D&D 5E Epic Spells for 5e

Salmakia

Explorer
I love epic spells from earlier editions, and so I've tried to create a model that would allow high level (17th-20th level) characters to brew spells in 5th edition. I've translated a lot of the rules from 3.5e and tried to scale them to 5e. Clearly this presents some inherent problems:
  • XP is not a resource in 5e like it was in previous editions
  • We don't get the crazy +50 bonuses to spell checks
  • The overall balance of combat has changed with mechanics like advantage. Attack rolls also generally cap far lower than they used to
  • I've found that we often get a lot less gold than we used to, even at super high levels. 10,000gp is a lot, and 100,000gp is absolutely astronomical. Maybe that's just the games I've been playing but I balanced the gp costs to that trend
  • "Permanency" is no longer a spell, and the functionality of "dispel magic" is changed drastically

That said, I've lowered all the Spellcraft DCs for the epic seeds to account for lower spellcasting checks, rebalanced the gp & time costs to account for differences in gameplay, and reimagined the factors and mitigating factors to account for differences in the magical landscape and the lack of XP as a burnable resource. I know I've reimagined some things from 3.5e, and I'm ok with that. I want these spells to be feasibly playable in a 5e Tier 4 game.

I've brewed a bunch of spells with this system and I think it works pretty well. However, there are only so many options I can think of. If anyone is game, I'd love playtesting help with this. What sorts of game-breaky spells can be created under this system? (assuming an average 20th-level caster with +5 ability modifier and +6 proficiency). To be clear, I still want the spells to feel epic in scope, but I don't want to create a system that totally destroys a Tier 4 game. I have yet to introduce this into my own games due to that lack of playtesting. And, of course, if you enjoy epic spells feel free to use this system or modify it as best suits your game.
 

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Quickleaf

Legend
Going to try creating an epic spell using your system...

I want to create on ongoing ward that protects an entire city from siege weapons. Seems suitably epic.

So I turn to the Ward spell seed with a Base DC 6, but this assumes concentrating for one hour. Pah! Measly! This spell will last for at least 10 years (87,600 hours) if not generations to come!

DC +10 Immunity to Bludgeoning
DC +20 Making it so concentration isn't required
DC +5 Double duration to 2 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 4 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 8 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 16 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 32 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 64 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 128 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 256 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 512 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 1,024 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 2,048 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 4,096 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 8,192 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 16,384 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 32,768 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 65,536 hours

Uff...this is a lot. I'll settle there at about 7-1/2 years. So far the DC is 116...

But Ward at baseline can only target a creature/object or a 10-ft-radius sphere (+3 DC). That's not big enough for a city...

Let's say my modest city is about 2,400 feet by 2,400 feet, so a sphere of radius 1,200-ft will encompass the entire city.

So...
DC +3 to change it to a 10 ft sphere...
DC +5 double to 20 ft
DC +5 double to 40 ft
DC +5 double to 80 ft
DC +5 double to 160 ft
DC +5 double to 320 ft
DC +5 double to 640 ft
DC +5 double to 1,280 ft

Thus, the "Seven Years of the City's Unbroken Walls" spell has a DC 154. Which is untenable because a d20 roll is required adding Spellcasting Ability (+5) and Proficiency Bonus (+6). So I need to bring that DC waaaaay down, ideally to 21 or thereabouts.

Ok, I look at the Mitigating Factors... This will definitely take longer than an action (default for Ward), that's easy...

DC -20 Increase casting time to 10 minutes
DC -20 Increase casting time by 10 hours (i.e. 10 hrs, 10 min)

That brings the DC down to "just" 114.

Ok, so it's also going to drain a bunch of my spell slots to do this... I want to leave my 7th level teleport "in the bank" in case we get ambushed, but as a 17th-level magic-user I have spell slots to spare....

