Damage Spell Scaling

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Is there any level that casting burning hands in a level 1 or 2 slot actually becomes better than an attack action with my proposal?
Challenge accepted. I'll give you spells that do it directly, spells that do it by adding on, and then show that the spell damage is even more than that.

First, a list of ones with either area of effect or repeating damage that do more.

Burning Hands - your sample. At 5th with two target that's 8d6 damage. Equivalent to 2d6+7 great sword with Extra Attack which is pretty good at 5th. Catch more than two in the 15' cone and you'll do a lot more.
Flaming Sphere (bonus action repeat means a single casting will add up to way more than a single Attack action)
Heat Metal (same as Flaming Sphere)
Magic Missile (3x 2d4+1 with no chance to miss is more than an Attack action once you consider miss chance.)
Scorching Ray (3 x 3d6 works out to be two attacks of a greatsword doing 2d6+8. +8 is nice bonus damage to be doing at 5th. 9d6 blows sneak attack out fo the water).
Shatter (with multiple foes in a 20' diameter)
Spike Growth (debatable. stepping on one square isn't more than an attack action. But cast in a hallway where someone needs to go across 40' of it will add +8d4 (avg 20) at 5th, +16d4 (40) at 11th, and +24d4 (60) at 17th.)

Then there are the ones that stack with other actions by only being a bonus action to cast:

Hellish Rebuke (well, reaction to cast in this case)
Spiritual Weapon (like Heat Metal, but just a bonus action to initiate to it always wills stack)
All 1-2 level paladin smite spells

And don't forget the ranger and the warlock's damage adjusters of Hunter's Mark and Hex - those will start adding a heck of a lot more damage.

(This is just looking at PHB spells quickly, I tossed a lot of "nicer but not nicer enough", nor did I look through XGtE)

Now let's multiply that that many leveled damage spells still do half damage on a successful save. So even if the succcess damage is similar to an Attack action, the expected damage is greater since attacks do nothing on miss.

And finally, let's remember that it's about the damage done, not just the dice. Due to the nature of only two proficient saves, even with good ability scores most foes will have 2-4 good saves total. So having a wider selection of worthwhile damage spells means a wider ability to pick the save (and damage type) that is best against a particular foe. So while hitting remains roughly static with bounded accuracy over levels, an increasing DC vs. a flat save makes that damage spells with saves will get more likely to do their full damage if you have a big enough pool to have the right type of save - and this makes it that you will.

Again, I'm fine with spells doing more than attacks - this is just showing that making low level spells viable damage dealers at higher levels means that more actions per day will be > attacks with fewer level for cantrips doing < attacks, so the average damage for the caster will improve above weapon attacker ranges.

The point isn't about any particular spell, it's about replacing < weapon Actions (cantrips) with > weapon Actions (now-viable low level damage spells) over the course of a day raising the average.
 
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neogod22

Explorer
It is pretty simple:

You get 4 spell points per caster level. Paladins and Rangers get 2 points. Eldritch Knight and Arcane Trickster get 1 point IIRC (I'd have to check with our DM).

You gain additional points equal to your spellcasting ability score modifier. Mutlticlass casters add for each spellcasting ability score used.

Spells cost 1 point per spell level.

That's the general gist of it.
I looked at the spell point system option in the DMG and felt that it's still the same thing as the spell slot system.

I really like how they did it in Rifts. Higher level spells felt more powerful and it showed by the points it took to cast the spells. Also what I liked about it, was you can overcharge your spells to do more damage. For example say firebolt cost 5 PPE and did 1d6 damage. You could spend 50 PPE and have it do 1d6×10 damage.

Also, I think spell points come into play when dealing with ritual magic, especially when you have multiple casters on a ritual. I think D&D did a terrible job with this. With a spell point system like Rifts, many of the high level spells were rituals in the fact that a single wizard didn't have enough points to cast the spell themselves, so multiple wizards would have to channel magic into the spell. So the more wizards, the less strain it put on each individual wizard in the casting, and the faster the spell could be cast. This used to be essential for doing things like trying to close a rift when all types of horrors would be coming out of it.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
I looked at the spell point system option in the DMG and felt that it's still the same thing as the spell slot system.

