D&D General A Unified Spellcasting Mechanic for 5E?

How do you feel about a unified spellcasting mechanic?

  • Bad idea. Spellcasters need this distinction, otherwise they're too similar.

    Votes: 29 49.2%
  • Bad idea, for different reason(s).

    Votes: 5 8.5%
  • Meh, too much work. Those mechanics are hardwired in the game; best to leave it alone.

    Votes: 6 10.2%
  • Good idea. Hopefully someone is working on it right now, I'd like to see it.

    Votes: 11 18.6%
  • You know, I already have something like that in my home game.

    Votes: 5 8.5%
  • First of all, how dare you.

    Votes: 3 5.1%


I thought different mechanics for each class was a good thing? Did people want sameness all along???
And like most things, it's often a spectrum. Too much sameness == "why bother?" Too much uniqueness == "OMG, another subsystem?" And where the happy point is varies from person to person. And sometimes, the same person might like different approaches at different times.

And that (and other differences) have existed in the hobby long enough, that just about every variant has been tried in one TTRPG or another.

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I'm of the opinion that it is more interesting and more descriptive if each "type" of spellcasting had its own mechanical system.

The scientific Arcane casters... Wizards, Bards and Artificers use Spell Slots. Because their magic is so much about figuring out how it all works and planning and components and the like... a set and definitive system of spell slots and spell levels makes sense for the narrative and story of those classes.

The classes that all come from within the natural world (the earth, the plants, the creatures-- including all sentient creatures) should not be so regimented as the Arcane casters. The Sorcerers, Druids, Rangers, Psions, Barbarians, and Monks all draw their power from a wellspring of magic within themselves and the world and can use it in whatever ways make the most sense. So they should all be on the Spell Point system. One pool of magical energy that they harness in whichever ways the want, spending their energy however they want.

The Divine classes-- the ones that make devotions or pacts with extraplanar entities and the domains/tenets they embody-- the Clerics, Paladins, and Warlocks... should all have the capability to create at-will magical effects or "miracles" via Invocations, and have their magic always be the most potent it can be by having a small number of "highest level" spells. Basically all divine classes should use Pact Magic (feel free to change the term.)

You do this... you actually make cohesive sources and uses of magical power and create mechanical systems for each power source... you get more interesting narratives and stories. At least in my opinion.


I did not vote in your poll since no option there reflected my views.

First off, I believe that D&D has only one spell casting mechanic. That is the spell: a prepackaged piece of exception to the rules that a magic user can access to create an effect not normally allowed by the rules of the game, powered by the expenditure of a resource, the slots.
That is the spell casting mechanic, all the rest is basically fluff.
There no material difference between a fireball cast using Int, Wis or Cha.
The advantage of the system is that the spells are reliable and in principle, balanced by their level. However, 50 years of spell creation has cause issues and some of the issues were built into the game from it origin.
Also a lot of the spells have been ported from one edition to another with reference to what they were with insufficient examination as to how they would serve the current game.

The other advantage of parcelling out magic in this way was that by curating spells into list one could reserve certain types of magic for certain classes. This worked well when you had wizards, clerics and druids. It starts to break down as you add more caster types. This is why sorcerers have struggled for a clear identity.
By the lore, they should be able to adapt and change the magic they have based on their intuitive knowledge of magic but because spells are prepackaged things and the wizard is defined by the spellbook and preparation the sorcerer was given tweaks to the use of the spell slot resource but cannot fundamentally do anything about the spells.


When distinguishing one mage from an other, I feel thematic narrative flavor of spell selection is vastly more important and salient.

Meanwhile, mechanically, a Short Rest spell point system is versatile. For example, a certain class might spend a certain amount of points to do something weird.


Where is that Singe?
We already unified the spellcasting mechanic:

Clerics, Druids, and Wizards have different spells. I mean COMPLETELY different spells---NO OVERLAP at all!!!
Paladins are half-casters for Clerics, Rangers for Druids, and Bards for Wizards. Their spells come from the full-caster lists.
Sorcerers and Warlock are gone. Wizards get limited metamagic, Clerics get limited invocations. Druids already have Wild Shape.

Spell progression is a bit slower, maxing out at 7th level spells.
Cantrips do not scale with level, but you add your spellcasting ability modifier to damage.
You do not "prepare" spells, you know them. You can swap out one spell per level.
Spells known equal your spellcasting ability modifier plus the number shown on the table (maximum 15 effectively).
We use a spell-point system with 1 SP per spell level.
You get back half your SP on a short rest (maximum 2 per long rest), all of them on a long rest.


