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D&D 5E How much magic do you have in your game?

What level of spells is considered "powerful" in your game?

  • Cantrip

    Votes: 4 4.2%
  • 1st

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • 2nd

    Votes: 3 3.2%
  • 3rd

    Votes: 26 27.4%
  • 4th

    Votes: 15 15.8%
  • 5th

    Votes: 23 24.2%
  • 6th

    Votes: 11 11.6%
  • 7th

    Votes: 2 2.1%
  • 8th

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • 9th

    Votes: 6 6.3%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 5 5.3%

  • Total voters
    95

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
The peasants and freeman watch in terror as the small band of zombies move slowly towards their tiny village. They cheer when your PC steps forward and unleashes a massive ball of fire into the midst of the zombies! The undead burn and collapse, only a few stragglers managing to lurch forward after slowly gaining their feet. Emboldened, the villagers rush forth with pitchforks and axes, destroying the last remnants. The vile priest curses your interference and flees back into the mountains.

So, that was quick (not my greatest writing LOL) but you get the idea. How much magic do you have in your game? What level of spells marks the truly "powerful" level of magic? Is a fireball a mundane thing, something many commoners might witness at least once in their lives, or is it truly a thing to behold, something they will tell their grandchildren about years later?

I am asking because the commonplace of magic in 5E is something that removes a lot of the element of wonder from the game. Common and uncommon magic items seem like a crazy concept to me. What should ever be "common" about magic? I am sure they don't mean it the same way I am implying, but hopefully you get the idea.

Some people want magic-prevalent games, where each city has a tower of magic or ye-ol'-magic-shops. Others want it to be so rare as to make the players cheer. So, in the thoughts of focusing on SPELLS, what level of spells would be considered powerful (however you define that) to the typical person in your game world?

You can only pick one spell level, and then assume everything above it is also powerful by default. And please share your thoughts on this and thanks!
 

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I voted 5th, because that's where you start really getting into spells normal people can't deal with. Fireball is dangerous, but it's still just a lot of damage in a medium-sized area: townspeople might not have that kind of power, but they have seen it before and have ways of coping. (On the other hand, a town-sized settlement tends to have at least one caster capable of 3rd-level spells.)

That's really just an average of the games I'm playing, rounded up. I've seen dm's treat 3rd level spells as amazing, but I've never seen them brush off 5th+ level spells.
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
I voted 5th, because that's where you start really getting into spells normal people can't deal with. Fireball is dangerous, but it's still just a lot of damage in a medium-sized area: townspeople might not have that kind of power, but they have seen it before and have ways of coping. (On the other hand, a town-sized settlement tends to have at least one caster capable of 3rd-level spells.)

That's really just an average of the games I'm playing, rounded up. I've seen dm's treat 3rd level spells as amazing, but I've never seen them brush off 5th+ level spells.
Cool. And thanks for expressing your reasons for your vote. I agree by 5th level there shouldn't be any doubt we're talking POWER. ;)
 


Stormonu

Legend
My choice was 4th - besides kicking in at "name" level (9th character level), it's also when spells feel like they go beyond the mundane into the truly powerful (old Stoneskin, Phantasmal Killer, etc.) <EDIT:> I'd also note that you can automatically Dispel/Counterspell spells of 1st-3rd level. Doing so to 4th level and above spells isn't so guaranteed, lending credence to the spells being "powerful".

I've broken the spells in my games into tiers

Tier 0 - cantrips (also sometimes referred to as folk magic)
Tier 1 - "Common Magic", encompassing spells of 1st-3rd level (these are the spell generally associated with most spellusers)
Tier 2 - "Name Magic", encompassing spells of 4th-6th level (reserved for "name" level characters
Tier 3 - "Archmagic", encompassing spells of 7th-9th level (powerful wizards, clerics, liches, some dragons and the proxies of powerful beings)
Tier 4 - "God Magic", encompassing spells of 10th level and above (supernatural abilities of demigods, legendary monsters and of course, dieties)

In my homebrew campaign, maybe a handful of people in a village has access to Tier 0 magic that isn't actually some superstition. About 1 in maybe a 100 has access to Tier 1 spells. Perhaps 1 to 3 people in a country can cast Tier 2 spells, and the names of those that can use Tier 3 are legendary - spells are often named after them, books are written about them, tales are told of them globally and there is perhaps a handful alive at a time.

Large cities might have a potion shop or possibly a single smith or tradesman with the talent to make and sell magic items. There is a trading coaster run out of one of my countries (Nyrr Ryan) that specializes in making magic items, but their wares are expensive, rare and take some time to create and distribute. The common man - or even wandering adventurer - would unlikely to meet or have dealings with them.

In the distant past, magic and magic items were more prevalant, and there were mighty wars using spells and items. In the ages since, much of that magic capability has been lost and rare, wondrous items crop up unusually often - but more often than not, if they're not lost they're in the hands of someone who guards them jealously and isn't afraid to use them.
 
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Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
In my campaign I picture that many of the "common folk" might have an adventure level in their background. The farmer may be a bit of fighter because of time in the army/guards. The shopkeeper might know a bit of magic to keep things honest. The thugs down the street might have a streak of rogue in them, etc...

