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D&D 4E What Should 4e magic be like?

With all the different books such as Expanded Psionics Handbook, Magic of Incarnum, Tome of Magic, Races of Eberron, Complete Arcane, Complete Mage, Complete Psionics, Player's Handbook II, Tome of Battle, and many other books it seems like they're experimental with ways to change the magic system for 4e.

Granted I think in the core book they're going to try to keep it relatively simple, but allow room for expansion and more options without breaking the system too much to sell more books...

Things I noticed:
-Changes to how magic is been done, psionics is perhaps one of the first examples trying out power points, but they went further with incarnum, the warlock, and tome of magic.

-Themed or specialized spell lists (warmage, beguiler, dread necromancer), they realized that for a lot of classes the power lies in what they can get for spells. Maybe they'll try to use differences of domains or mantles to carry that farther as well.

-Repeatable unlimited use magic tricks. The warlock being the main example, with reserve feats being the next. I think they realized that some players are tired of having their characters run out of spells early.

-The possibility that it might be more fun that magic's for everyone. Tome of Battle effectively giving fighting characters 'spells', because face it using maneuvers is often more interesting than just, "I attack". Of course this might mean that some feats might become maneuvers.

-Psionic Focus, Stances, Combat Focus and more type abilities. It seems like they're toying around with special ongoing conditions that give modifiers. It could lead to a new model of how some spells work, and new types of abilities. Some spells also behave like gaining and expending psionic focus from Complete Mage and one of the Eberron supplements, where you gain some long-lasting constant effect, but can choose to do something more powerful by ending that effect.

-Combination spells, Complete Mage had a bunch of these. It seems like they want to push spell combos which stack up for special effects.

-Chanelled spells and psionic augmentation. I think they realized they simply don't want to deal with to much lesser and greater versions of the same spell.

My prediction is that there's going to be some sort of centralized casting mechanic, and then theme modifiers such as arcane, divine, psionic, song, martial and so on, that'll effect how the spells are cast and work in certain ways.

They might try to throw in things like magic rating from Unearthed Arcana, and maybe have a mechanic called 'potency' for things like spell damage dice.

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Victoria Rules
I'm not familiar with most of the books you list, nor the specific casting methods proposed; but my only overarching request for a magic system (be it 4e, a revised 3e, or whatever) is to somehow do away with pre-memorizing or preparing spells. It could be as simple as taking the Sorceror mechanic and applying it to all casters....

It'll probably never happen, but I can hope, can't I? :)



First Post
AJust warning you by now a whole new level of Flamewar goodnessis already on the way! But you knew that when you posted, right?


A fast recharge per-encounter balanced model of magic that works and doesn't reduce the power of casters.

Ditch armored spell failure, I'm ready to eat the sacred hamburger.

More flexible magic: Some spells that were broken in two should be returned to reversible spells. Others should be consolidated into a more generic kind of attack that can be modified. Such as a ray with variable energy type, energy ball type, using AU as a model.

Fix the counterspelling problem. I want counterspelling to actually be useful in combat, make it an immediate action or something.

Give caster's some sort of arcane equivalent to BAB that unites magical attack and defense stats into one place and provides a single number.

Dump Vancian casting obviously.

Rework the spell schools and open up the class spellcasting lists more. There are some spells that need to go back to their old pre-revision schools.

There are certain things that need to change, polymorph has been nerfed and errata'd back into uselessness if you follow errata(I don't) go back toward the 3.0 model. Change darkness to actual darkness rather than "shadowy illumination."

Overall just make the casting classes less of a one-minute wonder. If fighters can attack all day casters need to cast all day.



I'm fond of the Warlock mechanics and the True20 skill-based system. I'd like spell slots and the x-per-day mechanic to finally go away.

One man's opinion, of course.


First Post
I think a psionics-style MP system is about as far you could go from Vancian slots and still keep the basic 'flavor' of D&D. And since I grew up playing video games based on that system, that's what I want for the core magic mechanic. The arcane/divine split would go awaay in Dave's Fantasy RPG, but it stays in Dungeons & Dragons.

Find some way of setting things up so multiclass spellcasters don't require PrC patches to be effective.

And just get rid of the whole concept of open-ended polymorphing and summoning spells. Also known as 'how to find obscure but shockingly effective ways to break the game'.


Victoria Rules
Droogie said:
I'm fond of the Warlock mechanics and the True20 skill-based system. I'd like spell slots and the x-per-day mechanic to finally go away.
I don't mind the slot idea and the per-day idea, provided you can be "wild-card" in what spells you can cast by level; i.e. each day you can cast x 1st-level spells, y 2nd-level spells, etc., but they can be anything in your book of the correct level. Simpler, easier, and the party doesn't get stuck nearly as often due to failure to prepare a particular spell.

