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D&D 5E Homebrew cantrip help

WizardOfFrobozz

Accardi-by-the-Sea
I've got a player who's running a Lvl 1 5E wizard with a pretty non-traditional build & backstory. He's looking for a cantrip that will buff his strength stat and/or bonuses. We've gone back and forth iterating on what it might look like to knock a 3.5E-style Bull's Strength spell down to a cantrip power level, but I'm not sure that anything really useful can be shoehorned into an appropriately balanced cantrip. Here's the spell/effects under discussion:

Casting time: 1 action
Range: self only
Duration: 1 min, Concentration
Effect: For the duration of the spell, the caster gains +2 to her Strength ability modifier as long as she is unarmored. (Donning any armor immediately ends the spell.)

Even with the range reduction to SELF and the unarmored restriction, I think this still packs too much punch for a cantrip. I'm also not sure how to squeeze it down further without making it uninteresting. For example, knocking the bonus down to +1 and changing the duration to 1 round might qualify, but who would give up an action this round for a +1 to-hit/damage next round only? Ditto for limiting the bonus to unarmed attacks only - maybe a cool cantrip, but not what he's looking to do.

I'd love to encourage the RP concept of the buff guy who's kind of a wizard under protest, but I'm not sure how to find a good compromise on this one. Any thoughts?
 

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NotAYakk

Legend
1. Modifying ability scores is extremely rarely done in 5e, and almost never done in a "temporary, short term" fashion.

2. Cantrips are easy to poach; this kind of cantrip makes poaching for a non-wizard very strong.

Enhance Ability, a 2nd level concentration spell that increases carrying capacity and gives advantage on strength checks for an hour, is already reasonably strong. Not top notch.

A +2 to your strength modifier on someone who already has decent strength is +2 to hit, +2 to damage, +2 to grapple checks, +2 to strength saves.

Mind over Muscle
transmutation
1 action
duration 1 round (concentration)

Until this spell ends, you add your spellcasting attribute to strength ability checks. In addition, the first time you make a strength-based weapon attack before the spell ends, you are considered proficient with the weapon, add your spellcasting attribute to your attack rolls and damage, and deal +1d12 damage if the attack hits.

At level 5, 11 and 17 you add an additional 1d12 damage if the attack hits, for a total of +4d12 at level 17.

This spell puts a large strain on your body. If your d20 roll is 10 or under on any of the checks this spell modifies, you gain a level of exhaustion and the next time you take a short rest, you regain a level of exhaustion. The levels of exhaustion gained add up, but the recovery does not.

--

Imagine a 14 strength 18 int level 5 wizard. They cast Mind over Muscle on round 1, then on round 2 they attack with a greataxe.

+3 (prof) + 2(strength) +4(int) = +9 to hit for 3d12+6 (25.5) damage, and risk a level of exhaustion.

The same wizard doing a firebolt would do +7 to hit for 4d10 (22) damage.

An 18 strength fighter with GWF would attack for +7 to hit for 4d12+16 (42) damage over those two rounds.

So this doesn't risk replacing "real" melee characters, but doesn't suck entirely.

You could probably cut (concentration) honestly.

The exhaustion is there in order to ensure that a "real brawny" character is usually a better choice for strength based actions. Out of combat, the action cost is trivial. The first level of exhaustion is "exhaustion lite" (recovers on a short rest), every one after that requires a long rest; that should discourage spamming, while still letting the wizard do impressive feats of strength occasionally.
 
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Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
For me, the shortfall with making it checks is that it doesn't make the wizard buff. Their carrying capacity is unchanged. They just get better at grappling. Maybe -

Transmutation cantrip
Casting time
: 1 bonus action
Range: Self
Components: V, S, M (chalk dust)
Duration: 1 minute, Concentration
Effect: Until the spell ends, you gain +4 to your Strength ability score

"Until the spell ends, " is wording I see in other similar spells.
This doesn't make much sense to me. This is meant to be a temporary boost in STR, not an always on boost used for calculating carrying capacity. I can't picture this wizard carrying a too-heavy load and having to pause every minute and recast a spell for the entire adventuring day so that they can carry a heavy load.

If you want to be always strong...build the wizard with a high STR.
 

ART!

Hero
1. Modifying ability scores is extremely rarely done in 5e, and almost never done in a "temporary, short term" fashion.

2. Cantrips are easy to poach; this kind of cantrip makes poaching for a non-wizard very strong.

Enhance Ability, a 2nd level concentration spell that increases carrying capacity and gives advantage on strength checks for an hour, is already reasonably strong. Not top notch.

A +2 to your strength modifier on someone who already has decent strength is +2 to hit, +2 to damage, +2 to grapple checks, +2 to strength saves.

Mind over Muscle
transmutation
1 action
duration 1 round (concentration)

Until this spell ends, you add your spellcasting attribute to strength ability checks. In addition, the first time you make a strength-based weapon attack before the spell ends, you are considered proficient with the weapon, add your spellcasting attribute to your attack rolls and damage, and deal +1d12 damage if the attack hits.

