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Old Screeds

Metamagic Feats Rated [28 August 05] Helping you pick the ones that make the grade.

Since the third edition of the D&D rules came out, I've loved the idea of metamagic feats. But I've also been disappointed in the actual rules for them. They just don't, for the most part, seem to pay off. Let's take a look at each one and see how good it really is.

Empower Spell: An Empowered spell takes a slot two levels higher than the spell you are Empowering. It's hard to imagine the value of an Empowered magic missile over a lightning bolt, or an Empowered cure light wounds over a cure serious wounds. At higher levels, an Empowered fireball beats a cone of cold, though, so the feat isn't totally useless. An Empowered cure critical wounds is a bard's best cure, since heal is not a bard spell. Grade: C+, and then only at higher levels.

Enlarge Spell: Taking up one higher slot for a doubled range, and only for some spells, this feat sucks. In a few very special cases, like a sniping assassination attempt, I could see the use, but for the average adventuring caster? Bzzzt. Grade: F, since you are better off by far with a metamagic rod of enlarge in the very rare cases that you actually need this feat.

Extend Spell: This is perhaps the best of the metamagic feats, in my opinion. It essentially lets you cast the same spell twice, at a cost of one higher slot. Extend long duration spells so that they last all day; extend short duration spells to double their effectiveness in combat. Examples of spells that benefit from the latter include command, hideous laughter, summon spells, blink, greater invisibility, etc. And with certain spells, a double duration means double damage -- consider flame sphere, produce flame, and heat metal, just to name the hottest. Hmmm ... Extend lets you double damage at a cost of one level; Empower lets you add half again at a cost of two levels. Would you rather cast an Empowered acid arrow or an Extended acid arrow? No contest. Grade: A.

Heighten Spell: Sometimes there is just no way to accomplish what you want but with a low-level spell. There is no high-level equivalent to Sanctuary, for example. If you are a sorcerer or bard, your choices might be similarly limited: a sorcerer's only charm spell might be charm person. In these kinds of situations, with no higher-level analog of an essential spell at hand, Heightening a lower level spell may be the best choice. Though it may irk to "waste" a higher level slot on a low level spell, that DC boost may be the only thing that can save your bacon. Grade: B

Maximize Spell: This feat is crap. It costs one level more than Empower, but Empower is usually just as good and often even better! It's only decent use is to pack in a Maximized Empowered blast spell, like a scorching ray or a fireball, but you need to be uber-level to make that work.Grade: D-.

Quicken Spell: Here is another goodie. Sure, it takes a slot four levels higher, but being able to cast two spells a round makes it worthwhile. Of course, it is only good at high levels, and its presence in the game taunts spontaneous casters, who cannot use it. Grade: A-, for mocking bards and sorcerers, who deserve better.

Silent Spell: If your DM actually uses the rules for listen checks to hear enemies casting spells, and if you are an arcane trickster or an assassin, then I concede the sneaky value of casting without sound. Or if your strategy is to cast Silence on yourself, followed by rushing up to enemy casters and casting Silent spells on them, well, then mad props to you, crazy boy. And Silent Still spells for use when paralyzed is a pretty neat trick to pull out of your hat. Nonetheless, for general magic practitioners, I just can't see this feat coming in very handy. Grade: C-.

Still Spell: If you are playing an arcane tank, that is, a wizard or sorcerer in armor, then this is your feat. The Silent Still trick applies here too. But in general, there's not much to recommend this feat. Grade: C-.

Widen Spell: Plus three levels for a bigger area? Maybe marginally useful on a battlefield, where you can mow down swaths of enemy soldiers. But at a cost of plus three levels? Bzzzt. Grade: F, since there are so many better feats to spend your slot on.

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