Forums: Helping Hand > The future of spells

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Major changes to magic were introduced in the 4th edition of the game, so I wanted to talk about the way we present spell articles on the wiki, with the aim of providing the best level of non-crunchy information on spells to everybody, regardless of which edition they choose. There are some comments under "Spells" on User talk:Fw190a8 and User talk:Niirfa-sa that sparked this discussion, but I wanted to involve everyone else too because others are editing the spells articles as well.

The first point I'd like to make is that in order to categorise spells, we ought to present some crunchy bits. I mean things like spell level, spell school, and other things of that nature, that allow easy categorisation, and so that a user playing a 3rd level wizard with a specialisation in transmutation can come to the wiki and see things like all 3rd level wizard spells, and all 3rd level transmutation spells.

The second point worth mentioning is that magic changed radically in 4th edition, much more so than the transitions between earlier editions, and I'm also very clueless as to how it works, how it is classified, etc, in 4th edition, so I will defer to people in the know on the matter, of course. One option is to present two sets of essential facts, one for editions 3 and under and one for 4th edition. Another could be to present all the facts from all available editions separately in the spell infobox. I'm sure there are other possibilities, too.

I'd like each of us to agree that we should try to get to the best possible consensus on spell presentation before any of us really attacks this section of the wiki, but once we're there, it's an area ripe for editing!

Fw190a8 23:27, October 27, 2010 (UTC)
Since I'm more or less the residential expert on 4th edition (moreso than I'm an expert on any previous edition to be sure!) I'll go ahead and go with what I can summarize. Understand that the lore behind most of 4th edition (in all settings) is very light and sometimes downright tepid, so it may not be particularly detailed.

First thing's first, just as in previous editions there's a division between arcane magic and divine magic, though it means a bit more than it did.

Arcane magic

  • Wizards, warlocks, etc.
  • Source of power used to be the Weave in previous editions, not as clear where it comes from now - my guess is that its "raw" magic (after all, wild magic is arcane in nature).
  • Powers are called spells

Divine magic

  • Clerics, paladins, etc.
    • NOT druids or rangers (unlike in 3e)
  • Source of power is the gods or other beings capable of reshaping belief/faith into power
    • Rich Baker once said that clerics couldn't worship primordials, but LFR rules allow this, superseding his authority
  • Powers are called prayers

Primal magic

  • Druids, shamans, etc.
    • NOT rangers - although theoretically 3e rangers might be primal casters
    • However, barbarians now are primal casters
  • Source of power is the natural world itself, be it through primal spirits or other mediums
    • Dark Sun also retooled primal casters as elemental worshipers to some extent, so worshipers of Kossuth might be druids instead of clerics, for instance
  • Powers are called evocations

Shadow magic

  • Assassins are the only class who use this so far, though a book that is shadow magic themed is due for release soon
  • Source of power used to be the Shadow Weave - now appears to be that it's what's left of the Shadow Weave (perhaps the "raw" opposite of arcane magic)
  • Powers are called hexes


  • Monks, psions, etc.
    • Yes, you read that right. Monks are now psionics-based.
  • Source of power is a well-trained mind (with a bit of physicality thrown in), drawing on various forms of mysticism
    • While not exactly from the Far Realm, the Far Realm appears to be the source of many creatures that use psionics
  • Powers are called disciplines
    • Are very different from other powers in many respects, varying from class to class.

Martial power

  • Fighters, rogues, etc.
    • Rangers also are martial-based now
  • Source of power is a well-trained body (with a bit of thinking thrown in), drawing on various forms of martial traditions
    • Important to note: martial power isn't magic per se (though neither is psionics) but rather it's what TVTropes likes to call Charles Atlas superpowers - feats of power supposedly achieved by training really hard but which can often achieve seemingly supernatural results
  • Powers are called exploits

That's pretty much the basics (which ended up being wordier than I expected). There's also the issue of at-will/encounter/daily, but that's pretty mechanical and not all that important to lore. Basically, certain powers you can cast whenever you want to (at-will), others require you to take a five to ten minute breather (encounter), and others you can only cast once per day. That's pretty much it, though it overlooks the number of exceptions that exist (such as channel divinity prayers).

Niirfa-sa 00:14, October 28, 2010 (UTC)

Crap this is a lot of text to deal with.

