Friday, June 17, 2011

Gygax Spellcaster Houserule

Thanks for a very interesting post over at Risus Monkey - be sure and read this today!

This in particular caught my eye, which appears to be a house rule, or even clarification, for Magic Users and Clerics (I'm guessing for OD&D per the combat tables) suggested by Gygax:

"The "Spells Table" gives the maximum number of times a Magic User or Cleric can cast spells of the indicated levels during an expedition. This means that a third level MU (conjurer) can cast one second level spell once and three first level spells once (or one first level spell three times). The particular spells need not be selected in advance, but can be chosen during the expedition as circumstances require. This will balance the game more and will make the expeditions even more interesting."

As this is apparently from the mid-70's, its an interesting example of how fluidly Gygax approached OD&D, which is very different from the attitudes he seemed to express by the time AD&D was ascending.

Makes one wonder: what changed?

Or were they simply appropriately different opinions for different versions of D&D?

Cool houserule, at any rate, and would be great for open games with lots of new/circulating players.


  1. My guess from reading between the lines Tim Kask's post, and other post from TSR Alumini is that they were inundated with questions and stories by fans of D&D. That many of these were extreme like, "We killed Odin today, tomorrow it is going to be Thor."

    Coupled with trying to hold D&D tournament at Gencon and other other conventions led to a hardening of attitude towards the rules. You can see some of this in the preface of God, Demi-Gods, and Heroes.

    During the initial expansion of NERO LARP and later owning a NERO Chapter I can understand the situation they found themselves, although I don't agree the with the solution.

  2. We always did that with Clerics, but retained the rules that Mages had to choose spells beforehand. It actually seemed to balance things out quite nicely in AD&D.


  3. Just sad that Gary didn't see that you could restrict the power level of characters, but still let them be creative with what they had.

    In my experience the bast way to get creative spell casting is to combine this houserule with a "no repeat casting per day" rule. Suddenly the second best spell in your book becomes more important ...

  4. I would adopt this house rule. At least on paper, it looks like it will make the game seem a bit more faster-paced.
    Has anybody tried it in their games?

  5. The use of "expedition" makes me wonder a bit. Is a MU is meant to be leaving their spell book behind during expedition and a such limit their ability to recharge spells after casting? This little house rule would relive the impact of that limitation and get people to use different spells now and again as well.

    A curious feature I recall from old time play is of a party waiting while a MU readies a spell (there's even cartoons about it here and there) before a party kicks in a door and deals with the monsters beyond. Is that an expression of a memory of this Gygax houserule?

  6. It seems like implementing this house rule will make lower level Magic Users a bit more versatile during their early expeditions. I'm sure it will also make an MU way more interesting.
    But I have to ask, wouldn't it make high level magic users almost too powerful?
    What do you guys think?



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