Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Simple Spell Point System for OD&D

After playing Tunnels & Trolls a few weeks ago I was inspired to draw up a simple spell point system for spell-casting in D&D. In T&T spell casters spend and slowly regain spell-casting points as the game progresses.

First of all I want to say that I love the Vancian Magic paradigm of classic D&D, and I have no desire to alter the original system. Therefore, I present this homebrew spell point system as a new magic user character class - The Oranjian Wizard - which can be played alongside by-the-book Vancian magic users:

The basic idea is that Oranjian Wizards have a seventh Magic Points (MP) attribute which is determined by the character's level. MPs are spent to cast spells. The cost of casting a spell is determined by the spell's level. MPs are recharged every turn at a rate determined by the wizard's level:

So, consider... Given that a first-level spell costs 6 MPs, after an hour of in-game time (i.e. six 10-minute turns),  the MPs will be recharged enough to cast another first-level spell. Obviously, it takes longer to recharge for high-level spells. Hit points may be spent in place of MPs to cast spells. As well, extra MPs may be generated by permanently spending 1 point of Intelligence for 10 MPs.

Also, the normal rule applies that any spells cast MUST be in the wizard's spellbook.

Further options:

•    MPs may be used for other non-spell casting purposes like ability checks and/or saves or operating certain magical devices.

•    Some magic items may affect spell casting costs, alter MP recharge rates, etc.

•    Ability scores may modify MPs (eg. high intelligence might increase number of MPs).

•    The DM may define unique casting costs for specific spells. There may even be versions of spells that have identical effects, but different casting costs. For example, a version of Sleep that costs 4 instead of 6 would be highly sought after.

•    Some spell effects may be scaled up when more magic points are spent.

•    Additional armor types may be allowed, resulting in a penalty in maximum MPs or MP recharge rate.

•    The MP recharge rate may be increased while the wizard sleeps.

•    Some environments may block, retard, or enhance MP recharging.

•    MP recharge rate does not increase in wizards of advanced level. This would significantly decrease the power of high-level wizards.


  1. I am interested to see what your group thinks of this addition to the game. :)


  2. It's a bonus for low level Magic-users but do you think it would make higher level MUs even more powerful?

  3. Given there are only 28 magic points at level 12, and to cast a sixth-level spell it requires 28 magic points, that doesn't seem to be the case necessarily.

    I was thinking about what you could do for ability score modification of magic points. Perhaps the scores don't modify the magic points available, but rather makes the cost lower. So, if you have a +2 modifier to magic use as this class due to whichever stat (intelligence or charisma, say) then the costs in magic points for each spell level are reduced by two points (4, 8, 12, 16, 20 and 26). Thus, you would "recharge" faster rather than have a higher cap. Also, for magic users with very low abilities, it could mean for a level or two maybe they don't have enough magic points to cast any spells :-)

  4. @bliss: I was hoping for this system to significantly weaken high level MUs. For instance, a 9th level MU would blow all of their MPs (22) to cast a single 5th-level spell. For the rest of the session they would probably be stuck casting only a few low-level spells as they slowly recharge - there wouldn't be a scad of memorized low level spells they could fire off immediately. This system makes it a big deal to cast a big spell.

    As it is, it would take this same 9th level MU about 8 turns (80 game minutes) to fully recharge and cast another 5th level spell. This also assumes the MU is not casting any other spells at all. This might be a little too powerful, but on the other hand being spell-less for 80 minutes is a pretty serious situation for a high level MU.

    All-in-all, you make a good point though, and it might be good to remove or reduce the increasing recharge rate... Playtest is called for!

  5. I like this a lot. I will consider using it for my up coming Labyrinth Lord game. Thanks for sharing!

  6. @Restless: Excellent idea!

    @P.S. Mangus: That would be great! Please drop me a line to let me know how it goes.

    Hopefully I'll be playtesting this stuff this weekend. I'll let you all know how it goes.

  7. One of the things you'll notice is how the wildly varying effects of the spells won't match up to a 'by level' point cost... basically, the organization of spells by level is more based on what level Gygax et al thought a magic-user should obtain the spell, not necessarily by its power or even utility.

    I suggest that the spell list is small enough to give every spell its own point cost (if the range and duration are recorded, no reason not to record the spell cost).

    The best reason for doing so is the ability to add a treasure item - a given spell formulated by a long-dead prodigy, or in a different culture, that has a lesser cost.

  8. @rainswept: What you describe is pretty much what I'm working towards! I am very much into the idea of each spell being a strange, valuable, and unique formulation with its own history and "personality".

  9. Ah, I see. I think it's a pretty decent system. I may end up using it for a Stygian Magic-user. I'm play-testing another concept right now and looking for other ideas. I'll post the updates on my blog.

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