Spellcasting Resource Management Systems (Vancian vs. others)

TL:DR VERSION -Which edition of D&D had the best spellcasting mechanics? What did you like/not like? What would be the best system ever?

Long Version that Smart People in Tweed Jackets Read by a Fireplace:

I want to talk about Resource Management Systems. No, this is not the name of some IT firm. Well, it might be. But I want to talk about the way that player character power resources are regulated. I think we can all agree that a wizard being able to walk around casting Wish whenever he wants on whatever he wants loses its appeal quickly. Power has to be regulated for it to mean something, at least in a strategic sense. "Do I pace myself, and use magic missile for now, and save my Bigby's Baelor Annihilator 9000* spell for when I really need it?" If you can use Bigby's Baelor Annihilator 9000 whenever you want, you never have to ask yourself this question. This results in Bigby's Baelor Annihilator 9000 being less awesome, and the game less fun.
*(note: to my knowledge, Bigby's Baelor Annihilator 9000 is not a real spell, but is simply my poor attempt at a joke and an example of a Really Awesome Spell. Evil wizards would probably go for Evard's Solar Slaughterer in any case.)


As just about everybody knows, D&D has handled this issue in different ways in different editions. Also in different ways for different classes/power sources. As I have been reading over the Playtest materials and forums in preparation for my first session, the current implementation seems like something of a hot-button issue. I just wanted to lay out some of the various systems/arguments that I have seen, and then see what you/you all/we think about it. While giving each other cupcakes. And not flaming. Unless those flames are once/encounter.* *(2nd bad joke attempt. Maybe third. Not sure anymore.)

SYSTEM ONE: VANCIAN MAGIC
-or all you ever wanted to know about LFQW but were afraid to ask

With this system, after resting, spellcasters read their morning spellbooks (presumably while drinking coffee). This allows them to "memorize" certain spells into spell slots. In their minds. I'm not saying that the slots are only imaginary, I mean their minds literally have slots. Nevermind. Using these spells, then, makes the spells disappear from their minds. Some people think this sounds like a dumb rationalization for a purely mechanics-based rule. It is. On the other hand, the people who think this is "unrealistic" have probably never been to college and studied a subject for 12 hours for an exam, only to read about the same subject two weeks later and think "WTF are they talking about?" If undergrad can do this to a person's brain, then I'm pretty sure magic can.  In any case, it's a widely used system with a venerable history, and seems to be the one currently implemented for wizards and clerics.

So you have:
-Large book or pool of spells to draw from
-Limited amount of "slots" to place these in
-Spells must be placed in slots PRIOR to being used
-Spellcasting becomes somehow related to sleeping.

PROS:
-Resource Management leads to strategy. "Should I pace myself?" question is asked.
-Performance across encounters matters. Your performance in the first fight will determine how many resources you have in the next fight, and so on.
-Allows for playstyle of spellcaster to differ from the fighter. Fighters can hit pretty hard all the time. Wizards can conserve energy, and then literally unleash hell when they need to in awe-inspiring displays of raw magical butt-kicking powerrrrrrrr.

CONS:
-It makes the wizard ask themselves "Do I have to be boring and not matter this round, or can I finally afford do something meaningful and important?" This can lead to low self esteem, and Fluoxetine prescriptions.
-If the playstyles between fighters and wizards vary too much, it can lead to balance issues, where at level 1 the wizard is the fighter's sissy little "Person Who Can Read Good" and at level 20 the fighter is merely the wizards metal-clad chearleading squad to tell them how awesome it was when the wizard cast all their level 9 spells and called it day.
-This system leads to the 10 minute workday, where the party finds some bad guys, blows all their best spells, and then goes and finds Mommy to tuck them in and read them a bed time story so they can do it all over again tomorrow.
-Discourages on-the-fly or creative use of spells. Problem A presents itself. The fighter turns to the wizard and says "Got anything that can handle that?" The wizard says "Na, man, I only prepared spells for Problems B and C. Sorry dude. Let's run away and go to sleep." See Fluoxetine prescriptions above.

SYSTEM TWO: ENCOUNTER-BASED
-ala 4E where you have certain abilities you can use every fight.


This system gives you a smaller pool of spells to work with, but you can use them reliably every fight. Pretty straightforward. You have:

-smaller pool of spells to draw from
-can use each spell each fight

PROS:

-no 10 minute workday. After every fight, you catch your breath, and are ready to press on if the story warrants it.
-allows fighter and wizard playstyles to be balanced (good in the sense that it is equitable)
-Artificially enforces this unit of play called an "encounter." Makes it easy for DM's to come up with balanced content.

CONS:
-Allows fighter and wizard playstyles to be homogenized (boring)
-Artificially enforces this unit of play called an "encounter." Makes it harder for play to proceed organically.
-Performance in one fight doesn't affect the next fight. Every fight is the same.
-Still no creative or on-the-fly spell usage. You have the spells on your power cards, and you use them every fight. The end.
-The only real resource management is deciding which enemies WITHIN the encounter to hit with big spells and which with small ones.

SOME TRENDS SO FAR

Vancian Trend #1
With the Vancian system, we can see two trends in terms of power usage. Ideally, the wizard paces himself and plays smart over the course of an entire dungeon. He starts off small and his power cresendoes until the final boss/big bad explodes in a shower of magical awesomeness that the wizard was saving just for him.

