Unearthed Arcana Unearthed Arcana: Sidekicks


mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
That sounds more like a PBTA game than DnD, to me.

Part of the appeal of dnd magic is that it works differently. Even in 4e, wizards, clerics, and bards, all did very different things. The actual mechanics of the spellcasters should feel different.
To be fair, it's resource management across the spellcasters that works differently. Their spells and "magic" work the same.

Personally, I think "same but different" adds needless complexity when there are opportunities to differentiate in more meaningful ways. Alternate approaches to resource management are perfectly viable variant rules.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
To be fair, it's resource management across the spellcasters that works differently. Their spells and "magic" work the same.

Personally, I think "same but different" adds needless complexity when there are opportunities to differentiate in more meaningful ways. Alternate approaches to resource management are perfectly viable variant rules.

The resource management is different, as are the spell lists, and the class features.
 

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
The resource management is different, as are the spell lists, and the class features.
Class features are how resource management is differentiated, so they're not separate considerations. As far as spell lists go, they differ, though arguably not enough.

I'm aiming for a spellcaster being a spellcaster where wizardry does not allow a spellcaster to summon fiends, but witchcraft does. Etc, etc.
 

paladinn

Explorer
I think spells should be spells.. The type of spellcaster you are depends on what you pick. If you want a cleric, pick healing, turn undead, some protective spells. for a cleric of a god of fire, add fireball and such. If you want a druid, pick wildshape and nature-based spells. If you want a specialist wizard, pick accordingly.

I think this allows ultimate flexibility in character concept without the added complexity and constraints of "class features."
 

I think spells should be spells.. The type of spellcaster you are depends on what you pick. If you want a cleric, pick healing, turn undead, some protective spells. for a cleric of a god of fire, add fireball and such. If you want a druid, pick wildshape and nature-based spells. If you want a specialist wizard, pick accordingly.

I think this allows ultimate flexibility in character concept without the added complexity and constraints of "class features."
The danger in this approach is that not all spells are created equally, and many spells are largely redundant. If given the option of playing a spellcaster who knows all of the most useful spells from a variety of different themes, or all spells from one theme, then it's hard to keep the two spell lists balanced.

Looking at the Light domain, for example, it grants six different fire spells; but a spellcaster who only took fireball would still be able to play that role in the party, while also covering a wide variety of other roles with their non-fire spells.

One of the major benefits of strongly codified classes and sub-classes is that you don't need every class feature to be as strong as every possible alternative, because a member of that class (or sub-class) is already locked into the package deal. If taking one fire spell locks you into taking all six, and there's no way to get any fire spells without committing to that theme, then you don't have to worry about cherry-picking.
 

paladinn

Explorer
The danger in this approach is that not all spells are created equally, and many spells are largely redundant. If given the option of playing a spellcaster who knows all of the most useful spells from a variety of different themes, or all spells from one theme, then it's hard to keep the two spell lists balanced.

Looking at the Light domain, for example, it grants six different fire spells; but a spellcaster who only took fireball would still be able to play that role in the party, while also covering a wide variety of other roles with their non-fire spells.

One of the major benefits of strongly codified classes and sub-classes is that you don't need every class feature to be as strong as every possible alternative, because a member of that class (or sub-class) is already locked into the package deal. If taking one fire spell locks you into taking all six, and there's no way to get any fire spells without committing to that theme, then you don't have to worry about cherry-picking.

I think a lot of this needs to be left up to the player. And it's not a matter of being "locked into" anything. If a players wants to take fireball without taking burning hands or flaming sphere, why not? Of course, a fire cleric would Want to take all that (as well as flame strike and scotching ray and ???), but that should be up to the player.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Class features are how resource management is differentiated, so they're not separate considerations. As far as spell lists go, they differ, though arguably not enough.

I'm aiming for a spellcaster being a spellcaster where wizardry does not allow a spellcaster to summon fiends, but witchcraft does. Etc, etc.

