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

Yaarel

Mind Mage
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.
Each class strongly correlates a specific combination of Spell Schools.

Subclasses can tweak the School themes or import other School themes if necessary.

Compare how Paladin oaths and Cleric domains add new spells, in addition to the normal class Schools.
 

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I think it's an absolutely terrible design choice for D&D. It seemingly confuses overall design simplicity with simpicity of actual use. It taxonomically simple at the cost of being much less accessible to anyone who hasn't already thoroughly digested the spell system. A new player is confronted with a much larger more unwieldy list of options to digest. WotC, and some commentators, seem to think a suggested list for a quick-roll-up character is a panacea for this problem, but this misunderstands new player psychology. Many new players are drawn in by the promise of creating a custom character, and a pre-gen spell loadout is no more appealing than a pre-gen character.

It is "simpler" for veterans who have semi-memorized the spells. It will be easier to go from playing a Wizard to playing a Warlock. But there will be less reason to go from playing one to the other because there will be less thematic difference in spells. It seems like a system designed to let people live out all sorts of powergamey fantasies, and then get bored because the possibilities of the system can be used up on fewer characters (especially if they follow through with making everyone a prepared caster). At the same time it will also encourage people who have found a playstyle that works for them to just recreate that on every character, which I think most will find a recipe for medium-term comfort at the cost of incurring long-term boredom.

In summary it favors veterans over new players and perhaps ultimately lets the veterans down as well. Perhaps, if I am overstating the latter problem, it would be suitable for a project like LevelUp, that is explicitly aimed at veterans of the existing game, but for the flagship gateway game for the hobby it is an absolutely terrible design choice that is so wrongheaded it makes me doubt the design sensibilities of the current WotC team as a whole.
 
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Yaarel

Mind Mage
@Minigiant

Even going by the 4e "power source" terminology, it is still more useful to update the Spell Schools.

Primal ≈ Transmutation (lifeform, plant, animal, shapeshifting, healing)
Elemental ≈ Evocation (earth, water, air, fire)
Arcane ≈ Conjuration (force, fly, force construct, magical energy)
Divine ≈ Divination (spacetime, planar)
Psionic ≈ Enchantment (mind effects)
"Shadow" ≈ Necromancy (Undead, but also Fiend and Aberration)
 

I did not read the whole thread so this might be mentioned before.

To me it feels like having exceptions like the Ranger uses the Primal list except evocation and the bard gets access to the arcane list but only these schools undermines any benefit a unified spell list would give you.
New players now need to learn more about spell schools to check if they are allowed a certain spell from the list.
Many might do this a few times, then go to the internet and find somebody who already did the work, print out the bard and ranger spell lists and put then in the back of their PHB for quicker easier reference.

To me it also feels like some of the spells that had their school changed in the playtest document had their school changed based on do we want the ranger or bard to have access to this spell.
And not if the school of magic was a better fit for what the spell does.
 

cbwjm

Legend
I think it's an absolutely terrible design choice for D&D. It seemingly confuses overall design simplicity with simpicity of actual use. It taxonomically simple at the cost of being much less accessible to anyone who hasn't already thoroughly digested the spell system. A new player is confronted with a much larger more unwieldy list of options to digest. WotC, and some commentators, seem to think a suggested list for a quick-roll-up character is a panacea for this problem, but this misunderstands no player psychology. Many new players are drawn in by the promise of creating a custom character, and a pre-gen spell loadout is no more appealing than a pre-gen character.
Oh please, the spell lists aren't really that much larger than the current class spell lists and certainly isnt "unwieldy". Any new player that wants to create their own character rather than using a pregen is going to have to read up on everything in more detail anyway, even under the current system, this is no different.
 

Oh please, the spell lists aren't really that much larger than the current class spell lists and certainly isnt "unwieldy". Any new player that wants to create their own character rather than using a pregen is going to have to read up on everything in more detail anyway, even under the current system, this is no different.
But they are larger, and unnecessarily so. And some classes will need to skim the larger list for specific schools, which is an additional and cumbersome level of complication (exponentially more so for the new to that class player, who has to keep in their head what particular schools they are looking for).

