Thursday, November 11, 2010

Spell Memorization Effects

Nearly everything about the D&D magic system has been criticized at one point or another, but the two most common complaints in my experience are that the "Vancian" spell slot system makes no sense and that low-level magic-users are too weak and nothing at all like their literary/mythological counterparts. Unsurprisingly, I don't think either criticism holds much weight, particularly the latter one, but then I'm an unrepentant Dungeons & Dragons apologist, so what else would I say? However, I've had this idea in my brain for quite a few years now that could, if done correctly, introduce a neat little wrinkle to spell memorization that'd go some way toward addressing both criticisms -- or at least would make D&D magic a little less bland.

As I've long imagined it, a spell formula, the thing a magic-user spends time "memorizing" each day, is a means of temporarily "re-wiring" one's brain to act as a "circuit" for magical energies that are shaped by this to produced certain effects when "triggered." Once a spell is cast, the re-wiring associated with it is undone and that part of the magic-user's brain returns to normal. Where there's potential for adding some flavor is in imagining that, beyond the spell effect produced by memorizing a particular spell, the magic-user also gains some small benefit before the spell is cast. This benefit is a side effect of the cerebral re-wiring associated with the spell and is active only until the magic-user casts the spell associated with it.

For example, suppose a magic-user memorizes the 1st-level spell charm person. While memorized, the character temporarily gains +1 Charisma for the purposes of reaction adjustment and retainer morale. Meanwhile, a magic-user who memorizes the 2nd-level spell levitate gains the temporary ability to "float" a very short distance above the ground -- not enough to avoid pit traps or other ground-based obstacles but enough to give the character an eerie look to their movement.

That's the kind of thing I have in mind here. The trick, of course, is to find useful/interesting benefits for each spell that neither overshadow nor replicate the spell itself. That's going to be hard in some case, like read magic or read languages, whose use is so straightforward that I simply can't imagine what kind of benefit might be associated with having these spells memorized. The other trick, too, is to make the benefits good enough that the player of a magic-user might conceivably think twice about whether he should cast the memorized spell or keep it memorized in order to continue to receive its benefit.

Anyway, this is just an idea I've had for a while that I've never developed fully, so, if anyone wants to run with it, feel free. I'd love to see every spell in the LBBs have a benefit associated with it. Done right, this approach might go a long way toward giving low-level MUs a little more oomph without going to ridiculous extremes and encourage the memorization of certain less popular spells, owing to the benefits they accrue while memorized. That's the theory anyway; I'm sure someone will soon explain why this is a terrible idea.


  1. Hey, wouldn't read magic or read languages be much more cool spells if they actually only had an effect while memorize, and actually never needed to be cast?

    I know I've seen a similar suggestion to this one before, it has a lot of appeal.

  2. It's an interesting idea, James. I'm not sure how easy it would be to implement on a practical level, though. You cite some easy examples, but what about some of the less obvious ones? What good do spells like find familiar or wish get you? Also, in the context of AD&D, the impact of cantrips would also need to be addressed. And what of multiple spells?

    Those problems are not necessarily insurmountable, of course, but care would also have to be taken that keeping a spell memorized in the long term wouldn't outweigh the benefit of actually casting it. I could see a higher level magic-user deciding that burning a single 1st-level spell slot to get a +1 charisma bonus might be worth it. Or five to get a +5 bonus...

  3. There was an article in The Dragon that mentioned this, but memory is hazy. "The Color of Magic" maybe? According to Dragondex, that's in issue 200. I don't think it went into much detail, but it definitely talked about giving some kind of minor benefit contingent on one's memorized spells. I'll dig it up later and have a look.

  4. I love this idea but I can see it being a nightmare at higher levels in terms of book-keeping.

  5. I can't seem to find where I read it (may actually have been on this blog!), but I recall a story about a magic-user who would use his/her single spell and then p'own the rest of the dungeon through cleverness and flasks of oil... single handedly!

