I’ve previously posted about this (You can find it here), but that was from more of a world building aspect, if you’re playing in a game of Dungeons and Dragons, and your character is magical how does that affect how you might role play your…
One of the main Dungeons and Dragons spell casting classes is the Warlock, and Warlock is a popular class. It allows you to play an edgy sort of character, because you’ve made a deal with a demon, elder god, or high fey for some reason,…
We’re on to the next topic about magic, and where as the first one was more focused on story and why you might be a spell caster and the different casting classes, this one is going to focus on casting spells.
Spells have a lot of different components to them, and if it wasn’t hard enough to already have extra things to track, now you need to figure out which spells you want to take with you into combat.
With spells for most casters, you have a few different things to keep track of. The first is the number of spell slots that you have. If you are a Wizard, and this will be my standard example throughout the post, and you are at 3rd level, you will know 3 cantrips, and a number of spells in your spell book, generally to start that is going to be level plus intelligence modifier So let’s say your intelligence is 3 and your level is 3, you’d have at least 6 spells known. Then you have spells that you have prepared for the day. Again, intelligence plus your level, so you’d be able to prepare at least 6 spells for the day. Finally, you have your spell slots, that’s how many non-cantrip spells you can cast each day, which is 4 first level and 2 second level spells.
Now, as a Wizard, that doesn’t mean that you can cast each of the six spells you prepared once, and you need two second level spells ready to cast. You can cast the same spell all six times as long as it’s a first level spell. Spells can be cast at a higher level, so you can cast first level spells at second level, and you generally get some sort of bonus. So maybe you only use a few spells all the time, but you can prepare more so that you have the utility if you want.
Finally, cantrips are different. Those can be used as many times as you wanted throughout the day. But these spells tend to be weaker spells. It might do less damage or be an easier save, but more likely, if it has a save, it simply won’t do any damage if the person saves against it. These spells, though, sometimes do scale with level, because the spell slots, even at 20th level are still somewhat limited.
But that’s just about preparing your spells for the day for a Wizard. It’s similar for a lot of the other spell casting classes, with Warlock being the biggest exception, I’ll write about the Warlock specifically later. The other question with spells is what does the information mean on the spell itself?
Spells are going to have a handful of basic components. I’m going to be using the spell Thunderwave (found here on DnD Beyond). The first thing we see is the level. Thunderwave is a first level spell. That information isn’t extremely important, you’ll have that noted down on your spell list based off of where you put it. There are a few other things that can be useful, but not always. The school is useful if you are that type of Wizard because it makes it easier for you to learn. The same can sometimes be said for the damage type. Especially at low levels most monsters won’t resist much damage.
The next part is extremely important though, and that’s the casting time. For combat, casting time needs to be like Thunderwave and be an action. There are others that are bonus actions which can be used in combat, but you’re probably not going to be want to cast a spell that takes 1 minute to 1 hour to cast. You’ll be stabbed well before that. Then onto the duration of the spell. In the case of Thunderwave it’s instantaneous, so it’s a one off attack. There will be other spells that last a longer period of time. And the area of the spell, some of them will have a range to them, such as fireball does a sphere of damage at up to a distance away from you. Finally in the spell header information, we have the components for the spell. It might be an actual material or it might mean that you need to do a gesture and say something when you cast the spell. Most spells are going to have a verbal piece to them, but not all of them will.
Then we come to the main body of the spell. This tells you the affect of the spell and what sort of save people need to make against the spell. A lot of that information can be gotten from the header of the spell, but this makes it clearer and spells it out in order of how things will happen. It also tells you how much damage is being dealt and if it’s an attack spell, because not all spells get a save, some you need to make an attack roll for them. And beyond the damage, for a spell like Thunderwave, it tells you more flavor of what is happening, so it makes a loud noise that can be heard for a distance. Finally at the bottom, it tells you what it does if you cast it at a higher level. In the case of Thunderwave, for each higher level, you get an extra die eight of damage (1D8).
Now, this is a pretty dry read, I realize that. I’m really going through and breaking down a spell in detail. Most all spells are going to work like this and most casters are going to work like this. The Warlock is an exception, and some of the other classes, as compared to a Wizard, might not know more spells or have more that their disposal to pick from. I’ll actually give some advice for picking spells in a later article. Let me know what you think of spell casting, is it easy enough to understand, did I help make things clearer?
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We’re onto the last column of alignments, and we’re looking at those chaotic characters. I think, and on the Total Party Thrill podcast they talk about this, chaotic good should be the default position for most adventurers.
When you think about it, most adventurers don’t have the law in mind when they are doing good, and they don’t do good because they are altruistic. They are going to do it for fame and glory and hopefully some money along the way. And, that is pretty chaotic. They are also going to sometimes do what they think is right, sometimes that the law or a deity says is right, but they are going to do the good thing, but it just might not be in the expected way.
This also makes it easier on the DM, because I know that I can throw out a plot hook where someone is clearly bad, but I don’t know what you are going to do. That’s going to make it more fun for me as I don’t know what is going to happen. That randomness might bug some DM’s, but as they DM more, it makes it easier as you go along. It also keeps it feeling fresh, because the players working in a somewhat random way means that I can’t fully plan for it, and I can’t fully predict what they are going to do.
