D&D 5E New Spellcasting Blocks for Monsters --- Why?!

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What is this "caster level" of which you speak? (For real though, there is no such thing as "caster level" in 5e

Agreed. The caster level is not listed because they don't have one. Caster levels are not a thing in-universe. They're there to calculate PC progression. I could create an NPC that can only cast 5 3rd lvl spells and 2 1st lvl spells. With no access to othet spells or spell levels. This NPC only knows Fly and Feather Fall.


Since he doesn't have legendary actions, then assuming he can get all three of his reactions in, his DPR is only 158 (max and could be much less). A straight up CR 26 monster could have a DPR in the 231-236 range. So not really OP per the DMG. What is different is that a big chunk of that damage is in one attack.

It seems more people thing he is underpowered than overpowered in the Vecna thread.

I was just mentioning that one ability. Overall he is underpowered since he can't cast spells like a normal wizard.

They're just removing the 2e cover over the 4e engine that 5e has been all along.
Eh. They're very slightly repainting the 2e cover. It's not really the 4e engine, either, just one copying about half the parts but used in completely different ways for completely different reasons even if they can be superficially compared. As I have argued elsewhere. Mike Mearls was somewhat inaccurate when he said that 5e was going to have 3e rules with 4e "streamlining." It would be more accurate to say that it started from 4e rules but re-wrote them as if they had always been present in 3e. In so doing, they demonstrated only the most superficial understanding of lessons from 4e (except in certain areas where 4e faltered, mostly presentation and marketing.) Several of the problems that came up very late in the playtest (such as the "ghoul surprise") or which have been slowly whittled away at over 5e's lifespan (e.g. dragonborn and Beast Master Rangers being mechanically hot garbage, Sorcerers not getting enough spells, etc.) were things that wouldn't have been a problem if they had learned more from what 4e did well and not tried so damn hard to pretend that 4e never existed.


Others could also have run stat blocks (the way they used to be) in any fashion they wanted, as well, but WotC felt such changes were necessary.

So, instead of people converting the old stat blocks to get they want, now I (and others) have to convert the new format???
Because WotC wants to continue to get more new players to play the game, they are always going to choose methods that facilitate that over what we veteran players might prefer.

To be honest, I prefer the format they used in Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus. The spellcasting NPCs in that book have the old Spellcasting trait, but the spells they're most likely to use in combat are written out in full as actions. For instance, the Black Gauntlet of Bane NPC has the Spellcasting trait of a 5th level cleric, complete with guiding bolt, which is then fully described in its actions, complete with "1st-Level Spell; Requires a Spell Slot" in parentheses. The Master of Souls NPC has the Spellcasting trait of a 5th level wizard, and it gets its chill touch cantrip as well as ray of sickness and scorching ray written out in full as actions.

Yes, it's a bit more effort, but that's actually how I'd been doing my own spellcasting NPCs for some time now.

That being said, I expect I will get used to the new format and may even come to prefer it over time. The key is to be both open-minded and philosophical about it, I guess.

The sad part of this is that the entirety of this problem could be solved by adding one sentence to each creature with the spellcasting trait: "X is a Y level caster using Z ability score for spellcasting." It existed in all previous versions, and adding this one line would give both sides of the argument what they want. DMs that prefer the new method could use the stat block as it is, while DMs that prefer the old method could use the level to figure out what spells they should have (and upcast if desired).
WotC will no doubt give us all the opportunity to express our views on these changes when they survey us about the 50Ae revision. If they get enough negative feedback about the new spellcasting NPCs, maybe they'll change them back! After all, they backtracked on the whole removal of alignment from stat blocks thing. So you never know!

That said, complaining about it here at ENWorld isn't going to do any good. Best to save it for the surveys.

This argument is saying that an incomplete product is fine, since the DM can just do whatever they want. If I wanted to do that, why would I buy the product in the first place? Since Vecna is supposed to be a god, we have no idea how many spell slots he should actually have, because it could be level 20 or it could be more (possibly less, but I doubt it). This conversion is actually pretty difficult if you want to maintain balance, which was the big concern I had when MPMM came out.
Except that this isn't the stat block for Vecna as a god. It's explicitly a stat block from before he even lost his hand and eye to Kas.
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I haven't bought MotM, and since I use Beyond I will enjoy my legacy spellcasting until 2024. Hopefully.

I understand the move to makes things easier for new DMs. But since 5e monsters generally are very boring the spell lists are tiny stars of variability in the compact sack of hp darkness.

If WotC is getting rid of the spell lists, then at least start again from scratch and do monster blocks 4e style, with lots of fun and different abilities. Something to hope for for the 2024 changes, even though the signs in the sky points toward general simplification. Note how I don't say dumbing down, out of respect for the non-grognards :)


Statblocks are like the least of any DMs worry, they are not rules. Your Vecna can be as powerful as you want it to be, it can do anything you want it to do, unlimited times if you want, use spell points, mana points, whatever. I have no idea why would anyone get worked up over such things. Unlike the Player Races options, those actually are rules since players use them.

