Let's kill some sacred cows in the spell lists...

Homebrew and House Rules

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One of the things we started doing in my group was we always reskin spells. Meaning if you want to take magic missile then the wizard comes up with their own fluff and can make a few adjustments to it. Have to be careful there to keep the balance. But one is fire bolts with a ranged touch attack same damage but they do a extra turn of burning damage if not put out. Sorta like a weaker version of Melf's Acid Arrow.

The only spells that tend to be a problem in our group or was before we changed them was divination and teleport type spells.

For me to come up with suggestions, I need to know a lot better of what it is you want.

An inherent flaw of the D&D design model is that it is inherently exclusive. This applies to things like feats as well as spells. Inherently exclusive means: if something gives you a special ability or action, if you don't have it you are automatically excluded from using it. Example: Cleave, you can now hit two people (or attempt to) on a standard action, without it you can't.

This is why we constantly see more books with spells and feats.

What this means for the characters you see over the years and years is what feels like a lot of similarity and a certain amount of cohesiveness between campaign worlds. If Haste is awesome, I'm going to use in Forgotten Realms as I do in Darksun. In an inherently exclusive system, I can only choose from limited options and eventually you figure out which ones are good and which are bad and you tend to start picking somewhat based on that.

If you want a campaign world to feel unique, without changing the nature of the inherent exclusivity, you just need to come up with a completely new list of things for people to pick.

If you just remove the 'top tier' of spells (for your group) you are going to downgrade the power level of casters to a degree. There's only so much you can do with a Sepia Snake Sigil.

Reskinning spells will probably give much better effects (and be a whole lot less work) than trying to remove spells.

Consider fireball. It's a go-to spell because it's the best direct damage spell at that level. If you take it away, you just make spellcasters less able to do direct damage. If you do what my (now dead) wizard would have done and take acid burst instead (slightly less damage, but does damage again next round), they're still just as good as before, but it doesn't feel the same.

As for how it's less work, the players can reskin the spells as they take them (even if you write up some guidelines on what the reskins should look like, say by tying them to one of the four elements) instead of you having to do all the work up front. Of course, some examples would go a long way towards making things run smoothly.

A lot of the Evocation spells (Fireball, Lightning Bolt and the like) aren't as effective as already stated by Sub-Creator since 2nd Ed. I ran an Excalibur style game, where I pretty much told my table Evocation and Necromancy aren't outright not allowed, but very much frowned upon (and sorcerers were not something you wanted to play, since they were seen as "demonic" instead of "draconic"). My wizard player (who did rely on evocation quite a bit) took Illusion, Conjuration, and Enchantment spells instead. She enjoyed the challenge and had fun.

Would I outright ban a school? No...never ever. Would I recommend not to take any spells of that school? Sure...if it helps with a flavor or theme I'm trying to go for.

I would have to say that by eliminating half the spells outright, I really don't think anyone is going to want to play a Wizard/Sorcerer class. And I'll be honest - without some of those "sacred cows", there's really no point in taking an arcane class.

If you've ever heard of Adventurer, Conquerer King, it might be worth looking up for your conundrum. It's another 1st edition spin-off, but it's gotten better reviews than any other I've ever seen, and while I haven't done extensive reading, one of the things they said they did was fix the spell list by changing the old faithfuls. They looked at their world and realized a bunch of 1st level wizards that can, say, charm their way through anything was just world-shattering. I'm not sure if they removed things, but they at least moved some spells to higher levels and made other sacred cow killing moves.

It's not about restricting the spell-list, it's about restructuring it. Are you just cutting out spells, or are you changing the place of magic at low levels vs high? A complete restructuring of the spell list would take forever, but it could definitely work, and if done right won't hurt spell-casters by making them unplayable, just change their feel and tactics. I'd say go for it, but it'd be a lot of work.

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