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Cosmar
Seeker

61 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2021 :  09:31:45  Show Profile Send Cosmar a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
Hi all, I'm just wondering if any of you have encountered custom spells researched by PCs in any of your games, whether you were a player or a DM. How did they turn out? Were they as fun as you thought they would be? Can you give some examples of successfully researched custom spells? How was it adjudicated? I'm thinking of 3.5 specifically, I'm not sure if custom spells are a thing in 5th edition.

I've always loved the idea of PCs creating their own spells, but adjudicating their creation and use is always a thorny issue. I really liked the bones of the spell creation system presented in, I think, was it Tome and Blood, or maybe Complete Arcane? But I've yet to actually run or play a game where custom spell research actually occurred.

Edited by - Cosmar on 07 Aug 2021 09:34:11

LordofBones
Master of Realmslore

1402 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2021 :  11:03:33  Show Profile Send LordofBones a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Fine-tuning spells is both a science and an art, one that even the developers can mess up, like circle of death somehow existing.

Generally I adjudicate based on damage rarity and effect and use the Pathfinder spell design guide to help: https://aonprd.com/Rules.aspx?Name=Designing%20Spells&Category=Mastering%20Magic
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Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
7536 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2021 :  11:11:00  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've used many custom spells as a DM and as a player.

They add flavour. They can keep players (and adversaries) wary of the unknown and unexpected. Players tend to be very proud of the spells they've invented, an early success can even define a sort of signature theme for the character's entire career (as it evidently did for Bigby, Leomund, Otiluke, etc).

It always boils down to the DM ruling. Best results are achieved when the player and DM work collaboratively on the written spell description, when any "surprises" the DM might conceive are predictable, reproducible, and consistent instead of random, sporadic, and arbitrary.
Adversarial DMs will typically cripple custom player spells with too many conditions and too much nerfing, and will typically abuse custom DM spells with too many perks.
The imbalances caused by an unfair DM can always be observed if you play long enough (especially if the full-powered DM spells always seem to be impossible for the PCs to capture, copy, research, or cast). They can also be observed through the DM's consistently (un)fair interpretations of wish spells.

I didn't play much 3.5E, and haven't played 5E. But spell research was a big thing in AD&D 1E/2E. Many players would research existing spells they couldn't otherwise obtain - basically just keep throwing gold at the problem until they got the spell they wanted. Some players would research minor variations of existing spells - basically just trying to squeeze a little more advantage or a stylistic effect. But very few players would research entirely new spells, especially at the earliest levels when these could have the biggest impact in play.

[/Ayrik]
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
10963 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2021 :  22:56:10  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've done spell design in all editions of the game. As LordofBones says it is both a science and an art... and by that I mean that there's no easy way to compare spells except for thinking through repercussions. If its a player designed spell and you are the DM, its inevitable that it will be overpowered, and you must reign it in (someone will probably pipe up and tell me that's not always the case, but it has been in every instance I've run across). If you are designing the spell as a DM, I recommend having a peer review from outside your game. Other people will spot the flaws you have missed. This kind of reflects some of what Ayrik just said (i.e. DM's tend to tone down player spells, and DM's often overpower their own suff).

That all being said, most of my players don't research new spells. It's usually me coming up with ideas to use as a DM for an NPC. If you design your own spells, be proud of them, but always know that you probably overdid it and accept criticism. The big thing is to find a grouping of 6 or similar types of spells if possible, even if its something like "this one is a cold spell" and "this one is a triggered spell" and "this one is a spell with a larger area of effect".... then work to figure out level of the spell against other spells for comparison. In 5e, the level of the spell can be particularly critical if the spell is at or near 6th level, since a person get's less spell slots.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Cosmar
Seeker

61 Posts

Posted - 09 Aug 2021 :  08:31:16  Show Profile Send Cosmar a Private Message  Reply with Quote
To be completely honest, I haven't really considered using custom spells as a DM, for NPCs. I think for the reasons you've all presented; I would be afraid of them being too powerful or flashy and making the players feel like, "Oh of COURSE this villain has access to weird powerful custom magic we don't have." Also since 3.5 is my primary edition, there are already so many published spells I often feel like there is a spell already published that would do what I want. But, as a player, I know that's not necessarily true!

As a player, I've had custom spell ideas that never came to fruition. In my current game, I do have the possibility. However, most of the spells I think of usually fall under defensive or utilitarian options. Like helping me and/or the rest of the party just do non-damagey things that are helpful. For example I want to make a Muffle spell, that is basically like the Jump spell, but for the Move Silently skill (and also a Mass version). Also I thought of a spell of magnification, basically a giant magical telescope lens that lets anyone looking into it see whatever stuff the lens is pointing toward as if they were right there (up to 1 mile/4 caster levels). I'm afraid I'm not super imaginative when it comes to combat spells, considering there are so many already published spells that do so many things. (I just discovered Ghorus Toth's Magnetism spell from Unapproachable East. What a cool (if situational) spell!)

Can any of you share a custom spell you made as a player or DM that you were proud of? (Regardless of edition?)
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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
6329 Posts

Posted - 09 Aug 2021 :  12:17:31  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I make up a new spell every couple of game sessions when something funny happens.

