D&D 5E [+] Ways to fix the caster / non-caster gap

Aldarc

Legend
I think something needs to give. It's possible that casters have too many spells and spell slots.


Just throwing this out there: What if your spell slots were limited by your Level + Ability Score Mod? So at level twenty, the full-caster has a hypothetical 25 spell slots. Now what if casting a spell cost the spell level in spell slots? So, for example, a level 5 spell uses 5 spell slots from your total? So you can cast two level 9 spells at 20th level, which would cost you 18 of your 25 total spell slots, leaving you with 7 spell slots left.

Give the caster some other options outside of their spells to make up for this. Make them proper lore masters. Give more out-of-combat utility rituals.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
reject 5e. embrace 4e.

Not necessarily. I was thinking JRPGs.
Are there any games that do ritual magic well? I’m always looking for that specific thing!
The Psion class in 3.5 and PF1 (via Dreamscarred Press) has a default class spell list, and then additional spell lists that are (mostly) only accessible to their respective specialists. Make such specialization mandatory wherein each Wizard has one specialist school-- make other arcane traditions into a second subclass axis-- and two gannonbanned prohibited schools like what "prohibited school" used to mean.

The same can be applied to Clerics and Druids and Sorcerers and Warlocks, I think.

I am perhaps biased, but I think a big problem with martial-caster balance in WotC D&D has always been the saving throw math. Give all PCs/NPCs half proficiency in non-proficient saves, give non-caster and half-caster PCs proficiency (or even A5E-style expertise dice) in more saving throw categories.
Yeah that makes sense…
Give non-casters and half-casters more skills, and Skill Unlocks that allow them to do more with their skills than spellcasters, and resist the urge to extend the same benefit to spellcasters. Likewise, consider the Fighting Style mechanic and ask if it could be given more to do for non-spellcasting characters.
It’s tough to know what to do with stuff like this and the half casters.
WRT a resource that martials could use, it could be something like Adrenaline. There are real world stories of people performing superhuman feats due in large part to adrenaline, such as mothers lifting cars off their children or people getting themselves out of situations after suffering injuries that should have left them incapacitated or dead.

In a fantasy world, IMO, that could and should be dialed to 11 (or higher) at high levels. A high level barbarian might use Adrenaline to kick the a castle gate so hard that it tears off it's mounting and flattens the guards stationed behind it. That would be awesome, and it would certainly leave the lord of the castle shaking in his/her boots.

A potentially better approach would be to call it something else that combines adrenaline with an indomitable spirit (for example), so people don't insist on silly topics like how does a ranger use their adrenaline to calm the charging bear.

Not unlike how a person mimicing a wizard's words and movements would be unsuccessful in casting the spell, martials could train their bodies to produce potent adrenaline on command. So when folks ask why a fighter can't use their Deathblow ability again today, it would be because they require the surge of power that comes from adrenaline, and their body needs time to recover before it can produce more.
I love this, and I wonder if maybe a good model might be to attach a recharge die to some martial abilities. Could call it an adrenaline die.
I would argue that helps full casters, a lot. Rituals are kind of cool, in their way, but making sure that highly valued non-combat spells aren’t rituals is an important trade off in the game. Consider, for example, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion. It’s a pretty big step up in adventuring camp safety as a 7th level spell. You‘d figure it would make a great ritual. But if the wizard wants to use it, it expends the only 7th level spot he has for the day until 20th level. That means it competes with other attractive spells like force cage and teleport. And that makes it a tough choice for the 13th+ level caster… as it should be.
I think some ritual magic should only be doable without spell slots at a higher level than when you can cast it normally. Ie a level 7 spell of this type couldn’t be done as a ritual until you have 9th level spells.

Or! Aldarc’s idea below, and have ritual spells have a number of spell slots required that is just lower and decreases as you get higher level idk. Point is spells could become ritual spells as you level.
I think something needs to give. It's possible that casters have too many spells and spell slots.


Just throwing this out there: What if your spell slots were limited by your Level + Ability Score? So at level twenty, the full-caster has a hypothetical 25 spell slots. Now what if casting a spell cost the spell level in spell slots? So, for example, a level 5 spell uses 5 spell slots from your total? So you can cast two level 9 spells at 20th level, which would cost you 18 of your 25 total spell slots, leaving you with 7 spell slots left.

Give the caster some other options outside of their spells to make up for this. Make them proper lore masters. Give more out-of-combat utility rituals.
I’m all for doing most of this. I agree that full casters have too many slots at high level, and I would love to see them rely more on ritual magic, class features of various kinds, etc.

I also think the spell slots idea is much better than spell points. Like vastly better. I love that so much.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
just another idea after reading the thread - what if everything was Feats? ie what if Feats, Attunement Slots and Spell Slots all use the same resource (Feat slots), and everyone gets 25 (or so) feats at level 20.

So using @Aldarc's idea a spellcaster can cast a level 5 spell by using 5 Feats of Magic (9 feats for a level 9 spell), a martial is using those same feat slots to pump up Heroic Feats (Giant Strength) or Magic Items (Girdle of Giant Strength).
So Players get the flexibility to develop the heroic characters however they want them (via spells or magic items or inherent feat/abilities), Martials get to have as many powers as Mages while Mages can choose to have feats or items at the cost of less spell slots. Levelled Feat chains and Attunement are used to balance things up.
 
