Why Vancian Spellcasting Worked and the Problem with 5e Magic

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Making characters for the Vault of the Dracolich, my wife was making a wizard and I was making a druid. The new magic system baffles me a bit--and I've seen some buzz of discontent reading over people's posts on here too. My beef has nothing to do with balance or utility or any of these other issues. I'd like to take it from an in-world simulationist perspective.

Third edition explained how Vancian spellcasting worked. All spells are basically rituals. You make the spellcircle, light the candles, burn the incense, shake the frog cage--the whole nine yards. To make spells useful enough to be functional under duress a breakthrough came along: spell preparation. You cast 99% of each spell, just leaving off the last few words, gestures and components (or less if you have the right eshew feats) and the ritial sort of hangs there, unfinished and waiting for the last action for the magic to spring into effect--like a machined bullet as compared to the nightmare of having to load a black powder musket in mid fight--just pull the trigger.

This explains a lot. You have to prepare your spells in advance, one at a time, without interruptions. Spells that have been around longest and are best understood are the lowest level and have the quickest prep times--but also have become somewhat reduced in effectiveness to streamline their preparation times. Higher level spells take longer to prepare, are more expensive and costly and easier to mess up, or are still in the research and development phase having only recently been discovered--so they tend to be named for the mage who developed them and are often of really lofty level. Why certain level characters can only prepare so many spells of each level is an abstraction--as is the idea that you do it all at once first thing in the morning. The truth is that spell prep would probably involve casting the ritual version of each spell you want to prepare, including whatever costs are involved. You can prep as many as you have time for and can afford but lower level spells have lower DCs and are closer to being a "sure thing" to prepare, whereas higher level spell preparation is riskier (it might fail wasting a lot of time and expensive components) so starting wizards tend not to try--and higher level wizards often don't trust them with higher level rituals in the first place.

For me and mine, I'd be fine to just do this and do away with the abstractions altogether. Call it a Grimcleaver rules module.

As far as the canon system goes, the "slot" idea--which would be so much less confusing it it was just called "spells per day" feels too much like a sorcerer and not enough like a wizard. That the druid (and presumably all the other casting classes) use this same mechanic but without the spellbook list of known spells really seems to make all the spellcasting classes blend together way more than I'd like. It would be nice if the development of the mechanics could take more of an "inside-out" approach to their design. In setting, where does a druid's spellcasting come from? They go out into a natural area and watch and meditate upon nature. They see a huge rock entangled with clinging vines or witness a rabbit run into an area of briars and the coyote following turns back rather than injure itself in the spike growth. Maybe an animal near death eats a few nourishing berries and gains strength to live another day. It's like the kung fu movies where the meditating mystic sees a crane fight a viper and pulls insight from that which powers his art. What would that look like in mechanics? Then streamline and balance it into an elegant abstraction that makes druids fun to play. Same with the cleric and the bard and the sorcerer. What would their magic be like if this were a novel series not a game. What's the theory? Then make the mechanics elegantly abstract that unique process.

Otherwise you get mechanics with all the limitations and complexity of older editions with none of the benefits of nostalgia or world emulation that made the old systems good--and all the classes end up feeling fairly one-size -fits all as far as the mechanics go.
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Personally, I love the new spell slot system.

Think of it like Vancian magic; you prepare the spells in advance.  You cast 99% of the spells you equip.  Then, in the heat of battle, you speak the final word to set off the spell's effect.  Only, in 5th Edition, you still retain the memory of the spell.  The word you speak determines which prepared spell you trigger, but you can speak that word again, triggering the effect again.  In previous editions, the spell would be erased from your memory, meaning you wouldn't be able to cast it again.  Instead, in 5th, casting of the spell is a mental and physical ordeal, one that can only be undertaken a number of times before one is too weary to continue casting.  It doesn't matter which spells you cast, they take a toll according to their level.

In my opinion, there are two things mechanically that the spell slots allow for.  In 5th Edition, you get a bulk number of spells you can equip, but no requirement for which levels they must be from (minimum one from each level, I believe).  Which means you can be really flexible without being overpowered.  You can have a half-dozen third level spells armed, to cover a variety of situations, but you can only cast two no matter what.  But you can always be prepared for those corner cases without wasting a spell on it.

