D&D's lead rules designer admits he changed some spells because of how 'painful' and 'excruciating to cast' they were in Baldur's Gate 3

Gale from Baldur's Gate 3 under a veil of moonlight, looking very sad.
(Image credit: Larian Studios)

Dungeons & Dragons is getting a 2024 rules revamp, and while I've had a good old moan today about its baffling pre-order bonus nonsense, I'm overall curious to see what kind of game we'll be getting out of the whole kerfuffle.

Touted as a backwards-compatible reimagining of the game's ruleset (but not a new edition), the 2024 rules seek to retool a ton of the game's spells for the better, as promised by lead rules designer Jeremy Crawford in an interview posted to the Dungeons & Dragons YouTube channel (thanks, Eurogamer).

New Spells | 2024 Player's Handbook | D&D - YouTube New Spells | 2024 Player's Handbook | D&D - YouTube
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Overall, Crawford's statements feel accurate, though in the sense that a lot of these issues have been issues for 10 years and relatively unaddressed in rules errata—such as altering Blade Ward and Resistance so they "might actually see use in play"—but hey, better late than never.

Some of these changes, however, have been inspired by Crawford's personal frustrations while playing Baldur's Gate 3, Larian's giga-popular RPG that uses 5th edition D&D as its ruleset. He highlights Cloud of Daggers and Produce Flame as two particular bugbears that bothered him.

For context, Cloud of Daggers is a 2nd level spell that fills a 5-foot space which, on your average battle map grid, is one square. This doesn't make it particularly useful, since most creatures can use around 1/6th of their bountiful movement to simply leave the space—granted, your fighter could keep them grappled or something, but that's a lot to ask for a mighty 4d4 damage every turn.

Of Cloud of Daggers, Crawford reveals that "this spell now lets you move it" after casting. "I as a player, when I have cast Cloud of Daggers, that is often my main frustration with it. [I] cast it, and then the monsters move over there. Even when I've cast Cloud of Daggers in Baldur's Gate 3, I as a player am like 'I wanna be able to move it!'"

I actually found the spell far more useful in Baldur's Gate 3, because I could plonk it in a doorway and watch my enemies (usually after struggling through a Spike Growth and Hunger of Hadar) be shredded to bits. We cheese Honour Mode however we must.

"We've also made it so that some spells (that were really painful to cast in terms of their action economy) are far less painful," Crawford says, citing Produce Flame as a "prime example … that cantrip was really painful to set up."

For context once more (with feeling), Produce Flame is a cantrip that requires you to spend a whole action setting up before you can have the honour of dealing 1d8 fire damage with it—the bonus being that it also produces light. Or, if you're sensible, you could just have the Light cantrip and the Firebolt cantrips in your party, the latter of which does more damage and doesn't require six seconds of magically trying to strike a match like some kind of chump while your mate's getting stabbed by a goblin.

He adds that Produce Flame is "funnily enough another one where it was not only painful to cast in the tabletop game, but when I was playing Baldur's Gate 3 was excruciating [to cast], and it was actually while playing [it] that I thought 'we are going to redesign Produce Flame'."

Again, that's a fair enough assessment, though it's a little strange to me that—and I'm mostly being glib, here—Crawford didn't realise Produce Flame, the cantrip nobody uses, wasn't absolute dog water until playing a game that released a near-decade after the PHB summoned its cursed self into existence.

On the whole, however, I'm liking what I'm hearing. D&D's 2014 ruleset had a dearth of spells you wouldn't cast at gunpoint, like Witch Bolt, that absolutely needed tuning up. Let's just hope the eventual Dungeon Masters' guide, along with the rest of its rules revamp, is as sensibly designed.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.