5.5E Should bring back diverse spellcaster level design.

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Wizards and Sorcerers should have 9 levels of Arcane Spells.
Clerics and Druids should have 7 circles of Divine Spells.
Bards and Warlocks should have 5 mysteries of Occult Spells.

And they should all map to be equal at max-level for the power of a given spell. And also be largely, but not completely, separate from each other.

Sound insane? It is a bit. But c'mon, at least it would make the caster classes leveling more interesting and varied, and make room for stronger class and subclass abilities in the gap-levels between spell level increases for Bards, Clerics, Druids, and Warlocks.

Wizards and Sorcerers get access to a new level of spell every odd numbered level per usual. Clerics and Druids get a "Gap" level for 5th where they get cool Cleric and Druid themed stuff equivalent to extra attack or third level spellcasting. Same thing happens again at level 15 instead of getting 7th level spells. And, of course, Commensurately fewer spell slots.

Warlocks and bards, on the other hand, don't get 2nd level spells at 3rd, but at 5th their 2nd mystery spell slots are equal to 3rd level spells and they get something cool at level 3, instead. Same thing happens at level 9 and 11, then again at at 17.

All four of those classes get commensurately fewer spell slots compared to the wizard/sorcerer, with bard/warlock getting the least number of slots out of any 'full caster'.

And then the -actual- half-casters, Arcane Tricksters, Eldritch Knights, Paladins, Rangers, etc, follow the same sort of format. Tricksters and Knights get 4 levels of spellcasting, Paladins and Rangers only get 3 circles, but cooler tricks that better encapsulate Paladin/Ranger concepts when their circles skip.

L--S C M
1--1 1 1
3--2 2 1
5--3 2 2
7--4 3 3
9--5 4 3
11-6 5 3
13-7 6 4
15-8 6 4
17-9 7 5

I know what you're thinking. "That's too complex! It doesn't make sense!" to which I say "Okay. Cool. Do it anyway. Only way people come to understand is through either laborious discussion or simple demonstration."

They're not gonna do it, obviously, as it would mean more writing, more pages, more balancing between spells... and that's not something they want to do for their steamlined game... But it'd be so nice if they did...
 

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Wizards and Sorcerers should have 9 levels of Arcane Spells.
Clerics and Druids should have 7 circles of Divine Spells.
Bards and Warlocks should have 5 mysteries of Occult Spells.

And they should all map to be equal at max-level for the power of a given spell. And also be largely, but not completely, separate from each other.

Sound insane? It is a bit. But c'mon, at least it would make the caster classes leveling more interesting and varied, and make room for stronger class and subclass abilities in the gap-levels between spell level increases for Bards, Clerics, Druids, and Warlocks.

Wizards and Sorcerers get access to a new level of spell every odd numbered level per usual. Clerics and Druids get a "Gap" level for 5th where they get cool Cleric and Druid themed stuff equivalent to extra attack or third level spellcasting. Same thing happens again at level 15 instead of getting 7th level spells. And, of course, Commensurately fewer spell slots.

Warlocks and bards, on the other hand, don't get 2nd level spells at 3rd, but at 5th their 2nd mystery spell slots are equal to 3rd level spells and they get something cool at level 3, instead. Same thing happens at level 9 and 11, then again at at 17.

All four of those classes get commensurately fewer spell slots compared to the wizard/sorcerer, with bard/warlock getting the least number of slots out of any 'full caster'.

And then the -actual- half-casters, Arcane Tricksters, Eldritch Knights, Paladins, Rangers, etc, follow the same sort of format. Tricksters and Knights get 4 levels of spellcasting, Paladins and Rangers only get 3 circles, but cooler tricks that better encapsulate Paladin/Ranger concepts when their circles skip.

L--S C M
1--1 1 1
3--2 2 1
5--3 2 2
7--4 3 3
9--5 4 3
11-6 5 3
13-7 6 4
15-8 6 4
17-9 7 5

I know what you're thinking. "That's too complex! It doesn't make sense!" to which I say "Okay. Cool. Do it anyway. Only way people come to understand is through either laborious discussion or simple demonstration."

They're not gonna do it, obviously, as it would mean more writing, more pages, more balancing between spells... and that's not something they want to do for their steamlined game... But it'd be so nice if they did...

I honestly don't think it is a good Idea.
Part of that balancing was having the same spell at different levels for different classes.
 

Slit518

Adventurer
Bards used to go up to 6th level spells.