What I would *not* want to see is a system where magic-users could cast all day without limit on total spells cast. The analogy of "a fighter can swing his sword all day thus a wizard should be able to cast her spells all day" is to me a complete straw-man; a wizard can also swing a weapon all day (though not nearly as well), *and* cast spells. And a Cleric is even better off. :)


Geoff Watson

First Post
A divide between "encounter" and "non-encounter" spells.

An "encounter" spell can be used once per encounter (most combat spells would go here).

"Non-combat" spells (teleport, divinations, etc) still have the daily limit.

Casters would prepare spells in the morning as normal, but "encounter" spells are repreparable quickly (a few minutes).



Streamlining spells into the Summon Monster style. You could apply the style to say, healing, buffing, direct damage spells and shapechanging/polymorphing and cut down about half the spells in the books.

Effectively, at 1st level, the spell does X for Y rounds to 1 target.
2nd level, the spell does A for B minutes to 1 target or X for Y rounds to a small number of targets.
3rd level, the spell does C... you get the idea.

All the crunch for most of the most commonly cast spells that fits on one page. No more multiple buffs, since none of them stack. You want everyone buffed, do one level lower. That sort of thing.


Move more away from the Vancian system.

You could pretty much take the Arcana Unearthed
way of doing magic and drop it whole into D&D and I'd be a happy man. In brief:

Make all magic spontaneous.
Spell templates, such as Merciful (makes spell damage into Subdual damage)
The concept of breaking apart higher level slots into lower ones or merging lower level ones into higher ones.
Get rid of the arcane/divine divide.
I like the idea of the tiered approach to spells: common spells that all spell using classes use, uncommon spells that only certain classes got access to (and only one class got all of those), and exotic spells (that take a feat to learn).

If we don't go with that, though...

* I say still get rid of the arcane/divine divide.
* A better way of manipulating spell parameters (AU makes all the metamagic feats into one feat; spend two slots instead of one and you apply a metamagic template to that spell).
* More scalable spells. It's a crying shame that many of the spells in the PHB are basically repeats of themselves over and over, with slight tactical variations. You could probably wipe out 50% of the PHB spells with that approach.

I think either of those approaches would be perfectly feasible for 4E

If I were given free rein to remake the spell system, we'd probably be left with about 20 pages of abilities, manipulators, and how to build to use them to build spells on the fly. Probably some unholy love child of DragonLance Fifth Age and Ars Magica. (I use Fire + Manipulate to put out the fire. I use Fire + Air + Control to create a blast furnace to melt down the Spear of Evil. I use Mind + Animal + Divination to read that bird's mind).


I'd like a mixture of warlock/reserve feats continuous magic and Vancian magic. Casters would have a, compared to now, very limited number of powerful spells and some low powered effects they can use at will. That IMO would go a long way towards reducing high level complexity: the time-comsuming process of stating NPC spellcasters, tons of spells spent buffing, etc.


First Post
I would like something akin to the psionic augmentation system. I don't mind spell slots and number per day - you could still use an augmenttion system by substitution of higher level slots if desired.

But something more fee style scalable would be good.

I do think however that they will be going more towards the "mantle" systems. They seem to be a common "theme" in new products.


First Post
Keep Vancian wizards. :) Drop the sorcerer, but use themed sorcerous classes like the beguiler, dread necromancer &c. (possibly as different paths within a single "sorcerer" class). Reserve feats or something equivalent = good. Less staves, more runestaves.

If you're going to have psionics as something else than just a flavour of magic (like Arcana Unearthed/Evolved does), make it significantly different from magic in effect, rather than in name patterns and mechanics.

More multi-purpose spells like glitterdust or telekinesis (or at least stop splitting them up like emotion).

Make counterspelling fun and useful. Some way to turn the spell on the attacker at half strength, something like that.

Doug McCrae

The major problem with D&D is Gygax's original system for balancing magic-users against fighters - magic-users start off feeble but become all powerful at higher levels. This has led to the current state of 3e where melee combatants such as fighters and barbarians stop being competitive with the casters around level 7 and things go downhill from there. As Monte Cook suggested I'd like to see all classes balanced at all levels, so a level 1 fighter is about as good as a level 1 wizard and a level 20 fighter is as good as a level 20 wizard.

I agree with Hussar's idea of streamlining the magic system. As it stands there are far, far too many different spell effects. They should be unified, HERO system style.


WotC's bitch
jasin said:
Keep Vancian wizards. :) Drop the sorcerer, but use themed sorcerous classes like the beguiler, dread necromancer &c. (possibly as different paths within a single "sorcerer" class).

:( You gotta stop playing Shimrod, mang. It's warping your judgement.


First Post
"Vancian Magic" needs to stay. It doesn't have to be the only system, but I should not go away, either. It's one of the things that makes D&D magic unique.

Maybe they do move to the "per encounter format" completely, but Vancian Magic can work with that, too!

