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DnD 3.5 - Practical Guide to Metamagic

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which tend to be more consistent than 3.5 handbooks. Because so little of 3.5 is available on the SRD, I will attempt to tag items with a superscript indicating their book of origin. For help identifying sourcebook abbreviations, see my Sourcebook Abbreviations Guide.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

It's important to note that I generally omit campaign-setting specific content. I am of the opinion that those options are intended to be limited to campaigns run in those settings, and as such they don't really apply to a generic campaign. Those options also tend to be wildly unbalanced and rarely recieve errata. I also omit the use of "Flaws" since they allow a massive increase in power with essentially no cost to the character.

Introduction

Metamagic is an extremely potent option for spellcasters. Spontaneous casters often get more use because they can apply metamagic feats on the fly, but prepared casters can benefit greatly with a bit of preperation.

Metamagic Feats

  • Black Lore of MoilCAr (+0): The damage is poor, and this can get expensive very quickly. Scrolls of Magic Missile are a considerably better investment, which is very sad. The best way to use this is to trigger the Fell X metamagic feats, which only trigger if the spell deals damage. 25gp for 1d6 damage is a bad trade by itself, but with a Fell X metamagic feat you can do some fun things.
  • Born of Three ThundersCAr (+0): Only useful for devoted blasters, and even then only if you can overcome the Dazed condition easily.
  • Chain SpellCAr (+3): Chain Spell is great for powerful single-target spells, but adding a reflex save to a lower level spell which normally requires a touch attack can be difficult, if you use a spell which only requires a save the -4 to your DC can be very problematic.
  • City MagicCs (+1): The feat description doesn't actually specify that you need to use the feat inside a city, though a smart DM would make the logical connection. If you're running strictly RAW, you can use this on all of your damage spells to convert half of their damage to irresistible "city" damage. If your DM is smart enough to only allow this to apply in a city, this probably isn't worth a feat since most campaigns don't take place entirely inside cities.
  • Coercive SpellDotU (+1): This might be nice if you plan to follow up with a save or suck spell, but leading with the save or suck spell is probably a better choice. Combine with Fell Frigtening for maximum effect.
  • Consecrate SpellBoED / CD (+1): The [Good] descriptor doesn't matter much usually, but if you took the Good domain you get +1 Caster Level to [Good] spells. It also converts half of the damage to irresistible holy damage, making this excellent for Blasters. The BoED also adds its own +1 to the Caster Level of the spell, but because Complete Divine was published later, it is the definitive version.
  • Cooperative SpellCAr (+0): Instead of wasting two characters turns casting one lousy spell, go cast two spells.
  • Corrupt SpellBoVD / CD (+1): Essentially the same as Consecrate Spell, but it's evil.
  • Deafening SpellDotU (+1): Deafening a creature rarely does anything useful.
  • Deceptive SpellCs (+1): Certainly not worth a spell level. Invisible spell is considerably better, has the same cost, and comes from the same book.
  • Delay SpellCAr (+3): This is an amusing trick which may very occasionally be useful, but at +3 spell levels it's hard to justify.
  • Empower SpellPHB (+2): Less costly than Maximize Spell, and the math is very good. An empowered spell will often do more damage than a higher level spell, but once your caster level runs past the maximum for your lower level spells your higher level spells will begin to overtake Empowered spells.
  • Energize SpellLM (+2): Empower Spell for people who only fight undead, and have living allies.
  • Enervate SpellLM (+2): Empower Spell for people who only fight living creatures and have undead allies.
  • Energy AdmixtureCAr (+4): Adding a second energy type means potentially twice as much resistance. Maximize Spell is better.
  • Energy SubstitutionCAr (+0): Essential for devoted blasters, but worthless for everyone else.
  • Enlarge SpellPHB (+1): Commonly confused for Widen Spell, Enlarge Spell only improves a spells range. This is ve3yr rarely worth the feat.
  • Explosive SpellCAr (+2): I want so badly for this to be good, but it just isn't good enough for two spell levels. Very few spells have enough radius that you will get more than 1d6 bonus damage, and tripping enemies isn't good enough by itself.
  • Extend SpellPHB (+1): Enlarge spell works very well for many spellcasters, but this is one of those feats that really comes down to play style most of the time. You can use this to abuse spells with hours/level or longer durations to cast them on the night before and gain their benefits without using a spell slot of the day.
  • Fell AnimateLM (+3): This will save you the cost of Obsidian for Create Undead and similar spells, and it's a fun way to turn enemies into allies immediately. Remember that you must deal damage to get the effect.
  • Fell DrainLM (+2): Negative levels are very potent, but you won't get much use out of this unless you combine it with spells which already inflict negative levels. Remember that you must deal damage to get the effect.
  • Fell FrightenLM (+2): Shaken is a great status effect to inflict if you're going to follow up with a save or suck spell. Combine this with Coercive Spell for a total -4 to Will saves, then hit your targets with something nasty. Remember that you must deal damage to get the effect, so Black Lore of Moil can make for a potent combination.
  • Fell WeakenLM (+1): A -4 penalty to Strength is nothing. Remember that you must deal damage to get the effect.