The second thing is the spell scaling.  With slots as the resource, it's easy to cast a lower level spell at a higher level.  You just tick off a higher level slot.  The scaling will help consolidate the spell list incredibly (see Cure Wounds, for instance), and it allows casters to get better mileage out of lower level spells. 
IT sounds silly, but think of it like mana in any other RPG.  Eack spell costs a certain amount of mana.  When you run out that's it.  Mana could be different depending on the class, but when you run out, you are basically mentally/physically drained to the point you cannot recall the words, or make the complex gestres required any longer. 

This way it fits with the system, you know all the spells, but are limited by physical/mental energy per day.
I LOVE the new spell system, but I think WotC should do a better job explaining the "hows" of it. Even though im a huge fan, I must say it doesnt help with immersion.

PP 
I think of it this way (and, for the record, am a staunch proponent of 5e's magic system):

You have a book full of incredibly complex spells. It's not that they're rituals, it's just that it takes very specific, precise motions and very very accurate pronunciation to properly cast a spell. When you're reshaping the fabric of reality, you have to take in an absurd number of variables, and it takes a very precise knowledge of the world around you. If you don't master the casting perfectly, nothing will happen... and no normal person can memorize all the details and variables of a spell. The eldritch words used to invoke a Burning Hands, for example, are completely different depending on the circumstances: you have to add an extra suffix for casting in a damp environment, or an entirely different suffix for casting in the rain... which is in turn far removed from the prefix required to cast at midday as opposed to late evening. And yet, you have to know all of these details before you even have a chance of casting the spell successfully.

And so, like any good student, you study. You refresh yourself on all these little details each morning, reminding yourself of the intricacies of the spells you feel will be most important to you today. You're only mortal, of course, so even you can only memorize so much... as you gain skill and mastery over magic, of course, you can memorize more of these conditions than you could when you were just starting out. But that doesn't change the fact that you can only cram so much before the big test, and you just can't keep track of the details of every single spell you might know. So you pick and choose which spells to memorize the parameters for, and hope you chose right.

Of course, the power you have to put into these spells is completely separate. Of course you don't just magically forget what you spent so much time studying this morning... that's ridiculous! As long as you have the power, you can cast the spell.
I'm with the OP; the old system was better. In this system, in most cases you cannot even prepare as many spells as you can cast. You can't prepare a different spell for each slot even if you wanted to, you are forced to repeat spells if you cast all you can in a day.

The main problem with the current system, though is that you just don't get enough spells per day. Part of it is because of this imaginary benefit that, in theory, you don't need as many because you won't waste them on spells you don't need. But in practice, the game feels extremely limited for spellcasters.

I do like the augmentation with higher level spell slots (though there isn't any reason you couldn't do the same thing with traditional spell preparation). But I don't like how every caster class functions the same way, and really hope that sorcerers and bards are different somehow.
The original idea of spellcasting, that magic spells would vanish from your mind, really never sat right with me. I used it, and took the analogy of cramming for the big test or memorizing a part for a play until your brain hurt--you retain it as long as you need to, but that once it was over you just flush the information as your brain's attempt at self preservation. I always felt like the problem with that is that my brain doesn't just selectively flush the stuff I'm done with--it holds onto all of it until I'm done, then it flushes all of it. It's not like I use a particular huge equation and then immediately forget it, no matter how hairy it is, and if I did I would likely purge everything else I'd crammed (ALL my spells) not just that one.

So yeah, if we're talking about the old memorization model, interestingly enough, it seems to be captured by the new system pretty well. You memorize a certain amount of spells until you have them locked in. Any of those can be used while they're fresh on your mind, but only for a certain amount of uses before your eyes cross and all the spell nonsense starts to bleed together and you need a rest. I like that. It also neatly explains why brushing up during a short rest to "run lines in your head" gives you a chance to refresh a spell slot. You go over it again when you're out of danger and it starts to make a bit more sense. It really ends up solving a lot of the problems I was having still looking at it from the spell prep angle.

I still miss 4e rituals though.
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I still miss 4e rituals though.

Wait, what? Rituals in Next are so much better than 4e: they don't cost any money! True, you can only use spells you have prepared as Rituals... unless you're a Scholarly Wizard. Which makes sense: I wouldn't expect your average blaster-mage to be as skilled at using Rituals as the guy who's main schtick is "Hey, I'm good with books."
I still miss 4e rituals though.

