5.5E Should bring back diverse spellcaster level design.

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
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.
Normally I would have just tagged this with a like, but that was a long post and I wanted to highlight that this was the specific part that I found to be praiseworthy.
 

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I wouldn't mind if clerics got warlock casting (but domain spells didn't count against spells known or prepared) and got more specific "divine interventions" instead of 6-9 level spells.

I would cut the wizard list but move magical secrets to them (at lower levels, they could only learn spells from their school).
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
I don't know that many people who might care so much about what level of spells a character class gets at 18th level if most campaigns rarely get past 10th. 🤷‍♂️
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I mean it could work.
The issue is you have to

  1. Use a lot of class exclusive spells
  2. Determine what each progression does for the PC.
For example Rangers work as 1/2 casters because its spell are just buffs of attacks, defense, and stealth and divination and communication magic. The later is fine at spell level 1-5.

If you do 3/4 caster, you must determine what is the difference between a 7th level spell and a 9th level spell.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
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.
That's the point.

The "core" spells of a full caster, half caster, and third casters are different sets of spells. A ranger isn't throwing fireballs. That's straight up 1990s game design that we learned didn't work 30 years ago. A ranger is casting swift quiver and water walk to shoot a ton of arrows from the middle of a pond.
 



Honestly, spells are already an issue in dungeons and dragons by being rule breakers.

The last thing we need is spellcaster's apartheid.

If your going to introduce new magic, make it so distinct that it doesn't use spell levels, but also creates an agony of choice, otherwise nobody will pick the new class.
 

nevin

Hero
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...
pathfinder tried that and it's a freaking mess.
 


Only Imperialists use Imperial units.

Sensible people us SI units, even in England.
Good thing the United States doesn't use Imperial units then, isn't it?

(I have Opinions about this one. Despite being a scientist and preferring metric units for scientific measures!)
 
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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Let me throw out a variation on this whole idea.

There are three spell progressions, and the first time you get spellcasting (excluding Warlock), you pick one. It stays with the character, regardless of multiclassing, just like the one chart does now.

One goes 1-9th level, but has the least spell slots. Heck, you even lose lower level slots at you are getting higher level ones, so a 20th level pure caster might have one 1st through 2rd level, two 2nd through 6th, and one each 7th through 9th.

The second goes 1st thru 7th, advancing a pure caster to a new spell level every three class levels instead of every two with 6th and 7th a little rushed to get in by 20. But you have more spells in each slot.

The final one is closer to the warlock. A pure caster would get new spell levels every 4 or 5 class levels topping at 5th level spells around 17th, but they the most slots and their slots are distributed mostly in the highest level slots. So a 20th level caster might have two each 1st & 2nd level slots, three 3rd level slots, four 4th level slots and three 5th level slots.

So no matter how you multiclass or if you are full, half, or 1/3 caster, it's just swapping to the chart you pick. I can see one player with a paladin wanting the more-slots chart for more divine smites, and another wanting the higher-level chart for access to spells like Greater Find Steed.

Note: all of my examples are less powerful then the current chart to help adjust for my less-encounters-per-day style of running. Calibrate where you are comfortable with for the 1st to 9th, and then adjust from there that the others get more total slots.
 

Vael

Hero
I'll say that I think having more classes/subclasses like the Warlock that aren't locked into the unified spellcaster progression (1/3, 1/2, full) would be a good idea. But I don't care for a lot of the suggestions here as they seem overly complicated, and I still have to explain how 5e spellcasting works. I think locking down that a 4th level spell is a 4th level spell, and not allowing the 3.5 of it's a 4th for a Druid but a 3rd for a Cleric was a necessary codification. I think most of the core classes working off of the unified spellcaster progression is also good.

The main example I'd use is the Artificer, which is one of my favourite classes. I've soured a little on its 5e implementation, as it feels like it gets its core competencies too late in the game. If it were an "Infusion caster" and wasn't a locked in a 1/2 caster progression, it'd have more freedom in how it progresses and how it was designed.
 



Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Why?

