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

MGibster

Legend
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.
I don't believe any game system out there can be all things to all people. Not even GURPS. I think if too much modularity was introduced to D&D it would just end up doing a lot of different things poorly. Better for the game to have a solid vision and plan for how the game is supposed to be played even if it's not really to my preference.
 

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I don't believe any game system out there can be all things to all people. Not even GURPS. I think if too much modularity was introduced to D&D it would just end up doing a lot of different things poorly. Better for the game to have a solid vision and plan for how the game is supposed to be played even if it's not really to my preference.
That was the idea of 4e. State and deliver a clear vision. Provide a solid, functional core. Test it to make sure it works as intended. Fix it when it doesn't. Outside the intended areas of focus, give clear and effective advice and examples and get out of the way.

I'm not usually one to make arguments of this kind, but...if the influential and vocal minority responded so badly before, what would make that change now?
 

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.

When I said magic is balanced on the basis of the PCs not using it 80 percent of the time; I meant it as a pithy joke. I didn't expect it to be so accurate...
 

Voadam

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...
Sounds like a shift in what you want to focus on in the D&D experience, more the person and what they come up with than interesting combinations and uses of the magical toolkits.

As a player non-magical martials generally have to get creative focusing on what a person can do, while magical characters get good at using their magical stuff to address situations.

From the DM side you can focus on the immediate situation and the human interactions more if you are dealing in low magic, while common high magic with powerful effects can really change things on a big scale in many ways.
 

Voadam

Legend
My experience of B/X and AD&D as a player and as a DM running campaigns using published modules was that magic items were fairly common, a lot of them were simply adding not special numbers (+1 mace, ring of protection +1, +2 shield) and LFQW was a thing well before 3e. A magic-user/wizard getting a wand with offensive capabilities was not uncommon at some point after the first couple levels which often gave them attack magic options every combat round.

Reading Gygax's stories about running Greyhawk games and his PC play as Mordenkainen seemed to support high magic D&D as regular from the beginning.

The first couple levels were usually very low magic, particularly in 1e where an MU would get random starting spells so they could not even count on a 1/day sleep nuke or B/X where clerics had zero spells at 1st level. But magical options did improve, particularly after looting some dungeons and NPC's gear and gaining some levels.
 

Voadam

Legend
5e rules also just seem to be more open to a non-magic game* than almost any previous edition; maybe you saw that on some level and it piqued your curiosity?

*One would have to eliminate virtually all but 2 classes, but the resulting mechanics would be interesting on some level. For example, a monster with resistance to non-magical damage becomes quite fearsome.
4e was more open to it with Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, and Warlord class options covering a lot of fun options and core roles. Add in the DMG2/Dark Sun inherent bonus system and the expected default math could work with no magic items at all.

5e is OK non magically with Fighters and Rogues, and full healing on long rests and HD spending on short rests.
 

MrMcQ

Villager
I tend to use roleplaying to limit magic. Spellcasters are rare and the general populace are frightened and suspicious of magic, wizards need to keep a low profile. There are no magic schools or universities so the master/apprentice system rules, limiting spellcaster numbers in the world
Also in 2nd ED the DM had more control over the spells casters had access to and there were rules for learning a spell in the first place dependent on Int.
Just my thoughts.
 

There is a lot less magic items in 5e.
There is a vast amount of more spell-like magic in 5e. Lots classes cast spells or have very cool stuff that is magic in any other word

So I do think magic had become less special. As well as Spelljammer I am also in a 1st AD&D game. With regards spells it is very different.

As some said above the sense of wonder has gone in 2022 as IRL there is so much wonderment everywhere it has become mundane, compared to the early 80s when I started.
 

4e was more open to it with Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, and Warlord class options covering a lot of fun options and core roles. Add in the DMG2/Dark Sun inherent bonus system and the expected default math could work with no magic items at all.
Indeed. The Monk and Barbarian also provide plausibly non-magical options (depending on subclass and powers), so if you allow for the controller-style Ranger from Essentials, you can have a full five- or even six-person party without needing anyone who has explicitly magical abilities.

