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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 .

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
There's a point at which reallocating the existing spell lists feels a little bit like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. That's not to say it isn't a worthwhile endeavor, but I think there will still be some holes in the lists no matter how things get moved about. which just means new spells I guess, so yay?
To my mind, making sure the spell lists have holes is part of the point. It's all part of adding niche protection, which was the original theme of this thread.
 

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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
To my mind, making sure the spell lists have holes is part of the point. It's all part of adding niche protection, which was the original theme of this thread.
I don't disagree with you at all, I just think the lists and class powers would need adding to, not just rearranging to really accomplish the task at hand. Rearranging is a fine start though. I wasn't peeing in anyone's cornflakes. :p
 

I personally feel that this is the result of too many legacy classes, most of which are casters. I'm not a fan of the Warlock, but it does add something new to the game. Sorcerer has lost almost all of its purpose due to the removal of vancian spellcasting. Pushing Paladin and Ranger to half-casters made them far more magical than before. Adding attack cantrips in an edition where everyone has the same proficiency made weapons for casters fairly meaningless.

That said, this isn't MY edition... it's everyone's. The decisions made were best for the majority of gamers, not the elite enthusiasts we are. Fortunately, a lot of it can be houseruled to fit your needs.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
From an edition-wide perspective I think that more abilities and less 'spells' would also be a big help differentiating the casters. Bards and Druids are pretty well primed for that approach IMO, and I think that some better differentiated mechanics for Clerics would be cool too. Wizards and Sorcerers are a separate mess.
 

houser2112

Explorer
Sorcerer has lost almost all of its purpose due to the removal of vancian spellcasting.
I agree, but I'm willing to sacrifice the sorcerer on the altar if that's what needed to get rid of paleovancian casting for good.

Adding attack cantrips in an edition where everyone has the same proficiency made weapons for casters fairly meaningless.
I agree with this too. While I don't like the decision to get rid of the concept of touch AC, I do like that casters have something useful to do that doesn't require expending precious slots, and it's more thematic than a stupid crossbow (a peasant militia weapon).
 

tetrasodium

Adventurer
Supporter
There's a point at which reallocating the existing spell lists feels a little bit like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. That's not to say it isn't a worthwhile endeavor, but I think there will still be some holes in the lists no matter how things get moved about. which just means new spells I guess, so yay?
That's why I suggested(links in post) padding out the lists with stuff from swordmeow & grimlore's grimoir rather than just rearranging the deckchairs. There's too many legacy spells & reworking the entire lists getting rid of a lot of the "this spell should be N levels higher but history so meh" stuff with level appropriate interesting spells
 

Nebulous

Legend
I absolutely hate it when the wizard says, "Ok, I hit it with firebolt until it is dead/burned/destroyed. Oh, that will take three hours? Ok, I do that."
 

tetrasodium

Adventurer
Supporter
I absolutely hate it when the wizard says, "Ok, I hit it with firebolt until it is dead/burned/destroyed. Oh, that will take three hours? Ok, I do that."
Just because the cantrips in 5e are boring AF weapon replacements doesn't mean that they should be, but since you mention it...
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Just to give a couple examples from swordmeow grimlore's grimoire has a bunch more but imo they are kind of necromancery flavored
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
@TwoSix :

PALADIN:

Purify Food and Drink
Ok, Cleric it is for both of us then. I'll update my spreadsheet for your information so they match.

Locate Object
So this will be listed as Cleric for us both then.

Create Food and Water
Also moved to Cleric on your list now.

Dispel Magic
Your comment on a Cleric being a caster-beater was the reason I kept Silence in with Cleric, it doesn't stop magic, but thwarts Wizards from casting many spells.

Locate Creature
We will have to continue the discussion on this. With Locate Object under Cleric, Locate Creature under Druid, it is too bad there isn't a third "Locate" spell we could put into Wizard. I'll add this to the "Further Discussion List".

RANGER:

Darkvision
I like your reasoning for giving Cleric the physical enhancement spells (also why I gave them Enhance Ability), so I'll move my Darkvision to Cleric.

Find Traps
Historical precedence is a good reason IMO, but I am thinking in terms of the classes and not giving Rangers access to this spell is probably ok since the Ranger will likely have good Perception/Investigation as were Clerics and Paladins might not--so relying on magic for them makes sense. I'll move to Cleric.

Silence
We can discuss it further, but I still like Cleric for this for a couple reasons. 1) Historic precedence and 2) Wizards already have the major shutdown and giving at least one of the caster class the potential is a better thing for balance. Added to the further discussion list.

Water Walk
Yeah, the Water -> Druid thing makes perfect sense, but for other reasons I think moving it to Cleric is good for balance among other things. I'll move yours to Cleric.

Freedom of Movement
You went with Wizard, and I with Druid, but then you responded "Yea, cleric is probably better here." So, are you thinking Cleric or Druid? I'm still going with Druid for now, but definitely open to your point so let me know. Added to further discussion.