I mean that as an honest question. You say this "should" be done. Why? What is gained from this?

In many places, folks state their preferred solution, without every being clear about what problem the solution is intended to fix. And that closes discussion of alternatives or adjustments to the scheme.
I gave reasons in a post where I was challenged about them.
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.

By adding granularity to spellcasting you create a feeling of more significant difference between different kinds of spellcaster, different kinds of magic. And different leveling schemes while retaining the same overall leveling scheme.

Arcane magic becomes the steady progression of mastery over magic. While Clerics and Druids have their focus split with religious rites and whatever but still hold their own in overall power to arcanists. And then Warlocks and Bards, as occultists, take giant steps in power but plateau for a while between as they seek out -other- ways to flex their power before they attain a new level of power. Big mystical breakthroughs rather than continued study, sort of.

And then you have the design space it creates. What ability could you give to someone that is as powerful as 2nd level spellcasting? What class identity can you put in at that level that winds up dropped off to the wayside because they get new spells and thus need no class ability in standard 5e?


Look at those class tables. They get almost nothing class specific after level 3. It's just improvement of their early level class-defining trait(s) and then Divine Intervention. Other than higher level spells there's just so little to look forward to. And, honestly... that's the same as Wizard.


Warlocks, at least, with their invocations get a variety of interesting options they can manipulate at different levels. And bards are a bit better off than most casters. But compare them to Barbarians and Rangers, Paladins and Rogues, Monks too. Fighters, not so much because they're designed to be as basic and generic as possible... The Wizards of Martial combat.

Practically every level sees new and interesting abilities that are thematic to the class. Gives them something unique an engaging. But spellcasters? "You get a new level of spells. Enjoy."

Sure, to some degree that means you get 'more customization' over your class... but it's kind of an illusion since you'll almost always take the "Good" spells and ignore the "Bad" ones, every time. I'm not even talking about optimization, here, either. Not talking about the people with spreadsheets figuring out which spells are the "Best".

I'm talking about things like Rope Trick versus Invisibility. If you're a wizard it might be good to have Rope Trick in your spellbook for specific situations, but a Sorcerer whose spells are limited? Invisibility is going to be significantly more useful in a wider variety of situations.

To me? It just seems like this creates way more space to make the classes more interesting than a spell list.
 

Vael

Hero
The main reason I choose to play casters more often than not is I'll take access to a higher level of spells over ... Brutal Critical? Another Sneak attack die?

Spellcasting is already one of the most complicated mechanics in DnD, and while I could see making some classes use different casting mechanics, I look more at the half-casters: Rangers and Artificers (Paladins are fine) that might benefit. Making Clerics only get 7th level spells, but they're still 9th level spells in power is not what I would call an improvement to spellcasting.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I gave reasons in a post where I was challenged about them.

Fair.

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.

So, it seems to me that you bury the lede by putting (3) at the end, because it looks to me that (1) and (2) are specific desired solutions for (3).


And different leveling schemes while retaining the same overall leveling scheme.

This sounds self-contradictory to me.

And then you have the design space it creates.

There's a problem with increasing design space - larger design space means more rules. The larger the design space, the more your rules bloat to fill that space. Given how common a criticism bloat was for 3.x, I am not sure ensconcing that in the core rules is really a great plan, given that 5e isn't really a lightweight game as it is.

For a 3rd party publisher to work up variations would be fine. But having a goodly amount of regularity or simplicity in the core rules of the base product does have advantages, and you'd have to weigh the improvements against those losses, as well as the issues of balance already mentioned.

Part of why I asked what actual problem needed solving is that there may already be solutions that could be applied without increasing the complexity much.
 

That's the point.

The "core" spells of a full caster, half caster, and third casters are different sets of spells. A ranger isn't throwing fireballs. That's straight up 1990s game design that we learned didn't work 30 years ago. A ranger is casting swift quiver and water walk to shoot a ton of arrows from the middle of a pond.
The big problem of course is that the Lore Bard stole Swift Quiver about seven levels before the ranger grabbed it.
 


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