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Blog (A5E) A Sneak Peek At Magic

In this article, we're going to take a look at some of the changes to spells and magic in Level Up. Most of these changes are ease-of-use changes for clarity, but there are some minor structural changes. We'll use fireball as an example of a spell while discussing these changes. Note that this is early in the design process for this part of the game, so things might yet change, and your feedback as always will affect that.

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Fireball

3rd-level (evocation, arcane, fire)
Classes: Sorcerer, wizard
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Long (120 feet)
Area: 20-foot-radius sphere
Components: V, S, M (bat guano and sulfur)
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Dexterity half

A fiery mote streaks to a point within range and explodes in a burst of flame. The fire spreads around corners and ignites unattended flammable objects. Each creature in the area takes 6d6* fire damage.

Cast at Higher Levels. The damage increases by 1d6 for each spell level over 3rd.

Rare: Ravjahani’s Blackfire. This spell’s silent black flames deal necrotic damage and don’t damage objects or leave marks on bodies. Any nonmagical flames in the area are extinguished. The spell has no vocalized component.

Rare: Katrina’s Improved Fireball. The fireball deals 8d6 fire damage.



Schools of Magic​

The first thing you might notice are the words under the spell name. For fireball, those words are evocation and fire. These are the schools of magic to which fireball beyonds.

Wait! I hear you say. Fire isn't a school of magic! Well, this is the first of our changes. The 8 classical schools of magic, as defined by wizards long past and handed down in formal tradition, all exist as you know them: evocation, divination, necromancy, and so on.

But that formal classification isn't the only way magic-users throughout the ages have labelled spells. In the multiverse there is a near-infinite array of spell schools; some are based on elemental sources (like fire, water, shadow, plants, beasts, and so on), while others are based on effects (healing, compulsion, and more).

The classical schools are rigidly defined; a spell can only belong to one classical school. Other schools are not as strict, however; a spell can belong to multiple non-classical schools. These schools are a tool which you can use to create spell lists, whether they be classical schools, or you want to give that red dragon access to all fire spells, or you need to simply list all fire spells in order to plan the spell choices of your fire-themed sorcerer. They're there to use as you wish.

In addition to the eight classical schools, Level Up contains the following list of magical schools: acid, affliction, air, arcana, attack, beasts, chaos, cold, communication, control, displacement, divine, earth, enhancement, evil, fear, fire, force, good, healing, knowledge, law, lightning, movement, nature, necrotic, negation, obscurement, planar, plants, poison, prismatic, protection, psychic, radiant, scrying, senses, shadow, shapechanging, sound, storm, summoning, technological, teleportation, terrain, thunder, transformation, utility, water, weaponry, weather.

Let's look at a couple of other spells and how they're classified.

Fire shield -- 4th-level (evocation, arcane, cold, fire, protection)

Locate creature -- 4th-level (divination, arcane, divine, beasts, plants, knowledge)

Sleet storm -- 2nd-level (conjuration, arcane, nature, cold, nature, weather)

Spell Stats​

You'll see that the spell has more information in the stat block up top. This give you lots of information about the spell at a glance. You might also notice that spell ranges have been standardized; common distances include short range (30 feet or less), medium range (60 feet or less), or long range (120 feet or less), as well as self, touch, and special ranges.

The components entry has changed slightly, too. V,S,M are used in the same way, but their meanings have been expanded to Vocalized, Seen, and Material. Different spell casters may cast spells differently -- a Vocalized spell is apparent to creatures that can hear, but might be a bard's song, a wizard's incantation, or even a musical instrument.

We make mention of material spell components to add flavor to the game, but if there is no price listed for those components, they are simply considered part of your spellcasting pouch.

Rare Spells​

One fun thing we're introducing is the concept of rare spells. Not all spells have rare versions. You can't choose rare spells out of the rulebook; you have to find them. They might be found in a treasure hoard, or in the depths of an ancient library; a rare spell might be the motivation for a quest. These rare spells -- which are all named after a famous spellcaster -- are better than the 'regular' versions, and are highly sought after. If you know a rare spell, you can memorize it instead of the regular version.

