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D&D General Signaling Spell Signatures

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
So, I'm wondering what people think about defining different classes/casters by their spells moreso than, or I suppose "within/in addition to," individual spell lists.

What am I talking about, you say? You all recall (or know about) "spell spheres" for clerics in 2e...became "domains" in 3x, "domain spells" in 5e. Anywho, in the 2e spell spheres, there was a category called "All." The spells that were really basic "magic stuff all clerics [would naturally/automatically be able to] do."

So, I'm thinking...why did Mages/Wizards never get those? I mean, in the early early dawn of the game, there was the "Every magic-user starts with Read Magic" thing. But that was only and ever it. 1e UA introduced "cantrips" and they've stuck around. Sure. But things that are kind of treated as ubiquitous for mages, "Magic Missile, Sleep, Detect Magic, etc..." were still just individual spells that needed to be chosen[/found/learned].

There has always been SOME of this through thematically connected spells, (nearly always damage dealing): Burning Hands to Scorching Ray to Fireball to Wall of Fire, etc... But again, even these, not really "connected" and very hit or miss -cold/ice doesn't have anything similar, lightning damage is probably most spotty, forget about things like sonic or psychic damage.

Druids, Illusionists (necromancers, etc...), and other caster classes over editions have had similar "this is something practically every druid will take/prepare" but they've never been codified beyond "always in the spell list for each edition."

So, long story long, what I'm thinking/talking about is taking all of this together and, at least as far as I'm begun in my homebrew, coming up with a few "signature" spells that are definitive for the class...that have multiple different spells, increasing in power, throughout the Class' spell list.

Example: Cleric
1st level spells: Cure Wounds I ("Light wounds"), Divine Favor I (Bless), Light.
2nd level spells: Cure Condition I (blindeness, deafness, stun, minor poisons, mundane disease), Protective Prayer I (Protection from Evil meets Sanctuary?)
3rd level spells: Cure Wounds II (moderate wounds), Divine Favor II (Prayer), Light II (Daylight)
4th level spells: Cure Condition II (paralysis, magical disease, major poison, etc...), Protective Prayer II (Magic/Abjuring Circle)

And, like, every cleric have access to these spells... All of the time. Then, their spell slots can be used for these or for other, more specific spells they choose to prepare/pray for.

Example: Mage/Wizard
1st level spells: Magic Bolt I (magic missile), Shield I, Arcane Sense I (Detect Magic).
2nd level spells: Magic Storm I (10' diameter burst of elemental damage), Arcane Sight I (Detect Illusions, See Invisibility)
3rd level spells: Magic Bolt II (choose fire, ice, lightning, thunder), Shield II (a 10' radius force globe), Arcane Sense II (more powerful/exacting, maybe add some identify/legend lore)
4th level spells: Magic Storm II (expand damage types, increase burst radius ), Arcane Sight II (See Ethereal, Shapeshifted creatures, etc...)
...and so on.

This is stuff that every mage would know. You learn the "#1" versions of things, and the rest are just you increasing your mastery and understanding to give what you already know more or similar effects, "stretching" the magic you know to be more useful.

Or maybe it is better presented as an individual package? Like, a feat maybe? Here's the suite of thematic powers if you want to be an "Ice Witch" or a "Master Diviner" or what have you.

Are people getting it? Like it? Not like it? Or am I just rambling? It is entirely possible this is completely pointless/worthless idea that doesn't really change anything and I'm just rambling.
 

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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
While not quite the same, in previous editions when my group played with house rules that did not guarantee wizards new spells every time they went up a level (slot yes, spells no), we played with something similar, where having a spell in a particular lineage of spells allowed the wizard to train/research to get a higher level version without having to find it out there in the world or learn it from a friendly wizard.

So thus, if you have burning hands, then when you hit 3rd level you could use down time to learn flaming sphere, at 5th level you could learned fire ball, then wall of fire, etc. . . This was not automatic, you still had to spend downtime and make a spellcraft roll.

Anyway, don't use those limitations/options anymore - but maybe that's useful to your idea somehow. 🤷‍♂️
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
Anywho, in the 2e spell spheres, there was a category called "All." The spells that were really basic "magic stuff all clerics [would naturally/automatically be able to] do."

So, I'm thinking...why did Mages/Wizards never get those?
I think it may have been a deliberate choice to reflect the way wizards learn their magic. There is no one standard set of spells that everyone learns because it's all dependent on who you learn from and what you manage to pick up along the way.

Now, for a particular setting, it might make sense to have a set of base wizard spells, like you describe. For example, if the setting has formalized magical academies, then it makes sense that the vast majority of trained wizards would have attended an academy and learned the basic spells of the academy's curriculum before branching into more specialized magic. But for other settings, maybe wizards are scattered and secretive, and your choice of spells is a lot more haphazard.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
When I started running my second 5E game with people who had played before, I was shocked to learn the party wizard did not take detect magic. Not sure why, but in my mind every wizard should get detect magic, to the point of considering just house ruling it that every wizard has it. It turned out the player's previous DM allowed people to detect magic with an arcana check (and he was annoyed that I didn't).
 


