D&D 5E How should spells be organized?

How should the spell descriptions be sorted (choose up to three)?

  • The top level sort should be alphabetical

    Votes: 16 53.3%
  • The top level sort should be by level

    Votes: 12 40.0%
  • The top level sort should be by school

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • The second level sort should be alphabetical

    Votes: 9 30.0%
  • The second level sort should be by level

    Votes: 2 6.7%
  • The second level sort should be by school

    Votes: 1 3.3%
  • There shouldn't be a second level sort

    Votes: 9 30.0%
  • The third level sort should be alphabetical

    Votes: 1 3.3%
  • The third level sort should be by level

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • The third level sort should be by school

    Votes: 1 3.3%
  • There shouldn't be a third level sort

    Votes: 17 56.7%
  • Other

    Votes: 5 16.7%


I'm making my own variant of 5E based on the SRD, because the world obviously needs another 5E variant. I want it to be well organized, and I'm starting to review the spells, and I've heard people complain that the spell descriptions should have been sorted by level, then alphabetical. I'm not sure I like that, so I thought I'd do a poll, and since I'm a bit obsessive compulsive I thought I'd make it complicated.

Now, I hope to have page numbers for each spell in my version of the class spell lists. And if I don't sort the descriptions alphabetically, I hope to have an alphabetical index of them. And a json file with all of them.

So how would you like the spells to be organized? And if the choices are confusing, here's an example: if you want the spells sorted by level, and then alphabetical within each level, choose "the top level sort should be by level", "the second level sort should be alphabetical", and "there shouldn't be a third level sort."

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When I've asked my players about it, they prefer a primarily alphabetical sort. They don't necessarily know what level a particular spell is. Secondarily, a sort by level and guild was also requested to help them know what to pick when they increase in level or want to research a spell.


I do not mind having all the spells listed alphabetically, especially if some spells are in multiple caster's spell list. Another listing of spells can be by caster level so I can photocopy them if needed. This may be less important since I can find the lists online or will add them to an Excel file or something else than photocopying. So maybe a class listing is more important than be level.


my secret fighting dictionary is unbeatable
This is a tricky matter, because, assuming print only, you have to prioritize either pure reference (lookup) or locality of reference for other particular tasks, such as surveying spells newly available to you. For pure reference by name, alphabetical is clearly best. But of course you can easily provide a lookup table/index—except oh no, that's extra pages and we can't have that.

Anyhow. My idea spell listing would be strictly alphabetical but with these additions:
  • Spell level prominently indicated for each spell (as well as classes/lists/schools) so you can scan through and find your new spells quickly. By "prominently" I mean in the margin, a special (heavier) font, and/or boxes like they use in Pathfinder 2.
  • Other highly-salient spell characteristics—Concentration, I'm lookin' at you, but also things like damage type—should also jump off the page so you don't have to hunt for such critical details.
  • General intended use of the spell—attack, defense, buff, debuff, movement, utility (and more!)—would also be very handy to have boldly indicated with each spell.
Again these could all be handled by separate lists, but the more you can keep down the need to synchronize text across pages, the better. Although having concise lists is very nice, even though that's extra pages.

I've been known to compile all the spells from a game into a spreadsheet just so I can search and sort and filter by a variety of criteria. Having a resource like that provided in addition to the game text would go a long way toward obviating many problems.


my secret fighting dictionary is unbeatable
Back in 1E and 2E days they were sorted by class and level and then alpha within those. Lot of things I love about those edition, but that is one thing I don't want to go back to. I'd go back to THAC0 first! :LOL:
Not to mention the listings under magic user that basically said "go look up the cleric spell of the same name". Grr!

Most of the time when I’m looking up a spell all I know is the name, so alphabetical all the way.

However if the feature isn’t shared between classes and the toral list is less than a dozen pages (like invocations) then by level is easier.

Of course I also believe strongly that modern ttrpgs should have good digital resources, including spell and feature lists that I can sort however I need in the moment.

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