D&D 5E My Simple Spell Rarity House Rule

This is a hill I will gladly die on to disagree.
Its clearly a matter of preference and opinion, so I wouldn't argue one perspective is better than the other, its just what is best for any particular group of players.
Upcasting didn't even exist back then, and my character had the power level of a 2nd level character for months and months.
That's completely freaking ridiculous.
But from making this a playable game perspective it is absolutely required to be in the base rules because different DMs will have different ideas (just like my DM did back then) and it really makes the game unfun.
Yeah, not a game I would enjoy, but this just sounds like the DM was inexperienced or had the perception that a harder more restrictive game was better. IDK just a guess. But I agree that if the spell acquisition rules of the wizard are changed, they should be clearly defined whether they are official or optional.
 

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Maybe @R_J_K75 meant choosing any spells at all, but I can't speak for them.
Like I said above I don't house rule anymore, so we let players choose their spells per the rules in the PHB. I'm not opposed to letting players choose some spells, but I would prefer some limitations within reason so that it strikes a balance between players being able to make choices and the DM retaining some control of what's in their game. Obviously, this is something I could do if I chose to. Ever since 3E when so many rules were established, I found it hard to convince players on rules changes when they could open the PHB and recite back specific rules to defend their stance. I just found it wasn't worth the argument after a point.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
This is a hill I will gladly die on to disagree.

Back in AD&D I played a Magic User in a six month campaign where we got up to 5th level. During that time, I never found any 2nd level scrolls or spellbooks. DM assured me they were around, we just never made the right choices to come upon them. Upcasting didn't even exist back then, and my character had the power level of a 2nd level character for months and months.

That's completely freaking ridiculous.

This is one of the small but required changes thaty should never be rolled back. Wizards are competent, Intelligent people focused on the Arcane, they can work out two formulas every few months from their readings, experimentations, seeing people cast, and the like so it doesn't even have versimlitude going for it. But from making this a playable game perspective it is absolutely required to be in the base rules because different DMs will have different ideas (just like my DM did back then) and it really makes the game unfun.

If you want to make it a house rule and your players trust you to give them out, that's fine. I'd even play with you. Limit spell selection like the OP suggested but still have free spells per level? Easy. But when working across the gamut of all DMs regardless of experience and of the adventures they are running this absolutely needs to be a rule in the books.

Summation: Because not all DMs run the same, to preserve tthe wizard being viable from a game perspective, Wizards are required to increase spells known outside what they find. All of the other classes can.
That’s always the challenge of reward distribution, whether it’s spells, magic items, rare spell components, or even just cash and fungible treasures. In theory leaving it in the DM’s hands creates a strong incentive to go on adventures to seek out those rewards, and allows the DM to regulate access to powerful items and abilities and craft the experience more precisely. But unfortunately that also leaves the door open for misalignment between the players’ desired play experience and the one the DM provides.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
To be clear, I didn't say wizards don't get to choose their spells, just that named spells can't be among those chosen. That leaves the vast majority of core spells (and spells from supplemental books as well if those are accessible to the table). So, I really don't see your vehement objection applying.

Maybe @R_J_K75 meant choosing any spells at all, but I can't speak for them.

That said, you definitely should not play with rules you don't like. 🤷‍♂️
Yeah, I was fine with what you were suggesting. He was saying Wizards shouldn't get choice of spells at level, only what they find in game.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Its clearly a matter of preference and opinion, so I wouldn't argue one perspective is better than the other, its just what is best for any particular group of players.
No, it's neither preference nor opinion. (Told you I was ready to die on this hill.) If ina game, one rule can occasionally have disastrous results in terms of fun, and the alternate rule can occasionally give tables a small bonus or detriment to fun, then there is a definitive winner.

You even called the DM not giving out spells as "worst" and "extreme". If the DM needs to give them out or that's the experience, why are we making it a hidden mandate to the DM and not just enshrining it in the rules. Like we are.

And then tables that prefer other ways can put money under free parking - i.e. house rule to add to their enjoyment.

