Dungeon Master Assistance

A place to share thoughts and ideas about Dungeons and Dragons

D&D 5E – Mana-Based Spellcasting (Variant Rule)

There has always been a lot of discussion regarding the magic system used in Dungeons and Dragons. It doesn’t seem to be very “logical” and there are other systems that might be better. This is my attempt to address this with an alternative to the “spell slots” system that fifth edition uses. This uses the same spells and everything else as presented in the Players Handbook (PHB) except for replacing its “spell slot” system with a “mana” system. There are several systems out there that use Mana or Spell Points for magic. Let me know what you think of mine.

Magic Points – Mana

Each day a spell casting character has a magic threshold. We’ll call these mana points.

The mana cost of a spell is equal to the spell’s level. So to cast a 2nd level spell would require deducting 2 mana from a character’s mana points. Casting the spell does not remove the spell from the spell casters memory, and the same spell can be used over and over as long as there are mana points in the character’s mana pool. Spells that can be cast at higher levels require one additional mana point for each additional level.

Cantrips use a negligible amount of mana and do not deduct from a character’s mana points. Refer to the tables in the PHB for the number of cantrips each class receives based on their level.

To recover mana a character must rest. All spell casters except for Warlocks recover 100% of their mana after a long rest. Warlocks recover 100% of their mana after a short or long rest.

Wizards

You cannot cast a spell that you have not memorized. To memorize a spell it must be in your spellbook. You prepare the list of wizard spells that are available for you to cast. To do so, choose a number of wizard spells from your spellbook equal to your Intelligence modifier + your wizard level (minimum of one spell). The spells must be of a level that you can cast.

Bards, Clerics, Druids, Rangers, Sorcerers, and Warlocks

You prepare the list of spells that are available for you to cast, choosing from the spell list for your class. When you do so, choose a number of spells equal to your primary ability modifier + your spell caster level (minimum of one spell). The spells must be of a level you can cast. The primary ability for Bards, Sorcerers, and Warlocks is Charisma. The primary ability for Clerics, Druids and Rangers is Wisdom.

Paladins

You prepare the list of spells that are available for you to cast, choosing from the Paladin spell list. When you do so, choose a number of spells equal to your primary ability modifier + half your Paladin level (minimum of one spell). The spells must be of a level you can cast.

All Spell Casters

You can change your list of prepared spells when you finish a long rest. Preparing a new list of spells requires at least 1 minute per spell level for each spell on your list.
When you gain another level in your current spell casting class, you can replace one spell that you know with another that is on your list and that is of a level you can cast.
Spells of 6th level and higher are particularly taxing to cast. You can only cast two spells each of levels 6th and 7th, and one spell each of levels 8th and 9th. You can’t cast another spell of the same level until you finish a long rest.

Multi Class Spell Casters

You add your total mana points from all your classes. Multi class Warlocks only recover mana points equal to their mana points as a Warlock during short rests.

Mana Points Table

The maximum number of mana points a spell caster can have and the maximum level any spell can be is listed on the following table:

Bard, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard Paladin, Ranger Warlock
LVL Max. spell level Mana LVL Max. spell level Mana LVL Max. spell level Mana
1 1st 2 1 1 1st 1
2 1st 4 2 1st 2 2 1st 2
3 2nd 8 3 1st 4 3 2nd 4
4 2nd 10 4 1st 4 4 2nd 4
5 3rd 16 5 2nd 8 5 3rd 6
6 3rd 20 6 2nd 8 6 3rd 6
7 4th 24 7 2nd 10 7 4th 8
8 4th 28 8 2nd 10 8 4th 8
9 5th 36 9 3rd 16 9 5th 10
10 5th 42 10 3rd 16 10 5th 10
11 6th 48 11 3rd 20 11 5th 15
12 6th 50 12 3rd 20 12 5th 15
13 7th 54 13 4th 24 13 5th 15
14 7th 58 14 4th 24 14 5th 15
15 8th 62 15 4th 28 15 5th 15
16 8th 64 16 4th 28 16 5th 15
17 9th 72 17 5th 36 17 5th 20
18 9th 76 18 5th 36 18 5th 20
19 9th 82 19 5th 42 19 5th 20
20 9th 90 20 5th 42 20 5th 20

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19 responses to “D&D 5E – Mana-Based Spellcasting (Variant Rule)

  1. Ron Purvis April 14, 2017 at 6:05 am

    I like the use of spell points. I have always felt that the slot system was too restricting and as a longtime Rolemaster player, I can honestly say that I much prefer a points based system for magic. I can see a lot of similarities in what you are proposing here to what I am used to in RM and I like it. I just wish that something like this would have been included in the PHB as an alternate or possibly in another supplement book, thanks for this I may have to apply it in a game or two and see how it works for us.

    • Ron Purvis April 14, 2017 at 6:09 am

      I have also noticed that you and I are in the exact same profession, Architectural CAD and renderings 🙂

      • Ronny April 14, 2017 at 8:56 am

        Welcome fellow CAD guy. Don’t you find that some of the same discipline and problem solving skills used in this line of work are helpful in DMing?
        I had to bite my tongue last week when I was playing in a game where the DM used a slightly modified fort dungeon map he had found on-line as a modern office building in downtown Denver. It had foot thick walls, defensible, winding corridors, nonsensical room placement, a single exterior door, no toilets, and a complete disregard for safety regulations.

