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 .

Helldritch

Adventurer
If you go the #BOOMBIGGEN way. You'll have to remove the cantrip (or just the scaling of cantrips), enhance the number of spell per day of full casters and reintroduce the spell damage scaling. Spells could both scale with mage's level and slot expended.
 

tetrasodium

Adventurer
If you go the #BOOMBIGGEN way. You'll have to remove the cantrip (or just the scaling of cantrips), enhance the number of spell per day of full casters and reintroduce the spell damage scaling. Spells could both scale with mage's level and slot expended.
The scaling on cantrips is a big problem. It results in Merlin in spandex concealing a rocket launcher at all times and means that focus items need to be treated like the barbarian's carnage thirsting cursed greatsword, but it's the size of a dagger. It's not like they only scale if you are using a 2 handed staff. Sure galdalf could always fireball the elves when meeting at the door with his staff in hand; but in the past he was very fragile, easy to hit, and provoked attacks & it wouldn't work because elrond would slap him in the face & an elf would throw a lembas roll at him so he'd lose the spell. Even if he's stunned, feared, or death by massive damage in 5e merlin is probably going to still be casting that fireball
1581608819750.png
 
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akr71

Adventurer
This discussion intrigued me enough that I brought it up at the supper table last night - yes, I am blessed in that my entire family plays, together and in their own games. In stating the desire to remove damage cantrips outright...

Daughter: But the warlock needs Eldritch Blast, you can't take that away. They have so few spell slots already.
Me: If it is a core ability or invocation rather than a cantrip...
Daughter: Oh, I see. What about bards
Me: Fewer known spells, but they get to choose from either of the three lists
Daughter: OK, that follows with the Jack of All Trades thing. What about Paladins and Rangers
Me: Rangers get spell-like abilities. We don't need paladins - what does a paladin do that a Cleric, especially a War Cleric can't?

Further more, somewhere up-thread, I recall reading an idea about using a spell slot + concentration to activate a cantrip-like ability. 1st level slot = 1 minute, 3rd = 1 hour, etc which I also thought was an interesting concept. Exploring this further, I can see it coming in two flavors - a melee spell attack version and a ranged spell attack version. I would say that the ranged attack should do a smaller die of damage - flinging 1d10 bolts of magic around from a distance just feels like too much to me.

In the spirit of reducing Sameyness, I'd also limit damage types by class too
Wizard - cold, electricity, force, fire *
Druid - poison, acid, necrotic
Cleric - radiant, thunder **

* you could make an argument for druid to get fire, but a line had to be drawn somewhere
** dunno - they needed a second one and it had to go somewhere

Edited: cuz I forget stuff
 
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I look at it this way. The reason things look the same is because duplicaton of effects is kind of silly. Especially on monsters. Why does monster need a special ability if there an ability that already does the same thing?
A huge question this leads to is which you are more concerned about. Waste of paper when reading a book, or wasting the DM's time and energy (and thus everyone else's) when actually playing the game.

If you are using the monster in play and it has "spell like abilities" (or even spells) then as a DM, in order to run that monster rather than merely read about it, unless it's one of the dozen or spells you have actually memorised, then in order to run the monster you don't just need the monster's statblock open but you also need the pages (plural) in the PHB in order to use all the referenced spells. This makes it far slower and more awkward to use at the table, degrading everyone's experience as the DM needs to be continually flicking between rulebooks. You save a very little designer time and a little paper by undermining the experience of the people actively trying to use this stuff - the DM and the players.

If you make things better in play by duplicating the text of the spells being used onto the monster statblock then you are wasting a lot of paper while making everything seem cookie cutter.

If on the other hand you use the paper you need to use to make the game flow better to actively customise the effects you can add obvious colour like the vampire hypnotising through eye contact and the succubus charming through a kiss even if the outcome is completely mechanically the same. And you can make unique effects meaning your monsters seem more mysterious and magical.

This is a matter of taste, I guess. Are attack cantrips more, or less, boring than a crossbow? Than darts? Than a dagger? But they all ... function ... in the exact same way.
Less boring :) And here are two of my problems. First: Why should everything the fighter does be boring? And second why aren't the mages allowed to express their magic through crossbow-equivalent spells?

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.
Which means they will be using crossbows most of the time - which is even more boring.

But you still haven't answered how the cantrips nerfed the utility of higher level spells.

If you go the #BOOMBIGGEN way. You'll have to remove the cantrip (or just the scaling of cantrips), enhance the number of spell per day of full casters and reintroduce the spell damage scaling. Spells could both scale with mage's level and slot expended.
That depends how you are tweaking things.

