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Level Up (A5E) Improving spells

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Guest 6801328

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I'll add "fewer concentration spells" to my wish list. I wouldn't go crazy taking them off the list, but there could definitely be some adjustments. Somebody posted a thread with a long analysis recently. Can't say I agreed with all the conclusions, but it had some good thoughts.
 

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Forgetting changing individual spells, how would you improve spells in general? In terms of things like formatting, classification, and content.

(Not asking about individual spell changes or fixes at this time).

Bear in mind, we’re not changing the underlying system. This isn’t about alternate spell systems. Assume you’ve been tasked to take the existing spell lists and rewrite them. What do you do?
Reorganize spells by themes and tropes. More like Cleric domains. Make this the basic way to engage spells.



Also allow spells to have multiple tags:
• area type (ranged single target, ranged blast, melee single target, melee blast)
• purpose type (damage or heal/resurrect, debuff or buff/restore, mobility or immobilize/wall/restrain, detect/sense or nondetection/stealth, summon/conjure or dispel/banish)
 
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I’d take a leaf out of 4e’s book and create a standardized spell template. Something like...

[Spell Name]________[Xth] level [School] [Ritual?]
Components: [V?] [S?] [M (components)?]
Casting Time: [X time/action unit(s)]
Duration: [Concentration? (up to)] [duration]
Range: [Spell range]

Target: X [creature(s)/target(s)] within [range/area]
Attack: [ranged/melee spell attack]
Hit: [Effect on a hit]
Save: [Ability]
Effect: [Effect on a failed save]
On Save: [Effect on a successful save]
[Description and other relevant effects]
At Higher Levels: [upcast effect]

In a spell statblock like this, remember to distinguish between creating an effect oneself directly, versus creating an intermediary (conjuration, construct, ongoing area of effect, etcetera) that then creates its own effects from its own position. Maybe refer to a spell with an intermediary as a "conjuration".
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Pt 1
Current PHB setup showing class and it's spells by level

Pt 2
List of level 1 spells in alphabetical order with class tags on spell
List of level 2 spells in alphabetical order with class tags on spell
etc.

***Add to Pt 1 a reference for which page spells of each level begin on.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Spell format should change. More info should be in top block of spell.

Also would be cool to be able to quickly see spell's general combat purpose. Aoe Damage, healing, control, utility, etc. Other for unique spell effects.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I also liked the idea of spells by class, but spells are so duplicated in 5e between classes I'm not sure that's a practical idea.
 

I am leaning toward:

Each class has a pregenerated default, with little or no choices. So a newbie or one-off can pick it up as is and play it.

These default spells should have the spell description nearby and handy.

However, if swapping the default features or spells for other features or spells, then one might as well go hunt for them elsewhere in the book.



To organize the spell description by class, works better by sorting and filtering within a digital database. A book with redundant spells printed again and again feels less appealing to me.
 

rules.mechanic

Craft homebrewer
Digital databases are very useful - perhaps more so with spells than any other part of the game. I'm a book person and love reading the spell flavour in the books (would really like it to be better organised in the PHB and fully agree with Vincegetorix's and The Old Crow's suggestions for that) but online spell lists have an additional functionality that books can't really match. Especially when my players can then print personalised lists of their own spells (with abbreviated descriptions). Of course, if there is enough compatibility, people can still use the popular online 5e tools.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I’d take a leaf out of 4e’s book and create a standardized spell template. Something like...

[Spell Name]________[Xth] level [School] [Ritual?]
Components: [V?] [S?] [M (components)?]
Casting Time: [X time/action unit(s)]
Duration: [Concentration? (up to)] [duration]
Range: [Spell range]

Target: X [creature(s)/target(s)] within [range/area]
Attack: [ranged/melee spell attack]
Hit: [Effect on a hit]
Save: [Ability]
Effect: [Effect on a failed save]
On Save: [Effect on a successful save]
[Description and other relevant effects]
At Higher Levels: [upcast effect]
You could combine a few of these lines to make the block a bit shorter:

Save: [Ability; effect on successful save] For example: Save: Wisdom; effect negated; or Save: Dexterity; half damage; or Save: none.

