log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E How would you make a campaign that focuses on PCs finding and using new spells?

Grantypants

Explorer
I have a bunch of third-party supplements adding lots of new spells to 5e and I really want to get more use out of them. How can I add new spells to a campaign in a fun and satisfying way? I want to do something more interesting than just giving my players more sources to choose their PC's spells from. Really, I'd like to make discovering and using new spells the center of the campaign. Here are some ideas I had, what do you think? These concepts all require houserules or change some of the core assumptions of 5e, so I'd need to be clear in session zero on what the campaign was going to be about and make sure all the players were enthusiastic about playing under these conditions. For instance, RAW only wizards can learn new spells outside of gaining a new level, but I'd extend that to everyone.
  • Some external threat is making it impossible to cast certain spells, forcing the party to seek out new replacement spells while investigating the cause of the spell outage.
  • A campaign as a riff on Pokemon, where the party's goal is to "learn 'em all" by filling out a spellbook with every possible spell.
  • A curse of some kind keeps PCs from being able to choose the spells they prepare each day. Instead, the PCs get a random set of spells that they may not have previously known. (This might also work as a subclass, and has probably already been written up as one. The trick would be determining what perks to give the subclass in exchange for losing the ability to select the spells they have available.)
Would these be fun to play, or would there be some downsides I haven't considered? What would you do instead?
 

log in or register to remove this ad


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I would make discovering new spells the only way to earn XP in the game (or at least the best way to earn it). The premise could be something like uncovering the arcane knowledge of a previous civilization lost to time, recently rediscovered by the PCs' patron. This knowledge is coveted by a cabal of evil wizards and clerics dedicated to Vecna who have vowed to get these secrets for themselves or at least keep others from obtaining it. Other, less villainous organizations also oppose the recovery of this knowledge, believing it will lead to chaos and destruction. This sets up dynamic faction play and - who knows - maybe they're right!
 

cowpie

Explorer
You could do the classic trope of the players having to find the parts of a magical artifact, assemble the artifact, and save the world.

Instead of an artifact, have the players rediscover ancient magic spells. As they acquire more of them, they can cast them in unison to create stronger spell effects. Eventually they can reconstruct the master spell, and invoke it to create world-changing effects.
 

Voadam

Legend
In AD&D where Magic-Users/Wizards only learned new spells from acquiring new ones it was always a part of the campaign. Capturing spell books and trading spells among PCs was part of the fun.

In 3e and 5e this has been reduced significantly with learning new spells of choice just by levelling and in 3e the use of buying spells/scrolls.

For most classes though it is simply a matter of are they on the spell list, and are they the ones the particular PC wants to know/prepare. This in turn is partly influenced by how much the players want to think beyond the PH for spells.

I think a Chaos curse on all spellcasters to randomly redo spells could be fun, but would be cumbersome and the party could easily end up without healing for example at some points. This could also be tuned down by altering how many spells known/prepared are affected.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Carrot instead of stick tends to get better results.

Perhaps learning a new spell grants XP, as does the first time it is cast (in a significant use, not just casting it during downtime)

Monsters might have weaknesses to new, rare spells - that party can do some investigating to discover

Players could interact with unusual and weird powers who bestow an extra, new spell as a reward for interacting with them (one per Long Rest or such). Perhaps the power wants to see the spell in action for some reason...
 

Voadam

Legend
Players could interact with unusual and weird powers who bestow an extra, new spell as a reward for interacting with them (one per Long Rest or such).
Fey/Chaos/Wild Magic magic items that give a random spell for the day, Chaos blessings/mutations. Interesting fun options there.
 

Grantypants

Explorer
I think a Chaos curse on all spellcasters to randomly redo spells could be fun, but would be cumbersome and the party could easily end up without healing for example at some points. This could also be tuned down by altering how many spells known/prepared are affected.
Good point. It would probably be a good idea for the party to coincidentally find a reliable magic item that offered healing just to prevent that scenario.
 

The core concept needs a reason for non-casters to be part of the team (assuming you allow them). The idea of granting xp/milestones for discovering new spells is probably the best way to do this. The party working for a wizard's guild or the church of magic is also good.

