D&D 5E Is It Time To Not Assign Spellcasting Classes ANY Casting Mechanics?

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
With all this talk going around and around about whether classes should have Vancian mechanics, pseudo-Vancian mechanics, at-will spells, encounter spells, rechargeable spells after a short rest, rechargeable spells after a long rest, etc. etc. etc... I think one thing has become clear to me:

Casting *mechanics* should not appear in ANY class description, and instead get reassigned to the Magic chapter. Wherein the DM and players then select for themselves which mechanics will get used by each of the spellcasting classes the players will play in the game.

Now before I go any further... yes, I know this will be confusing for a lot of "new" or "inexperienced" players. To which I would reply that it seems like the game is already being built and set up to assign "default" Backgrounds, Specialties, Domains, Styles etc. for those players who want a VERY stripped down and "basic" game... so I'd say they assign default casting mechanics to each class as well.

But if this "base version" of the game is cordoned off in perhaps it's own chapter (my own take is that there should be several appendixes which each have their own particular build of the rules to recreate the style of AD&D, 2E, 3E, 4E etc.), the actual class descriptions can just list at Level 1 an ability called "Casting Tradition", which tells the player to go to the Magic chapter and select from several options how their class casts spells. And thus what you're left with in each Class description, is the class gets described and defined not by HOW it casts spells, but rather WHY it casts spells. And WHO it is that acquires the magic to do it. And WHERE that magic come from that powers it.

So a Wizard remains a studious spellcaster who delves into ancient tomes and runs experiments in an effort to unlock magic's secrets. Clerics remain devout members of a church that receive blessings from their deity and can use those blessings to create miracles. Sorcerers are still born with magic inside of them, bursting to get out. Warlocks still make pacts with extradimensional beings, receiving gifts in exchange for their devotion. Bards continue to use the power of sound to gather and release magical energy. Druids still walk hand in hand with the primal spirits of the earth, borrowing the spirits' power to create magical effects.

We keep all those stories intact. Those don't change. In fact, perhaps they get expanded. But in no case does the class description say "and here are the game mechanics you use to casts this." Instead, the player flips back to the Magic chapter to select a Casting Tradition at the same time he goes to the class's spell list to select his spells.

I think this is the ONLY way we're going to find common ground with ALL D&D players. Take all the currently designed casting mechanics (Full Vancian, the current Wizard's Vancian + at-wills, the current cleric's Pseudo-Vancian, AEDU style, Warlock invocation encounter style, the Sorcerer's willpower/power point style etc.) write them up one at a time as generic mechanics, then tell the players and DMs to choose and assign them to the different castings classes in your individual game based upon how they see the class's story and what makes the most sense / will be the most fun for the players (either each class gets its own, or every class uses the same one, or something in between.)

Maybe then we'll finally be able to make most people happy.
 
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steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
Casting *mechanics* should not appear in ANY class description, and instead get reassigned to the Magic chapter. Wherein the DM and players then select for themselves which mechanics will get used by each of the spellcasting classes the players will play in the game.

I am totally behind this.

Yes, I'd say this is the right time.

--SD
 


Chris_Nightwing

First Post
I disagree.

Many people are calling for more tactical combat options, such as a grid, and a return to standard/move/minor actions. I'm sure some people would like to see the return of weapon damage type vs. armour type mechanics. There are probably some people that find attack vs. AC too simple, and want a complex maneuvering, thrusting and parrying system.

Should we give them a dedicated combat chapter, and let the players and DM decide which system is being used? No. We use the simplest and most straightforward system as the core, and then we offer modules that describe these more complex scenarios - some of which might be available immediately with the publishing of the PHB, some of which might come later. I think that this has been accepted as a reasonable proposition.

So why do something special for magic? Why not have the simplest possible core mechanic for spellcasting - a unified mechanic, the same as for physical combat - and then discuss alternatives in a module that may or may not be available immediately?
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
So why do something special for magic? Why not have the simplest possible core mechanic for spellcasting - a unified mechanic, the same as for physical combat - and then discuss alternatives in a module that may or may not be available immediately?

