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D&D 5E Cantrip nerf (house rule brainstorm)

Atomoctba

Explorer
That's already a thing, so nothing really changes. But prolonged encounters, and prolonged periods between resting opportunities will make those casters think about resource management.



I'm okay with the scaling, it's the spamming that I have issue with. Running out of uses necessitates variety, as well as non-magic backup options.
Of course, mileage can vary among different parties, but in my table, it does not lead to more variety. Just to "pull dagger and attack or pull crossbow and attack" for most rounds, without any variation. In this case, I am very ok with spamming a cantrip for most rounds. If it is to repeat and repeat the same action from round to round, I prefer something more in line of the expected from a spellcaster.

Worst yet, no pull anything and attack... Just retreat to a safe distance and wait the others finish the enemies without do more anything for the combat.
 

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Teemu

Adventurer
If I wanted to restrict the spammable nature of cantrips, I might limit the use to proficiency bonus + spellcasting ability score modifier times per long rest, except warlocks for who it’s per short rest. I suppose multiclass casters would choose one ability score to determine the uses.

If you think about adventuring days, it may not actually be as debilitating as it appears at first glance. A cleric could have about 7 cantrip casts in a day, but the party isn’t dealing with infinite encounters per day. You can basically get an average number of rounds a typical day has, which could easily be 8 to 10, and many of those rounds use spell slots. This obviously ignores non-combat cantrip uses. Maybe add the ritual tag to some of the utility cantrips?
 

Stormonu

Legend
Riffing off the above, you could make the Fatigue threshold equal to Con modifier + Proficiency Bonus (minimum Proficiency Bonus).

Bonus actions are not strenuous. Taking an Action (Attack, Dash, Dodge, Cast A Spell) is strenuous. If an action is strenuous, you accumulate 1 Fatigue point. For each multiple you reach of your Fatigue threshold, you gain one level of exhaustion. Fatigue is reset to one multiple lower than the highest Fatigue threshold your have reached after a short rest.

(For example, a 1st level Fighter with 16 Con would have a Fatigue Threshhold of 5. At 5 Fatigue, the fighter would accumulate one level of exhaustion, two levels at 10 Fatigue and so on. If the Fighter had 12 Fatigue and took a short rest, they would reduce their Fatigue to 5.)

Add a new action:

Basic Attack (bonus action): You make a single weapon attack. You cannot enhance this attack with abilities such as Flurry of Blows, Extra Attack, Sneak Attack, Smite or similar class, racial abilities or spells. You do not add your ability modifier to damage. You cannot take this action and use the Attack action in the same turn.

Also become ripe for a Feat that grants a bonus to your Fatigue threshhold - say adding 2 or perhaps doubling your Proficiency bonus for the calculation.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
If I wanted to restrict the spammable nature of cantrips, I might limit the use to proficiency bonus + spellcasting ability score modifier times per long rest, except warlocks for who it’s per short rest. I suppose multiclass casters would choose one ability score to determine the uses.

If you think about adventuring days, it may not actually be as debilitating as it appears at first glance. A cleric could have about 7 cantrip casts in a day, but the party isn’t dealing with infinite encounters per day. You can basically get an average number of rounds a typical day has, which could easily be 8 to 10, and many of those rounds use spell slots. This obviously ignores non-combat cantrip uses. Maybe add the ritual tag to some of the utility cantrips?

Might come down to playstyle. When I play a caster, I tend to use stuff like prestidigitation, thaumaturgy, mage hand, and guidance out of combat as if I'm being paid every time I cast them.
 

If you must have a limit, just pick a high but still measurable number of cantrip "slots" per short rest.

10 x Proficiency Bonus/short rest would work. It satisfies the conceptual space of "not being unlimited", without impacting actual play for anyone but low level Bladedancers and Warlocks.
 

