5E How to De-Magic 5e

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Then again perhaps I have never talked to any of my players before, and this topic has never come up before.
So, dude... I know you have an image to maintain, but the snark isn't constructive.

Instead, you could have said, "Well, Umbran, I did ask my group if they thought simply making magic less common among the PCs would make that magic more interesting, and they said yes. And here's why they think that..."

Which would have given us some insight into your players, so we could help serve them better.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
So, dude... I know you have an image to maintain, but the snark isn't constructive.
I ... have an image?

I .... have an image!

I HAVE AN IMAGE!



/swoon



Instead, you could have said, "Well, Umbran, I did ask my group if they thought simply making magic less common among the PCs would make that magic more interesting, and they said yes. And here's why they think that..."

Which would have given us some insight into your players, so we could help serve them better.
So, here's the thing. Not to pick on you, or your comment (especially given my later expansion which I don't think you saw), but ...

Imagine you're Capn Zapp. And you're starting a thread about (wait for it) MAGIC ITEM SHOPPES.

And amidst the usual detritus of posts that you'd find in the threads,* you'll find people saying, "Well, maybe the players don't want magic item shoppes. Have you thought about asking your players what THEY WANT?"

Which is profoundly unhelpful. Because, 99/100, that comment isn't really about helping Capn Zapp's players, it's really about an implicit argument that magic item shoppes aren't useful, because the poster doesn't think that they are useful, therefore, had Capn Zapp listened to his players, he wouldn't be making the post.

...and that can be annoying. Because, as should be obvious, the person making the post probably has a pretty good idea of what is going on at their table, hence the post.

Now, there are many times when the "talk to your players" is good advice, and it's always good generic advice for resolving issues at a table, but when experienced TTRPGers are asking for specific advice regarding a rules implementation or modification, then the whole, "Talk to your players" generally is unhelpful at best, and can be seen as passive-aggressive at worst.

IMO. :)



*People saying that magic items should be found and not bought, people arguing that 3e is the devil's work, and people wondering why adding a "PES" at the end of "shop" classes up the joint.
 
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Quartz

Explorer
It's that I want to de-Magic 5e.

One of the things you can do is not so much de-magic D&D as diminish the visibility of magic. So you drop everything that's flashy. No Firebolt, no Fireball, no Mirror Image, no Meteor Swarm. Revivify becomes a defibrilator. Dimension Door becomes, "How the blazes did you get there?" "I have my means." No Teleport. Ask, "Does Eric the Cleric's story end here?" more often. No blazing swords. Magic is mysterious and subtle.
 
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Yaarel

Adventurer
It wasn't even clear how Half-elves could be bards.
I mean it specifically says they can but once you try and work out how it works you run into trouble.

Edit: Yeah here it is.

"Bards begin play as Fighters and they must remain exclusively fighters until they have achieved at least the 5th level of experience." Then it says they must change their class to thieves before they hit 8th level. Then they have to change to druid (but are also bards).

So, even though it says Half-elves can be bards it seems to imply that bards can only be achieved by dual classing which is exclusively the province of humans.

Of course dual classing requires higher stats - 17 in the class you are changing into. So you'd need two 17s and 2 15s and a 12 and 10.

But of course Half-Elves can't dual class - so perhaps we don't use the rules for dual classing here - perhaps there is a special rule here that applies under the vague intention of someday being a bard. (I don't know what happens if you change your mind).

And of course the rest of the party has to drag you along while you're doing the whole dual class thing of now using your higher level abilities - multiple times.

It often seemed, with a lot of AD&D rules material, that the designers were so used to their own house rules that they'd frequently seem to forget how the published rules were actually supposed to work.
And this is why D&D 1e gamers make up their own rules!

It is an oral tradition, not a textual tradition.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
3. Wizards, Clerics, Druids remain relatively unchanged (other than loss of cantrips).
So. You want a HIGH MAGIC campaign.

As long as the CoDzillaW classes are sufficiently hazed at low levels?

As long as non-CoDzillaW classes cannot compete magically at high levels?
 
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dnd4vr

Adventurer
It wasn't even clear how Half-elves could be bards.
I mean it specifically says they can but once you try and work out how it works you run into trouble.

Edit: Yeah here it is.

"Bards begin play as Fighters and they must remain exclusively fighters until they have achieved at least the 5th level of experience." Then it says they must change their class to thieves before they hit 8th level. Then they have to change to druid (but are also bards).

