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Introduction

It seems the internet is littered with posts about players complaining that their Warlock just doesn't have enough spell slots, or that if they don't get that many short rests in a day they just become eldritch blasting machines. This invocation is designed to let Warlocks stretch their resources out a bit longer at risk of being less effective after a short rest. Is this Eldritch Invocation balanced?

Splinter Casting

Prerequisite: 3rd level

As a bonus action you may splinter a spell slot into two. Choose a Warlock Spell slot. That slot splinters into two slots with levels that sum to the level of the spell slot that was splintered. You decide the split. When you splinter a slot, any splinters from previous usages of this feature that are related to the slot you are targeting are lost and cannot be regained until you finish a long rest. On a short rest, all splintered spell slots which were not lost recombine with splinters from their original spell slot. On a long rest or by using the Eldritch Master feature, you regain lost splintered spell slots, and all splintered spell slots recombine with splinters from their original spell slot.

Thoughts

This invocation allows Warlocks to get more mileage out of their spell slots now at the cost of getting less mileage out of their spell slots later. While you can always splinter each of your slots once per short rest without any negative consequences, further splinter casting will reduce the benefits of a short rest by only letting you recover a weaker spell slot. If you want to be more like a traditional caster, you have to become less like a Warlock.

This invocation is ideal for Warlocks who want to cast more low level spells without feeling like they wasted a precious spell slot (Like hexblades with shield for instance), or for Warlocks who play in campaigns where they don’t get the opportunity to short rest very often and need to be able to stretch their resources. This invocation is of no benefit to the warlock who just wants to use their biggest spells as often as they can.

Isn’t this just a copy of the Sorcerer's Flexible Casting?

Not quite. Flexible casting is capable of creating all new spell slots using sorcery points, while splinter casting is all about splitting existing spell slots into smaller more usable chunks. Though I guess flexible casting also allows that, as a sorcerer can convert a spell slot into spell points, and then use those spell points to make more slots of lower level. The downside of the sorcerer doing this is that the conversion rate from spell slots to sorcery points back to spell slots is a net loss.

While at first glance it seems that splinter casting is strictly better in this regard, repeated splinter casting without first using some of your splintered spell slots can lead to you completely losing spell slots until your next long rest. Also, repeated splinter casting will lead to recovering less potent spell slots after a short rest.

Balance

While I concede that I am biased in this matter, I think this invocation is fairly balanced. In my opinion, the costs of an invocation slot and the penalty for repeated splinter casting makes up for the added flexibility. Also even if you splinter cast as much as possible you still have less spell slots of lesser level than the other full casters.

Another reason I created this invocation was to try and dissuade Warlocks from multi-classing into other classes just to get more spell slots. I also deliberately worded this invocation to make it so that it only works with warlock spell slots. This means that other classes which multi-class into warlock will gain minimal benefit from taking this invocation without investing a lot of Warlock levels. I suppose sorcerers can benefit from multi-classing and taking this invocation as it can make their flexible casting a bit more flexible if they only want to turn part of a warlock slot into sorcery points. I am not aware of any synergies that would create a serious power imbalance when combined with this invocation, so I think it can be judged on its own merits alone. Also, as I mentioned earlier, this invocation is only good for casting more spells of lower level. A warlock who wants to always be casting their biggest spells as much as possible gains no benefit from this invocation.

As for action economy, I modeled this after flexible casting by making splinter cast require a bonus action. The requirement of a bonus action in battle, and the limitation of needing to cast before splintering again to avoid losing a slot should make abusing the the added flexibility harder while still making it usable.

I picked level 3 as the minimum level for this invocation mostly because that is the first point in which you could actually use it. I'm open to the consideration of making this invocation require a higher level, but I currently feel that the level/number of spell slots themselves are sufficient to limit the power of this invocation as you level up.

Conclusion

I'm really interested in getting feedback on this Invocation. I feel like it has really great flavor and seems to fit the warlock theme well even though the invocation aims to shore up a common warlock weakness. With that said, It is entirely possible that I am missing something that makes this invocation just way too powerful.

