5E Obvious Attack Cantrips That Should Exist

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I don't think attack cantrip vs dagger or crossbow is necessarily an either/or thing, myself. I like having both options.
 

MJS

Visitor
For some playstyles, this is true. In others, wands are rarely found. In still others- and in 4e- a wand's main purpose is to give a wizard +1 to hit and damage.

So, while it's fine for you to apply this approach to your game, why should everyone else have to adopt your playstyle?



Are you trolling here? This is very much an edition-war callout. FYI edition warring is highly frowned upon on ENWorld.
certainly not trolling, as it was sincere. Edition warring, well...no, but I am glad you asked. I am expressing a real hate of certain directions in what is called D&D, yes, and the worst of it comes up in the tactical minis game we call 4E. But I don't hate that game unto itself, nor its graphic design, art, or useful RPG products in its line.

What I get that some people are saying is, they want a 1st level mage to be able to kill a common man (or zap within a hp of his life), once per round. They want the Zap, and they want it now.
Ok. But now we've completely lost the classic m-u. They don't exist in 5E. I think that sucks. I certainly don't feel a need to impose that class on any of you, but, my being a fan(and currently playing and DMing) of the original editions makes my m-u the common denominator.
To which, by the way, I give bonus spells, and a pile of Gygax UA cantrips to, so even I am adding stuff to the base, but in 5E, they don't even touch it.

What at-will "power" does a fighter have that is comparable? The sword? The bow? None of those are magic! "Attack cantrip" is an oxymoron! And here we have a thread complaining there aren't enough of them?

Heh. I will see you all (figuratively) at the convention regardless. But picture this: your wizard, who is also the party's mapper, has successfully co-led the group through three levels of dungeon dread, with nothing but a spell or two, his wits, and a ten foot pole. And there in the depths, he finds a wand of magic missiles, with 99 charges, which bumps him up to 2nd level. In the distance, an alarm sounds...
With attack cantrips, we are front-loading some of the mage's power, which dilutes magic in the whole game by essentially flooding it with its currency. The mage is more secure at low level, but the thrill of survival of the classic mage is gone, which I find regrettable, especially because we can arrive at the players' desired power level within the classic rules, but we can't go the other way with the new ones.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
To be fair, an at-will attack cantrip that does a flat d? damage (IOW, no stat/caster level bonus) equivalent to a light ranged weapon isn't going to be a game breaker. Heck, even with a stat bonus, it wouldn't be.

And while I agree that there is something lost in that spell-hoarding paradigm from 1Ed- where I got my start*- the game's assumptions about HPs have changed enough that cantrips like this really don't change the style of play.









* in fact, in my first ever adventure, I was playing a fighter alongside a MU with a single MM left as the lone party survivors, when we encountered a Purple Worm...
 

Blackbrrd

Visitor
I really don't see the problem with at-will attack spells for the Wizard, especially when they are as weak as in 5e. That they are called "cantrips" is maybe a bit misleading, but that's mostly semantics and will basically have to impact on gameplay.

... On the other hand, I don't think there should be 20-30 at will attack spells for the Wizard. The spells are meant as backup, not something you can build your character around. Btw, I love how 5e really limits the amount of spells you get in 5e, making even high level Wizards be careful with their spells.
 

ferratus

Adventurer
I have to say that I'm shocked at the amount of love for crossbows in this tread.

Nothing kills the archetype of the wizard for me than seeing all low level
wizards trained in the use of a sophisticated martial weapon like the
crossbow. At-will attacks at least make sense that people who study magic
single-mindedly would have some minor offensive capabilities with it.

If you are a dyed in the wool Vancian who doesn't like at-will magic, fine.
Juice up the power of the few spells they have to make them worthwhile and
interesting, so over the course of the play session they are still contributing.

But don't keep a few dumpy spells and turn them into Genoese mercenaries
when they aren't casting them so that they can survive and contribute.

As for the original topic of the thread, I think a neat at will cantrip would
be to avoid the next successful attack through precognitive divination. It would
mimic the cleric's sanctuary spell, and make divination a school worth specializing in.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I have to say that I'm shocked at the amount of love for crossbows in this tread.
Crossbows do require training, to be sure, but not as much as a standard bow, which is why they became so popular with the military.

But, FWIW, I'm also OK with wizards being proficient with daggers & staves only.
 

ferratus

Adventurer
Sure, if he was clumsy at it. But the crossbow wielding wizard of 3e fires off round after round with precision, every six seconds, tirelessly. With a good enough dex, he might even be better at it at low levels than some melee-oriented fighting men. Heck, since basic NPC's of the warrior class tend to have average stats, there is a good chance that they would be better than using a crossbow than 1st level warrior crossbowmen. Why are magical academies turning out these low level mercenary crossbowmen?

