View Full Version : Creating new spells is bad?

2007-06-16, 06:00 AM
In another thread there was a discussion about how game-breaking the invention of new spells by players was. I think that if the DM and the players work together on this, it should go well. As a DM you can assign a fitting level to a new spell and you can tell your players which effect you think are too strong. More experienced DMs told me there would still be problems. Have any of you had problems with players creating spells that were too powerful? How would you go about it in the future?

mabriss lethe
2007-06-16, 03:17 PM
A couple of ways:

1- Veto: DM always has final say about the spell. If you don't like the way the spell is shaping up, kill it on the spot. This can peeve some players, but you can't make everyone happy all the time.

2- Alter it: Say you don't quite like a part or two, but otherwise everything is fine. tweak the mechanics of the effect more to your liking, alter range, target, duration to balance things out.

3- Expensive component costs: Make the characters pay through the nose for extremely powerful spells. An EXP cost always makes a character think twice before abusing a spell, but so can expensive arcane components and foci.

4- Hidden costs: My personal favorite. Just because you allow the spell doesn't mean it's perfected. Every time the cast the spell, it could have some other, unknown consequence, ability score damage is a decent, but sort of bland benchmark. Cause the character to go temporarily colorblind or have mild hallucenations afterwards, nightmares for days on end. Perhaps the spell attracts the attention of unfriendly Outsiders every time he casts it, or unleashes a wave of sulphurous brimstone, with the smell of rotten eggs clinging to the character for extended lengths of time no matter how often he bathes. The best bet are things that add a great deal of flavor but inflict a mild to moderate handicap on the caster.

5-DIY: yes, do it yourself. The player comes to you and gives you the generalities of the spell s/he wants to research. You do the dirty work and hand them the finished spell once they pay the required costs. it takes some of the fun out of it, but can be a better bet for retaining control than a lot of other options.

2007-06-16, 06:38 PM
In response,
I would never do 1 because I like to let the players feel like they really do have freedom to roam and i hate to veto
2 is what I currently do but the munchkin of the group still complains
3 is just harsh, "wow, I've just made my first useful spell" "yep, oh btw you need to now go and collect the material components for it", kinda buggers the player a little.
4 is another good idea but if players are constantly turning out new spells it could get a little tiresome.
5 is just too much work

As a rule I force the player to first draft the spell, theni decide how much downtime the player needs to make it, and then I adjust it to fit, of ten resulting in the munchkin wizard complaining that the DMG says that the new spell is perfectlky ok and dosent need a Dam cap.

mabriss lethe
2007-06-17, 01:52 AM
Sorry, I was rattling things off the top of my head inbetween jobs. i should try to clarify. Most of these are more in response to moments of exceptional need. You know, when the munchkin comes up with his bright and shiny new gamebreaker, instead of someone who comes up with a piece of genuine creativity. If the spell is good and only needs a minor tweak or two to bring it into line, no problem. a lot of this is geared toward tearing down/overhauling the spells when you fear they might run out of control.

1 -I do hate to veto outright, but it is a viable if unpalatable option.

2- Yeah it is usually the most elegant solution and while it isn't my favorite, it does speed things along a little better and the one I use most often.

3-If a spell is good and balanced as it stands, no need to come up with special foci and the like. If it's a "wow this is my first useful spell" scenario, then coming up with exotic materials isn't the way to go.

4- I love it because it's so rich with potential plot hooks, side stories, and a great bag of DM tricks. it's not something I do with every newly minted spell or sometimes it's not even every time they cast it. Just when I think it might be needed to curb potential abuse. Thankfully, my groups rarely turn out an obscene number of custom spells, so it isn't a big organizational issue one way or another.

5- yes usually a waste of time, but a good way to start helping inexperienced players get the hang of things.

2007-06-17, 02:25 AM
You have to be careful when players create spells, especially if the character is a preperation caster.