Here is an example (with a little bit of lore):

Arazalís Cabbage Storm
Conjuration [Creation]
Level: Sor/Wiz 2
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5ft./2 levels)
Area: Cylinder (20-ft. radius, 20 ft. high)
Duration: 1 full round
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No

A pile of cabbages rains down for 1 full round, dealing 1d4 points of nonlethal damage per caster level (maximum 12d4) to each creature within the area.

In addition, every creature in the area that tries to take a move action must make a Reflex saving throw or fall to the ground and remain prone for 1 round. It may act normally while prone but takes any appropriate penalties.

The cabbages wink out of existence after the spell duration is ended.

Material Component: A cabbage leaf.

Dessar Cabbage

This cabbage is a smooth-leafed red (with purple outer leaves) vegetable grown as an annual crop for its dense-leaved heads. Under conditions of long sunny days, such as those found at high northern latitudes in summer in such places as the Sword Coast North, Dalelands and Sembia, cabbages can grow quite large. While most weigh in at 1-2 lbs., the heaviest cabbage ever recorded was 130 lb. and sold to the Amcathra Waterdhavian noble family for a grand feast by Afarma Harpell of Longsaddle. Dessar cabbage is known to cause significant flatulence if consumed in quantity, and even has a mild laxative effect when eaten over an extended period. The leaves are known to have healing properties and confer a +1 circumstance bonus to Heal checks when used as a poultice for burn and contusion damage.

-- George Krashos

"Because only we, contrary to the barbarians, never count the enemy in battle." -- Aeschylus
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
10963 Posts

Posted - 09 Aug 2021 :  14:33:41  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yeah, 3.5 has a LOT of spells, and previous editions have other spells that can be adapted. A lot of my designed spells have been things tailored to counter other common spell effects, like
Sleyvas' magical battery - a spell to which you tie specific pre-hung spells (based on a certain number of spell levels that can be affected), such that they continue to work despite areas of antimagic or magic dead areas, etc...

Sleyvas' change trigger - a spell which allows you to change the trigger, the effect triggered, or to make a triggering impossible for a pre-hung spell (contingency, etc...)

Sleyvas' scent mask - a spell which removes your odor, and if you'd like it to, can be sent down in a specified direction to fool those following you based on scent (such as hounds tracking you by smell)

A lot of my other ideas (most during the 1e, 2e, and 3.5e eras) have since been duplicated in some form or fashion in other spell effects (not necessarily meaning I was copied so much as that an idea I had come up with years before apparently saw fruition amongst another person).... for instance, I had a variant of sound bubble before there was such in 2nd edition, a spell that made fire resistance into a fire weakness (such that a person was especially hurt by fire), etc...

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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bloodtide_the_red
Learned Scribe

USA
205 Posts

Posted - 12 Aug 2021 :  00:23:18  Show Profile  Visit bloodtide_the_red's Homepage Send bloodtide_the_red a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I love spell creation and always make it a huge part of any game I DM with a spell caster.

I recall the horror of days gone by when characters would go to the Jungles of Chult, The Underdark or the Abyss and all the NPC spellcasters there had the same dull, boring spells. A massive slime demon insect rises up from a poll of muck....and casts the spell sleep or burning hands. Or that evil drow wizard with...wow...fireball.. So VERY quickly I had to make custom spells for everyone. Plus all the way back in 2E they made a bit of a half start of making custom clerics for each god....but fell short fast with "everyone still casts the same lame, dull, boring, over used Players Handbook spells." A cleric of the gods of Love, War, Magic, Oceans and Honor should NOT all be casting the same spells.

A couple D&D books added a couple spells, though far too many where just dull combat spells. Still there were HUGE gaps. You might be able to make an Ice Mage....that had like five ice attack spells...and wall of ice. But few books would go beyond that.

But then Enter the Forgotten Realms, and especially Ed Greenwood. Ed loves spells to, and had been putting them in Dragon mag nearly forever. So when the Realms became a thing, Ed brought all his spells with him. The Ye Old Gray Box set DM book has a HUGE section on new custom spells. And throughout 1E and 2E, Ed and a couple others, loaded up the Realms with spells. The basic idea was simple enough EVERY single spell caster made their own custom spells, if they had the will, ability, power, and such to do so.

And in the spirit I have add3ed hundreds of spells to the world.

I encourage players to make spells too. My spell creation rules are a mix of the 2E, BECMI, 2E FR, pinch of 3E spell creation rules. The BIG part I keep from 2E is making a spell IS an adventure. You will need a rare exotic thing or three; plus craft the spell at a special place and time and need at least one "impossible" thing. And you can just about NEVER buy such things. Your lightning spell does not just need "the scale of a blue dragon" , it needs "The scale of a blue dragon lit by moonlight as the dragon breathes in anger." And the impossible thing is often something like a thought or emotion that must be magically caught...like "the wonder of a young wizard who has just made their first custom spell".
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Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
7536 Posts

Posted - 12 Aug 2021 :  06:21:06  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've done okay with spell creation.

But I've done magnificently with spell affliction.
http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=14365

[/Ayrik]
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Eldacar
Senior Scribe

368 Posts

Posted - 12 Aug 2021 :  13:40:48  Show Profile Send Eldacar a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Cosmar

Hi all, I'm just wondering if any of you have encountered custom spells researched by PCs in any of your games, whether you were a player or a DM. How did they turn out? Were they as fun as you thought they would be? Can you give some examples of successfully researched custom spells? How was it adjudicated? I'm thinking of 3.5 specifically, I'm not sure if custom spells are a thing in 5th edition.

