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5E Break my concentration redesign!

GlassJaw

Hero
After concentration popped up again in a recent thread, I dug out my own notes and revisited the topic. Here's my quick take on the concentration mechanic:
  1. The concentration mechanic has been a great addition to 5E.
  2. Some spells are hurt more than others by requiring concentration and therefore, rarely - if ever - get used.
I'd really like to see #2 addressed. I'm also willing to allow casters to concentrate on two spells at a time, depending on the spell combination. This won't significantly affect balance. If anything, it will make for more interesting gameplay if a wider range of spells are used.

Here's my basic criteria for evaluating concentration spells:
  • Does it require an attack roll (Ray of Enfeeblement, Searing Smite, Witch Bolt)?
  • Does it require an action every round to continue to use (Witch Bolt)?
  • Does it allow a save every round (Ray of Enfeeblement)?
  • Does it require the caster to be in melee (Vampiric Touch, smite spells)?
  • Is it rarely used?
However, you can't simply remove concentration from a group of spells to solve the problem. It's a start but it has far-reaching consequences if concentration is removed from too many spells, mainly buff-stacking, which I would argue was the primary design goal of the developers when implementing the concentration mechanic. However, after 6 years of "playtesting", it's clear some spells are hurt significantly by it.

My redesign is twofold:
  1. Remove concentration from a small group of spells, and
  2. Put concentration spells into 2 categories. A caster can maintain concentration on two spells at a time, one from each category.
Concentration Categories
Ally (A): The spell affects yourself or one or more allies
Enemy/Environment (E): The spell affects the environment or one or more enemies

If you take damage while you are concentrating on two spells, the DC equals 15 or half the damage you take, whichever number is higher. If you fail, you lose both spells.

Remove Concentration
SpellLevel
Dancing LightsCantrip
True StrikeCantrip
Hail of Thorns1st
Searing Smite1st
Thunderous Smite1st
Witch Bolt1st
Wrathful Smite1st
Barkskin2nd
Branding Smite2nd
Ray of Enfeeblement2nd
Blinding Smite3rd
Call Lightning3rd
Elemental Weapon3rd
Lightning Arrow3rd
Staggering Smite4th
Banishing Smite5th
 

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GlassJaw

Hero
Sorry for the long post. I wish there was a way to make smaller tables. Oh well.

Anyway, here's the list. A few spells have question marks (?) as I'm still debating but you get the idea. So your job is to find 2-spell combos that could be a problem or broken. Thanks!