    I used to think that the "Vancian" system was stupid, but in practice, it's actually perfect for D&D-type games. Sure it sucks for low-level types, but as soon as you start to hit mid-levels it's irrelevant. In the mean time, try using your own ingenuity to solve dungeon problems instead of relying on the ability to cast spells (a.k.a. "powers") at will.

    That said, I actually like your "lesser effects" idea, James. Maybe allow the character to light fires if they have burning hands memorized, or allow them to appear "larger than life" (+1 CHA) if they have the enlarge spell memorized, etc.

  6. "I can't seem to find where I read it (may actually have been on this blog!), but I recall a story about a magic-user who would use his/her single spell and then p'own the rest of the dungeon through cleverness and flasks of oil... single handedly!"

    I don't think low level magic users are useless in theory or even in practice. However, I will say that, in almost thirty years of running 1st edition off and on, I have almost never seen a player choose to play a simple magic user. It's almost always a multiclass with something useful for fighting, such as cleric or fighter. (Other classes I almost never see: monks, druids, assassins, and paladins). Oddly enough, I have had a couple of illusionists - maybe getting phantasmal force at first level is considered to be worth it?

    But maybe that's just my players.


    It's for Moldvay/Cook/LL rather than LBB/OD&D, mind.

  8. Sounds like blue mages in Final Fantasy 11. They have a pool of spells to select from to ready and each spell has a point value associated with them. The blue mage then has so many points per level to pick which spells they want to ready. Most spells give stat bonuses straight up from just readying them, like more hp or str. While certain combination of spells give greater bonuses like an HP regen effect or dual-wield abilities.

  9. I always found the "magic-users aren't like their literary counterparts" to be a weak argument. You look at any culture's depiction of magicians from the Christian "sorcerers" (false prophets and demon worshipers) to witch doctors and it all falls under the same realm; historical magic-users are conjurers, charmcasters, and alchemists. They use mundane objects like drugs and pseudo-science to befuddle the common man. Hexes and curses have been alluded to for thousands of years but were they really anything more than superstition i.e., a mental side effect of the hexed's paranoia?

    For me, the quintessential magic-user is Tsotha-lanti from the Conan story The Scarlet Citadel (my first Conan story so it had a profound effect). He has a few tricks up his sleeve but the entirety of his "magic" is throwing dust in people's faces and a ring with a needle spiked with paralyzing poison. Aside from some monsters he has, this is all we see of his magic and it totally scares the crap out of everyone!

    I started with 2e but even then I always played up the idea of "mundane magic." Who needs "knock" when you can pour a vial of acid on a lock while chanting? Who needs obscuring mist when saltpeter in a cupcake wrapper can literally fill up an entire city block with smoke? I don't need to blind someone when I can put pepper in tissue paper and throw it in your eyes. You can make a potent poison by extracting the nicotine from common pipe tobacco, something that requires a bowl of water and a paper towel. You can make a powerful bomb out of cow manure or a makeshift grenade (or pipe bomb) out of a jug and explosives. You can make a rocket out of sugar and there are tons of uses for chlorine. The possibilities are endless for someone who takes the time to research mundane chemistry with majority of the components having been available to humans since the beginning of time. The kicker? In a suitable world where most people are illiterate and have never been outside their homes, all of this is like magic. Since "real" magic is nothing but smoke and mirrors, putting on a show by chanting in tongues or waggling your fingers will trick any common buffoon into thinking that you spitting lamp oil into a torch makes you related to a dragon.

    Sorry for the rant, I just wanted to speak my mind on my opinion of magic-users and people's complaint that at low levels they somehow "lack magic."

  10. The D&D magic system is the kind of thing that bugged me when I was a kid (oh so very very very long ago), but now I just don't care. It's a game, and games have rules, and I'm reveling in the game-ness of the whole system. Realism is the opposite of fun.

