I have a homebrew spell in mind, probably sorcerer only, called Elemental Manipulation, it's something that requires creating spells on the go depending on the caster's description. Sometimes those require some effects other than just damage. What i have in mind is essentially a 'Create A Spell' table similar to that in the DMG (p. 283) with more variety to include different ways of targeting multiple creatures and adding debuffs to the spells.

So what will the spells do?

For a 1st level spell the DMG says:

If the spell is single target, it deals 2d10, if they want to hit multiple targets the damage drops to 2d6.

Is this correct?: High level aoe spells do more damage compared to other single target/smaller aoe spells cast at same level and I assume that’s balanced with a risk of friendly fire. (also the possible critical hit with attack rolls, something most aoe spells don’t have)

Yes: Cones and radius aoe damage becomes 3d6, lines, adjacent only and alike stay 2d6 No: All multiple target options are 2d6, booring.

Alternative Yes: Aoe with possible friendly fire is 3d6, enemy only multiple target options are 2d6

I’m thinking of using a tier system that will hopefully make it easy to calculate damage/debuff balance.

Tier 1 High Damage and AoE (3d6): Possible friendly fire.

Tier 2 Regular Damage (2d10): Single target, no additional effects.

Tier 3: Regular Damage Aoe (2d6): Multiple target, enemy only. (Similar to Chain Lightning or Acid Splash)

Tier 4: Low Damage (2d6): Single target, minor* debuff

*A minor debuff would be suitable for a 1st level spell while major debuff may require a higher spell slot. (Requires examples.)

For the type of damage:

The spell I had in mind when I started was about these elements. More 'rare' types of damage will require tinkering. When multiple dice are rolled they can choose which dice deals which type of damage within these limits:

Fire: At least 1 die of Fire damage, can change any number of dice to bludgeoning.

Water/Ice: At least 1 die of Cold damage, can change any number of dice to slashing, piercing or bludgeoning.

Earth&Air: Damage type is either slashing, piercing or bludgeoning.

Flames/Ice/Earth etc. created by this spell normally disappears after the initial effect.

Saving Throws will be DEX based to avoid AoE damage with possible exception to Earth type damages which maybe STR based.

My intent is for my sorcerers to simply describe how they are manipulating the elements to strike their opponents and what kind of effects they want to get out of it. Then use this tablenecessary to decide the amount of damage they can do. I know I can simply find a similar spell to what they want to do and use it's damage as a base value and that's what I've done before. The reason I'm working on this now is to be able to give my players a reference point for damage amount and some ideas on other ways to use their power.

Another thing to note is casting this spell at higher levels: I don’t think this spell should be a reliable damage dealer for higher levels and by then simply used for more debuffs or environmental stuff. I have something in mind for that as well, tiered as above:

Tier 1: Adds 2d6 to damage, increase aoe or add lingering effect. Fire: Flames don’t extinguish for 1d4 rounds Water/ice/earth makes difficult terrain, air makes it hard to see or maybe disadv. to non-magical ranged attacks going through the area of the spell. And others depending on the caster’s description.

Tier 2: Adds 1d10 to damage

Tier 3/4: Adds 1d6 damage and applies relevant conditions / major disadvantage(no reaction, disadv. to ability checks etc. as appropriate, this is where the major debuffs come in) Fire requires target to stop drop and roll as reaction or (bonus) action otherwise it keeps dealing small amount of damage at the start of each of it’s turns. Air causes blinded until saved and earth restrains with a str. check to break etc.

Aside from possible balance issues, bonus points to answers including:

  • Some examples of minor debuffs and some major ones for higher levels.
  • Pros and cons about the damage types. I know some are less common and 'harder to resist' than others, not sure of the exact nature of this.
  • Any ways to abuse this in any way to break the game. (probably with some combinations of features I don't even know)
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question is way too broad, it looks a lot more like a "please help me brainstorm a homebrew" post for a forum than a question fit for a stackexchange. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Jun 5, 2018 at 13:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like where this is going, allowing sorcerers to overcome their lack of spells. And have a few questions for you: Have you tried using excel to create a list of every single spell (sprayed by spell level) that you feel this spell is imitating and using that to calculate tier levels for this spell? Have you considered the cosy of versitility (jack of all trades matter of none) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 5, 2018 at 13:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GarretGang Sorcerer spell choice is a balance factor against their versatility in other areas. Eliminating that tends to tip the scales. Honestly, I hate that metamagic is a class feature. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Jun 5, 2018 at 13:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's already been put on hold as being too broad; I believe that if it stays on hold for a day or two, it's converted to "closed"? Also, RPG.SE isn't really suited for iterative design within a single thread; see this answer on RPG.meta.SE. It would probably be best to pose specific answerable questions, yes. You can always use Role-playing Games Chat to help refine what it is you want to ask before you do so. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jun 5, 2018 at 16:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have another read. I tried to make an edit to make the prose a little clearer, but (1) browser dumped it, can't save and (2) you are still very much in the brainstorming phase as @V2Blast pointed out. Take a look at my question on the Stampede homebrew spell and notice how narrow the focus was on that. You have about four sub elements to this, which include in some ways changing some core parts of the system. (Stop drop roll versus fire damage, etc ....). You need to narrow this down to one spell, for starters. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 5, 2018 at 16:48

1 Answer 1


I am firmly convinced that no, it isn’t possible. Not in D&D 5e, and not in anything else either. I have seen more talented designers than I put a lot of work into this concept and I have never seen any succeed, and the problems they run into are things that I don’t think have solutions. Numerous officially-published attempts at this that I’ve seen have all failed as well.

The issue is combinatorial explosion. There are just far, far too many different variables you can adjust in a spell—effect, duration, area, targeting, saving throws, etc. and so on—and the possible combinations of those things quickly become staggering. In fact, one could say that the whole point of the exercise is for the designer to not have to consider every combination individually, that’s why you have a system and why you don’t just write out all those different spells. But if you cannot look at every combination, and you can’t once you have more than a few input variables, by definition you cannot see the balance of them.

You might be able to accomplish it with straight, instantaneous damage. That eliminates a whole lot of variables. But I have my doubts about even that. Opening it up to any other effects is just hopeless.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Words of Power from either 3.X or PF I think was interesting... \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Jun 5, 2018 at 13:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan If you'd like a bit more support for your answer, here is the link, starts on page 5 for Lore Mastery UA Wizard for 5e. It tried something like Fenris proposed. (Customize elemental damage). The response from the community was "uh, that's a bit OP" and our own group's play test with that (tier 3 play) was "nice try, but that's a step beyond bounded accuracy and well into power bloat" \$\endgroup\$ Jun 5, 2018 at 13:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ RE: "Not in D&D 5e, and not in anything else either." Point-based systems sometimes include the (usually very expensive) option for a PC to spend a certain number of points on an ability that can be used to create another ability costing far fewer points (e.g. it may cost the PC 50 points to be able to create on the fly an ability costing 10 points). (In Champions this is called a Variable Power Pool, for example.) It works in those system because, theoretically, all options that cost the same number of points are balanced because they cost the same number of points. Just sayin'. :-) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 5, 2018 at 13:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Very good answer. One small detail: the original poster indicated that this was probably only going to be for sorcerers (first sentence of question). Thus, your last point seems somewhat out of place. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 5, 2018 at 13:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Gandalfmeansme Ah whoops, removed that then. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 5, 2018 at 13:49

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