It’s definately more than resource management, though. A Druid and a wizard aren’t alike. That’s good, even if all it means in a simpler DnD is that at level 1 or 2 you pick what kind of caster you are, and that gives you either wildshape, a pact boon, or a spellbook with the better ritual caster feature, or something, along with telling you what spells you can pick from then on.
 

I think a lot of this needs to be left up to the player. And it's not a matter of being "locked into" anything. If a players wants to take fireball without taking burning hands or flaming sphere, why not? Of course, a fire cleric would Want to take all that (as well as flame strike and scotching ray and ???), but that should be up to the player.
As a player, I would have a hard time choosing burning hands and fireball and flame strike over healing word and fireball and wall of force. Even if my concept is a fire mage who primarily casts fire at people, fireball is sufficient in the vast majority of situations where I'd want to do that, and picking redundant fire spells over actual increased utility feels a lot like shooting myself in the foot.

Presenting both possibilities as though they were equal, and expecting a player to self-limit on the basis of theme, seems unreasonable to me.
 

paladinn

Explorer
As a player, I would have a hard time choosing burning hands and fireball and flame strike over healing word and fireball and wall of force. Even if my concept is a fire mage who primarily casts fire at people, fireball is sufficient in the vast majority of situations where I'd want to do that, and picking redundant fire spells over actual increased utility feels a lot like shooting myself in the foot.

Presenting both possibilities as though they were equal, and expecting a player to self-limit on the basis of theme, seems unreasonable to me.

But you are also limited by your spellcaster level. You're not eligible for fireball until level 5. Before that I should think you want burning hands, etc. And if you want to do more than throw fireballs, you Have to take something else. But what you take is Your choice. If All you want to do is blast, you should be able to do that; but don't call yourself a healing cleric.

I'd also think with this flexible spell system, the player should be able to come up with some RP reason for the spells s/he picks. If s/he tells the DM that s/he wants a fire mage, s/he should have to use that as a guide in spell choice.
 

But you are also limited by your spellcaster level. You're not eligible for fireball until level 5. Before that I should think you want burning hands, etc.
Fair enough. I might want to take burning hands before I have access to fireball, although I would still be hard-pressed to take flaming strike after I already have fireball. Most of my experience with flexible class (and class-free) systems are also level-less, so that wasn't something I'd taken into consideration. In a game like Shadowrun, for example, all of your spells are available during character creation.
And if you want to do more than throw fireballs, you Have to take something else. But what you take is Your choice. If All you want to do is blast, you should be able to do that; but don't call yourself a healing cleric.
When it comes to game design, one thing that a lot of free-form games fail to consider is that a choice between un-equal options is not a real choice. I'm not going to choose a spell that I'm unlikely to ever use (because I already have something better, for situations where it would apply) over a spell that I might use (because it applies in a situation that I don't have covered yet); and it's kind of a cop out for them to present it as a viable option.

As a more clear example, imagine that a 5E-style warlock was given the choice between Proficiency in a new skill, or +1 to hit with daggers. Even though neither option improves the warlock's core concept, the skill proficiency is something that might actually come up, while there's no reason for the warlock to ever use a dagger (and +1 to hit would not change that). It's not even really a choice.
I'd also think with this flexible spell system, the player should be able to come up with some RP reason for the spells s/he picks. If s/he tells the DM that s/he wants a fire mage, s/he should have to use that as a guide in spell choice.
Players can come up with an RP reason for any choice they make. One very old lesson in RPG Design: don't gate mechanical benefits behind role-playing considerations, unless you're sure that the RP is a sufficient drawback to balance it.

If one player conceives of their character as an impulsive fire mage, while the other conceives of their character as a calm-and-collected Batman-style king-of-all-trades, then the game shouldn't un-duly reward the latter concept over the former. Players shouldn't have the option to play a character that's just better than another character.
 

paladinn

Explorer
Fair enough. I might want to take burning hands before I have access to fireball, although I would still be hard-pressed to take flaming strike after I already have fireball. Most of my experience with flexible class (and class-free) systems are also level-less, so that wasn't something I'd taken into consideration. In a game like Shadowrun, for example, all of your spells are available during character creation.
When it comes to game design, one thing that a lot of free-form games fail to consider is that a choice between un-equal options is not a real choice. I'm not going to choose a spell that I'm unlikely to ever use (because I already have something better, for situations where it would apply) over a spell that I might use (because it applies in a situation that I don't have covered yet); and it's kind of a cop out for them to present it as a viable option.