  • Fiery SpellSS (+1): You need to really like fire spells to even consider this.
  • Fortify SpellCAr (+X): Spell Penetration has the same effect at no spell level cost, and both are made obsolete by Arcane Mastery.
  • Heighten SpellPHB (+X): Generally only useful for spontaneous casters with limited numbers of spells known who need to rely on lower level spells, but don't want to sacrifice their save DC.
  • Imbued HealingCC (+0): This is a cool option for heal-bots which might make them slightly more interesting in combat. Of course, in-combat healing is generally a bad idea, so there's little reason to use this for anything except the Healing domain's rider effect which grants temporary hit points for an hour, dramatically improving the effectiveness of Cure Light Wounds.
  • Invisible SpellCs (+1): This requires a bit of creativity to make work well, and it requires a permissive DM who can detach himself from monsters enough to let them fall for this. In general if your DM is good with illusionists, this can work. The provided example of an invisible fireball is cute, but the real appeal is much greater. Imagine invisible versions of area control spells like wall of blades, cloud kill, or solid fog.
  • Lord of UttercoldCAr (+0): Corrupt Spell and Consecrate Spell add abusable alignment tags to the spell, and their damage types don't heal undead enemies, but they also increase spell level.
  • Maximize SpellPHB (+3): The math for maximized spells is very good, especially for blasters. However, you will always have problems with spell DC's, and the cost is very high, so this is often best reserved for spells which don't allow saving throws like rays and ranged touch attacks.
  • Nonlethal SubstitutionBoED / CAr (+0): There are plenty of nonlethal spells which you can use in place of damage.
  • Ocular SpellLoM (+2): You can only have two prepared at a time, but casting two spells as full round action is pretty great, especially since you can combine this with other metamagic feats. Even at high levels, combining two low levels spells is still a fantastic option. You cast the spells the first time as a full round action to store them, then cast them against later as a second full round action, so if you like you can recharge your eyeballs between encounters.
  • Persistent SpellCAr (+6): Because the cost is so high, this is typically reserved for Divine Metamagic users.
  • Piercing ColdFb (+1): Only useful for blasters dedicated to Cold damage.
  • Purify SpellBoED (+1): If you like to drop damage on your allies, this is helpful. Or you could just position your spells better.
  • Quicken SpellPHB (+4): At high levels Quicken Spell defines spellcasters' action economy.
  • Rapid SpellCD (+1): There are very few spells to which this applies, and generally you aren't using them in situations where Rapid Spell would make them helpful.
  • Reach SpellCD (+2): There are a few good spells which are limited to touch range, but two spell levels is too much.
  • Repeat SpellCAr (+3): It's easier to compare this to Twin Spell. For one less spell level, Repeat Spell has the same effect but delays the second casting for one round. This can be fine for spells with long durations, but when you need to murder something before it reaches your party, Twin Spell is the obvious choice.
  • Retributive SpellCM (+1): An interesting option for gishes and front-line Clerics who tend to draw a lot of attacks. Vampiric Touch would be a fantastic and amusing option.
  • Sanctum SpellCAr (+0): Adventurers are often slandered as "Murder Hobos" because they spend most of their time traveling, and rarely have a permanent home. With no permanent home, where do you expect to use this?
  • Sculpt SpellCs / CA (+1): Very useful, but you can usually use smart placement to avoid your allies, so just put this on a rod.
  • Searing Spell (+1): Piercing Cold for fire damage enthusiasts.
  • Silent SpellPHB (+1): Very situational.
  • SnowcastingFb: In Frostfell campaigns this tree can be extremely potent and abusable, but if there isn't snow on the ground you will need Eschew Materials.
  • Split RayCAr (+2): Twin Spell for rays at half the cost. Absolutely amazing. Do not use with Scorching Ray unless you have precision damage to back it up.
  • Sudden XCAr: Sudden metamagic spells are very tempting, especially considering you can get Sudden Quicken, but their 1/day limitation makes them very expensive compared to a comparable rod.
  • Transdimensional SpellCAr / DR (+1): There are plenty of spells which will work without this.
  • Twin SpellCAr (+4): Very expensive, but at high levels you can combine this with Quickened Spells to cast three spells per round, completely wrecking the action economy.
  • Still SpellPHB (+1): Very situational.
  • Umbral SpellDotU (+1): If you're focused on Shadow spells this can be extremely potent, but this really only works for spellcasters devoted to its use.
  • Violate SpellBoVD (+1): The effect is identical to Corrupt Spell. I think the fact that this exists is an editing error.
  • Widen SpellPHB (+3): This is not worth +3 spell levels. The cost is too high, and it's not useful often.

Other Feats

  • Arcane ThesisPHB2: The errata for PHB2 clarified that Arcane Thesis reduces the level adjustment of each metamagic feat applied to the spell in question, making it very effective if you depend heavily on a single spell.
  • Metamagic School FocusCM: Only usable three times per day, but it's very versatile.
  • Practical MetamagicRotD: It's really annoying that this feat requires the dragonblood subtype because it's such a great feat for metamagic enthusiasts. You can put this on a metamagic feat which you're going to use a lot like Quickened, or Split Ray.
  • Rapid MetamagicCM: A move action is rarely a game-changer for a spellcaster, so the difference between a standard and a full round action is minor. At high levels, this also makes Arcane Spellsurge considerably less useful.

Further Reading