Your point is a good one... except that it seems to me that WotC has moved beyond a single core casting mechanic and instead are going with each class having its own unique mechanic. But all that's doing is driving people to arguments about how (for example) they want the sorcerer's mechanic to be under the wizard class, or that the not-truly-Vancian cleric either needs to go full Vancian or not Vancian at all, or any other combination that has been bandied about.

The biggest problem is that there is NO one casting mechanic which you'll get even close to half the players to agree on as what should be "core". AEDU certainly wasn't it. And if you tried to create a Sorcerer class with Full Vancian mechanics, you'd have a riot.

I mean... what would you suggest to be this simplest possible "core" casting mechanic? And how would you adapt the Cleric, Wizard, Sorcerer, Warlock, Bard, and Druid into using it? Seems to me that's an impossible task. And if the choices are "one mechanic that every spellcasting class uses", "every spellcasting class has a unique mechanic", and "no class has a default mechanic and the individual DM/players assign one at game start"... the third option is the one least likely to get people up in arms.

(Other than those folks like yourself who believe there should be a "default" system... even if that system is currently undefined.)
 

Chris_Nightwing

First Post
Your point is a good one... except that it seems to me that WotC has moved beyond a single core casting mechanic and instead are going with each class having its own unique mechanic. But all that's doing is driving people to arguments about how (for example) they want the sorcerer's mechanic to be under the wizard class, or that the not-truly-Vancian cleric either needs to go full Vancian or not Vancian at all, or any other combination that has been bandied about.

The biggest problem is that there is NO one casting mechanic which you'll get even close to half the players to agree on as what should be "core". AEDU certainly wasn't it. And if you tried to create a Sorcerer class with Full Vancian mechanics, you'd have a riot.

I mean... what would you suggest to be this simplest possible "core" casting mechanic? And how would you adapt the Cleric, Wizard, Sorcerer, Warlock, Bard, and Druid into using it? Seems to me that's an impossible task. And if the choices are "one mechanic that every spellcasting class uses", "every spellcasting class has a unique mechanic", and "no class has a default mechanic and the individual DM/players assign one at game start"... the third option is the one least likely to get people up in arms.

(Other than those folks like yourself who believe there should be a "default" system... even if that system is currently undefined.)

Well, I think they have a tough job on their hands. My personal preference for a default system would be something completely new, that moves away from spell levels and caster level and makes magic more modular, like combat abilities have always really been.

However, in reality, I would say that giving different classes different mechanics is preferable to allowing any class to use any of the available mechanics, because it flavours things. For the same reason that you wouldn't give Rogues abilities that work well with heavy armour and two-handed weapons, nor give Fighters abilities that only function when sneaking around, I don't see why you can't define the Wizard or Sorcerer in a particular way. In fact, I'd say that my trying to heavily flavour the Sorcerer and Warlock, whilst leaving the Wizard generic, they invited the demand for different Wizardly spellcasting.

When I think back to 3E, for instance, the only substantial difference between the Wizard and Sorcerer was that one of them prepared spells, and the other just cast them on the fly. This was deliberate, because some people enjoy being the bookish Wizard who has to think carefully about what might happen in the coming day, and others just wanted the simplicity of spellcasting without the headaches. I think that system worked well - but I don't know, did people hate the 3E Sorcerer mechanics? If they had done it slightly differently, the Wizard as it was, the Sorcerer using spell points, then I think there would have been a much wider gap between the classes and people would want both to use spell points, one ahead of time and one on the fly.

So I say that they either rethink entirely, and come up with a new mechanic (which could even be spell points, with different usage limits for each class), or they stick to their existing guns. All spells are cast on a daily basis. Wizards can learn many, but prepare ahead of time. Sorcerers don't know many but cast on the fly. Warlocks know even fewer, but cast on the fly and can get more castings by sacrificing something to their pact. Clerics behave somewhere between Wizards and Warlocks (know a fixed list according to deity, prepare in advance, but can regain spells according to their deity's ethos). Bards, I've no idea yet!
 

heptat

Explorer
So a Wizard remains a studious spellcaster who delves into ancient tomes and runs experiments in an effort to unlock magic's secrets. Clerics remain devout members of a church that receive blessings from their deity and can use those blessings to create miracles. Sorcerers are still born with magic inside of them, bursting to get out. Warlocks still make pacts with extradimensional beings, receiving gifts in exchange for their devotion. Bards continue to use the power of sound to gather and release magical energy. Druids still walk hand in hand with the primal spirits of the earth, borrowing the spirits' power to create magical effects.

