D&D (2024) Make SPELLS Balanced

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
One thing I hope they take into account is that AoE makes an enormous difference--not just "area spell or not," but the size and shape of the area have a huge impact on power level.

I mean, compare fireball to lightning bolt. They're both AoE damage spells. They deal the same amount of damage and call for the same type of saving throw. Lightning is slightly less resisted than fire. Yet fireball is vastly superior. Why? Because unless your DM is very fond of staging encounters in corridors, you can hit a lot more enemies with a 20-foot-radius sphere than you can with a 100-foot line.

If fireball were scaled down to 6d6 and lightning bolt stayed at 8d6, it might be an interesting choice. As is, it's a no-brainer.
The DMs Guide (page 283) distinguishes between one-target damage and multi-target damage. The original post of this thread does too, while noting the official spells are more like a 7 to 9 ratio. Despite inconsistent spells, the ability to choose better spells and avoid less good spells makes multi damage roughly 78% of singular damage.

Regarding the area of Fireball versus the line of Lightningbolt, each has their use. The area is best to first-strike a cluster of targets before engaging them. But once combat is in progress, the line is better to hit a target without damaging an ally.

In a separate part of the DMs Guide relating to Creature Size (249), there is a discussion about how many targets one can expect in a spell effect. Of interest here:
• Circle: Targets ≈ radius/5
• Line: Targets ≈ length/30
Thereby, Fireball with a 20-foot radius equates to about 4 targets. But Lightningbolt with a 100-foot line equates to about 3.33 targets. The Fireball assessment feels right. In my experience, maybe Lightningbolt is more like 2.5 targets, but if rounding the number to 3, that sounds good enough to me. The benefit of Lightningbolt is avoiding friendlyfire. So when I use it or see it used, it is mostly to assist a distant ally by taking out a boss, and if one or two mooks get in the way of the Lightning, that helps too.

In the Players Handbook, the spells at a slot level differ wildly in effectiveness. They ignore the advice in the DMs Guide. Humorously, the DMs Guide says: "If a spell is so good that a caster would want to use it all the time, it might be too powerful for its level." But then despite the sound advice, the designers intentionally made Fireball too powerful for its slot level.

By the way, it is more than spell selection and caster-versus-noncaster that needs spells to balance better. Everything in the game engine relies on spells. At low levels, different kinds of features are easier to compare and balance, and there is more familiarity with them to discern their desirability. But high level features are more difficult to assess, being less familiar, more abstract, and often shifting to a different kind of game, such as conditions becoming more threatening relative to hit point loss. When designers try to assess high level features, they comparing them to the spells at that level. So when the spells are wonky, everything gets wonky.



Most damage spells assume a save for half damage. That is what the original post lists for each slot. According to the DMs Guide advice, "if your spell doesnt deal damage on a successful save, increase the damage by 25 percent." So, at slot 5, a spell like Cone of Cold deals damage that corresponds to about 35 damage, and save for half. But if a spell at that slot is all or nothing, it should deal about a fourth more, roughly 44 damage. Spells that are rays like Disintegrate and spells that roll an attack tend to be all or nothing, and should deliver more damage when successful.



There is enough good advice to balance spells reasonably well at each level. Start with the damage spells, because the math is more obvious. But then start comparing other spells to the damage spells by feel. Which spell would one rather have? Eventually, the one gets a strong sense of what the nondamage effects are worth too. For example, one can seriate the mobility spells like Fly and Teleportation from worst to best, lay them across the slot levels, and get a clear sense of what mobility effects are worthwhile at each slot. One knows one is accurate enough when choosing between a mobility spell and a damage spell is a genuinely tough choice.
 

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Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
Animal Messenger is a terrible spell. Even if it demoted from a 2nd- to a 1st-slot spell, it would still be a terrible spell at that slot too.

Spells are not the appropriate design space for that kind of magical effect.

It is more like a scroll describing a weird ritual that someone can find as treasure and use it for cute harmless flavor.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Regarding the area of Fireball versus the line of Lightningbolt, each has their use. The area is best to first-strike a cluster of targets before engaging them. But once combat is in progress, the line is better to hit a target without damaging an ally.
While in theory that makes sense, in practice, time and time and time again the sphere area has proven itself VASTLY superior to a 5 ft line. When I use spells (or monster effects) that use sphere areas, I consistently hit more targets than with lines. And considering that you can push spheres up against walls and the like to limit their areas and help reduce friendly fire, I find my players are often able to use those spheres without hurting their friends, and still get more targets than with lines.
 

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
While in theory that makes sense, in practice, time and time and time again the sphere area has proven itself VASTLY superior to a 5 ft line. When I use spells (or monster effects) that use sphere areas, I consistently hit more targets than with lines. And considering that you can push spheres up against walls and the like to limit their areas and help reduce friendly fire, I find my players are often able to use those spheres without hurting their friends, and still get more targets than with lines.
I agree sphere/circle areas catch more targets than lines.

Catching 4 targets with a 20-foot sphere looks about right, on average.

The line feels less. Maybe the line is more like 2 targets on average, for any line 20 feet or more.

