View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next Scholastic Magic

2018-09-18, 10:37 PM

"Scholastic Magic" is an alternative system of generating spell lists for spellcasters in DND 5e. Rather than having spell lists based on class, spellcasters have so many proficiencies for different schools of magic; Abjuration, Divination, etc.

This is a substantial change that will change both the flavor and function of magic when implemented.

The goal of this variant is to allow a greater flexibility of builds, particularly ones that play against stereotype. IE, RAW bards are primarily proficient with Enchantment and Illusion spells, slotting them as tricksters and spies. But perhaps you want to play a sad-boy goth bard with Necromancy and Conjuration spells who uses music to raise the dead and summon demons?

When making a spellcaster under the scholastic magic system, you gain proficiency with a number of magical schools based on your class, as follows:
Wizard, Sorcerer: 4 schools
Warlock, Bard, Cleric, Druid: 3 school
Paladin, Ranger, Eldritch Knight, Arcane Trickster: 2 schools

For example, a warlock built under the concept of "delving into dark secrets" might take proficiency in Divination, Conjuration, and Necromancy. A Ranger built on the concept of "harmony with natural forces" might take Evocation and Transmutation.

A character has access to all spells of their proficient schools which are of a level they can cast, regardless of what class's spell list they originate on.
So yes, wizards can cast healing spells. More on that later in "Ramifications" below.

Spells Known and Spell lists:
In RAW, the level of access to a classes spell list varies greatly by class; arcane casters have a small number of "spells known," whereas divine casters have access to the entirety of their spell lists, and prepare a number of them each day.
When using this system, I highly recommend treating all classes like clerics and druids for spell preparation. Every casting class knows all of the spells in their proficient schools, and prepares a number of spells equal to their Spellcasting Modifier + Class Level each day, or half that amount for Paladins, Rangers, Eldritch Knights, and Arcane Tricksters.

Ie; Our "dark secrets" Warlock access to all Divination, Conjuration, and Necromancy spells, but prepares a number each day equal to his level plus his charisma modifer. Our "natural forces" Ranger has access to all Evocation and Transmutation spells, but only prepares a number equal to 1/2 (her level + wisdom modifier).

Scholastic Magic and Bonus Spells:
I would recommend removing subclass-based Bonus Spells for Warlock Pacts and Cleric domains when using scholastic magic. A knowledge cleric would feel less incentivized to take Divination if they were also getting a lot of Divination spells off of their domain list, which strikes me as a toxic incentive.
Circle of the Land Druids pose an interesting problem with this, as access their bonus spells are part of what separates them from other druidic circles. Another ability should be substituted in this case, and I'd be happy to hear suggestions as to what.

Balance and Variation:
If you find that this variation makes certain classes too weak or too powerful, adjust the number of schools that class is proficient with; ie, if it shakes out that Paladins are just better version of Eldritch Knights, reduce Paladins to just one school of magic.

Overview of Spell Lists:
When constructing this system, I hit one major snag; the schools themselves. Because schools have negligible impact in DND 5, their was little attention paid to what spells went where. For example, at level 2, there are 18 spells in Transmutation, 14 in Evocation, 6 in Abjuration, and 3 in Necromancy.

In some cases, this isn't as big of a problem as it seems; Evocation contains a large number of spells that fulfill the same function (blow stuff up), and Illusion contains a relatively small number of very versatile spells. Others, like Conjuration (which has a large number of spells that fulfill a huge variety of functions) and Necromancy (which contains a small number of niche spells) are more problematic.

In other cases, you have spells in one spell list that are much more thematically in line with another (ie, the spell "Glibness" being and Transmutation rather than Enchantment spell).

Without rebalancing spell lists, this makes some very obvious choices, and players will be incentivized towards Transmutation, Evocation, and Conjuration for utility, regardless of core concept.
And that's no good.

As such, I have rebalanced the spell lists on the following lines:

Abjuration: Spells that deal with armoring, warding, and banishment. This list took minor modification, with the biggest change being the addition of passage spells like Knock and Passwall.
Conjuration: This was the most problematic spell list. Conjuration in RAW is a grab-bag of spells, ranging from summoning and teleportation to blasting spells like Tsunami and weather control utilities like Fog Cloud.
As such, I've moved a lot of spells off of the Conjuration list, narrowing it's focus to summoning, planar travel, and teleportation. Occasionally, other spells that fall into this arena are added onto it (such as Blink).

Divination: Divination was largely untouched, with spells that convey information (such as Message, Sending, and Telepathy) being added onto it.

