Tobold's Blog
Saturday, November 18, 2017
 
Invisible Flying Wizards

In one of my campaigns in one future session the group will come upon a castle. The gates are locked, there are guards on the battlements. Thus there is a challenge to the group to overcome: How do they get into the castle? Now this sounds like classic situation for Dungeons & Dragons. However through most of the history of D&D this was more of a headache for DMs if their group was at least level 5: Wizards had spells like Fly and Invisibility, and that made "sneaking into the castle to open the back door" boring instead of a challenge. So why would I put it in one of my adventures? Because 5th edition cleverly solved the invisible flying wizard problem!

Many of the spells in 5th edition are now using concentration, a new concept. If you want to fly, you can cast the Fly spell, but you will need to concentrate on it. Not only does that mean that if you are hit by an arrow, you have to do a concentration check or fall to the ground; it also means that you can only concentrate on one spell at once. Flying, yes, invisibility, yes, but not both at the same time. Thus the Rogue, who *can* be simultaneously stealthy and climbing walls, isn't put out of a job by the invisible flying Wizard any more.

Having said that, for some classes the concentration concept is overused and ends up making their spellcasting overly weak. A prime example is the paladin, who has very few non-concentration spells, at least at lower to mid-level. Spells like the level 1 smites really shouldn't be concentration, as they are already not very powerful and concentration means they don't work with more important spells like Bless or Compelled Duel. For the Warlock the fact that Hex is a concentration spell and the very staple of his existence, makes any other concentration spell nearly useless.

So, yes, concentration is a useful new concept. But I think it is currently applied to too many spells and could be better balanced.

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Comments:
Lucky for the Order of the Stick (webcomic) they are sticking with 3.5, so! Concentration would put a major crimp in their style...
 
Shadowrun, 2nd editition I think, had a similar mechanic. Some spells were in the 'sustained' type which meant much the same thing as Concentration. If the character tried to do anything there was a difficulty modifier attached so long as they were trying to sustain a spell at the same time. There was an alternative but it required spending what was essentially experience to keep the sustained spell going, and that brought danger as well because other magic users could use the experience sustained spell to target your character from a different dimension and essentially get a huge attack bonus.

Shadowrun had a lot of really good systems. I particularly liked how magic was handled in general. There was no mana points or limit on how many spells you could cast in a day. Instead casting spells carried a risk of mental fatigue, the better the spell the more risk and fatigue it could cost you. Getting fatigued made doing everything more difficult and taking enough fatigue damage could knock out your character. It made for much more interesting game play than I've found in just about any other gaming system.
 
Unless you have another arcane caster like a bard. It can be worth both the wizard and the bard using their concentration slots for a super sneaky, flying rogue.
 
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