I don't yet have a preference, but I think we will need to go try different things here. My personal preference is to have a only single entry per spell. The other thought I had is there is not a lot or 4e Material on the Realms and even less spell specific information. So why not have separate entries.

Lethalox 00:16, October 28, 2010 (UTC)

I would agree to having a single template for each spell (and in fact, that's been my working model) but I'm not so sure about having alternate entries for different editions - after all, we don't have different entries for elves in 3e and elves in 4e and in many cases the effects of a spell are virtually identical across editions, even if the exact mechanics are variable. Fireball is, after all, a spell that results in a big giant ball of fire slamming into you.

But I can see the point and I've been trying to separate 3e spells that cross multiple categories into different articles, even though the effects are more or less identical. If that seems unnecessarily specific though, I could see reason to go with having a single article that describes all of them with different subsections; maybe with a heading like "Animate dead is a name used to describe a variety of magical effects including a spell and a prayer."

Niirfa-sa 00:28, October 28, 2010 (UTC)
I think 4th edition diverges significantly enough from previous editions that perhaps presenting 4th ed info separately would make most sense. I'm a fan of the edition-less concept of the wiki and I think leaning to heavily on 4th ed mechanics could eclipse previous edition lore (this is less of an issue between 1e, 2e and 3e as they share alot of the spell structures).

A hybrid format could be an option, where we only use aspects of the spells which are edition-less. However this may rule out many classifications due to too many contradictions between editions or conflating terms. For instance terms like 'evocations' have differnet meanings in different editions despite being a cross-edition term. Such a hybrid system could become too confusing for people where terms overlap.

Furthermore 4th ed. does away with previously salient categories that identified spells. This means things like spell schools, spell levels, components, even descriptors are changed enough to require interpretation. By removing a once-familar method of deliniating spells it creates quite a task to find uniform connections between editions.

Crunch and Mechanical differences aside, we also have the realmslore separations to consider. The fundamental nature of magic has changed post-spellplague so that magic is quite distinct from before. If we compare this to the previous change (Mystra's Ban) then 4ed spells are not rightly working the same way as any prior ed. Although such magic may be duplicated using the 4th ed system it deserves a separate mention really. Just as 3rd ed used epic spells as the only possible way of replicating 10th+ spells like Mythal or Ioulaum's Longevity, I think a distinction is even more necessary.

Therefore I would suggest a multi-edition presentation, be it a 4e/pre-4e split or separate mentions for each edition. This would allow the lay and experienced lore-seeker to locate what they need without too much hair-splitting needed and even encourage cross-edition understanding as people compare the differences. If this could be worked into the Spell Templates then that would probably be best, if not then simply a note of edition differences at the bottom of a spell would help.

Adding and expanding our understanding is preferable to forcing it all into one perspective.

Just my initial thoughts and I would like to hear what others think on this matter as the 4ed creep is something that should be addressed wikia-wide.
--Eli the Tanner 00:38, October 28, 2010 (UTC)
The school of magic evocation still exists in 4e as WotC reinserted schools of magic into the game. So the terminology is correct for both primal powers and magic, which, admittedly, is a bit confusing.

My main opposition to separating the articles is that then opens up a whole new can of worms - like if the classes should have separate versions for different editions. My attitude is no. I think a minimalist approach is best, covering the details of each edition only as absolutely necessary and I think it's completely viable to cover information regarding both 3e and 4e (as well as 1e and 2e) in the same article.

Niirfa-sa 00:52, October 28, 2010 (UTC)

I think you have misunderstood me, I am not advocating duplicate articles by any means but merely we make the info clear in the article the difference in editions. Much like wikipedia which includes information about multiple versions/translations/edition within statblocks. This could be done by crating templates (or extending exisiting one) to include info in different editions. As you say, most spells are the described the same regardless of edition i.e. a fireball is quite self-evident and magic missile will still send magical bolts at it's foe. But where crunch is needed for categorisation let us not restrict it to one edition's understanding. The main text will change little, only the crunchy statblocks or categories are being disputed I believe?
--Eli the Tanner 01:13, October 28, 2010 (UTC)

I think separate entries for 3E and 4E spells is the only way to go. 4E magic is just too radically different. There are only a handful of crossover spells in both editions. The most of the current spell write ups are done from a very bias 4E perspective(Oh this spell used to do something in the old edition no one plays any more, but in 4E this spell is awesome and does this and that)

Plus with 4E you get the crossover with rituals, so the page will say it's a 1st level spell, but also a level one ritual. And you have the whole mix up of spells vs whatever they call it now in 4E. And that is just needlessly complex.

