D&D 5E Limiting Cantrips?

Cruentus

Adventurer
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.

The mechanical difference between a crossbow from a Wizard in 5e and Cantrips are that the Cantrip is superior in every way except for range: more damage (and level increase), no ammo, no range modifiers. So of course the crossbow seems worse in comparison, but that is the trope that Wizards have had for ever - all my Wizards in 1e and 2e were stuck with darts, daggers, and staff. There were no crossbows for wizards. Magic Missile was it until Fireball and Lightning Bolt, and we had to carefully husband those resources.

In my next campaign, I'll probably use the Spell Point System, with a curated (removing encounter avoiding spells, and those that make classes superfluous) and mostly non-overlapping spell list for classes, no damage Cantrips, and Cantrips run 1 spell point per. More flexibility for Casters, maybe build in "upcasting" by adding more spell points to a particular cast, etc.

Ultimately, I want magic to be more esoteric, more powerful for the caster, but more dangerous. Not at all the same as the fighter 'swinging his sword' and nowhere near as common.
 

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Bolares

Hero
The mechanical difference between a crossbow from a Wizard in 5e and Cantrips are that the Cantrip is superior in every way except for range: more damage (and level increase), no ammo, no range modifiers. So of course the crossbow seems worse in comparison, but that is the trope that Wizards have had for ever - all my Wizards in 1e and 2e were stuck with darts, daggers, and staff. There were no crossbows for wizards. Magic Missile was it until Fireball and Lightning Bolt, and we had to carefully husband those resources.

In my next campaign, I'll probably use the Spell Point System, with a curated (removing encounter avoiding spells, and those that make classes superfluous) and mostly non-overlapping spell list for classes, no damage Cantrips, and Cantrips run 1 spell point per. More flexibility for Casters, maybe build in "upcasting" by adding more spell points to a particular cast, etc.

Ultimately, I want magic to be more esoteric, more powerful for the caster, but more dangerous. Not at all the same as the fighter 'swinging his sword' and nowhere near as common.
I reeeeeeally don't care wich one is more efficient indealing damage. To me having to use a crossbow as a wizard sucked the enjoyment out of the game. It broke my expectations. I get why people want cantrips removed, but I'd be cautious when doing it with new players...
 

I've wondered how this is going to work for Dark Sun in particular.

I didn't play 4e at all, let alone in the DS setting, so the idea of an Athas where the rare and widely hated arcane casters have infinite spammable cantrips is going to take a while to get my head around.

I see this as more chances to defile. I'm not a big fan of these types of restrictions in-game but I could see restricted cantrips if you preserve and unrestricted cantrips if you're willing to defile. If your preserver has run out of cantrips and needs more spells, you are suddenly faced with that choice that every preserver hates.
 
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Cruentus

Adventurer
I reeeeeeally don't care wich one is more efficient indealing damage. To me having to use a crossbow as a wizard sucked the enjoyment out of the game. It broke my expectations. I get why people want cantrips removed, but I'd be cautious when doing it with new players...
Sure. But that is where the expectations and enjoyment from player to player differ. My enjoyment was succeeding while overcoming those types of limitations as a caster. I knew what I was getting into going in, if I wanted a crossbow, I'd play a fighter. My last 5e Wizard was just as good as, if not better than the optimized Half Giant Barbarian all around. That wasn't very fun for me, at all.

With re: to players: our table have been playing together for 35ish years (though we are all old and jaded). And new players to DnD usually don't have any preconceived notions about wizard mechanics other than Harry Potter, Dr. Strange, and Gandalf (at least in my experience). None of them use crossbows :)
 


DND_Reborn

Legend
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.
Well, they didn't "sign up for it" so much as we had a discussion about it, and even the players with casters felt spamming cantrips each round was too much. Some concerns came up, so we gave it a trial run, and it worked well for us.

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.
Well, we don't follow the "adventuring day" concept really. Encounters happen when they happen, all story driven. Our battles do go longer, maybe 5-6 rounds per instead of 3-4. We do follow the 2 short rests maximum like many tables.

But otherwise, yes, we see more leveled spells being used, which is more "magical" than spamming cantrips for us.

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).
Probably because when this stuff comes up, people seem to focus on Wizards.

Our clerics, druids, and warlocks are often melee due to good ACs, wildshaping, and hexblade. We still get some ranged warlocks with EB, though. Sorcerers and Wizards with d6 HD do tend to stay ranged, but once they reach 5th level the scaled jinxes (cantrips) damage is more than enough to consider light crossbows instead.