Great summary!
 

Kinak

First Post
Well, as far as making the most people happy, I can't say this would appeal to me at all.

It's not that I care if wizards have Vancian casting; I don't even like Vancian casting.

I just think the mechanics should back up the fluff. The mechanics should send wizards to books and clerics to their knees. Even if they both get a ball of flame at the end, the casting mechanics define what those classes are.

Identifying classes with casting methods also lets their choices effect those methods. A cleric's choice of gods and a wizard's choice of school mean very different things and that should be reflected in how the class's use magic.

I'd say they need to design a game where each casting method has its own fluff, but they already are. "Vancian" has all its booklearning fluff and "Willpower" has all its inborn fluff. They're just called "wizard" and "sorcerer."

But getting a shell with armor/weapon proficiencies and a spell list, that just sends me off to choose a set of rules doesn't cut it for me. I don't expect to like every class, but I expect an honest effort to make each class's mechanics live up to its fluff.

-Kinak
 

Mishihari Lord

First Post
I think this is the ONLY way we're going to find common ground with ALL D&D players. Take all the currently designed casting mechanics (Full Vancian, the current Wizard's Vancian + at-wills, the current cleric's Pseudo-Vancian, AEDU style, Warlock invocation encounter style, the Sorcerer's willpower/power point style etc.) write them up one at a time as generic mechanics, then tell the players and DMs to choose and assign them to the different castings classes in your individual game based upon how they see the class's story and what makes the most sense / will be the most fun for the players (either each class gets its own, or every class uses the same one, or something in between.)

This I think is true. It's an effective way, and possibly the only way to make everyone happy.

I have to disagree with the rest. Certain mechanics just seem to fit better with certain caster background (book learning, internal power, will, pacts, etc). I prefer that the mechanics to be designed for and reinforce the game fiction.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I'd say they need to design a game where each casting method has its own fluff, but they already are. "Vancian" has all its booklearning fluff and "Willpower" has all its inborn fluff. They're just called "wizard" and "sorcerer."

But here's the thing...

Divorce yourself from the years of playing a wizard who uses Vancian magic. Now look purely at Vancian game mechanics on its own. What do you have?

As a caster, you are allowed to learn a certain number of spells per day, each at a certain level of power, and have to choose which ones you want at the very beginning of the day without getting to switch.

Now what exactly is inherent in that description that says that's definitely "wizardly booklearning"? I submit that there is NOTHING in that description of Vancian mechanics that infers that "wizardly booklearning" is the only fluff that can be attributed to it. A Warlock could just as easily have as its story that every morning when he gets up he makes a connection to his extra-dimensional overlord, and makes the day's exchange of certain types of magical power. The Cleric always used to be the same way... every morning praying to his deity and receiving his allotment of miracles he could cast.

Those Vancian game mechanics do not in any way have its own fluff. Most (if not all) of the spellcasting classes could have their fluff justify the existence of Vancian mechanics.

By the same token... remove the fluff description of "willpower" from the Sorcerer's mechanic. What's is that mechanic? You have a certain amount of "points" or "spell levels" worth of spells to cast, and a selection of spells you have at your disposal. And you can cast as many spells as you have spell points to spend.

Now why is that mechanic a Sorcerer's one? Really, it's not. Heck, it was a Psionic mechanic for the longest time. By by the same token... there's no reason why you can't explain why a Cleric uses a spell point system (changing the word "willpower" to "blessings"). Or the Druid gets a number of "spirits" that allow him to use magic. Or Wizards get "memory" points. Etc. etc.

So no... none of the casting game mechanics WotC has designed have any inherent story or fluff attached to them. All we have is our MEMORIES of using certain classes with certain mechanics in the past to make us THINK there's some greater story connection between the two. Even though there actually is not. And this is EXACTLY why some people can state quite honestly that they want to be able to play a Wizard who uses Spontaneous Casting, or even uses Spell Points. Because to them... the Wizard has a story inherent to it... that the wizard "fires and forgets"... but it does not follow that the only mechanic that can represent that is Vancian.
 

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