Fifth edition does provide options for creating customised spells. They are without exception solely in the realm of DM purview, on a table by table basis. The closest example to a custom spell that springs readily to mind in 5E is a variation on Simulacrum found in Storm King's Thunder, created by the giantess Sansuri.

Normally the spell only allows a single simulacrum, and if you create another one the first one falls apart. Sansuri's version allows for multiple simulacra, but only as long as they are all simulacra of the same person and you use an additional 5,000gp of powdered diamond per additional simulacrum (as I recall offhand - it was 5,000gp of powdered something anyway, but might have been another gem and I can't be bothered digging out my copy to check right now).

Besides that, I have from time to time developed either my own custom spells, or modifications to an existing spell. I didn't often bother with doing it for 3rd edition, because the sheer uncounted number of spells available by the time you tallied up every sourcebook was so disgusting that there was virtually no point. There was bound to be something out there that would do what you wanted if you looked hard enough. Especially if you stretched it to include the Pathfinder ruleset, which was just 3rd edition wearing makeup.

That being said, there were some exceptions. A while ago, for example, I was doing a re-read of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, and because it had a 3rd edition d20 ruleset, I investigated it for possible spells, or "weaves" in Wheel of Time parlance. While several of the weaves in that book weren't particularly helpful for spells (since the spell versions were already extant or better), I did end up creating 3E and later 5E versions of Balefire and the ability to bond a Warden that the Aes Sedai and Asha'man possess.

The Balefire spell, it should also be said, was only ever used once at my table, and then never again. For obvious reasons.

quote:
Originally posted by bloodtide_the_red

I recall the horror of days gone by when characters would go to the Jungles of Chult, The Underdark or the Abyss and all the NPC spellcasters there had the same dull, boring spells. A massive slime demon insect rises up from a poll of muck....and casts the spell sleep or burning hands. Or that evil drow wizard with...wow...fireball..

Third edition eventually included a feat, Spell Thematics (to go along with the varied metamagic options in the rules), to make things like this at least look different, even if the mechanical effects were the same.

"The Wild Mages I have met exhibit a startling disregard for common sense, and are often meddling with powers far beyond their own control." ~Volo
"Not unlike a certain travelogue author with whom I am unfortunately acquainted." ~Elminster
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
35679 Posts

Posted - 12 Aug 2021 :  15:39:44  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Eldacar

Third edition eventually included a feat, Spell Thematics (to go along with the varied metamagic options in the rules), to make things like this at least look different, even if the mechanical effects were the same.



Thematic options, like changing visual effects and/or adding cosmetic audio effects, can go a long way towards keeping magic exotic.

Don't want a boring fireball? How about a screaming, flaming skull that explodes? How about a ball of energy that does the anime thing of carving a furrow in the ground as it flies towards you, then explodes?

I seem to recall an Energy Substitution metamagic feat, too, though I could be mistaken. That could be a nice, simple variation, as well. Instead of the fireball that explodes in a huge ball of fire, make it an acid ball that splashes acid on everyone. Have magic missiles that are small balls of ice and do ice damage instead of force damage.

All the numbers and everything stay the same, but as long as you don't tell the PCs that it's a common spell with a slight tweak, you've got something they'll think is new and different.

Candlekeep Forums Moderator

Candlekeep - The Library of Forgotten Realms Lore
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Diffan
Great Reader

USA
4255 Posts

Posted - 12 Aug 2021 :  21:09:46  Show Profile Send Diffan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I always thought changing the theme of a spell, even if it's just for flavor, perfectly fine and never would require my players to take the feat Spell Thematics. One, it's a waste of a feat - considering how unlikely people were going to use Dispel Magic (or the specific spell) to counter said spell from a magic-user.

Even for things like changing the energy of said spell, pretty reasonable that I wouldn't require anything different except maybe use the same mechanics to write a spell into your spellbook as any version you find. Want Magic Missile to deal negative energy (or necrotic energy in 4e/5e) then just memorize that particular version and call it something else.

In our 4E games, we re-flavored a lot to tailor it to our particular character's tastes (no need for extensive feats or Skills to pull it off) because it was easy to do and didn't mess too much with balance. A baker-Wizard using his turn to cast Dough-ball creates a Web like effect, except instead of sticky spider webs it's a just sticky, wet dough.

4E Realms = Great Taste, Less Filling.

"If WotC were to put out a box of free money, people would still complain how it was folded."
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
35679 Posts

Posted - 13 Aug 2021 :  00:14:06  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Diffan

I always thought changing the theme of a spell, even if it's just for flavor, perfectly fine and never would require my players to take the feat Spell Thematics. One, it's a waste of a feat - considering how unlikely people were going to use Dispel Magic (or the specific spell) to counter said spell from a magic-user.

Even for things like changing the energy of said spell, pretty reasonable that I wouldn't require anything different except maybe use the same mechanics to write a spell into your spellbook as any version you find. Want Magic Missile to deal negative energy (or necrotic energy in 4e/5e) then just memorize that particular version and call it something else.





I can't disagree with changing the theme of the spell being free, but I would require something for tweaking the energy type. Not sure what, but there would be some upfront cost for being able to do it. Maybe they'd have to spend the money to research how to do it before they officially can, or something like that.

