Spell Discussions

From Rewriting spell-book alternative:
Fabio Milito Pagliara: Hello to all, my name is Fabio Milito Pagliara and I am a D&D old player :slight_smile:
to the topic :slight_smile:
the idea the a wizard has to “re-write” the spell in his spell book is one that will find great opposition (as happened in D&D 4th edition) so I suggest to reformulate it without modifying the game balance or the system
the system presented in ACK can be seen as one in which the wizard construct in his mind “schemata” (or “sigil” or whatever) for each of the “ready” spell (table + Int bonus), how long it will take to construct this “schemata” (1 hour, 1 day, 1 week)/level and the cost (10 gp, 100 gp, 1000 gp)/level is matter of game balance and I suggest to leave it as for the time of spellbook rewriting
in the book there should be more spell than the wizard can “ready”, I would go with the old spell maximum of AD&D or something similar
an easy one: the maximum number of spell a wizard can “understand” (and thus write in his spellbook for each spell level is “Intelligence-Spell Level” spells
Sean Wills: I see what you’re aiming for but I think this makes wizards into stamp collectors and arcane knowledge less elusive. Magic has it’s own rules, counter-intuitive or not.
Fabio Milito Pagliara: isn’t the greatest asset of a wizard it’s spell collection?
there are other means to elude the stamp-collector feel

  1. don’t present too many spell
  2. put a maximum to the number of spell a wizard can understand and write in his/her spellbook
    but to rewrite the spell sounds just “bad” not “magical” at all
    Sean Wills: I like the rewriting idea because of the way individual wizards may evolve over time, at different stages of their ‘career’ specialising in different spells. High level mages would be drawing on different spells rather than having the same bulging spellbook. Having a narrow selection to draw from helps to balance spellcasters with non casters by limiting the ‘one-man army who can solve all adventures by being able to do anything’ that exists in D&D - invisible teleporting polymorphous deathbringer Gandalf.
    Veketshian: I agree with Mr. Wills about how to treat the mage in the game. What became rather troublesome in 3.5 is that the wizard could, in theory, eventually have every spell and craft a bunch of wands and staves so that the right spell could be pulled out at the right time. The versatility of the wizard seemed to overshadow the one-trick ponies of the martial-based classes, at least to popular forum belief.
    From a flavor perspective, the wizard just felt watered down because it had access to so many spells from eight different fields. The most powerful option for the wizard was to stay a universalist, and it’s hard to argue for being more flavorful by focusing on a subschool when that flavor required a loss of power.
    I think it’s best that the mage stay with a limited spell list, but possess on-the-fly casting.
    Fabio Milito Pagliara: while I understand the doubt I don’t see (mechanically) the difference between having the need of rewriting one own spell-book at 1 week/level and 1000gp/level to rewrite the spell and the need to recreate the spell pattern at 1 week/level and 1000gp/levelin the wizard mind?
    the big difference is flavor :slight_smile:

From Magic and spell question or Cleric vs wizard:
Fabio Milito Pagliara: 1) cleric vs wizard
I see a problem, as I read the rules both kind of spellcaster chose the spell to cast at the moment of casting BUT the cleric can chose between 10 spell vs the 1-4 spell at first level to the 4-7 spell at 14th level of a wizard it seems a little “wrong” for at least 2 reason
a) the cleric seems too much advantaged
b) more importantly in this way the cleric is more flexible in his choice of spells and it should be the other way around
and we go back to the question of the limits to the number of spell in the spellbook :slight_smile:
I come from AD&D 1st edition, the limit of spell in the book are linked to intelligence as all of you know (and at 19 you get unlimited number of spell), to have such a small number of spell in the book means to take away a reason of being of the wizard (to have the biggest collection of spell in his library)
this was one of the reason for asking again to rethink of the way the book works in ACKS
Alex: Fabio - thanks for your comments. Before printing these rules, we had a 101 session long campaign that took the players from level 1 to level 14. We had both mages and clerics in the campaign. We did not feel, overall, that the clerics were over-powered relative to the mages. Certainly clerics are powerful, but consider:

