D&D 5E A Slower Caster Spell Progression and other Suggestions

DND_Reborn

Legend
Well, since I am the first one up and waiting for everyone else before we can have breakfast and open presents, here I am at 7 AM LOL! :)

Given the discussions in the other threads about martials vs. casters, I decided to tackle the idea of a slower spell progression for casters, which I think would pull back enough to maybe narrow the gap, while not gimping casters completely.

A point was made in the other thread about dimension door mimicking a "superheroic leap/movement" concept, and how the spell is acquired at 4th level (and also usable 3 or more times per long rest by 10th level really), which is only tier 2. So how can a martial PC really compete, even on a limited use scale, with such magic?

Here are my thoughts (ripe for the haters to yell "No way, man, don't gimp my wizard!" :) ):

1) Decrease auto-acquired spells to 1 per level after 1st and only begin the game with 3-4 instead of 6.

2) Return to prepared spells requiring "Prepared Use per Slot" instead of "Any Prepared per Slot".

3) Slow down acquisition of higher level spells. See "NEW Slots per Spell Level" below.

4) Reduce spell slots.

5) Keep high-level (6th+) spell slots limited to 1/ spell level, keeping it on par with Mystic Arcanum (which should also be delayed to match the slower spell progression of other casters).

The revised spell progression would have the following adjustments: (EDIT: type error at 15th level, 6th levels spells would be slowed by 4 levels, not 5.)

1640434427126.png


And the RAW spell progression alongside the NEW spell progression suggested:
1640434488247.png


Personally, the only drawback as I see it is this would promote cantrip spamming, which I am NOT a fan of, so there is that.

But, for the people who feel there is too much of a gap in power-levels between casters and martials, it would narrow that some, I would think.

Hope everyone enjoys their holidays, however you celebrate them! But, the others are up so it is time for breakfast and presents. Cheers! :)
 
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I think just cutting back the spell slots per day would be enough to "nerf" casters. If you're worried about cantrip spamming, you could simply remove all damage cantrips; this would force casters to use an actual weapon for repeated damage.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I think to me the real problem is the number of problem fixes many magic users - esp cleric, druids and wizards - have.

I humbly propose this solution:

 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
I think just cutting back the spell slots per day would be enough to "nerf" casters. If you're worried about cantrip spamming, you could simply remove all damage cantrips; this would force casters to use an actual weapon for repeated damage.

It would also make casters insist on even more 5 minutes workday and the group oblige, since as the group, they are more efficient when every member is at peak power. Martials, with 100% at-will powers, are always at full efficiency or dead, but casters may not be, and the chain isn't stronger than its weakest link.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I think to me the real problem is the number of problem fixes many magic users - esp cleric, druids and wizards - have.

I humbly propose this solution:
For that type of wizard, it would be fine. But, it isn't what I was trying to do, but maybe I can look the idea and see if I can utilize it in some fashion. :)
 


It would also make casters insist on even more 5 minutes workday and the group oblige, since as the group, they are more efficient when every member is at peak power. Martials, with 100% at-will powers, are always at full efficiency or dead, but casters may not be, and the chain isn't stronger than its weakest link.
The goal is to narrow the martial/caster "disparity" when the game uses fewer encounters per day. This cannot happen If you accept the concept of the 5MWD, so that really needs to be ignored for this discussion. If the players are already driving for the 5MWD, the martial/caster divide is irrelevant anyway.
 

Stormonu

Legend
While I admit that 5E damage-dealing cantrips as a player are pretty fun, story-wise it takes a lot of the mysticism out of magic by having it. I'd feel a lot better if cantrips were not "always-on". Maybe proficiency bonus uses per short rest for Cantrips or somesuch, I'm not sure. I just don't like how easily they're spammed.
 

IME this is pacing that the DM can set. They party doesn't always get what it wants. ;)
I have obliquely mentioned this already, but this exact kind of thinking is exactly why this problem persists.

But DMs overall...aren't great at catching this. It's hard to make good time pressure--doubly so to do it consistently enough to make "5MWDs" (more on that later) rare. That's another side of this polyhedral problem. Even DMs that succeed at time pressure just (finally) let martials play catch-up. They aren't mitigating the times the martials can't catch up, or elect not to. And, as has always been the case, martials have every reason to support "5MWD" behavior. They lose nothing personally, but gain second-hand by the party's net gain. Why wouldn't you choose to have more gas in the tank?

Coming back to "five minute workday." The name is deceptive. It's rarely literally 5 min, or 15, or what-have-you. Even heavy-LR classes (Wiz, Druid, Cleric) usually want at least one SR/day. Plus, there's tons of time padding one can do. Research/training, social encounters where magic is a bad idea (or you have enough already), shopping, travelling, planning. All productive...and all null-resource filler, padding out the day so it doesn't look or feel like five minutes even though it realistically is.

