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Cantrip House Rule


Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
Is there any forseeable issues or problems you can think of with doing this? Is it too imbalanced compared to the current rules? Do you like the change?
It's probably a little bit power-heavy, but only playtesting will tell you for certain. If it gets to be a problem you could always pull back on the levels of spell slots (stopping at level 5 spells instead of level 6, maybe.)

I don't think I'd like it though; it's a little too fiddly. If I were going to swap scaling cantrips for more spell slots, I'd make it a little simpler. Something like giving the character one extra spell slot at 5th, 11th, and 17th levels (when cantrips normally would scale), and the spell level of the new slot can't exceed the character's proficiency bonus. But that's just me.

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Cantrips wouldn’t be useless with my change either. So they could still take up a bunch of rounds casting cantrips. They have more slots so they wouldn’t be as likely to run out of them as fast.

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?

Okay, let's look at this change. If a caster uses a cantrip every third round, which is about right for the games I've run and played in, and using spell slots in the other two rounds, they're going through two slots every three rounds. With your change, using cantrips is going to be far less effective, so they're more likely to be using a spell slot every round.

So, assuming four rounds of combat per fight, and six fights per day, you've got 24 rounds total. With scaling cantrips, that's 16 spell slots being used. Without scaling cantrips, that's 24 slots used. So to keep casters from running out, you'd need to add eight more spell slots at least.

Right now, with scaling cantrips, it's not just damage output. You can use a cantrip like Firebolt to try and tag multiple enemies at once. Sure, it may not do much damage, but if you hit three enemies and deal a bit of damage, guess what? The ranger may get the use of Colossus Slayer, especially if the wizard went first in initiative. Or maybe an enemy only has a few hit points left - like ten or twelve. Maybe the caster can take them out without having to burn a spell slot.

Are cantrips as good as spell slots? No. But there are better ways to address casters running out of slots than nerfing cantrips. Especially if you say that cantrips are already underpowered because you feel useless without spell slots. You want to add more slots, go for it. But I don't understand why you'd need to do both.

I honestly think that, with this change, your casters will run out of slots more quickly and thus be even less effective as a result. So you'd essentially be doing the exact opposite of what I assume your goal is with this rule change.


As long as i get to be the frog
A few observations:

-This rule reeeeeeeeally assumes that combat is the only time a caster's gonna cast. Especially in that Tier 2 zone (which is one of the most common areas of play) where spell slots are still a semi-precious resource, this rule discourages casters from using slots for stuff like Alter/Disguise Self, Knock, Pass Without Trace, Enhance Ability, Invisibility, Fly, etc. for social/exploration challenges.

#1 I never assume combat is the only time you are going to cast
#2 I think more spell slots will make you feel less penalized for using slots out of combat. For example at level 5: Casting fly with 1 of your 2 third level slots is a lot worse than casting it with 1 of your 3 third level slots. IMO

-It guts ability scale. I'll admit this is kind of an esoteric point, but: 5e is made with the idea that you should seldom if ever have an ability/feature that becomes straight up useless at a certain level. Fighters get an extra Extra Attack, Barbs do more damage on Rages, Rogues get more SA dice, Paladins get an always-on Smite, Rangers get ways to make more attacks, etc. Canceling out cantrip scaling goes against that.

5e also has ribbon abilities that are usually right at straight up useless in all tiers of the game. With my change cantrips would essentially be ribbons. Casters would scale with more spell slots, more powerful spell slots and more powerful spells. So my take is that removing cantrip scaling doesn't go against any of that.

Perhaps more importantly even if it did so what? Is something a bad idea just because it might go against an arbitrary design choice? I don't think anyone seriously thinks that's the case. Do you?

-This astoundingly both cuts the legs out from under and handily buffs Sorcerers. On one hand, Sorcs are supposed to lean on cantrips harder (they get 4 out of the gate up to a max of 6), but also by giving another spell slot of every level, you're giving them a bank of up to an extra 15 Sorcery points. You've totally kneecapped them in some areas, like no more "Quickened Fireball+Fire Bolt" or no more twinning cantrips for 3d10 damage at 2 targets, but then virtually every damage spell is going to get Empowered and way more save or sucks are gonna get Heightened because they'll have the extra resources.

