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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: 29 29.6%
  • 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 43.9%
  • 4 No. I don't know what you're talking about.

    Votes: 12 12.2%
  • 5. I have VERY STRONG OPINIONS that cannot be captured in a poll.

    Votes: 2 2.0%
  • 6. Smash the control images, smash the control machines.

    Votes: 4 4.1%

  • Total voters
    98
  • Poll closed .

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TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
Well, not to make work for you, but that really looks like the beginning of something promising.

I rarely look at a sketch of a proposal and think, "Yeah, that's it. Right there."

May want to develop that. :)
It's entirely possible I may have a spreadsheet open right now. :)
 


TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
A lot of this is good stuff TwoSix!

My only suggestions would be to make Sorcerers half-casters and give more for them, and allow Bards to choose from all the lists. This would reflect more the idea to me of a bard learning from all sources whenever he can. Sorcerers can benefit from more metamagic or something?
I'm amenable to that! I liked the symmetry of having a full caster and a half caster for each list, but I'm totally open to whatever. This is literally like a half-hour of brainstorming while driving, not my magnum opus. :)
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
I'm amenable to that! I liked the symmetry of having a full caster and a half caster for each list, but I'm totally open to whatever. This is literally like a half-hour of brainstorming while driving, not my magnum opus. :)
So, something like this from what I gather you wrote:

Full (Half)
Wizard (Sorcerer)
Cleric (Paladin)
Druid (Ranger)

Warlock has very limited domain spells, possibly with the source from any list based on the Patron.

Bard is also half-caster, but can choose from any list.

Sound about right?
 

Lots of good ideas here.
I'm firmly in the camp of spell lists are way too samey and was a wasted chance to give each caster a unique feeling on top of the base class.
 


Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
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.
ironically 4e would get called out for being too "samey" via the at-will/encounter/daily power setup for every class. personally I felt like it was indicative how much you can really do with D&D mechanics, but I did agree that setup probably isn't the best for every class (and Essentials did address this with an arguably better setup for non-caster classes.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
So, something like this from what I gather you wrote:

Full (Half)
Wizard (Sorcerer)
Cleric (Paladin)
Druid (Ranger)

Warlock has very limited domain spells, possibly with the source from any list based on the Patron.

Bard is also half-caster, but can choose from any list.

Sound about right?
That's generally where I'm at. I'd say 3 spell lists for wizard, cleric, and druid I'm pretty fixed on. Paladin and ranger as half-casters for cleric and druid, respectively, also works well. Sorcerer, bard, and warlock I'm pretty flexible on. I can see valid arguments for several different approaches, more drastic changes, or even dropping entirely.

And paladin should definitely be a "known" caster, not prepped caster.
 

OB1

Jedi Master
Let me think...how to approach your concerns while leaving the bulk of the game intact.

1) Dump all the spells in the game into a spreadsheet. Label each spell as either a wizard, cleric, or druid spell. No overlap. Those are the new spell lists.

2) Eliminate every damage cantrip in the game as a base choice. Cantrips become fun non-combat effects. (Cantrips earned from any higher level subclass features or other effects could still be allowed on a case-by-case basis.)

3) Wizards need a subtle boost to offset cantrips, make Arcane Recovery work every short rest to compensate.

4) Cleric domains are altered to only include cleric spells.

5) Make bards a half-caster class using the wizard spell list. Paladins use cleric, and rangers use druid. Bards need a boost here, some more inspiration points would be appropriate.

6) Sorcerers pick their spells from all spell lists. This gives them a mechanical niche different from other casters to compensate for their low spells known.

6) Warlocks only know their domain spells. Mystic Incarnum spells can come from any spell list, just have to fit the patron theme. Gain 1 invocation/level to compensate.

7) If you want deeper cuts, I'd cut spellcasting out of paladin, ranger, warlock, and bard. You'd need to build homebrew replacements, but they exist. Alternatively, just cut those 4 classes out of the game, and turn some of the more interesting abilities into new subclasses for the remaining 8 classes.
So, while I like 5e design as well, I'm also intrigued by this premise. A bit of food for thought on some of these.

