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

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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


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.


"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
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.


Follower of the Way
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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