Wednesday, August 6, 2014

5e Musings: Non-Leveled Spell Slots

Art by Wayne Reynolds
Last week, while recapping my first session of 5th Edition, I mentioned that I wasn't all that happy with the latest iteration of the traditional magic system. While I like the basic idea and believe its definitely workable, I feel it fails in execution.

I guess I should elaborate on that.

For those of you who haven't read the D&D Basic Rules yet (which you really should), I'll do my best to give a brief summary of the magic system. Like earlier editions, Clerics and Wizards must prepare the spells they wish to cast that day. However, unlike those previous iterations, these classes can cast these spells multiple times per day based on the number of spell slots they have available to them. In many ways, the magic system seems to be a melding of the preparation method with the spontaneous method, which really does make things easier.

Also, you can choose to spend a higher level spell slot to cast a much more powerful version of a spell. For example, Clerics can choose to cast the Cure Wounds spell at a higher level, granting them the chance to roll more dice and hopefully heal more damage. I also like the idea behind this because it helps make those lower level spells remain viable at higher levels and allows for some interesting choices for these kinds of characters to make.

Like I said, I like the basic idea behind the system and believe it could be interesting. However, when I say I dislike the execution, I mean that I hate the fact that spell slots are still divided into separate leveled pools. Since the preparation of spells is no longer tied to the spending of spell slots equal to that spell's level, retaining this element of the system feels like something that was done purely because of legacy.

With that in mind, I've been brainstorming a house rule that I might apply to the magic system whenever I run 5th Edition. Instead of separating spell slots into nine leveled pools, the Cleric and the Wizard would receive a singular progression of genetic spell slots. When casting one of the spells they've prepared, they would spend a number of spell slots equal to the spell's level. If they wished to cast a more powerful version of a spell, they would have to spend double the amount of spell slots for each power increase. For example, a Cleric would spend 1 spell slot to cast Cure Wounds as its 1st level version. However, if they wished to cure 3d8 points of damage, they'd have to spend four spell slots (1+1 for the first increase, then 2+2 for the second increase).

Since this is still just a rough idea, I have a few kinks I need to work out. For example, I'm still debating if I should limit how many spell slots a character can spend based on their level. Should a 1st level Cleric be able to spend 2 spell slots to cased a more powerful version of Cure Wounds, or should he have to be a higher level to do so?

What do you think? I'd love to get people's opinions on this house rules and the best way of implementing it. If you have any ideas, leave your thoughts in the comments below.