2) Or require damage cantrips to be activated using a slot? 1 Min for a 1st level slot, 1 Hr for a 2nd, 8 Hrs for a 3rd? (maybe with concentration?)

3) Or give them additional daily spell slots based on Int Modifier?

4) I'd give bards the access to all spell lists as full casters, but also no cantrips (lore bard can poach cantrips?)

6) Sorcerers become the arcane half-caster, get all metamagic abilities, get all arcane cantrips, and don't need to use spell slots to activate damage ones. Also give back sorcery points on short rest.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
That's generally where I'm at. I'd say 3 spell lists for wizard, cleric, and druid I'm pretty fixed on. Paladin and ranger as half-casters for cleric and druid, respectively, also works well. Sorcerer, bard, and warlock I'm pretty flexible on. I can see valid arguments for several different approaches, more drastic changes, or even dropping entirely.

And paladin should definitely be a "known" caster, not prepped caster.
Cool. FWIW, there are only about a dozen spells that aren't in one of the three main lists.
 


Tonguez

Hero
A lot of this is good stuff TwoSix!

My only suggestions would be to make Sorcerers half-casters and give more for them, and allow Bards to choose from all the lists. This would reflect more the idea to me of a bard learning from all sources whenever he can. Sorcerers can benefit from more metamagic or something?
that’s sounds more like a Sage than a Bard, personally I’d rather Bard get a few unique meta-magic inspirations based on their creative use of mainly utility spells.
 


Big Bucky

Explorer
The different schools of magic for the wizard were pretty disappointing to me too. I was hoping there would be more separation of spell choices between them and stronger differentiation in the buffs to each school.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
2) Or require damage cantrips to be activated using a slot? 1 Min for a 1st level slot, 1 Hr for a 2nd, 8 Hrs for a 3rd? (maybe with concentration?)
That could definitely work, but I'm liking the idea of removing damage based at-wills in general more and more. For my personal game, I'd lean towards making some new 1st-2nd level spells that let you take an action to do a cantrip level effect for a minute with concentration. That and some uncommon wands that let you cast a damage cantrip, but have X charges.

3) Or give them additional daily spell slots based on Int Modifier?
I'd prefer to gate additional resources behind rests, to prevent nova potential.

4) I'd give bards the access to all spell lists as full casters, but also no cantrips (lore bard can poach cantrips?)

6) Sorcerers become the arcane half-caster, get all metamagic abilities, get all arcane cantrips, and don't need to use spell slots to activate damage ones. Also give back sorcery points on short rest.
All those could work. I like a lot of sorcerer and warlock stuff mechanically, but am less invested in their tropes and narratives. I'm happy to twist them around or steal their stuff to give to other classes.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
Cool. FWIW, there are only about a dozen spells that aren't in one of the three main lists.
Yea, those aren't too difficult to deal with. It's more the spells that occur on two or three lists that are troublesome, especially if there's historical precedent on one side but thematic resonance on another. Like spells that evoke elemental power, such as Wall of Fire. I can see pretty compelling reasons to give it to Druids or to Wizards.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
Yea, those aren't too difficult to deal with. It's more the spells that occur on two or three lists that are troublesome, especially if there's historical precedent on one side but thematic resonance on another. Like spells that evoke elemental power, such as Wall of Fire. I can see pretty compelling reasons to give it to Druids or to Wizards.
Well, I am working on it now and my idea anyway was to devote spells to cleric and druid first since they have fewer, and then see what is left for the wizard. Cherry -picking here and there afterwards if I feel I need to restore some to Wizard.
 


Minigiant

Legend
I do think the spells and magic are too samey

I think the issue is that too many iconic spells were included that there was no room for experiment without a 4th starting book.

I say we spell all spells into 10-12 list and have each class get a number of lists based on their class and subclass

Druids get Animal Plant Fungus and Disease. Circle druids get Fire Earth Water or Air based on their terrain type.
 

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