Proposed Alternate Spell Point(Mana) system for DnDNext (work in progress)

A lot of people have been waiting for an alternate casting method for DnDNext that was promised to them a few L&L articles ago. Although I've never been a fan of Mana based casting systems, I know it is one of the most anticipated alternate methods out there, and so I thought I'd put forth an idea for one.

Character's Available Spell Pts(Mana): Lv + (Magic Ability Mod) + (Optional Feats Bonus)
Example: Lv 3 Wizard with a 14 Int has (3+2) 5 Spell Pts.

Spells cost their Lv in Mana to cast, however, when you reach twice the Lv it takes to attain the next Lv of spells, their cost reduces by 1 (down to At-Will) while At-Will spells cost Zero.

 
















































































Spell LvCaster Level
Spell Cost
1234567891011121314151617181920
First11111At-Will
Second--222222211111At-Will
Third----3333333332222222

and so on...
using this method, if you extended levels up to 30th, at 21st 3rd levels would cost 1, and at 28th they would become At-Will spells. 4th level spells would go down to 3 at Lv 18, to 2 at level 27, and so on.

At-Will spells would scale now at a rate of +1 die of damage (for damage spells) per +8 levels since they became At-Will...so Cantrips would go up +1 die at lv 9, 17, and 25, 1st level would go up at levels 14, 22, and 30, and so on.
Casting spells at higher level would take that current higher level's cost +1 mana to cast (so you could not cast a 1st level At-Will at +1 level for free when 2nd level becomes At-will, still minimum cost of 1)

This is a rough draft. I will be refining it as I feel like it and ideas come to me.

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Bump, trying to keep good ideas on the first page is always a chore.

What is your reasoning for introducing a mechanic which will lower the cost of spells as opposed to providing more mana?
They actually did implement a mana system a few packets back, for the sorcerer class (whch they later removed).

Here's how that system would work as a module:

1. Spell preparation remains the same.
2. Spells cost MP equal to the level you're casting them at.
3. Your max MP = the MP cost of all the spells you'd be able to cast at that level with spell slots. (So a level 3 cleric, who can cast 3 level 1 spells and a single level 2 spell IIRC, would have 1x3+2x1=5 MP.)

And that's about it. I'm sure for release they'd actually have a nice chart of the MP per level for each spellcasting class, but the math is easy to figure out already.

Of course, a character with this system would be more powerful at high levels, since they could essentially "trade in" all their low-level slots for more high-level spells. Getting hit by five Meteor Swarms in a row will break a lot of encounters... they might have to restrict this to level 1-5 spells.
A lot of people have been waiting for an alternate casting method for DnDNext that was promised to them a few L&L articles ago.

In a sense, we already have it.  The current take on Vancian combines the greatest advantages of traditional Vancian casting with those of the 3.5 Sorcerer's 'Spontaneous' casting.  

Although I've never been a fan of Mana based casting systems,

Nod.
I know it is one of the most anticipated alternate methods out there,

Is it really?  :sigh:  

I kinda had my fill of 'em in the 80s.  The main thing that stood out about mana system back then was how wildly overpowered they were.  Depending on the details, they might let a high-level wizard spam high-damage magic missles all day, or might let him cast his top level spell six times instead of only once (or both).  The added flexibility compared to the pyramiding spells/level charts was staggering.

Of course, as I said, the current neo-Vancian system is already much more flexible than the traditional, so maybe mana wouldn't have much further to ratchet it up.  And, you'd mainly have to guard against casting extra top-level spells, because lower level ones haven't started scaling again, yet.

Character's Available Spell Pts(Mana): Lv + (Magic Ability Mod) + (Optional Feats Bonus)
Example: Lv 3 Wizard with a 14 Int has (3+2) 5 Spell Pts.

Spells cost their Lv in Mana to cast, however, when you reach twice the Lv it takes to attain the next Lv of spells, their cost reduces by 1 (down to At-Will) while At-Will spells cost Zero.

So, an 18 INT 1st level Wizard could cast Sleep 5 times per day?

Sounds like the wizard'll be getting pretty 'quadratic' again, with spell points going up and point costs to cast going down...


 

 

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What is your reasoning for introducing a mechanic which will lower the cost of spells as opposed to providing more mana?



Well, by lowering the cost of spells as you go along, you symbolize that by gaining in experience, the Wizard/Caster is getting more and more comfortable with the lower level spell energies. I could have increased the number of mana points instead, however, that has the negative side effect of making it possible to pour more mana into higher level spells or casting lower level spells in higher slots.

It makes sense from a story standing that as you progress as a Wizard lets say, you would get more at-will type spells once you become comfortable with them. Also, by slowing down At-Will scaling in this system, there is a real choice now between using an older At-Will or defaulting to one of your newer At-Will spells that used to be 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level.

