Evocations should be lower level


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Polar Ray is an insult to god and man. It's not a long legacy, it was introduced in 3.5 and before that it was merely one of several options for the much lower level Otiluke's Freezing Sphere. And of course, in Pathfinder, that would have to be called Freezing Sphere for copyright reasons, but that is neither here nor there.

The point however, is that in the conversion from AD&D to 3e D&D, the amount of hit points and energy resistance that creatures have has increased literally exponentially. And damage output from Evocations has not kept up in the slightest. And while we could plausibly attempt to push the envelope and pump up damage output to match, that would only be an arms race that no one would win.

Evocations in 3rd edition rules are primarily spells which serve to devastate low level opposition or to slowly but surely chip away at the defenses of opponents that pose reasonable threats. These are sometimes valid tactics, but they are not valid tactics to use one's highest level spells to accomplish. It takes a lot of magic missiles to bring down a Shadow, meaning that there is frankly no way that any Wizard is going to have enough spell slots to dedicate to doing that to make it a viable way to eventually beat such an opponent.

So here's the solution: reduce the spell level of these underperforming evocation spells. Since they scale in damage to your level, nothing actually bad happens if you get these spells early. Even a dozen or more levels early is perfectly fine because the damage scales to something level appropriate at low level. A polar ray cast by a 1st level character does just 1d6 of damage - half the damage that the same character could achieve by purchasing a vial of alchemist frost and throwing it at a target (same to-hit roll as well at any kind of close range).

So here's what the Evocation list should look like:

Evocation Cantrips

  • Burning Hands
  • Dancing Lights
  • Light
  • Magic Missile
  • Shocking Grasp

Evocation 1st Level Spells
  • Fireball
  • Floating Disk
  • Gust of Wind
  • Lightning Bolt
  • Polar Ray
  • Sending

Evocation 2nd Level Spells
  • Chain Lightning
  • Cone of Cold
  • Continual Flame
  • Darkness
  • Daylight
  • Flaming Sphere (this spell badly needs to be better than it is, but that's another subject)
  • Scorching Ray
  • Shatter

Evocation 3rd Level Spells
  • Delayed Blast Fireball
  • Ice Storm
  • Shout
  • Tiny Hut
  • Wall of Fire
  • Wind Wall

Evocation 4th Level Spells
  • Fire Shield
  • Interposing Hand
  • Resilient Sphere
  • Wall of Ice
    Evocation 5th Level Spells
    [list]
  • Forceful Hand
  • Freezing Sphere
  • Mage Sword
  • Sunburst
  • Wall of Force

Evocation 6th Level Spells
  • Contingency
  • Grasping Hand
  • Shout, Greater

Evocation 7th Level Spells
  • Clenched Fist
  • Force Cage
  • Prismatic Spray
  • [/i]

Evocation 8th Level Spells
  • [i]Crushing Hand
  • Meteor Swarm
  • Telekinetic Sphere

Evocation 9th Level Spells
  • 9th level Spells must be written for this discipline. Seriously, timestop? Shapechange? Wail of the Banshee? Astral Projection? Shades? Weird? Most disciplines have two game defining, god-fighting spells to choose from at 9th level. Evocation hasn't been given anything remotely decent for their top tier, so new, mountain leveling spells must be written for Evokers to have.

There. It's pretty much completely backwards compatible, but nonetheless puts Evokers in at being able to do something legitimately valuable - Killing Fools.

And no, having unlimited magic missiles or shocking grasps is not ungamebalanced at 1st level, or any level. Magic Missile tops out in damage at level 9, when it does 17.5 damage against any opponent who doesn't have concealment, cover, or spell resistance. But at level 9, a Rogue is literally inflicting 17.5 points of sneak attack damage with every single attack. And that's not total damage for the round, that's just the extra damage from a sneak attack. He still gets to do his weapon damage, and make his other attacks for that round. Shocking Grasp is very likely to hit, and it does a d8+1 damage. A Longsword in the hands of a Fighter is also very likely to hit and does a d8+4. While the shocking grasp is quite likely to have a better chance of hitting an orc warrior than the longsword is, it is also much more likely to do insufficient damage to drop the orc. Indeed, the Orc Warrior out of the SRD is more likely to drop in one attack from the 1st level Fighter than he from the 1st level Wizard - even factoring in the discrepancy in hit chances.

And no, casting fireballs at 1st level isn't unbalanced either. At 1st level it only does a d6 of fire damage, it's barely worth doing against many opponents. It certainly isn't putting color spray out of a job.

-Frank

Scarab Sages

This is an interesting idea... while many think that wizards are just as powerful as ever, I'm with you when it comes to the damaging spells not being as effective, relatively speaking, as in previous editions.


While I disagree with your general viewpoint on evocations I must admit that Polar Ray seems pretty lame for an 8th level spell.

Liberty's Edge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

And what do you do with the 100s of non-PHB OGL spells that don't fit in? Tell people it's not compatible anymore?