Stoneskin
Yep, stone -> Druid, makes sense; but this is a classic Wizard spell for me. You mentioned history could win out, but we can discuss it more.

SORCERER:

Comprehend Languages
True, Wizards are good about the ritual casting thing... I'm fine with this going to Wizards.

Expeditious Retreat
I left this with Wizards because they should have an answer to everything LOL. Also, with Druids having Misty Step (which is normally only S,War,W), it felt balanced leaving this with Wizard. Added to the discuss further list.

False Life
Interesting. I've been spreading out necro spells amoung all three for different reasons. I don't want to remove too many from Cleric (otherwise, evil cleric becomes druid...). Adding to the discuss list.

Ice Knife
Although a elemental-type sorcerer spell, I don't mind this staying with Druid instead of Wizard. It could go either way and I think list balance will affect it. Both classes have sufficient blasting spells anyway. Discuss more later.

Sleep
Sigh... yeah, despite the fey-aspect, this is just too iconic a Wizard spell to leave them. I moved it to Wizard.

Thunderwave
Hmm... I get leaving it with Wizard, but I am inclined to keep it in Cleric. I'll have to think about it more and keep it on the discuss list for now.

FURTHER DISCUSSION:

Locate Object
Locate Creature
Silence
Freedom of Movement
Stoneskin
Expeditious Retreat
False Life
Ice Knife
Thunderwave
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I'd probably tend more toward wards and protection for the Cleric. 5e is bad enough already at simulating a wizard duel that I don't want to make it any worse. interacting directly with magic - counterspell, dispel, etc seems pretty wizardy to me. You need to make choices though, so I'll save any criticism of any significant sort until the lists are finalized. When it comes to removing effects remove curse seems like a cleric thing to me, while dispel magic seems like a wizard thing.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
I'd probably tend more toward wards and protection for the Cleric. 5e is bad enough already at simulating a wizard duel that I don't want to make it any worse. interacting directly with magic - counterspell, dispel, etc seems pretty wizardy to me. You need to make choices though, so I'll save any criticism of any significant sort until the lists are finalized. When it comes to removing effects remove curse seems like a cleric thing to me, while dispel magic seems like a wizard thing.
Thanks for your input.

@TwoSix , would you like to continue this here or start a new thread?
 

There was a recent thread when the discussion of design principles in 5e was raised. I made the same comment that I had made over the past five years, which is basically that, IMO, there are too many spellcasting classes, and that the spells (especially the cantrips) had a very "same-y" feel, and that this was (IMO) largely attributable to the design principles of 5e.
To me you miss a huge one where 5e has a serious problem with same-yness, although not as bad as 3.5. And that's "Prosthetic Forehead Monsters". When a monster like a succubus has abilities that are mere spells, then it means that the succubus, rather than being something weird and frightening, is nothing more than a wizard with a prosthetic forehead, and whatever it can do the PCs can do. Which makes the whole setting bland.

And when you turn all the interesting abilities into spells you end up with a game of magicians and muggles.

1. Overlapping spell lists. Okay, so maybe the ye olde 1e PHB was a little overboard, by having each caster have its spells in its own section .... but maybe not!
...
2. Too mix-n-match. Ritual spellcasting. Cantrips. Everything is available easily through either multi-class, subclass, or feat. To the extent that there is meaningful class differentiation (there isn't), you can easily get whatever you want from any other class.
To me the problem here was turning the back on 1e - and in doing so meaning that the "big" casters could fit almost any niche. It's the "I can do anything" that makes them bland every bit as much as the overlapping spell lists.

4. All effects are measured by spells. Magic items. other class abilities, almost everything is expressed in terms of spells. So ... okay. There's a lot of it.
Yes! Absolutely! And when all effects are measured by spells (as they are) it turns the characters without them into muggles.

5. Cantrips are terribly boring. Pew pew pew. You can look at them, and refluff 'em as you want. But it both makes cantrips terrible, and has the additional added effect of making higher-level damage spells terrible as well.
Can't agree here. Or rather I can but I can't agree that spellcasters learning magical self defence is a problem or the easiest things to cast being bland is a problem.

More importantly, by providing casters with the always-on, always damage cantrips, it effectively nerfed the utility of higher-level spell.
Only in the way allowing wizards to shoot crossbows did. Cantrips are not the match for any serious weapon (other than Eldritch Blast) and aren't designed to be. They are meant to be a replacement for using crossbows, daggers, and staves - and do about as much damage as physical weapons on a caster for the first few levels - or half that of an actual warrior.

6. Lack of mechanical differentiation. The Warlock? Short rest + invocation ... that's different. Everyone else? It's the same. Overlapping spells, overlapping casting abilities, overlapping mechanics.
Honestly, and I don't like saying this because it's probably my favourite class, the Warlock is a huge part of the problem. If the warlock didn't exist then all the other casters would look a whole lot more different because there wouldn't be this one caster that had walked in from another game and shown just how different things could be.