As a more clear example, imagine that a 5E-style warlock was given the choice between Proficiency in a new skill, or +1 to hit with daggers. Even though neither option improves the warlock's core concept, the skill proficiency is something that might actually come up, while there's no reason for the warlock to ever use a dagger (and +1 to hit would not change that). It's not even really a choice.
Players can come up with an RP reason for any choice they make. One very old lesson in RPG Design: don't gate mechanical benefits behind role-playing considerations, unless you're sure that the RP is a sufficient drawback to balance it.

If one player conceives of their character as an impulsive fire mage, while the other conceives of their character as a calm-and-collected Batman-style king-of-all-trades, then the game shouldn't un-duly reward the latter concept over the former. Players shouldn't have the option to play a character that's just better than another character.

"Better" is very subjective. Someone might argue that Superman is better than Batman because of powers; but Batman has lots of fans.

Min/maxing is a hazard even in 5e. And yes, sub-optimal choices are also a risk. But that's what player's choice is about.

I think this flexibility could solve a lot of current issues with 5e. One could build a great "ranger" type character who could wildshape. Nearly infinite possibilities. Is there possibility for abuse? Of course. But a lot of that depends on the DM. 5e relies a lot on DM fiat (or veto); and this model would do the same.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
"Better" is very subjective. Someone might argue that Superman is better than Batman because of powers; but Batman has lots of fans.

Min/maxing is a hazard even in 5e. And yes, sub-optimal choices are also a risk. But that's what player's choice is about.

I think this flexibility could solve a lot of current issues with 5e. One could build a great "ranger" type character who could wildshape. Nearly infinite possibilities. Is there possibility for abuse? Of course. But a lot of that depends on the DM. 5e relies a lot on DM fiat (or veto); and this model would do the same.


If I understand you correctly though, that is an awful lot of weight to put on the DM if they have to weigh and consider every spell choice for potential abuse.

I don't think I'd recognize every "over" powerful combo, and some things just become auto choices.

Who here would really turn down spiritual weapon, a bonus action, non-concentration magic attack that does force damage? There is no spellcaster whom that is a bad choice for, if it were completely ungated from class.
 

ThakTheManApe

First Post
My DM is allowing my brand, spanking new Druid an animal companion. It's going to be a thematic choice, probably a crocodile since I'm trying out the Lizardfolk. I told him that I don't really plan to have it in combat that awful much, mostly just if my character gets in trouble. I think he's mostly allowing it because our Ranger is an idiot and has gimped himself and got my first character in this campaign killed when she saved his life. It's going to be more of an "In Case of Emergency" button, rather than a fully offensive creature. I think the DM was already considering adding a DMPC to kind of travel with the party but at a lower level, and these rules would be good for that. I think they could have simplified these sidekicks a lot further, but who knows what the final rules will look like.
 

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
It’s definately more than resource management, though. A Druid and a wizard aren’t alike. That’s good, even if all it means in a simpler DnD is that at level 1 or 2 you pick what kind of caster you are, and that gives you either wildshape, a pact boon, or a spellbook with the better ritual caster feature, or something, along with telling you what spells you can pick from then on.
Ah, I see what you mean! I agree that an exclusive feature is appropriate given choice of sorcery, wizardry, witchcraft, druidry, thaumaturgy, etc. That is an important differentiating factor.

:)
 

paladinn

Explorer
Ah, I see what you mean! I agree that an exclusive feature is appropriate given choice of sorcery, wizardry, witchcraft, druidry, thaumaturgy, etc. That is an important differentiating factor.

:)

I'd think the differentiation would be a matter of RP more than mechanics, Especially when it comes to spellcasting. Why shouldn't fireball be available to a cleric of a god of fire? Or a druid, for that matter? You see some of this in 5e now: light clerics can cast fireball.