SpellLevelType
FriendsCantripA
GuidanceCantripA
ResistanceCantripA
Bane1stE
Bless1stA
Compelled Duel1stE
Detect Evil and Good1stA
Detect Magic1stA
Detect Poison and Disease1stA
Divine Favor1stA
Entangle1stE
Expeditious Retreat1stA
Faerie Fire1stE
Fog Cloud1stE
Heroism1stA
Hex1stE
Hunter's Mark1stA
Protection from Evil and Good1stA
Shield of Faith1stA
Silent Image1stE
Tasha's Hideous Laughter1stE
Alter Self2ndA
Beast Sense2ndA
Blur2ndA
Calm Emotions2ndE
Cloud of Daggers2ndE
Crown of Madness2ndE
Darkness2ndE
Detect Thoughts2ndA
Enhance Ability2ndA
Enlarge/Reduce2ndA/E
Flame Blade2ndE (?)
Flaming Sphere2ndE
Gust of Wind2ndE
Heat Metal2ndE
Hold Person2ndE
Invisibility2ndA
Levitate2ndA/E
Locate Object2ndA
Magic Weapon2nd?
Moonbeam2ndE
Pass without Trace2ndA
Phantasmal Force2ndE
Silence2ndE
Spider Climb2ndA
Spike Growth2ndE
Suggestion2ndE
Web2ndE
Aura of Vitality3rdA
Beacon of Hope3rdA
Bestow Curse3rdE
Clairvoyance3rdA
Conjure Animals3rdE
Crusader's Mantle3rdA
Elemental Weapon3rd?
Fear3rdE
Fly3rdA
Gaseous Form3rdA
Haste3rdA
Hunger of Hadar3rdE
Hypnotic Pattern3rdE
Major Image3rdE
Protection from Energy3rd?
Sleet Storm3rdE
Slow3rdE
Spirit Guardians3rdA
Stinking Cloud3rdE
Vampiric Touch3rd?
Wind Wall3rdE
Arcane Eye4thA
Aura of Life4thA
Aura of Purity4thA
Banishment4thE
Compulsion4thE
Confusion4thE
Conjure Minor Elementals4thE
Conjure Woodland Beings4thE
Control Water4thE
Dominate Beast4thE
Evard's Black Tentacles4thE
Giant Insect4thE
Grasping Vine4thE
Greater Invisibility4thA
Locate Creature4thA
Otiluke's Resilient Sphere4thE
Phantasmal Killer4thE
Polymorph4thA
Stoneskin4thA
Wall of Fire4thE
Animate Objects5thE
Antilife Shell5thA
Bigby's Hand5thE
Circle of Power5thA
Cloudkill5thE
Conjure Elemental5thE
Dispel Evil and Good5thA
Dominate Person5thE
Hold Monster5thE
Insect Plague5thE
Mislead5thA
Modify Memory5thE
Scrying5thA
Swift Quiver5thA
Telekinesis5thE
Tree Stride5thA
Wall of Force5thE
Wall of Stone5thE
Arcane Gate6thE
Blade Barrier6thE
Conjure Fey6thE
Eyebite6thE
Find the Path6thA
Flesh to Stone6thA
Globe of Invulnerability6thA
Move Earth6thE
Otto's Irresistible Dance6thE
Sunbeam6thE
Wall of Ice6thE
Wall of Thorns6thE
Conjure Celestial7thE
Delayed Blast Fireball7thE
Mordenkainen's Sword7thE
Project Image7thE
Reverse Gravity7thE
Animal Shapes8thA
Antimagic Field8thE
Control Weather8thE
Dominate Monster8thE
Earthquake8thE
Holy Aura8thA
Incendiary Cloud8thE
Maze8thE
Tsunami8thE
Gate9thE
Shapechange9thA
Storm of Vengeance9thE
True Polymorph9thA
Weird9thE
 

I think that the * Smite spells only have Concentration to prevent players from stacking them over and over and over and then hitting one target and unleashing 9 spells at once. The spells need to prevent that somehow.

Personally, I'd remove concentration from Stoneskin. It has an expensive material component (100 gp of diamond dust) and the only reason it "needs" concentration is because it lasts up to an hour. Make it last 10 minutes and you can remove concentration very easily.

I don't understand why Hunter's Mark and Hex are not the same category. Hunter's Mark is clearly an E.

I'm not sure that spells that require actions to utilize, like Detect X or Call Lightning or even Sunbeam, really require concentration.
 


Nebulous

Legend
you put a lot of work into this! The Book of Talents I'm using has a dual concentration mechanic. Disadvantage on the Con save. I'm also adding you can't use a bonus action or reaction if dual casting. We haven't tried it in play yet though.
 

Krachek

Adventurer
Modify every spell is a bulk task.
Why don’t try using upcast to add feature aiding concentration.
Upcasting a spell one level make concentation unbreakable for this spell for the duration.
Upcasting X levels allow to add the spell on Ongoing concentration.
the classic example is fly and greater invisibility, does the fly spell cast at level 5 worth it? Level 6?
of course these Upcasting don’t trigger usual Upcasting, but can be combined if sufficient high level slot is used.
 

I agree that way too many spells require concentration. From your list, the only one of those that I disagree with is Call Lightning. Just because you have to take an action to use it doesn't mean it isn't worthy of concentration. Maybe if it's a spell that requires you to constantly use your action without automatically having the spell end (e.g. Witch Bolt).

