Friday, December 8, 2017

3 Tips For Boosting Your Caster Level in Pathfinder

If you're a spellcaster in Pathfinder, you have two concerns. The first is the save DC of your spells, and the second is your caster level. While I talked about the former concern forever ago in my post How To Increase Spell DCs in Pathfinder, I realized I hadn't talked about the second. So I figured that today was a good day to address that one for folks who want to really flex their magical might.

1d6 per caster level, you say? Oh, you'd better make this save, son.
So, to begin at the beginning...

Your Caster Level (And Why It Matters)

A lot of us already know this one, but I'm not making any assumptions. So, to put it simply, your caster level is the number of levels of a particular casting class you have. So, if you're a third-level wizard, then all of your spells are cast as if you're a third-level caster. Ditto if you're a third-level cleric. However, if you have four rogue levels, and two wizard levels, then you still cast your spells as a second-level caster. This is why, most of the time, spellcasters don't multiclass; taking a hit to your caster level often isn't worth it.

Why is that, you might ask?

Well, because your caster level often determines how potent your spells are when you cast them. If you cast shocking grasp, for instance, you deal 1d6 of damage per caster level (with a max of five). So, while two characters might cast the same spell, the one who went straight sorcerer is throwing five damage dice, while the character who dipped is only throwing two. And the higher that cap gets, with spells like fireball or lightning bolt, the more important your caster level becomes.

This applies to spells that don't deal straight hit point damage, too. For example, if you cast buff spells like bull's strength, or defensive spells like shield, then those spells' duration depends on your caster level. The higher your caster level, the longer those spells endure. If you're attempting to use dispel magic, then you're pitting your caster level against the strength of the spell you're trying to dispel. And, if you're attempting to get through a target's spell resistance, then you're making a caster level check.

Long story short, your caster level is where a lot of your mystical muscle comes from.

Tip #1: Feats and Traits

Feats and traits are available to all characters, and there are several to choose from. However, many of them will only increase your caster level on a single spell, so it's important to choose one you think you're going to be using regularly. If you're a de-buffer, then dispel magic is a good candidate, but if you're an area-of-effect specialist you might want to choose fireball. Or, if you're going to be raising a lot of dead folks, then animate dead would allow you to bring back (and control) more skeletons, zombies, etc.

With that said, here are some options to keep in mind.

- Gifted Adept (trait): Pick one spell, and it manifests at +1 caster level.
- Magical Knack (trait): This increases your caster level by +2, but only up to your character level. Ideal for those who are going to multiclass, but want to soften the blow.
- Varisian Tattoo (feat): Increase your caster level by +1 for all spells of a particular school. This requires you to take Spell Focus, and you have to have the same school for both feats.
- Spell Specialization (feat): Select one spell from a school for which you've taken Spell Focus. Treat your caster level as +2 for all numerical aspects of that spell which depend on your caster level. So, this won't help you overcome spell resistance, but damage dice, duration, etc. are all affected. You can change this spell every even level.
- Bloatmage Initiate (feat): Cast spells from the school you selected Spell Focus in at +1 caster level. You also grow bloated, and act under a medium load, which can make mobility difficult.

Tip #2: Classes

While sorcerers have a more limited selection of spells, their bloodlines can often make them quite powerful. As evidenced by some of the bloodline options that increase your caster level for certain schools of magic. The aquatic bloodline, for example, increases your caster level by +1 for any spell of the water subtype you cast. The daemon bloodline grants you an effective bonus to your caster level the round after your cast a spell that killed a creature with an Intelligence of at least 3 (up to half your Charisma modifier in kills). The sanguine bloodline (technically an archetype) increases your effective caster level for all necromancy spells by +1.

In addition to the sorcerer, there's the arcanist. You can expend points from your pool to boost your caster level, and if you take Potent Magic as an exploit you can boost your caster level by +2 instead of by +1. A big difference, if stacked with other bonuses.

These boosts can only be used with very specific character concepts, but if you need a little extra oomph, then a bloodline arcana can make that happen.

Tip #3: Items

There aren't many items that increase your caster level, but there are a few worth noting. The big ticket item (about 30k gold) is the orange prism ioun stone. This increases your caster level by +1, but if you go cheap and get a flawed one it also imposes a -2 penalty on your primary casting stat. So there's some give and take, there.

Also, if you get desperate, there's always the drug mumia. This will increase your caster level by +1 on all spells for an hour, but there's a chance that use will turn you into a ghoul. It also deals 1d2 Wisdom damage. More on mumia and other substances in The Best Drugs in Pathfinder.

Intensified Spell

If you're boosting your caster level in order to do more damage with evocation spells, then you should also consider using Intensified Spell. This metamagic feat increases the damage dice of a spell by +5, which is useful if you max out early, but want to keep slinging big dice around for spells like shocking grasp or fireball.

EDIT: Bonus boost, pointed out by Will Brewer in a Facebook comment. If you're playing a dhampir, wizard, you can use your favored class bonus to add +1/4 to your caster level for spells from the necromancy school.

That's all for this week's Crunch topic. Are there any solid methods for increasing caster level that I missed? If so, put them in the comments below! For more of my gaming content, check out my Gamers archive, or head over to Dungeon Keeper Radio where I and some fellow gamers offer advice, skits, and lore on the world of Evora. If you'd like to keep up on all my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you want to help support Improved Initiative (since tis the season), head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to toss some love in my tip jar. As little as $1 a month can make a big difference, 


  1. As far as I can tell, the normal 30k orange prism ioun stone grants the level increase without penalty. It's the 25k flawed orange prism that reduces casting stat. I wonder if a spellcaster can intentionally create a flawed ioun stone. I think I would be tempted to say if you failed the spellcraft check by 5 or less it becomes flawed.

  2. For elemental casters, there are the robes that boost cl+1 for a specific element of spells. There is also the varisian tattoo feat which boosts cl by 1 for a school you have spell focus in.

    For a bigger bonus, you want to boost damage added after rolling. Sorc's can get up to +4 damage/ dice right now for fire spells. (crossblooded orc/dragon, fireflume rage, and blood havok bloodline mutation)
    With metamagic reducers, you can cast a 15d6+60 fireball in a 3rd level slot, or a (15d6+60)*1.5 in a 5th level slot. Should kill the whole room and burn through 8 inches of stone walls and floor at the same time

  3. with an exploit, arcane reservoir can increase CL by 2 for an arcanist. which is reason #42 why no one plays wizards any more.