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D&D 5E Dnd 5e, but everything is a “spell”

delazar_fb

Villager
Well, not a “magical” spell, but a “power” that spends a resource.

Bear with me for a moment.

I’ve been introducing a few new people to the hobby, and I received a remark from some of them (well two of them, but it was so similar for both, that it got me thinking).

So I was explaining short rest abilities, spell slots, long rest abilities, etc, and these guys told me something along the lines of: wouldn’t it be easier if we had a “pool” of points, like hit points, and we use them to power our abilities? Is it really necessary to keep track of all these “little pieces”?

I thought they were referring to Spell Points, but they’d never seen the DMG. “A bit like Diablo, you know, red pool is life, blue pool is mana. But the fighter can use his mana to power fightery stuff” they explained. (They both mentioned Diablo, that’s what caught my attention)

So, could it work? Imagine you’re using Spell Points, and that all non-at-will class features are a “spell”, thus they have a level, which equals a cost in Spell Points have a cost. Not only spells, but also channel divinity, action surge, smite, rage, etc.

Taking Spell Points as a base to build this, if each feature, power, you-name-it was a spell, what spell level would it be?

How difficult would it be to assign a “level” to a class feature? If Action Surge was a spell, what level would it be? What about rage?

Most importantly, if such a thing was possible, would it really be “easier” to track? I play a high-level Rune Knight, and I must admit that sometimes I get lost among my long rest, prof bonus per long rest, short rest, twice per short rest features and so on. If I had a pool of Power Points to spend in order to power my abilities, it would be easier to track, I think.

What do you think?
 

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BigZebra

Explorer
So, 4E then? :)

(not spell points specifically, but all powers were basically equivalent — martial, arcane, etc)
Yeah exactly.

In 4e you didn't have points per se, but instead all started 1st level with like 3 at-will powers, 1 encounter power and 1 daily power, and progresses the same.
Streamlines many things, and all classes uses the same framework. A very pure design IMO. Alas many didn't like it. It felt samey to many players.

Part of 5e's success is how it hides its "gameyness" and uses natural language for everything.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
Just chiming in to recommend using coins or stones to track short rest abilities.

We always try to end the session on a rest (short or long) so they are just thrown back into a bag at the end of the session. No need to write on sheets for them.

Long rest abilities are another matter.

I feel like having a mana pool would be a lot of work too. Not only is it still something to keep track of, but the player also needs to keep track of how much each of their abilities cost and what is the best use of their mana at any given point. Much better for me to just have X level 2 spell slots and look at the level 2 spells and pick the ones I want most to cast.
 

niklinna

Looking for group
Well, not a “magical” spell, but a “power” that spends a resource.
You should have used a different title! I came here expecting something else. :p
Bear with me for a moment.
Hah! I see what you did there.
So I was explaining short rest abilities, spell slots, long rest abilities, etc, and these guys told me something along the lines of: wouldn’t it be easier if we had a “pool” of points, like hit points, and we use them to power our abilities? Is it really necessary to keep track of all these “little pieces”?
Nope. Other games do just like you said, but each design approach has its tradeoffs. Generally I see stuff like this fall into the two camps: Each individual ability has "uses per time period" tracking, or you have a pool of points to spend on things.

Uses per time period means you have multiple checklists and, as you indicated, it's a lot of pieced to keep track of.

A pool of points, on the other hand, unifies the tracking, but encourages players to use those points spamming their most powerful abilities. Any weightlifter will tell you they can't do their 1-rep max more than 1 time without a rest—it's right there in the name, right? I'll come back to this below.

Taking Spell Points as a base to build this, if each feature, power, you-name-it was a spell, what spell level would it be?

How difficult would it be to assign a “level” to a class feature? If Action Surge was a spell, what level would it be? What about rage?
Well, now you're getting into actual design, which can lead to a thicket right away, so I'm not going to propose any numbers. The obvious starting point would be to assign the level at which you get such a feature as the base cost, but again...thicket. It's doable, though.

Most importantly, if such a thing was possible, would it really be “easier” to track? I play a high-level Rune Knight, and I must admit that sometimes I get lost among my long rest, prof bonus per long rest, short rest, twice per short rest features and so on. If I had a pool of Power Points to spend in order to power my abilities, it would be easier to track, I think.
It would clearly be easier to track, as you have just the one pool shared across all your stuff, but that spamming thing would still apply. Instead of being able to activate your Cloud once per short/long rest, you could use it as many times as you like until your power pool runs out! There's a reason some abilities are siloed by uses per time period.

An alternative would be to try to simulate the 1-rep max idea. Say your most expensive power costs 5 points to activate, but once you use it, you can't use any other 5-point power for some time period: the next round, the rest of the encounter, after the next short/long rest (just as examples). If you immediately use the next level down—a 4-point power—the same applies, as you progressively tire out your max capability. But you could use as many lower-power abilities as you like.

There's another design thicket of how many points you get and how you recover them, but you can work on that if you like.

And finally, as a by the way, if you look at Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition, you will see they did exactly what you're asking for with combat maneuvers and exertion (but not with other class/subclass abilities). They didn't do the 1-rep max thing, though, so you can spam your expensive stuff as much as you like, but since the point cost range seems to be 1–3 so far, that may not be a real problem.
 
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Rabbitbait

Adventurer
You should try Numenara or Cypher System. It's a long time since I played these but I think they use that base mechanic. Good fun and you have a lot more narrative control as a player than in D&D. Worth a look anyway.
 



Stormonu

Legend
As long as you can easily keep track of what is affected by Dispel Magic/Counterspell and what cannot, it should work pretty well. Though some players may give pushback because they'll feel their character has "gone wizard".
 


Composer99

Explorer
This would be like everyone using ki (by other names). Nothing wrong with that in principle, although making the numbers work for some abilities would be tricky, as I think you've already cottoned onto.
 

DeviousQuail

Adventurer
I like the idea of pools vs X times per day. As a purely mechanical idea, you could have some powers cost a certain number of points while also reducing the maximum of the pool by a certain amount. It might not matter for one encounter but it does set a limit on the number of times you can use your certain abilities per day.

I've been playing around with this idea for a system I'm working on. I wanted a way to prevent just using your best abilities. It also gives an easy way shut down magic that would break the world if used indefinitely.
 


I feel like Action Surge is too 'Wizard' for those folks.
And yet, overall, it is their position that has won out, not the more open-minded one. I saw the vitriol from wizard fans for the proposed Spell Versatility feature for Sorcerers. Anything that threatens the Wizard's toys is bad. Anything that benefits the Wizard at the cost to other classes is merely an unfortunate necessity.
 


Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
Yes! Yes you could.

The spell point system in the DMG, when divided by 3 for short rests per long rest, is kinda close to 2/level if you squint.

Half casters can then be 1/level.

Oh look, the monk is already 1/level. Adapting them to a power system was a project of mine before Level Up was announced.
 

Delazar

Adventurer
it does look like a lot of work... maybe as someone suggested, I should look at a system that already does that, instead of completely reworing 5e

@Rabbitbait suggested Numenera, I actually own the first edition and a few scenarios. Maybe I'll give it a shot
 

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