[RPG] How does the Variant: Spell Points system from the DMG affect game balance


On page 288-289 of the DMG, there is a "Variant: Spell Points" rule. Below are the best summary paragraphs of the system:

In this variant, each spell has a point cost based on its level. The Spell Point Cost table summarizes the cost in spell points of slots from 1st to 9th level. Cantrips don't require slots and therefore don't require spell points.

Instead of gaining a number of spell slots to cast your spells from the Spellcasting feature, you gain a pool of spell points instead. You expend a number of spell points to create a spell slot of a given level, and then use that slot to cast a spell. You can’t reduce your spell point total to less than 0, and you regain all spent spell points when you finish a long rest.

I am considering using this system in the near future. I plan to playtest it as a player before using it for a campaign and wanted to find out if there are issue I should be aware of.

My question is for anyone that has used this variant system, either as a player or DM. I would be interested in hearing examples of issues that came up when using this system as well as overall feel of the balance of this system compared to traditional spell-slots. If anyone is super great at balance-math I would be interested in mechanical answers as well.

How does using the spell point variant rule affect balance for spellcasting classes?

Best Answer

From a mechanical standpoint:

Up until level 19, spell points are a power positive change.
That is, they are strictly better than spell slots - because you can use them to exactly replicate the spell slots of a non-variant caster at any level, but have added flexibility.

At levels 19 and 20, the only meaningful restrictions come into play - while a standard caster would have two 6th or 7th level spell slots per day, the spell point caster can still only create one of each per day.

From a balance standpoint, spell points treads on the toes of a Sorcerer's Flexible Spellcasting feature (meant to allow Sorcerers to trade down or trade up spell slots).
As well the spell point variant is better than the Sorcerer feature - a sorcerer can convert 1 first level and 2 second level slots into 5 points to use as a third level spell, but the spell point variant has 5 points by forgoing only 1 first and 1 second level slot.

The variant is technically unbalanced before level 19 simply because you get something (flexibility) for free.
In addition, Sorcerers may feel like you're giving out one of their class features to everyone (because you are).