D&D 5E Silvery Barbs - How has it looked in play?

How strong is Silvery Barbs in your game?


  • Poll closed .

Stalker0

Legend
Many months ago we had a massive series of debates about silvery barbs when it first came out. Some thought it was fine, some though it was incredibly OP.

Now that a lot of time has gone by, and the spell has had time to hit the tables and work through the system.....how have you found it? Did you find it OP, was it just fine, was it actually too weak? click the poll!
 

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SakanaSensei

Adventurer
I can't vote here because I don't necessarily think I can comment on balance, but I do have some thoughts on the spell.

I was originally fine with it. Did it seem strong? Maybe, but I didn't freak out about the strength of it.

Seeing it in play, I find it atrocious. Even if it isn't OP, every time a player shouts out "SILVERY BARBS!" the game grinds to a halt with forced rerolls, determining who to give the Advantage to, having to remind people to use the Advantage. It's also, so far, felt very divorced from the fiction and feels more game-y than I thought it would.
 

Unwise

Adventurer
It is a first level spell that can force a spell of any level through. Even if only once a day you use it for force through a banishment or polymorph, it is as if you had another 4th level spell + an extra action (not having to cast again) + a free advantage. It is insanely OP.
This is made far worse by the fact that 5e has very poorly scaling resistances. High level casters are very hard to resist. If you can add disadvantage when you need to, they are way too likely to push save-or-suck spells through.
 


I would say somewhere below "overpowered" but above "balanced", because it's not like existing spells are particularly well balanced. Next to Shield it's balanced, but it is definitely a top tier 1st level spell.

It's within an acceptable level of gamebreaking to me. I just wish they hadn't added an excellent and somewhat complicated 1st level spell that will obviously see a lot of play in a book nobody is likely to bring to game night.
 

ECMO3

Hero
It is a first level spell that can force a spell of any level through. Even if only once a day you use it for force through a banishment or polymorph, it is as if you had another 4th level spell + an extra action (not having to cast again) + a free advantage. It is insanely OP.
This is made far worse by the fact that 5e has very poorly scaling resistances. High level casters are very hard to resist. If you can add disadvantage when you need to, they are way too likely to push save-or-suck spells through.
Is this based on seeing it in play or in the white room?

I have seen it played in multiple groups, both as a DM and as a player and I played a wizard who had it myself and I don't think it is the most powerful 1st level spell by a longshot. Shield is WAY more powerful.

I would put SB as a solid spell, roughly on par with Cause Fear, Absorb Elements, Cure Wounds, Sanctuary and Dissonant Whispers.

It is substantially behind the best 1st level spells including Shield, Bless, Goodberry, Protection from Evil and Good, Catapult, Healing Word, Hex and Faerie Fire.

The biggest problem with Silvery Barbs is most of the time you try to use it to "force a spell" it does not actually change the outcome. All it does is cost a 1st level slot, give someone an advantage and worst of all use your raction. That is not all the time, but it is most of the time. The major weakness in Silvery Barbs is it is a reroll on a save or attack that has already landed. This means statistically you get to use it most is when the enemy has a high attack bonus or a high saving throw and that enemy is likely to make the reroll, while taking your reaction which can be crippling, especially if you are a wizard with truly game-changing reaction spells like counterspell, absorb elements and shield, which always land (or in the case of shield almost always).

The last Wizard I played with it went to 14th level. We had three casters in the party with SB (a bard, an Artificer-Wizard and me). The party was effective with Silvery Barbs changing a save on a spell exactly twice in that entire campaign and once it required all three of us to cast it to get to that as he saved and saved again and saved again and then failed (we used it to land Psychic Lance on Jubilex who was already out of legendaries).

We did use it to undo critical hits a lot and it is great in that role. We also used it to successfully cause someone to fail a hide check once and a grapple check once. We also used it on our own Barbarian to make him reroll an attack and give our Rogue advantage on a save against charm that he got to make at the end of his upcoming turn. That said, the only time my Wizard went down that entire campaign was when she used SB to undue a crit - the bad guy still hit, then hit 2 more times, then his ally hit me twice and I went to 0. If I had used shield instead I might have survived even after taking the crit.