  11. I don't think Vancian magic makes no sense, but I do think having it and not explaining it makes no sense.

  12. Twitt - Well said!

    I actually just read Scarlet Citadel last week and I couldn't help but think "How is it that this trickster (Tsotha-lanti) was able to imprison his rival, who seemed to be more in command of true sorceries than his captor?" But as you point out (and perhaps REH was alluding to), a cryptic knowledge of the mundane can be just as powerful, if not more so.

  13. To me D&D magic "cast and forget" system just feels like its roots. war-gaming. But in an rpg I think its terrible. Did when I used to play AD&D and does today. One reason I stopped playing it. Cantrips are the only thing that makes games like C&C enjoyable to me.

  14. I've tinkered around with multiple options when it comes to spellcasting (rituals, spell points, item-only casting, etc.), & I've always returned to the "Vancian" system. Your idea is as viable as any other alternate method I've either read about or tried out myself. Maybe someone will tweak it to work for them, but I'll stick with "fire-and-forget"; I don't need to know the rationale of why it works. It does, & that's all I need.

    I also don't think low-level MU's are necessarily dungeon fertilizer, either. Sure, they'll run out of spells pretty quickly, but there are plenty of things they can do to be useful to an adventuring group other than spellcasting: carrying equipment, deciphering ancient runes, identifying long-forgotten artefacts, & so on. A low-level MU is as useful or as useless as the player (& DM) makes them.

  15. Reminds me of this:

    I've used it in my Pathfinder campaign to good effect, even as I frustrate my players by limiting the magic spells available to them (for reasons specific to my setting).

  16. "I've tinkered around with multiple options when it comes to spellcasting (rituals, spell points, item-only casting, etc.), & I've always returned to the "Vancian" system."

    Really, Vancian magic and spell point type systems are just two different ways of arriving at the same effect. Plus, Vancian magic at least encourages some variety because the casters have to memorize spells within a set level structure; they can't just use all their "spell points" to throw magic missiles.

    One thing I may do when I start my Labyrinth Lord campaign is allow even 1st level magic users to create scrolls from the spells in their book, at a cost of 100 gp and 1 week per spell level. That will have the dual advantage of giving the MU's a little more firepower (and maybe encouraging them to take more noncombat spells?) and sucking excess gold out of their pockets. Maybe I can even get the MU's to demand that the rest of the party subsidize their scroll production!

  17. @Joeseph

    Find Familiar would leave you inexplicably covered in cat hair until you cast it, while Wish would cause your clothing to morph into gold lamé harem pants, a paisley vest with cummerbund, curly toed shoes, and an awesome turban with a huge feather on it for the duration of your memorization.

  18. I sort of like the idea of low-level "side effect magic" based on spells actually memorized, but I think I've settled on the Holmes rule on creating scrolls at any level, plus cheaper cantrip scrolls and maybe even the ability to prepare and memorize cantrips in 1 turn, without the need for spell books.

    I've mulled over Vancian magic a couple times, and basically I just think of "memorization" as actually preparation: the M-U draws up magic squares and conjuring circles in his study that invoke the powers of Light or Fireball for that week, including symbols representing specific words and gestures that will evoke the power precisely when needed. I might even ask people to pick a phrase and gesture for each spell they prepare, to use as "one-time passwords" that trigger the spell.

    And recently, after watching a lot of Buffy and Angel (and thinking back to Supernatural or Merlin,) I've concluded that if each episode were equated to one day in a D&D game, your typical TV drama magic-user is casting about as many spells as a low-level D&D M-U. The people who cast lots of spells on TV shows are either Big Bads, usually near the end of a season, or M-Us on sitcoms, who seem to operate under different rules.

  19. For a long time how to justify the literal fire and forget aspect of Vancian magic bothered me. Then I hit upon the idea of pattern magic and suddenly I had a model that made sense to me. I had always thought of spells as being sequences of words, gestures, et c. The thing with a sequence is that is much easier to hold in your mind because you only have to focus on one thing at a time. Now a image on the other hand is very different, trying to clearly picture an image in your mind immutably and in its entirety instead of focusing on its individual bits is extraordinarily difficult.

