D&D 5E Why Has D&D, and 5e in Particular, Gone Down the Road of Ubiquitous Magic?

You know, WotC may say that in the rulebooks, but I'm calling BS. Every time I play one of their adventures I sure seem to have zero trouble finding someone to cast Cure Wounds or Lesser Restoration or whatever on my character for a small donation at the local temple.

In Eberron, which was the setting I mentioned, the average priest was an expert with the Religion, and probably Medicine and social skills. In 5e they would basically have the Acolyte background, and as it notes "Performing sacred rites is not the same as channelling divine power."
Clerics generally are marked for far greater things than simply looking after a temple simply by virtue of being Clerics: they go out and do their religion's work.
Or course Eberron does have somewhere that you can go to for healing. In most of the civilised areas there is probably a House Jorasco enclave within a week's travel that can provide low-level magical healing - for a price.

Eberron has a lot of low-end magic, but much fewer high-end magic users around compared to say, Forgotten Realms. That might explain why you had so much access to healing in the adventures. Of course I doubt that anyone would try to claim that FR is a low-magic setting either.

Or your DM couldn't be bothered with the hassle of you having to locate and travel to someone capable of fixing you up, and just wanted to get you back into the plot as soon as possible without the sidetrack.
 

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MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
But spellcasting is just a mechanism to deliver meaningful abilities.

Let's say you make a new class. To be able to say, "the class has several abilities. You can use any combination of these abilities up to X times a day. As you level up, you can use your abiliities more often" is a great mechanic. It gives the player flexibility, gives them a variety of abilities, and allows you to give them more options later while not excessively overpowering them.

But that's the spellcasting mechanic. The spellcasting mechanic even allows you to group abilities of different power levels together and balance them separately from others.

Now maybe WotC should have cloned spellcasting and called the new mechanic an "ability pool" or some such. They could have specified that abilities in the ability pool are non-magical. But that seems excessive when you could just use the spellcasting mechanic directly.

In a way spells are the new Powers....
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Except you're a wizard, which means you can learn all of the spells. You can decide to be the second guy when you complete your next long rest, and then be a third guy (with powers like the second one, but different effects on the next day. If you have one class which can cast all of the spells, then that class replaces all of the other classes that can each only cast some of the spells. And once you've played one wizard, you've played them all.

To contrast, if you had twelve distinct wizard classes and they each had their own spell lists, then you could play twelve different characters before things started getting repetitive.

Perhaps in theory but not in practice. Divine casters are the ones who can actually cast all the spells with a day's rest, and they have been so since 3e. The wizard gets one or two spells per level, plus whatever the DM is willing to give him on top of that. Even if some Monty Haul DM were to give you access to the entire wizard list, copying them all into your spellbooks would require a wealth of both gold and time. Plus, you'd need a portable hold to tote your library around with you.

Despite the fact that divine casters literally have access to all divine spells, I haven't have any difficulty keeping my divine characters from being repetitive throughout the editions, but that's just my personal experience.


Arguably the only edition that made no-magic a practical option, at all, so far. 5e just needs some more varied and flexible non-magical PC choices, though, and it could get there. It's already OK with relatively few magic items. HD, Second Wind, and sub-classes like the BM and Mastermind establish the sort of mechanics that could do that, it just needs a lot more on a more flexible class chassis....And the Monk. But you couldn't really play with just those classes: the need for healing and other spellcasting resources was just too great. Actually /zero/ classes. Variety consisting of Tanky DPRx3, DPR&skills x2. That's a very little variety. While you can get some between-combat healing from HD, lessening the need for the traditional 'Band-aid' Cleric, you still need in-combat healing and the many other contributions that only casters can make. 5e's very open about that with it's blurb on magic, early on - but it has room to grow into supporting such playstyles.

I agree that 4e was the best at handling a no-magic campaign, although I do think it was possible in other editions to varying degrees. 5e would be the next best IMO, and I'd also agree that it has room to grow in achieving its full potential in this respect.

