5E 'Combo' Spells to increase action economy, bypass cocentration
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  1. #1
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    'Combo' Spells to increase action economy, bypass cocentration

    Having one 'concentration slot' is something that a lot of people struggle with in this edition. It places an important limit on PCs that keeps spellcasters balanced with other classes, but the limit doesn't sit well with a lot of players that remember 3.5 characters that often had 15 spells cast at once.

    One idea I've been experimenting with is to take some of the classic 'combinations' and placing their benefits into a single spell. For example, creating a 6th level spell that combines the benefits of fly and improved invisibility into a single spell that takes 1 round to cast, lasts 1 round per level (concentration) and can only target the caster.

    This also provides action economy by having multiple spell impacts originate with one casting in one round.

    This isn't actually without precedent. All of the spells that add one target per spell level used to cast the spell do something similar - the combined spells are just multiple castings of the same spell. Also, we see spells that combine illusions with teleportation, damage with blocking line of sight, etc... that are also effectively two spells cast at once. I've been using one spell to cast multiple spells since first edition. My first created spell in AD&D was called Ar-mage-ddon and it allowed the magic-user to cast 4 fireballs, 3 magic missile spells, 2 lightning bolts and a cone of cold all at once. That was not well balanced, but it was fun.

    What classic combinations of spells (especially those impacted by concentration rules) do people miss seeing in the game that they think could be well served by this approach?
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  2. #2
    Personally, i'd rather see something like this.


    Nystul Spell Transfer (level 3)
    Casting Time: 1 Reaction
    Duration: Instant
    When you cast a spell, you can select a willing creature within 30'. That creature uses it's reaction to cast the spell instead of you. You supply the magical energy (such as a spell slot), but all other aspects of the spell, such as targeting, spell DC, and concentration are supplied by the target.

  3. #3
    First off, my bias. I am always put off when a discussion of "new thing" starts with a description of a key core mechanic and then sets about as intentionally creating a new bypass.

    IMO allowing the creation of NEW STUFF for the purpose of escaping a game mechanic is always the wrong approach.

    Instead, if your group thinks the game is better going around it, change the rule.

    That said, i do agree there should be higher level spells which effectively combine multiple lower level effects.

    I would start as a foundation adding the two lower spells levels together and adding 1-2 levels. Then examine each combo for need for more.

    Also, duration for each effect should drop to lowrr of the two, default. Then case by case clear.



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  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by mellored View Post
    Personally, i'd rather see something like this.


    Nystul Spell Transfer (level 3)
    Casting Time: 1 Reaction
    Duration: Instant
    When you cast a spell, you can select a willing creature within 30'. That creature uses it's reaction to cast the spell instead of you. You supply the magical energy (such as a spell slot), but all other aspects of the spell, such as targeting, spell DC, and concentration are supplied by the target.
    So hand off Blur to the fighter with prof con saves?

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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by 5ekyu View Post
    So hand off Blur to the fighter with prof con saves?
    At the cost of a level 3 slot, yes.

    Compared to greater invisibility, (level 4 slot).

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    I'm a fan of combining spell effects into a single higher level spell and I think that wizards especially would look at creating higher level spells which combine the powers of lesser spells.

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    So there's two different points to this - how much it helps the action economy, and how much doubling up on concentration is. Both should raise spell level.

    For example, let's look at just action economy. Metamagic Twin is SP equal to the level of the spell, which also the number fo SP regained if you burn a slot for SP. (Metamagic Quicken is not applicable - it's limited by the "bonus action spell, can only cast cantrips for rest of round.)

    A double fireball spell does 16d8 fire damage in a 20' radius. That's a 11th (!) level slot when upcasting, but upcasting isn't particularly efficient. A better example is ... hmm, actually, finding a spell that average 56 damage in an area is pretty hard. Looking at some other spells, it looks roughly around twice the spell level to do twice the damage in a single casting.

    So let's put "combine two spells" at the total of their levels. Maybe -1 if they are close in level - higher level spells are a bit more efficient.

    Then we need to figure out the efficiency of two concentration slots. This is also something Metamagic Twin can do. Not a perfect fit - that two different targets for the same spells, vs two different spells for the same target. But those seem fairly balanced. But not the whole x2 cost again since we're already hadnling that. Maybe just a +1 or +2.

    So if spells are of roughly similar level, I'd say a combo spell would be sum of both spells +1, and if they are different (like Bless and Haste) I'd do the sum of both spells +2. (Well, making Bless single-target in this case might bring it down to +1 instead of +2, but that's individual spell balancing).

    Let's see if this passes the smell test.

    Would you cast using a ...
    ...5th level slot for a single target Bless + Haste? (Uber weapon-wielder buff)
    ...3rd level slot for a Invisibility + Misty Step? (Bug out spell - Misty step doesn't need concentration, so using the lower cost)
    ...7th level slot for a Fly + Greater Invisibility?
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5ekyu View Post
    First off, my bias. I am always put off when a discussion of "new thing" starts with a description of a key core mechanic and then sets about as intentionally creating a new bypass.

