• NOW LIVE! -- One-Page Adventures for D&D 5th Edition on Kickstarter! A booklet of colourful one-page adventures for D&D 5th Edition ranging from levels 1-9 and designed for a single session of play.
log in or register to remove this ad

 

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.

o.l.d-page-129b.jpg




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...
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

jmucchiello

Adventurer
For the most part, you can always prepare more spells than you can cast, assuming you have a high spellcasting attribute. At lower levels, even Arcane Recovery won't let you cast more than you can prepare.

There have always been a zillion spells in D&D. Back in 2e they put out seven volumes of spells collected from those that had been published in their books, boxed sets, and in Dragon and Dungeon magazines. And in a lot of those cases, those spells were variants of each other. Many would even say "this spell is just like such and such, except that it does X instead."

So basically, all this does is cut out a lot of wasted text. There's no reason to have a full spell block when you have basically the same spell with a few tweaks.
That is what I'm saying. The person I'm responding to wants a return to Cure Light Wounds and Cure Moderate Wounds. I would get rid of HEAL as a separate spell. Just make Cure Wounds say "When cast at 6th level.... and what follows is the heal text."
 

log in or register to remove this ad

ccooke

Adventurer
Going by what we've seen, the rarer spells don't have the same names as the base spells. For example, one of the sample rare spells was Ravjahani’s blackfire, which sounds nothing like the fireball it's base on.

So if you have a monster that has Innate Spellcasting and can cast fireball, it can cast fireball, straight out of the book, not a rare named variant on it. The only difference that LU is going to have here is if you have that fireball inflict 8d6 damage (5e) or 6d6 damage (LU).
Which is my point.

In this one example, you have a significant difference in damage output between monsters using fireball in normal 5e and LU. That's with only a small number of spells shown, but the intent is clear to provide essentially an entirely rewritten spellbook. It will not take many rewritten spells to make using base 5e monsters with spellcasting unpredictable - possibly too weak, possibly too strong - in LU. This can have a big knock-on effect in how confident people are mixing the systems, or running non-LU material with LU rules.

If this doesn't bother anyone using or playing LU, then fine. But it seems to be a direct contradiction to the stated goals of the system, and therefore worth sharing.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
In this one example, you have a significant difference in damage output between monsters using fireball in normal 5e and LU. That's with only a small number of spells shown, but the intent is clear to provide essentially an entirely rewritten spellbook.
No it’s not. 99.99% of the spells work exactly the same way.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
For the most part, you can always prepare more spells than you can cast, assuming you have a high spellcasting attribute. At lower levels, even Arcane Recovery won't let you cast more than you can prepare.

There have always been a zillion spells in D&D. Back in 2e they put out seven volumes of spells collected from those that had been published in their books, boxed sets, and in Dragon and Dungeon magazines. And in a lot of those cases, those spells were variants of each other. Many would even say "this spell is just like such and such, except that it does X instead."

So basically, all this does is cut out a lot of wasted text. There's no reason to have a full spell block when you have basically the same spell with a few tweaks.
That's fine & all. I agree that being able to upcast most spells is a good thing, but upcasting cure wounds as written is problematic as the complete nullification of wotc's own heal kit depend variant rule shows. We know how splitting cure wounds worked making it a good example of an alternate path to avoid the problem, but that doesn't mean that there can't be other solutions that involve fiddling with how the spell works.
 

aco175

Legend
I do not find there to be a problem if the LU spells are more powerful or less powerful. I tend to boost the monster abilities already to account for the PC power compared to monsters they are supposed to face and be challenged.

It would be cool to increase the spells by having a lesser and greater spell, but casting at a higher level is mostly the same. I was thinking that at 3rd level you get fireball, but can also cast it at 2nd level and do 4d6 fire, or target only a 10x10ft area and do 6d6 damage. A greater version of 5th level you now have, but cannot cast until you are high enough level. The greater version can add some damage, but be modified in other ways like a greater range or radius.