At least with an at-will spell, it fits with the fact that the spellcaster is a student of magic.

Now there is nothing wrong with the battlemage archetype, or even a swordmage. But it damages the pure and classic D&D archetype of the wizard to have them all proficient in crossbows.

Heck, even an arquebus proficiency would be more archetype friendly, since gunpowder could at lest be connected to alchemy.
 
certainly not trolling, as it was sincere. Edition warring, well...no, but I am glad you asked. I am expressing a real hate of certain directions in what is called D&D, yes, and the worst of it comes up in the tactical minis game we call 4E. But I don't hate that game unto itself, nor its graphic design, art, or useful RPG products in its line.

What I get that some people are saying is, they want a 1st level mage to be able to kill a common man (or zap within a hp of his life), once per round. They want the Zap, and they want it now.
Ok. But now we've completely lost the classic m-u. They don't exist in 5E. I think that sucks. I certainly don't feel a need to impose that class on any of you, but, my being a fan(and currently playing and DMing) of the original editions makes my m-u the common denominator.
To which, by the way, I give bonus spells, and a pile of Gygax UA cantrips to, so even I am adding stuff to the base, but in 5E, they don't even touch it.

What at-will "power" does a fighter have that is comparable? The sword? The bow? None of those are magic! "Attack cantrip" is an oxymoron! And here we have a thread complaining there aren't enough of them?

Heh. I will see you all (figuratively) at the convention regardless. But picture this: your wizard, who is also the party's mapper, has successfully co-led the group through three levels of dungeon dread, with nothing but a spell or two, his wits, and a ten foot pole. And there in the depths, he finds a wand of magic missiles, with 99 charges, which bumps him up to 2nd level. In the distance, an alarm sounds...
With attack cantrips, we are front-loading some of the mage's power, which dilutes magic in the whole game by essentially flooding it with its currency. The mage is more secure at low level, but the thrill of survival of the classic mage is gone, which I find regrettable, especially because we can arrive at the players' desired power level within the classic rules, but we can't go the other way with the new ones.
Argh.
 

Mistwell

Legend
What at-will "power" does a fighter have that is comparable?
Oh sweet Jesus...you had to go and say something like that. Now this will turn into yet another debate about the Great Weapon Fighting Damage-On-A-Miss option :)

If it's the Vancian part that bothers you, you could always limit Cantrip use to max used at intelligence mod, renewed each short rest

If you just don't want them using offensive spells as cantrips but are OK with non-offensive ones, that's a pretty easy houserule to adopt - just ban the few offensive spells from the list.
 
Last edited:
What I get that some people are saying is, they want a 1st level mage to be able to kill a common man (or zap within a hp of his life), once per round. They want the Zap, and they want it now.
First off, 1d8 damage isn't guaranteed to kill anybody, not even a "common man." You're just as likely to do 1 damage as 8. Second, any peasant with a light crossbow is just as deadly as a low level wizard with ray of frost. As for higher level wizards, well, common men should rightly fear them, just as they should rightly fear any higher level character.

What at-will "power" does a fighter have that is comparable? The sword? The bow? None of those are magic!
So what if they're "not magic"? Being magic is purely a stylistic difference. I've already pointed out how attack cantrips are balanced with simple weapons. So why is it such an issue that the mage happens to be attacking with, *gasp*, magic? Why is shooting a crossbow for the same damage just fine, but if that attack is in the form of a ray of frost, it suddenly somehow ruins the game?

"Attack cantrip" is an oxymoron!
According to who? The dictionary.com definition of "cantrip" is "a magic spell; a trick by sorcery." Attack cantrips absolutely fit that definition.

Heh. I will see you all (figuratively) at the convention regardless. But picture this: your wizard, who is also the party's mapper, has successfully co-led the group through three levels of dungeon dread, with nothing but a spell or two, his wits, and a ten foot pole. And there in the depths, he finds a wand of magic missiles, with 99 charges, which bumps him up to 2nd level. In the distance, an alarm sounds...
With attack cantrips, we are front-loading some of the mage's power, which dilutes magic in the whole game by essentially flooding it with its currency. The mage is more secure at low level, but the thrill of survival of the classic mage is gone, which I find regrettable, especially because we can arrive at the players' desired power level within the classic rules, but we can't go the other way with the new ones.
Not everyone thinks it's fun to play a wizard that can only perform magic a couple of times per day.
 

JRRNeiklot

Visitor
Not everyone thinks it's fun to play a wizard that can perform magic all day long. A reskinned crossbow is still a crossbow. At will attack cantrips make the magic decidedly UNmagical. It's no longer mysterious, it becomes reliable like technology. Boring.
 

