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Unbridled Power!

On the dndnext subreddit today user, Ronocnz was brainstorming a mechanic for simulating that moment in fantasy fiction where the hero uses some last-ditch effort to summon some great inner power from the depths of his psyche and annihilate his enemies in a wave of unbridled magic as yet unavailable to the hero.

This is a fun idea, and incredibly flavorful... and I love fun flavorful stuff. Ronocnz's suggestion was to take a spell they already know and cast it as a higher level spell that the player doesn't have access to. Also a great idea, but what he didn't have was a cost for this. A resource that the player could use that would make this mechanic solid, unabusable, and fun for everyone at the table.

"How many turns until I have to cast cure light wounds on you again?"
My suggestion was this...

Unbridled Power

Any spell-casting class has access to the unbridled power ability. This ability lets you cast any spell you know as if it were cast using a higher level spell slot, even if you don't have access to spell slots of that level. In order to cast a spell in this manner, however, you must permanently fill in one of your death save failures. The level of spell slot you can access using this ability is equal to 3x your highest spell slot for each death save failure bubble you fill in. 

If you cannot fill in any more death save failure bubbles, you can still use unbridled power one more time, at the cost of the life of your character. Characters who die in this way cannot be resurrected, because the sacrifice you made to achieve that spell effect would be erased, and thus so would the spell effect... which then causes a time paradox, and then your DM will have no choice but to implode your campaign world and start over.

Example: Your first level Wizard's party has seen better days, if only you could fell this minotaur and get your friends out of here... I KNOW! I'll fill in 3 death saves and cast this Magic Missile using a 9th level spell slot. LOOK AT ALL THOSE MISSILES! A skeleton then runs you through in the next encounter, and you don't even get a chance to bleed out on the floor. Roll up a new character!

Other conceits 

I love finding game design space in D&D and playing with it. There is a another great idea floating around about using your daily HD to trigger other types of special effects besides healing. This is another seemingly fruitful area worth exploring, and I'll definitely have something on this blog later about this.

I think this rule is playable as is, but I do think there needs to be a version of this for martial classes at some point, but that'll be for another day.


  1. You know what, i like this.. and i think my players ( the spell casters) will like this too. Besides, i think it adds some "EPICNESS" to the campaign. I'll see if i can come up with a similar ability for martial classes ( i think 4e had some stuff like this for some mobs). Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. This is also an amazing idea. It adds so much to what players want. Some Epic event that you will talk about for ever. Certainly worth exploring the options for this. I would like to find a similar option for non-spell casters.


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