So, even though it says Half-elves can be bards it seems to imply that bards can only be achieved by dual classing which is exclusively the province of humans.

Of course dual classing requires higher stats - 17 in the class you are changing into. So you'd need two 17s and 2 15s and a 12 and 10.

But of course Half-Elves can't dual class - so perhaps we don't use the rules for dual classing here - perhaps there is a special rule here that applies under the vague intention of someday being a bard. (I don't know what happens if you change your mind).

And of course the rest of the party has to drag you along while you're doing the whole dual class thing of now using your higher level abilities - multiple times.

It often seemed, with a lot of AD&D rules material, that the designers were so used to their own house rules that they'd frequently seem to forget how the published rules were actually supposed to work.
Here it is:

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In the first paragraph we have:
1. it is often not allowed by DMs.
2. is greatly modified from the original bard character class
3. is offered as supplemental to the system

This is all the 1E equivalent of the 5E specific beating general. The Bard class was not dual classing which is why it was supplemental. It did not require the same level of ability scores (close though) and allowed half-elves. Also, while you had to remain a fighter to begin with (and only be a fighter), once you began your thieving career you could still use all your fighter abilities, saves, etc. (very different from dual classing). The thief was not "exclusive" like the fighter was. This was built in. And you didn't have to wait for them to advance their thief because in the time it took to gain one level for everyone else, the thief was likely gaining all the 5+ levels they wanted and could begin their life as a Bard.

The groups I played with never saw any confusion in this, with one exception (below). I was in three different games where bards were played, the highest reaching 13th or 14th level in Bard IIRC. Seeing it in action, I understand why it was supplemental--it was a very powerful combination.

I will agree the only issue (as we saw it) was what happened if you changed to thief and then decided you didn't want to be a bard. Myself and the other DMs I played with basically ruled it, you have no choice. You started as a "bard" in name, even if not in class. Was it ideal? Hardly. But like others we had to make those rulings as we saw fit.

And this is why D&D 1e gamers make up their own rules!

It is an oral tradition, not a textual tradition.
LOL true enough, but also (looking around this web site), so do all the other editions of D&D. ;)

Gygax himself easily admitted D&D and AD&D were basically a collection of house-rules they agreed upon. Even the AD&D bard presented was "not the original bard". I would have loved to see the original as I am not fond at all of 5E's version.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
So. You want a HIGH MAGIC campaign.

As long as the CoDzillaW classes are sufficiently hazed at low levels?

As non-CoDzillaW classes cannot compete magically at high levels?
So you want to ignore what I wrote and substitute in things I didn't write with ALL-CAPS?

And then you want to use CATIDUBTWYD?*

Because you are a fan of an edition that I didn't play, or something?


*Confusing acronyms that I don't use because that's what you do.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Gygax himself easily admitted D&D and AD&D were basically a collection of house-rules they agreed upon. Even the AD&D bard presented was "not the original bard". I would have loved to see the original as I am not fond at all of 5E's version.

The original bard (Strategic Review, V. 2 No. 1, ) was written by David Schwegman, and was based off of the skalds, the bards, and the minstrels- and you started as a bard.

Elves, dwarves, and hobbits could be bards, but had restrictions (because of course).
 
This is about removing cantrips (at will magic) and fixing the spell-equivalency system.
Really, it seems as much about re-magicking as de-magicking. That is, magic is ubiquitous (through a day) via cantrips and (across classes) through spellcasting (which every class has) and spell-equivalency (which the remaining sub-classes are all designed around to some extent). Ubiquitous magic doesn't feel special anymore - familiarity breeds contempt and all that - you lose that senseofwonda that's emblematic to the broader fantasy genre.

Do I understand the problem?

In short, this post comes closest to what I've been thinking:
1. Remove cantrips.
Check.
3. Wizards, Clerics, Druids remain relatively unchanged (other than loss of cantrips).
So we're not 'replacing' cantrips with Extra Attack, weapon proficiencies, or a few more spell slots or scaling spell damage or anything?

2. Fighters, Monks, Barbarians, Rogues are restricted to non-spellcasting subclasses. Any incidental uses of spells or cantrips are removed or re-written as class abilities.
Re-writing something as a class ability still leaves it a spell-equivalent. And Ki, Rage, CS dice/maneuvers, Action Surge & Second Wind are surely all calibrated as spell-equivalents, as well.

