Swapping out spells in repertoire

So according to the rules, for a mage it costs 1,000gp and 1 wk time per level the spell to swap out a spell in his repertoire. This seems kind of steep, and in some ways seems worse than the standard D&D form of spellcasting. It seems like spellcasters would tend to keep generically useful spells in their repertoire, and then just never use other spells, even when spending time in town and such. Why is it so expensive, and what would be the impact of dropping the cost or at least lowering it? Has anyone tried any house rules for being able to cast spells that aren’t in your repertoire, say, as a ritual taking 10x casting time or something like that?


Yeah it does seem pretty harsh, especially at low levels, but in exchange for spontaneous “free casting” it seems worth it.

But the question is how lowering the bar for spell switching will change things, not how it compares to traditional prepared casting. As it is, switching out spells in your repertoire is not an easy undertaking, therefore, it will only be done when absolutely necessary, while most of one’s spell list stays filled with spells that are more often used. You might cycle in stone to flesh if you have a petrified friend or cycle in an enemy-specific spell if you were going on a campaign against said foe. With a lower bar, one would be more likely to swap out before a certain dungeon or moderately powerful enemy or preemptively swap spells. I think this would greatly increase the power and versatility of arcane casting classes, which are by no means underpowered or lacking in versatility to begin with. Also note, that a high int caster can have about a quarter of all publish arcane spells in his/her repertoire of a particular level as it is, so they shouldn’t need to swap out spells too much to be effective. The restraint on repertoire selection can help differentiate casters from each other, whereas otherwise, two mages in a party could be interchangeable as they share the same pool of magic (now, they probably have one or two spells that they keep for their own tastes or for versatility that they might otherwise swap to match the monster of the week).

A compromise might be creating a proficiency that grants one or more “easy-change slots”. Let’s say it grants a single repertoire slot (or maybe one per int bonus) that can hold any level spell up to one less than the maximum spell level you can cast. A spell in this slot acts in all ways as if it is in your repertoire, but it can be changed at a cost of 100gp/level taking a time of one day per level. (As an extra rule, you could say that this easy-change slot empties automatically if the spell isn’t used for a full week, and that an empty slot is easier to fill, say taking no money and half the time, rounded up to the nearest full day.)

I’m always cautious to mess with ACKS rules (especially when it means giving a specific class more power), since Alex doesn’t seem to do anything without careful consideration and over a dozen inter-connected spreadsheets.

As it stands, it seems like a Mage should be able to get enough spells known to cover his party role, with meaningful choices about which roles he can cover (nuker? utility? social? crowd-control?) instead of doing it all at once. Remember that other classes are quite limited and inflexible in their abilities, and this is a way to keep Mages from overshadowing them.

I agree with Nerd: limiting Repertoire distinguishes Mages from each other, and also puts a cap on their power. One of the reasons D&D wizards became way too strong was their ability to always have the best spell for the job (at most taking a day to prepare, at least casting off a scroll/wand) and potentially act as a 1-man party, while other classes were locked into their roles.

Thanks for the replies. I agree with the comment about hesitating to tinker with the rules because they seem so well thought out, which was the reason for my post to begin with. I certainly wasn’t suggesting dropping any cost for swapping out repertoire slots, which I agree would make mages too powerful, but I just can’t help but think it might be too much - or at least at low level. For example, my mage player right now has picked up two new 1st level spells, both of which are more utilitarian than combat oriented. But he doesn’t want to add them to his empty repertoire slots because, when he gets new spells, he doesn’t want to pay the cost of swapping them out.

Now as the DM my initial reaction is that that’s his choice so I don’t care, but I just wonder if this is really the sort of behavior that the rules are trying to incent? And rather than creating different types of mages, it actually seems to me that it will tend to create mages with fewer differences, as it creates a stronger pressure on spell repertoire selection. As a mage, you have to be even more careful about what spells you prepare in your repertoire, because the cost of changing out a spell is so high. Thus most mages will tend to put the most commonly useful spells in their repertoire, rather than experimenting much with a different selection. Of course, we’ve only played a few sessions, so maybe that’s not how it works out in play, but that’s just what I’m already beginning to see from my sole mage player.

In any case, after some more thought, I’m actually thinking about creating a set of rules for casting lower level spells as rituals, somewhat similar to the rules for existing ritual spell rules. I haven’t thought out the specifics yet, but I’m thinking about perhaps requiring a one-time cost in both time and gp for converting a regular spell to a ritual form, and then a smaller cost for each subsequent casting.

