5E How to De-Magic 5e

Horwath

Explorer
1. Remove all caster classes from the game.
2. Remove EK and AT subclasses from fighter and rogue.
3. Remove spellcasting from ranger and paladin
There is already UA variant for spell-less rangers, add the same for paladins. Add Cha bonus to Lay on hands to per level healing.
 

FXR

Explorer
So, if I understand correctly, your objective is to make magic "special" again.

Here what I did in my homebrew setting:

1. Paladins only get their oath spells. They still have their spell slots, which they can use for smithing purpose. You could go further and ban the oath spells. It wouldn't change much.

2. Bards and Rangers are spell-less but gain other features. My ranger homebrew was OP, but many ranger spells can be turned into non-magical abilities (such as darkvision and hunter's mark). Lore bards could get a few cantrips and an ability equivalent to Legend Lore.

3. Taking some inspiration from AIME, I ruled that long rest can only be taken in civilization (to balance this and the fact that magical healing is much rarer, I allow creatures to regain the maximum number on the die when they spend an hit die.

4. I banned clerics (but that didn't really have to do with being low-magic).

5. I banned several archetypes which rely on spellcasting.

You could go further and, just like the Player's Guide to Xoth did, ban all "artillery" and some "utility" spells, such as fireball and fly. Please note that balance will be affected so you should think about giving some extra features to casters.

The warlock is probably the most problematic class when going low-magic as it relies a lot on blasting cantrips such as eldtrich blast and they regain their spells on a short rest. I still haven't figured out how to fix that.

Alternatively, you could rule that casting magic has a cost. Perhaps the caster must succeed on a Constitution saving throw (DC12+spell level) or gain a level of exhaustion. Such a cost would not eliminate magic but some players might thing twice before casting a spell.
 

MichaelSomething

Adventurer
Change wizards so they get a 4th\5th\6\7\8\9 slot at levels 1\3\5\7\9\11 etc. And let them only recover one spell slot per extended rest. There! Powerful but limited magic. Adjust slot acquisition rate to taste.
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
Here's a thought about Sorcerers and Warlocks. Eliminate them as classes and replace them with feats.

I think it fits the fluff better.
I like the idea here but I don’t think it works well with the 5e framework.

Feats are 1) optional and 2) so very rare core that it makes these concepts unattainable until 4th level unless you allow variant humans. 3) You’d have to work out a whole tree of feats to model it all as well.

I would say that if you take cantrips out that you might want to give the sorcerer another spell known to start the game, since part of their benefit v. A wizard is starting with 4 cantrips.
 
Feats are 1) optional and 2) so very rare core that it makes these concepts unattainable until 4th level unless you allow variant humans. 3) You’d have to work out a whole tree of feats to model it all as well.
1) Backgrounds might be a better choice for that reason. 2) Several classes don't get their sub-class until 3rd, so waiting until 4th to realize a concept isn't some unprecedented burden. 3) 5e feats're big, so maybe not, depending how much you leveraged the existing class to do stuff and the feat just added options/flavor.
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
1) Backgrounds might be a better choice for that reason. 2) Several classes don't get their sub-class until 3rd, so waiting until 4th to realize a concept isn't some unprecedented burden. 3) 5e feats're big, so maybe not, depending how much you leveraged the existing class to do stuff and the feat just added options/flavor.
1. Backgrounds aren't really for things that mechanical though.

I guess you could shoehorn something like this in there, but it would feel very different from other backgrounds in how much impact your main class rather than the fluff of your history and a couple of little ribbon effects.

2. I have issues with subclasses not hitting until 3rd personally. It's been one of my 5e peeves since I got settled in the edition. That said... it's not just that you're realizing a concept as a Sorcerer, it's literally how you access your magic. If you did that, you can't have a Sorcerer or Warlock at 1st level for games without feats and/or non-variant humans. That's a big difference from just not realizing a concept.