I really like how they did it in Rifts. Higher level spells felt more powerful and it showed by the points it took to cast the spells. Also what I liked about it, was you can overcharge your spells to do more damage. For example say firebolt cost 5 PPE and did 1d6 damage. You could spend 50 PPE and have it do 1d6×10 damage.

Also, I think spell points come into play when dealing with ritual magic, especially when you have multiple casters on a ritual. I think D&D did a terrible job with this. With a spell point system like Rifts, many of the high level spells were rituals in the fact that a single wizard didn't have enough points to cast the spell themselves, so multiple wizards would have to channel magic into the spell. So the more wizards, the less strain it put on each individual wizard in the casting, and the faster the spell could be cast. This used to be essential for doing things like trying to close a rift when all types of horrors would be coming out of it.
The point system in the DMG is almost identical to the spell slot system which is why we use our own. Our point system doesn't cap spells above 5th level, allows for more casting (use all your points for nothing but level one spells and you will be hard pressed to run out), etc.

Wow, I haven't thought about Rifts in years! :)

We do have a feature called "overcasting" but it has only been used a few times (in dire need):

Overcasting
You can choose to cast a spell you know at a level higher than you can normally cast. You cannot cast a spell at a level higher than your level in your spellcasting class. When you do so, the spell point cost for your spell is doubled and you take psychic damage equal to the spell points used.

Ex. A 7th-level Wizard with 32 spell points wants to overcast a lightning bolt. He can cast the spell at 4th-level normally by spending 4 spell points (for 9d6 damage). He can overcast it up to 7th-level (his level as a Wizard) but it would cost him 14 spell points and he would take 14 psychic damage, but his lightning bolt would do 12d6 damage!
 

neogod22

Explorer
The point system in the DMG is almost identical to the spell slot system which is why we use our own. Our point system doesn't cap spells above 5th level, allows for more casting (use all your points for nothing but level one spells and you will be hard pressed to run out), etc.

Wow, I haven't thought about Rifts in years! :)

We do have a feature called "overcasting" but it has only been used a few times (in dire need):

Overcasting
You can choose to cast a spell you know at a level higher than you can normally cast. You cannot cast a spell at a level higher than your level in your spellcasting class. When you do so, the spell point cost for your spell is doubled and you take psychic damage equal to the spell points used.

Ex. A 7th-level Wizard with 32 spell points wants to overcast a lightning bolt. He can cast the spell at 4th-level normally by spending 4 spell points (for 9d6 damage). He can overcast it up to 7th-level (his level as a Wizard) but it would cost him 14 spell points and he would take 14 psychic damage, but his lightning bolt would do 12d6 damage!
So how does that work with casters above level 9?
 

aco175

Adventurer
Initially I find myself coming sown with the points others made with the wizard not needing anything and they are powerful enough. First page of the thread I was thinking that after we boost the casters we need to scale fighter damage to keep up, but that didn't make sense. Then I thought with the increased power from scaling the damage for casters we should double the XP they need to gain a level, but that may not be right.

A thought on your perceived problem that may help would be to have casters burn a slot and have damage dice equal to 2x the level apply to the next spell. I still feel that you need to give something for the increase in power. It would greatly impact the 5MWD groups by letting the cater burn all his spells and add 20dice to the damage of only one big spell.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
So how does that work with casters above level 9?
It maxes out once a caster reaches 9th level since no spell can be cast as might than a 9th-level spell.

For example, if you wanted to overcast Chain Lightning (level 6) and you were a 14th-level wizard, you can overcast it to the maximum 9th-level spell, gaining three additional arcs (total of 6) off of the initial target. This would cost 18 spell points and deal 18 psychic damage to the caster.
 

neogod22

Explorer
Initially I find myself coming sown with the points others made with the wizard not needing anything and they are powerful enough. First page of the thread I was thinking that after we boost the casters we need to scale fighter damage to keep up, but that didn't make sense. Then I thought with the increased power from scaling the damage for casters we should double the XP they need to gain a level, but that may not be right.

