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Blue Elemental Blast. The new version is more streamlined, but absolutely not without precedent or more powerful than it was in the past. Hypnotic Pattern is quite a good spell, but also nowhere near the game breaker you make it out to be. Realistically, that would be pretty much every target in its 30 foot cube, since 24 HD would be a half dozen ogres or three hill giants.
Counterspell barely comes up unless you frequently have players engaging in PvP combat. Not many monsters or NPCs cast spells, and even fewer know Counterspell. In almost all cases, this one just comes down to rewarding the paranoid PC who prepares it every day on the rare occasion that someone casts a spell on him. The much-talked-about Counterspell Duel is vanishingly rare unless you habitually make every villain a wizard. No need for concentration back then, either.
I assumed when I should have checked. I suspect that I never saw anyone use the Monster Summoning spells in Greyhawk because they strike me as weak. The summonings only last 6 melee turns. As for the 5E summoning spells, now that we know that the DM chooses what gets summoned, I see them as balanced. Rather, they tend to slow the game by giving one player too much to do.
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One player gains too much time in the spotlight. If you favor narrative combat or if your summoner plays fast, the spells may work fine. I agree that Counterspell is situational and that in most sessions it never comes up. The 5E rules make the spell easy to prepare just in case. In 5E, even if you never need Counterspell, you can still spend all your spell slots casting Fireball, Fly, and Haste.
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My gripe is that enemy spellcasters make interesting foes and that adventures often feature them as the primary enemy. If all their spells get countered during their few rounds in battle, then they do nothing. That said, I created this list by asking convention players what spells they found annoying. Of the four, I find Counterspell least annoying. I like the dynamic created when heroes and monsters target a spellcaster to free a banished or polymorphed ally. I hate when my monsters are too stupid to know to target the spellcaster. Yeah, I could see it being overwhelming if you give the player square-by-square control over each individual creature.
As one last note on Counterspell, the easiest way to keep enemy spellcasters immune to it is simply to be out of range. A screen of minions can easily make sure that the leader in back is at least 60 feet away from the PCs for the first 2 or 3 rounds.
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On the last point, I guess we just have differing tastes. It might be overwhelming at first but with practice comes speed. As I recall, if you give each party member 18 in every stat you get huge numbers of enemies to deal with. One of the keys is to not make every character feel the same at all times. I posted earlier and have been kicking the issue of these spells around since then as the day has gone on.
Where characters have a wide range of spells available to them and total freedom to select spells from the official materials, yes, these spells are a problem. I do think that some of the issue is a bit more situational. Banishment, for example, is a 4th level spell available to only two classes. In most of the games I play in 4th level spells rarely come available because the games tend to stick with lower levels.
As the use of a characters one 4th level slot or as a scroll spell, no big deal. I do get that in higher level play this would change. Many little changes have brought us to the place where the choices for spellcasters are not as meaningful as they should be or could be.
Further the mechanics — especially that of Concentration — place what I feel is often an artificial limit on creative use of and combinations of spells. When the number of spells you can actually know are limited your choices become very precious. But they also have one of the shortest lists of possible spells. Neutralizing some of the more effective spells in their limited arsenal begins to unbalance other things. Of course my Bard took Hypnotic Pattern.
Bards have few choices for spells which do much in terms of battlefield control or any other kind of direct influence on a battle. All three have the Concentration Tax and pretty much do the same thing. And the same problem would result.
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So there is no limiting access to whichever spells they want in official play. And the rule was that as a Magic User you started with 4 spells in your spell book, often determined by random roll. I love player agency. At least not regularly. Describing it as a spell is an efficient way to communicate the potential and a mechanic for refereeing the potential to DMs. This is part of why I avoid official play: everything is on the table.
So there is little focus and strange stuff happens. Probably the simplest solution would be to simply remove certain spells from the PHB and move them to the DMG if it has to stay official. Wizards will start with 6 spells that I approve. Anything else? Good luck finding the books. Same for other casters: you have to find the spell somewhere. Easiest way to deal with Banishment? Now if I could just figure out what the hell to do about Concentration.
Your tale of magic users needing to find spells fascinated me. Having MUs search for spells always struck me as a good source of plot hooks, treasure, and a possible balance to the power of higher-level MUs, but I never saw the limit used in play. I was running from memory, but his morning took the time to pull out my dusty 1st Edition DMG. There is more there than I mentioned. My take from reading the whole section is that Mr. Gygax, fairly typically, had in mind some of the issues you bring up here and penned the section with control of higher level spell powers by the DM firmly in mind.
So even if the character has a scroll there was a chance that transferring the unknown spell to spellbook could go awry…. I thought then and still do that some of the additional difficulties were a bit harsh and arbitrary, but my experience of play and of the posts here and elsewhere is pointing me back to the base assumption: a magic using character embarks on their adventures with a limited supply of available spells and one of their chief motivations will be the acquisition of specific spells to increase their options.
I note too that while clerics have rather free range of whatever 1st and 2nd level spells they wish to prepare, beyond that requires some fairly active communication with divine entities. The starting spells table on pg. Not a very useful mix. When creating and maintaining what I consider to be my best campaign despite a great deal of old school silliness I pride myself on a couple things.
That system works when the spells are decent, both in terms of power level on their own and in terms of power level when with other spells. However, in the vaunted 1e your 4 spells could be:. Oh please.