Is that supposed to be a bad thing because that sounds positive to me. Anything that get's sorcerers using less commonly used metamagics is good IMO. Anything that let's them use more metamagic is good IMO.

More importantly, pointing out that the game will play differently due to some change isn't a very convincing argument for it being a bad change. Of course the game will play differently. To make a convincing argument you can't just cite changes, you need to show that those change are bad and not just different and that even with negative impacts, the positive impacts don't outweigh the change.

-The cleric options that get a WIS mod to cantrips or something similar at level 8 or whenever just kinda suck now.

That's only cause you are thinking of the negatives and not the positives. Yes he will be much worse off with cantrips. But he can use more spiritual weapons, use more spirit guardians, heal more etc.

Overall, it seems like a change for the sake of change move that affects more classes than others and doesn't feel worth the headache.

What headache? The only headache I've gotten is from trying to keep other posters on topic after both my hands have been tied behind my back. This change is kindergarden work compared to that.


As long as i get to be the frog
I think I'd go with more low level slots only. Maybe 3 extra 1st level slots at 5th, 3 extra 2nd level slots at 11th, and 3 extra 3rds at whatever the next level is that cantrips scale up at.

I'd like to make the spellcasters more versatile rather than more powerful, and I think this would feel that way.

I can see that, though I think you would need more than 3 level 1 slots at 5th level to fairly compensate the less of the scaling cantrips.


As long as i get to be the frog
It's probably a little bit power-heavy, but only playtesting will tell you for certain. If it gets to be a problem you could always pull back on the levels of spell slots (stopping at level 5 spells instead of level 6, maybe.)

I don't think I'd like it though; it's a little too fiddly. If I were going to swap scaling cantrips for more spell slots, I'd make it a little simpler. Something like giving the character one extra spell slot at 5th, 11th, and 17th levels (when cantrips normally would scale), and the spell level of the new slot can't exceed the character's proficiency bonus. But that's just me.

To me that sounds like it's not enough compensation. It's not a perfect comparison but looking at the single target daily damage you can output with scaling cantrips at tier 2, that's pretty significantly under the what any level 3 spell could do at those levels.


As long as i get to be the frog
I suppose that it depends on the individual, and how frequently they cast a cantrip while they still have spell slots remaining, under the current parameters. In my experience, spellcasters cast cantrips with the primary intent of saving their spell slots for later, because they the cantrip provides them with a viable alternative that doesn't cost anything. If they didn't have a cantrip, then they'd be more likely to spend the spell slot now, since the alternative is doing nothing. And the wider the gap between the power of the cantrip and the spell slot, the harder it is to justify using the cantrip.

Let's stick to tier 2 for the moment as that's the tier I'm getting the most grief about.

I think your analysis above is only half complete.
1. I think the primary reason to cast a cantrip is that it's free and contributes more to team victory than doing nothing.

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.

3. I don't think it's the gap between power of a cantrip and spell slot that makes it hard to justify using a cantrip. Fireball is much much more powerful than a cantrip. You don't see players struggling to justify using their cantrip instead of fireball. I think the default rationale for when to use a cantrip vs spellslot is quite a bit more nuanced than you describe. Players tend to tack into account the scarcity of their resources, the impact of that resource would have on the given situation, whether there will be better opportunities to use that resource later in the day and what they could do for free in the given situation and they use that information to make a quick judgmental decision to use the cantrip or use a spell slot. I think the example of fireball vs firebolt and what considerations a player is using to make his decision to use a fireball or not in any given situation back up my stance that cantrip vs spellslot power level differences only play a small roll in what determines if a player will use a spellslot.

Feel free to test it out in a campaign, but I'm fairly certain that your change would cause spellcasters to run out of spell slots even more quickly. The only way it would not be the case is if the spellcaster was already burning through their spell slots as quickly as possible.

I may eventually get to that, if I do so I'll probably offer it as an alternative option instead of a flat out replacement to regular 5e casters.


As long as i get to be the frog
Depends on whether the problem he is trying to fix is one of feel (returning to the feel of earlier editions where wizards either used spell slots or made weapon attacks) or mechanical (wanting to make caster damage over the day more nova/less smooth.)
Upping the power of attack cantrips a little and making them actual 1st level spells would retain their usefulness for example but mean that casters would still have to spend some rounds shooting crossbows or similar. Satyrn's suggestion of additional lower-level slots would aid that approach.

