View Full Version : Removing daily abilities from 3.5-- brainstorming

2012-09-23, 12:17 AM
While I enjoy a lot of things in D&D, one thing I do not enjoy is daily abilities. It's hard to hit the 'sweet spot' where you have just enough uses to get through a day, but few enough that you have to conserve them. It's too easy to fall into a 'but I might really need it later' mentality. Daily abilities can hit a weird balance where they're incredibly powerful, but only usable once or twice. They encourage the 15-minute workday. They support the false melee-caster balance, where fighters and warlocks are excused because "they can fight all day."

Worst of all, the length of an adventuring day can and should vary. Some adventures will have lots of fighting. Some adventures will have very little. DMs are left with a choice of either shoehorning in enough encounters to get to the 4/day that things are theoretically balanced around, or accepting that players will be stronger, and have more nova-options.

From a non-mechanical standpoint, too, these things make little sense. Maybe divine casters, whose gods hand out spells one at a time, and who can only pray for more at certain times. Perhaps Vancean casters, if one takes that specific fluff. But a bard? A hexblade? A sorcerer?

I'd like to change that. Preferably without altering the balance of the game too much. I'm going to jabber for a while, but I'd love to hear some feedback from you guys.

There are, as far as I can think, two types of abilities with daily uses: magic spells, and x/day abilities.

Non-Magic Abilities
These are things like the paladin's smite, the barbarian's rage, or the bard's bardic music.

My preferred method for such things is to put them on a cooldown timer, similar to dragon breath weapons. I suppose I run a risk of being accused of copying MMOs, but... it makes sense. A paladin's smite is a burst of pure divine energy; it takes a while to gather the power to repeat the action.

Cooldowns could be a dX roll, like dragon breath, or they could be static ("after raging, a barbarian cannot rage again for one hour.") They can, and probably should, scale with class levels or ability modifiers. (10-Charisma modifier rounds).

This one... is harder. Not the least because recharging magic promises to make casters more powerful. I, personally, feel that it's worth it in the end, especially if the solution turns out to be something like recharge magic that contains its own limitations.

The SRD offers a recharge magic variant, which would seem to offer a lot of what we want. Magic is taxing! Magic is valuable! It promises to stop certain abuses, like hit-and-run teleporting and repeated save-or-dies.

But... the execution feels clunky, at least when just reading the rules. A lot of the recharge times are arbitrary. There's some suggestions, but it still means going through every splat book spell-by-spell. It turns all casters spontaneous, making prepared casters even more powerful and shafting the poor sorcerer and his spontaneous companion. It also bothers me, conceptually, that casting a spell puts every spell of a specific level on a cooldown.

I'm not sure how to change it, though. Individual spell recharges seems too powerful. Putting all magic on a cooldown goes to far the other way, never mind making full casters no fun to play.

Psionics and spell-points lend themselves to a neat mechanic where you could regenerate, say, Constitution points per hour; more if sleeping. The 'mana bar' effect also feels more natural in play, albeit at the cost of more math. But, alas, the SRD's spell-point variant is somewhat crappy, hurting the weakest spells (damage) while allowing you to cast more of the best spells (save-or-dies and battlefield control/save-or-suck spells with durations of minutes/level).

Building a better spell-point system is a start, though-- as I learned while attempting to do so for my sorcerer rewrite-- it's not easy, and might wind up requiring case-by-case rulings.

We might try a new mechanism, where spell slots are expended, but regenerate over time. Prepared casters would be able to prepare new spells in the regenerated slots, while spontaneous casters could simply use them again. This might be the best solution, though I have no idea how to set the rate of regeneration, and I'm sure this can be broken somehow. I'm already pretty sure it would help prepared casters even more, since it would give them even more flexibility...

I don't know. Thoughts?

