The best part about writing those two spells was that a couple of my friends gave me some notes which made me think about aspects of design that I hadn’t considered.
One friend, we’ll call him Will as that’s his name, pointed out that in my attempt to add fun to Sleep, I missed out a crucial point: niche spells aren’t necessarily a terrible thing. Specifically, the spell is one of the only AOE low level abilities. This is why it’s a good spell. Mark, another accurately named friend, said nearly the exact same thing about my reimagining of Gentle Repose. It’s a spell that’s good for two very specific and very important tasks; extending the time that Revivify can be cast, and stopping an ally becoming a manipulated undead. Any more than that and the spell becomes overpowered – hard to wrangle.
It’s weird that I was given this advice multiple times, by two different people. All the evidence points to this being practised wisdom. Will and Mark have played longer than me (and dare I say it, pour over the core books much better than I do). Not to mention the fact that Wizards likely know what they’re doing – so many of the spells must behave like this for some reason. It must be that a singularly purposed spell is just Good Writing.
Despite that, I still want to scream “WHY!?”
Aren’t sleepy crickets and animated, not-quite-dead allies fun? What’s so bad about “hijinks” (as scrap princess calls it) or “versatility” (as Mark called it)?
Does versatility make writing campaigns hard? Is a sandboxed rules environment too difficult to balance? This can only be true if a DM writing a campaign sits down and writes around these spells that open (or allow rescue from) very specific avenues of folly. In which case, the spells really are terrible. They shouldn’t take up the space they do in the PHB. I don’t think this is how people write adventures.
In a world where Wizards have given us very specific Allen keys that work only in very specific bolts, I feel like we could do with some more multitools.
Wouldn’t that be more fun?