The cleric specialty powers/spells seem to be a means of "opening up" clerics to other spell options that they would not normally get. Why not open it up completely and let a cleric take what suits his/her deity?
 

Juan2002325

First Post
I feel like the line needs to be drawn at familiers other than those that come from the pact of the chain pact boon. Not only does it really drive home that a pact of the chain familier is much more than that of someone with the magic initiate feat or one level of wizard, but it means that the sidekick has to be a thaught out part of the character and not just a sudden new addition the wizard made on a whim that is going to screw over the DM because theres now a random 5th PC.
 

I feel like the line needs to be drawn at familiers other than those that come from the pact of the chain pact boon. Not only does it really drive home that a pact of the chain familier is much more than that of someone with the magic initiate feat or one level of wizard, but it means that the sidekick has to be a thaught out part of the character and not just a sudden new addition the wizard made on a whim that is going to screw over the DM because theres now a random 5th PC.

Bear in mind that getting a sidekick is never an automatic thing. They only exist when a DM chooses to grant the player/party one. A DM might choose to grant every character a sidekick, or they might choose to allow only special bonded creatures (such as ranger beast companions and chainlock familiar spirits) to be sidekicks, or they might choose not to grant the party any sidekicks.

You can still have hirelings, henchmen, pets, trained beasts, friendly NPC companions, and familiar spirits called either through spell or granted by your patron. None of them is guaranteed to become a sidekick.
 

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
I'd think the differentiation would be a matter of RP more than mechanics, Especially when it comes to spellcasting. Why shouldn't fireball be available to a cleric of a god of fire? Or a druid, for that matter? You see some of this in 5e now: light clerics can cast fireball.
A cleric of Light casts fireball because there is no radiant equivalent.

The cleric specialty powers/spells seem to be a means of "opening up" clerics to other spell options that they would not normally get. Why not open it up completely and let a cleric take what suits his/her deity?
Because I hate freedom of choice and want to ruin the game for others.

;)

In my view, thaumaturgy wouldn't produce balls of energy. It would instead produce effects that call for energy to descend as it does with sacred flame. This might call for a generic sacred energy that is modified by the appropriate energy type. A cleric of Light would therefore cast sacred energy (radiance), a cleric of Fire would cast sacred energy (fire), etc.

I'm of the opinion that the game would benefit from more generic spells in general. It would free up a lot of character design space.

I also think that spell components should be specific to spellcasting rather than spells:
  • Wizardry might require verbal and somatic components, as well as an arcane focus.
  • Sorcery might require verbal and somatic components.
  • Witchcraft might require verbal and somatic components, as well as a component pouch.
  • Thaumaturgy might require verbal components and a divine focus.
This would give us iconic visuals such as the wizard with a wand, sorcerer with hands wreathed in energy, witch with stained fingers, and cleric brandishing a cross.

If it were up to me, the warlock would be the weapon-wielding spellcaster, and would be the archetype for gish, battlemage, hexblade, bladesinger, etc. — No idea what I'd call their spellcasting. I'd prefer them not to use wizardry. Components would be verbal and somatic, as well as a weapon focus.

No idea what I'd call the bard's spellcasting, either. Another I'd prefer not to use wizardry. Components would be verbal or a musical instrument.

Just spitballing ideas.
 