Vancian Trend #2
The 10 minute workday where the party goes in, blows all their spells, and then has to go to sleep. No, Redbulls don't help. No, they can't conjure water and drink it. They have to sleep. Them's the rules.

Encounter-Based Trend
With this system, you have every fight opening up with a bang as everyone blows their powers, and then ending with a whimper as everyone runs out of juice and is reduced to at-wills. This is sort of the opposite of Vancian Trend #1. IMHO starting off big and ending small is, well, anti-climactic. When a fight ends, you want to find yourself saying "OMG did you SEE that holy cowww" instead of "Well, now that's over."

MY PROPOSED 3rd SYSTEM -we'll call it "The Best System"

So, we want a system that has all of these qualities:
-Promotes resource management as another facet of good play
-Ideally results in a climactic "ramping up" or cresendo of power usage by spellcasters, instead of the opposite.
-Allows current performance to impact future encounters.
-Discourages contrived "10 minute workday" behavior
-ENCOURAGES CREATIVE-ON-THE-FLY spell usage

My solution? Take the best of what these systems have to offer and add them to the Psionic power-point and action point systems from 4E. Hold on, just listen.

Imagine you have a spellbook, with a bunch of at-wills. What these boil down to is essentially "effects" or "riders". Now you also have power points. You can spend these power points to "ramp up" the effect of a spell or add in another effect from another spell. (creative, on-the-fly spell usage). When you rest, or sleep, or do ____, your power points reset to a number dependent on your level. But you also are awarded a certain number for completing fights or as a reward for ____. This allows your power points to rise above your "rested point amount". This encourages resource management across multiple encounters, while at the same time discouraging 10 minute workdays. Sure, you could blow all your points in the first fight, and then rest. Or, you could play smart, save up the points, and then annihilate the boss in a shower of magical awesomeness.

EXAMPLE OF "THE BEST" SYSTEM IN ACTION

Im a low level wizard. In my spellbook, I have Ray of Frost. I also start out with 5 power points upon resting. As an at-will, Ray of Frost slows down/freezes enemies in place. If I spend a power point on it, I can upgrade it into a wall of ice that traps multiple bad guys. If I spend two power points on it, it upgrades into a giant fist made of ice which punches dragons in the balls. Or I could spend 2 power points to do the giant ice fist ball punch, and another power point to add a different element/effect to it. You get the idea. Say at my level, I get 3 power points after every fight, so if I only use 2, that's a net gain of 1. I can store these extra power points up to a max of say, 10 at my level. So if I play smart, I can go into the confrontation with the final boss much better prepared than if I simply blow all my spells and then rest outside his door. This system also rewards creativity by allowing for creative solutions to nearly any problem, with wizards being able to combine multiple effects and riders, while still being mindful of not depleting their mystical resources. When you level up, you can learn new awesome spell effects, can spend more points per turn, have higher maximum points, etc. Call these "power points" whatever you want, but you get the idea. Anyways, if you're still with me, thanks for reading. Talk amongst yourselves!

TL:DR VERSION -Which edition of D&D had the best spellcasting mechanics? What did you like/not like? What would be the best system ever?
I am one of the ones who actually -enjoys- Vancian casting, whether I am running the game, playing a wizard, or playing a warrior.  It makes sense to me, it is easily explainable in-game.  It has some downsides that, at least in 3.x, need houserules because of seriously foolish design decisions early on.  However, it is the most stable casting method in my opinion -because- the creativity and the need to manage resources (you won't pull a 10minute workday in my games more than once) lead to an interesting character.  If you feel you must do something every single round, then I recommend you play a class designed to do something every round or pack a lot of Greek Fire/alchemical fire/acid/ice/etc and so on.  As for a specific edition...I prefer 2E Vancian above all else.  Dangerous casting, speed modifiers (try casting gate against a rogue with a dagger), MR made life challenging yet rewarding as a wizard.

I don't like the encounter system at all.  Humans live life in days, not encounters, and thinking in terms of days is natural.  I don't like the idea of 'every fight I have every resource' because frankly...it's boring imo.

Your third idea is pretty decent, except for one thing that matters at least to me -- I'm a dyed-in-the-wool psion lover.  Why would I decide to play a psion if a wizard is an exact clone of them?  Maybe you have a solution already, I don't know -- but that would be my question.  If the psion were also interesting, then your third solution could work too with an ingame explanation more akin to Mage or Dangerous Journey's Heka.

"Lightning...it flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."

Interesting concept.

Implementation becomes problematic by allowing the wizard to up his game using the blanks you provided.

This also reflects a more sorcerer/warlock style of play.

While this is not bad I feel it fails to reflect the importance of spell selection and preparation to my satisfaction.

I tend to prefer a 2e rarity, chance of failing to learn, and inherent danger in casting to be present.

Edition wars kill players,Dungeons and Dragons needs every player it can get.

Third edition possessed the best spellcasting mechanics, but unfortunately presented them right alongside the less-enjoyable and overwhelmingly-unbalanced versions, so they were overshadowed on both sides and generally ignored.

I'm talking about the sorcerer-style spontaneous spellcasting method.

PROS: 


  • Limited pool of spells known allows for significant variance between individuals.

  • Limited pool of spells means the player has less things to memorize, so less time is spent looking up things in the book.

  • Encourages reliance on NPCs for obscure spells.