I did this and it's working great. Your spellcasting modifier = # cantrips per day. You can spend 30 days downtime to double this number, training at cost = 1gp/class level/day plus lifestyle expenses. Short rest = 8 hours sleep. Long rest = 5 downtime days.
 


nevin

Adventurer
Id suggest doing away with damage cantrips and adjust the spell table.
Or make a 1st level spell called cantrip that lets you use any of the cantrip powers for duration of spell.
 

Esbee

Dungeon Master at large.
it could be per cantrip (2 uses of Firebolt, 2 uses of Chill Touch, 2 uses of Prestidigition, etc.)

That was pretty much what I was thinking, but in reading responses I think I have the solution that fits what I'm looking for...

2) Because I like the idea of physical spell focuses (perhaps the Harry Potter fan in me?) I think cantrips should be at-will as long as you have your focus. If you don't, they cost a 1st level spell slot. "Oh look, NOW the wizard cares that we were all strip searched before being tossed in the cell."

I like this - this seems to me to be the gimmick I want - Unlimited so long as you have your Casting Focus, if you lose your casting focus you get Your level plus your proficiency modifier in total cantrip castings per long rest. As you say - very Harry Potter, but it works well (in theory at least).

I'll note it in my doc of house rules and ponder it further.
 

jgsugden

Legend
This assumes non-combat cantrips are meaningless, which they're not, and also that you're using all your spell slots in combat, which you're not. Also assumes you're not a warlock, with 2 spell slots, pretty much reliant on the eldritch blast cantrip in combat for almost all its builds.
What non-combat cantrips are you seeing spammed? Light? Mold Earth? Mage Hand? Prestidigitation/Thaumatury? It is a rare occurence that using these cantrips is anything more than a convenience.

This is much ado bout nothing.
 


Immoralkickass

Explorer
Why do grognards assume that when a magic user run out of 'mana', they are completely empty like a dry water tank? In most games where characters that have stamina bars, when their stamina his 0, they don't just fall over and lie still, don't they? They usually just can't sprint/jump/use abilities that consume stamina.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Yes.

Because it is not about "being winded" but about thematic sense of "magic" being linked to its limits and restrictions. I know this is an unpopular view these days - but having played wizards in older editions who sometimes had to get creative with what few spells they have left or even with non-magic solutions was as fun as casting magic some damage dealing spell.
It's not that your talking about an "unpopular view", your just ignoring the fact that casters back then were basically one step shy of Robin Williams in Aladdin while the martials were well... that monkey running for cover. 5e casters are lightyears from that to such a degree that it's hard to be taken seriously when trying to turn that caster dial up even a notch or two without rebuilding everything
 

What non-combat cantrips are you seeing spammed? Light? Mold Earth? Mage Hand? Prestidigitation/Thaumatury? It is a rare occurence that using these cantrips is anything more than a convenience.
Situationally, if Mold Earth and Mending etc are infinitely spammable, they put whole occupations out of work. Moving a 5ft cube of earth 5 feet every 6 seconds (or whatever time a round represents these days) basically makes shovels obsolete, Prestidigitation does the same for pretty much any cleaning task, and Mending means that stuff absolutely never need wear out or remain broken, and the implications of THAT on the economics of people trying to make a living from (for instance) tailoring or shoemaking or damn near any form of craftsmanship are pretty obvious.

Of course, this need never bother you in a game if you choose not to think about it, unless a PC decides to set up a 'we repair anything in 6 seconds!' shop. But it does have big implications on the implied setting.
 

neogod22

Explorer
The issue I have with this is, cantrips are already oretty limiting. While they can get up to 4 dice in damage, in most cases because it is magic, you don't get to add any modifiers to it. Also you only get 1 attack per round in most cases. So sure when you look at max damage in a level 20 caster, a cantrip can do usually between 32 - 40 damage per round, may sound acceptable, but the problem is, on a missed attack (or a save) you do 0 damage. Minimum damage is 4. So in reality you'll probably average around 16-20 damage in a hit, which fir level 20 characters is pretty weak. A fighter with a +3 weapon and a max on his primary stat is going to do a minimum of 36-38 damage depending on the weapon they use assuming that all 4 attacks hit, and the fighter rolled all 1s. For the most part, cantrips are not strong. They may seem strong when you look at the number of dice, but because of black of modifiers to damage, and multi-attacks, the are actually weak for the most part. I am aware that there are a few exceptions, but exceptions don't make the rule.
 