The lesser version is a bit more powerful, but you cannot gain it until you are 5th and have the normal version. This might take away some of the power of the lowered version.
 

Faolyn

Hero
That is what I'm saying. The person I'm responding to wants a return to Cure Light Wounds and Cure Moderate Wounds. I would get rid of HEAL as a separate spell. Just make Cure Wounds say "When cast at 6th level.... and what follows is the heal text."
Well, heal is a bit more than just a leveled-up cure wounds, since it combines that and at least lesser restoration. But I do get what you're saying. I suppose if we really wanted to reduce the number of spells, you could just have heal, as follows:

1st level slot: heal X hp.
2nd level slot: heal 2X hp or cure Y conditions. (includes lesser restoration)
3rd level slot: heal 3X hp or cure Y conditions.
4th level slot: heal 4X hp and cure Y conditions.
5th level slot: heal 5X hp and cure Y conditions.

While renaming greater restoration to just restoration and having it keep it's ability to remove magical afflictions.

I'm thinking about restarting my project of coming up with At Higher Levels for all the spells, just to see how it works.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Which is my point.

In this one example, you have a significant difference in damage output between monsters using fireball in normal 5e and LU. That's with only a small number of spells shown, but the intent is clear to provide essentially an entirely rewritten spellbook. It will not take many rewritten spells to make using base 5e monsters with spellcasting unpredictable - possibly too weak, possibly too strong - in LU. This can have a big knock-on effect in how confident people are mixing the systems, or running non-LU material with LU rules.

If this doesn't bother anyone using or playing LU, then fine. But it seems to be a direct contradiction to the stated goals of the system, and therefore worth sharing.
In 5e, the stated spell damage in the DMG for an area spell of 3rd level is 6d6. Fireball and lightning bolt break that guideline because they are iconic spells and the designers wanted to make them special. At the moment, there's no evidence that they're nerfing the damage of other spells.
 

Faolyn

Hero
That's fine & all. I agree that being able to upcast most spells is a good thing, but upcasting cure wounds as written is problematic as the complete nullification of wotc's own heal kit depend variant rule shows. We know how splitting cure wounds worked making it a good example of an alternate path to avoid the problem, but that doesn't mean that there can't be other solutions that involve fiddling with how the spell works.
That's a variant rule if you want a deadlier game. Just like 8-hour short rests and week-long long rests are variant rules for deadlier games. It doesn't actually nullify anything--especially since you have a limited number of spell slots.
 

Faolyn

Hero
It would be cool to increase the spells by having a lesser and greater spell, but casting at a higher level is mostly the same. I was thinking that at 3rd level you get fireball, but can also cast it at 2nd level and do 4d6 fire, or target only a 10x10ft area and do 6d6 damage. A greater version of 5th level you now have, but cannot cast until you are high enough level. The greater version can add some damage, but be modified in other ways like a greater range or radius.

The lesser version is a bit more powerful, but you cannot gain it until you are 5th and have the normal version. This might take away some of the power of the lowered version.
Honestly, I think that just having the option to pick 6d6 damage in a 20-foot burst or 8d6 damage in a 5- or 10-foot burst would be fine as options for a 3rd level spell.

Part of D&D's thing is that you don't gradually increase your abilities--you hit a new level and all of a sudden, you get new powers. Having fireball be a thing you suddenly can learn when you hit 5th level as a sorcerer or wizard, rather than slowly grow into by having lesser and then greater versions, is fine. Having that plus some ability to fine-tune it would be even better.

Edit: I think "delayed blast" should be a higher-level option for more damage-dealing spells. And if you're going to have lesser and greater versions, they should be at least two levels lower and higher. Get rid of burning hands and call it lesser fireball, if you must, but having a 2nd-level version of a 3rd-level spells just seems a bit fiddly and unnecessary to me.
 


tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Well, heal is a bit more than just a leveled-up cure wounds, since it combines that and at least lesser restoration. But I do get what you're saying. I suppose if we really wanted to reduce the number of spells, you could just have heal, as follows:

1st level slot: heal X hp.
2nd level slot: heal 2X hp or cure Y conditions. (includes lesser restoration)
3rd level slot: heal 3X hp or cure Y conditions.
4th level slot: heal 4X hp and cure Y conditions.
5th level slot: heal 5X hp and cure Y conditions.