  • Enough spells that you can use them each encounter, but not so many that the choice to cast a spell or not becomes meaningless (except possibly at higher levels).

  • No waiting until tomorrow to memorize the spell you need today; if you can't cast it today, you can't cast it tomorrow.


CONS:


  • Some individual spells are still overwhelmingly powerful, especially at low level (sleep, color spray).

  • Poor planning can put you into a bad situation later in the day.

  • Existing magical items could be used to bypass the balancing limitations.


The metagame is not the game.

Two points on Vancian magic:

Firstly, in AD&D the spells are as much "prepared" as "memorized".  I won't copy-and-paste Gygax at you, but he made it clear that spell preparation involved setting up a connection to another plane.  The wizard was then ready to unleash mystical forces at the drop of a tongue-twisting phrase and a grand gesture.

Secondly, the preparation times varied greatly between editions.  Readying any number of 9th level spells in AD&D takes ten hours rest, plus (IIRC) ten minutes per spell level.  That means that what you describe as Trend #1 is a more modern innovation - before D&D3 and fifteen minutes cramming, high-level spells were a very serious under-taking.  In addition, old school dungeons don't always have big bosses, and fighting wasn't the focus of the game.  Using a spell to avoid a fight, or to get to a new (or old) area of the dungeon was just as legitimate as solving your problems with Fireball.

...

OK, nothing is quite as legit as solving your problems with Fireball, but hopefully you catch my drift.
 
Third edition possessed the best spellcasting mechanics, but unfortunately presented them right alongside the less-enjoyable and overwhelmingly-unbalanced versions, so they were overshadowed on both sides and generally ignored.

I'm talking about the sorcerer-style spontaneous spellcasting method.

PROS: 


  • Limited pool of spells known allows for significant variance between individuals.

  • Limited pool of spells means the player has less things to memorize, so less time is spent looking up things in the book.

  • Encourages reliance on NPCs for obscure spells.

  • Enough spells that you can use them each encounter, but not so many that the choice to cast a spell or not becomes meaningless (except possibly at higher levels).

  • No waiting until tomorrow to memorize the spell you need today; if you can't cast it today, you can't cast it tomorrow.


CONS:


  • Some individual spells are still overwhelmingly powerful, especially at low level (sleep, color spray).

  • Poor planning can put you into a bad situation later in the day.

  • Existing magical items could be used to bypass the balancing limitations.





What about a mix of sorcerer and vancian styles, then?  What if basic COMBAT spells could be cast like sorcerer spells, i.e. on the fly from a limited number of casts per day.  NON-COMBAT spells could be cast more like vancian system or as RITUALS, where you have to spend time reading books, getting components, and in general PREPARING for them etc.  (all iconic wizard activities).  This eliminates the situation where you "memorize/prepare" Identify three times and then have no way to defend yourself.  At the same time, magic isn't reduced to simply being bullets in a gun, you can be creative in using magical effects to solve puzzles, bypass sections of dungeon, all the stuff you brought up (and I agree with).

Consider the Cleric.  They are talking about it, and I think it would be great, if they make it where they can heal using Channel Divinity, and use their spell selection for something more interesting.  Clerics heal, that's a given.  But if they have to use their spell selection to do it, then it's all they can do.  If they "prepare" something other than Cure ___ Wounds, they're gimping their party.  By letting them heal via Channel Divinity, and use actual spells for things that are more "interesting" you allow the cleric to fulfill his role while letting him do cool stuff too.

Similarly, wizards have to AOE and controll bad guys sometimes.  It's a given.  That shouldn't mean they can't also use magic to identify items or effects, bypass obstacles, teleport the party to plane ___, etc.  If you make those things separate, it allows the wizard to do both without having only one at the expense of the other.

I guess my main issue with the Vancian system, is that I like it for non-combat "utility" type situations, but think for combat, a system that lets spellcasters be creative and able to react to surprising circumstances is ideal. 

Your thoughts?
Using a point system to add multiple effects to spells on the fly is potentially a huge time-sink at the table, because of the number of decisions that the player has to make each round.  Note how 3e psionic augmentation typically only had one variable.  If the game's priority is deep, complex tactical combat where where taking one's time is expected, like a wargame, then this system may be workable.  But if the game's priority is keeping players engaged by getting around the table promptly, then simple discrete spells are a better choice.
I have to give two answers--my idealistic situation that probably nobody else wants and my realistic answer that I'd also be happy with.

Idealism:

Actual spellcasting that can be used in combat--the kind we traditionally attach to wizards and clerics--should be relegated to NPC use only.  I could write a novel about why.  The short version is:

(1) It would match the source material (2) It would be far easier to balance (3) I prefer the aesthetics.

Magic would not be out of PC hands, however--it would just be in the form of rituals and there wouldn't be a class solely dedicated to its use.  I liked the concept behind rituals in 4e-, though I didn't care for how they were actually handled with the whole "here's this magic powder you use for everything ever" thing.  I really really like the ritual system in Next so far and would love to see it as the primary form of magic in the world.  Maybe the Fighter knows how to set up an alarm.  Perhaps the Ranger has learned how to Commune with Nature and the Rogue can summon Unseen Servants.  Or maybe one guy could learn them all, I wouldn't propose actually limiting it by class or anything.  The rituals should also have special procedures and material requirements.  They should have weird ingredients so they can't just be used to solve every problem.  The sorts of rituals that do solve problems (like Teleports and Find the Path) should have ingredients that essentially require adventures of their own to acquire them.