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Pauln6

Adventurer
I'd think the differentiation would be a matter of RP more than mechanics, Especially when it comes to spellcasting. Why shouldn't fireball be available to a cleric of a god of fire? Or a druid, for that matter? You see some of this in 5e now: light clerics can cast fireball. The cleric specialty powers/spells seem to be a means of "opening up" clerics to other spell options that they would not normally get. Why not open it up completely and let a cleric take what suits his/her deity?
D&D spells are based on myths, legends, fairy stories, parables, and modern pop culture. To stay faithful to this tradition, spells shouldn't just be a collection of dice and effects. They tried that in 4e to a greater extent and leeched a lot of character out of the characters. I think 5e is very close to the sweet spot to please most of the people most of the time. The variation in clerics works really well in play without them eating up the wizard like 3e CoDzilla. If you want to tweak your Cleric further, I think modification of channel divinity works better than opening them up to a much wider spell selection.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
D&D spells are based on myths, legends, fairy stories, parables, and modern pop culture. To stay faithful to this tradition, spells shouldn't just be a collection of dice and effects. They tried that in 4e to a greater extent and leeched a lot of character out of the characters. I think 5e is very close to the sweet spot to please most of the people most of the time. The variation in clerics works really well in play without them eating up the wizard like 3e CoDzilla. If you want to tweak your Cleric further, I think modification of channel divinity works better than opening them up to a much wider spell selection.

While the 4e thing was more a false perception based on the least interesting or distinct powers, I agree entirely with the point of this post. I’d love for each class to have a few more spells unique to them, not fewer.

Bard: Songs. A suite of spells for each tier that emulate the 3/.5e bardic Song of X features. Maybe concentration, but preferably not, your allies get XYZ benefit or your enemies get ZYX debuff while within whatever range. Also some unique end tier spells that do some epic mythic stuff related to the power of stories, songs, insults, and doom-speaking. Up to and including raising the dead by recitation of a Requiem for that individual, calling the heroic dead of legend into the world to ravage the enemy or accomplish some other task, singing innanimate things or beasts into helping the party/building something/whatever, and causing several creatures to fall down and weep uncontrollably, cower in shame or fear, or reconsider their animus toward the party.

Druid: spells that make nature come alive (more summon spells, with plant creatures, earth golems, treants, etc), a cantrip that makes a weapon attack and adds poison or acid damage, and at level 5 poisons the target. More spells to take on animal traits and traits associated with nature’s guardians and stuff, like treants, dryads, wood woads, etc. spells to buff all beasts and fey within range. Some of these would be shared with ranger, some not.

Cleric: Cantrip that does a weapon attack and makes the damage radiant, then adds radiant damage as it scales. Another that does 1d4 radiant to 1 enemy within 5 ft, then adds 2 enemies per scaling tier, as well as adding damage to the primary attack. Spells to create beacons upon enemies you hit, so that something extra happens when an ally hits them, like radiant light flaring with each strike against the Beacon target, or the target glows with sunlight and passively hurts its allies nearby, etc. the cleric should be able to single out enemies as the target of he gods’ wrath, and give benefits to allies for meting our Divine Justice.

Warlock: spells to make stone and wood and whatever else is nearby come alive to grab at enemies, make enemies sink into the ground/floor, turn surfaces into pools of acid, and also more fun utility spells that no one else gets. Also things like summoning swarms of critters, making someone’s shadow come alive and attack them, etc. a solid enough melee cantrip that Hexblade isn’t necessary for a melee build, or the hex-blade lock can skip the extra attack invocation. Life drain type spells, rebuffing aura spells, some of which would target an enemy and make them dangerous to their own allies. At high level, spells that turn summoned or controlled creatures against their masters.

Sorcerer: More spells like Chromatic Orb. Unique summoning spells that manifest a very simple creature of elemental energy and limited intelligence, totally dedicated to the sorcerer. Like a powerful thought form type deal.

Wizard: none. They’re fine.

Ranger: pet buff spells, and a resurrect/summon Beast spell, written so that it can bring back a slain beast companion, or summon one that isn’t as good as the BM pet, and if it’s a pet you’re bonded with it has an extra benefit. Spells that combine within a weapon attack that aren’t concentration, and that do more interesting stuff, like create a swarm of insects filling ten feet around the target, or a cloud of poison fumes, or needles explode outward. Get enough control options that a ranger could reasonably focus on that.

Paladin: more smite spells? Some lead the charge type spells. Spells for Reactions that punish enemy tactics that hurt the Paladin’s allies. Spells that mess with casters. Spells that deal extra damage to summoned or controlled creatures, and send some damage on to the creature controlling them, maybe also lighting the summoner up for allies attacks in some way?
 

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