    IMO allowing the creation of NEW STUFF for the purpose of escaping a game mechanic is always the wrong approach.
    Usually, I'd agree. However, in this case, the rule mechanic has natural 'in game' ramifications that would be limits on the spellcasters that they'd seek to master. In many, but no all, ways - magic is like technology. The natural trend in technology is to figure out how to get more out of less. More bang for the buck. This is taking the same approach we have in technology and returning it back to magic.
    That said, i do agree there should be higher level spells which effectively combine multiple lower level effects.

    I would start as a foundation adding the two lower spells levels together and adding 1-2 levels. Then examine each combo for need for more.
    This is where I started as well, but rapidly decided I'd taken a wrong turn. I do not think a general rule works as there are different synergies in play, and you have to balance and tweak the mechanics to make the spells work together (matching durations, altering targeting rules, etc...)

    For example, let's say that we want to combine two fireballs. What level would you make a spell that allows you to cast two fireballs at once?

    To me, it depends upon the mechanics. We we allow them to overlap? Two third level spells that each deal 8d6 damage is similar to one spell that deals 16d6 if we allow both fireballs to target the same creatures. Delayed Blast Fireball and Sunburst each deal 12d6 at 7th and 8th levels (with other benefits), so it is likely on par with a 7th or 8th level spell. On the other hand, if we don't allow them to overlap each other, but instead are just duplicating the size of the fireball (while still dealing no more than 8d6 to a target), it is probably something that would not warrant more than a 1 level increase in spell casting level.

    If I want to combine fly and improved invisibility, I am combining spells with two different durations. One is 10 minutes, the other is 1 minute. If the combined spell lasts 10 minutes, that is a huge increase in the efficiency of the improved invisibility. If it is limited to 1 minute, the fly's utility is limited from a standard fly spell. I'd argue that if you allow both spells to combine and target only the caster, a version with a 1 minute duration would be 5th or 6th level, while allowing a 10 minute duration would be at least 7th level as it could last several combats.

    I'd rather figure out what classic spell combinations are missing from the current game, build spells that combine their effects, and then balance those spells.

    So - once again - what classic combinations of spells from the 3E and earlier era do you miss?

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by jgsugden View Post
    Having one 'concentration slot' is something that a lot of people struggle with in this edition. It places an important limit on PCs that keeps spellcasters balanced with other classes, but the limit doesn't sit well with a lot of players that remember 3.5 characters that often had 15 spells cast at once.
    I have little sympathy for such people. I see a lot of: "But in 3e, we could do...and sorcerer's could...". While drawing inspiration from older editions can be a good thing, at the end of the day: if you want to play 3e, play 3e.

    Quote Originally Posted by jgsugden View Post
    One idea I've been experimenting with is to take some of the classic 'combinations' and placing their benefits into a single spell. For example, creating a 6th level spell that combines the benefits of fly and improved invisibility into a single spell that takes 1 round to cast, lasts 1 round per level (concentration) and can only target the caster.

    This also provides action economy by having multiple spell impacts originate with one casting in one round.

    This isn't actually without precedent. All of the spells that add one target per spell level used to cast the spell do something similar - the combined spells are just multiple castings of the same spell. Also, we see spells that combine illusions with teleportation, damage with blocking line of sight, etc... that are also effectively two spells cast at once. I've been using one spell to cast multiple spells since first edition. My first created spell in AD&D was called Ar-mage-ddon and it allowed the magic-user to cast 4 fireballs, 3 magic missile spells, 2 lightning bolts and a cone of cold all at once. That was not well balanced, but it was fun.
    **Just a quick note, "one round per level" is a 3e duration effect; 5e usually just says: "One minute, concentration."**

    Now this, on the other hand, speaks to another facet of 5e: high level spells tend to be kind of weak in many instances. Sure, there is the endless debates about Clone, Simulacrum, Forcecage, Wish, etc. being abusable, but a lot of spells at higher level don't really do much more than their lower level counterparts did, especially if those spells are upcast. For each one of those 'overpowered' spells, there seems to be at least a couple of Investiture of.., Mordenkainenĺs Sword, Elemental Bane, Weird, etc. Look, I get and support that there was a desire to tone down the LFQW, but if you're going to keep the nine level spells system, you need to make sure that the spells are worth their level slot.

    One way to do this might be to combine some lower lower level effects into a higher level spell. I'd be hesitant to grant a invisibility/Fly spell, both because it is hard to see that as anything other than a meta-game end-around of the concentration rule, and I'm leery of that particular combination; but I could perhaps see something like: "Greater Invisibility, when cast in a 9th/8th(?) level slot, does not require concentration" or some such. There are already a couple of spells that can forgo concentration when cast at a high enough level. This would allow for the possibility of multiple concentration spells to be up at one time, but at a very high cost.

    Investiture of Flame already combines the benefits of Fire Shield(even more than what this spell gives you) with Aganazzar's Scorcher (more damage, less range), and many consider it barely worth consideration, so I guess it depends on how you combine the lower level spells into one. Props to Investiture of Flame for being thematic though.

    I guess the long and short of it is: I could see some spells combining lower level spell effects together, depending on how thematic and balanced it is; I could also see more effects or ameliorating concentration for casting in a much higher slot, if applied judiciously.
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  10. #10
    just curious since it has been brought up twice now, is fireball actually a concentration spell now? or are we going to try and balance out a concentration mechanic shift based on non-concentration spells?

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