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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

Staffan

Adventurer
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.
Scorching Ray can have a bit of a boost on account of being attack roll-based, so instead of save for half you miss for no damage. Then again, that's spread across multiple attacks, so there's still a fairly low chance of doing nothing at all.

Hmm. Let's do some mathing. Let's go with AC 15 and save +1. A 3rd level wizard would have save DC 13 and an attack bonus of +5 or so.

If using attack rolls, scorching ray hits on a 10, crits on a 20, and deals 6d6 = 21 points (the average damage is the same if we treat the attack as a single attack, multiple attacks just smooth out the damage). So that's 0.5*21 + 0.05*42 = 12.6 on average.

If we instead make it a Dexterity save, the target fails on a roll of 11 or less, and succeeds on 12 or more. That's 0.55 * 21 + 0.45*10.5 = 16.3 points on average. If it's a save spell dealing 4d6 instead, it becomes 0.55 * 14 + 0.45*7 = 10.9.

In other words, the damage is slightly higher than the guidelines for single-target damage, but not as much higher as you'd think.
 

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Horwath

Hero
I like the fireball being reduced to 6d6. It was not too much at 8d6, but it was an outlier.

What still bothers me is per level damage boost of spells. damage scaling is still horrible.

IMHO, AoE spells should get +2 dice per spell level increase and single target spells +3 dice per spell level.

I.E:
Fireball,
3rd level spell
6d6
+2d6 per spell level above 3rd

Scorching ray,
2nd level spell
2 rays for 3d6 damage each
+1 ray per spell level above 2nd
 

Starfox

Adventurer
I have a problem with variant spells that are simply better. My game world is socially advanced, more renessance than dark ages. Wizards form guilds to share spells, and there are libraries and bookshops where spells are available at a price. If there was a version of Fireball that was just better, it would spread through these networkslike wildfire - in a few years no self-respecting wizard would be using the old, lesser version.
 

Starfox

Adventurer
[The opportunity cost of preparing one single spell capable of consuming any & all unused spellslot immediately before recovering them in order to thwart any attempt to place weight upon hp attrition by adjusting how rests recover HP is far too low...
If I undestand corrently, this is a matter about Hp attrition over a period of several long rests. This is why you recover all Hp on a long rest - to avoid this bookeeping. Certain GMs prefer games that all about resource management. I am not one of those GMs.
 

Insulting other members
If I undestand corrently, this is a matter about Hp attrition over a period of several long rests. This is why you recover all Hp on a long rest - to avoid this bookeeping. Certain GMs prefer games that all about resource management. I am not one of those GMs.
In the context of a GM using one of the half baked variant rules to make recovery have a higher bar to meet literally your entire post trying to mansplain why they chose to go so over the top with recovery seems more than a little misplaced. A gm changing test rules to put more emphasis on hp attrition is unlikely to find any of the reasoning you cited as much more compelling than "dont you know that doing that is badwrongfun?"
 

Starfox

Adventurer
tetrasodium, despite your insults, I'll try to give a reasoning reply. You want a resource managing game. This is a legitimate choice on your part as long as your players know this i how you roll. Asking the game rules to be written with your tastes in mind is to go much further and would, in my opinion, make Level Up less generally attractive. Yes, the option is there - but to allow the effects of one optional rule to affect the design parameters of an entirely different rule is a bad idea, again in my view. If you really want to push this optional rule, the optional rule itself could be amended with a change to how spells should work when using it.

Two of the resources players have to manage are hit points and spell slots. At the end of an adventuring day, spell slots can be traded for hit points. If I understand your earlier post correctly, you don't like this. But this is merely trading one resource for another. If the players had used their spells during the day to reduce the hp taken by the party they would not have had those resources now. You are simply favoring one way of spell use over another.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
In the context of a GM using one of the half baked variant rules to make recovery have a higher bar to meet literally your entire post trying to mansplain why they chose to go so over the top with recovery seems more than a little misplaced. A gm changing test rules to put more emphasis on hp attrition is unlikely to find any of the reasoning you cited as much more compelling than "dont you know that doing that is badwrongfun?"
This is your 4th warning (just for this particular account) for needless aggression and insults. We’re getting tired of all the post reports you’re generating.
 

