Divine Spell Progression Error?

There is something off about Divine Spell Progression; Bladedancers, Clerics, Priestesses, Shamans, and every other Divine Spellcasting class seem to get both 3rd and 4th level spells at the same level. Specifically, sixth level.

Now on the one hand this looks like an obvious error, like the Paladin’s Dark Fortress in the Player’s Companion, but there are two things giving me pause. Firstly, the consistency with which it has been applied means that it would have to have slipped by every editor and playtest, for every divine class, which seems unlikely. Secondly, because I have no idea what the progression is supposed to look like.

So is this an error, and if so what is the correct progression? If it isn’t an error why do Divine Spellcasters get access to both 3rd and 4th level spells at the same time?

I’m with you, but it is a direct copy of ODnD or B/X DnD Cleric. I find it weird that many other things (like XP) have been balanced out (no more Thieves with higher XP requirements than Magic Users) but they kept that odd progression. So that is what it is from anyway, it is not a type but a design decision.

I checked my copies of the Expert Set and Rules Cyclopedia, which I was under the impression ACK is based on, and neither one has this progression. In Expert, Elders (Cleric 6) get 3rd level spells while Lamas (Cleric 8) get 4th, and this exact progression repeated in Rules Cyclopedia.

If B/X had this problem at one time, it was fixed in basic D&D before I was even born.

Hmm, it’s not a 'problem" unless you think it is.

The spell progression used in ACKS is what appears in B/X. ACKS grew out of a long-running B/X campaign. I didn’t play BECMI or RC D&D, so that wasn’t my main source. You might note that Thief skills have the values from B/X, not BECMI, too. And Clerical turning is closer to that in B/X than in any of the other versions of the game…

So, starting from B/X, when I encountered problems in the campaign, I changed the rules that were causing the problem. When I encountered areas that lacked rules, I created rules for them. When I saw economic inconsistencies, I fixed them.

The Cleric spell progression didn’t cause problems, and it didn’t lack rules, and it didn’t create economic inconsistencies. So why change it? I didn’t change things unless I had a justification for doing so. It’s the same reason Clerics don’t cast spells at 1st level in ACKS.

And consider: The current Cleric spell progression ends up letting Clerics cast “restore life and limb” at level 7. A more rationalized (mathematically consistent) progression would see that pushed back to level 10. Would that be a virtue for the game? I’m not sure, but I don’t think so.

I could probably provide further justification by referencing the differences between American and French Revolution and the philosophy of Hayek and Burke, but this tends to bore people.

In the Marsh/Cook Expert Book that is how it appears. The link below shows how it appeared in the book many ages ago.


I like the idea that you can only raise the dead after being able to build a castle, but again I haven’t gotten much chance to see that part of play in ACK yet; this is more of me trying to head off potential issues before my campaign gets into the higher levels than nitpicking math.

As for the history/economics stuff, fire away. It’s not my field but always interesting to read about.

It's not so much historical or economic as philosophical. Burke and Hayek both make the point that when you are handling laws or customs that have been handed down to you, you should be very careful about changing them lest you inadvertently break something in the system. Laws and customs usually have been shaped by the collective wisdom of prior generations and in seeking to replace seemingly hodge-podge laws and customs of the past with streamlined, rational systems we often break our societies. This concern lies at the heart of conservatism, understood as an intellectual tradition.

Nowhere is this difference more apparent than in the gulf between the American and French Revolutions. The American Revolution sought to maintain ancient freedoms - the Constition enshrined principles of common law that were centuries old. It was a conservative revolution. In contrast, the French Revolution was inspired by rationalist philosophy; it swept away all that had come before it in favor of radical change - such as new, decimal measures of time-keeping. One of these revolutions succeeded, and the other was replaced within a generation by a military dictatorship, its "reforms" consigned to history's failed experiments.

With regard to game design, I take a Burkean or Hayekian approach towards the rules that have come before me. I assume that game mechanics that have stood the test of time have probably done so for a reason. I try not to change things unless I encounter a reason in play to do so. When I encounter an area that seems like it needs a new rule, I try to find a source in actual play, or a source in history. So there's an inherent conservativism in my designs.

An example of where this shows up is Cleaving.

Cleaving was implemented because I noticed that the earliest versions of D&D all had some mechanism to allow fighters to have exponential value against weak opponents, a power that had later been rationalized away in 2e/3e. I researched all the different ways that Arneson, Gygax, Barker, etc. had addressed the issue, tested them, and went with the one that worked best in my tests.

Anyway, as I said, this is really high-philosophy stuff. If you don't like the Cleric spell progression, change it and share your house rules with us. Then let us know on the forums how it went in play.







It’s interesting you list the metric system specifically, seeing as it’s arguably the most successful innovation of the revolution. But as to the general point I absolutely agree that change should be well thought-out, although I see scrutinizing old ideas as equally important. Hence me bringing the question here; I don’t want to mess with anything important, but I’d prefer not to let something which may be an error stay unexamined.

As for my “house rule”, all I did was change the Cleric progression over to the BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia version, which is very nearly identical except for pushing 4th level spells to 8th level and 5th to 10th level (it also included 6th level spells by 12th, but that doesn’t fit in the ACK system). The Craftpriest cuts off at 10th, which means they barely have 5th level casting; that may or may not be a problem depending on how “hard” the Demihuman level limits are supposed to be.