A thought on your perceived problem that may help would be to have casters burn a slot and have damage dice equal to 2x the level apply to the next spell. I still feel that you need to give something for the increase in power. It would greatly impact the 5MWD groups by letting the cater burn all his spells and add 20dice to the damage of only one big spell.
The way I view it is, and Frogweaver has not tried to hide it, he wants a free way to do more damage with his AOE spells. The PHB and DMG says in the magic section that single target spells are made to do more damage than AOE by virtue of AOE can do more overall. He is using the argument that cantrips will eventually out damage the 1st and 2nd lvl. AOEs, which is only true if used against single targets. He's not wrong for having that opinion, but I think it's delish and wrong. He hasn't given a valid demonstration on how it's broken. I did notice he conveniently left out the fact that with cantrips, if you miss or the opponent passes their save, nothing happens, whereas with leveled spells, you're usually going to take half damage at least (if you make the save).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Why is this still going? Most spells at levels 1 and 2 will do more when you cast at a higher spell slot. They don't need to get strong because YOU GET HIGHER LEVEL SPELLS. At higher levels, you don't even need to use cantrips, becsuse you have so many slots.
You have lots of slots, yes; but I think the OP is concerned that a considerable number of those slots end up not being as useful as they perhaps ought to be - particularly for a blast-mage concept.

Keep in mind, of course, that while you can always use a higher-level slot to cast a lower-level spell you're at the same time removing your ability to use that slot for anything else that day.

D&D is not a PVP game.
Oh? Since when?
 

neogod22

Explorer
You have lots of slots, yes; but I think the OP is concerned that a considerable number of those slots end up not being as useful as they perhaps ought to be - particularly for a blast-mage concept.

Keep in mind, of course, that while you can always use a higher-level slot to cast a lower-level spell you're at the same time removing your ability to use that slot for anything else that day.

Oh? Since when?
I understand that ppl want to do more damage and make the most overpowered build possible, but I don't see where it is broken.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I feel like you don't understand how a wizard works, and therefore probably shouldn't play one. If you like single target damaging spells, then maybe you should just play an eldritch blast spamming warlock. That's not the purpose of the wizard. To put it in 4e terms. The wizard is a battlefield controller.
Funny - I always thought the purpose of the wizard was to blow the batcrap out of anything within range.

Sure they can, if given the right spell selection, be battlefield stage directors and traffic cops; but where's the fun in that?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The difference between 1e and 5e is that in 1e and 2e, when the cantrips were level 1 spells, they had to automatically scale because you couldn't cast spells at a higher level, you had to prepare the same spell multiple times a day if you wanted to cast it more than once, if you prepare a spell you didn't use that day, it was a wasted slot, and if you ran out of spell slots, you were completely defenseless. Also then came the balance issue, where the wizard became so much more powerful than everything else at high levels.

Cantrips gave a wizard viability and survivability over those previous editions without breaking the game. If you're old enough to have played back in those days, then you should have recognized this.
Part of the trade-off for wizards becoming so powerful at higher levels was that they had to get there, and didn't always. Increasing their low-level survivability, all other things being equal, makes the problem worse not better.

Also, if you'll recall 1e had cantrips - they came in in Unearthed Arcana - but none of them did damage greater than 1 hit point.

That said, I don't at all mind 1e-style damage scaling on spells.
 
I understand that ppl want to do more damage and make the most overpowered build possible, but I don't see where it is broken.
Let's start with a hypothetical - suppose I wanted to increase the damage of level 1 and level 2 spells by 1 after level 5.

Would you still be complaining that I'm wanting to make the most overpowered build possible? Or would you recognize that the single damage on those few spells isn't going to significantly power up the caster at all?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I understand that ppl want to do more damage and make the most overpowered build possible, but I don't see where it is broken.
It's interesting - and I'm not singling you out here for any reason other than your post brought on this thought - but whenever anyone complains about wizard types being overpowered the first thing that gets pointed to is the damage spells.

Yet oftentimes the damage spells are (or should be) the least of one's concerns.

A non-blasting utility-buff-stealth-mindtricks mage - now there's where the problems arise. But what those mages do isn't in-your-face like damage is, so they tend to get overlooked. (I learned this lesson in 3e playing a Wizard with Evokation as her banned school, alongside another Wizard who spec'ed in Evoking - sure the Evoker was flashy, but I was a lot more useful most of the time)
 
Challenge accepted. I'll give you spells that do it directly, spells that do it by adding on, and then show that the spell damage is even more than that.