If I recall correctly, 2e spell progression:
Wizard 9th level
Clerid & Druid 7th level
Bard 6th level
Paladin & Ranger 4th level
 

cbwjm

Legend
Bards used to go up to 6th level spells.

If I recall correctly, 2e spell progression:
Wizard 9th level
Clerid & Druid 7th level
Bard 6th level
Paladin & Ranger 4th level
Close, rangers only got 3rd level spells. class kits that granted spells tended to use paladin spellcasting so things like the ninja kit that had illusion spells and the defender from savage coast followed the paladin chart.

Personally I don't think I'd want to go back to the system in 2e (unless playing 2e), I much prefer the way things are now as it allows spell slots to increase when you mix and match spellcasting classes.
 



Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Wizards and Sorcerers should have 9 levels of Arcane Spells.
Clerics and Druids should have 7 circles of Divine Spells.
Bards and Warlocks should have 5 mysteries of Occult Spells.

And they should all map to be equal at max-level for the power of a given spell.
I was in agreement until that last sentence. If a particular class is going to receive fewer spell levels, it strikes me as counterintuitive that it should also be expected to allow for the same degree of power (which I'm assuming is a shorthand to cover both actual damage potential as well as versatility of effects) as spellcasters who receive more spell levels.

Back when I played AD&D 2nd Edition, I used to think that a cleric's 7th level spells were meant to equal a wizard's 9th level spells, which always struck me as odd since they very clearly weren't. It took a while for me to figure out that they weren't supposed to be; that wizards having 9th level spells was their class benefit, whereas the cleric got better Hit Dice, attack progression, the ability to turn undead, etc.

That strikes me as the better way to go about it, if you're going to stagger spell progression between classes. Give the classes with less spells other stuff to make up the difference.
 

dave2008

Legend
I wouldn't be completely against this, with same caveat as @Alzrius, they shouldn't be the same power level.

However, I would we get most of the magic users away from spells. Make spells the feature of the wizard class and give all magic class different types of magic, but not spells. Think Turn Undead and a paladin's smite, but expanded to all of their magic abilities.
 
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I am reminded of a concept I heard recently from the MMO critic Josh "Strife" Hayes: the idea of MMO designer gluttony as the overproduction of systems for their own sake.

I know what you're thinking. "That's too complex! It doesn't make sense!" to which I say "Okay. Cool. Do it anyway. Only way people come to understand is through either laborious discussion or simple demonstration."
While it is true that people come to understand things only if they are taught, that does not actually respond to the first criticism: "that's too complex." You may believe "that's too complex" and "that doesn't make sense" are synonymous, but you would be incorrect. Things not making sense is a fault of the explanation process, which can be fixed as you suggested, by giving better explanations. Things being unnecessarily complex cannot be fixed by better explanations; they can only be fixed by making them less complicated.

One of the big problems with D&D is that it can be difficult to get into. It has extremely effective word of mouth marketing, because anyone who wants to DM must convince at least a few other people to play with them. But the market is still extremely small. As in, 5e right now has sold roughly as well as a moderately-successful niche video game. That's not an insult; for 5e to have done even that well is impressive by tabletop gaming standards. Part of having done that well, however, is the level of effort put into making it approachable. Now, sometimes, problems with how approachable a game is can be fixed by improving its presentation--that was one of the lessons learned from 4e, for example. But the thing you are asking for isn't that, by your own admission. This is not "take a complex thing and explain it better." It is "make a thing more complex because more complexity is inherently better than less complexity." And that's simply not true.

Don't get me wrong. I like crunchy systems. 4e is my favorite version of D&D. But complexity for its own sake is gluttonous game design. It is filling up the game with more things to learn solely so that there are more things to learn. That, right there, turns people off of a game. The initial exposure period, which sometimes may be only an hour but is certainly less than a single evening, is absolutely critical for getting players interested and invested into a game. D&D is, and has long been, really really REALLY awful at actually making this intro period effective. It tends to focus on conveying the whole of the rules, rather than the necessary rules. It tends to focus on many systems, rather than elegant systems. And, perhaps worst of all, many editions--including 5e, which actually backslid on this issue--put an enormous weight on the DM's shoulders and do not take basic efforts to lessen that weight.

Keeping class mechanics interestingly varied is an important element of any class-based game design. You are not wrong to want such variety. This is just a system unlikely to support one of the key goals of 5th edition: reaching more fans, growing the base. This is something that will only appeal to the hardcore/veteran players, and which offers little to no actual design benefits other than being a new shiny thing for hardcore/veteran players to play with. The push toward shared standards is not simply a matter of ease of design; it exists specifically to help make the new player experience more welcoming so people will want to keep playing.