Candlekeep Forums Moderator

Candlekeep - The Library of Forgotten Realms Lore
http://www.candlekeep.com
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I am the Giant Space Hamster of Ill Omen!
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TheIriaeban
Senior Scribe

USA
933 Posts

Posted - 13 Aug 2021 :  02:24:53  Show Profile Send TheIriaeban a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by Diffan

I always thought changing the theme of a spell, even if it's just for flavor, perfectly fine and never would require my players to take the feat Spell Thematics. One, it's a waste of a feat - considering how unlikely people were going to use Dispel Magic (or the specific spell) to counter said spell from a magic-user.

Even for things like changing the energy of said spell, pretty reasonable that I wouldn't require anything different except maybe use the same mechanics to write a spell into your spellbook as any version you find. Want Magic Missile to deal negative energy (or necrotic energy in 4e/5e) then just memorize that particular version and call it something else.





I can't disagree with changing the theme of the spell being free, but I would require something for tweaking the energy type. Not sure what, but there would be some upfront cost for being able to do it. Maybe they'd have to spend the money to research how to do it before they officially can, or something like that.



I always made the theme part of the spell. Say a PC caster finds a spellbook. Instead of a normal fireball spell, he may get one that looks like a flaming, roaring lions head that shoots from his mouth instead of his finger. And, he may not know that before he casts it for the first time if he doesn't make a Spellcraft roll.

If the caster didn't like that, he could do some research (half the time needed for a level 1 spell at 1/4 the cost) to change the theme and write that version in his spellbook. Spells of different themes do not count as multiple spells so it won't affect the maximum number of spells learned per spell level. The caster can actually have the same spell memorized more than once with different themes.

Changing the energy type was a new spell and would have to be researched per the normal rules (unless it is found in a spellbook or on a scroll). There are several examples of this in things like Dragon mag and the Wizard's Spell Compendium so I took that as how to handle it (in 2e).

Edit: Oh, I forgot to meantion, this could also be a way of identifying who trained the caster:

"Ah, I see you have the Lion's Fireball. You must have been apprenticed to Porkchop of Elturel."

Or, it could identify who killed someone:

"Where did you get that spell?!? Applesauce, my fellow apprentice of Porkchop the Wise is missing! YOU KILLED HIM! Now it is time for you to die."

"Iriaebor is a fine city. So what if you can have violence between merchant groups break out at any moment. Not every city can offer dinner AND a show."

My FR writeups - http://www.mediafire.com/folder/um3liz6tqsf5n/Documents

Edited by - TheIriaeban on 13 Aug 2021 02:43:45
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bloodtide_the_red
Learned Scribe

USA
205 Posts

Posted - 13 Aug 2021 :  04:49:51  Show Profile  Visit bloodtide_the_red's Homepage Send bloodtide_the_red a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm not a fan of Spell Thematics, it's typical 3E laziness. You can go on for a whole paragraph about how the spell makes "bouncing balls of multi colored fire...wow", that has the same dull, boring effect as the by-the-book spell Fireball. I'd much rather just make a new, custom spell: Bouncing Balls of Fire.

A big change for magic in my game is divine magic: the deities watch and nitpick every use of divine magic. As a divine spellcaster.your best path is to walk the line of your deity's dogma. So, it's in your best interest to pick a deity that "is you" and thinks and believes what you believe. But, if you happen to be a player that just picks a deity for the domain as part of your optimized murderhobo build, you will likely have problems.

For many castings of spells, many deities are a bit neutral, or really don't care much....but on some things they will very much care and nit pick. If a deity approves the spell will get a boost, if the deity disproves the spell gets a lesser effect. And if the use of the spell greatly follows the deities wishes you can expect a large boost, and if opposed, you can expect some harm to the caster. Mystra, for example, does not care much about spells used in a typical adventure and even killing wizards as part of an over all "good" reason. Mystra does not approve of killing wizards and destroying magic items at random ("To getz XP!") so she will lessen the spell effects, reduce casters levels and such things. Mystra greatly disapproves of slaying wizards being a moonbat murderhobo, so doing this will get you to lose your divine spellcasting, be turned into something like a wingless wonder......and worse.
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Cosmar
Seeker

61 Posts

Posted - 13 Aug 2021 :  06:20:03  Show Profile Send Cosmar a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I do prefer the interesting multi-effect spells to the spells that do one kind of basic thing. As a wizard I'd usually rather cast something like Frost Breath or Great Thunderclap or Orb of Acid that have secondary effects. The 3.5 feat Energy Gestalt can make blast spells interesting again (especially if you can get your DM to rewrite the feat so that the debuff effects triggered by the second spell can take effect in the same round if you use quickened spells). A really potent combo is if you have Energy Gestalt and cast something like Frost Breath followed by Orb of Electricity for a potential cocktail of Stunned, Slowed, and Entangled. Or if you also have the Bracers of Entangling Blast and Energy Gestalt, and cast an entangling fireball followed by a nausea-inducing vitriolic sphere.

