# D&D 5EGuide to cruddy spells (v1.01)

#### Dausuul

##### Legend
I did a bunch of experiments a while back comparing the value of "damage now" versus "damage later." There are a ton of variables, but the rough guideline I emerged with was to discount the value of damage by 11% for each round delayed.

By this guideline, Melf's acid arrow dealing 10 this round and 5 next round would be equivalent to a spell dealing 14.45 damage straight up.

#### Stalker0

##### Legend
I did a bunch of experiments a while back comparing the value of "damage now" versus "damage later." There are a ton of variables, but the rough guideline I emerged with was to discount the value of damage by 11% for each round delayed.

By this guideline, Melf's acid arrow dealing 10 this round and 5 next round would be equivalent to a spell dealing 14.45 damage straight up.
I'm curious to see the math that does this. In my experience the standard 5e fight really is right around 3 rounds, so I would expect delayed damage to be much weaker than simply 11%.

#### Dausuul

##### Legend
I'm curious to see the math that does this. In my experience the standard 5e fight really is right around 3 rounds, so I would expect delayed damage to be much weaker than simply 11%.
As I recall, it wasn't spreadsheet math but a Javascript combat simulator I built to test out homebrew class mechanics. It would pit a group of simplified PCs against a group of vanilla monsters, run the combat several thousand times, and see how often each side won. I got curious about the value of delayed damage and used the simulator to try out variations on "damage now" versus "damage later." 11%, give or take, was the number that emerged.

I would not be at all surprised to find that the model relied on initial assumptions that don't hold true in most real games, or that its simplifications had a major effect on the outcome. For example, it relied on "win versus loss" as the easiest way to evaluate results, but this meant it had to focus on the deadliest of combats--where TPK is a significant risk--to yield useful information. That obviously has a lot of potential to skew the results in odd ways.

Ideally we would instead measure resources expended (hit points, spell slots, et cetera), but how many hit points equals one spell slot or one use of a class feature? And how do you simulate intelligent decision-making by players on when to use their limited abilities? Hell, I've been playing D&D for 33 years and I still have to guess at the optimal "burn rate" of my spell slots.

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#### jgsugden

##### Legend
I did a bunch of experiments a while back comparing the value of "damage now" versus "damage later." There are a ton of variables, but the rough guideline I emerged with was to discount the value of damage by 11% for each round delayed.

By this guideline, Melf's acid arrow dealing 10 this round and 5 next round would be equivalent to a spell dealing 14.45 damage straight up.
I disagree with this valuation. What you're saying here is that at least 8 times in 9 the creature you hit with an acid arrow is still standing a round later ... and the creature may still be standing sometimes, but not 8 times in 9. Even when it is, delaying that damage in some of those situations will allow the creature one more round of combat, and that is a huge cost - a rare occurrence, but when it happens it can be big.

Melf's can do 4d4 now and 2d4 at the end of the next turn if you make a spell attack roll with a 90 foot range (half 4d4 on a miss).

Scorching Ray does 3 ranges spell attacks for 2d6 each at 120 foot range. Miss is no damage, but unless you're extremely unlikely to hit, you end up with higher expected damage with scorching ray at all points in time.

I made a similar spell to Melf's for my game call Acid Javelin. Also second Level. One attack roll. It does 4d6 acid damage on a hit (half on a miss) and the target makes a dexterity saving throw at the end of each of their turns or takes 2d6 more acid damage (save ends). I consider that much stronger than acid arrow - and people still do not want it.

#### Mistwell

Actually the weight that leveled spells like buffs debuffs battlefield control &utility spells need to pull goes up the longer your adventuring day is and/or the more the gm does things like use fewer more powerful monsters over a larger number of trash monsters because the impact of the intentional damage disparity grows larger and larger.
We're all still waiting for you to support your claim that Bless is a cruddy spell

#### tetrasodium

##### Legend
Supporter
Epic
concentration & nonconcentration debuffs are up.
@Mistwell I did in the guide itself days ago.

But thanks to your comment I noticed & changed the typo from tined to tuned.
We're all still waiting for you to support your claim that Bless is a cruddy spell

#### NotAYakk

##### Legend
I disagree with this valuation. What you're saying here is that at least 8 times in 9 the creature you hit with an acid arrow is still standing a round later ... and the creature may still be standing sometimes, but not 8 times in 9. Even when it is, delaying that damage in some of those situations will allow the creature one more round of combat, and that is a huge cost - a rare occurrence, but when it happens it can be big.

Melf's can do 4d4 now and 2d4 at the end of the next turn if you make a spell attack roll with a 90 foot range (half 4d4 on a miss).

Scorching Ray does 3 ranges spell attacks for 2d6 each at 120 foot range. Miss is no damage, but unless you're extremely unlikely to hit, you end up with higher expected damage with scorching ray at all points in time.

I made a similar spell to Melf's for my game call Acid Javelin. Also second Level. One attack roll. It does 4d6 acid damage on a hit (half on a miss) and the target makes a dexterity saving throw at the end of each of their turns or takes 2d6 more acid damage (save ends). I consider that much stronger than acid arrow - and people still do not want it.
Above, my "super melf" does 5d4 on a hit 23d4 on a miss. Each turn it loses 1d4 (2d4 if immersed in water), and you can use an action and take 1d4 damage to reduce it by 2d4.