I'd agree with this.


To be, well, frank (no pun intended), this is not a bad idea. I found myself disagreeing with you (and in some cases, quite a lot), Frank, over in the Damage Spells Should Do More Damage thread, but here, I'd have to say I agree with you.

Lowering the level of evocation spells may be a good way to go. Perhaps some kind of limit on this would be good, however, since I'm currently GMing a playtest of the Alpha rules and I've already got a (level 11) wizard using a combination of Sculpt Spell, Maximize Spell, Metamagic Mastery, and Fireball to turn his fireball into a quartet of 10-ft squares, each hitting a pair of ogre barbarians for 60 damage each (before saves), which meant each of the ogres took 60-120 points of damage, depending on how many of their saves they passed, turning the whole EL 11 encounter into a nonevent.

But this seems good. Perhaps we can work together after all. :)


SirUrza wrote:
And what do you do with the 100s of non-PHB OGL spells that don't fit in? Tell people it's not compatible anymore?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is the three time you have said that when someone talks of changing spells. You can't use it for every argument :P

I'm not sure I completely agree, but I can really disagree either.

Fizz

Scarab Sages

SirUrza wrote:
And what do you do with the 100s of non-PHB OGL spells that don't fit in? Tell people it's not compatible anymore?
Fizzban wrote:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is the three time you have said that when someone talks of changing spells. You can't use it for every argument :P

I'm not sure I completely agree, but I can really disagree either.

Fizz

Heheh. Some people are better at pointing out problems than presenting solutions... (we all do that sometimes) :)

It's a sort-of valid point, but I would like SirUrza to present some examples to show how they "don't fit in" because that would be helpful for illustrating his point.


It's not compatible anymore?

Then fix it. Just re-level all the spells as appropriate, and allow your players a little leeway in reselecting or 'grandfathering' in an appropriate replacement. Frank actually provided examples, surely this can be pretty easily fixed.

The Exchange

For this to even work, you would have to change how the system functions or your Fireball at first level will only do 1d6 points of damage. I direct you to page 35 and 36 of the DMG 3.5


fliprushman wrote:
For this to even work, you would have to change how the system functions or your Fireball at first level will only do 1d6 points of damage. I direct you to page 35 and 36 of the DMG 3.5

Those guidelines for producing new spells are problematic and not OGL. So no, I don't regard that as even vaguely a problem. We are required by law to write new damage caps by spell level, so using the extremely underwhelming versions from the DMG is clearly not the plan.

The big pitfall is that we have to make sure that the spells that do fixed or essentially fixed damage (wall of fire or ice storm for example) don't get in at a low enough level that they do game breaking damage when you first get them. But the spells that do 1d6 per level can seriously just come in at first level and it will never be a big deal at any level.

-Frank


1d6/level at 1st level wouldn't be that bad, but it would still scale and do 5d6 at 5th, 10d6 at 10th etc. I have even vaguely thought of spending forever on some system to make all spells "level-less" but I don't have the free time... you know, a "1rd/level spell" would only last for 1 round at 1st level, but 20 rds at 20th level, like Summon Monster I. In fact, if the higher-level ones had shorter durations, it would even things out a bit.

Dark Archive

I'm more partial to just having the class ability for Evokers be '+1 damage / die for evocation spells.'

And then introduce a Feat or a series of Feats that improves on that, similar to the Arcana Unearthed spell template feats (which would not add to caster level, like Metamagics, but might add components or increase to full round casting times), or the Warmage Edge, or special 'Empower Evocation' feats that cost less than the normal Metamagic feats, but are only usable by Evokers on Evocations. Some combination of these could allow for damage-centric blasters to make up for the increasingly subpar performance of straight damage spells. [3.0+ in particular, I've noticed that spells like Fireball have turned into 'annoy a lot of people' spells, rather than the impressive room-clearers I remember from previous editions.]

But changing the levels of most of the school's spells wholesale is, IMO, too much of a change. Backwards compatibility and all that jazz.

[Granted, there are a few, like Gust of Wind and Polar Ray and Shout that make me wince at their uselessness, but Magic Missile as a Cantrip and Fireball as a 1st level spell? Nah, too much, IMO.]

Additionally, Sean Reynolds site has a list of OGL energy cantrips that I think would be awesome to add to the list. Ray of Frost and Acid Splash are joined by spells that create 1d3 bursts of electrical, sonic or fire damage, and a matching series of energy damage spells that do 1d6 but require a touch attack. I think those work better as cantrips than Burning Hands or Magic Missile.

Liberty's Edge

I don't think it's the levels of the spells that make them so hard to use, but rather the number of times per day wizards can cast. Give all the wizards an extra spell per day at each level and it should make things a tad easier.


Frank Trollman wrote:
Polar Ray is an insult to god and man. It's not a long legacy, it was introduced in 3.5 and before that it was merely one of several options for the much lower level Otiluke's Freezing Sphere.