Oh, I also wouldn't object to a class like the 3rd edition Warlock whose purpose was to provide the feel of a bottomless magical blaster without allowing the insane, reality changing things Wizards could do.


Realistic:

I think there should be a spellcaster that focuses on each sort of resource system.  Make one totally vancian class, one partially-vancian class (like say, the Sorcerer, where it's still daily slots but not specific spells in those slots ahead of time), one "power points" kind of class (but still with spells--Psionics should be separate), one AEDU class, etc., etc.
 


I think there should be a spellcaster that focuses on each sort of resource system.  Make one totally vancian class, one partially-vancian class (like say, the Sorcerer, where it's still daily slots but not specific spells in those slots ahead of time), one "power points" kind of class (but still with spells--Psionics should be separate), one AEDU class, etc., etc.
 



It sounds like this is indeed the route they are going.  I also like rituals, though.

SYSTEM ONE: VANCIAN MAGIC ... In any case, it's a widely used system with a venerable history, and seems to be the one currently implemented for wizards and clerics.


I wouldn't say this describes the playtest clerics. They use a spell slot system like a 3e sorcerer... you can use a slot for whatever spell you like. It seems like nobody ever mentions this.

SYSTEM ONE: VANCIAN MAGIC ... In any case, it's a widely used system with a venerable history, and seems to be the one currently implemented for wizards and clerics.


I wouldn't say this describes the playtest clerics. They use a spell slot system like a 3e sorcerer... you can use a slot for whatever spell you like. It seems like nobody ever mentions this.




Eh...I'm going to have to disagree with you on this.  The PT materials say they have to "prepare" certain spells into spell slots.  They ARE talking about how to implement Channel Divinity.  Maybe they will bring back the old "Spontaneous Casting" of cure/harm spells for good/evil clerics.

Maybe a "spontaneous casting" system would fix my issue with wizards gimping themselves by having to prepare Identify or Detect Magic, etc.
No, it's pretty clear. It says you cast a spell you prepared, and you lose that slot. The wizard says you lose that spell.

Furthermore, the cleric always has more spells prepared than slots. His prepared spells are like a sorcerer's spells known. (But perhaps the cleric will be able to choose which spells to prepare each day, I don't know.)
The way I see it, there are two major problems with Vancian casting.  The first is specific to Vancian casting itself, while the second is shared to a certain degree by other daily resource management systems.

First, there is the problem of decision paralysis in figuring out which spells to prepare.  While some may like the way it rewards strategic planning, in a real game it usually leads to one of two outcomes: either the wizard just sticks with a standard set of spells (meaning, the spells he didn't prepare are deadweight), or the wizard slows down the game coming up with the optimal set of spells for this particular adventure (which, in turn, depends on getting reliable information from the DM about upcoming encounters).

Second, if other character types are using different resource management systems, then overall balance depends on adhering to extremely rigid assumptions about the number of rounds per encounter and the number of encounters per day.  Even AEDU systems have this problem; if you have X number of encounters and dailies, then long encounters turn into serious slogs unless there is some sort of power recovery mechanism.  And without power (and other daily resource) recovery, long adventuring days are flat-out impossible.

One of the later 4e DMGs had a "long encounter" mechanic where the DM could build long encounters which allowed for PCs to recharge encounter powers when certain conditions (specified in the encounter setup) were met.  And the Epic LFR adventures, which mostly do not allow for extended rests, have built in ways of recovering dailies and healing surges.  I think these mechanisms are a good start, but they don't go far enough.

So here's my solution to bridging the divide between Vancian and AEDU: the reserve effect.

What this means is that each Vancian spell would have an at-will or encounter power that could be used while the spell is prepared but not cast.  Here's how, say, Fireball would work:

Fireball - Arcane, Evocation, Fire, Implement
Area burst 15-foot radius within 50 feet + 5 feet/level targeting each creature in burst
Attack: Intelligence vs. Reflex
Hit: 4d6 + Intelligence modifier fire damage.
Miss: Half damage
Reserve Effect: while Fireball is prepared but not cast, you can use the following powers:
Encounter, Area burst 10-foot radius within 50 feet + 5 feet/level targeting each creature in burst
Attack: Intelligence vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d6 + Intelligence modifier fire damage.
Miss: Half damage.
At-will, Area burst 5-foot radius within 50 feet + 5 feet/level targeting each creature in burst
Attack: Intelligence vs. Reflex
Hit: 1d6 + Intelligence modifier fire damage.

And my solution to the 10-minute workday and long-encounter slog problems: action recovery.
As part of a short rest, you can spend an action point to recover an expended spell slot or other daily power.
As a standard action, you can refocus to recover an expended encounter power (or 2 power points). 
What about a mix of sorcerer and vancian styles, then?  What if basic COMBAT spells could be cast like sorcerer spells, i.e. on the fly from a limited number of casts per day.  NON-COMBAT spells could be cast more like vancian system or as RITUALS, where you have to spend time reading books, getting components, and in general PREPARING for them etc.  (all iconic wizard activities).  This eliminates the situation where you "memorize/prepare" Identify three times and then have no way to defend yourself.  At the same time, magic isn't reduced to simply being bullets in a gun, you can be creative in using magical effects to solve puzzles, bypass sections of dungeon, all the stuff you brought up (and I agree with).

