OneDnD Arcane/Divine/Primal Spell Lists: Are the Benefits Real?

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
The way I see it, being able to design a spell available to wizards and warlocks but not sorcerers (for instance) is a feature, not a bug. And I think it's going to be easier to do that on a case by case basis than by keeping track of the implications of each spell school/power source combination.


Five works well in MTG because the game was built from the ground up around five power sources with distinct mechanical and conceptual identities. D&D's spell lists are instead seeking to emulate a lot of ideosyncratic genre history. They could in theory be rebuilt in a more systematic way (perhaps something along the lines of @Yaarel 's proposal), but this would require a willingness to break with a lot of traditions, and I don't think the product would look at all like the Arcane/Divine/Primal lists.


I think there are definitely benefits to having classes with extensive spell repetoires (like Wizards) alongside classes with shorter spell lists but more non-spell abilities (like Bards). But I think that customized lists can accomplish this better than shared lists with school restrictions.
Class specific lists can yes, but the way they did that successfully without making more casting focused classes feel like their toys were being copied by classes with more class powers was 3.x's class specific spell levels. If for example wotc put out a bovd-lite with necromancers & other evil casters in it there could be warlock & sorcerer archetypes that add any meaningfully thematic spells like the bard's songs of restoration without needing to give all of them to every warlock & every sorcerer even though they might be available to every wizard or every cleric as appropriate for the spell.
 

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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Five works well in MTG because the game was built from the ground up around five power sources with distinct mechanical and conceptual identities. D&D's spell lists are instead seeking to emulate a lot of ideosyncratic genre history. They could in theory be rebuilt in a more systematic way (perhaps something along the lines of @Yaarel 's proposal), but this would require a willingness to break with a lot of traditions, and I don't think the product would look at all like the Arcane/Divine/Primal lists.
Modern D&D is built around 6 full casters plus half and third casters that copy most of their parent full casters spells with some uniques.

  1. Bard
  2. Cleric
    1. Paladin
  3. Druid
    1. Ranger
  4. Sorcerer
  5. Warlock
  6. Wizard
    1. Artificer
The only oddball is Bard whose source of magic is poorly replicated in the power source system as it is barely defined a what the Songs of Creation is, how it differs from Power Words and True Names, and how it theme comes about.

Modern D&D is built around a 5 list magic system with additional lists for setting based magicks (Psionics, Ki, Incarnum, Vestiges, True Names)

Really the problem is the Bard. Its power source doesn't make sense in Arcane/Divine/Primal/Shadow/???? and it lacks a cool name for it
 


Corinnguard

Adventurer
Psionics could potentially be a problem for their Futureproofing too. Unless they either start have a 4th source list, or basically say "Psions based on Discipline use select schools from certain source lists"
In Pathfinder 1st edition, psionics was made into another form of magic. Psychic or Occult Magic. One of the things that made Psychic Magic different from the magic used by other spellcasters was it's two spell components- Thought and Emotion. To cast a psychic spell, you had to be thinking and emoting a certain way. ;)
 

Vael

Legend
From a flavour perspective, this is a win. Having Arcane, Divine and Primal spell lists can do some world building.

Admittedly, the Bard is a tricky one, and it's definitely the class that is challenged most by this way of organizing spells (well, I expect the Artificer to face similar issues). But for the 3 main Arcane casters (Sorcerer, Warlock and Wizard), this is a net win. From a generic feat/lineage perspective, I see this as a good simplification. As a fan of the Primal power source from 4e, I like making it a defined part of the game.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
But for the 3 main Arcane casters (Sorcerer, Warlock and Wizard), this is a net win.
Not really, I'm not convinced they aren't going to gut sorcerer access to spells by school. Plus they might lose access to nonwizard spells they used to get. And anything that makes sorcerers care about schools is a net loss tobthe flavor and theme of the sorcerer.
 

Horwath

Hero
1D&D just needs one spell list.

open to all.

then just have classes/subclasses give spells known/prepared extra from cantrips to level 5. 2 spells per spell level.

reduce the amount of spells known/prepared to 1 spell per caster level from levels 1-11 and then only one extra spell at levels 13,15 and 17.


trying to balance 3 or 5 or 10 separate spell lists is just fools errand.


outside spells, casters would get other defining features:

wizards get rituals and spell mastery,
sorcerers have metamagics,
clerics have divine interventions, channel divinity
druids have wild shape
bards have inspirations/expertise.
warlocks have invocations.



spellcasting subclass spells for example:

Healer;
cantrips; resistance, spare the dying
level 1; cure wounds, healing word
level 2; lesser restoration, healing spirit
level 3; mass healing word, revivify
level 4; Aura of light, death ward
level 5; mass cure wound, raise dead

Necromancer;
cantrips; chill touch, toll the dead
level 1; false life, inflict wounds
level 2; blindness/deafness, ray of enfeeblement
level 3; animate dead, summon undead
level 4; blight, shadow of moil
level 5; dance macabre, enervation

