Enhanced Existence Magic Overhaul (5e Variant Rule)
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It's about time. And space. And reality. Volcanos, permanently floating mountains, wishes (But like, better somehow), and a whole lot more. For those who wonder where all the epic magic went after D&D 3.5 edition, it turns out it still kind of exists. It's just hidden, not mechanically identified in 5e, and all kinds of other sneaky things. For those of you that don't have any idea what I'm talking about, 10th-level magic exists in D&D. Any magic above 9th-level is commonly referred to as "epic magic." This homebrew supplement will address the changes epic magic has from its canon use previously, and aims to make it feasible once again in this version of the game where everything, including player characters, has been nerfed to the point of it all being nearly impossible. If that sounds just crazy enough to pique your interest, then have fun. Otherwise, this Overhaul also adds other systems to organize your magic for custom settings, and additional rules to supplement the use of homebrew spells in an otherwise not homebrew game.
For those sections, see Ancient Magic and Complex Curses And Other Magic Organizational Systems
The first thing I should note in reintroducing epic magic into D&D is that characters shouldn't be able to regularly cast these spells. Casting epic magic is hard, dangerous, and resource intensive to research (As you'll soon see), but the effects that you can create with it are so powerful and unbalanced that it makes player characters that aren't full casters seem worthless by comparison. As a result, unless playing with other rulesets to supplement this fact, such as the other parts of the Enhanced Existence Overhaul (Yes it is all one Overhaul), Past Level 20 or the Mythic rulesets, you generally should frame epic magic as something other than just another reason to play Wizard. When using epic magic, the question of balance should never come up. As a result, the framing used within this supplement assumes that you only need to cast a given epic magic spell once, but might be able to do so again if required (Such as if the campaign lasts longer than intended by the DM).
In other words, treat epic magic as a win condition for your party and villains, rather than as a direct power. If anyone casts an epic magic spell, it's a feat many adventures in the making, and might be all they need to win the final boss fight. Or lose it, if the villain did the casting.
In the lore of D&D 5e, the goddess of magic for the D&D multiverse (Mystra, though she had multiple names) has been killed by Ao's request, and replaced by one of her acolytes. That Wizard, named Midnight, is now the new magic goddess for the normal parts of the D&D multiverse (Obviously, you can have local deities which control magic instead, or a homebrew version of the multiverse in which events played out differently. This supplement will usually assume you are following the standard lore). However, being a new deity, and considering how epic magic turned out previously, Midnight hasn't changed any rules to magic just yet. The modern rules of magic were set by Mystra before her, and while Midnight is fundamentally a different person more aligned with good than Mystra was, they're likely to stay as is for the time being. If the rules are lifted or changed, some or all of the below requirements might be waived. However, that is a monumental task for any mortal adventuring group to accomplish. Alternatively, certain homebrew locations within the D&D multiverse might be out of the gaze of the normal gods, allowing casters to travel to such locations to perform their epic magic spells. An epic magic spell, once cast, holds just like any other spell does, even if the caster then leaves such a special location where they could cast it.
In her subsuming of the title, Midnight began to use the name Mystra in normal situations, so that the followers of Mystra don't realize they're worshipping a new goddess. This is why Mystra appears in the PHB as a neutral good deity. Mystra was neutral, but Midnight is good. It is implied that this means sometime soon beyond the normal scope of D&D 5e Midnight might begin to change the rules of magic to suit her better. Unless that occurs however, usually it is impossible to cast a spell beyond 10th-level. However, this places no restrictions on having above 10th-level spell slots for the purposes of the Boon of Epic Magic (5e Epic Boon).
In general, the following is always true for epic magic in this supplement:
1. You must have 20 Wizard levels or more to attempt to cast an epic magic spell (Optionally, a level 20 Cleric can effectively access epic magic through their deity, likely by using their Divine Intervention feature.).
3. You must know the appropriate epic seeds (Detailed later). Epic seeds are spells that do nothing when cast on their own, but combine into epic magic. Researching and learning an epic seed is about equivalent to gaining a boon, and can be a reward given in place of a boon.
4. You must have a written copy of the spell instructions, such as through a spell scroll or a Wizard's spellbook. A spell scroll or spellbook containing an epic magic spell is always unique rarity, but is always just as fragile as normal paper unless extra care was taken to reinforce it against damage. At the DM's discretion, it may be more difficult to enchant such paper to be resistant or immune to damage.
5. You must cast the spell in tandem with another caster who has met all of the same requirements.
6. You will fail to cast the spell the first time you attempt to do so. This action can have unpredictable consequences (Detailed later), and always alerts the deity that controls magic in your setting to the attempt. In general, this means attempting to cast epic magic without the permission of such a deity beforehand will invariably make a powerful enemy for the characters that make such attempts.
7. You must make an Arcana check (This replaces the Spellcraft skill, since the skills in 5e are meant to be fewer so they're easier to understand). This will be detailed below, but how good the outcome of the check is will determine how quickly you can cast the epic magic spell, if at all. You don't need to make this check if upcasting a lower level spell to 10th-level or higher. This will be simplified from its use in older editions.
8. Any time you attempt to cast an epic magic spell, you lose one character level. If the level cap in your game is the standard level 20, this means you can't attempt to cast it or any other epic magic spell again until you become level 20 again. When you lose a level, you lose any benefits you had from that level, including extra hit points, class features, spell slots, etc. A Wizard's spells that are written in a spellbook remain intact, but the Wizard cannot cast them again until they reach level 20 again. At the DM's discretion, Boons you have as a result of being level 20 are removed from your character permanently, and have to be acquired again manually (This includes the knowledge of and ability to use epic seeds). If the level cap of your game is raised Past Level 20, you don't lose boons or features dependent on being at level 20 unless you are reduced to level 19 or lower.