It is a solid spell, but after extensive play it has not been close to OP at any table I have seen it on.
 
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jgsugden

Legend
I have a 10th level Aberrant Mind Sorcerer. My first levels spells are Dissonant Whispers, Silvery Barbs, Shield and Absorb Elements. All four see about equal use. I use the Silvery Barbs to try to force rerolls on saves, when needed, and to give PCs advantage on really important saves. It was been useful, but not overwhelmingly so. As an Aberrant Mind sorcerer that has it as one of my special spells, I get to cast it more than most PCs that have it.

I mostly use it to force a reroll on saving throws, but I also toss it away - sometimes on a failed enemy roll - to make sure an ally gets advantage on an important roll, such as a final death save or a second save against a petrification.

All in all - it is what I thought it was - solid, fun, but not overpowered
 


rgoodbb

Adventurer
Seen it in play twice and have thought about taking it myself.

The 3rd level Spirit Bard who had it, used all of their spell slots for it and had no others left before realising this. It was that powerful and easy to use that other spells weren't even considered. It was only after she was out of slots that we all realised.

3rd level Lore Bard used it to land a Blindness that had been saved. Changed the encounter from difficult to pushover. They used it a couple more times and didn't even think about using their reaction for Cutting Words.

I have build a PC with it, but then took it away before actual play because I felt dirty.

I think if you are choosing it over all of your other options consistently, you either just love that spell or it may be more powerful than any other option you have. After discussion, we have decided to either not have the spell or have it be cast at a higher level if someone really wants it.

If accessible, it's feels like an auto-pick and an auto-use. From my point of view, I personally think its the most powerful spell at the low levels. I cannot attest to higher level play. So I would class it as overpowered.
 

Unwise

Adventurer
The biggest problem with Silvery Barbs is most of the time you try to use it to "force a spell" it does not actually change the outcome.

My experience is from actual play. It is what pointed out to me how OP the spell can be. It gets worse and worse the higher level you go. At low levels it is just a different/worse shield. When used against attacks it is fine. When used against skill rolls, it is interesting. When used to push through spells it is OP.

The problem is that enemies generally have a very small chance of resisting spells at high level, unless you are using something that is clearly the wrong spell. It takes a 1/5 chance of resisting and makes it a 1/25 chance. At high levels it is the opposite of what you are describing. It makes landing a spell on an enemy way too likely. There is no real price for failing your 5th level slot, you just spent a 1st level spell and effectively get another try at a high level spell.

When it was letting you reroll a save on a hold person etc it was powerful but not insane. When a 1st level spell is basically giving you another chance at Dominate Monster, or Banishment, it is OP.
 

Horwath

Hero
I dont see SB as overpowered spell, but I would drop the advantage part as it is just a hassle and slows down play.
Maybe add little range to the spell to compensate.
 

ECMO3

Hero
My experience is from actual play. It is what pointed out to me how OP the spell can be. It gets worse and worse the higher level you go. At low levels it is just a different/worse shield. When used against attacks it is fine. When used against skill rolls, it is interesting. When used to push through spells it is OP.

When used to try push through spells it usually fails at this. If your table has a different experience, and it happens often, that is a statistical anomaly. You either have a lot of enemies with poor saving throws rolling abnormally great on the first roll or a lot of enemies with great saves rolling abnormally poorly on the reroll. People call it disadvantage, but it is not disadvantage as the triggering reaction requires a successful save.

When used to reroll attacks that are not crits it is also usually a waste for nearly the same reason.

The most power SB ever has is when DC is natural 11, in which case it is 25% effective at changing the outcome of a spell, meaning it will work once out of every 4 higher level spells you cast. That is a significant boost, but you don't have enough high level spell slots to make it a huge or OP boost or one that will often matter. Even at 20th level you only have 6 spells of 6th level or higher per day.

