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A new system for spellcasting

by Chitekina

In the campaign I currently run, my magic users were not content with the standard spellcasting system. It was balanced enough, but didn't seem realistic in a fantasy setting. I got together with a few of the more experienced players, and we came up with a new system of spellcasting. So far in play testing, it seems balanced and satisfies the players. Thought that I would try submitting it so that others may experiment with it.

All of the spells listed are from the D&D Rules Cyclopaedia, with the exceptions of the Apprentice Bolt, and the Magical Parry (the ideas for which came from the post "Raw Mana Manipulation", which were wonderful). I tried to list any changes relevant to the spell, since spell effects that were increased by level unbalanced the system.)

Spells are no longer memorised in the conventional sense. The spellbook still needs to be maintained and studied, but the rate is reduced to once a week. Each day past one week that a spell has not been studied, the penalty increases by 5%. On the other hand, spells cast while being read have a bonus of 5%.

The biggest advantage to this system is that there is no limit to the number of spells a mage can cast per day. Conceivably, he could cast Light* spells all day if he wanted to. We felt that a sorcerer should be able to cast spells he mastered as often as he desired, so in our campaign this is entirely appropriate. Spell failure and misfires are an effective enough balance to this.

3(Int + [Int bonus]) + 2(level)=% (Magic Rating)

Example Magic Ratings

1st level with Int 12 = 38%
They hit 50% at 7th level
They hit 66% at 15th level
They hit 100% at 32nd level
Max. out at 108%
1st level with Int 15 = 50%
They hit 66% at 9th level
They hit 100% at 26th level
Max out at 120%
1st level with Int 18 = 65%
They hit 101% at 19th level
Max. out at 135%

Spell / Penalty

Cantrip 5%

Analyse 10%
Apprentice's Bolt 10%+
(Raw Magic Attack, 1 point of damage base, 2% per additional point, Max. 38%, 25' range)
Detect Magic 10%
Magical Parry 10%+
(200' range, Increases penalty to opposing spell)
Read Magic 10%

Read Languages 15%

Floating Disk 20%
Shield 20%
Ventriloquism 20%

Charm Person 25%
Detect Evil 25%
Detect Invisible 25%
(40' range only)
Hold Portal 25%
Light* 25%
(6 turns only)
Magic Missile 25%+
(1 missile, 10% per additional missile)
Protection from Evil 25%
Sleep 25%

ESP* 30%
Infravision 30%

Knock 30%
Levitate 30%
(6 turns only)
Mirror Image 30%
Web 30%

Clairvoyance 35%
Continual Light* 35%
Entangle 35%
(6 rounds only)
Invisibility 35%
Locate Object 35%
(100' range)
Phantasmal Force 35%
Wizard Lock 35%

Create Air 40%
(12 hours only)
Dispel Magic 40%+
Fireball 40%+
(1d6 initial damage, 2% per additional die, Max. 78%)
Fly (6 turns only) 40%
Ice Storm 40%+
(1d6 initial damage, 2% per additional die, Max. 78%)
Invisibility 10' Radius 40%
Lightning Bolt 40%+
(1d6 initial damage, 2% per additional die, Max. 78%)
Protection from Evil 10' Radius 40%
Water Breathing 40%

Haste* 45%
Hold Person* 45%
(9 turns only)
Protection from Normal Missiles 45%
Wall of Fire 45%
Wall of Ice 45%

Clothform 50%
Confusion 50%
Delayed Blast Fireball 50%+
(1d6 initial damage, 2% per additional die, Max. 88%)
Growth of Plants* 50%
Polymorph Self 50%
(12 turns only)
Remove Curse* 50%
Telekinesis 50%+
(200cn base, 2% per additional 200cn, Max. 88%)
Wizard Eye 50%

Charm Monster 55%
Contact Outer Plane 55%+
Dimension Door 55%
Hallucinatory Terrain 55%
Massmorph 55%
Passwall 55%
Polymorph Other 55%
Wall of Stone 55%
Cloudkill 60%

Dissolve* 60%
Teleport 60%+
(Additional penalties increase % chance of success)
Woodform 60%

Animate Dead 65%
Conjure Elemental 65%
Feeblemind 65%
Hold Monster* 65%
(9 turns only)
Magic Jar 65%
Wall of Iron 65%