Also, for reference: major abilities with daily uses


Barbarian's Rage (~1/day/4 lvs)
Bardic Music (lv/day)
Wild/Elemental Shape (arbitrary/day)
Stunning Fist (1/day/4 lvs; lv/day)
Wholeness of Body (hp/day)
Abundant Step (1/day)
Quivering Palm (1/week!)
Empty Body (1 round/lv/day)
Smite Evil (1/day/5 lvs)
Lay on Hands (hp/day)
Remove Disease (1/3 lvs/week!)

2012-09-23, 01:48 AM
For spells, you might start with Ernir's Vancian to Psionics translation, which has generally-suitable SP/augment costs, then adapt the class-granted SP progressions for continuous recovery. Finish up with some miscellaneous cleanup (removing or changing certain feats, etc) and that should do the trick.

For non-magic abilities, consider letting uses for some abilities stack up to a certain pool amount: e.g. Remove Disease is relatively useless unless you can spend several attempts within a fairly short time. (OK, it's still relatively useless, but you get the picture.)

Sgt. Cookie
2012-09-23, 01:30 PM
Personally, I would just turn all per day (Or per week) abilities into per hour ones.

Your magic idea does have merit, I would have done it this way:

Recovering spell slots:

A caster can recover (1/2 primary ability modifier) spell slots per hour, starting with the lowest level slots. In order to recover these spells, the caster CANNOT have cast a spell in the last hour.

Spontaneous Casters gain the spell slots back to cast any spell they know.

Prepared* Casters recover the spell slot AND the spell applied to the slot.

*Prepared Half casters (Paladin, Ranger, etc) may alter the spells in the slots.

This allows Spontaneous casters the one up on prepared casters, and gives half casters a much needed boost.

2012-09-23, 04:52 PM
I've tried a few house rules to similar effect before. One option I like is tying everything to one resource (I call it Energy), which has both daily and encounter pools:

Calculating Energy: All characters have an Energy pool equal to their Constitution score + their level times (5 + their Constitution Modifier).

Base Pool: Characters have a Base Pool of Energy which is equal to two times the above total. Characters spend Energy from their Base Pool to cast spells, initiate maneuvers, and activate abilities while outside of combat or other dangerous encounters. The character's Base Pool represents its deeper reserves of Energy, and so is slow to recover when spent. With a full night's rest, the character recovers Energy from its Base Pool equal to its level + Constitution modifier.

Encounter Pool: During a combat encounter (or other dangerous situation at DM discretion), characters can use their energy much more efficiently. This is a factor of various things that allow characters to perform impressive feats in short bursts - adrenaline, will to live, instinct and training, and so on. Whatever the exact reason, the point is that it's not something under the character's conscious control, only available in times of significant physical stress or danger - so, typically, combat.

At the start of the encounter, the character receives a full pool of Energy, its Encounter Pool. During the encounter, the character can spend Energy from this pool rather than its Base Pool. Energy from the Encounter Pool is fully refreshed for each new encounter.

Encounter Energy is not quite as strong as Energy from the character's Base Pool. Effects powered with Encounter Energy cannot have a duration exceeding one round per character level, or a range exceeding Medium. Effects exceeding these limits are restricted to them. Instantaneous effects that deal or heal damage or effects operate normally. However, instantaneous effects that create, call, or change things lose the instantaneous distinction if powered by Encounter Energy; they are reduced to a duration of one round per character level.

In any round that the character takes a total defend action and does not spend Energy, it recovers Encounter Energy equal to its level + Constitution modifier.

Spending Energy: Energy is a generic resource for all abilities - spells, maneuvers, class features, and so on. To convert normal resource costs to Energy, use the following rules. At-will abilities never cost Energy, and abilities that are at-will but with a cooldown measured in rounds still use the normal cooldown.

Spells: Casting a spell costs an amount of Energy equal to twice the spell level squared. Spells cast from the character's Encounter Pool reduce this cost by your character level.

Psionic Powers: Manifesting a psionic power costs Energy equal to the power level squared, plus two Energy per additional PP spent (for augmentation, metapsionics, etc). Powers manifested from the character's Encounter Pool reduce this cost by your character level.