That's assuming you're not playing the anti-sprit of D&D thing that is called Adventure League of course. Nobody knows the statblock but you.

Also, PSA (mostly at the OP): DnD is a game! It is not work, it should be fun, and people are entitled to do things the lazy or simple way if they want to. Honestly, its kind of a bitch to track enemy spellcaster resources. So, i do understand the reason for these changes.

Thought if i run Vecna, the first thing i would change is give him homebrew spells that are 10th level and higher. Dude became lich for good reasons.

I understand the purpose of streamlining the rules for playability and to certain extent I even appreciate it. But I would prefer if they didn't go quite this far. I would prefer if the statblock would at least briefly list how to run the creature as a normal spellcaster, and then have the full rules for most commonly used spells. Then people who want to go more complex would have the information they need. Also, the weirdness with NPC 'spells' bypassing normal limitations of spells such as anti-magic and being counterrable is stupid and completely unnecessary. They could just easily have a line saying "this counts as a spell of level X" or something like that.


on the one side I like these new stats-blocks, now casters are much easier to use, and indeed you only need info to handle 5-6 rounds of combat at the most. I actually prefer to use their "non-spell" actions, at least it's something new and unexpected for the players. I usually use spells as Legendary Actions.

On the other side, I understand that new DMs will look at the stats-block and think "ok, this is the sum of everything that this monster can do, that's it!". And why wouldn't they? Especially when it concerns spells and magical abilities. Same goes for "by-the-book" DMs, I suppose.

Though I think he deserved to get a Power Word Kill...

Well, obviously interesting is subjective., so this would be what I find interesting. There a few points of comparison, using the Vecna example;
  1. I am not likely to use spells from a spell list unless I know them well and can run them on the fly. So a list of things I don't know what they do is not interesting to me.
  2. Spells are less interesting than unique magical abilities because the player knows what they are and what they can do. Everyone knows what a fireball is, that is not very interesting.
  3. Vecna has 5 unique magical abilities that do things the players don't know. Unique and unknown abilities are more interesting to me than common and known abilities.

Oh, okay. I agree that what's there is interesting -- I just thought you were saying that removing spell lists from the lich made it a more interesting monster for you. Would this kind of redesign still be "interesting" if the lich retained a more robust spell list to choose from?

What is this "caster level" of which you speak? (For real though, there is no such thing as "caster level" in 5e--and for that I say "good riddance to bad rubbish.")
The "spellcasting" entry in 5e stat blocks provides all this information. "Monster is a X-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Y (save DC Z)."

Were you truly confused about what the poster meant by "caster level"?

Oh, okay. I agree that what's there is interesting -- I just thought you were saying that removing spell lists from the lich made it a more interesting monster for you. Would this kind of redesign still be "interesting" if the lich retained a more robust spell list to choose from?
Not for me, because that's too much info for me to keep up with and keep it interesting. The new Vecna has a suite of spells picked out for thematic reasons. If I were to run this Vecna, I'd add 3 more spells to the 2/day and 1/day, and change all his spells to suit whatever need I had. I'd also change it so that any character Vecna drops to 0 automatically has animate dead cast on them at the end of that creature's next turn. Then I'd plop disintegrate, telekinesis, and a reflavored Wall of Light that is a Wall of Shadow that deals necrotic damage. Then I'd make it so any spell 5th level or lower he can cast 2/day via his Book of Vile Darkness. Why? Dunno, seems fun.

And that's the fun thing about this stat block. I can more easily mod it. Even knowing all the spells like I do, having to keep track of slots is my least favorite thing about the D&D magic system. I hate it tremendously, and I think its a silly system that is unintuitive and not all that good as a legacy tradition to keep around. Having to keep up with potentially 25 spells that Vecna has, having to sit down and think for so long before I run the session about how to use 25 spells and make them impactful or what the designers were thinking for each added spell...it isn't fun for me.

Give me less spells, the ability to swap out or mod the spells (which they did), and some off-brand spells like his Rotten Faith, and you have a spellcaster that is actually fun for me to use and requires a lot less effort to grok.

The "spellcasting" entry in 5e stat blocks provides all this information. "Monster is a X-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Y (save DC Z)."

Were you truly confused about what the poster meant by "caster level"?
No. I was saying the idea of "caster level," as in the technical term used in prior editions of D&D, doesn't exist. There is no such thing as "caster level" in 5e. You have, at most, the idea that a particular creature has X Wizard levels or the like, but that's not the same thing as "caster level." And it's frankly irrelevant and unnecessary for running the vast majority of creatures, because NPCs don't work like PCs in 5e.

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