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Cantrip House Rule


As long as i get to be the frog
Some utility casters use nearly all their spell slots in the Social and Exploration pillars, relying on cantrips to contribute to Combat. This change would make such characters unworkable above 5th level. Even if those characters save the extra spell slots you're granting them for combat, it can't make up halving (or worse, at higher levels) their damage potential for the other 80-90% of combat rounds.

Such characters may not be common at your table, in which case this won't be much of a practical drawback. But ruling out an entire category of utility builds seems like an unintended side effect that is worth pointing out.

(For those unfamiliar with such builds, they play similarly in combat to ranged Champion Fighters, but trading lower offense and defense for more out-of-combat ability. I've mainly seen them used by casual players who don't want to stress over tactical spell use, by experienced players in mixed groups that don't want to hog the combat spotlight, or by anyone designing a character whose magic is thematically less combat-oriented.)

So you would be gaining a level 3, 2 and 1 slot you could use in combat, in exchange for 1d10 instead of 2d10 cantrips at least at the levels most everyone seems to be worried about. I'm not so sure that's actually a bad trade in terms of power for such a character.

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So you would be gaining a level 3, 2 and 1 slot you could use in combat, in exchange for 1d10 instead of 2d10 cantrips at least at the levels most everyone seems to be worried about. I'm not so sure that's actually a bad trade in terms of power for such a character.

There's the problem of utility casters not being able to take as many utility spells because now they have to take combat-applicable spells rather than using their combat cantrips. So yes, they have more slots, but they either take all the utility spells they want and not contribute much to combat, or become less versatile outside combat in order to contribute more in combat.

This change has a lot of implications and I would not play in a game where it was implemented.

I get that you don't want people asking why, but I think that's sort of the point here. If we knew why you were implementing this change, which a lot of posters don't seem to think will work the way you want, we could offer alternatives or tweaks. But without knowing the intent of the rule change, it's hard to frame responses in the proper context.

If all you want is for people to not use cantrips, this rule will absolutely do that. But if you're looking for more of a tonal shift or emulating the feel of another edition or something along those lines, there may be a better way to do it. Good feedback depends on context. It's not an attempt to say you're wrong or that your intent is wrong. It's an honest attempt to try to find the best way to get 5E to do what you want it to do. That's the beauty of 5E: it's fairly easy to hack to get it to do what you want it to do. But to get there, knowing the intent and the end goal is key.

2. I think that if a 2d10 cantrip is deemed viable then a 1d10 cantrip must be as well since it's at least as close to a 2d10 cantrip as the 2d10 cantrip is a sword and board fighters damage.
If you're talking about level 5, then you're comparing ~11 damage from a scaling cantrip to ~6 damage from a non-scaling cantrip and ~20 damage from a fighter with a longsword (or more, depending on fighting style and other factors). Scaling cantrips are already at half of what the fighter contributes, and you want to halve it again; while ~6 is roughly in the ballpark with ~11, and ~11 is roughly in the ballpark of ~20, that doesn't mean ~6 is in the ballpark of ~20.

There's a threshold for damage, below which your contribution doesn't matter, because it doesn't reduce the number of turns that the fighter needs to kill something. An ogre has ~59hp, and the fighter will kill it in three rounds. If you contribute ~18 damage by spending three actions to cantrip it, then it still dies on the third round, after the fighter attacks it; your turns were essentially a waste of time, because they didn't change the outcome at all. If you can spend two rounds to contribute ~22 damage, though, then it dies on the second round, and your contribution actually mattered (although most of the credit still goes to the fighter).


So what I'm getting here is that you want to remove extra attack from the spell casters. Might as well do it for all the classes then and give them all boost elsewhere in their class kit.
But I'd expect to see those other resources used up rather quickly if the game is combat heavy and leading to more resting.

Attack cantrip scaling is balanced against melee classes that get extra attacks. And that is ( supposed to be )balanced against monsters having more and more hit-points at higher levels.

If you only affect the casters, you might as well shove a crossbow into their hand and tell them to use that for the next 20 levels as it'll likely be as effective as their un-scaled cantrip, and they can take non-combat cantrips instead. I'd just make sure I'd have two or three cases of bolts with me.

