you just can't augment them anymore.
- Mind over Matter: The Telekinesis sphere is this by default, though it can get refluffed as Whatevermancy with the Limited Telekinesis drawback.
- 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 Power of Creation: Falls into the Creation Sphere.
- 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.
- Religion Is Magic: Averted, as there is no longer the arcane/divine split inherent to the series.
- 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.
- Simplified Spellcasting: Compared to the base Vancian Magic.
- 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.
- 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.
- Summon Magic: The whole point of the Conjuration Sphere, which summons companions similar to summoner eidolons to fight alongside the caster.
- Summon to Hand: The shtick of the Armorist, who can summon weapons and armor.
- Supernatural Martial Arts: The monastic casting tradition.
- 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: The purview of the Alteration sphere.
- White Mage: This is what the Life sphere is all about.
- Wild Magic: A possible drawback.
- Wrong Context Magic: Possible to pull off if a caster has a vastly different casting tradition from what is standard in-universe.
- 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.