    • Ronny April 14, 2017 at 8:46 am

      Check out the Spell Points variant on page 288 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. I think what I have proposed is simpler, but theirs may actually work better for you.

  2. Anonymous April 14, 2017 at 8:04 am

    I always dug Mana/Points systems. I just wonder if this would break the game. Has anyone play tested it?

    • Ronny April 14, 2017 at 8:38 am

      I have not play tested this.
      I tried very hard to keep the total power levels in line with the PHB rules. My main concern, like I say in the post, is that without some way to limit the casting of higher level spells it could break the game. I have suggested the Spell Casting Strain rules, but I am not entirely satisfied that it will have the intended result.
      One option would be to re-write all of the spells and to add a spell casting limit to higher level spells. Another would be to just limit the number of spells of each spell level you could cast by your caster’s level. But that would look just like the spell casting tables in the PHB which would make this just like spell slots with a different name.
      It just occurred to me that you could scrap the Spell Strain rules and add something like this:

      Spell Limits:
      Regardless of the amount of mana the spell caster has and the number of spells he can prepare, there is a limit to the number of spells he can cast based on the level of the spell. Between long rests (short rests for a Warlock) the maximum number of spells you can cast are four 1st lvl, three 2nd, 3rd, & 4th lvl., two 6th & 7th lvl, and one 8th & 9th lvl spells.

      Of course, if you do that you may want to just scrap this entire idea and go back to using spell slots.
      If someone could play test these rules and report back here, I would be eternally grateful.

      • Paul Lee April 14, 2017 at 8:42 am

        I am out of my depth in trying to tweak something like this so I defer to your experience and knowledge, but would making higher level spells cost more mana work? Like double the amount of mana points for high level spells? Also I do not play casters much myself but I am interested in this alternate system here.

      • Ronny April 14, 2017 at 9:23 am

        That might help, but without changing anything else it wouldn’t solve the main issue. If you increase the number of points required to cast higher level spells, you must also increase the number of points you give to higher level spell casters.
        The Spell Points variant in the DMG (p. 288) uses different spell points for different spell levels and solves our problem by having you expend a number of spell points to create a spell slot of a given level, and you use that slot to cast a spell, and you can only create one spell slot of 6th level or higher. Then it has a table for different spell point cost per spell level and another table for the number of spell points and maximum spell level based on your class level.
        I don’t find their option goes far enough to simplify the magic system, but it is more balanced then mine. Perhaps I should do as they do and only allow casting of one 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th level spell between long rests. I might then have to examine the table to see if number of mana points I am giving to higher level spell casters needs to be adjusted.

      • Paul Lee April 14, 2017 at 10:05 am

        Interesting. Right now I am toying with the idea of multiclassing my 4th level BattleMaster fighter when I reach 7th level. Using my ASI at 6 to put 2 pts in Intel bringing me to 13. So when i read this it sparked my interest.
        I know, why did I not go with Eldritch Knight instead of BattleMaster. Well, intimidation frankly.
        The last time I played D&D was 1991. So getting back into it last year I wanted to build a simple fighter. The Magic was a little much. Now however, I am gaining more confidence in the new system. Much easier to use than what I started in all those years ago, in many ways.

        I am going to bookmark this in case the discussion does not keep going so i might find it easier.

        Thank you for all the posts and tinkering you do with the rules. I enjoy reading your work very much.

      • Ronny April 14, 2017 at 10:11 am

        Thank you for your comments. It really helps me when I get feedback. Too many times people just read a post and don’t comment one way or the other. I just want you to know that I appreciate you taking the time to participate.

  3. Paul Lee April 14, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    I am just getting to the point where I fell comfortable to talk earnestly about the system. With help from various areas including reading your work here.

  4. Jonson May 23, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Looks pretty good. Though you should add a line about multi classing. Make it clear that you just add your total mana points from all your classes. Also, a specific rule should be added that multi class Warlocks only recover mana points equal to their mana points as a Warlock during short rests. Otherwise everyone will just take a level in Warlock to be able to recover all mana after a short rest.

    • Ronny May 23, 2017 at 4:08 pm

      Excellent point. I hadn’t even thought about how this would work with multiclassing. Do you think that Warlocks should keep their Warlock mana points separate and only use them for warlock spells?

      • Jonson May 24, 2017 at 1:34 am

        No real need to do so. Since by default you can use the Warlock spell slots to cast spells from your multi class and vice versa. You can just lump the mana points together as normal, but limit the amount of mana recovered in a short rest according to the Warlock’s max mana points.

      • Ronny May 24, 2017 at 7:52 am

        I modified the post. Thank you for your input.

      • Jonson May 24, 2017 at 9:58 am

        Looks very good. This system would make for a really flexible spellcaster.

  5. Gonz July 21, 2017 at 9:51 pm

    Wow. This looks simple and straightforward… I-ll do my best to convince one of my players to playtest it for a few sessions. I have one question, though: For casting at a higher level you’d need to spend more mana points and that’s it, right?

    • Ronny July 21, 2017 at 10:38 pm

      That is correct. To cast a spell at a higher level, you spend the number of mana points that it would cost to cast a spell of that higher level.
      If you do play test these rules, please let me know how it goes.

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