D&D 5E Thoughts on letting spellcasters change elemental damage as a rule...


I was asked to consider allowing spellcasters be able to select the type of elemental damage a spell can do regardless of the one listed in the spell. The argument was that some elements are less represented, and therefore, if you have less selection if you want to pursue a particular avenue...for example, there are many more spells that do fire and cold damage than lightning and thunder. So, for example, a wizard could cast a static sphere instead of a flaming sphere to deal lightning damage if they wanted to. Once they decide on the damage choice to prepare, they are stuck with it. I do know of some of the ways around this in the form of Transmuted Spell if a sorcerer and Awakened Spellbook if a wizard. Just wondering if anyone else has such a rule or if they have house ruled anything similar? I am inclined at this time to decline this rule. Let me know if you agree or not.

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I would probably treat them as separate spells. So if someone wanted an elemental themed caster that was missing spells, we could reskin some. But they'd have to learn them (or whatnot) as that new spell, and prepare it as that new spell.

I don't remember doing it for elements, but I've certainly been in games where some other spells were reskinned to have appropriate effects.


No rule is inviolate
I'd be disinclined as, for example, almost no monsters have resistance/immunity to thunder damage, but a significant portion do to fire and ice. If I'm a caster, I'd simply make everything thunder damage to avoid limitations versus demons, etc. It would become an exploitation.

Now, if you wanted simply to reskin spell appearances (e.g. a fireball explodes in a visible ball of lightning but still does fire damage), that's another matter and was part of an AD&D Dark Sun expansion book wherein no two wizard spells ever looked or sounded alike.


A suffusion of yellow
first off I have Wizards etc pick an elemental tradition in which they are proficient, which means a arcana skill check if they want to change the energy type on the fly

otherwise, energy ball replaces fireball and allows for different elements plus extra status on a failed save
-fireball ignites flameable objects and causes extra burn damage,
-acid causes flesh rot plus burn damage,
-ice causes things to freeze plus burn damage,
-electricity causes knock prone and burn damage

my favourite variant is Hail of thorns which causes the bleeding condition

if more monsters have fire resistance than thunder, then the issue is to be more creative with monsters rather than less permissive with spells

Savage Wombat

It always bothered me a little, because it makes Lightning Bolt a strictly inferior spell to Fireball. Not a deal-breaker, it just bugs me.

I've always wanted to have elemental damage be consistent across spells, sort of like Tonguez is describing.


I've been allowing swapping elements since 1st ed. Although I've always insisted that they're different spells.

Swapping out elements on the fly is fine but... it's a decent advantage. So I'd maybe allow a metamagic feat be applied to it. Hmm, given this is 5e and feats are hard to come by, maybe just the one-time feat tax. Thereafter the caster can swap out freely.

Unfortunately, the damage types have largely been balanced around resistance and immunity. Fire tends to do the greatest amount of damage, with psychic dealing the least, since there are a ton of monsters resistant/immune to fire. Elemental damage is the least affected, but thunder is less resisted than any of the others. I would suggest working with them on individual spells they want altered, creating new spells with appropriate damage and secondary effects.


That comes with sorcerer and elemental magic.

Also with elemental adept feat.

Also try if you like elemental mastery reworked feat as a house rule:

+1 to int, wis or cha
Pick element out of acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison and thunder.
You can ignore resistance to that elemental damage and treat immunity as resistance.

that way you keep all effects tied to specific element, but can deal with all, or almost all monsters.


All great feedback and lots of stuff for me to consider. The player in this case wants to basically have all his pyromancer's spells affect with fire damage because of his infernal and draconic blood lines...basically having an innate relationship with fire. At this point, I am thinking of having that manipulation be completely possible but at some risk of not working or completely fizzling. So, for example, learn the spell lightning bolt...but when you go to cast it, roll arcana using proficiency + charisma against the spell's difficulty. If if the check beats 10+spell level, the damage is transformed. If you don't meet or beat that DC, it goes off as lightning. If you roll a 1, it fizzles and the spell is wasted. Too harsh? Too easy? Thanks again for weighing in on the myriad of options.


Morkus from Orkus
I typically just allow the learned spell to be in a new element. So if a player wanted an ice wizard, he could take freezing hands that is burning hands with cold damage, and freezing ray which is just a cold version of scorching ray, etc.

If your player is going to go fire, he should take elemental adept(fire). A lot of creatures are resistant or immune to fire.


One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
Slightly tangentially, but i think it’d be really cool of there were energy damage specific feats that that gave them extra effects, like how slasher, piercer and crusher feats do the same for their respective weapon damages, maybe pair up a common with an uncommon damage type per feat


Mind Mage
The flavor of a spell is in some ways more important than the mechanics − narrative decisions happen before dice might roll.

So, a change in a spell requires the entire spell to be rewritten for DM approval.

In the mean time, the player and the DM need to both agree on the new spell.

A benefit of rewriting a spell is, the player gets to have the spell named after the character who "spell researched" it.

Also, this stuff is better to implement while leveling. But sometimes, between sessions is ok.

the Jester

Not for me, thanks. The thing is, not all damage types are the same. More creatures are resistant to fire than to thunder, for instance. And being able to tune your spells to the challenge you face makes them more powerful. This is one of the things that made energy damage dealing psionic powers outperform spells of the same level in 3e.

I'm on the somewhat more conservative end of the "they have to take them as separate spells" side here. I'd let a player rewrite several spells to have the damage type necessary to make their theme fulfilling, but it would have to be ones without other effects that became nonsensical, generally they would need case by case DM approval, and it would be a limited number to keep things from becoming unwieldy.

Doing it on th fly "on preparation" overly favors prepared spellcasters in a game that already favors prepared spellcasters.


Unserious gamer
I'd allow it when the spell was learned, but you can't change it afterwards. If you want a different version, you have to learn it.
That's exactly how I'd do it (and have done it). Certain damage types might be off the table if the corresponding special effect of the spell doesn't make sense, or the special effect might be modified.

Also with elemental adept feat.
Minor nitpick: Elemental Adept does not grant this feature. You choose which element its benefits apply to, and can take it multiple times for different elements, but it doesn't change spells you cast. However, the Metamagic Adept feat would allow any spellcaster to use Transmuted Spell twice a day, just as a Sorcerer could.

As for allowing this as a general effect? No, I would not permit it as a general rule. I would allow Wizard characters to research a modification of a spell, which would let them choose to prepare either version (or both, if they're really in love with that spell); I would allow Sorcerer characters to seek out training or guidance from creatures of their bloodline affinity to try to guide them in developing such a spell on their own; I would allow a Warlock character to research ancient grimoires to see if there's some secret clause or exchange that could allow them to cast such a spell; etc. IOW, I would absolutely support the player building toward specific elemental variants of some spells, but only with explicit DM approval. Scorching ray using thunder damage is not kosher, I don't want a return of sonic-substituted spells becoming the default.


My general house rule is "creative upcasting." It's not hard codified, just describe how you want to change the spell. If it's more than just cosmetic, then I will try to give a reasonable response like "sure, you can cast a thundering version of fireball, but you'll need to upcast it by two levels, or by one level and either reduce damage or range, and it will make a sound audible out to 300 feet."
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