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Player builds a new character, a Cleric of Lathander. What he really likes about this god is his association with sunrises and light in general. So of course, he takes the Light Domain. But most of the Domain Spells deal fire damage and are fire-themed, for example Burning Hands, Flaming Sphere, Scorching Ray, etc.

So now I’m thinking about letting him change the damage type of all those spells from fire to radiant. (The description of how the spells look like would change as well). In most cases, this would not make a difference. Damage is damage. But some monsters have Resistances, Immunities or Vulnerabilities against fire/radiant damage. (And Zombies for example can be put in the ground more easily with radiant damage).

I’m not sure if this is a good idea or not. I don’t want to allow this and then have to deal with an unbalanced game. Do I forget or misjudge an important aspect that will bite me in the ass later?

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Radiant is way less resisted

  • Fire damage is the second most resisted damage type (with 77 creatures of the Monster Manual either being resistant or immune, 9 are vulnerable to it).

  • Radiant on the other side is the second least resisted damage type (with 4 creatures being resistant, not a single one immune and one is vulnerable to it).

Still, it depends on the encounters you build and the creatures you use.

Source: User Yorrin's post on giantitp.com

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Not to mention there are specific creatures that are vulnerable, lose regeneration, or can be more easily permanently destroyed by radiant damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Marshall Tigerus May 1 '17 at 15:59
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If you take a look at the table here, you'll find that when comparing Radiant to Fire, Fire is more resisted/Immune (37 with resistance, 40 with immunity) than Radiant (Resist 4, Immune 0). However, there are 9 creatures vulnerable to fire and only 1 (apparently) vulnerable to radiant.

Those statistics are, of course, for the entire MM, and unless you plan on using an even distribution of monsters from the manual in your campaign, you may find that fire or radiant is more effective for the player. Also keep in mind that there are creatures that REQUIRE fire (or acid, as the following example shows) in order to be killed, a.k.a., the Troll (MM.

Switching damage types is a great way to add flavor to a game/character. If you follow the guidelines listed in the DMG pg. 283/284, you should be fine. Here they are, in case you can't get to your copy (you'll notice they don't say not to switch damage type, nor do they balance by damage type, as it seems like it's generally not considered to be a relevant factor)

Creating A Spell

When creating a new spell, use existing spells as guidelines. Here are some things to consider:

  • If a spell is so good that a caster would want to use it all the time, it might be too powerful for its level.

  • A long duration or large area can make up for a lesser effect, depending on the spell.

  • Avoid spells that have very limited use, such as one that works only against good dragons. Though such a spell could exist in the world, few characters will bother to learn or prepare it unless they know in advance that doing so will be worthwhile.

  • Make sure the spell fits with the identity of the class. Wizards and sorcerers don't typically have access to healing spells, for example, and adding a healing spell to the wizard class list would step on the cleric's turf.

Spell Damage

For any spell that deals damage, use the Spell Damage table to determine approximately how much damage is appropriate given the spell's level. The table assumes the spell deals half damage on a successful saving throw or a missed attack. If your spell doesn't deal damage on a successful save, you can increase the damage by 25 percent.

You can use different damage dice than the ones in the table, provided that the average result is about the same. Doing so can add a little variety to the spell. For example, you could change a cantrip's damage from 1d10 (average 5.5) to 2d4 (average 5), reducing the maximum damage and making an average result more likely.

\begin{array}{c|rr} \text{Spell Level} & \text{One Target} & \text{Multiple Targets} \\ \hline \text{Cantrip} & 1\text{d}10 & 1\text{d}6 \\ 1\text{st} & 2\text{d}10 & 2\text{d}6 \\ 2\text{nd} & 3\text{d}10 & 4\text{d}6 \\ 3\text{rd} & 5\text{d}10 & 6\text{d}6 \\ 4\text{th} & 6\text{d}10 & 7\text{d}6 \\ 5\text{th} & 8\text{d}10 & 8\text{d}6 \\ 6\text{th} & 10\text{d}10 & 11\text{d}6 \\ 7\text{th} & 11\text{d}10 & 12\text{d}6 \\ 8\text{th} & 12\text{d}10 & 13\text{d}6 \\ 9\text{th} & 15\text{d}10 & 14\text{d}6 \\ \end{array}

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting, there are a lot of spells that break that guideline. Fireball would be a fifth-level spell according to that chart, for example. \$\endgroup\$ – r256 May 1 '17 at 17:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @r256 ALso keep in mind that some spells have HUGE radii, whereas FireBall has a mere 20ft. They give the note about adjusting damage down for an increased area of effect, though they never state what the baseline is, nor that you could bump damage up for reducing the AoE. I think it's another case of the rules are intentionally vague / outline-y so that you can have a slightly UNDER-performing spell in your game so as to not overshadow existing ones. Also, doesn't everyone want fireball ("If a spell is so good that a caster would want to use it all the time, it might be too powerful[...].") \$\endgroup\$ – Jon May 2 '17 at 15:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @r256 Fireball and Lightning Bolt have been special spells since OD&D, which reaches back to Chainmail. See this for some lore on that. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 2 '17 at 17:09
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My answer comes from judging the intent behind the suggestion.

Is the player focusing on this as a cool concept they want to play, without thinking about the balance?

Do your players usually think in that way?

If so, I would make an effort to make this work. Either just straight up allow this particular player to swap fire for radiant, or say, yes, but reduce 1 from the damage or similar if you think that is closer to equal in power level.

Is the player aware this may well be stronger but hasn't said so?

Are your players usually very aware of who is most effective in combat?

In which case, I'd be reluctant to allow new spells, even if there's an apparently good justification.

Are you not sure, or somewhere between

You could suggest a compromise, that it will be radiant damage, but you'll stick to the vulnerabilities/resistances for fire damage. (Aka, the spells don't change at all, you just change what you call them.)

Or, say you'd like to but you're not sure about the balance issues, can we try radiant for the next two sessions and see if it seems too strong?

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