Examples

In response to the comments asking for examples of usage:

Lets start with a 5th level warlock, which has 2 spell slots that are level 3. Say I want to cast Hex at first level, so I split one of those slots into 1 level 1 slot and 1 level 2 slot. I now have a 1 level 1 slot, 1 level 2 slot, and my other level 3 slot. If I finish a short rest now, the level 1 slot and level 2 slot will combine leaving me with my original 2 level 3 slots.

However, its when I want to splinter a slot multiple times that things get more interesting. Lets take that same level 5 warlock example, but this time I want to cast as many level 1 hexes as possible. So I splinter one of my slots into a level 1 slot and a level 2 slot. Now if I try to splinter the level 2 slot, the level 1 slot will vanish (I hope I used that slot first!) leaving me with just 2 level 1 slots. after a short rest, only those 2 level one slots combine, leaving me with 1 level 2 slot and 1 level 3 slot. I am now stuck with smaller slots until I finish a long rest which allows me to regain those slots.

So lets do one more example with a level 20 warlock. As a level 20 warlock I would have 4 level 5 slots. Lets say I want to cast as many level 1 spells as possible. By repeatedly splintering I should be able to cast a level 1 spell 20 times, but I have to take a couple limitations into account: I need to cast a level 1 spell after splintering a slot, but before splintering it again, or that spell slot will be lost before I can use it, and each time I splinter a slot again, I will only be able to recover a smaller slot overall after a short rest. In this case, after I splinter my slots repeatedly to get all 20 level 1 castings, I will have lost 12 slots of level 1 spells and be left with just 8 level 1 slots. After a short rest, those 8 slots will recombine and leave me with just 4 level 2 slots. I will not be able to get back to my original 4 level 5 slots until I finish a long rest.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think walking through an example of the Invocations being used would help. I at least have a very hard time following the description and figuring out what is and isn't allowed. When things get destroyed and what gets destroyed. Especially the single mention of a long rest. Additionally do short rests still restore the Warlock's original spell slots from before splintering? \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Dec 20 '19 at 6:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 taking a short rest will leave you with a level 2 slot. With the way I currently have the invocation written, you will always be able to wind up with at least level 2 slots after a short rest, no matter how much splintering you do. \$\endgroup\$ – Tranquilite Dec 20 '19 at 16:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah gotcha, so splintered spells are lost until a long rest when you splinter again regardless or whether or not you already used that slot \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Dec 20 '19 at 16:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 Correct. \$\endgroup\$ – Tranquilite Dec 20 '19 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Warlock spellslots don't actually have a level, do they? Or, rather, all spellslots are the same level, depending on character level? \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Richardson Dec 20 '19 at 17:34
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It's not inherently unbalanced, but it breaks theme

In essence, you're moving the Sorcerer's ability to turn spell slots into other spell slots to the Warlock, with the added bonus of being able to do it in one turn. (A sorcerer needs to turn a spell slot into spell points first, and then turn those spell points into new spell slots.)

In itself, this isn't game breaking, you get a maximum of 20 spell levels worth of slots, as opposed to a Sorcerer's 100+ at level 20, but you recover those spell levels at a short rest, and a Sorcerer regains them on a long rest.

However, it does come with a problem:

You are breaking theme

D&D tries to give all the classes at least some defining features, and you're essentially taking one of the cool things Sorcerer has going on and giving it to the Warlock. Is this a problem? It depends. If you have a Sorcerer in your game too, they may very well feel that they're getting the short end of the stick. Warlocks get plenty of Invocations, so spending one to get this perk isn't that big a deal, and the result is that this Warlock is now just as good at spamming low level spells as a Sorcerer is.

In my experience, Sorcerers are already less popular than Warlocks are at my table, so if I implemented this Invocation, I'd be almost 100% certain nobody would play a Sorcerer anymore.

It's overly complex

Your description is very wordy, and it's kind of hard to figure out what exactly the ability does. In addition, Warlocks regain their spell slots on a short rest, so the whole 'splinters get lost' part can just be shortened to something like 'when you recover your spell slots, unused splinters disappear'.

Personally, I'd do away with the whole splinter naming theme and just call them spell slots, it's a lot less confusing.