First, a list of ones with either area of effect or repeating damage that do more.

Burning Hands - your sample. At 5th with two target that's 8d6 damage. Equivalent to 2d6+7 great sword with Extra Attack which is pretty good at 5th. Catch more than two in the 15' cone and you'll do a lot more.
Flaming Sphere (bonus action repeat means a single casting will add up to way more than a single Attack action)
Heat Metal (same as Flaming Sphere)
Magic Missile (3x 2d4+1 with no chance to miss is more than an Attack action once you consider miss chance.)
Scorching Ray (3 x 3d6 works out to be two attacks of a greatsword doing 2d6+8. +8 is nice bonus damage to be doing at 5th. 9d6 blows sneak attack out fo the water).
Shatter (with multiple foes in a 20' diameter)
Spike Growth (debatable. stepping on one square isn't more than an attack action. But cast in a hallway where someone needs to go across 40' of it will add +8d4 (avg 20) at 5th, +16d4 (40) at 11th, and +24d4 (60) at 17th.)

Then there are the ones that stack with other actions by only being a bonus action to cast:

Hellish Rebuke (well, reaction to cast in this case)
Spiritual Weapon (like Heat Metal, but just a bonus action to initiate to it always wills stack)
All 1-2 level paladin smite spells

And don't forget the ranger and the warlock's damage adjusters of Hunter's Mark and Hex - those will start adding a heck of a lot more damage.

(This is just looking at PHB spells quickly, I tossed a lot of "nicer but not nicer enough", nor did I look through XGtE)

Now let's multiply that that many leveled damage spells still do half damage on a successful save. So even if the succcess damage is similar to an Attack action, the expected damage is greater since attacks do nothing on miss.

And finally, let's remember that it's about the damage done, not just the dice. Due to the nature of only two proficient saves, even with good ability scores most foes will have 2-4 good saves total. So having a wider selection of worthwhile damage spells means a wider ability to pick the save (and damage type) that is best against a particular foe. So while hitting remains roughly static with bounded accuracy over levels, an increasing DC vs. a flat save makes that damage spells with saves will get more likely to do their full damage if you have a big enough pool to have the right type of save - and this makes it that you will.

Again, I'm fine with spells doing more than attacks - this is just showing that making low level spells viable damage dealers at higher levels means that more actions per day will be > attacks with fewer level for cantrips doing < attacks, so the average damage for the caster will improve above weapon attacker ranges.

The point isn't about any particular spell, it's about replacing < weapon Actions (cantrips) with > weapon Actions (now-viable low level damage spells) over the course of a day raising the average.
I'm dismissing the multitarget argument because the game simply doesn't value multi target damage significantly more than single target damage - else you'd actually have a major reason to cast things other than fireball for single target damage...

I'm also ignoring your recurring damage citations as they aren't really what I've had in mind this whole thread. If I need to restrict my initial criteria more then that's fine.

I'm ignoring paladin smites because it was never my intention to buff those.

I think the only spell that's left out of your list is magic missile and attack actions obviously do more than it in a level 1 slot starting in tier 2 and more than it in a level 2 slot in tier 3. That's with chance to hit factored in.

So ummm, want to try again?
 
whenever anyone complains about wizard types being overpowered the first thing that gets pointed to is the damage spells.
Yet oftentimes the damage spells are (or should be) the least of one's concerns.
Damage is easy to compare, and DPR easy to calculate.
 

neogod22

Explorer
I'm dismissing the multitarget argument because the game simply doesn't value multi target damage significantly more than single target damage - else you'd actually have a major reason to cast things other than fireball for single target damage...

I'm also ignoring your recurring damage citations as they aren't really what I've had in mind this whole thread. If I need to restrict my initial criteria more then that's fine.

I'm ignoring paladin smites because it was never my intention to buff those.

I think the only spell that's left out of your list is magic missile and attack actions obviously do more than it in a level 1 slot starting in tier 2 and more than it in a level 2 slot in tier 3. That's with chance to hit factored in.

So ummm, want to try again?
And this is why I feel you should be playing another class like a warlock. You're dismissing the majority of the strengths of a wizard and complaining it's too weak.
 

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