As we continue to tinker on our Wizards & Warriors Five Color Game, I am once again looking at spells and how they grow in power as the caster gains levels.
Numbers in this post will all be from Labyrinth Lord’s Advanced Edition Companion. It appears that the spells that were in the core Labyrinth Lord rules, which were based on the 1981 B/X D&D rules and used a lot of fixed durations and ranges, have been copied directly into the AEC. Spells in the AEC which were not in the core set, including virtually all of the druid and illusionist spells, seem to make a lot more use of effects which ramp up as the caster increases in level. This approach wasn’t used much in B/X but was quite common in AD&D.
There are a number of basic methods of spells increasing (or not) in power as the caster improves:
- Some spells are completely static. Sleep, for instance, has a fixed range (240′), duration (4d4 turns), total number of hit dice affected (2d8), and maximum HD level (4+1) that can be affected. These numbers do not change as the caster goes up in level. Sleep , even when cast by a high-level magic-user, only affects that number of that HD creatures for that long. There is no difference between a sleep spell cast by a first-level magic-user and a ninth-level magic-user.
- Some spells are static, but there are “improved” versions of the spell available for higher level casters. Cure light wounds, for instance, is a fixed first-level spell (cures 1d6+1 points of damage) that has an improved version, cure serious wounds (cures 2d6+2 points of damage) at 4th level. The improved version is also fixed. So while there’s no difference between a cure light wounds cast by a first-level cleric and ninth-level cleric, the ninth-level cleric will have cure serious wounds available.
- Some spells increase in power as the caster increases in power (level). There are many ways this is handled.
- Fireball, for instance, does 1d6 damage per caster level. A third-level caster does 3d6 damage while a ninth-level caster does 9d6. The fireball is simply more powerful.
- And for every five levels a caster has gained, two additional magic missiles may be fired with each spell. A first-level magic-user fires one while a ninth-level magic-user fires three. Each missile is as powerful as any other, but there are more of them for higher-level casters.
- Range and duration are often dependent upon caster level, such as pass without trace (lasts one turn per caster level), warp wood (range of 10′ per caster level), and phantasmal killer (lasts 1 round per level and has a range of 5′ per level).
- Some spells use other various methods of taking the caster’s level into account. Examples include exorcise and dispel magic (where the chance of success is dependent in part upon the caster’s level), and raise dead (where the length of time since the subject died can increase as the caster goes up in level).
I’m considering changing all the spells in #2 (improved versions available at higher levels) to #3 (spells ramp up in effectiveness as the caster increases in level). This would negate the possibility of a caster knowing the better version but not the basic version. An illusionist, for instance, could know improved invisibility but not invisibility? I’m not sure if that makes much sense. And in our game we require clerics to learn spells like magic-users rather than having all spells available to be memorized, so a cleric could potentially know how to cure critical wounds but not minor ones?
“Sorry. I know I was just able to heal the dwarf after his battle with the troll left his spleen hanging out, but I can’t do a thing about that smashed big toe of yours.”
A discussion about our series of cure spells brought this up last spring, but I’ve resisted the idea until now.
Lately, I’m thinking about adjusting a few things that will negatively affect compatibility with the standard game, but we’ve already got a significant gap and I’m hesitant to stick with things I want to change just to preserve compatibility. After all, this game is meant for us only (no plans to publish it in any way other than making it available for others to look at) and I don’t have others’ ability to convert things to worry about.
What do you guys think? Is there a reason to NOT make a simple cure wounds spell that looks something like this:
Permanently heals 2d4 hit points of damage. For every two levels the caster gains, add 1d4. Alternatively, the spell may cure paralysis instead of healing damage.
So a third-level cleric would cure 3d4, a fifth-level cleric would cure 4d4, and so on.
In addition, I’m wondering if at least some of the spells on the #1 list (completely static) might not be worth considering for the #3 list, as well. I believe that at least a few of them do have level-based specs in AD&D.