The problem is that enemies generally have a very small chance of resisting spells at high level, unless you are using something that is clearly the wrong spell. It takes a 1/5 chance of resisting and makes it a 1/25 chance.
Ok so here is the math on this and why you are wrong mechanically -

A 15th level Wizard has 3 spells of 6th level or higher to cast per day and based on this the enemy already has an 80% chance of failing. Having SB prepared and ready moves it a little bit to a 96% chance. However if the enemy has a 1 in 5 chance of saving against your high level spells, then most days you will not get to cast silvery barbs to "force" a high level spell at all, because the majority of days an enemy will never make a save against your high level spells to start with. If this is the reason you have it most adventuring days it will not be cast at all, it will take up a spot you could have something else prepared for. Considering the high level spells available, this means at 15th level you are preparing SB which will usually go uncast (for this use) when you could be preparing another 6th, 7th or 8th level spell and have more options available.

If you wake up from long rest with Silvery Barbs and you use all 3 of your high level slots on save or suck spells against someone with a 1/5 save, your chance of SB being successful at changing the outcome on one or more save is 40% per day assuming it is a combat heavy day where you burn all your high level slots. So on average it will be 2+ adventuring days before this works for you one time.

Now when BBEG makes that 1/5 save on the crowd pleaser and you have it in your back pocket, then yes it is pretty awesome, but a spell which is only useful for something once out of every 2-3 combat-heavy adventuring days can not be overpowered. That is "situational".

The mathematical relationship between the triggering save and the reroll ensures that successful uses are limited in a large sample size. If you reverse the situation and say your enemy has an 80% chance of saving (4/5). Then you could be casting it a lot, but it will not be very successful as it only cuts the chance to save from 4/5 to 16/25 (and when you cast it the first is already success so there is a 4/5 chance of saving when you burn the reaction. This means you will have more opportunities and use it more, but it will be unreliable and when it does finally land will be unpredictable. Further the cost is very high in this situation as it will cost 6 levels of spell slots and 5 reactions to reverse a single spell on average.

At high levels it is the opposite of what you are describing. It makes landing a spell on an enemy way too likely. There is no real price for failing your 5th level slot, you just spent a 1st level spell and effectively get another try at a high level spell.
At high levels most relevant enemies have legendary resistance, which makes it useless for this until you run them out.

Further losing a reaction is a huge price to pay at high level. Cast Banishment on a Red Dragon that is out of legendaries and the most common outcome is that he makes his save twice and you are likely down as you can't cast shield, counterspell or absorb elements.

For it to be mathematically likely to change the outcome the enemy has to make a hard save on the first roll. That does not often happen.

There are times when it is effective, but again that is situational.

When it was letting you reroll a save on a hold person etc it was powerful but not insane. When a 1st level spell is basically giving you another chance at Dominate Monster, or Banishment, it is OP.

The problem here is he needs to make the save to start with. Monsters that do that the first time are likely to do it the second as well. The chance of making a hard save is statistically small and the chance of failing an easy one on the reroll is also statistically small, making the combo (sucess-fail) always small.

Using the adult red dragon example above with an 18 DC, the chance of SB successfully forcing banishment is 21%. the chance of forcing Dominate Monster is 25%. That is of course after he used his 3 legendaries, so you had to get him to fail 3 saves that mattered before you even get to the point you can use it for this. How many spells are you going to need to cast to make this happen?

So if you manage to get through his legendaries, and if you manage to still have a powerful save or suck prepared, and if he makes his first save and if he fails his second save, and if this is at a point where the combat is still in question ...... if the stars align and all that happens, then yes SB will save the day and I have seen it do something like that. But that is a very small chance and it is rare that kind of scenario will present itself and the dice will fall to make it reality.
 
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FitzTheRuke

Legend
I can't vote here because I don't necessarily think I can comment on balance, but I do have some thoughts on the spell.

