Make spells like Specialties

EDIT: After hearing some thoughts on this, here's some refined points to this.


  • Ala Backgrounds, a small benefit can offset the "packaging" of spells' lessened powergamability. 

  • Using feats, 4E and 3E both kinda enforced this powergame-wise (ew, less flavor), rather than this system, which enforces it flavor/efficiency wise. You'd game your stats to get the feat that added damage to Fire and Radiant damage, and when you leveled up you'd have to take Fire/Radiant spells or the feat was a waste. 

  • Ala Backgrounds (instead of skills) and Specialties (instead of feats), this can be the norm to speed up chargen and DM-approval. Then, if you DO want modularity, DMs and Players still have the option to go backward. Don't like Backgrounds? Fine, choose 3 skills. Don't like Specialties? Fine, they work like feats with prerequisites. Don't like Spell Trees? Fine, choose spells modularly. But packages are there as a starting chargen technique, and if you DON'T like modularity you can tear it into smaller chunks, which you will probably be doing with specialties and backgrounds at the same time. 

  • Just to clarify, I'm not suggesting turning Burning Hands/Flaming Sphere/ Fireball into one scaling superspell that grows with the character. There's mechanical changes in these that make them a lot more unique than just extra D6's. I'm saying you choose 'em in a packaged fashion, so making characters is less time-consuming. As an example of this, go make a 17th level Wizard in 3E, or a 17th level anything in 4E. Because there's so much crap to choose from, it takes forever. Back when I was playing 3E, if I had to make a character for an inexperienced player, I'd automatically shoehorn them into Barbarian or Rogue. DEFINITELY not a spellcaster, and the feat-bloated fighter also sucked. Sure, I mightt book an evening to make a wizard was gonna play, but not someone else. Spell packages mean this would not suck nearly as bad. 



As I've been outlining on another thread thread (community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...) the things I'm liking about 5E is that it often pushes less bloat and more flavor. Some examples:



  • You don't get a complex pile of skill points that take forever to distribute, DM-approve, level up, and figure out right before the roll. You instead use abilities, and get a story-rich package that makes your skills into flavor rather than a bin of unsorted legos. 

  • You don't get a convoluted pile of modular feats, taking forever to plan at 11th level and causing a giant pile of bonuses that are hard to keep track with increased chances to make a broken character, or make a n00b selection mistake that kills your gaming experience. Instead you get a Specialty. More flavorful and descriptive, and it packs your feat advancement into a tree. 

  • No more giant modular library of powers with a giant modular set of Standard/Move/Minor/Free actions to distribute over a turn, creating a vortex of yawntastic 20 minute intervals for a single player to finish a turn.


So on and so forth.

EXCEPT. Spells.

5E's got this beautiful, shiny idea of simplicity, speed, less bloat, and more flavor. But in the coveted arena of the caster's spellbook, you see the final bastion of the Old Ways. A 1st level wizard chooses 5 spells. If you're making a 15th level wizard, will you once again have to devote all afternoon to listing your 80 spells? Will reviewing such a character just drive a DM to say "screw it, cheat"? 

I propose spells get put into the similar anti-bloat, pro-flavor model that Specialties did with Feats. Here's how:

Spell Trees

Most spells are growing versions of each other. What if casters chose spells as Specialty-esque, 5 character level spell packages that lasted over 3 levels of spells? Less bloaty modularity, less powergaming modularity, and MORE flavor modularity. 

Alt Wizard Spells: At 1st level, choose 5 Novice spell trees. You add the 1st level spells of those spell trees to your spellbook. At every level, add a number of spells to your spellbook equal to your INT mod. To gain a higher level spell, you must meet its level requirement and have its prerequisite spell. You can also acquire new spells in your spellbook through traditional means, although now you must have a spell's prerequisites to put it into your spellbook.  

Alt Sorcerer Spells: At 1st level, choose two Novice spell trees. You gain the 1st level spells in those spell trees. You gain additional spells based on the Sorcerer progression. As you level up, gain additional spells ala the class list, limited by max spell, etc. You must have a prerequisite spell to advance down its tree. 

