D&D 5E What spells are not Scalable and should be?

Identify ... gains abilities and details at higher levels, equal to legend lore at 6th

Summon ... equal to Monster/Animal/Vermin X at level X. You only need the one spell, then.

Animate Dead ... different types of undead at different levels

Mage Armor or Shield ... increases in the number of targets it can protect

Hold Person ... Hold Monster ... Hold Bigger Monster ... Hold Army

Wall of ... bigger/longer/higher structures or larger areas at higher levels

Really, tremendously flexible possibilities with this concept. Each spell really becomes a "spell chain" that can have relevence at all character levels.
 

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KidSnide

Adventurer
Anyway, to the OP's question: I agree with DMGorgon, there should be scaling for more than just damage spells. Most spells have one aspect or another that could scale. For instance, dimension door could scale by increasing range--maybe double it for each additional spell level. Fly could scale by increasing speed, say 20 or 30 feet per spell level. Charm person could scale by increasing duration. I think the scaling mechanic should be applied to any spell where it's feasible.

Agreed, and all good examples.

But I think it's important to avoid trying to turn every spell chain into a scaling mechanism. In other words, having Charm Person increase duration with higher level magic is better than having it turn into Charm Monster. Two reasons for this.

First, you want the higher level spells to have distinct benefits over a scaled low level spell. If a 2nd level spell cast with a 5th level slot is as good as a 5th level spell in a 5th level slot, then there is little reason to learn or prepare high level spells. And that's just less fun.

Second, spells are already a complicated part of the rules. The "how this spell scales" mechanic shouldn't be any more complicated than how damage increases. Otherwise it will be hard to keep straight and confusing for new players.

-KS
 

Dausuul

Legend
But I think it's important to avoid trying to turn every spell chain into a scaling mechanism. In other words, having Charm Person increase duration with higher level magic is better than having it turn into Charm Monster. Two reasons for this.

First, you want the higher level spells to have distinct benefits over a scaled low level spell. If a 2nd level spell cast with a 5th level slot is as good as a 5th level spell in a 5th level slot, then there is little reason to learn or prepare high level spells. And that's just less fun.

Second, spells are already a complicated part of the rules. The "how this spell scales" mechanic shouldn't be any more complicated than how damage increases. Otherwise it will be hard to keep straight and confusing for new players.

Agreed on both points. I think meteor swarm versus fireball is a good comparison here. If you cast fireball at 9th level, it deals the same damage as meteor swarm, but the latter has far superior AoE, and the range is so much greater as to make meteor swarm fundamentally different--you can cast it at foes so far away they can't possibly retaliate.

Likewise, you might be able to get better duration off a scaled-up charm person, but you won't ever be able to use it on an owlbear unless you learn charm monster. Scaling up a low-level spell may allow you to match high-level spells in quantitative ways, but for qualitative improvements you need a "native" high-level spell.
 
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dmgorgon

Explorer
Agreed on both points. I think meteor swarm versus fireball is a good comparison here. If you cast fireball at 9th level, it deals the same damage as meteor swarm, but the latter has far superior AoE, and the range is so much greater as to make meteor swarm fundamentally different--you can cast it at foes so far away they can't possibly retaliate.

Likewise, you might be able to get better duration off a scaled-up charm person, but you won't ever be able to use it on an owlbear unless you learn charm monster. Scaling up a low-level spell may allow you to match high-level spells in quantitative ways, but for qualitative improvements you need a "native" high-level spell.

Charm person is actually one of the only spells in the 2e PHB that doesn't scale with level. It scales with INT. It seems 2e already had this figured out. IMO, there is a lot of hidden wisdom in that system that has been forgotten.
 

Gadget

Adventurer
Agreed, and all good examples.

But I think it's important to avoid trying to turn every spell chain into a scaling mechanism. In other words, having Charm Person increase duration with higher level magic is better than having it turn into Charm Monster. Two reasons for this.

First, you want the higher level spells to have distinct benefits over a scaled low level spell. If a 2nd level spell cast with a 5th level slot is as good as a 5th level spell in a 5th level slot, then there is little reason to learn or prepare high level spells. And that's just less fun.

Second, spells are already a complicated part of the rules. The "how this spell scales" mechanic shouldn't be any more complicated than how damage increases. Otherwise it will be hard to keep straight and confusing for new players.

-KS

Mostly agreed. There are a few exceptions, some of which the designers have already noticed: the whole line of cure <various> wounds spells, for example, can and have been replaced with simple slot scaling. Summon Monster seems to be another potential candidate. Perhaps Dispel Magic and Greater Dispel Magic could also be added to the list. In short, where there are several spells of the same or similar name that merely have an increased quantitative effect, it might be wise to consider the use of scaling to achieve the same result.
 

tomBitonti

Adventurer
Charm person is actually one of the only spells in the 2e PHB that doesn't scale with level. It scales with INT. It seems 2e already had this figured out. IMO, there is a lot of hidden wisdom in that system that has been forgotten.

Although ... there is an inherent scaling effect, at least in 3E, where the DC increases with Int, and with use of a higher level slot. That enables the spell to have a similar chance to effect a single target of the caster's level. That is scaling. It goes unnoted because the effect is not quantifiable, as with hit points, but is still there.

On the other hand, Fireball gets 2/3 of these benefits without being placed in a higher level slot: A damage increase, a DC increase from Int, but not the DC increase for use of a higher level slot.

Thx!

TomB
 

Dausuul

Legend
Mostly agreed. There are a few exceptions, some of which the designers have already noticed: the whole line of cure <various> wounds spells, for example, can and have been replaced with simple slot scaling. Summon Monster seems to be another potential candidate. Perhaps Dispel Magic and Greater Dispel Magic could also be added to the list. In short, where there are several spells of the same or similar name that merely have an increased quantitative effect, it might be wise to consider the use of scaling to achieve the same result.

Alternatively, it might be worth considering adding qualitative distinctions. For example, a low-level summon monster could scale by increasing number/power of monsters, but you might still need the high-level version to get creatures that can turn incorporeal or carry you through the air.
 

dmgorgon

Explorer
Although ... there is an inherent scaling effect, at least in 3E, where the DC increases with Int, and with use of a higher level slot. That enables the spell to have a similar chance to effect a single target of the caster's level. That is scaling. It goes unnoted because the effect is not quantifiable, as with hit points, but is still there.

On the other hand, Fireball gets 2/3 of these benefits without being placed in a higher level slot: A damage increase, a DC increase from Int, but not the DC increase for use of a higher level slot.

Thx!

TomB

In D&D Next the DC for a fireball is 8+ Int+ Prof. vs DEX + Prof. Caster level doesn't alter the prof bonus all that much (about 1/3 your level) and if the target has a prof in dex saves it will be negated.
 

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