3. The post I responded to was proposing the elimination of Sorcerer and Warlock as a class. If you do that, then a feat at 4th level doesn't just add flavor to your wizard, it is a fundamental shift in the concept of the class.

You could do those things, but it would feel kludgey to me at least.
 
3. The post I responded to was proposing the elimination of Sorcerer and Warlock as a class. If you do that, then a feat at 4th level doesn't just add flavor to your wizard, it is a fundamental shift in the concept of the class.
Yeah, I caught that. I meant how much you leveraged the actual class - Wizard or something else - to cash the check the feat was writing. A Warlock Feat might just give you the Eldritch Blast cantrip &c. The Sorcerer feat might mainly /take away/ your prepped casting (!!) and in give you metamagic, if that really says 'sorcerer' to the DM running it (?) heck, maybe you could just play a Wizard, declare "Sorcerer" at 1st level, take the hit, and get a Feat /as compensation/?
 

snickersnax

Explorer
I like the idea here but I don’t think it works well with the 5e framework.

Feats are 1) optional and 2) so very rare core that it makes these concepts unattainable until 4th level unless you allow variant humans. 3) You’d have to work out a whole tree of feats to model it all as well.

I would say that if you take cantrips out that you might want to give the sorcerer another spell known to start the game, since part of their benefit v. A wizard is starting with 4 cantrips.
There are already sorcerer-like racial feats: drow high magic, wood elf magic, svirfneblin magic. You could easily have stacking sorcerer feats for each sorcerer type. (Dragon sorcerer I, dragon sorcerer II, dragon sorcerer III, etc). Since this modification is for a low magic game there is no reason to get concerned that magic is unavailable at low levels, that's one of the things we were hoping to achieve anyway.

There are already lists of cult spells and special abilities for the various devils and demons in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. These can easily be organized into feats for warlocks. It's also not hard to imagine the various warlock Pacts and invocations in the Player's Handbook as feats, and the Patron can put a price on each or them ala cart :)

Remember my low-magic idea is to eliminate Sorcerer and Warlock, so the characters taking these sorcerer and warlock feats still have their other class features (fighter, monk, etc)
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
There are already sorcerer-like racial feats: drow high magic, wood elf magic, svirfneblin magic. You could easily have stacking sorcerer feats for each sorcerer type. (Dragon sorcerer I, dragon sorcerer II, dragon sorcerer III, etc). Since this modification is for a low magic game there is no reason to get concerned that magic is unavailable at low levels, that's one of the things we were hoping to achieve anyway.

There are already lists of cult spells and special abilities for the various devils and demons in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. These can easily be organized into feats for warlocks. It's also not hard to imagine the various warlock Pacts and invocations in the Player's Handbook as feats, and the Patron can put a price on each or them ala cart :)

Remember my low-magic idea is to eliminate Sorcerer and Warlock, so the characters taking these sorcerer and warlock feats still have their other class features (fighter, monk, etc)
Fair point that I wasn't considering. For a setting which is truly low magic, that would work, though it'd be a ton of DM work to get those feats up and running for a player who wanted to go down that route :)

My understanding is that @lowkey13 doesn't want to eliminate any classes, just make magic feel more rare/special, though. So not a "low-magic" setting so much as a "magic-is-not-quite-ubiquitous-and-therefore-still-special-and-awe-inspiring" setting.
 

Von Ether

Explorer
The Rogue subclass, Scout, in Xanthar's is pretty much a no-magic ranger. With that in mind, one quick and dirty way to go reducing player magic is to have someone spend 1st level as a smart fighter or rogue (to compensate for having no cantrips) and then let them multiclass into being a wizard at every other level. No Paladins allowed.

Then start the game at Level 2 as a courtesy/compromise for the half wizard.
 

snickersnax

Explorer
Brief Background:
I've been playing 5e since it "officially" came out, but recently I went back to AD&D (1e) for a while at the request of a group that wanted to give it a shot. In addition, I've been thinking of running B/X (Moldvay/Cook) for some fun and giggles. I am still running a 5e campaign concurrently with the 1e campaign.

