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    Canonfire :: View topic - Revising 5e Spells
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    Revising 5e Spells
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    CF Admin

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    Wed Dec 09, 2020 9:28 pm  
    Revising 5e Spells

    With a dozen or so three-to-four hour sessions of 5e under my belt, I'm posting about ways my players and I are starting to revise 5e spells.

    N.B. We're using the Three Pillar Experience system, which advances PCs based on combat, exploration, and social interaction. (So far our game has focused mostly on the third pillar although all of them have featured.)

    First up, enchantment spells. Our spell caster is a warlock (with an archfey patron) who uses deception and persuasion a great deal. In initially choosing spells, however, he chose against learning Friends or Charm Person because in 5e these spells (and similar ones) make their targets become hostile after the spell ends because they know that the caster enchanted them.

    This might be a good limitation for a combat-focused game where the spell is used to momentarily incapacitate an antagonist, but for our game (and I suspect for many GH fans who are using 5e but familiar with older editions), it feels prohibitive.

    Added to this complaint is that a wizard who specializes in enchantment gains the ability to make targets of such spells not know that they've been enchanted at the fourteenth level.

    Our provisional fix is to make the target of an enchantment spell generally not know that the caster enchanted them—particularly if the target failed its initial saving throw. I'm still tinkering on whether target who make their initial saving throw know that they were subjected to a spell, or if this knowledge would require an Arcana check—but I tend toward the latter.

    The takeaway is that in earlier editions, enchantment spells were relatively subtle to evocation spells (to name the most obvious contrasting school), and the same should hold true in 5e.

    (Of course, if the caster is obviously casting a spell before a person (rather than attempting to conceal it, say using a Deception or Sleight of Hand check), then the target is likely to expect that some kind of magic was used against it.)

    What do you think? What have you done IYCs?
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    Thu Dec 10, 2020 8:35 am  

    Hmm, missed that particular UA. It is interesting and I like that you're trying to emphasize all three pillars. Makes for a balanced campaign. Some comments on your proposed rules changes.

    On the one hand, the charmed condition is fairly weak, so just from that, I'd be willing to consider changing enchantment spells to remove or lessen the whole "they hate you afterward" problem. That said, if they make their save, they do know they were targeted by a spell (but needs to use a reaction and make a skill check to discern what spell according to XGtE). That's a DM call to ensure they are still balanced. If you're playing heavy role-playing, do so carefully.

    I'd be careful making it too easy. Warlock spells refresh on a short rest, so that can be lots of charming throughout a day or two of social interactions. Also, consider this: Casting a spell to make someone charmed is not too different from giving someone a date rape drug (or at least some may see it that way). I'd be hostile if someone did that to me, too!

    To be fair, it only says they knew they were charmed, so you as DM can adjudicate it as you see fit.

    Another consideration is, can you lean more into using skills like persuasion or deception for most of the interactions? Charm Person is best saved for someone not initially willing to be friendly to the caster. In the new book (TCoE), skill expert will give you expertise in a skill among other things.

    I guess at the end of the day, using enchantment spells is high-risk, high reward. If the player uses these judiciously (and opens doors to advance the story instead of trampling all over it), then lessening the downsides of casting enchantment spells is sufficient.

    As for the cantrip, Friends, that's a little bit of another story. It's at-will, so any tinkering can make your feylock uber-powerful in that pillar (maybe that's the goal?) Instead, make it like Guidance where the caster casts it on himself. I'd allow it to give advantage to the next check within one minute instead of the +1d4 since it's a more limited version (just Cha checks instead of any ability check). That way, it doesn't target another person and there's no hostility afterwards. Unless someone finds out the feylock "magicked" himself more persuasive for a time.

    We're a bunch of murderhobos in my group, so this has never came up (but a couple of people have joined us who like more role-playing, so we're learning). LOL

    Just some more random thoughts:

    A new feat in TCoE gives you two sorcery points and two metamagics, which can include subtle spell. That way, if you don't change how the spells work, at least the target doesn't know who to be mad at.

    As a houserule, since warlocks cast at up to 5th level spells via pact magic, you can allow the feylock to forgo the additional targets of Charm Person for increasing benefits, like lessening the after-effects, or increasing how friendly it makes the target for the duration.