I was originally fine with it. Did it seem strong? Maybe, but I didn't freak out about the strength of it.

Seeing it in play, I find it atrocious. Even if it isn't OP, every time a player shouts out "SILVERY BARBS!" the game grinds to a halt with forced rerolls, determining who to give the Advantage to, having to remind people to use the Advantage. It's also, so far, felt very divorced from the fiction and feels more game-y than I thought it would.
I concur. It's not so much that it's too powerful, it's that it's a pain in the butt. It's bad design (and I'm not insulting the designers here - it looks good on paper - it's just that it's not good for the game.)

Another thing wrong with it is that it is so obviously useful that the spellcaster who has it blows through all their L1 spell slots in no time at all.
 

ECM I'm not quoting your post, it's too long, but you have multiple logical fallacies contained therein. First, you assume spending more spell slots on it is desirable. Spending fewer spell slots on it is more spell slots available for other things. It's like "Counterspell", you don't -want- to use Counterspell, you just also don't want the Fighter to be dominated and hacking apart the other party members, or for your Cleric to be disintegrated. So no, you wouldn't aim for them having a reasonable chance of making the save, you just would only use it when they did.

Second, you ignore that you do not need to choose to use it until and unless someone has made the save. So if there is an enemy with a poor save who makes the save in question, it will not "usually fail", it will usually succeed, as the attempt at using it for that begins in the state at which the enemy has already made the save in question.

Third, you ignore the impact of a successful spell is often a combatant being entirely eliminated. The most power SB ever is when the DC is a natural 20, because then you took someone you -know- made the save, got lucky, and remained in the fight to potentially cause huge problems, and you were able to make it exceedingly likely that, due to your use of a 1st level spell, they are instead eliminated from the fight.

Finally, you act as if you can only use it on spells you yourself are casting. It's not that 'most days you won't use it because no enemies are failing your saves anyway' (which sound like pretty easy days to me and a desirable outcome!), it would have to be that 'no enemies are failing -any- saves from -any- abilities of your party members'.

Also worth noting that Legendary Resistance makes this MORE effective, since normally to get a chance at burning one you need to connect with a potent enough effect to be worth the burn, and you want to burn through those ASAP. This gives you another chance at burning one with extreme action efficiency, helping guarantee you peel those away ASAP so your spells can actually land. Not saying spending your reaction on it is a 'free' thing or without risk, but your logic and calculations are flawed.
 

I guess the problem with this spell is there are an awful lot of people who don't understand the maths, and therefore think it is a lot better than it really is.
 

I guess the problem with this spell is there are an awful lot of people who don't understand the maths, and therefore think it is a lot better than it really is.
In what way? If cast when an enemy has a 80% chance of failing a save, but made the save in question, it has a 80% chance of success. You only choose to use it once you're already in the situation where they made the save. What specific misunderstanding do you feel people have regarding the math, or what math are you thinking of which makes it less effective, in the situations in which it would be used?

No one says of Counterspell 'the enemy may not cast any spells so it might be a waste', and while Feather Fall provides a powerful ability with an unlikely trigger (which is thus situational), this provides a powerful ability with a likely trigger (an enemy makes a save) where that trigger not arising likely means you are in a situation where you can afford to have 'wasted' a spell choice, as you're already winning. The advantage granted on top is totally unnecessary icing on the cake (which contributes strongly to it being annoying, the spell would still be worthwhile and quite powerful, and would be significantly less annoying, if it didn't provide that extra decision point).
 

In what way? If cast when an enemy has a 80% chance of failing a save, but made the save in question, it has a 80% chance of success. You only choose to use it once you're already in the situation where they made the save. What specific misunderstanding do you feel people have regarding the math, or what math are you thinking of which makes it less effective, in the situations in which it would be used?
Which means probability that Silvery Barbs actually made any difference to the outcome = 16%.
 

