Burst of Insight-Feat Based Variant Spellcasting

Recently while I was working on a particular game project and my mind just started wandering around off course. So I put a pin in the current project and examined the ideas my brain was throwing at me. I took a few notes just to settle the torrent of ideas and then returned to the project at hand. I’ve only just now come back to those notes.

Imagine a post-apocalyptic fantasy world where the gods are dead and arcane magic is failing. The magic that remains in the world is found only in magic items from the time before. A talented few can draw on that power to fuel their spells. What follows is a simple feat-based alternate magic system suitable for such an apocalyptic world or alongside the normal rules found in Pathfinder. I again (see my Magic of the Maze article) drew inspiration from the RGG’s spell point system but built it around feats. These rules are still very rough but you’ll get the idea.

Artifice Adept (Artifice)

You have an inborn talent for detecting and eventually channeling the magical power in magic items for other purposes.

Prerequisites: Constitution 13

Benefit: You may cast detect magic as an at will spell-like ability with a caster level equal to your level -2 (minimum 1). You also gain an Artifice Pool of 3 + Con modifier (minimum 0) + ½ your hit dice (minimum 1) these points may be spent to power other artifice feats. This pool refreshes each morning after a full night’s sleep.

Relic Caster (Artifice)

You can borrow spells from your magic items to cast yourself while doing your best to conserve the item’s inherent magic.

Prerequisites: Constitution 13, Artifice Adept, Use Magic Device 1 rank

Benefit: You may cast any spell from the Construction Requirements of a magic item you are wearing or wielding as a spell-like ability. Use your Constitution as your spellcasting ability score.

To cast the spell you must make a Use Magic Device roll with a DC of 11 + Spell Level and spend a number of artifice points equal to the spell level +1. If the spell level is greater than half your character level you cannot cast it. On a failed roll the spell is not cast only half the artifice points must be spent. On a successful roll, the spell is cast normally and you treat your caster level as your character level -2 for any variable effects.

For the duration of the spell or 1d4+1 rounds, whichever is longer the item you siphoned the power from becomes inert, effectively an ordinary item of it’s kind. A magic sword becomes a masterwork sword a bag of holding an ordinary empty bag its extradimensional space temporarily inaccessible.

Consumable items such as ammunition, potions, and scrolls as well as items with charges such as wands are built with only a limited amount of power and exhaust a daily use when accessed in this way.

Magic Syphon (Artifice)

You can use potions and scrolls to refresh your Artifice pool.

Prerequisites: Constitution 13, Artifice Adept, Relic Caster, Use Magic Device 5 ranks

Benefit: While holding a single use magic item such as a scroll or potion you may make a Use Magic Device check (DC 11 + half the item’s caster level) to siphon off the item’s magic and restore a number of artifice points equal to the highest-level spell used to create the item. Using this ability destroys potions and leaves scrolls inert and blank.

I know this that this third and final feat is distinctly incomplete but I’m still not sure what campaign I’ll use this system with or what crafting rules I want to use. There could be special considerations to factor into the feat’s design if I use Pathfinder Unchained’s dynamic item creation rules for example. I also want to playtest the first two feats before I push this system

Trained Artificer (Artifice)

You can extract the magical energy of one magic item and channel it into an item being created or enhanced to reduce the cost of second item’s creation.

Prerequisites: Constitution 13, Artifice Adept, Spell Syphon, any 1 Item Creation feat, Use Magic Device 5 ranks

Benefit: Design Note: Reverse the Item Creation Rules with Use Magic Device as the Skill to generate gp. Only ½ value if the Schools don’t match. (Optionally only ¼ or no value if the schools are traditionally opposing schools.)


To flesh out these rules I’m thinking about including Monte Cook’s alternate meta-magic feats which instead of adjusting the level of a spell the feats limit the number of times per day each feat may be used. You can find these feats in the 3rd ed era Collected Book of Experimental Might from Malhavoc Press.

I imagine my brain wasn’t quite finished with alternate magic systems after my recent blog post about Magic in the Maze. So I created these feats to be the foundation of an alternate magic system. There could very easily be other feats one of my early thoughts was that instead of specific spells each feat would be more like those I came up with for my Winter’s Chosen article (from Pathways Magazine issue 54) and have special powers instead based on the type of magic item and/or the body slot occupied. Each category would get it’s own feat…this idea still isn’t off the table yet either, a player’s artifice pool could be used to pay for other abilities in addition to their spells.


Andrew Marlowe

placed in the Top 16 of RPG Superstar in 2012 and 2014, one of the few contestants to get that far in the competition twice. Since then, he has contributed to many Paizo and third party Pathfinder products, including one of the network’s favourite releases in the Pathfinder Player Companion line, the Dirty Tactics Toolbox. Every other Tuesday, he will be sharing his Burst of Insight, with design tips for would-be game designers from a decorated freelancer.