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D&D 5E Apprentice Wizard- Arcane Burst power

TwoSix

Dirty, realism-hating munchkin powergamer
So, they are using mechanical meta-knowledge in order to complain about a monster's abilities. That sounds like a them problem.

If they have an in-character reason to investigate what is going on, you ask for a knowledge check, etc. "What kind of spell was that" is a reasonable one to ask. Again, at this point your players are invested in this problem, which is an adventure hook and means as a DM you are justified in (a) using it to motivate adventuring, and (b) have the time budget to spend resources on mechanics or whatever.
For most monster abilities, I would agree. But spells are a very different element in the amount of diegetic weight they carry.

Spellcasting classes are tightly defined in the fiction by what sort of effects they can produce. A novel effect produced by an NPC that a PC would fictionally expect to have comparable effects to themselves challenges the fiction of what defines a spellcaster.

Now, maybe that's a hook you want to explore, but I don't feel it's necessary when the other option is just give the Apprentice Wizard fire bolt!
 

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cbwjm

Seb-wejem
Would you allow an NPC caster to counterspell a PC druid's wildshape or a PC conjurer wizard's benign transposition or a PC cleric's various channel divinity powers? They're all magical abilities after all and very similar to spells even if they aren't spells. Or vice versa, if an NPC possessed any of these PC class abilities and a player wanted to counterspell it?
Nope, but arcane burst and many of the other attack abilities look very much to me to be a substitute for a spell that the designers didn't call a spell just so that they can make the stat block easier to run. I'm not against making it easier to run, I've done the same thing and written out the stats of cantrips and other spells. This apprentice wizard is meant to represent, surprisingly enough, an apprentice wizard, their abilities should be spells that players can counter.

Actually, an easier way to say this is: If an NPC ability looks like a class feature then no, counterspell doesn't work. If it looks like a spell, then yes, counterspell works.
 

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
No, not a typo: Monsters use the creature size for their hit dice.

Tiny: d4
Small: d6
Medium: d8
Large: d10
Huge and bigger: d12

Monsters (and NPCs by default) don't have character levels, so don't get character HD or HP.
So, there are no exceptions between Size and Hit Dice? I havent checked that.

No, NPCs spells and cantrips don't have to correspond to PC spells. And every single previous attempt in D&D to enforce they do so have always made spellcaster monsters a super pain to work with.
The "spells" including "cantrips" MUST correspond to PC spells.

Especially in this case, where the player Wizard gains the spellbook as treasure from the nonplayer Wizard. All the spells become player spells.

Spellbooks dont list slot 0 cantrips. In 2024, any Wizard can prepare any cantrip at the end of a Long Rest. So when a player Wizard identifies what that cantrip is, the player can imitate it after an evening of study and prep. By implication, a player could invent a new cantrip, and with DM agreement, prepare it. Anything that is official is fair game for cantrip prep.

The world requires narrative consistency.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Sure, and like anything else where a player has their character have a goal, this is an adventure hook. They don't know how it happens, but maybe they can get a clue with an arcana check.

If they want to go down that route as a party, you can do it. There is nothing super unbalancing about getting an ability like that after some in-game effort and possibly character resources being expended.

I'm not sure why you'd say "neener neener boo boo"?


So, they are using mechanical meta-knowledge in order to complain about a monster's abilities. That sounds like a them problem.

If they have an in-character reason to investigate what is going on, you ask for a knowledge check, etc. "What kind of spell was that" is a reasonable one to ask. Again, at this point your players are invested in this problem, which is an adventure hook and means as a DM you are justified in (a) using it to motivate adventuring, and (b) have the time budget to spend resources on mechanics or whatever.

This is no different than a custom magic item, a custom feat, a boon, or anything else you'd 'brew up as part of mechanical-story interaction?


No, not a typo: Monsters use the creature size for their hit dice.

Tiny: d4
Small: d6
Medium: d8
Large: d10
Huge and bigger: d12

Monsters (and NPCs by default) don't have character levels, so don't get character HD or HP.


In this case, this is an average humanoid (all 10s) with somewhat above-average intelligence.