Which means probability that Silvery Barbs actually made any difference to the outcome = 16%.
Reducing the chance of a negative outcome from 20% to 4% may only be a "16% chance it actually made a difference", but it's also an 80% reduction in the rate of undesirable outcomes, and of the total 84% of situations in which it "didn't make a difference", you were not using it, and expended no resources, in 80% of those.

So if your party forces 5 saves on enemies over the course of a battle, and each of those have an 80% chance the enemy fails, 32% of the time, they fail all of them. Great! You won! The other 68% of the time, one or more of those saves are succeeded, and you're in a situation where Silvery Barbs can come into play, and in the situations where it comes into play, 80% of the time it results in the save being failed instead. Thus, the chance it makes a difference in the outcome = 54%, for a cost of 1 spell slot. The potential impact may be higher, some of those situations involve multiple successful saves and you could potentially use it on more than one instance if spread across multiple turns, but if we cap the expenditure at 1 we can keep 'the math' simpler. Far more importantly, the pool of 'negative outcomes' shrunk from 68% of situations to 14% of situations.

Your 'math' seems to focus primarily on how unlikely it is to come up in isolated incidents. In a party of 6, for a given single target attack, one could say that Shield only 'makes any difference to the outcome' if they are targeted, hit, and hit by an amount where +5 AC would change the result. So you could 'calculate' the potential impact as 4%. But such 'calculations' would ignore how impactful it is in the situations where it Does come up, and I feel strongly that you're making the same mistake here.
 

Reducing the chance of a negative outcome from 20% to 4% may only be a "16% chance it actually made a difference", but it's also an 80% reduction in the rate of undesirable outcomes, and of the total 84% of situations in which it "didn't make a difference", you were not using it, and expended no resources, in 80% of those.
And YOU DIDN'T NEED IT. You could have prepared a different spell instead, perhaps one which your foe would have had a 0% chance of saving against. As a highly situational cure for really bad luck, the spell isn't bad, which is why it is rated "good" rather than "suck". But it's a long way short of overpowered. And the alternative scenario, when your foe has a high chance of successful saves, is most likely to result in burning a 1st level slot and your reaction for no benefit at all.
 

And YOU DIDN'T NEED IT. You could have prepared a different spell instead, perhaps one which your foe would have had a 0% chance of saving against. As a highly situational cure for really bad luck, the spell isn't bad, which is why it is rated "good" rather than "suck". But it's a long way short of overpowered. And the alternative scenario, when your foe has a high chance of successful saves, is most likely to result in burning a 1st level slot and your reaction for no benefit at all.
Right, but as outlined in the very next paragraph, a small chance of it coming up in an individual circumstance rapidly becomes a large chance of it coming up during a large encounter. The more difficult the encounter, the longer it is likely to take, and the more saves you'll likely be forcing upon the enemy, and therefore the more likely it is to come up. A 54% chance of coming up and impacting an encounter is not "highly situational". Obviously the fictionalized 'everything has a 80% chance' scenario isn't real math, but it's a close enough approximation to demonstrate the point, which was ignored. A 20% chance of a situation coming up Per Incident rapidly rises to a high probability that it will come up.

Your 'alternative scenario' is absolutely a waste of a reaction which could be used for better things, both in terms of the reaction itself and the spell slot. It's a tactical mistake to use it to, for example, negate a crit when an enemy has 4 attacks against you with a high probability of success. That you can choose to use it poorly doesn't make it a poor choice or anything, it just means there's room for improvement in your tactical decision making and mental math on when the right time is to use what ability. I mean, I can choose to fireball the ground and hit zero enemies in order to start a fire, that's a waste, but it doesn't make fireball less potent just because I wasn't using it optimally.

If the scenario was over after 1 failed save or even 5 failed saves you didn't NEED to prepare another spell, you had more than enough gas in the tank to win anyway. If it didn't come up, it's because you were Already Winning. I'm not arguing that it is or isn't overpowered by the way, just saying, the logic being used to justify your position is flawed and inaccurate.
 

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