Overall, currently the OneD&D plan is to make a newer players both digest more spells (possibly keeping school in mind) as well as the feat system to make informed choices at character creation. That's objectively worse design for newer players, and collectively the choices seem to indicate a direction of less concern for new players than went into 5e design. Even if the spell list change is "no big deal" on this front, it seems indicative of a larger trend towards catering to veterans at the expense of novices for the new edition.

You may not care all that much about new player accessibility, but, as someone who spends several weeks every summer helping large numbers of children roll up their first characters at a summer camp, it is a top priority for me. As a company trying to keep their game the gateway game for the hobby it should be a top priority for WotC as well.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
But they are larger, and unnecessarily so. And some classes will need to skim the larger list for specific schools, which is an additional and cumbersome level of complication (exponentially more so for the new to that class player, who has to keep in their head what particular schools they are looking for).

Overall, currently the OneD&D plan is to make a newer players both digest more spells (possibly keeping school in mind) as well as the feat system to make informed choices at character creation. That's objectively worse design for newer players, and collectively the choices seem to indicate a direction of less concern for new players than went into 5e design. Even if the spell list change is "no big deal" on this front, it seems indicative of a larger trend towards catering to veterans at the expense of novices for the new edition.

You may not care all that much about new player accessibility, but, as someone who spends several weeks every summer helping large numbers of children roll up their first characters at a summer camp, it is a top priority for me. As a company trying to keep their game the gateway game for the hobby it should be a top priority for WotC as well.

Will the intro sets and free online rules have more limited choices still?

Would having suggested options (like they do for equipment) help?

Are pre-gens (with a few limited choices) the best way to get new players into a game?
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Oh please, the spell lists aren't really that much larger than the current class spell lists and certainly isnt "unwieldy". Any new player that wants to create their own character rather than using a pregen is going to have to read up on everything in more detail anyway, even under the current system, this is no different.
The power source list with exceptions by (sub)class like the bard's songs of restoration & ranger's mark thing* even helps spotlight an important thing for a (sub)class ito those hypothetical newbies in ways that a class specific spell list would not while avoiding any impulse to dump too much into the base list for partial & niche casters.

*I'm on my phone... The new favored enemy?
 

cbwjm

Legend
But they are larger, and unnecessarily so. And some classes will need to skim the larger list for specific schools, which is an additional and cumbersome level of complication (exponentially more so for the new to that class player, who has to keep in their head what particular schools they are looking for).

Overall, currently the OneD&D plan is to make a newer players both digest more spells (possibly keeping school in mind) as well as the feat system to make informed choices at character creation. That's objectively worse design for newer players, and collectively the choices seem to indicate a direction of less concern for new players than went into 5e design. Even if the spell list change is "no big deal" on this front, it seems indicative of a larger trend towards catering to veterans at the expense of novices for the new edition.

You may not care all that much about new player accessibility, but, as someone who spends several weeks every summer helping large numbers of children roll up their first characters at a summer camp, it is a top priority for me. As a company trying to keep their game the gateway game for the hobby it should be a top priority for WotC as well.
This honestly sounds like you're making a mountain out of a molehill. New players can read, they can note down which schools they're allowed as a handy dandy note, they're only engaging with level 1 spells at the beginning of the game which isn't really all that many spells. And these potential new players can ask questions if they're unsure of something, it really isn't that difficult. And if you still think that they'll have trouble, then stick with the basic rules because if they have that much trouble figuring things out then maybe you should limit their options.

Also, preselected spells are great for new players, it's not like they can't swap them out once they have a little more experience with the game.

See, it's not that I don't care about new player accessibility, I just think that it's there, you just have engage with those options instead of throwing everything at the new players.
 

Will the intro sets and free online rules have more limited choices still?

Would having suggested options (like they do for equipment) help?

Are pre-gens (with a few limited choices) the best way to get new players into a game?
In my experience pre-gens and suggested options are great for a few new players who just want to get into the action, but that the majority of new players are drawn to some degree by character creation and don't particularly want to make a character like every other character of that class. Even new players who will mostly unquestioningly accept the recommendations of a veteran player for spell choices or what have you, often seem to turn up their noses at WotC's suggested list (they don't want to build the man's Wizard). Ultimately pre-gens and quick-build suggestions are great to have, but they are not a replacement for accessible game design.

