Friday, April 8, 2011

Visual Spell Transcription Rule

I want to make how spell transcription works in my world clear enough that players start making decisions and goals based on that knowledge.  What do you think of this:
I might add a little text under it.  The quill and the vial mean that it requires blood and feathers from a creature of HD equivalent to the spell level, per Talysman's awesome idea (in the comments).  I might say to my players: "more and more powerful creatures," because they don't know what "hit die" are.

One thing I want to add but don't know how to rule on is for creating an entirely new spell.  I don't know what it should cost.  I don't want players to have to wait for 7th level either, a S&W style campaign will be near its endgame by then, no?  Besides one of the coolest things about D&D were all those named spells. I want my players to create some spells.

But, do they need access to a library?  Access to a tower (but that would, again, be endgame, no?)?

Update: 1) I'm confusing my systems, S&W goes to twentieth, oe is the one capping out around 10th.  Odd that some of my conceptions of the game I want to play are sliding more and more toward some of the original aspects of those rules.

2) I'm thinking it should be cheaper to put a spell into a book than the other way, to encourage players looking for more, but I'm not sure.

Update 2: How's this for a second draft (I changed everything to sp because of my game's silver standard):


  1. Very nice. Thanks for pointing out the HD/spell level idea too -- I will certainly steal that.

    I would require some books or access to a library; perhaps there is a "public" library that they can use to research (for a fee) until they have heir own end-game tower. My players looted an ancient library and are storing as much as they could carry out in a house in town. But no-one is playing an elf or m-u right no so it is kind of moot.

  2. Nice little pics. I do like your icon approach to the rules, both this one and the visual experience chart.

    For magic research, the LBBs have a simple formula: 2000 GP spent researching a 1st level spell gets you a +20% chance of success. Double the base cost for every spell level, so a 4th level spell costs 16,000 GP for a +20% chance. That's why the supplements had those named spells: creating new spells was expensive, but easy.

    Even if you don't plan to use all the details of my build-a-spell system I'm making, you might find the list of effects tied to spell levels useful. When a player proposes a spell, start it at 1st level unless it fits a higher level on the list (you can change "damage" at 3rd level to "ranged damage", if you prefer lower-level attack spells.) If the spell adds a twist or two to the basic concept, add a level or two. If you're cruel, don't tell the player what the spell level actually is; let them keep researching and spending money until they're at a high enough level to research the spell.

  3. @mike: I love books as treasure. You've reminded me of 2e's Player's Option: spells and Magic which has price lists for libraries; to research a 2nd level spell requires a collection of books valued at 2000gp. This would be a reason to care about a mages guild. You could do the same with labs and have alembics and glassware found have treasure value.

    @Talysman: Thanks, that 20% should work nicely. I need to take some time this summer and read the lbbs closer. As far as spell level, there was an nice article in the Dragon 242 (just checked the dragon index) about the laws of spell design.

    I'm actually a little worried about those fairy tale name spells that have costs built in to them. Not sure if it would matter what level the caster was.

  4. "Spells Between the Covers", Dragon #82, covers spell research, libraries and spellbooks as treasure in more depth than pretty much any D&D source I've seen. Includes this uberkickass % chart of books with sweet titles and what spells they can help you research. Random sample:

    13 "The Seven Skies of The Universe" by Casimur (gust of wind, whispering wind, rainbow pattern¹, precipitation², cloudburst², wind wall²)

  5. Oh, you know what? You might want to consider expanding "feather" to include horns, bones, or tusks. That didn't occur to me when I wrote that blog post.

  6. Hmm, just noticed some things:

    1) Just so you know, I assume the quill and blood count for 90% of the cost of transcribing a scroll. It looks like you have the quill and blood as an additional cost, which makes it more expensive than by-the-book scroll costs. Is that what you want?

    2)I'm not sure I'm reading your spell research costs right, but it looks like it will also cost more than by the book research for 1st and 2nd level, less for 3rd level and higher.

  7. Awesome Jeff, thanks. It has the bonus of the books being written by those famous names like Bucknard and Melf.

    @Talysman: I thought your initial ideas was genius because it's simple and easy to remember. I think I would allow mages to use material components of all types the way Tim Shorts suggested, as bonuses.

    for 1) yeah, it might be a little more expensive.

    2) I'll take a look at the lbb.

  8. Yep, Talysman, you're right, it should be doubled each level. But, uggh, I don't want to make these into an equation and 2) I'm starting to think that Gary's campaign were seriously Monty Haul; 16,000gp for a 20% chance at 4th level, where was all this gold coming from!?

    I'm probably a little on the too-tight side as a DM, but I guess I need more experience to see.