Novice Spell Trees
Burning hands > Flaming Sphere  >  Fireball 
Charm Person > Hold Person > Suggestion 
Thunder Wave > Arc Lightning > Lightning Bolt
Ray of Enfeeblement > Ghoul Touch > Vampiric Touch 
Grease > Melf's Acid Arrow > Stinking Cloud (bit of a stretch)
Shield > Counterspell > Dispel Magic 

In this system, you choose a tree rather than a modular pile of spells all the time. It's less modular choices, and you become defined more as a "fire wizard", AKA more flavor. This could also easily be turned into Schools now. And since you can still buy spells at markets and crap, it's not that limiting. This also means you have a setup for higher level Specialties, prestige classes, etc.  Trees like this also give a chance to include some minor flavor benefit if, say, the Fire tree is your "Signature Spell Tree".

Your wizard spell choice now matters in a longer term, AND colors you more directly as a "pyromancer." One thing that's a little different in this mentality is that it's a Spell Tree you're focused into, rather than a school of magic. 
Hrmm, if they did that, the "it's like an MMO" faction will crow it to the highest rooftops
*Crow*
My two copper.
No thanks.

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

so basically, it is highly restrictive skill trees... yeah, i can totally see variation in spell casters then -_-
The basic concept is a good idea.  It really is a hell of a lot less railroady than it sounds.

Instead of making it mandatory (or appear to be mandatory), just bundle spells together in thematic packages, to facilitate quick character creation, and rapid levelup.  Note that this is more or less being done already, with the "Level One Spell Pack" ("A wizard typically learns alarm, comprehend languages, burning hands, shield, and sleep.").

As 5E becomes more and more complete, it's not unreasonable to assume several hundred spells are going to exist.  Not every player is going to want to take the time to go spelunking through piles of spell descriptions when all he wants is a new "lightning" spell for his brand new 4th-level spellslots.
I think that you bring up an important issue here. One of my players in our last game asked, "why aren't there different levels of the same spell, so that the spell continues to be good over time?" I think he has a good point. Perhaps a variation on the spell trees could be advanced versions of spells (therewere certainly a few versions of fireball in 3.5). Burning hands minor, burning hands major, burning hands advanced or some such. Each new version hits a larger area and even does a little more damage. That way a signature spell doesn't become useless later? 

And I understand the anti-MMO emotions being hefted about, but the core issue is noteworthy, I think. 
Perhaps a variation on the spell trees could be advanced versions of spells (therewere certainly a few versions of fireball in 3.5).  Burning hands minor, burning hands major, burning hands advanced or some such. Each new version hits a larger area and even does a little more damage. That way a signature spell doesn't become useless later?

This seems to have been overlooked when level-scaling disappeared.

I think that you bring up an important issue here. One of my players in our last game asked, "why aren't there different levels of the same spell, so that the spell continues to be good over time?" I think he has a good point. Perhaps a variation on the spell trees could be advanced versions of spells (therewere certainly a few versions of fireball in 3.5). Burning hands minor, burning hands major, burning hands advanced or some such. Each new version hits a larger area and even does a little more damage. That way a signature spell doesn't become useless later? 

And I understand the anti-MMO emotions being hefted about, but the core issue is noteworthy, I think. 



i remember a while ago they mentioned allowing auto escalation on spells used in higher slots.

I have houseruled this in my games, players have enjoyed it, and it is not overpowered

i remember a while ago they mentioned allowing auto escalation on spells used in higher slots.

And that begs the question: Why can't spells scale down?   Why should Fireball always be a level-3 spell, when 1d6 10' radius "fireball" as a 1st-level spell is neither unreasonable nor game-breaking.

i remember a while ago they mentioned allowing auto escalation on spells used in higher slots.

And that begs the question: Why can't spells scale down?   Why should Fireball always be a level-3 spell, when 1d6 10' radius "fireball" as a 1st-level spell is neither unreasonable nor game-breaking.




I respond with this question. Why can't a crossbow bolt be fired with only 1 pound of pressure? because a minimum amount is required to be effective
I respond with this question. Why can't a crossbow bolt be fired with only 1 pound of pressure?

It can.  It's just not going to hurt anything much tougher than a strawberry.

mmmm.... strawberries.

