Mana System (Spellcasting Overhaul)

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Mana System (Spellcasting Overhaul)

Post by Arrius Nideal » Sat Feb 08, 2014 4:15 pm

The idea for a mana system has been a staple for tabletop games; it's everywhere in games. It always suffered a design flaw, which is the exponential costs of casting spells, coupled with regeneration rules.

The rules are simple: Each spell costs mana points depending on the spell level. The higher the caster level, the cheaper the spell. One starts with a mana pool filled with a new resource: Mana Points.
It is recommended for a caster to have the cost of their spells logged down for quick reference.

Mana cost Formula: (Spell level +Base Spell Cost)
Zero-level spells (cantrips) half their base spellcost. Count bonus spells from class features and other sources as if they granted a flat +3 to the mana pool and an additional spell prepared.

Mana Pool: One starts with Mana equal to their spellcasting attribute score (not modifier). Spontaneous casters gain +50% to their starting pool. For each caster level, add 1/2 a Mana Point.
When reaching 0 mana, the caster is fatigued, even if normally immune to the condition. Casting with 0 or less mana calls for a Fortitude save (DC 20 + spell level + 1 per point Mana is below 0). On a failed Fortitude check, the caster is exhausted, and cannot cast spells until the exhaustion is gone.
For each hour of light or no activity, the caster regains MP (Mana Points) equal to their spellcasting modifier (maximum equal to their caster level).

Mana Cost of Spells: Spell cost is equal to their spell level plus the base spell cost.

Base spell cost The base spell cost for magic spells is equal to 6 - 1/3 caster level. This value is recorded next to the mana pool. Cantrips cost 3 - Base Spell Cost mana (minimum 0).

For example: A 6th level mage has 20 Mana (17 base, +3 for 6th level), and a base spell cost of 4 (6 - 2). Their first-level spells cost 5 mana, their second-level spells cost 6, and their third-level spells cost 7. Their cantrips cost 1 mana.

Optional: One may reverse the mana pool, and count points leading to the maximum mana they have, counting upwards to their mana pool as a maximum 'Strain Cap', and not downwards to 0 of their mana pool.

Removal of the standardized spellcasting table:
Under this system, the standardized spellcasting table is neglected. Upon gaining one spellcasting level, a character will be able to cast 0 level spells and 1st level spells.
For every two spellcasting levels (3rd, 5th, etc.), up until 16, you access another spell level. There are three criteria that determine spellcasting capability:
1: Accessing the spell level (I.E. having the required spellcasting levels).
2: Knowing or owning the spell.
3: Having a spellcasting attribute score (not modifier) equal to 10 + 1 per spell level required.

Spontaneous and Prepared Spellcasting:
Beyond the mana increase for spontaneous casters, the following is the more significant difference:
Spontaneous casters cannot own spells, but may only know them. Knowing new ones requires exchanging currently known spells with others. A spontaneous caster knows one spell for each point of their casting attribute (maximum their caster level or 5 spells, whichever is lower) per spell level. Classes that are specifically mentioned as having one less spell per day than normal suffer the penalties described under their entries.
Prepared casters own spells, but they cannot cast all of them. They can 'prepare' the same number of spells as sorcerers, save for two differences: Their spell cap is maximum their caster level or 7 spells, and they might exchange the spells known by consulting their spellbooks for 1 hour (or specified sources of prepared magic).
Learning a spell or owning one requires the expenditure of gold, time, or XP as specified under normal 3.5/d20 rules.

Edit; 5/2/2015: Introduced Base Spell Cost to clarify formula.
Last edited by Arrius Nideal on Sat May 02, 2015 11:28 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: The Blackfang Strain/Mana System, adopted for WOWRPG

Post by Big Mac » Mon Mar 31, 2014 12:18 am

Arrius Nideal wrote:I share with you all a variant spellcasting system that I am sure relates to our experience with the RTS and MMORPG as WoWRPG gamers, the Strain/Mana System, of the Blackfang System as I came to call it. Very easily adopted in-game, it can be done quite quickly, and the rules internal consistency make this a rule almost a must-try. The Spell Points system I found in the Magus’ Rogue website is pretty much the Unearthed Arcana system, as well as one in the EMM&M, were difficult to adopt, clunky and pretty much broken. This system, however, is not.
Interesting concept. I'm not quite sure I get it yet. What sort of problems did you find with the other systems? I've never used either of them.
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Re: Mana System (Spellcasting Overhaul)

Post by Arrius Nideal » Wed Feb 04, 2015 10:59 am

Below are general rulings to help the transition into the new system.