    Spellbooks are not text, at least not in a conventional sense, each page of a spell is made up of a superbly complex, mandala-like design. This design must pressed and held perfectly into memory until such time as the spell will be cast. Magic-users spend many long years to develop the techniques necessary for compartmentalizing the mind to hold that memory in place and still be able to function as a person at the same time. In order to cast the spell the magic-user must manipulate the mandala in its mental space, through the various components of the spell the various gates of the mandala are made to open and close and it's features rearranged to complete the cosmic circuit as it were. However since all mental energies are directed toward holding the shape of the mandala as it is, the mandala as it was is lost forever. If the manipulations are complete the spell is cast, but if it is interrupted before the circuit is complete it is lost since it can never be returned to its starting point without being studied anew.

    The more complex a spell is, the more mandala constitute its makeup. So a sixth level spell would be any spell that requires combining six mandalas to cast. They are broken into parts so that the minds of magic-users can digest them, memorizing a sixth level spell means memorizing six mandalas, one at a time, laying each successively over the last to complete the full design in the magic-users mind.

    The mental architecture of everyone's mind varies though, and the details of the mandalas vary from spellbook to spellbook as the designs while sharing similar overall structures tend to be intensely personal in the details. Understanding another's mandalas is nigh impossible without the creators instruction, vast amounts of time to reorder one's own ways of thinking, or using the awesome mind expanding power of the read magic spell.

    Anyway, sorry that is kind of, sort of on topic. Regarding the idea of held spells giving some sort of bonus I don't see why it couldn't work, however if believe that the magic-user is already the strongest class then it seems kind of questionable to give the something extra, even if extremely minor. I think something like this was done in 3.5 with various feats, for instance if you had the right feat as long as you held an acid related spell in memory you could use a minor magic at will to cast a fairly minor acid bolt spell. There were various ones, though I can't remember of the top of my head the exact details of how it was done, or what book it was in.

  20. I would suggest limiting the maximum number of simultaneous active effects. You could cap it at some arbitrary number (3, 5, 7...). Alternatively, you could tie it to the maximum numeber of languages known (INT derived), or you could make it equal to 1, or 2 if the character has a high enough INT to qualify for bonus XP. You could also tie it to another ability score if you want to reward non-traditional MUs.

    Limiting the maximum number of simultaneous effects avoids the bookkeeping nightmare that this could become at higher levels.

    I also would not feel a need to come up with a significant effect for every spell. Who walks around with Find Familiar running all the time anyways?

  21. It could be a requirement of writing magical script to have read magic memorized. For read languages or Comprehend languages, perhaps you'd have additional knowledge of 1 extra language determined by die roll that changes round to round.

  22. I like memorization as is but I'd certainly use the significant effects and maybe even the ideas Frank suggested.

    as for Find Familiar, well the spell could either be treated as a class ability like later editions do or operate as a buff spell when recast. Cast the spell on you familiar and it gets some chunk bonuses for 1 turn a level.

    As for a memorization bonus, thats easy. Speak with animals of you familiars type at will. Handy but no overpowering.

    Lastly the one cool think about this idea is the notion one could have a wizard who cleverly almost never casts his spells and instead depends on tricks and minor magic till he really has no other choice.

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  24. d&d spell capabilities were an unfortunate aribitrary system where 1/2 level-1 = highest spell complexity able to be cast. This gave us the 11th level wizard-lord when the fighting-man maxed out at 9th (lord is 1 level past super hero, wizard-lord is 1 level past wizard).