(and, TBH, they overloaded EB so much that most players just play it as a glorified EB spammer).
EB makes the warlock as good round to round as a beastmaster ranger is with a bow. Nothing more.

Back when all weapons did d6 damage, did they all feel the same because they did the same damage, or were they objectively different because they had different names, and therefore (by definition!) were different?
Weapon damage was changed because everyone was wielding iron spikes because they were the cheapest weapon available. I think that answers that question.

On the other hand in games like 13th Age and Dungeon World where weapon damage is by character class I've not noticed people doing things like that.

The casters feel ... well, very different. No one would confuse the Cleric and Magic User lists. Even subclasses (like the Illusionist) are very different than the main class in terms of spellcasting.
Apparently people think the 4e fighter and wizard feel same-y though.

Does 5e's magic feel same-y to you? The spellcasters?

And do you like the design principle (spell equivalent) of 5e?
5e appears to be a game about magic users and muggles. And my favourite classes are the warlock and the shadow monk - both of which are weird and can do stuff which isn't spells. I wish there were more of them.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
I wasn't really sure how to vote in the poll.

I agree that they are "same-y", but I do think that they should have all been subclasses of magic-user. So...I dunno.
 

Frozenstep

Explorer
To me you miss a huge one where 5e has a serious problem with same-yness, although not as bad as 3.5. And that's "Prosthetic Forehead Monsters". When a monster like a succubus has abilities that are mere spells, then it means that the succubus, rather than being something weird and frightening, is nothing more than a wizard with a prosthetic forehead, and whatever it can do the PCs can do. Which makes the whole setting bland.
That's...an odd way to look at it. I rather like it when games have some level of consistency between players and their enemies (some level, not completely).

When I see a monster try tactics that are in some way similar to mine, it reminds me that I'm not some unique superhero, but a character in a world where the tactics I use come from somewhere, rather then just being given to me for being a PC. It just feels more immersive if I can see a monster ability as a spellcaster, and realize that if I wanted to, I might be able to learn how to do something similar. Of course, there will always be abilities a little too out there to copy, or abilities simply far beyond my powers. That's part of it too.

So when I see a monster with spell-like abilities, I don't see a wizard with a prosthetic, I see a creature that can use magic, and in a way similar enough to how we use magic to recognize. Because using magic in those ways is a pretty good way to use magic (otherwise we wouldn't be using them. probably.) It'd be a little weird if everything came up with ways to use magic that were impossible to figure out for the people that study magic.
 

That's...an odd way to look at it. I rather like it when games have some level of consistency between players and their enemies (some level, not completely).

When I see a monster try tactics that are in some way similar to mine, it reminds me that I'm not some unique superhero, but a character in a world where the tactics I use come from somewhere, rather then just being given to me for being a PC. It just feels more immersive if I can see a monster ability as a spellcaster, and realize that if I wanted to, I might be able to learn how to do something similar. Of course, there will always be abilities a little too out there to copy, or abilities simply far beyond my powers. That's part of it too.

So when I see a monster with spell-like abilities, I don't see a wizard with a prosthetic, I see a creature that can use magic, and in a way similar enough to how we use magic to recognize. Because using magic in those ways is a pretty good way to use magic (otherwise we wouldn't be using them. probably.) It'd be a little weird if everything came up with ways to use magic that were impossible to figure out for the people that study magic.
To me there's a huge difference between "I can do something similar" and "that type of monsters all went to school at Wizard-mart" which is what spell-like abillities do. Even the name is backwards - you shouldn't get spell-like abilities so much as ability-like spells that were created to try and fake certain natural abilities.

And I find it no more weird to have magical creatures that could use natural affinities and biology for better charming than a human can manage by faking it via spells than I find it weird that a dragon, through its biology and magical affinities can breathe fire in a way no human wizard can manage by faking it via spells. The strength of wizards is versatility, not focus and specialism.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
And I find it no more weird to have magical creatures that could use natural affinities and biology for better charming than a human can manage by faking it via spells than I find it weird that a dragon, through its biology and magical affinities can breathe fire in a way no human wizard can manage by faking it via spells. The strength of wizards is versatility, not focus and specialism.
And those exist. Dryads and vampires come to mind. The magical charming creatures, I mean.
 



More importantly, by providing casters with the always-on, always damage cantrips, it effectively nerfed the utility of higher-level spell. I would much rather casters get a smaller number of much more interesting and bigger booms than the same attack cantrips over and over again
By high levels, many spellcasters can go entire days never casting a cantrip. They simply have too many slots doing more useful things than rounds to cast them.

If anything, cantrips reudce the power of low level spells in a power budget, as it is only at low-levels that you lack slots to cast a spell most turns.
 


Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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