Wait, what? Rituals in Next are so much better than 4e: they don't cost any money! True, you can only use spells you have prepared as Rituals... unless you're a Scholarly Wizard. Which makes sense: I wouldn't expect your average blaster-mage to be as skilled at using Rituals as the guy who's main schtick is "Hey, I'm good with books."



I think the must-be-prepared rule is kind of dumb. You're already taking time to do the ritual, you might as well go ahead and switch out a spell first. It seems pointless to restrict it while not restricting it at all.
The real trick is to not prepare all of your spells at higher levels. Since you can prepare at any time if you need to teleport, prep it right before using the ritual. Low levels don't have too many rituals so it's not as much of an issue.
I still miss 4e rituals though.

Wait, what? Rituals in Next are so much better than 4e: they don't cost any money! True, you can only use spells you have prepared as Rituals... unless you're a Scholarly Wizard. Which makes sense: I wouldn't expect your average blaster-mage to be as skilled at using Rituals as the guy who's main schtick is "Hey, I'm good with books."



I think the must-be-prepared rule is kind of dumb. You're already taking time to do the ritual, you might as well go ahead and switch out a spell first. It seems pointless to restrict it while not restricting it at all.

I'm totally with you here. The idea behind casting a spell as a ritual should be that you pull out your books right there on the spot and read the spell right out of the book. Having to memorize a spell in order to break open the book and cast it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Besides, while it might seem a little overpowered to some folks right now, the ability to cast spells from a spellbook as a ritual will really do a lot to distinguish wizards from other kinds of arcane spellcasters once they start showing up with their own special magical abilities.
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I still miss 4e rituals though.

Wait, what? Rituals in Next are so much better than 4e: they don't cost any money! True, you can only use spells you have prepared as Rituals... unless you're a Scholarly Wizard. Which makes sense: I wouldn't expect your average blaster-mage to be as skilled at using Rituals as the guy who's main schtick is "Hey, I'm good with books."

I actually posted a whole thread to answer this question--but really what I liked about it wasn't that it cost gold. I did like the idea that you'd buy ritual components to do the spells--but the costs were pretty absurd, one of the frustrating parts of the economy in the game was when gold and treasure tables were used to bar access to "higher level" stuff, rather than having prices be based on rarity and desirability and the amount of coin to be had by people of different jobs and classes. In a world where a gold peice represents the cost of a room for a day and three good meals, no one would ever buy a magic sword for 2000 gold--no matter how much money they had. The paltry benefit of an additional plus one to hit and damage is not worth, what about 5 years of living expenses? Yarg, and that's for a low level magic item. It was really messed up.
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In short what I did like was that it made the spells with slower casting times or more utility feel special, and it made a form of magic available to anyone who has the feat--so a dwarven smith who can forge magic weapons need not be a wizard, and the process of making it can be a lot cooler and more involved than spending gold or XP and casting some spells on something. It gave a lot of options for making PCs and NPCs alike play the way they should without requiring a bunch of weird class and feat combinations. Necromancers could actually make undead without having to multiclass as priests.

Heck the whole premise behind the Vault of the Dracolich doesn't even work according to the new ritual rules. The wizard teleports you into the vault? Using what prepared spell? The badguys are syphoning magic off an artifact staff to unlock the power of the ancient elves? What spell level is that spell? If they have it prepared, why cast it in ritual form at all--why not just cast it as a standard action.

It's not that I don't like the "ritual" mechanic for wizards. I really do. They're just not rituals--they're spells cast from a spellbook. Rituals should be much more flexible and elaborate and open to players and NPCs of whatever class. It really was a huge step forward from the handwavey annoying macguffin rituals and strange ritual-like rules cluges (like the Item Creation Feats) we were stuck with in previous editons. I'd like to have it back.
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I'm with the OP; the old system was better. In this system, in most cases you cannot even prepare as many spells as you can cast. You can't prepare a different spell for each slot even if you wanted to, you are forced to repeat spells if you cast all you can in a day.

The main problem with the current system, though is that you just don't get enough spells per day. Part of it is because of this imaginary benefit that, in theory, you don't need as many because you won't waste them on spells you don't need. But in practice, the game feels extremely limited for spellcasters.

I do like the augmentation with higher level spell slots (though there isn't any reason you couldn't do the same thing with traditional spell preparation). But I don't like how every caster class functions the same way, and really hope that sorcerers and bards are different somehow.

I don't know about extremely limited.  Tweak the spells per day a bit, maybe, but I like the new flattened power curve, and restriction on spell casters.