It seems to me that once you've re-established the defining sense of magic as a limited (within a given day), resource with correspondingly greater power/versatility/importance, the only way to truly de-magic something else is to make it unlimited on the same time scale, and of correspondingly lesser power/versatility/importance.

In another thread I pointed out the early-Next-playtest MDD mechanic. As it's a limited resource only within the timescale of a given round - essentially 'at will' compared to real magic - it could be a way of adding a little management/interest/differentiation among fighter, rogue & monk sub-classes.

4. Sorcerer (to a lesser extent) and Warlock (to a greater extent) ... I don't know. Not sure how easy that they would be.
The Warlock has more of it's DPR-balance in it's amped-up Eldritch Blast, and it is on a short-rest schedule, which is also a more-available, thus less-special take on magic, so just doing away with it might be an acceptable answer. The Warlock concept, could be folded into the Sorcerer. Sorcerers from 1st level on have innate magic, McSorcerers who gain power later must get it from a patron?

5. Paladins, Bards, and Rangers re-done to remove casting. For obvious reasons, as you point out, bard would be tough.
The Ranger's already gone spell-less twice, now, though the 5e attempt didn't go over well, and was still spell-equivalancey. The Bard could lose spells and spell-equivalent bardic inspiration, and bring back Bardic Music (which needn't be literal, might even be (pi) literary) like in 3e & earlier, including inspire __ (courage, competence, defiance, etc) as more or less at-will (maybe requiring concentration or something?) bonus actions it could do whilst fighting or otherwise contributing, and maybe counter-harmony to dispel charms & magic and the like (or suppress it while the music continues?).

Actually, that sounds like it'd be fairly easy, Bardic Music could give a +1d bonus to allies hearing it, the size of the die could start at +1d4, and go up a little at higher levels.

Inspire competence: +1d4 to skill checks
Inspire courage: +1d4 to melee attacks
Inspire ferocity: +1d4 to damage with melee attacks
Inspire defiance: +1d4 to saving throws

etc...


And Paladins could just be removed. ;)
I'm thinking this would be a good start.
Isn't it always?
 
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lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Really, it seems as much about re-magicking as de-magicking. That is, magic is ubiquitous (through a day) via cantrips and (across classes) through spellcasting (which every class has) and spell-equivalency (which the remaining sub-classes are all designed around to some extent). Ubiquitous magic doesn't feel special anymore - familiarity breeds contempt and all that - you lose that senseofwonda that's emblematic to the broader fantasy genre.

Do I understand the problem?
Yeah, pretty much that.

So we're not 'replacing' cantrips with Extra Attack, weapon proficiencies, or a few more spell slots or scaling spell damage or anything?
Probably not. I mean, definitely NOT extra attack or weapon proficiencies.

To a certain extent, by getting rid of magic elsewhere, that both increases awesomeness of non-magic characters (by weakening the magic characters) as well as increasing the awesomeness of magic characters (scarcity).

Re-writing something as a class ability still leaves it a spell-equivalent. And Ki, Rage, CS dice/maneuvers, Action Surge & Second Wind are surely all calibrated as spell-equivalents, as well.
Yes, kinda, but no. To be clear, the main problem is when everything is given in terms of actual spells.

I don't find abilities (such as the Monk's or Fighter's, to use two) problematic.

It seems to me that once you've re-established the defining sense of magic as a limited (within a given day), resource with correspondingly greater power/versatility/importance, the only way to truly de-magic something else is to make it unlimited on the same time scale, and of correspondingly lesser power/versatility/importance.

In another thread I pointed out the early-Next-playtest MDD mechanic. As it's a limited resource only within the timescale of a given round - essentially 'at will' compared to real magic - it could be a way of adding a little management/interest/differentiation among fighter, rogue & monk sub-classes.
Maybe. I think when people have different conceptions of what they are looking for, they will find different solutions. I think that you might have a slightly different idea of the issues vis-a-vis "magic" and "not magic" than I might, given your experience with later editions that I did not share.
 
Yeah, pretty much that.
OK, good. I want to be helpful, but I /need/ to understand the issue.