I don't agree with the idea of allowing a concentration spell for both one that targets enemies and one that targets allies. Partially because there are occasionally reasons to cast them on either (e.g. Levitate), but also because it allows casters to no longer decide between offense and defense. Invisibility and Fly are going to be the worst abusers, as you can use them to protect yourself while still using a concentration spell to obliterate your enemies (especially if the concentration spell doesn't require an attack roll).

I think that the * Smite spells only have Concentration to prevent players from stacking them over and over and over and then hitting one target and unleashing 9 spells at once. The spells need to prevent that somehow.
The smite spells automatically go off with your next hit, so you can't store them for one devastating attack. In addition, the 1 minute duration prevents building them up in advance. If the party has the ability to set up almost a minute before an attack, this benefit is going to pale to other spells (IME that much time usually ensures victory before the end of the 2nd round, and often before the enemy has a chance to respond).
 

Overly complicated.

Just allow concentration on two spells at once (maybe with a level of Exhaustion as the 'cost' - which is fluffy and appropriate).

Saves to maintain concentration are made with disadvantage when so doing.
 

GlassJaw

Hero
Thanks for the feedback!

I think that the * Smite spells only have Concentration to prevent players from stacking them over and over and over and then hitting one target and unleashing 9 spells at once. The spells need to prevent that somehow.
That's fair, but if someone wants to invest that many actions and spell slots, I'd almost be inclined to let them. That's certainly not in the spirit of those spells though. Easy enough to remedy: add a line to each of the smite spells that says "You can only have one smite spell active at a time."

Personally, I'd remove concentration from Stoneskin. It has an expensive material component (100 gp of diamond dust) and the only reason it "needs" concentration is because it lasts up to an hour. Make it last 10 minutes and you can remove concentration very easily.
I'm inclined to agree. My goal on the first pass was to only change concentration and not alter the spells themselves (I have some spells changes as well).

I don't understand why Hunter's Mark and Hex are not the same category. Hunter's Mark is clearly an E.
Agreed.

I'm not sure that spells that require actions to utilize, like Detect X or Call Lightning or even Sunbeam, really require concentration.
While I was working on this, I wanted to start a separate thread called "Why in Hades are the detect spells concentration?!" 😝

I removed concentration from Call Lightning. Sunbeam is interesting. It's a much better spell but meets the criteria. Probably a good playtest candidate.
 

GlassJaw

Hero
The Book of Talents I'm using has a dual concentration mechanic. Disadvantage on the Con save. I'm also adding you can't use a bonus action or reaction if dual casting. We haven't tried it in play yet though.
Why don’t try using upcast to add feature aiding concentration.
Upcasting a spell one level make concentation unbreakable for this spell for the duration.
Just allow concentration on two spells at once (maybe with a level of Exhaustion as the 'cost' - which is fluffy and appropriate).
Saves to maintain concentration are made with disadvantage when so doing.
I am specifically avoiding opening up concentration on multiple spells to any combination. That is antithesis to my goal and what I believe was the goal of the original developers. Simply put, I believe it is the wrong design decision.

No matter how much playtesting you do, it opens the door to buff stacking. Concentration needs to be carefully controlled.

To be frank, adding a second concentration category is one of the simplest "fixes" I've seen to concentration that also preserves the original design intent of concentration. Opening up concentration to more than one spell by its very nature adds "complication" to the game. But without checks and balances, the complication will be compounded during play when balance issues invaribly rear their ugly head.
 

My take on concentration is way simpler.
1) If a concentration spell allows a save at the end of each turn, then as long as the concentration is not broken, the caster can reactivate the effect on the target with a bonus action. If two targets save at the same time, the caster must choose between the two. The reactivation must done immediately on the caster's turn following the target's save. If the target saves on reactivation, the spell ends for that particular target only ( if more than one target were affected).

2) Spells that requires concentration for an ongoing effect can now make that effect with a bonus action. Only cantrips can be cast if you use a bonus action to apply an ongoing effect. Not applying an ongoing effect does not remove or end a concentration. But allows to cast a spell of 1st level or higher.

Only two spells had their concentration's feature removed. Hex and Hunter's Mark.