But you shouldn't publish with a rule in place that can really mess up the game, especially when there are clear alternatives.

Yeah, not a game I would enjoy, but this just sounds like the DM was inexperienced or had the perception that a harder more restrictive game was better. IDK just a guess. But I agree that if the spell acquisition rules of the wizard are changed, they should be clearly defined whether they are official or optional.
The DM had put things in to find, but the ways that we players went we never came across them. Things like an NPC foe who got away (with his spell books), a merchant we didn't interact with, hidden scrolls we never found.

If the DM should have adjusted and forced, then again why not just put it in the rules.
 


bloodtide

Adventurer
I've done this for years and years. Though also adding in spell complexity.

Unique: any new created spell that is only know to it's creator. Only they know the spell.
Very Rare: any spell shared with a small number of people. Only they know the spell.
Rare: The named spells, and some others. Must be found. For sale but expensive and rare.
Uncommon: about half of them can be bought easy, the other half are harder to find.
Common:everyone knows these spells and they can be found anywhere spellcasters are

Simple spells: have a direct straightforward effect. Often a 'fire and forget' effect that requires very little mental effort other then pointing.
Complex spells: have a lasting effect that needs mental control for it's effect. Often complex math is involved.
Exotic: have an effect involving space, time and other such exotic topics.

So the spell fireball is common and simple. Firestorm is uncommon and complex. Arvast's Temporal Fold is rare and exotic.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
This is a hill I will gladly die on to disagree.

Back in AD&D I played a Magic User in a six month campaign where we got up to 5th level. During that time, I never found any 2nd level scrolls or spellbooks. DM assured me they were around, we just never made the right choices to come upon them. Upcasting didn't even exist back then, and my character had the power level of a 2nd level character for months and months.

That's completely freaking ridiculous.

This is one of the small but required changes thaty should never be rolled back. Wizards are competent, Intelligent people focused on the Arcane, they can work out two formulas every few months from their readings, experimentations, seeing people cast, and the like so it doesn't even have versimlitude going for it. But from making this a playable game perspective it is absolutely required to be in the base rules because different DMs will have different ideas (just like my DM did back then) and it really makes the game unfun.

If you want to make it a house rule and your players trust you to give them out, that's fine. I'd even play with you. Limit spell selection like the OP suggested but still have free spells per level? Easy. But when working across the gamut of all DMs regardless of experience and of the adventures they are running this absolutely needs to be a rule in the books.

Summation: Because not all DMs run the same, to preserve tthe wizard being viable from a game perspective, Wizards are required to increase spells known outside what they find. All of the other classes can.
Things like this still happen. A GM ran us through Out of the Abyss fairly close to how it was written in the book. I was playing a GOO warlock who took the book path that allowed me to learn any ritual.

Never found 1 outside of the spells I selected at level up.
 

If ina game, one rule can occasionally have disastrous results in terms of fun, and the alternate rule can occasionally give tables a small bonus or detriment to fun, then there is a definitive winner.
Bad rules are just bad rules I agree. I also understand that some rules are abstract (i.e., hp and AC), while others are there just to add fun to the game or perform a very specific task as is the case with wizards being allowed to auto select/swap spells at level up. Speaking strictly for myself, and I'm sure I'm in the minority, but it's hard for me to justify the narrative of the campaign and a wizard just getting spells out of thin air if I don't build in downtime between levels for spell research. The PHB differentiates warlocks and sorcerers from wizards as the former are innate spell casters, patrons of a higher power and the latter are more tactile and learned. Wizards need to study long hours to learn spells, spend time maintaining a spellbook(s)/scrolls, acquiring spell components and finally taking time to commit spells to memory for casting. Thats where wizards freely getting spells between levels falls short for me, especially when I let players level in the middle of an adventures where there is no down time, which I sometimes do. I currently run spellcasters in 5E RAW for speed and simplicity, but I'll admit that as a DM I sometimes fall back on a pre-3E mindset as to how the game should play, which I recognize and make a conscious effort not to.