And, again, I think that this idea of rewards and treasure, those are things that as the players we think about, but also, that then trickles into our characters as we divide loot and try and mechanically make our character as awesome as possible. Now, that might not seem like it’s good, but in your normal campaign, the bad guy is probably very bad, and the good guys are probably pretty good. The characters that we’re playing are those in the middle who are good, but aren’t just good for good sake and are willing to get their hands dirty taking down those who are bad.
As for what class works well, I think that the answer is any. Cleric and Paladin might lean more lawful, but there is no reason that they can’t be chaotic. The ones that jump out the most that do easily slide into this category are going to be your sorcerer, warlock, and rogue. All of them, seem to have class features that would make them more chaotic. But, like I said, this should be the default for adventurers in a good game, and you should explain your way off of it in your back story, if you want to be a different alignment. It is very similar for an evil game with the Lawful Evil alignment should be the default for an adventurer there.
I think that we all have a decent idea of what good is now, from the previous two articles, and the chaotic piece means that your motivations aren’t law or altruism. I don’t know that I have a ton more to say about this. So short article today.
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Final character race in the Player Handbook. There are plenty more in other books like Xanathar’s Guide to Everything or Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica. I’ll let you explore those as I haven’t explored all of them yet either.
Half Elves fall into the category of a race without a home. They feel out of place among humans and among elves. Being that they don’t look quite like either, half elves, where ever they go, are going to stand out. They are welcome in human cities, but still remain apart, whereas elves tend to look down on them for their mixed blood. This is going to be a pretty standard hook that you can use for your player character to go adventuring, they’ve needed to wander for a long time. I will say, play this carefully, though, as racism is going to be an issue for some people at your table who have been passed over for race or some other ism in their life. Just be aware of your table to know if it will work to play that trope.
Statistically, Half-Elves are a great race to play. You get a bump to Charisma and two other abilities of your choice. That means that the half elf is set-up to play anything and often is the face of the party. And the two other ability scores makes it really good at anything else, whether your want to be a barbarian or a wizard. They also pick up Dark Vision and Fey Ancestry, which gives them advantage against being charmed, from their elven half, and two skills of their choice from their human half. The skills, again, make them good at anything.
Beyond that, how do you play a half elf. I think the big thing is that you don’t have a home. But beyond that, when you did have a home, where did you grow up? Did you grow up in elven society or human society. If you grew up in Elven society, check out my article on Elves. If you grew up in Human society, check out my article on humans. You are going to have some traits of the other, but where you grew up is going to shape you. If you were cast out at a young age from both societies, that is going to shape you as well.
I don’t know that there is a ton more to say about half elves, so let’s jump into some backstories.
I was born to an elven mother and a human father. I’ve been told that is the way that you don’t want things to go. But from what I’ve seen, no one treats half elves all that well. We were cast out of elven society, and that was that. Things were fine for a few years, until my father died at the age of 50 while I was still fairly young. Our Elven clan wouldn’t take us back in when that happened as I was still a half breed and we were forced to live on the street before my mother became a handmaid for a noble house. It wasn’t the work that she wanted, but human nobles value elven help as they can live through generations and be with the family a long time. I was being groomed to join the nobles guard when another elf in the families employ accused me of stealing, which I didn’t do, and got me kicked out of the house as well as my mother. I want to clear my mothers name so she can have at least a decent life again and make whomever did frame us pay.
Alignment: Chaotic Good
I come from a noble house. As a half elf, t hat is pretty nice, and better than I’ve seen a lot of half elves treated. It was a treaty that was signed between a human house and an elven house that was sealed with a marriage that led to me. I was given a nice comfortable life and I didn’t have to do anything that I didn’t want to. What I wanted to do was sit around and read books, so that is what I did. Then, however, someone broke the treaty. I don’t know who broke it first, but the humans claimed the elves did, and the elves claimed the humans did, and my family was torn apart. Things were said on both sides, but I haven’t seen my father in several years now. The war that is breaking out is bad, and I’m searching for a way to solve it. I believe that I’ve found something in a higher power, but until I know for sure, I try and help as much as I can.
Alignment: Lawful Good
A deal was made before I was born for my soul. I don’t like it at all, but that is what my mother decided for me. She was in a tough spot, on the run after she’d stolen money from a crime baron and she had been nearly caught. She was hiding in the woods and crying, praying that someone would help her, when a beautiful and powerful looking elf showed up and agreed to help. He was able to deal with the criminals who were chasing her, in exchange for me. I wasn’t conceived yet, but nine months later, there I was. We lived a simple life with my mother using her stolen money to set-up a shop. I worked with her there, eventually taking over most of the business. Then one day, the same elf knocked on the door and said that they had a job for me, and that it was time for me to start fulfilling my part of my mothers deal. And what I need to do for him starts with dealing with the crime baron.
Alignment: Anywhere on the good spectrum
Class: Warlock – Fey Pact
Background: Guild Artisan
Those are just some ideas. You can see that I lean into playing with the birth of the characters to determine some of their life story and how it’s influenced them as a half elf.
Have you played a half elf in a game of Dungeons and Dragons? Was it for the stat bonuses or for the role playing aspect?
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And after a week of Avengers: Endgame (no spoilers in this post), we’re finally getting back to some D&D. This time we’re looking at the Character Race of Dragonborn. Dragonborn, are a bit like tieflings or other races where they get some heritage from something…