At level 5, 11 and 17 you add an additional 1d12 damage if the attack hits, for a total of +4d12 at level 17.

This spell puts a large strain on your body. If your d20 roll is 10 or under on any of the checks this spell modifies, you gain a level of exhaustion and the next time you take a short rest, you regain a level of exhaustion. The levels of exhaustion gained add up, but the recovery does not.

--

Imagine a 14 strength 18 int level 5 wizard. They cast Mind over Muscle on round 1, then on round 2 they attack with a greataxe.

+3 (prof) + 2(strength) +4(int) = +9 to hit for 3d12+6 (25.5) damage, and risk a level of exhaustion.

The same wizard doing a firebolt would do +7 to hit for 4d10 (22) damage.

An 18 strength fighter with GWF would attack for +7 to hit for 4d12+16 (42) damage over those two rounds.

So this doesn't risk replacing "real" melee characters, but doesn't suck entirely.

You could probably cut (concentration) honestly.

The exhaustion is there in order to ensure that a "real brawny" character is usually a better choice for strength based actions. Out of combat, the action cost is trivial. The first level of exhaustion is "exhaustion lite" (recovers on a short rest), every one after that requires a long rest; that should discourage spamming, while still letting the wizard do impressive feats of strength occasionally.
I think this is very good, although I'd make that a d8 or maybe an extra die of the weapon's damage dice?
 

NotAYakk

Legend
I think this is very good, although I'd make that a d8 or maybe an extra die of the weapon's damage dice?
It delays your attack for a turn, and is a melee-range one.

You do get an accuracy boost over a conventional int-based attack (your strength modifier).

Don't think of it as [W]+int+str+1d12, think of it has ([W]+int+str+1d12)/2, as it is a two-round combo attack. And with exhaustion, it isn't reliably "spammable" (if you have reliable advantage, like an owl familiar, 1/4 attacks you get exhaustion; with 8 rounds, 0 exhaustion is 31%, 1 is 42%, and 2+ is 27%)

I originally had it +[W] per step, but that made using greataxes/greatswords to mandatory. Using such a weapon is still optimal (as it is more free damage), but it isn't ridiculously so. So your strength-wizard hitting something with a dagger or staff works, but using a bigger weapon does a bit more damage.

1d8 is way too small, especially scaling. It would damage-scale worse than bard's mockery (2.25 damage per tier), which is nothing-damage.
 
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For me, the shortfall with making it checks is that it doesn't make the wizard buff. Their carrying capacity is unchanged. They just get better at grappling. Maybe -

Transmutation cantrip
Casting time
: 1 bonus action
Range: Self
Components: V, S, M (chalk dust)
Duration: 1 minute, Concentration
Effect: Until the spell ends, you gain +4 to your Strength ability score

"Until the spell ends, " is wording I see in other similar spells.
Horribly broken. Every martial in the game would take a Feat that let them take it as a cantrip for at will +2 to hit and damage.

Try: 'You gain advantage on Str ability checks, and your movement is not reduced on account of being encumbered'
 


clearstream

(He, Him)
Horribly broken. Every martial in the game would take a Feat that let them take it as a cantrip for at will +2 to hit and damage.

Try: 'You gain advantage on Str ability checks, and your movement is not reduced on account of being encumbered'
The challenge is that the OP has specified "I'd love to encourage the RP concept of the buff guy who's kind of a wizard under protest, but I'm not sure how to find a good compromise on this one. Any thoughts?" and wanted a cantrip to be investigated as a possible solution.

When I look at core rules and other published materials, being strong - buff - isn't just about hitting things more easily and harder, and grappling, but also pushing, pulling and lifting. Changing score rather than directly changing modifier or giving advantage is one way to achieve that. Maybe something like -

Transmutation cantrip
Casting time
: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, S, M (chalk dust)
Duration: 1 minute, Concentration
Effect: Until the spell ends, your Strength score becomes 14
Alternative for Effect: Until the spell ends, you gain +2 to your Strength ability score

I have no iron in the fire regards the power level of the spell. I wouldn't add such a spell in my campaign for some of the reasons others have mentioned. In particular, the wizard spell list is often pulled from by class features and feats which makes it tricky to balance right for all cases. I suspect that +2 ability score in exchange for an action and concentration is okay (+1 Attack, +1 Damage, +1 Save, +30 CC, +60 Lift, +2' Long Jump)... but then maybe not.

A basic goal in design is just to find something distinctive, that speaks to your aims, that has enough potential to be worth playtesting. To give yourself a shot at writing a rule that players will find exciting to use, it can be worth going a few increments past where you guess balance would safely be. Then you pull it back after testing. You see that strategy in a lot of UA prototypes.
 




Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
They want to feel like they are physically strong - buff - according to the OP.
Technically they said they had an already buff character who is hesitantly playing a wizard....not a wizard who is hesitantly having to be buff. All the options put forth just make a character stronger in some way for a short time, not make a strong guy more wizardy for a short time.

Maybe OP should pop back in and give some better direction on what exactly they are hoping to accomplish.
 

WizardOfFrobozz

Accardi-by-the-Sea
Its effectively a +1 to hit and damage that requires you to maintain concentration and takes full action to cast. Given that Strength bonuses are generally best in melee, which is not the place that a wizard really wants to be, I have no problem with it. I'd probably say no to the equivalent Dexterity boost however.

It is considerably less powerful than a melee cantrip. Burning an action to cast is also a big downside provided the DM does not allow the player to get away with "I'm always casting X every thirty seconds while I'm awake" shenanigans.

Noting the armour restriction, but is it the intent to allow the wizard to make full use of Mage Armour and Shield spells without interfering with the spell?
Right, magical armor would be fine. The requirement for no physical armor is there to try to head off abuse by other spellcaster builds. Given his specific (and very non-optimized) build, I don't see this spell being problematic for him per se. I'm just trying to think a little more broadly and look at balance in general for the game, including multiclass builds.
 

WizardOfFrobozz

Accardi-by-the-Sea
Why not base the cantrip off of the Friends cantrip? Turn it into a transmutation spell and instead of advantage on Charisma checks, it gives advantage on Strength checks.
Yeah, I've noticed that 5e has cut way back on spells that give a numeric bonus to anything, leveraging the advantage/disadvantage mechanic instead wherever possible. That totally makes sense for streamlining gameplay and preventing stacking creep.

In this case, the player really wants to be more effective in melee when he's out of spells, so attack rolls and damage are really what he's focused on. I think it's 2/3 an RP thing, and 1/3 that the party is 1st level and everyone is trying to do as much as possible without burning spell slots. I'm guessing by the time they're 3rd level he'll either have outgrown this approach, or spec'd into something else more suited for it.

In the meantime, I'm welcoming the exercise to learn a thing or two about homebrewing and balance in general.
 


WizardOfFrobozz

Accardi-by-the-Sea
That's a lot of really great feedback, thanks everybody. To clarify, "being buff" in this context translates into "useful in melee combat without burning spell slots," even though he definitely recognizes that from a survivability standpoint, melee is really not a great place for him to be.

The comparison to Shillelagh is spot on, thanks to everyone who pointed that out. I think it might be exactly what he wants; he's usually holding a staff anyhow.
 

Stalker0

Legend
That's a lot of really great feedback, thanks everybody. To clarify, "being buff" in this context translates into "useful in melee combat without burning spell slots," even though he definitely recognizes that from a survivability standpoint, melee is really not a great place for him to be.

The comparison to Shillelagh is spot on, thanks to everyone who pointed that out. I think it might be exactly what he wants; he's usually holding a staff anyhow.
Yes, I think an Int based version of Shillelagh is exactly what you are looking for.
 


Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
That's a lot of really great feedback, thanks everybody. To clarify, "being buff" in this context translates into "useful in melee combat without burning spell slots," even though he definitely recognizes that from a survivability standpoint, melee is really not a great place for him to be.

The comparison to Shillelagh is spot on, thanks to everyone who pointed that out. I think it might be exactly what he wants; he's usually holding a staff anyhow.
Its a bit late if they are already set on a character...but creating a wizard who is a Mountain Dwarf that invests their second highest attribute into strength could use axes pretty well, wear medium armor, and not miss out on anything having to do with wizarding. If they took Town Guard as a background they would have a variety of weapons to choose from besides just axes.
 

Yeah, I've noticed that 5e has cut way back on spells that give a numeric bonus to anything, leveraging the advantage/disadvantage mechanic instead wherever possible. That totally makes sense for streamlining gameplay and preventing stacking creep.

In this case, the player really wants to be more effective in melee when he's out of spells, so attack rolls and damage are really what he's focused on. I think it's 2/3 an RP thing, and 1/3 that the party is 1st level and everyone is trying to do as much as possible without burning spell slots. I'm guessing by the time they're 3rd level he'll either have outgrown this approach, or spec'd into something else more suited for it.

In the meantime, I'm welcoming the exercise to learn a thing or two about homebrewing and balance in general.
Are they aware of the melee cantrips: Green Flame Blade and Booming Blade?
Or even Shocking Grasp.
Those would allow contribution in melee without burning spell slots.
Or is just beating on stuff in a mundane fashion part of the character concept?
 

Stalker0

Legend
I don't know, Int is such an overpowered stat in 5e.

But seriously, it could make a bladesinger too good.
It’s a personal custom can trip, and it’s easy for the DM to say “for this character only”.

i think people are treating this like dm guild material, it’s just to a help make a single character concept work
 

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