Also, what's the difference between "effect on a hit" and "effect on a failed save"? Aren't those the same, as in "what this spell does if successful"? Perhaps you could combine these two lines as well, as "Effect: [what the spell is trying to do]"., and switch the order with Save. So, it'd now read as:

. . .
Attack: [ranged/melee spell attack] <== and is this line even necessary at all?
Effect: [what the spell is trying to do]
Save: [Ability; modified effect on successful save]
[Description and other relevant effects]
. . .
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Digital databases are very useful - perhaps more so with spells than any other part of the game. I'm a book person and love reading the spell flavour in the books (would really like it to be better organised in the PHB and fully agree with Vincegetorix's and The Old Crow's suggestions for that) but online spell lists have an additional functionality that books can't really match. Especially when my players can then print personalised lists of their own spells (with abbreviated descriptions). Of course, if there is enough compatibility, people can still use the popular online 5e tools.
Could not agree more. The main differences between a digital DB and a printed list are 1) customizability and 2) the elimination of a need for a hierarchy.

We've had some discussion on how to sort spells... whether class should be the uppermost level of category, or spell level, or maybe even school. With a digital "tag" all of these categories coexist on the same general level of importance and every player can apply the filters or views they prefer themselves.

This is especially true for someone like me who currently plays a character that can use spells from two different classes, or for someone who multiclasses. Having spells separated by class would be worse than just one big list for me, while it would be heaven for others.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Forgetting changing individual spells, how would you improve spells in general? In terms of things like formatting, classification, and content.

(Not asking about individual spell changes or fixes at this time).

Bear in mind, we’re not changing the underlying system. This isn’t about alternate spell systems. Assume you’ve been tasked to take the existing spell lists and rewrite them. What do you do?

That's a difficult question...

I wish saving throws were more spread around instead of being concentrated on Dex/Con/Wis. For example Str saves for everything that impedes movement (incl. paralysis and petrification), Int saves for everything that confuses reasoning (incl. Illusions) and Cha saves for everything that pushes you mentally to unwanted actions. Instead of Int/Str/Cha saves, many spells allows checks, but then why not making either all saves or all checks? This one ship has sailed however.

I wish more spells were scalable.

I wish rituals were more about not having to prepare certain spells, than casting them for free.

I wish there were spells with a larger area but a cap on how many creatures are affected.

I wish to put an end to ridicule of focus components. Make any object a valid focus for everyone, perhaps with the requirement of having to attune (so you can't just pick up a pebble on the spot). It's ridiculous that people think "with this new book, now your character can also use a <insert specific object here> as focus". That's just a cosmetic choice.

Generally speaking, I wish for clear and simple requirements for spell components. Say that you either need a free hand without exception, or you don't need it. It's insulting to hear player explaining how they juggle objects or how "I have put a strap on my mace" just to circumvent the free hand requirement. Either enforce it for real, or ignore it completely.

As for presentation the obvious improvement is one-line descriptions in the spell list. It has been asked since the first printing of the PHB but WotC never delivered. 3ed one-liners were very useful especially for those new to playing a spellcasting class.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
formatting
A simple Roll line in the spell header

Roll: Ranged spell Attack
Roll: Wisdom saving throw
Roll: Strength Saving throw, Strength Check

classification
An alphabetical list of all spells by class would be nice


If you are creating reorganizing new spells lists and even new spells, I think a early question to ask would be "which spells would a member of this class want?" "should they get it?", "what types of spells would they create, seek out, or have contracted to be made?"

So a sorcerer would be looking for elemental spells at all levels they can cast. So filling holes would go with their theme of the class. Whereas a ranger would be looking for more animal, plant, rock/sand/ice/metal/dirt, and tracking/divination spells in their spell list. A druid would want the same minus the metal spells but plus fey spells.

So lets say you guys decide to make Skin spells to round out Barkskin and Stoneskin.

Ashskin
Bronzeskin
Iceskin
Ironskin
Sandskin

And you were deciding if druids, rangers, and sorcerer got them. Well you might say Ashskin and Iceskin might fit all 3. Bronzeskin, due to bronze's unnaturalness as an alloy, might only go to ranger. Sorcerer and Ranger could both get Ironskin. Wheres Sandskin might only go to druid and ranger as it is natural but not elemental.
 