Martial Maneuvers: Initiating a martial maneuver costs Energy equal to the cumulative maneuver level. Note that normal recover mechanics are not used alongside the Energy system.

Leveled Ability Costs
{table=head]Ability Level|Spell/Power|Maneuver

Other Abilities: Other abilities have Energy costs based on normal time between use. Daily abilities cost a base of 4 Energy, hourly abilities 3, per-encounter abilities 2, and per-minute abilities 1. Weekly abilities also use a base of 4 Energy, but must be powered by the Base Pool.

These base costs are then multiplied by the class level at which the ability is acquired. Prestige classes multiply the effective level as if the class were stretched out to twenty levels, so a ten-level class would multiply it by two, or a five level class by four, etc.

These costs are set by the core ability, regardless of the level at which improvements or alternate uses are acquired. The core ability is the ability that actually has the restricted uses; for example, Greater Rage uses the same daily uses as Rage, so it is simply an improvement and costs the same as Rage does (that is 4 Energy, rather than 44). In the case of abilities that have their own set uses and rely on a separate core, use the most expensive. For example, a Factotum's Opportunistic Piety ability costs 1 IP (2 Energy, since Inspiration is a first level per-encounter ability), but also has limited daily uses of its own (20 Energy for a fifth-level ability); it thus costs 20 Energy to use.

However, any ability that duplicates a spell, psionic power, or martial maneuver always uses the cost of the effect it emulates, for better or worse (unless at-will, of course). For example, a factotum's Arcane Dilettante ability costs 1 IP, and each spell has a 1/day usage, but both are replaced by the Energy cost of the emulated spell. Likewise, Bardic Music costs 4 Energy per use (whether using Inspire Competence, Inspire Greatness, etc), but those uses that duplicate spells (Suggestion, Song of Freedom) cost Energy for the spells they duplicate.

2012-09-23, 05:54 PM
For spells, use the mechanic of the Ætherforge (http://www.minmaxboards.com/index.php?topic=7141.0).

2012-09-23, 06:02 PM
For spells, use the mechanic of the Ætherforge (http://www.minmaxboards.com/index.php?topic=7141.0).

I'm sorry, I... fail to see how that relates? I mean, it's a neat looking class, but I dont' see how the mechanic-- resource committment-- lends itself to spells. (It's pretty similar to my new fighter fix, though, so make of that what you will).

2012-09-23, 06:04 PM
Well, you'd have to rewrite the spells, but it allows spell-like effects without worrying about per-day stuff, and also not being broken.

2012-09-23, 06:51 PM
I'd say your best bet in many cases might just be to use a cooldown or regeneration-over-time of uses.

2012-09-23, 07:29 PM
Well, you'd have to rewrite the spells, but it allows spell-like effects without worrying about per-day stuff, and also not being broken.

While I'm quite willing to rework the rules of the magic system, I'd really rather not have to rewrite every spell in the game.

Yitzi, do you have any suggestions on mechanics?

2012-09-23, 07:45 PM
Yitzi, do you have any suggestions on mechanics?

What I'd do is for 1/encounter or rarer powers (such as Rage or Wild Shape), give it a cooldown equal to 8 hours divided by uses/day. For powers meant to be usable more than once per encounter, such as Smite Evil or (if you choose to extend to it) psionics and psionics-like spellcasting, have a total pool equal to the listed uses/day, and have it regenerate at a rate of full regeneration every 8 hours. It's a relatively simple conversion, with minimal effects on balance. (Of course, if you want to change balance you'd then change things accordingly.) If you make it in table form, you might then round off a bit just for easier calculation/use.

So, to take the example of barbarian rage:

-At level 1, he has 8 hours cooldown.
-At level 4, this decreases to 4 hours.
-At level 8, 3 hours (note that I rounded fro 2+2/3 for simplicity.)
-At level 12, 2 hours.
-At level 16, 100 minutes.
-At level 20, 80 minutes.

