HD&D: Knowledge and Magic Skills

Hi all. In the second of our three posts on the HD&D skills system, we’re going to turn out attention to Knowledge skills, as well as the skills that spellcasters use to weave their magic. Unlike the previous post, I’ll examine how each individual skill works in full.

Skills for Magic

HD&D will follow the same line as fourth edition. Spellcasters do not have to roll a dice to cast a spell. If the spell is only affecting the caster, or a willing target or an inanimate object then no roll is required. A roll is only required if you are targeting the spell on an unwilling opponent or, to put it another way: if a fighter in the same situation would have to roll to hit with his sword, then the wizard would have to roll to hit with his spell.

The attack roll for a spell in fourth edition defaulted to the designated ability score modifier + half the character’s level. That’s not good enough for HD&D, and so the act of attacking with a spell has become part of the skills system. Spellcasting is just a skill like Weapon Group (Axes). You put your ranks in it, add your ability score and any other modifiers, and then roll the dice.

The key skill for spellcasting is Spellcraft. I was originally going to call this skill “Arcana”, but Spellcraft seems more appropriate. However, this will mean that Spellcraft means something different in HD&D than in did in Third Edition. I’ve tried to steer clear of this. For example feats are still called feats because calling them something else would be confusing – not because “feats” is necessarily the most appropriate term.

In addition to Spellcraft, all spellcasters will need to have Arcana which helps them to identify and interpret magical effects. You will notice that Arcana is playing the role that “Spellcraft” did in Third Edition. Again, is this confusing? All spellcasters will probably want to max out their ranks in Arcana and Spellcraft. Finally, each spellcasting tradition is tied to a particular Knowledge skill.

For example, clerics will need Arcana, Spellcraft and Knowledge (Religion) in order to cast spells. Spellcasting uses a mechanic that I will return to frequently in the HD&D system. Clerical (divine) spellcasting is performed by making an Spellcraft check, using the number of ranks you have in Spellcraft or the number of ranks in have in Knowledge (Religion), whichever is less.

Let’s take a look at the descriptions for the skills:

Arcana (Int) [Trained Only]

Description: Where Spellcraft  is your raw ability to control the weave, Arcana is your understanding of it. You use Arcana to identify spells and magical effects; to decipher written spells such as a scroll or spellbook; and (importantly) to learn new spells.

Identify a spell: If you see a spell being cast you can attempt to work out what it is by making an Arcana check against DC 15 + 2/spell level (e.g. DC 33 for a 9th level spell). Doing so does not count as an action. If you do see the spell cast, but the spell affects you (whether successfully or not) you can also make a roll to try and indentify the spell. However, add +5 to the DC in this case.

Detect Magic Auras: When using the detect magic spell, you use the Arcana skill to interpret the spell’s findings.

Decipher Written Spell: You can use Spellcraft to decipher written magical writings such as spells or another wizard’s spellbook. You must make a check for each spell, and the DC is 15 + 2/spell level. Once you have made the check once, you need never make the check again for that particular magical writing. If you fail, then you can try again after taking an extended rest.

Identify materials worked or shaped by Magic: You can tell the difference between a Wall of Stone and a stone wall. If something has been created by magic a successful check at DC 20 + 2/spell level will tell you.

Identify magic item: Arcana is used process of identifying magic items, however it cannot be used to do so in isolation. Normally a specific spell such as identify would need to be cast as well.

Learn a new spell: Most spellcasters know a set number of spells at level one, and then gain an automatic understanding of one new spell per level. If they want to learn any spells outside that, then they must learn the spell. The spell might be bought, found or gifted by another spellcaster (such an another priest in the same church). However, the mechanic is always the same.

You must succeed in a Spellcraft check of DC 15 + 2/Spell level. If you are working from a written source (e.g. you are a wizard) then this check represents your attempt to decipher the spell. If you are taught a new spell through an oral tradition (e.g. you are a druid) then the check represents your ability to absorb what you are being taught.

You spend one day learning the spell. If the spellcaster is a wizard, then this probably involves shutting himself in a room surrounded by dusty tomes. If the spellcaster is a druid then it probably involves sitting in the rain while contemplating the world around him. At the end of the day you make the check as indicated above. If you succeed then you have learned the spell. If you fail the check then you have not learned the spell. You can try again after an extended rest.

As a note, I am planning to do away with the read magic spell in HD&D, so there will be no shortcut for a wizard trying to decipher esoteric writings.

Wizards do not need to transcribe a spell into their own spellbook to learn it. They can happily carry stolen or purchased spellbooks and use them instead. Once a wizard has deciphered a written spell once, he never has to do so again. If the wizard chooses to transcribe a spell into his spell book then he must have special magical inks. The process takes one day (in addition to the day spent learning the spell). The spell takes up one page per level and costs 100gp (in inks) per page.

Spellcraft (Int, Wis or Cha) [Trained Only]

Description: Spellcraft is, quite simply, the ability to cast magic. It is the skill you use to focus the weave and create magical effects. Without Spellcraft spellcasting is impossible. All spell-casters must have ranks in this skill, and would be advised to max out those ranks.

There are various different forms and traditions of magic. The Spellcraft skill is used by all characters of all classes and is the raw ability to capture and cast magic. The traditions themselves are represented by a related knowledge skill:

Draconic (for wizards and sorcerers), Fey (for sonorists and bards), Aberrant (for warlocks), Religion (for clerics and paladins) and Nature (for druids and rangers).

In order to cast magic you must meet three criteria. Firstly, you must have the appropriate spellcasting talent. Secondly you must have ranks in Spellcraft. Thirdly you must have ranks in the related knowledge skill. For example, wizards must have ranks in the Spellcraft skill and the Knowledge (Draconic) skill.

