- Note: In the context of mana burning, a 'spell' can refer to any of spells, extracts, or poultices. Any time a 'spell' is referred to in this section, it applies to any or all of these three types. If you are multi-classed, dual-classed, or otherwise have access to spells, extracts, and/or poultices, any of them may be burned to boost any of the others. They are interchangeable with regards to mana burning.
When casting a spell, Mana Burning allows you to expend one or more additional spells as part of the same action as casting the spell, in order to increase that spell's destructive power.
To understand mana burning, you must understand four concepts: spell level, caster level, character level, and Circle.
A spell's level is a measure of how difficult it is to learn, and usually a factor in how powerful its effects are. Paladins and Rangers only have spells that go up to level 4, Bards and Alchemists only have spells that go up to level 6. Clerics, Druids, Sorcerers, and Wizards have spells that go up to level 9. Conventional spells do not go above level 9, though you can apply metamagic feats to a spell to cause its level to go as high as level 17 (assuming your character class grants spell slots that high).
Caster level is how many levels a character possesses in a specific spellcasting class. If you are multi-classed or dual-classed, your caster level only goes up if you level in a class that can cast spells. If you gain levels in a non-spellcasting class, your caster level remains frozen at the sum of the levels you gained in spellcasting classes only. Caster level is usually used to determine how difficult it is to resist the effects of a spell (if it grants a saving throw). Other variables in a spell can also be affected by caster level, such as a spell's range, or even how many targets it can affect at once.
Character level is the character's total level. That is, it is the sum of all class levels from any class the character has taken. If a character doesn't multi-class or dual-class (i.e. they only have one character class), their character level is equal to their class level. If their sole class is a spellcasting class, their character level is also equal to their caster level.
Finally, Circles are a measure of how much base damage a spell does, relative to the caster's character level. If a spell has a Circle listed, it will be highlighted in orange in the spell's description. Every spell has a Level, but not every spell has a Circle. If a spell does not have a Circle, it generally does no damage, or has a custom damage profile. Spells that do not have a Circle listed cannot be mana burned.
Mana Burned spells (or spell slots) are used up for the day, exactly as though they had been cast. For each additional spell you burn in the casting, you increase the spell's Circle by one step, increasing the spell's base damage dealt. You cannot mana burn cantrips (or orisons, or powerful cantrips), but you can mana burn any spell you have either memorized (if you must prepare spells in advance) or have available (if you can spontaneously cast spells).
Aside from certain arcane bloodlines and certain expensive magic items, the only way to increase a spell's Circle is by mana burning one or more additional spells at the same time that the spell is being cast (as part of the same action). This means, for example, that memorizing a spell in a higher level slot than the minimum required does not raise the spell's circle. Similarly, memorizing a spell in a higher level slot because it has one or more Metamagic Feats applied to it does not increase the spell's Circle.
For each extra spell burned (beyond the spell actually being cast), the spell's Circle moves up one step on the damage scale.
Circle Damage for Spells
|Spell Circle||Burn Cost||Min Character Level (CL)||Base Dice||Max Dice|
There is also a maximum spell circle you can raise a given spell, based on your character level. This maximum is: (total character level + 1) ÷ 2, round down. Note that this is NOT based on the character's caster level or class level, but their total character level, making this an attractive option for multi-classed or dual-classed characters. Furthermore, the maximum is unaffected by classes who learn higher level spell slots at a slower pace than full casters. For example, even though a bard cannot cast 3rd level spells at 5th level, they can cast a 2nd level spell and mana burn it to Circle 3 damage, dealing the equivalent of a third level spell.
All benefits of any Metamagic Feats applied to the spell being cast are applied after all Mana Burning has been done. That is, you can memorize a Maximized Fireball (using a sixth level spell slot — 3 for the spell's normal spell level, and 3 for the Maximize metamagic feat), and then burn four additional spell slots of any other spell level to increase the Maximized Fireball's Circle 3 damage to Circle 7 damage (assuming you are high enough level to use Circle 7 damage), and the fireball will inflict maximized Circle 7 damage.
- Example: A 18th level wizard casts the old classic, fireball. Fireball does Circle 3 damage (1d6 per character level, max 10d6). The wizard mana burns it up to Circle 9 damage (1d6+3 per level, max 25d6+75). In order to do this, the wizard must expend the base 3rd level slot for the Fireball spell, and then six spell slots of any spell level to move the Circle up by six steps. Since the wizard is 18th level, Circle 9 is the maximum Circle they could mana burn a spell up to, and by bumping the Fireball spell to Circle nine, they will deal 18d6+54 points of damage with it, far exceeding the normal limits of a fireball.