A while back, I posted a link to Shamus Young’s blog entry, “A Retrospective Glance at D&D 3.5.” In the article, he talks about how returning to 3.5 after playing 4E helped him see some of the flaws with that system.
“A few hours go by and while in combat I hear something that hasn’t been said around me in a long time, “I am out of spells.” Until then we have had a few small skirmishes, but now this player had to kick back and make conversation with the other magic user who had run dry. They were completely out of the game for about an hour, and I had forgotten just how much that sucked thanks to new spell system in fourth edition.
As I said in my earlier entry, I think this is an insightful observation of the problems with the 3.5 spellcasting system. However, I don’t think that the 4E power system does a particularly good job of addressing the problem. In my experience, 4E players tend to hoard their daily and encounter powers, relying almost exclusively on their at-will powers to get through combat. Either that, or they expend all of their daily and encounter powers at once and then rest for the day. This tendency either turns combats into long, tedious slogs that can last four hours or more, or it recreates the problem of the 60 second day that so many players saw as a problem with 3.5. So while I can respect 4E’s attempt to address the problems with the 3.5 spellcasting system, I think there are better ways to go about it. I also think that there’s a way to address this issue without creating an entirely new combat system.
In designing the rules for recalling spells, I had to take into consideration several variables. For example, I didn’t want players recalling spells that they hadn’t cast or prepared for the day. After all, it would be real easy to increase one’s daily fire power by casting fireball and then replacing it with three magic missile spells. I also didn’t want players to expend all of their spells in one encounter and then use subsequent encounters to recall those spells for the day. Another issue I had to consider is how the mechanics of recalling spells would affect spellcasters who have a limited number of spells they can cast each day. Third, I had to consider how such a rule change would affect spontaneous casters versus casters who prepare spells. Finally, I needed to consider how such a change would affect campaigns that include psionic characters, who don’t cast spells, but who would still be at a disadvantage if they couldn’t refresh their powers.
I think the system I came up with addresses many of the issues people have with the 3.5 spellcasting system, while still encouraging players to manage their resources appropriately. That said, I welcome any criticism or feedback people may have about this mechanic.
By the way, here’s another take on the same concept.