    Fey Touched (in TCoE) doesn't help with the issue you're having, but it's a great feat and quite fitting for a feylock.
    Master Greytalker

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    Sun Dec 13, 2020 8:24 pm  
    Re: Revising 5e Spells

    mtg wrote:
    The takeaway is that in earlier editions, enchantment spells were relatively subtle to evocation spells (to name the most obvious contrasting school), and the same should hold true in 5e.

    I think this may be a bit of a straw man. Take the 1e spell Friends: Its material component is "chalk (or white flour), lampblack (or soot), and vermilion applied to the face before casting the spell." Anyone who knows about the existence of this spell is going to be pretty suspicious of someone painted up like an actor when they begin the V and S components of the spell. Not exactly subtle. And on a successful save the target "will be uneasy in the spell caster's presence and tend to find him or her irritating."

    mtg wrote:
    First up, enchantment spells. Our spell caster is a warlock (with an archfey patron) who uses deception and persuasion a great deal. In initially choosing spells, however, he chose against learning Friends or Charm Person because in 5e these spells (and similar ones) make their targets become hostile after the spell ends because they know that the caster enchanted them.


    Not entirely true. For Friends, where 1e says that a successful save makes the target uneasy and irritated, 5e does say "When the spell ends, the creature realizes that you used magic to influence its mood and becomes hostile toward you. A creature prone to violence might attack you. Another creature might seek retribution in other ways (at the DM’s discretion), depending on the nature of your interaction with it. "

    For Charm Person, though, where 1E simply says a successful save negates the spell, 5E says that "When the spell ends [after its duration of one hour], the creature knows it was charmed by you." It doesn't say it is necessarily hostile, just that it knows it was Charmed. And this only occurs at the end of the spell - if it makes its initial save, it is unlikely to know you even attempted the spell.

    So I don't find these compelling reasons for the warlock to not use the spells. Rather, a warlock should not be using these spells simply because a warlock gets so few spells, both in spells known and in spells castable. What Pact is the warlock? If Blade, he should be focusing on spells that help in combat. If Tome, on rituals to extend his casting ability by more than a few spells per day. If Chain, on spells that enhance his familiars.

    Rather than spells, the warlock should have plenty of ammunition with just skill checks so that Charm Person and Friends are redundant and a sub-optimal use of scarce resources. With a Cha of 17 and a Proficiency of +2, even a first level Warlock gets a +5 on Deception and Persuasion, which have unlimited use per day, will beat most opponents, and which at worst will have opponents find them unpersuasive (if Persuasion), or less than honest (if Deception). The only one who can really stymy them are high Wisdom opponents with good Insight rolls - precisely the same opponents who are likely to make their saves against Charm Person and Friends.

    The 5e group I DM has a warlock as the party's face. At 7th level he has a +4 Cha and +3 Prof for a total of +7 on Persuasion and he generally has the run of NPC's when asking for anything within reason. If the request is reasonable and I use Passive Insight, he typically needs only a 4 or 5 on a d20. If the request is unreasonable he still usually wins opposed rolls. On the occasion when he misses a close roll on an important event, he uses Dark One's Own Luck to put himself over the top [Fiend Patron (Graz'zt)].

    Skill checks also play better with other features of the party. The bard can use Cutting Words on the opposing roll or give the Warlock Bardic Inspiration; the Druid can provide him Guidance. There are precious few ways other party members can help with the DC of a Spell or the save of a foe.
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    Last edited by Kirt on Sun Dec 13, 2020 8:31 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Sun Dec 13, 2020 8:30 pm  

    Thanks for responding Emongnome. It took me a few days to find the time to sit, reflect, and have the PHB handy to reply.

    Upon reviewing the standard rule of hostility after a charm person or friends spell ends, the feylock character opted for what you suggested—focusing on skills like persuasion, deception, and intimidation, and that's worked well for so far (particularly because the character has no bonus for insight skill checks).

    However, with level increases (they've just reached third level), we're now scrutinizing spells (and the other characters' abilities) with an eye toward making the game suit our campaign and play style.

    Starting with friends, I like your suggestion to model my change on guidance. Here's my version:

    --

    Friends (MTG version)
    Enchantment cantrip

    Casting Time: 1 action
    Range: Self
    Components: S, M (a small amount of makeup applied to the face as this spell is cast)
    Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

    Once before the spell ends, you have advantage on a Charisma check directed at one creature of your choice that isn't hostile toward you. When the spell ends, the creature does not realize that you used magic to influence its mood toward you.