But maybe most of all is the Realmslore point. It just does not make sense to reference 4E magical effects for things that happened in the past and have no bearing on the whole entry. When you read a line of text that says 'Koth used the spell Knock to open the door just before the tower fell on them' and then follow a link to the 4E ritual knock, it just won't make any sense. Obviously 'Koth' cast the spell in a couple seconds, not 10 minutes. And this also works in 4E, if you say 'Tam says the prayer of Command and stuns the orc', having a link to the 3E spell that does not have that effect.

Separate articles are the way to go.
--Bloodtide 01:13, October 28, 2010 (UTC)
Wow, never mind epic spells, I think this has become a 10th-level discussion!

Here's my proposal then. We have one article per spell name, so animate dead for example would be the only article covering that spell, even though it exists in multiple editions, and even though it exists in arcane and divine magic (I think?).

The template would be a nicer-looking version of this:

  • Animate dead
  • 2nd edition information
    • Classes: wizard 5
    • School: necromancy
    • Components: vsm
  • 3.5 edition information
    • Classes: cleric 3, death 3, sorcerer 4, wizard 4
    • School: necromancy
    • Components: vsm
  • 4th edition information
    • Type: Divine
    • Classes: cleric 13
    • Frequency: encounter

Note I don't even know if this is a valid 4th edition spell, so I just made stuff up! Categories would be applied in abundance, so we'd have:

  • necromancy
  • wizard
  • 5th level wizard
  • cleric
  • 3rd level cleric
  • death
  • 3rd level death
  • sorcerer
  • 4th level sorcerer
  • wizard
  • 4th level wizard
  • prayers
  • cleric prayers
  • 13th level cleric prayers

Basically I believe it doesn't matter that there are a lot of categories. The important thing is that no matter which edition the user is familiar with, she is able to find the spell through the category system.

As Bloodtide points out, there are occasions when the nature of the magic changes greatly in 4th edition. This is perhaps where we need to address this in the text, so it would say something like "in 3.5 and earlier, this was a spell but in 4th it has been replaced by a ritual" and give further details if necessary.

I think this would cover all our bases, provide lore-based information, provide only enough crunch to relevantly categorise the articles, and enable us to keep a simple article structure with a rich category system. If we find that the spell's effect has changed significantly, such as fireball in 3.5 being a huge ball of flame, but fireball in 4th edition summoning hundreds of poisonous spiders, I think that is when we start to look at separate articles. In the case of knock, it does exactly the same thing in 4th as 3.5, but it just takes longer to accomplish. That alone is not enough, for me, to warrant a separate article. It's called a ritual and not a spell, but really, ritual could be interpreted as "spell that takes a while to cast".

Fw190a8 22:10, October 28, 2010 (UTC)

I whole-heartedly support this move! Although the most recent edition or most 'up-to-date' info has often trumped other lore in the past I truly believe that demonstrating how the realms has evolved from edition to edition is a vital part of this setting. History is a big part of the realms and we should not let any one moment in the settings portayal eclipse this whilst not ignoring the fact that there are different editions.

Also, looking at the long term, by adopting a more omni-edition stance (in contrast to edition-less) we will make it easier to incorperate new changes in the future. Meaning we won't have to re-write the whole wiki everytime a new edition arrives.
--Eli the Tanner 00:14, October 29, 2010 (UTC)

I'm not surprised that everyone likes the pro 4E 'lets ruin the spells'. After all, that is why I gave up doing any edits on spells. Back in the day, as soon as I made an edit or created a spell page..the pro '4E is the Only edition' people would just come in and re-edit the page into a 4E page. Not really wanting to be in an edit war, I just walked away.

Other then noting the spell exists, 4E has very little(almost none) non crunch information. In 4E spells and powers and such are 100% pure crunch. After all spells in 4E don't effect things like areas, they effect 'squares'. And 4E has made it very clear that they will provide no lore, fluff or information about anything. This type of stuff just does not fit with the modern D&D game. A great number of spells from 1/2/3E has tons of lore. You will never see this level of detail in 4E. In fact, your lucky to get anything other then crunch(after all, they only put out two FR books a year, right?).

