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5E Flexible Spells

In the thread about Cure Wounds vs. Healing Word, I tossed out a proposal that they be combined as one spell, with the following features (slightly tweaked from original):
  • It's touch, one action, heals 1d4 + mod.
  • Also pick two of the three: add 1d4, 30' range, bonus action, add a target.
  • +1d4, +30', and +1 target can be chosen multiple times.
When upcasting, you just add more points. E.g. maybe +2 points/level.

Then I started thinking about other spells that could be combined like this. The first thing I thought of was the various charms (friends, charm, suggestion, enthrall) and how they're all variations of the same thing, varying by:
  • Specific targets of varying number, or all targets in range
  • Affects skill checks (e.g. advantage to your Cha checks, or disadvantage to their Perception checks) vs. dictating their behavior
  • Single saving throw vs. ongoing saving throw
  • Duration
Then there's a wide range of Illusion spells. There's a bunch of "fortification" spells (Guidance, Bless, Heroism, Aid, Enhance Ability).

Would it make the game better if some of these categories got combined into single general purpose, flexible spells. Some more potent abilities could cost multiple points, to effectively gate them behind higher level slots.

One potential criticism is that this effectively gives you more spells known, which messes with the finely-tuned, perfectly balanced spell system (/scarcasm). And it might also make these flexible spells so much more useful than regular old spells that it becomes a false choice.

Whaddya think?
 

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TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
A fair amount of PF2 spells look like this, probably not a bad place to go for some inspiration.
 

TaranTheWanderer

Adventurer
I like the idea of flexible spells. In fact, having base mechanics to modify your spells on the fly would allow you to spin the description of what you're casting in any given combat. It would make things more interesting. Less, "I cast magic Missile" and more descriptive variance.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I do like the idea of some increase in flexibility, especially when upcasting, but I would be careful. WHile 5e isn't "perfectly balanced", it is vastly more well balanced than any edition but 4e, and it is a strength of the system and part of what makes it possible to get more flexible with rulings, without messing up the game accidentally.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Would it make the game better if some of these categories got combined into single general purpose, flexible spells. Some more potent abilities could cost multiple points, to effectively gate them behind higher level slots.
Not necessarily.

I mean if you think about it... the game had this back in the AD&D days with the reversible spells. Cure Wounds and Inflict Wounds weren't two separate spells, they were one spell that you would prepare "reversed" in the morning to get the other effect. And the only thing you really gained by doing it is you got an extra effect without having to use one of your known spells to acquire it.

What you are talking about are pretty much the same thing... a whole bunch of various spell effects that just take up one "known spell" slot or one "prepared spell" slot. But that's the kind of thing that if it were put into place, most likely the game would just reduce the number of known or prepared spells a class got per day. So you'd end up with very similar numbers of spell effects when all was said and done. Rather than getting and using 5 prepared spell slots to prepare 5 spells, you'd get 1 prepared spell slot to get 1 spell that had 5 various spell effects in it.

But as it is right now... you can get all those spells without changing how spells are currently written in the game-- you just as DM give the players more known or prepared spells. If someone wanted Guidance, Bless, Heroism, Aid, and Enhance Ability, they could just use the extra slots and take them. Without having to re-write the game to do so.

Now that being said... I think I can understand what's really underlying your idea. If I had to guess... I would say the reason you probably wouldn't like the simpler idea of giving out more known or prepared spells is that most players are naturally min-maxers at heart, and they wouldn't use those extra slots to take Guidance, Bless, Heroism, Aid, and Enhance Ability. Instead, they'd take maybe one or two of them that they wanted, and then loaded up on all the other uber-powerful spells instead-- Fireball, Mirror Image, Haste etc. etc. Which kind of defeats the purpose of your desire, which I think is meant to get all these more esoteric spells back into the game because normally few people select them. If people never take Witch Bolt when they have the option... then you bundle it with a couple other lightning spells into one single spell so that players have it at their fingertips. Only downside of course being that players still won't probably ever use it. :)
 

jayoungr

Hero
Supporter
It seems to me like it's stepping on the toes of the sorcerer a bit. A spell like this is basically free metamagic, no?
 

Eis

Explorer
oooh I like combining spells.....firewebball or chromatic wall of message.....I can probably come up will all kinds of good stuff
 

Vael

Adventurer
With flexible spells, I generally prefer combining niche or narrow focus spells. Healing is always useful, and I'd rather force the decision, range and bonus or more raw HP.

It seems to me like it's stepping on the toes of the sorcerer a bit. A spell like this is basically free metamagic, no?
Actually, this is where I want to help the Sorcerer, by letting them get spells that are more flexible.

Consider the following Sorcerer Spell as an example:

Aeromancer's Charm
2nd level Evocation
Casting Time: 1 Action
Components: V
When you cast this spell, choose 1:
  • Create a 30ft Cone that pushes back creatures (strength save, 15ft push ... have to balance numbers)
  • Gain a Fly speed until end of turn, if your turn ends with you in the air, you fall.
  • For the next 1 hour, you may cast Feather Fall once as a 1st level spell without expending a spell slot
At Higher Levels: If you cast this spell using a 4th level spell slot or higher, choose 2 options instead.

So, I've taken a Feather Fall, Jump and a lesser version of Gust of Wind, and combined them into one spell ... very good for Sorcerers, who probably wouldn't taken any of those individual spells.

(Another option, so this spell isn't also just taken by Bards is to instead of using higher level slots, have an in-built way to spend Sorcery Points. What if the spell instead said if you get to choose an additional option for spending 2 Sorcery points per option)
 

Krachek

Adventurer
It’s a more complex system. To be fair it require to rebuild all spells and classes.
the balance of spell know and spell prepared has to be reevaluted completly.
but for me it´s a nice idea, matched with MtG colors it could create an amazing magic system.
 

Pauln6

Explorer
I was very disappointed with the new phantom steed spell. No way to up-cast it like previous editions and very limited duration. Not sure if they thought it would be too powerful as a ritual but they could have had increased duration (like hex) or improved abilities (like ignoring difficult terrain, water walking, and flight) using progressively higher spell slots. Paladins get flying mounts with a 4th level spell slot after all.
 


Li Shenron

Legend
Whaddya think?
I wouldn't worry too much about spellcasters getting effectively more spells known/prepared, this idea in general would primarily benefit Sorcerer who definitely do not have too many spells known.

OTOH, combining spells like this would significantly increase the complexity of spellcasters, cutting off players who want simple characters.
 

Horwath

Adventurer
Heal,
Bonus action, range 60ft
heals for 1d4/spell level + mod

if cast as Action, heals 1d6/level
if range is Touch, heals 1d6/level
if cast as Action and Touch range, heals 1d8/level
if cast as 1 minute casting and touch, heals 10 HP /level
 

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