I often play as a non-magic user (rogue, barbarian, etc) and often felt like just someone to slow the mooks down, or clean up.  Magic users always did the heavy lifting, and at higher levels usually had a great spell for nearly any situtuation, every combat.

On the other hand, that was with good wizard players.  Others in the group didn't have the experience, and were often left scratching their head at the choices, afraid of picking the wrong spells.

They feel more integrated into the team now, rather than our go to strategy. 
The original idea of spellcasting, that magic spells would vanish from your mind, really never sat right with me. I used it, and took the analogy of cramming for the big test or memorizing a part for a play until your brain hurt--you retain it as long as you need to, but that once it was over you just flush the information as your brain's attempt at self preservation. I always felt like the problem with that is that my brain doesn't just selectively flush the stuff I'm done with--it holds onto all of it until I'm done, then it flushes all of it. It's not like I use a particular huge equation and then immediately forget it, no matter how hairy it is, and if I did I would likely purge everything else I'd crammed (ALL my spells) not just that one. So yeah, if we're talking about the old memorization model, interestingly enough, it seems to be captured by the new system pretty well. You memorize a certain amount of spells until you have them locked in. Any of those can be used while they're fresh on your mind, but only for a certain amount of uses before your eyes cross and all the spell nonsense starts to bleed together and you need a rest. I like that. It also neatly explains why brushing up during a short rest to "run lines in your head" gives you a chance to refresh a spell slot. You go over it again when you're out of danger and it starts to make a bit more sense. It really ends up solving a lot of the problems I was having still looking at it from the spell prep angle. I still miss 4e rituals though.

The more you use a spell, the easier it should be to cast. If you've never cast a certain spell before, it should take a lot longer to cast than one you have cast a hundred times. If you cast a spell and then immediately forget how to do it again...that's amnesia. D&D should use the model "use it or lose it". If you haven't cast a lower level spell in a long time, then it should be harder to recall than the one you just cast. I would like to see a rule that says, "If you cast the same spell 5 times, it becomes an at will"
Something along these lines would be a lot of fun. I remeber something about signature spells back in past playtests--or like read magic from 3e. I guess I'd mechanically express the idea: once every so many levels you could take one spell you know and make it "always memorized" so it doesn't count toward the number of spells you could prepare. You've cast it so many times it's rote. Another good way to represent it would be as a feat (spells of combined level equal to your current character level--so 1 first at level 1, a second and a first--or two firsts at level 3, etc.) I actually really like that idea!
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I don't mind the casting system of 5th, so much as I mind the other systems that back it up. Saving throws in this game are broken because of the way monsters and spell casting bonuses scale up. 

In the dracolich playtest, I (a wizard) was reduced to throwing a net at the enemies. This was because team monster had an AoE, sustainable silence, which shut me down completely. No cantrips can be cast as silent. Thus I tossed a net every round, because one does not need to be proficient with the net to use it. This ended up restraining the monsters because they couldn't make their DEX saves. Once restrained, the rest of the party descended upon them like plague. While amusing, I would prefer to play a system where the wizard can cast spells, rather then have to use a crossbow or a net because a low level divine monster was in play. The DM recognized this, and choose not to spam Silence in later battles, even though he could have.  From a design standpoint, it makes sense for the monsters to have AoE Silence, because they have such poor saving throws. How else would they survive a wizard who wins initiative? Would it not be better to just give them a +1 to saves vs some effects? Then I could, at least, try to play the character I want to play.

 
Making the spellcasting blend together is a good thing in my book. How does magic work in this world? I think that's an important question for any fantasy setting, and I think that having more or less one answer is a good thing.
In short what I did like was that it made the spells with slower casting times or more utility feel special, and it made a form of magic available to anyone who has the feat--so a dwarven smith who can forge magic weapons need not be a wizard, and the process of making it can be a lot cooler and more involved than spending gold or XP and casting some spells on something.

Bruenor Battlehammer was a fighter and blacksmith in the Crystal Shard.  He had the skill needed to forge a magic weapon: the mighty Aegis-Fang!

