Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"I'll take Purify Food and Drink"

If you ever hear a cleric say that, it's probably April 1st. Unfortunately, the way D&D is usually played,  both magic-users and clerics pretty much always prepare the same damn spells for an adventuring session. The reason is obvious: if you don't know exactly what you'll be facing, then it stands to reason that you'd select those spells that are most likely to be useful against the sorts of things that you usually end up facing: monsters. So clerics take healing spells, or maybe command (which is still risky because you probably won't speak the right language) and magic-users prepare sleep or magic missile.

In my current Barrowmaze campaign, I'm trying to encourage a little more variety by rolling randomly for the clerics' bonus spells (an idea I believe I got from the Akratic Wizardry blog), but it's a bit too heavy-handed in limiting the players' choices regarding a major aspect of their PCs capabilities.

It seems to me that the problem is just that: the players don't know what they'll be facing. By overcoming that lack of knowledge the spell casters would be in a better position to make more nuanced spell choices, and this can be done in (at least) two ways. The players themselves could attempt initial reconnaissance missions before making a head on assault on the dungeon. I understand that Rub Kuntz's Robilar character would first investigate a given level of Castle Greyhawk and get the lay of the dungeon before taking on whatever was there. So if the party scout comes back with info about a room full of snakes, then the cleric could prepare snake charm for the next day's attempt on that room.

Also, DMs could make info about the dungeon available through NPCs that have braved the dungeon themselves and, for the right price, are willing to share a few of the secrets they've discovered with the party. In fact, tracking these sorts of NPCs down might make for an interesting side-adventure. "There's a rumor in town about an old fighter living off in the hills who years ago lost his right arm and was driven to near madness by something he ran into in the dungeons below the ruined castle. If you can find him he may have something useful to say about what's in there." And such info may very well give the spell casters ideas as to what spells to prepare against these threats, that might prove even more useful than cure light wounds or magic missile.

14 comments:

  1. Good idea.
    An additional solution is this limitation: one can only memorize a spell in one copy (no magic missile x 3).
    This may encourage players to seek information!

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    1. Yeah, I've NEVER liked the multiple memorization rule. Unfortunately it was baked into the game from the start, so disallowing it is always frowned upon. I don't know why EGG did that, since there's no example in Vance of a magician memorizing the same spell multiple times.

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    2. I can also vouch for the no multiple memorization rule. I used it in a campaign a while back and it was great! I think the PC magic-users & clerics liked it too as it took the group pressure off them a bit: "what? you haven't memorized 3 x cure light wounds!?".

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    3. I've done that, and it worked fine. Here is what I wrote about it:
      http://dungeonfantastic.blogspot.com/2011/11/old-ad-house-rule.html

      Also, you can do something different for clerics - they can memorize whatever they want, but trade out a spell on the fly for a healing spell. Then they'd memorize everything except healing spells, have them handy, and decide if they need them or want to trade them out for cure light wounds or whatever when necessary.

      If that seems too generous, you can allow it but make the healing spell, say, -1 HP per die, but then you'll just end up with clerics who max out healing spells again, I think.

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  2. we use a spellcasting system similar to the 3.X sorcerer. MU's know a certain amount of spells (spells are rolled randomly) and can cast them a certain amount of times per day based on level. clerics get a certain number of spells per day and automatically know all the spells on their lists (provided they are high enough level to cast). we see a lot more spells like PURIFY FOOD AND DRINK being used with this system.

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    1. I'm tempted by the idea of tweaking the Elf class to make it more of a fighter/sorcerer than fighter/magic-user, since they're supposed to be naturally magical as opposed to bookishly magical. Giving them access to a number of randomly determined spells might accomplish that. I just don't know how to do it in a way that won't overpower an already powerful class. Absolutely strict level limits would be a must.

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    2. I wrote such a take on the elf for Theorems & Thaumaturgy. You may have already seen it, but if not it might be interesting inspiration.

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    3. I'd like to register an official complaint that I haven't until now been made aware of Theorems & Thaumaturgy. What an great piece of work! I just downloaded it a few moments ago and can't believe how much awesomeness is in there. I was of a mind to start working on some new spells, but yours are way better than anything I could have cooked up.

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    4. you could also give elf characters the option of choosing the druid spell list from the AEC too...

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    5. Haha, oh no! I did my best to spread the word, but I guess I'm not on the main thoroughfare of OSR fame ;) It's interesting to hear that the word has far from been fully spread. If you have any ideas for further spreading, please suggest!

      Glad you like the book though :)

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    6. I was going to suggest you post about it on the Goblinoid forum, but I see you already did that (I didn't know you're elf23). Are you a member of the Labyrinth Lord G+ community? If not, you might consider joining up there and letting people know about the book. I'm sure it would be a big hit.

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  3. we use the necromancer from that book - good work with that thing!

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    1. It makes me very happy to hear of people actually using it in games :D

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