Spell Savant Feat | New Feat for Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition

Feats! Man, I never get to make feats, so I was pretty pumped when this request came in from one of my patrons:

How’s it going? I really enjoy your work and I love that I get to help build Wandrossa with the daily polls. I signed up for the silver tier about a week or so ago and finally have thought of my request. In the campaign I’m in, all the spellcasters feel that due to bad stat rolls, or in my case really good stat rolls, even when we try our best to do our job, everything seems so lackluster whether it’s low spell save DC’s or just not enough prepared spells choices. I was curious if you could make two feats to help give a small boost to spell casters. One that would help raise the spell DC, and one to give an increased prepared spells list.

Interesting ideas! And I think it’s totally doable.

Playtest Content

The material here is presented for playtesting and to spark your imagination. These game mechanics are in draft form, usable in your campaign but not refined by final game design and editing. They aren’t officially part of the game.

Constructive feedback is welcome and appreciated in either comments or social media. If you can give me a valid reason with examples why something is off, 9/10 I’m likely to make changes to the content and credit you for doing so. Otherwise, feedback without anything to back it up gets ignored (or at most a smile emoji like this 🙂 ) Thanks!

Design Notes

Feats are usually pretty simple to write and balance, especially if there’s something similar to compare the feat to. Oddly, there aren’t a whole lot of published feats. There are all the ones in the Fifth Edition PHB as well as Xan’s. But that’s about it.

Understanding Feats

There is something pretty important that everyone should understand when it comes to feat. Feats offer some extraordinary benefits, but mostly at the expense of what you lose with it: the Ability Score Increase.

Let’s say that Max didn’t get the feat and just stuck with the ASI’s Int increase. A +2 to Int equals a +1 bonus to spell save DC and attack rolls in addition to bonuses in Intelligence saving throws, skills, and other related checks.

That’s pretty big! Therefore, if you’re going to take a feat over that, it needs to be pretty good and make sense.

Comparable Feats

The biggest feat that we should consider when building out Max’s request is the Magic Initiate feat. It lets anyone learn two cantrips which they can cast at will and then a 1st-level spell from the same list. The 1st-level spell is a once-per-long-rest. This turns a non-caster into a caster and makes a current caster a little better (although, one would argue that for someone that’s already slinging spells, this isn’t probably a dud of a choice).

The next feat I’m taking a look at Elemental Adept. You have to be able to cast at least one spell. Then you pick an element. Spells you cast ignore resistance to damage of the chosen type and it deals extra damage kind of inline with the Great Weapon Fighting fighting style; you count 1s as 2s. I’ll show in the math below that the damage boost is the equivalent of food coloring–not really a big deal–but it’s the ignoring resistance that’s important since you’re effectively doubling the damage of those spells against certain creatures. However, it’s very specialist and kinda niche.

Another cool feat is Spell Sniper. It increases your effective range, ignores cover, and lets you learn damage dealing cantrip.

Elemental Adept Math (or Why Counting  a 2 as a 1 Kinda Sucks)

So how good is counting a 1 as a 2? Depends on the die!

With a d4, your rolls a 2, 2, 3, 4; that’s an average of 2.75, which is 0.25 more damage on average than a d4’s normal average, which is 2.50.

With a d6, your rolls are 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6; that’s an average of 3.67, which is 0.17 more damage on average than a d6’s normal average, which is 3.50. Notice how the amount diminishes the bigger the die is.

A d8 does 4.63, which is 0.13 more than normal.

A d10 does 5.60 which is only 0.10 more than normal.

And a d12 does 6.58, which is a measly 0.08 increase in average damage.

As I explained above, it’s the overcoming the resistance that really matters with this feat. But it’s niche AF. Where it’s going to really matter is when you’re going up creatures (usually at higher levels) that have a lot of resistances, like fiends.

So, how does improving DC improve damage?

The game is built roughly around the idea that a character has about a 60% chance of hitting creatures with spell attacks (a spell save DC is just an inverted attack where the target is performing a “defense roll” versus an attack roll). By increasing the DC by 1, it’s effectively increasing an attack roll by +1. That improves the chance to hit by 5%.

Often, when I’m doing designs, I use something called virtual damage. Virtual damage is the average number of damage multiplied by the chance of it hitting.

So, for example, if you have a 60% chance to hit with an attack that deals 1d10 damage (let’s pretend there’s no mod), that’s virtual damage of 3.3. If we up the chance to hit, that virtual damage becomes 3.575. That’s a bump of 0.275, already more potent than the boosted damage from Elemental Adept.

