May 4, 2016

Spellcasting Variants

Variant Rules

*Takiskal, one of our most prolific new contributors, churned out these variant rules, which I think deserve a mention, especially if you want your game to play a little more like 3.5*

Variant Spellcasting

In earlier editions of D&D, all spells, including cantrips, were fueled by spell slots, and as a consequence, spellcasters needed to practice caution when expending even their lowest level spell slots. This spellcasting variant eliminates at-will spellcasting and the expanding power of cantrips, replacing them with the ability to cast lower level spells more often. The warlock, by contrast, remains largely unchanged with these modifications.

Full Spellcasters
Bard, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard
     Cantrips. Your cantrips are cast using 0th level spell slots. You have a number of these slots equal to your spellcasting ability modifier (minimum 1) and you regain all expended spell slots when you take a short or long rest.
     Additionally, cantrips do not deal additional damage at higher levels, unless cast using higher level spell slots. In this case, they deal an additional die of damage for each level above 0th.
     Lesser Arcanum. When you reach 5th level, you recover expended 1st level spell slots when you take a short or long rest.
     Greater Arcanum. When you reach 11th level, you recover expended 2nd level spell slots when you take a short or long rest.
     Master Arcanum. When you reach 17th level, you recover expended 3rd level spell slots when you take a short or long rest.

Half Spellcasters
Paladin, Ranger
     Lesser Arcanum. When you reach 9th level, you recover expended 1st level spell slots when you take a short or long rest.
     Greater Arcanum. When you reach 17th level, you recover expended 2nd level spell slots when you take a short or long rest.

One-Third Spellcasters
Eldritch Knight, Arcane Trickster
     Cantrips. Your cantrips are cast using 0th level spell slots. You have a number of these slots equal to your spellcasting ability modifier (minimum 1) and you regain all expended spell slots when you take a short or long rest.
     Additionally, cantrips do not deal additional damage at higher levels, unless cast using higher level spell slots. In this case, they deal an additional die of damage for each level above 0th.
     Lesser Arcanum. When you reach 13th level, you recover expended 1st level spell slots when you take a short or long rest.

Warlocks
     Cantrips. All warlocks gain the cantrip eldritch blast at 1st level, which deals damage as normal. Other warlock cantrips do not deal additional damage at higher levels, unless cast using higher level spell slots. In this case, they deal an additional die of damage for each level above 0th.
     Spell Slots. The warlock gains his 3rd spell slot at 5th level, his 4th spell slot at 11th level, and a 5th spell slot at 17th level.

Variant Spell Schools

The Player's Handbook proposes the existence of 8 schools of magic in fantasy gaming worlds, to which each spell belongs. Except in the case of the wizard, the actual schools of spells pertain little to most characters and have very little influence on the game, since they don't tangibly affect spellcasting. Therefore, those who dislike the established schools of magic can trade them out with the following 6 types of magic.
     White Magic. This magic was taught to the mortal races by celestials, and as such it is magic that protects, heals, and banishes. It includes all the abjuration spells, as well as healing spells. Practitioners of white magic are often called abjurers or healers.
     Elemental Magic. This magic is based on the elemental forces of the cosmos. It involves the manipulation of the elements to one’s own will. Elemental magic is the default 'battle magic', as it is most often employed to destroy one’s enemies. Practitioners of elemental magic are often called evokers or invokers.
     Black Magic. This magic was taught to the mortal races by infernal fiends, and as such it is magic that summons dark creatures, curses others, manipulates necrotic energy, and raises the undead. It includes all the necromancy spells, as well as most summoning spells. Practitioners of black magic are often called warlocks or necromancers.
     Glamour Magic. This magic was taught to the mortal races by the mischievous fey, and as such it is magic that tricks, fools, and bedazzles. It includes all the enchantment and illusion spells. Practitioners of glamour magic are often called enchanters or illusionists.
     Natural Magic. This magic allows the spellcaster to communicate with and control animals and the land itself. It is believed to have originated from primordial entities of the land and was first practiced by ancient druidic circles. Practitioners of natural magic are often called druids or shamans.
     Universal Magic. Certain spell do not belong to a thematic school. Such spells, like detect magic or locate creature are usually creations of magic-users themselves, and unlike the spell schools above do not have their roots in the contact with otherworldly entities.

Changelog: 5/12/16: Cantrips: Damage scales if using a higher spell slot.