I respond with this question. Why can't a crossbow bolt be fired with only 1 pound of pressure?

It can.  It's just not going to hurt anything much tougher than a strawberry.

mmmm.... strawberries.




with only 1 pound of pressure, that bolt wont even fly
A ballistic arc is just a variant on falling.

At any rate, to get a scalable spell system, a better approach would be to disassemble the geometry and figure out exactly how things scale.  From there, pretty much anything can be put together, apart from narrative spells (hello there, Wish) which really don't have many quantifiable parts to scale.
The answer basically in DDN to why spells don't scale is willpower points, in previous editions spells autoscaled as you leveled (get 1d6 per level of fireball, an extra magic missile every other level etc.) but when you add the sorceror to the mix, it's frankly reciculous that your first level that costs 1 willpower does more than a 2nd level spell that costs twice as muchh that you haven't scaled.
The answer basically in DDN to why spells don't scale is willpower points, in previous editions spells autoscaled as you leveled (get 1d6 per level of fireball, an extra magic missile every other level etc.) but when you add the sorceror to the mix, it's frankly reciculous that your first level that costs 1 willpower does more than a 2nd level spell that costs twice as muchh that you haven't scaled.


... i dont think you are quite getting the point here.

you cast a 1st level spell in a second level slot, or pay 2 WP instead of 1 WP.
And the increase would not make it more powerful than a spell of the appropriate level
I don't like the idea of retrograding spells, because there are too many that are hard to quantify easily in that regards. I do want to see some form of metamagic progression used for utility. Some sort of rules for casters that lets them upgrade the spell's area/damage/range/save DC/to hit roll, etc. Let them raise one aspect of it for a spell level.

E.G. If you cast a fireball as a 4th level spell, then it gains 2d6 extra damage. (I see 2d6 as reasonable due to standard progression in past and baseline it is set at now.)

This is what I understood their intent to be anyway.  If they require some kinds of feats for that, then that's fine, but they should offer something like that. I'm sure that they will at some point.

If you were allowed to 'delevel' spells, I would say you still can't do it until you are at the spell level to cast the full version first. 
I respond with this question. Why can't a crossbow bolt be fired with only 1 pound of pressure?

It can.  It's just not going to hurt anything much tougher than a strawberry.

mmmm.... strawberries.




+1 for strawberries imo.
My two copper.
On a more serious note, retrograded spells sound like a good idea when you consider damage spells, sure. But think about things like Baleful Polymorph, 6th level Wizard/Sorc spell in 3.5. How do you retrograde that? Lower the DC sure, but it still remains as powerful a spell as it was. If you mess with what the spell can do, then it's real easy to make it useless. It's easy to adjust things with set dice. But a lot of Enchantments and Transmutation effects would be EXTREMELY difficult/confusing to retrograde.

My two copper.
My two copper.
After hearing some thoughts on this, here's some refined points to this.


  • Ala Backgrounds, a small benefit can offset the "packaging" of spells' lessened powergamability. 

  • Using feats, 4E and 3E both kinda enforced this powergame-wise (ew, less flavor), rather than this system, which enforces it flavor/efficiency wise. You'd game your stats to get the feat that added damage to Fire and Radiant damage, and when you leveled up you'd have to take Fire/Radiant spells or the feat was a waste. 

  • Ala Backgrounds (instead of skills) and Specialties (instead of feats), this can be the norm to speed up chargen and DM-approval. Then, if you DO want modularity, DMs and Players still have the option to go backward. Don't like Backgrounds? Fine, choose 3 skills. Don't like Specialties? Fine, they work like feats with prerequisites. Don't like Spell Trees? Fine, choose spells modularly. But packages are there as a starting chargen technique, and if you DON'T like modularity you can tear it into smaller chunks, which you will probably be doing with specialties and backgrounds at the same time. 

  • Just to clarify, I'm not suggesting turning Burning Hands/Flaming Sphere/ Fireball into one scaling superspell that grows with the character. There's mechanical changes in these that make them a lot more unique than just extra D6's. I'm saying you choose 'em in a packaged fashion, so making characters is less time-consuming. As an example of this, go make a 17th level Wizard in 3E, or a 17th level anything in 4E. Because there's so much crap to choose from, it takes forever. Back when I was playing 3E, if I had to make a character for an inexperienced player, I'd automatically shoehorn them into Barbarian or Rogue. DEFINITELY not a spellcaster, and the feat-bloated fighter also sucked. Sure, I mightt book an evening to make a wizard was gonna play, but not someone else. Spell packages mean this would not suck nearly as bad. 

