D&D General Why are spells grouped into "levels"?

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
It doesn't matter if it is confusing. The answer right now for new players is the same as it ever was... just learn it.

All of us can talk about what spells levels "should" have been named until we are blue in the face. But it is the exact same conversation that has occurred again and again and again for the last 30 years, and it's never changed. Why has it never changed? Simple. No one really cares. We all SAY "it would be better if..." but how many of us have ever changed what we refer to spell levels as? My guess is almost none of us. And if if we DID try to refer to spell levels as "circles" (for example) at some point... it certainly has never caught on with any other part of the D&D audience. And why? Because it doesn't actually matter. "Spell levels" is confusing? Yeah, well D&D on the whole is confusing, so what's one more thing? We just learn to deal with it.

If calling them "spell circles" really matters to any of us... then we just have to make the active choice to change it in our own game and stick with it, regardless of whether or not the makers of the game go along with it down the line. But I don't think that ever happens. Instead we will just continue to complain about it not being in the game but not actually do anything differently.

Just like the Warlord. ;)
 

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Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I just want reprint of 5E version of "spell compendium" with all spells having:

1. Short description in class spell lists like 3.5E

2. Long spell descriptions sorted:

level-0: sorted by school:
abjuration: sorted by alphabet
conjuration: sorted by alphabet
etc....

level-1:
sorted by school:
abjuration: sorted by alphabet
conjuration: sorted by alphabet
etc....

level-2:....

etc...

3. In long description: add what class can cast this spell!

I agree, although there should also be a mini-index at the end of the spell section alphabetically of all spells referring back to the Long description
 


Willowfang

Villager
At the end of the day, you still have to call a given thing SOMETHING.

We could have no even level spells too, just call the now 2nd level spells 3rd level spell cause you can cast them at 3rd level, but then everyone would be home brewing even numbered level spells. That could have been a thing to do. Of course what would be inbetween level spells given what we have now wouldn't fit easily power-wise, but it could have been made a thing in Second Edition if it was really thought of
 

the Jester

Legend
Every since reading Sepulchrave's story hour, I have used the term "valences" as an in-game term for spell levels. I really like the model.
 

Having 17 levels of spells would be way more complicated. The designers wanted to limit spells as a resource ie so many of x level per day. For that to work with spell level equaling character level there would be spells that were 2nd level that are now first, 2nd level spells that are now either 3rd or first level and so on. needing a couple of levels between advancing to more potent magic makes it a more important milestone to get say 5th level spells and the line about what level a spell should be is tough to decide as it is. Imagine the arguments about 'Stone Skin should be an 11th level spell not 12th. Wall of Flame is 11th and it's way more useful. I think IMHO it's worth the time to educate new players and have a more manageable spell list.

This is why I had the idea earlier that the number of spell levels should be reduced to three or four maybe. In 3E, the spells a caster could cast was limited by the ability score (not modifier). You had to have an Int/Wis/Cha of 10+spell level to cast a spell.

But with only three tiers you could just name them. I don't think having the ability to cast 5 minor magics, and 2 moderate magics per long rest could be confusing.

(Although, I'm unsure level having multiple meanings is really a make/break issue. "I'm not playing that stupid game ever again because its use of the term 'level' confuses me!!")
 

Jeff Carlsen

Adventurer
For spells, we use Order when referring to levels in character. But I agree with the premise of reducing the number of levels, since the difference between levels is pretty arbitrary except when it comes to damage output. I'd go with four spell levels, one for each tier of play. That seems like a nice design space to work within.
 

Circle won't work. You are going to confuse the Druids.

Valance won't work. People are going to wonder why you are talking about curtains.

Order does not work, at least in some settings, because adventuring companies are often named "Order of....."

Tier won't work because that is used for other things as well.

Rank would work if we add that to the classes that gain spells.

Saying a Wizard has reached 5th level and achieved third rank in his training, giving access to those third rank (3rd level) spells sounds good, but may not work for other classes.

What would a Sorcerer or Cleric call the same thing?
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Circle won't work. You are going to confuse the Druids.

Valance won't work. People are going to wonder why you are talking about curtains.

Order does not work, at least in some settings, because adventuring companies are often named "Order of....."

Tier won't work because that is used for other things as well.

Rank would work if we add that to the classes that gain spells.

Saying a Wizard has reached 5th level and achieved third rank in his training, giving access to those third rank (3rd level) spells sounds good, but may not work for other classes.

What would a Sorcerer or Cleric call the same thing?

Ultimately then, we should just give each class a choice of a few powers at each level, and for certain classes, those powers include spells. Wouldn't that solve everything @dave2008 ? 🙃
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Order does not work, at least in some settings, because adventuring companies are often named "Order of....."
I'll take two Purple Knights and a side of Magic Missile. Is that the sort of confusion you're envisioning? Or PCs trying to do a Magic Missile in between division and subtraction? IDK, I don't see it.
 


happyhermit

Adventurer
Is it worth pointing out that 4e removed asynchronous character and spell levels? For example: wish was a 29th level spell that you could get when you were 29th level.

Which points to the greater conspiracy, because to balance the scales they had to apply the term to items instead. "Does that mean I can only use that item when I get to lvl 10?" "Why did I get a lvl10 item when we are all at lvl11?" "Is that the lvl x or y version of Z?"
 

jasper

Rotten DM
I'll take two Purple Knights and a side of Magic Missile. Is that the sort of confusion you're envisioning? Or PCs trying to do a Magic Missile in between division and subtraction? IDK, I don't see it.
Sorry all I have is lavender knights or Plum Knights. Which would you prefer?
 


Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
Chainmail (3rd Ed.) uses the term complexity, of which there are six (erm) levels (actually “values”). I think “9th-complexity spell” has a nice ring to it.
 
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Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
So, to make things more complicated, but only somewhat parallel to D&D, Paizo made the decision in Starfinder to give equipment levels. Sheesh.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
Where did you find that?
Page 33 of Chainmail, 3rd Edition, under the “Wizards” entry. It’s presented as an optional rule, but “complexity value” seems to be what was later called “level”. Also, each of the listed spells on pp 31-32 is given a complexity value at the bottom of its entry.

The optional mechanic is basically a chance of spell failure.

I like the term because it gives an in-world reason for the categories. You need to be a higher level wizard to cast certain spells because they are more complex.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, wait. You think that changing the term makes it less meta to talk about the concept in-character?
So, I’m still unclear on why talking about spell levels in character is meta, outside of the meta-feeling name?

and I say meta feeling because...it isn’t actually necessarily a name that wouldn’t exist in game. It wouldn’t be especially wierd if a martial art used levels rather than something more esoteric.
Speak for yourself! I'm up to V4 or so on my own Warlord homebrew! So I'm doing SOMETHING on that front!
Yeah I need to get mine into the next draft and post it.
 

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