The Power of Low Level Magic in D&D Next

By Ken Wai Lau

d&d next spells

Never a good idea to engage a wizard in a game of ultimate…
Artwork © by Micheal Malkin

I’ve had a little more time to playtest D&D Next, so I will write a little bit more about what you can expect from the newest edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

Specifically, I will be looking at magic at low levels.

I’ve rolled up some level 4 characters because I wanted to try out The Vault of the Dracolich – which I’m having fun with so far and is available for only two cups of coffee – so perhaps the impact of harmful magic hasn’t been quite as obvious.

However, I can see magic being a problem in D&D Next at low levels. A ‘dark adept’ from the bestiary armed with inflict wounds can potentially kill a first level character outright and inflicts more damage than it’s polar opposite, cure light wounds, can heal.

It also has a range of 25 feet.

This is mitigated somewhat by the constitution saving throw, but unless the caster is inept, there’s still a relatively high chance of failing the saving throw.

Spell Slinging

If a fight broke out between two low level wizards armed with magic missile, victory will probably belong to the one who reacts quickest.

A burning hands and magic missile will both inflict on average, 10 points of damage as a first level spell.

That’s enough to incapacitate most characters who roll less than a d10 for hit points.

It doesn’t end there: aside from the fact that a spell can be empowered if you cast it using a higher level spell slot, direct damage cantrips can be used at-will and these cantrips scale with level.

Spells that improve your melee damage such as divine favour are also very effective. Instead of a flat +1 to attack and damage per three levels, you can inflict an extra 1d8 damage per attack, which goes together very well with a paladin’s smite attack. Combined with a critical hit.

Cure spells are also far more effective than they were in previous editions. A single casting of the spell will completely restore a low level character to full health.

Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards?

It used to be that the direct damage spells were the least optimal choice for your 1st level wizard when compared to sleep spells, but it seems like they’ve gone a little too far in the other direction.

Moral of the story? Don’t mess with the mage even if he’s still sweeping floors…

That said, I’ve noticed that the higher level direct damage spells such as flame strike do less damage in D&D Next, compared to how much damage it was capable of in D&D 3.5., so perhaps the power curve will be more balanced and fighters can still hold their own in combat.

The above image is painted by Michael Malkin. To discover more of his work, click here.

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4 Comments

  1. Garth May 7, 2014 3:30 pm  Reply

    That sounds pretty powerful, but don’t forget that once a wizard has fired his last spell, he’s effectively a passenger until the next morning.

    • Ken Wai Lau July 2, 2014 9:15 pm  Reply

      Not in D&D Next. Wizards with a decent dexterity can still contribute quite effectively just by switching to a crossbow. And then there are the cantrips…

  2. norm August 19, 2014 11:32 pm  Reply

    there are at will cantrips that do d10 ranged.

    That is better ranged attack than any ranged weapon a warrior can use. And more damage than 1h weapons. Only when giving up a shield can a warrior get equivalent damage.

    Wizards are better at combat then prime combat classes.

    • Ken Wai Lau August 22, 2014 10:30 am  Reply

      The cantrips have been toned down a bit for the final release of the game, but they are still at-will and scale with level.

      On top of that, Wizards now use 1d6 as their hit die, improving their ability to survive.

      Once again, D&D is a wizard’s world.

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