Yeah. I guess my druthers would be: first come up with how magic works in the world, then come up with the mechanics that would naturally follow, making that happen. When you try to design things from the game end, there's always going to be a ton of annoying inconsistancies--because the cart is drawing the horse. If you use the mechanics to flesh out a well thought out vision of what magic is and how it works, you'll always get a better playing result.
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I love the new magic system. It reminds me a great deal of Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved. The biggest difference was Rituals, which anybody had access do depending on your Ritual skill.
I don't think the new magic system is really a problem. At least not a big one. IMO it works fine, and the limits in how spells scale (by using higher slots) and on how many spells you can prepare actually help the play experience overall.

You always have to keep in mind, that not all classes can cast spells, and there is still no way for a noncaster to actually match the versatility and might of a spellcaster.

So designing a spell system purely from the narrative or simulation up into game rules is almost sure to create a play experience, I would consider to be poor.

As things are right now, I'd say it's far from perfect, especially considering the rather poor options for noncaster characters, but spellcasters, the spell system overall doesn't really need more complexity. I also disagree with the idea that you need to diversify more between prepared casters and natural casters. I don't really see the benefit of going that way.

Here's a little homebrew idea I just came up with: 

All Wizards gain Read Magic as an additional cantrip.


In addition to its usual effects, Read Magic gains the following, additional effect:


As a swift action, a Wizard can prepare a spell from their Spellbook. On the Wizard's next turn, the spell can be cast as though it was prepared normally. A spell that is prepared using Read Magic must be cast on the Wizard's next turn or else it is lost. The highest spell level that a Wizard can prepare using Read Magic is level 1 and increases by 1 at levels 5, 10,15, and 20. 


Using this system, I wouldn't keep Ray of Frost, Shocking Grasp, and Chill Touch as cantrips. I would move them up to level 1 and change them appropriately.


Some more limitations should be applied as well... Perhaps a Wizard picks "Signature" spells and this additional effect only applies to those few spells (could work very well with Wizard traditions). Or, after an extended rest, a Wizard can pick 1+level spells that they can cast using Read Magic.  Also, rituals would have to work differently for a Wizard since they wouldn't have to invest as much time to cast them.

Sounds like a good idea.
Another good way to represent it would be as a feat (spells of combined level equal to your current character level--so 1 first at level 1, a second and a first--or two firsts at level 3, etc.) I actually really like that idea!



I like this simple idea, though needs fine tuning.  For example, this should be a bonus feat for wizards at whatever level seems appropriate. 

The more you use something the better and easier it should be able to do.  If I cast a spell (x) number of times, the spell should not be forgotten.  After all, Wizards are suppose to have a high Intelligence for a reason.  Wizards are not some college freshman craming for a test in a class they care nothing about and with knowledge they will mostly likely never have to use again. 

To be honest I don't quite understand the new spell system.  I will have to go back and reread it I guess.  I never played 4th edition and only dabbled with 2nd and 3rd.   
The new spell system just is not for me.  I liked pre4E magic too much.
LOVE the new magic system. It takes the parts out of the old systems that I felt were too limiting. They are balancing downwards magic, which I really think is a good thing. Less crazy good spells, less spells per day. If they'd kept the other limitations of the old system, it would be too much. I love the preparation style. It makes more sense to me as well, but I could see how others dislike it or it doesn't make sense to them.

One part about it I love the most is that instead of preparing new spells the next day, you can prepare the spells from the day before automatically. Remember in the old days when you were completely without your spellbook? Once you casted all the spells you had left, too bad, so sad, you're now a really terrible fighter with no AC. No spells for you! In 3.5e you could take feats and such to get a few where you could prepare them without a spellbook, but that was a terrible waste of a feat IMO.

This new style makes more sense to me. If a wizard is without his spellbook, he should retain what he'd already had prepared IMO. Sure, this may or may not be spells that are generally helpful depending on what he prepared, but its something. In fact, in the old days the only reasons as a DM I would try to get a spellbook stolen/lost/etc is just to teach them a lesson, but nowadays it seems like some very good RP opportunities if they can keep the prepared spells from earlier.