The DM had put things in to find, but the ways that we players went we never came across them. Things like an NPC foe who got away (with his spell books), a merchant we didn't interact with, hidden scrolls we never found.

If the DM should have adjusted and forced, then again why not just put it in the rules.
This was a pretty typical thing for DMs to do in years past from what I recall. I know I have been guilty of it from time to time. I think its a matter of the DM knowing when to relent and adjust on the fly when it comes to awarding treasure that is crucial to the game or a specific PC. I write my own adventures and probably 75% of the time I roll or choose treasure randomly, if the players find these great, if not tough luck. The other 25% of the time I place specific items for specific players and make sure they find them. I'm not sure there needs to be hard and fast rules on how a DM should place and distribute treasure because theres so many styles of play, but some suggestions might help.
 

cbwjm

Legend
The wizard player could always ask to hunt down some spells if they weren't finding any in the game. Seek out a tomb of a long deceased wizard, ask to find a tutor, there are ways to find those spells.
 


MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I've done this in my games as well. I've also had rules where spells over a certain level could not just be bought. But I feels, especially at higher levels, like I'm just putting extra restrictions on one class.

One campaign I've wanted to run is a campaign world where arcane magic is banned and for the most part lost. The known world is basically ruled by theocracies. The party would be part of a hidden group trying to rediscover lost arcane magic. Most of the adventures would be tied to seeking spell components, magic items, and spell scrolls/books.

Two things are keeping me from running it. The first is just time. I really don't have the time for prepping a homebrew campaign in the way I would like. But the second is that I don't think my current group of players would be up for it and I certainly don't have the time to run two campaigns.

The problems with this campaign idea, I think, for many players include:
  • Not wanting to track and rely on spell components.
  • Players playing wizards not wanting to be limited to what spells they can select when leveling up
  • Non-wizard players not wanting to be seen as second-fiddles and support characters for the wizards
I think that the third point is easily addressed with good plot lines and back stories and ensuring that there are rewards for all involved. The first two require a specific kind of player who would enjoy the story ramifications of those limitations.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I've done this for years and years. Though also adding in spell complexity.

Unique: any new created spell that is only know to it's creator. Only they know the spell.
Very Rare: any spell shared with a small number of people. Only they know the spell.
Rare: The named spells, and some others. Must be found. For sale but expensive and rare.
Uncommon: about half of them can be bought easy, the other half are harder to find.
Common:everyone knows these spells and they can be found anywhere spellcasters are

Simple spells: have a direct straightforward effect. Often a 'fire and forget' effect that requires very little mental effort other then pointing.
Complex spells: have a lasting effect that needs mental control for it's effect. Often complex math is involved.
Exotic: have an effect involving space, time and other such exotic topics.

So the spell fireball is common and simple. Firestorm is uncommon and complex. Arvast's Temporal Fold is rare and exotic.
Cool, but the point for me is to keep it simple.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Things like this still happen. A GM ran us through Out of the Abyss fairly close to how it was written in the book. I was playing a GOO warlock who took the book path that allowed me to learn any ritual.

Never found 1 outside of the spells I selected at level up.
Agreed, that's a great example in published hardcover adventures, from the people who should know it. From a game perspective if spells are needed, it should be protected in the rules so that DMs don't have a hidden agenda they must fulfill otherwise they are providing a bad experience.

Bad rules are just bad rules I agree. I also understand that some rules are abstract (i.e., hp and AC), while others are there just to add fun to the game or perform a very specific task as is the case with wizards being allowed to auto select/swap spells at level up. Speaking strictly for myself, and I'm sure I'm in the minority, but it's hard for me to justify the narrative of the campaign and a wizard just getting spells out of thin air if I don't build in downtime between levels for spell research.
Sure - and you can house rule that at your table. But that doesn't change that the rule protects the experience of all players. As we see from Sabathius42's example, even published adventures can have issues like this.