Let's say that a damage cantrip takes n rounds to cast where n>1 and does a number of damage based on how many rounds. Why does this cantrip need removing? It too replaces the crossbow and because it takes >1 rounds to cast it neither overshadows it nor the crossbow.
 

houser2112

Explorer
A huge question this leads to is which you are more concerned about. Waste of paper when reading a book, or wasting the DM's time and energy (and thus everyone else's) when actually playing the game.

If you are using the monster in play and it has "spell like abilities" (or even spells) then as a DM, in order to run that monster rather than merely read about it, unless it's one of the dozen or spells you have actually memorised, then in order to run the monster you don't just need the monster's statblock open but you also need the pages (plural) in the PHB in order to use all the referenced spells. This makes it far slower and more awkward to use at the table, degrading everyone's experience as the DM needs to be continually flicking between rulebooks. You save a very little designer time and a little paper by undermining the experience of the people actively trying to use this stuff - the DM and the players.

If you make things better in play by duplicating the text of the spells being used onto the monster statblock then you are wasting a lot of paper while making everything seem cookie cutter.

If on the other hand you use the paper you need to use to make the game flow better to actively customise the effects you can add obvious colour like the vampire hypnotising through eye contact and the succubus charming through a kiss even if the outcome is completely mechanically the same. And you can make unique effects meaning your monsters seem more mysterious and magical.
Sign me up for the Save Space team.

If the DM is using the monster, he should at the very least know what all the spells in the adventure he has prepared do. How many threads here complain about players who don't know their characters?

"Sauce for the goose, Mr. Saavik"
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I get where @lowkey13 is coming from. Well other than continuing to deny the awesomeness of Sir McStabsalot.

But whining about cantrips? Okay, everyone is entitled to their opinion. It's wrong, but you're entitled (I kid). I remember my wizards either hoarding wands so I could use them to go pew-pew, using scrolls, or for the first level or so using a crossbow and feeling like a third wheel. Sure, once in a while I got to tell the bad guys to beddie-bye. Yippee. But crossbows don't scale and it doesn't really solve anything if it just means every spell caster switches from cantrips (at least there are several to choose from) to crossbows.

Any game of the complexity of D&D is going to be chock full of compromises. The building blocks we use are simple and easy to grasp, but they can blur together a little bit. I'm just not sure there's a better option unless you trim down classes to a minimum. For example have just two classes. Paladins and Boring-Ho-Hum-Non-Paladin. True, everyone would want to play the paladin, but I don't see that as a problem. :cool:
 
2 action cantrips:

Casting a 2 action spell does not require concentration, unless the spell you are casting does. Despite this, if damaged while casting you must make a concenration check, and in failure the spell is lost.

Double damage dice on the spell. So firebolt deals 2d10.

You pick your target on 2nd action.

---

Two action spells are a bit trickier. Naively you could double damage, but that extends spellcaster endurance. Giving them cantrip level DPR boost reduces their nova ability and makes the balancing more complex.

I'd try "double damage dice" and see how it breaks things. Bet that disruption will nerf casters enough.

Reaction spells remain unchanged.

Quickened spells do not get doubled dice, but are still one bonus action.

This could only apply to spells that deal damage. Or we could bump save DCs by 2 on non-damage spells, and have it apply to them as well.
 
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tetrasodium

Adventurer
2 action cantrips:

Casting a 2 action spell does not require concentration, unless the spell you are casting does. Despite this, if damaged while casting you must make a concenration check, and in failure the spell is lost.

Double damage dice on the spell. So firebolt deals 2d10.

You pick your target on 2nd action.

---

Two action spells are a bit trickier. Naively you could double damage, but that extends spellcaster endurance. Giving them cantrip level DPR boost reduces their nova ability and makes the balancing more complex.

I'd try "double damage dice" and see how it breaks things. Bet that disruption will nerf casters enough.

Reaction spells remain unchanged.
That's getting into how pathfinder2's action economy but messy & ugly because it drops into the same trap as truestrike
 
Sign me up for the Save Space team.

If the DM is using the monster, he should at the very least know what all the spells in the adventure he has prepared do. How many threads here complain about players who don't know their characters?

"Sauce for the goose, Mr. Saavik"
And this basically means that the only DMs that should happen are railroad DMs.

When running it is entirely normal that my players are going to take a look at the situation and head off in a direction that I do not expect. In order to follow your guideline I would have to have memorized every ability of every monster both in the the hexcrawl sandbox and the three possible dungeons. I literally couldn't run a sandbox with spellcasting monsters the way you propose.

