Sleep spell

As I mentioned in a previous thread, overall I am quite pleased with D&D next, so far.  Although my reaction is mostly positive, my feedback is focused on things that I see as potential issues based on playtesting.  I mostly put those things in one earlier thread.  But I wanted to discuss in a couple of things in separate threads, including one particular issue:  the sleep spell.  It was actually my biggest negative, but there were some things I liked about it. 

New in the sleep spell is that it can reduce movement in half (even to creatures that normally would not be affected by the sleep spell), and that it can potentially sleep creatures that could not normally be sleeped, if they've taken enough hit point damage.   (I'm going to use "sleep" as a verb because it's less words then "make the creature fall asleep".  Although technically I suppose it would be "make the creature fall unconscious" by the actual game mechanics). 

Both "new" factors to sleep came up in playtesting.  The party fought an ogre, that ran away when reduced to four hit points.  He got around the corner.  The wizard could not get within range to target him, nor could anyone that round, but the wizard aimed the sleep spell to where the wizard hoped the area would include the out-of-sight ogre--and it did. 

Because the ogre only had four hit points left, the ogre could have fallen sleep--but he made his save.  His movement was halved though--which allowed the party to catch up to the ogre.  The ogre would have gotten away if not for the sleep spell. 

These things did make sleep interesting. 

But what I did not like at all is that the sleep spell had *no* chance at all of sleeping standard, uninjured orcs, hobgoblins, and gnolls. 

It's was also obviously frustrating for the wizard--who wondered how every single orc made their saving throw--and it's inconceivable that it wouldn't effect orcs at all based on how sleep has iconically worked.

Though I'm sure others will disagree, to me sleep is one of those iconic D&D spells, kind of like fireball.  One of those iconic things that makes me come back to D&D versus some other RPG.  A low level magic-user/wizard has always been very weak in a lot of ways, a glass cannon with sleep as his only truly powerful cannon, although not a reliable one since many creatures are immune to sleep (like undead creatures), and his total number of spells is low. 

And of course many mages prefer charm person or magic missile as their favorite level one spell (though of course mm is now level 0)--mm because it works on pretty much everything, unlike sleep--and charm person because it can gain one an ally or access to something one would not normally have access to--or the many other clever things charm person can be used for.  But I've always loved the sleep spell--whether I'm the one casting it or not. 

My point is, that when sleep has no chance of sleeping standard uninjured hobgoblins, orcs, and gnolls--it just doesn't feel like sleep.  The game just doesn't feel like D&D.  I think it needs to be fixed, at least in a module if not in the main rules.  It's a big enough issue to me that I'd rather play another edition of D&D if sleep doesn't work like sleep iconically should (sure I can house rule my own game--but what about other people's games).   I'm sure others would feel differently on this point.  But I would assume that sleep would work iconically in at least one module if nothing else. 

The simplest implementation of sleep was in B/X, where it would sleep 2d8 hit dice of creatures, no save, but did not effect creatures with more than four hit dice.  Creatures with less hit dice are affected first.  OD&D and 1e had a slightly more complex version, which worked out about the same as the B/X version, except you couldn't get more than one 4 hit die creature with it.  I don't propose returning to not giving sleep a save (except, perhaps, in an old school type module), but I like how old school sleep worked otherwise. 

3.5 de-powered sleep considerably, affecting only 4 hit dice worth of creatures, granting a save, and reducing the area of effect to only 10' radius (as always, creatures with less hit dice are affected first).  But it did at least affect orcs, hobgoblins, and gnolls, if not nearly as many as old school sleep did, so it didn't lose that iconic sleep feel. 

In the current D&D Next playtest, the sleep spell cannot sleep creatures with more than 10 hit points, but orcs and hobgoblins have 11 hit points each.
I could see upping it to 12 hit points or something.  Or maybe having it go up in power for a higher level caster (seems better -- e.g. 11 at level 4, 12 at level 8, 13 at level 12).

Overall I think it is a great spell and far, far better than what we had in previous editions.  I think it is good you can potentially sleep an enemy that is almost dead.
One of the players in my playtest was an old-school D&Der.  He used Sleep against one of the Kobold encounters very effectively, including telling everyone to drop the kobolds that did save, rather than trying to finish those who didn't.  When one of the younger players was impressed with it, he said.  "Standard issue AD&D tactics."  He also said he'd taken Sleep three times because it was just that good a spell.  

If he'd fought some 11 hp orcs, he'd've been singing a different tune, I think.  That may be what they had in mind.  Since so many of the Cave of Chaos monsters are classic humanoid races that used to be fair game for sleep, sleep would have been far too powerful in the module if it worked the way it always had, or if those monsters all had lower hps.  Maybe they thought of that and changed the monster hps or the sleep threshold at some point to avoid people complaining about the "return of broken sleep spell."   
 
Sign In to post comments