D&D (2024) Make SPELL SCHOOLS Thematic (and Useful)

I haven't had a chance to really take a close look so forgive me if I missed something obvious. When I tried doing something similar, I was stuck with how some spells lists might make ideal combinations while others are underpowered. Did you run into this issue at all?

In previous editions, there was a 'Universal' list. So, Mage Armour was tagged as 'Abjuration (universal)'. Therefore, any wizard could take it but, for an abjurer it counts for any abilities the abjurer might get with specific abjuration spells. By doing this, someone who focuses on illusion magic might have a couple 'universal' spells to round out their selection.

Did you toy with having a very small 'Universal' list?
 

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OK! I read through everything!

My previous questions are only mildly relevant now that I've realized you've recategorized everything.

I love it!

My one critique is that some 'schools' seem to have less spells than others. Notably, some schools get no spells at various levels. Divination is AMAZING now compared to before. Am I right, or are the spells actually fairly evenly spread? Did you try to keep them equal-ish?

How did you envision classes choose their lists?

If the schools aren't equally distributed, I could see you using a point-buy system where some schools are more expensive to buy than others.
 

Yaarel

He Mage
OK! I read through everything!

I love it!

My one critique is that some 'schools' seem to have less spells than others. Notably, some schools get no spells at various levels. Divination is AMAZING now compared to before. Am I right, or are the spells actually fairly evenly spread? Did you try to keep them equal-ish?
Ideally every school list and subschool list needs at least 3 good choices at each level.

Each school and subschool is a salient theme within the game, with a reasonable number of good spells relating to it.

A list that has any empty slot means the designers need to create new spells for these slots in order to make this theme more viable at other levels. For example, many Druids specialize in Plant spells. When one looks at the Transmutation Plant subschool list, there are great spells upto the 6th slot − but then it suddenly stops. There are no Plant spells at the 7th, 8th, or 9th slots. Designers need to create powerful Plant spells for these upper tier slots. The game itself is missing these important thematic spells.

When coping with a list that currently has a blank slot, the DM can allow the player to choose any spell that the player and the DM agree is appropriate for the character concept and the setting.

How did you envision classes choose their lists?

If the schools aren't equally distributed, I could see you using a point-buy system where some schools are more expensive to buy than others.
Each caster class comes with a default list.

But other options are possible. For example, the Wizard might choose an other list instead.

Specialists will have features to boost the corresponding list.

Some casters specialize in a specific element, like Pyromancers. So these can easily look at the Evocation Fire school and while ignoring the other Evocation spells.
 
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Yaarel

He Mage
Did you toy with having a very small 'Universal' list?
The "Universal" list is roughly equivalent to the Dweomer subschool. It is a meager and problematic list, so I tucked it into the Conjuration school, where the "magical energy" that a conjury is made out of relates thematically to the magical energy that Dweomer spells engage. Of course, the Dweomer list includes powerful spells, so it is worth taking in addition to other lists.
 

There are magic spells that produce nonmagical effects. For example, the Create/Destroy Water spell produces water that is presumably nonmagical water.

But there are no clear definitions for what is magical or not. The test is Detect Magic can detect a magical effect. But the DM lacks clear guidelines for what is or isnt magic.

An example is Dragon firebreath. It is produced magically, but the fire itself isnt magic. But that ruling is confusing and debatable.

If I would to create a simple rule: if the spell is "Instantaneous", then the effect itself is nonmagical. But that would make most damage spells nonmagical, and weird situations like Counterspell and Create Undead being as if nonmagical. Maybe the rule could work with some tweaking of specific spells?

In any case, as aspects of elemental magic, both the Create Water and the Acid Arrow would be the Evocation school, rather than a transmutation or a conjuration.
So in ADnD 2nd it came down to that instantaneous conjuration spells created objects and effects hat where not magical.
And acid arrow was a instantaneous conjurationspell.

Counter spell would still work because your preventing the spell from being successfully cast.
 

Yaarel

He Mage
So in ADnD 2nd it came down to that instantaneous conjuration spells created objects and effects hat where not magical.
And acid arrow was a instantaneous conjurationspell.

Counter spell would still work because your preventing the spell from being successfully cast.
A Cure Wounds spell heals magically, but the result is nonmagical health. It has something to do with the Duration. Maybe a new term: if the Duration is "Creation", then the effect itself is explicitly nonmagical. So the Cure Wounds spell creates nonmagical wellbeing, Create Water creates mundane water, Melfs Acid Arrow creates nonmagical stream of acid, Fabricate creates a finished product, etcetera.

In the original post, a "Conjuration" spell involves force/magical energy, and a Conjury is a construct made out of magical energy, namely a force construct. So a conjuration normally would be inherently magical − physical but immaterial − and often temporary.
 

I actually would like to go the other way, with "spell schools" being something that wizards have made up to try and make order out of the inherently chaotic and creative nature of magic, and that (like grammar for English) it only kind of works.

I can see sorcerers and warlocks just rolling their eyes at them.

And the Fey, and anyone who knows "true magic" rolling around on the ground laughing.
We, of course, have gotten our understanding of the spell system from an unreliable narrator. Those damned coastal Wizards!
 

Examples of usefulness.

One can easily create a spell list with the appropriate themes.

A primal spell list includes Divination, Evocation, and Transmutation.

An arcane spell list includes Conjuration, Evocation, Enchantment and Illusion.

A divine spell list includes Divination, Necromancy, and Transmutation

The Bard is Divination, Enchantment, Illusion, and Transmutation.

The Psion is Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, and Transmutation.

And so on.

Likewise it is easy to build a specific character concept with the readymade spell lists for each school and subschool.
I do not find that useful other than to save time at a point where time is cheap (the design phase). We're finding some pretty huge oversights in the OneD&D playtest, like no Heroism for the Bard (or for that matter forcing Compelled Duel onto the cleric list because we're homogenising the spell lists and the paladin needs Compelled Duel therefore the cleric gets it); you are always going to get things wrong.

Indeed, as illustrated above, I find that this approach actively undermines the usefulness of the class system, instead turning each class much more generic.

Spell schools have been useful in precisely two editions - 4e and 5e. That is because school specialisation lets you actively display more character because specialising lets you boost certain spells. Frankly I wouldn't be unhappy to see spell schools removed from the game entirely and just become a wizard subclass thing.
 


Andvari

Hero
I like the simplicity of no spell schools or components from spell descriptions. For me, it's enough to have the general rule of being able to speak clearly and move your hands freely to cast a spell, with any exceptions written into the spell or class.

But it can be problematic when you have a system built around those things existing. For example for schools, you could have a spell list in a specialist subclass to get around it, but then you have to change those lists each time you add new spells through new supplements. Perhaps doable in 6E if everything is online.
 

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