I did say I'm not a huge fan of mana systems, but wanted to come up with a simple progression.  I like playing around with mechanics and design, even if its for something I personally don't really need in the game.

As to the Sorcerer that was premiered, I know about that, and that was an example of alternate spell casting systems when they were putting a line in the sand about making systems be class specific. They later retracted that statement and said that they would be coming out with alternate systems that could be hot-swapped into casting classes, so I thought I'd try my hand at making one such.

As to the new hybrid Vancian/Slot system, I am actually fairly happy with it, as is, personally. They can juggle numbers up and down til the balance is found, but the system itself is fairly decent...once again I wasn't making this in response to a need I saw for myself, but as an example of something to fulfill a need expressed by others.

As to the Quadratic Wizard potential with this system, maybe...it would have to be playtested, but in the current "Bounded" system, I don't anticipate it getting too out of hand. Yes, a 1st Level Wizard could cast Sleep (a 1st Level spell) 5 times if they had an 18 in Intelligence, but that shows how much better at Wizardry an 18 Intelligence Wizard is over a 14 Int Wizard. The extra mana is nice, but as it doesn't stack per level, it only gives a boost in the beginning, to show natural talent, but evens out later on, as with Ability Score bumps, eventually all High Level Characters will likely try for a 20 in their class's primary Ability Score anyway.

Now, given my system, going only to level 20, with a 20 in Int, and no additional bonus Mana from feats or anything, a Wizard would have a total of 25 Mana. That's enough to cast 2 (just shy of 3) 9th level spells...The same Wizard could spam Magic Missile or Sleep all day long if they wanted to. They also could pull off 3 8th level spells, but leaving them only 1 Mana remaining, not even enough to cast for their now cheapest cost spell (3rd level cost 2 at 20th level)...they could also cast 1 9th and 2 8th, and be down to just At-Will spells, but this does allow them to hit some big gun type spells, but requires them to budget their mana.

In the current Hybrid Vancian system, a 20th level Wizard can cast 1 9th, 1 8th, 1 7th, 1 6th, 2 5th, 3 4th, 3 3rd, 3 2nd, and 4 1st level spells. To do that with mana, not counting spells that have become at will at 20th (1st & 2nd) would take 55 mana, so just wouldn't be possible. YES they would have more 1st and 2nd level spells available, because they are now at-will, but they now have to decide where their actual magical energies would be spent. 3 9th or 8th level spells? 2 8th & 1 9th, then all At-wills? They now have the real concern of making a choice of where to spend that mana across basically every spell level of 3 or higher. Of course Lv 3 spells cost only 2 at this level, so that 20 Int Lv 20 Wizard could cast 12 3rd level spells at level if they truly wanted to.
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I'm all up for Int giving you spell bonuses. 

Now need to get 1.5 Str damage bonus for using two-handed.  
I'm all up for Int giving you spell bonuses. 

Now need to get 1.5 Str damage bonus for using two-handed.  



I'd be totally okay with this. I don't play a lot of fighter types (prefer casters) but it seems to me a major advantage to a 2H weapon is that you get to take advantage more of your Strength in battle situations. 1.5 x Str, or even a 2H damage bonus line under Strength in the PHB would be fine. 

Older Editions of D&D had seperate charts for each Ability Score...just because bonuses have mostly been standardized doesn't mean such a chart isn't a viable means of imparting information. 
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I hate daily mana as much as I hate daily Vancian. I would much rather see encounter based mana.

Mana points = 1 + 1/3 level. Spell mana cost is based on spell level.
1-2: 1 mana
3-4: 2 mana
5-6: 3 mana
7-8: 4 mana
9+: 5 mana

You have to choose between a big gun or a few small guns every fight. Much more dynamic and interesting.
We found spell memorization rediculous and tried every mana or spell-point system that came out.  All of them made magic-users even more powerful.  

We ended up with one of our two DMs going back to memorization and one constantly refining a custom mana system.  But, then, that guy was always changing the rules on you.

 
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We found spell memorization rediculous and tried every mana or spell-point system that came out.  All of them made magic-users even more powerful.  

Probably because there was no normalization.

Spontaneous Guy should probably have fewer slots than Memorized Guy, because the significant constraint of fixed-use has been removed.
Points Guy should probably have fewer "points" than the tables would have mapped to, because the constraint of fixed-ratio has been removed.


See also: community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758... where I attempted to explain these concepts somewhat coherently.
We could always try the one they actually implemented way back last summer for the Sorcerer, where the level of the spell slot = points.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
That Sorcerer did have a slight penatly in spell-level access, but the tables weren't long enough to extrapolate its extent.
Are you sure?  I remember doing the calculation and having it come out exact, every level.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Are you sure?  I remember doing the calculation and having it come out exact, every level.

The points were a direct mapping, but the top castable spell-level was one class-level behind.