  • Mages start with spells at 1st level, Clerics do not.
  • At every level, mage spells tend to be more powerful than cleric spells. For example, Fireball is a 3rd level arcane spell; Flamestrike, similar in effect, is a 5th level cleric spell.
  • The most powerful cleric spell, Finger of Death (the reverse of Restore Life and Limb), seems powerful, as it is a save or die effect that the cleric gains at 7th level; but a 7th level mage can take Polymorph Other, which can be used for a save or die effect or for other purposes, and is harder to save against.
  • Clerics never get 6th level spells or 8th or 9th level ritual magic, while Mages do.
  • Magic items usable by mages, such as the various staffs and wands, tend to substantially broaden their available repertoire of spells, relative to the magic items available to Clerics.
    In any event, I’m aware that opinions will vary widely on how magic ought best be implemented in a fantasy game, so I won’t be offended if someone wants to give mages more spells to choose from, or limit clerics to memorization, or whatever they’d like. But I can say with certainty that the ACKS method works and
    Fabio Milito Pagliara: thanks for the answer, while I have not tried to go from 1st to 14th level with acks (maybe in august?) I tested a similar magic system at the time and this was a problem (the fact that the cleric had more spell to choose from), I am not suggesting to put back the cleric but to reconsider the limit of spell in the spell-book, maybe considering a short list as it is now and a long list with other limitation, I think the big problem is when the mage has no reason to go around researching all kind of spells, that’s all

From About Arcane Spells Known:
Alex: A few of you have raised great points about the meta-game explanation for how magic works in ACKS. I re-wrote the Arcane Spells Known section to better explain the metaphysics of arcane magic.
In the process of doing so, it occured to me that ACKS probably needed different game mechanics for what happens when you LOSE a spellbook, so I wrote some new material there. I think the final result makes great sense within the context of the game world, and is highly playable. Please let me know if you agree!

Arcane spellcasters know only a limited number of spells. Knowing an arcane spell is far different than merely possessing a copy of its formula. For an arcane spellcaster to know how to cast a spell he must keep track of complex astrological movements and star signs that are constantly changing; he must daily appease various ghosts and spirits that power certain dweomers; he must remember and obey special taboos that each spell dictates. All of these strictures, and they are many, can vary with the season, the lunar cycle, the caster’s location, and more. Knowing a spell is thus an ongoing effort, like maintaining a friendship or a muscle. Only the most intelligent and learned arcane spellcasters can know more than a few spells at a time.
An arcane spellcaster can know a maximum number of spells equal to the number and level of spells listed for his level, modified by his Intelligence bonus. For instance, a 3rd level mage is able to cast 2 1st and 1 2nd level spell per day. If he has 16 INT (+2 modifier) he can know up to 4 1st level and 3 2nd level spells.
An arcane spellcaster records his known spells in his spell books. Spell books are not encyclopedias of spell formulae; they are more like journals, in which each day the caster reviews and re-calculates what he must remember about each spell he knows. Spell books are esoteric and personal in nature, so they are legible only to the spellcaster who wrote the book, or through the use of the first-level spell read magic.
Arcane spellcasters can learn new spells in a few different ways. All mages and elven spellswords are assumed to be members of the local mages’ guild, or apprenticed to a higher level NPC. When they gain a level of experience, they may return to their masters and be out of play for one game week while they are learning their new spells. Their masters will teach them spells equal to the number and level of spells the caster can use in a single day. Characters of 9th level or above do not have masters to teach them spells, so they must find or research them. When a master is not available, mages and elven spellswords depend entirely on finding spell scrolls to add to a spell book, finding other spell books with new spells in them, or conducting spell research.
If a new spell is found on a scroll, or another arcane spellcaster’s spell book, it may be added to the arcane spellcaster’s spell book, if the character can still learn new spells of that level. If the spell is of too high level to be cast, it cannot be put into the book, but it may be saved to be put into a book in the future. It takes one week of study to scribe a spell into the character’s spell book. Scribing a spell from a scroll uses it up in the process, but copying spells from one spell book to another does not erase spells from the book.
Sometimes an arcane spellcaster’s spell book will either be lost or destroyed. Each week he goes without access to his spell book, an arcane spellcaster loses the knowledge of one spell level, until eventually he knows none at all. An arcane spellcaster can rewrite the spells through research and memory at a cost of 1 week of game time and 1,000 gp for each spell level. For instance, if two first level spells and one 2nd level spell are replaced, it will take 4 weeks and 4,000 gp. This activity requires complete concentration, and a character doing this work may not engage in any other activity for the time required.
An arcane spellcaster can follow the same procedure to permanently replace one spell in his spell book with another. For instance, Quintus is a 1st level mage with INT 16. He is eligible to have 3 1st level spells in his spell book. Over time, he has recorded read magic, shield, and sleep into his book. He finds a grimoire holding magic missile and decides to replace shield with his new find. (That is, Quintus decides to stop actively monitoring the various stars, spirits, or taboos associated with shield so he can instead pay attention to those associated with magic missile). This costs 1 week of game time and 1,000gp. In game terms, he now knows read magic, magic missile, and sleep, but no longer knows shield and therefore cannot cast it.
Bargle: Works for me. I like it. If I squint really hard, I can still see it as being quite Vancian, but with a nice hyperborean/melnibonean twist.
Tavis: I love making the theory of stars and spirits concrete, it definitely lays the groundwork for some of the cursed items, spells, etc. we’ve talked about at the Mule when discussing this topic.
Artus: Are mages to keep track of the spells stored in all the grimoires they possess? I ask because the cost stated above is half the cost of researching a spell from scratch, and this would encourage a mage to begin hoarding arcane knowledge early in their career. For example, a mage rewrites shield with magic missile, but in a year he wishes to relearn shield. Instead of researching shield from scratch using the spell research system, he simply begins to update his old practices pertaining to shield.
This would make the loss of a magical sanctum especially harmful. The mage would lose all his formulae, library investments, workshop investments, and spell grimoires.
Alex: Artus, you have grasped the intent of the system exactly! Mages hoard everything they can because it’s far easier to learn from a spellbook than from research.
Undercrypt: Love it. The “traditional” D&D spellbook becomes the mage’s scroll/grimoire library, so the flexibility is still there if you need to prepare for a particular type of adventure, it’s just shifted in time scale.
I like the image of a mage’s morning routine being a combination of chanting a few verses of an old prayer to a forgotten god, marking the position of a star, and burning three particular herbs because it’s Wednesday. I think that shifts the image of the mage away from the overly-scholarly bookworm (with apologies to Agrippa) and closer to someone you’d find kicking in a dungeon door.
Lots of room for flavor if a GM wanted to make some of those stars/spirits/taboos explicit, and it provides a nice loose-but-consistent framework for things like spells that only work during the full moon or cultists waiting until the stars are right.
I wonder if “spells active” might be clearer terminology than “spells known” (or something along that line
Fabio Milito Pagliara: I like the idea, but I think there is a disconnect between the first part of the explanation and the second part of it.
I think that the idea of it’s not spell known but spell “fed” is great and must seep deeper in the rules.
From what you have written I got the following general idea, a spell formula is the starting point of readying a spell, to have a spell in the spellbook a mage must do some sort of magical activity (a mix of an horoscope, solving an equation, all modified by where the wizard is and who he is…) so the spellbook is the solution to that particular problem and must be slightly corrected day by day… to lose the spellbook means that the mage must start again from the general formula…
that said I like it, this means that the mage can have huge collection of formulas but still need a lot of time to “prepare” the spellbook with his spell

