Alternative Defiling System

I haven’t seen this proposed before anywhere. This is an alternative to or addition to existing defiling systems. I have 3.5e in mind but it can be adapted to any edition that uses spell levels.

Here is how it works. Once per day for each spell level a wizard/sorcerer knows, it may cast a spell from a higher level in the slot immediately below that level. Here is an example.

Chidus is a 5th level wizard. Usually he is a preserver, but on occassion he has felt the temptation to defile. Chidus knows 0-3rd level spells. If Chidus chooses to defile, he may prepare a 1st level spell in a 0 level slot. Alternatively, he can prepare a 4th level spell in a 3rd level slot, even though he could not cast 4th level spells. The spells cast this way are not heightened - they are cast as spells of the level of the slot from which they are prepared.

Chidus can do this 4 times a day, once in each slot of 0 - 3.

Another example. Mazrim is a 1st level wizard. Mazrim can cast 1st level spells and he has a deadly duel tomorrow that he is certain to lose. Mazrim prepares blindness, a spell that is in his spellbook but one that he cannot normally cast because it is 2nd level. Blindness is instead prepared in Mazrim’s 1st level spell slot and Mazrim will have to defile to successfully cast the spell tomorrow.
The next day Mazrim fights the duel, defiles the land to gather the energy sufficient to cast a spell beyond his normal abilities, and successfully blinds his opponent and wins the duel. Mazrim feels bad about the defiling, and even suspects that compromising may be a slippery slope, but Mazrim is glad that he is still alive.

I think this accords with the way that Sadira was defiling. You can plug this right into an existing defiling system or replace it with this system.


So if they don’t defile until casting - wouldn’t a wizard always try to keep higher level spells “memorized”?

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What’s the difference anyway? You could use the rules where defiling happens during preparation if you want. That’s not the way I saw it play out in the novels.

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Just trying to wrap my head around how players would abuse the rule. And it makes wonder if I should be giving XP penalties for even considering the option to defile daily. Like, if you hold that higher spell slot(s), you only get 50% of the XP for the day or something like that.

But maybe if you decide to go full defiler you get the full value. Hmm.

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I gave that some thought. Since its cast from the lower spell slot, there is no spell DC advantage, and the spell DC is worse than if it was cast from the proper spell slot.

Except from The Amber Enchantress

When Nok did not, she laid the glass rod on the oak and stepped away, speaking her incantation. A clap of thunder roared off the walls of the abyss, and a bolt of white energy flashed down the length of the bole. The halflings disappeared in puffs of greasy smoke. The great tree split down the center, belching fire and acrid fumes, then the leaves fell away with a sad murmur. A groan echoed through the canyon as the weight of the oak’s tremendous branches twisted the two halves of the trunk away from each other. Finally, the tree wrenched free and tumbled into the abyss, its roots pulling a spray of rock and earth down after it.

Sadira sank down upon the earth she had blackened. It smelled of soot and something mordant, not decay or death, but the absence of life. For a hundred yards in each direction, the soil had turned as black as a cave, and there was not a living plant in sight. The corrupted ground wafted over her like ash, coating her with an inky stain of grit.

A lump of bile formed in the sorceress’s stomach, threatening to rise into her throat and choke her. Had her mentor Ktandeo been alive to see what she had done, the old man would have tried to kill her with his own hands. To his eyes, she had committed a vile act from which there could be no redemption. It did not matter that she had done it for the sake of Tyr, or even to save the lives of a thousand people who would be sacrificed to the Dragon. She had become a defiler, and nothing under the two moons could make her anything else.

But Sadira had not always listened to Ktandeo in life, and, just because he was dead, she felt no greater compulsion to heed his words now. All sorcerers drew their energy from some form of life, usually plants. To her, the difference between defilers and other wizards was only one of degree: most sorcerers stopped short of ruining the soil when they drew energy for a spell, but defilers did not. Sadira did not believe that it was always wrong to defile the land, not when something good could be accomplished by doing so. To her, an acre or two of ground was a small loss in comparison to her life—and an insignificant price to pay for the chance to save a thousand lives.

There are many instances of Sadira defiling. I think the defiling, in most cases, is the result of a wizard trying to cast spells beyond the spell level that they could normally cast. For example, a 5th level wizard doesn’t have to defile to cast a fireball (a 3rd level spell that they are capable of casting in their 3rd level slot), but a 3rd level wizard casting a fireball from a 2nd level slot has to make up for it by excessively drawing magical energy, meaning that they have to defile to pull it off.

The interesting thing about this system is that defiling remains a temptation throughout the wizard’s career, because there are always higher level spell slots.

To put it in a fluff perspective, an 11th level wizard may want to produce a simulacrum, a 7th level spell available at 13th wizard level. Getting from 11th level to 13th level may take years, if ever. The temptation to cast the spell by defiling is strong. Even stronger if the wizard has a tree of life to exploit.

How would you resolve the spell being cast in a lesser slot though. Say the fireball being cast in a 2nd level slot, it would seem that the spell would have a diminished effect. Or does the defiling make the 2nd level spell act the same as a 3rd level spell?

