... now with 35% more arrogance!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Learning Spells

As I suggested at the end of the post about class level = social level and HD = confidence, such an interpretation affects the way spells are gained. The common interpretation -- that levels = training -- would suggest that 1st level M-Us can't use 2nd level spells because they haven't learned enough yet. The confidence interpretation, though, suggests that 2nd level spells are trickier to cast, rather than tricky to learn. 1st level M-Us just can't achieve that level of calm and precision because they choke. Nor can they prepare more than one 1st level spell: they spend the entire day carefully perform one ritual, perhaps flubbing it a couple times, until they get it right. At 2nd level, they've gained enough confidence that they can prepare two spells in the same time. At third level, they can do the more complicated astrological calculations and lengthy incantations to prepare a 2nd level spell.

What this suggests is that there's no reason not to let PCs learn spells of a higher level than they can cast. This gives players something to look forward to -- and something to spend money on. We can even let M-Us cast high-level spells from scrolls, although they can't create a high-level scroll themselves. This is, in fact, the default for a couple versions of the rules. In the case of a scroll, all the heavy-lifting has been done by someone with plenty of confidence. All that's left is the recitation of a few activation words -- and any trained magician can do that, even at 1st level. High-level thieves can do it, too, though not as well... and I'd allow other characters who have learned "sorcery" as a "language" to use scrolls, but with a higher risk of miscast, because they lack the confidence in the use of magic that even a 1st level M-U has.


  1. Nor can they prepare more than one 1st level spell: they spend the entire day carefully perform one ritual, perhaps flubbing it a couple times, until they get it right.

    I don't think this quite fits the OD&D spell mechanics though, as spells are reliable enough to cast almost instantaneously in the thick of battle.

    Do you have another post about sorcery as a language? It is an intriguing idea, but a search didn't turn up anything obvious. I would be worried about all PCs taking it "just in case" since sorcery seems much more useful on its face than a mundane language.

    Perhaps something like a restriction that only magic-users can take sorcery as a language to begin with (and they get it for free) whereas all other classes must leave a language slot open and seek it out during the course of the game if they wish to dabble in magic.

    1. The casting of the spell during play is, in my view, the final trigger. I imagine it to be just a couple words and a gesture, thus hard to botch. The preparation (memorization) is something that happens "off-screen", so fumbling then isn't important; it's just an explanation of why a 1st level character can only prepare one spell the day before an adventure, while a 4th level character can prepare six spells in the same time.

      The sorcerer's tongue is just something I mentioned in passing in some post or other. I thought it was in an old post about magical training, but that only seems to mention non-magicians using language slots for cantrips.

    2. Ah, okay, so the prep is envisioned as occurring the day before, not the morning of.

  2. I considered a variant in D&D 3.x where spell knowledge was driven by ranks in a skill (which can be up to three higher than level). If your 'knowledge level' is high enough you can safely use spell completion items (scrolls) whether your caster level is high enough or not. Thus, a second-level Fighter with five ranks in 'Spell Knowledge: Evocation' (I ignore 'class' and 'cross-class' distinctions) could safely use scrolls with evocation spells of caster level five or lower, such as the base fireball scroll. He can also use spell trigger items (wands) with spells appropriate to his knowledge.

    Casters can use this to 'overcraft' items. A second-level wizard with five ranks in SK:Evocation could create a scroll of fireball... but because the caster level is higher than his own there is a chance the item will 'quirk' and have some oddity to it.

    I considered also allowing non-casters to take advantage of this. The problem is, their caster level is effectively zero, so odds are quite good their magic items will be somewhat... eccentric, let us say.