Martial Practices and some mildly-curated Skill Powers would allow these martial characters to still do a lot of creative stuff that doesn't involve magic. Any "actual" magic can then be handled through ritual scrolls or other highly-limited sources.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
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.
Mod Note:

You‘re making it personal, and in a pretty antagonistic way. Stop.
 

The point of death being so much closer to breathing down the necks of PCs rather than being changed up in a locked cage in the back room of another locked building with a lock on the building isn't so much the actual PCs getting killed. I've had more 5e PCs fall to monsters than 2e/3.x/pf PCs but in almost every case the 5e PC was suicidally played or just straight up executed with the player shocked it was even on the table. In 2e/3.x/pf though the PCs knew that life was fragile & acted with a sense of self preservation.
Who are you even playing with? Strangers? Newbies?

Because if this is your main group this is very hard to believe. Playing with largely non-strangers I haven't seen any increase in recklessness in 5E, in fact, because it's relatively easy to die, I've seen people be more cautious than 2E/3.XE/PF, where the usual cause of death was unpreventable unlucky rolls, or DM being a twerp. In 5E the whole "Locked in another building" thing is laughable nonsense. Three death saves. That could happen in one round, very easily. And it can happen in a much fairer and less bad luck/DM being a twerp way than the previous games, so there's less acceptance of it, and more active effort to avoid it.
 

grimslade

Krampus ate my d20s
I get wanting lower magic settings/style after playing for a long time. Part of the wonder missing from magic is umpteen campaigns of having spells slung around by PCs and monsters. Even a campaign with rare spellcasters and wondrous items will seem less magical simply from a 'been there, done that' perspective.
Although I shudder to a return of the scourge of dart wizards again, cantrips are why magic seems so much more prevalent. I think the design tenet of letting classes be their class fantasy all the time is good, but one of the side effects is magic use as a whole seems less unique. The implications of being able to cast Prestidigitation at will, infinitely are staggering on their own.
You can tone down the magic level in campaigns while still playing 5E. Limit classes to martial only. It will make monks and barbs seem magical.
Oddly enough, one of the most magic spamming classes, the Warlock, feels more 'magical' to me. Powerful cantrip, but limited spell power. Mystic Arcanum, at higher levels, feel precious because they are so few. They are almost the inverse of the Wizard.
 

There is a lot less magic items in 5e.
There is a vast amount of more spell-like magic in 5e. Lots classes cast spells or have very cool stuff that is magic in any other word

So I do think magic had become less special. As well as Spelljammer I am also in a 1st AD&D game. With regards spells it is very different.

As some said above the sense of wonder has gone in 2022 as IRL there is so much wonderment everywhere it has become mundane, compared to the early 80s when I started.

I think the sense of wonder is lost, not because of 5e is vastly different than ADnD, but because if we have played 2e, we are now adults of 40years and more who usually have vastly more experience with fantasy and just know how those stories work.
People I play with of all kinds of age, who were not exposed to so many RPGs as we, who frequent this forum, still have this sense of wonder, even from the most simple stories and the most simple magic items...
 


MGibster

Legend
That was the idea of 4e. State and deliver a clear vision. Provide a solid, functional core. Test it to make sure it works as intended. Fix it when it doesn't. Outside the intended areas of focus, give clear and effective advice and examples and get out of the way.
I didn't spend a lot of time with 4E because I didn't like it. Personally, I think 5th edition was fairly consolidated rules wise when it was released on 2014. It's drifted over the last few years though.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
From my perspective everything has come about because the focus of D&D 5E has changed dramatically from where it was 40 years ago:

Story over game.

Why do people think Tiny Hut breaks "the game"? Because people want to use 5E as the same game they did 40 years ago, where you have resources you have to manage in order to survive long enough to get to where you are going to win your prize (treasure, gold, whatever.) But 5E doesn't care about that "game" all that much. What is truly important is the Story-- where are the PCs going and what are they questing to do and who are they going to meet to accomplish what task? And what slows down that story? Meaningless fights and "random encounters" in the middle of the night by packs of wolves that serve no purpose because resource management is no longer a part of the game. Tiny Hut just allows us to just skip over that unnecessary speedbump that used to be all the rage 40 years ago, but is now a waste of time because it has nothing to do with the story everyone at the table is telling. Where we are going after we wake up is what matters-- rando fights against nameless creatures whose results will be completely wiped away after everyone wakes anyway, isn't.

