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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What the LBBs Imply (Part I)

I've been having an email discussion that's gotten me to look at/think about the way spells, spellbooks, and scrolls work again. I've written about this stuff many times, but this time, I want to limit myself to exactly what is said in the books.

The rules for spellcasting given in Men & Magic basically are limited to three areas, which appear in the following order:
  1. SCROLL CREATION: pp. 6-7. Only Magic-Users may create scrolls, and it takes 1 week/spell level and costs 100 GP/spell level/week.
  2. SPELL USE: p. 19: "The number in each column opposite each applicable character indicates the number of spells of each level that can be used (remembered during any single adventure) by that character. Spells are listed and explained later. A spell used once may not be reused in the same day."
  3. DUPLICATE SPELLBOOKS: p. 34. Costs 2000 GP for an entire 1st level spellbook, double costs per level. It mentions that, if a caster loses all spellbooks, they must be replaced (presumably before being allowed to cast more spells) and that all this takes is paying the costs. There's no requirement to have an existing copy of a spellbook to create a duplicate.
Now, what's notable is that the rules do not talk about selecting spells before an adventure, memorizing spells, or preparing spells. All we know is that spellbooks are needed and that there's a limit to the number of spells that can be "remembered during an adventure". Does that mean "kept in mind", as we all have interpreted it over the years, or does it mean recalled on the spot?

I think requiring casters to select their spells before the adventure is more fun, but really, the rules leave it up to the GM what the spell limits mean.

What we do know is that there are no per-spell costs given to add a spell to a spellbook. We could use the scroll creation cost directly, lower it (if spells can't be cast from spellbooks as if they were scrolls,) or ignore it completely, which the rules for spellbook duplication imply.

Monsters & Treasure adds two more bits of information about scrolls specifically:
p. 24: "There is a 25% chance that any scroll of spells found will contain those usable by clerics."
Note that it doesn't say "usable only by clerics".
p. 32: "All Scrolls are spells for Magic-Users, and regardless of the level of the spell they can be used by any Magic-User capable of reading them. All "Protection" spells can be used by any character who is able to read. Scroll spells are of the 6th level unless necessarily higher, in which case they are of the minimum level necessary to generate such a spell. After reading a spell from a scroll the writing disappears, so the spell is usable one time only!"
The first statement is either contradicting the previous comment, or it's telling us that, regardless of whether a scroll is a Magic-User or Cleric spell, a Magic-User (and possibly only a Magic-User) can cast it.

The passage also seems to directly contradict Men & Magic: if only 11th level or higher Wizards can create scrolls, why are most scrolls effectively 6th level?

(See Part II here, for more thoughts on magic in the LBBs.)


  1. Fascinating. That use of the phrase "remembered during any single adventure" implies that the relevant time frame is not per day, but for every delve into the dungeon.

  2. Based on the section from page 19 (but without having read the LBBs myself), this is my version:

    MU gets so-many spells remembered per adventure. Say 1 at level 1, 2 at level 2, 3 at level 3, etc.

    In addition, he can't use the same spell more than once a day. However, as long as he's on the same adventure (probably defined by game session or by dungeon delve), he gets that spell back tomorrow.

    That's interesting: a two-part restraint on MU versatility.

    It very much reminds me of the ACKS take on spellcasting, in which the MU has a book full of all his spells, a "repertoire" which is the spells he's actively tracking, and then his spell-per-day limit. An MU who wants to change his repertoire has to re-study his books, and I believe he must also memorize his daily spells each day.

    I think the latter two categories are directly equatable to the OD&D "remembered during adventure" and "cast once per day" categories above (in terms of game function, not necessarily in number of spells, of course.) The OD&D actually seems less restrictive than the ACKS.

    1. Addition: the ACKS daily spells can be pulled only from the repertoire, the "active" subset of all the spells in the spellbook. The OD&D MU makes that "which spells are active" choice at the "remember for adventure" step, but gets spells exactly equal to those, without then selecting from the active spells (ACKS repertoire).

  3. Noisms: But then you have to remember from the Vol III rules on timekeeping that one week is reckoned for provisioning, planning, and a typical one-day expedition into the dungeon. So in this case, day and adventure are the same.

    As far as spells on scrolls being 6th level (and if I recall staves are 8th level...) it is probably to keep the overall power level down. "Sure, you can cast a fireball even though you're only 1st level. But you only get one shot at it. And it's only 6 dice." That sort of thing.

    On the clerical scrolls issue, I chalk that up to a lack of editing (it's just one of the contradictions I've noted over the years). But if you want to interpret it so that only Magic-Users can ever use scrolls, I urge you to explain that to your Cleric players from the start. It IS a valid DM choice, but there's no reason to make your players angry with something they've always been able to do but in your world they can't.

    Anyway, that's my perspective.

    Thanks for posting this! I do love these discussions.

  4. One other thing I note is that the rules for scrolls don't specify that the spell must take effect immediately. It doesn't use the word "cast", just "used". This could be interpreted in multiple ways. The spell could disappear from the paper and become memorized by the magic-user for later casting. Obviously this would be extremely powerful if without limit, so perhaps it could only replenish previously used spell slots.

  5. Perhaps a replacement spellbook doesn't necessarily have the same spells as your old one, whereas a duplicate would. It would certainly be missing any original spells you'd researched, and if you only started with a subset of the full list instead of the whole thing, that subset could be randomly determined. Maybe replacement spellbooks only include one spell?

    "There is a 25% chance that any scroll of spells found will contain those usable by clerics."

    All spells found on scrolls are also on the M-U's spell list, as they're the ones making them, but about a forth of that list are spells also found on the Cleric's list. M-U's can use all scrolls, and clerics can use any spells on their list

    "Scroll spells are of the 6th level unless necessarily higher, in which case they are of the minimum level necessary to generate such a spell."

    When scribing, one can't necessarily impart their full power into the spell. This does have me reconsidering the Holmes option of scrolls at first level, though. Perhaps it should be no earlier than sixth. Or one might keep the 11th-level restriction but allow casters to scribe even more potent scrolls, with spells set at 1/2 their caster level (rounded up) instead of 6th