D&D 5E The Decrease in Desire for Magic in D&D

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
@DND_Reborn I have gone the opposite direction. I used to prefer low magic settings but now I love 5e. D&D magic is not exactly what I would but I am happy with it and happy with high magic fantasy.
Does there have to be a reason? Tastes change over time.
Personally, I've gone the other direction, preferring low-magic settings, and even humans-only settings. But of late, i've found myself more interested in gonzo. I don't think there's any particular reason, except maybe to just scratch an itch that hasn't been scratched much.
While I am happy for you both, and, no, there doesn't have to be a "reason" (which is why I said in the OP I wasn't really expecting "answers" to this...), the post by James in the OP really got me thinking about it.

I mean, spells like Tiny Hut, Goodberry, Teleport, et al. have been a part of D&D for a long time, and I've used them as DM and player in AD&D for a long time--happy to do so! But, for some reason, I feel spells like Teleport should be in tier 4, not tier 2. I feel like casters should get their proficiency bonus in spells per long rest. I feel like magic items should be super rare, and a simple +1 weapon a treasured heirloom.

Here's an example from 2005: my campaign (ran for about 5 years IRL) was winding up. The PCs had established a stronghold in some low mountains. Two of the creatures which lived there were Hill Giants the PCs had spared (from the Against the Giants series). Using their sweat (and other components/spells), the PCs crafted dozens and dozens of Potions of Hill Giant Strength. Enough to give one to every man, woman, and child in the castle complex (about 200 people IIRC). Oh, and every single guard had at least a +1 dagger or arrows, many had better weapons... Cast offs the PCs collected over the years.

Now, however, in 5E, I feel like this would be ridiculous.
 

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UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
You know, a funny thing, but while I like gonzo powers and spells, I am not a fan of item based powers. No strong objection but I would prefer spells or innate powers.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Does it make you enjoy 5e more to not only constantly disparage and complain about it, but to always assume the most cynical of reasons for WotC to make the design decisions they do (which you then pass off as established fact)?

I guess if it enriches your experience, go for it.
I enjoy 5e more when I talk about it to other gamers. There are plenty of things that can be done to improve the experience, imo. Its just that there are lots of people who seem to like things as they are, or as they are going to be. Disagreement is natural.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
D&D has always been a strange beast. At low levels, the game is low magic. But that changes as you reach higher levels of play. Magic becomes more plentiful, and many campaign settings follow suit, with high level spellcasters becoming powerful NPC's who shape them in dramatic ways.

Mystara had an entire nation (Alphatia, I think?) governed by a council of like 100 36th-level archmages. Greyhawk was reshaped by high level magic in both ancient and current times. The Forgotten Realms is lousy with powerful wizards, with Magocracies existing in the past (like Netheril) and the present (Thay, Halruua). Even Krynn had the High Orders of Sorcery who policed who could use arcane magic and how in the setting.

Think of all the things high levels adventures include- ancient dragons, mighty liches, travel to other planes of existence, powerful artifacts, remnants of ancient, advanced civilizations.

These somehow coexist in a game where eating a damn berry instead of a day's rations can cause some DM's a fit.

One of my first 3e games, the DM who had graduated from 2e started the game with us in a desert prison. We had to plan our escape, and the next part was supposed to be a gritty survival game. Little did he realize what my Cleric and our Druid were about to do.

I could farm out Endure Elements to the party and create water. As I leveled, soon I could remove fatigue, and even create food from nothing!

And the DM kind of freaked out about it, griping about the new edition's "power creep", until I pulled out the 2e PHB and showed him that this was nothing new- he'd just never seen it done before, in all the years he'd played.

Of course, there was a good reason for that. I didn't have to prepare nothing but Cure X Wounds spells, since I could turn any spell into healing if need be. Which meant I was free to load up on other interesting spells.

5e makes this even worse, as you can prepare quite a few different spells, and cast them freely.

So it's not that the game has gotten more magical, but that players are more free to actually look at their spell list, and prepare some niche utility spells they might not have back in AD&D.

Now I will grant, some spells have gotten stronger. I'm not sure why Tiny Hut is now a mobile fortress. Back in the day, I'd use Shrink Item to carry around a wooden house when we needed to camp, now all I need is a level 3 spell slot!

I won't defend abuse of Tiny Hut, but when people say that "using a rope trick to get a short rest whenever you want one is deserving of a TPK", that gets an eyebrow raise from me.

