D&D 5E Cantrips, a Curious Thing

Clint_L

Hero
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!).
One thing I've toyed with is getting rid of the free spells so that just getting a spell is a big deal - sure fireball is great, but only once you finally get your hands on it. But in 5e this would probably just make everyone roll sorcerers.

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.

For me, this depends on the class. I don't think wizards, aside from Bladesingers, should be very skilled with weapons compared to folks who spend all their time training with weapons as opposed to studying magic. On the other hand, I wouldn't mind seeing clerics a bit more weapon dependent, though the game already kind of does this with the appropriate sub-classes.
 
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Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Cantrips are a servant to the goal of balancing damage output across classes.

Which used to make sense to me, until I saw the light dark and switched to Shadowdark.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Curious - do you use orisons/cantrips in 1E, and have you ever had anyone take Cantrip in 2E? I loved the former but hated and never saw anyone use Cantrip in 2E.
So I've taken Cantrip in 2e, because the idea of unlimited cantrips for 1 hour/level sounded pretty good, but the DM I had in that game was really strict with what I could do with the spell, the age old problem with open ended design vs. narrow design, I guess, to the point that I just stopped bothering.

That having been said, I still tended to cast it at higher levels, just because I think it's cool to be able to do small things like light a fire or perform minor tricks; it makes my character feel more magical, and the cost of a single spell slot, at say, level 9, isn't a big deal.
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
So I've taken Cantrip in 2e, because the idea of unlimited cantrips for 1 hour/level sounded pretty good, but the DM I had in that game was really strict with what I could do with the spell, the age old problem with open ended design vs. narrow design, I guess, to the point that I just stopped bothering.

That having been said, I still tended to cast it at higher levels, just because I think it's cool to be able to do small things like light a fire or perform minor tricks; it makes my character feel more magical, and the cost of a single spell slot, at say, level 9, isn't a big deal.
This reminds me of the colour of magic article in an old dragon magazine. It was for BECMI and suggested that magic-users should be able to perform small magics for free, so a magic-user known for flinging fireballs can probably dispense with flint and tinder to light his pipe, and one who has mastered spells such as levitate, floating disc, and telekinetic fist (a different version of magic missile) can shuffle cards telekinetically.

Basically it was small stuff that wasn't useful in combat but showed that these were magical people that could do magical things.
 

Clint_L

Hero
This reminds me of the colour of magic article in an old dragon magazine. It was for BECMI and suggested that magic-users should be able to perform small magics for free, so a magic-user known for flinging fireballs can probably dispense with flint and tinder to light his pipe, and one who has mastered spells such as levitate, floating disc, and telekinetic fist (a different version of magic missile) can shuffle cards telekinetically.

Basically it was small stuff that wasn't useful in combat but showed that these were magical people that could do magical things.
Yeah, as I recall when cantrips first appeared, they were all utility things, or super minor effects like "sneeze," stuff like that. I think you got them for trading in higher level spell slots, or something? The idea was that they were stuff that apprentice magic-users did. I remember that we tried them out and had fun figuring out how they could be used to mess with monsters and NPCs. Like, could you think of a way to make "warm beverage" actually useful in the current game?
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Curious - do you use orisons/cantrips in 1E, and have you ever had anyone take Cantrip in 2E? I loved the former but hated and never saw anyone use Cantrip in 2E.
I don't like cantrips, particularly attack cantrips, in any edition. Back in the TSR days they were easy to ignore, and they didn't get used in combat if you did want them.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yeah, as I recall when cantrips first appeared, they were all utility things, or super minor effects like "sneeze," stuff like that. I think you got them for trading in higher level spell slots, or something?
You got access to (a certain number of) them for free to put in your book, on the assumption you had learned them as part of your pre-1st-level training; and to prepare/cast four of them used a 1st-level spell slot.
The idea was that they were stuff that apprentice magic-users did. I remember that we tried them out and had fun figuring out how they could be used to mess with monsters and NPCs.
Micah Sweet said:
I don't like cantrips, particularly attack cantrips, in any edition. Back in the TSR days they were easy to ignore, and they didn't get used in combat if you did want them.
We found some hellaciously good non-combat uses for a few of the TSR cantrips. Present, as written, is wonderful for a MU or MU-Thief who likes to steal little shiny things*. Colour has been used many many times in ways both prankish and useful. Clean and Dry cantrips are just plain handy sometimes. Once in a while someone uses Firefinger.

But yeah, of that great long list in UA there's only half a dozen ever see the light of day. The rest might as well not exist.

* - one DM I knew actually upgraded Present to a 2nd-level spell after seeing what we did with it. I went the other way and long ago downgraded Wizard Mark (a.k.a. the most useless spell ever) to a cantrip.
 


James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
So prestidigitation used to be just a whole lot of other spells to keep track of then?
Not only that, the original version of Prestidigitation was a 1st level spell and not a cantrip! Also it's effect was entirely different:
Prestidigitation.jpg
 

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