Maybe they really will incorporate several concepts right into the core rules, and magic (of sorts) will be indeed for everyone: With concepts like the manoeuvres from the Book of Nine Swords, skill tricks, the Warmage (and similar classes), auras, the Warlock, and other concepts, they could turn D&D into something between D&D 3 and d20 Modern, with different paths you could wander along. There would still be more clearly defined classes than "strong" or "fast", but most, if not all, of them would use the Paths.

Feats won't go away, but will take a more supportive role - most abilities will come from class abilities/ paths, feats will only take give purely mechanical bonuses, provide specialization, make special actions easier, or ease some restrictions.

Every class has a number of Paths to choose from, some are Martial, some are Magic, and some are... Esoteric. Utilitarian. Some paths would be more widely-spread, some would be exclusive to some classes (unless you invest in feats, and multiclassing would always work, probably somewhat like the way B9S handles multiclassing between its classes).

Also, each class would have its schtick. Something that noone else has, something that makes it unique, that lets it use some of the paths like noone else could

Wizards: Will be the ultimate magical generalists (the specialist wizard as a wizard sub-class will disappear, specialists coming from somewhere else). They will still be a bit more rigid in their daily (or encounterly) preparations than other classes, but they will have access to most or even all of the magical paths. The preparation will not just be their weakness, but also their strength, since they will be masters of meta-magic, being able to change and enhance the magics they do if they know what they're doing beforehand. It's schtick would be access to many different Magical Paths (and probably the means to run along a lot of those paths) and being able to prepare

Sorcerers: Will go the way of the dodo, and good riddance. Other classes will take their place.

Bards: Will merge with beguilers. They will get get access to the Paths of Knowledge (which includes divination magic, bardic knowledge, the monster knowing parts of the Knowledge skill, others), Enchantment and Illusion, some martial stuff (the swashbucling type), some stealth. Their specialty would, of course, be Artistry - something to boost or hex others, using Enchantment and maybe some auras.

Rogues: Masters of skills, including the Path of the Expert (which is something like Skill Tricks, skill-enhancing Feats, stuff like trapfinding, and similar abilities combined under one Path), and martial Paths like Swashbuckling and Archery, and Stealth (which includes sneak attack-like manoeuvres). Specialty would be many many skill points, and maybe the ability to buy into paths normally not open to them (some hedge-wizardry or streetfighting).

Monks: Martial Artists that fight either without weapons at all or with a special set of weapons they can treat as unarmed fighting. They'll get the Paths of the Open Hand (subdual techniques, throws, that sort of thing), the Closed Fist (doing damage with your unarmed attacks), and esoteric Paths of the Body, Soul and the Mind. Their schtick would be sheer survivability without being tied to any equipment at all.

Clerics: Since they're already a lot like divine warriors, paladins will be rolled into that one. It might be a bit like the B9S crusader. They all have access to the magical Path of Life and Death (heal and deal wounds to both living and undead creatures. Maybe even to objects, which would also be available to Wizards and Artificers), but beyond that, it's dependant on their deities. Also, they'd have some auras (also dependant on their deities and tied to the Paths the walk)

Druids: They would get the Paths of Changing, Nature and Creatures, Some Elements, too. If they're in a natural environment, they get some leeway with their powers, depending on the nature (excuse the pun) of the surrounding wildscape.

Paladins: Would be turned into Clerics.

Fighters: Maybe called Warrior again, they'd get access to all martial stiles, and be more versatile than the others (be able to walk more martial paths than any other class

"Wildlanders": This would be something between Ranger and Barbarian. They could choose from Paths like Stealth, Archery, Nature, and martial Stuff. They would either become Berserkers or Hunters: As berserker, they can enter the frenzy (making martial styles more potent but rendering them reckless and vulnerable), and as Hunters they can choose some types of Favoured Prey, which makes their abilities more potent against that sort of critter, but weaker against everyone else.

Warmages: They'd be barred from any defensive magical Paths or defensive parts of other magical paths, but everything directly offensive would get a boost.

Warlocks: They would get limited access to magical paths, and most of their abilities would not be as potent as others', but they would be able to use it much more often, or even consistently. They'd get one signature attack, like Eldritch Blast, which they can use at will, and enhance according paths they chose (or some abilities to choose from). They would also have to choose the nature of the pact that grants them their power, getting extra goodies accordingly.

Kobold Avenger said:
psionics is perhaps one of the first examples trying out power points

And it's not new. Psionics have been around for quite some time.

Lanefan said:
It could be as simple as taking the Sorceror mechanic and applying it to all casters....

It'll probably never happen, but I can hope, can't I? :)

It already happened, in the "beta" stages of 3e. They then found out that it isn't such a good idea and brought the old system back - but kept the new system for bards, and cobbled together the sorcerer, which is really nothing but a wizard variant.

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