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.
As I mentioned above our battles tend to be a bit longer, so a caster could burn through all their jinxes in one encounter if they wanted. But since we don't have an guarantees of when a short rest will come, that is risky in its ways. I'm not saying it is often difficult to get in a short rest, but you just never know. ;)

Overall, I would say it cuts spamming cantrips by about half. Now, we might go back to an earlier rule we had that solved the same problem and is easier in many ways:

You cannot cast attack/damage cantrips two rounds in a row.

The idea is the magic for your cantrip needs one round to recharge. You can do non-attack cantrips in the round in between, or cast a leveled spell of course.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
Limiting cantrips just seems to go against the reasons for having 5e cantrips in the first place. And why? Because a few cantrips outshine the others, and others don't get used at all? Sounds like a problem with certain cantrips. And while we're at it, certain other spells. And certain feats. And certain classes. Hmm... :unsure:
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I reeeeeeally don't care wich one is more efficient indealing damage. To me having to use a crossbow as a wizard sucked the enjoyment out of the game. It broke my expectations. I get why people want cantrips removed, but I'd be cautious when doing it with new players...
I guess it depends on what the new players view of magic is?

Look at LotR, Gandalf swings his sword and staff in fights a lot more than using magic. I know a lot of other media goes the other direction (Dr. Strange for example), so it really depends on your views. 🤷‍♂️

FWIW, I have no issue if I might join a friend's group while visiting and they have normal cantrip use.
 

Bolares

Hero
And new players to DnD usually don't have any preconceived notions about wizard mechanics other than Harry Potter, Dr. Strange, and Gandalf (at least in my experience). None of them use crossbows :)
That's exactly my point :p

All the media I consumed about them (except maybe for Gandalf) had wizards casting spells, even when they were weaker. Having to use a crossbow to be usefull in combat was really jarring for me.

But as you said, this is all dependant on personal preference. There is no right or wrong answers here.
 


Not to be negative, but overall I'm not a fan. That said, I have seen:
  • Proficiency bonus cantrips per short rest.
  • Double 1st level spells as cantrips per long rest.
Since I don't really care for the idea of limiting cantrips I can't really speak towards how effective the rules were. They both felt about the same to me, which is to say like casters were less... well, just less. But that was kind of the design goal. Ultimately people just stuck with light crossbows, and it kind of felt like it didn't matter much except to make Dex even better. I just always played a martial character in those two campaigns (run by the same DM).

It made more sense in the second campaign because it was a "magic is dying" storyline, but in the end the only full caster was a Valor or Sword Bard. So to me it felt like it just discouraged players from taking caster classes.
Not for nothing, but: if the goal is to make magic feel more rare ans special, discouraging characters who can use magic all the time (and thus encouraging characters for whom magic is a truly special ability and not the baseline) isn't a flaw: it's proof the system is working.

Well, it's working if the players knowingly and willingly signed up for it.
 

Well, they didn't "sign up for it" so much as we had a discussion about it, and even the players with casters felt spamming cantrips each round was too much. Some concerns came up, so we gave it a trial run, and it worked well for us.
I will say this: I've never really seen a pc 'spam' cantrips other than a warlock. Most casters use leveled spells unless there's no reason to (ie we're at the mop-up phase of combat / there's no risk). If they didn't have cantrips, they'd be more likely to dodge than use a crossbow.
 

0
I will say this: I've never really seen a pc 'spam' cantrips other than a warlock. Most casters use leveled spells unless there's no reason to (ie we're at the mop-up phase of combat / there's no risk). If they didn't have cantrips, they'd be more likely to dodge than use a crossbow.
Same here.
Most combats don't last long enough to spam them.
Being able to use minor illusion or guidance at will is a much bigger advantage in our games. But we actually use it very not so much that limits like prof bonus per day or so won't really hurt a lot.
Probably proficiency bonus per day would fit with quite well with the updated rules.

I am really curious how they will change the warlock and bardic inspiration (lvl5 +)
I imagine they might also be tied to proficiency bonus.
 

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. :)
I firmly believe that all classes should either be SAD or MAD, not a mix.

So, no, it doesn't bother me at all. Or throwing daggers, wielding a staff, &c.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I will say this: I've never really seen a pc 'spam' cantrips other than a warlock. Most casters use leveled spells unless there's no reason to (ie we're at the mop-up phase of combat / there's no risk). If they didn't have cantrips, they'd be more likely to dodge than use a crossbow.
Experiences differ, of course. :)

I saw repeated: Sacred Flame, Toll the Dead, Firebolt, and others often.

Basically, before the change, casters were just attacking most the time, like martials, but were attacking with cantrips. Now we see more leveled spells being cast so it helped.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
FWIW, my group only limits damage-causing cantrips (which we call jinxes). All other cantrips are still at will.
Do you also limit the fighter to how many times they can use their big weapon? Force them to switch to a dagger once in a while?

Or get the rogue to stop trying to get sneak attacks every round?

