Unearthed Arcana Balancing Mind Sliver

rgoodbb

Adventurer
Balancing Mind Sliver

Currently the UA cantrip Mind Sliver feels very, very powerful. It is available for the Sorcerer, Wizard and Warlock. It is intended for a Psion class. It also appears difficult to reduce in power. Even if we reduce the range by half to 30 feet, if we add Somatic to the components and reduce the damage die to a measly D4 it is still a subtraction of 1d4 to their next saving throw, should they fail an Intelligence Save.

I think making it a (future) dedicated Psion-only cantrip, attainable by other classes only if one multi-classes, takes the Magic Initiate feat, has Magical Secrets from the Bard or the Tome Pact options from the Warlock, makes it sit and fit slightly better. Add the former restrictions of range, damage die and components and we start to gain a more balanced cantrip.

What do folks think? Does this go far enough to balance a powerful saving-throw-reduction cantrip? Or do we need more?


MIND SLIVER Enchantment cantrip, (Psion)
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 round
You drive a disorienting spike of psychic energy into the mind of one creature you can see within range. The target must make an Intelligence saving throw. Unless the saving throw is successful, the target takes 1d4 psychic damage, and the first time it makes a saving throw before the end of your next turn, it must roll a d4 and subtract the number rolled from the save.
At Higher Levels. This spell’s damage increases by 1d4 when you reach 5th level (2d4), 11th level (3d4), and 17th level (4d4).
 

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jgsugden

Legend
Unnecessary.

The d6 damage is low, so that die size usually accompanies a significant secondary ability on a cantrip.

Here, if they fail the first saving throw (for the cantrip), they then get a d4 penalty on the next save they make. You can use the ready action to try to make this as meaningful as possible, but it still impacts 12.5% of saving throws (or less). What this means is that you're giving up a good attack on an alpha strike round to possibly set up a failed save on a subsequent turn (for non-sorcerers at least - sorcerers can unleash this using sorcery points and quicken spell). Most of the time, I'd rather be casting two real spells against a meaningful enemy than trying to set them up with a cantrip that only has an impact on 1 of 8 saves.

So let's think about this in comparison to toll the dead, which usually deals d12 damage. You're giving up 3 points of damage, on average, for each damage die you get to roll for the cantrip in order to get a penalty to saves that will impact the success of 1 in 8 saving throws. You have to cast this cantrip an average of 8 times to get the impact (save becomes a fail) an average of once.

At levels one to four, you're giving up about 24 points of damage to turn one of your opponent's made saving throws into a fail. For pure damage spells, that is clearly a losing proposition. 24 points of damage is more than you get from the difference between a made and failed save on a shatter. For non-damage spells, you're usually negating an enemy action for one round with a failed save - so you're giving up 24 damage to take one opponent out of action for 1 round.

At levels 5 to 10, you're giving up an average of 48 points of damage. Your spell effects are more substantial for those damage spells of levels 3 to 5, but still not dealing the 96 you'd need them to deal in order for a failed save to really make a damage spell worthwhile on the back end of this spell. You're going to want to hold monster, hypnotic patterns or something else similar to really get your value, and you're saying that the 48 damage you'd give up against those types of foes is less valueable than that one failed save.

Levels 11 to 16 require you to give up 72 damage to get that failed save. At this point, that lost damage is a pretty big number. The non-damage spells have massive effects that can take one opponent out, but the uncertainty of whether it will actually have an impact making this unreliable and random is a detriment - and really - the save or * spells higher level than hold monster are not really that more impactful unless the monster is a really nasty solo type beast.

Levels 17 to 20 mean you're giving up 96 damage for every extra failed save. That is a lot of damage to give up, this is actually the level range where I'd be most interested in it given the high level potent magics - but if you're good at figuring out enemy saves, many enemies are already failing 80 to 95% of their saves against your spells.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
I don't think it's crazy OP, but it is powerful, both because an Int save is highly effective against many creatures, and because the debuff is really good.

I worry less about game balance, though, and more that just everybody will start taking this cantrip. I'd vote for restricting it to the psionic subclasses just to keep it from becoming as common (and thus boring) as rapiers on rogues.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
Big bads have legendary resists. And often good saves. Beating their saves is a game of (a) landing spells that (b) suck hard.

This spell is a weak save and helps land a more costly "suck" spell. Usually "or sucks" require higher level slots, especially if you want to target a weak save.
 



Coroc

Hero
Balancing Mind Sliver

Currently the UA cantrip Mind Sliver feels very, very powerful. It is available for the Sorcerer, Wizard and Warlock. It is intended for a Psion class. It also appears difficult to reduce in power. Even if we reduce the range by half to 30 feet, if we add Somatic to the components and reduce the damage die to a measly D4 it is still a subtraction of 1d4 to their next saving throw, should they fail an Intelligence Save.

I think making it a (future) dedicated Psion-only cantrip, attainable by other classes only if one multi-classes, takes the Magic Initiate feat, has Magical Secrets from the Bard or the Tome Pact options from the Warlock, makes it sit and fit slightly better. Add the former restrictions of range, damage die and components and we start to gain a more balanced cantrip.

What do folks think? Does this go far enough to balance a powerful saving-throw-reduction cantrip? Or do we need more?


MIND SLIVER Enchantment cantrip, (Psion)
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 round
You drive a disorienting spike of psychic energy into the mind of one creature you can see within range. The target must make an Intelligence saving throw. Unless the saving throw is successful, the target takes 1d4 psychic damage, and the first time it makes a saving throw before the end of your next turn, it must roll a d4 and subtract the number rolled from the save.
At Higher Levels. This spell’s damage increases by 1d4 when you reach 5th level (2d4), 11th level (3d4), and 17th level (4d4).

This change suggested by you should be made. The d4 reduction is like a single target 1 round (1 save) bane, so not overpowered for a cantrip. Do not forget, that psychic damage is very rarely resisted on the mob side.
 

rgoodbb

Adventurer
This change suggested by you should be made. The d4 reduction is like a single target 1 round (1 save) bane, so not overpowered for a cantrip. Do not forget, that psychic damage is very rarely resisted on the mob side.
Yeah psychic damage plus an Intelligence save cantrip.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Out of curiosity - who has used this cantrip in play? Are you experiencing situations that allow this cantrip to impact more than 1 in 8 subsequent saves?

It sounds good in the abstract, but in reality, it is not terribly efficient as is. Certainly useable, but how often do you want to lead off with a cantrip before you use your big spell on the high hit point bad guy in the hopes that the 1 in 8 chance it will impact the saving throw will come up.
 

rgoodbb

Adventurer
I have not used the cantrip myself.

I would also mention that I personally don't place too much importance (for me) on efficiency or think about chances of landing a spell whilst I'm playing. I just play. However I do seem to like a bit of theorising (as long as the maths is not too heavy for me).

You mentioned in reality. Have you yourself used it? How did it feel.
 

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