Darkvision is the same thing-- a way to skip an endlessly repetitive set of "monsters surprise you from the darkness!" attacks because now you can see them more often than not. Isn't that always the clarion call of DMs who complain about the proliferation of Darkvision? That they can't surprise their players anymore? Well from the perspective of Story... the question would be asked "Why are you so desperate to attack your PCs from hiding all the time? Is there a Story reason to do so?" If there was a Story reason to do so... if the narrative of the adventure the party was on was for this to happen... then the DM can add in all manner of special magic / events /rules which could screw up, reduce, or even eliminate the effectiveness of Darkvision this one time in order to emphasize this part of the Story. But that's a special case for this Story-- not something that would be done all the time. And 5E is telling us that if surprising the PCs with hidden monsters doesn't matter as they are traveling through X corridor heading toward the next point in their adventure... then having so many monsters with Darkvision is just pointing that fact out.

And how about the Ranger's ability that specifically prevents the party from "getting lost"? That's there because there are only so many times you can run the "Whoops! You got turned around! Gotta find your way back!" trope before it again just becomes a meaningless speedbump that slows forward progress of the Story of finding the troll warren because they have villagers that are going to die if they aren't rescued.

I know this rubs a lot of past edition players the wrong way... especially those DMs who say "story" comes out of what the PCs do through random excursions and wanderings across an open map, and not an adventure path throughline that the DM has running in the background and which the players will pick up on and probably engage with to campaign completion. But I don't believe that is what 5E is. Here's my honest belief: 5E is not a game built for sandbox play.

It isn't designed to have a handful of characters just going out with a pack of supplies that have to keep track of on "adventures", trying to survive in the wilds, fighting monsters, and looking for treasure. That's a game style of older editions. It's not for 5E. And we can just go down the line of every class feature and spell that does its level best to erase a facet of AD&D "survival game" play. And yet because 5E is the Game Du Jour... people try to use it that way and get constantly annoyed that it doesn't really work to their satisfaction (without a heavy dose of modification.)

But for the rest of us... mostly probably newer players and occasionally older schmucks like me who actually prefer Story-based play and couldn't give a rat's ass about "random encounter tables" or having to detour from the adventure for three days to go look for fresh water because our "waterskins are running low"... having Adventure Path campaigns and an emphasis on Narrative over Game makes 5E our preferred edition. And in that regard... whether you have magic or not doesn't really matter because you can't use magic to skip the Story. The Story takes the availability of magic into account.
 
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Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
From my perspective everything has come about because the focus of D&D 5E has changed dramatically from where it was 40 years ago:

Story over game.

Why do people think Tiny Hut breaks "the game"? Because people want to use 5E as the same game they did 40 years ago, where you have resources you have to manage in order to survive long enough to get to where you are going to win your prize (treasure, gold, whatever.) But 5E doesn't care about that "game" all that much. What is truly important is the Story-- where are the PCs going and what are they questing to do and who are they going to meet to accomplish what task? And what slows down that story? Meaningless fights and "random encounters" in the middle of the night by packs of wolves that serve no purpose because resource management is no longer a part of the game. Tiny Hut just allows us to just skip over that unnecessary speedbump that used to be all the rage 40 years ago, but is now a waste of time because it has nothing to do with the story everyone at the table is telling. Where we are go after we wake up is what matters-- rando fights against nameless creatures whose results will be completely wiped away after everyone wakes anyway, isn't.