General Rulings:
Purchasing abilities, like the Archmage of the Kirin Tor’s High Arcana, Death Lord’s Dark Arcana, the Warlock’s Fel Companion, and others that require sacrifice of a spell slot, they sacrifice or ‘freeze’ a mana investment equal to half the mana cost for the spell slot in question, and do not regain it until they abandon the ability/summon/companion (or High Arcana, etc). The ability can be cheaper in cost according to the mana cost table, as a Warlock5 who uses 4 mana to call a Voidwalker may find that since reaching level 14, calling a Voidwalker costs only 1 mana at his newer level. Normal summoning as with Summon Monster/Nature's Ally work normally.
When it comes to artifacts or items granting a specific spell level (Finkle’s Hammer giving you a 4th level spell slot), take the general rule for 1 mana per spell level. I.E. Mana armor enchantment, if it grants you a 4th level spell slot, count is as +4 to your mana pool. Abilities that take a specific spell level act the same way; sacrificing a 9th level spell slot (that may cost 10 mana for an ability) costs 10 mana.

WoWRPG Specific Adjustments

Paladin: Lay on Hands: 2 hit points for each mana point seems fair. Of course, with the mana system one can recover the mana used sooner since there is no internal timer of once per day. Theoretically, a paladin can cast the spell, drink a draught or from a mana fountain, and try again.
Priest: Smite: The consumption of the spell slots ties simply into the mana pool and circumvents the idea of a spell slot cost. A 5th level priest casting Smite uses 8 mana to activate Smite.
Priest: Empower Turning: Same as Smite above, consume mana equal to the spell slot.
Warlock: Fel Companion: Summoning a fel companion requires an investment of mana equal of the spell slot mentioned in the normal rules. I.E, a warlock5 who summons a Voidwalker uses mana equal to a 3rd level spell, which is 8 mana, and keeps it in reserve.

Monster Abilities:
Baron Geddon: Ignite Mana: Functions as Mana Burn (Caster Level 40), cast once per round until dispelled or until the target has no mana left.
Ignite Mana (Su): As a standard action, Baron Geddon may target any creature within 100 feet with this effect. The victim must make a DC 32 Will save or lose 2d4 of his lowest-level spell slots. He loses 2d4 of his lowest-level spell slots each round thereafter. The effect continues until dispelled (caster level 40th) or until the victim is out of spell slots. In addition, the victim takes 1d4 points of damage per level of the spell slots lost. (Losing a 3rd-level spell slot deals 3d4 points of damage.) The save DC is Charisma- based.

Mana Surge: Mana Drain: Functions as Mana Burn, except the caster heals 1 point for every mana point burned instead of dealing 1d4 per mana burned.

Lord Kazzak: Mark of Kazzak: The Mark of Kazzak, upon failure functions as a Mana Burn (Caster Level equal to Kazzak’s HD), taking the same damage as Mana Burn would. Should a spellcaster be Mana Burned into lower than 0 mana by the Mark, they are slain instantly (no save) and explodes in a flash of shadow energy, dealing 6d6 points of bludgeoning damage to all creatures within 10 feet (no save).
Mark of Kazzak (Su): Each round at the beginning of Kazzak’s turn, every non-demon spellcaster within 100 feet of him must make a DC 29 Will save or be afflicted by the mark of Kazzak, a magical connection to shadow that drains and dissipates magical power. Every time an affected character fails her save, she loses spell slots (of her choice) totaling 1d4+5 spell levels and takes fel damage equal to the number of spell levels lost; she loses her highest-level spell slots first. Should a creature with spellcasting ability lose
more spell levels than she has remaining, she is slain instantly (no save) and explodes in a flash of shadow energy, dealing 6d6 points of bludgeoning damage to all creatures within 10 feet (no save).