The spells were deliberately put into 5e. There's no way around that fact. This is the game, working as intended.

I don't mind if someone wants to run a low magic gritty game, but 5e wasn't designed with that sort of gaming past the first few levels.

Honestly, looking back at earlier versions of D&D, I don't think any edition was- it was simply that the game was broken up into tiers of play, and the lower tiers could be pretty harsh. You were intended to level past that, but how many games really did?
 


ECMO3

Hero
So, this post by @James Gasik really hit home and got me thinking about something...


For some reason (I really cannot tell you why!) the last few years I've been playing 5E I've desired a "low-magic" style setting/game. I have been all of keeping it more mundane, heroic but not "superheroic", keeping magic and magical items rare, making the game gritty with easier death and harder recovery.

And I don't know WHY I have felt this way... :unsure:

I began decades ago with B/X and AD&D and I was perfectly happy up to 3rd edition with flying wizards, teleportation, and similar magic mention in the quote above. I never had any problem with mighty magic weapons and regions of mystical mysteries lost for ages, where strange and unusual were common occurrences.

But, for some unknown reason, in 5E I don't seem to want it anymore, while it is part of the game (as James says...) and has been for years.

So, I am not seeking answers, but if anyone has thoughts or wants to discuss it, please let me know. It would be nice if I could find a reason why...
I think the desire for low magic is a niche. I think it exists, but I think it is a small minority of players that want that and is exceeded by those that actually want the opposite - more magic and better magic.

If you look at recent publications, the game is moving towards being more magical, not less. Strixhaven added magic to backgrounds (as well as an entire setting that revolved around magic), TCE and XGE made Rangers far more magical while also adding more powerful spells and new magic-themed subclasses to just about every martial. For the most part those three rulebooks are popular received great reviews and are widely used.

Meanwhile many of the low-magic power boosting options from the DMG are completely unused at most tables. The DMG has rules for disarming enemies, marking enemies and getting extra AOOs, gritty realism in resting, facing and lingering injuries from attacks. The DMG also has an optional rule for hero points that tends to favor martials. Few tables use these options even though they boost non-magic oriented gameplay and are RAW in the same fashion that feats are.

By comparison many, many tables ignore somatic and material component rules even though there are not optional rules for this (that I am aware of). So tables are willing to break RAW/RAI to the benefit of spellcasters and magic but they are not willing to use optional rules to benefit non-casters.

Finally I think you will see this on roll20 and startplaying games. If you advertise a "low magic" campaign you will get a lot less attention than one that isn't/
 
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James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
There's a little bit of prejudice against low magic campaigns as well, I've noticed. You say "low magic" and for some people, it conjures visions of super gritty games where you have lethal encounters with ordinary rats and upon slaying them, have to fight each other for a dented copper piece, lol.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
There are two different issues from my perspective. There's the cool long lasting effects that have pretty much been nerfed to ground so magic has no real permanence to it. Then there are the lame nope buttons that obviate stuff with no real chance of failure. The first we should embrace and not lose. The no you don't buttons should be shot into outer space.

In general we make the wrong choices on this stuff. By nerfing wizards instead of making fighters more awesome we create a stale game environment where players don't get any access to setting altering stuff.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I think the desire for low magic is a niche. I think it exists, but I think it is a small minority of players that want that and is exceeded by those that actually want the opposite - more magic and better magic.

If you look at recent publications, the game is moving towards being more magical, not less. Strixhaven added magic to backgrounds (as well as an entire setting that revolved around magic), TCE and XGE made Rangers far more magical while also adding more powerful spells and new magic-themed subclasses to just about every martial. For the most part those three rulebooks are popular received great reviews and are widely used.

Meanwhile many of the low-magic power boosting options from the DMG are completely unused at most tables. The DMG has rules for disarming enemies, marking enemies and getting extra AOOs, gritty realism in resting, facing and lingering injuries from attacks. The DMG also has an optional rule for hero points that tends to favor martials. Few tables use these options even though they boost non-magic oriented gameplay and are RAW in the same fashion that feats are.

By comparison many, many tables ignore somatic and material component rules even though there are not optional rules for this (that I am aware of). So tables are willing to break RAW/RAI to the benefit of spellcasters and magic but they are not willing to use optional rules to benefit non-casters.

