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As a DM, I want to diverse players' spellcasting capabilities by extending the standard spell list using additional official sources, like Swords Coast Adventurer's Guide and Elemental Evil Player's Companion.

However, I have concerns about possible balance changes might be introduced, since some of these additional spells contain unique(ish) mechanics. For example, the Booming Blade cantrip becomes (according to some League players opinions) a "must have" for combat-optimized characters, which is the opposite of diversity.

For the sake of simplicity I don't want to blacklist such spells. Instead, I'd rather choose one of two options as a rule of thumb:

  • Option 1 - "In my games PCs can use spells from PBH only"

  • Option 2 - "In my games PCs can use spells from PHB, SCAG and EE"

What possible balance changes should I keep in mind when choosing Option 2 ?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain why you think Booming Blade becomes a "must have"? It doesn't seem that powerful to me. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Sep 29 '17 at 11:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik I've heard this from a couple of League players. They might be wrong though. I can guess it is because this cantrip doesn't expend action nor bonus action, instead it is a part of a melee attack (just like Divine Smite, but since it's a cantrip it doesn't expend a spell slot, while the Smite does) \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Sep 29 '17 at 11:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm wondering what your concern is if you have a party of all wizards that build around BB/GFB? Otherwise I think the answer becomes "nothing bad happens." \$\endgroup\$ – chaoticgeek Sep 29 '17 at 11:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor that might be a concern at very low levels, but as soon as you hit level 5, you're sacrificing your Extra Attack, plus this requires you to be a spellcaster (with matching low HP and lack of armor and lack of melee enhancing abilities) who has enough Strength or Dexterity to make worthwhile attacks. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Sep 29 '17 at 11:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @chaoticgeek BB was just an example. The question wasn't about BB, but about other spells that could cause balance issues. I just don't know (yet) if there are such spells in EE or SCAG, hence the question. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Sep 29 '17 at 12:13
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No issue really.

While there is no issue with running a party of only spellcasters that build for melee combat it most likely would be odd to have four or five people do that. It may make combats fairly similar if they all built that way but if everyone is having fun with that type of character what is the harm? As a DM you can always adjust encounters to see if they can resolve battles in a different way so they can't rely on those specific cantrips.

Secondly your comment suggests that you don't quite understand how the cantrips Green Flame Blade and Booming Blade work exactly. First you must take the "Cast a Spell" action to cast either of them. They then require you to hit with a melee attack with a weapon. This means that if they optimize in order to hit to trigger those spells they will have to sacrifice in other areas for their characters.

For instance initial character build using point buy may require taking two dump stats in order to have a high enough strength or dexterity in addition of a high enough spellcasting stat. Also relying on GFB and BB would almost certainly require a high constitution to provide bonus to HP and help with concentration checks for other buffing spells that you would want to cast to help you hit. Additionally when you level up and get an ASI you would have to either split the increases to both your melee attack stat and your spellcasting stat or focus on one or the other.

The last thing about the two cantrips as compared to the paladin's divine smite is that they don't scale in damage as well as divine smite. They don't get any damage boost until 5th, 11th, and 17th level. Where as a divine smite you instantly do an additional 2d8 and it increases as you go up in spell slot levels. At 5th level a paladin can burn more smites in a turn than a wizard could.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The worst part of GFB/BB is that you never make more than 1 attack; a 5th level Fighter would swing twice and trivially dish out more pain than the Wizard. (And, with their Fighting Style, probably at 1st level as well.) \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Sep 29 '17 at 12:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ You right about BB, I've completely forgotten that mechanically it will be still "Cast a Spell" action. But what about other spells? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Sep 29 '17 at 12:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor other spells are even less "must have". They are rather filling a niche, Absorb Elements for example is a kind of Shield that works against spells. The real question is why it was not included in the PHB \$\endgroup\$ – András Sep 29 '17 at 13:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András now i'm tempted to turn the Q into a comparison between Option 1 and Option 2 in terms of the game balance.. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Sep 29 '17 at 14:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor it does not effect balance much, having more options are not the same as having stronger options. Otherwise Wizards would be much stronger than Sorcerers \$\endgroup\$ – András Sep 29 '17 at 16:47

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