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D&D 5E Too Much Spellcasting in Your D&D? Just Add a Little Lankhmar!

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
There are two types of people in this world:

1. Those who think there is too much spellcasting in 5e.
2. Those who are wrong, and probably like elves, bards, and elven bard.
3. The innumerate.

Given that I am not wrong, nor a lover of elves nor bards, I have often thought about how to reduce the amount of spellcasting in 5e. I have seen multiple proposals for doing the same (reducing the number of spellcasting class, getting rid of cantrips, and so on), but one thing I have never seen is the Lankhmar Solution.

For those of you not familiar with Lankhmar, it was the place of adventure for Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in stories by Fritz Lieber. More importantly, and for our purposes, it was also a 1e Supplement- Lankhmar, City of Adventure. One of the primary advantages (or disadvantages) of this campaign setting is the way that it treated spellcasters. While there were various rules, the primary one that is of interest to me is the rules on spellcasting times. The restrictions reflected that spellcasters were rare and unusual, and that spellcasting was "less likely to influence the couse of a wild melee combat than in a normal campaign." L89.

Casting times changed, so that any segment (1/10 of a round, 6 seconds) was treated as a round, any round (one minute, 1/10 of a turn) as a turn, any turn (10 minutes) as an hour, and each hour as a day. They could have just made it x10, but this was AD&D, and nothing could be that simple!

Moreover, spell recovery was lengthened as well- after a spell was cast, a full week would have to pass before they could use the spell again, and then they would have to study their books for the usual amount of time to "re-learn" it (Vancian casting).

In reading this, I was struck by how this might be a possible solution if you wanted to partially de-magick 5e. While I have seen proposals before for changing the recovery time of spells (usually changing short rest to long rest and long rest to a week), I haven't seen any to change the casting time.

To be clear- changing the casting time, extending the casting time, would have a massive and deleterious effect on spellcasting within combat. It would make martial characters much more important for combat, and make spellcasting more of a utility and out-of-combat experience, with only limited uses for combat. The first major hurdle would be that 5e measures almost all casting times in terms of "one action" (or one reaction, or one bonus action). Spells that are measure in "real time" (minutes, hours) are the exception.

Because of this, I have the following preliminary ideas to make a low-magic, Lankhmarian campaign setting in 5e in terms of casting times:
1. All spells that are cast as bonus actions are eliminated.
2. All spells that are cast as a reaction are eliminated, EXCEPT for counterspell. That's it.
3. All spells that are cast as an "action" takes four rounds to cast; if the caster is hit at any point during the casting, they have to make a concentration check per usual to continue the casting.
4. All spells that have a time duration other than "action" take ten times the amount of time to cast. Augury takes 10 minutes. Scrying? 100 minutes. Raise Dead? 10 hours. Simulacrum? 5 days.

And that's my preliminary thoughts on the issue. What do you think? And by that, I don't mean, "I LOVE SPELLS! SPELLS ARE WICKED KEWL! YOU ARE A BAD BAD MAN FOR EVEN SUGGESTING THIS!"

I know I'm a bad, bad man. Just call me Leroy Brown. But I'm more interested in feedback as to whether you think that specific implementation would be successful at the goal of creating a campaign feel, in 5e, similar to that of the prior Lankhmar setting.
 

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All this would accomplish, is make no one want to play a spellcaster. If casting a spell takes 4 rounds, that is 4 rounds in which you could be dealing 4 times as much damage with regular attacks.

In other words, you've made casters 4 times as weak as other classes, thus greatly unbalancing the class system to the point of making spellcasters inferior to everything else.

I like the concept of magic causing corruption much better, as was introduced in the Conan RPG.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I think this is an area where our tastes and preferences are different. That said, along the lines of what @Imaculata sez, it seems as though you're going to make combats take more rounds, because there will be rounds where spellcasters simply won't do any damage.

I also think it'd be worth looking at ways to work around your flat ban on spells that were reaction or bonus action; it especially might be worth looking at turning some into "normal" spells, plausibly with their own specific casting times.
 

I think those house rules would be effective at making it so no one at the table plays a spellcaster. I don't think anyone will want to cast Fireball when it takes 4 rounds.

I imagine in this scenario you would have everyone playing nonspellcasting classes, with someone occasionally picking up Ritual Caster for out of combat utility stuff. Could be fun, but it's not my cup of tea!
 

All this would accomplish, is make no one want to play a spellcaster. If casting a spell takes 4 rounds, that is 4 rounds in which you could be dealing 4 times as much damage with regular attacks.

In other words, you've made casters 4 times as weak as other classes, thus greatly unbalancing the class system to the point of making spellcasters inferior to everything else.