No, NPCs spells and cantrips don't have to correspond to PC spells. And every single previous attempt in D&D to enforce they do so have always made spellcaster monsters a super pain to work with.

We have a OD&D, BECMI, AD&D 1st, AD&D 2nd, D&D 3e, D&D 3.5e, Pathfinder and early 5e examples of this being a pain. Every single time it sucks horribly to run a monster which uses PC spellcasting. It is tolerable if it is a rare "BBEG" foe, but even there it is annoying.

It is known.

There are some people who don't mind the annoyance, but the vast majority keep on running into this and we don't like it.

PCs in general are more complex than monsters, because you have the full attention of a player tweaking its bells and whistles. Spellcasters are more complex than non-spellcasters by custom in D&D, and wizards doubly so. All of this is a very good reason for the ability to make wizard-archetype foes that don't require the DM to handle the full complexity of the most complex PC class as just one of the many things they are doing at once.

Hence emulation.

I don't personally love how the emulation is done here, they could do it better, but emulation itself is a no-brainer.
I'm one of those players who doesn’t find PC-style NPC spellcasters annoying, rather I value the fairness and verisimilitude inherent in such expression. Now that being said, some abstraction can be ok for me, so long as a PC is not shut out of anything a comparable NPC can do for any reason outside of the fiction. To do otherwise is an unacceptable acquiescence to gamism for my tastes.
 

Teemu

Hero
Nope, but arcane burst and many of the other attack abilities look very much to me to be a substitute for a spell that the designers didn't call a spell just so that they can make the stat block easier to run. I'm not against making it easier to run, I've done the same thing and written out the stats of cantrips and other spells. This apprentice wizard is meant to represent, surprisingly enough, an apprentice wizard, their abilities should be spells that players can counter.

Actually, an easier way to say this is: If an NPC ability looks like a class feature then no, counterspell doesn't work. If it looks like a spell, then yes, counterspell works.
These special magical attacks could also be described as specially trained or learned spells that lack components, thus making them invalid for counterspell. One of the reasons why WotC began adding these special attacks was to reduce the power of counterspell since prior to Monsters of the Multiverse it was the only reaction that could remove an action's worth of offensive power. If you only use MotM style NPC casters, counterspell is still useful but mostly against control and utility spells.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
To remind myself, here are the "best" damage types from best to worst.
• Force, Radiant, Psychic
• Necrotic, Thunder, Lightning, Acid
• Cold, Fire, Poison


Force (= Magic Weapon = Arcane Energy)
Radiant
Psychic*
Necrotic
Thunder
Lightning
Acid*
Cold*
Fire*
Poison*

* More frequent immunity against it. There is some arbitrary fluidity in the order when both Resistance and Immunity are taken into account.
I would personally rate Necrotic lower because a lot of things are at least resistant (e.g. many undead). Unless you mean these to be all equal within each grouping? I'd still rank Necrotic closer to Cold than Thunder. From what sources I have access to, Necrotic resist or immune creatures are at least twice as common in the collective (official) 5e bestiary.

At the end of the day I feel like if I threw an enemy wizard at my party, and they shot off some cool spell, and my wizard player said

"Hey, that's really cool. I'd love to learn how to do that"

Me telling them 'Tough crackers, maybe you should have made a monster instead of a player character, neener neener boo boo' feels like letting them down. It doesn't have to be something they can do next round, or even next level.. But if they(Their character) is serious about it, they should have a path towards learning it.
Interesting that you framke this as the DM being aggressively dismissive and even antagonistic, while the player has made an extremely mild statement.

Because the thing I was seeing—the thing actually said in this thread—was much closer to...

Player: Wait. You said this was an 'Apprentice Mage.'
DM: I did say that, yes. What's up?
Player: How come they can do that magic burst action? I can't do that!
DM: Well, I don't design NPC stuff to be exactly the same as things players can do, so sometimes something like this might happen.
Player: But that's awful! How can you care so little about being diegetic?!
DM: It's not that I'm not serious about diegetic elements, it's that I don't think everything every vaguely-PC-like entity can do is something every player character should also be able to do. But if this one is a problem, we can work something out.
Player: But what about the next time you do this? What about if there's a "Green Recruit" who can do things Sally the Fighter can't?
DM: Then there will be some NPCs who have knowledge or skills that the PCs don't. I don't consider that a problem.