But a lot of Enchantments and Transmutation effects would be EXTREMELY difficult/confusing to retrograde.

Which is why narrative spells are probably not downgradable at all - at least, not easily.

"XdY [type] damage, [some area], save [does something]" spells are easy as hell to fudge around with.  Wish is not.

I'm a big fan of retrograde spells. I'd love to see a first level wish spell that only let you wish for a sandwhich or a baleful polymorph that could only affect a squirrel. Mechanically it'd work if at lvl one you could only affect a monster with 3 remaining hp, it'd be pretty cool to cap a BBEG with a perfectly timed spell to turn him into a toad when you could've just magic missiled him. Fluffwise, that's probably too much for most people. But I do think the game needs to take a long hard look at leveling a lot of spells to cut down the spell list a bit. Still some spells are just to iconic to really change, it might be better to grant wizards a free metamagic ability to let them adjust spells by preparing them at different levels.


To get to OPs point. I think a really good way to help with the spell list thing would be preset packages of spell choices. You want to be an evoker, you learn these spells automatically, an illusionist, you learn these, or you can just freely pick. Have a generalist choice as well like they have going with the suggested spells in the class description. Moving back to school specialties also allows those DMs who want to, exercise a little more control over spell selection. I used to follow the rules for learning spells, finding them... as a way to control wizard powers. Wizards could still learn any spell, they just didn't get their choice of 20, they had to make choices about what they wanted to be good at. Having wizards focus their efforts is good. It makes each wizard differentiate themselves, they're not the most powerful wizard in the land, they're the strongest evoker or whatever.

I'm a big fan of retrograde spells. I'd love to see a first level wish spell that only let you wish for a sandwhich or a baleful polymorph that could only affect a squirrel.

Looks like you just volunteered to work out how.
Mechanically it'd work if at lvl one you could only affect a monster with 3 remaining hp, it'd be pretty cool to cap a BBEG with a perfectly timed spell to turn him into a toad when you could've just magic missiled him.

Hey!  That's not a terrible idea.
After hearing some thoughts on this, here's some refined points to this.


  • Ala Backgrounds, a small benefit can offset the "packaging" of spells' lessened powergamability. 

  • Using feats, 4E and 3E both kinda enforced this powergame-wise (ew, less flavor), rather than this system, which enforces it flavor/efficiency wise. You'd game your stats to get the feat that added damage to Fire and Radiant damage, and when you leveled up you'd have to take Fire/Radiant spells or the feat was a waste. 

  • Ala Backgrounds (instead of skills) and Specialties (instead of feats), this can be the norm to speed up chargen and DM-approval. Then, if you DO want modularity, DMs and Players still have the option to go backward. Don't like Backgrounds? Fine, choose 3 skills. Don't like Specialties? Fine, they work like feats with prerequisites. Don't like Spell Trees? Fine, choose spells modularly. But packages are there as a starting chargen technique, and if you DON'T like modularity you can tear it into smaller chunks, which you will probably be doing with specialties and backgrounds at the same time. 

  • Just to clarify, I'm not suggesting turning Burning Hands/Flaming Sphere/ Fireball into one scaling superspell that grows with the character. There's mechanical changes in these that make them a lot more unique than just extra D6's. I'm saying you choose 'em in a packaged fashion, so making characters is less time-consuming. As an example of this, go make a 17th level Wizard in 3E, or a 17th level anything in 4E. Because there's so much crap to choose from, it takes forever. Back when I was playing 3E, if I had to make a character for an inexperienced player, I'd automatically shoehorn them into Barbarian or Rogue. DEFINITELY not a spellcaster, and the feat-bloated fighter also sucked. Sure, I mightt book an evening to make a wizard was gonna play, but not someone else. Spell packages mean this would not suck nearly as bad. 




