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On page 288-289 of the DMG, there is a "Variant: Spell Points" rule. Below are the best summary paragraphs of the system:

In this variant, each spell has a point cost based on its level. The Spell Point Cost table summarizes the cost in spell points of slots from 1st to 9th level. Cantrips don't require slots and therefore don't require spell points.

Instead of gaining a number of spell slots to cast your spells from the Spellcasting feature, you gain a pool of spell points instead. You expend a number of spell points to create a spell slot of a given level, and then use that slot to cast a spell. You can’t reduce your spell point total to less than 0, and you regain all spent spell points when you finish a long rest.

I am considering using this system in the near future. I plan to playtest it as a player before using it for a campaign and wanted to find out if there are issue I should be aware of.

My question is for anyone that has used this variant system, either as a player or DM. I would be interested in hearing examples of issues that came up when using this system as well as overall feel of the balance of this system compared to traditional spell-slots. If anyone is super great at balance-math I would be interested in mechanical answers as well.

How does using the spell point variant rule affect balance for spellcasting classes?

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From a mechanical standpoint:

Up until level 19, spell points are a power positive change.
That is, they are strictly better than spell slots - because you can use them to exactly replicate the spell slots of a non-variant caster at any level, but have added flexibility.

At levels 19 and 20, the only meaningful restrictions come into play - while a standard caster would have two 6th or 7th level spell slots per day, the spell point caster can still only create one of each per day.

From a balance standpoint, spell points treads on the toes of a Sorcerer's Flexible Spellcasting feature (meant to allow Sorcerers to trade down or trade up spell slots).
As well the spell point variant is better than the Sorcerer feature - a sorcerer can convert 1 first level and 2 second level slots into 5 points to use as a third level spell, but the spell point variant has 5 points by forgoing only 1 first and 1 second level slot.


The variant is technically unbalanced before level 19 simply because you get something (flexibility) for free.
In addition, Sorcerers may feel like you're giving out one of their class features to everyone (because you are).

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I have used it before, in a somewhat unique way—only sorcerers use it, and it combines with their sorcery points. So they don't convert between slots and points at all, but use the single pool.

It has made them far more flexible in their casting. The sorcerers are able to act with impunity, casting their powerful spells more often and worrying less about upcasting, while simultaneously getting much more use out of their metamagic.

But do I think it's imbalanced? No, not really. The flexibility of magic does make more sense than the spell slots in a narrative sense, now that true Vancian casting (you prepare each instance of each spell) has gone by the wayside.

In short, it makes spellcasters more powerful by nature of greater flexibility and more access to upcasting, but the amount of resources they have to expend remains roughly the same. The sorcerer still ends up casting booming blade a lot at the end of the day once his points run out.

Now, I can't speak for how it affects other spellcasters, as I've not playtested with them. But I hope this helps!

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I use the Variant: Spell Points system frequently at my table.

What happened is that my sorcerer players use their resources more consistently, before they often forgot to convert low-level spell slots to Sorcery Points. It leads to less frustration once the initial set-up is done, and streamlines resource accounting - it became uniform and easier. My players feel empowered and informed. As a GM it is much easier to keep track of the expended resources because you can easily subtract Spell points from one uniform number without keeping track of Spell slot levels.

The only balance issue that we came across is that you don't as frequently use your bonus action for Converting a Spell Slot to Sorcery Points. (PHB 101):

As a bonus action on your turn, you can expend one spell slot and gain a number of sorcery points equal to the slot’s level.

So my sorcerers are more efficient now, and they use the Sorcery points to their advantage. Instead of having to spent 4 turn's bonus actions on converting low level spell slots, they can convert an amount of Spell points to Sorcery points in one bonus action (in one round).

The issue stems from this part of the optional rule, my emphasis:

Instead of gaining a number of spell slots to cast your spells from the Spellcasting feature, you gain a pool of spell points instead. You expend a number of spell points to create a spell slot of a given level, and then us that slot to cast a spell.

So you can create a spell slot of any level that is available to you to convert it into Sorcery Points instead of converting the spell slots that would normally be available to you.

In particular, they are more efficient while using the metamagic Quickened Spell: (PHB 102)

When you cast a spell that has a casting time of 1 action, you can spend 2 sorcery points to change the casting time to 1 bonus action for this casting.

The amount of options increases and it especially matters when you have a low amount of spell slots of a particular level, that is commonly one additional Cantrip cast if available via Bonus Action (PHB 202):

A spell cast with a bonus action is especially swift. You must use a bonus action on your turn to cast the spell, provided that you haven’t already taken a bonus action this turn. You can’t cast another spell during the same turn, except for a cantrip with a casting time of 1 action.

So at my table when using the Variant: Spell Points system my players are slightly stronger, but they also have more fun and feel like the game is less complicated.

I can speculate that the impact on balance would increase if your players multi-class and get impactful bonus action options through class-features such as Cunning Action (PHB 96):

Starting at 2nd level, your quick thinking and agility allow you to move and act quickly. You can take a bonus action on each of your turns in combat. This action can be used only to take the Dash, Disengage, or Hide action.

This case, however, has not happened at my table and all other bonus actions my players gained through multi-classing were not more impactful than the occasional additional cast of a cantrip.

Another interesting interaction that you may want to keep in mind for mulit-classing is that the Warlock's Spell Slots (107):

The Warlock table shows how many spell slots you have. The table also shows what the level of those slots is; all of your spell slots are the same level. To cast one of your warlock spells of 1st level or higher, you must expend a spell slot.

are of the same level.

This optional rule is not intended for Warlocks, because they don't have a spellcasting feature (they only have a spellcasting ability) (PHB 107), this is a multi-classing annotation that could have ramifications that I have not yet seen in a game.

This answer explores how you could use Spell Points as a Warlock.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer seems to assume that spell points are also sorcery points, which isn't supported in the variant rule itself - they are separate pools, and the spell point system maintains compatibility with other rules that reference the use of spell slots by having you effectively create the spell slot from spell points at the moment of use. If you allow sorcerers to use spell points as sorcery points that is indeed a direct upgrade because you get far more effective sorcery points that way, action economy benefit aside. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer May 15 at 10:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer the main benefit here is that you can convert your points much more efficiently. Does this change make that more appearant? So instead of using one bonus action to convert 4 level one spell slots (on 4 turns) you can convert one amount of spell points into sorcery points within one bonus action (on one turn). \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu May 15 at 10:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Does this feature work at all for warlocks? I thought it only worked for the spellcasting feature not pact magic. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin May 15 at 11:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu That's what I thought. If multiclassed your pact magic slots would be stuck as spell slots not spell points. Since spells points make a spell slot of a level then cast from it, this shouldn't cause any issues with multiclassing. But is good to remember. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin May 15 at 11:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Can spell points be used with a Warlock? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 15 at 11:45

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