Monday, January 25, 2021

D&D Alternate Spell Progressions

Out of curiosity, I generated alternate spell progression tables for D&D BECMI magic-users and clerics. There were two reasons for looking into this. The first is that 1st level characters start with only one spell (or none at all in the case of the cleric), which a lot of players stumble upon. The other reason is that by-the-book first level parties are incredibly weak, and especially in the case of the magic-user, they don't contribute all that much to a game session, other than role-playing or pitching ideas. It's all rather limiting. Spellcasters should be in the business of casting spells.

Entirely optional, this approach is a radical departure from standard game mechanics. No one is obligated to follow it--I'm mentioning this for the cohort of folks who "disapprove" of new ideas to an old game or any sort of attempt to change their habits. What I post here is only for those with an open mind. 

There are plenty of house rules on boosting the numbers of spells 1st level adventurers can cast. Nothing wrong with this if that's the way you like it--it's your game. The alternate spell progressions sidestep borrowing game mechanics from other systems or fancy schemes tacked on existing rules. These tables also ensure that characters with lousy stats* still start with a good number of spells.

I had magic-users start out with 5 spells (1 Read Magic, 1 attack spell, 1 defense spell, 2 miscellaneous). The progression for first level spells ranges from there, gradually up to 9 across the board at 36 experience levels, as per official game mechanics. Spell levels above 1 are pretty much "by the book" in that they are earned at the correct experience levels.

(*) As regards "lousy stats:" I'm of the opinion that it is a lot more challenging to run PCs with low ability scores, and therefore the rewards ought to be greater than for those clad with 18s and 17s. I would also suggest reversing the experience bonus for high scores, rewarding low scores instead. With this in mind, the alternate spell progression tables make a lot more sense than giving extra spells for high intelligence or high wisdom attributes.

Clerics are a bit tougher to address since they're not straight-on spellcasters. Clerics have other advantages in D&D BECMI, such as armor and weapon choices, better combat abilities, better hit points, turning undead, etc. On the other hand, their spells are crucial to a party's survivability, as regards healing/reviving fallen heroes. D&D BECMI isn't designed to allow healing by means other than clerical spells or whatever magical potions might be purchased beforehand or gleaned in the course of an adventure. In practice, cleric spells often are the go-to solution for this, especially at low level. Yet, D&D BECMI has them starting with ZERO spell. Rather puzzling.

In their alternate spell progression, I did not want to give clerics as many spells as the magic-users. Zero wasn't an option, obviously. So I settled on just two at first level. I hummed and hawed about starting them with 3, but I erred on the conservative side here given all the cleric's benefits.

This approach changes the profile of regular games drastically since spellcasters have a lot more magic to throw around. On the other hand, earning spell levels 2+ is roughly the same as in official rules. These two tables do not alter spellcasting abilities all that much at higher levels either. At level 18+, the differences with official spell progressions are minimal, thankfully!

Let me know if you spot two identical rows in these charts. Thanks! For the elf's updated spell progression table, click here.  Have fun.

Art Credits: Hand of the Gods: Prescience by Eksafael

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.