Grittier Magicks: Alternatives to Cantrip Rules

Abusing cantrips can be taxing on the mind!

While house-ruling the game to fit higher/epic fantasy games seems pretty simple (lift restrictions on magic items, utilize cantrips RAW, modify crafting to be less toilsome), lower fantasy seems to be a bit more of a challenge.  Before I accidentally cause backlash, I find cantrips to be a neat idea and realize their intent is balancing out caster classes for the newest edition.  No matter, I pondered ideas on modifying cantrip casting in an effort to make classes fit other narratives, genres, and gaming styles.  Of course, I thought of alternatives that are hopefully pretty balanced against cantrips themselves.  Plus, I’ve been curious on how to merge OSR-inspired mechanics and concepts into more modern gaming such as D&D 5e.  As a result of that thought experiment, here are some ideas to replace the cantrips mechanic.  All of these replace the rules for cantrips as written.

  • Basic Idea – Choose one of the following below.  Unless an ability below says otherwise, you may cast Cantrips as many times as your casting stat + 1 before taking a short rest.  (If you feel proficiency bonus is more appropriate than caster stat, replace it with that instead.)

Exploiting Resources – You may safely cast Cantrips as many times as your level + your casting stat mod per long rest.  Upon casting cantrips after this, you must make a saving throw (DC 12 + 1 for every successful save) using your casting stat for the saving throw.  Failure results in losing your action for that round. This modules allows for at-will casting, but at a potentially dangerous price.

In addition, the DM can choose one of the following options.

  • You may not use cantrips again until you take a short rest.
  • Depending on the severity of the failed save, the character suffers from a level of the Madness condition.
  • Failure could result in arcane corruption akin to 3rd Edition’s “Tainted” mechanics.  This will be covered at a later time.

AD&D Style – Instead of the short rest mechanc, you gain 1 extra Lv. 1 spell slot.  In addition you always know the spell “cantrip” (or “orison” for divine characters.)  This spell lasts for 1 hour and replicates the effects of any cantrip spell from your appropriate class list.  However, you only gain the benefit of one of those cantrips at a time, unless an ability states otherwise.

Imbuing Power – You’re able to form magic into a minor weapon of some sort as an action, using your caster stat for attacks (e.g. A shard of ice dealing d4 + caster cold damage, a small flame on a staff dealing d4 fire + caster damage, or the like).  You can only have 1 minor magical weapon at a time, each lasts for 1 minute.  You may do this as many times as your caster stat before taking a short rest.

Battle Knowledge – Weapons you’re proficient with can use your casting stat instead of their regular stat for attack/damage.

Slot-Like Cantrips – You can cast each 3 times before taking a short rest; also, you can sacrifice 1 cantrip to cast another more times.

Arcane Scholar – You may use Detect Magic as a class ability as many times as your proficiency bonus + 1 per Long Rest; Also, the Read Magic cantrip is rolled into the Arcana (or possibly Religion) skill.

These house rules are very volatile, as they haven’t been tested.  If you try them, let me know what happens!  Also, I’m always open to feedback in general.

Image Source: Xzar by Myrskyt

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Diabolist – A Fiendish Arcane School for D&D 5th Edition

Throughout the ages, many schools of magic have been created and also destroyed.  Some have come under attack due to ignorance; arts such as Necromancy and Enchantment have been targeted in particular.  Among the most notorious is the art of magic inspired by fiends.  The school of Diabolism is such an art, where contact with dark planes leads to manipulating vile energies into wholly new effects.dedicated to dark gods and demonic creatures.  While many styles of magic are unlawfully targeted and discriminated against, the diabolists are almost always cruel and wicked.

While pacts with otherworldly beings are the results of enslavement, diabolic mages intentionally scour obscure tomes and demonic rites to enhance their magical craft.  Some are connected to patrons like warlocks, while others steal devilish secrets for their own purposes.  Warlocks forge direct deals with fiendish beings.  Meanwhile, most Diabolists cheat their way into obtaining fiendish magic, often resulting in horrific consequences.  That said, many Diabolists are active within cults and truly follow their infernal agenda to its fullest extent.

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Wild Magic – An Arcane Tradition for D&D 5th Edition

Author’s Note:  I’m not sure why, but I’m not overly fond of the Sorcerer as presented.  Plus, I wanted to convert the AD&D Wild Mage (including the BGII version) to D&D 5th Edition.  Without further ado, enjoy.

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Neera, Iconic Half-Elf Wild Mage

New Wizard Arcane Tradition – Wild Magic

Whether this unofficial school of magic was created through a desire to become the most powerful or out of sheer madness, wild magic is perhaps the most misunderstood and confusing method of magic.  WildMagic is understanding the raw powers of arcane energy itself, trying to harness it to the fullest, and seeing where the energy takes you as a result.  For obvious reasons, this school of magic faces more persecution than the necromancy school.

Crunch after the jump

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