While renaming greater restoration to just restoration and having it keep it's ability to remove magical afflictions.

I'm thinking about restarting my project of coming up with At Higher Levels for all the spells, just to see how it works.
1607375074611.png

Heal is also a level 6 spell, there isn't a lot of room for upcasting it & certainly not with low value low level slots you didn't bother to use. While your suggestion would change cure wounds it wouldn't actually do anything to address the problem of being able to burn all of your slots. The thing about vancian casting & cure lesser/moderate/serious/critical is that a level 5 pr 10 cleric wasn't going to have all of their slots devoted to cure lesser simply because they wanted to prepare things like death watch/entropic ward/endure elements & so forth in some most or even all of those L1 slots with L2/3/etc slots having their own valuable spells prepared because they might be useful
 

Faolyn

Hero
Heal is also a level 6 spell, there isn't a lot of room for upcasting it & certainly not with low value low level slots you didn't bother to use. While your suggestion would change cure wounds it wouldn't actually do anything to address the problem of being able to burn all of your slots. The thing about vancian casting & cure lesser/moderate/serious/critical is that a level 5 pr 10 cleric wasn't going to have all of their slots devoted to cure lesser simply because they wanted to prepare things like death watch/entropic ward/endure elements & so forth in some most or even all of those L1 slots with L2/3/etc slots having their own valuable spells prepared because they might be useful

We were talking about using heal to replace cure wounds, making it a 1st-level spell that provides the benefits of lesser restoration when upcast with a sufficiently higher level slot. Which is effectively what heal does now (except that heal heals a blanket 70 hp now).

In 5e, where there is no lesser/moderate/serious/critical divide, a cleric (or whomever) can simply prepare it once and use it as needed. As opposed to clerics in previous editions, where they had to prepare a single spell multiple times.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
We were talking about using heal to replace cure wounds, making it a 1st-level spell that provides the benefits of lesser restoration when upcast with a sufficiently higher level slot. Which is effectively what heal does now (except that heal heals a blanket 70 hp now).

In 5e, where there is no lesser/moderate/serious/critical divide, a cleric (or whomever) can simply prepare it once and use it as needed. As opposed to clerics in previous editions, where they had to prepare a single spell multiple times.
No we were talking about how cure wounds being something you can cast in every single unused slot causes problems when you brought up the idea of optimally using a 6th level spell called heal in an example slotting it into 1st through 5th level slots for reasons that are not apparent.
 

Faolyn

Hero
No we were talking about how cure wounds being something you can cast in every single unused slot causes problems when you brought up the idea of optimally using a 6th level spell called heal in an example slotting it into 1st through 5th level slots for reasons that are not apparent.
No, we weren't. I was responding to jmucchiello, who said "I would get rid of HEAL as a separate spell. Just make Cure Wounds say "When cast at 6th level.... and what follows is the heal text.""

In other words, when cast with a 1st through 5th-level slot, cure wounds would just heal lost hp. When cast with a 6th-level slot, it would act as heal acts.
 

BlivetWidget

Explorer
In 5e, the stated spell damage in the DMG for an area spell of 3rd level is 6d6. Fireball and lightning bolt break that guideline because they are iconic spells and the designers wanted to make them special. At the moment, there's no evidence that they're nerfing the damage of other spells.

Interestingly, it's not only those two spells. WotC seems to have thrown in the multiple targets column as a red herring. Let me just toss out a few examples. These examples necessarily assume a hit / failed save.