These summaries are incredibly valuable. Thanks!

indeed :slight_smile:
I vote for “spell active” (I had forgotten it)

I figured out what I was trying to say before. It’s easy to see how people can get confused with the terminology because old terms are referring to different functional things.
Spells a mage has collected and could potentially cast after some housekeeping - Traditional system: Spells known, kept in a spellbook. ACKS: No clear term, kept in a pile somewhere.
Spells a mage can cast today - Traditional system: Spells memorized, kept in the mage’s head. ACKS: Spells known, kept in a spellbook.
That, I think, is what’s confusing, rather than the underlying mechanics.
We fully expect mages to collect sources of spells because of the advantages over doing research, but if “Spell books are not encyclopedias of spell formulae” (which is how they’re described in the class descriptions), then what fills that role?
I think it would be helpful to introduce terms for the cast-after-housekeeping spells so mages have a peg to hang that “I’m gathering power” idea upon. Call them Formulae Known, or Spell Formulae, or Spell Library, or whatever. Just a consistent term so mages aren’t going, “These are the spells I know… well, I don’t ‘know’ know them, but you know what I mean.” If it’s explicit somewhere that a mage can add to his Spell Formulae by finding a scroll or a rival’s spellbook, it’s clearer that the system isn’t so completely different.
I like Spell Formulae since there are multiple references to the formula for a spell, but formula is specifically defined as “a magical ‘recipe’ for the creation of an item” in the item creation section, so there may be some tweaking wanted there.
It may be stamp collecting, but it’s definitely a part of the mid- to high-level game. I think the weeks or months it takes to shift a spell from Formula to Known effectively counters the all-powerful wizard who can solve any problem tomorrow morning.

I subscribe what Undercrypt wrote :slight_smile:

Undercrypt’s term “Spell Formulae” gives me an image of…well like a base recipe. For example if I know how to make a basic vanilla cake, with a little work I can work out how to make a chocolate cake. Do you think that if a mage knows a spell it would be easier to reseach another spell with a similar nature? e.g. I know invisibility so it would be easier and cheaper for me to learn how to cast invisiblity 10’ than lightning bolt. Might make specializations appealing…