I completely agree. Polar Ray is teh sux, as the kids say. But, as to the main body of your post, if the intent is to allow evokers to do more damage between rest periods, and spell slots is the limiting factor, why not just give evokers some bonus spell slots that can only be used for evocation spells?

It's purely an issue of personal taste, but Fireball at first level just feels weird. If the goal of Pathfinder is to keep on with the feel of 3.5, then this would be an unwelcome change.

Liberty's Edge

The only thing I can really agree with here is that Polar Ray is teh suck.


Coridan wrote:
I don't think it's the levels of the spells that make them so hard to use, but rather the number of times per day wizards can cast. Give all the wizards an extra spell per day at each level and it should make things a tad easier.

But it doesn't address the problem at all. Wizards aren't weak, they are really strong. They are weak if they actually try to cast magic missile at their enemies until they die. It seriously takes like half a dozen castings to drop enemies that show up in medium or even large groups.

If you give wizards the spell slots they have now, they can be quite competitive by filling them up with zero damage spells and lots of enchantments, conjurations, divinations, transmutations, necromancies, illusions, and even abjurations. That makes an extremely viable character. If you give them more spell slots they will fill those up with non-damaging spells that make them win. Wizards will get more powerful, and they still won't use cone of cold for anything unless they want to be made fun of.

Giving Wizards more spell slots doesn't solve anything, it just makes Conjurers more powerful. Adding extra damage to evocations causes compatibility problems and also interacts badly with the various other non-OGL hamfisted attempts to improve the plight of damaging evocations (Searing Spell and Sudden Maximize, for example). That and there are a lot of monsters who get various evocations as at-will spell-like abilities who don't even have this problem because their fireballs and lightning bolts are balanced as standard attacks rather than as 1/day spell slots.

Really, honestly, the problem is not that Wizards don't get enough power. It's not that everyone who casts fireballs in the game is getting screwed. It's that Wizards are being asked to spend too large a percentage of their daily power allowance to hit things with evocations.

-Frank


Polar ray should function with the same damage, but the ray-number of scorching ray upped to 20th.

:D

(ok maybe not...100d6 is kind of alot of dice)


Frank Trollman wrote:
Really, honestly, the problem is not that Wizards don't get enough power. It's not that everyone who casts fireballs in the game is getting screwed. It's that Wizards are being asked to spend too large a percentage of their daily power allowance to hit things with evocations.

You keep saying that, Frank, and you usually support it with fairly good examples, but they still don't ring true to me.

Yeah, it takes a few Magic Missiles to take down a Shadow. Specifically, if the wizards are level 3, it takes around 3 of them. If there's a party of 4 level 3 wizards, then 3 Magic Missiles isn't a big resource investment. Instead, it's more like the level of resource use a standard encounter should take.

Heck, that scales through all the levels. I'll spare you the details, but let's say that a wizard typically deals 1/4 of an average encounter's HP with their highest level spell. Since evocations continue to scale for 5 or so levels let's say they can also deal something like 1/6 of the damage they need with their second-highest spell slot, or maybe 1/8 with their third-highest. For the sake of this example, let's assume the party consists of 4 wizards, all dealing this amount of damage.

Assuming a wizard keeps their Int high enough to get a bonus spell in their highest-level slot (not terribly hard to do with standard point-buy and equipment values) they have 2 of their highest, 3 of their second highest, and 4 of their third-highest spell slots available. That means that if they use either 1 of their highest level, 1.5 of their second-highest, or 2 of their third highest spell slots per encounter, they can blast their way through exactly 6 encounters.

If they only have bonuses in their second-highest level spell slots which is a pretty easy goal, then they can make it through 5.

The math works out. And that's ignoring the other equipment a Wizard could buy to boost their effective number of spell slots, like Pearls of Power at lower levels or Metamagic Rods at higher levels.


The problem is that Wizards are very fragile. It's not enough to simply spend X spells and kill the enemy, because a Wizard won't survive the X attacks that the enemy will be throwing back. For a Wizard to win a combat at all, he has to slay or delay right from the start.

So for a Wizard to win a fight against a CR3 Ogre, he not only has to dish out 30 points of damage, he also has to keep the Ogre from hitting him in return - an Ogre averages 16 points of damage per swing. So felling that Ogre is not just a matter of hitting with a scorching ray and 3 magic missiles, it also requires some kind of ogre delaying tactic like web or glitter dust on top of that.

The resource load isn't just the evocation after evocation you have to plug into a enemy just to bring them down - the resource load is also the unfunded mandate of whatever the heck it is that you are doing to stay alive in these combats for 4 rounds straight. If the Evoker wore heavy armor and had a d12 for hit dice, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. But he doesn't. He's a glass hammer, so he actually has to win that fight fast. And sleep will drop that Ogre first round and scorching ray will not.