    --

    Regarding charm person, I reviewed Pathfinder 2e's treatment and learned that it holds that a target of charm has three possibilities: if it fails its saving throw, it doesn't know that it was targeted (and affected) by magic; if it makes its saving throw, it knows that it was targeted by magic but doesn't necessarily know that the caster effected it; and if it makes its saving throw "critically" (i.e., beats the DC by 10 or more), then it knows that it was targeted by magic and that the caster caused it.

    I've not adopted the P2e critical success / failure rule although I'm considering it, but I like P2e's decision to make the target's knowledge depend on its saving throw, and your description of XGtE (a book I don't have) sounds like it addresses the situation well—"if they make their save, they do know they were targeted by a spell (but needs to use a reaction and make a skill check to discern what spell[.]"

    So far our sessions haven't had a problem with short rests / long rests. Typically, so much occurs during a session that the PCs have only had one or the other, but I appreciate your warning against "making it too easy." And, I'm lucky to be playing with a small group of good friends who attempt to make character choices that "judiciously . . . advance the story instead of trampling all over it[.]"

    I'll end by noting that your description of TCoE suggests I should prioritize getting it: skill expert, subtle spell, and fey touched all sound like interesting and useful rules. Thanks again!
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    Mon Dec 14, 2020 4:24 am  

    One thing we've talked about doing for Charm Person and similar spells it's adding a second save when the spell ends. If you treated the target kindly and they didn't do anything they wouldn't do anyway, they save with disadvantage. If you were mean to them or make them do something they wouldn't normally do etc, they save with advantage. Something in between, roll a normal save. If you attack them, they make the save automatically. If they make the save, then they know they were charmed, otherwise they don't. Creates more types for ways to go roleplaying wise and still has the danger of being known albeit without the certainty. Plus, how you treat them has consequences.
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    Mon Dec 14, 2020 6:03 am  

    bubbacully wrote:
    One thing we've talked about doing for Charm Person and similar spells it's adding a second save when the spell ends. If you treated the target kindly and they didn't do anything they wouldn't do anyway, they save with disadvantage. If you were mean to them or make them do something they wouldn't normally do etc, they save with advantage. Something in between, roll a normal save. If you attack them, they make the save automatically. If they make the save, then they know they were charmed, otherwise they don't. Creates more types for ways to go roleplaying wise and still has the danger of being known albeit without the certainty. Plus, how you treat them has consequences.


    This is very clever. I may need to "borrow" this if it comes up.

    Also, I seem to have been under the mistaken impression in the first post that someone always knows a spell has been cast on them. Per PHB: "Unless a spell has a perceptible effect, a creature might not know it was targeted by a spell at all. An effect like crackling lightning is obvious, but a more subtle effect, such as an attempt to read a creature's thoughts, typically goes unnoticed, unless a spell says otherwise."

    Perhaps when it says the target is hostile toward you afterwards, that could be considered "saying otherwise". I thought there were rules somewhere about knowing someone is casting a spell, but the only other thing I found was Sage Advice about being unable to counterspell a spell that doesn't have any components, such as a subtle spell without material components. If the spellcaster can get away without being noticed that they are casting a spell (the other characters distract the target?), then there's another way to get a charm spell through a little more safely.

    Glad my first post was helpful, it felt like I was just rambling.
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    Mon Dec 14, 2020 8:01 am  

    Emongnome wrote:
    Also, I seem to have been under the mistaken impression in the first post that someone always knows a spell has been cast on them. Per PHB: "Unless a spell has a perceptible effect, a creature might not know it was targeted by a spell at all. An effect like crackling lightning is obvious, but a more subtle effect, such as an attempt to read a creature's thoughts, typically goes unnoticed, unless a spell says otherwise."

    Perhaps when it says the target is hostile toward you afterwards, that could be considered "saying otherwise". I thought there were rules somewhere about knowing someone is casting a spell, but the only other thing I found was Sage Advice about being unable to counterspell a spell that doesn't have any components, such as a subtle spell without material components. If the spellcaster can get away without being noticed that they are casting a spell (the other characters distract the target?), then there's another way to get a charm spell through a little more safely.