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? ;)

If increasing the raw nova power of a full caster is the aim however, and reducing the "smoothing" effect that upscaled cantrips have on a caster's daily damage output, then the original suggestion of extra spell slots including high level ones would have that effect. In a standard 6-encounter day, this will probably result in a slight power bump due to on-call power being better than continuous, but obviously this will rise sharply as the number of encounters the party expect to encounter reduces.

That's probably the most impartial assessment I've seen anyone make about the idea. Thank you.

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.

Either way, you do get a bit more of the earlier edition feel where casters would sit out their turns when they didn't have an applicable spell to cast, since exposing themselves to the enemy may not be worth the risk compared to the potential contribution your dagger or crossbow attack could make.

I think that was exasperated by the squishiness of casters in previous editions. In 5e defense comes easier and death is harder. It's hard to think hiding out doing nothing in 5e is ever the right answer except in the most dire of circumstances.

I'd definitely say no to granting additional fireballs in place of cantrips. That's just raw power.
I'd suggest sticking to additional 1st level slots, but granting automatic upcasts as well. So any first level spell cast by a 11th level caster is cast as if from a 3rd level slot, but they can't actually cast a fireball using it.

I like the free upcast idea.

However this may or may not be useful depending on whether the problem is to remove attack cantrip use, or to increase caster nova, or what.

What if there was no problem?

No, that is not the only reason why someone responding to a request for help evaluating a fix might want to know what the fix is intended to actually do before evaluating it.
No one knows what variations might be more fair and balanced because no one knows what was unfair and out-of-balance in the first place. Any variation we might suggest could be better, or could be the exact thing that you are trying to move away from.

I'm just intending to discuss this houserule. You don't need to know why to do that. Worst case is you actually have to discuss circumstances you can envision the houserule being good and circumstances you can envision it being bad. Why's it so hard to just do that?

Given that the majority of their post was actually doing exactly what you had requested, perhaps a little less public accusation of unpleasantness is in order. I would avoid claiming to know someones true intentions on the basis of a few sentences, and I certainly wouldn't make claims as to someone else's beliefs and motivations on that basis.

He read my early posts where I made it quite clear my stance about asking why on this topic and chose to do that anyways. He deserved more than unpleasantness for that but I thought it best to try and be a little softer. Maybe I won't regret that decision.

You might not like the opinions about your changes expressed in the rest of that post, but you were the one requesting opinions.

And if he or you or anyone else gives me opinions in that manner you know what to expect. All opinions are welcome, but don't expect to come to the thread I started and present them the wrong way and watch me roll over and then complain about me not rolling over.


As long as i get to be the frog
OK. Now we're getting somewhere. Why do you feel useless?

Why do you feel it's not?

Scaling cantrip damage isn't generally as high as a martial class' weapon attacks, but is generally in a similar ballpark.

Also a non-scaling 1d10 cantrip while not as high as a 2d10 damage cantrip, its still in a similar ballpark as it.

Is the rest of your party heavily optimised, such that your cantrip damage actually is very significantly less than their weapon damage?

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.

Are your attack cantrips of elements or effects that are commonly resisted by the opponents you generally fight in that campaign?


What sort of level of effect would a scaling cantrip require before you would no longer regard it as minuscule and useless?

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?


Three-Headed Sirrush
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.)


As long as i get to be the frog
No, the reason the 'why' is important is because one needs to know what the end goal of the change is to comment on whether or not it accomplishes that.

I'm going to ask you in the nicest way possible to please stop derailing my thread by repeatedly asking why.

I will add this: The end goal of the thread is to discuss the change, if you want to get into nuances of when the change is good and when it's bad I'm all for that and I think that would actually make for a very interesting discussion.

Glad you can read my mind and know what I'm thinking.

I didn't have to read your mind, I just had to read your posts.

Though no, there are a lot of things in 5e that need design polish. The problem is that generally the designers of the game know how their system works better than someone doing homebrew; and their design has the benefit of extensive playtesting. That doesn't mean it's perfect, somehow the beast master ranger got through playtest, but it does mean that one should approach redesigns with caution or risk throwing the game's balance off wildly.