For the most part, I love 5e. I run 5e in a pretty modified form at the table (a lot of fail forward, Amber resolution, fast-paced ToTM etc.) but I do use the default class and spell system.

And that's what I have been thinking about. It's not that I want to completely re-tool 5e to resemble 1e (I think that, among others @Zardnaar has posted some information about class/race/alignment restrictions, etc. that allow 5e to more closely resemble 1e). It's that I want to de-Magic 5e.

Okay, let me explain this first. When people ask me what I dislike about 5e, my response is always the same- there's too much magic. Now, let me be clear: this is my opinion. I am not asserting that this is right, or true, or correct for everyone- but it is for me. And it's not that magic is too powerful- it's that it is too prevalent. As a matter of style, in TTFRPGs, I prefer the occasional big bang to the constant little pew pew pew.

So I have two issues that I would want to fix if I was fixing 5e:

A. Cantrips.

Okay, I realize that this is a losing battle (and probably has been since, oh, 1985) but constant at-will cantrips (and especially scaling attack cantrips) annoy the heck out of me. Now, before you get all, "But that just allows people who like spells to use spells instead of weapons yada yada yada" ... I get it. I am not arguing about likes and dislikes, instead I am saying that I want to remove cantrips.


B. Spell equivalency.

This is a slightly harder one to grok, but once you see it, you can't un-see it in 5e. It's like the old, "If all you had was a hammer, every problem looks like a nail" issue with class design and balance in 5e. The basic "unit of currency" in class design in 5e is the spell; it is ingrained into the system that almost everything (from monster effects, to many invocations for Warlocks, to magic items) are treated as spells. Martial classes (such as Rangers and, um, that other one) are turned into spellcasters simply to give them abilities that would better be handled as abilities (hunter's mark, smiting). It stands out so much that when a class begins to depart from that system (monk with ki, Warlock's non-spell equivalent invocations) it both sticks out like a sore thumb and provides a breath of fresh air.


So I've been pondering this for a while and I thought I'd throw this out for general discussion. While I think it might be possible to approach the cantrip issue, the more I think about the spell equivalency issue, the more I begin to realize that this might be too hard-baked into the 5e DNA to change.

Any thoughts on the issue? What are the best approaches you've found for de-Magicking 5e?
 

dave2008

Hero
The Rogue subclass, Scout, in Xanthar's is pretty much a no-magic ranger. With that in mind, one quick and dirty way to go reducing player magic is to have someone spend 1st level as a smart fighter or rogue (to compensate for having no cantrips) and then let them multiclass into being a wizard at every other level. No Paladins allowed.

Then start the game at Level 2 as a courtesy/compromise for the half wizard.
I forgot about the Scout. I agree, just use that for a ranger.
 

snickersnax

Explorer
B. Spell equivalency.

This is a slightly harder one to grok, but once you see it, you can't un-see it in 5e. It's like the old, "If all you had was a hammer, every problem looks like a nail" issue with class design and balance in 5e. The basic "unit of currency" in class design in 5e is the spell; it is ingrained into the system that almost everything (from monster effects, to many invocations for Warlocks, to magic items) are treated as spells. Martial classes (such as Rangers and, um, that other one) are turned into spellcasters simply to give them abilities that would better be handled as abilities (hunter's mark, smiting). It stands out so much that when a class begins to depart from that system (monk with ki, Warlock's non-spell equivalent invocations) it both sticks out like a sore thumb and provides a breath of fresh air.


So I've been pondering this for a while and I thought I'd throw this out for general discussion. While I think it might be possible to approach the cantrip issue, the more I think about the spell equivalency issue, the more I begin to realize that this might be too hard-baked into the 5e DNA to change.

Any thoughts on the issue? What are the best approaches you've found for de-Magicking 5e?
Another approach to this problem that I've started doing is "picking the low hanging fruit"

Which spell-like abilities seem most out of alignment with a low magic world? After Sorcerer and Warlock which I touched on in previous posts in this thread. I'd pick Wild Shape and Weapon Bond. I could have picked a bunch of others, but you have to start somewhere.

