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

Hussar

Legend

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Tony Vargas

Legend
True, but, it's a question of scale. A druid might be doing it once or twice a day previously and more often using weapon attacks while now, a druid is quite a lot better off doing it every round and never making weapon attacks. That's kinda the key issue.
Spellcasting was kinda the Druids thing in 1e. They got a lot of spells, back then, and weren't burdened with Cure spells at too many levels. And non-metallic armor meant leather & wooden shield for a 7 AC (and you had two prime requisites, so couldn't count on boosting that with DEX like the Thief would - when you're envying the thief in melee, you should stay out of melee). Later there was Hide armor, Shapechanging got pulled in to lower levels in later 2e, and 3e, of course, and then the class was cut up into pieces by 4e (one sub-class gets the offensive spells & shapechange, one gets the healing & animal companion, one gets summoning - no you can't exactly combine them - but, hey, your AC is level-appropriate).

Maybe the 5e druid looks a little like a wizard because he can use Cantrips every round: like Produce Flame - which the Wizard doesn't get - or Shillelagh which gives him a melee option (sure, it doesn't scale, but it's not like the old-school druid bothered with non-shapechanged melee at high level, or even shapechanged melee). Or not.
 

What about the DM who wants to run a low-/no- magic game that restricts PC choices with magic, but still wants to put the range of challenges before them that are common tropes in heroic action or 'low' (by D&D standards) magic fantasy sub-genres?
Could you give an example of what you're talking about? I'm not quite sure what you're getting at.
 

Grydan

First Post
A few thoughts off the top of my head.

1. The complaint about Paladins and Rangers seems really overblown. They aren't all any more magical than they were in previous editions; it's just that abilities that they had were shunted over to the same spell mechanic wizards use. Rather than having a "Hunter's Mark" special ability, they now cast "Hunter's Mark" like the wizard casts burning hands. But the ability doesn't actually feel any more magical to me.

It feels significantly more magical than 4e's Hunter's Quarry to me. Oh, it starts off pretty much the same: a minor/bonus action, pick a target that you can see (4e's it had to be the closest, but 5e is less concerned with giving people incentives to move about in combat), deal a d6 extra damage when you hit with a weapon attack. We're all good. I like that it can last more than an encounter/5 minutes and grants advantage to attempts to spot or track the target, as that lends it some non-combat utility. I can even get on board with making it require concentration to maintain (which if anything, makes it feel *less* magical, despite that mechanic largely being used for magical effects in the system, as it evokes the idea that you're consciously focussing your attention on that target rather than having dropped some mystical target designator signal on them).

What makes it feel like it's a magical effect is that:
1. It requires a Verbal component. Rangers have to say something when they pick a quarry, and they are incapable of doing so if they are prevented from speaking, whether it be due to magic, environment, status effect, or temporary or permanent disability.
2. It's subject to all restrictions and limitations that other magical spells are subject to: it can be countered with Dispel Magic, it can be spotted with Detect Magic, it gets suppressed by Anti-Magic Field, etc.
3. It cannot change targets unless the current target is reduced to 0, or you recast the spell, whereas its non-magical predecessor could be changed once per turn regardless of the status of the current target. Note that this means that even if the target is clearly no longer worthy of the Ranger's focus due to having been removed from combat in some way other than being reduced to 0, the Ranger remains fixated. The target is polymorphed into a newt, conked out with Sleep, and trapped in some way that it cannot possibly escape? It's surrendered on condition that no further violence be done to it? It's no longer even on this plane? Still your quarry, regardless of how many other viable targets are available – unless you'd like to expend another spell slot.
4. It uses spell slots. This means that a Ranger that uses enough magic spells in a day is incapable of selecting a quarry until he's had a long rest – and if he selects enough different quarries in a day, he's incapable of using magic spells until he rests.


Basically, if it can be detected by Detect Magic, uses spell slots, and requires you to speak a magical command, it seems pretty magical to me (or at least as much as anything else on the spell list).
 

