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.


I personally detest Vancian casting, at least in the sense of "use it and lose it." However, I recognize it's an important part of the D&D tradition. So my vote is to have Vancian wizards, for those who like them, and non-Vancian sorcerors or warlocks, for those of us who love arcane casters but don't like the Vancian model.

(Slightly off topic, I'm curious: I know there are a lot of people who love Vancian wizards. Does anyone have similar enthusiasm for Vancian clerics?)


Staff member
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.

Dude, now you're telling people how to answer your questions! *facepalm*

Personally, the answer IS a direct "Yes."- Vancian casting is one of the elements that sets D&D apart from other FRPGs; a distinguishing feature like mammary glands help define what a mammal is.


Staff member
I'm not telling people how to answer my questions!

It sure looks like it- how else would one take:

I would posit the answer to isn’t and can’t be a direct “yes” or “no.”

That "isn’t and can’t be" is a direct plea to shade answers in a particular direction.

If that isn't your intent, mea culpa...but in that case, you need to be more careful about how you phrase things.
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Vancian casting (as emulated by older editions of D&D) should be a foregone conclusion. It drives a lot of the difference between D&D and other FRPGS like Runequest, Ars Magica, et al.

A few other generic systems can emulate it if the players desire like CHAMPIONS or GURPS, but it is a strong flavour inside older D&D editions.

Alternative magic systems are welcome, but there are cascade effects -- what magic items can/should exist? Scrolls, wands, staves etc. as we know them are an consequence of the magic system, for example.

Having a lot of deep alternatives means balancing between the systems and designing secondary ruleset like random treasure allocation (another thing I think is necessary) gets complex.


5ever, or until 2024
hmm...its not that simple.

Daily spell preparation is a way of balancing spells. In some context, hold, or charm person or fireball can be the winning spell, but you may not know that in the morning, so only prepare one or two. 3E added spontaneous casting, but with heavy limitations (to the point that sorcerers were often seen as 2nd class). 4E totally redid the power system, though it kept a strong fire and forget element, and spell preparation for wizards.

I don't think newE will have spell points or spell fatigue or skill/check based spells (though it could have some of that for psionics, and die rolling while casting could be more common, as in 4E). I don't think it will have Mage or Ars Magica make your spell type stuff (though it could eventually as a very optional option).

I think it will have:

*Discretely defined spells, with familiar names and effects.

*The caster will know some but not all of them. (Question, do clerics get to know all spells?).

*They will be organized into various buckets by power level.

*(with an exception for some at will magic, and that will be there) Only so many in a particular bucket will be castable in a given time period.

* Preparation will probably be there, but yes it may optional, though as with 3E or 4E wizards, strongly encouraged.

*There may also be other mechanics to limit "spamming" spells.

*The flavor of how spells are recovered may very and be totally non-vancian, even when the mechanics are quasi vancian, as they are across the board in all D&D, or vancian when the actual mechanics are sort of vancian lite, as in 4E.

Mishihari Lord

First Post
Yes, 5E should have Vancian magic. It's one of the things that makes D&D D&D. When I want to play with other styles of magic there are plenty of other games I can use. Without Vancian magic 5E becomes just another RPG that isn't D&D to me, with no particular reason for me to prefer it over any other.


now to explain. I would really like a 5th level wizard from 2e (say 5 or 6 daily spells) in play with a slayer of knight then we can put a 3.5 warlock with them.


Ugh. I really dislike Vancian spellcasting, but I agree that it should be possible. That said, it's important that Vancian magic isn't the only want to play a character with access to a broad range of magical effects.



First Post
In earlier editions with Vancian magic, I had players who wouldn't touch magic users with a 10 foot pole. The sorcerer was the first time I saw a few of those players remotely interested in a spell caster, small list of spells, and no need for memorization were the draws. In 4e, those same players no longer fear playing a cleric or a druid.

I'm perfectly fine with Vancian magic going away. If there is some optional version of it present, fine. But I like at-will spells, without having to rely on fiddly wands and scrolls.

Epic Threats

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