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Thread: Balance shift for Magic [PEACH]
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- Apr 2015
Balance shift for Magic [PEACH]
So one of the things that is just ridiculously frustrating for a lot of people in 5e is how ridiculously powerful Clerics, Druids, and Wizards get at high end with maximum spellcasting. Sorcerors and Bards have a similar issue, but due to their limited options in availability they tend to drop down from Tier 1 to Tier 2.
Most of the classes, though, are clearly Tier 3. So how can we, without completely screwing them over, bring the Tier 1 classes down in line with the Tier 2s and the Tier 2s to the Tier 3s?
Well. The easiest answer I have found is to revamp the high end spells (6+) and alter the way Rituals work fairly severely.
Among high end magics there are spells with a semi-linear progression from earlier levels and then there are spells that simply break combat. Often these spells do so by taking the largest and most important moments of fantasy in general and making them into a one-off instant cast ability the character can pull out twice per day. Which, while very cool for the caster, makes everything else feel very boring.
The song "Always the First to Die" quantified the power increase of wizards with the lyric "You might suck at level 1, but you'll rip at level 9."
The first thing we need to do is look at the outliers and ask: Which of these is appropriate, per trope, for a ritual casting?
The prime examples, by level, include:
Magic Jar: Generally performed by the Big Bad Evil Wizard, Magic Jar is a perfect example of a spell that should be ritual only. Something an old wizard casts over the prostrate body of a bulgingly muscular barbarian wearing only a loincloth in order to secure a longer lifespan for himself in a healthier body. It even has a 1 minute casting time, making it mostly unsuitable for in-combat use outside of the Wish spell. By making it into a Ritual, and disallowing the Wish Spell to abuse Rituals by making them 1 action cast times, we bring this spell back to where it should be, via trope.
Earthquake: Typically something a cabal of evil people gets together to group-cast to level a city, bring down enemy fortifications, or otherwise ruin everyone's day in a place where the ceiling can collapse. For modern variations take a look at the various superheroes who fight against a doomsday earthquake machine that's going to level (insert city name here). It's not something the enemy generally throws off at a whim, but something that takes time to build up to allow the hero the chance to stop it from happening.
Gate: Again, the Big Bad Evil Wizard meddles with forces beyond his reckoning and spends several hours under the alignment of the three moons which occurs once every 1,000 years in order to bring forth a darkness the like of which the world has never seen. Or, the PC Wizard can do it in 6 seconds. This spell is a major crux of dozens of movies, books, TV shows, and plays. I mean, seriously! It was even a big part of Hellboy's starting sequence wherein Rasputin spends several minutes failing to successfully complete the spell with the help of countless faceless nazis and their superscience! And he only succeeded in bringing some small fragment of the Ogdru Jahad through himself on his return which burst into our reality at the end of the film.
By shifting these spells, and some others, into Ritual Casting Only rather than mid-combat shenanigans we can retain the awesome of wizards, clerics, and druids while bringing them closer in line with Tier 2. Similarly, it reduces the power of Sorcerors and Bards ever so slightly to bump them down towards Tier 3. Maybe 2.5. But only if you put the rider on Wish that it can't instant-cast ritual spells.
But Ritual Casting, itself, is kind of ridiculous. 10 minutes to cast Comprehend Languages while unable to communicate with someone that you need to cast Comprehend Languages to understand them? 10 minutes to cast Detect Poison? By that time the food is cold and if it wasn't poisoned you're in serious poop with the King!
Instead, we need to bring back the 4e design of spells having different ritual casting times. I feel like the following list is a good rule of thumb:
1st: 5 rounds
2nd: 10 rounds/1 minute.
3rd: 2 minutes.
4th: 4 minutes.
5th: 10 minutes
6th: 30 Minutes
7th: 1 hour
8th: 2 hours
9th: 3 hours
For the most part it means ritual spells above 5th level will be performed during or right after short and long rests, or when the party is not doing anything but the out of combat ritual. Similarly, villains will be limited to using the high end rituals only when they're certain of their safety (And thus at their most vulnerable).
But it also means baseline rituals that gain a little information or allow for communication are fired off fast enough to be of some kind of use in social/emergency/immediate situations without stretching credulity out of shape.
Note that everyone who has them, now, would still have up to 9th level spell slots and access to 9th level spells. The suggestion is to only limit the ones that are thematically appropriate for ritual casting and tend to drastically alter high end play.
While this rulehack won't be useful for everyone, and for some people it will certainly be anathema, I think it can help to avoid some of the issues a lot of people have with spell level 5+ casting.
Last edited by Steampunkette; 2015-06-16 at 09:01 AM.