Dross

Explorer
Casters can cast a number of cantrips equal to their Int score per short rest, or suffer a level of exhaustion

Weapon users can make a number of weapon attacks equal to their Con score per short rest, or suffer a level of exhaustion.

What? If you want to limit at will abilities, limit at will abilities.
If you use Int as the determining factor, anyone using some other ability to cast is even more impacted, i.e. cleric, druid.

In my experience guidance is the most used non combat cantrip, but even then some basic rules enforcement can cover that problem (if it comes up for us)?
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Hello all,

A bugbear about 5e (for me at least) was the idea of unlimited spammable cantrips for casters. To us 'get off my lawn' grognards, this seems a touch excessive.

I had an idea for a nerf I wanted to brainstorm - Each cantrip can only be cast a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus. Recover all uses upon short rest.

And discuss...
Exact opposite direction I want to go. More uses early on. About a whole adventuring day's worth, less an action or two,

As a grognard, the "hey, spend most of your adventuring day using a non-prime ability score to use a weapon without any class features to back it up" was just boring and also sucky as you were not very effective.

Make me feel like a magic user the entire day, and at least somewhat effective after my "potion bottles" of slots have been used up at low levels. If the goal of the game is to have fun, going back to weapons is literal losing the game.

Don't want cantrips, that's fine. but replace it with something else. Wands purchasable like normal weapons (as common, same prices) that let you inflict reasonable ranged damage using your casting score. Something to keep you relevant.

Also, the idea that "oh no, being able to float over my pipe and light it with a snap of my fingers" offends you as a grognard, considering that in all of the fiction wizards did that sort of thing all the time, is really selective memory. So allow unlimited non-combat cantrips.
 

My preference would be to have some more complex spells that last for a minute and don't require concentration but allow one to have a continous attack.

A basic spell might be one that lets you make a group of arrows hover around you and you can then spend an attack to let you fling them at someone as a ranged spell attack. Or you summon six little spheres each of a different energy type and you can fling a different one each round.

But you can take a lot of spells and add cantrips to them. For example casting Fireshield might let you use flamestrike at will. Casting Fog cloud might let you try and strangle someone in the cloud with thickened wreaths of fog. If you have Bane cast on someone you can make melee attacks using Wisdom or attacks and damage.
 

Cantrips do 1/3 to 1/2 the damage of martial attacks, and the wizards need something due to how much they got nerfed. Are you going to get rid of Concentration and bring back spells increasing damage with caster level?

If you're going to do this without breaking things, the resource is going to need to be plentiful enough that there's no practical consequences in-game, because realistically, wizards use their cantrips no more than about a dozen times in a day.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
I think nerfing the attack cantrip uses will work fine. At lower levels the mages will turn to crossbows daggers and darts, like prior editions. And they will do fine with that. I'd just make sure you're more lenient with the "free hand plus component hand" rules.

At mid and higher levels, they have so many spell slots that the cantrips take a back seat in quantity of use anyway.

So sure, it should work out OK. Just, don't harsh them on the technicalities of dropping and drawing and stowing the ranged attack weapons at those low levels with component pouches and somatic gestures and all that jazz. Let them take a meaningful action towards combat every round if they run out of spell slots and cantrips to use.

As for the non-attack cantrips I would consider increasing those uses by treating some as a ritual. So if you have the mending cantrip, you can limit "normal" usage but allow more uses if they add a minute or 10 minutes to each casting to do it as a ritual.
 

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