Obsidian Statues: Spirit Touch: Functions as the spell Spirit Touch, but once to each spellcaster in a 30-foot radius. One can take advantage of the Spirit Touch once per day
Spirit Touch (Su): An obsidian statue radiates a powerful aura in a 30-foot radius that bestows one additional spell slot to all spellcasting allies within the area of effect. The spell slot is the highest level spell that the ally is capable of casting. Creatures affected in such a manner lose this benefit as soon as they step outside the radius. They may take advantage of the obsidian statue’s spirit touch only once each day (they do not regain the spell slot if they reenter the radius). Spirit touches from multiple obsidian statues stack.

Feats:
Brilliant Leadership: Your followers gain bonus mana equal to the spell level of the highest-level spell slot available to you.
Deflect Spell: You spend mana equal to the level of the spell the opponent cast to deflect it.
Double Totem: Use double mana for a single totem summon.
Feedback: Deals 1d4 damage per mana point burnt by the Spellbreaker feat.
Gnomish Techno-magic: Instead of casting the spell, you use up mana equal to the spell level.
Improved Spell Capacity: Grants the person a permanent bonus of +4 to their mana.
Reflect Spell: Same as Deflect Spell above.
Spellbreaker: You deal 1 point of mana damage for every 2 points of melee damage you deal, up to a limit equal to the ranks you have in Spellcraft.

Spells:
Absorb Mana: You gain 1 mana for each 2 points received from the target.
Blessing of Wisdom: While within the aura limit of the Blessing, the target regains mana as per Brilliance Aura, at the rate of 1 mana per round.
Brilliance Aura/Mana Spring Totem: Restore 1 mana per round for friendly spellcasters.
(Note: Due to their similarities, I opted to lower Brilliance Aura to level 6 as the Mana Spring Totem)
Conjure Mana Water/Gem: The spell simply creates a gem that holds enough mana in it equal to the spell level that it cost to create.
(Note: Due to spells like Create Mana Water/Gems eventually becoming cheaper due to increased caster level, one could rule that you cannot gain mana from a spell from a level that does not consume mana. I.E. Sally Sutherland cannot cast Conjure Lesser Mana Water (level 2, costing her 2 mana at level 12) and benefit from it when she becomes level 19, which would provide her with 2 mana for no investment at all.
Detonate Mana: Functions as Mana Burn, but with a burn of 5d6 + 1 for every three caster levels (Maximum +8), dealing 1d6 for each mana point lost in a 30 ft. radius.
Drain Mana: Functions as Siphon Mana above.
Enervation: See Negative Level condition.
Evocation: Restores 2d8 Mana points. It is recommended that Evocation and Innervation have a limit of times/day, as they are good options for prolonged fights.
Innervate: Functions as Evocation, instead of being delayed for a round and for less mana.
Life Tap: Provides 1 mana for every 4 points of hit point drained, effectively a quasi-reverse of the Mana Shield basic concept.
Mana Burn: Burns up to 1d4 mana, + 1 per three caster levels (maximum +6) from the target, dealing 1d4 damage per mana point burned.
Mana Tide Totem: As Mana Spring, but 2 mana per round for friendly spellcasters.
Mana Shield: Works like Spellbreaker in reverse; one point of mana shields from 2 points of damage per point of mana.
Mind Rot: Target loses mana equal to 1d6 + 1 for every three caster levels (maximum +6).
Nightmare: Target cannot regain mana for 24 hours or until targeted by a Dispel Evil spell.
Searing Arrows: Instead of it being a ‘buff’ that enchants arrows, they are enhancements as Flametongue/Frostbrand, costing what is equal to a 2nd level spell slot for each shot. This makes them more costly at the beginning, almost free on later levels.
Siphon Mana: The spell functions as an enemy-targeted Absorb Mana, trading in a 2-for-1 point mana exchange, with 4 points being lost per round, with 2 being siphoned by the caster.
Spirit Touch: Restores 1d6 + 1 for every three levels (maximum +6) mana to a target.
(Note: With Siphon Mana classified under 3.5 rules (Classified as Sor5/Wis5 spell) and Drain Mana under WoWRPG rules (Warlock5), I am not sure whether or not this means I should add Drain Mana to the Arcanist Spell list to reflect this. This way, Drain Mana is not warlock-specific, though it seems like EMM&M, a fan sourcebook is more loyal to the game design than M&M, an official sourcebook.)
Viper Sting: Deals 1d2 points of mana damage per round per caster level, up to a maximum total of 10d2 over the duration.

