removing cantrips: what to give instead?

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
But really, instead you could have implements let you cast cantrips.

A spellcaster could be proficient in up to (# of cantrips known) such implements.
WHoah mind blown!
Cinder Wand of Firebolt
Frozen Rose of Ray of Frost
Reliquary of Guidance
Mistloe of Thorn Whip

Love it!
 
WHoah mind blown!
Cinder Wand of Firebolt
Frozen Rose of Ray of Frost
Reliquary of Guidance
Mistloe of Thorn Whip

Love it!
I know right? I mean, "I need some at-will balanced abilities for implements to let wizards cast in 5e" and "I don't want to give players cantrips" had a baby.

Now, one could say "this does nothing! NOTHING!", but not quite.

First, it means that spellcasters can be disarmed, which is a big one narrarively. With this, a spellcaster without an implement or component pouch can only cast V/S spells, unless they can find the M components in the "wild".

Second, it means spellcasters have to swap out gear like melee characters do.

Third, it opens up "a +3 Frozen Rose" that gives bonuses only to Ray of Frost cast through it.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
How would I get rid of cantrips? Well, I played many years of several editions of the game that did not have cantrips, and they add two huge steps forward that would need to be implemented in other ways in order for me to want to play without them.

1. They made magical characters feel magical. Snapping their fingers to light a pipe, floating a drink over to them, etc. That adds a tone of flavor. Since this is basically at-will minor magics, I think you'll have a way to go to come up with something that IS effectively cantrips but does it better to convince me a change is worth it.

2. They made casters useful when they weren't using slots. They brought down the average power of the slots to keep them balanced. These are closely related.

(I'm going to talk primarily in terms of damage spells, because attack cantrips are primarily damage.)

It used to be that spells were more damaging, scaling with caster level. You only had a set number of slots per day, and combat for the day was more rounds than that. So you did high damage spells on rounds you cast a spell, and boring and likely pitiful damage even if you hit on the other rounds.

So part of this is making casters feel magical and useful, doing something with magic instead of mundane attacks that they aren't good at and basically feel like nigh-wasted rounds.

The other part is the power of the rest of the spells. Not counting the Warlock, cantrips do less damage then a primary weapon wielder of similar level. (NO, your cleric with a 16 STR and one attack at 7th level is not a primary weapon wielder.) We're looking for an total of the non-slot actions and the slot-using action during the day to add up to something reasonable. If the non-slot rounds are less powerful, then the slot-using rounds need to be more powerful, with increased damage/effect.

But, if individual slots are more powerful, that means that groups that manage 15 minute adventuring days will find casters EVEN MORE powerful.

There was another thread recently about balance, and my definition is that balance happens form a DM and the rules job was not to make it harder. Making inter-class balance more sensitive and swingy based on how length of adventuring day varies from table to table is a complete loss in that aspect.

So, the second part of this is that we need to (a) give casters something magical to do, and (b) keep that the total damage doesn't drop by removing cantrips.

This as my requirements for removing cantrips. Oh, I have a third but it doesn't have to do with cantrips so much as class design:

3. Keep different classes different. In other words, if every class is a fighter, you only need one class. Don't make all the classes feel the same.

So, with these criteria, let's look at the options:

  • Light armor prof?
This doesn't address any of the points.
  • Simple weapon/ short selection of martial weapons?
Attack and damage ability scores don't allow this to fit #2, and it's just like most classes so it doesn't fit #3. Oh, and doesn't address #1 at all
  • More skills?
Also doesn't address any of the points. It fulfils the utility of #1 without the magic part.
  • extra attacks (at level 6, 7 or 8 or 11?)?
Much like weapon profs, does not give enough damage. And like most. Doesn't fit 2 & 3. Oh, and doesn't address #1 at all
  • Extra slots (+1 for spell level 1 to 4 ?)
Maybe. But low level characters have very few slots, so they do a lot of cantrips. So if a 1st level caster had, so say SIX to EIGHT 1st level slots, that would probably fit the second part of #2 as well as #3. That's only 1 slot per recommended encounter, and still well underpowered in terms of weapon profs, armor profs, HPs, and focus on attack ability scores.

Spreading out over castable levels and reducing as they got higher level slots. It minimizes non-slot rounds so we can forgive the first part of #2. It doesn't really address #1, as we've seen historically that combat-resources are uncommonly used for non-combat needs, especially just "flavor" ones. So that would still need to be addressed.
 

dave2008

Legend
As of now, I personally would go with something like this

Warlock: Eldritch Blast as a feature

Druid: + 1 spell slots when ''unlocking'' a new spell level for spell level 1 to 4

Cleric: Heavy armor or Resilience of the Pilgrim (+Con to AC when unarmored, no shield)
+ 1 spell slots when ''unlocking'' a new spell level for spell level 1 to 4

Wizard: 1+ Int mod weapon proficiencies, must be one handed without the special property.
+ 1 spell slots when ''unlocking'' a new spell level for spell level 1 to 4

Sorcerer: Simple weapons proficiency
+2 spell slots when unlocking a new spell level for spell level 1 an 2
+1 spell slots when unlocking a new spell level for spell level 3 and 4

Bard: Prof with medium armors (valor and sword gain heavy)
+ 1 spell slots when ''unlocking'' a new spell level for spell level 1 to 4

1/3 casters
+1 spell slots when unlocking a new spell level for spell level 1 an 2

Remove the limitation and let caster cast a bonus action spell + a leveled spell.
I generally like it, but it seems odd that the druid just gets an extra slot and everyone else gets something more. Personally I would:
Warlock: good to go
Druid: good to go
Cleric: +1 slot (1-4) or extra weapon proficiencies
Sorcerer: no weapon proficiency, the rest is good
Bard: +1 slot (1-4) or extra armor proficiencies
1/3 casters: good to go
 
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cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
But really, instead you could have implements let you cast cantrips.