I'm actually a big fan of 4E rituals for those kinds of utility magic situations.  They way I would imagine it, you would have two kinds of spells and two separate resources for casting.  An invocation would be instant-cast and no material component and would have a MP (or spell slot) cost; a ritual would have a significant cost in both material components and casting time and you'd have to have a scroll or spellbook at hand while you perform it, but would not cost MP (or spell slots).

Both types of spells would be limited in how many you could know.  Invocations would just have an Intelligence-based limit to how many you could keep in memory at a time, but you could swap them out if you spend a few hours with your spellbook.  Rituals would be expensive and rare, so you would only know the ones you can get scrolls for (or research).

The metagame is not the game.

No, it's pretty clear. It says you cast a spell you prepared, and you lose that slot. The wizard says you lose that spell.

Furthermore, the cleric always has more spells prepared than slots. His prepared spells are like a sorcerer's spells known. (But perhaps the cleric will be able to choose which spells to prepare each day, I don't know.)




Wow...you know what...I think you may be on to something.  The wording of the text is very sketchy though...it specifically mentions preparing.  But it mentions preparing more spells than you have slots.   And that you lose the slot.  Not the spell.  Hmm.

They should clear this up.



Either way, the cleric still feels obligated to use these slots for healing spells, instead of non-healing spells, just like the current system makes wizards feel obligated to use slots for combat spells, instead of non-combat utility spells.  In 4E there were specific "utility" powers.  What do you guys think of that idea?
Either way, the cleric still feels obligated to use these slots for healing spells, instead of non-healing spells, just like the current system makes wizards feel obligated to use slots for combat spells, instead of non-combat utility spells.  In 4E there were specific "utility" powers.  What do you guys think of that idea?

I'm all for getting rid of in-combat healing.  It hurts my suspension of disbelief to think about muscles and bone regrowing itself in real time at the same rate they might break.  Make it a ritual, require ointments and unguents.
 

The metagame is not the game.

I like the current system in DDN. 

Rituals allow the the wizard to not have to waste vancian slots memorizing utilty spells while at wills provide options once all of the prepared spells are used.

My 2 cents.  Determining what spells need to be prepared using a Vancian system doesnt take that long.  For a new player it will take longer but at lower levels there are not that many slots to fill and a wizards spellbook only has a finite number of spells.  If a new player is starting a wizard at higher levels then, yes, it will take a long time but that is the cost of not allowing the newbie to learn from level 1. 

Also I am not a fan of the encounter system.  Makes it feel to much like a video game where everyone recovers all abilties prior to the next fight.

My concern with the current system is cantrips.  Will the wizard gain more (with higher level spells) as he levels?  If the number and quality of the at wills gets excessive then class balance will be affected.
To me, the problem with the Vancian system does not lie within the system; it lies in the spells.  The power of arcane magic, historically, has been unbalanced feature.  Basically, I can turn invisible with a spell, and it automatically succeeds (outside of failed concentration checks and such).  That absolutely trivializes the rogue's ability to stealth.  I can fly which can completely change the dynamics of a carefully crafted fight.  And, I could go on and on.  The spells upset the system; not the vancian delivery system.  

Spells need to be toned down in raw power.  For example instead of invisibility providing a better stealth than a rogue, the invisibility needs to work within the stealth mechanic.  It should provide the wizard (or his or her target) a DC against detection (much like a rogue's stealth check.  The DC could be 10 + attribute modifier (intelligence for wizards) + any other DC bonus (or a random roll with bonus for attributes).  It should not replace the set system with an automatic win.  Yes, it turns you invisible; however, Kirk saw the a distorition field of a cloaked vessel in Star Trek III.  Invisibility should work more like that in the interest of game balance.

Fly, which I've seen non-mage players complain about, should be a attack action to sustain (or some other cost) which does not give a mage an unfair advantage.  Comprehend Languages should give a wizard the chance to roll a 1d20 + attribute bonus + other bonus to a comprehend language.  The language's DC should be set by a variety of factors (like how common for one; but should be detailed in the rules).  Spells need to work with the rules, not break them.

In addition, combat and non-combat need to be separated into different systems.  This will cut down on "mistakes" in spell choices.  Non-combat spells need some type of "cost" associated with it (I recommend time - if a player has the skill - that player can do it much quicker than a spell).  Combat spells should be in the vancian and non-combat spells should be rituals in my opinion.  Addressing the power curve solves the issues within a vancian system.  
  
@mellowship:

I like the subtle crowbaring of 3.5e reserve feats into this(as I liked them quite a lot).

but I would rather in addition to yours suggest mana point system or wizard/sorcerer hybrid sysitem.


1st solution: mana points:

 you can memorize certain number of spells, lets say 3 spells of 1st level at wizard level 1 from your spellbook and have 4 mana points to use them(1st level spell costs 1 MP). 

also while you are able to cast even one spell of that level you get all the reserve benefits of those spells.


2nd solution is similar but you use spell slots instead of mana points. You memorize each day number of spells and have a number of spell slots to cast that day of that given level. 
People (wizard players, most of the time) easy forget another spellbook drawback in the past edition : the cost to feed them. I remember having to make calculation to calm a 2nd edition wizard who wanted to have the same level of equipment than other players while draining party money to also feed the spellbooks (of course, there were more than one spellbook past 9th level).