It can be hard to come up with cool new combat spells in 3.5 when you have all sorts of weird options already, like Defenestrating Sphere or gems like Ghorus Toth's Magnetism (Unapproachable East). Things get weirder with books like Book of Exalted Deeds, and spells from it like Amber Sarcophagus and Tomb of Light. It does seem like evil beings get a lot of love with published spells, with stuff like Damning Darkness and the Necromantic Cyst line of spells. Usually for new combat spells the best I can come up with are spells that combine other spells, basically, like a fireball that also forms into a fire elemental or a web made of acid, etc.

I like the idea of certain deities being picky about how their servants use magic, and how that magic manifests. It would make sense for a god of water to not be too happy if his servant uses fire spells, or a god of love not appreciating if his servant uses magic of hate or ugliness.

Edited by - Cosmar on 13 Aug 2021 06:22:01
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bloodtide_the_red
Learned Scribe

USA
205 Posts

Posted - 14 Aug 2021 :  02:11:23  Show Profile  Visit bloodtide_the_red's Homepage Send bloodtide_the_red a Private Message  Reply with Quote
2E had a TON of weird cool spells, only about a third or so that were ever officially converted to 3E. Mostly they just grabbed the easy to convert damage dice spells.

It helps to break down magic a bit by race, area, groups and individuals. For example evles mostly use "nature" based spells. Gold elves like bright, flashy, and fire spells. Bolt of Molten Gold, Gemfire, Sunray, Sunfire, Sunbeam, Azerial's Spectacular Prismatic Armadillo Horde. Moon elves like more soft light, subtle and water spells. Water Spray, Moonbolt, Moonlight, Moonbeam, Obleitha's moonlit wolf pack. Green elves double down on the nature type spells like Blade of Grass, Root of all Problems, Topple Tree, Wind Strike, and Zo'Pah's Welcome to the Jungle.

Picking a general effect is an easy way to focus on some spells to make. Like say you want some spells for some rich wizards, and narrow the focus down to just "coins". Coin Spray is a bit obvious: hits people with coins AND has that secondary bonus that many greedy foes might stop to grab some coins and give you an opening, OOA or free attack. Wall of coins blocks attacks. Hot Coins causes coins to heat up and burn (aka like heat metal). Chaotic Coins makes coins randomly change shape and material. Rolling Coin makes a giant coin to roll over things.

Eons ago, I had to add at least three spells (one attack, one defense, one utility) per level to all the deities. It was so annoying to watch a cleric of Talos, Gond, Tyr and Lloth all cast 'Flame Strike' in combat. So I gave Talos Storm Strike: lightning damage plus wind and rain to knock you down; Gond a cloud of wiring gears that also destories crafted items; Tyr gets Law Strike: that over loads the targets mind with every man made law every made for mental damage and Lloth gets Poison Spiders: Alchelmical Poison Living Construct Spiders that bite and then dry and harden on a foe.

I can recall a game long ago, with a poor player wanting to really play a Cleric of Tempus, but being beyond bored with the lame Players Handbook spells. The cleric had NO spells anything about "war" or "battle", but could cast like water breathing. So for my game I could added: Detect Weapondry, Detect Weapon, Find Arms and Armor, Know Battle History, Know Weapon Lore, Speak with Weapon and many others. So during the WHOLE game play the player would likely have a spell to use, focused on war/battle. So when the characters find an old fight remains "a couple broken skeletons, rusty armor and a long sword", instead of just sitting there.....the player can have their cleric of Tempus go RIGHT over and talk TO that sword and ask "so what happened here? Who was your last welder? How did they die? It not only adds lore and information to the game play, but gives that player something to do AND gets them in the grove for role playing a cleric of Tempus.
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Bugbear
Acolyte

2 Posts

Posted - 22 Aug 2021 :  22:47:21  Show Profile Send Bugbear a Private Message  Reply with Quote
So how do you all create custom spells? How do you adjudicate them? The 3.5E rules just sort of say "ok, make spells". And going by just the Core spells seems useless: they are all over the place with power and effects. It is hard to get a sense of waht each spell level of power should be and what spell effects should be. Toss in all the other books and it's even more of a mess. So many spells just don't seem to fit in for the level and effect they do. Are there any detailed spell creation rules from any edition?

And how do you dream up new spells? I try to make more fire spells for my fire wizard and have a hard time not just making "Bolt of Fire" that is basically just Fireball.
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Diffan
Great Reader

USA
4255 Posts

Posted - 22 Aug 2021 :  23:07:20  Show Profile Send Diffan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by Diffan

I always thought changing the theme of a spell, even if it's just for flavor, perfectly fine and never would require my players to take the feat Spell Thematics. One, it's a waste of a feat - considering how unlikely people were going to use Dispel Magic (or the specific spell) to counter said spell from a magic-user.

Even for things like changing the energy of said spell, pretty reasonable that I wouldn't require anything different except maybe use the same mechanics to write a spell into your spellbook as any version you find. Want Magic Missile to deal negative energy (or necrotic energy in 4e/5e) then just memorize that particular version and call it something else.





I can't disagree with changing the theme of the spell being free, but I would require something for tweaking the energy type. Not sure what, but there would be some upfront cost for being able to do it. Maybe they'd have to spend the money to research how to do it before they officially can, or something like that.



Usually, in my 3.5, 4e, and 5e games I just use the same method it would require to add a new spell to your spellbook from someone else. In 4E, there's no hard-coded rules for this, so I usually just require some Knowledge, Arcana, Spellcraft, etc. check with a difficult DC (or use the rules in the system). This would alter the spell's theme and elemental effects if there were any.

