D&D 5E Cantrips, a Curious Thing

Oofta

Legend
Maybe this is why this problem never seems to happen to me in real life? I don't play with dm's who wouldn't let a fighter build a raft. Maybe not as easily as using a spell slot, but if you have the time then it goes to whoever would know the most about boats.

I've also found that, at least in 5e, the fact that you can't prepare every spell means that in practice you can only do so much. Having the right spell for every situation assumes you have an infinite spellbook and a long rest between knowing what you're up against and needing to act on it. That doesn't seem to come up much when I play but maybe I'm the outlier?

Wizards certainly don't have all the spells available to them in my game either, nor have I seen it in any game I've played where we always know exactly what spell is needed. Scribing spells into your book is expensive unless you just throw tons o' cash at the players. It also assumes that they have access to every spell scroll under the sun. Limit any of the options and the "If the wizard can cast ..." largely goes away in my experience.
 

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Oofta

Legend
One thing I think sometimes gets ignored is that DMs will change the plot or put certain things into the game so that specific players can show off. I know one of the reasons I include some traps is to make the rogue feel important. So if you need to teleport to the other side of the world to get to the BBEG's hideout, the only reason the BBEG's hideout is not down the street is likely a decision the DM made because the wizard can teleport. If you couldn't teleport, then there would be a narrative of a long voyage that may or may not be played out.

But to bring it back, the reason to have cantrips that can always be used is a choice by the designers to make casters feel like they're relying on magic to get stuff done. Even when that stuff is less than what your fighter friend can accomplish. At higher levels frequently the spells you actually have come in handy because the DM wants them to come in handy.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Total aside, Oofta, but I do wonder what the intended rate of spell acquisition is supposed to be in 5e. My first 5e Wizard, played in AL, had to make do with their free spells, until someone pointed out to me that I can trade spells with another player as a downtime activity. Scrolls were rare at first, but then I went on an adventure that netted me a "clockwork spellbook" jam packed with spells (so much so that I bankrupted myself scribing them all, but as this was AL, well, all that really did was cut into my healing potion fund).

My current Wizard is playing in an adventure from Kobold Press (The Scarlet Citadel), and I've faced several Wizard opponents so far, and the DM has ruled all of them have spellbooks somewhere in the adventure. I've found so far three scrolls, one capture spellbook, and was able to pay a Battlemage NPC in town for access to their spellbook. As a result, at 5th level I have 27 spells currently in my book, 3 more that I can scribe once I get the time to do so, and 5 more that are too high level for me currently.

While this feels like a lot to me, I have no frame of reference for it (in 5e; I can totally tell you that my earlier edition spellcasters would drool at this potential array of spells!). And of course, the DM allows several third party Kobold press books with spells in them, and every session, the Cleric is poring over each one, as they can pick and choose any spell available; so he's comfortably wearing full plate and I'm up to my eyebrows in parchment and ink, lol.

(As an example of the current Cleric/Wizard disparity, in our last session, I spent 100gp to make a Magic Circle to protect us from some undead (we were able to lure them out into a battleground of our choice), but his use of a 3rd level spell slot (Spirit Guardians, of course), did way more work in that encounter. I know at some point I'll get crazier spells to work with, but it's pretty rough, especially when he can also cast Fireball!).
 

Oofta

Legend
Total aside, Oofta, but I do wonder what the intended rate of spell acquisition is supposed to be in 5e. My first 5e Wizard, played in AL, had to make do with their free spells, until someone pointed out to me that I can trade spells with another player as a downtime activity. Scrolls were rare at first, but then I went on an adventure that netted me a "clockwork spellbook" jam packed with spells (so much so that I bankrupted myself scribing them all, but as this was AL, well, all that really did was cut into my healing potion fund).

My current Wizard is playing in an adventure from Kobold Press (The Scarlet Citadel), and I've faced several Wizard opponents so far, and the DM has ruled all of them have spellbooks somewhere in the adventure. I've found so far three scrolls, one capture spellbook, and was able to pay a Battlemage NPC in town for access to their spellbook. As a result, at 5th level I have 27 spells currently in my book, 3 more that I can scribe once I get the time to do so, and 5 more that are too high level for me currently.

While this feels like a lot to me, I have no frame of reference for it (in 5e; I can totally tell you that my earlier edition spellcasters would drool at this potential array of spells!). And of course, the DM allows several third party Kobold press books with spells in them, and every session, the Cleric is poring over each one, as they can pick and choose any spell available; so he's comfortably wearing full plate and I'm up to my eyebrows in parchment and ink, lol.

(As an example of the current Cleric/Wizard disparity, in our last session, I spent 100gp to make a Magic Circle to protect us from some undead (we were able to lure them out into a battleground of our choice), but his use of a 3rd level spell slot (Spirit Guardians, of course), did way more work in that encounter. I know at some point I'll get crazier spells to work with, but it's pretty rough, especially when he can also cast Fireball!).

