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Designing Spells

Step 2: Compare

Source Starfinder Enhanced pg. 114
The best thing you can do when creating a spell meant to balance well with Starfinder’s existing magic ecosystem is to first take a look what’s already there. Look for spells of a similar level with similar effects, areas, targets, and so on, and use those to anchor your spell’s mechanical assumptions.
Some existing spells are particularly strong examples of a spell of their level, while others serve as a marker for the level at which certain abilities become available to players. A few of these are listed in the Benchmark Spells table below for your convenience.

Benchmark Spells

Source Starfinder Enhanced pg. 114
0Telepathic messageBasic telepathy is a relatively low-power effect.
1CommandThis is an early compulsion effect that is notably limited in its effects.
1–6FlightNote that the lower-level versions of flight grant limited benefits; true flight doesn’t kick in until the 3rd-level version.
1Lesser confusionThis introduces confusion but limits it to 1 round; at 4th level, confusion significantly increases this to 1 round per level.
1Lesser remove conditionNote the conditions removed by this spell, as well as its higher-level counterparts, remove condition (2nd level) and greater remove condition (5th level)
1Magic missile, mind thrust, overheatThese are basic damage spells with varying parameters; note that mind thrust is a variable-level spell.
1–6Mystic cureThis is a good benchmark for healing Hit Points.
2Daze monsterThis imposes a powerful condition and is limited to creatures of a certain CR or lower.
2Invisibility, see invisibilityThis is when both basic invisibility and the ability to see invisible creatures enter the game.
3Dispel magicThis spell can provide a powerful antimagic effect.
3Explosive blastThis is a quintessential area-of-effect damage spell.
3Haste, slowThese spells affect action economy, a very powerful lever that should be pulled with caution.
3Remove afflictionThis is when the ability to magically neutralize curses, disease, and poisons enters the game.
4Dimension doorTeleportation enters the game; see teleport (5th level), interplanetary teleport (6th level), and plane shift (6th level) for comparable, but more powerful, abilities.
4ReincarnateThis is a way to get around death (though with major consequences). See raise dead (5th level) for the more powerful, more straightforward way to “undo” a character’s death.
5Dominate personThe potential to fully control another character is a very powerful effect.
Miracle, wishThese and similar spells are unlocked only through max-level class features and have extremely powerful effects; if your spell does anything comparable it’s likely too strong for the game at all but the highest level.