I think linking two things, that have nothing to do with each other except the name, has no purpose. But, I'm sure the pro 4E folks will win; and I ignore the messy pro 4E write-ups anyway.
--Bloodtide 00:14, October 29, 2010 (UTC)
I can understand your frustration, but you have to realize that the Realms will only continue to change as the years go by. If we didn't include 4th edition updates and changes, we would be severely limiting the wiki. As for people '4e-izing' posts, I think that's partially what this discussion is addressing.

You mentioned the 'squares' issue. I don't recall where I saw it (maybe the PHB or DMG?), but there's a conversion somewhere for squares to yards, so that's that issue addressed. Not to mention that that's pretty much crunch, and doesn't belong in the wiki anyway.

"A great number of spells from 1/2/3E has tons of lore. You will never see this level of detail in 4E." That may be true. On the other hand, maybe it isn't. As you say, there's a ton of lore on the spells already. Just look at the 4th edition sourcebooks as them attempting to modernize the game to fit their new rules system. There really isn't that much butchering going on.

Cronje 09:29, October 29, 2010 (UTC)

I don't have a problem with adding 4E stuff to the Wiki. My point is that 1/2/3E magic and 4E magic is different. While 1/2/3E magic has 40,000 years of interconnected history and lore, 4E magic is new and only a couple of years old with little lore or history. It's not so much the old magic has has been completely destroyed and replaced. 4E magic is just not the same, having an article that is part one type of magic and part another kind of magic, does not make sense to me. And it will keep the categories separate too. So if your looking for 1st level spells, you won't have to sift through spells from other editions. I think we all know that there will never be any fluff(that is lore and information) for 4E spells. That is just not part of the game anymore. It's possible to get a short web article sure, but only for the handful of Realms spells(but don't hold your breath). No one will bother will the Core powers. And 4E powers are just a one line description and a block of crunch.
Bloodtide 09:29, October 29, 2010 (UTC)
So here's a question then: if there is no fluff for 4e spells, only crunch, then would it not make sense to exclude them from the wiki?

Suppose we did decide to include them in the wiki, and there was a 1-3e article on fireball and a separate 4e article on fireball, how would these be named? Would you use "fireball" for 1-3e, and "fireball (4th edition)" for 4e? If so, would that show favouritism against 4e?

Also, suppose someone used to playing a 3e wizard approached the 4e game for the first time and wanted to know if fireball was still around in 4e. Logically she would begin by looking at simply fireball, so I assume we'd then have to link the 1-3e article to the 4e article somehow. Would this then go against the separation being advocated here, since the reason for separation was that the two spells aren't the same thing at all?

There are a number of issues with having separate articles for spells in 4e that I think we ought to overcome if we are to take this route. I am still leaning towards a single article with all editions, but that is not to say the case for multiple articles cannot be made to convince me otherwise.

Fw190a8 14:08, October 30, 2010 (UTC)

While it does make sense to exclude things that are all crunch, like 4E powers, I just don't think that will make the 4E supporters happy. Maybe a pro 4E person can find a bit of fluff about any power?

I don't think a spot at the top of the page that says this article is about the spells fireball, for the wizard attack spell fireball click here. And separate pages lets your new 4E guy go right to a '4e powers:spells' page and he will get a list if 4E spells. But he won't get the tons of 1/2/3 E spells that were not(and never will be) updated.

The naming is not so hard. We have different links for things of the same name already. So making the 4E like say something like 'Fireball spell/power/attack spell' or whatever the 4E people like is fine. The Fireball(slash) Fireball Attack Spell works good for this. And it only effects some spells. Keep in mind that more then half of the spells in 1/2/3 E are no long spells in 4E. They are prayers or evocations or hexes or such in 4E. So Bless prayer works.

4E is all new history. All the spell lore from older editions is useless in 4E. Knowing who created the original fireball spell or the spells verbal component does not help the 4E person who uses the new spell they created that is 'just like the old fireball', but is totally new magic.

Bloodtide 14:08, October 30, 2010 (UTC)
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