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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: 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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You could make exactly the same argument about martial classes. The only difference between a fighter hitting with a longsword and a barbarian hitting with a battleaxe is that the fighter gets a +2 damage bonus from a fighting style whereas the barbarian gets his +2 damage bonus from rage.

I'm not saying you are wrong. But if this is an issue for you then I think you are looking for a fundamentally different game than 5E.
 

BrokenTwin

Biological Disaster
I'd have been happy if they reduced the amount of full casters instead of increasing them.
Make the sorcerer a half caster with more sorcery points and knowing all the metamagic. Maybe give more power to their bloodlines.
Return bards to being half casters and increase their Bardic Inspiration pool and what they can do with it.
Make Rangers spell-less with a casting subclass, ala-fighter. Make them the pet class. God knows it would give them an actual mechanical niche.
Make druids half casters, and improve their Wildshape features.
Basically, make what makes the classes unique stand out more.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Does 5e's magic feel same-y to you? The spellcasters?

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

The second one first - I think it is a good design principle for D&D. If I want to explore the differences in various approaches to magic, I'd probably use a different system that is better suited for it.

Does this lead to same-y magic and casters? Maybe? Right now, I am playing an artificer in a party with a caretaker warlock (from a 3rd party supplement - it is basically a warlock, with a couple of tweaks). The two characaters have very different styles and impacts on the party, so my current data says... not really.

I suppose if you play a lot of spellcasters, after doing it several times you might end up with that feeling.
 

TwoSix

Dirty, realism-hating munchkin powergamer
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.
 


I've always felt that it would be better to differentiate spellcasters through their spell lists, rather than their casting mechanics. After all, a spell already represents a specific mechanical effect, which is unique to the class which can cast that spell.

Far too often, I've seen players choose their class based on the type of spell slot mechanics they want to deal with, rather than the role that the class is supposed to represent within the world. By giving everyone the user-friendly mechanics, and letting them differentiate by spell list, they could play who they want to play instead of what they're willing to deal with.
 

TwoSix

Dirty, realism-hating munchkin powergamer
So good, Twosix! It's almost like ...you've thought of this before.
Heh...I actually read your OP just before I had to jump in the car, so I was thinking about it while I was running some errands. The idea to have all spells be exclusive is one I've had before, I just had to think for a while if (Arcane, divine), (arcane,divine,druid), or (arcane,divine,druid,bard) made the most sense as dividing lines. Obviously, any decision comes down to a matter of taste.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
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.
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?
 

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