Because of this, the mere existence of "magic spells" isn't some rare event for the townsfolk. They expect them to exist and in some cases use the regularly.

I voted for 5th level because of one iconic spell, Raise Dead. I know there is now a lower level spell that does the same, but within a very short time. I view that more as just-in-time-divine-soul-healing more than actually returning life to a completely dead body. In my mind this spell is what sets the truly powerful men apart from well practiced regular folk.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I voted 4th because "powerful" wasn't defined. It's like having a list of fast cars 9 cars from f-350 to a salt flats rocket "car" sorted by pricetag asking to pick one where you draw the line for what counts as a fast car.

3rd level is about where you run into the top end of "common" spells, think exotic supercars. You won't see them every day & might live your life never seeing one, but you know they exist.

4th level is where you start getting into things you need to have a lot of money or political power to get used(if you can find it). You might see one occasionally if your in the military doing special training just like those wargames we do where all the cool toys come out for show & tell. Major corperations & groups might even have people on payroll who can cast them similar to the quantum computers of today.

5th & up you can probably find people who understand them at a university or something but "cast them?... nah.. years back there was a prodigy who could cast a couple & professor so&so got to witness I think so ask him I never met the guy & hear he got a job working for....."

edit: this is in eberron or an eberron-like world in my campaigns
 
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J-H

Adventurer
As a DM, 5th level is when the party acquires campaign-shifting spells that allow long-distance teleportation and reliable information gathering like Commune and Legend Lore. This isn't "Numbers go up" stuff. This is "Bypass many things that would have been very challenging or time consuming 2 levels ago" magic.
 

cbwjm

Hero
3rd level spells are quite a step up in power from 1st and 2nd level and that's going to be the level of spells most common folk know of. Not to say that there aren't a lot of high-level spellcasters in my campaign world, but everyone knows to look out for the wizard that can throw a fireball around.
 

MatthewJHanson

Registered Ninja
Publisher
I voted for 3rd level, because that's the highest level that most NPCs get to in the setting, so most people view those as the most powerful spells that can be cast. PCs of course go higher, which is why they are the ones solving the world-threatening problems.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
5th

That's the top edge of tier 2. It's where magic can't be replicated easy with time, money, and/or diplomacy. If you have the ability to cast 5th level spells, you are a national celebrity within the movers and shakers if you don't choose to be hidden.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Common and uncommon magic items seem like a crazy concept to me. What should ever be "common" about magic? I am sure they don't mean it the same way I am implying, but hopefully you get the idea.
I always saw this as "if you have had the luck to find an enchanted item, it's common that it's among these easiest to make, uncommonly among these, rarely among these, etc.".

In other words, adventurers do not describe the population as a whole. They are much more likely to be a concentration of such things both because they have picked such a fantastically risky career but also because that career is often around recovering such lost items from dangerous and inimical places.

If an adventurer has three items, that's still much less than 1 in a 1000 of the populous having an item, because of how rare successful adventurers are.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I always saw this as "if you have had the luck to find an enchanted item, it's common that it's among these easiest to make, uncommonly among these, rarely among these, etc.".

In other words, adventurers do not describe the population as a whole. They are much more likely to be a concentration of such things both because they have picked such a fantastically risky career but also because that career is often around recovering such lost items from dangerous and inimical places.

If an adventurer has three items, that's still much less than 1 in a 1000 of the populous having an item, because of how rare successful adventurers are.
Looked at it another way... The CR2032 Coin batteries in my ecobee's remote sensors are common bet you don't have & might take you a few tries to find one in a local store.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I voted 3rd. When you start to do things like fly through the air, return the recently dead to life, call bolt after bolt of lightning from the sky. Those are miraculous to most people.

But I don't disagree with anyone else - lots of good thinking in this thread about what "powerful" means.
 

As far as my experience goes, magic items in 5e are way more rare than in 4e or 3rd, where they actually had a price and could be found in markets. And I believe I've read that in early editions of the game adventurers were veritable cornucopias of magic items.

All things considered, I voted for 3rd. When the characters come to a village, there's a very good chance someone there can cast 1st level spells, and a very low chance someone can cast 2nd level spells. 3rd Level is only for adventurers and enemies.

EDIT:

I want to add that my campaign world is very magical, even if not everyone can cast magic. More often than not, the magic occurring in the world is not picked out of a list of spells or magic items, it occurs because the gods, hags, and mages of the world are magical beings who do magic.

To me, spells are mostly for PCs and enemies in combat. The magic of NPCs and campaign lore is separate from that.
 

I chose 3rd level.
At this level, the threat of Fireball or lightning bolt or Animate dead is enough to make people, especially commoners flee at the mere threat of a wizard (or whatever caster) angry stare. A cleric also get powerful magic too and could kill a lot of person just by walking into town. Remember that these spell do an average of 28 points of damage. A typical commoner has but 5 hp and a town guard has 11 hp. Even with a successful save, they die to a fireball. The spirit guardian spell does 14 hp of damage on average. A guard is likely to die and a commoner is sure to die. I know that I would not p*** off someone with that kind of power.
 

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