Over the five levels we had, Sorcerer didn't get 3rd-level spells.
I hate daily mana as much as I hate daily Vancian. I would much rather see encounter based mana. Mana points = 1 + 1/3 level. Spell mana cost is based on spell level. 1-2: 1 mana 3-4: 2 mana 5-6: 3 mana 7-8: 4 mana 9+: 5 mana You have to choose between a big gun or a few small guns every fight. Much more dynamic and interesting.




Not really, and you remove a strategic element.



False: A wizard by level 5 has 12 spells per day. If he choses to go into combat mode he has more than enough slots to last him. Vancian is only strategic when you have much fewer spell slots than the wizard currently has.

My method actually requires significant player decision. A level 9 wizard would have 4 mana. He could cast two level 4 spells in a fight, one level 5 spell and one level 2 spell, or four level 2 spells. He has to decide what would be most beneficial to the group, how long he things the fight will last, and is it better to launch a single big attack or multiple small ones.

For the Vancian caster at level 9, the most optimal choice is unload your highest level spell, toast the encounter with it, then rinse repeat.
I hate daily mana as much as I hate daily Vancian. I would much rather see encounter based mana. Mana points = 1 + 1/3 level. Spell mana cost is based on spell level. 1-2: 1 mana 3-4: 2 mana 5-6: 3 mana 7-8: 4 mana 9+: 5 mana You have to choose between a big gun or a few small guns every fight. Much more dynamic and interesting.




Not really, and you remove a strategic element.



False:




It's actually fact.

Ok...if that is what you believe. Perhaps you could demonstrate the innumerable truths of your assertation.

Points systems can easily become degenerate.  This happens when there is one clearly best option, and so you just end up spamming it forever until you run out of juice.  It happened in Chrono Trigger with the 20-point tech abilities (e.g. Luminaire), mitigated slightly by triple techs but made worse by the Gold Stud and its 75% cost reduction which made them all totally spammable.  It happened in 4e with the Psion, where the Dishearten augment 2 effect was so incredibly strong (and only got stronger as you leveled) that despite it being a level 1 power nearly every psion kept it for the entire campaign, and even as you got more power points that were allegedly to be used fueling the more expensive, higher-level powers, they all would get dumped into more aug2 Disheartens.

There are tons more examples, but the point is that the degeneracy is a risk.  Point systems are more sensitive to intra-class imbalance than slot systems.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
I hate daily mana as much as I hate daily Vancian. I would much rather see encounter based mana. Mana points = 1 + 1/3 level. Spell mana cost is based on spell level. 1-2: 1 mana 3-4: 2 mana 5-6: 3 mana 7-8: 4 mana 9+: 5 mana You have to choose between a big gun or a few small guns every fight. Much more dynamic and interesting.




Not really, and you remove a strategic element.



False:




It's actually fact.

Ok...if that is what you believe. Perhaps you could demonstrate the innumerable truths of your assertation.




Why restate what we all now (there are reams of info proving why), this ship has sailed.



Actually most analysis shows that Vancian casting is in now way strategic, it leads to spamming optimal spells, and it leads to 5MWD instead of any thought for advanced planning. If you can show how it even in the slightest way is more strategic than what I posted I will gladly concede, but just because you disagree doesn't mean you are correct.
Actually most analysis shows that Vancian casting is in now way strategic, it leads to spamming optimal spells, and it leads to 5MWD instead of any thought for advanced planning.

Oh, but that's okay, because Vancian Guy can only spam the best spell of each spell-level four times in that five minute workday.

Going into every encounter with all your crap recharged is not very strategic.



Neither is only needing to use about 15% of your spell arsenal for any given fight.

I already showed how my method is more strategic though. I reduced mana to the point where what spell you choose to cast matters significantly more than having your spells available.

Take a level 5 wizard. With my encounter based system he has 2 mana. This means in a given fight he can cast either a single fireball and then is stuck using cantrips, or he can cast 2 second level spells.

The current daily wizard has 3 fireballs a day, 4 4d8 damage thunderwaves, and 5 3d8 damage burning hands available. So in a fight he can cast a fireball a 4d8 damage burning hands and 3d8 damage burning hands every fight for the first 3 encounters. This wizard would still have a 4d8 damage burning hands, and 2 3d8 damage burning hands at his disposal.

Essentiall, by level 5 the current wizard has more than enough spells to cast whatever he feels like without really being constrained by his "daily" limits. My encounter wizard is constrained by his low mana and actually has to make strategic decision in combat about whether or not 1 fireball is worth 2 thunderwaves.
Take a level 5 wizard. With my encounter based system he has 2 mana. This means in a given fight he can cast either a single fireball and then is stuck using cantrips, or he can cast 2 second level spells.

I'd like a base-two system, where each spell level costs double the previous.






























spell level123456789
points1248163264128256
Going into every encounter with all your crap recharged is not very strategic.



