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

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Here are some better ways to limit spellcasting, without breaking the game:

Play in a setting in which public spellcasting is against the law. I've actually used this for a campaign. Sorcery was a crime and could only be done in secret. Convicted spellcasters received a brand on their forehead, forever marking them as criminals. Anyone with that mark could expect to be unwelcome in many places.

Give every spell a cooldown, forcing spellcasters to use varied spells, and not solve everything with the same spells.

Use Conans corruption system. Conan made spellcasting more powerful AND more dangerous. Each succesful spell, made the next spell even more powerful. But sorcerers risked corruption of their own soul with each spell. This rule makes spellcasters more conservative with magic use, and also makes them more fun to play.

Now these are some great solutions... using magic and immediately having the inquisition hunting you down, is a great story hook...
 

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Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
I like the cooldown idea from @Imaculata. I also like the idea of going back to the old "Initiative Count" timers to determine when spells go off after they've been cast. That way people wind up missing shots because their target broke line of sight or moved out of fireball formation. Other fun options could be limiting spellcasting in combat to 3rd level spells and making 4th level or higher magic into Ritual-Style spellslots.

But the OP's suggestion wouldn't just "Reduce" mages. It would eliminate them.
 

ECMO3

Adventurer
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.
I think you should just play a no-magic campaign. Do monsters spells or spell-like abilities change too? This is a major debuff to a lich.
 

ECMO3

Adventurer
I like the cooldown idea from @Imaculata. I also like the idea of going back to the old "Initiative Count" timers to determine when spells go off after they've been cast.

But the OP's suggestion wouldn't just "Reduce" mages. It would eliminate them.
I think if you do that for spells you need to do it for weapons or other things as well using speed factors and such.
 




Not really in 5e; there are far too many of them.
One easy way to have lower magic game is to ban full casters. That' still a lot of classes banned, but also leaves a decent selection to choose from and allows having some magic. And you can still have the caster archetypes, your 'wizard' just is an artificer, your 'cleric' is a paladin and your 'druid' is a ranger.
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
One easy way to have lower magic game is to ban full casters. That' still a lot of classes banned, but also leaves a decent selection to choose from and allows having some magic. And you can still have the caster archetypes, your 'wizard' just is an artificer, your 'cleric' is a paladin and your 'druid' is a ranger.
Yeah, I did something similar back in 3e and it worked out fine. It would work even better in 5e because you really don't need a healer like you did in previous editions.

I'd be tempted to allow warlocks in such a setting, though, but I just like them and they have enough limits to not break the universe quite as badly.

With the cleanly stated caveat that magic is illegal and heresy and so on.
 

That's like saying my grandfather was in the military so I should join the miltary too. We're almost 50 years and 5 editions away from OD&D. The focus doesn't need to be on combat because the games earliest roots were in wargaming.
I was specifically responding to you saying it has become combat-focused. It started off combat-focused, remained combat-focused and is combat-focused to this day.

You can disagree with that focus -- I think we probably have something in common there -- but I don't think we can act like this focus is new or hasn't existed consistently throughout the life of the brand.
Otherwise, why are there rules for so many non-combat events? Why all the spells for boosting social skills or overcoming non-combat challenges? As it's written, D&D allows for a vast range of different challenges where spellcasters can shine. They don't need to also shine in the one area where martials shine, just because they might be bored for a few rounds.
Maybe. It's easy to test this. Get a copy of 1E and run it a few times and ask the players running spellcasters what they thought. Having played 1E, BD&D, 2E, 3E and 5E, I think there are good reasons why they changed things to how they are now, but I think it might be that one has to play with the older style of spellcasting to appreciate that.
 


For someone who claims to dislike elves, this certainly makes them a better option than many races.
Spellcasters able to fight decently without casting spells will be the best choice: Bladesingers, Valor Bards, Swords Bards and Moon Druids.
You'll be up to your pointy ears in trilling fops, and furries.

Any other casters will have to make sure they get a decent ranged and/or Finesse weapon from their race in order to have an effective action during combat. The sort of race commonly found frolicking through the woods singing roundelays.

Also Paladins. They can burn their spell slots just fine, and laying on hands isn't a spell, so they're good there as well. These rules aren't going to limit your average elven paladin when they can just smite away with both rapiers just as soon as they mince up to their opponent.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
One easy way to have lower magic game is to ban full casters. That' still a lot of classes banned, but also leaves a decent selection to choose from and allows having some magic. And you can still have the caster archetypes, your 'wizard' just is an artificer, your 'cleric' is a paladin and your 'druid' is a ranger.
I regularly ban full casters (sometimes ALL casters) except the Warlock and it works great.