Probably not. I mean, definitely NOT extra attack or weapon proficiencies.
OK, so a lower at-will baseline.
To a certain extent, by getting rid of magic elsewhere, that both increases awesomeness of non-magic characters (by weakening the magic characters) as well as increasing the awesomeness of magic characters (scarcity).
I don't see lowering casters' at-will baseline to be making anyone more or less awesome. But, for purposes of this discussion, I'll accept that's how you feel about it, and part of the reasoning of the objective, sure.

Yes, kinda, but no. To be clear, the main problem is when everything is given in terms of actual spells.
I don't find abilities (such as the Monk's or Fighter's, to use two) problematic.
So, Ki, which is magic, but not spells, is OK, but a problem, when modeled by spells, as in the case of the shadow & elemental options. Maneuvers/CS dice, though, are fine? Rage, I assume, as well. OK, that's an additional layer beyond what I was considering, above.

So by spell-equivalence, you mean an ability that is modeled by the mechanics of an actual spell, called out as such. Not just something that uses MM's spell-damage/healing formulae for rough balance?


Maybe. I think when people have different conceptions of what they are looking for, they will find different solutions. I think that you might have a slightly different idea of the issues vis-a-vis "magic" and "not magic" than I might, given your experience with later editions that I did not share.
For me, personally, my conception of magic vs not-magic, given my experiences (that I also assume we didn't share) with /other games/ that weren't D&D,as far back as, oh '84, I guess, like Champions! and Fantasy Hero, is that the critical difference is not what they accomplish nor how often, but /how/ they operate, how they look, and how they interact.

So, wand of fireballs with six charges and grenade launcher with six WP grenades might both do fire damage in an area down range, six times before you go back to your home base to recharge them, but one's magic and one's not. Dispel Magic makes no impression on a grenade, white phosphorus won't stick to an intangible spectre "hit only by magic."

I was just trying to understand your perspective: that the /scarcity/ of magic was part of what made it magical. And thus come up with options that might deliver what you were after. (And, in D&D, limited-uses /are/ consistently compensated with greater power, and especially in the case of spells, versatility... and, yeah, that combination makes them more important, as well, especially in terms of the decision to use or not use them, so that seemed an important aspect).

But, if it's not mainly about scarcity, then, say it's fine for a Barbarian to Rage 1/day, plenty scarce, but not magical?
...
So, not scarcity = magic, but scarcity = specialness in some other way?

Spells are special, because scarcity - undercut by Cantrips.
Rage is special, because scarcity.
CS dice are special, because scarcity.
Ki is special, because scarcity.

(Heck, HD must be fairly special, too - they're the only resource that recovers even slower than slots.)

Have I got a better grasp of it, now?

If so, then, yeah, I guess changing the Bard into an at-will aura-singer wouldn't really be what you're looking for. :(
 
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DWChancellor

Kobold Enthusiast
To those recommending it: how cross-compatible is Adventures in Middle-Earth with core D&D? Could you just drop the classes into a D&D campaign?
Not really -- Many AIME classes are noticeably weaker than core D&D classes. Like someone said, a bunch of the classes are built for traveling phases AIME has that core D&D doesn't too... so some class powers were bled off into that too.

This gets to Lowkey's predicament: how do you drop cantrips and make magic feel "special" without de or overpowering magic-users. The AIME solution is a big rewrite of D&D into a new game.

I do wonder if dropping most cantrips (and allowing some utility ones as short rituals like one-minute casting for mage hand) and having all other spells go off at level+1 effects would go towards making the feeling without unbalancing things too much.

The loss in damage from losing a decent to-hit cantrip power would be made up by amping bigger damage spells and making them splashier in addition to their secondary effects. Maybe get another +1 level boost for 1-3 level spells when you hit PC level 11?

Push off the X + a little magic classes and you've gone a long way to achieving what I think I'm hearing Lowkey looking for without having to carefully rebalance the whole game.
 

snickersnax

Explorer
4. Sorcerer (to a lesser extent) and Warlock (to a greater extent) ... I don't know. Not sure how easy that they would be.
Here's a thought about Sorcerers and Warlocks. Eliminate them as classes and replace them with feats.

I think it fits the fluff better. A sorcerer is someone who has access to raw magic, they don't have to progress or gain skill as a sorcerer. A warlock is someone who takes the easy path and cuts a deal for power. They aren't striving and gaining experience to be a better warlock. I mean that was the whole point of their pact in the first place to trade for power rather than study.