-Frank

Liberty's Edge

Frank Trollman wrote:


So for a Wizard to win a fight against a CR3 Ogre, he not only has to dish out 30 points of damage, he also has to keep the Ogre from hitting him in return - an Ogre averages 16 points of damage per swing. So felling that Ogre is not just a matter of hitting with a scorching ray and 3 magic missiles, it also requires some kind of ogre delaying tactic like web or glitter dust on top of that.

-Frank

Or he has to cast Sleep. Wizards aren't meant to be boomsticks. Pure damage is the realm of the Rogue, Wizards are a toolbox, generally ready to pull out whatever you need at the time.


Frank Trollman wrote:
The problem is that Wizards are very fragile. It's not enough to simply spend X spells and kill the enemy, because a Wizard won't survive the X attacks that the enemy will be throwing back. For a Wizard to win a combat at all, he has to slay or delay right from the start.

True. This is a pretty abstract exercise to begin with, but there is some room for that. For example, if the party of 4 wizards have 6 encounters worth of spells but only have to fight 5, then in 4 of those encounters, one of the wizards can spend his spell(s) mitigating damage while the other 3 blast.

For the fifth encounter, they're going to have to catch a break. The 1/4, 1/6, 1/8th numbers I threw out are conservative. In a lot of cases, such as the 4 level 3 wizards against a shadow, evokers can up to double those.

Assuming at least one 1 of the 5 daily encounters goes well for team evoker, such as when they can catch multiple enemies in a spell, or fight things that don't have quite the resistance levels they should, then the math still works out.

If the overall numbers for the class are off, and maybe they are, they're not off by that much. I think my overall point is still solid. In most cases, the wizard isn't responsible for more than 1/4 of the damage needed in an encounter. They can easily do that much with 20% of their resources.

At the most, damage spells could use a little boost, but I don't think a massive overhaul is warranted.

The Exchange

Frank Trollman wrote:

For a Wizard to win a combat at all, he has to slay or delay right from the start.

-Frank

I don't see why the Wizard needs to be the one winning the battle. He has 3 other members in the party that are contributing to the fight. If they are all wizards, then he doesn't have to contribute all his spells to taking out this monster, each of them would find some way to contribute. Changing the way spells work or boosting spells is just not something that needs to be done. A wizards damage helps his party just like his Web spell helps the party. Each has it's purpose.


What about increasing the level of some of the more abusive battlefield control spells?


I don't know if this is exactly the fix neccessary or not, but it would mitigate a lot of what's wrong with the existing system. I think it's a little silly for people to say that wizards should't be slaying things with their magic. It's one of the core ideas in D&D that wizards are capable of this. They aren't just there to be buff machines and Mr. Fix-its.

Also...polar ray should be a second level spell at best. It easily needs to be doing twice the damage it does, heh.

Liberty's Edge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Blue_eyed_paladin wrote:
It's not compatible anymore? Then fix it. Just re-level all the spells as appropriate

Please see page 3 of the alpha. It says minimal conversion work. Figuring out new spell levels for 8 Complete books and 1 Spell Compendium isn't minimal (the list gets longer if you have the other 4 big books of magic that were popular d20 buys.)

Fizzban wrote:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is the three time you have said that when someone talks of changing spells. You can't use it for every argument :P I'm not sure I completely agree, but I can really disagree either.

Oh it's probably 4 or 5 times I've used it. However, any time I see an idiotic suggestion that's one guy's opinion and not a fix for something that's actually broken, I'm going to remind him that 3P is about keeping 3.5 around and fixing the problems with it.. not creating new ones.


SirUrza wrote:
Blue_eyed_paladin wrote:
It's not compatible anymore? Then fix it. Just re-level all the spells as appropriate

Please see page 3 of the alpha. It says minimal conversion work. Figuring out new spell levels for 8 Complete books and 1 Spell Compendium isn't minimal (the list gets longer if you have the other 4 big books of magic that were popular d20 buys.)

Would you be opposed to the changes if new spells were created with a different name but with the identical text of the old spells only changing the levels. We would not be taking anything away, in fact you could ban the spells if you did not like them from your game (make them all named after some evoker or something so they are easy to group). One could also only make them castable by evokers if one wanted to. We are just throwing out ideas here.

As the game grows old rules/classes/spells will become obsolete, that is just the nature of growth and I do not know if we can stop that unless we stop publishing the rule set. WOTC tried that and I am glad that Paizo is willing to carry on, I just do not want to bind them in a straight jacket. I am sure Paizo can come up with a compromise on some of these issues.

Liberty's Edge

I actually would support this change. The example of fighting the shadows isn't even a particularly good one, since undead don't have a Con bonus to hit points. The best evocation spells can't hold a candle to the best enchantment spells, for example.

I think that Frank's system is about right. Since damage scales with level, it doesn't matter that classes are getting some abilities very early.