So anyone can change the color of Fireball to Blue or make it look like Neon-Green hellflame, but it's still effectively "Fireball". But if my father-in-law's Tiefling Wizard - Vorung Redmoon (4E) - wanted to make his Fireballs Necrotic that has screaming skulls and souls of the damned appear to be released, then he'd have to research a new Version. Probably wouldn't be available right away, would need a week or so of study and practice and possibly a series of checks in the form of SKill Challenge (say, 3 out of 5 successes) to make it work.

4E Realms = Great Taste, Less Filling.

"If WotC were to put out a box of free money, people would still complain how it was folded."
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Diffan
Great Reader

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Posted - 22 Aug 2021 :  23:16:09  Show Profile Send Diffan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Bugbear

So how do you all create custom spells? How do you adjudicate them? The 3.5E rules just sort of say "ok, make spells". And going by just the Core spells seems useless: they are all over the place with power and effects. It is hard to get a sense of waht each spell level of power should be and what spell effects should be. Toss in all the other books and it's even more of a mess. So many spells just don't seem to fit in for the level and effect they do. Are there any detailed spell creation rules from any edition?

And how do you dream up new spells? I try to make more fire spells for my fire wizard and have a hard time not just making "Bolt of Fire" that is basically just Fireball.



Lots of factors, mostly Edition and Level and what's similar in that range. For example, 5E cantrips are usually not too difficult to adjudicate and balance. If it's a cantrip from 3.5 or Pathfinder or an At-WIll power with 4E, then it's usually OK to convert to a degree to 5E. I did a bunch of Paladin and Cleric at-will prayers to 5E at Cantrips and an Eldritch Knight power to 5E too from 4E.

To come up with new spells, you have to first check if what you intend to do hasn't already been made, and if so, how will it differ? For a 3.5 Fire-Mage, think about what's NOT available to him in the schools of Evocation and Conjuration and then apply fire magic to it. For example, maybe he really wants to learn how to Heal or some something about how fire purifies. Maybe he can make someone catch a fever to end a sickness condition? It forces exhaustion, but you get a bonus to your Fortitude save to overcome it. Maybe you can use a fire spell to Cauterize a wound? If someone is takkng bleeding damage (from a spell, weapon, magic) or maybe someone's bleeding out (0 or negative HP) or even as a "healing spell" that heals 1d4 + Caster level hit points, but otherwise causes you to not be able to use that limb (can't hold a shield) or leg (imposes half-speed) because it's a quick fix that should need a real healer at some point to tend to properly.

In situations like this, I really love pulling from pop-culture references that have similar elements. No other one comes to mind as much as Avatar: the Last Air Bender. The things Firebenders can do, hell ANY Bender can do is pretty awesome and probably could be easily converted to magic Spells in D&D. I even made a whole Air Bender discipline for 3.5 using maneuvers and stances from the Tome of Battle: Book of 9 Swords.

4E Realms = Great Taste, Less Filling.

"If WotC were to put out a box of free money, people would still complain how it was folded."
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Delnyn
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Posted - 24 Aug 2021 :  00:07:22  Show Profile Send Delnyn a Private Message  Reply with Quote
One of our old 2e campaigns had a 7th level cleric spell called eye of the aasimon. Much like aasimon, the cleric could gaze into the eyes of an evil creature and learn its name (not necessarily truename) and background. Getting the spell granted by the deity and obtaining the material component (eyelash willingly donated by an aasimon) were quests/hassles in their own right.
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Cosmar
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Posted - 24 Aug 2021 :  04:59:03  Show Profile Send Cosmar a Private Message  Reply with Quote
That sounds like a cool spell. I really like interesting utilitarian spells that are not just about raw power. In my 3.5 game I have some spells I'd like my wizard to research that are mostly utilitarian but with a couple combat spells.

Some of them are simple, like a Muffle spell (just like the Jump spell but for Move Silently), and a Mass version. I have not found a 3.5 version of this effect anywhere and I was frankly shocked that I couldn't, because it seemed almost every other skill has some kind of spell that enhances it. (Yes, there are some spells that enhance stealth but a lot of them have other effects and I just want a simple low-level "you are better at being quiet" spell). Also a spell I've labeled Stardusk that is only really useful for exploring above ground at night. Outdoors at night, everyone under its effect gains low-light vision as if the ambient light were dim and simply not pitch black, whereas people who already have low-light vision or darkvision can instead see normally as if it were daytime, the idea being that the stars seem to be brighter. Also a divination spell that literally just creates a giant stationary (but rotatable) magnifying glass into which anyone nearby can look into for 1 min/caster level and see distances through it up to 1 mile away/caster level as if they were standing right there (not sure what to name this spell other than something boring like "[Inventor's name]'s Magnification" or something.

Edited by - Cosmar on 24 Aug 2021 05:01:23
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 24 Aug 2021 :  05:27:40  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Cosmar

Also a divination spell that literally just creates a giant stationary (but rotatable) magnifying glass into which anyone nearby can look into for 1 min/caster level and see distances through it up to 1 mile away/caster level as if they were standing right there (not sure what to name this spell other than something boring like "[Inventor's name]'s Magnification" or something.



I don't like Magnification -- how about Farseeing or Longsight or Eagle's Sight or something like that?