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I think something needs to give. It's possible that casters have too many spells and spell slots.


Just throwing this out there: What if your spell slots were limited by your Level + Ability Score? So at level twenty, the full-caster has a hypothetical 25 spell slots. Now what if casting a spell cost the spell level in spell slots? So, for example, a level 5 spell uses 5 spell slots from your total? So you can cast two level 9 spells at 20th level, which would cost you 18 of your 25 total spell slots, leaving you with 7 spell slots left.

Give the caster some other options outside of their spells to make up for this. Make them proper lore masters. Give more out-of-combat utility rituals.

There is a Variant presented in the DMG (p288) that is similar to your suggestion (but way more generous... perhaps too generous to achieve the goal of this thread).

 

Just throwing this out there: What if your spell slots were limited by your Level + Ability Score Mod? So at level twenty, the full-caster has a hypothetical 25 spell slots. Now what if casting a spell cost the spell level in spell slots? So, for example, a level 5 spell uses 5 spell slots from your total? So you can cast two level 9 spells at 20th level, which would cost you 18 of your 25 total spell slots, leaving you with 7 spell slots left.
welcome to mana.
 


Tony Vargas

Legend
I think we can look to 3.5 for a solution.
No, really.
3.5 iirc, introduced something new - NPC Classes that were strictly inferior to PC classes (prior NPC Classes had been whacky or OP "unofficial" Dragon mag fare for DMs to further befuddle their players with).
(OK, technically the Warrior wasn't quite strictly inferior to the Fighter, it had a slightly better skill list, and the Aristocrat and Expert had some things going for them.)

Point is, if closing the martial/Caster gap is intolerable, a simple solution is to make casters the only standard PC choices. Non-casters can be retained as 3.5e style NPC Classes along with commoners &c.
Of course, the DM could let players use an NPC class as part of a build, but it would be made clear they're taking a hit in effectiveness.
It's not a trap if it's clearly marked.
 
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Now that I have a keyboard, the original post:
If a fighter can do the equivalent of Time Stop, for example, it’s not stopping a wizard from also casting Time Stop. I think what is being said is the fighter has that only option from a list while the wizard still has their full list of 9th level spells to choose from for the exact situation.
Replying to this part, should the 17th level fighter take a deep breath and invoke "Gotta Stab Them All - with your blinding speed make an attack against every foe within [range], no reactions allowed. You will return to the place where you started. Once per long rest." A wizard is only going to be able to cast one ninth level spell a day, so that's equivalent. The wizard does have an advantage that they might be able to have a choice from more than one ninth level spell, but given the choices available they are only likely to have three or so at 20th level. And, still, be only able to choose one of those per day.

So, if the fighter is following a speed / agility based path I think this would be reasonable. And, as a non-magical but preternatural ability it would not be subject to counterspelling or dispels.

This problem gets worse the higher level you get. There's just no way to balance wish against anything a fighter could do.
In 1e the wizard aged 3-5 years each time they cast wish. Magical aging triggers a system shock roll. So, each time a wizard used wish they could die, based on their Constitution. Could they be raised? Sure. It cost a Constitution point and aged the cleric. I made raise dead an exception to the system shock roll rule, but BTB you could have the cleric raise the target and lose their life to do so. Now, I'm not necessarily advocating that, but if we are looking at "providing real costs for using magic" (below) then a risk of debility or death, no matter how small, gives one pause.

I also don't think you should try to balance wish against what a fighter could do. You just make it costly to use, and expect it to be used once or twice per level. I'm a firm believer in that fighters should be short rest / encounter based and wizards be long rest / daily based.

1. Open up more design space in skills
2. Redesign spells that carry out what a skill would so that there is enough reason to situationally choose one over the other.
3. Spellcasting utility should come at a cost of raw power.
4. Provide real costs for using magic.
5. Provide real non magical counters to magic.
Because or in spite of me being a grognard, I endorse this for the most part. For #2, I don't think there's much to be done really. That is probably secondary to my attitude of making each foray last as long as possible. I have a poor opinion of the five minute workday as it gives the opposing side a chance to adapt while you're recovering. But, not everyone plays the way I do. Also, if a wizard chooses a spell roster that allows them to obviate a class, they they've just volunteered to take on or assist with that role. If the player is doing it to be an ass, then that's not a rule problem but a personality one.

Limiting the number of free spells gained per level and having a robust method of researching your own spells significantly limits spellcaster flexibility while still allowing choice.

For:
1st level- spells can be cast in melee without issue and have no material component cost / issues. Too quick and easy.
2nd level- can trigger free attacks, but still essentially free to use.
3rd level- Mostly free to use, but have situational use (fireball in a small room, mixed melee) or minor costs (continual light).
4th level- Minor to moderate cost to use, but with reusable foci.
5th level- Moderate cost foci and preparation, minor cost expendables, or highly situational.
6th level- Significant cost and preparation, high cost foci, or moderate cost expendables are require for cast.
 

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