A spellcaster could be proficient in up to (# of cantrips known) such implements.
I actually have a trio of wands that do this. Wand of flame, you can cast fire bolt while attuned and it has burning hands as a spell that uses the 7 charges of the wand. It was surprisingly easy to set up in DnDbeyond.
 

jmartkdr2

Explorer
From a game balance perspective, I think you could make all cantrips 1st-level spells and the game would still work. It wouldn't be balanced the same, but it wouldn't fall apart. 5e is robust.

From a thematic perspective, I think it would make everything less magical is a stupid way: if rituals are still in, it means non-combat magic takes longer. If rituals are also removed, I think most players will horde spell slots for combat uses. And all full casters will feel like 3/4 casters because of the weapon attacks or dodges they use form time to time, rather than small spells like a person who has magic flowing through their veins would do.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Hmm, interesting question. If I were getting rid of cantrips, I would probably do it by promoting all cantrips to 1st level spells, and then doubling the number of 1st level spell slots that the character has. (This wouldn't work for warlocks, though. Not sure what to do with that.) I'd probably give spellcasters a free ASI at 1st level also.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
How about giving all spellcasters Metamagic and Magic points-to-spell-slots mechanic, but remove the damage cantrips? Lets say we sorcerers get something really cool and thematic to compensate (honestly no idea here, buts let say shapeshifting in creatures fitting their origin ala druid).
 
I played many years of several editions of the game that did not have cantrips, and they add two huge steps forward that would need to be implemented in other ways in order for me to want to play without them.

1. They made magical characters feel magical.
There's a school of D&D Dogma in which they did the opposite, though: that at-will magic becomes commonplace, and therefore mundane. (TBH, by that logic, reliable n/day magic has the same issue on a world-building level.)

However, you could add back the minor utility of cantrips with a long-duration low-level convenience-magic spell - as 2e did.

2. They made casters useful when they weren't using slots. They brought down the average power of the slots to keep them balanced. These are closely related.
They are, and they didn't actually happen that way, IMHO. 3e brought up the baseline effectiveness of casters by giving the light crossbow - a safe-to-use, OK attack for rounds that didn't warrant casting. It in no way brought down the effectiveness of spells, giving casters moar spells, loosening restrictions on spells, like making DCs and Concentration checks subject to heavy optimization, making casting in armor possible with some build work, evading AoOs with a check, etc, etc...

4e actually did bring up the baseline of 'casters' (other than Martial Sources) and bring down their daily resources to balance - they also gave the non-casters the same balance scheme.

Relative to 3e, 5e brought up the baseline of casters dramatically, and pulled in the power of slots a bit (not always consistently). Relative to 4e, 5e pulled in the at-will baseline for casters slightly, and greatly expanded the number & power of slots, while buffing up the martial base-line DPR with Extra Attack and eliminating limited resources for them almost completely.

So, really, if balance is a concern, eliminating cantrips entirely won't hurt a bit. It won't be enough either, and it's the kind of swingy, take-turns-not-having-fun 'balance' we had in the classic game, but it certainly not going to leave casters in the cold.


3. Keep different classes different. In other words, if every class is a fighter, you only need one class. Don't make all the classes feel the same.
Also not much of a concern. The classes that have cantrips are already very different from those who do not - and already not very different from eachother, with that difference mostly being in a handful of unique spells, and the odd class ability.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
There's a school of D&D Dogma in which they did the opposite, though: that at-will magic becomes commonplace, and therefore mundane. (TBH, by that logic, reliable n/day magic has the same issue on a world-building level.)
There's a school that combat cantrips have done this, but most of the "get rid of cantrips" people are just fine with the flavor cantrips, which is what I was specifically calling out in Point #1. So there is maybe a few zealots, but no "school" of people who are saying this.

So, really, if balance is a concern, eliminating cantrips entirely won't hurt a bit. It won't be enough either, and it's the kind of swingy, take-turns-not-having-fun 'balance' we had in the classic game, but it certainly not going to leave casters in the cold.
I invite you to share some math on that point. I think you'll find that a ~+2 attack/damage mod for a single die of simple weapon damage will be significant less than a cantrip in Tier 2 or higher of play.

Also not much of a concern. The classes that have cantrips are already very different from those who do not - and already not very different from eachother, with that difference mostly being in a handful of unique spells, and the odd class ability.
Except that some of the options were to add in weapon proficiencies. So it was explicitly a concern. It's like the folks who want to add Extra Attack to rogues "because all the other weapon wielder have it".
 
There's a school that combat cantrips have done this, but most of the "get rid of cantrips" people are just fine with the flavor cantrips
I got the impression it was the at-will aspect, regardless, that rendered magic less-magical-feeling.
a ~+2 attack/damage mod for a single die of simple weapon damage will be significant less than a cantrip in Tier 2 or higher of play.
...Except that some of the options were to add in weapon proficiencies. So it was explicitly a concern.
Sorry, I meant "not a concern" in the context of removing cantrips with no compensation, at all.
Could be all sorts of concerns with any given compensation scheme, of course.
 
I would love to get rid of cantrips, but don't see a viable way to do so easily in 5e. Preferably having more lower level spell slots overall (replacing the need) would work, but this might be hard to balance against the number of encounters per long rest.
 

Pauln6

Explorer
I'd probably say allow them to choose one non-combat cantrip that they can use at will and then the others just take the same number of castings as level one spells but per short rest. I'd also add modifier damage to non-at-will cantrips. Wizards and sorcerers should get one extra at will cantrip based on subclass.
 

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