[RPG] Definition of Spontaneous vs Prepared Caster


I was digging through some obscure feats the other day while looking for wacky builds and I came across the feat Scaled Disciple that I thought would make a fun little exercise to build. It modifies the Dragon Disciple prestige class such that it now allows you to enter through a divine, spontaneous spellcasting class, which upon further investigation seemed to be limited to oracle, hunter, and inquisitor.

That being said, I'd like a little help interpreting the wording of the feat; a friend of mine pointed out that in order to qualify for it one only needs the 'ability to spontaneously cast divine spells', which would then include Druid and Cleric as being able to take the feat. Is this enough to allow for continued spellcasting progression in those classes according to the phrasing, "Your spontaneous divine spellcasting qualifies in place of arcane casting for the dragon disciple prestige class, and you may increase spellcasting in your spontaneous divine class as you progress in dragon disciple levels"?

Is there a place in any Paizo documents that explicitly defines what are prepared and spontaneous casters, and what do we do about classes like Cleric and Druid that could be looked at as both? Would this allow full spellcasting progression in these classes, spellcasting progression only for the Summon Nature's Ally / Cure/Inflict Wounds spells, or no spellcasting progression at all?

Thank you very much for the help.

Best Answer

This reader suspects that when the feat Scaled Disciple says that "you may increase spellcasting in your spontaneous divine class as you progress in dragon disciple levels," it means you may increase spellcasting in your divine classes that cast spells without preparation rather than you may increase spellcasting in your divine classes that possess the class feature spontaneous casting.

However, ask the GM how the GM's reading the feat—that feat is the only place in Kobolds of Golarion (2013) that uses the word spontaneously, and context here is vitally important.

See, that's because during much Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 the term spontaneous casting only meant This creature is able to cast [these spells] by expending a prepared spell of the same level. (Usually this also required the caster to take extra time to cast the spell if a metamagic feat's benefit were applied to it.) A cleric's alignment usually dictated whether a cleric could spontaneously cast either cure or inflict spells, for instance, and a druid could spontaneously cast summon nature's ally spells.

However, near the end of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 the term spontaneous casting unfortunately (one could even say spontaneously) also came to mean without preparation. By the publication of the Rules Compendium (Oct. 2007)—among the final D&D 3.5 texts—, what this reader presumes was once merely a mixup of terminology that slipped through editorial a few times became actual codified rules, and bards and sorcerers suddenly spontaneously cast their spells as did beguilers and dread necromancers and a few other classes, rather than—as they officially had until that point—casting their spells without preparation. (See Rules Compendium 139 for an explanation of this change in terminology; also see this question.)

And Pathfinder picks up where D&D 3.5 left off in using the term spontaneous casting to refer to both casting spells without preparation (e.g. the magic item runestone of power, the feat Versatile Spontaneity, the witch archetype ley line guardian) and actual, for-reals, kickin'-it-old-school spontaneous casting (e.g. the cleric class feature spontaneous casting, the druid class feature spontaneous casting, the extraordinary ability spontaneous spell mastery of the prestige class collegiate arcanist).

So when Pathfinder uses the term spontaneous casting, context becomes the chief way of determining if the game means either actual spontaneous casting à la the traditional cleric or druid or casting spells without preparation à la the traditional sorcerer or oracle. And the context—however limited—of the feat Scaled Disciple leads this reader to believe the feat probably means the latter rather than the former.