Kineticist;
cantrips; eldritch blast, mage hand
level 1; magic missile, shield
level 2; levitate, kinetic jaunt
level 3; fly, haste
level 4; Mordekainen's faithful hound, Otiluke's resilient sphere
level 5; animate objects, telekinesis

Traveler;
cantrips; guidance, mage hand
level 1; expeditious retreat, longstrider
level 2; misty step, vortex warp
level 3; thunder step, gaseous form
level 4; dimension door, find greater steed
level 5; passwall, teleportation circle

Greenseer;
cantrips; primal savagery, thorn whip
level 1; entangle, fog cloud
level 2; spike growth, pass without trace
level 3; plant growth, summon fey
level 4; guardian of nature, summon elemental
level 5; insect plague, wrath of nature

Pyromancer;
cantrips; firebolt, greenflame blade
level 1; burning hands, hellish rebuke
level 2; scorching ray, heat metal
level 3; fireball, ashardalon's stride
level 4; fireshield(fire), summon elemental(fire)
level 5; immolation, summon draconic spirit(fire)

Mindbender:
cantrips; friends, mind sliver
level 1; charm person, dissonant whispers
level 2; hold person, suggestion
level 3; enemies abound, fear
level 4; charm monster, phantasmal killer
level 5; dominate person, modify memory

Illusionist;
cantrips; message, minor image
level 1; disguise self, silent image
level 2; invisibility, mirror image
level 3; hypnotic patter, major image
level 4; greater invisibility, hallucinatory terrain
level 5; dream, seeming

Defender;
cantrips; bladeward, sword burst
level 1; absorb elements, armor of agathys
level 2; aid, blur
level 3; counterspell, dispel magic
level 4; banishment, freedom of movement
level 5; bigbies hand, dispel good and evil
 
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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
@Minigiant

Heh, a cool name for the Bard power source is: Psionic.
I'd call it Astral and have Psionics, True Names, and Words of Creation linked to the Astral and Ethereal planes.

Bards would have access to all Astral spells except Conjuration.
Psions would have access to all Astral spells except Illusion
Ardents wold be Astral halfcasters
 



Dausuul

Legend
And anything that makes sorcerers care about schools is a net loss to the flavor and theme of the sorcerer.
Not just sorcerers. It's a flavor fail for every spellcasting class except wizards. Why does a druid care about the distinction between transmutation and abjuration? Why does a cleric care, or a warlock, or a bard?

The eight schools were originally relevant to wizards and no one else, and that's how it should be.
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
As @FitzTheRuke pointed out in another thread, themed spell lists are great from a marketing point of view, since they allow the selling of spell cards, that are not class specific but also require more than onepurchase for completeness -- a happy balance between corporate greed and playable utility (my words, not his).
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
5 is also how MTG does it and they are under the same roof.
The thing I like most about this is imagining the D&D equivalent of the MtG "Council of Colors", and finding out whichever poor D&D staffer on Twitter gets bombed with all the related questions like Maro does on Blogatog.


With 5, they can easily future proof it by adding new lists if they include the new lists and classes that use them in the same books.

And I want to know what the spell list equivalent of Wastes would be (is that a new school, or is that martials :) ).
 

FallenRX

Adventurer
They are just trying to copy PF2E without anything that actually made it work there, 5e's way is far better and this unnecessarily just feels worse than using it.
 
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Yaarel

Mind Mage
I'd call it Astral and have Psionics, True Names, and Words of Creation linked to the Astral and Ethereal planes.

Bards would have access to all Astral spells except Conjuration.
Psions would have access to all Astral spells except Illusion
Ardents wold be Astral halfcasters
Force including telekinesis and gravity is the fifth element, sometimes called Ether, that associates with the Ethereal Plane. Ethereal creatures are essentially living force constructs being physical yet immaterial.

Where the Conjuration school means telekinesis, fly, force, force construct, and magical energy, it associates with the spirit world of the Ethereal Plane. The Ethereal Plane is moreso part of Planar magic, but there is affinity with Conjuration. Where the Evocation school means the four elements − earth, water, air, and fire/sunlight − there is affinity between Evocation and the Elemental Planes.

The Astral Plane including its alignment Dominions is realms of pure thought, so has affinity with the Enchantment school of the mind effects.

Nevertheless, Divination is the go-to school for Scry and other remote-presence spacetime magic like Teleportation and Planar. Fate magic like Bless to navigating timelines and temporal distortions like Haste are also aspects of Scry and Teleportation respectively. All of it employing Divination.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Force including telekinesis and gravity is the fifth element, sometimes called Ether, that associates with the Ethereal Plane. Ethereal creatures are essentially living force constructs being physical yet immaterial.

