Abandoning attunement and scaling back concentration

werecorpse

Explorer
I’ve played D&D since 1e though skipped 4e and played 3e/pathfinder during that era and have played 5e close to RAW since it came out. Two of the rules which are supposedly in place to keep a lid on characters getting too powerful are the magic item attunement limit and concentration mechanic. I plan to get rid of attunement and rework most of the phb concentration spells to enable upcasting the spell to cast it without concentration and here is my thinking on both.

Bear in mind this is obviously a discussion about homebrew rules so I am not considering adventurers league, nor am I calling the current rules dumb they have to work for a wide range of tables including open play games I’m talking about changing them in my games which are long term games/campaigns that run with for years and across all levels.

Attunement is meant to act to control the amount of magic items a character can have but whether they are attunable or not is largely irrelevant to the impact the magic items will have in the game. +3 plate doesn’t require attunement, boots of levitation do (and using them requires concentration btw). In practice the attunement limit is only relevant if the GM gives out sufficient magic items that it comes into effect (if they don’t it is irrelevant) at which point it’s effect is to stop the players from getting to use some of the magic items they have found unless they aren’t using others they have found. I largely believe the obligation to balance items given out is on the GM- this is how it worked from1e-3e and still should be the case. Also getting to use the treasure and the magic items you find in the game is one of the fun parts of the game. Thus imo the attunement limit in a practical sense works more as a limit on fun than other stuff. My high level character with his belt of dwarvenkind, pearl of power and staff of healing isn’t that interested in the cool wand of web - it’s not overpowered for sure but I’m not going to waste an Attunement slot on it, maybe I can trade it for a third wand of magic missiles they don’t require attunement?

As for concentration; in the game of Bushido They limited spell stacking by saying that certain spells couldn’t be active on the same person at the same time ie no stoneskin and resist elements. This wasn’t a bad way to limit spell stacking. In 5e they’ve gone the other way by saying that your limit is based in the number of casters you have. Like attunement I see this as not a big deal at low level but at higher level begins to suck the fun out of the game. The fighter needs stoneskin because we are fighting giants so the Mage can’t fly or be invisible or cast a wall spell ok I guess I’ll just cantrip or lightning bolt each round. Having played earlier editions I’m aware of the problem where the caster starts each combat with 7+ spells up. This meant that the difference between the characters who had a minute to prepare and when they didn’t was vast making balancing encounters very difficult. Ie In 1e - 3e If the party is ready to fight the 4 chimera and their fire giant beastmaster it’s a tough fight, if not they will get smashed. This is less so in 5e because you can’t overprepare. However in 5e characters have very few high level spell slots, and not an over abundance of low level ones they already have a massive limitation built in. So what I have done is go through the phb and for most concentration spells I’ve allowed a caster to rid themselves of the concentration requirement by upcasting the spell 1-2 levels. So web cast as a 3rd level spell doesn’t need concentration, same with blur cast as a 4th level spell, greater invisibility when cast as a 6th level spell. I’ve kept concentration as unremoveable for some spells (spirit guardians for example it lasts a long time otherwise ).

With both of these I acknowledge they empower players a bit more but I’m not worried about game balance issues - it’s a home campaign and I can handle that side of it.

I hunted around a bit to see how others have dealt with these issues but couldn’t find much so I’m posting this to see what others have done and what they think.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Removing Concentration will vastly increase the power of certain types of casters by both allowing lots of Concentration spells (such as several crowd control) as well as removing the primary way for foes to remove spells. I know you said you aren't worried about balance issues, but I am worried on your behalf. This throws the balanced between the casters and the rest of the classes out of whack pretty severely.
 

cmad1977

Adventurer
I’m sure it will be fine.
I haven’t run across any issue with either set of rules myself. High level play(or should I say enjoyment/engagement) wasn’t affected by people being unable to stack spells and the fighters were plenty effective without a host of buffs on them. Attunement never really became an issue. Once or twice someone changed items or something.

I imagine you won’t run into anything too game breaking. Especially if you remember how powerful spellcasters are AS ENEMIES. Otherwise this is kind of a buff to all the caster classes.
 

werecorpse

Explorer
Removing Concentration will vastly increase the power of certain types of casters by both allowing lots of Concentration spells (such as several crowd control) as well as removing the primary way for foes to remove spells. I know you said you aren't worried about balance issues, but I am worried on your behalf. This throws the balanced between the casters and the rest of the classes out of whack pretty severely.
Can you give me some examples of spells or spell combos that if required to be upcast by 1-2 levels to remove concentration would be overpowered in your opinion?
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Can you give me some examples of spells or spell combos that if required to be upcast by 1-2 levels to remove concentration would be overpowered in your opinion?
Off the top of my head, Hypnotic Pattern. Only a 3rd level spell it's an area of effect crowd control without a recurring save. Upcasting at 4th or 5th isn't bad. You remove one of the major ways to remove it - damaging the caster. In addition the caster can do it again on future rounds to incapacitate more and more of the foes. Defeat them in detail.