Numerous people in this thread have explicitly said that if a player made mention of wanting to learn this "arcane burst," they would work with them to develop something.

Not a big fan of 5e's default of, "make something up". I'm paying them for rules, not encouragement I don't need to rely on my own creativity.
While I'm with you on this at least in theory, I think there's still something to this response, if it is allowed to be more nuanced and positive, rather than the frankly annoying and unhelpful "just make something up, 4head."

That is, even in a system designed to have an existing answer for many things like this (such as 3e or 4e), keeping room for the designers to say, as 13A does, "If you need this, you know better than we do what shape that should take" can be acceptable for particularly off the wall player interests.

In the quoted case, it refers to the fact that 13A does not have an Epic version of the Linguist feat; the Adventurer tier gives you rough and ready adventure-centric competence in most common languages, while the Champion tier version makes you fluent in essentially all languages that you have any realistic chance of being able to learn. Hence, whatever the Epic version is, it's probably going to need to be that much further beyond the Champ-tier version as that one was beyond Adventurer, and that's a reasonable place for the rules to say, "this is genuinely better for you to figure out as befits your game."

This is not something a system should rely on for addressing gaps of this nature. I just think it is a valid approach for the really out there edge cases that no designer could realistically anticipate. Flexible framework rules can do a great deal and are sadly underappreciated in the modern design paradigm, but even they occasionally run into exceptional cases that require special attention.
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
These special magical attacks could also be described as specially trained or learned spells that lack components, thus making them invalid for counterspell. One of the reasons why WotC began adding these special attacks was to reduce the power of counterspell since prior to Monsters of the Multiverse it was the only reaction that could remove an action's worth of offensive power. If you only use MotM style NPC casters, counterspell is still useful but mostly against control and utility spells.
Well I disagree with WotC's stance, I also want players who invested in counterspell to be able to use it and if countering an attack from something that looks an awful lot like a spell might save another player, I want that kept as an option.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I would personally rate Necrotic lower because a lot of things are at least resistant (e.g. many undead). Unless you mean these to be all equal within each grouping? I'd still rank Necrotic closer to Cold than Thunder. From what sources I have access to, Necrotic resist or immune creatures are at least twice as common in the collective (official) 5e bestiary.


Interesting that you framke this as the DM being aggressively dismissive and even antagonistic, while the player has made an extremely mild statement.

Because the thing I was seeing—the thing actually said in this thread—was much closer to...

Player: Wait. You said this was an 'Apprentice Mage.'
DM: I did say that, yes. What's up?
Player: How come they can do that magic burst action? I can't do that!
DM: Well, I don't design NPC stuff to be exactly the same as things players can do, so sometimes something like this might happen.
Player: But that's awful! How can you care so little about being diegetic?!
DM: It's not that I'm not serious about diegetic elements, it's that I don't think everything every vaguely-PC-like entity can do is something every player character should also be able to do. But if this one is a problem, we can work something out.
Player: But what about the next time you do this? What about if there's a "Green Recruit" who can do things Sally the Fighter can't?
DM: Then there will be some NPCs who have knowledge or skills that the PCs don't. I don't consider that a problem.

Numerous people in this thread have explicitly said that if a player made mention of wanting to learn this "arcane burst," they would work with them to develop something.


While I'm with you on this at least in theory, I think there's still something to this response, if it is allowed to be more nuanced and positive, rather than the frankly annoying and unhelpful "just make something up, 4head."

That is, even in a system designed to have an existing answer for many things like this (such as 3e or 4e), keeping room for the designers to say, as 13A does, "If you need this, you know better than we do what shape that should take" can be acceptable for particularly off the wall player interests.

In the quoted case, it refers to the fact that 13A does not have an Epic version of the Linguist feat; the Adventurer tier gives you rough and ready adventure-centric competence in most common languages, while the Champion tier version makes you fluent in essentially all languages that you have any realistic chance of being able to learn. Hence, whatever the Epic version is, it's probably going to need to be that much further beyond the Champ-tier version as that one was beyond Adventurer, and that's a reasonable place for the rules to say, "this is genuinely better for you to figure out as befits your game."

