Maxwell's Silver Hammer: On Spells, Design, and the feeling of Sameyness in 5e

Do you think the spellcasters and spells in 5e are too "same-y?"

  • 1. Yes, they are too same-y.

    Votes: 28 28.9%
  • 2. They're really same-y, but I'm okay with it.

    Votes: 8 8.2%
  • 3. Maybe a little, but it's a good design choice.

    Votes: 43 44.3%
  • 4 No. I don't know what you're talking about.

    Votes: 12 12.4%
  • 5. I have VERY STRONG OPINIONS that cannot be captured in a poll.

    Votes: 2 2.1%
  • 6. Smash the control images, smash the control machines.

    Votes: 4 4.1%

  • Poll closed .

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I don't have enough experience with 5e to really comment.

I will say that what you complain about here is one of the reasons I've not bothered to acquire experience with 5e.


I agree. These are all part of the reasons I fiddle around with classes as much as I do. It is also the reason for the desire to see F,T,C and M-U lineup. Because they are different from each other.

I love and hate cantrips.


Tension, apprension, and dissension have begun
I can see why it might feel same-y, but I kinda prefer these spell lists to the ones in 1E, where there are all these listings for the same spell with relatively minor differences; I even prefer it to 3.x where a spell might be level X for one class and level Y for another. Given that one of the core intents (principles? maybe) seems to be streamlining things, it makes sense that (to pick a spell) fly has exactly one entry in the spells list, and is always a third level (I think? away from books at the moment) spell.

I think there's enough differentiation between the full-caster classes that they don't have to feel the same. Certainly clerics and wizards don't feel much alike to me, and druids don't really feel like either; bards are supposed to be all about flexibility so I don't feel as though their lack of unique spells damages them, particularly. Warlocks don't really work like any other full-caster, and the half-casters (and less) seem as though they're pretty well-differentiated by other (non-spell) abilities and themes and stuff.

Do I like the design principle? Well, it's my favorite edition of D&D, but there may be some amount of comfort-zone-residence there. I don't think it means I agree with every design choice they made.


A suffusion of yellow
I’ve always thought DnD had too many spellcasters but agree that 5e has gone beyond that and that there is too much Magic, when even your Fighter subclasses are sparkling with magical lighting things have gone too far.
Also the magic initiate feat is a big offender that I look at and think - uh if I can get any spell then whats the point?


Tension, apprension, and dissension have begun
So I checked my true feelings but it was a real struggle not to vote with the Burroughs quotation. Niiiice.


Everything in the game is samey. Especially after you play it for years on end. Hell... the game was samey out of the gate because its just a new version of D&D-- the same game we've been playing for 40 years. Yeah, there are some changes here and there... but it's still D&D. There hasn't been a single edition of D&D that I've played that hasn't felt like D&D.

Yes, 4E was probably the most different... but that's just in degrees. It's not like I played 4E and thought "Wow, this feels like World of Darkness, not D&D! What happened?" Neither 4E nor any other edition has ever felt different from the totality of the Dungeons & Dragon game. Not like how playing Shadowrun, or 7th Sea, or GURPS, or Talislanta have felt totally separate from Dungeons & Dragons.

But then again... I don't play D&D so that it doesn't feel like playing D&D. And I don't select specific classes because they supposedly feel different than other classes. They don't. None of them do. When I'm playing a wizard in combat and make a spell attack roll, it feels exactly the same as playing a fighter making a melee attack roll. And a wizard spell that forces a saving throw is no different than a fighter ability that forces a saving throw. The mechanics across the entire game are practically the same both now and in generations past. And thus I don't go looking for D&D to be different.

If I want my characters to feel different... then I play them differently. I don't ask the mechanics to do it for me. It's personality, needs, desires, loves, hatreds. That's what makes characters different, not the mechanics.


No rule is inviolate
Does 5e's magic feel same-y to you? The spellcasters?

Unfortunately yes, but I don't have a good solution. I prefer each class to bring something unique to the table so the player gets a chance to shine. Mixing together magic so everyone can do basically the same thing is part of why I avoided 4E, and I'm not a fan of seeing the same effect reskinned (save or take 1d8 damage, attack and do 1d10 damage on a hit). It's why I'm not a fan of the Bard. I originally liked the idea of a full-casting class, but then I saw the list (wizard spells minus the boom-boom). That's "meh." Perhaps the solution is simply a smaller, but unique, spell list that interplays with the class features, such as the Paladin got.

However, this can swing the other way. I initially wasn't a fan of anyone, not just the rogue, finding and disabling traps, though now I understand the idea: rogues used to be mandatory in a group, and we don't want to force someone into a mandatory role. So, I get it.

Cantrips: I'm not a fan of the damaging ones. Cantrips originally were nuisance spells with occasional strategic use, and now, they've morphed into unlimited primary damage abilities that eventually surpass slotted spells. While I understand the idea - let casters contribute every round in combat like the fighter does because sitting around doing nothing or using a weapon that sucks so bad you'll never hit stinks - there was a cost: blending of the classes into feeling somewhat the same.

And do you like the design principle (spell equivalent) of 5e?

As to spell-like abilities for various classes, I'm okay. Barbarians probably should be supernatural. If the only way to express this is to mimic an existing spell, so be it.

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