5E UA Spell Versatility: A deeper dive

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Just to clear this up for some people.

DND Beyond just dropped this which is worth the watch. URL is time stamped to about 7m into it, where Crawford is talking about Spell Versatility of the Sorcerer.

DND Beyond Talks with Jeremy Crawford
The Ranger and Fighter video also clears some misunderstandings up, although it bums me out that Crawford expects to see Hunter’s Mark as part of Favored Foe require concentration in the next step of testing. That’s the main thing that makes it work as a replacement feature. I don’t actually care half as much about the spell slots or it not eating a known spell as I do about HM precluding the use of the Ranger’s Smite-esque spells and buffs.
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
The Ranger and Fighter video also clears some misunderstandings up, although it bums me out that Crawford expects to see Hunter’s Mark as part of Favored Foe require concentration in the next step of testing. That’s the main thing that makes it work as a replacement feature. I don’t actually care half as much about the spell slots or it not eating a known spell as I do about HM precluding the use of the Ranger’s Smite-esque spells and buffs.
The concentration thing is a big deal for stacking. As it is now, you can stack HM with Hex from Magic Initiate or something like the Smite type Ranger spells.

I'd like to see the math on how it worked with the different spells stacked vs. a fighter or barbarian's damage output of similar level.

A quick look has: 1d8 Bow +1d6 HM + 3-4 Ability = 11-12 per hit at 1st level for a couple of HM hours potentially per day

Barbarian has 2d6/1d12 + 3-4 Ability + 2 Rage = 11.5-13 per hit for 2 combats a day, 9.5-11 the rest

Fighter (BM) could have similar: 2d6/1d12 + 3-4 Ability +1d8 for 4 hits per Short Rest = 14-15.5. 9.5-11 the rest
Or Fighter (BM) Duelist could have 1d8 + 3-4 + 2 + 1d8 for 4 hits = 14-15, 9.5-11 the rest

So even without stacking any other spells on there, the Ranger at 1st level is going to dish out more damage on average than a fighter or barbarian for most of your combats in a day. Doing that without Concentration is a pretty big deal.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The concentration thing is a big deal for stacking. As it is now, you can stack HM with Hex from Magic Initiate or something like the Smite type Ranger spells.

I'd like to see the math on how it worked with the different spells stacked vs. a fighter or barbarian's damage output of similar level.

A quick look has: 1d8 Bow +1d6 HM + 3-4 Ability = 11-12 per hit at 1st level for a couple of HM hours potentially per day

Barbarian has 2d6/1d12 + 3-4 Ability + 2 Rage = 11.5-13 per hit for 2 combats a day, 9.5-11 the rest

Fighter (BM) could have similar: 2d6/1d12 + 3-4 Ability +1d8 for 4 hits per Short Rest = 14-15.5. 9.5-11 the rest
Or Fighter (BM) Duelist could have 1d8 + 3-4 + 2 + 1d8 for 4 hits = 14-15, 9.5-11 the rest

So even without stacking any other spells on there, the Ranger at 1st level is going to dish out more damage on average than a fighter or barbarian for most of your combats in a day. Doing that without Concentration is a pretty big deal.
I mean, I’d settle for it replacing the second favored enemy choice, ie waiting till a later level to get it without concentration. But the main thing is, the ranger feels like a bootleg Paladin because it can’t ever stack anything.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Git patient. It doesn't take long to level up, and it's not like anyone accidently took a spell that was completely useless, because there aren't any.
As noted by the interview, how long it takes to level varies from casmpaign to campaign. Some might do 1-2 levels per year, others a month.

My game varies by tier, at 9th we are now yo around 10 sessions per level over a three month period - four levels a year. It will slow a bit more after they hit tier-3.

Is that " long" to you or "short" to someone else? Beats me.

But as a GM I really like the expansion of spell versatility myself not because it affects the git God or whatever. I do it because I like the players to have more adaptability to meet changing needs. For wizards, clerics and others - it's pretty big. Allowing a slower method for sorcerers, bards, warlocks I think goes a long way towards fixing the double stagnation of "switch-at-level" and "few-known-at-a-time" those share.

Side Bar - fighters should get a maneuver that enhances intimidation before they get the silver tongue. Or include it in silver tongue.
 