Enchantment: Enchantment covers blessings, curses, and mind-affecting spells. A few spells have been added to it, but not much has been changed. It does suffer from a lot of thematic overlap with Illusion (see "Liminal Cases", below)

Evocation: Evocation is is a bit of an odd duck; it has a very clear theme of "blowing stuff up," but occasionally gets other more ambiguous things tacked on (ie, healing spells).
I've tried to streamline Evocation into "commanding elemental forces" school. Weather control and a few stray blasting spells have been moved onto the Evocation list, and healing spells and some miscellenia have been moved onto it.

Illusion: Illusion has been largely untouched, with a few spells being moved on (ie, spells that deal with light and darkness).

Necromancy: Necromancy was definitely the poor-boy of the spell list, especially at low levels. The biggest change is adding healing spells onto the Necromancy list, which adds a great deal of utility and fits better thematically with "control of life and death."

Transmutation: Much like Conjuration, Transmutation is a grab-bag spell list. I've tried to narrow it's focus down to shapeshifting (ie, Polymorph), animating and changing your environment (ie, Move Earth), and control over time and gravity (ie, Haste and Fly). This is still a pretty mottly assortment of powers, but takes it down a bit. Various elemental spells have been moved onto Evocation, and various buffs and debuffs onto Enchantment or Necromancy.

Trying to fit full spell lists into this post would've been monstrous, so I've created a google doc spreadsheet which you can check out here (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1FxPYwFGWvQfcPVfbV-5jFXNW75a2BVSh1Aps6YvHFoI/edit?usp=sharing).

Liminal Cases:
There are a fair number of spells that did not clearly fit onto one school or another. For example, there are a lot of spells that involve conjuring fear or nightmares that sort of fall in between Illusion and Enchantment.
Spells that deal with water (Tsunami, Control Water, Wall of Water, etc.) were surprisingly hard to classify. These were originally divided under the big 3 misc schools (Conjuration, Evocation, and Transmutation), and I've generally slotted them into Evocation school under the "commanding the elements" aspect. I'm happy to hear any thoughts on where to slot these, as I feel like it's important to keep them together for "Aquatic Ranger" and "Servant of the Deep Ones Warlock" type concepts.

Scholastic magic is a fairly major change to the core structure of DND. There are only two classes that don't have at least a little bit of access to magic, so this opens up a lot of changes for a lot of classes.

The main intent is to make any given spellcaster feel like more of a specialist and less of a generalist. Under the scholastic system, characters generally have access to more spells overall, but a smaller number of magical functions. Spell lists in RAW tend to have a lot of separate but similar spells; Druids get Barkskin, Wizards get Mage Armor, Clerics get Shield of Faith, but they all get a low-level armor boosting spell.

The extent to which character class determines niche is greatly reduced. A Warlock who specializes in Conjuration, Necromancy, and Abjuration is going to feel more similar to a cleric with the same schools as than to another Warlock with Illusion, Enchantment, and Divination.

This will likely benefit magical classes, especially classes like Eldritch Knights and Warlocks who have relatively small spell lists. I've got a whole smattering of other house rules (which I'll post on their own thread eventually) that deal with combat and generally make physical characters more attractive, so I'm not too worried about weighting things to heavily on the swords vs sorcery scale.

There are some spells that deal closely with the nature of a class that might want to be class-restricted; Ceremony, Temple of the Gods, etc. are very clearly intended to be "Cleric only spells." These also tend to be very niche spells, and probably won't come up that often.

There are a couple of more specific rules I've thought about tacking on with this system:

Spell Creation:
Spell creation is already technically in the rules for DND, but I feel like this system really lends itself to it. By grouping spells into more tightly defined groups, you establish better parameters as to what can happen in that group at any given level.
And those poor Diviners and Illusionists will need to find some way to occupy themselves at high level.

Magical Scholar: (new feat)
In lieu of an ASI, you can gain proficiency with a new school of magic. This would allow wizards and sorcerers to have access to every school of magic by level 16, which strikes me as a suitably high level for such accomplishments.

Wizard Specialties:
I've tossed around the idea of allowing specialist wizards to be able to cast spells of their school without having prepared them. Thus, an Abjurer can cast any Abjuration magic which he has high enough spell slots for. It plays to the idea of the wizard as the high-knowledge caster (versus sorcerers as the high-power caster).

This might potentially come at some sort of cost (such as using an extra or higher level spell slot) if it proves too high utility of an ability.

Whew. That was a lot. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.