I understand the dislike of powergaming as well as anyone else, but I don't see the reason to needlessly limit people's choices to battle power gaming :P Just a quick point.

Second, I agree on the spells package thing. HOWEVER, to go with my first point, it should be an option, not a requirement. People should be able to cherry pick spells if they want to. But I do see the value in packages to help speed up character creation. But let's leave it at that.

My two copper.
Why don't spells scale up and down? Because magic is not ephemeral in nature. It is codified and has laws. A Fireball is a fireball because a nature/god/super-powerful-entity dictated it would be as such.

Even though a Sorcerer is accessing spells through his twin soul/heritage does not mean he is any less bound by the laws of magic.
It is codified and has laws.

Those "laws" are numbers and geometry in the spell description.  Nothing else.

Hey folks,

This is really more of a Playtest Packet Discussion type conversation, so off we go!

Thanks,

Monica

Monica

Wizards of the Coast Online Community Coordinator

A friendly dragon.

Getting to Know Your Magic Online Client

Basic Dungeons & Dragons FREE

*Crow*



I second that *crow*!

Seriously, I'm not keen on that idea either. I preferred the idea of wizards finding and learning spells from scrolls as they go through their adventures. I wasn't even keen on them getting an automatic spell as they levelled up, though I can sort of understand, because otherwise they'd have to spend money just to get better as they level (which nobody else has to do).

I would also prefer it if spells improved as you levelled up as well. I liked the idea of Magic Missile giving you an extra bolt every 2 levels, and I don't really like the idea of "Oh, now that I'm level 6, I won't meet anything that level 1 spells can affect now, so everything I've learned up to now is redundant."

While we're on the subject of spells, can I suggest a very minor aesthetic change that will help differentiate between class levels and spell levels (and make spells sound more like an academic thing): rename spell "levels" to "grades"! i.e. a level 3 wizard can cast grade 1 and 2 spells - it's a minor change that won't have any mechanical effect on the game, but I just think it's a more elegant way of referring to them, and will help avoid overuse of the term "level". Even things like "sphere" or "order", or any other word that basically means "level" (but isn't "level") would also work.
Everything expressed in this post is my opinion, and should be taken as such. I can not declare myself to be the supreme authority on all matters...even though I am right!
There more I think about it, the more I'm kind of liking the set number of dice on spells. For one it's easier to balance in compared to melee. As well, it's easier to make new spells seem more spectacular, instead of it ramping up to get there. You won't have the 3.5 problem of "Why am I using X level 4 spell when Y level 3 spell does pretty much the same damage" problem. A good evolution in my mind, keeps you looking to the future. 
My two copper.
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />I would also prefer it if spells improved as you levelled up as well. I liked the idea of Magic Missile giving you an extra bolt every 2 levels, and I don't really like the idea of "Oh, now that I'm level 6, I won't meet anything that level 1 spells can affect now, so everything I've learned up to now is redundant."



thats the point of the casting higher thing... they arent automatically more powerful, so that stops default power boost that people complain about, but it also allows lower level spells to stay relatively effective

(also, your set spell spontaneous casters no longer have to waste spells known on higher versions of spells they already have)
 While we're on the subject of spells, can I suggest a very minor aesthetic change that will help differentiate between class levels and spell levels (and make spells sound more like an academic thing): rename spell "levels" to "grades"! i.e. a level 3 wizard can cast grade 1 and 2 spells - it's a minor change that won't have any mechanical effect on the game, but I just think it's a more elegant way of referring to them, and will help avoid overuse of the term "level". Even things like "sphere" or "order", or any other word that basically means "level" (but isn't "level") would also work.



As far as spell levels go, players in my games have taken to refering to them as circles. Which sounds vaguely more mystical. 1st circle spells, 2nd circle spells, or spells of the 5th circle, for example. Its vaguely more magical sounding.
Though this might be a thing for a sidebar where it offers suggestions on flavorful modifications to spells. 
I like the packages idea as an optional quick start high flavor presentation.

The player's handbook could even offer 1st level wizards in their equipment package a copy of a Classic of Arcane scholarship, so Evard's Tome of Nethermancy or The Red Book of Enchantment. Wizard's can add other spells they find as they adventure to their books.