Where the Conjuration school means telekinesis, fly, force, force construct, and magical energy, it associates with the spirit world of the Ethereal Plane. The Ethereal Plane is moreso part of Planar magic, but there is affinity with Conjuration. Where the Evocation school means the four elements − earth, water, air, and fire/sunlight − there is affinity between Evocation and the Elemental Planes.

The Astral Plane including its alignment Dominions is realms of pure thought, so has affinity with the Enchantment school of the mind effects.

Nevertheless, Divination is the go-to school for Scry and other remote-presence spacetime magic like Teleportation and Planar. Fate magic like Bless to navigating timelines and temporal distortions like Haste are also aspects of Scry and Teleportation respectively. All of it employing Divination.
The forcing of all casters and planes into 3 categories is 90% of the problem.

Separate Astral and Ethereal from Arcane into Astral or Psionic for Bards, Psions, Dancers, and Ardents.

Separate Elemental Chaos and Inner Planes from Primal into Elemental for Sorcerers, Wu Jen, and 4 Elements Monks.

Separate Lower Planes, Feydark, and Dark Demiplanes from Arcane, Divine, and Primal into Shadow or Eldritch for Warlocks and Hexblade.

If WOTC is tying spell lists to planes, well D&D is not a game with only 2 planar types. Base D&D has 4 types of planes. So that is at least 4 plus Arcane.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
The forcing of all casters and planes into 3 categories is 90% of the problem.

Separate Astral and Ethereal from Arcane into Astral or Psionic for Bards, Psions, Dancers, and Ardents.

Separate Elemental Chaos and Inner Planes from Primal into Elemental for Sorcerers, Wu Jen, and 4 Elements Monks.

Separate Lower Planes, Feydark, and Dark Demiplanes from Arcane, Divine, and Primal into Shadow or Eldritch for Warlocks and Hexblade.

If WOTC is tying spell lists to planes, well D&D is not a game with only 2 planar types. Base D&D has 4 types of planes. So that is at least 4 plus Arcane.

Enchantment ≈ Astral (thoughts)
Conjuration ≈ Ethereal (fifth element: force)
Evocation ≈ Elemental (earth, water, air, fire)
Transmutation ≈ Lifeforms (plants, animals, shapeshifting, healing)
Divination ≈ Spacetime (includes Planar contact and Planar travel, generally)
Necromancy ≈ Planar Darkside (Undead, Fiend, and Aberration) (namely Shadow, Infernal, and Farrealm)

Illusion is the alteration of Reality itself, and the difference between subjective reality and objective reality blur. Illusory phenomena tend to be psychologically compelling and possibly real.
 
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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Enchantment ≈ Astral (thoughts)
Conjuration ≈ Ethereal (fifth element: force)
Evocation ≈ Elemental (earth, water, air, fire)
Transmutation ≈ Lifeforms (plants, animals, shapeshifting, healing)
Divination ≈ Spacetime (includes Planar contact and Planar travel, generally)
Necromancy ≈ Planar Darkside (Undead, Fiend, and Aberration) (namely Shadow, Infernal, and Farrealm)

Illusion is the alteration of Reality itself, and the difference between subjective reality and objective reality blur. Illusory phenomena tend to be psychologically compelling and possibly real.
That could work in another game but it doesn't match how D&D magic works.

It runs into the same problem.

The idea of power source spell list is great.
Forcing yourself to fit the base 9 full and half caster into exactly 3 spell lists in 2022 is bad.

D&D has 6 types of planes..4of which are "core". And then there are "core" concepts of subtypes of planes

  • Material Planes
  • Transitive Planes
  • Outer Planes
  • Inner Planes
  • Demiplanes
  • Anomalous Planes

You can get classes and races to line up with them as you can add more or less. Spell schools, due to being hard locked at 8, is to rigid to line up with the 6 types of planes. Especially with Wizards and Arcane existing outside the planar categorization.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
@Minigiant

These definitions for each Spell School derive from the bottom up from the mechanics and themes of D&D itself.

Go thru every spell in the game (and every feature of every class, every race, and every feat) and group them together by theme. You end up with these categories.

Notice, that Abjuration is missing because it is unlike the other themes. It is an end rather than a means. The other themes are means. Abjuration is a tag that indicates purpose. For example, Cure Wounds 1st-Slot Transmutation (Healing, Abjuration), Alarm 1st-Slot Divination (Scry, Abjuration), Antimagic Sphere 8th-Slot Conjuration (Dweomer, Abjuration), and so on.

Broadly speaking the themes are Mind (Enchantment and Illusion), Matter (Evocation), and Life (Transmutation), plus Spirit (Divination and Conjuration), plus Nonmagic. Then there is a kind "Anti" theme (Necromancy as anti-mind, anti-matter, and anti-life).

Even the Nonmagic forms Mental (Knowledge and Persuasion), Physical (Weapons and Equipment), and Life (Athletics, Survival).

The Spell Schools correspond this deep structure of the D&D game.
 

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