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D&D 5E Perfect spell designs

Asisreo

Patron Badass
I think there are a few spells in the PHB that are absolutely perfectly designed, in my opinion. I'm curious if there are others some would like to share and elaborate why they're so great. The spells don't have to be the most powerful, in fact, broken spells are often thought of as poorly designed.

One spell I think is one of the best is a simple cantrip: Vicious Mockery.

It is one of the few psychic damage effects allowed to players and it immediately sets apart a bard from any other caster. It isn't so powerful that a bard should spam it even at level 1, but it's effects are good enough that even a high level bard might consider casting it in high-level combat.

Finally, it leaves a huge "ad-lib" fill-in-the-blank that never disappoints on the roleplay aspect. If your player says a truly insulting injury, it feels like the actual player did the damage rather than their character. If your player says a bad joke, the creature can be measurably damaged from the pure second-hand embarrassment. And it's always entertaining to see a creature die just by saying something so hurtful that it collapses in shock.

Even if bard isn't your favorite class, you have to admit that it's unique spell is very well-designed and fun to use.
 

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I think there are a few spells in the PHB that are absolutely perfectly designed, in my opinion. I'm curious if there are others some would like to share and elaborate why they're so great. The spells don't have to be the most powerful, in fact, broken spells are often thought of as poorly designed.

One spell I think is one of the best is a simple cantrip: Vicious Mockery.

It is one of the few psychic damage effects allowed to players and it immediately sets apart a bard from any other caster. It isn't so powerful that a bard should spam it even at level 1, but it's effects are good enough that even a high level bard might consider casting it in high-level combat.

Finally, it leaves a huge "ad-lib" fill-in-the-blank that never disappoints on the roleplay aspect. If your player says a truly insulting injury, it feels like the actual player did the damage rather than their character. If your player says a bad joke, the creature can be measurably damaged from the pure second-hand embarrassment. And it's always entertaining to see a creature die just by saying something so hurtful that it collapses in shock.

Even if bard isn't your favorite class, you have to admit that it's unique spell is very well-designed and fun to use.
I don’t know much about spell design. But I can’t agree with your choice. In my opinion canteips should not cause damage. So I can’t get behind vicious mockery
 


DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
While some spells as well-designed, IMO 5E misses a lot of opportunities for upcasting many spells. Also, way too many spells (nearly half) are concentration.

For example, mage armor is AC 13 + DEX modifier. It would be great if you could upcast it for a better AC, say +1 per spell level to a maximum of AC 17 + DEX modifier as a 5th level spell?
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
One spell I think is one of the best is a simple cantrip: Vicious Mockery...it leaves a huge "ad-lib" fill-in-the-blank that never disappoints on the roleplay aspect.
Oh, I know. Our bard player uses it quite often, and he comes up with some simply amazing insults, even when using it on trees. After 22 months of playing the bard to 15th level and the almost-end of our campaign, he still comes up with them on the spot. It's a great spell because it encourages creative, often comedic, gaming.

As to perfectly designed, I'll have to come back to that. The "1st level detect" spells and "speak with" spells come to mind. They expand the range of options in the game, and do exactly what a spell their level should be doing.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
For example, mage armor is AC 13 + DEX modifier. It would be great if you could upcast it for a better AC, say +1 per spell level to a maximum of AC 17 + DEX modifier as a 5th level spell?
I'm for that except I'd give other perks instead of AC. Bounded accuracy is a thing for a reason, plus I really don't want yet again "and casters can do what non-casters do but even better".

Want to upcast it and get other perks? Sure. 24 hour duration or Heavy Armor Mastery damage reduction to B/P/S. Various other perks.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
I'm for that except I'd give other perks instead of AC.
Other perks most likely wouldn't be worth it. The duration is already good enough, especially for a 1st level spell! Granting "feat-like" benefits would be against the design of 5E IMO.

Bounded accuracy is a thing for a reason, plus I really don't want yet again "and casters can do what non-casters do but even better".
Given how hard it is to get casters a decent AC IME, this wouldn't do anything against BA. Very few casters (other than DEX-weapon attack builds) have a DEX of 18 or better, so for a 5th level slot (not even available until 9th level), an AC 17+DEX would hardly break BA.

And wizards/sorcerers with d6 HD still can't compete in that respect with d10+ martials.

If +1 per spell level is "too much" for you, make it AC 14 for 3rd-4th level slot and AC 15 for 5th level slot.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Given how hard it is to get casters a decent AC IME, this wouldn't do anything against BA. Very few casters (other than DEX-weapon attack builds) have a DEX of 18 or better, so for a 5th level slot (not even available until 9th level), an AC 17+DEX would hardly break BA.
Except that Mage Armor can be cast on others, including DEX based characters. Mage Armor is already better than any normal light armor for a 1st level slot, easy to throw on. When +1 armors are around (even if you assume everyone gets one), 2nd level slots will likely be cheap.

(Plus, as you mentioned, the rare cases of DEX-weapon builds like the Bladesinger, who would have Mage Armor + DEX + often INT. And if they have "magic armor" it would be Bracer of Defense for an additional +2)

If +1 per spell level is "too much" for you, make it AC 14 for 3rd-4th level slot and AC 15 for 5th level slot.
I'd be much happier with this - it's still within the range of bounded accuracy, and the higher level slots retain more value so they can't be handed out to every light armor wearer daily for little cost at higher levels.
 

While some spells as well-designed, IMO 5E misses a lot of opportunities for upcasting many spells. Also, way too many spells (nearly half) are concentration.

For example, mage armor is AC 13 + DEX modifier. It would be great if you could upcast it for a better AC, say +1 per spell level to a maximum of AC 17 + DEX modifier as a 5th level spell?
No, that would be terrible design and step even further on fighter's toes. It shouldnt even exceed studded leather armor as is.
 


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