Furthermore, I really like the "prepare some when you awake, prepare others later" aspect. You could prepare all your spells except one slot, for example. You'd be without that spell to choose from when casting until later in the day you realize what you really need is Fly and you didn't have it prepared. Three minutes of study and now you have Fly for the rest of the day. That really makes sense, IMO, and I believe all casting classes can do a version of this.
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For you guys who don't understand the fluff/game world concept behind OD&D/AD&D style casting (where your memory of the spell is lost after you cast it), you must read "The Dying Earth" by Jack Vance.  This is the book which inspired the creators of the game to develop this magic system.  It describes very eloquently exactly how magic has worked in D&D from the beginning.  That's not to say D&D can't be changed, but this novel represents a major influence on how the early game was envisioned, along with Tolkien and early pulp sword and sorcery fiction like Conan.  Taking it away, to me, makes it feel less like D&D.  That said, I like 5e's method so far.  Lowered number of prepared spells and spell slots is appropriate, and giving the wizard ability to cast prepared spells more than once is nice (though not strictly following the source material anymore).  Since this is only a playtest, they aren't going to include much fluff, so the authors may be working on how to explain the methods different caster types use to prepare their spells.  We'll just have to see.  I agree with the OP somewhat, though, I do like the rules to reflect some level of simulation of a fantasy world and not exclusively be a balanced game mechanic without any fluff.
Furthermore, I really like the "prepare some when you awake, prepare others later" aspect. You could prepare all your spells except one slot, for example. You'd be without that spell to choose from when casting until later in the day you realize what you really need is Fly and you didn't have it prepared. Three minutes of study and now you have Fly for the rest of the day. That really makes sense, IMO, and I believe all casting classes can do a version of this.


I hadn't really thought about that before, but thanks for giving me one more argument to convince my still hesistant players with, our wizard-type players are going to be happy.

And stolen spellbooks are easily the best way to get a wizard VERY interested in chasing down any given lowlife scum towards where you want the players to go.
That does explain a lot.

I love having a little bit of sorceror in my wizard in this new system. The way it works also doesn't seem odd to me at all, within the confines of D&D's metaphysics. The way I see it the power a caster wields is proportioned according to its ability to internalize extant (Wizards, Druids) or externalize inherent (Sorcerors) magical energy required to perform a spell. I envision clerics being a mixture of both forms, receiving inherent magical energy through faith and piety to their patron (an external source). Preparation or memorization function similarly. It is for this reason that a rogue capable of perfectly copying the gestures and sounds, possessing all the required components and working  just as hard to memorize the text doesn't get to cast a spell. Due to the lack of a result he looks stupid, while the casters similarly inane and bizarre behavior is forgotten or forgiven the moment someone is awed by the magic springing forth. Mages and Druids can do this because they've spent countless years to learn the process of harnessing this energy before they even learned to cast a single cantrip (wax on, wax off), deities don't offer their divine gifts before they feel certain they're deserved and will be used properly (look at the suposed powers of saints and mystics in the real world). Sorcerors are simply born, not trained, and they only learn through trial and error how to tap into their potential to produce specific results (like the scene in spiderman where he keeps trying to shoot webbing but fails not knowing how, while aware of the fact that he can).
Note that even though I believe Wizards and Druids use very similar methods their 'mystical energies' are different. I envision Wizards to function like hackers of the universal source code, while Druids attune themselves to reality as it is. Wizards perform unnatural things (not supported by the gameworld's physics) while druids awaken dormant qualities of the natural world. The Wizard does not abide by reality while the Druid embraces it.

Regarding gameplay, refraining from preparing one or more spells in anticipation of unforseen events or circumstances is sound advice and something I believe many casters would take to heart within the gameworld. Casters do not have the luxury or inclination to be foolish, while purely spontaneous casters like Sorcerors can and sometimes do, if not always by design.

primuspilushb wrote:
I LOVE the new spell system, but I think WotC should do a better job explaining the "hows" of it. Even though im a huge fan, I must say it doesnt help with immersion.

PP 
I disagree here. I think the "How" should be up to individual tables to decide. Sure, WotC might give some options of ways it could be explained at different tables, by offereing a single codified explanation will just turn off people who find fault with that explanation. If you leave it to the table to decide, they can come up with something that works for them, or borrow from some of the explanations WotC gives as examples.

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grimcleaver wrote:
 
Third edition explained how Vancian spellcasting worked. All spells are basically rituals. You make the spellcircle, light the candles, burn the incense, shake the frog cage--the whole nine yards. To make spells useful enough to be functional under duress a breakthrough came along: spell preparation. You cast 99% of each spell, just leaving off the last few words, gestures and components (or less if you have the right eshew feats) and the ritial sort of hangs there, unfinished and waiting for the last action for the magic to spring into effect--like a machined bullet as compared to the nightmare of having to load a black powder musket in mid fight--just pull the trigger. 


except you still had to rest 8 hours before preparing new spells, which simulated some kind of magical "fuel" expenditure....