Where improving the DC really starts to matter is on higher level spells. Referencing the average spell damage charts on page 284 of the DMG, cantrips deal 1d10 damage to individual targets on average and 1d6 to multiple targets.

Now imagine this: a fireball that deals 8d6 damage on a hit: that’s an average of 28 fire damage or 16.80 damage. On average, a fireball’s probably going to hit 2 creatures full on (according to the DMG at least), so really that’s virtual damage of 33.60.

But if we up the chance to hit with that fireball to 65%, then that’s virtual damage of 18.20, or 36.40. An increase of 2.80 damage overall. Which, honestly, isn’t that huge when it comes to average damage.

Just One Last Thing…

When it comes to feat creation, there’s one feat that I really like to use as the Feat Rosetta Stone and that’s Great Weapon master. GWM lets you take a bonus attack if you crit or reduce a creature to 0, basically upping your action economy for being a killing machine. Also, it lets you exchange the attack roll bonus for extra damage at an exchange rate of 1:2.

Let’s put that into math terms real quick.

Let’s say a 1st-level human fighter is wielding a greatsword and deals 2d6 + 3 damage with the thing and hits with a +5. The fighter gives up pretty much its entire bonus to deal 10 extra damage. Therefore, it’s to hit goes from 60% to 35%. Let’s compare the two situations and virtual damage.

If the fighter makes a normal attack, it deals an average of 10 damage or 6 virtual damage.

If the fighter gives up its attack bonus for 10 bonus damage, it deals an average of 20 damage, or 7 virtual damage. So it gets 1 extra damage out of the attack. Not too shabby.

Mathematically speaking, GWMs should always give up the bonus for the extra damage.

Okay, One More Thing (For Real This Time)…

Finally, I took a look at the Savage Attacker feat. It basically gives you “advantage” on a weapon’s damage dice roll. On average, the damage for a dice roll is going to be 50% of the sum of all results. Give it “advantage”, and you multiply that number into itself and then subtract that from 1. So if you get 50% of the total results for normal damage dice rolls, that means you’ll get 75% of the total results for damage dice with advantage.

So for a 1d10, that’s 5.5 average damage most of the time, but with advantage that’s 8.25 damage. That’s a difference of 2.75 damage (or 1.65 virtual at a 60% chance to hit).

Let’s compare this to the virtual damage of DCs. If a 1d10 attack has a 60% chance of hitting, that’s virtual damage of 3.3, right? Adding in the 1.65 virtual to that, we come up with 4.95. That would mean that we’ve got a freakin’ 90% chance to hit (4.95/5.50 = 90%). That’s an effective DC or attack bonus boost of +7! Wow!

Enough Rambling, Dave

Okay, so let me end this stream-of-conscious process. I like to write this kinda stuff out, ’cause it helps me later on. Anyways, upping the DC isn’t that big of deal since taking an Intelligence bump is pretty much going to do that anyways (with some more benefits, too, mind you).

What I propose is something similar with magic, but in reverse. Basically a GWM for damage dealing spells.

What About the Spell Slot Boost?

Magic initiate does exactly what Max is asking for. And I’m guessing that’s about as powerful as you can get. There’s a reason why 1st-level is the only level that gets 4 slots. Once you start climbing up into the levels, there’s some pretty heavy damage. Adding an additional slot means pure chaos. So, unfortunately, there’s no careful way to balance getting an extra slot beyond first level’s.

Now, I don’t mind breaking the game a little (shit, you should see some of my older class builds), but there’s probably nothing I can create that can effectively replace Magic Initiative for the extra spell slot booster.

Note that Magic Initiate’s extra spell slot doesn’t let warlocks nap-it-off either. Very carefully worded that one.

New Feats

The following feats options are available to players in addition to those normally offered.

Spell Savant

Prerequisite: The ability to cast at least one spell

You have specialized in the execution of spells, making you a deadly arcane opponent on the battlefield. You gain the following benefits:

  • When you cast a cantrip that requires a target to make a saving throw, the spell save DC for the spell increases by 5.
  • You learn one cantrip that requires an attack roll. Choose the cantrip from the bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, warlock, or wizard spell list. Your spellcasting ability for this cantrip depends on the spell list you chose from: Charisma for bard, sorcerer, or warlock; Wisdom for cleric or druid; or Intelligence for wizard.


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Art by Paizo publishing.




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