I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Minimalist D&D X: Spell-points

I've talked about this idea before. What if, instead of trying to manage multiple separate resources (spells slots, rages per day, spell casting without spells slots per short rest, etc.), you had ONE single resource to record?

Well, let's put it in practice. We will start with spell points (SP); this method has multiple advantages.

But first let's see what we have:

I must confess I have a hard time keeping track of each slot. The fact that we need a table turns me off, but that's traditional. "Signature Spells" add another layer of complexity by requiring two SEPARATE "pools". 

I wish we could have something simpler.

Well, the warlock is a bit simpler, right? Kinda. Fewer spells, but more options (patrons, pacts, invocations...). 

Maybe the sorcerer? Not quite. She has spell slots AND spell points. And you can convert one to the other. You need a table for that.


The alternative rules for spell points in the DMG are barely an improvement over spell slots. It gives spellcasters more flexibility with no cost:

Is there a pattern (other than max spell level)? I fail to see it. The numbers are all over.

Maybe we should start with the sorcerer, since she ALREADY has spell points (or "sorcery points"). IMO, it would be cooler, easier, and more distinctive if she ONLY had those. Let's see:

So, let's see what we can do with that.

Instead of slots, we get sorcery points. We could just add the spell point totals to the existing sorcery points, but I'd prefer a more "aesthetically satisfying" table. Here is my suggestion: start with 5 spell points, add 5 per even level, and 10 per odd level, until level 10.

Starting on level 11, you get a single spell point per level. In addition to that, you get to cast a 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th spell ONCE PER DAY in the appropriate levels (11, 13, 15, and 17) without spending spell points (plus an extra 6th level spell on 19th and 7th level on 20th). Here you go:

It is a small nerf in the high levels but a fair cost for the flexibility, IMO. It still needs some fine tuning (and maybe some way of dealing with "loose" spell points), but I really like the result.

I haven't eliminated spell slots, exactly, but cut them by half, which makes me pleased.

But let's take it one step further... 

What if we simplified the system even more, making spells cost one SP per level? So, a 3rd level spell costs 3 SP. 

Now we cut the number of SP per sorcerer level to something more manageable; maybe two SP per level.

[I'm this close to giving them one SP per level and let them use HD for the rest (while other classes use HD for rages, second wind, etc.), but that's a subject for another post].

So, for example, you've got a 11th level sorcerer with 22 SP (plus one "free" 6th level spell), meaning he can cast fireball 7 times. This is fewer than he would have in the DMG system (about 11), but also fewer than the PHB system (8 spells of 3rd level or higher, not counting the 6th level spell).

My main concern here is that this might make MUs too weak, but I'd give them a small short rest boost to compensate.


  1. I've used the spell point variant for sorcerers, combining them with sorcery points to give them one pool, and it's worked quite well.

    I also allow sorcerers to "overchannel" and cast spells using spell slots higher than their level would normally allow.

    Here's my rules as I use them.

    1. Interesting stuff - I like the "overchannel" idea, seems fitting for the sorcerer.

    2. It works pretty well in play, too. I had a player who played just a strait up, fire blasting sorcerer. Ran him from levels 1-8 and saw no major issues at the table.

      Sure, sometimes we would overchannel and just clean up an encounter solo, but that was part of what made that character special. I just had to make sure to provide a proper "adventuring day" so that he wouldn't just nova every encounter.

  2. I may give an option to convert HD to spell points (and if so, I recommend converting HD to a point pool where you spend X points for a 1dY HD, which I have gone on about before). However, I would make that a ritual that can be done as a short rest, and potentially combine a bunch of different features under this. Thinking of not only personal sacrificing of HD for spell points, but also sacrificing _other living things_ for spell points as well.

    As for Overchannel, I would make it a concentration check personally to not have backlash from over channeling. Bbut I guess that's up to the table.

    1. Sacrificing "other living things" is definitely a must have for Dark Fantasy games...

  3. Don't turn your back on Roll-to-Cast!


    1. Lol! Still considering it, but I want to make it optional - maybe giving special effects on "critical hits" AND terrible consequences for critical failures!