    Far better to ret-con d&d to put the 8th and 9th level wizard on par with the fighter. Where 9th level gets you 6th level spells, which means a 1st level MU gets 3/2. More than enough to keep a 1st level mu busy and a 4th level hero-magic user and 8th level maintains parity with the fighter and you don't end up with the unfortunate, "weak at low levels, powerful at high levels" crap that people pass off as intentional design when it was--in retrospect, flawed transitioning from CHAINMAIL to D&D.

    come on! 1st level spells are already cantrip-quality spells. Read Magic? really? Detect magic? unseen servant? grease? This is wizard quality shock and awe? 0 level cantrips where DM's grant players the ability to fart pixy dust is laughable and useful perhaps in a game of ars magica or vampire the masqurade.

  25. Seriously, is a 1st level magic user; 3 hit points and an AC of 10 with read magic, detect magic, sleep, web, invisibilty is that game breaking at 1st level? Does that scream munchkin when the fighter rocking 14 hit points 3d6+6 weapon specialized two handed sword with 18/56 strength and AC 3 plate mail?

    What happens when you want to switch to CHAINMAIL and the 4th level hero fighter is shredding 4 men per turn in man-to-man combat, forcing morale checks on whole units of enemies, killing dragons with arrows, and adding +1 to whole legions when leading them...but your 4th level magic user has melfs magic arrow memorized and unseen servant? Simply shift the spell progression down 3 levels to match CHAINMAIL.

  26. Twitt: Great example, I also just read The Scarlet Citadel for the first time a few days ago. I was struck by the part at the end which showed the first quasi-fireball I'd seen depicted in literature; an explosive grenade physically thrown. If that was how D&D fireballs worked (esp., enormously smaller range), I'd actually prefer that. In general, if the D&D magic effects were at least ambiguously interpretable as physical actions, I think that would've been a very nice guiding principle. (Of course D&D is "big tent" and not really disciplined on that way.)

    "'I'll blast the flesh from your bones!'... Tsotha's right hand came back and forward, and the king ducked quickly. Something passed by his helmeted head and exploded behind him, searing the very sands with a flash of hellish fire. Before Tsotha could toss the globe in his left hand, Conan's sword sheared through his lean neck." [The Scarlet Citadel]

  27. I never had a problem with the magic system but that may be because of how I thought of it. My idea of it was less of a your memorizing it thing and more of a your loading your brain like you would a gun. You can only have so many a day like a gun can only hold so many bullets and once you fire them you can't do it again till you reload.

  28. I've been using the same explanation for memorisation as Talysman for years. I lifted it straight out of the Amber books. A sorcerer casts most of a spell while prearing it, but then leaves it "hanging" a word or two away from the end.
    The magical effect is then kind of hovering around, just waiting for that last key word, ingredient or gesture to trigger it. I even have it so that casting a Detect Magic spell can, with a long enough study period, determine exactly which spells a given spellcaster has "hanging" at any given time.

  29. I think it would be also interesting to find flaws you get from having spells memorized as well. While you have fly memorized you also have less strength to push or pull weights for instance. The tricky part is balancing pros and cons but if you find a good even it could give a new look at magic.

  30. Late D&D 3.5 added a mechanic that gave you a benefit for having an uncast spell - Reserve Feats. There were Reserve Feats for each school of magic and each element, I think. They all gave you some ability based on having a spell of the appropriate type memorized and uncast; the ability varied by level of the uncast spell in most cases. A bunch of them were attacks, a sort of prelude to 4e at-will abilities, but others were defenses and utility effects.

  31. On the primary topic, my principal reason for not going in such a direction would be complexity: it sort of doubles the amount of stuff everyone has to track for any given spell.

    (Perhaps one might consider what you could cut out of the magic system in exchange for this complexity.)

  32. I had a game in 3.5 where the DM allowed us to just use our cantrips as much as we wanted. It did not do anything to the balance but made the casters feel more magical. If you let Magic Users have an ability like the spell prestidigitation from 3.5 it would not unbalance anything to much as well as make them feel like they can still do stuff even if they have used all of their spells.

  33. @Joseph: when a mage has Read Magic memorized, there is a constant cirle of arcane symbols circling his head like a halo, appearing and disapperaing, causing a disconcerting effect. For Read Languages, the mage throws in words from other languages he cannot speak at random, kinda like language aphasia.