I re-imagine druid's wild shaping to be more like beast sense with the ability to control the animal. The druid's body isn't transformed just his consciousness. The druid's body is incapacitated during the "wild shape", but spells like meld into stone can be used to safeguard the druid's body during the wild shaping experience. This helps explain the use of stone circles by groups of druids.

Its still magical, but it feels much less so.

For Weapon Bond I'd just drop it for a lower magic world.
 

aurvay

Villager
Modern problems require classic solutions.
A) Make cantrip a first level spell. When the spellcaster learns the cantrip spell, instead of individual cantrips, (s)he chooses them as effects that can be replicated with the 1st level cantrip spell.
B) Move some effects to ability scores or prof. bonus, then slow down the spell progression.
So, instead of their own spell progression, rangers and paladins use the eldritch knight progression. Then they can smite/hunter’s mark an amount of times equal to their prof bonus/charisma modifier/wisdom modifier/whatever per long rest.
Eldritch knights and arcane tricksters are fine as we had as many thief/mages or fighter/mages already in the past.
I call this limiting the magic BS nonsense tbh. Wizards were over the top back in the day. It’s time to get over the nostalgia or just going back to basics and play, well, B/X or 1e.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen... Be nice plz n_n
A. Cantrips.

Okay, I realize that this is a losing battle (and probably has been since, oh, 1985) but constant at-will cantrips (and especially scaling attack cantrips) annoy the heck out of me. Now, before you get all, "But that just allows people who like spells to use spells instead of weapons yada yada yada" ... I get it. I am not arguing about likes and dislikes, instead I am saying that I want to remove cantrips.
Maybe remove scaling and give casters 3 0th-level slots for them? (Cha mod for sorcerers?). You could allow warlocks to have one or two slots for Eldritch blast per short rest too. (or leve it at-will but with no scalling)


B. Spell equivalency.

This is a slightly harder one to grok, but once you see it, you can't un-see it in 5e. It's like the old, "If all you had was a hammer, every problem looks like a nail" issue with class design and balance in 5e. The basic "unit of currency" in class design in 5e is the spell; it is ingrained into the system that almost everything (from monster effects, to many invocations for Warlocks, to magic items) are treated as spells. Martial classes (such as Rangers and, um, that other one) are turned into spellcasters simply to give them abilities that would better be handled as abilities (hunter's mark, smiting). It stands out so much that when a class begins to depart from that system (monk with ki, Warlock's non-spell equivalent invocations) it both sticks out like a sore thumb and provides a breath of fresh air.
This one bothers me a bit actually. In my heartbreaker I have a solution of sorts... But maybe the best solution is to get the key abilities of each class and hard code it to once per short rest. Maybe even pump them a bit so they more or less remain worth it.

Paladin
Smite. Give the magic pony for free at the proper level.
Ranger
Hunter's Mark.
Bard
Let's face it, nothing to do here. It's a fullcaster already.
 
I've been kicking around an idea of running a low-magic (or at least lower-magic) D&D game for a little while now. But the more I think about it, the more I think it's a RESOURCE and LEVEL problem, and not a MAGIC problem. To that end, I'm kicking the ideas around:

First, I think I'll make long rests take a whole week, and short rests take 8 hours. Then I'd cap everyone at 6th level, per the E6 rules. Maybe I'd let everyone start with an extra skill proficiency or two, to push character builds a little more in the "skill monkey" direction. (Or maybe not.)

That's about it. I think these adjustments would go a long way to giving the game a gritty, lower-magic vibe I'm looking for.
 