What makes game design accessible is not to make it simple so much as to have players introduced to systems gradually. People aren't dumb, but there is a limit to how much new stuff they can process when the whole game is still abstract. If anything 5e D&D was already too front-loaded with stuff you need to digest right off the bat before you can play your first session, and so far OneD&D is just shaping up to be worse on this front.

The reason I take particular issue with the three spell list system is not because it is, in itself gamebreaking, but that I worry that the designers, like some commenters, think that "three is a smaller number of lists than one for each spellcasting class, hence it is simpler". It is "simpler" for people who have achieved a high level of system mastery and already know it, but it is not "simpler" for beginner or intermediate players trying to digest it an make informed decisions.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Each class strongly correlates a specific combination of Spell Schools.
No.

The Cleric, Druid, and Wizard, are designed in the image of having access to ALL Schools in their power source.
The Bard, Warlock, Ranger, and Paladin, are designed with a strong correlation a specific combination of Spell Schools and having exclusive spells or unique effects on spells within their power source.

That is the core problem.

In the editions where base casting classes had the same power source, they shared access to some schools but had access to different sets of spells in those schools.

This is why I think WOTC did not start with Priests nor Mages. Because they need to know how we would tolerate specialist casters before they trot out the general as the former would be controversial in a shared list system.
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
New players now need to learn more about spell schools to check if they are allowed a certain spell from the list.
They just have to check the Arcane/Primal/Divine spell list to see if the spell is on it. And that same table lists its spell school. So if a Bard wants to know if they can cast a certain spell, they just have to check the Arcane spell list to see if the spell is on it and is of a spell school they can cast. That's really not difficult.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
They just have to check the Arcane/Primal/Divine spell list to see if the spell is on it. And that same table lists its spell school. So if a Bard wants to know if they can cast a certain spell, they just have to check the Arcane spell list to see if the spell is on it and is of a spell school they can cast. That's really not difficult.
The problem is how WOTC is muddling up the schools to make theme specialists and generalists use the same list despite having vastly different themes.

Sonic spells are moved to Transmutation so Bards and can get them without having access to Evocation's other energy spells. Even though nothing is being transmuted,
Healing spells are moved to Abjuration so Rangers can heal. Even though D&D healing is described as emitting healing energy with.

Are you gonna ban Evocation from Artificers, give Artificers to Fireball, or change Fireball to Conjuration?

This makes the lore and meaning behind schools illogical. Which then makes linking classes to schools illogical. And thus new player will be forced to look at the list every time as there will be even less rhyme or reason to spell schools.
 

This honestly sounds like you're making a mountain out of a molehill. New players can read, they can note down which schools they're allowed as a handy dandy note, they're only engaging with level 1 spells at the beginning of the game which isn't really all that many spells. And these potential new players can ask questions if they're unsure of something, it really isn't that difficult. And if you still think that they'll have trouble, then stick with the basic rules because if they have that much trouble figuring things out then maybe you should limit their options.

Look, I'm a classroom teacher. Every barrier to entry you accept on learning something is a few more people who will never bother learning it. Yeah new players can read, but that doesn't mean they want to read more before they play. Yes they can take notes, but few of them will. Nothing is an insurmountable barrier to the most dedicated learners, everything is a barrier to the disinterested. There is a vast group in between who will put in substantial effort but will feel overwhelmed at some point, and a game that doesn't hook them before it frustrates them into giving up is not a game they are ever going to learn.

I don't think the changes I'm complaining about are a "nobody could ever learn this impossible game" situation, but I think they are a "maybe 2% of the people who try the game who would have followed through on learning it and joining the hobby under 5e rules will feel overwhelmed and loose interest under 5.5 rules" situation. I'm offended not because the changes are major, but because they are in the wrong direction.