NotAYakk

Explorer
One approach to the impinging on Wizards would be Spell Versatility for Wizards:

Let them swap out a spell known in a short rest.

This also gives them a reason to take short rests, even at lower levels.
 

RSIxidor

Explorer
One approach to the impinging on Wizards would be Spell Versatility for Wizards:

Let them swap out a spell known in a short rest.

This also gives them a reason to take short rests, even at lower levels.
They do already have Arcane Recovery, but I don't think this is an unreasonable rule to add if you're using the variants for other classes.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
One approach to the impinging on Wizards would be Spell Versatility for Wizards:

Let them swap out a spell known in a short rest.

This also gives them a reason to take short rests, even at lower levels.
This is already one of our house-rules for all classes with prepared spells. You can swap out a number of spell levels worth of spells equal to or less than your spellcastin ability modifier. So, a wizard with a INT 18 and +4 mod could do a single 4th, a 3rd and a 1st, 2 2nd levels, etc.
 

Ashrym

Adventurer
So many responses after I said the best plan if someone doesn't agree with my interpretation the best thing to do is put it in the survey feedback, lol. I changed my mind after listening to the video, and will still give feedback on poor wording.

It should really read "the spellcasting feature from this class" to be more clear.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
So many responses after I said the best plan if someone doesn't agree with my interpretation the best thing to do is put it in the survey feedback, lol. I changed my mind after listening to the video, and will still give feedback on poor wording.

It should really read "the spellcasting feature from this class" to be more clear.
Because of the wording I agree it makes sense why you thought that way but unfortunately word selection has led to numerous debates over intent for 5E.
 

Chaosmancer

Explorer
For me, I'm a bit torn on the Spell Versatility stuff, but I can see why some people want them. Sometimes spells you think you will use, you won't, because the game changes. For example, I've been playing a warlock (Fey Chain Pact with a Sprite) in a game that has been going on almost a full year. I took the spell Hold Person. I have never once used it.

In a year of game play, I have never found a chance to use Hold Person that was worth the slot compared to other spells. Now, it is still an excellent spell, I still want to have it and can see some scenarios where it might be incredibly useful, but that could end up frustrating someone.

I've also never used Blink, and I can't remember if I ever used Faerie Fire.

I've also only used the following spells once that I can think of during the entire campaign. Dissonant Whispers (I think I asked the DM to let me have that one), Mind Spike, and Phantasmal Force.

None of these spells are particularly bad. And the one time I used them they were quite useful, but again, we have been trying to play weekly for a full year, and out of my entire list of twelve spells, half of them might have been used once or not at all.

Additionally, I know that as a DM, I often allow players to swap out spells or cantrips if they realize that it isn't accomplishing what they want to accomplish. Generally, the more experienced the player, the more I tell them to suck it up, but even so those players can misread spells and realize they won't accomplish what they want. Giving formal ways to swap spells mid-adventure instead of the DM just saying so has some value.



But, I sort of understand the complaint from the angle of spells like "Water Breathing". If you know you are going to be traveling to a lake to dive beneath looking for ruins, you can swap a low use spell for water breathing and "remove the challenge" from the encounter. I put those in quotations because that could be as impactful as preventing a clever plan or as simple as saving the DM time of thinking up a friendly wizard who just happens to want to help by casting the spell for you.

I think though this is very much the exception, and a lot of the classes getting this versatility were not taking these spells in the first place, because they couldn't afford to stretch to cover them. Combine that with Wizards scrounging enemy scrolls and spellbooks, finding magical libraries and other such things to expand their spells available immensely, I don't see this ever becoming a "big deal".
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
I'm still not really satisfied with the changes I suggested at the end of the OP. After rolling it around for a while, I think I finally figured out what is still bugging me about it.

Wizards should be the best arcane casters at having access to spells. That's basically their only thing.

But even with my nerfs, this feature will still allow the other arcane casters to access any spell of 5th-level or less on their entire class list with 1 day's notice. If a wizard wants to access anything on their class spell list outside of their relatively small spellbook (unlikely to be much more than 1/3 of the sorcerer class spell list, for example), they have no mechanical recourse for that but to pick it when they level up. Sure, if your DM allows, they can spend the time and effort to find it in game, and then the time and effort to copy it into their spellbook. And then they can access it tomorrow. But that's not a mechanical recourse, that's a campaign style.