I didn't count monk because I don't consider it a no-magic class, given that it's always had a mystical aspect to it. Admittedly, this might not be an issue in a no-magic campaign that allows psionics, where you can attribute the monk's mystical powers to psionic ability.

I disagree with you on there being zero classes in 5e that are non-magical. Sub-classes ought to be considered separately from the classes, as you can easily ban a sub-class without impacting the class. The base Barbarian, Fighter, and Rogue classes have zero magical abilities. If you ban the Totem Warrior, Eldritch Knight, and Arcane Trickster, you still have 3 fully viable and playable classes.


I don't think that magic was especially rare in AD&D. But its use was more differentiated: clerics and druids generally used it less in combat than did wizards; illusionists didn't have access to direct damage (until Chromatic Orb in UA); paladins were clearly magical/supernatural (with their aura of protection, LoH etc) but in combat fought using steel and sinew.

Differences in spell list, and in distribution of spell functions, help achieve this.

In 4e there is the combination of different power lists (though less distribution of function than in AD&D, I would say) and greater limitation on re-training (once per level rather than after every long rest). So any given two PCs are perhaps likely to feel more different.

I don't have enough of a sense of 5e class design to know which (if any) of these approaches might be the way to try and reduce a sense of ubiquity/homogeneity.

Different spell lists might help. For myself, I prefer having options. One illusionist might focus on pure illusions like the 1e Illusionist. Another might mix illusory walls of fire with real ones to keep enemies on their toes. I think that more options gives a class greater replay value and makes it more interesting in general.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
They could have specified that abilities in the ability pool are non-magical. But that seems excessive when you could just use the spellcasting mechanic directly.

Exactly! Do you want a Ranger that isn't magical or cast spells? Go through the Ranger spell list... choose those spells are are *barely* magical or a typical Ranger special outdoorsy ability, like Longstrider, Beast Sense etc... and just not call them magic. They're the very special connection the Ranger has to nature and animals, and he gets several Ranger features he can use *per day* that just "coincidentally" matches up to the spell pyramid.

It's the same exact thing I've always said to the Warlord contingent. If you want a non-magical Warlord... just use a Bard or a Cleric and only choose those "spells" who mechanics can easily be rendered as non-magical. That Bless that increases your ally's ability to attack? It's you speaking to them and egging them on. That Command? You have just such a battlefield presence that you can cowtow your enemies to do what you want.

So long as you just purposely avoid the most supernatural spells in the respective lists... you can create feature lists for "non-magical" classes that just use the same formatting of spell slots merely for ease-of-use. But the reason why people don't do that is because they then have to justify to their fellow players why they aren't selecting the "powerful" spells and playing towards theme... which we all see in threads like this that not many people are willing to do.
 

Perhaps in theory but not in practice. Divine casters are the ones who can actually cast all the spells with a day's rest, and they have been so since 3e. The wizard gets one or two spells per level, plus whatever the DM is willing to give him on top of that. Even if some Monty Haul DM were to give you access to the entire wizard list, copying them all into your spellbooks would require a wealth of both gold and time. Plus, you'd need a portable hold to tote your library around with you.
Divine casters had access to their entire spell list in AD&D, as well. It was necessary, or else there would be no way to un-do the myriad horrible effects that could befall the party, and those spells made for decent punishment to keep a priest in line with its ideals ("I pray for firestorm!" "You get remove disease.")

In 3E, scrolls had a cost and availability, so a wizard could always learn as many spells as they could afford. In AD&D and 5E, it's theoretically up to the DM as to which spells will show up, but the wizard can always keep looking for spells, and eventually they'd either succeed or die. Without sorcerers or warlocks in AD&D, that meant there were relatively more wizards, and a defeated wizard (usually) meant a captured spellbook. Availability is only a barrier if the DM wants it to be one.