New Spells​

Of course, we have a whole bunch of new spells to add to those in the core rulebook, but you’ll have to wait to see those!


*Let us know what you think of the 6d6 fire damage! We haven't changed most spells fundamentally (other than clarity rewrites) but this is one of a few that we're considering.

Continue reading...
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Larrin

Entropic Good
Looks cool!

*6d6 damage is how much a fireball should do. At 8d6: As a player it is murder to have it cast on you until you get level 5 or 6, and once you can cast it , it kind of takes something out of the game as your life starts to be "how can I deal 8d6 damage to as many people as possible" the movie. As a DM once your players can cast fireball its more impacting than any other spell they could cast for quite a few levels, and you either accept that your encounters are going to be trivialize, or warp the way you build them.

I do believe that lightning bolt should stay at 8d6.
 




Faolyn

Hero
First off, THANK YOU FOR PUTTING THE CLASSES IN THE SPELL BLOCK! I hate that 5e stopped doing that. It was one thing when the caster classes were "cleric" and "wizard" and everyone else just took from those lists, but nowadays? Sheesh.

I'm definitely intrigued by this and am looking forward to seeing a larger spell list.

But, of course, questions:

So how are the non-classical spells going to work? Are you planning on having abilities or effects that give bonuses to or specifically counteract, say, fire spells? Monsters that are resistant to fire, but not [fire] spells?

Is "shadow" going to be used in the traditional D&D sense of quasi-real illusions given a semblance of solidity due to taking matter from the Plane of Shadow/Shadowfell? (e.g., the old shadow monsters and shadow magic spells?) Or are you using shadow to mean darkness?

How will the Rare spells act? If I have fireball in my spellbook, and I find Ravjahani’s blackfire, would I need to spend the full PH-specified time and money to add it to my book, or would it a fraction of that, because it's just a variant?

Like @The Last Rogue I'm not hugely fond of Rare spells that just up the damage, but I love the idea of variants that have different effects. Ravjahani's blackfire is cool. Katrina’s improved fireball is not.

One of my hopes for spells is to have more spells with an At Higher Levels ability: longer duration, more people affected, wider effected area, etc. I actually have plans on going through the list at one point and coming up with AHLs for the spells. Ditto more cantrips having extra effects at higher levels. Any plans for this?

And does this mean we're going to get a spells playtest packet?

EDIT: This is the poster who used to be called Jessica W--I finally figured out how to change my username to my not-actual name. And I have no idea why it used my actual name to begin with.
 
Last edited:

Nikosandros

Golden Procrastinator
Agreed, I do not like the idea of "improved/rare versions" doing more damage at a given level...I DO REALLY like the idea of them doing different/cool things... Katrina's Smoldering Fireball only deals 4d6 damage, but does 2d6 ongoing fire damage to each character hit. Spend an action to douse yourself, etc."
This. Do not make rare spells straight-up more powerful, make them different and maybe more complex as in this suggestion.

Full agreement on lowering fireball to 6d6.
 


tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
In this article, we're going to take a look at some of the changes to spells and magic in Level Up. Most of these changes are ease-of-use changes for clarity, but there are some minor structural changes. We'll use fireball as an example of a spell while discussing these changes. Note that this is early in the design process for this part of the game, so things might yet change, and your feedback as always will affect that.

View attachment 129368



Fireball

3rd-level (evocation, arcane, fire)
Classes: Sorcerer, wizard
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Long (120 feet)
Area: 20-foot-radius sphere
Components: V, S, M (bat guano and sulfur)
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Dexterity half

A fiery mote streaks to a point within range and explodes in a burst of flame. The fire spreads around corners and ignites unattended flammable objects. Each creature in the area takes 6d6* fire damage.

Cast at Higher Levels. The damage increases by 1d6 for each spell level over 3rd.