BlivetWidget

Explorer
As someone who's spent quite a bit of time creating a system of wizard spellscripting, where the important aspects of a spell are written plainly, I can 100% agree that the existing system buries a lot of important information in the fluff. I would like to see those aspects pulled out of the fluff and written in list form. Aspects that I feel belong outside of the fluff, no particular order:
  • level - I would keep them sorted by level, this is the most important aspect aside from class determining if you're even able to cast the spell. Put in a page with an alphabetical index (not buried in the book index) for people who want them alphabetically.
  • class - player class, if that wasn't obvious
  • school
  • casting time
  • requirements - subdivided into verbal, somatic, material (common/reuse, value, and consumed). I include ritual here, but the traditional way of putting ritual in the level is fine too. VSM(GP/gp) is a common enough notation.
  • level scaling - spells fall into one of 4 scaling categories here: none, duration, intensity, and targets/area. It would be fine to just keep using the "At Higher Level" since that part tends to not be nearly as verbose as the rest of the description.
  • range
  • effect shape and size - points/objects/creatures and their quantity fit into this category, if that wasn't obvious
  • attack, save, check - 'none' is valid option here, as plenty of spells just happen.
  • duration - this includes concentration
  • effect - as concise and mechanical as possible
  • fluff
 

Larrin

Entropic Good
1) If nothing else, Please (and I'm repeating what others have said, because I want it known how important this is), separate spell descriptions by level. It is SO important, and would cut down time spent flipping pages immensely. There is no reason not to, and so many reasons to.

2) Which classes by default that can cast a spell should be in the spell description

3) Bold, underline etc to make key words pop out, like ritual or concentration or other things that people might be skimming the spell for. Damage type, attack vs save.

3a) Definitely highlight things like target you can see or target that can hear you or any target in range regardless or cover because that is something that would be nice to pick out at a glance. It's something that even someone who has used the spell a bunch might have to look up on the edge case when they are trying to charm a deafened target and need to know if the spell can affect them quickly.

4) I'm also in favor of getting fluff out of the way of crunch. I'm fine with a description of what the spell might look like or be used for, but maybe put that in a separate paragraph from the actual function of the spell. I think it would be a mistake to distill spells down to JUST the bare mechanics, but far too often I've times I've seen a player trying to look up what their new unfamiliar spell does and gets hung up on the flowery description and miss the fact it does 4d6 psychic damage.

5) (very minor, but it keeps coming up in games I've played) I kinda wish that there was some quick way to see if a spell causes movement that provokes attacks of opportunity. Its a weird edge thing, that I wouldn't expect it to be any kind of a priority, but it would save some time at the table if there was some quick way of being like "yes this uses their reaction so it provokes opportunity" or "No this is a push, which doesn't provoke" since that is a common question a DM will ask (or the players will ask the DM). Maybe it would be a section in spell descriptions ("When Do Spells Inducing Movement Provoke ") and not in each spell. Maybe it already is, and I've just missed it in the PHB.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
You could combine a few of these lines to make the block a bit shorter:

Save: [Ability; effect on successful save] For example: Save: Wisdom; effect negated; or Save: Dexterity; half damage; or Save: none.

Also, what's the difference between "effect on a hit" and "effect on a failed save"? Aren't those the same, as in "what this spell does if successful"? Perhaps you could combine these two lines as well, as "Effect: [what the spell is trying to do]"., and switch the order with Save. So, it'd now read as:

. . .
Attack: [ranged/melee spell attack] <== and is this line even necessary at all?
Effect: [what the spell is trying to do]
Save: [Ability; modified effect on successful save]
[Description and other relevant effects]
. . .
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I started playing around with this last night after posting, and I found that the format worked better if I put “make a ranged spell attack roll against the target” or “the target must make a [whatever] saving throw” on the Effect: line and use Save: or Hit: for what happens on a failed or successful save or on a successful hit. So, for example:

Burning Hands__________1st level Evocation
As you hold your hands with thumbs touching and fingers spread, a thin sheet of flames shoots forth from your outstretched fingertips.

Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: Self (15 ft. cone)
Target: Each creature in the cone.
Effect: Each target must make a Dexterity saving throw. Flammable objects in the cone that aren’t being worn or carried ignite.
Save: A creature takes 3d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 1st.


Chill Touch______________Necromancy Cantrip
You create a ghostly, skeletal hand to assail a creature with the chill of the grave.

Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 120 feet
Target: One creature within range
Effect: Make a ranged spell attack roll against the target.
Hit: The target takes 1d8 necrotic damage, and it can’t regain hit points until the start of your next turn. If the target is undead, it has disadvantage on attack rolls against you until the end of your next turn.
At Higher Levels: This spell’s damage increases by 1d8 at 5th level (2d8), 11th level (3d8), and 17th level (4d8)
 
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That's a difficult question...