I like the concept of magic causing corruption much better, as was introduced in the Conan RPG.
That's basically my opinion too. Spending four rounds to miss with an Eldritch Blast wouldn't be a lot of fun OR make spellcasting seem mysterious.

On the other hand, what if you make all Action Spells 4 x as powerful?

So that Eldritch Blast takes 4 rounds, but if you are successful you deal 4d10 force damage.
 

Sithlord

Adventurer
If you don’t want magic as prominent for spellcasters but u still want magic in your game and u want magic to consequences like on Nehwon you need to seriously look at how magic is done for the hellboy rpg designed specifically and alternate magic system for d&d 5E. It is great at accomplishing what you want.
 

Sithlord

Adventurer
If you don’t want magic as prominent for spellcasters but u still want magic in your game and u want magic with consequences like on Nehwon you need to seriously look at how magic is done for the hellboy rpg designed specifically and alternate magic system for d&d 5E. It is great at accomplishing what you want.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I think this is an area where our tastes and preferences are different. That said, along the lines of what @Imaculata sez, it seems as though you're going to make combats take more rounds, because there will be rounds where spellcasters simply won't do any damage.

I also think it'd be worth looking at ways to work around your flat ban on spells that were reaction or bonus action; it especially might be worth looking at turning some into "normal" spells, plausibly with their own specific casting times.

I think you're missing the point of this exercise. I was very clear-

To be clear- changing the casting time, extending the casting time, would have a massive and deleterious effect on spellcasting within combat. It would make martial characters much more important for combat, and make spellcasting more of a utility and out-of-combat experience, with only limited uses for combat.

The point of the exercise (just like it is in Lankhmar) is to make spellcasting in combat almost ... unusable. Not completely- there will still be occasions where it is possible (the hidden wizard who has time to cast a fireball at an advancing group, for example), but spellcasting will largely be for the utility and other spells, not for combat.

If people are waiting four rounds to cast eldritch blast, then ... well, that's certainly a choice!


(EDIT- if you are unfamiliar with the AD&D rules, you might not know just how much of a nerf Lankhmar was. Let's use two examples:

The fastest spells were "Power Word," which is why they were so high level (Power Word Stun was 7th level!). They took one segment, which means they now take one round to cast. And if you are hit during this time, the spell is ruined (no concentration check). You add the one round to the initiative ... in effect, there would be two rounds of attacks against you prior to getting the spell cast.

Fireball was also a fast spell- 3 segments. Now, of course, it's three rounds. Which translates into four rounds (see what I did there? ;) ) of attacks, any one of which, if successful, would cause the spell to be ruined.

Lankhmar's rules made it nearly impossible to cast during combat for 1e.
 
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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I think you're missing the point of this exercise. I was very clear-

To be clear- changing the casting time, extending the casting time, would have a massive and deleterious effect on spellcasting within combat. It would make martial characters much more important for combat, and make spellcasting more of a utility and out-of-combat experience, with only limited uses for combat.

The point of the exercise (just like it is in Lankhmar) is to make spellcasting in combat almost ... unusable. Not completely- there will still be occasions where it is possible (the hidden wizard who has time to cast a fireball at an advancing group, for example), but spellcasting will largely be for the utility and other spells, not for combat.

If people are waiting four rounds to cast eldritch blast, then ... well, that's certainly a choice!
I certainly think your proposal would accomplish much of what it's setting out to do. I see a lot more in the way of pre-combat (as opposed to in-combat) buffs, (perhaps) over-rewarding PCs who can pick the times/places for their fights ahead of time. Given that you (seem to) have more sympathy for olde-skool gaming than I do, that might well A) be intended and B) work for how you want the game to play out.

I think you'd plausibly get to roughly the same place by A) banning all classes except Barbarian, Fighter, Monk, and Rogue (and maybe Ranger and Paladin--though I know you dislike the latter), as well as all subclasses based around spellcasting; B) giving all spells a casting time no shorter than "one action" and the ritual tag, and banning non-ritual casting and C) giving Rangers (if you allow them) something to do with their now-useless spell slots. I think I'd prefer this approach, as it's not even pretending to be OK with full-caster PC classes.
 


Dausuul

Legend
In any campaign where combat is a significant element, this would make playing a spellcaster absolutely miserable, because 5E does not give (most*) casters anything to do in combat other than cast spells. Half the time you would get to cast one spell; the other half (when the party gets ambushed, or you are otherwise prevented from casting in advance), you'd get none at all. You can plink away with a crossbow for pathetic damage, or you can hide behind a rock.

If you want less spellcasting, just ban full casters and be done with it.

*I guess you could play a moon druid, or a hexblade warlock.
 


Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I concur with the other replies, you're nerfing spellcasters a lot here. That's ok as long as you're also nerfing all the other classes to match, but doing this to just spellcasters makes them utterly unusable compared to other classes.

Essentially, you should play a different game, because 5E is not fitting your style of play.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
And that's my preliminary thoughts on the issue. What do you think? And by that, I don't mean, "I LOVE SPELLS! SPELLS ARE WICKED KEWL! YOU ARE A BAD BAD MAN FOR EVEN SUGGESTING THIS!"

I know I'm a bad, bad man. Just call me Leroy Brown. But I'm more interested in feedback as to whether you think that specific implementation would be successful at the goal of creating a campaign feel, in 5e, similar to that of the prior Lankhmar setting.

To reply directly to the OP's question; no, this would not be successful. Unless the goal is to just stop people from wanting to play spellcasters, which it would. That's a round-about way of limiting magic, but you should probably just ban certain spells instead (or ban spellcasters entirely).
 

Oh, and anyone of an age/mindset to make a Jim Croce joke is definitely someone who should at least read through the Dungeon Crawl Classics book once. It's a modern game (built off the D20 engine, but almost all of 3E was ripped away from that chassis) built to emulate 1970s D&D, if 1970s D&D had been even more gonzo and if every book had been illustrated with black light posters and van art.
 

To reply directly to the OP's question; no, this would not be successful. Unless the goal is to just stop people from wanting to play spellcasters, which it would. That's a round-about way of limiting magic, but you should probably just ban certain spells instead (or ban spellcasters entirely).
I'm not sure. If you want less spellcasting in your game then it would make sense to discourage people from wanting to play spellcasters. This seems to be a good way to have less spellcasting in your campaign without outright banning all spellcasting classes.

You would have to also eliminate or modify ritual casting. Which is probably one of the more egregiously broken mechanics in 5e. I'd probably make ritual casting take at least an hour (perhaps an hour per spell level) and have a gold cost in components.
 

I like the idea. You'd probably need to revisit spell lists to provide greater non-combat utility, and perhaps add a bit of bang. It would also encourage multiclassing, with more characters like the Mouser who focus on combat and dabble in spellcasting.

Also, the DM would have to ensure enough for spellcasters to do outside combat. Long-term, it would probably evolve into a closer simulation of fiction: combat only lasts a few rounds, and spellcasters use fewer spells, but more powerful ones, to handle challenging problems outside combat.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I'm not sure. If you want less spellcasting in your game then it would make sense to discourage people from wanting to play spellcasters. This seems to be a good way to have less spellcasting in your campaign without outright banning all spellcasting classes.

You would have to also eliminate or modify ritual casting. Which is probably one of the more egregiously broken mechanics in 5e. I'd probably make ritual casting take at least an hour (perhaps an hour per spell level) and have a gold cost in components.

But no one will want to play spellcasters anymore, because they would become far less fun. Low-level spellcasters are already kind of boring to play, making them even worse will add to that. I understand nerfing high-level spellcasting, but these changes are far too broad to make spellcasters useable by players. They're far more likely to decide "Boo that sucks, I'm playing barbarian!"
 

jerryrice4949

Adventurer
I think you're missing the point of this exercise. I was very clear-

To be clear- changing the casting time, extending the casting time, would have a massive and deleterious effect on spellcasting within combat. It would make martial characters much more important for combat, and make spellcasting more of a utility and out-of-combat experience, with only limited uses for combat.

The point of the exercise (just like it is in Lankhmar) is to make spellcasting in combat almost ... unusable. Not completely- there will still be occasions where it is possible (the hidden wizard who has time to cast a fireball at an advancing group, for example), but spellcasting will largely be for the utility and other spells, not for combat.

If people are waiting four rounds to cast eldritch blast, then ... well, that's certainly a choice!


(EDIT- if you are unfamiliar with the AD&D rules, you might not know just how much of a nerf Lankhmar was. Let's use two examples:

The fastest spells were "Power Word," which is why they were so high level (Power Word Stun was 7th level!). They took one segment, which means they now take one round to cast. And if you are hit during this time, the spell is ruined (no concentration check). You add the one round to the initiative ... in effect, there would be two rounds of attacks against you prior to getting the spell cast.

Fireball was also a fast spell- 3 segments. Now, of course, it's three rounds. Which translates into four rounds (see what I did there? ;) ) of attacks, any one of which, if successful, would cause the spell to be ruined.

Lankhmar's rules made it nearly impossible to cast during combat for 1e.
I understand what you are saying but with these rules why would anyone want to play a Wizard or Sorcerer. What are they going to do during a combat encounter? Take 4 rounds to cast a spell or attack with a dagger? You are essentially making these classes unplayable unless you give them some martial abilities to offset these losses.
 

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