Tuesday, April 13, 2021

never memorize fireball again

I was googling something unrelated and stumbled across this nice Carjacked Seraphim post called Spontaneous Wizard Magic. Spontaneous clerical casting was introduced in 3E, if I recall correctly. The idea was that you didn't need to load up all your spell slots with various cure wounds spells. Instead, you could burn off any memorized spell and turn it into dice of heal. 

Jim at Carjacked Seraphim nicely applies that logic to magic-users. I think he is writing for 5e, but I actually think his concept would work at least as well for old editions. Assuming you don't mind the raw power this gives MUs. I'm kinda mulling over how it would work in a Basic/Expert game where the hard spell book limits were enforced. I.e. a second level MU could have at max two first level spells in his book, but if he was, say, an enchanter, he could turn any spell into Charm Person on the fly, whether he had that spell in his book or not.

Now you jerks will really fear my wrath!


  1. Seems like a more limited version of the way 3/3.5 sorcerers use magic, honestly. They just have spell slots at various levels and a (smaller than wizards) list of spells they know, and can cast any of them by burning the appropriate slot (or higher level slot - you could burn a 4th level slot to cast any spell of 4th level or less), no memorization required. It makes them very good at casting any given spell many times but they had fewer options to choose from than you'd find in a wizard's spellbook.

  2. Derek Holland1:53 PM

    You may want to check out Good Thing, For a Spell in Dragon 111. Spell focus items were a version of spontaneous casting, as well as metamagic. Pity they were never incorporated into AD&D 2e or BECMI. (A weaker version was in 3e, I remember them as staves in the magic item book.)

  3. yeah I do like this idea to make Vancian casting a tiny bit more versatile. having a spell or two that you can burn any pre-memorized spell to cast really frees up casters to memorize more interesting, situational spells without sacrificing moment-to-moment usefulness

  4. As with spontaneously cast cleric spells, this would appear to simply increase the versatility of the MU class...not a terrible thing.

    I’d just allow a MU to “master” one spell per level or two of advancement (put a star next to its name in the spell book). The caveats would be a) it has to be a spell already known prior to the level gain and b) um, actually I can’t think of a “b” at the moment.

    I don’t think it’s terribly bank breaking. A 12th level wizard having six signature spells? Sounds fine to me (and adds flavor for dudes who like to specialize in “fire magic” or “enchantments,” for instance).

  5. The solution used in the BX clone ACKs is that you have a limited # of spells in your `repertoire that you can cast basically equal to the number you can cast per level plus you intelligence mod. You can cast any of those spells whenever you use a spell slot.

    The trade off is that it takes 1 week per spell level to switch spells in your repertoire. I have to say that it allows for even low level mages to take non combat spells, and increased creativity at the table.

    This is especially true when combined with specific spell signatures unique to each mage which slightly changes each spell, e.g. the fire mage shoots out little balls of flame for his magic missile, one necromancer has little screaming skulls of force, and another necromancer shoots out bony needles. The flame couldn't knock something off a shelf, but the skull sure could, on the other hand, just try to light a candle or light oil with a bone needle.

  6. I have not requiring memorization of spells for the past decade or so. Casters can cast any known spell, limited by their "slots" per day. I've been told this totally breaks the game but we haven't noticed any issues so far. Maybe something will crop up in the next decade. We'll keep an eye out for it.

    We play B/X and use the BTB magic-user spell book rules...I'd be at least a little hesitant to use this for magic-users with the Mentzer or AD&D spellbook rules...it might totally break the game.