I do think that the problem is that at high levels, the first level spell slots are 'too good'. If the first level spell does 15d6 points of damage at 15th level, there is a bit of a problem. Compare that to sleep (caps out at 4 HD).

In a spell-point system, though, this would not be a problem. I wouldn't mind seeing a system like that, but I think that's been taken off the table.

I don't have a solution at the moment. I'm thinking, though, that some of the metamagic feats might give us a clue. A 1st level spell that does 1d6/level to 1 target isn't bad. Raising the level by 2 but making it an Area of Effect spell might work. Raising the level by 3 but making it 3d6/2 levels (like empower) might work. Just a thought.


SirUrza wrote:
Please see page 3 of the alpha. It says minimal conversion work. Figuring out new spell levels for 8 Complete books and 1 Spell Compendium isn't minimal (the list gets longer if you have the other 4 big books of magic that were popular d20 buys.)

Why would we have to figure out new spell levels for any of the non-OGL spells? So long as the Evokers have something good to do out of the core rules, I honestly don't give a crap if there are dozens or hundreds of underpowered or overcosted expansion spells available in non-OGL sources. Heck, there are already hundreds of crap spells that are far too high level for what they do. Why would you prepare a transmute stone to lava when polymorph any object is better, lower level, and core?

Let's go through the Evocations in Complete Arcane:

  • fireburst
  • resonating bolt
  • blistering radiance
  • mass fire shield
  • greater fireburst
  • Prismatic Ray
  • Sword of Deception
  • Emerald Flame Fist

And yeah, these spells are lame. I'm not going to spend a 5th level spell slot to do a d8 damage/level to every enemy within 10' of me. I'm going to take a 5' step back and cast an empowered lightning bolt. It's more damage over a bigger area. And empowered bolts aren't even worth a 5th level spell slot.

By lowering the cost on basic evocations down to something you'd pay, these spells in the Complete Arcane became relatively speaking an even worse deal, but I'm never going to prepare any of them anyway because they are already an incredibly bad deal. A 3rd level Wizard is not going to take flame burst (13.5 damage to one adjacent target) over scorching ray (14 damage to one target at range).

Or to put it another way: making the Fighter better makes the Warrior and the Complete Warrior version of the Samurai eve less attractive to players. I don't care. Making options you weren't going to take anyway even less attractive is not a backwards compatibility problem.

-Frank


Frank Trollman wrote:


A 3rd level Wizard is not going to take flame burst (13.5 damage to one adjacent target) over scorching ray (14 damage to one target at range).

I would like to point out that fireburst damages everything within 10' not one adjacent target... there are 12 squares w/in 10' not including your own, thus 12 potential targets vs the 1 for scorching ray (at CL3).

Also, fireburst will do at least half damage on sucessful save (barring fire resistance etc) while scorching ray can miss entirely (being a ranged touch attack).

Finally, pyromaniacs like the fires that can be caused by fireburst.

A neurotic is the man who builds a castle in the air. A psychotic is the man who lives in it. And a psychiatrist is the man who collects the rent.


The problem is that one has to be in the midst of melee to cast such a spell. This is not a place for a wizard to be.


Praetor Gradivus wrote:
Frank Trollman wrote:


A 3rd level Wizard is not going to take flame burst (13.5 damage to one adjacent target) over scorching ray (14 damage to one target at range).
I would like to point out that fireburst damages everything within 10' not one adjacent target... there are 12 squares w/in 10' not including your own, thus 12 potential targets vs the 1 for scorching ray (at CL3).

I would like to point out that you are thinking about greater fireburst, which is a 5th level spell. We are talking about the 2nd level spell that only goes 5' and thus has extremely severe problems (it can't even be used in a grapple because it has Somatic and Material components).

-Frank


Frank Trollman wrote:
Praetor Gradivus wrote:
Frank Trollman wrote:


A 3rd level Wizard is not going to take flame burst (13.5 damage to one adjacent target) over scorching ray (14 damage to one target at range).
I would like to point out that fireburst damages everything within 10' not one adjacent target... there are 12 squares w/in 10' not including your own, thus 12 potential targets vs the 1 for scorching ray (at CL3).

I would like to point out that you are thinking about greater fireburst, which is a 5th level spell. We are talking about the 2nd level spell that only goes 5' and thus has extremely severe problems (it can't even be used in a grapple because it has Somatic and Material components).

-Frank

Spell Compendium page 93 version replaces Complete Arcane pg 107 version. The 5' range version was replaced Dec2005.

Liberty's Edge

So Frank, I'm with you in principal, but I want to know how you respond to the fact that 1st level spells will do 15d6 points of damage at 15th level.

At 15th level I should have about 12 slots for 1st and 2nd level spells. That is a lot of damage, and it is a lot of damage quickly. While I don't see a problem with a 1st level wizard doing a d6 to a number of targets, I'm worried that high level wizards will be using their first level spells because it remains their best option at every level.