EDIT: Not sure what all the sad faces are about. They're legitimate questions, to which he eventually gave a response. 🤷‍♂️
 
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Experiences differ, of course. :)

I saw repeated: Sacred Flame, Toll the Dead, Firebolt, and others often.

Basically, before the change, casters were just attacking most the time, like martials, but were attacking with cantrips. Now we see more leveled spells being cast so it helped.
I think a lot of the pushback to this idea initially comes form the fact that your experience is actually unusual.
 

I guess it depends on what the new players view of magic is?

Look at LotR, Gandalf swings his sword and staff in fights a lot more than using magic. I know a lot of other media goes the other direction (Dr. Strange for example), so it really depends on your views. 🤷‍♂️
I always find it odd that people mention Gandalf, because frankly, I've never, ever met a player who wanted to play Gandalf, or modeled a PC spellcaster they played on Gandalf. That's in 33 years of TT RPGs, note.

And further Gandalf isn't utterly incompetent in melee, nor likely to die in melee, nor does weird stuff like throw daggers/darts or hang out with a crossbow, so it's a weird comparison on that level too. Gandalf is in fact pretty great in melee, and doesn't (IIRC) even get hit short of fighting the Balrog. Whereas a 1E or 2E AD&D Wizard is extremely likely to be die or be on negative HP the first time he gets hit at level 1-3, even to a goblin or the like. Even say, level 4, unless he has a sizeable CON bonus or rolled straight 4s on HP, a 1E/2E Wizard is extremely likely to be downed in a single round by almost any monster, given the combination of crap AC and crap HP. And he does crap damage in melee.

So you just straight-up cannot be Gandalf in 1/2E, not as a single-classed character anyway (or perhaps by stacking a ton of buff spells and magic items at a pretty high level - I seem to remember some high-ish level spell no-one ever casts which more or less amounts to "be Gandalf briefly but by this point it just makes you look like an idiot because you're way more powerful than Gandalf as a spellcaster"). Any DM telling you you can be, is a bit of a jerk.

Looking at media generally, the vast majority of spellcasters fall into three categories:

1) Those who don't fight much at all, whether with magic, ranged or melee, and tend to win through non-combat cleverness or tricks (which may involve magic) or running away (sometimes magic-assisted running away). Ged/Sparrowhawk or Merlin or the like.

2) Those who use magic constantly and heavily in combat and often outside it too, and where it's their primary or sole means of doing combat (including using magical items). You mentioned Dr Strange, and the vast majority of comic-book spellcasters fall into this category, Harry Potter basically does (I mean, he's between 1 & 2 arguably, but he usually falls back to magic), most videogame characters who are "wizards" or anything remotely similar (as opposed to "clerics" or "paladins" or "spellblades") also work like this. D&D spellcasters have been in this mould since 4E and arguably leaned that way since earlier.

3) Those who are also powerful combatants (usually in melee) outside of spellcasting. D&D is not great at modeling these people, though 4E and 5E are better than previous editions, and 1E/2E could sort of do it via multiclassing (3.XE was just terrible aside from the Gestalt stuff). Other games are often pretty great at it (Shadowrun, for example). Indeed it's notable that the demand for such characters to be supported mechanically has been huge for most of D&D's history, from the Elf of BD&D to the explosion of classes and PrCs which tried to be this in 3.XE. The huge number of attempts also show that the actual results are typically disappointing. There's been an unhealthy fixation on making this an "Elf thing" in D&D's attempts though (4E dumped the "elf thing" and 5E resurrected it, but at least offered a lot of other options). These are also fairly common in media, and rarely elves.

You just don't see the AD&D 1E/2E/3E Wizard in media (aside from that based on D&D directly or older sources closely modeling it, like Wizardry). Even Vance's wizards which inspired it are more like 1.

One suspects D&D was trying to model 1, because it's the closest, but because they had such a profoundly badly-designed power curve with spells, going from being "almost entirely useless/active liability" at L1, to "incredible" at L10, to "godlike" as they go further, they utterly fail to do so. Worlds Without Number rather demonstrates how to do that type of caster "right" in a D&D-like game. But just starting wizards off with, say, 4-5 L1 spells at L1 and only ramping up to say, L6 or L7 spells ever (aside perhaps as rituals), and never getting too many would work too, if you actually wanted to do that.
 
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Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
Sadly this is something you sometimes see, because some older DMs think sneak attack is some massive privilege, not baked into the design and balance of the Rogue class.
I don't understand why any DM has a problem with players doing what their character classes are designed to do.

"Oh! Your paladin is going to smite again?!"

Uh, yeah. He's a paladin! Watch out for the monk, though. She's refusing to use weapons or armor. :rolleyes:
 

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