Without these UA variants, the wizard works fine with or without a campaign style that allows them to add spells between levels. The other classes (despite my dissatisfaction with sorcerer--I'm not arguing they don't need help!) make sense in how they do things compared to the wizard.

But with these UA variants, the other arcane casters get a mechanical recourse that is independent of campaign style. And here is where the big problem comes in: unlike the default rules, this rule only fits well with the class relations in a campaign where you only get a couple long rests between levels. If you get any reasonable amount of down time, it just throws off the class identity of wizards, directly challenging them (by doing the thing they are designed to do best better than them in a very real way in this respect), and I'm struggling to think up a way of making this UA feature work (as I said, I like the concept) without that issue.

I really like @MechaTarrasque's idea of warlocks being limited to switching out a spell from their patron list. That solved the problem because it restricts the list they can choose from to something less than their entire class list. I'd keep my restriction of there only being one switched out at a time, but I probably wouldn't say you have to switch out one from the list. Pick any spell you know, and swap it out for one from that list of the same level.

If I could think of a simple way for bards and (especially) sorcerers to have a limited selection of spells to switch between, then that would work for them too. "Simple" is the difficult part here. We can all make up lists, but that isn't a simple rule anymore. The only simple one I can think of is spell schools. Pick a spell school at character creation, and you can swap a spell out a spell of 5th-level or lower (from any school) for a same level spell of the chosen school for a day. Something like that would probably work, but it needs some refinement on the wizard's enhanced feature end to make them feel like they're getting something of similar value.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
Like others I have spent some time thinking on all this and here's where I am at:

1. I don't like the idea of swapping out spells. I makes little sense. True, "if you don't use it, you lose it" is a valid maxim, but it takes a long time to honestly forget how to do something you once could. In this respect, changing spells out at new levels was acceptable, especially at higher levels when it takes longer.

2. The concept of "known spells" is a bit silly IMO. When a character comes across a new spell, the idea of "gee, my brain is full (or whatever) so I can't learn this until am more experienced..." has always bothered me. Wizards make sense because the can always learn a new spell, and with the time needed to prepare them that is understandable.

3. Now, with spell versatility, there is no longer "known spells" more of a "long-term prepared spells" thing since you can always forget a spell to learn a new one. Essentially, this makes classes with known spells the same as classes with prepared spells, even if it requires more downtime to change the prepared spell list. Note also, the number of known spells more or less matches the number other casters can prepare.

4. Wizards become less "powerful" due to the versatility of the other casters. Clerics, Druids, and Paladins already knew their full lists and could prepare from those lists. Now, Bards, Rangers, Sorcerers, and Warlocks know their full lists, it just takes much longer to prepare a new spell that was previously unprepared.

While a wizard can eventually learn all the spells in their list, they don't know them all by default, but now all other caster classes do. Wizards gain two spells per level and must hunt down the rest. Granted they have a much longer spell list to compensate.

5. The Spell Versatility casters, however, are locked into the spells of levels they initially learned since you can't swap out a level 1 spell for a level 2, etc. Yet even this can still be changed at a level when the known spells can be shifted, so to speak.

Conclusion:

I don't see spell versatility as a bad thing, but I do see it as too quick and in essence making known spell casters more like delayed prepared-casters. Keeping the simple long rest requirement, IMO, demands a boon to wizards to compensate as now all these other casters can be versatile as well; and versatility was a key feature of a wizard.

Wizards still have ritual spells and ritual casting without spell slots, which is great.

My suggestion for our table if we decide to employ spell versatility will be to boost wizard's learned spells. Instead of only two spells per level, I propose a number of spells equal to the wizard's INT modifier. If their INT improves, new spells are learned retroactively (just as HP and CON). They can still learn more, but by default this will increase their known spell list.

Another option would be to increase the number of spells a Wizard can prepare.

Ok, this is long enough LOL.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
While I remain fond of these changes, I can see an argument instead for replacing spell versatility with-

Warlocks get invocation versatility- swap one invocation on long rest.