With the Priestess and Witch progression it gets trickier because I have no idea where it comes from or what sort of pattern it follows. At the moment I’m thinking about bumping up the Cleric progression one level, although that significantly weakens the classes. I’m not happy with that idea though, and will probably settle on a less extreme change.

Actually, changing from the B/X spell progression to the BECMI spell progression is a huge change, if you take the economics and demographics of your fantasy world as seriously as ACKS assumes you do.

Under ACKS/BX, 7th level clerics can cast Restore Life and Limb. Take a kingdom of 6 million and the default ACKS demographics of leveled characters. That means there are 245 clerics of 7th-14th level who will be capable of casting Restore Life and Limb. There will be a total of 280 castings per day, and based on the formula used to derive costs to cast spells, it will cost 500gp for the spell. To have a single caster of 7th level requires a city of 50,000. T

Under BECMI, it takes a 10th level cleric to cast Restore Life and Limb. In the same kingdom of 6 million, there will now only be 12 clerics who can cast Restore Life and Limb (1 in 500,000), with a total of 13 castings per day. Based on the formula used to derive costs to cast spells, it will cost 2,200gp for the spell. To have a single caster of 10th level requires a city of 500,000 - of which there are probably no more than 1-3 in an entire continent. Since the efficacy of Restore Life and Limb decreases with each day after death, most adventurers will be unable to get to a cleric who can restore life, since their adventures will tend to take place far from Class I markets.

So this one small change means that Restore Life and Limb will be 1/20th as common at best, almost entirely unavailable to adventurers who are actually adventuring, and hideously more expensive. It suggests a game world where the emperors and kings might be restored of life and limb, but almost no one else is.

Then consider: What would happen to adventurers, as a social class, if Restore Life and Limb were 1/20th as common? It’s likely that fewer would dare to become adventurers at all, and many fewer would survive to high level. So the demographics of heroism would probably have to be revised to reduce the number of high-level clerics. If we assume the average 10th level adventurer gets killed just one time between 1st and 10th level, that would mean that 10th level adventurers would be only 1/20th as common!

But that means that 10th level clerics would be even less common! And that would cascade again: Now perhaps Restore Life and Limb is 1/50th as a common. Now 10th level clerics aren’t in 1 in 500,000 - they are 1 in 2.5 million. Now a cleric capable of casting Restore Life and Limb is a prophet who changes the world.

Now, you could overcome this by adopting more favorable demographics for high-level characters. Perhaps in your campaign world, 10th level characters are as common as 7th level characters in the default ACKS system. But that causes lots of other problems - because that means there’s a LOT more treasure in your world, for one thing. Which means that all of the wages and earnings of nobles need to be revised. And on and on.

The economy in ACKS is built on an interlocking system that runs across 23 different worksheets in EXCEL.

You can of course simply hand-wave all of this, and keep Restore Life and Limb at 500gp available at Class III markets. But at some point you end up with awkward questions.

PS I was referencing not the metric system, but the decimal measures of keeping time. See 



On the one hand, less easily available (both more expensive and harder to find) resurrection sounds like an unmitigated good thing. On the other, I really don’t want to mess with the core math of the game.

One thing occurs though; I had always assumed that the drop-offs in level on the chart reflected people dying on adventures/military campaigns/merchant ventures/etc or retiring after them. Or even just that the experience “ecosystem” could only support a certain number of characters of higher level, like how you’ll never see a herd of bison in a tundra. But now I’m not so sure; if most/all high level characters are former adventurers, and by 10th level 95% of them have died and returned to life at least once, that seems like a different situation.

As to the calendar, you’re absolutely right, I just tend to lump all the French decimalization together in my mind.

(I also figured out how to convert the Divine Value 4 classes, and it’s so obvious it hurts me. Guess I didn’t read it as carefully as I ought.)

The drop offs are mostly from dying/retiring, but if it is feasible for an nth level character to receive a speedy resurrection and limb repair, fewer high level characters would die permanently or retire early. Even characters who don’t die are more likely to retire after a close call when they realize they aren’t coming back from the dead. Furthermore, less restore life and limb means that losing a few choice limbs spells retirement most of the time, even for high level characters.

If you adjust it, perhaps you could compensate for some of this by saying that the default fighting cleric is actually not the default route of training for holy men, and the more common thing is divine 4 casters, who probably make more sense as the leaders of their respective churches, anyway… The level at which restore life and limb becomes available would be lower, and some of the demographic shift would be averted.

Priestesses get more spells, but I do not get higher level spells earlier (they get 1st level spells at 1st level, but not other spells quicker). In fact, since they take more experience to level up, a cleric will get to restore life and limbs before a priestess does. The demographics would shift slightly since a number of appropriate-leveled priestesses would have twice as many spells as an equal level cleric, but this wouldn’t be close to making up for all the clerics that lost the ability, you’d still need to find a level 9 or so divine caster.

I think you’ll find that a lot of the progressions in BECMI were problematic, in large part because they were smeared over 36 levels instead of B/X’s 14 levels (like butter scraped over too much bread). I’m not saying they weren’t playable, just that there were (known) problems (e.g. low level Thief skills, demi-human level limits/attack ranks, etc.).

The Cleric spell-progression in B/X makes way more sense in a game like ACKS with only 14 levels.