Finally I think you will see this on roll20 and startplaying games. If you advertise a "low magic" campaign you will get a lot less attention than one that isn't/

What percent play the highest tier games where the most magic is?

----

I wonder if a lot of options are avoided simply because a lot of tables go for simplicity over complexity?
 

End result: magic has gone from being extra to being expected; and thus from exciting to ho-hum.
Whereas I would say magic has gone from "technically optional but practically required" to "technically avoidable but practically everywhere," and that it is very specifically the second half of the first statement which inevitably led to the second statement coming about.

The fact that 5e specifically chose to avoid including a popular, if controversial, non-magical class certainly didn't help matters...nor the fact that it enforced outright spellcasting on classes that had actually had their spellcasting reduced or eliminated in the previous edition!

When "fire lots of arrows" has been turned into a spell rather than a thing a mundane person can just do with training, it's not just "magic has taken over." It is also "even mundane things are being treated as if they were magical."

Magic has become both more widespread and more watered down.
 
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tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Whereas I would say magic has gone from "technically optional but practically required" to "technically avoidable but practically everywhere," and that it is very specifically the second half of the first statement which inevitably led to the second statement coming about.

The fact that 5e specifically chose to avoid including a popular, it controversial, non-magical class certainly didn't help matters...nor the fact that it enforced outright spellcasting on classes that had actually had their spellcasting reduced or eliminated in the previous edition!

When "fire lots of arrows" has been turned into a spell rather than a thing a mundane person can just do with training, it's not just "magic has taken over." It is also "even mundane things are being treated as if they were magical."

Magic has become both more widespread and more watered down.
I'd say this happened to the degree that eberron of all things lacked room to add its own flair to a meaningful degree. Rising is a great book for the setting but it's still basically stock 5e.
 

There are two different issues from my perspective. There's the cool long lasting effects that have pretty much been nerfed to ground so magic has no real permanence to it. Then there are the lame nope buttons that obviate stuff with no real chance of failure. The first we should embrace and not lose. The no you don't buttons should be shot into outer space.

In general we make the wrong choices on this stuff. By nerfing wizards instead of making fighters more awesome we create a stale game environment where players don't get any access to setting altering stuff.
I'm not sure we made all the wrong choices. A number of those "change the world" things really were too much. But I can grant that because people couldn't let non-spellcasters have nice things, we've had to move away from some of the phenomenal cosmic power.

I'd say this happened to the degree that eberron of all things lacked room to add its own flair to a meaningful degree. Rising is a great book for the setting but it's still basically stock 5e.
Yep, I can totally see that. Eberron worked in 3e and 4e. I'm not sure it works in 5e.
 

FireLance

Legend
I think my main issues with 5E magic arise from a number of spells that I find problematic, either because they seem overpowered, even if it is under specific circumstances or against specific targets, such as heat metal, because their effectiveness varies too much based on what individual DMs deem to be reasonable, such as suggestion, or because they can be used for cheesy (in my opinion) exploits, such as simulacrum. Hopefully, the upcoming revision will tone down, clarify or otherwise revise these spels.

I would prefer it if spellcasters had access to a smaller number of spell slots at a time (say, one spell slot per level of spell they can cast) and had to take short rests to replenish expended spell slots, but I doubt this is a common preference because it seems to me that players of long rest spellcasters love the ability to go nova.
 

MGibster

Legend
And I don't know WHY I have felt this way... :unsure:
Maybe because you're getting older? I'm not joking. As I've grown older, I find that I don't like the over-the-top super powered version of things. I just finished watching Cyberpunk: Edgerunners on Netflix, and while I enjoyed the story well enough, the abilities of those with a lot of cybernetics was more akin to what I'd expect from a Marvel movie than cyberpunk. And I'm like that for fantasy as well. In D&D terms, Lord of the Rings is low magic. Gandalf never throws any fireballs that I can recall. But there are some more concrete problems with the magic level in D&D.

I wonder if a lot of options are avoided simply because a lot of tables go for simplicity over complexity?
Bingo. It's why I don't bother asking everyone to keep track of their spell components. I just don't want the hassle.
 

Hussar

Legend
So, this post by @James Gasik really hit home and got me thinking about something...


For some reason (I really cannot tell you why!) the last few years I've been playing 5E I've desired a "low-magic" style setting/game. I have been all of keeping it more mundane, heroic but not "superheroic", keeping magic and magical items rare, making the game gritty with easier death and harder recovery.