5e does the same thing, except when casting, you can "push" more magic into a spell (which 3e wizards were able to do, ahead of time, with the right meta-magic feat)  
 

JRutterbush wrote:
I think of it this way (and, for the record, am a staunch proponent of 5e's magic system):

You have a book full of incredibly complex spells. It's not that they're rituals, it's just that it takes very specific, precise motions and very very accurate pronunciation to properly cast a spell. When you're reshaping the fabric of reality, you have to take in an absurd number of variables, and it takes a very precise knowledge of the world around you. If you don't master the casting perfectly, nothing will happen... and no normal person can memorize all the details and variables of a spell. The eldritch words used to invoke a Burning Hands, for example, are completely different depending on the circumstances: you have to add an extra suffix for casting in a damp environment, or an entirely different suffix for casting in the rain... which is in turn far removed from the prefix required to cast at midday as opposed to late evening. And yet, you have to know all of these details before you even have a chance of casting the spell successfully.

And so, like any good student, you study. You refresh yourself on all these little details each morning, reminding yourself of the intricacies of the spells you feel will be most important to you today. You're only mortal, of course, so even you can only memorize so much... as you gain skill and mastery over magic, of course, you can memorize more of these conditions than you could when you were just starting out. But that doesn't change the fact that you can only cram so much before the big test, and you just can't keep track of the details of every single spell you might know. So you pick and choose which spells to memorize the parameters for, and hope you chose right.

Of course, the power you have to put into these spells is completely separate. Of course you don't just magically forget what you spent so much time studying this morning... that's ridiculous! As long as you have the power, you can cast the spell.

Couldn't agree more!  This is exactly how I view magic.  I have used a spell slot system in my games for years (1e & 2e).  I understand the Vancian spell mechanic, but it doesn't sit well with me and it is more difficult to explain to new players as it is less intuitive in my opinion.

I never liked the Vancian / spell slot kind of systems. I grew up playing console and computer RPGs, and didn't play any D&D until I was an adult, so I don't really have the nostalgic feelings for these systems that a lot of people here seem to have. (In fact, I've only ever played Next and a little bit of 4e.)

Personally, they've always felt antiquated and artificially limiting to me.  When I play a mage, I want to feel clever and powerful, and be able to adapt to new situations. A mage that can't help out when he has a perfectly good spell to use, but happened to not prepare, or can't use because the only version of the spell he can cast is a ten-minute-long ritual version, does not feel like a very heroic character. I mean, what if Lord of the Rings had ended half way through with a TPK because Gandalf didn't memorize "Turn Balrog" before entering the mines? 

If I play a fighter, I can always do strength-related things. I can break down as many doors as I want, start as many bar fights as I want, and stab as many monsters as I want. I can do this because it's a part of who my character is, and I don't see why a magic user has to be any different.

I understand the fear of mages becoming too powerful if they don't have something like this, but to me that's argument that something isn't designed right in the first place. It's like giving a first level fighter a 20d20 Sword of Slaughtering, and then introducing a mechanic where he can only swing the sword a coulple of times a day, so it's not too powerful. That's clearly not the right solution, and isn't very interesting mechanically.

I was really hoping Next would have something like a more well throught out version of 4e's At Will / Encounter / Daily scheme, and am a little dissappointed at the scheme they ended up with (not saying that I know of how to do a better one, I just don't feel like it was a step forward from 4e's).

 

D&D Next is pretty close to At-Will/Encounter/Daily as I see it.  Cantrips = At-Wills.  Arcane Recovery to get a few spells back is similar to encounter powers, especially at lower levels.  And you still have your Daily limit of spells that you can cast.  

If you allow spell casters to cast all spells at will like a fighter then all of their attacks will be the same strength of a fighter's attack.

arnwolf666 wrote:
The new spell system just is not for me.  I liked pre4E magic too much.

 

I dislike the complelete inflexability found in 4e overall..  casters should be able to think outside the box when using their spells....4e casting felt like a iron clad box 

grimcleaver wrote:
world emulation that made the old systems good

It's not world emulation you refer to - it's your prefered type of world emulation. It's not failing to emulate a world, it's failing to do the kind of emulation you like.

Once you put it into 'oh, it's just not doing what I like' it becomes less 'a mistake' and instead 'not my first and foremost preference'.

"In the game there is magic" - Orethalion

 

Only got words in my copy.