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The primal savagery spell (XGtE, p. 163) states:

[...] Make a melee spell attack against one creature within 5 feet of you. On a hit, the target takes 1d10 acid damage...

The spell's damage increases by 1d10 when you reach 5th level (2d10), 11th level (3d10), and 17th level (4d10).

Compare this to some other spells:

  1. Fire bolt deals 1d10 fire damage from a range.
  2. Ray of frost deals 1d8 cold damage from a range and lowers the target's speed by 10.
  3. Shocking grasp deals 1d8 lightning damage from melee and prevents the target from taking reactions, with advantage against targets wearing metal armor.
  4. Chill touch deals 1d8 necrotic damage from melee and prevents it from regaining hit points, also granting disadvantage to undead targets.

The primal savagery cantrip deals one die size additional damage (an average of +1 damage) and has no additional effects nor does it let you attack from a range. This feels particularly weak to me and so I wonder:

Would increasing its damage die to 1d12 (both the initial damage, and how it scales) be unbalancing? Or is the change simply unnecessary, and the spell is already balanced against other cantrips?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a reason why you are considering that every class should have equally powerful combat cantrips? This does not seem to be the balance intrinsic in the game. Arcane casters have generally more powerful cantrips than divine casters (across all cantrips, not just primal savagery). \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Sep 9 at 13:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @davidcoffron I just find the answer of "Druids shouldn't have high-damaging cantrips" to be particularly odd. I can remove that section if you'd like. \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Sep 9 at 14:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Its not that the "shouldn't" per say; but they don't and there might be a reason for that (I haven't thought anough about it). Baking in assumptions about game balance into a question about balance seems a little strange to me \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Sep 9 at 15:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron "Druids don't have damaging cantrips so you shouldn't buff one of their damaging cantrips" just feels particularly strange for me, but if you feel that's an answer then you may post it \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Sep 9 at 15:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PremierBromanov: Speculative/partial/unsupported answers should still not be posted in comments. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 10 at 6:11
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It is not unbalanced, but unnecessary

Druids have notoriously bad AC, so they should not want to be close enough to use Primal Savagery.

Balance

1d12 would not break anything.

Ranged vs Melee

If you look at the weapon list of PHB, it is evident that melee weapons tend to do more damage than ranged ones.
This is no coincidence, the safety of the distance is balanced by the lower damage. Based on this, Primal Savagery should do more damage than Fire Bolt.

Arcane vs Divine

Arcane cantrips tended to do more damage than Divine ones, but this was only true in the PHB. Toll the Dead (from XGtE) is available to both Clerics and Wizards, and is one of the most damaging cantrips in the game1

Wizard vs Druid

Beside the Moon Druid, every other subclass is like a watered down Wizard. Negligable to mediocre class features, no place in the front line, big reliance on spells. Unfortunately those spells feel a lot weaker than the Wizard's.
So making Primal Savagery weaker than Wizard cantrips is expected, but actually bad for balance.


1) The champion of cantrips, Eldritch Blast, is more of a class feature (you need 2 level of Warlock to make it truly great)

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It is unnecessary

It simply plays a different role. Comparing it to other d10 cantrips is like comparing a longbow to a rapier. Moreover, increasing the damage die to a d12 will make another druid cantrip, poison spray, an even worse choice that it already is.

Primal savagery is a melee spell attack, unlike other d10 damage cantrips that are ranged spell attacks.
That means it could be used more effectively when the enemy is next to you; with fire bolt, you would have to either attack with disadvantage, move away and provoke an opportunity attack, or spend a valuable ASI on a feat.
In addition, features that trigger on melee attack would work with primal savagery but not other cantrips (and features triggering on ranged attacks would trigger for other cantrips, but not primal savagery).

You should also have to look at other d12 cantrip: poison spray. It:

  • Has pitiful range. Most of the time, you would cast it from melee, or a soon-to-be-melee situation.
  • Deals the type of damage with the most resistances or immunities
  • Targets a saving throw. You can improve your chance of hitting with an attack in multiple ways; there are not as many ways to interfere with an enemy's saving throw.
  • Targets Constitution, which is least likely to be the dump stat and enemies are more likely to pass it.

Looking at all the disadvantages of poison spray, you would think that a d12 damage die is a consolation prize here.

All considered, primal savagery is just another option in the wide selection of cantrips 5e has to offer, suited to play a slightly different role from existing cantrips.

About druids not getting a good ranged cantrips: they are not getting any good instantaneous source of damage at all. It is a class quirk. They are good with ongoing damage, battlefield control, support, and healing - not nuking.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "Deals type of damage with the most resistances and immunities" I don't believe that's true: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/103213 though it is the most immuned, and probably the worst damage type \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Sep 9 at 16:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 Poison Spray does not have the melee disadvantage - it's a saving throw, not an attack roll. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 9 at 16:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch this answer says poison spray is bad because of its range and that it targets Constitution. I'm unsure how primal savagery doesn't have similar problems since it also has bad range and targets AC (which monsters also tend to have high values in) \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Sep 9 at 16:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 attacks are subject to advantage, bardic inspiration, guided strike, and other bonuses. WIth saving throws there is only hope (I cannot remember any way to penaltize saving throw on demand). \$\endgroup\$ – Revolver_Ocelot Sep 9 at 17:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Saying it wouldbe better than the worst combat cantrip in the game does not tell us much about balance. \$\endgroup\$ – András Sep 16 at 4:10

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