2012-09-23, 07:56 PM
Gotcha. I'm mostly wondering about magic mechanics; short of converting to spell points, I'm fairly stuck on how to regenerate spell-slot based magic.

2012-09-23, 08:08 PM
I think its pretty rad to have dailies turn into something like a 6 * 1d6 hours cooldown (not announced to the players), and personally I'd also rule that rolling a 6 on an action point roll also reduces a single daily item's cooldown by 6h.
For a real luck-clinch move you could have a daily instant-recharge with a big SCHUNK recharge sound and a lit gem, and having it combo off of a good AP roll, that'd be awesome.

2012-09-23, 09:43 PM
I think putting per hour cool down just makes it worse. For one players will be inclined to wait an extra hour to get their abilities. Then it makes less sense to have something come back after 4 hours. Resting and sleeping and the "whole new day" feeling makes more sense to me rather than a strict hourly use, especially for something non-magical.

Quellian-dyrae points system makes more sense because it takes the encounter into consideration. That been said, why don't you make everything a per encounter? At the end of the day that is where your train of though goes, that a day might be 1 encounter or 10 encounters. It also make sense that during an encounter your endurance goes down, while after you catch your breath and can function as before the encounter.

Each character has a certain endurance points. When using a "daily" ability you lose X endurance points. Endurance points are recovered after 5min of short rest.

You now base the Endurance points on spells depending on how you want to balance things. Lets say you have 10 endurance points on level 10 and each spell level needs 1. You can cast 2 level 5th or a 4th, a 3rd, a 2nd and a 1st. This is just an example, haven't actually done the math, but you get the point.

Outside a battle you can practically cast over and over your spells. So you can make the casters weaker during an encounter and better outside. That doesn't sound bad to me.

Then you remain with the rest of the classes. I would say you can try to do things instead of X/day as 1/encounter. So you might not be able to smite more than once in a given encounter, which is bad to kill the big bag devil, but you can smite once every encounter and never have one where you can't. Same for rage.

2012-09-23, 10:39 PM
Quellian-dyrae points system makes more sense because it takes the encounter into consideration. That been said, why don't you make everything a per encounter? At the end of the day that is where your train of though goes, that a day might be 1 encounter or 10 encounters. It also make sense that during an encounter your endurance goes down, while after you catch your breath and can function as before the encounter.

That's actually how I had Energy work...I mean, mostly. There is both a daily and an encounter pool, but everything uses the encounter pool while in a combat encounter, and likewise, everything uses the daily pool when outside of an encounter.

2012-09-23, 11:08 PM
Its a little weird but you could have things go via narrative time. It would minimize a lot of the added book-keeping of recharges. Break things down into, say, three time scales: Scene, Set, and Episode. A Scene is a single encounter of some sort - talking with an NPC, dealing with a trap, fighting a battle. A Set is a sequence of related encounters within relatively short time of one-another, for instance a dungeon crawl without resting, a race, or a tournament. An Episode is usually one game, but it can also just be any conceptually closed off sequence of events after which the heroes basically can take downtime - a dungeon crawl including rests, the siege of a city, solving a murder mystery, etc.

X-Per-day abilities become per Episode. You might allow spell slots to be totally refreshed after a Set. ToB maneuvers, Factotum Inspiration, and the like would be per Scene.

Sgt. Cookie
2012-09-24, 06:31 AM
Gotcha. I'm mostly wondering about magic mechanics; short of converting to spell points, I'm fairly stuck on how to regenerate spell-slot based magic.

*Points to my prior post* It's not perfect, mind, but it's been the best shot so far.

2012-09-24, 06:34 AM
Gotcha. I'm mostly wondering about magic mechanics; short of converting to spell points, I'm fairly stuck on how to regenerate spell-slot based magic.

You'd need to either treat each spell level as its own ability, or have a "regeneration pool" that the person can use to regenerate levels as he wants (which is pretty spellpoint-like), or just use spell points; there's nothing wrong with spell points.