Colorful Magic

magic the gathering colors

Something that I’ve thought about off and on for several years concerns re-working the spellcasting classes in D&D. I’ve never been 100% convinced that the cleric belongs in the game, at least not in the “adventuring religious fighting priest” concept, and though I think the illusionist is interesting, he doesn’t seem viable except in certain circumstances. I’ve re-envisioned clerics as mystic warriors, removed the religious themes to the class, and explained their spells as being more like powers. I’ve described how magic works in our game. I’ve tweaked spells slightly and dropped the pre-memorization requirements. But still I’m not overly thrilled with any of the spellcaster classes.

So I dusted off an idea I had for Swords & Wizardry White Box last year and redid the spell lists. I took all the spells and sorted them into five “colors” or “schools” loosely based on (and this is sure to ruffle some feathers) the Magic: The Gathering card game.

(Yes, I realize I just lost a lot of folks right there. That’s okay. If someone is likely to arbitrarily dismiss ideas just because they sound like something from WotC games, I’m not really interested in their opinion anyway.)

So I have red magic, white magic, green magic, blue magic, and black magic. With red wizards, white wizards, green wizards, blue wizards, and black wizards to use it. Roughly one-sixth of the spells at each level are “colorless,” meaning they’re available to wizards of any color. Spells like read magic, hold portal, light, dancing lights, and dispel magic can be used by any wizards.

Reversed versions of spells are separate in this system, meaning that detect evil and detect good are separate spells on separate lists. The same goes for cure light wounds and cause light wounds.

White wizards are not necessarily good, but they cast a lot of the healing and protection spells. However, even though many of their spells are from the standard cleric’s list, they aren’t exactly clerics. Magic missile, for instance, is a white spell.

Black wizards, of course, deal with darkness and death. They get the cause wounds spells, sleep, and lots of the other nasty magics. They end up being a sort of anti-cleric/necromancer mix that isn’t afraid to mix it up.

Blue wizards are the masters of illusion, trickery, and water and sky. Much (though not all) of the standard illusionist spell list is available to blue wizards, and they also get some spells that deal with unseen forces such as feather fall, invisibility, and teleport.

Red wizards are masters of fire, chaos, and warfare. Many of the fire-based spells (like fireball and pyrotechnics) are theirs, as well as a good selection of direct combat-related magic and monster summoning.

Finally, green wizards are not only in tune with nature and life with spells like sticks to snakes and entangle, they get some pure magic like fly, knock, and charm person. Though many standard druid spells were spread out among the other four colors, a lot of them stayed with the green wizard.

The spell lists still need a little tweaking, but I’m pretty happy with them after the first stage of sorting. I’ve done spell levels one through six, which is as high as our game is currently designed to go.

I’m toying with the idea of giving each type of wizard a special power, such as turning undead for white wizards and maybe even some weapon/armor allowances (or even thief skills?) for others, but I haven’t got that far yet. I’m also considering wizards of one color to have access to the spells of another complementary color once at higher levels.

I’m not at all sure where this is going to go. Maybe it won’t ever be used at all. One major downside is the fact that it would pretty much wreck compatibility, something that we’ve been trying hard to maintain. I’ll keep messing with it for a while and see how it turns out.

UPDATE: Check out the first draft of the list here.

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