They're not gonna do it, obviously, as it would mean more writing, more pages, more balancing between spells... and that's not something they want to do for their steamlined game... But it'd be so nice if they did...
As I said above: consider whether this is "so nice" because it would give you personally something fresh and new to work with, or "so nice" because it would make a better gaming experience for everyone involved, including the brand-new people that have to learn it.

Because if the answer is the former, then it may just be the case that you are asking for mechanical supplementation of the rules--things innately geared for people "already invested"--and not fundamental rules changes that absolutely everyone has to abide by.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
@UngeheuerLich, @Baron Opal II
When you say "Fireball" is 3rd level and when you say "Fireball" is 2nd mystery it's still "Fireball". The column of numbers and also a chunk of what I read is meant to explain what they're losing out on is specific spell levels, but not -all- spell levels, and their spells when they increase level (from 2nd to 3rd at level 7 for example) are as strong as other casters at that level. 3rd level Mysteries -are- 4th level spells, and both Warlock and Wizard get them at 7th.

I was in agreement until that last sentence. If a particular class is going to receive fewer spell levels, it strikes me as counterintuitive that it should also be expected to allow for the same degree of power (which I'm assuming is a shorthand to cover both actual damage potential as well as versatility of effects) as spellcasters who receive more spell levels.

Back when I played AD&D 2nd Edition, I used to think that a cleric's 7th level spells were meant to equal a wizard's 9th level spells, which always struck me as odd since they very clearly weren't. It took a while for me to figure out that they weren't supposed to be; that wizards having 9th level spells was their class benefit, whereas the cleric got better Hit Dice, attack progression, the ability to turn undead, etc.

That strikes me as the better way to go about it, if you're going to stagger spell progression between classes. Give the classes with less spells other stuff to make up the difference.
You're right that in 2e 7th circle Cleric spells weren't the same as 9th level Wizard spells in power. I feel like that was one of many (MANY) mistakes from early D&D.

But it's easier to maintain the spell-power parity but reduce spell-comprehensiveness. By cutting out a specific spell level you can put something in the class "As Strong" as that spell level, if that makes sense. But keeping the low levels and cutting the high levels means you have to replace the high end. Either following my example of pacing to give abilities at 5 and 13 which are meant to replace power gained at 15 and 17 (Unbalancing by being either too strong or not strong enough) or by backloading the class by giving them "Normal" spell progression early on, you need to grant them abilities at 15 and 17 (which a lot of characters will never see) in order to maintain parity.

I am reminded of a concept I heard recently from the MMO critic Josh "Strife" Hayes: the idea of MMO designer gluttony as the overproduction of systems for their own sake.
It's an issue, and one that people should be wary of. This, however, is not that. The intention is three-fold:
1) Make Wizards/Sorcerers the most comprehensive caster classes.
2) Create greater class fantasy in the other caster classes by taking away specific spell level gains to add in thematic abilities.
3) Help to foster a greater sense of difference between the spellcasting classes.
While it is true that people come to understand things only if they are taught, that does not actually respond to the first criticism: "that's too complex." You may believe "that's too complex" and "that doesn't make sense" are synonymous, but you would be incorrect. Things not making sense is a fault of the explanation process, which can be fixed as you suggested, by giving better explanations. Things being unnecessarily complex cannot be fixed by better explanations; they can only be fixed by making them less complicated.
I like that you presume to know what I believe, here. That is really great for making sure that two people having a discussion are on equal footing and not at all off-putting.

Whether something is "Too Complex" is always going to be an arbitrary distinction applied to a system by an external observer. And it almost always comes from a lack of understanding of why something is complex to the degree that it is. In the rare event that it isn't based on lack of understanding the external observer can offer a simpler solution to attain the same goal.

For example, MMO designers who can critique each other's systems and craft a solution that is less complex.
One of the big problems with D&D is that it can be difficult to get into. It has extremely effective word of mouth marketing, because anyone who wants to DM must convince at least a few other people to play with them. But the market is still extremely small. As in, 5e right now has sold roughly as well as a moderately-successful niche video game. That's not an insult; for 5e to have done even that well is impressive by tabletop gaming standards. Part of having done that well, however, is the level of effort put into making it approachable. Now, sometimes, problems with how approachable a game is can be fixed by improving its presentation--that was one of the lessons learned from 4e, for example. But the thing you are asking for isn't that, by your own admission. This is not "take a complex thing and explain it better." It is "make a thing more complex because more complexity is inherently better than less complexity." And that's simply not true.
If you think "These two classes have a similar progression in power that isn't exactly the same but they get a cool ability and we changed the name of how one of them does magic to show that difference exists" is too complex for the average new D&D player who also has to absorb that Warlocks and Wizards both get to cast spells but do so in wildly different progressions and recovery mechanics to the spellcaster that can also turn into a bear for no reason...