Haste is a very useful spell, especially when twincast by a sorcerer. Also only 3rd level. Part of the balance of the spell is an enforce round of lethargy where the target can do nothing when the spell ends. However, without the ability to interrupt concentration, that balance point will very rarely come into play (only very long combats). In addition normally that each caster can only have a single target with that spell - but you can then cast if in the next round on another weapon wielder for even more mayhem.

The classic warlock combo of darkness and devil's sight requires Concentration for darkness. With the warlock's slots always at the highest, they will be upcasting it with no additional cost soon. Leaving them free to do another concentration spell like Hex, and then spamming those multiple Eldritch Blasts with advantage and extra hex damage. Oh gosh, I forgot Hex which already can be upcast to last 8 hours with a 3rd level slot - once you hit warlock 7 or 9 (depending on +1 or +2 not to concentrate), Hex is now unable to be broken by damage, lasts all adventuring day (so not taking a slot after a rest), and not blocking Concentration. Nice upgrade.

Remember that just because they can upcast doesn't mean they need to. A caster can upcast a spell round one, and then cast it or a different spell as normal round two using a lower slot. Twice as much concentration spells going on, and one is still undispelable by damage. Lots of normal concentration spells are nasty when paired with another concentration spell. Once your casters are into Tier 2 or higher they can really take advantage of it.
 
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werecorpse

Explorer
Thanks for the reply.
I had hypnotic pattern only at +1 level to make it non concentration because in my experience creatures snap out of it through damage pretty quickly but I see the issue given that you can’t save to break it. Maybe I’ll make it +2.
Haste I have as +2 levels already (and I’ve changed the +2 AC to make it disadvantage on opportunity attacks due to bounded accuracy issues). I agree it’s a good spell and the twinning is a powerful way to nova it but it’s only a 10 round buff so I’ll wait and see. I like that a hit to the hasting sorcerer doesn’t also rebuff the fighter and if it’s saved for a final fight in high tier 2+ adventure a DM expects a bit of spell buffing shenanigans.
Darkness, hex and hunters mark I haven’t allowed casters to remove the concentration requirement as part of upcast. But by the way when a spell already gains a benefit from upcast (like say invisibility which I allow to be non concentration at +2) you still need to upcast extra levels to gain the non concentration benefit. So casting invisibility with a 6th level slot you can make 5 people invisible and concentrate OR 3 and not concentrate.
 

werecorpse

Explorer
How about something a little different: no attunement is required for common or uncommon magic items, but all magic items of rare and higher require attunement.
That’s a perfectly reasonable halfway house. But as I say I just don’t see a significant benefit of the attunement limitation.

I think lots of 5e stuff is an improvement, especially bounded accuracy, but not this.
 

Mistwell

Hero
Thanks for the reply.
I had hypnotic pattern only at +1 level to make it non concentration because in my experience creatures snap out of it through damage pretty quickly
That should only happen ONE time - the first time. After that, if the rest of the party is being that level of unwise, then you have more issues with your game than anything you're proposing. The entire point of the spell is to disable some monsters while the other PCs mop up those not caught in it, and then to take on the rest one at a time. If they're just snapping them out of it with damage randomly, they're definitely not working with the spell caster.

It's a very powerful spell (more powerful than fireball in my opinion). It's already a spell commonly upcast, often by multiple levels.

The next spell I can think of which would be a serious issue if concentration were removed is spirit guardians (which is also more powerful than fireball in my opinion).

You said earlier the limit of concentration is just number of spellcasters but that's not the whole picture. BREAKING concentration through damage is a major part of the game, particularly at higher levels. You're removing that. I think there are spellcaster players who would be happy to burn an extra higher level spell slot just to remove the chance of breaking concentration. You stick a crown of madness on a PC with a low wisdom save and remove the ability to break it by breaking the concentration of the caster to end that spell, and your party is suddenly in much more trouble than a normal crown of madness spell.
 
