Spell-casting house rules

Initiative : minus 1d6 + spell level 

So, if you're casting a cantrip, your initiative score is reduced by 1d6. If you want to cast a level three spell, your initiative count would be 1d6+3 less.

If you take damage, or have to endure some sort of environmental hardship before your initiative comes up, you must make a Concentration save to be able to cast the spell. If you fail, your action is used, and the spell is not cast (though the spell slot, nor any material components, are not used up). You can still move and take reactions and bonus actions if appropriate.

Rituals : casting time one hour per total levels plus 1d4 hours.

For example a level 4 ritual would take 1+2+3+4=10+1d4 hours to cast. Note that partaking in a ritual, either as caster or recipient, does NOT count as resting.

Corruption : casting without a patron or via ritual may result in corruption.

Note: I haven't really thought this one completely through, and I'm not sure quite how workable it would be. I really just want some mechanism that might encourage people to consider before using magic willy-nilly.
Channelling magical forces directly through one's own body, without the buffer created by a ritual or magical intermediary, is potentially hazardous to one's spiritual well-being. There are certain physical signs of magical corruption, but more important are the mental effects: gradually (if it's not already there) the magic-user's alignment shifts around towards chaos and evil.

There are rituals designed to remove magical corruption, or to transfer it to some other unfortunate.

When you cast any spell, make a DC 5 + spell level save vs. your magic-using characteristic. If you fail, you gain one point of Corruption. I'll let you know what that means as and when it occurs.
Note: Warlocks, Clerics, and Paladins are deemed to get their magic through magical intermediaries. Other spell-casters will have to come to their own arrangements if they want a patron.
Note: It occurs to me that this would make an excellent game-mechanical reason for a spell-caster to have a familiar, which would act as a magical conduit as long as it's within line of sight and thus remove the risk of corrupting one's own self with all this magical jiggery-pokery. It would also explain the intimate psychic connection between familiar and "master". I shall therefore Make It So.

The Joy of the Tomb of Horrors

I'm currently running the party through the good old Tomb of Horrors, much to the disgruntlement of one of the players who has been complaining endlessly about how everyone is going to die horribly. Whine, whine whine.

Anyway, it's a bit of a side-step from the main campaign, and I've been struggling with the old D&D3.5e freebie version, trying to run it pretty much on the fly and convert to 5e at the same time. That rewrite was, as I've said before, not very good, either in terms of layout, nor as regards the placement and explanation of various features of the dungeon. I've missed (or misinterpreted) several things simply because the full description of what should be going on was located in some completely different location in the document, and it's really been pissing me off. Add to that the fancy-schmancy 3e-style map, which adds a whole lot of needless fooferaw and consequently decreases its actual clarity and usefulness.

I've just got hold of another rewrite, this time one that appeared in Dragon #213, for the then-named D&D Next — the working title for the playtest version(s) of D&D5e. It is so much better in every way than the 3.5e version. It is a model of clear, rational layout and description (with the exception of a couple of stat-blocks that crowd the text somewhat) and I really wish I'd had it to begin with.

Ah well, not to worry. I can switch over to it quite seamlessly as far as the players are concerned.

Attack Of The Mega-Spells of DOOOOOOM!

As we make our way into my new(ish) D&D5e campaign, I'm finding quite a few things that have changed from Ye Olde Dayes that have a tendency to make PCs into unstoppable superheroes. The new hit-point recovery rules are one, though I don't really have too many issues with that; it improves survivability at low levels and keeps things moving along a bit more than they did when a party had to hole up to recover for a week after half an hour of dungeon-bashing.

The idea of having to take a character down below negative their hit-point total to kill them starts to get problematic once they get past the first couple of levels; a mid- to high-level character pretty much needs have no fear of death from a one-shot unless it's an attack that's doing hundreds of points of damage. Add to that the use of Hero Points to guarantee successful Death Saves, and a PC with more than 30hp or so is pretty much unkillable.... unless.....

Intelligent creatures will be aware of the issue, and if they spend a bit of effort after the PC has gone down whacking away at them to make sure of automatic Death Save failures, then the unconscious PC is in real trouble. This is where being swarmed by vicious little bastards like goblins or kobolds gets very dangerous.
Note: I believe, during play-testing, death was set at negative CON+Level; I'm not sure why they decided on the current system. I suppose to give players as much opportunity as possible to save their characters.
I've previously made my disdain for the new Find Familiar spell known. What a stinker.

Another spell that is giving me pause is Lesser Restoration. This is a real uber-spell. It requires no material component, and it pretty much gives the PC four spells for the price of one 2nd level spell slot: it replaces the old Cure Disease, Neutralize Poison, Cure Deafness/Blindness, and Remove Paralysis. That seems amazingly powerful for a humble second-level spell to me.

I think that what I will do with it is, first, make it a lengthy ritual spell, and second, give it a reasonably rare and expensive material component that varies depending on what it is that the caster wants to heal. That still leaves it a very powerful spell to have in one's repertoire without letting it become overly dominant.

So:

Lesser Restoration

2nd level abjuration
Casting Time: 3+1d4 hours (ritual)
Range: Touch
Components: V,S,M (50gp worth of powdered gemstone, which is consumed by casting the spell — diamond to cure a disease, amethyst to neutralize a poison, aquamarine to cure deafness or blindness, or emerald to remove paralysis.) 
You draw a magical circle of runes and sigils around a creature and, after a period of 4 -7 hours of chanting and magical jibber-jabber, can end either one disease or one condition afflicting it. The condition can be blinded, deafened, paralysed, or poisoned.

I think that should do the trick. At least it will make it a bit less egregious.

Musings on Class

Druids? Or just grubby old men in blankets? I have a fondness for AD&D, but one of the things that drove me away from it back in the...