DC -4 expend four 1st level slots
DC -6 expend three 2nd level slots
DC -9 expend three 3rd level slots
DC -12 expend three 4th level slots
DC -10 expend two 5th level slots
DC -6 expend 6th level slot
DC -8 expend 8th level slot
DC -9 expend 9th level slot

That brings the DC down to "just" 50.

Ok, so now it's time to pay some gold or bodily sacrifice to get the DC down to a manageable level. I'm guessing that 5,000 gp worth of sapphire dust seem appropriate.

-2 DC per 100 gp components consumed... Wait... so that would bring the DC down to 0? Is that right?
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I love epic spells from earlier editions, and so I've tried to create a model that would allow high level (17th-20th level) characters to brew spells in 5th edition. I've translated a lot of the rules from 3.5e and tried to scale them to 5e. Clearly this presents some inherent problems:
  • XP is not a resource in 5e like it was in previous editions
  • We don't get the crazy +50 bonuses to spell checks
  • The overall balance of combat has changed with mechanics like advantage. Attack rolls also generally cap far lower than they used to
  • I've found that we often get a lot less gold than we used to, even at super high levels. 10,000gp is a lot, and 100,000gp is absolutely astronomical. Maybe that's just the games I've been playing but I balanced the gp costs to that trend
  • "Permanency" is no longer a spell, and the functionality of "dispel magic" is changed drastically

That said, I've lowered all the Spellcraft DCs for the epic seeds to account for lower spellcasting checks, rebalanced the gp & time costs to account for differences in gameplay, and reimagined the factors and mitigating factors to account for differences in the magical landscape and the lack of XP as a burnable resource. I know I've reimagined some things from 3.5e, and I'm ok with that. I want these spells to be feasibly playable in a 5e Tier 4 game.

I've brewed a bunch of spells with this system and I think it works pretty well. However, there are only so many options I can think of. If anyone is game, I'd love playtesting help with this. What sorts of game-breaky spells can be created under this system? (assuming an average 20th-level caster with +5 ability modifier and +6 proficiency). To be clear, I still want the spells to feel epic in scope, but I don't want to create a system that totally destroys a Tier 4 game. I have yet to introduce this into my own games due to that lack of playtesting. And, of course, if you enjoy epic spells feel free to use this system or modify it as best suits your game.
Since you're making new spells anyway, why not just put permanency back in?
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Going to try creating an epic spell using your system...

I want to create on ongoing ward that protects an entire city from siege weapons. Seems suitably epic.

So I turn to the Ward spell seed with a Base DC 6, but this assumes concentrating for one hour. Pah! Measly! This spell will last for at least 10 years (87,600 hours) if not generations to come!

DC +10 Immunity to Bludgeoning
DC +20 Making it so concentration isn't required
DC +5 Double duration to 2 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 4 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 8 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 16 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 32 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 64 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 128 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 256 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 512 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 1,024 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 2,048 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 4,096 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 8,192 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 16,384 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 32,768 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 65,536 hours

Uff...this is a lot. I'll settle there at about 7-1/2 years. So far the DC is 116...

But Ward at baseline can only target a creature/object or a 10-ft-radius sphere (+3 DC). That's not big enough for a city...

Let's say my modest city is about 2,400 feet by 2,400 feet, so a sphere of radius 1,200-ft will encompass the entire city.

So...
DC +3 to change it to a 10 ft sphere...
DC +5 double to 20 ft
DC +5 double to 40 ft
DC +5 double to 80 ft
DC +5 double to 160 ft
DC +5 double to 320 ft
DC +5 double to 640 ft
DC +5 double to 1,280 ft

Thus, the "Seven Years of the City's Unbroken Walls" spell has a DC 154. Which is untenable because a d20 roll is required adding Spellcasting Ability (+5) and Proficiency Bonus (+6). So I need to bring that DC waaaaay down, ideally to 21 or thereabouts.

Ok, I look at the Mitigating Factors... This will definitely take longer than an action (default for Ward), that's easy...