The spell descriptions look very similar to 3rd edition, which is not a bad thing in my book. ;)
I love the idea of rare variants of spells. It not only adds flavor to magic, but also allows a DM to create powerful opponents with surprising alternate versions of spells.
 



Stalker0

Legend
I have a problem with variant spells that are simply better. My game world is socially advanced, more renessance than dark ages. Wizards form guilds to share spells, and there are libraries and bookshops where spells are available at a price. If there was a version of Fireball that was just better, it would spread through these networkslike wildfire - in a few years no self-respecting wizard would be using the old, lesser version.

I would respectfully say that for this particular campaign , you should opt out of the mechanic. But that does not Make the mechanic invalid for the more general audience
 

Faolyn

Hero
I like the fireball being reduced to 6d6. It was not too much at 8d6, but it was an outlier.

What still bothers me is per level damage boost of spells. damage scaling is still horrible.

IMHO, AoE spells should get +2 dice per spell level increase and single target spells +3 dice per spell level.

To be fair, in previous edition, +1 die/level, or even less, was the norm. Pulling open the ol' 2e books: burning hands did 1d3 damage, plus 2 points/level, for instance, and fireball did 1d6/level, to a maximum of 10d6. If anything, higher-level spells should do more per level upcast than lower level spells. Say, 1-3 level spells do +1 die, 4-6 level spells do +2 dice, and 7-9 level spells do +3 dice.
 

Horwath

Hero
To be fair, in previous edition, +1 die/level, or even less, was the norm. Pulling open the ol' 2e books: burning hands did 1d3 damage, plus 2 points/level, for instance, and fireball did 1d6/level, to a maximum of 10d6. If anything, higher-level spells should do more per level upcast than lower level spells. Say, 1-3 level spells do +1 die, 4-6 level spells do +2 dice, and 7-9 level spells do +3 dice.
fireball did 1d6 per CASTER level and for free. you get higher spell levels every 2 levels as full caster.
 

tetrasodium, despite your insults, I'll try to give a reasoning reply. You want a resource managing game. This is a legitimate choice on your part as long as your players know this i how you roll. Asking the game rules to be written with your tastes in mind is to go much further and would, in my opinion, make Level Up less generally attractive. Yes, the option is there - but to allow the effects of one optional rule to affect the design parameters of an entirely different rule is a bad idea, again in my view. If you really want to push this optional rule, the optional rule itself could be amended with a change to how spells should work when using it.

Two of the resources players have to manage are hit points and spell slots. At the end of an adventuring day, spell slots can be traded for hit points. If I understand your earlier post correctly, you don't like this. But this is merely trading one resource for another. If the players had used their spells during the day to reduce the hp taken by the party they would not have had those resources now. You are simply favoring one way of spell use over another.
there is a difference between "written with your tastes in mind" and "written in such a way that there are not multiple levels of rules actively hostile to it attempting to design against it as badwrongfun". Some level of fear of hp attrition does not make a game "a resource managing game" & is far from it. Your taking a rather extreme stance to suggest any amount greater than zero of what you dub "resource management" ,akes a game into a "resource management game"
 

Faolyn

Hero
I have a problem with variant spells that are simply better. My game world is socially advanced, more renessance than dark ages. Wizards form guilds to share spells, and there are libraries and bookshops where spells are available at a price. If there was a version of Fireball that was just better, it would spread through these networkslike wildfire - in a few years no self-respecting wizard would be using the old, lesser version.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, though.

There are a few ways you can avoid that, of course:

You can say that there are, in effect, copyrights on those spells. If Bob invented Bob's awesome ball o' fire, then perhaps Bob is the only one who can sell it, and the mages' guild might bring the wrath of all their spell slots down on anyone caught selling it without permission. Thus, most people would be stuck with plain old fireball.

Apparently the Acquisitions Incorporations book has name brand spells that have an additional gold piece material component cost--you cast the spell, then X gp vanish, appearing in the bank accounts of the spell's creator. It's a bit silly, but also makes sense in a way, and in a highly magical universe, it could work well.