Also I have in the past two sessions revolutionised the experience of two of my new players by rewriting their character sheets. They look a lot uglier now - but by putting the actual spell rules onto the spell part of their character sheets they are no longer flicking between spell cards and getting confused about what their spells actually do. And no, I don't blame the players here - I blame the game and blame myself for not stepping in earlier.

That sauce you want to apply has been kept unsealed and unrefrigerated for weeks, and I don't want to risk food poisoning for anyone. Character sheets and monster statblocks alike should be written so you don't have to look things up in other sources.
 
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lowkey13

Guest
But crossbows don't scale and it doesn't really solve anything if it just means every spell caster switches from cantrips (at least there are several to choose from) to crossbows.
1. Crossbows not scaling is a feature, not a bug.

2. Light crossbows are loading (no more than 1/round) and two-handed. Which makes it difficult to use a focus or material components.

Again, there are ways (feats, proficiencies, races you can choose) around this. But it's more about trying to restore a little bit of distinction.

If that's not what you're looking for, no worries! To each their own. Some people like gnome Paladins, and some people are useful members of society that aren't sociopaths that like to murder puppies in their sleep. :)
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
1. Crossbows not scaling is a feature, not a bug.

2. Light crossbows are loading (no more than 1/round) and two-handed. Which makes it difficult to use a focus or material components.

Again, there are ways (feats, proficiencies, races you can choose) around this. But it's more about trying to restore a little bit of distinction.

If that's not what you're looking for, no worries! To each their own. Some people like gnome Paladins, and some people are useful members of society that aren't sociopaths that like to murder puppies in their sleep. :)
Ahh, but if they're evil puppies they're getting what they deserve! :angel:

I could see banning warlock multi-classing and limiting cantrips to specific classes. I could even see bringing back more restrictive spell selection lists. My evoker doesn't need those nambie-pambie illusion spells anyway.

But getting rid of cantrips altogether? Meh. I like my wizard to feel like a wizard, not a commoner.
 

tetrasodium

Adventurer
regarding the back & forth over SLAs vrs unique abilities. the 5e style has problems of it's own. As a GM it's more frustrating because I don't just tick some boxes for A B & C abilities or C but acid instead of fire. It also leads to this...
1581612046626.png

are there any monsters with "this feat"? if so, they are not in the monster manual, volo's, ggtr, or rising. It seems like this is the only feat/spell/class ablity/etc explicitly written for an odd case of pvp instead of just adding "on their turn" or "once per round" or something
 
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lowkey13

Guest
But getting rid of cantrips altogether? Meh. I like my wizard to feel like a wizard, not a commoner.
I think that what twosix and dnd4vr are working on is removing the attack cantrips but keeping the other cantrips while differentiating the spell lists etc.

And then, of course, there's the possible later project to make magic ... um ... oh boy. Make it okay to boom again.

#BOOMBIGGEN
#OKBOOMER!
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Ahh, but if they're evil puppies they're getting what they deserve! :angel:

I could see banning warlock multi-classing and limiting cantrips to specific classes. I could even see bringing back more restrictive spell selection lists. My evoker doesn't need those nambie-pambie illusion spells anyway.

But getting rid of cantrips altogether? Meh. I like my wizard to feel like a wizard, not a commoner.
I think there is a difference of POV that just isn’t ever going to come together, and that’s fine.

Some folks feel that cantrips make wizards less magical, while others feel that At Will magic is what makes them magical. They’re incompatible POVs, but that’s great! That just means that you and I don’t need the proposed variant system, and can just keep an eye out for bits of it we do like, while it enhances the game of those who look at their wizard and feel a great meh build within them.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
regarding the back & forth over SLAs vrs unique abilities. the 5e style has problems of it's own. As a GM it's more frustrating because I don't just tick some boxes for A B & C abilities or C but acid instead of fire. It also leads to this...
View attachment 118365
are there any monsters with "this feat"? if so, they are not in the monster manual, volo's, ggtr, or rising. It seems like this is the only feat/spell/class ablity/etc explicitly written for an odd case of pvp instead of just adding "on their turn" or "once per round" or something
This isn’t a case where pvp or monsters are the point.

The “target” is the creature that is being attacked by an enemy. It means you can’t use that ability if the enemy attacks an ally who also has Sentinel. Two sentinels cant stand next to each other and sentinel each other. Nothing to do with the attacker having any feat or not.
 

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