DC -20 Increase casting time to 10 minutes
DC -20 Increase casting time by 10 hours (i.e. 10 hrs, 10 min)

That brings the DC down to "just" 114.

Ok, so it's also going to drain a bunch of my spell slots to do this... I want to leave my 7th level teleport "in the bank" in case we get ambushed, but as a 17th-level magic-user I have spell slots to spare....

DC -4 expend four 1st level slots
DC -6 expend three 2nd level slots
DC -9 expend three 3rd level slots
DC -12 expend three 4th level slots
DC -10 expend two 5th level slots
DC -6 expend 6th level slot
DC -8 expend 8th level slot
DC -9 expend 9th level slot

That brings the DC down to "just" 50.

Ok, so now it's time to pay some gold or bodily sacrifice to get the DC down to a manageable level. I'm guessing that 5,000 gp worth of sapphire dust seem appropriate.

-2 DC per 100 gp components consumed... Wait... so that would bring the DC down to 0? Is that right?
You can make a minimum DC of, say, 20 for epic spells.
 


Salmakia

Explorer
Going to try creating an epic spell using your system...

I want to create on ongoing ward that protects an entire city from siege weapons. Seems suitably epic.

So I turn to the Ward spell seed with a Base DC 6, but this assumes concentrating for one hour. Pah! Measly! This spell will last for at least 10 years (87,600 hours) if not generations to come!

DC +10 Immunity to Bludgeoning
DC +20 Making it so concentration isn't required
DC +5 Double duration to 2 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 4 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 8 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 16 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 32 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 64 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 128 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 256 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 512 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 1,024 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 2,048 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 4,096 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 8,192 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 16,384 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 32,768 hours
DC +5 Double duration to 65,536 hours

Uff...this is a lot. I'll settle there at about 7-1/2 years. So far the DC is 116...

But Ward at baseline can only target a creature/object or a 10-ft-radius sphere (+3 DC). That's not big enough for a city...

Let's say my modest city is about 2,400 feet by 2,400 feet, so a sphere of radius 1,200-ft will encompass the entire city.

So...
DC +3 to change it to a 10 ft sphere...
DC +5 double to 20 ft
DC +5 double to 40 ft
DC +5 double to 80 ft
DC +5 double to 160 ft
DC +5 double to 320 ft
DC +5 double to 640 ft
DC +5 double to 1,280 ft

Thus, the "Seven Years of the City's Unbroken Walls" spell has a DC 154. Which is untenable because a d20 roll is required adding Spellcasting Ability (+5) and Proficiency Bonus (+6). So I need to bring that DC waaaaay down, ideally to 21 or thereabouts.

Ok, I look at the Mitigating Factors... This will definitely take longer than an action (default for Ward), that's easy...

DC -20 Increase casting time to 10 minutes
DC -20 Increase casting time by 10 hours (i.e. 10 hrs, 10 min)

That brings the DC down to "just" 114.

Ok, so it's also going to drain a bunch of my spell slots to do this... I want to leave my 7th level teleport "in the bank" in case we get ambushed, but as a 17th-level magic-user I have spell slots to spare....

DC -4 expend four 1st level slots
DC -6 expend three 2nd level slots
DC -9 expend three 3rd level slots
DC -12 expend three 4th level slots
DC -10 expend two 5th level slots
DC -6 expend 6th level slot
DC -8 expend 8th level slot
DC -9 expend 9th level slot

That brings the DC down to "just" 50.

Ok, so now it's time to pay some gold or bodily sacrifice to get the DC down to a manageable level. I'm guessing that 5,000 gp worth of sapphire dust seem appropriate.

