Building a better Interaction spell

Pound for pound, most D&D spells, especially wizard spells, are primarily combat oriented. Even spells that have in-combat and out-of-combat uses are often deployed in or around combat, because combat is a stressful situation where it makes sense to deploy limited resources like spells/day. That's in no way a bad thing; combat has more axes along which to affect things. There's also a great tradition, however, of spells that have relatively little combat functionality, living instead in the realms of Interaction or Exploration. That's a good thing; it's neat if different classes can interact with different pillars in different ways, and spells that involve Interaction or Exploration elements are obviously a good way for spellcasters to do that. But how well are the spells that interact with those pillars actually put together? Do they take those pillars as seriously as spell design takes combat? I would argue that they generally do not.

Consider Charm Person. It's probably the most iconic make-someone-do-what-you-want spell, which is very commonly the end goal of an interaction encounter. It's also the interaction equivalent of a save-or-die. And it's a first-level spell. Now obviously it's not globally applicable; there are interaction situations that it doesn't solve (like say, interaction with any non-humanoid), and other situations where it's not an ideal solution. I'm perfectly aware that those situations exist. But it's a spell that when it works will with high frequency essentially just end an interaction encounter and in most campaigns has pretty broad applicability. Is that how high our opinion of the interaction pillar is? That we don't care if interaction encounters are completely circumvented by first-level spells? Would anyone be all that happy if combat encounters worked the same way?

Note that I do think that an instant medium-term friendship spell definitely has a place in the game - but it should be pushed to higher levels, where encounter-ending spells have a home.

What should low-level interaction spells look like? I think we can take a cue from what (I consider) the better-designed low-level combat spells look like. Here's what I think are things that good properties for interaction spells to have:

- They enhance or deepen interaction, rather than eliminating it.
- They require strategic deployment throughout the interaction, like combat spells require strategic deployment thoughout a combat encounter.
- They help the party achieve a desired outcome. (Obviously)
- They still feel like they're worth spending a spell on. (Any character contribute to an interaction just by saying words, so the spell effect needs to be significantly better than just Aid Another or something because you're spending resources on it.)

Disguise Self, for example, is a good example of what I'd consider a good interaction spell. It requires some degree of strategy to deploy, opens up new doors in interaction encounters, and offers a significant benefit. Other spells that might be good might include a spell that causes a target to percieve the next single statement it hears in a favorable way, or one that simply grants a bonus to interaction skills. It's just slightly ironic to me that the sort of most iconic "interaction" spell is one that eliminates the need for much interaction in situations where it's applicable. If interaction encounters aren't "real" encounters, then that's fine. If interaction is being taken seriously as a game pillar, however, then it should be no easier to largely circumvent than any other.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
*applause*
I agree pretty much entirely. One of my problems with earlier edition wizards was how easily they could break the noncombat pillars. If they're bringing back the old spells, they need to seriously tone them down.
"So shall it be! Dear-bought those songs shall be be accounted, and yet shall be well-bought. For the price could be no other. Thus even as Eru spoke to us shall beauty not before conceived be brought into Eä, and evil yet be good to have been." - Manwë, High King of the Valar
I like this idea.  Here is one idea I've had.

Take it Back: If the recipient fails his save, he forgets the last two statements uttered in a conversation (as well as the fact that a spell was cast). Useful if you say something that turns out to be disastrous, or the recipient revealed something and you don't want him to remember he did so.  A Mass Take it Back at higher levels helps for conversations that have more than one person.
I like this idea.  Here is one idea I've had.

Take it Back: If the recipient fails his save, he forgets the last two statements uttered in a conversation (as well as the fact that a spell was cast). Useful if you say something that turns out to be disastrous, or the recipient revealed something and you don't want him to remember he did so.  A Mass Take it Back at higher levels helps for conversations that have more than one person.


I love this idea. This is about the right level of granularity, and the power level is suitable for a level 1 or 2 spell.

Z.
I like this idea.  Here is one idea I've had.

Take it Back: If the recipient fails his save, he forgets the last two statements uttered in a conversation (as well as the fact that a spell was cast). Useful if you say something that turns out to be disastrous, or the recipient revealed something and you don't want him to remember he did so.  A Mass Take it Back at higher levels helps for conversations that have more than one person.


Nice, this is great. Flavorful, useful, but not game-breaking
"So shall it be! Dear-bought those songs shall be be accounted, and yet shall be well-bought. For the price could be no other. Thus even as Eru spoke to us shall beauty not before conceived be brought into Eä, and evil yet be good to have been." - Manwë, High King of the Valar
Take It Back is perfect. It's versatile, potent, it interacts with interaction rather than obviating it, and is best when it's carefully planned for and around but is still useful when it's not. It's the exact sort of thing an interaction spell should be.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
Sounds like a great idea to make the interaction pillar not autofixed by spells.

Reminds me of a 0th level spell I invented called Disguise/Alter Accent which teaches the target one language and gives them a nice Gather Information bonus as the taret gains the accent of their choice.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

I always wanted to see Charm Person built to allow the caster to make a Diplomacy check with Arcana against that target for X amount of time. It would work into the base rules of the game. It would also work well in a 4E style skill challenge system, where one single roll shouldn't determine the course of the whole encounter.

Poe's Law is alive and well.

"You take that back!"
"MAKE ME!"
*casts Take That back*
"Well played...wait what happened?"
Sounds like a great idea to make the interaction pillar not autofixed by spells.

Reminds me of a 0th level spell I invented called Disguise/Alter Accent which teaches the target one language and gives them a nice Gather Information bonus as the taret gains the accent of their choice.