Krachek

Adventurer
Magic spamming can be annoying.

some cantrip can be deleted: guidance, mending.
some rule can be Set: a cantrip cannot damage object. I still think that it is better to firebolt than too crossbowbolt in a fight.
warlock invocation Or feature that allow at-will casting can be ban too.
ritual casting time can be increase to one or even two hour.
a paladin that can only smite can be fine.
spellless ranger exist in some homebrew.
EK And arcane tricker have few spell. Keep it or not.

with some limitation a dm can greatly reduce spamming of magic.

otherwise a simple rule to reduce magic is to state that no spell beyond level x exist. Say level 4. that can be use to emulate a low magic world with no flashy spell unless scroll or similar restrain by dm magic.
 

TiwazTyrsfist

Explorer
/snip
A. Cantrips.
/snip
B. Spell equivalency.
/snip
While personally a low or no magic campaign doesn't appeal to me, I can see some ways to support it.

So A> Getting rid of Cantrips. Ok, done, no cantrips. Part of the point of scaling at-will cantrips was to allow casters to retain some combat viability if they've used up all their near level spells. IMO this is really only a problem for Wizards and Sorcerers. Clerics have good armor, no spell failure, and decent weapons. Druids can just turn into a Bear.
So we have two options.
A.1> We say "I'm okay with a Wizard who has spent all his spells being a One dagger stab with a -1 to hit and -1 to damage because he's a wimp" and having them Rincewind about the far side of the battlefield. (Note: This is perfectly valid)
A.2> We come up with some way to give the casters some effectiveness without spells while not making them too good. Some sort of class feature that will improve their chance to hit and damage. Possibly allowing Int to hit and damage with ranged weapons.

B> Go ahead and do some magic Chopping.
B.1> Ranger and You-Know-Wink-Wink: Rangers drop all spell casting. Grant them a Marking power, crib heavily from the Pathfinder Slayer. Possibly add some sort of Trick Shot set that does things like Multiple Arrow Shots, Banked Shots, etc. Simply Drop the Holy-Whatsits, because what I'm gonna do to the Cleric means we Won't Need Them.
B.2> Cleric: cut them to 6 spell levels. Look at Pathfinder again for spell progressions. Grant them WIS to defense, allowing them to focus stats into Str and Wis, grant them an extra weapon attack at 5th or 6th level, and a Smite feature to get their Melee damage up at higher levels.
B.3> Druid: Cut their spells back to the Warlock system, and make Circle of the Moon Wild Shape the standard. Druids can do a LITTLE magic, but mostly Wild Shape.
B.4> Barbarian, Fighter, Monk, Rogue: Obviously, if we want to reduce the magic, remove the Subclasses that Add Magic to these classes. No Eldritch Knight, No Arcane Trickster, No ritual casting for Barbs or spending Ki to cast spells for the Monk.
B.5> Bard is, I think, the hardest to reboot at this point. They went and made it a full caster. Bard may require a full rework unless you want to cut it. No Spellcasting at all, and design a full suite of Bardic Music effects. Basically what I'd do is make Preform Bardic Music a Standard Action each turn to maintain. Focus on ally buffs and status debuffs.
B.6> Wizard and Sorcerer: We already took their Cantrips. I think that's enough, but if you don't you could always drop the maximum spells per day at each spell level by 1.
B.7> Warlock: If you don't want to just chop them, grant them Eldritch Blast.

Anyway, those are my thoughts.

EDIT: Oh, and I forgot, you could also keep Cantrips but limit them. Turn Cantrips back into Level 0 Spells and give them 3 to 6 level 0 spells per day.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen... Be nice plz n_n
We come up with some way to give the casters some effectiveness without spells while not making them too good. Some sort of class feature that will improve their chance to hit and damage. Possibly allowing Int to hit and damage with ranged weapons.
Well, you have just bumped sorcerers and wizards together... Int to hit and damage does nothing for sorcerers. Maybe give them simple weapons like they should have all along?
 

TiwazTyrsfist

Explorer
Well, you have just bumped sorcerers and wizards together... Int to hit and damage does nothing for sorcerers. Maybe give them simple weapons like they should have all along?
No, sorcerers just get pwnd. (joke)

Yeah, I'm not sure exactly what to give Sorcerer and Wizard to give them non-spell combat viability.
 

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