A Problem of Magic and Wonder

There seems to be a problem of magic.  Once upon a time, magic added a sense of wonder and mystery to the game.  Now it seems a player has no usefulness unless he/she has magic of some sort.  In doing so, Wizards must keep up to prevent becoming obsolete and now have indefinite uses of attack spells such as Ray of Frost.  This constant competition for combat effectiveness has caused magic to become commonplace and 1st level characters starting as terribly powerful forces (with the wizard wiping out entire encounters with Thunderwave - as save vs half is still not enough to survive and indefinite Ray of Frost picks out anyone left behind).

In my honest opinion:
- A fighter should be the primary force in combat.
- Magic is a rare wonder as are the creatures in the bestiary.  Most people of the realm can live their entire lives without encountering any magic or monsters.
- A wizard should always be leery of casting spells for fear of needing them later.  He stays out of trouble and relies on his staff or simple tricks.  Wisdom is his strength.  Using spells against common rabble is mostly avoided as a magic-user may be encountered later - the best defense against a wizard is another wizard.
- Some spells should have indefinite use, but never a combat spell (with the exeption of, perhaps, magic missile with the chance of missing and weak damage).
- Steps need to be taken backwards to avoid epic-style combat at lower levels.

It is important, to be sure, that these characters are above average in ability compared to the common peasant.  But it is also important to keep in mind that these characters are only beginning their great adventure to become heroes.

An idea is only as good as the dice that back it up.

 

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Step back from the lore and 2E nostalgia and ask if it's actually fun to play a 1st-level wizard with a 1d4+1 damage magic missile and a sleep spell, no backup abilities, and four hit points. If a new player wants to play the game as Harry Potter, why should he or she have to wade through a dozen game sessions before his or her spells approach the "wow!" level of Fireballs and Lightning Bolts?

You mention that combat spells should not have indefinite uses, except for wimpy magic missiles with a chance of missing and low damage. That is pretty much the definition of Ray of Frost (1d10, 5.5 avg) and Lance of Faith (2d6, 7 avg). Compared to a fighter with a longsword (1d8+3+1d6, 11 avg) or a raging barbarian with a greataxe (1d12+3+1d6, 13 avg with advantage), the wizard and cleric pew-pew cantrips are pretty wimpy.

Maybe I want to play a subtle wizard who likes to cast Invisibility and Charm Person, but maybe I also want to play an evocation wizard who likes to blow stuff up with Thunderwave at level 1. I would like to see those options somewhat balanced against one another, so that one spell isn't clearly better than another. Hopefully that would allow you to simply remove those spells from character selection if it doesn't fit the type of world you envision, which would also support the modular approach to DnD Next.
Agreed, the math adds up, but don't you agree that it seems that the sums are being raised as a luer to new players?  "Check it out!  Now instead of a (arbitrary) d6, I now roll a (arbitrary) d12 for damage!"  Yet 1st level encounters are built with creatures of 2-5 hit points resulting in 1-hit kills (why have any hit points at all), and combat coming down strictly to initiative - nevermind that a Thunderwave can wipe out an entire encounter.  Perhaps my problem is with Thunderwave or the low HP creatures.  I'm not sure.  One thing is certain about how I feel: a 1st level game should start more like Robin Hood and less like a Boris Vallejo painting.  But in the end it is just an opinion.

An idea is only as good as the dice that back it up.

 

Thanks for making my 5e (Next) character sheet the most downloaded character sheet (any game or edition) on EnWorld!  If you haven't seen it, download, comment, and rate it.
http://www.enworld.org/forum/rpgdownloads.php?do=download&downloadid=935

People wanting to play Heroes with a capital H doesn't have to wade through a dozen game sessions, they just have to start the game at level 5, with decent support this should be easy (it isnt at the moment because of items).

 That said I dont think there is any magical feeling about sitting at a table for a whole night sucking big time, except for 2-4 rounds of AWESOMENES! To make other spells more magical I suggest you just re-skin Ray of Frost to a magically guided bolt from the wizards crossbow.