Basically it comes down to:
1. A rule that is put in place that protects the "game" part of RPG, where individual DMs who don't provide it and will provide another way can intentionally change.
2. A preference ("No researching existing spells without downtime") that suits some DMs and not others, leaving a hole in the rules that can and does provide a poor experience and a trap class unless the DM intentionally makes sure this need is filled.

From that, #1 is really the only choice for the rules. Either way you can have what you want, but #1 protects games across the spectrum. Do you see how this really isn't arguable that the rules should have it the other way?
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Do you see how this really isn't arguable that the rules should have it the other way?

Everything is arguable. Someone who has been on ENWorld for 18 years should know that by now. ;)


Regardless, if it must continue, I prefer this argument - which is broader than the specific suggestion here - be taken to a different thread.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Interesting idea, but the spells that have a name are a fairly random list - and some of them are very evocative and fun. If you go this route, do keep in mind that denial of player desires has a negative impact. When you tell them no, it has a cost.

In my setting there is a book called (boringly) Librum Magicum. It is a well known text and is available in almost any place that deals in books. It contains descriptions of every spell in the PHB, every monster in the Monster Manual, and every Magic Item in the DMG. It doesn't include mechanics, but each thing gets an entire page. In the case of spells there is enough information that PCs can 'learn' the spell (via class mechanics) for sorcerers, bards, etc... Wizards still need a scroll or spellbook to copy in order to learn it.

Spells from secondary sources (other WotC books, 3rd party sources) are 'known of' from legends and stories. The same goes for monsters. There isn't detailed information available, and you have to ask the DM for them.

In terms of the 'unknown' monsters, magic items, or spells - I use homebrew materials. I have thousands of spells, magic items and monsters that I've collected over the 4 decades I've played. These represent about 30% to 50% of the things the PCs encounter. I have a few monsters, such as my Axemorph Demons (based upon the figures from the Dreamblade game WotC made), that make a lot of appearances. I have a few that appear at least once a campaign as inside jokes (Bunny Fish - which appear to be 'half bunny, half fish' meranimals - but are actually the 'missiles' sent off a near stationary bottom dwelling sea monster that essentially blows up large sea creatures and ships and then slowly eats their carcasses). The spells I have come from older editions, from original creations, and from other games in which I played. I usually have to tweak them to update for 5E, but surprisnly not too much.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Interesting idea, but the spells that have a name are a fairly random list

Thus why a DM can tweak the list by adding/removing names to spells if they feel like it. What I like about my idea is that there is - as the first post suggested - is that there are a variety of ways to implement it or a version of it.
 

Do you see how this really isn't arguable that the rules should have it the other way?

Everything is arguable. Someone who has been on ENWorld for 18 years should know that by now. ;)


Regardless, if it must continue, I prefer this argument - which is broader than the specific suggestion here - be taken to a different thread.

@Blue I understand what youre saying and I don't have anything else to add to the conversation. So in all due respect and in the interest of not being redundant I'm going to bow out now so the thread doesn't derail as I think we've gotten away from the OP.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Thus why a DM can tweak the list by adding/removing names to spells if they feel like it. What I like about my idea is that there is - as the first post suggested - is that there are a variety of ways to implement it or a version of it.
Right - just remember the other half of my point: Telling a player no has a cost. Even when you're strategic to meet your objectives, you're still restricting the player from the options the book suggests are available to them. You can totally do it - but it has a cost. If, for example, I was told that I couldn't have access to the Bigby's Hand spell, I would be disappointed. I'd talk with the DM to see what could be done to gain access as it is a very fun spell to use and high enough level that you do not get a huge span of time as a player to use it.

I also see a disjoinder in how this works for a Sorcerer. They gain a spell when they gain a level. If they want to learn a spell that is on your restricted list, they have to wait to find it. Then it would seem they have to retrain to learn it. Beyond the issues related to the delay in access, that implies that there is a knowledge base for how their spells work as opposed to having it be something they naturally learn to do. It shifts the feel of the class more towards the duplicate of a wizard and further away from being innate casters of primal magics.
 

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