In addition I generally give warlocks the Ritual Caster feat, and it solves SO many spellcaster issues. With the right pact/patron, Warlocks are excellent stand-ins for other casters if the goal is reducing spellcaster overload.
 

In addition I generally give warlocks the Ritual Caster feat, and it solves SO many spellcaster issues. With the right pact/patron, Warlocks are excellent stand-ins for other casters if the goal is reducing spellcaster overload.
It doesn't exactly cut down on the pew pew, though, unless you ban Eldritch Blast, too.
 

Eubani

Adventurer
A simple way to reduce the number of spells flying around but not harshly punish would be to have spell casters need to make concentration checks if they take damage between the end of their previous turn and the beginning of their current one. What this means that martial characters can lockdown an enemy caster and allied martial characters can work in concert to increase the viability of their teams magical assets.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
It doesn't exactly cut down on the pew pew, though, unless you ban Eldritch Blast, too.
That's true; damage dealing cantrips are a real problem. Eldritch blast in particular.

Oddly enough, we've found that reskinning the spell makes it WAY less irritating. For example, one of my players had a warlock devoted to Shub-Niggurath (so GOO, with minor changes per the Primeval Thule Player's Companion).

We reskinnined EB so that instead of being a laser beam, branches and vines burst from the victim's body then retracted, all in a split second. All mechanical spell effects remained. It worked like, well, magic.
 


NotAYakk

Legend
As noted, Power Word spells where still fast in the old game. So how about we mess with that, instead of 4 rounds.

So
(a) Start with gritty rests. It takes a week of vacation to get the benefits of a long rest. During this week you can engage in downtime activities, and you gain the benefits of a short rest each night. If you do anything as intense as fighting, each time you take damage, and for each non non-cantrip spell on a day, that day does not count, and you lose 1 additional day towards your long rest (capping out at 7 days).

For slow spells that take more than 1 action? 10x casting time.

For spells that are 1 bonus action or action, start with the number of actions (0 for bonus action spells), then add 1 action for every component (VSM) the spell requires.

That is how long the spell takes to cast. You can only spend 1 action per round on casting a spell (no action surge speedup).

Removing components with metamagic does not speed the spell up, but quicken spell removes 1 action.

Each turn prior to the one where you cast the spell, you make a spellcasting attribute check (you have proficiency) or against a DC of 10+twice spell slot level.

Fail by 5 or more, or natural 1: Spell fizzles and fails.
Fail by less than 5: You don't progress on the spell; the spell requires another action.
Succeed by less than 5: You continue.
Succeed by 5 or more, or natural 20: When the spell is cast, it has +1 to hit, +1 DC and is cast as if it was using a slot 1 level higher. If it is a cantrip, it is cast as if you where 1 tier higher in level (progress beyond T4 is usually obvious).

While casting a spell, if you take damage you have to make a concentration saving throw; on failure, you the spell is lost as well as any effects you are concentrating on.

If the spell is lost due to stopping casting, concentration check failure, or failing a spellcasting check by 5 or more, you lose any slots and material components for the spell.

---

So magic missile has 2 components, so it takes 3 actions (and hence 3 rounds) to cast. If cast using a 1st level slot, the DC is 12. A level 1 wizard with 13 int has a +5 bonus. Each round they roll 1d20+5.

So at +5 bonus against DC 12 we get:
On a 1, the spell fizzles.
On a 2-6, they fail, and the spell requires another round.
On a 7-11, they succeed.
On a 12+, they succeed, and get a bonus.

After 2 rounds...

6.25% 0 progress has been made; delayed 2 rounds.
9.75% spell has failed.
6.25% spell casts normally next round.
22.5% spell casts with a +1 bump next round.
20.25% spell casts with a +2 bump next round.
12.5% spell is delayed 1 round
22.5% spell is delayed 1 round, but also has a +1 bump

---

This makes combat magic less practical, but it at least makes up for a it a bit. It also provides a minigame (roll to see if you boost your spell, or it fizzles, each round), so the spellcaster isn't doing nothing at all on their turn.
 

Also Paladins. They can burn their spell slots just fine, and laying on hands isn't a spell, so they're good there as well. These rules aren't going to limit your average elven paladin when they can just smite away with both rapiers just as soon as they mince up to their opponent.
Or rune knights, and a fair few other classes that have "magic" without actually having spells, or can burn slots to fuel other abilities - quite common now.
 

dave2008

Legend
I like the general idea, but I think a easier approach is to simply double the casting time. I would also prefer not giving up bonus and reaction spells, but maybe limit them in some other way. Not sure what that answer is though.
 

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