Rare: Ravjahani’s Blackfire. This spell’s silent black flames deal necrotic damage and don’t damage objects or leave marks on bodies. Any nonmagical flames in the area are extinguished. The spell has no vocalized component.
Rare: Katrina’s Improved Fireball. The fireball deals 8d6 fire damage.



Schools of Magic​

The first thing you might notice are the words under the spell name. For fireball, those words are evocation and fire. These are the schools of magic to which fireball beyonds.

Wait! I hear you say. Fire isn't a school of magic! Well, this is the first of our changes. The 8 classical schools of magic, as defined by wizards long past and handed down in formal tradition, all exist as you know them: evocation, divination, necromancy, and so on.

But that formal classification isn't the only way magic-users throughout the ages have labelled spells. In the multiverse there is a near-infinite array of spell schools; some are based on elemental sources (like fire, water, shadow, plants, beasts, and so on), while others are based on effects (healing, compulsion, and more).

The classical schools are rigidly defined; a spell can only belong to one classical school. Other schools are not as strict, however; a spell can belong to multiple non-classical schools. These schools are a tool which you can use to create spell lists, whether they be classical schools, or you want to give that red dragon access to all fire spells, or you need to simply list all fire spells in order to plan the spell choices of your fire-themed sorcerer. They're there to use as you wish.

In addition to the eight classical schools, Level Up contains the following list of magical schools: acid, affliction, air, arcana, attack, beasts, chaos, cold, communication, control, displacement, divine, earth, enhancement, evil, fear, fire, force, good, healing, knowledge, law, lightning, movement, nature, necrotic, negation, obscurement, planar, plants, poison, prismatic, psychic, radiant, scrying, senses, shadow, shapechanging, sound, storm, summoning, technological, teleportation, terrain, thunder, transformation, utility, water, weaponry, weather.

Let's look at a couple of other spells and how they're classified.

Fire shield -- 4th-level (evocation, arcane, cold, fire, protection)

Locate creature -- 4th-level (divination, arcane, divine, beasts, plants, knowledge)

Sleet storm -- 2nd-level (conjuration, cold, nature, weather)

Spell Stats​

You'll see that the spell has more information in the stat block up top. This give you lots of information about the spell at a glance. You might also notice that spell ranges have been standardized; common distances include short range (30 feet or less), medium range (60 feet or less), or long range (120 feet or less), as well as self, touch, and special ranges.

The components entry has changed slightly, too. V,S,M are used in the same way, but their meanings have been expanded to Vocalized, Seen, and Material. Different spell casters may cast spells differently -- a Vocalized spell is apparent to creatures that can hear, but might be a bard's song, a wizard's incantation, or even a musical instrument.

We make mention of material spell components to add flavor to the game, but if there is no price listed for those components, they are simply considered part of your spellcasting pouch.

Rare Spells​

One fun thing we're introducing is the concept of rare spells. Not all spells have rare versions. You can't choose rare spells out of the rulebook; you have to find them. They might be found in a treasure hoard, or in the depths of an ancient library; a rare spell might be the motivation for a quest. These rare spells -- which are all named after a famous spellcaster -- are better than the 'regular' versions, and are highly sought after. If you know a rare spell, you can memorize it instead of the regular version.

New Spells​

Of course, we have a whole bunch of new spells to add to those in the core rulebook, but you’ll have to wait to see those!


*Let us know what you think of the 6d6 fire damage! We haven't changed most spells fundamentally (other than clarity rewrites) but this is one of a few that we're considering.

Continue reading...
it all looks pretty interesting but I have a few questions/comments/whatever

Ravjahani’s Blackfire. says it purges nonmagical flame & deals necrotic. does that make it 3rd-level (evocation, arcane, necrotic), 3rd-level (evocation, arcane, fire, necrotic), still 3rd-level (evocation, arcane, fire), or "your gm needs to give you these so ask your gm, but there is a sidebar giving advice to help both sides fid the same page?"