I don't like the vancian spellcasting at all, as it's how the player want to play the class that decides how the team will function, unless the rest of the team decides to live their life and leave the wizard behind to attack by night instead of resting as usual and surprise opponents. It happened in 2nd and 3rd edition groups, with two different wizard players. They were left with only utility spells (mostly "class role" leeching spells) and found okay for the group to stop the action to wait for them to recover some level of efficiency. Now that the at-will damaging spells are added to this mess, I don't know what will be left to other classes beside damge soaking.

I think that wizards should be able to deal big effects but be low level damage and barred from save or die (litterally) effects without heavy specialization (like pyromancer to gain access to big damage or necromancer to gain access to save or die).
Generalist wizard should only be able to deal medium to high damage only through the party damage dealing classes.
With this option, we don't care as much about Vancian spellcasting mess as a crucial area is left for other classes.

For me, the problem is not that wizards are Vancian spellcasters, as I understand that there won't be a lot of vancian spellcaster beyond wizards and clerics (even if vancian spellcasting for clerics as they are is wasted if it just to organize the healing bot return I saw). The problem is that the wizard is the only generalist in the game that specialize in everything.

The good spellcasting type for wizard is one with spells that do not allow him to do everything as well as specialists (specialist wizards included).

If you think my english is bad, just wait until you see my spanish and my italian. Defiling languages is an art.

Either way, the cleric still feels obligated to use these slots for healing spells, instead of non-healing spells, just like the current system makes wizards feel obligated to use slots for combat spells, instead of non-combat utility spells.  In 4E there were specific "utility" powers.  What do you guys think of that idea?

I'm all for getting rid of in-combat healing.  It hurts my suspension of disbelief to think about muscles and bone regrowing itself in real time at the same rate they might break.  Make it a ritual, require ointments and unguents.
 

Yes, in-combat being temporary hit points ONLY, with ritual healing spells out-of-combat would be an excellent implementation!

-DS


I'm OK with healing in combat. It's magic... why would healing wounds bug you, but fireball not? And anyway, it depends a lot on how you think of hit points.

But making it fair and balanced is a tricky mechanics question. My own feeling is that the best approach is to allow it, but to make sure that the benefit to the party from a healing spell is typically similar to the benefit from some other action. Ideally, a party with a healbot cleric and one without should be pretty much comparably effective. The second party would make up for the loss of endurance by having higher damage output (or whatever good metric you use.) Not that this seems easy...

But anyway, it's a separate (though related) question to resource management.
@mellowship:

I like the subtle crowbaring of 3.5e reserve feats into this(as I liked them quite a lot).

but I would rather in addition to yours suggest mana point system or wizard/sorcerer hybrid sysitem.

1st solution: mana points:

you can memorize certain number of spells, lets say 3 spells of 1st level at wizard level 1 from your spellbook and have 4 mana points to use them(1st level spell costs 1 MP). 

also while you are able to cast even one spell of that level you get all the reserve benefits of those spells.

2nd solution is similar but you use spell slots instead of mana points. You memorize each day number of spells and have a number of spell slots to cast that day of that given level.


Personally, I don't think spells should even have levels.  Your class level determines how many attack spells and how many utility spells you can prepare/learn (and yes, there should be separate pools for attack and utility spells).  Spells with more powerful special effects could only be cast at the higher levels, but beyond that, all spell effects would scale with character level.

Oh, and here's how Expeditious Retreat would work:

Expeditious Retreat - Arcane, Transmutation
Personal
Move Action
Effect: Remove the immobilized, restrained, and grabbed conditions on you and shift twice your speed.
Reserve Effect: while the spell is prepared but not cast, you can use the following powers:
Encounter
Effect: Remove the slowed condition on you and shift your speed.
At-will
Effect: Shift 10 feet.


I'm OK with healing in combat. It's magic... why would healing wounds bug you, but fireball not? And anyway, it depends a lot on how you think of hit points.

Fireballs are easy to visualize - just think grenade.  I know, it's different, but I can still visualize a little ball that someone throws and then it explodes and everyone gets hurt (it's going by the assumption that the pressure wave is supposed to be there from a narrative standpoint, but they left it out of the game mechanics because it would be complicated).  I've also seen fireballs in hundreds of movies, cartoons, and video games.

Healing magic, when present, is usually glossed over with as little detail as possible.  They never show depictions of, say, three smashed ribs and a punctured lung suddenly becoming no longer broken.  Maybe it's just because media doesn't like to show the gory details unless it's a gorn movie where that's the whole point, but I'm left without a clear mental image of this happening.

Granted, that's going by the "hit points represent actual injury" school of thought, but I also can't imagine anyone ever developing a spell to "restore the divine luck and combat fatigue that prevents you from being solidly hit by an attack, but do nothing about other sorts of luck or fatigue."

The metagame is not the game.

I'm OK with healing in combat. It's magic... why would healing wounds bug you, but fireball not? And anyway, it depends a lot on how you think of hit points.

Fireballs are easy to visualize - just think grenade.  I know, it's different, but I can still visualize a little ball that someone throws and then it explodes and everyone gets hurt (it's going by the assumption that the pressure wave is supposed to be there from a narrative standpoint, but they left it out of the game mechanics because it would be complicated).  I've also seen fireballs in hundreds of movies, cartoons, and video games.