Game design is, in some ways unfortunately, dominated by the type of people who succeeded at learning games, just as teaching tends to be dominated by people who thrived in school. This creates a lot of blind spots. New teachers are almost always terrible on this front (though they often make up for it by having passion and enthusiasm the veterans have lost), but gradually as they have to actually teach they get a far better sense on how learning works for the kids who struggle. Game designers start with the comparable blind spot, but generally have a lot less interaction with the people who struggle to learn their games. I wouldn't be on WotC's case about it if they were a few indie designers doing their best, but they are the leaders in the field working on a comparatively giant and well-funded redesign project. I don't think it's unreasonable to ask that, along with incorporating the input of the legal, marketing, cultural-sensitivity, etc. teams should, also be incorporating the input of someone with a firm grasp on educational theory and practice so that they optimize the game for actually being learned. So far 5.5 seems to be heading in the direction of less learning accessibility than 5e, and even if it's just "a little bit" less, that's still a worrying sign.
 

Amrûnril

Adventurer
They just have to check the Arcane/Primal/Divine spell list to see if the spell is on it. And that same table lists its spell school. So if a Bard wants to know if they can cast a certain spell, they just have to check the Arcane spell list to see if the spell is on it and is of a spell school they can cast. That's really not difficult.

It's not difficult, but it's objectively more difficult than simply checking whether the spell is on the Bard list. Which is a problem if ease of use is being presented as one of the main benefits of the new system.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
The problem is how WOTC is muddling up the schools to make theme specialists and generalists use the same list despite having vastly different themes.

Sonic spells are moved to Transmutation so Bards and can get them without having access to Evocation's other energy spells. Even though nothing is being transmuted,
Healing spells are moved to Abjuration so Rangers can heal. Even though D&D healing is described as emitting healing energy with.

Are you gonna ban Evocation from Artificers, give Artificers to Fireball, or change Fireball to Conjuration?

This makes the lore and meaning behind schools illogical. Which then makes linking classes to schools illogical. And thus new player will be forced to look at the list every time as there will be even less rhyme or reason to spell schools.
Healing spells have moved around a few times.
  • In 2e they were necromancy
  • In 3.5 they were "Conjuration (Healing)"
  • I have no idea what they were in 4e
  • In 5e they are just "Conjuration" no (healing)
  • in the expert packet they are abjuration
Necromancy was probably the most accurate but conjuration isn't off the mark if they work like star trek's dermal regenerator doodads. Abjuration might fit nice if the spell is influencing the luck aspect of HP. With the exhaustion 1-10 it may well be that all HP are luck & training while the 1-10 exhaustion are what sometomes gets called "meat"
 

cbwjm

Legend
Healing spells have moved around a few times.
  • In 2e they were necromancy
  • In 3.5 they were "Conjuration (Healing)"
  • I have no idea what they were in 4e
  • In 5e they are just "Conjuration" no (healing)
  • in the expert packet they are abjuration
Necromancy was probably the most accurate but conjuration isn't off the mark if they work like star trek's dermal regenerator doodads. Abjuration might fit nice if the spell is influencing the luck aspect of HP. With the exhaustion 1-10 it may well be that all HP are luck & training while the 1-10 exhaustion are what sometomes gets called "meat"
Just a small correction, they're evocation currently in 5e which I feel is fine as a school but it does mean that they need to change since otherwise rangers can't access them according to their available spell schools.
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
The problem is how WOTC is muddling up the schools to make theme specialists and generalists use the same list despite having vastly different themes.

Sonic spells are moved to Transmutation so Bards and can get them without having access to Evocation's other energy spells. Even though nothing is being transmuted,
Healing spells are moved to Abjuration so Rangers can heal. Even though D&D healing is described as emitting healing energy with.
Eh, spell schools were already muddled and nonsensical, so it's not as big of a deal for me. I would prefer if they just fixed spell schools, but if they're going to be nonsensical, they might as well make them a factor of class balance.
Are you gonna ban Evocation from Artificers, give Artificers to Fireball, or change Fireball to Conjuration?
Probably ban evocation from artificers and then add it back for specifically the Artillerist subclass.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
The Bard, Warlock, Ranger, and Paladin, are designed with a strong correlation a specific combination of Spell Schools and having exclusive spells or unique effects on spells within their power source.
Yeah, as I said, classes strongly correlate with a specific combination of Spell Schools. That also applies to the Wizard, see further on.