Vocalized, Seen, and Material sounds more like an acknowledgement of "yea some spells logically should be castable without needing still/silent to avoid starting a fight" than change for the sake of change. Can you give an example of a spell where the difference is meaningful? Also, nearly every 5e spell is V+S+M, will there be some shifting there?

I like the rare spells concept but it raises the question of how it works with classes like sorcerer where they pick N spells they "know". Giving those kind of rare spells to a wizard who just says "cool" before scribing & preparing th desired one is easy, but not so much for spells known classes. Will there be some mechanical guidance or are those more of a prepared caster boon?

It has "3rd-level (evocation, arcane, fire) / Classes: Sorcerer, wizard" Is that just coincidence that both get fireball at 3 or will a5e be continuing 5e's "if you get a spell you get it at the same level as everyone else" rather than spells where different classes might have it but the spell is gained at different levels?.. Alternately going by the sorcerer packet example we have does that mean that we might see stuff like magic items or inferno/blizzard manifestation allowing/forcing you to cast the like/opposing tagged fire/ice spells from a higher/lower spell slot once you know them?

If my guess is correct, I think the drop from8d6(ag28) fireball to 6d6(avg21) fireball is nothing but good for casters and the sorcerer playtest packet has some hints there but only one side of the coin(blaster). we can look at the manifestation/evolving manifestation that add 6d4 (avg15)& 3d6(avg10.5) DoT/secondary attacks. Presumably wizard/bard& such will have things that grant them benefits in fear/affliction/movement/enhancement/etc? to really put a line between different types of casters together in the same hypothetical party who might both have a particular spell but one considers it bread&butter while the other considers it niche party gap fill?
 

aco175

Legend
I like the idea of rare spells and would like some guidelines to use over just new spells. Maybe powers that allow you to cast fireball that deal lightning damage is +1 level instead of gaining +1d6 damage.
 


TheSword

Legend
It’s great. These kinds of changes make me really excited for the non-class and race based elements of the book. I am really keen that these be able to be separated from the revised classes which it looks like it could be the case.

Can’t wait to see how you handle combat.

P.S keep spell level. Once you start changing that it stops becoming D&D.
 




tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I love everything but the 6d6.
5e is already overly balanced. Some outliers won't harm anyone.
While I agree on 5e being overly balanced. the 6d6 depends on if that's the whole thing or not. In the past casters could specialize (class/feats/prcs/selected spell lists/etc) for things like being a glass cnon/blaster vrs being a god wizard/controller of reality/etc with each being extremely good within their niche & less so in the other's. 5e stripped that back & just made them suck to an average degree in both The change allows room for specialization that creates a meaningful gap between the various styles of caster. if it is used.
 

Faolyn

Hero
The poster formerly known as Jessica W. here...

While I agree on 5e being overly balanced. the 6d6 depends on if that's the whole thing or not. In the past casters could specialize (class/feats/prcs/selected spell lists/etc) for things like being a glass cnon/blaster vrs being a god wizard/controller of reality/etc with each being extremely good within their niche & less so in the other's. 5e stripped that back & just made them suck to an average degree in both The change allows room for specialization that creates a meaningful gap between the various styles of caster. if it is used.
The DMG says that the average damage for a 3rd-level spell that deals damage to multiple creatures is 6d6. Fireball and lightning bolt were made to be 8d6 solely because they are sacred cows (so is magic missile, which was also upped in the sense that you get to shoot off three missiles at 1st level instead of one).

So scaling back fireball and lightning bolt only brings them in line with the rest of the spells. I doubt LU is going to nerf other spells.
Vocalized, Seen, and Material sounds more like an acknowledgement of "yea some spells logically should be castable without needing still/silent to avoid starting a fight" than change for the sake of change. Can you give an example of a spell where the difference is meaningful? Also, nearly every 5e spell is V+S+M, will there be some shifting there?
I would guess--having not seen what LU is actually planning here--that you can attempt to make a Sleight of Hand check to conceal a spell that has the Seen component, and perhaps make some other sort of check to whisper a spell that has the Vocalized component, which you don't need to do with a Still or Silent spell. I would also assume that the DC would depend on the level, with the idea that higher-level spells require more grandiose components.