This is a new rule that we are trying. It is about six months old and so far everyone love how it is going. Witch bolt is used again. But the re enacting part is interesting. Especially on hold spells where the battle of wills is the way we describe the target save and the caster re applying the spell as a contest. It really fun storytelling wise. It also bring cocentration to a new level.
 

GlassJaw

Hero
My take on concentration is way simpler.
I certainly don't think this is simpler. I'm actually having a little trouble fully understanding. Lots of exceptions and if-thens.

Putting more stress on the bonus action economy is certainly not something I would do either.
 

You really have trouble understanding?????

1 st part has two "if". Two conditions. Target is affected, save at its end of turn. Reactivate the spell on a bonus action on caster's turn. The spell ends on that target if it saves on reactivation. You can only reactivate on one target at a time. What can be simpler? (Answer: No modifications).

The second part is the same rule for casting a bonus action spell that you have on the PHB.

The rule works on any spells with concentration. What can be easier? An endless list of modifications?

The stress on the action economy is exactly doing its purpose. Casters have almost nothing to do with bonus actions save a few exceptions.

The two spells I removed from concentration have nothing to do with my rule. This is a personal taste that has been done almost at the start of 5ed.
 

Laurefindel

Adventurer
After concentration popped up again in a recent thread, I dug out my own notes and revisited the topic. Here's my quick take on the concentration mechanic:
  1. The concentration mechanic has been a great addition to 5E.
  2. Some spells are hurt more than others by requiring concentration and therefore, rarely - if ever - get used.
I'd really like to see #2 addressed. I'm also willing to allow casters to concentrate on two spells at a time, depending on the spell combination. This won't significantly affect balance. If anything, it will make for more interesting gameplay if a wider range of spells are used.

Here's my basic criteria for evaluating concentration spells:
  • Does it require an attack roll (Ray of Enfeeblement, Searing Smite, Witch Bolt)?
  • Does it require an action every round to continue to use (Witch Bolt)?
  • Does it allow a save every round (Ray of Enfeeblement)?
  • Does it require the caster to be in melee (Vampiric Touch, smite spells)?
  • Is it rarely used?
However, you can't simply remove concentration from a group of spells to solve the problem. It's a start but it has far-reaching consequences if concentration is removed from too many spells, mainly buff-stacking, which I would argue was the primary design goal of the developers when implementing the concentration mechanic. However, after 6 years of "playtesting", it's clear some spells are hurt significantly by it.

My redesign is twofold:
  1. Remove concentration from a small group of spells, and
  2. Put concentration spells into 2 categories. A caster can maintain concentration on two spells at a time, one from each category.
Concentration Categories
Ally (A): The spell affects yourself or one or more allies
Enemy/Environment (E): The spell affects the environment or one or more enemies

If you take damage while you are concentrating on two spells, the DC equals 15 or half the damage you take, whichever number is higher. If you fail, you lose both spells.

Remove C
I like your ally/enemy dichotomy. I think you could expand it to buff spells and something else spells. Is the target of the spell "you" or "an ally creature"? If the answer is yes, then the spell is in category A. Otherwise, it's a category B spell (or E). Simple. Straightforward. You don't need a table to use as a reference. It may cause a few questionable results but i'd just roll with it (Magic Weapon for example targets a non-magical weapon, so category "B" it is even if it's more a buff than an attack or a debuff for the enemy). Magic works in mysterious ways...

Otherwise I agree that some spells (like barkskin and stoneskin) shouldn't require concentration. Some other spells you mentioned (like call lightning and smites) should conserve their concentration tag IMO (although smite spells could be removed from the spell list altogether and re-worked as Divine Smite options).

In any case, I'd be tempted to first establish a blanket clause that would establish the basic idea you're after. Then, make a separate list of spells that you subjectively choose as exceptions and have their concentration removed. At this point you don't need a reason or a deep logic; it's your prerogative as a DM, point final. Keep this list short and sweet.