Where Fireball catches about 4 (≈ 20 radius/5)

Lightingbolt catches about 2
 

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
Regarding the damage progression. Many players are emotionally attached to the 8d6 Fireball. Instead of reducing the Fireball damage, what about calibrating every other spell with Fireball as the standard? It is a power up for many damage spells in the game. But it leaves Fireball alone, and makes the lower slots a bit more worth spending a precious slot on. Meanwhile, it doesnt make too much difference at the higher slots, and actually matches the 9th-slot a bit better. The numbers are for spells that only deal damage: spells that deal damage plus some other effect typically are one die less. For example, in the 2014 Players Handbook, Burning Hands currently deals 3d6 damage. The following table would either improve it to 4d6 damage, or else add some kind of nondamage benefit while leaving it 3d6. Personally, I wouldnt go this direction, but can live with it. Your thoughts?



SLOTMULTI-TARGETONE-TARGET
1st-slot 4d6 damage (14)4d8 damage (18)
2nd-slot6d6 damage (21)6d8 damage (27)
3rd-slot8d6 damage (28)8d8 damage (36)
4th-slot10d6 damage (35)10d8 damage (45)
5th-slot12d6 damage (42)12d8 damage (54)
6th-slot14d6 damage (49)14d8 damage (63)
7th-slot16d6 damage (56)16d8 damage (72)
8th-slot18d6 damage (63)18d8 damage (81)
9th-slot20d6 damage (70)20d8 damage (90)
 

I'd be happier with a 3dX (1st level) -> 5dX (2nd level) -> 8dX (3rd level) scaling in lieu of 4->6->8, myself, but either approach - reducing fireball to 7d6 or bringing other spells up to match fireball - is fine by me.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
Regarding the damage progression. Many players are emotionally attached to the 8d6 Fireball. Instead of reducing the Fireball damage, what about calibrating every other spell with Fireball as the standard? It is a power up for many damage spells in the game. But it leaves Fireball alone, and makes the lower slots a bit more worth spending a precious slot on. Meanwhile, it doesnt make too much difference at the higher slots, and actually matches the 9th-slot a bit better. The numbers are for spells that only deal damage: spells that deal damage plus some other effect typically are one die less. For example, in the 2014 Players Handbook, Burning Hands currently deals 3d6 damage. The following table would either improve it to 4d6 damage, or else add some kind of nondamage benefit while leaving it 3d6. Personally, I wouldnt go this direction, but can live with it. Your thoughts?



SLOTMULTI-TARGETONE-TARGET
1st-slot 4d6 damage (14)4d8 damage (18)
2nd-slot6d6 damage (21)6d8 damage (27)
3rd-slot8d6 damage (28)8d8 damage (36)
4th-slot10d6 damage (35)10d8 damage (45)
5th-slot12d6 damage (42)12d8 damage (54)
6th-slot14d6 damage (49)14d8 damage (63)
7th-slot16d6 damage (56)16d8 damage (72)
8th-slot18d6 damage (63)18d8 damage (81)
9th-slot20d6 damage (70)20d8 damage (90)
"many players" should play an ecoker or similar (sub)class capable of bringing a properly tuned fireball up to a level they get those warm fuzzies from. Making the base spell so over the top reduces the room for any other niche to flourish with a different subclass.
 


Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
"many players" should play an ecoker or similar (sub)class capable of bringing a properly tuned fireball up to a level they get those warm fuzzies from. Making the base spell so over the top reduces the room for any other niche to flourish with a different subclass.
That is my point of view too.

A 3rd-Slot damage spell should deal 6d6, but if it only does damage and no other effect, 7d6 is appropriate.

Then the Evoker Wizard subclass has a feature to spice up elemental damage spells, including Fireball.

That said, if the 3rd-Slots boosts instead to 7d6 or 8d6 depending on other effects, as long as that is the standard that the rest of the game needs to balance around, that is fine.
 

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
As for the Lightning Bolt spell, it would be "cooler" if it was a bit more like Chain Lightning. So it moves in a straight line until it hits a target, but from there can continue to move in a different straight line until hitting an other target, where it can again move in a different straight line, and so on until the length runs out.

Keeping track of the distances is a bit too much for theater of mind style, but I like the flavor. I would like a way to make the spell function without any micromeasurements.

For mindstyle, the ballpark measurements to work with are Melee range (within 10 feet), Close range (within 30 feet), Distant range (within 100 feet), and Bowshot is within 300 feet.

Maybe the Lightning can deal 7d6 lightning damage to a single target, and either stop there or continue on to a different chosen target dealing 5d6 lightning, and stop or continue to a tertiary target for 3d6, and if chosen, a quaternary target for 1d6 damage. All chosen targets must be within 100 feet of the caster, and cannot take additional damage if being struck twice by the same casting. Each additional target reduces the new damage by 2d6.

While Fireball can deal more damage to more targets, the Lightning Bolt arcs around to avoid allies.

Each higher spell slot increases the damage by 2d6, thus also increases the potential number of targets by one.

Anyway just musing to make Lightning Bolt more competitive with Fireball.
 
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