My general rule is that a created spell must be less powerful then the hallmark spells of a spell level. If you create a movement spell thats roughly equivlent to expeditious retreat, then it should be 2nd level. The classic spells are classic because they are easy to use.

Also, don't reduce spell level for "silver bullet" spells, or spells that are only likely to be useful in specific circumstances, for a preperation caster, or someone with access to scrolls/wands, thats hardly a setback.

2007-06-18, 11:34 AM
I like the rule about it being _less_ powerful than the hallmark spells.

To some extent options 2&3 are always necessary. Components etc... really should reflect the new spell. Cost should mostly ramp with power.

It is soooooo much easier playing with someone who 'gets it' and isn't trying to get everything for little or no player character effort. Usually if the player has a clue they've been a DM themselves for a time. Outright vetos are often the beginning of a slippery slope. Too many vetos or too many attempts to bring up the same subject (forcing the old veto to be repeated) get poisonous to the game.

There seems to be a general hate on for Wizards since 3.0 which is a pity. I like the idea that a powerful spellcaster creates new spells. It's long arduous and difficult but its the sign of a powerful spellcaster.


2007-06-18, 04:09 PM
Still, sometimes you have to say "no, that's not a 7th level spell, that's an epic spell". The veto, while a last resort, can be necessary, particularly when balancing it involves huge XP costs just to stop it being the caster's spell of choice, and then no-one ever uses it.
Sometimes, you have to veto Pun-Pun.

2007-06-20, 12:08 PM
I agree with most of what has been said here, Veto is my last resort also. The idea of the new spell being less powerful then the hallmark spell doesn't sit well with me thou. If the new spell is less powerful why make it? with the ammount of spells in the spell compendium and other books you can most likely find a spell that does what you want at a lower level then if you made it yourself. What I have started doing is laying out a homebrew rule for creating spells

0 level spell: 2 weeks work
1st level spell: 1 month work and to have created two 0 level spells
2nd level spell: 2 months work and to have created 3 1st level spells
3rd level spell: 3 moths work and to have made 4 2nd level spells
(do you see where this is going yet?)

Then I adjust the new spell to fit and work at the level they want it at, it take abit more work but I feel it works out better, also they have to have access to a magic workshop for the period of making the spell.

I prefer this method mainly becuse it prevent the number of spells made from going too high as my PS's have little down time, at most 2 months but occasioanlly longer. And it makes it worth while for the wizard to make the spell instead of just looking for a similar one in a book

2007-06-20, 05:22 PM
While I agree there needs to be a dialog between players and DM when creating anything new, I question the original premise's validity. All the home made spells I've seen were no worse (and usually much better) than some existing published spells. It's hard to get more game breaking than Shivering Touch, Gate, Time Stop, or Celerity.

Who knows, maybe I'm just not seeing the truly abusive spell creations.

2007-06-22, 05:21 PM
Indeed. It is all a matter of dialogue and careful case by case assessment of what is and is not viable or appropriate. Mabriss Lethe gives a some good suggestions for when things go wrong. However, a Dungeon Master should never be in a position where he feels he cannot remove or adjust a newly created, or for that matter a currently existing, Spell. TheOOB's suggested power level guideline is a good idea, but Raum is also right that some spells are already outright broken. Much like CR, EL, Experience, Wealth and just about everything else, it's one part guidance to about four parts experience.

2007-06-23, 07:17 AM
Part of my enjoyment, is that when I play, we tend to have a fairly loose restriction on such things. We aren't munchkin's necessarily, but we add things, and increase power very quickly, sometimes so much so that when we hit epic, no one notices a difference in difficulty. This means of course that as a DM, you have to start making some very, very strong monsters.

Of course, this means we sometimes start encountering Epic monsters around level 12. Normally this occurs when we're fighting an opposing army, so it's been summoned as a superweapon. Which means we can go eight on one, while the rest of the army fights around us. But it's fun, which is just what D&D is about. Besides, balance is easy. One spell is too powerful? No problem, just let everything else powerup.