D&D 5E Shadowdark casting in standard 5E

Reynard

Legend
In Shadowdark, casters know a handful of spells that they can cast. Rather than having to prepare spells and/or expend spell slots, Shadowdark casters make a magic roll (like a skill check) each time they cast a spell. If they fail the roll, they no longer have access to that specific spell until they manage a (long) rest.

Is this a viable method in standard 5E, do you think? Is it desirable? Is it something you could extend to other class abilities by non casters? What would it mean for cantrips and other non-resource at-will abilities?
 

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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
What can the spells that they know do? What's the power level?

As far as cantrips go, I can see some magical class feature choices, like warlock invocations, but I'm generally against attack cantrips.
 



Quickleaf

Legend
In Shadowdark, casters know a handful of spells that they can cast. Rather than having to prepare spells and/or expend spell slots, Shadowdark casters make a magic roll (like a skill check) each time they cast a spell. If they fail the roll, they no longer have access to that specific spell until they manage a (long) rest.

Is this a viable method in standard 5E, do you think? Is it desirable? Is it something you could extend to other class abilities by non casters? What would it mean for cantrips and other non-resource at-will abilities?
I'm running a PbP game with 2 PCs using my Sorcerer homebrew variant with Roll-to-Cast feature that's reminiscent of what Kelsey Dionne is doing in Shadowdark and what is done in DCC.

Players I've spoken with about it were generally interested in the idea BUT pushed back against the possibility of their casting action being completely wasted. Tweaked, misfiring with some benefit, delayed, or interesting effects? Yes! But not completely wasting their action as something routine.

Whereas the OSR game ethos behind Shadowdark embraces that sort of potential for wasted action (for hilarity & drama), 5e is a much more complex game with turns taking longer than Shadowdark or similar OSR games. Both due to the 5e player mentality & the longer / more complex turns, I would NOT recommend a totally 1:1 direct port, but consider ways to incorporate Kelsey's cool IDEAS without the "your casting is wasted" being an outcome.

Edit: If you go for 1:1 adaptation the thing you'll run into is D&D player's divergent expectations between how magic & swinging a sword works. For ex, if you have (a) Roll to Cast and then (b) Spell Attack Roll or Saving Throw, that's suddenly two points of failure for a caster where there was only one point before. And you'll have discordant issues like spells that are automatically successful - Invisibility, Magic Missile, etc - suddenly becoming a lot less reliable. So it really comes down to the culture at your table with your players.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I'm running a PbP game with 2 PCs using my Sorcerer homebrew variant with Roll-to-Cast feature that's reminiscent of what Kelsey Dionne is doing in Shadowdark and what is done in DCC.

Players I've spoken with about it were generally interested in the idea BUT pushed back against the possibility of their casting action being completely wasted. Tweaked, misfiring with some benefit, delayed, or interesting effects? Yes! But not completely wasting their action as something routine.

Whereas the OSR game ethos behind Shadowdark embraces that sort of potential for wasted action (for hilarity & drama), 5e is a much more complex game with turns taking longer than Shadowdark or similar OSR games. Both due to the 5e player mentality & the longer / more complex turns, I would NOT recommend a totally 1:1 direct port, but consider ways to incorporate Kelsey's cool IDEAS without the "your casting is wasted" being an outcome.
Misfire with positive/negative/amusing to the GM results?
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Misfire with positive/negative/amusing to the GM results?
I don't want to derail getting into guts of my system (which is still playtesting / work-in-progress), but yeah basically if you fail your Roll-to-Cast, the spell still happens and then the misfire event happens in addition to that. That's if the misfire is wholly negative to the player.

Ex: Player tried to cast an offensive spell (failed Roll-to-Cast) and ended up casting Mirror Image on themself instead.

Ex: Player upcasting Sleep (failed Roll-to-Cast) on a yeti put both the yeti and themself to sleep.
 

Reynard

Legend
I'm running a PbP game with 2 PCs using my Sorcerer homebrew variant with Roll-to-Cast feature that's reminiscent of what Kelsey Dionne is doing in Shadowdark and what is done in DCC.

Players I've spoken with about it were generally interested in the idea BUT pushed back against the possibility of their casting action being completely wasted. Tweaked, misfiring with some benefit, delayed, or interesting effects? Yes! But not completely wasting their action as something routine.

Whereas the OSR game ethos behind Shadowdark embraces that sort of potential for wasted action (for hilarity & drama), 5e is a much more complex game with turns taking longer than Shadowdark or similar OSR games. Both due to the 5e player mentality & the longer / more complex turns, I would NOT recommend a totally 1:1 direct port, but consider ways to incorporate Kelsey's cool IDEAS without the "your casting is wasted" being an outcome.

Edit: If you go for 1:1 adaptation the thing you'll run into is D&D player's divergent expectations between how magic & swinging a sword works. For ex, if you have (a) Roll to Cast and then (b) Spell Attack Roll or Saving Throw, that's suddenly two points of failure for a caster where there was only one point before. And you'll have discordant issues like spells that are automatically successful - Invisibility, Magic Missile, etc - suddenly becoming a lot less reliable. So it really comes down to the culture at your table with your players.
Wasted actions don't bother me. "Martials" waste actions all the time when they miss.

But there is a difference in that martials don't suddenly lose that particular weapon when they miss. To that end, I would probably say neither cantrips nor rituals would be subject to this rule. Cantrips would just fail/miss/whatever, and a failed ritual spell would ALWAYS result in a mishap (rather than just on whatever the crit fail threshold is).
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I don't want to derail getting into guts of my system (which is still playtesting / work-in-progress), but yeah basically if you fail your Roll-to-Cast, the spell still happens and then the misfire event happens in addition to that. That's if the misfire is wholly negative to the player.
Sounds interesting, but I really feel 5e spellcasting is too reliable as it is. Adding funny misfires while still having the spell work as intended seems to work against the purpose to me.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Wasted actions don't bother me. "Martials" waste actions all the time when they miss.

But there is a difference in that martials don't suddenly lose that particular weapon when they miss. To that end, I would probably say neither cantrips nor rituals would be subject to this rule. Cantrips would just fail/miss/whatever, and a failed ritual spell would ALWAYS result in a mishap (rather than just on whatever the crit fail threshold is).
Yeah, obviously however you want to do it and your gang is happy? That's the right way.

It is worth considering the increase in points of failure...

For example, consider a knight...
  • I attack (one roll), and I miss. No damage dealt.
  • I attack (one roll), and I hit. I'm going to deal SOME amount of damage no matter what (barring weird monster immunities).
Consider a Roll-to-Cast magic-user...
  • I cast (one roll), and I fail. No effect.
  • I cast (one roll), and I succeed!
  • I roll attack or enemy rolls save (second roll). If I miss or they succeed, no effect. I need to hit or they need to fail on this second roll for me to deal ANY amount of damage or effect (barring "half damage on failed save" spells).
In other words – and this may be fine for you, just clarifying the design issue – there are now 2 points of failure there for the magic-user compared to the 1 point of failure for the knight.
 

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