Lower Water 70%
Move Earth 70%
Projected Image 70%
Reincarnation 70%
Stoneform 70%
Weather Control 70%

Anti-Magic Shell 75%
Death Spell 75%
Disintegrate 75%
Geas* 75%+
(Additional penalty reinforces spell against Remove Geas, or increases % chance with the reverse)
Invisible Stalker 75%
Magic Door* 75%
Stone to Flesh* 75%
Summon Object 75%

Explosive Cloud 80%+
(1 point base damage, 2% per additional point, Max. 118%)
Ironform 80%
Lore 80%
Mass Invisibility* 80%
Reverse Gravity 80%
Statue 80%
(12 turns only)
Symbol 80%+
(additional penalty equal to casting cost of bound spell)
Teleport Any Object 80%+
(Additional penalties increase % chance of success)

Charm Plant 85%

Create Normal Monsters 85%
Permanence 85%
Power Word Stun 85%
Sword 85%
(18 rounds only)
Travel 85%+
(Caster only, 10% per additional Person, 20 turns only)

Dance 90%
Force Field 90%
Mind Barrier* 90%
(1 day only)
Steelform 90%
Survival 90%+
(1 hour base duration, 2% per additional hour)

Clone 95%
Contingency 95%
Create Magical Monsters 95%
Mass Charm* 95%
Polymorph Any Object 95%
Power Word Blind 95%
Prismatic Wall 95%

Gate* 100%
Heal 100%
Maze 100%

Create Any Monster 105%
Immunity 105%
(6 hours only)
Power Word Kill 105%
Shapechange 105%
(6 hours only)
Timestop 105%

Meteor Swarm 110%

Greater Immunity 125%
(6 hours only)

Wish 134.95%

A 9th level mage with an intelligence of 15 wants to cast a Magic Missile spell with 2 missiles. With a base chance of 66%, he has a penalty of 35% for 2 missiles, make his chances of success 31%. He rolls a 34%, just losing the roll. He will have to try again next round, if he survives.

Durations other than instantaneous or permanent can be extended by choosing to have a penalty equal to its casting cost to all other spells while it is in effect. This must be declared while the spell is being cast, and overrides the normal duration. The spell's duration can then be ended at will, by giving up the penalty. Failing any rolls as a result of this penalty do not effect the extended spell, but reflect the split in the caster's concentration.

Multiple spells may be cast in a single round, but they all must be cast as a single spell (casting costs added together). If a parry was done earlier in the round, its penalty must be rolled again with the casting of a spell in the same round. If a spell was cast earlier, its penalty must also be rolled when parrying later in the round. These penalties for earlier actions in a round are no longer tied to the effect, but merely reflect the strain of performing multiple actions in a short period of time.

A spell parried to the exact casting cost does half damage (save vs. spells for quarter damage), or gives the saving throw a +4 bonus (sometimes actually allowing a saving throw, depending on the spell). Normally, if a spell is successfully parried, it merely fails to manifest. A spell parried by 75% or more will result in a misfire. A spell parried by 100% or more can result as (victor's choice) a misfire, new targets (chosen by victor), or as fuel for the victor's next spell (the spell's casting cost, not the amount rolled, and the energy only lasts into the next round). The target of a parry can always choose to reinforce a spell as it is being parried.

A natural roll of 00% will result in a misfire, unless the spell was parried.

Spell Misfire Table (roll 2d6)

2 The caster suffers 2d6 points of damage
3 Strong magical currents cause the caster to tumble helplessly for 2d6 rounds
4 Arcane energies surround the caster, obscuring vision in a 10' radius for d6 rounds
5 A new target is selected at random
6-8 The spell fails
9-10 A cloud of dark smoke explodes from the caster's hand, obscuring vision in a 10' radius for 1 round. When the smoke dissipates, the caster's face and garments are blackened.
11 The spell has a reverse effect to that intended: spells that do harm such as magic missile cure wounds instead of causing them; other spells have related, but unhelpful results; a sleep spell hastens its targets; invisibility causes the character to glow and be at +4 to be hit, it also lasts for a whole day; curing spells cause damage, etc. Have fun!
12 The caster is cursed. Intelligence, saving throws, and to hit rolls are reduced by 2 points until the curse is dispelled (be sure to recalculate the Magic Rating).

Any impossible instructions should be considered simple spell failure.