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Simplified Spellcasting

by Scott Moore

To reduce preparation time for the players of spellcasting characters, my Mystara campaign has tested and adopted the following alternate spell systems.

Clerical/Druidic (Divine) Spells

Option 1: Each avenger, cleric, druid, and paladin has a fixed list of spells they can cast. Every time they increase in level and gain additional spell ability, they pick exactly what spell they want to use in the new slot(s) they have just acquired. This means that these characters have the same spell list every day and may exchange spells they have memorised for those that are not currently on their memorised list only by taking additional time for prayer or meditation to essentially "forget" an old spell and memorise a new one in it's place. Although severely reducing the character's day-to-day spell diversity, it significantly reduces prep time, as the player does not have to reselect new spells at the start of every game day. PCs simply start each day, after prayer or meditation, with a standard personal list of spells. This has become the preferred system for dealing with clerical spellcasters in my Mystara campaign.

Option 2: If the first option seems too restrictive, you can use a slightly modified version of Andy Collins' "Daily Spell List" house rule from page 153 of Unearthed Arcana. Avengers, clerics, druids, and paladins select spells spontaneously at casting time. Daily prayer and/or meditation are still required to prepare oneself for spellcasting, but rather than select an allotment of spells, these characters may cast any spell available to them from their class spell lists. Instead of keeping track of what individual spells have been memorised and cast, the player need only keep track of how many spells of each level have been cast.

Option 3: Cleric and paladins may choose to drop a memorised spell at any time in exchange for the ability to magically heal d8 points of damage per level of the spell "forgotten". This house rule was brought over to our OD&D campaign from the third edition rules. It gives cleric and paladin characters using Option 1, above, a little more flexibility, making it easier to deal with a regularly "fixed" spell list.

Magical (Arcane) Spells

Option 1: Particularly at higher levels, the amount of spells available to elves, foresters, and magic users can make the process of selecting a daily spell list very time consuming. As an alternative, I've been using a system similar to Option 2, above, for several years. Magical spellcasters still spend time studying every morning to be able to cast spells for that day. Once they have prepared themselves in such a manner, they may spontaneously select any spell they wish to cast at casting time, restricted only by the number of spells of each level they are permitted to cast and what spells they have access to in their personal spell book. Scrolls and the spell books of others may not be used as sources for these spontaneous spells unless the spells are transcribed to the spellcaster's own spell book, which would make the spell vanish from the original source in the process. This eliminates the need for the players to prepare a spell list at the start of each game day.

Option 2: The spontaneous casting described under Option 1, above, may not be initially available to all spellcasters. Low-level casters, with more manageable spellbooks, may still have to select their spells at the start of each day. The ability to spontaneously select a spell to be cast may be obtained only when the caster reaches a certain level. One suggestion would be for elves, foresters, and magic users to gain this ability at 7th level, the point at which 4th level spells can first be learned.