All this and more makes the problems hard to spot, and harder still to fix. It's not like this is scheming, conniving optimizers wresting control from poor, beleaguered DMs. It's all pretty above-board, no abuse required. "Hey, I'm out of spells, maybe we should call it a day" is perfectly rational, especially if it's the party healer, or there's a major challenge ahead and the party needs every resource it can get. Worse, with 5e SR being 1 hour, the gap between "enough time pressure that a day's wait is too much" and either "too much so even 1 hour is unwise" or "too little so it made no difference" is narrower than it seems. Particularly when you must sell the players on this being consistently true session after session for most, if not all, of a campaign. 24 hour or smaller time pressure induces a lot of anxiety, making it hard to maintain long-term.

While I admit that 5E damage-dealing cantrips as a player are pretty fun, story-wise it takes a lot of the mysticism out of magic by having it. I'd feel a lot better if cantrips were not "always-on". Maybe proficiency bonus uses per short rest for Cantrips or somesuch, I'm not sure. I just don't like how easily they're spammed.
Isn't anything that makes magic a systematic and (relatively, up to attack rolls/saving throws) reliable structure inherently de-mystified? This is a complaint I've never really understood about D&D magic. It's already de-mystified. That's the whole point of having a chapter spelling (heh) out exactly how magic works and what, precisely, each bit of magic does.

There's never been anything "mystic" about regular ol' spells in 5e. The whole point of spells is that (assuming the rolls go in your favor) they work exactly as described. All cantrips are is ready-to-hand magic. In principle, it's fine to say that you want magic to feel special or unusual...but if that's the case, you really shouldn't be letting people play classes fundamentally built around casting spells in the first place. (And, honestly, that may mean 5e just isn't for you; I hate gatekeeping arguments but when a full half of all PHB classes are full 9th-level-spells casters, I'm not sure that you're being offered a game where magic is mystical.)
 

LoganRan

Explorer
My preferred fixes for casters would include:

1) Eliminate all cantrips. Of the many things in 5E that I dislike, spammable cantrips are at the very top of the list.

2) Increase the number of low level spells casters start with. For example, at first level a caster would have four or five first level spell slots available per day. I would do this for first and second level spells.

3) Cap spells to no higher than 7th level spells. Remember when the Cleric spell list only went up to 7th level spells? Go back to that for all casters. Thus, getting rid of world altering spells like Wish which should only be available as one time consumable items IMO.

4) Slow down the progression of attainment for the next spell level much as the OP has suggested. That is a 7th (or even 8 or 9th) level caster would only just be getting access to third level spell slots. An (incomplete) table of spell progression might look something like...

1234567
Level 14
Level 674
Level 117521
Level 1675331
Level 207533321
 

While I admit that 5E damage-dealing cantrips as a player are pretty fun, story-wise it takes a lot of the mysticism out of magic by having it. I'd feel a lot better if cantrips were not "always-on". Maybe proficiency bonus uses per short rest for Cantrips or somesuch, I'm not sure. I just don't like how easily they're spammed.
At least for me mysticism gets removed from magic when it becomes 100% predictable and reliable with zero chance of failure. D&D magic is already technology and has been right since the beginning; there's no mysticism to remove by the addition of reliable repeatable cantrips.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
While I admit that 5E damage-dealing cantrips as a player are pretty fun, story-wise it takes a lot of the mysticism out of magic by having it. I'd feel a lot better if cantrips were not "always-on". Maybe proficiency bonus uses per short rest for Cantrips or somesuch, I'm not sure. I just don't like how easily they're spammed.
We made it spellcasting ability modifier + 1 uses per long rest, but this is only for damaging cantrips, which we've renamed jinxes. All other cantrips (utility, etc.) have unlimited uses and are still cantrips.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
All this and more makes the problems hard to spot, and harder still to fix. It's not like this is scheming, conniving optimizers wresting control from poor, beleaguered DMs. It's all pretty above-board, no abuse required. "Hey, I'm out of spells, maybe we should call it a day" is perfectly rational, especially if it's the party healer, or there's a major challenge ahead and the party needs every resource it can get. Worse, with 5e SR being 1 hour, the gap between "enough time pressure that a day's wait is too much" and either "too much so even 1 hour is unwise" or "too little so it made no difference" is narrower than it seems. Particularly when you must sell the players on this being consistently true session after session for most, if not all, of a campaign. 24 hour or smaller time pressure induces a lot of anxiety, making it hard to maintain long-term.
(bold added)

While perfectly rational, adventures should hardly ever be (IF ever!) perfectly rational. This is why I express to my players (and play myself) to be very conservative when it comes to spell use. In my games (anyway) when you are "on the adventure", you really never know when you will get a chance to rest. Sure, there are some spells, etc. that make it more likely, but then you are basically using a resource to help recover resources.

Now, rests are common enough in my games, but most of the time a rest is taken and casters still have spells available. The point is you just never know, so you are best off only using your spells when necessary, not just because they are the "easy solution".

