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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An Old Spell-Point System

Just for the sake of comparison, I'm going to try to recall as much as possible about the spell-point system from the house rules when I was introduced to D&D back in '75-76. As I've mentioned before, I was taught to play by a friend, who learned to play in a math class when he was in 7th grade and I was in 6th. I never saw the actual D&D books; what my friend had was mimeographed charts and lists, most of which were identical to those in the LBBs, or close to it. My friend taught me and another friend the part of the rules that weren't written in these charts and we improvised based on what we had.

When I later started buying my own D&D material (Holmes, then AD&D and White Box a little later,) I was surprised to discover a few differences. Wisdom was replaced with Piety, and the spell system I was taught was a spell point system. Clerics had Piety Points in addition to Piety, and Magic-Users had Magical Conductivity points. I know Magical Conductivity started at 1d6, but I don't recall how it was regained or how it went up with level. I don't know that I ever played a Cleric back then, so I know even less about how Piety Points worked.

What I do remember is that the spell lists looked a lot like the lists in the various books, except each spell level had a numeric range that went roughly like: 1st level spells = 1-2, 2nd level spells = 1-3. These were the spell point costs. Here's a recreation using modern dice notation:
  • 1st level spells: d6/3
  • 2nd level spells: d6/2
  • 3rd level spells: d4
  • 4th level spells: d6
  • 5th level spells: d8
  • 6th level spells: 2d6
(I don't think we had 7th to 9th level spells, but those would probably be 2d8, 3d6, and 3d8. Or close to it.)

You of course rolled the dice when you cast a spell and lost that many Magical Conductivity points. Aside from the bookkeeping, it's a lot less hassle than other spell point systems I've seen.

What I think would be easier, if someone were to use this system today, is not keep track of separate MC/PP point pools, but keep a running tally of points spent on spells. When this tally exceeds hit points, the caster has run out of spell points. That's a little easier on the eraser, too.


  1. I like the random factor, put some unpredictablity to spellcasting. I would like to a consequence to hitting zero, so the casters would play it closer to the chest as they ran low.
    You have inspired me to attempt to rebuild my homebrew game system from my teen years. Last night I remembered it for the first time in years, and was debating spending the time reworking it. Thanks for that.

  2. Nice idea, but HP is much lower for magic-users than for clerics? Is the resultant behavior intentional? (Or do LBB equalize HP between them, and I'm showing my lack of pre-blue-basic cred?)

  3. @Tom: all classes use d6, but M-Us gain hit dice at the slowest rate, roughly every other level, while Clerics gain them at roughly 2/3rds the rate of Fighters. But on the other hand, Clerics are more likely to engage in direct combat, and know fewer spells. Basically, their increased hit points would mean they would cast more Cure spells, if you marked spell points off against hit points.