That ends up pretty strong. If we drop it to 4d4/2d4 instead, we get something that is only marginally better than scorching ray:

So 4d4, 3d4, 2d4, 1d4 on a hit, and 2d4, 1d4 on a miss.

With 30% discount on delayed damage a hit is worth 10 + 5.3 + 2.5 + 0.9 = 18.7 on a hit, and a miss is worth 5 + 1.8 = 6.8. Or 11.9 P + 6.8 damage.

Scorching Ray does 21 damage; it needs a 75% hit chance to match it.

MM2 is 14 hit or miss. So this outdamages MM starting at 60% hit rate in a level 2 slot.

At higher levels, adding 1d4 to the hit and 1d4 every 2 levels miss has non-linear returns (as it lasts longer). "off to infinity" that 1d4 would be worth 4.1P + 4.1, which is a bit faster than the 7*P damage of scorching ray or the 3.5 damage of MM, but the "off to infinity" approximation is overestimating the value by a fair bit (like 30% at level 3? Decreasing at higher levels.)

I did a bunch of experiments a while back comparing the value of "damage now" versus "damage later." There are a ton of variables, but the rough guideline I emerged with was to discount the value of damage by 11% for each round delayed.

By this guideline, Melf's acid arrow dealing 10 this round and 5 next round would be equivalent to a spell dealing 14.45 damage straight up.
I agree with Stalker0; I suspect something is off with your math.

Maybe you are using lots of big monsters that last a long time, with plenty of time to drop the damage-over-time early, and knowledge that the monster lasts a long time?

I suppose most tough fights, by your measure, end with a long series of at-will damage output, because to hit 50% death rate you either need enemies who deal a pile of damage (with high variance) really fast, or you need to run out of resources and be on a race to death.

...

If you want to do this seriously, you'd probably want to brew up an AI learning system. You'd have them fight a sequence of random toughness encounters; maybe you'd feed the AI the CR of the encounter, as PCs know that an ancient dragon is different than 3 goblins.

For a given loadout of a party, you'd let the AI optimize how long they last against such a random sequence.

Feed something like that to Alpha or similar learning AIs and you should get resource management falling out of it. I mean, they can feed it starcraft and it beats grandmasters.

#### jgsugden

##### Legend
...@Mistwell I did in the guide itself days ago...
As long as you have widely accepted power spells on your list of cruddy spells, you're unlikely to have much buy in to your list. Bless is universally rated high in every cleric guide I can find, and Aid is an amazing spell if you understand healing (even though it is not universally loved in guides).

A ranged multitarget healing is massively important. Only 5 hps? What is the difference between being at 5 hps and 12 hps when your opponent does 15 hp damage? Not much. And when you're higher level, burning a slot to give a higher max hp total is well worth the cost.

The last cleric I played to above 15 had four spells he cast far more often than any other: Aid, Spiritual Weapon, Spirit Guardians (casting bless when the combat was less serious), and Armor of Agathys (he had a level or Warlock).

#### Stalker0

##### Legend
concentration & nonconcentration debuffs are up.
@Mistwell I did in the guide itself days ago.

But thanks to your comment I noticed & changed the typo from tined to tuned.

Bless The effect is pretty decent as one of the rare multitarget buffs, but as a 1 minute concentration spell the short duration alongside concentration leaves the effect somewhat lacking as both are things that should raise the payload of a buff. Arguments could & have been made for it being pretty good, but they generally require knowing what is coming up in the near immediate future & not having the opponents react to the party or the VSM buff. Simply being frequently ranked as a good first level spell does not change the fact that 5e has monster AC tuned to almost certain hits making the actual impact of this spell very small under most conditions

Ok lets dig in to the complaint on this one:

1) Unless you are hitting on a 2, the +d4 from bless is always useful, no matter what level you are at. Attack bonuses that stack with advantage are EXCEPTIONALLY rare. But honestly, the attack bonus is just the icing on the cake, its the save bonus where the meat comes in. There is almost nothing in the game that boosts your saves, and yet you have this simple 1st level spell to do the job.

2) Part of the argument here is that the spell needs to be cast "ahead of time" to be useful, or you need knowledge of your foes. I would argue until the cleric gets spiritual guardians, what better buff spell is there to cast in general combat? And heck there are still a number of times I would use bless over spiritual guardians depending on the terrain and monsters.

While there are spells I disagree on this list, I can at least see the other point of view, and can kind of go in the middle. But Bless? Bless should be on the "is this spell OP?" list, not the "cruddy spell list". When my 20th level paladin player literally looked at his list when fighting CR 20s and said....eh you know what, I think I'll start off with bless....that should tell you something about how amazing the spell is.

Yah, Bless is a spell I've seen clerics use throughout their careers. When I played my cleric I quickly realized that besides Spiritual Guardian and Bless, most of their other concentration combat spells are a bit niche to be honest. Bless is a solid and almost always useful spell to fall back on.

Aid is another useful one, if only because at higher levels dropping a spell slot for it is generally better than having an unused spell slot at the end of the day.

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