I wish saving throws were more spread around instead of being concentrated on Dex/Con/Wis. For example Str saves for everything that impedes movement (incl. paralysis and petrification), Int saves for everything that confuses reasoning (incl. Illusions) and Cha saves for everything that pushes you mentally to unwanted actions. Instead of Int/Str/Cha saves, many spells allows checks, but then why not making either all saves or all checks? This one ship has sailed however.

I wish more spells were scalable.

I wish rituals were more about not having to prepare certain spells, than casting them for free.

I wish there were spells with a larger area but a cap on how many creatures are affected.

I wish to put an end to ridicule of focus components. Make any object a valid focus for everyone, perhaps with the requirement of having to attune (so you can't just pick up a pebble on the spot). It's ridiculous that people think "with this new book, now your character can also use a <insert specific object here> as focus". That's just a cosmetic choice.

Generally speaking, I wish for clear and simple requirements for spell components. Say that you either need a free hand without exception, or you don't need it. It's insulting to hear player explaining how they juggle objects or how "I have put a strap on my mace" just to circumvent the free hand requirement. Either enforce it for real, or ignore it completely.

As for presentation the obvious improvement is one-line descriptions in the spell list. It has been asked since the first printing of the PHB but WotC never delivered. 3ed one-liners were very useful especially for those new to playing a spellcasting class.
Maybe the spell focus itself should clarify the requirement.

For example.

. A wand, rod, or staff must be held in hand.
. A material component pouch must have a free hand to rummage, find and present the material component.
. If a longsword or throw hammer or other weapon is a focus, it must be in hand.
. A holy symbol can be an amulet held in hand, or worn on a necklace, or painted on a shield, or so on.
. Possibly, for a psionic concept, a verbal component replaces the other components, and serves as the focus as well.
. A ki item can be worn anywhere on the body.

And so on.

It seems the spell focuses can be quite different from each other.
 

Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I started playing around with this last night after posting, and I found that the format worked better if I put “make a ranged spell attack roll against the target” or “the target must make a [whatever] saving throw” on the Effect: line and use Save: or Hit for what happens on a failed or successful save or on a successful hit. So, for example:

Burning Hands__________1st level Evocation
As you hold your hands with thumbs touching and fingers spread, a thin sheet of flames shoots forth from your outstretched fingertips.

Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: Self (15 ft. cone)
Target: Each creature in the cone.
Effect: Each target must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw. Flammable objects in the cone that aren’t being worn or carried ignite.
Save: A creature takes 3d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 1st.


Chill Touch______________Necromancy Cantrip
You create a ghostly, skeletal hand to assail a creature with the chill of the grave.

Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 120 feet
Target: One creature within range
Effect: Make a ranged attack roll against the target.
Hit: The target takes 1d8 necrotic damage, and it can’t regain hit points until the start of your next turn. If the target is undead, it has disadvantage on attack rolls against you until the end of your next turn.
At Higher Levels: This spell’s damage increases by 1d8 at 5th level (2d8), 11th level (3d8), and 17th level (4d8)
I like your use of Effect alot.

Also, if the spell summons or creates an ongoing area of effect, like Flaming Sphere, the Effect says what you conjure (such as a sphere of fire). Then other lines describe whatever effects this conjuration can do (such as move, damage, and so on).
 

Spell tags include

Purpose:

. attack
. defense (ac, save)
. ability (skill check)
. debuff

. damage
. health (hit points, resurrect, restoration, damage resistance)

. nondetection (stealth, invisibility, dark)
. detection (perception, sense, light, divination)

. mobility (speed, fly, teleport, open)
. immobility (restraint, wall, hold, anchor)

. conjuration (summon creature, ongoing area of effect, dancing weapon, polymorph)
. banishment (send away, dispel)
 

Kinematics

Explorer
I'm going to disagree with the sentiment that the list should be sorted by class and/or level before alphabetizing. 5E already does that with the spell list tables before the spells themselves, which is adequate for that purpose.

Rather, I'll support the idea of a fully digital form. In particular, something like dnd-spells.com where you can do all the filtering and sorting you want to get spell sublists, whether it's 3rd & 4th level wizard spells, or all concentration spells, or all evocation cantrips, or whatever else.

It should hopefully also be available in a format that the user can use standalone and offline.
 

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