Items:
Mana Draught: Mana restored scales directly with spell slots restored by a 1:1 margin.
Lesser Mana Draught: This dark blue liquid grants its consumer 4 levels of spell slots Mana points. Draught; Craft (alchemy) 11 ranks, Artisan Alchemist; Price 330 gp.
Rejuvenation Draught: Mana restored scales as per Mana Draught.
Mana Burst Enchantment: You regain mana on a successful critical hit equal to one-fifth of the damage dealt, effectively working as a reverse Spellbreaker feat.
Ring of Rumination: As per the general rule concerning spell slots, you regain 1 mana once per day.
Crown of the Dreadlord: Instead of giving you an additional necromancy spell slot for each spell level you have, it gives you bonus mana equal to the highest-level necromancy slot you have available.
Dreamless Sleep Elixir: Restores 5 mana, as well as what else it does.
Recall Enchantment: Keeps a reserve of 1 mana per spell level provided, which could be drawn upon once per day.
Mana Enchantment: Gives a static mana increase equal to the spell level.

Power Sites:
Mana Fountain: Restores 1d4 mana per hour drinking. You cannot gain the benefits for the mana fountain more than once per hour. You can optionally vial the waters in a special container to make the effect mobile, though the restoration effect is subject to the internal cooldown of one hour. You can still use the 1d4 mana points to restore an ability as per the EMM&M rules (page 132).

Conditions:
Negative Levels: Just as negative levels reduce your current and maximum hit points, they also reduce your current mana, by a value equal to hit points lost from the negative level: 5 mana per negative level.
With the scaling value, it seems as that negative levels are more punishing for spellcasters than non-spellcasters, which sounds quite appropriate; energy drain is taxing physically and mentally, spellcasting more so.

Suggested Feats:
Since feats like Versatile Spellcaster deal explicitly with Spell slots, I have opted to remove them or handle them as the Weave Energy mechanic, by simply making the spell cost the same as a lower-level spell.
Feats like Improved Spellcasting Capacity serve as bonus mana, which makes a feat such as this quite acceptable in these rules:

Arcane Fortitude
They said you’re too tired. I never get tired.
Benefit: You gain +4 to your Fortitude save when forcing a spell without mana. You are also not fatigued when your mana pool is empty (Negative mana still fatigues you, and forcing mana and failing still exhausts you).

Increased Mana Capacity
Casting spells does not exhaust you as quickly as it does lesser spellcasters.
Prerequisites: Ability to cast spells
Benefit: You gain +3 to your mana pool.

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Re: The Blackfang Strain/Mana System, adopted for WOWRPG

Post by Arrius Nideal » Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:18 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Arrius Nideal wrote:I share with you all a variant spellcasting system that I am sure relates to our experience with the RTS and MMORPG as WoWRPG gamers, the Strain/Mana System, of the Blackfang System as I came to call it. Very easily adopted in-game, it can be done quite quickly, and the rules internal consistency make this a rule almost a must-try. The Spell Points system I found in the Magus’ Rogue website is pretty much the Unearthed Arcana system, as well as one in the EMM&M, were difficult to adopt, clunky and pretty much broken. This system, however, is not.
Interesting concept. I'm not quite sure I get it yet. What sort of problems did you find with the other systems? I've never used either of them.
The scaling is terrible: A character either ends up with an abundance of Mana or too little of it in comparison to the base game. With no alternative restoration mechanics, the mana system might as well not exist.
It required a lot of re-reading and cross-referencing: Sometimes specific spells had special interactions with mana, and they didn't always follow the same rhyme or reason.
They often had exploding qualities and didn't mesh with existing rules well.
Hopefully this system can prove to stand the test of time by being flexible, adaptable, and fun.

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UPDATE: Mana System (Spellcasting Overhaul)

Post by Arrius Nideal » Wed Jul 29, 2015 4:39 pm

In response to a private message I have received yesterday, I have decided to add the following addendum. Before that, I would also like to stress that all feedback is welcome on this thread, even if it is just an acknowledgement of use.
The private message pointed out an issue that occurred during playtesting the system, and proposed racial or class-based methods of increasing mana regeneration.
Thank you, mcgeneral for your contribution.

