D&D General Should Schools of Magic Be Proficiencies?

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
A friend and I were talking about how…disappointing the Wizard is to us in 5e, and we went over a ton of ideas to make them feel like thier lore, but one stands out.

Each of the 8 schools of magic are a proficiency, and the wizard gets the most of them at level 1.

Each School has basic uses like a skill if you’re proficient, and you can’t learn spells of that school without proficiency (unless a specific feature overrides this). Might have an expertise benefit as well.

You also have to roll for many/most spells, with a simple table of results by check result. This is the most work-intensive part.

Or, perhaps you have a couple axis you can roll for, so it stays a general rule.

The other way to go is to have those skills be what spells are, and you always have to roll, unless you master a spell, in which case you can choose to just cast without a check and use the medium result. Make each school truly a magic skill.

Any of the above would help make wizards feel like wizards.

Other ideas:

  • associate a cosmic language with each spell or with groups of spells. So a spell or a school or “spells that deal with fire” might be based in draconic, or primordial, etc, and you can learn and transcribe it faster and cheaper if you are proficient with that language.
  • Magical traps and such require arcana, nature, or religion, to easily solve.
  • 4e style, arcana can do things like identify spells, magic items and potions, and provides monster knowledge for XYZ monsters, allow you to disable or suppress a magical effect for a while, reconfigure ritual magic and magic devices, etc.
  • Learning spells requires skill checks, and you can make those checks after observing a spell though it’s harder

I think there were more, but that’s what i remember.

Anyone got better ideas or thoughts about the above ideas?
 

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Stormonu

Legend
Wizards disappointing? That's a first.

I don't necessarily agree with a proficiency system for the schools, but I would like to see some better delineation and segregation of the subclasses that make a generalist wizard more unlikely and a bit of a prodigy.

My bigger beef is with Sorcerers - but a lot of that got fixed with the subclasses beyond the PHB (I hate the Wild Mage with the burning passion of all 9 layers of Hell). A lot of the "roll and consult table for effects" of your system above elicit the same sort of bristling I feel towards the Wild Magic Surge table.

<Edit> With a bit more thought, I'd propose something akin to how Savage Worlds handles magic/psionics/superpowers/wild science/etc. - a base list and "trappings" to personalize spells. That way you get a "base" level of proficiency and higher level effects would be adding tics, effects or trappings to affect the overall result.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Taking inspiration from Shadowdark (aka removing spell slots with spellcasting rolls against a DC instead), I'd actually make them Skills.

Charisma: Enchantment, Illusion
Int: Conjuration, Abjuration, Necromancy
Wis: Divination, Evocation
Con: Transmutation

Something like this anyway.
That is certainly an option. It does end up meaning that sorcerers are best at enchantment and illusion, though.

But that is a thing I’ve considered for my SRD game. Well, it has 13 Celestial Houses of Magic, grouped into 4 Cardinal Courts, each with a magic skill and a mundane skill, as well as certain types of people associated with each house and it’s ruling court, in something like a tarot inspired zodiac star chart.

But then, I like to get weird.

In case anyone is curious, the Courts are named for the Four Winds, each court has 3 magic skills with 1 standing alone at the center. Each also has a ritual implement, and [either a guiding/ruling star or planet, or a constellation.

The Houses are each named for a deity or other mythic figure, has a ruling star or planet, and a title drawn from the tarot, like The Magician or The Chevalier.

The magic skills are: aeromancy, animism, alchemy, beguile, geomancy, electromancy, enchantment (think enchanting things), divination, hydromancy, Invocation, pyromancy, Umbramancy, and the 13th House that is not, the dark star, [haven’t decided exactly what yet]
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Wizards disappointing? That's a first.

I don't necessarily agree with a proficiency system for the schools, but I would like to see some better delineation and segregation of the subclasses that make a generalist wizard more unlikely and a bit of a prodigy.

My bigger beef is with Sorcerers - but a lot of that got fixed with the subclasses beyond the PHB (I hate the Wild Mage with the burning passion of all 9 layers of Hell). A lot of the "roll and consult table for effects" of your system above elicit the same sort of bristling I feel towards the Wild Magic Surge table.

<Edit> With a bit more thought, I'd propose something akin to how Savage Worlds handles magic/psionics/superpowers/wild science/etc. - a base list and "trappings" to personalize spells. That way you get a "base" level of proficiency and higher level effects would be adding tics, effects or trappings to affect the overall result.
I want players inventing spells entirely.

As for the variable result, look at force powers from Star Wars Saga Edition for what I’m aiming at.
Schools of magic should be eliminated entirely.
Nah.
 


Give them different spell lists.

Have a very small 'General List' that everyone can take that gives general utility up to 9th level (like, 1 or two spells/level) edit: maybe wizards have these spells automatically in their spellbook
Have a Primary List and they get extra slots for those spell and can learn up to 9th level
Have a Secondary Specialty that gives you spell options to 5th
The rest of the lists only give options to 3rd.

