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Chapter 10: Magic and Spells / Casting Spells

Spell Level, Caster Level, and Spell Slots

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 330
Once you’ve chosen a spell to cast, take note of its spell level, and then determine the caster level at which you cast it. A spell’s spell level (also referred to as simply “a spell’s level”) defines at what class level you can cast the spell. In the case of variable-level spells, the spell’s level determines the spell’s exact effects (see Variable-Level Spells below). On the other hand, the caster level at which you cast a spell governs many aspects of how the spell works, often including its range and duration. The following sections further describe and differentiate spell level and caster level.

Some of the rules in this chapter make reference to spell slots. The number of spell slots of any given level that you have is equal to the number of spells of that level that you can cast each day (for details about exactly when you regain your daily spell slots, see Regaining Daily-Use Abilities and Spells on page 262).

When the rules say you must have an available spell slot, it means that you can’t have cast all of your spells per day of that level. When the rules say that you lose a spell slot or the spell fails, that means that you have expended one of the total number of spells of that level that you can cast per day.

Spell Level

A spell level expresses a spell’s relative power. A spell’s level is listed in its spell description directly to the right of the spell’s class icon, and it may vary by class. For example, it is possible for a spell to be a 2nd-level spell for a mystic but a 3rd-level spell for a technomancer. In some cases, a spell’s level is listed in its description as “—”. This means you must gain access to the spell through a class feature and can’t add it as a spell known through the normal progression of learning spells.

Unlike your caster level, which you can always choose to lower, a spell’s level is static unless it is a variable-level spell.  

Variable-Level Spells

A variable-level spell is a spell that has different effects depending on the level of the spell slot you use to cast it. The spell description of a variable-level spell lists the spell level as a range (“1–6” for example) and notes how the spell’s effects change when cast at different spell levels.

When you learn a spell that can be cast at variable spell levels, you gain the ability to cast it at the spell level you know and at every level below that. For example, let’s say Keskodai is a 9th-level mystic who has mystic cure (which is a variable-level spell that can be cast at spell levels ranging from 1st–6th) as a 2nd-level spell known. When Keskodai chooses to cast mystic cure, he can cast it as a 1st-level or 2nd-level spell. His caster level is still 9th, regardless of the spell level at which he casts the spell. Keskodai can’t cast mystic cure as a 0-level spell (since mystic cure doesn’t have a 0-level version) or as a 3rd-level spell (since he doesn’t know mystic cure as a 3rd-level spell). The effect of mystic cure when Keskodai casts it is detailed in the spell’s description and depends on the spell level at which he chose to cast it.

If you know a variable-level spell and later select it again as a higher-level spell known, you can immediately select a new spell known to replace the lower-level version of the variable-level spell. For example, when Keskodai becomes a 10th-level mystic, he selects mystic cure as a 4th-level spell known. He also immediately selects a new 2nd-level spell known to replace the 2nd-level version of mystic cure. He can now cast mystic cure as a 1st-, 2nd-, 3rd-, or 4th-level spell.

Caster Level

Your caster level (or CL) represents your aptitude for casting the spells you know, and it is equal to the total number of levels you have in spellcasting classes. For characters with a single spellcasting class, this is equal to your class level in that class. You can cast a spell at a lower caster level than normal, but the caster level you choose must be high enough for you to cast the spell in question, and all level-dependent features must be based on the same caster level. If you wish to cast a spell at a lower caster level than normal, you must decide this before you make any other decisions about the spell’s effects. Once a spell has been cast, the spell effect has a caster level that is equal to the caster level at which you cast the spell. Many of a spell’s effects are based on the spell’s caster level.

In the event that a class feature or special ability provides an adjustment to your caster level, that adjustment applies not only to effects based on caster level (such as range, duration, and damage dealt) but also to any caster level checks you attempt (see below) and DCs based on caster level (such as the DC to dispel your spells).

Caster Level Checks

The rules sometimes require you to make a caster level check. To attempt a caster level check (such as to overcome a creature’s spell resistance), roll 1d20 and add your caster level.