5E Obvious Attack Cantrips That Should Exist

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
For spells that can be cast at will I think there's some glaring omissions among them, with certain damage types not having a cantrip yet for the classes that'll use them. Now while I know that things like elemental mages are niche enough to be pushed into splatbooks, there certainly could be a few more to pick.

The most obvious one is fire, as there's no attack cantrip for Mages that does fire damage. It's probably where I'd advocate Melf's Minute Meteors coming back as the fire cantrip, even if the namesake of Melf is too campaign specific. I'd see many wanting a fire slinging mage.
Acid Splash was another one that should come back as a cantrip.
Some would argue the need for a ranged lightning or necrotic cantrip (like black bolt) rather than a close or touch one. Also clerics probably should have one too.
There's no force cantrip, even though Eldritch Blast might sort of be one, there still wouldn't be one for Mages.
Thunder is sort of niche so there might not be the need for one.
There probably should be a poison one even if it's more niche in theme, though that's one I'd advocate as only being touch.
A psychic damage cantrip is something I feel they could withhold till there's actually psionic material.

I know conceivably many of these would probably have the effect of only damage, but there might be room for some creative minor effect in addition to damage.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Given how it operates in D&D, I would say that a Force attack cantrip isn't really needed. It would probsbly be too good, too useful. Ditto Thunder/Sonic.

I do, however, lament the loss of the old summoning cantrip, Bee.
 
For spells that can be cast at will I think there's some glaring omissions among them, with certain damage types not having a cantrip yet for the classes that'll use them. Now while I know that things like elemental mages are niche enough to be pushed into splatbooks, there certainly could be a few more to pick.

The most obvious one is fire, as there's no attack cantrip for Mages that does fire damage. It's probably where I'd advocate Melf's Minute Meteors coming back as the fire cantrip, even if the namesake of Melf is too campaign specific. I'd see many wanting a fire slinging mage.
I'd like to see that back too. Pyromaniacs are a common wizard type.

Acid Splash was another one that should come back as a cantrip.
On the other hand, I don't get the point of this. I only saw it as a way to bypass spell resistance in 3rd Edition, and a way of making Conjurers slightly better than Evokers.

Some would argue the need for a ranged lightning or necrotic cantrip (like black bolt) rather than a close or touch one. Also clerics probably should have one too.
For a "black bolt" I would hope it has some effect other than damage. Some sort of draining effect for wizards and a "micro-buff" for clerics (something like 4e's Lance of Faith).

I don't know what to say about ligyhtning.

There's no force cantrip, even though Eldritch Blast might sort of be one, there still wouldn't be one for Mages.
Isn't that stepping on Magic Missile's toes?

Thunder is sort of niche so there might not be the need for one.
There probably should be a poison one even if it's more niche in theme, though that's one I'd advocate as only being touch.
I don't think wizards have ever been big on poisons. Unless you're talking gas clouds. Thunder seems more like a bard thing, and bards haven't ever been big on damage, so I would expect lower damage in return for some other effect.

A psychic damage cantrip is something I feel they could withhold till there's actually psionic material.
I agree. I would call it Psychic Crush. (That's what I used for a lot of psionic NPCs in my 4e campaign. Psionic "artillery" often used this, if they weren't trying to bean you with thrown rocks.)
 

MJS

Visitor
Its a fundamental misunderstanding of what cantrips are. They're parlor tricks, not lethal spells at-will. Yet another dumb move in this "5E" game. Mages should have to earn their power.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I don't have a problem with attack cantrips per se- even if theyre at will- but they should only be minimally effective. Death by cantrip should a long and arguably torturous process or a coup de grace.
 

Twiggly the Gnome

Adventurer
I'd like to see some kind of combat useful cantrip for every school, so that all specialist can have a goto spell from their own expertise. Like a "true aim" cantrip for diviners that turns a small handheld weapon into a dex save attack. Also good for old-schoolers who want to throw darts and daggers after they blow through their spell slots. :)
 
Its a fundamental misunderstanding of what cantrips are. They're parlor tricks, not lethal spells at-will. Yet another dumb move in this "5E" game. Mages should have to earn their power.
Not everyone likes playing a wizard that has to resort to using a crossbow. I, for one, love the attack cantrips in 5e.

I don't have a problem with attack cantrips per se- even if theyre at will- but they should only be minimally effective. Death by cantrip should a long and arguably torturous process or a coup de grace.
I couldn't disagree more, and I think people are greatly overestimating the power that attack cantrips in 5e actually have. At 1st level, they're like a light crossbow, except with much worse range and without an ability score bonus to damage. Whoopee. And even at higher levels, they can't keep up with the DPR that other classes are capable of, not even close (unless you use haste, but that's an entirely separate issue). The ability to inflict 22 average damage at level 20 at-will is far from overwhelming. It just gives mages a somewhat meaningful thing to do when they're out of daily spells or want to conserve them. I don't know about you, but I don't find sitting there with nothing to contribute to be fun at all.