Darkvision is the same thing-- a way to skip an endlessly repetitive set of "monsters surprise you from the darkness!" attacks because now you can see them more often than not. Isn't that always the clarion call of DMs who complain about the proliferation of Darkvision? That they can't surprise their players anymore? Well from the perspective of Story... the question would be asked "Why are you so desperate to attack your PCs from hiding all the time? Is there a Story reason to do so?" If there was a Story reason to do so... if the narrative of the adventure the party was on was for this to happen... then the DM can add in all manner of special magic / events /rules which could screw up, reduce, or even eliminate the effectiveness of Darkvision this one time in order to emphasize this part of the Story. But that's a special case for this Story-- not something that would be done all the time. And 5E is telling us that if surprising the PCs with hidden monsters doesn't matter as they are traveling through X corridor heading toward the next point in their adventure... then having so many monsters with Darkvision is just pointing that fact out.

And how about the Ranger's ability that specifically prevents the party from "getting lost"? That's there because there are only so many times you can run the "Whoops! You got turned around! Gotta find your way back!" trope before it again just becomes a meaningless speedbump that slows forward progress of the Story of finding the troll warren because they have villagers that are going to die if they aren't rescued.

I know this rubs a lot of past edition players the wrong way... especially those DMs who say "story" comes out of what the PCs do through random excursions and wanderings across an open map, and not an adventure path throughline that the DM has running in the background and which the players will pick up on and probably engage with to campaign completion. But I don't believe that is what 5E is. Here's my honest belief: 5E is not a game built for sandbox play.

It isn't designed to have a handful of characters just going out with a pack of supplies that have to keep track of on "adventures", trying to survive in the wilds, fighting monsters, and looking for treasure. That's a game style of older editions. It's not for 5E. And we can just go down the line of every class feature and spell that does its level best to erase a facet of AD&D "survival game" play. And yet because 5E is the Game Du Jour... people try to use it that way and get constantly annoyed that it doesn't really work to their satisfaction (without a heavy dose of modification.)

But for the rest of us... mostly probably newer players and occasionally older schmucks like me who actually prefer Story-based play and couldn't give a rat's ass about "random encounter tables" or having to detour from the adventure for three days to go look for fresh water because our "waterskins are running low"... having Adventure Path campaigns and an emphasis on Narrative over Game makes 5E our preferred edition. And in that regard... whether you have magic or not doesn't really matter because you can't use magic to skip the Story. The Story takes the availability of magic into account.
That’s an interesting take.

IMO, darkness and hunger are, or at least should/can be, part of the story. Imagine the fellowship of the ring going through Moria with darkvision and goodberries. Booooring.

Now, maybe that’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but 5e’s solution to make it optional also kind of removes it. Tables that didn’t like those aspects could have just used plentiful glowing moss that tastes good.
 

gorice

Adventurer
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/
I think it's important to remember that the optional rules for gritty realism and mundane combat options are tucked away in the DMG, while stuff like feats and multi-classing are player-facing. I've never played in a 5e game in which players didn't request access to multiclassing and feats, even when I stated at the outset that they weren't on the table. On the other hand, using obscure optional rules that most people at the table haven't read is a tough sell. Likewise, almost every group handwaves stuff like inventory management and material components. It's just a pain in the arse and nobody has time for it.

I think there are two things going on here: one is a play culture that expects access to any and all player options as a default, has zero interest in a more curated experience, and no time for the kind of procedural niceties that might reign in casters. The other is design and marketing that actively encourages all of these things (unworkable encumbrance rules, at-will magic, and a constant churn of player options combined with complete disregard for the procedural aspects of the game).

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.
Speak for yourself mate! I've always hated superheroes. What's changed is the broader culture.
 

Art Waring

Redlined Ratrod
From my experience, magic in dnd lacks that spark, because there is no cost to the character to achieve the desired results (spell slots are not a risk or a cost, they are a managed resource).

In shadowrun and other games, mages can choose to burn more energy on a spell at the risk of overloading or passing out. As a player in these games, I witnessed SR mage players get very excited when they are assessing the risk of burning out. Its a trade off for more power, something dnd doesn't do well.

Dnd mages in 5e get their spells without any hindrances to direct power (spell components don't count, because I have never ever seen them tracked or mentioned in a game in person). If mages had more risk to casting spells (or any risk at all really), they would likely be more excited when they see the results of their efforts.

Risk brings excitement, instant gratification leaves players feeling something is lacking.
 

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