Fixing D&D Spellcasters? I Just Don’t Get It
There’s a thread on ‘"Fixing" Vancian Casting‘ on RPGNet. While I’ve never had a real problem with Vancian casting (nor with using a decent spell point system in its place) in D&D, what I found confusing about the thread was a couple of comments on specific types of spells that need to be — in the opinions of these posters — either removed or greatly reduced in power.
Take away flying, teleportation, and mind reading. To me, these are the spells with the most potential to allow casters to work around encounters and generally foil the DM’s plans. If you do allow them, they need heavier limitations.
The reason given makes no sense to me. Players are supposed to be able to work around encounters if they want to do so instead of fighting. And they certainly are supposed to be able to foil any plans the monsters or NPCs the DM is controlling might have. The PCs may or may not succeed in avoiding an encounter or foiling NPC plans, but they idea that spells need to be removed from the game because they help PCs to avoid encounters and/or to foil NPC (aka DM) plans simply makes no sense to me. Unless one is running an adventure so railroaded that the PCs are basically actors reading from the DM’s previously written script, I can’t see anything very negative about players avoiding encounters or foiling DM plans or about spells that can help them do so.
Long duration flight is a problem. Short term flight can be a problem if you want to throw in challenging terrain features.
I’ve never seen a problem with long duration flight spells (or magic items). Claiming they are some type of universal problem makes as little sense to me as complaining that airplanes are too common in a modern world game because they make it too easy for PCs to get from London to Brisbane. As for short term flight being a problem, it’s true that flight spells can be a way around terrain issues, however the ability to handle problems that would slow or stop common men is one of the hallmarks of being a magic-user — or a higher than first level character of any class. A defense that would stymie a 0 level town guardsman simply can’t be depended on to stop or even really slow a 5th level character.
While I am sure the people who posted these comments see these issues as real problems in their games, they’ve never been a problem any game I ran or played in. Nor do I think I would enjoy playing in games where the DM and/or the other players saw them as problems as a style of play where they would be problems would probably be very alien to the styles of play I enjoy.