Some lower level higher level spells

There’s a few effects whose levels are kind of wacky. I thought I’d written some of this before, but not obviously so in the last fifty posts, which was enough for me to feel okay repeating myself.

I was going to write a thing about how annoyning it was that transmutation had the haste and slow and darkvision and fly spells. Then I looked at what it actually gets and while, yes, it’s a random grab bag, it’s not completely unreasonable. It changes things or changes their capabilities.

But then I noticed that glibness (the only defense I could find against zone of truth) is an 8th level transmutation spell. That seems to me to be quite high. Glibness makes you preternaturally charming, but to me that feels like the next spell after suggestion; it’s somewhere between 3-5th level, not all the way up at “you will never actually use this in a game”. And subverting zone of truth: since whatever spell you use is going to detect (so you’ll also need nystul’s aura or nondetection to stop dedicated interrogators, maybe mind blank to protect your thoughts depending on DM ruling.

Okay, so what we’re seeing here is that basically nothing can protect you from an inquisitor’s psychic probe until you’re ludicrously high level. These spells are WAY too high level. Now, mind blank has some quite reasonable other effects and immunities, but it remains situational.

Here’s my list of misaligned effects, organized by level they currently are.

9th level:

astral projection: The only real problem is the name. “Walk, in very nearly complete safety, to any location that exists” is a pretty powerful effect. Astral projection feels like it should be an early trick, certainly before plane shift (right around magic jar, say?), but the effects of 5e-style astral projection are pretty dramatic.

imprisonment: Given how specific this spell is: 1 minute long casting, personalized material components, and is basically otherwise a noncombat flesh to stone (6th level, though has that 3-successes-before-3-fails thing) + a divination blocker. That’s not a bad 6th level spell, because the divination blocker feels like a reasonable tradeoff for its personalized component.
time stop: The idea feels ninth level, but the various changes to the spell have nerfed it below water so far as I’m concerned. These effects feel 7th levelish to me. I can’t really justify why.

weird: This spell just isn’t good enough. It keys off of the frightened condition, and inflicts 22 damage per round, ending when they save. At ninth level, you have better options. Contrast with 5th level cloudkill: similarly resisted damage type (poison vs psychic), no keying condition (the cloud heavily obscures no matter what), and the cloudkill damage continues so long as you keep them in the area, 19 damage per round (half on save!). Is “this effect can’t be seen” and “this effect doesn’t block your sight of the enemy” and “slightly larger and 3 more points of damage” and “selective targeting” really worth 4 spell levels?

8th: 8th level spells seem much better balanced. I guess people do play the game to 15th level, after all

glibness: This is the only way to pervert zone of truth, and while I like “you can’t go below a 15 on a persuasion check”, this is a bard spell; were they likely to?! This feels like a 3rd level spell, even as written. Maybe if it let you cast mass suggestion at will…

mind blank: Oh hey glibness, it’s your cousin, mind blank. Contrast with death ward (4th level). Everyone and their brother does necrotic damage; nobody does psychic. Resisting charm is great, but lots of effects have let us do that (calm emotions, protection from good and evil, standing near the 7th level paladin of devotion). Immunity to brainreading is nice; I can’t quite tell if nondetection does that too (since detect thoughts isn’t technically targeting you, does nondetection still prevent scrapes? I’d say yes, but amn’t sure). My point: this is a grabbag of features, and if you’re hunting mind flayers you probably cast it, but maybe you’d have rather saved that slot for a Power Word Stun, an Incendiary Cloud, an Antimagic Field, a souped up Prismatic Spray, and so forth.

telepathy: How much better is this than dream? It’s definitely better. But is it 3 levels better? They get to be awake, they get to be on another plane (but sending at 5 levels below telepathy can get around that…). It’s a quibble. 7 would work fine.

7th: Even better than 8, seven just feels right. There’s only one real stinker (oh, Mordy, why would you bother with your sword?!)

mordenkainen’s sword: I do kind of wish it were Mordenkainen’s Razor (like Occam’s). The damage is just bad though. Concentration, 1 minute, 16 force damage on cast (action) and each round thereafter (bonus action), each target within 20 feet of the previous. Contrast with the cleric’s Spiritual weapon (2nd level): 8 damage, similar movement and attacks. No concentration. Are 5 spell levels (4 would be the equivalent of the upcast spiritual weapon) worth reaching across the aisle to their spell? Sometimes, sure. But not this time, costing you both bonus actions and your concentration slot. This spell can stay at its current level, I guess, but it cannot consume concentration.

regenerate: This is a counterexample. I never noticed regenerate doesn’t require the target be conscious. If you aren’t dead already during its 1 hour no concentration duration, you cannot die.

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About lackhand

I was born in 1984 and am still playing games, programming computers, and living in New York City. View all posts by lackhand

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