    From Xanathar's Guide to Everything (an optional supplement) p.85:
    Identifying A Spell
    "Sometimes a character wants to identify a spell that someone else is casting or that was already cast. To do so, a character can use their reaction to identify a spell as it's being cast, or they can use an action on their turn to identify a spell by its effect after it is cast.

    If the character perceived the casting, the spell's effect, or both, the character can make an Intelligence (Arcana) check with the reaction or action. The DC equals 15 + the spell's level. If the spell is cast as a class spell and the character is a member of that class, the check is made with advantage. For example, if the spellcaster casts a spell as a cleric, another cleric has advantage on the check to identify the spell. Some spells aren't associated with any class when they're cast, such as when a monster uses its Innate Spellcasting trait.

    This Intelligence (Arcana) check represents the fact that identifying a spell requires a quick mind and familiarity with the theory and practice of casting. This is true even for a character whose spellcasting ability is Wisdom or Charisma. Being able to cast spells doesn't by itself make you adept at deducing exactly what others are doing when they cast their spells."

    Note that the person who wishes to notice the spell (whether the target or not) must perceive the casting, effect, or both. Distractions by other party members are certainly legitimate means to keep foes from perceiving the casting, and if the target succeeds on the save, at least for Charm Person, there will be no effect to notice.

    Even if it is possible to notice the casting, a DC16 Arcana save is going to be hard to make for your typical town guard. An enemy wizard, who likely has good Int, proficiency in Arcana, and advantage from class, is unlikely to miss that someone is attempting a charm. Which is as it should be.
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    Fri Dec 18, 2020 9:28 pm  

    bubbacully wrote:
    One thing we've talked about doing for Charm Person and similar spells it's adding a second save when the spell ends. . . .

    I agree with Emongnome that this is a neat way to address the issue.

    kirt wrote:
    From Xanathar's Guide to Everything (an optional supplement) p.85:
    Identifying A Spell . . .

    Thanks for this kirt. I like how it accounts for the complexity of a spell (increasing by level), as well as whether the person attempting to identify the spell shares a class with the spell caster.

    Would you recommend that I get XGtE? I've been considering getting Tasha's Cauldron of Everything too and would love to hear any recommendations for or against buying it.

    Regarding noticing a spell being cast, how would you set the DC for its Perception check? I think I'd base the DC on the casting time and adjust it based on distance, and I'd let the caster roll a Deception or Sleight of Hands check to oppose it.
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    Mon Dec 21, 2020 5:15 am  

    I think both Xanathar's and Tasha's have stuff to recommend them and stuff to throw out/ignore. I think they're worthwhile, but just. They do give players and bunch of other options, some good, some not so good. They give suggestions for patrons, session zero, more spells, more magic items, etc. too. You certainly don't need them, but if you have them you'll find ample enough use for them.
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    Wed Dec 23, 2020 6:25 pm  

    mtg wrote:
    Would you recommend that I get XGtE? I've been considering getting Tasha's Cauldron of Everything too and would love to hear any recommendations for or against buying it.

    Regarding noticing a spell being cast, how would you set the DC for its Perception check? I think I'd base the DC on the casting time and adjust it based on distance, and I'd let the caster roll a Deception or Sleight of Hands check to oppose it.


    I have both TCoE and XGtE and I like them. They add quite a bit of "crunchy" bits to the game, mostly subclasses, spells, and such, though TCoE has the artificier (only new base class since the PHB, mostly reprinted from Eberron setting book). It is hit or miss as to strength, but generally, nothing is game-breaking (despite how people feel about the hexblade, LOL).

    As for noticing a spell being cast, don't get hung up in the weeds. Start with DC 10 then just adjust up or down on the fly. Let player creativity affect the DC mostly, let them come up with crazy ways to keep someone from noticing them.
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    Mon Dec 28, 2020 10:12 am  

    mtg wrote:
    I've been considering getting Tasha's Cauldron of Everything too and would love to hear any recommendations for or against buying it.


    I don't have Tasha's.
    Here is a pretty good review of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCDX4yxerVQ&feature=emb_logo

    (If you can get past the guy mispronouncing "Tasha" through the whole thing. He doesn't otherwise have a nasal NE accent so I don't know why he is compelled to say her name like that.)
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