You need to figure out how to deal with known vs prepared spells. Known casters are going to be annoyed that they can only know what others could prepare, making them much less useful. I have no solution for this one :unsure:
 

Grantypants

Explorer
One thing I might try is essentially making everyone wizards, at least for purposes of gaining spells. No matter what class you took, you'd start out with a spellbook and 6 first-level spells, then you'd be able to prepare the same number of those spells as your class and level would ordinarily allow you to prepare or know. Copying a spell into your spellbook would only take an action and a check of your spellcasting ability against a DC of 10+the spell's level. Wizards would get advantage on checks to copy a spell of their chosen school. I'm back and forth on whether to also give everyone an extra free specialty school of magic (thus allowing wizards advantage on two schools).
 


aco175

Legend
I would not like playing in a campaign that took the regular spells away to encourage me to find new ones. It nerfs the casters and not the martials. If my DM was trying to get buy-in, I guess I would play a non-caster.

I would like a campaign more like @payn is saying with a mage college. There is a patron hiring the young mages and others to round out the group to seek these new spells. Later on, the patron is reveled to have problems with some of the other leaders of the school. He may be looking for certain schools of magic like necromancy or a specific spell. There could be a rise from another school that is trying to combat this and have another NPC party to confront the PCs to join with them or even fight them. This could be a fun campaign.

One idea for a spell is to have it carved upon a wall so that the PCs need to copy it where it is. The problem is that it sits at a crossroad in a large dungeon where wandering monsters come or by a portal that lets in undead every so often. Some sort of challenge, like a skill challenge for the party to overcome.

Another idea is a thieves' den where the spell dangles as a prize for those completing a challenge, like the D&D movie from 2000AD. This brings in the rogues and other classes to aid in the rewards.

Maybe a spell buried in the family crypt of the local king. PCs need to sneak in past guards or magic wards. Maybe a guardian construct protects the crypt.
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
I wouldn't change the balance of spellcasting class to make them work with the learning new spells mechanics of wizards. It is possible the change is small, but there might be unintensed consequences so I'd err on the safe side.

I also would try to find a way to involve non spellcasters, assuming an "all wizard" campaign is out of the question. Which is actually my favorite idea in this particular case, given the number of subclasses of wizards available. Mabe at most multiclassed wizard X / something Y with X necessarily superior to Y.

If it wasn't, the easiest answer is to have characters competing for their university lab to get a grant and have the dean elected from their rank, which is determined by contribution to magical knowledge, something easier found in old tomes, by speaking with dragons and making deal with otherworldly entities than by bona fide magical research. It would provide the group with motivation, resources, antagonists (the other uni labs...) Remember that university politics are a very serious topic... if candidates to tenure could cast fireball... But at the same times the competing teams are colleagues and you can't really off the dean of Astrology to solve your problems (the uni would pay for resurrection, it's part of the benefits of working at a reputable college like Arcanix). Their goal could be to unlock a 10th level spell, theorized to exist but currebtly unknown...

Since your goal is to see more use of the spells from supplements, I'd make the adventurers level by story achievement: you need to find one spell of your best spellcasting level to advance a level. So each adventure can provide new spells, but not necessarily one of their top level so you can control the pacing. I'd also have the 2 free spells by level be studied from the new arcane sources as the players obviously don't have time to do traditional arcane research. On their way to 10th level they'll certainly find an interesting grimoire... Include interesting components into some of the spells to have the players turn into extraplanar taxidermists at some point: "we need 300 succubi hearts to experiment with this new Mass Dominate Humanoid spell we're submitting" I'd probably gamify research at some point (but my group had a blast playing with an excel sheet and doing retroplanning for a kobold tribe excavating a dragon's tomb once, other groups might not like it as much...)

Allowing your all wizard team to nova often will make them use their new and fun spells with abandon and the absence of class mix will allow you to play with the imbalance without stealing a class's spotlight.

Also, include spells they can discover and thzt lack any practical adventuring effect for flavor. 5e spells are geared mostly towars adventuring but their is no reason not to have Regional Blessing of Megafauna Fertility that double your chances of encountering a smilodon for the next five years (4th level, stacks with itself is cast by another wizars, a dinosaur bone as a focus, 3 days castinf duration). Or Banish Tax Evasion (6th level, targets a city). At some point I can see the players finding a spell they absolutely don't know the effects... will they try it out? What if the effects aren't immediately obvious?

