[RPG] Does allowing the Thunderwave spell to be centred-on but not affecting the caster increase its power level


The thunderwave spell has the description:

A wave of thunderous force sweeps out from you. Each creature in a 15-foot cube originating from you must make a Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 2d8 thunder damage and is pushed 10 feet away from you. On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage and isn't pushed.

When I first read this, a long time ago, I thought it meant that the caster was the centre of the 15-foot cube, therefore affecting all creatures that surround you. I also assumed that this would not harm the caster in any way. For clarity, I play that it is always centred on the caster, not that they have a choice about its area of effect.

I have since learned from this question and others on the site that this interpretation is incorrect. Indeed, nitsua60's answer to that question explicitly calls out my misconception directly. This other question also rules out a potential RAW-compliant work-around.

As I prefer my incorrect version of the spell, I have always just used it at my table without really worrying about the balance of it. I haven't found it to be overpowered; however, I never used it the RAW way so I'm not sure if there is a difference.

My question is:
Does changing thunderwave to be centred-on but not affecting the caster increase its power level?

Best Answer

It should be fine.

At least assuming this isn't a mode you can pick. That extra flexibility make it pretty powerful.

If you compare the spell to some existing burst spells, it comes out comparably.

The most obvious example is the already existing Thunderclap cantrip. It's the only area-effect cantrip I know of, so apparently forcing Wizards into melee is big enough of a downside that it can afford the extra power. Going from 1d6 to 2d8 and adding a minor push effect seems fine for bumping from cantrip to level 1.

The other burst spell it compares to is Arms of Hadar. That one is also a first level. It actually has a 10ft range, which means you can affect a lot more creatures with it, and it has a comparable rider effect (not taking reactions and pushing people away both let you run from melee combat), but it deals slightly less damage and uses a type more easily resisted.

So yeah; there's nothing over- or underpowered about a self-centered Thunderwave.