19 comments:

  1. Very interesting indeed. I can't wait to use this in a campaign. I think this also has the potential for a complete overhaul for the spells in 5e, as this completely changes how magic is looked at in the world, but that's a lot of work to do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One step at a time, lol. Plus, I think I'd rather have a bunch of smaller, more modular rulesets people can implement, as they choose from.

      Delete
  2. In the cantrips section, swap out "Intelligence" for "Spellcasting ability" or everybody except the wizard are MAD or have no cantrips.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Additionaly, they might want to put the (minimum of 1) caveat in there for those with low as for the caster. I say that because it's a default design for any "____ a day" abilities in 5e.

      Delete
    2. Agreed on both counts, gentlemen. Fix'd

      Delete
  3. I really like your variant spell schools and would like to see them fully listed out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally considered doing that, and just couldn't find the hours needed to make it through all the phb spells. It's something I'd still like to do if I find the time

      Delete
  4. I have to say, this doesn't give nearly enough for what it takes away. While I understand the love of 3.5, this goes against the entire design paradigm of 5e and many of its balancing assumptions.

    Arcane Trickster is flat out terrible now, be able to get up to only 5m of use with its archetype defining feature, which have to be spent in 1m increments.

    I would say to exclude the quartercasters from this.

    I do not feel that this alternate rule is balanced or up to the bar I view your offerings to be set to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I'm not convinced that this completely kills the power curve. In fact, I think short rest recharge spells are way more powerful than a lack of cantrips at higher levels (but this largely depends on things like how often your party can rest.)

      The assumption I normally make about rounds and resting is that parties battle for an average of 7 rounds each combat, and take a short rest after 2 combats at most. This means that a caster will get to use his cantrips a maximum of about 14 times between each short rest. At lower levels, a full caster loses out on this trade, but catches up quite a bit by 5th level. By my estimation, it's fine for full casters, and gets really good at later levels (very 3.5 in that way.)

      You might be right that lesser casters fall short (but this might be more of a reflection of their dependence on cantrips, more than anything else). How would you recommend we tackle this?

      Delete
    2. As far as Arcane Trickster, I would give them the warlock treatment and give them unlimited use of Mage Hand.

      A simpler treatment than bandaging every quartercaster individually would be that only damaging cantrips require the slot to use, or allowing one cantrip per short rest to ignore using slots.

      Speaking purely on feeling, it seems odd that Warlock gets the free EB that scales, but quartercasters (who have very few slots) are left high and dry.

      I can concede that point on full casters, but only in a DPR Vacuum. As an example, when -I- play Wizard I load up one or two damaging cantrips and rely on them for offense - saving my slots for utility and buffs.

      Delete
  5. I like the white magic/black magic, etc. variant. Any chance of getting a PDF of rule posts like this? That is how I save things for later or share them with people. It's a lot easier than copying the text somewhere, or bookmarking the post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll probably get a pdf of this together with some other variant rules, so it's a little more useful to have around.

      Delete
    2. Mark down another one here interested in seeing that PDF... I really like the ideas you've got here on both sides. Both the rechargeable spells on short rest and the alternative schools. The schools in the PHB are definitely classic to the game but what you're describing is a lot truer to the folklore.

      Delete
  6. I like that this takes the focus away from cantrips (I hate seeing a "support" caster just throw a firebolt every round).

    That being said, maybe throw in language that allows you to cast cantrips with higher level slots? Damage can scale, but at a cost. This feature would probably not be used, I'm guessing (why firebolt for 4d10 when you can fireball for 8d6?), but it seems logical. Treating cantrips just like spells also has some interesting effects with things like sorcery points.

    ReplyDelete
  7. How would the variant spell schools work with arcane traditions, would it be an overhaul of the Wizards archetypes?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. More or less, but some things, like the evoker, could basically be translated over to Elemental Magic, without changes. Enchanters or illusionists could gain their features with all glamour magic, rather than just their school.

      Other things, like white magic and natural magic, aren't really in the wizard's domain at all right now. This spell system assumes that things like white magic might just be the domain of clerics, and natural magic belongs primarily to druids.

      Delete
  8. Since a high level full caster will almost never get to the point where cantrips are all that's left, this feels like a large buff for spellcasters (regaining lower level spells easily, when Shield is already overpowered) with practically no drawback.

    As for the variant school, this seems like a good idea, but the generalizations feel a bit stupid. Why are all abjurations white magic? dispel magic and counterspell are abjuration, and they fit much better into universal magic than white magic, and there are many other similar examples.

    I'm sorry if there's accidental double-posting.

    ReplyDelete