I am so glad I am on this forum, so many bits of the rules have just not ‘set’ into my brain. I never even noticed and/or glossed over the cost of changing your repertoire! In my thread about proficiencies Alex (and others) have pointed out about why I shouldn’t change the amount gained. Basically ACKS, if I play it (and I hopefully will get the chance) may well be one of my few non-houseruled game systems! I think giving mx HP at 1st level is not really a HR, but apart from that, the rules seem so tight.

I Judge an ACKS play-by-post campaign and am very sensitive to any delay in an already slow play format. I also find it a bit jarring that arcane classes must spend significant time and gold to use their core class features. I agree that ACKS classes are well-balanced. However, relative to past editions of D&D, I believe the ACKS casting without preparation/repertoire system gives a boost to divine classes, who can spontaneously cast from a repertoire which equals their spell list. My PbP campaign is a traditional “dungeon fantasy” campaign with a level of magic just a notch above default ACKS. Therefore, I have been experimenting with some different boosts to mages, in particular.


Little feedback here, so far, although adapting the PC magic research rules may be the best idea, and one I will probably follow up on.

Kabluey said “And rather than creating different types of mages, it actually seems to me that it will tend to create mages with fewer differences, as it creates a stronger pressure on spell repertoire selection.”

I agree, especially when you add in legacy BX spells like a sleep spell with no save. After seeing the same mages being created, I came up with:


A big change to be sure; it has not broken my games yet, but it’s early.



benefits arcane casters more than divine casters, by design.

Kind of a tangent, but shouldn’t spells default to Save vs. Spells if nothing else is mentioned?

Because automatically downing 2d8 creatures with a 1st level spell without a save is shockingly overpowered for a 1st level spell. Especially when it’s competing with Magic Missile.

See http://www.autarch.co/forums/general-discussion/sleep-spell-tpk

Magic Missile kicks ass as well, just at higher caster levels.

In the long run, I’d like to use the PC spell creation rules to tone down the legacy spells such that all spells are appropriately powered for their level. Spell breakthroughs will only occur in play (and/or be limited in other ways, such as rare or expensive components – perhaps a no save sleep spell requires dew-bedecked rose petals plucked within the last 24 hours).

In the short run, I think the nuclear sleep spell fits the default ACKS assumptions well – mid-level beings that don’t want to die need underlings around them to soak up the sleep spells.

It works like this: you take your effect and start at the 1st category and see if that fits and then work your way down until something does. Spells is the last one because it’s the catch-all for whatever doesn’t fit in the other four.

ACKS Core, Page 18:

One optional rule, to allow first level characters to be hardier, is for the Judge to allow all hp rolls for first level charactres to be considered the maximum result (e.g. an 8 for fighters or a 6 for clerics.)
So it's not even a house rule at all. It's (optional) rules-as-written.

You know, with just the core rules, that is a perfectly reasonable assumption, but the Player’s Companion confirms that “no save” is the default unless otherwise specified.

It’s true that Sleep is overpowered. It is literally two levels too powerful, and ought to be a 3rd level spell, but some mage made a revolutionary breakthrough and figured out how to cast it at 1st level, and eventually word got around.

Please note that with Player's Companion at hand, I have given you all mathematical justification to take Sleep away from your players at 1st level. :)


Mages are weak enough as it is at 1st level, their one Sleep spell per day is their moment of glory!

You play Mages with Int less than 13?

Even Mages with 18 INT still only get to cast one spell per day.

1st level, I am talking about :smiley:

Ah. For a while I thought Mages also got extra spells/day of Int modifier.

That makes RAW astonishingly brutal toward Mages. Definitely going to Ask the Autarch about it…

Yeah it is pretty tough, especially the massive time investment to change repertoire, for a big change it could easily take months for a high level caster. Unless your campaigns give a lot of spare time (cash probably won’t be too much of a problem) the time needed to change your repertoire could make ACKS Mages very similar to 3E Sorcerers. I haven’t played it so I can’t say, but would like to hear from those that have done campaigns as or with Mages.

I played a campaign as a Mage, rolled a 1 on the hit die, and his AC was -1. His spells were Charm Person (chosen by DM) and Ventriloquism (rolled randomly). He made it ~60ft into the first dungeon before getting one-shotted into negatives by a Kobold javelin.

Lesson: Mages are squishy. Really, really squishy. And they’re priority targets when they start casting. They die fast, even with 7 Dwarves standing between them and danger.

Ouch! My first, not one shot game (BECMI), the DM rolled for spells and I got Floating Disk. I made it to 2nd level with some help from party and firends (made some goblin friends by giving them rides on the disk). The DM rolled Shield for that level. Still that was fun :smiley: