Spellcasters Have A Concentration Problem

Spellcasters Have A Concentration Problem

One of the big issues I have with spellcasting in D&D 5th edition is the restriction on casting spells that require concentration.

The rule as written in the Player’s Handbook is as follows:

Some spells require you to maintain concentration in order to keep their magic active. If you lose concentration, such a spell ends.

If a spell must be maintained with concentration, that fact appears in its Duration entry, and the spell specifics how long you can concentrate on it. You can end concentration at any time (no action required).

Normal activity, such as moving and attacking, doesn’t interfere with concentration. The following factors can break concentration:

Casting another spell that requires concentration. You lose concentration on a spell if you cast another spell that requires concentration. You can’t concentrate on two spells at once.

I understand the reason the designers did this – to limit the number of spells a caster could have “up” at any one time, but I feel like the pendulum swung too far.

The layering of spells was a supposed issue with D&D 3rd edition, allowing higher level spellcasters to become nigh invicible, but I never really saw this as an issue as having multiple spells up gave the spellcaster a good edge against those wanting to kill her.

This rules annoys me as both a DM and a player, to the point of wanting to fix it – and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Ways to Correct the Concentration Problem

To correct this, my first thought was to simply ignore the rule and have spell-casters cast spells without this restriction.

To give spellcasters the ability to cast whatever spells they wanted, when they wanted – and I am still thinking about just making this call. But I also wanted to figure out a way to correct this issue within the existing rules framework.

I am hoping you will either use these rules as is, or have them at least inspire you with your own changes or additions.

The Solution

Every four levels characters get to increase an ability by two points or choose a feat (assuming you are allowing feats in your campaign).

I propose that spell-caster classes – wizard, sorcerer, warlock, priests, and even bards, rangers and paladins – also get an option to gain the ability to cast one more concurrent spell that has the concentration moniker.

Design Note: You could limit this ability to just the primary spell-casters: wizard, sorcerer, warlock, and priests.

This means, if a spell-caster takes this option at fourth level they would be able to maintain two spells with the concentration moniker.

And if they take this option again at 8th level they could maintain 3 concentration spells at once.

And so on.

I think this is an elegant solution that allows spell-casters an option to increase their spell-casting abilities, while staying within the flavour of the rules.

It also means that the spellcaster will have to give up something for this added magical power – that is, an ability increase or a feat.

Design Note: You could also easily do this by creating a feat which does the same thing, but I kind of like making it a third option in this way.

The ability that wizards get at 20th level could be simply changed to unlimited concentration spells.

In Practice

I want to explore this a little more to show how this could work in practice.  

Let’s take a 5th level wizard.

She is now able to cast two spells with the concentration moniker at once. This means she can cast Alter Self and Hold Person at the same time.

Let’s fast-forward to the same wizard at 10th level.

She is now able to cast three concentration spells at once (and has missed out on 4 Ability points or 2 feats in the process).

She can now cast Enlarge and Protection from Energy on herself, and Slow on her enemies, maintaining all three spells.

This sounds to me like a sound strategy, not to mention an exciting fight!  

And finally we visit our wizard when she is 18th level.

She now has the option to cast four concentration spells at once (she took a feat as one option).

So, as an 18th level wizard – one of the most powerful wizards in the land – she can now conjure and maintain a wall of force, cast flesh to stone, telekinesis, and create blinding sunbeams – all concurrently.

Does this sound overpowered?

This is a simple rule addition that will expand the spell-casters ability to protect themselves and aid their allies. And, as a player of a spellcaster, just have a better experience at the gaming table.

I also like this solution as it allows a spellcaster to grow in power – allowing them to be able to hold more magic in their mind at any one time.

Design note: You could also just make it that a spellcaster automatically gains this talent every four levels without giving up an ability increase or a feat.

Losing Concentration

If I was going to implement this I would have a concentration check failure mean that the wizard lose all the spells she is currently concentrating on.

This can be mitigated by taking the Focused feat.

Over to You

What do you think of this rules change? Is this something you would implement at your gaming table?

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