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[3.x] More Vancian! (a.k.a. barrel of magic through a straw)

Peter K.

Used Droid Salesman
Why not do it like Vance did? A spell slot is a spell slot, no matter what the power of the spell within. Normally you'll probably want to fill the slots with the most powerful spells available, but if you think a bunch of first level utility spells better fit the needs of the day, that that's what you can can spend your four daily spell slots on.

You do not depend on those spell slots for basic combat competency. You get that built into the character with your at-will magic bolts and such.
I've been grooving on this idea for a few days now, not as a mechanic for 5E, but as a 3.5E retrofit. And, with a couple nuances, I really kind of like it, enough to fall in love with Vancian magic RPG derivatives for the first time ever. :)

But here's how I'd spin it:
Spells of 0-level can be cast at will. There is no limit per day. They never become unprepared.
You gain the same number of cantrip slots as you do standard magic slots. It takes 15 minutes to switch out one cantrip for another.

Standard Casters
Magicians still can learn spells of each specific level they can cast as usual. But now they can only retain a much more limited number of spells prepared at one time. That number of spell slots per head is determined as:
Wizards: Intelligence modifier
Clerics: Wisdom modifier + (1 domain only)
Druids: Wisdom modifier
Paladins/Rangers: 1/2 Wisdom modifier round up
Each slot can be filled with any level spell that the caster can know. However, it takes 30 minutes per spell level to fill a spell slot.

Spontaneous Casters
Spontaneous casters are a little different. Instead of spell slots they gain spell-levels worth of head-space determined as:
Sorcerers: Charisma modifier + Class level
Bards: (Charisma modifier + Class level)/2 round up
Spontaneous casters have a pool of spell points, each spell point represents one spell-level worth of casting potential. They can use their spell points to cast any spells they know at a moment's notice. Spell points refresh at the rate of 1 per half hour (extreme conditions such as starving, freezing, scorching heat, sleep deprivation, near drowning, etc. may prevent recovery).

(N.B. - Spontaneous casters might have to be re-thought entirely in light of multi-classing.)

Characters with more than one class gain a total number of slots equal to the largest relevant class. However, if one class provides a lower number, then the lower number class can only be bonus indicates the limit of spells prepared at one time which may be from the lower class.

Casting By The Book
What about magicians whose bonuses provide them with exactly zero spell slots?
Any magician can cast spells "by the book" (as wizards say), even if they do not have the appropriate spell prepared.

To cast a spell by the book the magician goes about preparing the spell as usual (1/2 hour/spell level). But then, instead of the spell being committed to memory, the spell immediately takes effect within one round after the preparation.

Scrolls, Wands, Potions
Expendable magic items (and all magic items really) are nearly impossible to buy. The reason being they almost all* have very specific and extremely rare components which no one but adventurers is in a hurry to go out and procure. Adventurers may have plenty of gold to spend, but they can expect to pay 10-100x the retail cost of magic items unless they are bringing their own raw materials and are prepared to wait for the preparation to take place.

* - If you feel it's appropriate for your campaign, then certain items may be common (e.g. amulets of featherfall among an arboreal society, or healing potions in general) due to an abundance of some easily cultivated component.
My thinking is that with this variation, the limitations on magic are kind of situational: You can come loaded for bear, but did you pack shot against giant eagles as well? If not it's going to take you half an hour or more to reload. And maybe you better let the Rogue try opening those doors instead of Knock, might not have an hour to retreat and reload this deep in the dungeon.


What do you think? Interesting? Not? More or less prone to abuse?
Small, elegant tweaks to fix it's shortcomings?
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Peter K.

Used Droid Salesman
Well, been thinking about this since yesterday. And if nothing else, at least writing it all down helped me realize that there is one problem with it . . . or if not "problem", then at least a somewhat odd quirk in how the power level jumps:

Some levels you gain almost nothing related to spell (except caster level related multipliers inherent in some spells). But then every time you gain the ability to cast a new spell level, you gain the ability to cast at that level up to four times in a row (assuming high primary attribute)!

Folks may not be memorizing the highest level spells they possibly can to fill all their slots when they have a chance to hole-up and recuperate. But still, the potential is always available, so the power curve for magicians is very step-shaped.
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