Monday, November 1, 2010

Cantrips Love'em or Leave'em?

I'm curious to see what others think about the no level spells or Cantrips, or sometimes called Apprentice level spells. I was working on my spell list/magic system and liked the addition of them...for now. I've never used them before and think they will add a nice dimension to the game.

My introduction to cantrips was Unearthed Arcana. For a short time our group used the hell out of them, but they were quickly forgotten. One of the things I am doing is getting rid of the redundancy where the spell creates some simple noise. I put them all under one spell, Create Sound which allows the player to create a tapping, creaking, moaning, or whistling sound. No words. I took out all the cantrips that made others do something, such as belch, giggle and sneeze as some examples. For a low level spell I don't think it is appropriate that it can control another person's action.

I did want to keep the spells useful though. Most are simple convenience of life spells, but some can really make a difference. Such as Find Water spell in the desert would come in real handy. Also Alarm will help with keeping the campsite safe on those long trips. There is also a couple of low level attack spells. Fire Finger does 1d3 damage so a magic-user won't have to waste a precious spell slot to get rid of a giant rat.

I've included a download link to the list I have right now. There are a few more cantrips I want to add, but still compiling the information. My system includes the usage of spell points (SPs) and the ability to increase a spell's potency by increasing the number of SPs.

I am curious how others have used cantrips in the past and if it worked out. Any suggestions would be helpful and if you like what I have so far that is helpful to know also.

It's Monday and I am on vacation. Don't hate me. Muhahahaha.

Forgot to add the link. 0 level Spell List


  1. Would you be interested in contributions?
    --Mine, too, are Point-expenditure-based.

  2. I've used cantrips a few times in the past and never found them terribly upsetting to the game as long as they were decidedly wimpier then even a 1/2 level spell.
    The incredibly wimpy cantrips of mid era AD&D were fine at having low level MU feel like they were more then a 1 trick pony. IF, MUs had access to a number of them without losing a 1st level spell. 1 per poitn of INT worked but so did 1 per additional language allowed.

  3. I'm a big fan of cantrips. They are a great way to give some character to low-level magic-users.

  4. @TS> Absolutely. Would appreciate anything you would like to share.

    @JD> I am hoping the cantrips are helpful through out the mage's career.

    @Risus> I hope so. I'd like to see players use them in some imaginative ways.

  5. noetic at zoominternet dot net

    Thanks TS looking forward to it.

  6. I always liked cantrips. I never liked having them as a trade-off for a 1st level spell, even 4:1 in Unearthed Arcana, because that Sleep is always going to be chosen instead of Belch, Gather, Hairy, and Firefinger. So I always just said you get 1 cantrip per day per "Additional Language" based on INT. For 3E games I'd say a cantrip per INT over 11 (or whatever your spellcasting stat is). No idea how 4E stat bonuses work.

    As for 3E, I think they went the wrong way with cantrips. They made them really worthwhile! My requirements for cantrips were always these:

    1: A cantrip can never cause damage, give a penalty or bonus to a roll in combat, or make someone lose an action or movement,
    2: A cantrip can never directly make money, and as a service is only worth a few coppers,
    3: Cantrips used against creatures always allow a saving throw to negate,
    4: Cantrip ranges are always touch or very short (or self),
    5: Cantrip durations are never more than 1 day

    This strictly limits what you can do with cantrips. But I feel that it's totally inside the bounds of a cantrip to cause someone to belch or sneeze, as long as it doesn't hamper their combat ability at all (making someone sneeze won't disrupt spellcasting for example).

    So what can you use cantrips for? They're for convenience and pranks. A dwarf may pay for a Hairy cantrip rather than waiting several years to regrow a singed beard. Making someone belch over and over at dinner is sometimes good for a laugh. Making someone sneeze over and over while trying to convince the gate guard that they're totally not a plague-carrier may have more dire consequences. Dry, Clean, and Polish are good for keeping your equipment nice without spending time cleaning them. Color can act as a quick disguise! Gather can be used a few times to sort coinage from a mixed treasure pile, or to get all the seeds from a pumpkin you just busted open.

    So cantrips can be really useful and fun, but they shouldn't be just a way to beef up combat.