DeadDMWalking wrote:
So Frank, I'm with you in principal, but I want to know how you respond to the fact that 1st level spells will do 15d6 points of damage at 15th level.

Like this: At 15th level, 15d6 with a ranged touch attack is chump change. You're fighting Death Shriekers, against whom that won't even hit half the time and who won't go down in less than three attacks in any case. You're fighting Battlebriars, who seriously can stand there and take it for 6 attacks, one after another. You're fighting Slaughterstone Behemoths who have substantive SR and Energy Resistance across the board. While you can throw that around a great many times, it's not even a level appropriate amount of damage at that level. The rogue gets 3 attacks or more for 9d6 or more each at this point. Last time I checked, 27d6 was a lot more than 15d6.

DeadDMWalking wrote:
At 15th level I should have about 12 slots for 1st and 2nd level spells. That is a lot of damage, and it is a lot of damage quickly. While I don't see a problem with a 1st level wizard doing a d6 to a number of targets, I'm worried that high level wizards will be using their first level spells because it remains their best option at every level.

We should not seriously pretend that Wizards should be worried about running out of spell slots before level appropriate foes run out of hit points. Evocations of this sort are the Wizard's equivalent of saying "Uh... I guess I attack it." This seriously does not compare with the kind of burst damage that people get by spending a Smite Evil on a Lance Charge.

It's a fall-back position, something that a Wizard will use if and only if they don't have any more appropriate spells prepared. You'd much rather put up something to hamper a Slaughterstone Behemoth than trade punches with it - it gets 4 attacks for 4d6+13 damage each, which also come with a Fort Save (DC 24) which will keep you from even getting a turn next turn. Seriously, if a Slaughterstone Behemoth gets into melee with you, not only will it hand out nearly twice as much damage as a mere polar ray every turn (104 average damage instead of 52.5 average damage), but it will probably Tekken Juggle you to death on top of that.

Yes, I believe that Wizards of 15th level should essentially never run out of polar rays. No, I don't think that the world will end under the circumstances.

-Frank

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

What happens to the caps for these spells? Does polar ray remain scaling all the way up to 25d6 & fireball at 10d6? Would a staff not be an exceedingly low-cost blasting device if it just had those two spells in it (through either UMD or a wizard)?


Virgil wrote:
What happens to the caps for these spells? Does polar ray remain scaling all the way up to 25d6 & fireball at 10d6? Would a staff not be an exceedingly low-cost blasting device if it just had those two spells in it (through either UMD or a wizard)?

For purposes of backwards compatibility, the caps would remain as is.

And yes, a staff of blasting spells would be cheap, bu I also would not particularly care, because the limits on kiling things with polar ray are your actions not your spell slots. While a Rogue could get himself a wand of polar ray, this is unlikely to be especially more damage than throwing acid flasks.

-Frank

Liberty's Edge

I guess that's where you lose me, then. I think a 1st level evocation spell that does 15d6 points of damage isn't balanced agains a 1st level enchantment spell that can put a 4HD creature to sleep as an all or nothing will save.

Combining the range and the radius of a fireball, that can add up to a lot of damage quickly. I really think that wizards are powerful, and I agree that Evokers are the weakest, but giving them the ability to launch a spell farther than a fighter with a composite long bow and deal 15d6 compared to his 1d8+8 or whatever is not balanced well.

It might be less backward compatible, but maybe put a lower cap on some of the low level spells. 1st level up to 5d6, etc, etc, etc. This prevents the evocation spells from being 'out of sight' compared to the transmutation and other spells that don't get real useful at higher levels.

Of course, perhaps the spell DC should be based on caster level and not spell level - that would make low level enchantments viable at higher levels, but it would be a mark against compatability.


Sleep is a weird animal. When you first get it, sleep would be substantially more powerful than wail of the banshee. A few levels later and it is completely worthless. That's a bad model. 1st level spells shouldn't be superior in effect to 9th level spells when you're a first level caster or any level caster.

Color Spray is similar, save that while it also stops being a multiple target death effect, it still costs enemies an entire turn. If you hit a couple of storm giants with color spray, you actually affect the battle more than an extra 15d6 of cold damage more or less. Recall that in reality you have three compatriots, and one of them is a Rogue dishing out literally dozens of dice of damage per turn. If you can stun the enemy for even a turn you are effectively handing out an entire turn's worth of damage from all of your allies - and that's like 6 or 7 times as much damage as 15d6 would likely do. Even after you factor the fact that enemies are more likely to make a Will Save than to be missed by a Touch Attack from a character with the worst BAB progression, color spray is still completely competitive with, even superior to a polar ray at 15th level or any level.

Battlefield Control effects automatically scale to your level fully. If you use grease to prevent a Slaughterstone Behemoth from gettig to trample people this turn or use color spray to juggle a Sand Giant Champion for a turn - you're still giving a round of attacks to the party Rogue. You're still stopping a round of attacks from a 15th level monster. What you just did is automatically level appropriate. 15d6 of damage sounds like a lot of damage, but it is not. It's just 52 points of damage, minus whatever Energy Resistance they have, if you can hit them with a touch attack, if you can penetrate their Spell Resistance.