I mentionned finding spells in dungeon. Whzt do you find in dungeons? Adventurers! I can see a reverse dungeon where the heroes wznt to.preserve the dungeon while they excavate the delicate ancient clay tablets with a toothbrush while a group of dwarven fighters want only to get rid of that sleepy Smaug fellow from the other rooms the wizard had no problem with so far...
 
Last edited:

Grantypants

Explorer
I love the wizard college / fantasy academia concept. Even if the school in question is less Hogwarts and more Unseen University, there's still probably some material in Strixhaven that you could adapt for that purpose. That would be a great premise to support an all-wizard party, especially if new spells were the only way to get XP. Or if players don't love the idea of all being wizards, they could be some other class posing as wizards. Depending on your table's tolerance for silliness, this might mean sorcerers or it might mean barbarians.
 

payn

Legend
I love the wizard college / fantasy academia concept. Even if the school in question is less Hogwarts and more Unseen University, there's still probably some material in Strixhaven that you could adapt for that purpose. That would be a great premise to support an all-wizard party, especially if new spells were the only way to get XP. Or if players don't love the idea of all being wizards, they could be some other class posing as wizards. Depending on your table's tolerance for silliness, this might mean sorcerers or it might mean barbarians.
I had Skyrim in my mind when I was thinking about it. The town the university sits in has lots of folks so not every PC would need to be a wizard either. Perhaps the hunting guild sends an escort for the wizards to team up and be more likely to survive delving into places to find the new spells.
 

My thought would be to have them hunting for rare elements and material components. Then, you can make it a crafting game; a game within the game. I would also make sure there is an element of randomness to the crafting game. Thus, they can try to cast an unknown spell during battle - who knows what will happen? ;)
If you wanted an endgame, it could be combining spells to overthrow some crazy arch mage group, closing different portals that are creating havoc, or to enter the pantheon of minor deities.
 

Voadam

Legend
My thought would be to have them hunting for rare elements and material components. Then, you can make it a crafting game; a game within the game. I would also make sure there is an element of randomness to the crafting game. Thus, they can try to cast an unknown spell during battle - who knows what will happen? ;)
If you wanted an endgame, it could be combining spells to overthrow some crazy arch mage group, closing different portals that are creating havoc, or to enter the pantheon of minor deities.
Another option would be getting a scroll in an unknown ancient language. You can learn the spell, you can cast the spell, but all you know is the spell level and the target, not what it does.

Lots of actual experimentation then goes on for spell research.

It would be like in 1e where not all the actual facts were known in the Player's Handbook.
 

Another option would be getting a scroll in an unknown ancient language. You can learn the spell, you can cast the spell, but all you know is the spell level and the target, not what it does.

Lots of actual experimentation then goes on for spell research.

It would be like in 1e where not all the actual facts were known in the Player's Handbook.
That would be cool. You could revolve the entire campaign around finding the codex to the language. A piece here, a piece there, then the players could slowly decipher the scrolls. And of course, the more difficult the spell, the tougher or stranger the locations of said codex are found. ;)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Id
I have a bunch of third-party supplements adding lots of new spells to 5e and I really want to get more use out of them. How can I add new spells to a campaign in a fun and satisfying way? I want to do something more interesting than just giving my players more sources to choose their PC's spells from. Really, I'd like to make discovering and using new spells the center of the campaign. Here are some ideas I had, what do you think? These concepts all require houserules or change some of the core assumptions of 5e, so I'd need to be clear in session zero on what the campaign was going to be about and make sure all the players were enthusiastic about playing under these conditions. For instance, RAW only wizards can learn new spells outside of gaining a new level, but I'd extend that to everyone.
  • Some external threat is making it impossible to cast certain spells, forcing the party to seek out new replacement spells while investigating the cause of the spell outage.
  • A campaign as a riff on Pokemon, where the party's goal is to "learn 'em all" by filling out a spellbook with every possible spell.
  • A curse of some kind keeps PCs from being able to choose the spells they prepare each day. Instead, the PCs get a random set of spells that they may not have previously known. (This might also work as a subclass, and has probably already been written up as one. The trick would be determining what perks to give the subclass in exchange for losing the ability to select the spells they have available.)
Would these be fun to play, or would there be some downsides I haven't considered? What would you do instead?
Id simply make all Spellcasting involve learning new spells like a Wizard does, and include the new spells in that dynamic.
 


Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top