Sunday, January 29, 2012

Picking Apart the 5E Class Seminar - Part II - Casters & Magic

Greg: I like planning my feat chain over 20 levels. So let's talk about spell casters and the spell casting mechanics. What are your opinions on how that should be? Current playtest has a Vancian system of magic. Thoughts on using that system?

Monte: It's my firm belief that Vancian magic, for the core classes, is D&D. There are other options for other classes, but for Wizard, Cleric (core), Vancian is the way to go. There's something to be said for picking spells that match what you think is coming. Rewarding. I know it's a bit controversial, but I think Vancian magic is a core element of D&D. Maybe it's not the only option for magic, but it's definitely an iconic and flavorful one that I would like to retain. It's also an interesting way to handle game balance. For example wizards have magical feats that are basically at will abilities. Balancing them with vancian magic which are essentially daily abilities is an interesting way to go, especially when comparing to the fighter and rogue who have more of an at-will style play. It offers a very different playstyle than those other classes, but those different play styles are something we want to embrace. (Vancian Magic for the win.  Yeah, I know, you either love it or hate it, there is little middle ground.  Although combining Vancian Magic with At Will Powers might be a way to bring that gap.  I’m interested in seeing how this works out.)

Greg: Those at-will type of attacks are things that have come to D&D with 4th. How are you guys integrating that in the next iteration?

Bruce: As Monte mentioned, you have those feats that give you at-will style attacks, and some spell or class options will give you at will kind of attacks. (As I mentioned above, this should prove to be interesting)

Rob: And there's nothing stopping us from looking at all those green attacks from 4th and seeing how those fit into this new iteration. Some for combat, some for not combat. The spell feats fit for that and other class options or feats could offer similar things.  (So 4E powers are going to be 5E feats, or some such.  I had no idea 4E had powers that were used in non-combat situations ;)

Bruce: I feel we're brining Vancian magic back to the place it began, keeping the story intact and making it important to the story of the world. (I have no idea what Bruce means by Vancian Magic “keeping the story intact”.)

Greg: How about the 15 minute workday problem?

Bruce: Wizards have magical feats (at-will, always available). Hold on to higher spells until needed.  (At will powers for Wizzies means they won’t need to revert to slings, which is a good thing)

Rob: We could bring back a whole raft of at-wills from 4e, and make those type of things Wizard feats. There are also magical feats that are non-combat oriented. Different frequency rates, as well (encounter).  (I can deal with At Will Powers coupled with Vancian Magic, but Encounter Powers really don’t make sense in the classic D&D framework)

Bruce: 4e took Vancian magic and gave it to all classes. We're bringing it back to the part of D&D where it belongs. Fighters have their version of abilities and options as well, but it will have a different feel than the vancian magic for arcane stuff.  (I never saw 4E as having Vancian Magic.  How can Monte call Vancian Magic controversial above if it’s been in every edition of D&D - unless it hasn’t.  Make up your minds people!)

Greg: How is the idea of rituals progressing in the next iteration of D&D?

Rob: Monte started running with the ball and wanted to make rituals there for the really big spells that are super awesome, but might take a bit longer to cast. I ran with that and really wanted to make them all very interesting and complex, and really invest the player/character in what they're doing. We could bring back a lot of the big, neat spells from previous editions, and rituals can be the spells that do that.  (Or they could bring back a lot of the big, neat spells from previous editions without turning them into rituals)

Monte: Magic is taking a broader turn than just spells. In the past we got to the point where everything you encountered in the game had some kind of spell attached to it or that replicated the effect. I really want to go back to the idea that magic is mysterious and weird and not always entirely definable. I think it's good for the story of the game when the DM can use it to help to define and area or maybe a unique magic item. Things like rituals help us accomplish that - makes things more open ended and more interesting and also takes away some of the focus from the wizard and puts it on other things in the world.  (Alright, time to make Carcosa an Official D&D Supplement: we just need some sacrifices - a few TPKs should suffice ;)


  1. I think there is a middle ground for Vancian magic: make more than one caster class available. One class can use prepared spells, and another can use slots or spell points. Problem solved.

    As long as the same structure for every class is not required (this is what made Vancian magic problematic in 4E) there should be no issue with this. I think the 5E designers have already made it clear that not all classes are going to work the same way.

  2. One 4E power that is extremely useful outside of combat is the eladrin's ability to teleport 25 feet once per encounter (i.e., approximately every five minutes). This allows circumvention of all kinds of dungeon obstacles that would normally be much more difficult. Yes, I think this is a bit extreme for a first level character, but that is 4E for you. A first level 4E character is roughly equivalent to a fourth or fifth level B/X character.

    I believe the gnome can also turn invisible at will, though I have never seen one in a game.


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