9. You must have a 10th-level spell slot. I put this requirement last because it's a major change from how I originally made this ruleset. The Hold Value rules have been abandoned in favor of multi-caster requirements and other shenanigans. Gaining a 10th-level spell slot is a boon.
Upscaling Spells to 10th-level
Some spells in D&D can be cast with higher level spell slots than normal to achieve more powerful effects. This doesn't apply to epic magic spells. Similarly, you can't normally cast a lower level spell at 10th-level or higher, since you wouldn't meet the epic seed requirements to cast the spell at that level. At the DM's discretion, it might be possible to cast some spells at 10th-level or higher, provided you know the epic seeds of the DM's choice and meet all the other requirements. When you cast a spell that isn't normally 10th-level or higher at 10th-level or higher, you don't lose a level.
Let's begin with Epic Seeds. This name is changed from the original name of Epic Spell Seeds, to help differentiate it from other terms in the game and make it easier to understand and read. An epic seed is a component of an epic magic spell, much like Somatic, Verbal, or Material components. However, epic seeds work a little differently in two aspects: They're effectively spells themselves (Though they don't have any effects on their own), and knowing an epic seed is all you need to do to fulfill its component requirement when casting an epic magic spell. You don't actually need to cast epic seeds, which is important because they would be levelled spells. Because of this, no pages will be made for epic seeds on this wiki. Instead, all of them have no components to cast, create no effects when cast, have no magic school attached to them, and are 10th-level spells for the purposes of researching them and writing them into a spellbook (Apply that cost normally). Even if you could normally learn epic seeds as a result of levelling up, you can't learn an epic seed for free (Referring to Wizards). More than likely, the process to acquire even one epic seed is about equivalent to gaining a boon or a unique rarity magic item (Should they find it written anywhere). If a Wizard finds an epic seed written in another spellbook, they must research it and write it into their own spellbook to use it. A spell scroll containing an epic seed is expended when you attempt to cast an epic magic spell with it, regardless of if you succeed at casting the spell or not.
The following is a list of all the epic seeds in this supplement. This list is shortened from the original content, to make it easier to understand and use. Similarly, most, if not all, epic magic spells will only require knowing exactly 2 epic seeds, no more or less. Epic seeds not having any effects on their own is a change made to simplify the epic magic system. Because of this simplification, the properties that epic seeds have are added to the final spell made with them. A given epic spell will have specific epic seeds that can be applied to it, but an amount of epic seeds that have to be used (Again, usually 2). This gives some amount of choice for what epic seeds you use, with each having their own benefits and drawbacks (New to this system, I decided it’d be more interesting and help mitigate the inevitable power creep overload. Please don’t make the assumption that this stays in line with bounded accuracy.).
Each epic seed has a benefit, detriment, and opposite, listed below. You cannot use an epic seed with its opposite, even if both appear as options on an epic magic spell.
The 18 epic seeds are:
Epic seeds are listed in a spell's components as E, followed by the amount of epic seeds which you must use and then the types of epic seeds that are possible to use with the spell in parentheses. For example, E (2, Abjure, Afflict, Heal, Harm). If creating your own epic magic spells, the amount of epic seeds that can be used with a spell shouldn't be more than half of the list of available ones.
For the purposes of this wiki, all 10th level spells are listed as 9th level spells. Make no mistake, they are designed to be 10th level, and are typically too powerful to reasonably use as 9th level magic.
The following are all 10th level spells that use this ruleset.
Ancient Magic was going to be its own ruleset, but as I workshopped it I ended up thinking it'd be better as part of this one. If you disagree, you don't have to use Ancient Magic for your game, simply using the first School with any given spell instead of all of the ones listed.
That'll make sense after I tell you that Ancient magic is magic that had long sense been lost only to be dug up in more recent times. The original versions of the spells are always lost, but spells that are close to what they once were, or new spells entirely, can be made from those ancient findings. Because of this, the resulting spells, be they inspired by such findings or ripped straight from them, is that the spells can appear to be mixed into more than one school of magic at once. Spells that define what school of magic a spell or effect has doesn't detect a specific school unless the caster is aware ancient magic exists. No caster at the start of any campaign (Unless you explicitly allow otherwise), understands what Ancient Magic is or that it exists in the first place, making the outcome of not sensing any specific school of magic fairly common. For clarity, this is with spells like Detect magic and Identify, but otherwise doesn't affect them. Ancient magic can be confusing to detect as well, since some normal magic effects still have no defined school of magic, and behave as such.
Most Ancient Magic always has 2 schools. While spells discovered in an ancient ruin or from finding something really old to study can have 1 school of magic and still be ancient magic, the ruleset only applies to those that have more than one school of magic. Most 10th level spells also follow Ancient Magic principles, but if you don't want to use this, simply use the first listed school instead.
Most importantly, Ancient Magic cannot be learned normally through levelling. These spells can only be learned by those that are taught by someone who knows them, or uncovered by studying the notes of a creature that knew the spell (DC for an Arcana check to understand the spell would be 10 + spell's level, but at disadvantage if the creature doesn't know spellcasting or doesn't know about ancient magic.). A caster that learns an ancient magic spell this way can add it to the spells they can learn to use, meaning if they prepare spells, they can prepare the spell they learn. Wizards still have to put the spell in their spellbook to prepare them, and those that don't prepare spells still have to choose them when levelling up. As a variant, you can have spells learned this way not count against the amount of spells the caster can learn or memorize, allowing them to always keep a spell they learn this way without losing anything else. However, a caster can learn of a spell this way, but can only use it if it's on their spell list. A Rogue still can't learn a Sorcerer spell this way.
The following are all spells that use Ancient Magic.