Level 1: Burning Hands. DMG 283 says it should be 2d6 damage. It's 3d6, with an expected value of 10.5 which is practically the same as the expected value (11) of the 2d10 in the single damage column.
Level 2: Scorching Ray. DMG 283 says it should be 4d6 damage. It's 3 x 2d6, with an expected value of 21 which (after reducing to 75% to account for the attack roll, so 15.75) is practically the same as the expected value (16.5) of the 3d10 in the single damage column.
Level 3: Fireball and Lightning Bolt have already been well-discussed.
Level 4 Vitriolic Sphere. DMG 283 says it should be 8d6 damage. It's 10d4 + 5d4, with an expected value of 37 which is even higher than the expected value (33.0) of the 6d10 in the single damage column, though of course it hits over two rounds so let's handwave it to be roughly in line with the single damage column.

I could go on, and there are other examples at even these levels, but my point is that WotC did not follow that table at all in the design of their own spells. And a good thing too. Blasting is already weak in 5e, a wizard is usually much better off with control spells.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I could go on, and there are other examples at even these levels, but my point is that WotC did not follow that table at all in the design of their own spells. And a good thing too. Blasting is already weak in 5e, a wizard is usually much better off with control spells.
IMO by making so many "this is THE spell this level" spells they overshot the curve so badly that it left little to no room for feats & things allowing a blaster to specialize in the arts of glass cannonism to set apart their nukes from those of everyone else specializing in other areas. Even without feats you can look at the a5e sorcerer & see how the manifestations lend themselves to different types of specialization (raw damage, DoT, debuff, etc).
 

Faolyn

Hero
@BlivetWidget, don't forget magic missile, which went from one missile at 1st level to three.

Sadly, they didn't really include guidelines for spells that inflict damage over time or that inflict conditions. You have the same problem with assigning CR values to monsters that inflict conditions or that have other weird abilities, which is why shadows are so horribly under-CR'ed.

@tetrasodium, to be fair, they use very few feats this edition, so not having room for specialization feats isn't really a bug; it's RAI.

The actual problem stems from the fact that they no longer require you to "learn" spells like they used to. Back in 1e/2e, there was a percent chance, depending on your Int, to learn a spell, and you had to learn spells in order to put them in your spellbook. And if you couldn't learn it, you couldn't try again until the following level.

What this means was, there was always a chance you couldn't learn a spell like fireball, but you were able to end up learning, say, shadowbolt (a "semi-real phantasm of an onrushing missile. The large, gray teardrop-shaped illusory projectile glows with a faerie fire-like radiance of any hue the caster desires" that inflicts 1d8+caster's level damage, half damage if disbelieved, plus it knocks the target over). So a wizard's spellbook could be quite varied.

Nowadays, at least, there's almost no reason to take some of these "lesser" spells, and even less of a reason if something like fireball is given better damage. Only someone with a very strong character concept of "only does illusory magic, no, really, only illusions" that they stick to would refuse to write fireball into their spellbook.

So clearly the solution is to bring back "learn spell" rolls for wizards. /s

(Actually, I think that LU could get away with that, if they wanted to: you get advantage or an expertise die or whatever if the spell is tagged with something that matches your archetype--easy to do in basic 5e if your archetype is something like Transmuter, less easy to do for Scribe wizards or Bladesingers or whatever.)
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
@BlivetWidget, don't forget magic missile, which went from one missile at 1st level to three.

Sadly, they didn't really include guidelines for spells that inflict damage over time or that inflict conditions. You have the same problem with assigning CR values to monsters that inflict conditions or that have other weird abilities, which is why shadows are so horribly under-CR'ed.

@tetrasodium, to be fair, they use very few feats this edition, so not having room for specialization feats isn't really a bug; it's RAI.

The actual problem stems from the fact that they no longer require you to "learn" spells like they used to. Back in 1e/2e, there was a percent chance, depending on your Int, to learn a spell, and you had to learn spells in order to put them in your spellbook. And if you couldn't learn it, you couldn't try again until the following level.