Healing magic, when present, is usually glossed over with as little detail as possible.  They never show depictions of, say, three smashed ribs and a punctured lung suddenly becoming no longer broken.  Maybe it's just because media doesn't like to show the gory details unless it's a gorn movie where that's the whole point, but I'm left without a clear mental image of this happening.

Granted, that's going by the "hit points represent actual injury" school of thought, but I also can't imagine anyone ever developing a spell to "restore the divine luck and combat fatigue that prevents you from being solidly hit by an attack, but do nothing about other sorts of luck or fatigue."




Watch SAW 4 backward.  just kiddin

 For a more strategic game, I'd make wealth, equipment, and HP the only player resources to track, differentiating classes by the types of things they'd spend their money on. Which, among other things, would mean using rituals as the source of magic in favor of spells and spell slots.

 Of course, to make this work, there'd have to be lots of unique and powerful (and hopefully, non-magical) stuff for non-casters to purchase, and healing would have to be repurposed somehow...
All this fighting about casting spells... I have a dumb question...

They have said they will have options to allow for all play styles. They have also said all previous classes will be available.
Does this not mean that Sorcerers could potentially use a more limited version of "encounter" based magic?
Or mages? 
A few guidelines for using the internet: 1. Mentally add "In my opinion" to the end of basically anything someone else says. Of course it's their opinion, they don't need to let you know. You're pretty smart. 2. Assume everyone means everything in the best manner they could mean it. Save yourself some stress and give people the benefit of the doubt. We'll all be happier if we type less emoticons. 3. Don't try to read people's minds. Sometimes people mean exactly what they say. You probably don't know them any better than they know themselves. 4. Let grammar slide. If you understood what they meant, you're good. It's better for your health. 5. Breath. It's just a dumb game.
I like the reserve spell idea.

Only "alternative" system I've seen suggested so far that I think could be done. 
I like the OP proposed alternative system a lot.
In fact I have pitched myself something very much along those lines in another thread

The main problem with daily resources as the are now is that there is not incentive for the party to keep going once they have expended even a single daily spell/power: sleeping (extended rest) is always a better options if at all available.

Instead of preventing sleeping artificially, which would feel forced, we should try to give the party an incentive to keep going.

Let's reverse the assumpion of daily resources and imagine that instad of being all available at the strart of a day they would need to be powered up somehow
For the sake of convenience let's say this happens through expending Action Points, which each character start with 1 at the beginning of a day, then gaining 1 more after each encounter and for any significant effort/achievement (up to the DM to adjudicate, much like 'bennies' in Savage Worlds if you are familiar with that system). The AP pool then resets to 1 after an extended rest.

So along the day the AP pool should generally go up (narratively, this can be seen as bloodlust for a warrior class, focus for a mage, adrenaline for a rogue, confidence for a cleric and so on), but invenitably the health pool (healing sourges, heal-dice...) goes down, posing an interisting tactical dilemma to the party about the opportunity to push themselves to the limit for maximum effectiveness or play it safe and take a rest. It basically becomes a risk/reward gamble.



I really want to give this a try in my 4E campaign.
What's I hate about 3.X Vacian casting is the time consumming for preparing spell in real time. Everything about power levelling is fine with our style of gaming.
Readinf post since a few week give me an idea about a new system for spell. First, we're playing 3.5 (power from 4e wasn't D&D for us and that's just an opinion). What I gonna try, in the game session to come, is change the preparing system. It's just a prototype and it's not tested yet.
Wizard will have spell to prepared as always at low level and as soon as he hit 3 spell per spell level, he have to choose a spell that it could use once per encounter. This spell can be change as he change level and not before. It is explain by the fact that his comprehension of this level of spell is good enough to use this spell more frequently in a day.
The wizard now have only 2 spells per day per spell level (probaly plus stat given spell) to memorized so he can ajust his repertory on the situation.
I'm using the reserved feat from Complete Mage and love it too.
Like I said that's just an idea that I gonna try for my next gaming session. Wanted to have your opinion on it.
Thanks!
TL:DR VERSION -Which edition of D&D had the best spellcasting mechanics?

I can't say that D&D ever had very good /spellcasting/ mechanics (4e had excellent mechanics but they weren't limitted to modeling spellcasting).  If pressed, I think the 3e Sorcerer was pretty good - more character-defining than 'Vancian.'

What did you like/not like? What would be the best system ever?

Mage: the Ascension had a pretty awesome, if not terribly practical magic system.  


 

 

Oops, looks like this request tried to create an infinite loop. We do not allow such things here. We are a professional website!

My absolute favorite spellcasting method was the 3.5 warlock.  You had manageably small number of things you could just do, all the time.  No resource hassles, no muss, no fuss.  Default basic attack, choice of cool abilities, you're magical all the time and doing cool stuff from level one that gets cooler as you go.  The ability to craft scrolls of spells you don't know served as a sort of 'ritualesque' system for providing the plot couponds expected of an arcane caster.  Give that guy a prestidigitationesque ability for improvising minor magic effects, and you're good to go.

Advantages:


  • Faster - you've only got a few distinct 'powers', so less option paralysis

  • Faster - everything's at will, so no agonizing over shepherding resources

  • More balanced - fewer abilities for designers to review

  • More balanced - fewer opportunities for bizzare interactions


Disadvantages:


  • Less depth - not as involved for players who like things to be complicated

  • Needs some improvisation - since you can't have a different minor spell for literally everything the caster might do with their magic.