 The reason for the low HP monsters (and it continues all the way up to high levels) is that for some odd reason a design goal is that combat has to be over VERY quickly (2-3 rounds). For me personally D&D is a combat game, it offers feeble support for investigation/exploration/social interaction compared to some of the other RPGs out there (whom in turn suck for combat fun), so why I would want to cut combat to a minimum is a riddle to me.
 BUT that carries over to other design aspects such as area spell damage. Ive seen 10 kobolds (and the party's own rogue) wiped out by 1 burning hands. And it more or less has to be that way because its a dayli resource limit. It has to be AWESOME! to warent that label, and it HAS to end the encounter in 1 turn otherwise it wont cut the otherwise 2 round combat any shorter.
 As you may have noticed Im very much against "roll initiative, oh players win, the monsters will just lay down and die, why bother playing it out" so I tend to buff my monsters with double HP and MDD for parry, and that makes the spells less likely to kill everything. It also stops the martial character with minimum damage of 5 (1w+1dd+3 stat) of one shotting everything at level 1.
Magic is never mystical when you are the one casting it.
HRSegovia, I do agree that encounters end too quickly. As Keendk said, the 2-3 round design goal (if that's true) is too quick for me. I would rather see both PCs and NPCs have more staying power in a fight, with more rounds and more actions. They've succeeded in their goal of making each turn resolve faster, but that doesn't mean the whole combat has to resolve faster.

I think it comes down to math tweaks. Damage will be scaled back, and hopefully that will solve many of our problems.
Step back from the lore and 2E nostalgia and ask if it's actually fun to play a 1st-level wizard with a 1d4+1 damage magic missile and a sleep spell, no backup abilities, and four hit points.



It is.

But I thought this was the super nintendo modular edition of D&D?

Can't we just argue for modular options where magic is rare and 'subtle' and other modular options where all magic users are Harry Thunderpotter?

"In the game there is magic" - Orethalion

 

Only got words in my copy.

Step back from the lore and 2E nostalgia and ask if it's actually fun to play a 1st-level wizard with a 1d4+1 damage magic missile and a sleep spell, no backup abilities, and four hit points. If a new player wants to play the game as Harry Potter, why should he or she have to wade through a dozen game sessions before his or her spells approach the "wow!" level of Fireballs and Lightning Bolts?



It is fun and you forgot the hip quiver full of darts or a brace of throwing knives.....

What I like about quick combat is the ability to explore more therefore have more unique combat opportunities. Using Caves of Chaos as an example it was more fun to explore 9-10 rooms in a session than it was to enter 3 rooms and hash out the minutiae of each encounter. We felt we got more accomplished. Also, combat is quick and deadly. Real sword fights don't last too long.
As to the mystery of magic I agree I do not like Cantrips causing more than 1 HP of damage. A magic user is valuable when they are resourceful with their limited but powerful spells. What Next is suffering from is to much damage output from all classes. 

Disclaimer: Wizards of the Coast is not responsible for the consequences of any failed saving throw, including but not limited to petrification, poison, death magic, dragon breath, spells, or vorpal sword-related decapitations.

Lest we forget, shall we consider the game imbalance that has ALWAYS been in place with wizards. Glass Cannon. That's what they've always been and that seems to me what they are continuing to be as things stand. To my mind the real problem here is how does this scale? At level 15 does that wizard bring wanton destruction to whatever gives the party a challenge? I don't know, we haven't tried a high level next playtest yet.

On the note of weak encounters in the modules. Do you all adjust the encounters for different player types? Whether you like it or not, some of us create RP-based or utility characters because we do enjoy that type of a game. For those people, these encounters are harder because we're not looking for the 'best combination' of abilities to make sure I can continue to wipe out rooms of badies. That being said, as a DM when I find my players are doing exactly that... I drop a higher level monster in the room to give them something to do. If they're engineering their characters to be dungeon crawl machines, then its my job to give them a dungeon crawl worth remembering.

So I guess, is it really Wizard's [of the coast] job to provide a module that covers absolutely every conceivable avenue? I don't know, just throwing the question out there.

Though, the original modules often had notes like "to make the encounter tougher, add +2d6 stirges."
I do like the quicker combat but I do not believe 2 rounds is what's need to ensure quicker combat.  4E (and 3.5 as levels accrued) didn't suffer from long combat due to it going for too many rounds (though certainly the average encounter lasted more than 2.5 rounds), the main factor was the number of effects and properties/features that had to be maintained, tracked, and factored in on each and every turn of every round.

No one complained "back in the day" about long combats just because they lasted a long time (and they did - the average attack was a miss and the average damage much lower, resulting in a lot of back and forth), because it didn't take long to resolve each actor's turn.

Next/5E wouldn't be hurt by allowing a little more give-and-take in the combat round, in my opinion.  What'll hurt it more is if they continue to add more and more mechanics, effects, and bookkeeping to wrestle with. 
Wasn't Harry Potter an incompetent blunderer when he was first learning to become a wizard? Maybe it needs to be made clear in the game premise that Level 1 characters are callow apprentices. And as others have noted, if the designers really want D&D Next to handle varying power preferences, there needs to be a straightforward way of making Levl 3 or Level 5 characters for those who want to skip the fragile early stages. Because starting everyone at Awesome gives those who prefer a lower powered game no recourse at all.
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