-2 DC per 100 gp components consumed... Wait... so that would bring the DC down to 0? Is that right?
Not quite, because when you look at "double duration" and "double radius" it says if you apply it multiple times you add the base radius again, not multiply by two. I know it's confusing... I probably should have said "add duration again" or something. Although instead of doubling duration so many times just make it permanent @+30DC.
To min/max the system I'd actually use the factor "spell changes from target to 20-foot radius sphere" +20DC and then add "double radius" 64 times to get the 1,280ft. That puts the DC before mitigating factors at 406 (Base 6; +10 immunity to bludgeoning; +20 no concentration; +30 permanent; +20 change to twenty-foot radius sphere; +320 add radius again (x64) = 406). So you would need several other casters contributing all their spell slots, or a lot more gp burn, or a lot of damage backlash. But I think that's reasonable considering the scope of the spell in mind, if it's like a bunch of wizards coming together for this 10-hour ritual to protect a city forever. Or at least until someone targets it with an epic dispelling. What do you think? Is that reasonable/playable/exciting without being game-breaky?
And yeah if you get the DC down to 0 then it doesn't cost any gold or time to develop. I figure at high enough level casters can just sort of spontaneously manipulate reality if they don't mind suffering a lot of drawbacks like ability score drain and exhaustion.
 

Salmakia

Explorer
You can make a minimum DC of, say, 20 for epic spells.
Maybe, yeah. I sort of like the idea of being able to get the DC down to 0 if you're in a pinch and need to do something that you don't have prepared and you're willing to suffer a lot of ability drain or exhaustion or something, but it does certainly lead to a problem when you can just use a bunch of gp as a mitigating factor to bring it down to 0. Maybe something like gp mitigating factor can't bring the spellcraft DC below a certain level?
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Maybe, yeah. I sort of like the idea of being able to get the DC down to 0 if you're in a pinch and need to do something that you don't have prepared and you're willing to suffer a lot of ability drain or exhaustion or something, but it does certainly lead to a problem when you can just use a bunch of gp as a mitigating factor to bring it down to 0. Maybe something like gp mitigating factor can't bring the spellcraft DC below a certain level?
So if I do that one epic spell "Seven Years of the City's Unbroken Walls", does that mean that I can only ever cast 2 more epic spells? Is it a 3 epic spells can be cast in your existence/lifetime limit?

Because if that's NOT the case... (for ex, if the 3 epic spell limit only applies to the # of epic spells you can research), then the ability to reduce a spell's DC to 0 is more problematic. Because then that can effectively remove any long-term costs to what (very likely) will be a near-permanent effect. Seven years in most campaigns is effectively permanent, after all.

And permanent magical enhancements in the game typically have some semblance of a limitation or economy (e.g. magic item attunement).
 

J-H

Hero
Do characters that are not full casters also get the ability to develop epic strikes / epic abilities? Or are nice epic things only for those with access to 9th level spells?
 

Salmakia

Explorer
So if I do that one epic spell "Seven Years of the City's Unbroken Walls", does that mean that I can only ever cast 2 more epic spells? Is it a 3 epic spells can be cast in your existence/lifetime limit?

Because if that's NOT the case... (for ex, if the 3 epic spell limit only applies to the # of epic spells you can research), then the ability to reduce a spell's DC to 0 is more problematic. Because then that can effectively remove any long-term costs to what (very likely) will be a near-permanent effect. Seven years in most campaigns is effectively permanent, after all.

And permanent magical enhancements in the game typically have some semblance of a limitation or economy (e.g. magic item attunement).
The way the system is currently written, you have a number of epic spell slots equal to half your spellcasting modifier rounded down. So for most characters with a +5 spellcasting modifier that would be 2 epic spell slots per day.
The other thing to keep in mind though about reducing the DC to 0 is that the Spellcraft DC is also what is used when people are trying to dispel the effect. So if you've created the 7 Years Unbroken Walls with a DC of 0, then the first enemy with access to an epic dispel ability could dispel it and they'd only have to beat a DC of 0.
I have thought about some limitation like "you can only have a number of permanent spell effects active equal to your spellcasting ability modifier" to create a limiting factor. I agree that it tends to get out of hand otherwise. So most high level casters would be limited to 5 permanent effects, and then if they cast a 6th one of the others would end.
 

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