The Mana System (D&D 3, 3.5, And Pathfinder)

The Mana System is an alternative way of casting magic in Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition or Pathfinder. This system gives versatility and creativity back to casters, and I feel, makes more sense with how magic should work.

A quick side note, I can’t take credit for this. The base idea for it was something a previous DM had found on the internet, I’m not sure exactly where.  I do feel this is balanced and I’m not sure how much credit to give out and really to whom it would go to…

A magic circle drawn on the floor of an old building.

The Mana system takes a spell caster’s Spells Per Day and converts it all into a single pool of magical power.  The greatest advantage of this system is that a spell caster can cast many more top-level spells, but then they run out of spells very very quickly.  Another big advantage is that this makes every caster a spontaneous caster.  While each caster class still needs to tune their magic every, it’s no different than a physical class training their skills.  Cleric still needs to pray, wizards still need to review their spellbooks, and so on.

The downside… well there isn’t a whole lot of a downside other than what I mentioned before, you can blow all your spells very quickly and soon find yourself without any magic.

An image of the Void Ocean Crew.

So how can you implement the Mana System into your game?
First, you need to look up your caster’s Spells Per Day list.  Each of these is going to boil down to a certain number of Mana as indicated below:
(Spell Level / 2 ) [Round up] x Spells Per Day = Mana Points

An example, in Pathfinder a 7th Level Wizard has; 4 1st-Level, 3 2nd-Level, 2 3rd-Level, and 1 4th Level.  If this Wizard has an 18 Intelligence, you would add an additional Spell Per Day to each of these spell levels as normal.
So from their 1st-Level Spells the equation is (1 / 2) x 5 = 5
2nd-Level Spells the equation is (2 / 2) x 4 = 4
3rd-Level Spells the equation is (3 / 2) x 3 = 6
4th-Level Spells the equation is (4 / 2) x 2 = 4
Then you Add all the Mana Points Together for the total
5 + 4 + 6 + 4 = 19

Then to cast a spell, you simply use an amount of Mana equal to the spell Level you are casting.
For Pathfinder you do not have to worry about 0-Level spells as you can cast them at will anyway.  For Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition or 3.5, the only change you have to make is that you get a number of free spells per day of your 0-Level Spells equal to the classes Spells Per Day, after that it costs one Mana Point.

There are some parts where this gets a little tricky.
For things like Cleric Domain Spells, you would just give them one free casting for each of their domain spells each day.
Some people believe this is can be unfair for Prepared Casters vs Spontaneous Casters, saying that the Prepared caster can now cast any of their spells they want in a day giving them much great versatility.  But if you look like a Prepared Casters’ Spells Per Day compared to a Spontaneous Casters’ Spells Per Day, you will notice that the Spontaneous Caster will end up with a much higher Mana Pool.  Compared to the Wizard example above, a 7th Level Sorcerer with an 18 Charisma would have a Mana Pool of 24, and they can’t cast 4th Level spells as the Wizard can!

An image from the game magic the gathering, the "Mana Leak" card.

For Meta Magic Feats, you simply add a number of Mana equal to the Spell Level Adjustment that the feat requires.  But you are not able to end up with a Mana Cost greater than the highest-level spell you can cast.

There are probably a bunch of special exceptions for classes out there.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll update this page!

Check out the All Roads Tavern Podcast if you’re interested in a highly produced actual play entertainment!

Follow the author of this post, Erik!
@LithMageLLC (Musings)
@RolePlayADay (Roleplay Inspiration)


  1. For prepared casters, I read in 3rd/3.5 that when using a mana system, they can only prepare their spells per day of unique spells but cast them as often as their mana and the mana rules permit. This lets the above Wizard Example prepare 3 different 3rd LvL spells instead of 3 Fire Ball Spells when they know they’ll be fighting trolls later in the day. A Fire Ball, Greater Magic Weapon, and Summon Monster III would be great choices for such an event. This keeps them balanced with spontaneous spell casters as they won’t have ultimate access to all the spells they’ve got.

    If, say, a pathfinder adept of equal level as the example wizard didn’t have the limit of prepared spells, they’d have unfettered access to a host of good spells all at once which include: aid, animal trance, bear’s endurance, bull’s strength, cat’s grace, cure moderate wounds, darkness, delay poison, enemy’s heart, invisibility, mirror image, resist energy, scorching ray, see invisibility, tremor blast, and web.

    Being able to cast web and then scorching ray during the same fight as they could cast darkness and cure moderate wounds would make them quite powerful as their spell list includes both cleric and sorcerer/wizard spells (while being a divine spellcaster with a familiar at 2nd LvL).

    In the end, having their current spells per day be their spells prepared per day for prepared casters (excluding the Pathfinder Arcanist which has a prepared spells per day already) would keep them fairly balanced.

  2. The system I used for years and it worked was creating the pool of mana from the tables of spells per day per level. So if a 7th Wizard has 4,3,2,1 spells per day then add all the levels to get your mana 4 + 6 + 6 + 4 which is 20 points.

    Now where my system differs, is that to balance out the obvious multiple fireballs, I used a system that assumes that casting spells takes a toll on the caster: The first time that spell is cast it costs it’s level in points. The second time it costs double. 3rd time triple points. So a fireball cast 3 times in a row ( which typically can turn the tide of most melee battles) costs 3+6+9= 18 points which forces casters to use more creative ways to approach a problem. However, once their mana pool is drained, they can continue to cast spells but now their pool of spell power draws from hit points, So a caster can in desperation save the party at a cost to his life. It worked well for my campaigns and gave an added risk for wielding so much power. Rarely though had any casters had to use hit points to cast spells but it happened, and almost never did any caster die as a result of burning hit point, but it may have happened.

    Hope this makes your game better!

    Also had a wound system that put the mightiest of cocky warriors in check and made the game more real. More on that later

  3. “For Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition or 3.5, the only change you have to make is that you get a number of free spells per day of your 0-Level Spells equal to the classes Spells Per Day”

    Quite the long time to pass before commenting… well does this mean for said 7th level Wizard he get a number of free uses equal to just his 0 level spells(4) or all spell levels added together(14 when you added bonus spells per day)?

  4. “For Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition or 3.5, the only change you have to make is that you get a number of free spells per day of your 0-Level Spells equal to the classes Spells Per Day”

    For a 7th level Wizard would the free spells per day be JUST his 0 level spells per day(4 per day) or ALL level spells per day added together? (14 if you add the bonus spells per day for having 18 Int.)?

  5. 0 level spells are considered cantrips in my game, and because they don’t have a difficulty level they do not drain mana; so infinite use. I like this rule because magic users typically are very weak at low levels so they can contribute in ways that require a little imagination and intuition, and this also challenges the DM to adjudicate the effect and reactions to these minor tricks. Or you could put a limit as to the max per day on these cantrips, (which was determined by intelligence), but generally, the max per day rule is tossed altogether for the fact that given the certainty that the best and most effective spells will be repeated daily, the drain on the mana pool happens exponentially faster until actual damage is done to the caster. Good question: I would apply the max per day rule to cantrips or 0-lvl spells.

Leave a Reply