It might also become mandatory

Comparing your new Invocation to the other available Invocations, it is a lot stronger than many of the other ones you could pick. While it doesn't automatically break game balance, I feel like anybody who plays a Warlock would be guaranteed to pick this Invocation up as well, as it allows you to cast way more spells in a day, and you are flexible in what those spells are.

In itself this isn't a huge problem, Agonizing Blast tends to fill a similar position of 'every Warlock has this Invocation', but it will result in your Warlocks feeling more similar.

Personal opinion

I wouldn't ever add this to my games. I feel that it's stepping too much on a Sorcerer's toes, it breaks down the Warlock's overall theme and it feels a bit too strong and complex for a single Invocation, but I doubt your game will crash and burn if you use it. It's strong, but not gamebreakingly so.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that the wording is awkward and could be simplified. I also want to clear up that both used and unused splinters are lost when you splinter again, essentially making it so that your regain smaller spell slots on a short rest that are not recovered until you finish a long rest. With that said your points about stepping on the sorcerer's toes is valid. Though I think these problems are fixable with some revision. \$\endgroup\$ – Tranquilite Dec 20 '19 at 15:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tranquilite In that case, the feature isn't entirely clear, because I did not read it as "this prevents your normal spell slots from recovering". If that's the case, it's only going to make the feature more complex and confusing for players, I feel. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Dec 20 '19 at 15:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just revised my original post to include examples. I can already see that the mechanism that I am using to try and further balance this invocation (potentially losing spell slots until you finish a long rest) is both complicated and confusing, and will almost certainly lead to problems involving misinterpretation down the line. \$\endgroup\$ – Tranquilite Dec 20 '19 at 16:08
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Unbalanced.

@Theik's answer addresses how it breaks theme and infringes on Sorcerer's territory (versatility) so I'm not repeating him.

However, there's another problem. Warlock's spell slots are limited by design. They refresh on a short (any) rest so he gets less of them per "group of encounters" but over a normal adventuring day, it evens out. This forces the warlock to make tactical decisions on how to use his limited slots on the encounter (but not hoard them). I've seen warlocks multiclass into something with the Spellcasting feature just to get a few 1st level slots for Hex.

Allowing them to get more slots (even at a lower level) than what they should have makes them stronger, versatile, and long-lasting. Especially when they can do it multiple times. It is too powerful for a single invocation choice. They no longer have to worry about upcasting a spell and losing a high-level slot on a weak spell. Compare that with the other way around to obtain lower level slots (multiclassing and sacrificing progression).

One good rule of thumb to see if a new homebrew feature is unbalanced is to ask yourself how desireable it is for the characters of that class. If most of them would pick it over anything else available at that level, then you have your answer.

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The DMG offers a variant rule called "Spell Points", where characters start with a certain number of points instead of specific slots, and must spend a number of points each time they cast a spell (depending on level). The cost of a spell slot is not equal to its level, similar to when spell slots are created using sorcery points.

To me, that suggests the designers do not consider one 2nd level spell to have equal value to two 1st level spells, and would probably consider this a bit OP.

An alternative would be to use the sorcery points' cost for each spell slot, but for converting spells into points as well as the other direction - e.g. a 5th level spell can be broken into 7 spell points' worth of spells - such as two 1st levels and a 2nd level, or a 3rd level and a 1st level.

Since Warlocks recover all spell slots on a short rest anyway, I'd be inclined to simplify the resting rules by taking further inspiration from sorcerers, and simply having all spell slots created this way disappear on any rest.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm away from my books at the moment, but I was under the impression that because Warlocks got the "Pact Magic" feature, rather than the "Spellcasting" feature, they were ineligible for Spell Points (also, the point of spell points was not having to keep track of various types of spell slots, which warlocks don't have to do, anyway, since their spells are always at a specific level, determined by their warlock level). \$\endgroup\$ – sharur Dec 20 '19 at 17:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @sharur you are correct in saying that the Spell Points variant isn't strictly available for Warlocks (rules-as-written). I only mentioned them to illustrate that the designers don't seem to consider a 5th level slot equivalent to five 1st level slots. Spell Points or Sorcery Points seem to be a better indicator of balance — what the designers felt each level of spell slot was "worth". \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Chaplin Dec 20 '19 at 17:58

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