  34. I've always thought this idea sounded cool in theory but would call for expansion of the spell descriptions to describe the secondary effect. I'm in favor of cutting spell descriptions down rather than lengthening them.

    While I'm not really a big fan of the Vancian system, it is a great system for a game. What I've done is remove the need to pre-memorize spells. Casters get the same number of slots they've always got and they need to study or meditate as much as they always have. But they get to pick a known spell at casting time rather than picking it at the beginning of the day.

    I require clerics and druids to have lists of "known" spells rather than allowing them to pick from anything on the list and we require a check to see if multiple castings of the same spell on the same day are successful.

    This has made spell casters a bit more flexible to play without upping their overall power level and means that the less-memorized spells get used more often because they're available when needed.

  35. @i-manticora:

    I think it would be also interesting to find flaws you get from having spells memorized as well. While you have fly memorized you also have less strength to push or pull weights for instance. The tricky part is balancing pros and cons but if you find a good even it could give a new look at magic.

    This was my first thought as well. Sorcerors and witches in the source literature all have bizarre taboos and weaknesses -- AD&D even addressed this specifically with the M-U class in Oriental Adventures, IIRC.

    Why not give each memorized spell a positive effect and a weakness or taboo? That actually lets you make the powers a bit more powerful without it being unbalanced. And it lets you have a fire mage who has weaknesses to water-based attacks, a death mage who gets burned by holy symbols, etc. In fact, this would seem to me to be a great way of subsuming M-U sub-classes (clerics, illusionists, druids) into a single class and a unified framework. For example, the cleric's ability to turn undead could actually be tied to having unmemorized spells of healing or Protection From Evil. A magic user's weapon and armor restrictions (or a cleric's ban on edged weapons) could be the result of his repertoire of memorized spells. And so on.

    Obviously, this would be a major rewrite to D&D. But what I'm describing is only the most extreme version of such a system -- one could certainly adopt it piecemeal.

  36. @Jeff, I think the reserve feats from Complete Arcane.

    And this idea, like the reserve feats, are similar to the psionic focus system from the 3.5 Expanded Psionics Handbook. A psion could 'maintain focus' to have a small ongoing effect, or 'expend focus' to basically cast a spell.

    I like the idea of holding focus to get minor color effect. I think i've seen it before in OSR-land. But it does require more judgement, and could expand spell descriptions too long. And having lots of spells with different minor effects could make bookkeeping a chore, or make the world less 'magical' feeling. Just like the christmas-tree of magic items in 3rd edition.

    @toddroe, I remember that story too. I think it was an LL blog. If you want to hear good stories about how bad-ass Level 1 MUs are compared to normal men or Level 1 fighters, I think JB at B/X Blackrazor has some good posts.

    @theshadowknows, I agree that opening up player-MUs to make scrolls at first level does give them breadth and staying power. Or at least the feeling of staying power. Also, what else are they going to spend money on. I think this rule comes from Holmes Basic.

  37. An incredible idea and something I am going to use in my campaigns, Thanks!

  38. @Delta: The additional information needn't be a burden if it's presented correctly. On, say, an individual spell card.

  39. For comprehend languages: The caster begins speaking in a more poetic mien in the languages he understands. It's not that foreign words slip in, but that he uses more archaic speech and complex structures

  40. Bob: No thank you, don't like that stuff for my games.

  41. This would probably be easier in 4e, due to the prepared spells in 4e being limited in number. I can see it being activated by certain items like tomes, or you could have it replace the cantrips class feature.
    Thanks for the idea!

  42. the biggest problem of vancian system is not the fire and forget but going from 1 single 1st level spell at 1st level to 45 1st to 9th level spell (5 each level) at 25th level!
    that is 45 time the number of spell and 225 time the total levels of spell ready

    maybe vancian mage should have the same number (or almost the same number) of spell at each level (say from 3-4 to 7-8) but in gaining levels you can prepare more powerful spells (as in Vance novels btw)

    than you add lesser powers usable more often or you give the mage the ability to charge magic items like wand and staff....

