These Monday Dumps are supposed to be an opportunity for us to get an opinion off our chests, maybe even vent about something bugging us in the rules. So, of course, I get to do none of that today, because one of our readers’ comments spiraled Dad and I into a foundation-shaking argument,
Really, it’s the first part that’s important here. Dad read this comment and, when his anger-induced stroke had finished, he called me up.
Dad – What are you doing!?
Me – Um, nothing. Just putting Planar Binding here in Neutrum…
Dad – SHUT UP, BITCH! *smack*
Okay, it was a little more civil than that, but probably only because he couldn’t figure out a way to smack me through the phone. To be up front, we are still not quite sure what to do with Planar Binding. Or rather, we are both very sure what we want to do with it, but we want two different things. However, it was a useful platform from which to question some of the other spells in the school, like Cordon of Arrows and Symbol.
As it turned out, working on the Neutrum spell list was a significant wake up call for PA. Doing Neutrum (originally ‘Abjuration’) first had broken our original categorization. The vanilla 5e schools were loosely based on the application of the spells. So, Abjuration was (nominally) about magic that protected or prevented things from happening. But, the example of Arcane Lock being prime, protection is in the intent of the caster, not in the mechanism of the spell. A lock that keeps a creature out and keeps you safe could just as easily lock you in a room with a monster that wants to eat your face.
So, after the original analysis of Abjuration, we settled on the concept of splitting the spells into schools based on the underlying mechanic of the magic – what made the spell work – rather than what you did with it. We felt that by analyzing from the other side, we could create schools of similar spells that were cleaner, made more sense, and allowed for interesting options down the road.
We did that. We have almost a dozen articles doing that. On a roll and cooking with gas.
Now, Dad has been going on about ‘connective magic’ for weeks. He shouts it out almost involuntarily whenever we have Project Arcana discussions. He feels that there is an underlying series of steps or instructions that every caster must know in order to make their spells work. Kind of a ‘glue’ that ties things together. And that you can see this glue if you look at common themes or capabilities among spells in very different schools of magic.
For example, there are several spells that are clearly combinations of other spells, such as Mislead and Project Image. There must exist some sort of magic that both binds spells from different schools and allows a caster of School A to execute a spell effect that is clearly in School B.
This is ‘connective’ magic. It is magic that affects magic, and that is clearly in the Neutrum School.
One of the big fights we had was in discerning the difference between Neutrum connective magic and School magic, the focus of that being triggers. Triggering, where a spell waits for some event before it takes effect, can be seen in spells such as Guards and Wards, Magic Mouth, and even Fireball (the ball of fire remains in a ball until it gets to the target point designated by the caster). The trigger magic itself is very flexible (“When a human wearing an orange shirt passes by…”), but it’s common across all schools and it’s used to enhance other spells. This indicates that it’s both neutral by nature and connective by function.
The discussion hinged on if the ‘trigger’ was the determinant feature of the spell, or if the school of magic providing the effect was the determinant feature. The fight was long, bloody, and full of vitriol and vulgarity, but we finally decided to evaluate the spells with an eye toward the school that provides the effect rather than worrying about the trigger. The trigger, we decided, was Neutrum, the common magic that affects magic, and that Neutrum magic is available to all schools.
The reasoning turned out to be fairly straight forward: if Neutrum effects are truly “neutral” magic, then even a sprinkling of any other school’s effects will force the whole spell into that school. In a way, you can think of it like an atom in that no matter how many neutrons there are, it is the number of protons vs. electrons that determine its charge. So, even if a spell is 90% triggering mechanism and 10% school-specific effect (as with Cordon of Arrows and Alarm), that little 1’0% is enough to make those spells belong to Evocation and Illusion respectively.
This, of course, further reduces the Neutrum spell list. However, keep in mind that it isn’t important that Neutrum have a lot of spells exactly because of its connective nature. It’s important to understand and codify that this mechanism must exist, and it is an integral component of every spell. Formalizing it also allows us to create a few simple rules that will allow new spells to be created that aren’t completely crazy and don’t unbalance the game. And while these simple rules don’t guarantee the resulting spells aren’t crazy or unbalanced, they at least provide an initial, easy metric.
So, here’s the new Neutrum spell list with notes on where the spells went.
|Antimagic Field||Contingency (Evocation)|
|Counterspell||Druidcraft ** (*Transmutation)|
|Dispel Magic||Glyph of Warding|
|Forbiddance||Magic Weapon (*Transmutation)|
|Globe of Invulnerability||Prestidigitation ** (*Transmutation)|
|Mind Blank||Shillelagh (*Transmutation)|
|Mordekainen's Private Sanctum||Thaumaturgy ** (*Transmutation)|
|Nystul's Magic Aura (*Illusion)|
|Circle of Power|
** Druidcraft, Prestidigitation, and Thaumaturgy are included in Neutrum as 'training spells' with minor effects from many schools that any caster can learn.
Alarm This is now Illusion as both versions of the alarm component are types of Illusions.
Cordon of Arrows Moved to Evocation due to it being force magic which is flinging the arrows.
Elemental Weapon The actual magic being infused is Evocation as it is one of the elements (Acid damage? Really? Sigh…)
Magic Mouth Illusion per you just think there’s a mouth there.
Symbol This is going to Enchantment, though the “Death” option is clearly Vitae. However, 7/8 of it is Enchantment.
We are still hashing out what to do with Planar Binding and Warding Bond. I am of a mind to leave them here as they are forming magical connections between caster and target while Dad is convinced that they are doing more mundane school effects. We’re going to leave them here for now until we fall one way or another on them.
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