1: Spellcraft Ranks and Mana:
The Warcraft RPG has a unique addition to the 3.5 OGL use of Spellcraft: for every four ranks in the skill, the user may prepare one additional spell of every spell level.
With this taken to account, a fifth level caster may (with only eight ranks) have two additional 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level spell, for a total mana increase of +18.
It was a lapse on my account; I had added a general rule, that any class feature, creature ability, or effect that added an additional spell slot added +3 to the mana pool.
To validate Warcraft RPG's predilection for high-powered casters, the following occurs at every four ranks of Spellcraft:

A: Expanded Pool:
The character may count half their ranks in Spellcraft as an effective level for the purposes of mana points gained by level. In effect, every four mana points grant +1 to the mana pool.
B: Expanded Magic:
For every four spellcraft ranks, the user may ready an additional spell per spell level, increasing their spells known per spell level by +1.
For this purpose, they may choose more spells every day (if a prepared caster), or know more spells (if a spontaneous caster). A character can only cast from spells they own or prepare (max. 5 for spontaneous, 7 for prepared).

Ranks in Spellcraft (representing deep knowledge of the arcane and divine sources of magic) thus not only increases the mana pool by unlocking the character's potential, but also increases the spells they may retain at any given time. Of course, since spells still require mana, the benefits are tangible, but not broken.

2: Mana Increase/Mana Regen, and Options for Races:
Mana can be increased normally by increasing one's effective attribute and leveling up (now, also by taking ranks in Spellcraft). However, mana restoration is quite limited.
This is a feature of the system; mana consumption is high, and regeneration is little. This discourages casters from going NOVA and encourages a different paradigm of playing roleplaying games (namely, allowing for short raids and counter-raids, instead of a dungeon crawl or a gigantic fight), as well as allowing less spells over any given hour, but more spells over any given day.
That said, there are emergency ways to recover mana, racial/class features and potions being prime. I do not encourage allowing for spells to restore mana, as that turns into a positive self-backing circle with no limiter (and spells with internal cooldowns are usually trap choices anyway).

A: Racial/Class Features:
Eligible races or classes can gain a 1/day ability to restore mana equal to the amount they'd normally regain per hour of rest. This can be used another time per day per every five levels. As this is a peripheral increase, count mana restoration as a full-round action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity, and a supernatural ability. A GM is free to give each class that relies on mana an ability like this. For this purpose, multiple abilities of the same nature do not stack.
I would suggest presenting this as a racial ability with racial class, usable once at racial hit dice 2, and again at racial hit dice 3, or a class ability with 5 levels in said class. GMs are free to develop their own names for the abilities.

Class abilities:
Mana Tide (Shaman)/Evocation (Mage/Warlock)/World Tree's Grace (Druid/Hunter), Desperate Prayer (Paladin/Priest): Usable 1/day at level 5, per once every five levels beyond, maximum 4/day.

Racial abilities:
Arcane Torrent (High Elves) This can be only used at daytime, or when near the Sunwell, once per day at racial level 2, plus once per day at racial level 3.
Elune's Favor (Night Elves): This can be only used at nighttime, or when near Nordrassil, once per day at racial level 2, plus once per day at racial level 3.