This way, from 1st to 5th level, most wizards are generalists with a small bit of specialization (since they get a few bonus slots/level in their specialty. After 5th level, the differences between wizards really begins to stand out and their specialties take centre stage.
 

bloodtide

Legend
Well, "proficiency" is not the right word.

But not a "class like" thing, then yes.

Like first put all the spells in the right schools. Make Necromancy all 'life force' spells, good, neutral and bad. Make Evocation the control and manipulation of energy. And make NO universal magic: you want dispel, you take abjuration.

Then let a wizard pick three at first level, getting another one every four levels. Each level point increases the power of the schools you know by one, and adds a new school. And it's all or nothing, you don't pick divination, you can't cast detect magic. If a wizard picks Abjuration at 1st level, they are a 5th rank user at 20th. If a wizard picks Illusion at 20th level, they are a 1st rank user. And such.

A specilist only picks one school. That's it. But they get great focused power for that one school.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
A friend and I were talking about how…disappointing the Wizard is to us in 5e, and we went over a ton of ideas to make them feel like thier lore, but one stands out.

Each of the 8 schools of magic are a proficiency, and the wizard gets the most of them at level 1.
This approach has a lot in common with the Spheres of Power or Domain Casters from older editions – less breadth, more depth. It also, effectively, shares common ground with Equip-to-Cast systems like we see in Final Fantasy or certain OSR variants (Cairn maybe? can't recall atm).

Each School has basic uses like a skill if you’re proficient, and you can’t learn spells of that school without proficiency (unless a specific feature overrides this). Might have an expertise benefit as well.
For the idea of "spells as skills", there's an Old School Essentials "mage" class that was published for the official OSE Carcass Crawler zine which does this exactly. It's a great starting point if you're homebrewing something.

Basically, it takes the idea of thief skills (which have an X in d6 chance of succeeding in OSE) and maps Gandalf-like magic to that system. The magic skills are Detect Magic, Open/Close, Rally/Fear, Read Magic, and Suggestion. Then they give a few extras like light at-will, a boost to AC, being able to hit monsters immune to mundane attacks, a little healing, etc.

You also have to roll for many/most spells, with a simple table of results by check result. This is the most work-intensive part.
I love it, but Roll-to-cast tends to divide D&D players. Some people love it, some people hate it. If it's just for your table, do what makes you guys happy of course, but if it's for wider dissemination, consider avoiding "if you fail the roll, the spell fizzles."

I have a homebrew option for wizards that I borrowed/adapted from Jason Lutes' awesome Freebooters on the Frontier playtest that uses a roll-to-cast BUT the penalty for failure is never "you don't cast the spell", rather it's more "undesirable things also happen when you do." I think that's an important thing to bear in mind to make any roll-to-cast house rule more palatable (if disseminating the house rule beyond your table matters to you).

However, Jason Lutes' system & my adaptation are basically throwing codified spells out the window and going for something much more freewheeling that most D&D groups probably wouldn't be down with.

Other ideas:
  • associate a cosmic language with each spell or with groups of spells. So a spell or a school or “spells that deal with fire” might be based in draconic, or primordial, etc, and you can learn and transcribe it faster and cheaper if you are proficient with that language.
That's an interesting and flavorful idea! But distinguishing which language is associated with which school would be a nightmare... kinda like Spell Schools are a nightmare (some spells belonging to a school make perfect sense, others on the fence, others seem out of left field).

  • 4e style, arcana can do things like identify spells, magic items and potions, and provides monster knowledge for XYZ monsters, allow you to disable or suppress a magical effect for a while, reconfigure ritual magic and magic devices, etc.
These are definitely YMMV ideas. For instance, I like to encourage players to experiment, research, have identify, rely on bards / sages when it comes to magic items, so Arcana-to-Identify is less appealing if it's an "all or nothing, meet or beat DC" approach.

I'm pretty sure Tasha's Cauldron of Everything already attaches Arcana (and other skills) to specific monster knowledge checks. Personally not a fan, but there's an existing system in place now, if you want to use or adapt it.

The other ideas could be fun.

  • Learning spells requires skill checks, and you can make those checks after observing a spell though it’s harder
I recall a wizard player in AD&D getting really frustrated with failing % chance to learn new spell checks. I never found the rule worth the headache or frustration. IF you wanted to implement something like this, it would be more interesting not to make consequence of failure "you fail to learn the spell" but maybe some change to the spell or some weird quirk when you cast it (that's leaning more into weird magic tables that you can find all over the OSR).

I think there were more, but that’s what i remember.

Anyone got better ideas or thoughts about the above ideas?
These idea are controversial, but if they synch up with what your group likes, they can be a lot of fun. Definitely look at the OSR for inspiration (Dungeon Crawl Classics does this to the max, Shadowdark is a lite version), where roll-to-cast is being implemented in various ways. I have two class variations that I've developed, one for Sorcerer and one for Wizard, which utilize roll-to-cast in different ways - if you get far enough along and want to look at my approach, feel free to ask.
 
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