This is not something a system should rely on for addressing gaps of this nature. I just think it is a valid approach for the really out there edge cases that no designer could realistically anticipate. Flexible framework rules can do a great deal and are sadly underappreciated in the modern design paradigm, but even they occasionally run into exceptional cases that require special attention.
Edge cases like that are where DM judgement really gets to shine. I'd prefer rules for most other things. If I don't like the presented rule and change it myself, that's on me. But if there isn't a rule and I feel there should be, I'm going to start tilting toward that being a game problem.

By the way, I'm totally on the player's side in that dialogue you posted.
 

Thommy H-H

Adventurer
I don't know where you lot are getting these players who even know what their own spells do, let alone the spells (or spell-like attacks) that some CR 1/4 NPC is throwing at them. I mean, I use average damage for enemies anyway, but even if I was rolling a d10 right in front of them, I wouldn't expect them to pick up anything amiss.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Edge cases like that are where DM judgement really gets to shine. I'd prefer rules for most other things. If I don't like the presented rule and change it myself, that's on me. But if there isn't a rule and I feel there should be, I'm going to start tilting toward that being a game problem.

By the way, I'm totally on the player's side in that dialogue you posted.
I guess my problem with that is, you're always going to have issues like this. Like...literally always, unless NPCs never use resources that aren't specifically things PCs could use already. Which puts us right back into the nightmare of 3e DMing, where every single fight is effectively creating multiple new PCs to throw at the actual PCs.

Something has to give. There has to be some allowance for abstraction and convenience here, simply to spare the DM's sanity. Just as HP are an abstraction over actual injuries, an abstraction that usually doesn't conform at all to how real injury works; just as 6-second rounds of combat are an abstraction that rarely conforms well to how an actual fight would work (just watch a fencing match!); just as initiative, and discrete chunky levels (though I know you choose to embrace that abstraction and say "no, this bizarre behavior really is how things work and folks know that"), and discrete CRs, and martial characters with resources rather than universally at-will abilities, etc.

"This NPC uses a magical action that isn't a spell accessible to you" or its non-magical equivalents, as long as such things are used relatively unobtrusively, still caring about diegetic stuff but not being totally constrained by "only and exclusively what PCs could use," is fundamentally necessary for both DM ease-of-use and DM creativity. If that path is absolutely verboten, you've just made DMing both significantly harder and far less diverse and extemporaneous.

I don't run D&D, so the comparison is far from perfect, but if I had to run things this way in my Dungeon World game, a good half of all fights the players have had not only would have been forbidden, but would have been genuinely impossible to implement. Solely to acquire just the tiniest bit of extra diegetic effect, practically a grace note, it would have sacrificed a huge swathe of the most enjoyable combats my players have faced.

Of course, DW actually does have generalized structures for how to construct moves, e.g. the "roll+MOD, on 10+ choose three, on 7-9 choose two" model or the "roll+MOD, on a 10+ gain 3 hold (or similar), 7-9 gain 2 hold, spend hold 1 for 1 to do any of the following" model, alongside a couple other basic formats, so drafting a new move that covers something relevant is literally as easy as picking the format you like best for this application and filling in options. But, again, imperfect analogy is imperfect; the point was simply that harping so hard on diegetic requirements to the exclusion of all else can have far more serious costs than folks seem willing to recognize.

Or, if you prefer? The reason we even speak of "diegetic" elements at all is because there is the question of whether the music in our audiovisual entertainment is diegetic or not. If film was not allowed to use non-diegetic music, it would be massively impoverished; consider the many beautiful scores of John Williams (Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Jaws, Superman, ET, Harry Potter, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Schindler's List, Jurassic Park). An absolute requirement of perfect diegetic fidelity is just as dangerous as a total slap-dash "who the frick cares about being diegetic???" would be--perhaps moreso, because at least the latter can end up accidentally diegetic, while the former is not allowed to be even accidentally non-diegetic, even if doing so would be of benefit.

And if we stop short of such an absolute requirement, then you're already saying there are conditions under which non-diegetic stuff is permitted--it's just a matter of where we draw the line, whether universally or for any given application.
 
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