Or you could say that a lot of wizards stick a back door in their spell. Bob can counter or dispel any of his spells instantly, no roll necessary--and so can anyone who knows the spell key. Fireball and other old, established spells don't have that sort of weakness.

Or what if Bob falls out of favor? The Empress banishes him and strikes his name from the Statue of Great Wizards, so nobody in the empire would dare use his spells in public. Or what it Bob wore last year's outfit to the Spellcaster's Ball? Ugh! You won't catch the fashionistas using his gauche magic. Or it turns out Bob was secretly chaotic evil? Yeah, better stop using his spells; you might catch The Evil.
 

That's not necessarily a bad thing, though.

There are a few ways you can avoid that, of course:

You can say that there are, in effect, copyrights on those spells. If Bob invented Bob's awesome ball o' fire, then perhaps Bob is the only one who can sell it, and the mages' guild might bring the wrath of all their spell slots down on anyone caught selling it without permission. Thus, most people would be stuck with plain old fireball.

Apparently the Acquisitions Incorporations book has name brand spells that have an additional gold piece material component cost--you cast the spell, then X gp vanish, appearing in the bank accounts of the spell's creator. It's a bit silly, but also makes sense in a way, and in a highly magical universe, it could work well.

Or you could say that a lot of wizards stick a back door in their spell. Bob can counter or dispel any of his spells instantly, no roll necessary--and so can anyone who knows the spell key. Fireball and other old, established spells don't have that sort of weakness.

Or what if Bob falls out of favor? The Empress banishes him and strikes his name from the Statue of Great Wizards, so nobody in the empire would dare use his spells in public. Or what it Bob wore last year's outfit to the Spellcaster's Ball? Ugh! You won't catch the fashionistas using his gauche magic. Or it turns out Bob was secretly chaotic evil? Yeah, better stop using his spells; you might catch The Evil.
we do similar with weapons in most of the real world (even the US*). A lot of weapons a normal person simply can not own let alone purchase due to regulations. Somehow obtaining one then getting caught having it can land you in a heap of trouble (fines, misdemeanor/felony charges, etc) unless you have very specific licenses & up to date paperwork. I run most of my games in eberron where the point of concern might be most applicable out of the wotc settings & wouldn't even need to do much because I've long since required players to somehow obtain a similar license/certification just to buy or travel with higher grades of magic weapons so would only need to decide if a license on top of whatever the source of the still living spell wants to demand before letting a friendly pc scribe it is justified or not for a given spell. The license even works well for story reasons because a well connected or politically powerful npc can offer (or threaten to/actually revoke) it as a reward for doing something. If the PCs find the rare spells in possession of a defeated foe rather than obtaining it on friendly terms it just means that the players might need to make getting the needed paperwork for the caster a similar priority as if it were a higher grade magic weapon they found.

even in a setting like darksun you have the SKs and their forces hunting down people with that kind of stuff without approval. The only difference is that the license might be much more difficult to obtain.



* Try to buy a machine gun, still functional landmines, or antiaircraft weaponry as a few easy examples
 

I've been thinking, another way to use the rare spell varients is to make them the effects of a special implement.

In an Eberron game, "Ravjahani’s Blackfire" could be a Fireball cast with a wand of Mabaran ebony and "Katrina’s Improved Fireball" could be a Fireball cast with a staff of Fernian ashwood.
 

I've been thinking, another way to use the rare spell varients is to make them the effects of a special implement.

In an Eberron game, "Ravjahani’s Blackfire" could be a Fireball cast with a wand of Mabaran ebony and "Katrina’s Improved Fireball" could be a Fireball cast with a staff of Fernian ashwood.
certainly possible & reasonable. To help others know what your talking about though :D
Having some of the rare spells require a special focus item is very reasonable & the spell tags make it easy to apply this sort of thing so for example a Fernian ash focus might upcast fire spell by a level & downcast cold spells while a Risian pine one might upcast cold & downcast fire without being broken now that there are no base spells with damage for a much higher level spell
 

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