Speaking of conserving spells, I think the conservation aspect is an important side benefit of the attack cantrips. Before, mages were under a lot of pressure to use their spells early, and often. Who wants to sit there and do nothing, turn after turn? But by giving mages an at-will basic attack, they can now use their daily spells more conservatively while still getting to do something. This subtly encourages mages to play smarter by giving them more incentive to conserve their powerful spells rather than blowing them all at the first opportunity. It also allows the adventuring day to continue longer, even after a mage's daily spells are exhausted. Mages are going to need to take long rests less often, putting less pressure on the party. Attack cantrips are an ingenious solution to old-fashioned Vancian casting's worst problems. They also allow caster classes to be designed with fewer daily spells, especially at higher levels, making caster classes more balanced overall. So, in short, I think attack cantrips have an enormous positive influence on the game.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I couldn't disagree more, and I think people are greatly overestimating the power that attack cantrips in 5e actually have. At 1st level, they're like a light crossbow, except with much worse range and without an ability score bonus to damage. Whoopee. And even at higher levels, they can't keep up with the DPR that other classes are capable of, not even close (unless you use haste, but that's an entirely separate issue). The ability to inflict 22 average damage at level 20 at-will is far from overwhelming. It just gives mages a somewhat meaningful thing to do when they're out of daily spells or want to conserve them. I don't know about you, but I don't find sitting there with nothing to contribute to be fun at all.
I don't think we're as far apart as you think, actually. In 3.5Ed, attack cantrips do about as much damage as a sling stone. That's what I'm talking about when I say a slow death/coup de grace- roughly equivalent to a light ranged melee attack.

Now, I haven't been tracking 5Ed too closely, so I can't speak to how/if cantrips in that game scale and compare to such weapons in the game. If they do, I'm cool with that. If they don't...well, that's a potential strike against 5th IMHO.

And as for "doing nothing", that's a discussion of playstyle that could lead to a huge derailment, so I won't pursue it here.
 

MJS

Visitor
Not everyone likes playing a wizard that has to resort to using a crossbow. I, for one, love the attack cantrips in 5e..
firing missiles into melee ain't too smart, either.
One of the things I most hate about these "cantrips" on steroids is - thats what wands and the like are for.
If a player feels they have nothing to do without super-powerful cantrips, they're just not very imaginative.
But, perhaps another thread would be best for debating the very existence of these namby-pambyisms of modern rules that call themselves D&D.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
But, perhaps another thread would be best for debating the very existence of these namby-pambyisms of modern rules that call themselves D&D.
Word of advice- using that kind of rhetoric is a recipe for getting attention from the Mods.

While I sort of agree with your position, less confrontational language is the preferred norm around here.
 
One of the things I most hate about these "cantrips" on steroids is - thats what wands and the like are for.
Plenty of people don't like the playstyle where you can easily buy or find whatever item you want. You can't assume a 5e wizard is going to have the appropriate wand.
 

GX.Sigma

Visitor
Perhaps a fire or acid spell at will is "too good" against regenerating creatures like trolls.
There should be lots of options, though. Right now, every mage has ray of frost, so any monster that's vulnerable to cold is SOL if the party has a mage.
 

Mistwell

Legend
I would prefer they reduce the power of attack cantrips, not add even more versatility to them. They should have no energy descriptor on them for example, so that nothing can buff the power of them later nor can they harm things even more if they have vulnerability. They should also be resisted, and things should be immune to them, and they should have a minor flaw built in.

For example, here is what I'd prefer the text say:

Zap
Evocation cantrip
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 50 feet
Duration: Instantaneous
A beam of yellow light streaks toward a creature within range. Make a ranged attack roll against that creature, with a bonus to the roll equal to your magic ability modifier + your spellcasting bonus, if any. On a hit, the target takes 1d8 damage. If the target is resistant or immune to any energy type, it is equally resistant or immune to this damage. If you roll a natural 1 on your attack roll, the zap backfires and does 1d4 damage to the caster. At Higher Levels: The spell’s damage increases by 1d8 when you reach a caster level of 5th (2d8), 10th (3d8), 15th (4d8), and 20th (5d8).

I think this is still preferable to a crossbow, but not as good as it currently is, which I think is the direction WOTC should go.
 
Last edited:
firing missiles into melee ain't too smart, either.
One of the things I most hate about these "cantrips" on steroids is - thats what wands and the like are for.
In 5e, magic items are completely up to the DM and are not an assumed part of the game's math or balance. They're not to be taken for granted as they were before. A mage in past editions could guarantee that he could have a wand, if not by buying it at the local magic mart, then by making one himself. In 5e, that's not the case. If the game is going to be designed to assume no magic items, the same has to hold true for all classes. You should no more assume that any given mage will have a magic wand than you should assume any given fighter is going to have a magic sword.

If a player feels they have nothing to do without super-powerful cantrips, they're just not very imaginative.
Every other class in the game has a reliable, at-will basic attack they can fall back on. Why should mages, and only mages, have to resort to being imaginative just to have something to contribute each round? I'm all for people using creative thinking, and enjoy doing so myself, but sometimes that creative spark just isn't there, and over the course of a several round combat, it's hard to try and think of some imaginative stunt to pull off every single turn. That taxes even the most creative minds. It should be applauded when it happens, but not demanded, IMO. I don't find "manage to be really creative, or don't get to do anything this turn" to be a very fun ultimatum.
 

tuxgeo

Visitor
For example, here is what I'd prefer the text say:

Zap
Evocation cantrip
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 50 feet
Duration: Instantaneous
A beam of yellow light streaks toward a creature within range. Make a ranged attack roll against that creature, with a bonus to the roll . . .
(remainder of neat idea snipped for brevity)

Quoted for sheer audacity. And as we all know, the letter "Y" in The Dungeon Alphabet stands for "Yellow," so that even fits!
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
Perhaps a fire or acid spell at will is "too good" against regenerating creatures like trolls.
Fire is what I'd hardly say being "too good" while there is a fair number of monsters that are vulnerable to it, it also has the largest number of monster that are resistant or immune to it over almost any other damage type.
 

Advertisement

Top