More relevant to my personal interests, but did you find any rules in 5E about how much space a spell takes up in your spellbook? Or how many pages are in a typical spellbook? Because it seems likely that the party will slay a lich in tomorrow's game, and there's zero chance that a 2000+ year-old wizard would not know literally every spell in the book.
 

pemerton

Legend
Different spell lists might help. For myself, I prefer having options. One illusionist might focus on pure illusions like the 1e Illusionist. Another might mix illusory walls of fire with real ones to keep enemies on their toes. I think that more options gives a class greater replay value and makes it more interesting in general.
That may well be so! But the flipside is the potential for ubiquity/homogeneity. Combine this with (1) rough parity in combat ability across classes, and (2) achieving that parity via shtick, which means via spells for caster classes, and then (3) you get the pew-pew magic that [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION] is complaining about.

I'm not trying to criticise 5e here (or defend it). I'm just analysing it.
 

rooneg

Adventurer
In Eberron, which was the setting I mentioned, the average priest was an expert with the Religion, and probably Medicine and social skills. In 5e they would basically have the Acolyte background, and as it notes "Performing sacred rites is not the same as channelling divine power."
Clerics generally are marked for far greater things than simply looking after a temple simply by virtue of being Clerics: they go out and do their religion's work.
Or course Eberron does have somewhere that you can go to for healing. In most of the civilised areas there is probably a House Jorasco enclave within a week's travel that can provide low-level magical healing - for a price.

Eberron has a lot of low-end magic, but much fewer high-end magic users around compared to say, Forgotten Realms. That might explain why you had so much access to healing in the adventures. Of course I doubt that anyone would try to claim that FR is a low-magic setting either.

Or your DM couldn't be bothered with the hassle of you having to locate and travel to someone capable of fixing you up, and just wanted to get you back into the plot as soon as possible without the sidetrack.

I was personally referring to D&D adventurers league stuff (since that's much of what I play), which is set in the Forgotten Realms. You'd think that the pseudo-default setting of the game would match what WotC says in the PHB, but no, apparently every neighborhood church in the realms is just an unending font of healing magic. I get that it's for expedience, but it's still pretty silly.
 

Too small (5 possible sub-classes), and too limited in the range of contributions to the party's success (just DPR, toughness, Expertise, and a few ribbons here or there).
If your DM is running a no-magic game, she's (hopefully) not going to throw situations that require magic to overcome at you. Encounters that require you to have access to flight, or in-combat healing beyond healers kits and possibly basic potions etc.
Backgrounds can provide skills that those classes don't normally access.

The three non-magical classes with their five eligible subclasses should be able to handle everything a no-magic campaign can throw at them by definition. In the same way that a no-feats campaign won't require one of the party to have the Alertness feat.

This is why I just can't play wizards, specially not under more and more recent editions. Wizards are just too focused on stopping being part of the world.
Surely that depends on the wizard, and how you decide to play it? There is nothing in the class that requires you to be an ivory-tower hermit. Why not play a very down-to-earth, practical type who prefers to avoid using magic in frivolous ways and enjoys the company of other people if that would be a character you prefer?

As a sorcerer player, I really miss the spears and doing crazy things with sickles.
With the right character, what is stopping you?

Pretty much so. One of the critics on the spell casting as a feature is that i "blends" the classes. Like the paladin/cleric ranger/druid dichotomy. But also, as you say, some of us prefer class defining abilities to universal spell casting.
Aren't those dichotomies like complaining that both the Paladin and the Fighter can use swords?
Rangers and Druids tap the same power source to cast spells. Broadly speaking, Clerics and Paladins tap roughly similar ones as well. Its only natural that there are some shared spells, just as Fighters and Paladins share some weapon styles and proficiencies. Rangers can cast some spells that Druids can cast. They can also cast some spells that Druids can't cast, and Druids can access some spells that Rangers can't. Likewise Clerics and Paladins.
Access to similar class features such as having a spell list with some shared spells on doesn't 'blend' the classes any more than having a weapon style list with some shared styles on.