-Frank


Another thing to consider is the lowering of any save DCs on these spells. Fireball becomes a 1st level spell and now its DC is 11 + Int mod, that's a loss of 2 points on the DC.

This is an interesting idea, and it has merit, but I'm not for it. The DC loss, and the moving of burning hands, shocking grasp, magic missile as cantrips (which essentially would make them the prime choices for 1st level wizards because as cantrips they are now at will abilities), I mean 5d6 as a touch attack at will is considerable at 5th level.

Dark Archive

I'm not sure how things happen in your games, but almost all the melee characters in my game except the Barbarian/Frenzied Berserker do damage even less consistently than the Necromancer/Evoker, and then only to a single target. Once defeating spell resistance, the wizard doesn't have to do much to chain lightning everything in the room for 15d6. Even with buffs and magic weapons, there are alot more defensive abilities to defeat the fighter and rogue's attacks than the wizards, and the wizard can get around his with a few good feats. And while I know that it's way better to have all my rogues throwing flasks of acid and all my fighters wielding brilliant energy weapons and power-attacking the bejeezus out of things, I don't want all my rogues and fighters to do that, because otherwise I'd just write up an acid-throwing class. There should be a range of options for melee characters similar to a wizard's selection of spells, although I admit this is alot harder to do. But in my personal experience, while Reflex saves can be good at high levels, just as often so can Will, and freedom of movement and death ward go a long way towards negating battlefield control and save-or-dies just as the various energy resistance spells do for evocations. With these balances in place, my player's wizards spend just as much time throwing chain lightnings as they do casting Black Tentacles or using magic items to summon elementals to grapple the foe. And they still keep up with the Binders and Swordsages and Initiates of the 7-Fold veil.

Just my experience,
TWB

Dark Archive

Even spells that don't result in a Save or Die are in most cases superior to direct damage effects. The first three levels have spells like ray of enfeeblement, blindness/deafness and slow. Unless the enemy has spell resistance (in which direct damage spells are useless too), those spells trivialize a battle in a much more significant way than something like magic missile, scorching ray or fireball ever could do.
Blindness/deafness, if succesful against a single enemy, equates to a permanent improved invisibility for the whole party. Much more useful than 4d6 of fire damage. Ray of enfeeblement can be devestating to enemies relying on melee attacks (most of whom have miserable touch ACs), while slow makes most enemies who rely on lots of attacks useless.
Direct damage spells on the other hand have no appearant effect unless the victim is killed (which is rather improbable in most cases).


There is a pernicious concept that floats around D&D discussion that because Cleric Archers, Rogues, Bear Druids, Frenzied Berserkers, and Gryphon Lancers do substantially more damage than other character archetypes (for example: Swashbucklers, Chain Fighters, and guys with twin scimitars) that it is the first group of characters who are "broken." This is not true. Frenzied Berserkers, are fine, Rangers who take two weapon fighting are Hobos!

Many many supposedly standard D&D archetypes are in fact extremely bad at what they do. Sometimes it's entire classes (I'm looking at you: Monk) and sometimes it's just facets of classes or individual builds (like pretty much anyone who tries to feint with a rapier). The fact that some guy who takes a bunch of Paladin levels and tries to stand on the front line in heavy armor with a long sword is a frickin hobo doesn't mean that other common builds and archetypes who are massively better than he is aren't still also underperforming.

Wizards as a whole do fine. Wizards who muck about with evocations can potentially outshine the hobo classes, but they are still playing substantially below their level. The goal then is to make evocations more attractive without powering up all Wizards (seriously, I don't want Wizards who cast dimensional lock followed by quickened web followed by celerity followed by cloud kill to be any better than they already are). That comes down to either making evocations "cost less" by lowering the spell levels, or changing the rules so that evocations do more damage relative to the hit points of their enemies.

And yes, Swashbucklers need a double shot of not sucking, but that is a separate problem.

-Frank


Frank Trollman wrote:
There is a pernicious concept that floats around D&D discussion that because Cleric Archers, Rogues, Bear Druids, Frenzied Berserkers, and Gryphon Lancers do substantially more damage than other character archetypes (for example: Swashbucklers, Chain Fighters, and guys with twin scimitars) that it is the first group of characters who are "broken." This is not true. Frenzied Berserkers, are fine, Rangers who take two weapon fighting are Hobos!

The problem is that a lot of the opinions expressed on the power levels of various classes are campaign-dependent. For instance, K stated on another thread that he thought it wouldn't be unbalancing for a fighter to get a flat +5 bonus to damage per level (presumably since wizards have lots of save-or-die spells which are equally effective). But the campaigns I've played in generally involve large groups of weaker creatures more than small groups of tougher creatures. In that case, a 5th-level wizard who relied on "save or die" spells would get tapped out quite quickly whereas the 5th-level fighter with the +25 damage bonus would be overkill.