What this means was, there was always a chance you couldn't learn a spell like fireball, but you were able to end up learning, say, shadowbolt (a "semi-real phantasm of an onrushing missile. The large, gray teardrop-shaped illusory projectile glows with a faerie fire-like radiance of any hue the caster desires" that inflicts 1d8+caster's level damage, half damage if disbelieved, plus it knocks the target over). So a wizard's spellbook could be quite varied.

Nowadays, at least, there's almost no reason to take some of these "lesser" spells, and even less of a reason if something like fireball is given better damage. Only someone with a very strong character concept of "only does illusory magic, no, really, only illusions" that they stick to would refuse to write fireball into their spellbook.

So clearly the solution is to bring back "learn spell" rolls for wizards. /s

(Actually, I think that LU could get away with that, if they wanted to: you get advantage or an expertise die or whatever if the spell is tagged with something that matches your archetype--easy to do in basic 5e if your archetype is something like Transmuter, less easy to do for Scribe wizards or Bladesingers or whatever.)
wrt the specialization, compare warcaster to GWM/Sharpshooter's -5/+10 plus extra stuff. A caster (blaster/glass cannon especially) is usually going to make efforts to avoid being in a situation where they could make an AoO & the concentration check benefit only helps if they are using concentration spells instead of the "intentionally overtuned" direct damage nukes a 5e blaster relies on. Since the blaster can't really specialize beyond picking a very specific set of spells every other caster has basically the same blaster ability & can't specialize into their role either. a5e seems to be correcting that bug.

As an example of that correction in conjunction with things like scaling the base fireball back & adding rare spells the gm could award you have stuff like the sorcerer
1607455462392.png
1607455518865.png

1607455530994.png
to say nothing of all the really nasty debuffs & such in the martial combat maneuvers we already have across fighter/rogue/ranger. A sorcerer who specializes in fire with ne or both fire manifestations is absolutely going to have a massively different blasting capability than one specializing in acid & if my guess on cold spells being likely to extend the cold cantrips have debuffs trend to include debuffs o leveled cold spells they are both going to be very different from one focused more on doing damage while making the bbeg have an awful day in the face of the sorcerer's allies.

On the spellcraft rolls to learn a spell instead of just scribing it or gold, it's important to remember all the system differences & extreme power of magic back then. I think that they could maybe bring it back depending on how things like rare spells & spell tags play out but think the end result might make the spellless ranger look positively stock to do it right ;)
 


Caliburn101

Explorer
Trap choice spells and spells overblown due to illogical design choices litter 5th Edition. I couldn't agree more with actually following the rules in the DMG on damage scaling for all spells in the game, not just the downward correction necessary for Fireball and Lightning Bolt.

However, I must make this closely related point. Which to change and how far to go with that is not only a function of DMG-based damage rebalancing, it needs to be for 'how it plays at the table' in other ways.

Work done on this and related websites has made a very good job of classifying whether having and using this spell or that is a great choice right down what to avoid as complete trash. The DnD 5e Wizard Guide | Arcane Eye - The Dungeons and Dragons 5e Blog

You are going pretty far to redesign classes - a wholesale logical and choice-enhancing rebalancing of all the spells in the game bearing this all in mind would be pure gold. No-one should have to read spell lists trying to work out what to avoid. All spells should be worth having, and their spell slot level should match their usefulness and/or punch sensibly. Of course to keep backwards compatibility sound, spells would have to have their effects modified to suit their current level rather than up or downgrading them to other levels, but clearly that is the approach you took in the Fireball entry above, so no worries there.

On the rare variants idea - I have to say it's a great one, not only for the extra crunch-power it gives casters who attain them, but because it brings back into the game that fantasy-honoured trope of questing for magical power lost to the ages, or seeking out the only magical doyen off the edge of the map to learn their unique spell secrets.

Great stuff.
 
Last edited:

Visit Our Sponsor

Latest threads

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top