Its off topic for a low magic thread, but while we're at it, throw in barbarians. How is this a class anyway? Raised by wolves or born to a barbarian tribe sounds like background to me. I mean how is it even possible to skill up at becoming more feral?
 
A sorcerer is someone who has access to raw magic, they don't have to progress or gain skill as a sorcerer. ...
Its off topic for a low magic thread, but while we're at it, throw in barbarians. How is this a class anyway? Raised by wolves or born to a barbarian tribe sounds like background to me.
Heck, Sorcerer could be a background: Whatever magic you have (or eventually discover), it comes from innate power. Enjoy.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Y'know, if D&D had had skills from the start, detecting magic or identifying an item might've just been arcana checks - one % with lotsa modifiers, of course, and the other roll 1 or 2 on a d6.
;)
Infidel! One would have been 1-2 on a d6, and the OTHER would have been a chart of modifiers to the %.

Sheesh, some people have no sense of history.

:)
 

Ashrym

Adventurer
And then there's the bard. Making bards into full casters never quite sat right with me, and I would guess you feel the same way. But I don't think it's feasible to rewrite the class as a half-caster or even a two-thirds-caster. So maybe the solution is to take a page out of AD&D and make bard into an "advanced class." You may only take levels in bard once you have reached 5th level in another class(es).
Naw, bards were always full casters. This was demonstrated with lack of restrictions on caster levels like other non-full casters would have, and also hidden by using a modified progression with additional supplemented magical abilities.

The original and AD&D had near top level spell slots (6th level spells compared to the cleric or illusionist 7th level spells) plus level-per-day uses of mass charm. There was also a revised Dragon Magazine version that used druid and illusionist spells instead. 2e's supplemental abilities were pretty weak in comparison but they were solid spell casters because of the spell caster level mechanics and their progression rate. 3.x went back closer to the AD&D version with a lot of spells, 8th level spells that were 6th level spells for bards, and a ton of magical songs. 4e was 4e so the power structure was similar all around, and bards continued to be arcane casters.

5e (and PF2) just takes away the massive magical power AD&D and 3.x charm abilities / songs had and replaces that potential with spells. Bards always cast spells at full power, and in 2e's example that easily made them better than wizards in a lot of ways. Given the area of effect of AD&D's charm ability or the DC of 3.x's fascinate or mass suggestion abilities I would say the conversion weakened bards in some ways. ;-)

The only real change is bards know high level spells now that they didn't before. That's the equivalent of complaining clerics, druids, and illusionists were upgraded from 7th level spells to 9th level spells and weren't real casters before that point. ;-)

Even that was covered in 3.x pre's where swapping in spells from other classes was popular in bard pre's, as well as advancing up to 9th level spell slots on a bard chassis. We cannot have forgotten sublime chord's already.... ;-)

I'm in the "bards should be full casters" group. If a group doesn't like that version, just don't allow it and players can make bards how they want as flavor in other classes, or a subclass of rogue or fighter patterned after AT / EK can replace it without much effort. The arcane trickster is already pretty close to some of the concepts, with the right background and skills to theme it out.

I would have loved to see the original as I am not fond at all of 5E's version.
Getting 6th level spells at a time when clerics get 7th level spells, plus a lot of charm power. It was a lot like 2e bards with more rogue abilities, plus the AD&D charming power. Or a lot like the AD&D version but using magic user spells instead of druid spells, and without the massive amount of hit points.

The original bard (Strategic Review, V. 2 No. 1, ) was written by David Schwegman, and was based off of the skalds, the bards, and the minstrels- and you started as a bard.

Elves, dwarves, and hobbits could be bards, but had restrictions (because of course).
A 20th level bard had 120% chance to charm any 20th level character within 60' other than monks. There were a lot of odd things about that like undead being resistant instead of immune and Balrog's getting a flat 200% resist (which gave a 50/50 chance for the bard at 25th level). Then they got a save vs magic for the suggestion power that came free with the charm. The 3e bard song was surprisingly similar to the original version effect.

1e and 3.x had that jedi mind trick running rampant at times. ;-)

Nostalgia. 🙃

As for the topic, I would just cut what I don't want, tbh. Often, I prefer a more S&S feel and that means restricting cantrips and not the spell casters so much as the spell available. No class is required, and spell selection is easy to limit.

I find it less work to trim than to flat out change.
 

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