I think your expectations of new players might be a touch low.
Don't get me wrong. I like crunchy systems. 4e is my favorite version of D&D. But complexity for its own sake is gluttonous game design. It is filling up the game with more things to learn solely so that there are more things to learn. That, right there, turns people off of a game. The initial exposure period, which sometimes may be only an hour but is certainly less than a single evening, is absolutely critical for getting players interested and invested into a game. D&D is, and has long been, really really REALLY awful at actually making this intro period effective. It tends to focus on conveying the whole of the rules, rather than the necessary rules. It tends to focus on many systems, rather than elegant systems. And, perhaps worst of all, many editions--including 5e, which actually backslid on this issue--put an enormous weight on the DM's shoulders and do not take basic efforts to lessen that weight.
This isn't crunchy, really. Way -less- Crunchy than Eldritch Invocations, at the very least.

It trades out a spell level in the class design for a class power equivalent to that spell level. The apparent complexity is, of course, a matter of understanding.
Keeping class mechanics interestingly varied is an important element of any class-based game design. You are not wrong to want such variety. This is just a system unlikely to support one of the key goals of 5th edition: reaching more fans, growing the base. This is something that will only appeal to the hardcore/veteran players, and which offers little to no actual design benefits other than being a new shiny thing for hardcore/veteran players to play with. The push toward shared standards is not simply a matter of ease of design; it exists specifically to help make the new player experience more welcoming so people will want to keep playing.
I'm glad I'm not wrong to want something.

Systems largely don't reach more fans or grow the base. Know what does? Advertising. Word of mouth. CelebriD&D.

You think the rules changes from 3.0 to 3.5 really made a huge difference in how the game was received between 2000 and 2003? You think Pathfinder in 2009 was such a super popular hit as to literally change the face of TTRPGs for the first time in literal decades by taking more than 3% of the pie for itself was because they had better systemization that made it -easier- for new players to join the hobby?

No. It had cool splashy art, an interesting world, it was advertised effectively, and it retained the core ideals of D&D 3.5 when 4e came out and shook things up.

Meanwhile 4e, which was basically a whole other game system, sold half again as many units in 2008 than 3e did back in 2000. Does that mean it's a better game and better received and it's systems design was better?

No. It got marketed to hell and back compared to 3e. They even did cutesy little animations like this:

And they spread those videos on Twitter and Facebook and any other platform they could get onto to increase word of mouth and engagement.

D&D is getting bigger for two reasons, and two reasons only.
1) Cultural Momentum.
2) Advertising.

Changing or adding systems does nothing to alter those two things unless you change the systems so -drastically- as to somehow undermine the cultural momentum.
As I said above: consider whether this is "so nice" because it would give you personally something fresh and new to work with, or "so nice" because it would make a better gaming experience for everyone involved, including the brand-new people that have to learn it.
Some of column A, some of column B.

Bear in mind, 5.5e is going to be something new that everyone, including the brand new people who have to learn it, has to learn. Whether that's a dozen small changes or a handful of large ones.
Because if the answer is the former, then it may just be the case that you are asking for mechanical supplementation of the rules--things innately geared for people "already invested"--and not fundamental rules changes that absolutely everyone has to abide by.
I like the accent you put on supplementation of the rules. Presents it as a house-rule type situation when it would, if followed through on the proposal, be a fundamental change that exists in the 5.5e rulebook.

Honestly, Ezekiel, if you're worried about change for change's sake or complexity for complexity's sake or whatever you need to go to WotC and complain to them for putting out a new edition or a revised edition. I'm just suggesting a cool thing they could put into that revised addition that would be nifty to have.

Here's hoping they don't streamline it so hard we get 4.5e.
 

Honestly, Ezekiel, if you're worried about change for change's sake or complexity for complexity's sake or whatever you need to go to WotC and complain to them for putting out a new edition or a revised edition. I'm just suggesting a cool thing they could put into that revised addition that would be nifty to have.
Okay.

Who benefits from this change? What are those benefits?