I guess i we ask this question a large enough number of times, we'll get lots of different answers. But i won't go too much with redundancy here, as Neonchameleon and Tony Vargas (among others) have already put it well and in enough words.
Different people have different opinions, and since this is pretty subjective, its always worth hearing another opinion on the matter.
Yes. And i think it worthy of explanation. You see, the magical abilities of the ki, and the "lay on hands" are distinctive both from a lorewise and mechanical standing point, that make that class have its own identity (all this aside from personal preference). The casting doesn't. It not just slaps a game mechanic not associated by us to the glass, it slaps the same effects of that mechanic to it, thus "blending" it with other classes that do have that feature as their primary distinction. That is why we don't object to auras and lay on hands or smites, but we do object to casting. Personally i would not have objected to casting so much if it was there just in small amounts, here and there. But 5E made them almost onmipresent to the point where half the class in game capability is defined through casting.
Spell slots are just a rules mechanic to express class capabilities though. Like making attack rolls. The fact that other classes get spell slots or make weapon attack rolls shouldn't be an issue: they're both just a way of expressing the class features.
Some classes (like Fighters) have attack roll-based abilities as their primary distinction. Some classes (like wizards) have spell casting-based features as their primary distinction.
The Ranger has always been a "blend" though, incorporating fighter-like (often ranged) combat, druid-like nature magic, and wilderness /environment based skills and magical abilities (unique to Ranger.)
If you, personally, don't associate some of those mechanics with the class, then there may be variants from the traditional class that you would prefer like the "Spell less Ranger" if your DM is OK with it.

I'd also have to point out that even though the Ranger's spells advance based upon half of the Ranger's level, that is very much not the same as spellcasting defining half of the class. Unless you were just being hyperbolic?
The Ranger's spells can provide an edge in combat, exploration etc, but the Ranger will be making attack rolls, skill checks, or using their ranger-specific abilities far more than they will be spellcasting while in play.

Now, the spell list is the actual class feature that the spell slot system expresses surely? There are some spells that are unique to rangers, and some spells that other classes have as well. Are there more spells that you think should be unique class features to Rangers?
 

Corpsetaker

First Post
First of all I just want to say "well done" to the OP for a brilliant topic!

I feel the magic system is the way it is because of several things: Lazy design (magic vs non-magic), designer preference, and simplicity.

I for one completely agree with the OP and this is one of the main reasons why 5th edition has fallen by the wayside with us and we've decided to go back to 1st/2nd edition. I feel like the designers have loaded this edition down with so much magic because it's easier to balance the classes. I personally never had an issue with the whole "magic vs mundane" but apparently the designers do. I also feel like this didn't come about because of the playtest, which I've seen mentioned here. I remember the surveys and the magic system was never ever mentioned. I feel like the playtest was actually done poorly because the questions were never aimed at the possibility of scrapping a part of the deep core mechanics and starting over if people didn't like it. Yes there was an options section but there was so much else to write in there you simply either ran out of room or had to prioritize.

I agree with everything the OP has said. When we were playing 5th edition the Wizard, Sorcerer, Bard, and Druid never bothered writing down a weapon on their character sheet. The design of the magic system in 5th edition has made things redundant. I still can't believe they didn't at least try and make the spell lists unique to the classes. I could understand subclasses that are part of the main class sharing a spell list but the ease of cross spell lists has taken away a bit of the uniqueness. I have a feeling this is part of the reason why we are seeing such a resurgence in the 1st/2nd/OSR D&D games. Basically what they did was make the classes into walking magic items. What's the point in making magic items an extra if you are going to load up the classes full of magic?

Now in my personal games I got rid of at-wills. I made it an automatic 5 times per long rest for all classes. It's helped a little but not much.
 

GSHamster

Adventurer
A thought about the druid. Would it have been better if the main combat cantrip had been something other than conjure flame?

While fire is natural, elemental magic is also heavily associated with wizards. Would the druid feel a bit better/different if it used something like poison bolt, instead?
 

A thought about the druid. Would it have been better if the main combat cantrip had been something other than conjure flame?

While fire is natural, elemental magic is also heavily associated with wizards. Would the druid feel a bit better/different if it used something like poison bolt, instead?
Personally, I would see that as even weirder. Divine magic is supposed to be subtle. While throwing around a fistful of fire isn't that subtle, a ball of fire is still something I can kind of imagine in nature. A coherent bolt of poison is significantly less so.
 

Corpsetaker

First Post
A thought about the druid. Would it have been better if the main combat cantrip had been something other than conjure flame? While fire is natural, elemental magic is also heavily associated with wizards. Would the druid feel a bit better/different if it used something like poison bolt, instead?
I think it would be better to get rid of cantrip attacks to begin with. This isn't WoW where druids go around "pew pew" blasting everything.
 

Corpsetaker

First Post
While Produce Flame is something the druid has had for a very long time, I don't see them having infinite access to it because of their nature background. There is a difference between lightning striking a tree and causing a fire, or the heat from the sun causing dry brush to ignite, than a druid using the power of nature to produce fire over and over and over. I see the second as unnatural and the previous mechanics having it to a limited use per day fit that better. Cantrips should consist of spell like "Speak with Animals" and other non combat utility spells.
 

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