D&D 5E Limiting Cantrips?

Musing Mage

Pondering D&D stuff
I am running some experimental house rules which include Cantrip limitations.

Casters with cantrips get their proficiency modifier plus their level in cantrips per long rest. They may also use a bonus action to trade a leveled spell slot for more cantrips equal to their proficiency modifier times the spell slot level.

Thus far the players like it - it makes them think about resource management. The prankster gnome Cleric is routinely running out of them using his minor illusion to play tricks.
 

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Is this really an issue?
If a wizard can always have a light spell active?
If a wizard can fall back to attack cantrips?
Once I have encountered a problem that a wizard wanted to cast an attack cantrip for several hours.
I simply ruled that it is as exhausting as swinging an axe for several hours.
There are a lot of things that are not limited rules wise. But we all agree that you need some breaks in between.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Has anyone house-ruled a limitation, like 3rd edition had, on the # of cantrips that can be cast before rest is needed (e.g. limit to # known or # known + ability modifier per short rest)?
These are not small numbers. If recharging by short rest, it might not make a significant difference compared to unlimited cantrips, so you'll be wasting your time tracking cantrip slots for not much gameplay difference.

A more significant limitation would be if those numbers are per long rest. 3ed used basically 3-4 cantrips per long rest and it worked fine. If you prefer short rests, you can start lower for example with 2. Try and see how it goes, at lower levels combat cantrips are meant to be more or less equivalent to weapons attack so you'll see more crossbows being used. On average it might be less effective because of lower Dex than Int/Wis/Cha but it could be even seen more fair for spellcasters to have to invest in a secondary ability like martials often have to.

  • Warlocks. I'm planning on adopting Level Up's version of the Warlock, which currently turns Eldritch Blast from a cantrip to a class feature. Wonderful idea imo and resolves this concern.
The original Eldritch Blast in 3ed was at-will IIRC so yes this adjustment makes a lot of sense. Eldritch Blast was turned into a cantrip in 5e because why not, since cantrips are unlimited?
  • Lesser-used cantrips. Some of the more trivial cantrips may never get used, like mending or prestidigitation, as casters save their slots for combat.
By me 3ed experience, it will be the opposite: combat cantrips are not worth that much to use those cantrips slots when you have higher level combat spells, while mending and mage hands have uses that are still relevant at later levels. Stuff like Ray of Frost becomes not significantly better than a weapon attack.

However in 5e combat cantrips also scale automatically, so that Ray of Frost won't become irrelevant even at a higher level. You also have the enormous advantage of not having to prepare your cantrips in advance, so both your Mage Hand and the scaled Ray of Frost will always be available as long as there's at least an unused slot. So I would not worry about this at all.
 


TheSword

Legend
When every ability is a hammer every problem is a nail. In my opinion as long as the only truly effective things in combat are to deal hp damage. Characters will spam cantrips. It’s one of the reasons I like WFRP you can gather energy to cast a more powerful spell.

All casters to improve their spells by taking longer to cast them and you’ll both make Magic more epic and reduce cantrip spam.
 
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Horwath

Hero
I dont mind at-will cantrips at all, but I see that some could see spamming one cantrip whole day as boring or non-brainer use of resources.

One solution would be to remove all damaging cantrips and left the utility/fun cantrips at-will

Add reserve feats similar to 3.5e.

They would be powered by unused slots that you keep in your "reserve"

I.E. feat:

Fireblast, requires spellcasting, one spell with fire damage prepared or known
gain +1 int, wis or cha
As an Action, you deal fire damage to a single creature within 150ft with ranged spell attack.
damage is 1d8 per highest spell slot you have available.

Arctic breath, requires spellcasting, one spell with cold damage prepared or known
gain +1 int, wis or cha
As an Action, you deal cold damage in a 15ft cone. Damage is 1d6 per highest spell slot you have available.

Healing touch, requires spellcasting, one spell that heals HPs prepared or known
gain +1 int, wis or cha
As an Action, you touch one creature to heal it for 1d6 per highest spell slot you have available.
You cannot heal any target with this ability over 1/2 their max HP.

Corrosive touch, requires spellcasting, one spell with acid damage prepared or known
gain +1 int, wis or cha
As an Action, you deal acid damage to a single creature with a melee spell attack
damage is 1d12 per highest spell slot you have available.
 

Rogerd1

Explorer
I tend to change cantrips entirely, such that they have no offense or defensive features in any way - similar to Savage Worlds really.

Those cantrips that are either offensive or defensive would then be rolled into Level 1 spells.
 

Bolares

Hero
I'll die happy if I never have to shoot a crossbow with my wizard ever again. I hated that while playing my first wizard in 3e and I hate it now. The only way I'd be okay with limiting cantrips is if attack cantrips were made in to class features.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Is this really an issue?
Frankly, this sort of response always amazes me (not calling @UngeheuerLich out, but just as an example because this happens in many threads) . It is like when people claim "this is a solution looking for a problem." Maybe an OP isn't clear as to why they think something is an issue, but if they didn't feel it was an issue why would they bother posting about it? A lead off like "So why do you feel this is an issue for your group?" would be more engaging for discussion IMO.

Anyway, while I can't answer for the OP I can answer for our group: Yes.