That's also a really cool idea. I like the notion of interaction spells that have more naturalistic effects like this - that change something about the environment or the caster or the target and then let nature take its course, rather than just snap-changing a target's attitude, even if the spells still have well-defined mechanical impact. (I think that there's space for snap-changing a target's attitude too, of course; they're just different sorts of approaches.)

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Something else I'd like to see in the Interaction/Magic realm is, potentially as "advanced" mechanics, more fleshed out mechanics for concealing or disguising spellcasting. I don't think it should be easy to cast a spell subtly (except maybe for some spells that are specifically designed for that purpose), but it's something the rules have never spoken very directly about, to the best of my knowledge. Psionics in 3.5 did this decently well, so there's some precedent.

Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
I completely agree with the OP.

Piggybacking off of that, something I did like about 4ed was how they handled Cantrips as At-Wills.  Things like Prestidigitation and Mage Hand were no longer just fluff spells that hardly got used.  They became valuable out of combat (and even had their places in combat) tools.

So while I'm against spells like Ray of Frost or Magic Missle being at-wills in DnDNext, I would be completely onboard if these sorts of spells, and one's like Wrecan's 'Take it Back', had their place instead. 
I definitely agree with the OP's idea - you have my vote!
I've got two more...

Common Knowledge. The caster invokes this when somebody makes a statement of fact that the caster finds dubious.  The spell quickly polls the unprotected minds of all creatures in the area of effect (roughly 50' radius from caster) and determines if the consensus would find this statement of fact "truthful", "credible", "unlikely", or "false".  Note that the spell does not tell you whether the statement is objectively true.  Nor does it tell you whether the speaker belives it to be true.  It only tells you whether the people in the immediate vicinity believe it to be true.  If there are not at least five unprotected minds in the spell's area, the spell fails.  The ritual version of this spell increases the range to a five-mile radius.

Aspersions. When you cast aspersions, you start a rumor about a specific individual.  Generally the rumor will be spread only within a single event or crowd.  People will start spreading the rumor amongst themselves, with nobody remembering where they first heard it.  The rumor's effectiveness depends entirely on how well it is crafted.  If the rumor is consistent with what is already believed about the individual, it will be more likely to be believed than a rumor that is inconsistent.  Wholly inconsistent rumors will be bandied about sarcastically, still spread, but believed by nobody.  Whether believable or not, the rumor is quickly forgotten after a few hours.  The ritual version of this spell can spread a rumor across a city, and it may last for a few days.  No caster can have more than one active aspersion at a time.
I just want to go on record as strongly supporting the OP's thesis.

I also like all of wrecan's specific ideas on how this would work in implementation.

Count me as another Take that Back lover. Where do I sign a petition to add it to the game?
Aspersions is something I could totaly see as a bonus spell a Warlock/Witch class/specialty gets.
Overall - spells that modify interaction instead of circumventing it - BIG YES. Once again, where do I sign a petition? 
*create petition right here*
*Signs it*

Yeah i agree..this is a good and smart idea for how to work it.  And honestly spells like that are part of what I loved from previous edition.  People still remember the one time I pulled out two exploration based spells (easy trail and pass without trace) and managed to keep the enemy from ever finding our group, while we got a freed prisoner back home with the group.

Having spells like that a bit more sanitised (pass without trace just makes tracking pure and out impossible..that might be a touch much for a first level spell).  Would be great to keep included. 
*Signs the petition*
To be clear, there should be detailed martial tricks related to interaction as well.  Simple mechanical descriptions of what it means to bluff, to start a rumor, to ferret out information, to identify the power brokers.  And then Themes or Specialties that might turn a fighter into a Kingmaker, or a rogue into a Snitch.
whay would wizards that do not go out exploring learn attack spells? most wizards become wizards to use magic to make their lives easier. including those spells would go a long way to establish a better feel for the concombat wizard. Even If only the DM uses it for NPCs. remember ther is no NPC only powers.

Note: maybe I should have just said sign...
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whay would wizards that do not go out exploring learn attack spells?


How do wizards that do not go out exploring get XP?
Lots and Lots of In-Character role-playing I would assume....

Unless it's an early edition Wizard, then he just has to filch as much gold as possible, LOL. 
*signs petition*
definitely like wrecan's example powers as well 
You are Red/Blue!
You are Red/Blue!
whay would wizards that do not go out exploring learn attack spells?


How do wizards that do not go out exploring get XP?


Skill Challenges and Roleplaying Xp
Very much in agrement with the OP.
These principles should extend to all exploration spells, like divination ones.
Just for fun, a 'sensible' version of Find the Path may be:

Direction Anchor (daily spell): you focus on a destination when casting this spell. After 8 hours you will know if you got any closer to the destination compared to the initial casting location.
If your interaction encounters are very mechanical and have no lasting in game consequences then I can see how such a spell can circumvent mechanical interaction.    At that point Charm Person isn't being used as role playing spell anymore, it's being used as a mechanical interaction solution.

I never saw Charm Person as a spell that circumvented interaction at all.    At most it only changed the way the situation was role played.     I recal charm person being the spark that started some of the best role playing encounters I've engaged in.     For example, I recal when my Paladin was charmed by a demon.   The DM had to role play the entire encounter, and the demon had a very difficult time trying to convince my paladin to do just about anything that was against his code of conduct.  Eventually, the demon learned the hard way that she had charmed the wrong character.  

In AD&D you had to make the players role play their charm spell commands.   If they wanted to change a creatures course of action it wasn't enough to simply cast a spell.  They had to role play the encounter from the perspective that the charmed creature was their best and most trusted friend.    Barking orders might not be considered to be something a trusted friend would do.   Sure the creature might look upon the request in the most favourable manner possible, but that's about it.    And of course, there are all the in game consequences of charming the creature that might come back to haunt the PC at a later date.