I don't think there's ever been much consistency. Sometimes every wizard you face happens to have a spellbook on them, sometimes those spellbooks are carefully hidden away and never found. So much just depends on campaign and DM. I just know that I don't seem to hit some of the issues in part because while there are some truly powerful spells you can only have so many prepared and even at the highest level you can only cast a couple. There is no assumed magic mart, so anything for sale is completely up to the DM, which includes the cost of those scrolls.
 

Pedantic

Legend
Total aside, Oofta, but I do wonder what the intended rate of spell acquisition is supposed to be in 5e. My first 5e Wizard, played in AL, had to make do with their free spells, until someone pointed out to me that I can trade spells with another player as a downtime activity. Scrolls were rare at first, but then I went on an adventure that netted me a "clockwork spellbook" jam packed with spells (so much so that I bankrupted myself scribing them all, but as this was AL, well, all that really did was cut into my healing potion fund).
I have this same problem as a DM routinely! There is just not guidance at all on what Wizard non-class spell acquisition ought to look like, and I'd really prefer a table to spell that out explicitly.
 

My experience has been that wizards shouldn't get a lot of spells beyond the free ones. You're supposed to get a consumable every level or so, but I doubt the wizard will be getting only scrolls and no potions - if half are scrolls, though, that's +10 spells in your book (assuming you can and do scribe all of them) which wouldn't be game-breaking.

Those 10 extra spells known do make a difference, though. You are more likely to have just the right tool for the job. On the other hand, each extra spell is less of a boost than before, so at some point it's no longer a big deal. I've never had more than, say, 40 or so, which is nice but not game-breaking compared to not have any extra spells known.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
I don't think there's ever been much consistency. Sometimes every wizard you face happens to have a spellbook on them, sometimes those spellbooks are carefully hidden away and never found. So much just depends on campaign and DM. I just know that I don't seem to hit some of the issues in part because while there are some truly powerful spells you can only have so many prepared and even at the highest level you can only cast a couple. There is no assumed magic mart, so anything for sale is completely up to the DM, which includes the cost of those scrolls.
I can certainly speak to the "not having all the spells you need on tap"; in order to get past a tough encounter, I tailored my spell list for it, and then in the final encounter of the session, I kept running into "oh man, if only I had this prepared instead", lol.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Also, as an aside, my own personal preferences for a magic system are way different than the current model. I don't mind the idea that a magician can use magic in every round, but the idea that non-magical classes have to struggle to do certain things that spellcasters can do easily, like, say, attack a group of foes, or deal energy damage to foes, bothers me.
My only beef with some of the cantrips is that they detract from the spellcasters using weapons, at all (the monk has a similar problem with unarmed attacks). I'd like some more cantrips along the lines of green flame blade and the like that incorporate or augment the use of weapons instead of direct replacement.

That carries into the current discussion because the scaling damage from cantrips is meant as a way to replicate/keep up with extra attacks without loudly announcing it. The infinite use also bother me because it is so much superior to having to track ammunition (not that tracking ammunition is all that fun, but it does keep things in check by requiring what is essentially a limited component).
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
My only beef with some of the cantrips is that they detract from the spellcasters using weapons, at all (the monk has a similar problem with unarmed attacks). I'd like some more cantrips along the lines of green flame blade and the like that incorporate or augment the use of weapons instead of direct replacement.

That carries into the current discussion because the scaling damage from cantrips is meant as a way to replicate/keep up with extra attacks without loudly announcing it. The infinite use also bother me because it is so much superior to having to track ammunition (not that tracking ammunition is all that fun, but it does keep things in check by requiring what is essentially a limited component).
If implements were to revert to 4e style, where they were more than "you need this to cast", and there were viable benefits between using wand/athame/orb/staff/et. al. for casters I'd be ecstatic. But wanting guys who were never meant to be in melee combat save as a last resort to use weapons seems a little strange.

As for ranged combat, it's actually still competitive with cantrips in tier 1 at least. My level 5 Wizard still pulls out their crossbow some rounds because the d8+Dex mod damage is more efficient than the one die of cantrip damage. I'd actually use it more if we weren't constantly encountering foes that are resistant to nonmagical damage, which is one of my biggest pet peeves, that so many foes are designed to highlight the benefits of being a caster, with their ability to easily deal magical elemental damage, something martials almost exclusively have to rely on outside factors for.

Watching our poor Monk struggle at low levels because all their damage keeps getting salami sliced into oblivion for no good reason bugs me, but again, this is less a complaint about cantrips, and more how many monsters are seemingly built to hate on weapon users in general.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
My only beef with some of the cantrips is that they detract from the spellcasters using weapons, at all (the monk has a similar problem with unarmed attacks). I'd like some more cantrips along the lines of green flame blade and the like that incorporate or augment the use of weapons instead of direct replacement.
This would violate the age old D&D tradition of not having conceptually satisfying gishes.
That carries into the current discussion because the scaling damage from cantrips is meant as a way to replicate/keep up with extra attacks without loudly announcing it. The infinite use also bother me because it is so much superior to having to track ammunition (not that tracking ammunition is all that fun, but it does keep things in check by requiring what is essentially a limited component).
The answer is the make it explicitly against the rules to track ammunition and encumbrance.
 

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