Monday, September 13, 2010

More On Magic (or: Moron Magic)

My last post outlined my plan to merge the magic-user and cleric spell lists. Upon further reflection, and taking into account some of the excellent points raised in the comments, I'm pretty sure that I am going to head in a different direction, namely: to remove the cleric class and then create something else to stand its place.

I've had a few different ideas on how to accomplish this, many suggested by commenters on the previous post:

I could simply create a cleric variant that is closer to the magic-user in terms of its hand-to-hand combat effectiveness - weapons, hit points, and the like - but retains the same spells. The "flavor text" of the class would be changed from an armored servant of a god to a magician specializing in spells of protection and healing.

Another possible course of action goes like this: Eliminate the spellcasting classes as they currently stand. Lump all of the spells in the rulebook together and then reassign them to new spell lists, each with its own class. My guess is that there would be at least two, possibly three or four classes when all was said and done - maybe a "white mage", a "black mage", and a "witch" with illusion and nature powers? This solution is one I've considered before, but it's not without its own potential pitfalls. For one thing, I would have to figure out exactly what kind of spells the ranger and paladin classes receive at high levels. Also, I'm worried it might be overly complex. Something about the idea smacks of 3rd edition D&D to me. That's not the feel I'm going for.

More or less independent of these possible courses of action, I'm also thinking about creating a "universal" spell list - a dozen or so 1st-level spells that any magic-using class would be capable of adding to their spellbook and casting. I'd like to make it so that even an attack-oriented class like the "black mage" would be able to cast a simple healing spell, and that a "white mage" could likewise zap a foe if need be.

An even more radical idea would be to split up all of the spells into themed lists, like "fire spells", "detection spells" or "healing spells" and give spellcasters a choice of one or two lists (possibly with access to more as they increased in level). This is similar to the approach taken in Rolemaster. It's also reminiscent of the cleric's "spell domains" in D&D 3rd edition. This idea appeals to me on a mechanical level, because it would make D&D magic work a lot more like some systems that I've enjoyed in the past, but again, it'd add a lot of complexity and might be wrong for the old-school feel I'd like to evoke. It would also mean a lot of tinkering with the classes, and frankly, I don't know if I'm up for that. It'd take time and expertise that I'm not sure I have at my disposal. (The irony that it would mean I had basically turned the magic-user into a cleric, rather than the other way around as I had originally proposed, is not lost on me, either.)

I'm a little worried that these are all potentially game-breaking ideas, and I have to admit that I'm starting to wonder if I wouldn't be better off just leaving the classes as is...


  1. Sounds like the type of thought process I go through when I consider tweaking D&D. The small tweaks become a major rewrite, then I go back to playing it as-is. Which kinda' sucks, because I have never been fully satisfied with any edition of D&D and would like certain parts to be different.... but I must admit, it's still fun as-is. And it is just a game, after all.

  2. I think the best solution for pre-3e D&D is just to put all the spells in one big pile and give the magic-user access to all of them. In a sense it does make them more powerful, but in older games I find there is less of a competition for party MVP. Also, he doesn't have any more spells slots or anything like that.

    As far as Rangers and Paladins, I would recommend one of the following :

    1. Eliminate the Ranger and allow any character to try to track. Keep the Paladin as-is, but he can use only the spells from the Cleric selection. (He would have the advantage over Magic-Users of not needing to maintain a spell book, but the Paladin advancement chart is pricey and the behavior codes are rough.)

    2. Use the Ranger to represent Human "Warrior-Wizard" types, who really aren't seen much in stories as first-level jokers anyway. (They then have to use Spellbooks for all their spells just like anybody else.) Paladins don't get spells, but let them Turn Undead as clerics of their own leve, an ability to which they'd have exclusive access. (You might want to put them both on the Ranger XP chart if you go this way.)

  3. As far as the "ranger as warrior-wizard" concept goes, the multiclassing guidelines in Labyrinth Lord's Advanced Edition Companion basically say that anybody can multiclass. So humans would be as capable of being a fighter/magic-user as elves are. (Dual-classing got dumped, which I have no problem with.)

    Since multiclassing is fair game for practically any character in LL AEC, I did consider dropping the ranger altogether. It's an utterly bizarre class, basically a jumped-up fighter that gets magic-user spells at high levels. I'd almost prefer a player just make a fighter/magic-user if that's what they want. For that matter, one could do the whole "holy warrior" (paladin) thing just as easily by making a fighter/cleric (or in this case, fighter/whatever I replace the cleric with).

    Still, it seems like all this tinkering might be more trouble than it's worth.

  4. It depends on how awkward you find the Cleric. If you wanted to make the simplest change, just clip Clerics and give Magic-Users access to all the spells.

  5. The simplicity of that idea is what originally attracted me. The problem is that magic-users can't cast many spells per day at low levels as it is, so it puts pressure on players to just memorize cure light wounds every day.

  6. True but it's still a tactical choice. Is, say, Sleep a better option or is CLW a better option? It's up in the air, I think.

    Good things to do if you're going this route are -

    1. Allow hirelings, among other things, so that if even if a wizard only has CLW, he can have a goon with a spear to roll for in combat.

    2. Make healing potions a little more available. Maybe the local temple, or local witch, has a couple that she'll "advance" to beginning PCs on the promise that they'll bring the lender something or do some simple but important task for her [i]at the place they're going anyway.[/i] I also like to give starting PCs one or two rolls for "heirlooms" which might include a couple potions. And you can also seed some extras into the treasure.

    3. This is a little bolder, but you could also give magic-users the bonus spells for high wisdom. This *does* make them more powerful, but mostly at low levels when they're still fairly limited either way, and doesn't make as much of a difference at higher levels, especially since given most stat generation methods, they might not necessarily have both a good Int AND a REALLY high wisdom, though it does make wisdom a more attractive stat. (You might see some wizards go for passable int and high wisdom.)

  7. I think there's a narrative justification for the spell separation: While there is some overlap, the clerical sphere engages in the actual motive forces of life (healing, resurrection), while the arcane treads on such only as simulation (homunculi, golems).

    I'd drop clerical melee ability down to MU levels, give them the same spell progression, and make them advance as a fighter. I'd leave turning as is, with it's ready availability and progressive power as a mitigation of the less powerful high-end of clerical magic. And I'd add an at-will to magic users: A kind of magic detection that inverts the turning table, with more powerful enchantments detectable at lower levels. I have some more specific ideas on the latter if you're interested, but the effect is to have both kinds of spellcaster attuned in a palpable way to their magical sphere.

  8. Charlatan: I like the cut of your jib, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter. Actually, I'm currently backpedaling towards leaving clerics more or less alone (possibly making them a little less combat-effective), but I'd like to hear more.

  9. No! Don't retreat! I want to see this clericless world in action!

  10. Kelvingreen: You're in luck, as I am now preparing to back off from my previous backing-off!