    @twitt the problem of your observation is that not everyone want to play an alchemist

  43. @Fabio

    My observation is that historical/mythological people associated with magic (Hermes, Merlin, Dr. Faustus, Morgan le Fay, witch doctors) are pseudo-scientists, chemists, astrologers, scholars, and charmcasters. Their magic is smoke and mirrors but as a famous saying goes, science is indistinguishable from magic.

    The common complaint with Vancian casting is how weak a 1st level magic-user is. I disagree when the simple fact remains that the cleaning compounds under your sink can be used to kill a man in 100 different ways. Unfortunately, D&D is at fault for having always pushed alchemy aside despite being an important part of fantasy literature and mythology. Bard Game's The Complete Alchemist (for AD&D) is the only publication (off the top of my mind) that does alchemy justice.

  44. I agree think that the "Vancian" system could use some reworking. I have been following Old Skool on his blog House Rules:

    He has some great ideas about alternating the system of memorizing and casting spells. I have found that in my own attempts to house rule a spell point/mana point system, the bookkeeping side of it is always the problem. Tables and charts and points to be calculated... arghh.

  45. @Twit I understand it, but as I said not everybody sees it this way, many want to be a "mage"

    I played mage and illusionist from 1st to about 15th level in 1st edition AD&D and had a lot of fun... but they went from too little to too much :)

    @Christian with mana you have other problems, in particular if at 20th level a 1st level spell cost just 1 point do I cast it at 1st level effect or at 20th level (I mean do I cast 1 magic missile or 5, do I cast a 5d6 fireball or a 20d6) the system is geared toward a fixed amount of spell mana goes in another direction

  46. To Fabio:
    I always ran into similar issues. The biggest problem I had was that a high level character with many points of mana would be able to blast tons of lower level spells. i.e. a 10th level mage blasting off about 100 magic missiles a day!

    Take a look at the blog I posted above. He has some great ideas.

  47. A little bit off-topic, but having actually read The Dying Earth and its sequels, I've come to take exception to the traditional approach to Vancian spellcasting. To wit, so far as I can tell, there's no in-world rule in Vance's writing that actually limits a spell to one casting per day. The few times we see magicians memorizing their spells, they do indeed use each spell but a single time within the story; however, I find no reason to view this as anything but a literary device.

    That said, the limit on spellcasting is a great element of D&D's resource management aspect, so for my Whitebox-based campaign, I've used the following rules: A spell, once memorized, is not forgotten (save through the arduous process of memorizing a new spell), but it can only be safely cast once per day. A magic-user who dares may recast a spell, but the toll may be steep. In game terms, he takes 1d6 damage immediately upon completion of the spell. (Naturally, I couple this with the "no double dipping" rule: a spell can't be memorized twice any more than can a song or a soliloquy.)

  48. @Christian I have read the blog and it's very interesting (with a lot of magical specialization :) ) and he indeed intend the cost of spell casting for casting spell at 1st level efficiency (this create other problems... it would be better to rewrite all spells with specific effect/cost)

    @OdRook I am with you, I have read a few time the tales of the dying earth and the big guns (Rhialto and the others) could just memorize an handful of spells they they used a lot of bound creatures and magical objects.
    I like the idea of casting spell more than once with some risk :)

  49. Hmm, the memorization == re-wiring your brain idea is an interesting one, but I'd be inclined to take it the other direction. Allow a MU to take extra spells at the expense of some penalties, perhaps on wisdom (-1 point per level of the spell) to reflect the strain of overburdening your brain. The increasing spell memorization counts for higher levels then represents that their training is allowing their brains to better accomodate more and greater magics.

  50. My take :

    Your "spell memorization effects" is like eating a little piece of the cake : you keep the whole cake for later use.