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werecorpse

Explorer
Agree re spirit guardians which is why I’ve kept it concentration as I said in my first post, and it’s generally not the other characters who break the monsters out of a hypnotic pattern but the non stupid monsters via damage or actions. I mean that’s what the characters do if it’s cast on them right?

What benefit does hypnotic pattern get from being upcast under RAW?

Oh and given the text of crown of madness I didn’t change the concentration requirement as the caster has to use their action anyway. But if I had by say +2 levels you’ve got to compare the impact of that spell only being removable via a save, dispel magic or killing the caster vs the cost to the caster of a 4th level spell slot and using their action every round rather than casting other spells. Given most combats are say 4 rounds that’s this one spell up for 4 rounds or 4 other spells being cast. Is having this one spell up likely to be overpowering compared to 4 other spells? IMO no.
 
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5ekyu

Adventurer
I’ve played D&D since 1e though skipped 4e and played 3e/pathfinder during that era and have played 5e close to RAW since it came out. Two of the rules which are supposedly in place to keep a lid on characters getting too powerful are the magic item attunement limit and concentration mechanic. I plan to get rid of attunement and rework most of the phb concentration spells to enable upcasting the spell to cast it without concentration and here is my thinking on both.

Bear in mind this is obviously a discussion about homebrew rules so I am not considering adventurers league, nor am I calling the current rules dumb they have to work for a wide range of tables including open play games I’m talking about changing them in my games which are long term games/campaigns that run with for years and across all levels.

Attunement is meant to act to control the amount of magic items a character can have but whether they are attunable or not is largely irrelevant to the impact the magic items will have in the game. +3 plate doesn’t require attunement, boots of levitation do (and using them requires concentration btw). In practice the attunement limit is only relevant if the GM gives out sufficient magic items that it comes into effect (if they don’t it is irrelevant) at which point it’s effect is to stop the players from getting to use some of the magic items they have found unless they aren’t using others they have found. I largely believe the obligation to balance items given out is on the GM- this is how it worked from1e-3e and still should be the case. Also getting to use the treasure and the magic items you find in the game is one of the fun parts of the game. Thus imo the attunement limit in a practical sense works more as a limit on fun than other stuff. My high level character with his belt of dwarvenkind, pearl of power and staff of healing isn’t that interested in the cool wand of web - it’s not overpowered for sure but I’m not going to waste an Attunement slot on it, maybe I can trade it for a third wand of magic missiles they don’t require attunement?

As for concentration; in the game of Bushido They limited spell stacking by saying that certain spells couldn’t be active on the same person at the same time ie no stoneskin and resist elements. This wasn’t a bad way to limit spell stacking. In 5e they’ve gone the other way by saying that your limit is based in the number of casters you have. Like attunement I see this as not a big deal at low level but at higher level begins to suck the fun out of the game. The fighter needs stoneskin because we are fighting giants so the Mage can’t fly or be invisible or cast a wall spell ok I guess I’ll just cantrip or lightning bolt each round. Having played earlier editions I’m aware of the problem where the caster starts each combat with 7+ spells up. This meant that the difference between the characters who had a minute to prepare and when they didn’t was vast making balancing encounters very difficult. Ie In 1e - 3e If the party is ready to fight the 4 chimera and their fire giant beastmaster it’s a tough fight, if not they will get smashed. This is less so in 5e because you can’t overprepare. However in 5e characters have very few high level spell slots, and not an over abundance of low level ones they already have a massive limitation built in. So what I have done is go through the phb and for most concentration spells I’ve allowed a caster to rid themselves of the concentration requirement by upcasting the spell 1-2 levels. So web cast as a 3rd level spell doesn’t need concentration, same with blur cast as a 4th level spell, greater invisibility when cast as a 6th level spell. I’ve kept concentration as unremoveable for some spells (spirit guardians for example it lasts a long time otherwise ).

With both of these I acknowledge they empower players a bit more but I’m not worried about game balance issues - it’s a home campaign and I can handle that side of it.

I hunted around a bit to see how others have dealt with these issues but couldn’t find much so I’m posting this to see what others have done and what they think.
To me, the concentration removal removes tactical options thenplayer need. It's more frequent yo have higher level enemies and if upcast spells cannot be dropped by damage hits and failed saves - that's bad.
 

werecorpse

Explorer
Fair enough. As I said players got by pretty well until 2015 without needing the tactic of breaking higher level enemies concentration to end spells, and in 5e many spells already have the save every round to end a spell anyway.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
My experiences with Attunment don't affect character balance as much as it does inter-character balance. There are many items that have attunement that would be good to stack on a single character. By having the limit, this forces the items to be spread around more, making everyone better, rather than 1-2 super characters. I will admit that some items that have attunment make no sense, and others that don't have it probably should, but whatever.