B: Potions and Wondrous Items:
Clarity Potion, Greater: As lesser clarity potion, except that the consumer regains mana as if they rested for three hours in ten minutes. Cost: 600 gp. Craft (Alchemy) DC 18 to create, and Brew Potion.
Clarity Potion, Lesser: Upon being consumed, the consumer triggers their mana regeneration facilities, regaining mana as if they rested for one hour over ten minutes. The spell stops regenerating mana if the user attacks or is attacked while regenerating. If used while suffering from fatigue from negative mana, the clarify potion also removes the fatigued condition. Cost: 100 gp, Craft (Alchemy) DC 14 to create, and Brew Potion.
Clarity Potion, Moderate: As lesser clarity potion, except that the consumer regains mana as if they rested for two hours in ten minutes. Cost: 300 gp. Craft (Alchemy) DC 16 to create, and Brew Potion.
Mana Potion, Greater: As lesser mana potion, except that it restores 2d6+2 mana. Cost: 600 gp. Craft (Alchemy) DC 18 to create, and Brew Potion.
Mana Potion, Lesser: Upon being consumed, the consumer instantly restores 1d4+1 mana. Cost: 100 gp, Craft (Alchemy) DC 14 to create, and Brew Potion.
Mana Potion, Moderate: As lesser mana potion, except that it restores 1d6+1 mana. Cost: 300 gp. Craft (Alchemy) DC 16 to create, and Brew Potion.
Mana Stone: If held by the user, the mana stone increases mana restoration that stems from regeneration by 25% (this stacks with clarity potions). The mana stone may also be destroyed as a move action to regain mana as if the user rested for one hour (with 25% increase), before being destroyed. Cost: 12,000 gp. Craft (Alchemy) DC 20 to create, and Craft Wondrous Item.

Special: Mana CooldownOne cannot consume a mana potion more than once every given hour.

C: Armor Enhancements:
Mana: The mana pool of the wearer of mana-infused armor gains a +1 effective bonus to their maximum mana pool per +1 bonus invested. This follows the normal rules for enchanted armors. For this purpose, count clothes and robes as armors with a +0 armor bonus, and -0 Armor check penalty, with the appropriate weight.

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Re: UPDATE: Mana System (Spellcasting Overhaul)

Post by Mcgeneral » Thu Jul 30, 2015 12:13 pm

Thanks for the reply to my question Arrius Nideal

A follow-up question. In our campaign, we have 6 players with 1 caster/healer. In my opinion, low level casters severely lack spellslots. In order for this healer to be able to provide enough healing for a very melee heavy party I introduced a necklace Tear of Ysera. It gave the druid healer 2 extra first level spellslots. Later on, as a quest-reward for completing a background quest, improved it to also give an extra 2nd level spell slot.

I need a way to translate this bonus in the old system into the bonus for the new system. I was thinking of giving extra mana, but i'm struggling to find a balance. Based on your original post "When it comes to artifacts or items granting a specific spell level take the general rule for 1 mana per spell level" I was going to give her +2 mana for the 2 first lvl slots and +2 mana for the single 2nd level slot. Thats +4 mana. I guess it's not a big problem as long as it stays like this. However, if I would consider to further improve this item over time (which was the plan), it might go slightly overboard. Consider a situation where you would give +1 to all spell slots available. A lvl 8 druid (which can cast up to lvl 4 spells) would then get +1x(lvl) 1, +1x(lvl)2, +1x(lvl)3, +1x(lvl)4. This would be +10 mana. As with the bonus for spellcraft, this would ramp up pretty quickly. A single item would then give a manapool that is increased by 30%. The bonus on this item worked well in the old system, but would give too big of a bonus in the new system. How would you deal with such a conversion issue?

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Re: Mana System (Spellcasting Overhaul)

Post by Arrius Nideal » Thu Jul 30, 2015 3:21 pm

Please note that adding any more mana would disrupt the system's delicate balance (and its intent of giving less spells per hour, more spells per day). For this purpose, consider adjusting the CR of encounters or at least spreading them over a time that allows the druidess to regenerate mana.
I would advise against having the artifact scale with spell level accessed, but instead scale with the level of the character in question, following the progression of the Spellcraft skill. However, due to stacking issues, both increases to mana pool would be of the same type (enhancement; as in they do not stack). So the druidess may either take the necklace and gain +1 mana per every four hit dice, or put ranks in Spellcraft to get +1 mana per every four skill points, but not both.

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Re: Mana System (Spellcasting Overhaul)

Post by Big Mac » Wed Oct 07, 2015 4:30 pm

Arrius Nideal wrote:I would advise against having the artifact scale with spell level accessed, but instead scale with the level of the character in question, following the progression of the Spellcraft skill. However, due to stacking issues, both increases to mana pool would be of the same type (enhancement; as in they do not stack). So the druidess may either take the necklace and gain +1 mana per every four hit dice, or put ranks in Spellcraft to get +1 mana per every four skill points, but not both.
It sounds like you would be better off using the necklace on a low-level character, and then selling it at higher levels, and using skills on Spellcraft slots instead.
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