I don’t have any full arcane casters in my group, but 1 is a half and another is a 1/4 caster, and perhaps this defiling mechanic might seem feasilble to use with them, since they can’t cast spells very well to begin with.

Another thought about defiling. I have an evil druid npc in my game that “defiles” in a certain sense… when she casts she does draw power from the physical world around her, not just plants but air, earth, sun, etc… What about druidic and even clerical defiling? What if they don’t get their power from the elemental or the grey or the dark, but from the physical world, the tidal force of the moons, the sun, etc…

I have 3.5e in mind, so I am thinking about spell levels and caster levels, spell DC and variable numbers. If 5e (which I presume you are using) has the same, then it’s applicable also. An example.

Reza is a 3rd level wizard. He needs to cast fireball tomorrow so he memorizes the 3rd level fireball spell in his 2nd level slot. Normally 5th level wizard is the minimum it takes to cast fireball.

The mechanical effects of this are as follows compared with the 5th level wizard.

*1d6 points of fire damage per caster level. Reza casts the fireball as a 3d6 fireball. A 5th level wizard would cast a 5d6 fireball.
*The saving throw spell DC for Reza’s fireball is 1 less than the 5th level wizard because it is cast from a 2nd level slot, not the 3rd level slot.

It is possible that Reza might decide to cast a spell with fewer variable effects like phantom steed instead. In this case spell DC is irrelevant because there is no saving throw, and only the caster level determines how long the spell remains in place.

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Hmmm, in 3.5 there is an alternative spell point system. I use that in my games and give defilers a break on the cost to follow the defilers advance more quickly aspect from 2e. I like it…

I think I’ll try it with a few NPCs… surprise some of my players. Expanding on the idea:

Wizards cast spells using one less spell point with no change in effectiveness if they defile (minimum 1 spell point).
Wizards can memorize a number of spells equal to their Int modifier of one spell level higher than normal.
Wizards can cast a number of these higher level spells equal to their Int modifier in a 24 hour period at the full cost of a spell at that level but all variables including DCs are calculated based on the wizards caster level but must defile to cast these spells.
Wizards can not use an alternative power source to cast these higher level spells.

Charrel is a 3rd level wizard with an Int modifier of +3. He has 7 spell points from his level and 4 bonus spell points from his Int modifier for a total of 11 points at any particular time. He can 2nd level spells as a preserver for 3 points or a defiler for 1 point. He can memorize up to three 3rd level spells and cast these spells in any combination up to three times in a 24 hour period. The spell point cost for these 3rd level spells is 5 points per spell. Charrel chooses Fireball as one of the 3rd level spells he memorized. When casting the spell it will do 3d6 damage.

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Best system is by Bhodizen in the 1.2 Pathfinder Dark Sun handbook.

It makes defiling very powerful and too good to pass up. It add credence to the reasons why most caster become defilers. Only the most disciplined and caring of wizards would not use it.

"As arcane spellcasters grow in power and skill, they will often discover, either by accident or through
experimentation, that they can draw an excess of magical energy from the environment, leeching the
*life-force out of the smallest or largest of plants in the immediate area. *

When they do this, they can pull all of the energy out of these plants, killing them and leaving the soil they exist in barren for generations.

*This is known as defiling, and it is an unabashedly evil act. Mechanically, what this means is that an arcane spellcaster may apply metamagics to their spells as they are cast, but instead of the spell occupying a higher spell slot than normal (i.e. an intensified shocking grasp spell should normally occupy a second level slot), they’re “cheating the system” and the spell occupies its normal slot (i.e. the intensified shocking grasp spell occupying a first level slot instead of the second level slot it should occupy). The extra energy must come from somewhere, so it is leeched directly out of the land, defiling the land in the process. Spells cannot be reduced below their original spell slot in this fashion, but you can quickly acquire power at the cost of the environment. *

You can even stack different metamagic feats that you know and increase the defiled area, but you cannot stack the same metamagic feat on top of itself in a single casting. Defiling the land also taints the soul, and characters that are good-aligned do not remain so for long. There are paths to redemption, but simply because you exercise one does not necessarily wipe away the revulsion that others may feel after having witnessed your unspeakable act."

A Defiler in Action.
Kestarches is a 7th level defiler wizard in the outskirts of the city of Tyr (scrub plain) when he is accosted by a dozen gith marauders. As a 7th level caster he uses his defiler surge to the greatest extent possible (7pts) and decides to cast fireball to eliminate the threat quickly and adds widen spell (3pts.), furious spell(1pt) and the maximize spell(3pts) metamagic feats to his spell.

His actions cause a 30ft radius circle of ash emanating from his location, he also gains 7 permanent defiler points and his fireball spell has a 40’ wide radius, catching all the gith and doing a minimum of 24 hit points of fire damage and 48 on a failed save.

He will radiate a moderate aura as a 14th level defiler for the next 24hrs possibly causing unease in animals and humanoids in his vicinity.


The credit for this system should be given to David Noonan (Dragon Magazine #315 - Defilers of Athas).

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Yep Dave Noonan is the basis, Bhodizen is a simplified version of it.