Concentration is probably one of the most important new aspects of 5E. While the primary purpose is to limit the number of buffs and ongoing effects you can have at any given time, it also has the very important aspect of limiting their duration (via Con saves for taking damage). Removing concentration is a terrible idea, but you could create a houserule that would allow you to have a certain number of concentration spells active at a time (I've seen feat suggestions, upcasting the spells, Con saves each round with the DC based on the total level of spells).
 

werecorpse

Explorer
My experiences with Attunment don't affect character balance as much as it does inter-character balance. There are many items that have attunement that would be good to stack on a single character. By having the limit, this forces the items to be spread around more, making everyone better, rather than 1-2 super characters. I will admit that some items that have attunment make no sense, and others that don't have it probably should, but whatever.

Concentration is probably one of the most important new aspects of 5E. While the primary purpose is to limit the number of buffs and ongoing effects you can have at any given time, it also has the very important aspect of limiting their duration (via Con saves for taking damage). Removing concentration is a terrible idea, but you could create a houserule that would allow you to have a certain number of concentration spells active at a time (I've seen feat suggestions, upcasting the spells, Con saves each round with the DC based on the total level of spells).
Re attunement I can see this might be an issue with some groups but in the same way that I’m happy to say having the GM have substantial control over what items appear in the campaign and when works for us we also have a pretty good understanding that items being spread around so everyone gets to have a cool item makes a better game than 1-2 players being souped up while others languish. So I don’t need attunement to control that.

Re concentration-terrible idea, really? D&D did fine without the concentration mechanic for 40 years surely it can’t be that crucial can it? I agree it’s important for some spells but for say the third level web it just gets burned through or bypassed. Blindness upcast eventually gets shaken off, if the druid keeps its AC at 16 by casting a 3rd level barkskin spell or the sorcerer stays blurred by burning a 4th level spell & the fighter gets the whole minute being enlarged by the use of a second level spell does that break the game?

I haven’t played it much but so far the option is only rarely used by those below 10th level as characters generally want to use their 4th level spell slots on a sweet 4th level spell. I’m sure some problems will arise but so far none.
 

dave2008

Hero
That’s a perfectly reasonable halfway house. But as I say I just don’t see a significant benefit of the attunement limitation.

I think lots of 5e stuff is an improvement, especially bounded accuracy, but not this.
Personally as a DM I don't care about attunement as a magic item control option either, I can control that on my own (I rarely give out magic items). However, I do like it from a fantasy and world building perspective. The idea that you have to connect to the item to use it properly. I think it could be expanded actually. Non-attune gives some benefit, attunement gives additional benefit (maybe a deeper attunement gives even more). I think you may be missing the RP options available with this game element
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Fair enough. As I said players got by pretty well until 2015 without needing the tactic of breaking higher level enemies concentration to end spells, and in 5e many spells already have the save every round to end a spell anyway.
A true statement but one that ignores the larger context. Before this mechanic came about there was that mechanic there was a MASSIVE issue in the game with overbuffing. CoDzilla from 3.5 era is a perfect example. The fact that there was a huge problem and it wasn't fixed until a certain date doesn't mean that the fix would not have been useful much earlier.
 
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Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Re concentration-terrible idea, really? D&D did fine without the concentration mechanic for 40 years surely it can’t be that crucial can it?
I posit D&D did not do "fine" without concentration. Buffing was a huge problem in some earlier editions, especially 3.0 and 3.5. Casters who were ridiculously better than martials at martial things because they were super buffed. Quadradic wizards - it wasn't because of direct damage.

Any arguement about concentration that talks about it not being around before is easily demonstrated to be an argument for concentration. But really, different editions had different mechanics and balance points, what came before is at best a warning and not an argument about the balance of spells in 5e.
 
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Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Okay, flat out - you are giving an ability to casters. This makes them more powerful regardless if there is an open question about how much more powerful. What equal ability are you giving to non-casters and half-casters (whom don't get the higher level spell slots to really take advantage of this) are you granting to keep the classes balanced? Or are you otherwise nerfing casters to balance out this boon?
 

gyor

Adventurer
There is already a spell that works that way, Major Image, cast it in a higher 6th level slot and you no longer need concentration to maintain it, plus it becomes permanent.
 

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