D&D 5E [5E] To Vance or not to Vance - That is the Question


Hopefully everyone reading this knows what I’m talking about, the question being: Should 5E include Vancian “fire-and-forget” magic or something else? Let’s take this inquiry as an example of a key question to 5E design, a question that I would posit the answer to isn’t and can’t be a direct “yes” or “no.” The answer is (or should be) if you want. Or, if you’d prefer, yes and no.

Think of it this way. With half a dozen or more official versions of D&D out there, not to mention dozens of retro-clones, close cousins and evil step children, the only way WotC can hope to “heal” the fractured D&D community is to create One Edition to Rule Them All, or at least one edition to please as many people as possible. And the only way to do that is to create a game that is simple enough at its core with modular options that can be customized to suit a specific game group, campaign, and even individual characters (although the trick then will be to nourish a community feeling, a “unity in diversity”).

So back to the initial question: To Vance or not to Vance. The answer is, well, yes, but only if you want to. Want to play a wizard with Vancian magic? Sure. But what if another PC in the same group doesn’t like Vancian magic and wants a powers structure or free-form casting or something akin to Ars Magica’s technique/form structure? Well, why not? A modular design would allow for different sub-systems, different approaches. This extends to character development as well. Want a straightforward and traditional character that levels up and all you have to do is adjust the numbers and write down a new power of some kind? Sure, that’s easily do-able. Or would you prefer a classless character in which you can pick-and-choose what you can do as you develop? That’s possible as well.

This won’t be easy, but it is possible. And, I would say, it is not the inevitable next stage in D&D game design, but something that must happen. Otherwise 5E will just be another small group of designers’ chosen version of D&D. From what Mike Mearls has said, though, I think they’re going for more. Let’s support them and help them make the best version of D&D yet.

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First Post
I kind of agree, but I think whatever results in the simplest system that still feels like D&D should be in the core. Alternatives in expansions or as optional rules is fine.

(By core I mean the basic set a beginner needs, not necessarily "core" like in 3-4e.)


Vancian casting should be optional. I like to play casters who can do cool stuff without having to play the daily resource management mini-game. But I get that some people like that.

For me that means I prefer that casters never need crossbows and have some spells and abilities that are always on or always available. I also prefer the 4e style of implement that boosts your own powers rather than charged items.

I'm fine with resource managing some of the more powerful stuff, but in general I don't like the concept of a "daily" resource. I didn't like it in prior editions of D&D and it annoys me in 4e. Though I find 4e's implementation of it the least objectionable. Probably because the availability of At-Will's and Encounter based attacks make it more palatable to me.


If you were to keep the current At-Wills as At-Wills (even if the name changes) and made all Encounters into Dailies, I'd be totally fine with that. Or variations thereof. Right now the game is virtually half At-Will/Encounter and half Vancian Daily, not counting Rituals (I think it's something like 51% Vancian in the PHB.) If you went 25% AE and 75% D, that'd be cool, too.

I would definitely like to see non-Vancian variant rules. Just something to give Wizards a little more flexibility. One house rule I experimented with back with Basic was no spellbooks: if you could cast 5 1st level spells a day, you could just choose them from the spells you knew as the situation arose. I also mixed this with a point system based on spell level: if the spell chart said you could as 2 first level and 1 second level, the second level spell also counted as two first level.

Basically, I don't mind "fire and forget" so much as "You know a spell that is perfect for this situation, but you memorized something completely useless."


First Post
Whichever they go with, I really hope they put in some utility spells. Getting rid of them was something that they should have made optional in 4e.

In other words don't Knock it 'til you've tried it. *Ducks.*

The Auld Grump

*EDIT* Started typing, the post was in one sub-forum. I finish, and it appears in a new sub-forum! Magic!
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Interestingly enough I never had an issue with incorporating Vancian spell casting into 4e.

I had a player at my home campaign that asked if he could take the same daily spell twice. It has not impacted anything with the campaign. We have even incorporated slow casting from his spell book, and it has not hampered the game balance one bit.


I obviously agree with optional, but let's take it a step further: it can be one of many options that are all compatible within the same game, even the same campaign and party. It would be easy to fluff this up with different orders of magical theory and practice.


I don't like Vancian spellcasting at all. If the game were tailored specifically to my preferences, it would be gone.

But I think a Vancian-esque magic (preferably akin to 4Es hybrid) is probably a good thing for the [ core / initial / starting / basic / etc ] system in general. I'd absolutely want an alternative system (yay Ars!) available for my game, though.

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