EDIT: I forgot to mention you can also swap out a known spell via downtime. For each spell level of the new spell you are learning, it costs 100 gp and one week of downtime.
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Watching delicious in dungeon where magic is magic but your speciality might be battle magic or healing magic, and it brought me back to making a universal spellcaster, that kind of ended up being MtG colourised. It would get rid of all of the main spellcasting classes and instead merge them into one.

A priest or druid would just be a spellcaster that belongs to some sort of religion and might focus on white or green magic. A wizard might focus on blue or red magic, while evil cultists might focus on black magic.

You could probably still fit things like pacts in there if you wanted that warlock flavour.


A suffusion of yellow
I'm of the opinion that it is more interesting and more descriptive if each "type" of spellcasting had its own mechanical system.

The scientific Arcane casters... Wizards, Bards and Artificers use Spell Slots. Because their magic is so much about figuring out how it all works and planning and components and the like... a set and definitive system of spell slots and spell levels makes sense for the narrative and story of those classes.

I thought Bards were about creativity and spontaneous inspiration, rather than figuring things out - that sounds more like call on their internal wellsprings than druids and rangers. Druids are closer to Clerics in that they invoke and channel power from outside themselves

I'm A Banana

In another thread, folks are discussing the different mechanics of different spellcasters. Specifically how the wizard's spellcasting ability is different from the sorcerer's, even though most of their spells are the same. And while that discussion is leaning more in the direction of "innate magical ability" vs. "learned arcane secrets," it got me thinking about the mechanical differences between the spellcasting character classes--spontaneous vs. prepared, in this case.

The sorcerer, for example, can spontaneously cast their spells from a short, curated list. They learn spells more slowly, and the types of spells a sorcerer learns are just as important to the character's "build" as their other class features. The wizard has a larger spell list, but it's also carefully curated and requires a bit of forethought: the wizard needs to anticipate what spells might be needed and then prepare them for the day. Clerics and druids have no such restriction on their spell libraries--they can pray for any spells available to their class--but like the wizard, they need to plan ahead and guess which spells they might need to prepare. Warlocks only have two spell slots, and they're all of the same level, and a very small list of spells to choose them from, but they recharge after a short rest.

It's confusing, right? Far more confusing than it needs to be, anyway, especially for new DMs.

Being able to cast spells in different ways is really important to some people, because it helps define the character class...sets it apart from the rest. What's the point in having 8 different classes if the only difference is their spell list? You'd be better off just having one spellcasting class called "Mage" or whatever, right? Well, that's kind of my point, except replace the words "spell list" with "spellcasting mechanic." Whether your character learned magical ability from a book, begged it from their deity, or inherited it from grandpa--whether you cast it from memory or from your bloodstream, from a long spell list or from a short one--at the end of the day you're still casting Fireball.

Anyway, I thought I'd start a different thread about it instead of trying to derail the other thread. What are your thoughts on this topic?

It's a sexy idea, though I think there's different answers depending upon the context.

For D&D, officially, I don't think it's a great idea. Spellcasting mechanics define classes in the minds of enough D&D players that messing with that is just going to cause unwanted havoc with things not fitting peoples' own definitions of how things should work.

It kind of works against the established identity of the class. Wizards study magic, so can sort of choose their loadout for the day. Sorcerers are born with it, so their list is tighter, but they're more free to use their limited toolset in different ways. Warlocks don't have a lot of magic, but what they do have they can use frequently. Clerics pray for their magic, so they have a loadout of their choice from their god's stuff (kind of between sorcerer and wizard). Druids are like clerics. These are diegetic - they're part of the class's behavior and part of how they are roleplayed, part of how these things work and how they're defined in D&D.

It is a lot, but I think if we want to solve the problem of it being "a lot," we come up with a different set of solutions - maybe, like, doubling down on this distinction and making it even more dramatic, or making these mechanics even more central to the classes, making them even more different. Which isn't really where you're going with this. Instead of "you're still casting fireball," this line leads to "why are we still casting Fireball, when really, we're not - we're calling on divine fire, we're calling on the power of nature, we're calling on an infernal pact, we're tearing a hole to the plane of elemental fire, we're awakening the fire in our souls." Those are different stories! So why do they have the same in game effect? Unsatisfying.

It'd be a little like making every martial character fit the Battle Master chassis. Maneuvers are a good mechanic, but there's value in the diversity of sneak attack, rage, etc.

Not that the idea doesn't have legs - it's absolutely the case that one simplified spellcasting mechanic would be "easier." But given the diversity of the identities of D&D spellcasters, and the value that people find in that diversity playing differently at the table, I think that it'd be a mistake for D&D to walk this path.

I'd rather talk about how to make these casters more distinct....and, as a corollary, how to make the martial characters more distinct, too. :)

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