I like the rare spells concept but it raises the question of how it works with classes like sorcerer where they pick N spells they "know". Giving those kind of rare spells to a wizard who just says "cool" before scribing & preparing th desired one is easy, but not so much for spells known classes. Will there be some mechanical guidance or are those more of a prepared caster boon?
I would make it like with giving out magic items to PCs. If you are building a character of X level, the DM could say that you could have a certain number of rare spells. Otherwise, you get the basic spells.

Since sorcerers can already get named spells (Abi-Dalzim's horrid wilting, Sniloc's snowball swarm, etc.), there shouldn't be anything stopping one from casting Ravjahani’s blackfire either. Assume that sorcerers aren't actually casting Ravjahani’s blackfire; they're manipulating necrotic energies in a way that mimics the wizard spell of the same name.

It has "3rd-level (evocation, arcane, fire) / Classes: Sorcerer, wizard" Is that just coincidence that both get fireball at 3 or will a5e be continuing 5e's "if you get a spell you get it at the same level as everyone else" rather than spells where different classes might have it but the spell is gained at different levels?..
Presumably it's just because it's hella annoying to have to look at a spell and then look through all the class spell lists to figure out if it's castable by a certain class. I doubt that LU is going back to different spells casting it at different levels.
 

DeviousQuail

Explorer
I'm another vote for "rare spell's are cool as long as it's not just a damage boost". Anything that's already achievable with upcasting feels like an unnecessary addition.

The non-classical schools in the spell is neat. I don't think it's something I'll get much use out of (time will tell) but it seems like a perfectly harmless addition that others might really enjoy.

I also appreciate fireball moving down to 6d6. Just don't release this until after my war wizard retires, please.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
The poster formerly known as Jessica W. here...


The DMG says that the average damage for a 3rd-level spell that deals damage to multiple creatures is 6d6. Fireball and lightning bolt were made to be 8d6 solely because they are sacred cows (so is magic missile, which was also upped in the sense that you get to shoot off three missiles at 1st level instead of one).

So scaling back fireball and lightning bolt only brings them in line with the rest of the spells. I doubt LU is going to nerf other spells.

I would guess--having not seen what LU is actually planning here--that you can attempt to make a Sleight of Hand check to conceal a spell that has the Seen component, and perhaps make some other sort of check to whisper a spell that has the Vocalized component, which you don't need to do with a Still or Silent spell. I would also assume that the DC would depend on the level, with the idea that higher-level spells require more grandiose components.


I would make it like with giving out magic items to PCs. If you are building a character of X level, the DM could say that you could have a certain number of rare spells. Otherwise, you get the basic spells.

Since sorcerers can already get named spells (Abi-Dalzim's horrid wilting, Sniloc's snowball swarm, etc.), there shouldn't be anything stopping one from casting Ravjahani’s blackfire either. Assume that sorcerers aren't actually casting Ravjahani’s blackfire; they're manipulating necrotic energies in a way that mimics the wizard spell of the same name.


Presumably it's just because it's hella annoying to have to look at a spell and then look through all the class spell lists to figure out if it's castable by a certain class. I doubt that LU is going back to different spells casting it at different levels.
In the podcast yesterday it got mentioned that the rare spells are given out by the gm & not something a PC can just choose. That works easy with a spellbook, not so much with a set of spells known;) That's why I asked abour spell known classes.
They don't need to nerf all the spells just bring the deliberately overepowered spells in line & give casters ways of specializing lie we saw in sorcerer that allows other options. Unfortunately we only have the blaster & a specific debuff example & by default concentration still hamstrings niche roles that were viable pre-5e so we don't know what else to expect yet
 


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