I think we should distinct between a class having "magical" abilities and that same class being half defined by it. Did the paladins and ranger have some high tier spell casing in 1E? They sure did. Was it this that defined their class (especially the way it was played)? Considering how little of it they had, i think not even at higher levels, no.
I would certainly consider Paladins as considerably more than half defined by their magical abilities. It is the Paladin's Lay on Hands, Divine Sense, Auras and Spells that distinguish it from a Fighter.
Then again Monks are also defined a lot by their magical abilities. More than half? Matter of opinion.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Divine casters had access to their entire spell list in AD&D, as well. It was necessary, or else there would be no way to un-do the myriad horrible effects that could befall the party, and those spells made for decent punishment to keep a priest in line with its ideals ("I pray for firestorm!" "You get remove disease.")

1e perhaps (I couldn't recall, and didn't feel like looking it up), but 2e had spheres which prevented divine casters from having access to all spells. A 2e specialty priest might not have access to the healing sphere, for example. 3e was very generous to divine casters in that it not only allowed them to have every spell in their "spellbook", but domains meant that you might have access to spells to arcane spells as well. 5e divine casters take after 3e divines.

In 3E, scrolls had a cost and availability, so a wizard could always learn as many spells as they could afford. In AD&D and 5E, it's theoretically up to the DM as to which spells will show up, but the wizard can always keep looking for spells, and eventually they'd either succeed or die. Without sorcerers or warlocks in AD&D, that meant there were relatively more wizards, and a defeated wizard (usually) meant a captured spellbook. Availability is only a barrier if the DM wants it to be one.

While magic items for sale was assumed in 3e, a DM could still limit what was available (and my DMs, at least, did so). On top of that, scrolls had a cost to purchase on top of the copying costs, meaning that gaining access to all wizard spells by these means would be incredibly expensive. Especially when you consider that you're wasting extra casts per day (in the form of those scrolls). That's not to say that a 3e wizard couldn't pick up a few extra spells via purchasing scrolls, but more than that was impractical at best IME.

As you say, availability of wizard spells in AD&D is up to the DM. But you're ignoring the other half of my statement. The wizard still has to decipher the spell, and then copy the spell. Which requires a skill check (that could admittedly by trivialized in 3e), gold, and time. Not to mention the impracticality of lugging an entire library with you, unless you happen to have the right magic item.

More relevant to my personal interests, but did you find any rules in 5E about how much space a spell takes up in your spellbook? Or how many pages are in a typical spellbook? Because it seems likely that the party will slay a lich in tomorrow's game, and there's zero chance that a 2000+ year-old wizard would not know literally every spell in the book.

The size of a spellbook is on PHB 153 (100 pages). While the length of a spell isn't listed, I'd stick with the old standby of 1 page per spell level. That does seem like an oversight though. Does anyone know if they've clarified this in errata?

That lich is a CR 21. Even if he doesn't have his library trapped in some horrific manner, or the players foil the trap, I'm perfectly fine with the party wizard spending his retirement mastering every spell in the game.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
That may well be so! But the flipside is the potential for ubiquity/homogeneity. Combine this with (1) rough parity in combat ability across classes, and (2) achieving that parity via shtick, which means via spells for caster classes, and then (3) you get the pew-pew magic that [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION] is complaining about.

I'm not trying to criticise 5e here (or defend it). I'm just analysing it.

I can see what you're saying. If spellcasters have access to every spell in the game they'll only pick the best spells, thereby ensuring that every spellcaster has the same spell list. It's a valid concern for some groups.

But here's my counterpoint. More restrictive spell lists will just create different subsets of the best spells for this type of group. So an evoker and an illusionist might be different, but two evokers will still be the same. Moreover, if certain spell lists are considered more effective than others, you could end up with a bunch of evoker wizards who cast the same spells because the evocation spell list is considered the best one (for example). Those types of players will always flock towards the "best" options.

However, a more open spell list allows players who aren't min-maxers more freedom and creativity. Rather than the illusionist who only creates illusions, you can make one who mixes up his magic. Did the illusionist really just polymorph the fighter into a giant ape or is it an illusion? That sort of thing.

Never said you were taking a stance, just offering a counterpoint. :)
 


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