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Edited by - Wooly Rupert on 24 Aug 2021 10:47:39
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sleyvas
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Posted - 24 Aug 2021 :  14:50:28  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Bugbear

So how do you all create custom spells? How do you adjudicate them? The 3.5E rules just sort of say "ok, make spells". And going by just the Core spells seems useless: they are all over the place with power and effects. It is hard to get a sense of waht each spell level of power should be and what spell effects should be. Toss in all the other books and it's even more of a mess. So many spells just don't seem to fit in for the level and effect they do. Are there any detailed spell creation rules from any edition?

And how do you dream up new spells? I try to make more fire spells for my fire wizard and have a hard time not just making "Bolt of Fire" that is basically just Fireball.



As others have said, spell creation is a bit of an art form.

As to where to get inspiration, a lot of times for me it comes down to "what can't I do that I might want to do"? In the early years of D&D, that was pretty easy, because there were few spells to do things that you could picture. Nowadays, with 5 editions to cull from, a LOT of those ideas have been done. The problem becomes A) finding them B) adapting them to the current edition and C) fixing their glaring errors that the original creator left in. Why do I say option C)? Well, I love Ed's spell making, but he's a classic example for me. He came up with a plethora of ideas in Seven Sisters/Magister, etc..., many before anyone else.... and thus he was treading new ground with little to work from... but a lot of those 2e spells can pretty easily be broken. For instance, with 2e mechanics, rainbow shield could be turned into an amazing buffing/healing spell rather than the intended variation on "hurt those who hit me" spells. Similarly, he had another spell which could just rip through most defenses and lay waste to undead spellcasters in that edition (think it was like Maw of Chaos or somesuch).

That being said, I don't want you to think I'm ripping on him... again, he had nothing to work from. We have the advantage of seeing his concept and fixing it.

Where I have a problem with 5e is that they took to "fixing" many spells, but they did so by simplifying them, and in so doing they broke them. A classic example there is clone, since you can essentially make yourself consistently have a younger body.

A lot of my ideas were based on how to get around other magical impediments. For instance, if someone has fire resistance, how to affect them with fire. If someone can detect you with scent or sound or by detecting life force, how to mask that. If someone has the ability to strip all magic in an area, how to keep your magic. If you need a spell to only come into effect if X happens, how to make it happen. If you need to affect someone, but they're known to have defenses that detect things, how to change what they detect, alter the effects they release, or simply make them quit working temporarily.

I had at one time written an article on spell dueling, back in 2nd edition, but it was pretty edition agnostic. By dueling, I don't mean the Harry Potter version... I meant "using the spells we have, how would wizards duel", and I went into about 8 basic styles of spellcasters (they weren't based on school, but rather styles of casters). A lot of these ideas can be directly see in MTG as well. I don't recall them all, but they were things like:

You can't find me, you can't kill me - the spellcaster whose whole focus is on making himself unseen even as he attacks you. This is my personal favorite, and while still hard, is by far the most effective. The problem is, its only affective when you are on the offensive and is hard to accomplish when attacked (not impossible mind you). Similarly, a mage who redirects your attacks through trickers so that you THINK you've found him fall in this same realm.

Remove your Magic while maintaining my own - the spellcaster whose focus is on dropping someone else's defenses while keeping a layer of defenses on themselves

Remove all magic and hit you physically - as the name implies

My minions are bombs - using summoned beings, undead, or even just enchanting lesser creatures like animals or goblinoids... then sending them in to act as portable devastation.

My minions are drains on your power - similar to the above, but the point is to just remove someone's defenses before putting yourself into danger

Make my enemies my friends - this can be enchanting someone... or it can be concealing an enemy so that he appears to be me, such that his own allies attack him.

Contingencies, contingencies, contingencies - as the name implies

Wards, wards, wards - basically, contingencies are effects that come into play when X happens, "wards" would be affects you have up all the time. You can combine these two types, but in different editions of the game this can get very hard. Contingencies are more versatile and broader, but they last shorter periods, so in some cases people can wait you out. Warding is longer lasting, but not as all encompassing

Attraction Distraction or Magnetism is my friend - Take someone's defenses, and turn them around... for instance a warrior in armor is really hurt by magnetism, rust effects, etc.... If you turn their equipment against them, their defenses may fall apart.

Ok, that's enough for now... I need to get back to work. I love this topic though.




Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Cosmar
Seeker

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Posted - 25 Aug 2021 :  02:20:34  Show Profile Send Cosmar a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I like your thoughts, sleyvas. At least in 3.5 there are ways to do most of the effects you mentioned, though not all of them are specifically spells. Like in Libris Mortis they introduced Necromantic Cyst feats and related spells, which were really devious and amazing but unfortunately evil-flavored.

Abjuration is one of my favorite schools, but when it comes to playing a defensive-minded caster, at least in 3.5, a lot of the options are not very great. "Standard action, 1 round/level duration" single-effect stuff like Globe of Invulnerability or even Spell Turning is often a poorer choice than simply debuffing the enemy with some kind of offensive spell, unless you tie it to a contingency spell or something. I CANNOT remember what it's called or what its source was, but 2e had a spell that was kind of like an immediate-action spell-turning against one incoming spell or effect, and IIRC it worked on any offensive spell regardless of its AoE, which I thought was amazing. Can't remember the spell level, but I feel like if it were in 3.5 it would be some really high-level effect, considering Spell Turning itself is level 7. Outside of formal spell duels (with specific rules about what each combatant casts and when), or outside of combined use with Celerity or Contingency (which I might rather use for a more across-the-board-useful effect, like mirror image or invisibility), I barely ever end up using such spells in practice since I'd rather just prevent the enemy caster from doing anything in the first place if possible (Solid Fog, Silence, etc.)



quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

I don't like Magnification -- how about Farseeing or Longsight or Eagle's Sight or something like that?