Sadras

Adventurer
I'm of the opinion that damage-dealing cantrips should be included within the spell list. Not because I am a fan of them, quite the opposite actually, but because there seems to be enough players/DMs who desire such a cantrip within their campaign, perhaps it even fits their high-magic setting. D&D should certainly cater to groups such as these. For those who do not prefer such increased potency within their cantrips perhaps a label could be include under the spell deeming it High-Level Magic Setting be visible. They could do the same with all historically tricky spells such as Invisibility, Fly, Teleport, Raise Dead...etc which would make it easier for the DM to declare that the campaign world is Low-Level Magic Setting so all spells marked High-Level Magic Setting must be ignored. That should please both camps I believe. Of course there is nothing wrong with DMs stating right now which spells to be ignored on the lists, but perhaps the Low-Level Magic Setting DMs just want that confirmation from WOTC.
 
Not everyone thinks it's fun to play a wizard that can perform magic all day long. A reskinned crossbow is still a crossbow. At will attack cantrips make the magic decidedly UNmagical. It's no longer mysterious, it becomes reliable like technology. Boring.
The non at will can trips are reliable like technology.
 

ferratus

Adventurer
Not everyone thinks it's fun to play a wizard that can perform magic all day long. A reskinned crossbow is still a crossbow. At will attack cantrips make the magic decidedly UNmagical. It's no longer mysterious, it becomes reliable like technology. Boring.
You know what else is reliable like technology? A crossbow. Yet no one seems to complain about that like they complain about at-will spells. This is baffling to me.

I'll take at-will spells that are reskinned crossbows over the crossbow every time. That is pretty much the alternative that D&D gives me. (In older editions is means putting on armour and weapons when you aren't casting your single spell, which is also problematic if you are playing a pure magic user archetype).

Otherwise, if we are going to be Vancian, make spells genuinely powerful enough to compensate for the fact that they only get a few of them. Chill touch for example, is useless because it requires a spell slot to use a fairly mediocre melee attack, which requires weapon proficiency in crossbow to make the character somewhat viable. Instead, turn chill touch into an at-will power and ditch the crossbow as far as I'm concerned, and save the spell slots for the useful spells like sleep.

Otherwise, if you don't want at will magic, don't go to the crossbows, but go for true vancian casting. The spells should change the combat encounter, either by ending it or by significantly reducing the threat. It is worth carrying a 1st level mage around for 10 encounters if he can make one problematic encounter "go away" with his "I win" button.
 

Kinak

Visitor
I really like the idea of wands as refluffed crossbows for wizards (rather than the traditional charged low-level-spell projector).

I also really liked the idea behind the old playtest sorcerer, where non-spell attack options unlock as you call more and more on your bloodline.

Even reserve feats (obviously wouldn't be feats in 5e) are pretty cool.

At-will attack cantrips aren't a deal breaker. I don't think there's anything really wrong with them, but I feel like they're missing an opportunity to put something cool in that slot.

Cheers!
Kinak
 

Kobold Stew

Adventurer
There's a lot that's cool with Cantrips, and they do a lot to customize a character.

As I see it, the first choice involves (a) "casual magic" -- can the character do small (non-combat effects) trivially, through Prestidigitation, Druidcraft, or Thaumaturgy? By choosing "yes", there's only one or two cantrips left; "by choosing "no", the player is making a claim about the character's involvement with magic (or magic in the world). that's cool.

After that, there are
(b) Attack cantrips (for all but bards)
(c) support spells (light, mage hand, message)
(d) teambuilding spells (giving direct benefits to others, guidance, resistance, spare the dying)
(e) more ways to "colour" magic in the world (read Magic, minor illusion)

So there's five "types" of cantrip* and no spell caster can have all of them represented. Some will choose an attack cantrip, others won't . And if they do, they potentially can't support the party as well, or they can't do fun party tricks that allow for more creative role-play.

I'd say the general approach to cantrips in 5e is better than what I've seen previously -- it's pretty fun.




(The only thing interfering with this right now, as I see it, is that cantrips are part of a Mage's spell book, and it's just that I've not played enough to see how this works as more cantrips are added. The implied story doesn't work for me either, but that's my hangup, and nothing to do with the game.)

* and please, everyone: this is only one of many possible classifications, and it makes no claims to completeness or rigour; I'm only setting out the way I see it when I've been making spell casters with the play test materials.
 

Kobold Stew

Adventurer
Well, Paladins and Rangers don't have cantrips, so, yeah. If it helps "(for all but bards and those classes which do not cast cantrips)".

Unless, that is, they are a high elf or they take a feat. So, really, no problem, right?
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
While I've generally thought that some of the at-wills 4e bards got were ridiculous, I on the other hand feel that there should be a Bard subclass that's "more magical" and could get access to some. But then again anyone can get the arcane initiate feat and pick 2 mage cantrips.

Even though the Hinder action is not the most elaborated on action, some could allow use of Minor Illusion a non-attack cantrip to be used for hindering.
 

Advertisement

Top