Sorcerers get Meta-magic versatility - swap one meta-magic choice in a long rest,

That would leave them uniquely flexible and adaptive in their own ways.

Likely still let everybody do the cantrip swap.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Hopefully by now you understand your reading isn't RAW. It is cool if you want to run it this way and it would make it less powerful. But even with your reading it wouldn't limit it to cantrips or 1st-level spells, it would limit it to spells of a level when you first use it. If you waited until 5th level, you could and the first time you used this was with a 3rd level spell, then you would be locked into 3rd level spells for the swap.

Now, if you are still reading it not RAW, I would like to point out if you are reading "this Spellcasting feature" as the Spell Versatility feature, it says "you can replace one spell you learned from this Spellcasting feature." But Spell Versatility doesn't allow you to "learn" a spell, so you'd have nothing to replace.

So, what is your thinking now?
I'm thinking they wrote it poorly, like they did to dozens of rules in the PHB and DMG. Since the system is rulings over rule, I would rule it that the first time you use it, you can select any spell. Then that is the one learned by the feature and the one you can swap.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
I'm thinking they wrote it poorly, like they did to dozens of rules in the PHB and DMG. Since the system is rulings over rule, I would rule it that the first time you use it, you can select any spell. Then that is the one learned by the feature and the one you can swap.
Although the system is rulings over rules, that is part of what makes things a house-rule. If your interpretation of something differs from what most people follow, new players joining your group would not expect it and thus think of it as a house-rule.

But more to the point, exactly how would that work your way? If you can only swap one spell, why not just increase the number of known spells by one? Can you offer a concrete example please?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Although the system is rulings over rules, that is part of what makes things a house-rule. If your interpretation of something differs from what most people follow, new players joining your group would not expect it and thus think of it as a house-rule.

But more to the point, exactly how would that work your way? If you can only swap one spell, why not just increase the number of known spells by one? Can you offer a concrete example please?
I'm not alone in this and the sample size here isn't sufficient to say what most people would follow.

As for why it would work that way, maybe they didn't want to increase the number of spells known. Swapping out a spell you know and switching only that spell allows versatility. Increasing the number of spells know and then swapping increases the amount of versatility and maybe they didn't want to increase it that much.
 
I'm thinking they wrote it poorly, like they did to dozens of rules in the PHB and DMG.
Obviously. I have little doubt that if this makes it into print the wording will be clarified.

Since the system is rulings over rule, I would rule it that the first time you use it, you can select any spell. Then that is the one learned by the feature and the one you can swap.
Why? This is clearly not the intent. If (like me) you don't like the rule as intended then just don't use the rule at all. It's not presented as anything other than optional.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
I'm not alone in this and the sample size here isn't sufficient to say what most people would follow.

As for why it would work that way, maybe they didn't want to increase the number of spells known. Swapping out a spell you know and switching only that spell allows versatility. Increasing the number of spells know and then swapping increases the amount of versatility and maybe they didn't want to increase it that much.
Well, from the posts there are only a few who were at least vocal in expressing a similar interpretation, and more who read it as I do. I think from the video the intent was clear and if you want to rule it differently of course that is up to you. But as I said, that is neither here nor there.

Again, I am asking for a concrete example of exactly how it would work to you. You can only swap a spell of the same level. So, when you first use it that is the spell level you are locked into, right? Are you saying you can swap that spell with any other of that level?

Example:

My sorcerer knows Charm Person and is going into a combat-heavy assault, deciding Magic Missile would be more useful. So, after a long rest he swaps out Charm Person for Magic Missile.

Does Charm Person become the swap spell, or Magic Missile?

Later on, he wants Comprehend Languages. Can he? Does he have to swap back for Charm Person first, and then swap again for Comprehend Languages? Can he go right from Magic Missile to Comprehend Languages?

Or are you basically saying he has X - 1 permanent known spells, and one spell he can swap for any other spell of that same spell level once he decides to use the feature?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Why? This is clearly not the intent. If (like me) you don't like the rule as intended then just don't use the rule at all. It's not presented as anything other than optional.
I don't think that is clear that my reading is not the intent. I don't think the feature is intended to allow the complete re-writing of all spells known in a week or two. That seems really over the top to me.
 

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