Alas, for me it'd break a character I'm currently playing, an Elven Arcane Cleric that utilizes Green Flame Blade, and Lightning Lure in various combos to close quickly and deal damage as a front line combat cleric. But the nerf to the damage on those spells would make him useless in the party I'm currently playing with that doesn't have a traditional tank/fighter.

To me, it's a bad idea in isolation, and with the mainstay of the design of 5th ed. Maybe the idea has merit in a different context, but you don't seem willing to frame the concept to anything for further discussion. IE: the why people have been asking 'why'

Shrug.. Good luck in your endeavours.

The only problem I'm trying to fix is how to get people to stop asking me what problem I'm trying to fix and why I want this change. It's amazing how difficult that is to do. Any suggestions on that? ;)
Explain the reason for the change. That way people can make suggestions based upon the intended outcome, rather than worrying that their ideas will be dismissed because they've hit on something that you're actually trying to avoid. Even when offering solicited help over the internet, anxiety is still a thing.

I think a rough assessment on just how much more power we are talking in various encounter days. For example: in a single encounter day I think the net benefit on average tops out at maybe 25% more effectiveness. (Calculation based on campaign where players know they have exactly a single encounter in the day and effectiveness estimated by comparing damage spells each setup can cast.

I also think it's worth considering that more important than encounters per day, may be whether there is a threat for a day going longer than expected. That alone tends to put a damper on how much you will use abilities, even more so when your resource-free options are relatively weak. IMO.
Yep. Both how long the adventuring day is, and how long the players think that it will be will play a factor in how they choose to spend their resources.

What if there was no problem?
Then there would be no need for a fix. Even if the problem is simply "I prefer the caster aesthetic of editions where a wizard would either be devastating their enemies or throwing a dart/hiding behind the cleric."

Cantrips wouldn’t be useless with my change either.
Casters in tier 2 and 3 are basically useless now if they get down to the point where they have no spell slots. Surely your not suggesting that’s not the case?

Why do you feel it's not?
I rarely felt useless when throwing my 2d8 attack cantrip at tier 2. It still felt that I was contributing even though that was usually lower damage than the other party members.
Hence why I'm asking why you feel useless. There is obviously a difference in the two situations.

My current game is featless. Though the DM does like to give out strong magic weapons. Though the change isn't for that game in particular.
Featless game will drop the effectiveness of pure martial classes compared to casters quite considerably, although classes like Paladins will remain strong. Does your caster have a magic item that boosts their casting or cantrips in the same way as the rest of the group's weapons boost their attacks?

Actually, one option that might solve the issue you have with cantrips might be to obtain a wand or staff. - Gives a couple more rounds of throwing spells per day rather than falling back on cantrips.

Only if you agree to answer a similar question for me: For tier 2, how much more than 1d10 damage does a cantrip need before you will say it's no longer nearly useless?
Theorycrafting aside, I'd say that the current scaling is about right. I played a wizard through Curse of Strahd who spent most of his combat rounds casting his only attack cantrip (Chill Touch), and the majority of his play occurred over tier 2.
I found that I was generally fine with throwing 2d8 damage, but where I was attacking something that I knew was resistant to necrotic damage and the cantrip riders weren't useful, I would often try to find something else to do.
So for me at tier 2 in actual play, 2d8 seemed OK, but half of that didn't, even though it would generally have still been superior to a weapon attack.

André Soares

First Post
Sorry if I'm assuming too much, but if the goal is making low level damage spells feel more relevant than cantrips (wich I think is reasonable) wouldn't it be more effective to come up with a better way of making them scale?


First Post
I probably wouldn't play a wizard under the proposed change. At mid-levels casting a cantrip would not meaningfully help eliminate opponents any faster. The few added spells would not be enough to compensate. Additionally it would seriously mess with balance. Builds that already had other attack options such as shadow blade would get a pure boost. Seems to me that there is not much of an upside to this idea.

André Soares

First Post
OP, do you think this would be a good alternative way to go at the problem?

Cantrip Scalling for levelled spells:
When you reach 5th level your single target damage spells (same limitation as Twinned spell maybe?) can be cast with the lowest level spell slot possible as if they were cast with a 1 level higher spell slot. At level 11th level they can be cast as if using a spell slot 2 levels higher spell slot. At 17th level they can be cast as if using a spell slot 3 levels higher spell slot. This only aplies to spells of 5th level or lower.

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