There's never been anything "mystic" about regular ol' spells in 5e. The whole point of spells is that (assuming the rolls go in your favor) they work exactly as described. All cantrips are is ready-to-hand magic. In principle, it's fine to say that you want magic to feel special or unusual...but if that's the case, you really shouldn't be letting people play classes fundamentally built around casting spells in the first place. (And, honestly, that may mean 5e just isn't for you; I hate gatekeeping arguments but when a full half of all PHB classes are full 9th-level-spells casters, I'm not sure that you're being offered a game where magic is mystical.)
Yes and no. ;)

I think it really just depends on how your world views it. While magic for PCs might be commonplace due to all the spellcasting capable classes and subclcasses, that doesn't mean it is commonplace in the world. Spellcasters could be insanely rare in your game world, the PCs happening to be part of that rarity.

Which is how my own games are usually run, so 5E works fine for it IMO.

Now, I know many tables have a more magical world view, in which case your point is well taken if people struggle with finding a balance they want.
 


DND_Reborn

Legend
At least for me mysticism gets removed from magic when it becomes 100% predictable and reliable with zero chance of failure. D&D magic is already technology and has been right since the beginning; there's no mysticism to remove by the addition of reliable repeatable cantrips.
I agree. I was thinking about including a "spellcasting check" for spells that don't require an attack roll in the OP. But what about spells that allow saves instead? Requiring it for those would be like double-rolling: 1) a roll to cast the spell, 2) a roll to resist it.

Of course a lot depends on how common you want "casting failure" to be.

Another mechanic I like is spell drain instead of spell slots, then you don't have guaranteed spells per day. Once your drain fails, you'd be done until you could rest maybe?
 

Silvercat Moonpaw

Adventurer
If I were in charge of doing this, the first thing I'd do is get rid of the current spellcasting system.

I would replace it with each "magic" class having specific class or subclass features that do spell-like stuff, but only a few per class/subclass, with as little overlap as possible. There would be no choice in which of these you get outside of choosing a class and subclass.

I wouldn't care about how they were limited per-rest because I still can't wrap my head around in-world pacing.

Everything else would be magic items that anyone can use regardless of class. Or based on non-class features like background.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I would replace it with each "magic" class having specific class or subclass features that do spell-like stuff, but only a few per class/subclass, with as little overlap as possible. There would be no choice in which of these you get outside of choosing a class and subclass.
Off-hand that sounds very structured and limiting. If you could provide an example that would be appreciated, but otherwise it sounds sort of like a restricted Warlock (which others seem to like so it might appeal to them)?
 

Silvercat Moonpaw

Adventurer
Off-hand that sounds very structured and limiting.
Which is often what I desire after reading caster vs martial threads: in my mind, the problem is that the two systems are too different to balance effectively.
If you could provide an example that would be appreciated...
A 1st level Wizard would get "Move Stuff At a Distance", which lets them move and throw objects. That's the only magical thing they can do until they pick their subclass at level 3, which gets them a new ability based on the theme of the subclass. If they want to do any other magic they need a magic item.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Which is often what I desire after reading caster vs martial threads: in my mind, the problem is that the two systems are too different to balance effectively.
Ok, good point. I can see that.

A 1st level Wizard would get "Move Stuff At a Distance", which lets them move and throw objects. That's the only magical thing they can do until they pick their subclass at level 3, which gets them a new ability based on the theme of the subclass. If they want to do any other magic they need a magic item.
So, sort of like Jedi??? I mean, IME most jedi have maybe a handful or two of things they can do with the Force. They typically seem to have a few signature powers, and then some more that are not used as often.

What if the spell progression I suggest in the OP (only one 1st level slot at level 1) instead became the spell you know and a single use per long rest. So, using the suggested progression a caster would have a total of 20 "spell" powers, each usable once per long rest. If you wanted to be able to fireball twice, you have to pick it twice, and so on.

Since you are concerned about martial vs. caster power levels, you could cap spell level and/or improve martial features so they are balanced.
 

Silvercat Moonpaw

Adventurer
So, sort of like Jedi??? I mean, IME most jedi have maybe a handful or two of things they can do with the Force. They typically seem to have a few signature powers, and then some more that are not used as often.
I have to admit: the sort of psychic powers often seen in sci-fi are often more attractive to me then pages of spells.
What if the spell progression I suggest in the OP (only one 1st level slot at level 1) instead became the spell you know and a single use per long rest. So, using the suggested progression a caster would have a total of 20 "spell" powers, each usable once per long rest. If you wanted to be able to fireball twice, you have to pick it twice, and so on.
That could be interesting: spellcasting would be one-short (per rest) that you either save or work around.

I'm not sure I'd want to play that, though: I'm one of those people who hoards anything with limited use for "just the right moment" and then ends up never using it.
Since you are concerned about martial vs. caster power levels, you could cap spell level and/or improve martial features so they are balanced.
"Buff martials" is my usual response to balancing the two systems.
 

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