Sell me on it. Don't just say it would be cool or nifty. What is gained from making things work this way? And what is paid for it?
 


Faolyn

(she/her)
No. But I think each class should far more unique spell lists, with very little crossover. Although I'm not sure what to do with the wizard/sorcerer thing, since as written, sorcerers are basically blasty wizards. Maybe make up multiple spell lists, or say they can pick spells from any list but only from a select number of schools.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Okay.

Who benefits from this change? What are those benefits?

Sell me on it. Don't just say it would be cool or nifty. What is gained from making things work this way? And what is paid for it?
I can't sell what you don't want to buy. You walked into this conversation showing, clearly, that your mind was made up on this being complexity for complexity's sake from your very first line. In my response I broke down how it wasn't for complexity's sake, the benefits it would create in the first -line- of my response, and why your argument toward growing the brand was fallacious.

If you had wanted to understand the benefits, you'd already know what I think they are.

I've neither the time nor the energy to try and unwedge that boulder.
No, this is frankly a terrible idea. Making one class' 9th level spell to be equal to another's 7th level spell and third's 5th level spell is massively unintuitive and annoying. It is just making things more confusing for no sensible reason.
We exist in a world where England uses pounds, kilograms, and stones to measure weights but -this- is massively unintuitive?

I expressed my reasons. If you find them nonsensical I can't help ya.
No. But I think each class should far more unique spell lists, with very little crossover. Although I'm not sure what to do with the wizard/sorcerer thing, since as written, sorcerers are basically blasty wizards. Maybe make up multiple spell lists, or say they can pick spells from any list but only from a select number of schools.
It'd certainly help, for sure!
 


We exist in a world where England uses pounds, kilograms, and stones to measure weights but -this- is massively unintuitive?
That is massively unintuitive nonsense too, and you're basically trying to convince people who are used to metric to swap to such an incoherent system.

I expressed my reasons. If you find them nonsensical I can't help ya.
You really didn't express any reason beyond wanting it them to be different to be different. I want classes to be more differentiated too, but switching some boring numbers around so that they become more confusing is not a good differentiation.
 
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Faolyn

(she/her)
We exist in a world where England uses pounds, kilograms, and stones to measure weights but -this- is massively unintuitive?
To be fair, most people don't use these all at the same time. Few people say "this weighs 8 kilograms, 3 ounces." At least not seriously (I did know a woman who would use "meteryards" when talking about measurements in-game).
 

cbwjm

Legend
I think one of the things I'd hate about this system is going back to the old "Same spell, different level" that classes had. One of the things that I think was an improvement in 5e was the decision to make spells like animate dead a 3rd level spell instead of 3rd level for a priest, 4th level for a wizard. I far prefer that spells have a set level and that level is the same for each class, no matter when they gain access to those spell slots.
 

Wizards and Sorcerers should have 9 levels of Arcane Spells.
Clerics and Druids should have 7 circles of Divine Spells.
Bards and Warlocks should have 5 mysteries of Occult Spells.

I think 9 spell levels is still too many. Plus the fact that all the existing spells at level 7 and higher, with the lone exception of Wish because it's a sacred cow, do not add anything truly beneficial to the game. I think it's all bad design at those level.

My frustration is with half casters and third casters. I think it's fine to get a spell level 2-3 levels behind a full caster. I think it's honking absurd to get a spell level 6-9 levels behind a full caster. Simply put, there is no way for those new spells to still be the same spells that the other class got and not have them end up completely underpowered. It's ridiculously depressing as a player.

So, what I would do is this:

LevelHeavyweight CasterMiddleweight CasterLightweight Caster
11--
211-
3211
4221
5321
6322
7432
8432
9543
10543
11654
12654

And then I would limit the number of spells per level per day. Heavyweights get up to 4 spells per level per day. Middleweights get 2-3 spells per level per day. Lightweights get 1-2 spells per level per day.

I don't particularly care what happens above level 12, and 5e's design tells me that WotC doesn't really, either.

Yeah this would be a nightmare to sort out with multiclassing. :oops:

Multiclassing rules are a tail wagging the dog. The game should, first and foremost, work with single class rules. If rules can't be envisioned that make sense, then ditch multiclassing.
 

I honestly don't think it is a good Idea.
Part of that balancing was having the same spell at different levels for different classes.
yeah the idea of keeping 3rd level spells balanced with 3rd level spells only works if you remove fireball... but I think it is worth a try.

I'm not on board for bringing back 'differences' just for difference sake.
 

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