Result is a caster that can do castery things while still existing at approximately the same power & complexity level of the non-casty warrior guys.  Lets you have a magic using character without having to sacrifice the speed and simplicity of the core combat mechanics in Next.

Is easily the ideal magic user system for D&D Next, though of course for legacy reasons it will have to exist alongside vancian casters.  Still, I'd love to see a warlock, or even a sorcerer, using this system to provide an alternative to the wizard.  Maybe a favored soul (or even a paladin) using this system to provide an alternative to the cleric.
What's I hate about 3.X Vacian casting is the time consumming for preparing spell in real time.



It's funny.  I never heard this complaint from players in 1e/2e when vancian casting was the dominant system.  I think as long as you understand and know your class then this isnt a problem.
What's I hate about 3.X Vacian casting is the time consumming for preparing spell in real time.



It's funny.  I never heard this complaint from players in 1e/2e when vancian casting was the dominant system.  I think as long as you understand and know your class then this isnt a problem.



It wasn't a problem in 3e, either.  If you played from level 1 up, you spent a little time at level up modifying your list if the spells you added warranted replacing a stock spell from your spell list and you moved on.  You occasionally modified your list temporarily if you new you would need a secondary spell or three for something and then went back to your normal list.  If you started at higher level, it took some time to set up the initial list, but then you just went back to the slight modifications as you leveled. 

It just wasn't some monstrous task that had to be done time and time again like he makes it sound.......unless you kept losing your spell list.  But then, that's no different from all the time you had to spend redoing your power cards if you lost them at a higher level.
My favorite spellcasting systems are these in order:

1) Savage Worlds: Power Points that recharge at a rate of 1 pt per hour, skill based casting, and short durations.

2) AEDU minus the D. I think this would work great for innate casters such as the sorcerer. I don't like daily resources and I would prefer martial characters to have a different system than casters though.

3) 3e warlock. All at will means always fun things to do.

4) 3e Binder. Some of the most inspired 3e work.
It's funny.  I never heard this complaint from players in 1e/2e when vancian casting was the dominant system.  I think as long as you understand and know your class then this isnt a problem.



Funny, I did hear this complaint back in 2e.  Quite a bit, actually.  Led to some friends avoiding the game entirely.

My spellcasting systems Greatest Hits:

1. Unknown Armies: freeform, creative, fast and still somehow balanced.   

2. Savage Worlds: consistent, balanced, functional. Not a fan of mana recover over time, but I can see walkaround options for the that 

3.  AEDU+Rituals *


* This would be #2 with the D part replaced by some other way of handling scarce resources and something other than money to power Rituals.




        
What's I hate about 3.X Vacian casting is the time consumming for preparing spell in real time.



It's funny.  I never heard this complaint from players in 1e/2e when vancian casting was the dominant system.  I think as long as you understand and know your class then this isnt a problem.

Not a complaint I remember either.  The complaint I remember was "memorization is stupid!"  That led to a variant "mana point system" which led to a 5th level magic-user casting magic missile twenty times a day, which led back to memorization. 

So there have been worse things than Vancian.

- Warlords! Join the 'Officer Country' Group! Join Grognards for 4e, the D&D that changed D&D.


D&D Home Page - What Class Are You? - Build A Character - D&D Compendium

What's I hate about 3.X Vacian casting is the time consumming for preparing spell in real time.



It's funny.  I never heard this complaint from players in 1e/2e when vancian casting was the dominant system.  I think as long as you understand and know your class then this isnt a problem.

Not a complaint I remember either.  The complaint I remember was "memorization is stupid!"  That led to a variant "mana point system" which led to a 5th level magic-user casting magic missile twenty times a day, which led back to memorization. 

So there have been worse things than Vancian.




The current system seems to be "vancian light".  You still have to prepare spells but with the addition of rituals all you really need are combat spells.  I am fine with people who do not like vancian as the system gives the wizard some limitations.  I just think that the "preperation time" argument is a little weak.  I agree that the time required to prepare spells (in game) could be modified or adjusted so a small number of spells could be regained after a short rest but I am not opposed to vancian as a concept.

From what I have read I am assuming that other classes will not be vancian.  So why all the fuss?  If you like vancian you can play the wizard.  If you dont then other classes will be available.

People talk about wanting balance between the classes but freak out if any limitations are imposed on the wizard.  "what?  I cant be a minotaur wizard with psionic powers who can cast all his spells at will, while wearing full platemail, invisible while flying?  I am never playing this edition.  I'm out..."  I am obviously exagerating.......a little
I've always like the 3.x Psionics rules (Or if you wanna keep the argument to arcane magic, the 3.5 Spell Point rules from Unearthed Arcana). That way you choose how much ramping you put into your spells, saving the big stuff for when you need it. Combo that with the PF/DDN system for Vancian magic with At Will Cantrips to handle your round-by-round necessities, and the 3.5 UA Incantations (or 4e/DDN Rituals) system for your out-of-combat spellcasting, and you could assemble a flavorful spellcasting system that lets you do a little whenever, some a lot, go bold when you need to, and still feel like a wizard once combat and said and done and you need a little magical something (like teleporting) .

(Then again, my opinion is subject to be wrong. Afterall, I like 3.5 Incarnum.)
Sign In to post comments