I like the base DC 15 for double concentration or lose both spells. It is pretty harsh however; in itself it could be a deterrent to double concentration, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
 

The smite spells automatically go off with your next hit, so you can't store them for one devastating attack. In addition, the 1 minute duration prevents building them up in advance. If the party has the ability to set up almost a minute before an attack, this benefit is going to pale to other spells (IME that much time usually ensures victory before the end of the 2nd round, and often before the enemy has a chance to respond).
It takes a bonus action to cast the Smite spells. This means you can build up your attack in any combat round where you can't make an attack, or any time the PCs might trigger the encounter. "Okay, I'm going to cast Thunderous Smite three times, then we open the door," isn't a play pattern you really want to encourage, IMO, especially when they do things like push, frighten, knock prone, or blind on each failed save. Even if it ends up not being broken, it's poor game design.

That's fair, but if someone wants to invest that many actions and spell slots, I'd almost be inclined to let them. That's certainly not in the spirit of those spells though. Easy enough to remedy: add a line to each of the smite spells that says "You can only have one smite spell active at a time."
I think that's probably fine for a house rule, but it wouldn't work well for a published rule.
 


J-H

Explorer
Modify every spell is a bulk task.
Why don’t try using upcast to add feature aiding concentration.
Upcasting a spell one level make concentation unbreakable for this spell for the duration.
Upcasting X levels allow to add the spell on Ongoing concentration.
the classic example is fly and greater invisibility, does the fly spell cast at level 5 worth it? Level 6?
of course these Upcasting don’t trigger usual Upcasting, but can be combined if sufficient high level slot is used.
I like this idea a lot. Maybe make it 2*spell level-1, so a no-Concentration Improved Invisibility is level 7, no-Concentration 3rd level is 5th, a 2nd is 3rd, and a 1st-level with no concentration is 2nd level?
 

GlassJaw

Hero
I like this idea a lot. Maybe make it 2*spell level-1, so a no-Concentration Improved Invisibility is level 7, no-Concentration 3rd level is 5th, a 2nd is 3rd, and a 1st-level with no concentration is 2nd level?
It's an interesting mechanic but my designer gut instinct says there's still potential for balance issues since most of the stackable buffs are low-level. For example, bless without concentration as a level 2 spell is a no-brainer.

It's why I went with a simple classification of spells. I white boarded a LOT of mechanics but at the end of the day, you simply can't open up concentration to any combination of spells. That's where the issue occurs.

My decision to split concentration into 2 categories did require looking at each concentration spell but it also doesn't add any new mechanics. Honestly, once the design was done, aside from a select few spells, classifying the spells was the easy part.

It's also a much easier task than taking a new mechanic and checking it against a wide range of concentration spell combinations. If you start finding combinations that are still problematic, then what? Add more rules to fix those exceptions while trying to keep your new mechanic intact?
 

Gadget

Adventurer
I don't understand why Friends and Flesh to Stone is in category "A?" Shouldn't they be in category "E?" Also I would add Flame Arrows to the list of spells with concentration removed (perhaps with a caveat that if you cast the spell again on a second quiver, it ceases on the first).

That said, I agree that the concentration mechanic puts a quite a bit of pressure on the spell design to make the spell "worth it" for the caster. Over the years, I've stopped and started a house rules list of modified spells to help fix the problem. Some spells are just poorly designed, with or without concentration (True Strike, Witch Bolt, etc.). I question weather or not Flesh To Stone needs concentration at all, as it already has a fail x times before succeeding x times mechanic to slow it down and help mitigate the effect; having to maintain concentration for a full minute seems like overkill.
 

Krachek

Adventurer
I like this idea a lot. Maybe make it 2*spell level-1, so a no-Concentration Improved Invisibility is level 7, no-Concentration 3rd level is 5th, a 2nd is 3rd, and a 1st-level with no concentration is 2nd level?
Something like that. Obviously it can produced some deadly combo, but high level spell also.
I have faith in players, they will find the right price to pay to cheat with concentration.
if you ban it or give concentration for free we will never know the price in spell slot the players are willing to pay for those features.
 

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