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


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the dm loved the idea, so he used a house rule of his: a mage could read a spell directly out of his spellbook, but it would disappear forever. kinda like using their spellbook like a scroll.

Incidentally, this has in my opinion been a good house rule in 3e. Rather than use the page of spellbook rules in PHB that don't add much, just say a spellbook is a stack of scrolls.

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First Post
Spell book as scroll: I believe that was originally an article in Dragon magazine during first or second edition. It seems l remember it from back then.


First Post
I'm really torn on this matter.

Part of me really likes the older D&D feel of memorize-cast-forget magic.

I also like things like the words disappearing right off the scroll when you read it and stuff like that.

I'm not sure how much I like the idea of the words disappearing right out of the wizard's mind. It just doesn't feel like a universal part of magic within the fantasy genre. It feels like one particular setting from one particular author (Vance).

I don't think I've been 100% satisfied with a magic system in any RPG. I've found points systems to be a bit weak. Same with systems like Mage where you make up spells as you go but might have strain or a cosmic backlash.

So I guess for D&D Next, we may as well keep traditional memorize-cast-forget as the core and then have some options for other types.


First Post
I think we need a modified Vancian system to really bring people back together. The features I liked about Vancian Casting were the limits you got to push each time you leveled - mostly the idea of access (adding to my spell book, gaining a spell-level) and less the idea of capacity (limits to how many times I can participate meaningfully in a day).

Breaking Spells up into Greater and Lesser Arcana appeals to me. A Wizard shouldn't stop being magical and turn into a pumpkin when the clock strikes Noon in the adventuring day. Cantrips and basic attack and defense spells a Wizard knows by heart and can create with minimal effort are his Lesser Arcana.

His Greater Arcana require components, foci, and ritualized preparation and memorization from his Spell Book each morning - so his relative power (experience level) dictates just how many different Major Arcana he can prepare for each day.

Greater Arcana are also draining. A Magic-User is limited in the number of Major Arcana he can safely manifest in a short period of time (such as an individual battle). A Wizard exceeds these limits at the cost of draining his own physical and psychic reserves (healing surges). He might also do so making an exertion to enhance a particular spell or such could be the innate price of a particularly dangerous or complex ritual.

In this way we keep some of the most sensible aspects of Vancian Magic, and finally get the fantasy aspect of how overcasting (Raistlin from Dragonlance, Telah from Final Fanasty) can be land one on death's door.

As a caster unlocks the higher mysteries of the universe the relative definition of "Greater" and "Lesser" Arcana shifts, so at some point in his evolution (maybe when he makes a particular Tier) what was once a "Greater Arcana" for him now becomes part of his collection of "Lesser Arcana."

Because seriously, once I started start dropping 7th level spells it really didn't add much to the game that I still had to engage in elaborate book-keeping for a bunch of level 1 and 2 spells - many of which didn't even scale meaningfully by level!

I think the problem with both the Vancian and post-Vancian spell-casting models is they were all about telling people "No, you can't do that," instead of saying, "Yes, you can do that, but this also happens."

- Marty Lund


The Vancian magic irks me a bit. I prefer the Tome of Battle system of Encounter/Daily/Stance.

That's why I'm trying to make my own RPG system.

unan oranis

First Post
Vancian is a good guess given the mission statement of 5e, and its fair to presume there will be options.

But will it be "pure" vancian or will the options inform it? This idea of a given character buying into it and also mixing in some at wills, a couple of encounters and maybe one stance might be of incapable of delivering vancian.

I think a 4e character with only dailies wouldn't work.

The powers are crafted in relation to their varients, and to maintain balance no one of those could be strictly superior pound for pound.

with 4e powers that are in this position in all but name, there are almost always interesting little differences that have some unique aspect.

That element will try to avoid redundancies between types and slant the focus of each spell.

There are many cool powers that just click so well because they are an at-will, but the theme isnt strong enough when jacked up or down.

Plus the non-vancian stuff in the modular system would be possibly all over the monster manual and any npc generation.

If vancian was what i wanted, I would expect to see

1. memorize, fire and forget
2. Very creative, totally unique spells
3. No tight formula to create spells, only loose guidelines for typical power.
4. An emphasis on classic spells, and weird spells... I should feel like I'm looking into a box of chocolates not a pile of magic cards.
5. A solid meta category such as dispel magic, anti-magic zone etc that gets quite lost in the clouds at epic level, and I'd be hoping that 5e was the smartest so far.

I wonder how it could be done to have both?

Epic Threats

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