Saturday, October 01, 2011

an interesting item from EPT

I was rereading Empire of the Petal Throne this afternoon when found this interesting entry in the magic-user spell section:

16. Research: A player may elect to perform the research necessary to develop a new spell. The inclusion of this in the game is at the referee's option, and all of its features must be clearly specified. The referee will determine the length of time needed to develop the spell and perhaps a percentile dice roll required to achieve success; these factors will depend upon the power and difficulty of the proposed spell. No such research can be done, however, unless this bonus spell is chosen from the Group III list.

What we have here is the EPT spell research rules embedded directly in the spell list.  All the bonus spells (as opposed to magics all MUs of a certain level or higher can cast) are rated group I to group III, so I tend to think of each group as roughly equivalent to two D&D spell levels.  Only it's more complicated than that.  Because acquiring bonus spells involves throwing dice, you can acquire a group III spell as early as your PC's 4th level or possibly never (though your chance at 11th level is 80%).  Also, the group III spells don't exactly map to 5th and 6th level spells.  Wish, for example, is on the group III list.

Anyway, I'm really digging on this implementation of spell research.  It largely preserves the Vancian concept of spells as post-apocalyptic remnants.  Most magic-users work within the framework of the small list of known magics, presumably left over remnants from the Age When Everything Was Super Awesome.

But Research leaves a back door open for new magic-as-progressive-science type spells to sneak back into the setting. Note that under this system spell research only enters play via magic-users who are both particularly successful and particularly obsessed, since to use this option you have to reach a decent level and be crazy enough to pass on Wish or The Demon spell or The Silver Halo of Soul Stealing or any of a number of other totally kickass spells.

It would be a snap to incorporate a similar mechanic into D&D.  And if you wanted to keep spell research away from the grubby paws of the elves, all you have to do is make Research a sixth level spell.

One last observation: researching new spells under EPT doesn't cost any money.


  1. How is this superior to 0d&d's spell research rules, or different really? So you pass on wish, well researching a 6th level spell costs 12-60k gp, so you pass up a keep, or a staff of power or a ring of invisibility etc.

  2. Oh, I call shenanigans! No self-respecting Tsolyani magic-guy is going to be researching new spells, if only because some superior is going to kick his ass over wasting his time because "everything worth knowing has already been discovered". And if it's new and useful, the Omnipotent Azure Legion's going to show up, yoink it out of his head, and claim it as exclusive property of the Petal Throne anyway.

    Much easier to just leave well enough alone and get back to researching the 17th verb declension of Mihalli,

  3. I'm thinking about the Age When Everything Was Super Awesome where all the spells come from....

    Y'know how physicists say the actual laws of the universe were possibly formed during the course of the big bang? Like the actual number of dimensions slowly reduced etc.


    -This process actually takes a really long time.
    -Each spell is not only a formula, but a fragment of reality from a time before the rules of physics were what they are today that imports those old rules temporarily into our existence...

    Ok, yeah, now back to whatever I was watching on youtube...

  4. @Pere Ubu

    That's one area where the fresh-off-the-boat barbarian has an edge over his citizen counterpart. He or she simply doesn't know NOT to go poking around in new mind-shattering vistas of hyperreality without filling out the necessary paperwork in triplicate.

    No innovation without immigration.

  5. If you have access to it, you might want to factor in what is stated in Mitlanyal, and it's section titled "Magical Research". That offers one of the more detailed descriptions in all of the Tekumel sources on research. The summary of which is overall - it is frowned upon by the temples and it is highly dangerous. That's not to say that I dislike the idea of magical tinkering [with the possibility of taking out half a block of Jakalla in the process :)] My overall point here, I think that the danger involved should be factored in when ruling it ; not that it should be ruled out due to the temples recommending highly against it.