Spamming cantrips makes combat feel like a laser-light show with pew pew every where and martials dodging blasts hoping not to get caught in the crossfire. It is also extremely boring. Players complain sometimes about the limitations of martials of always just swinging a sword, well casters complain about always, "Well, I guess I Firebolt again or Toll the Dead again or whatever..." YAWN

Part of this is the fault of the design in 5E. Too many spells require concentration so casters can't impact combat in ways they used to and instead feel their best option is to deal direct damage.

It also certainly makes magic FEEL less magical in the game. We understand it for martials, its "what they do" when they Attack, but for casters I want their default to be "Cast a Spell" not always "make a spell attack". If you want to fight in combat, be a martial class, that is what they are there for.

If a wizard can always have a light spell active?
Yes. It is bad enough that nearly half the races have darkvision (it is probably more now really), but with infinite light darkness is never the scene-setter it can be. It removes mystery if you can always peer into the darkness and see what is there. I would rather it be a 1st level spell again (which BTW we changed it to) with a long duration, like 8 hours, so you can do it but it has a resource cost.

If a wizard can fall back to attack cantrips?
Yes. Because they don't fall back on cantrips when they run out of spell slots, the cantrips are the "go-to option" and used more often than spell slots ever are in combat, with the only exception sometimes being healing spells depending on how the fight is going.

So, while this might not be an issue for most tables, for some it is. I'm not the only one whose posted house-rules to nerf cantrip use.
 


No pitfalls came true. No mass purchases of light crossbows, darts, or daggers. No casters complaining that they didn't feel they were contributing, or it was too limiting, etc.
I can totally believe no complaining, especially given the players signed up to it, and anyone who would likely have complained was thus eliminated from even being involved.

1 + Stat mod Jinxes is likely 4-5 combat cantrips for most PCs (6 at higher levels) per SR. 5E is balanced around 6-8 combats, usually of 3-4 rounds per adventuring day and 2 short rests. So if your group takes regular short rests it's not surprising that was enough Jinxes, assuming every other round they used a leveled spell.

I am slightly surprised people didn't buy light crossbows, though - they're actually more effective than combat cantrips a lot of the time on classes which don't get some sort of damage or to-hit improvement with combat cantrip (assuming a decent DEX).

What I don't entirely get is how this ended up different from normal though - because your limit on combat cantrips was pretty high, there's no real reason not to use them every round you would have anyway? You're complaining about the laser light show, and that's a perfectly reasonable aesthetic complaint, but did your changes actually result in significantly less combat cantrips being cast? It seems like they wouldn't have.
 

Bolares

Hero
Wizards should be Wizards. Always very bizarre they have to resort to a xbow or other weapon that are equally bad with.
If they use a cantrip a round I can't see any issue, they are doing " wizard" each round.
I was very confused and dissapointed when I first played a wizard. I was promised a game where I could play a wizard, and I got a crappy archer that could do magic twice a day. (at least that was my first impression)
 


I was very confused and dissapointed when I first played a wizard. I was promised a game where I could play a wizard, and I got a crappy archer that could do magic twice a day. (at least that was my first impression)
This was certainly a common reaction in earlier versions of D&D from new players. In 2E it was even worse. New players would pick Wizard, and be astonished that they could cast like 1-2 spells/day, and otherwise had to hit things with a stick. I think it was part of what lead to a huge number of second/third characters being Fighter/Mages and the like, because people wanted to cast spells, but they didn't want to just hang out throwing daggers or hitting with sticks.
 

Bolares

Hero
This was certainly a common reaction in earlier versions of D&D from new players. In 2E it was even worse. New players would pick Wizard, and be astonished that they could cast like 1-2 spells/day, and otherwise had to hit things with a stick. I think it was part of what lead to a huge number of second/third characters being Fighter/Mages and the like, because people wanted to cast spells, but they didn't want to just hang out throwing daggers or hitting with sticks.
Yeah, I hated the disbalance, you went from useless to soloing the game. There was no half measure.
 

HammerMan

Legend
I have done the opisite. I make up new cantrips and give them out as 'treasure' and even as a PC take warlock invocations (Speak w/dead at will, mage armor at will, speak w animals at will) that give more at will spells
 

HammerMan

Legend
Yeah, I hated the disbalance, you went from useless to soloing the game. There was no half measure.
I remember it was my 3rd or 4th campaign we had a player who had been playing a few years longer than us (and had a car) and had been to a few cons come in as a ranger 3 duel classed into wizard. We watched as he leveled and "owned" the game. other players would say it was the "alex show".
A few years later we all were playing spellcasters and trying to convince DMs to start at level 4+. (Since at low level wizards were no fun and no one wanted to have fun for 3-5 levels then sit out the rest of the campaign.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I just hope that the people who want to remove attack cantrips aren't also the same people who get mad about dump stats? Because if you are going to require all of your casters to shoot crossbows in combat you're going to see another uptick in DEX-heavy characters.

At least having attack cantrips that use your spellcasting stat makes the need for DEX being your second-highest stat less of an imperative. I mean, it's still going to be a popular ability score... but it just isn't AS necessary than if you were stuck using ranged weapons all the time. :)
 

Rogerd1

Explorer
I remember having a similar discussion on the Palladium boards a while back, that supers could blast until the cows came home, but a mage would need to use a weapon. And that DnD / PF still has the same problems, and that it has not been sorted out is annoying.

Personally I just assign power points for spells are a certain level. Then ensure that any magic-users start with Con in PP, which increases by the 50% every level. That should allow players to cast as they will, but also be very careful about using higher level magic which will cost them in energy, and also maybe assign fatigue if they use too much in one go.

Just like you see in movies and comics.
 


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