I already showed how my method is more strategic though.




No, it shows no strategy, whatsoever (each encounter is the same self-contained list of options).

I do like some encounter based classes, though, like the Factotum and ToB classes. 



No, Vancial shows no strategy whatsoever (each day is the same self-contained list of options). Lawyered.

And again you are still factually wrong. Each battle may contain the same list of options, but you have to make strategic decisions such as "Do I launch one 6d6 damage fireball, or do I cast two 4d8 damage burning hands?" With Vancian, over the course of the day there is 0 variation in possibile casting options.

In my system there is a dynamic change with every cast spell which means that each individual combat can be different depending upon the situation. Against a single foe, two 4d8 damage burning hands is better than one 6d6 damage fireball. Against a group of a dozen enemies, the fireball is clearly superior. My method allows for this type of strategic decision making that Vancian casting does not.
Take a level 5 wizard. With my encounter based system he has 2 mana. This means in a given fight he can cast either a single fireball and then is stuck using cantrips, or he can cast 2 second level spells.

I'd like a base-two system, where each spell level costs double the previous.






























spell level123456789
points1248163264128256



Personally, I don't want to deal with calculating 100s of mana.

I like my sugggestion simply because a level 20 wizard has only 7 mana to play with in a given encounter. He can cast a level 9 spell and a level 4 spell. He can cast a level 8 and a level 6 spell. He can cast 3 level 4 spells and a level 2 spell.

He can't ever cast 2 level 8 spells or 4 level 7 spells in the same encounter though. (which your method allows for).
Take a level 5 wizard. With my encounter based system he has 2 mana. This means in a given fight he can cast either a single fireball and then is stuck using cantrips, or he can cast 2 second level spells.

I'd like a base-two system, where each spell level costs double the previous.






























spell level123456789
points1248163264128256



The trouble with a Base 2 system (or binary) is the fact that at the point you get the ability to cast 1 9th level spell, you can cast 4 7th level or 8 6th level spells, which are already getting to be fairly good. My proposed system although its on a Daily spectrum which upsets some, still limits the overall number of spells that can be cast of the higher order. 

At 10th level, with a 20 in their Spell Casting Attribute, a caster only has 15 mana for the day. They can cast 3 5th level spells, and have no mana and be stuck with cantrips, cast 3 4th level spells, and have 3 mana left over to cast 1 3rd, or 3 2nd (that haven't become at-will yet) but the point is, the higher level spells are still a lot more restrained in my system, while not letting the mid-level spells get out of hand. Yes, eventually the lower tier spells become at-will, but the balance of the mid-tier is the thing.

At 20th level, with a 20 in their Spell Casting Attribute, a caster only has 10 more mana than they had at 10th level. Basically that means they could cast 1 9th level spell with that surplus, and have 1 mana to add to the previous pool. Now, at 20th, 2nd level spells have gone At-Will, and 3rd level spells are only 2 each, so they could do that 1 9th, and like 8 3rds if they want (total of 9 spells for the day, with 1 'Nova') or they could do 2 9th (25-18=7) and still manage a 7th level spell, or a 5th and a 3rd level spell with the surplus. That's 3-5 spells in a day, with 2 'Novas' and still highly limited mid-tier. If you spend all 25 of those Mana points on mid-tier spells (4-7th level) you can manage 8 4th lv, or 5 5th lv, or 4 6th lv. In the case of the 4th or 6th level, you have 1 remaining mana, so you could cast a 1st level in a 2nd level slot if you wanted, or you could upgrade 1 of the 6th to a 7th (but not the 4th to a 5th as you'd be 1 mana short)

These are some of the balancing factors I put into this rather simple chart...could it be refined, yes, absolutely, could it be modified to an Encounter based system...sure, it could also be hybridized so that a certain amount of rest less than full can partially refill expended Mana. I will play with those, but this does at least stop the major downsides seen in most Mana based systems (ultra-high mana totals at high levels making for spamming of midrange spells) 
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People often use 'strategy' for longer-term decision-making and resource management and 'tactics' for shorter or immediate term.

So, decisions made round-by-round, in combat: tactical.
Decisions made between combats or days: strategic.

Not exactly propper use of the terms, but common.

Traditional Vancian gives you both tactical and strategic decisions making in those senses.  And, it gives you a lot of 'strategic' flexibility from day to day.  You change out your slate of spells, and you can go from an artillier piece to a stealth fighter to a spy. 

3.x Spontaneous casting gave you little strategic flexibility (only at chargen and level up could you choose spells known), but a great deal of tactical flexibility, since you had the option to cast any of your known spell right up until you used your last top-level slot.


5e's current neo-Vancian system /combines the two/:  It has all the day-by-day/strategic flexibility of traditional Vancian and also, all the round-to-round tactical flexibilty of spontaneous casting.  

 

 

 

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