"Universal" doesn't mean every wizard gets it. It's just a catch all category for spells without a school. Taking about 3e, of course.
I thought thats exactly what it meant. Spells that every wizard chose from whereas previous editions some of those spells were off limits to certain specialist schools iirc. Its been a long time so I might be wrong.
 


steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
While not quite the same, in previous editions when my group played with house rules that did not guarantee wizards new spells every time they went up a level (slot yes, spells no), we played with something similar, where having a spell in a particular lineage of spells allowed the wizard to train/research to get a higher level version without having to find it out there in the world or learn it from a friendly wizard.

So thus, if you have burning hands, then when you hit 3rd level you could use down time to learn flaming sphere, at 5th level you could learned fire ball, then wall of fire, etc. . . This was not automatic, you still had to spend downtime and make a spellcraft roll.

Anyway, don't use those limitations/options anymore - but maybe that's useful to your idea somehow. 🤷‍♂️
I like this a lot. Definitely need to work up a houserule/option sub-system about this.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
When I started running my second 5E game with people who had played before, I was shocked to learn the party wizard did not take detect magic. Not sure why, but in my mind every wizard should get detect magic, to the point of considering just house ruling it that every wizard has it. It turned out the player's previous DM allowed people to detect magic with an arcana check (and he was annoyed that I didn't).
I'm with you, in that it strikes me as something that every wizard would/should know. I've played, predominantly, mage/witch/wizard/magus type characters (and druids and clerics, but spells. Always some kind of spells) and always, always, always, Detect Magic gets taken and usually prepared.

Back in the day, I think we played that everyone got Detect Magic instead of Read Magic. 'Cause Read Magic was just a stupid concept (to our prepubescent minds). You had to study your spells, of course you could "read magic"...and if you couldn't, then how did you learn the Read Magic spell in the first place!?

In my homebrew system/setting, I've made Detect Magic a cantrip. But that's still a "slot" for the day, even if it's something you do at will.

Making it something wizard-types just "get/know," though not something as menial as an arcana check, is definitely worth thinking about.
 

It look very WoW. fire mage, frost mage, arcane mage.
The actual game don’t favor spell specialist. there is too much resistance and immunity for monsters to risk a specialist strategy.
 

the Jester

Legend
Just a quibble- there was actually a "universal" wizard school in 2e, but IIRC it only had read magic and detect magic in it.

EDIT: No, I was wrong- I'm thinking of "lesser divination". Basically because of read magic, all mages in 2e had access to low level divination spells, even if divination was normally an opposed school.
 
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Yes, that's pretty much the case in 3e too, but you can't really specialize in "Universal"
I don't recall 2E having universal wizard spells but that may just be my memory failing. In 3E I thought they introduced universal school and allowed for specialists to cast they didn't have access to in 1E & 2E? I'm on 2 hours of sleep so sorry if I'm misremembering or repeating myself. Were spells like read and detect magic, identify universal in earlier editions?
 

Rabulias

Hero
In AD&D 2e, I think the cantrip spell and the Lesser Divination school (lower level divination spells, which included read magic and detect magic) were open to all wizards.
 

When I started running my second 5E game with people who had played before, I was shocked to learn the party wizard did not take detect magic. Not sure why, but in my mind every wizard should get detect magic, to the point of considering just house ruling it that every wizard has it. It turned out the player's previous DM allowed people to detect magic with an arcana check (and he was annoyed that I didn't).
I've seen 5E wizards not take Detect Magic, since the Cleric had it as a Domain spell. Rather than spend one of his few spellbook spells on it, he let the Cleric take that duty (taking Alarm instead). I've seen a warlock without Eldritch Blast, pre-Hexblade, simply because he was planning Pact of the Blade instead. Not everyone spends their resources on things everyone feels they "should" have.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Back in 3E, I used to argue fervently that wizards should be required to be specialist wizards and the arcane list should go through the sort of divisions that the divine spells went through, with a handful of wizard spells (read magic, detect magic) becoming universal.

However, with the 5E wizard subclasses in place and enticements for picking spells in your “school” - as well as the overall smaller pool of spells, I don’t feel this is necessary any more.

Though it would be nice to have the spells somehow notated for other wizard subclasses, were they to make something like pyromancers, geomancers, numerophiles and so on.

(Utility, informational, attack, defense tags wouldn’t be bad either for all spells for tagging effects or abilities attached to these tags)
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I've seen 5E wizards not take Detect Magic, since the Cleric had it as a Domain spell. Rather than spend one of his few spellbook spells on it, he let the Cleric take that duty (taking Alarm instead). I've seen a warlock without Eldritch Blast, pre-Hexblade, simply because he was planning Pact of the Blade instead. Not everyone spends their resources on things everyone feels they "should" have.

I mean, sure. . . but it feels so basic.

Rest of the Party: You're the wizard, we count on you to know about magic things. . .

Wizard: Um. . . which magic things? :LOL:

Now, I am not saying a wizard has to do that or even have that spell, but it is shocking to me!
 

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