D&D 5E WHAT IF... Spells didn't do damage?

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
It's an interesting idea. Certainly, one of the problems the 3e design team ran into was that they inadvertently made non-damaging spells a lot better by allowing the caster to make them harder to save against, while not doing anything to increase spell damage.

And yet, from their playtests, they assume casters would still be lobbing damage spells around. Then when players realized that 5d6 damage doesn't have the same sting when everything has more hit points, and that damage spells were fairly pointless (without massive splatbook diving and optimization), suddenly everyone switched to buffs, control spells, and save or X effects.

Now in 5e, I see those spells used a lot less often in favor of damage spells, and I know I've surprised the heck out of several DM's by judicious use of sleet storm alone.

Actually I get surprised a lot when people complain about fireball, given that 5e enemies still have a lot more hit points than AD&D opponents...

Anyways, the game is probably healthier when casters are using a mix of damage spells and other spells. As a non-caster damage dealer, your main way to contribute to the end of a battle is hit point damage.

If a caster just ends the combat through effects that don't deal damage, your contribution is meaningless unless the monster dies due to damage (this is a big part of why I think 5e Sleep is cool and wish a lot more spells worked like it does).

I'm reminded of a 3e battle where I spent several rounds fighting a summoned demon, only for the caster to trap it in an Otiluke's Resilient Sphere until the duration of it's summon wore off.

I really didn't feel like I did much there.
 

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Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I was watching The Dr Strange trailer and noticed that Marvel Wizards use portals, shields and weapon conditions, but still come down to using swords, batons and palm strikes and occasionally force lariats.
even Dr Stranges AoE attack appeared to be him slamming a portal down and summoning energy out of it to knock his enemies prone
 


James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I'm really curious about why you took time out of your day to post this.
Some people have a need to make their opinion known, but don't actually want to debate an idea. It's human nature, I suppose.

One day I'll understand how you fleshy horrors have managed to get this far...

Ahem! I mean. US fleshy horrors, of course!
 

Stormonu

Legend
I like leaning into the idea of removing direct-damage spells - most likely tying it to a specific campaign.

An idea to take it even further would be to not only remove direct-damage spells, but also put a stipulation on spells that if an enmagicked creature takes damage or deals damage to others - the spell instantly ends. That includes summoned creatures or transformations. The idea being magic isn't real and fails under scrutiny (kinda like Wile E. walking off the cliff, then looking down), doubt or intrusion into "reality".

Wouldn't want it to be the default, but it would make an interesting campaign with "subtle" magic.
 


ECMO3

Hero
Spell casters in general and wizards in specific would be far more powerful because players would not get damaging spells ansd would get control spells which are in general far more powerful.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Yes, but you'd have to convince the players of that fact. Maybe I'm the outlier, but I see a lot of casters run towards damage options over control spells.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Spell casters in general and wizards in specific would be far more powerful because players would not get damaging spells ansd would get control spells which are in general far more powerful.
One idea I had is that spells would have more synergizing, rather than controlling, effects.

So a spell that traditionally does Cold damage instead makes things Brittle, which makes an enemy vulnerable to Bludgeoning damage.
 

Yes, but you'd have to convince the players of that fact. Maybe I'm the outlier, but I see a lot of casters run towards damage options over control spells.
Control spells tend to be situational - even something like hypnotic pattern is only useful if the enemies are grouped a certain way, don't have good wisdom saves, you catch enough that the unaffected ones don't just lose a turn waking the rest up, and the rest of the party has ways of picking them off one at a time. Fireball just works if the grouping is correct, and disintegrate is only limited by the fact that you never get a lot of castings.

Some people don't want to think hard about what to do on their turn, and these people don't always want to play fighters.
 



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