Posting a thread and asking for where this will throw off game balance wildly is being cautious. Care to actually talk about where it's going to throw off game balance wildly?

Removing something that is assumed in this edition, that casters have something functional to do with their turn even if they don't burn a resource,

You keep saying I'm removing a functional thing for a caster to do every turn, but all I've done is nerfed how strong the functional thing they can do every turn is. They can still do it. It's still resource-free to do it. Heck I even compensate them with extra spell slots for nerfing that.

is a big change to make without having a solid design reason why. The design reason, the "why," is critical as to whether or not your solution is a good one.

I never asked if my change was objectively good. In fact I could care less about that because there isn't an objective answer to that question. Instead I asked if you liked it (you don't and that's fine). I asked about where it would be wildly imbalanced and any other pitfalls.

Are casters too strong, and you think they need a nerf outside of their big resources?

I intend for change to be as power neutral as possible.

Do you feel cantrips in some way compete with martial characters and their damage output?


Do you want cantrips to just feel super weak and spells to feel stronger generally?


There are a lot of reasons one could dislike cantrips as they are, and each one would require a different assessment and a different approach. In order to know if a fix is appropriate, first one needs to know the problem.

Or my change has nothing to do with disliking cantrips...

You getting defensive when asked why shows you probably shouldn't be asking the general public things like this.

I get defensive because it's an effective deterrent and I already know what happens when people ask why and someone answer that question. I've seen it to many times. Instead of discussing their idea, it doesn't get discussed. Instead what gets discussed is whether the reason for the change is legitimate, then it goes into what behaviors at the table are causing the OP to think that and finally a little may get said about whether there is some other different way that "solves" whatever reason was given. No thanks.

I don't have a problem that needs solved. I have a discussion I want to have about a change I thought up.

You're welcome, I suppose. It's still a totally relevant question if you are serious about wanting a critique of the homebrew.

Just drop it already?

Some groups play like that, some don't. This change would ensure that yours has no choice but to play like that.

Well my point wasn't that all 5e group play that way, but rather that not all 5e groups play that. You see by showing that criticism is applicable to some 5e games but not others, you "gave me an out" where I am now justified to say that criticism would only apply to some games with my rule change but not to all.

Why do you think it applies to all games that would be using my suggested rule?

I think the most important question to ask yourself is: "Would my change be fun for the players in my group?" I don't think it would. I don't think most players would enjoy having their already piddling at-will damage functionally removed.

I don't ever see players getting excited about cantrips. I see them getting excited about casting encounter changing spells which require spell slots. I don't see how nerfing something they don't get excited about and giving them more of something they get excited about could ever lead to less fun.

By the way there is a common argumentative tactic used where one constantly mentions the negatives but never the positives when it comes to a trade. You're doing that an awful lot. I just wanted to pointed that out.

It might be possible you've characterized my view inaccurately in your unnecessarily defensive response.

It might be that you don't understand my full dedication to not having my thread derailed with the question "why"

It depends, but mostly this statement wrong. If you have a melee character who can hit reasonably hard (assuming something like sneak attack, sharpshooter, great weapon master is present), the advantage on a big hit is going to far, far outweigh a d8 of damage. At level 11 you are probably going to have a melee character who can hit harder than 1d8+5, and the increased chance to hit and/or crit on a big attack is going to dramatically outweigh throwing a d8 out.

Sure if your a ranger with hunters mark or a paladin with improved divine smite or a character with sharpshooter or GWM that's true. But you didn't specify any of that. In fact you just said fighter. Fighter's tend to do maybe 1d8+7 damage per attack. Help action will give one attack advantage. Best case is you increase that single attacks chance to hit by 25%. .25*11.5 is pretty close to .5*5.5.... just saying...

Ignoring the question of "why" entirely, your homebrew is just a bad idea because while some groups have casters who go nova, run out of steam, and rest... your change would make that playstyle mandatory. Suggesting that it's mandatory right now, as you seemed to do earlier, is just not true.

The point I was making was that such a playstyle is not mandantory under current rules nor with my change.
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