D&D 5E Shadowdark casting in standard 5E

darjr

I crit!
Rolling for spells like this have been used for two main things.

A push your luck mechanic. See Dungein Crawl Classics and Shadowdark and Mörk Borg.

To provide variety and or chaos. See Dungeon Crawl Classics.

Ease of use is, I think, a nice side effect. To mitigate either of the above you need a way for the player to either ensure better luck or mitigate bad luck. Which all the games above also do.

I think in 5e you’d need to provide a bit more control than the above games. Like how mcdm does for the Talent. Sort of. I’m not sure what that would be if your goal is to reduce bookkeeping.

Maybe have them fail to cast but retain the spell if they fail unless they crit fail. And maybe let crit success allow them to regain the ability to cast another spell they lost instead of more damage?
 

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Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
What can the spells that they know do? What's the power level?

Shadowdark spells for the most part don't have saving throws...if the caster succeeds at their casting check, the spell works...but most are capped somehow: non-scaling damage, or a maximum level of target it can affect. Otherwise they are all spells you would recognize from D&D.

The other thing to consider is that although Wizards can have bad luck with their attack rolls, on average they will get more spells/day than D&D Wizards, even with a low stat mod. With a high modifier they will get a lot more spells per day.

One really nice side benefit of this system is that you don't have to worry about having infrequently used utility spells unprepared when you suddenly need them. If you know it, you know it. You probably don't want to take those spells as your free spell when you level up, but if you find a scroll and learn it that way, you then have it when you need it. (Unless you blow the roll, of course!)

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

Yeah, no cantrips...no any cantrips...in Shadowdark! Instead, martial effectiveness is scaled way back, so a Wizard with no attack bonus swinging a staff or dagger is not as pointless as it is in D&D.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Ease of use is, I think, a nice side effect.

Yeah, I will add that I teach a lot of new players, mostly young players, and with D&D the difference between "in the spell book" and "prepared" and "has slots" is just a hot mess.

Nobody has yet batted an eye at spellcasting in Shadowdark. If you know a spell, you know it. You can keep casting it until you fail the check. And then you need an overnight rest to get it back.
 

Expending hit dice would be interesting. The idea of wizards sacrificing blood/life/etc for magic is a common trope.
I can tell you from experience (5 years+) it works. However, the monsters need to be beefed up to keep up with PCs having additional resources and the ability to nova again.
Thing to keep in mind is if spellcasters can expend HD to regain spells, martials should be given the same opportunity to recharge abilities.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Oh to be sure! We're come a long way from the days of OE or B/X and this definitely doesn't roll things back to those days, but if you're coming from 5E it has the effect of casting fewer spells. Which a lot of people really enjoy. That's just not me in 2023, and I think it's not most players at this point. That is unless the tone of the game really changes from expected multiple combat encounters in a game session.

I have friends who absolutely love DCC, which has the spell fumbles that they really enjoy. I've suggested Shadowdark to them and their intention is to try and run a game with it, so we'll see.
There are probably other ways you could adjust casting so that the effects of failure weren't just spell fumbles. Since I mentioned True 20 earlier, for example, a common result of a failed use of powers could be fatigue or some source of strain, which is a fairly common trope of casting in pop culture.
 

Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
There are numerous ways for a weapon attack roll to get advantage in 5e. Importing this casting idea into 5e would need to be balanced against this, IMO. I'm not familiar with Shadowdark -- does it provide ways for casters to gain advantage on their casting rolls from time to time?
 

Reynard

Legend
There are numerous ways for a weapon attack roll to get advantage in 5e. Importing this casting idea into 5e would need to be balanced against this, IMO. I'm not familiar with Shadowdark -- does it provide ways for casters to gain advantage on their casting rolls from time to time?
Yes. Some casters have advantage with specific spells, in addition to circumstantial advantage.
 

TwoSix

Uncomfortably diegetic
I'm curious....other than fluff/story reasons, why would a player want this? It makes magic much, much, less reliable than "mundane" attacks (I think the biggest issue with the imbalance is the fact you do partial damage on a successful save.....).
Because you have a decent possibility of being able to cast your spells 4, 5, maybe 6+ times for each spell before they run out, which is a solid buff from mainline 5e casting.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Yes. Some casters have advantage with specific spells, in addition to circumstantial advantage.

I'll add (not for you, but for the uninitiated) that magic missile is automatically cast with advantage...it's the bread and butter Wizard attack spell. Beyond that it's possible, although not common, for a caster on level-up to get to pick a spell they already know and get advantage with it forever. Players love getting that.
 

Reynard

Legend
I'll add (not for you, but for the uninitiated) that magic missile is automatically cast with advantage...it's the bread and butter Wizard attack spell. Beyond that it's possible, although not common, for a caster on level-up to get to pick a spell they already know and get advantage with it forever. Players love getting that.
I somehow doubt that most 5E fans would go for random level up benefits, though.
 

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