Those sound more fun. Maybe (Inventor's name)'s Longseeing. The hardest part for me is assigning it a level. Scrying is level 4, and I'm not sure how this stacks up against it. Maybe level 3? It would be a lot more situational that Scrying, though in the situations you'd want to use it, you could potentially see a whole lot more. Also Clairvoyance is level 3 and this COULD let you see a lot more, though not through barriers. The statblock I have for it so far:

School: Divination (also potentially dual-school Divination/Transmutation, in that the air is physically bent somehow to make the magnification)
Components: V, S, M (not sure if it would be better to have an expensive component, like a 50-gp quartz prism or something)
Casting time: 1 minute
Duration: 1 minute/caster level
Range: Up to 1 mile/caster level

Like scrying, it wouldn't give any additional sight benefits other than the magnification effect itself, with viewers using whatever other sight powers they would have. Wouldn't automatically reveal hidden/invisible creatures or let people see in the dark if they can't already, etc.

I thought of it mostly for exploratory purposes, like "off in the distance I can see what might be a structure of some kind, let's take a closer look" or "we're on a sea voyage trying to find a forgotten island that's not on any map, let's use this to try and find land". The main benefits of this spell over just using a telescope are 1) can see much longer distances than a telescope, 2) don't have to actually have a telescope, and 3) while the spell's active, anyone close to it can look into it at the same time.

EDIT:
Another divination spell I thought of was inspired by the Taboo jinx from Harry Potter: On casting the spell, you designate a specific name of a person, location, or object, and the next time anyone on the same plane audibly speaks that name, you are alerted to their identity and location (perhaps target gets a Will save to negate, and obviously it wouldn't work if the person speaking is in a lead-lined room or someplace warded against divination).

An alternative use (or completely different version entirely) of the spell would be instead of learning the location of a speaker of a specific word, you learn of a very specific event occurring. It would have to be very specific and not general, e.g.: "The next time (specific person) enters (specific location)", or "If the ward on the Tomb of Glodniklax is broken", not something like "the next time an orc attacks an elf" etc.

Perhaps the caster, similarly for Scrying or Teleportation, would have to be familiar with the person/place/object/event about which he wants to know if someone spoke about or did something. Or, also, maybe the caster would need to actually cast the spell ON the person/location/object.

Edited by - Cosmar on 25 Aug 2021 02:44:11
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bloodtide_the_red
Learned Scribe

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Posted - 25 Aug 2021 :  06:10:46  Show Profile  Visit bloodtide_the_red's Homepage Send bloodtide_the_red a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Spell power is really a personal thing, every DM will think a bit differently. So you have to decide at about what "power level" you want each level of spell to be.

For example: Cosmar's Telescope Spell sounds super weak to me. To "make a magical sensor that anyone can look through and get x10 magnification(much better then a spyglass x2)", does not do much. That would be 2nd level in my game. It's a useful enough utility spell that it would be popular. It's a nice divination spell to boost diviners too.

Movies, TV shows, comic books and novels are all great places to get spell ideas from....plus don't forget RPGs.

I often star with a vague theme for making new spells. Like say I want to make some spells common in the Backlands of the Western Heartlands. Around where their are yuan-ti and lots of snakes. Well, just to take snakes...and narrow that down to venom. Venom Blot is easy as a redone lighting bolt. Venom Drop, Venom Spray, Venom Cloud and Venom Rain all come right to my mind. I like the "flaming sphere" of something the caster can roll around a battle, so I add Venom Sphere. Next I try to rhyme things with "venom" or things that start with "V". So I get...humm, Venom Vault(fill a box or chest with venom to protect something), Venom Vase(a fancy vase made of pure venom that explodes like fire trap) and Venom Vice (a giant set of fangs made of solid venom that crush and poison a target). Also I think of Venom Vice as a curse type spell for a "vice" as something bad/taboo, so like "pick one vice, and if the victim attempts to do it, whatever they touch becomes venom." Venom Shield, Cloak of Venom and Venom Aura make for some basic protection type spells. Then I get the random spell idea of "Sudden Snake". The idea is a swift spell to summon a snake in a box or under a rug or such to suddenly 'jump scare' someone searching. It also sounds like a good gnome joke spell...but for gnomes I'll change it to "Sudden Skunk". Some how 'Snake and Bake' pops in my head and I think "summons para elemental magma constrictor snakes" to grapple and burn foes. And Snake Rope, that polymorphs a rope into a snake...like a rope a poor victim is using to climb. And Snakepocklipse, cover like a city in all sorts of snakes.

So that is a bunch of snake spells right there, and it's only scratching the surface. They are mostly venom spells, so there are plenty of spell to make about snakes, scales, constrictor snakes and more. Plus you can still go to any nature site and find a ton of weird snakes will all sorts of real abilities that can be made into spell effects.
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