<cue the "no it wouldn't...yes it would" posts; all of this is my personal experience; YMMV>

P.S. I agree with Frank's characterization of TWF rangers, however.


Hogarth wrote:
The problem is that a lot of the opinions expressed on the power levels of various classes are campaign-dependent.

Close, but not quite. Various opinions on balance point are campaign dependent. Power levels don't have to be. Many people, for example, claim that player characters in general are not capable of holding their own against monsters of their level. And then these same people paradoxically claim that Battlefield Control Conjuration Specialist Wizards are "overpowered."

In short, a lot of people are playing D&D in the kiddy pool. They make ineffective characters, then their DMs take pity on them by saving their hinds with overpowered DMNPCs or by playing the monsters poorly to compensate. And then when someone comes in at the power level that the DMG says they are supposed to be at they get all offended and run around screaming about how broken Sneak Attack/Clerics/cloud kill/whatever is. And when we're at the design stage, we have to come to grips with the fact that these people actually are "playing the game wrong." And if people who are playing the game correctly (that is, at the level that the game is supposedly balanced to encounter wise) want to be able to have characters who shoot fire out of their hands or run around stabbing things with a rapier, that those people are going to have to get their hobo characters pushed out of the pool altogether.

-Frank


Frank Trollman wrote:
Hogarth wrote:
The problem is that a lot of the opinions expressed on the power levels of various classes are campaign-dependent.
Close, but not quite. Various opinions on balance point are campaign dependent. Power levels don't have to be. Many people, for example, claim that player characters in general are not capable of holding their own against monsters of their level.

But to focus ONLY on "1 PC vs. 1 monster with 100% resources available" as your balancing factor is silly. Then you come to conclusions like "Fireball is completely useless" without considering fights against large numbers of enemies. Or conclusions like "wizards can tank just as well as fighters" without considering that it's only possible to do so once a day. Maybe those factors don't come into play in your campaigns, but they do in mine (especially the large numbers of enemies -- one of my games has 10 PCs, so we fight a proportionally higher number of enemies).


Frank Trollman wrote:
And if people who are playing the game correctly (that is, at the level that the game is supposedly balanced to encounter wise) want to be able to have characters who shoot fire out of their hands or run around stabbing things with a rapier, that those people are going to have to get their hobo characters pushed out of the pool altogether.

Frank, the game actually is balanced for wizards who do 15d6 at level 15. Your main complaint is that there are monsters out there that can take 6 times that much damage? If everybody's doing that much damage, those monsters go down in a round and a half. They probably don't even get off a full attack.

Besides, what's your solution? Make Polar Ray a level 1 spell, so that at 15th level the wizard casts Maximized Empowered Polar Ray for 116 damage followed by a Quickened Empowered for another 79. Great, you've reduced the Battlebriar to a monster that doesn't even last half a round. Replace Empower with Split Ray and we've almost got a one-shot.

I support the spirit of your efforts here, but I can't get behind this implementation.


Benimoto wrote:
Frank Trollman wrote:
And if people who are playing the game correctly (that is, at the level that the game is supposedly balanced to encounter wise) want to be able to have characters who shoot fire out of their hands or run around stabbing things with a rapier, that those people are going to have to get their hobo characters pushed out of the pool altogether.

Frank, the game actually is balanced for wizards who do 15d6 at level 15. Your main complaint is that there are monsters out there that can take 6 times that much damage? If everybody's doing that much damage, those monsters go down in a round and a half. They probably don't even get off a full attack.

Besides, what's your solution? Make Polar Ray a level 1 spell, so that at 15th level the wizard casts Maximized Empowered Polar Ray for 116 damage followed by a Quickened Empowered for another 79. Great, you've reduced the Battlebriar to a monster that doesn't even last half a round. Replace Empower with Split Ray and we've almost got a one-shot.

I support the spirit of your efforts here, but I can't get behind this implementation.

Actually, once you figure in the made save, spell resistance, fire resistance, and all the other stuff, the damage from a fireball at 15th level is closer to 15 points. I don't think there's any monster at 15th level that has 90 hit points, is there?


LilithsThrall wrote:
Actually, once you figure in the made save, spell resistance, fire resistance, and all the other stuff, the damage from a fireball at 15th level is closer to 15 points. I don't think there's any monster at 15th level that has 90 hit points, is there?

Sure, an NPC wizard. But seriously, don't use fireballs against 15th level monsters. Use something that actually does 15d6, like Cone of Cold, or Chain Lightning, or even Polar Ray. There's no save for Polar Ray, and most non-dex-based monsters don't save against the others more than half the time, so you're going to get a good 40-50 damage out of it average. More if you use Empower Spell or something.

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