Saturday, April 14, 2012

Quickie O/B/X D&D Starting Magic-User Spell Determination

3-8 - Randomly determine 1 1st level spell.
9-12 - Pick 1 1st level spell.
13-15 - Read Magic and pick 1 1st level spell.
16-17 - Read Magic, pick 1 1st level spell, and randomly determine 1 1st level spell.
18 - Read Magic and pick 2 1st level spells.

Inspired by my recent academic adventures, I imagine the above as this:

Int 3-8 - You're inept; although you somehow stumbled into an apprenticeship/wizard school, you were a failure and only remember how to do one thing, and it's probably not want you wanted to learn.

Int 9-12 - Although you got into an apprenticeship/wizard school you're pretty much a hack and managed to only learn how to do one thing.

Int 13-15 - You were an adequate student, you managed to learn a spell and the skills necessary to learn more on your own.

Int 16-17 - As above, but you managed to also retain some scraps of random information.

Int 18 - You were a prodigy and graduated with two spells of your choosing, what a champ!

One can easily play around with this depending on the DMs preferences regarding starting # of spells, randomization, etc. Maybe you need a 13 Int to avoid random starting spells? Maybe an 18 Int PC gets to pick 3 spells. I just like having a handy, arbitrary system for determining starting M-U spells that allows for some reward for being a brainiac.

I always liked the AD&D starting spell determination in principle, but in execution is a mess however much I love the cheap laffs at the expense of 1st level M-U's that have Friends, Mending and Ventriloquism in their spellbooks ("Where did you learn magic, working at a cricus? Bwahahahaha!").

As an aside, random spell determination works a lot better for the PCs with the OD&D/B/XD&D spell lists which aren't cluttered up with the hedge mage spells of dubious general utility. Heartbreak is your Magic-User reaching 7th level and getting Shatter in their spellbook. Not that I'm entirely against the D&D rules repeatedly slapping your PC in the face.


  1. Having rolled up characters for a 1e game today and watched while the player with the magic-user came to grips with choosing his spells, this is a timely and refreshing post. :-)

  2. I like it a lot. Maybe even enough to actually use it.

    But I have a question. If your INT is 9-12 can the spell you pick be Read Magic? Because that seems like the obvious spell to take.

  3. Yep, something similar in my space adventure game, Seeded Space... Psychics get from 1 to 4 first level psychic powers at first level, depending on their Wisdom - the more 'in tune' you are with the Force/Quantum Consciousness/whatever, the better.

  4. Sweet, by these rules I have an Intelligence of 16 or 17!