Monday, April 16, 2012

Vancian Magic...Without the Wait?

As an addendum to my H is for House Rules post, I want to elaborate a bit on the following house rule for memorizing/recovering spells for magic users, clerics, and elves:

Memorizing/Recovering Spells: Spells usually take 10 minutes per level to memorize. All spells of a level four below the max spell level usable by the wizard only require 1 minute per level to rememorize.

I "borrowed" this from the Myth & Magic Player's Guide (it's on page 30).

I know that the whole Vancian magic thing is a rallying cry for the OSR. It's a pretty polarizing topic, with most of the old-school people saying "Give me Vancian magic or give me death!"

I a point. Sure, let's use the "fire and forget" Vancian system. BUT...would it be so bad to speed up the Vancian spell memorization process?

Why does it have to take a full eight hour rest to get your spells back?

Wouldn't the Myth & Magic method make magic users a bit more flexible, and alleviate a bit of the whole "15 Minute Workday" issue that was swirling around the blogosphere recently?

I say yes! And as you can see I'm using it for my upcoming Labyrinth Lord campaign. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm going to keep the whole "eight-hour-rest" thing for players to have characters recover ALL castable spells. But during a single day, if they want to spend the time, they can take time to rememorize spells, one at a time, using the method above. The key element here is the time usage. If you're in a dungeon, a lot can happen in 10 minutes/1 turn (those orcs you just fought come back with reinforcements, etc). So this doesn't let players off the hook entirely

In the meantime, I'd like to hear your thoughts. What do you think of "speeding up" the Vancian magic spell recovery system?


  1. One question that immediately comes to mind (given Vancian magic's simplicity, which for me, not being ideologically attached to it in any way, is its one huge selling point) is: why not just allow a few more spell slots and keep the memorization system as is? I think the only place where the 15-minute workday really is an issue is at lower levels (and even then I think it's due to hp loss as much as it's due to spell usage). Maybe give a first-level mage three first-level spell slots instead of one, for example. Or even five, if you really want to give him more juice.

    I could forsee possible abuses of the quick (repetitive) recharge. Say a first-level M-U, knowing how to cast "sleep," enters an orc-infested dungeon. "Sleep" in LL would put down 2d8 (average 9) orcs per casting. The average "by-the-book" number appearing of orcs in an encounter is 2d4 (average of 5 with a max "by-the-book" number being 8). The M-U takes on the first batch of 2d4 orcs, sleeps them, then kills them. Sits down for 10 minutes, re-memorizes "sleep." Moves on to the next room with 2d4 orcs, etc. The rest of the party is there just to provide security during the 10 minutes the M-U re-memorizes. And the first-level M-U can do this all day long, over and over. So to counter-balance this as DM, you'd have to intentionally overstock the dungeon, or intentionally throw wandering monsters while the M-U is trying to re-memorize.

    That being said, if you could find a way around the potential abuse, I think the idea is still worth exploring (my one gripe with V.M. is how limiting it is to low-level M-Us; a little too limiting for my taste, though I've never come up with anything better myself), and I'll be eagerly interested to see how it works in your game.

    1. I will surely post here about how my house rules work out! Wish me luck!

  2. Hey Bard, thanks for chiming in. You make some valid points. I would say that first of all, I usually don't stick to the accepted "number appearing." Meaning that I usually scale that up depending on party strength. And let's say they do encounter those orcs. The party better get them all, because even one getting away is most likely going to get some of his orc friends to come back and kill some adventurers! In all seriousness, I've never really had a hard time with parties "camping out" in dungeons overnight to recover spells, etc. I'm not sure why a lot of OSR folks feel like they characters have to go back to town. If the party has supplied itself for a good amount of time underground (with provisions and light sources) then why not let them have the challenge of finding a place to secure in a dungeon (if they can) for a night?

    Ultimately, I don't want this Myth & Magic system to replace the old system of having to rest overnight to recover all spells. I just want it there as an option for players who might get frustrated with running out of spells during a particular day.

    But asking other players to sit around for that amount of time, time that could find wandering monsters coming out of the woodwork, is going to be tough for the most part. At least I think so.

    Oh, and as for more spell slots at lower levels, that's also included in my house rules, via the bonus spell chart from the LL AEC (which I think was really just for clerics, for some reason, but I've adapted it for MUs and Elves as well).

  3. That's true. I was actually wondering if you'd be scaling according to party strength, or something along similar lines. I think in that case you should be able to avoid any problems. I hope it works! It sounds like it ought to.

  4. Well, I am assuming that the minds behind Myth & Magic did some good playtesting, and that "accelerated" Vancian magic worked out in said playtesting! I'll report in once I get some games under my belt.