The Spells are a separate design space, and must be, because the high tier game engine depends on how spell slots scale in power in ways that are balanced for that level, reliable and well understood.

I oppose "exclusive spells" because they are almost always overpowered (for Wizard) or underpowered (for Druid) and skew the balance of the every spell that exists in a same spell slot.

I am ok with classes "having unique effects on spells" − like Warlock modifying Eldritch Blast and Ranger modifying Hunters Mark − because these power boosts are part of the class design space, not the spell design space. So the Evoker Wizard can have a feature that boosts the Fireball spell.

The Cleric, Druid, and Wizard, are designed in the image of having access to ALL Schools in their power source.
In 1e, the one class Wizard ("Magic-User") was any kind of spell casting concept, including "warlock", "sorcerer", "enchanter", "necromancer", and so on. Meanwhile, only the Wizard was a "full caster" with slots upto 9th. The other casters were part casters that could only reach the 7th slot or less. But today, there are different kinds of full caster classes. The Wizard needs to split away some schools, so it can specialize more, and so other full caster classes can have more design space for their own flavor concepts.

The Wizard is especially is known for "Fireball", in other words the Evocation school. I also associate the Wizard with the old school Illusionist. Meanwhile, magical energy and spell research generally is part of the class concept, whence an updated sense of Conjuration that relates to the magical energy of Dispel Magic and force constructs, as well as force Magic Missile, telekinetic Fly, and so on.

Enchantment makes less sense for the Wizard today, and makes much more sense for the Bard and the Warlock today.

Transmutation in the sense of lifeforms, healing, shapeshifting, animals and plants, makes less sense for the Wizard, and more sense for the Druid and Bard.

Personally, I prefer the Wizard lacks the Necromancy school, and the Cleric and Warlock focus on it. (Traditionally the Cleric is the turner or the controller of Undead and Fiend, but today also the Warlock traffics with Undead, along with Fiend and Aberration.)

And so on. Today the "full casters" do well to focus the flavor thematically, to distinguish from each other.



In the editions where base casting classes had the same power source, they shared access to some schools but had access to different sets of spells in those schools.
If the Schools are saliently thematic, they organize the spells better in the first place.

There is no need for a class to have a sloppy mishmash of any and every school. When each School is meaningful and mutually exclusive, it is clear which School is appropriate or not.

When Evocation is every elemental spell, then the Bard shouldnt have it. If Transmutation is the healing and lifeform spells, then the Wizard shouldnt have it.

Note, subclasses can modify the base class. For example, perhaps a certain Bard subclass grants access to Air Evocation spells, for wind of breath and thunder of voice − and maybe raging "flaring nostrils" and storm magic generally be part of this subclass too. But the Bard base class should avoid Evocation spells entirely.

Classes known for Evocation, in the sense of elemental magic, are Wizard, Druid, and Sorcerer.

And so on, with other schools strongly correlating with certain full caster classes.

Each full caster class leans into certain themes, and each School can update to supply the salient theme.



Compare Wizard and Psion.

The Psion feels primarily mind magic, namely the Enchantment School. From the perspective of the mind, the Psion also accesses the spells of certain other Schools including Conjuration (telekinesis and a personal magic aura separate from the ambient weave), Divination (for psychic readings and spacetime effects), and Transmutation (psychometabolism including shapechange and healing). There can be four subclasses, each to focus on one of these four schools.

By contrast, the Wizard feels primarily about Conjuration, researching the nature of ambient magic and its mysterious forces. From the perspective of the magic, the Wizard also accesses the spells of certain other Schools, including Evocation to reshape the matter of existence, and Illusion to alter the fabric reality. The Wizard is a "Creator" archetype.
 
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cbwjm

Legend
One of the benefits of these spell lists is that when I was making a shaman class, I kind of wanted there to be just a primal spell list rather than creating a shaman spell list from scratch, now, assuming these spell lists go ahead, I'll just say they have access to the primal spell list and be done with it, much easier. They can hang out with the druids and talk about the differences in how they approach primal magic, through nature or through the elements.
 

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