And I don't know WHY I have felt this way... :unsure:

I began decades ago with B/X and AD&D and I was perfectly happy up to 3rd edition with flying wizards, teleportation, and similar magic mention in the quote above. I never had any problem with mighty magic weapons and regions of mystical mysteries lost for ages, where strange and unusual were common occurrences.

But, for some unknown reason, in 5E I don't seem to want it anymore, while it is part of the game (as James says...) and has been for years.

So, I am not seeking answers, but if anyone has thoughts or wants to discuss it, please let me know. It would be nice if I could find a reason why...
I've only read the first page of responses, but, here's my 2cp.

@Lanefan nails it pretty much on the head right off. 5e has made magic so common that it's not really interesting, plus, most of the magic is pretty much the same as every other magic. Back in the day, your cleric did not have ANY direct damage spells until quite high level. Now, it makes more sense for your cleric to be lobbing Sacred Flame every single round instead of attacking with a mace. And the only thing that really differentiates that cleric casting Sacred Flame to the Wizard casting Firebolt to that Druid casting Produce flame is the damage die. Whoopee.

Clerics and druids in earlier editions would be far more likely to be mixing it up in melee than lobbing spells every single round. Add to that the fact that pretty much every class has spells and we've gone from encounters where you might see a couple of spells to having spells absolutely dominating play every single round of combat and quite often being used outside of combat as well.

Low magic setting unplayable in 5ed?
Depending on how you define low magic, I'd say yes, it very much is. My version of a low magic game means that in any given encounter, you might only see one or two spells. Not multiple spells being cast every single round.
 

Hussar

Legend
Really all that's needed to make it grittier and lower magic is a different set of classes. None of the rules or monsters have to change.
Now this I agree with. It's always been something of a disappointment to me that while caster (full and half) classes have gotten tons of support, the non-caster classes don't get that many subclasses (since you only really have a few chassis to build on) and many times those new subclasses are every bit as magical as a caster - Barbarian I'm looking at you.

Yeah, I know that this is the constant drum beat, but, if we could get a non-magical healer class cough*warlord*cough and a few more low magic subclasses for other classes (a cleric subclass that trades higher than 2nd level spell slots for something that isn't spells for example) we could actually get a proper low magic setting off the ground.
 

payn

Legend
One thing no edition has done well is explain exactly what levels mean, and how magic is supposed to work/feel, etc.. Part of that is folks not reading the DMG (sometimes even the PHB) and just sticking to the way they always did it. For example, in 3E I had too many to count GMs that thought magic items were strictly rewards they decided if the PCs got or not. According to the rules, you need those magic items to keep up with the math and so running around with masterwork gear at level 8 isn't going to work even if it did in your '82 days.

Imma sound like a broken record here but I really wish the modularity idea had more legs from NEXT. Folks don't seem to like the idea of running zero levels or starting at 3rd etc.. to adjust the game the way they think it ought to play. Some folks want magic items rare and cool, others want them plentiful and routine. Why cant there be a base system with bounded accuracy and another magic item dial up that accounts for the added math and gives tools to both players and GMs to do so? Probably because its more trouble than its worth. 5E is hugely popular so why bother making it work for everyone especially when it would require so much supplement.

The other huge issue is the lack of interest in anything not current D&D. Many games provide exactly what folks want, but they are hard to populate with folks to get going. Internets has made it easier than ever, but still folks like to stick to F2F and their friends and so its got limits. So, here we are arguing, yet again, about how we want D&D to work thanks to another edition churn.
 


ECMO3

Hero
I think my main issues with 5E magic arise from a number of spells that I find problematic, either because they seem overpowered, even if it is under specific circumstances or against specific targets, such as heat metal, because their effectiveness varies too much based on what individual DMs deem to be reasonable, such as suggestion, or because they can be used for cheesy (in my opinion) exploits, such as simulacrum. Hopefully, the upcoming revision will tone down, clarify or otherwise revise these spels.
I doubt you will see any toning down. If they change magic at all it will almost certainly be to make it more powerful and/or more prevalent.

You might get more options for non-casters to get high level magic through a feat or something. So a 17th level Barbarian who can get a simulacrum spell with a feat for example, that way the cheese is not limited to wizards.

I doubt this is a common preference because it seems to me that players of long rest spellcasters love the ability to go nova.
It is pretty awesome.
 


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