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


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?)

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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.

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