When you make a Spellcraft check to cast a spell, you use your  ranks in Spellcraft or your ranks in the related knowledge skill, whichever is less.

Casting Spells: There are expanded rules for spellcasting beyond the remit of a skill description. The finished HD&D rules will refer players to the appropriate reference for magic and the spell lists.  However, it is ture that most spells require an Spellcraft vs. Defence roll to affect a target. The DC of the test is therefore the enemy’s Reflex, Fortitude or Will defence.

Retry: Most spells need time to recharge after they are cast, so if you miss you may not be able to try again. At least, not right away.

Special: The ability score modifier than applies to Spellcraft varies depending on your magical tradition. For example: wizards and swordmages use Intelligence, clerics and druids use Wisdom, warlocks and bards use Charisma. The description of each spellcasting class will indicate which ability score modifier to use.

Why not more magic skills?

During the campaign of ’99 I used a system of own invention that wasn’t entirely dissimilar to HD&D. Under NURPS spellcasting was broken down into eight very familiar skills: Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy and Transmutation. In light of how may weapon skills there are compared to the magic skills, why don’t we go down this road?

This might seem like a good idea, but I don’t think that it is. Dividing spellcasting into eight skills only makes sense for wizards. It’s meaningless for clerics or druids. What do we do for them? Do clerics have a skill for each of their spheres? Do druids have skills based on effect? Suddenly we have far too many skills.

The important thing for Iourn is that the magical traditionals are properly differentiated. This is why I’ve decided to go for two skills for spellcasting (all spellcasting) and then introduce the need to tie that spellcasting to an appropriate knowledge skill. A multiclass wizard/cleric would then need both Knowledge (Draconic) and Knowledge (Religion) but would work off the same Spellcraft and Arcana checks.

If you think this makes spellcasters too powerful in relation to martial classes you may have a point. If you think that it’s enough of a problem that we should address it, then I seriously believe that we should look at empowering martial characters (by reducing the size of the weapon skill list) rather than expanding the skills that spellcasters need to do fulfill their role.

Knowledge Skills

Right, so that is the game’s two magic-related skills. However, it is how they interact with the Knowledge skills that  allows spells to be cast. Of course, the knowledge skills do far more than permit spell casting. Let’s start with a general look at Knowledge, and then I’ll spend more time on the twelve named Knowledge skills in the game.

Like Craft, Perform and Profession, Knowledge encompasses a number of unrelated skills. Knowledge represents a study of some body of lore, possibly an academic or even scientific discipline.

Twelve areas of Knowledge are highlighted as being particularly relevent to characters, but players are welcome to choose any knowledge they desire. Characters delving into bizarre or esoteric areas of study are choosing to invest resources into skills that may not come up all that often. It is the GM’s responsibility to make sure such an investment is not wasted.  The twelve ‘core’ knowledge skills are as follows: Aberrant, Ancients, Architecture & Engineering, Draconic, Elemental, Fey, Geography, History, Nobility, Religion and Undead.

Knowledge Checks: Making a knowledge check to recall information does not require an action; you either know the information or you don’t. When you make a Knowledge check to recall a piece of information then refer to the following table:

Level of Knowledge










Master Sage


Highly Esoteric


Lost to History


Previously unknown


To put this in context, knowledge of the Hobbyist level (DC 15) should be a moderate skill check for a first level character. DC 20 is a moderate check for a 10th level character, DC 25 is a moderate check for a 20th level character, DC 30 is a moderate check for a 25th level character. A 30th level character who had maxed out his ranks in knowledge, started with an Intelligence of 18, increased his intelligence at every opporunity and took the Skill Focus feat would still have to roll 16 on 1d20 in order to reach DC 45.

This is quite deliberate. There are areas of knowledge that are so obscure that a PC simply cannnot rattle off a string of facts on the roll of dice. Of course, a knowledge check of any DC can be circumvented by research into dusty tomes, or speaking to the insanely knowledgeable. Quests for such knowledge are often at the heart of an adventure. As an aside, this helps to answer Daniel’s observation that tying (e.g.) Knowledge Draconic to spellcasting wasn’t consistant for Iourn. After all, the PCs have met various wizards and they were not all experts on dragons. However, the sort of level of draconic knowledge that certain characters have gained (the Maw of Io, the Temples of Concordance) range from Highly Esoteric to Previously Unknown. All gained through first hand experience, of course. Even high level wizards wouldn’t know such things, and wouldn’t need to know them to be decent spellcasters.


You can opt to specialise in an extremely narrow area of knowledge at the expense of your wider understanding. First select a Knowledge and then narrow your focus. You receive a bonus on Knowledge check in your narrow field of expertise, and an equal penalty on all other checks with the Knowledge skill. The GM sets the penalty, in increments of 5. For example:

Knowledge (Ancients) gives you a broad understanding of demons, devils, angels and the like. If you were to specialise in Demons then the GM would give you +5 on checks related to demons, and -5 on all other checks. If you specialised in a particular breed of demon (e.g. balors) then the GM could give you a +10 on checks regarding balors, and a -10 on all other checks with this knowedge skill (including checks regarding other demons). If you devoted your life to the study of one particular balor, then you would get a +15 bonus for checks related to that individual, and a -15 penalty to all other checks.

You could spend ranks in both the narrow version of a knowledge skill and the standard version. A character could have five ranks in Knowledge (Ancients) and five ranks in Knowledge (Demons). He would get the +5 bonus for narrow knowledge in the Demons skill, but wouldn’t take the penalty on other Ancients checks because he had paid for the skill separately.

Let’s look at all twelve knowledge skills is slightly more detail:

Monster Lore, Planar Lore and Survival

In addition to magic, a number of knowlege skills are used to gain knowledge about monsters and the planes. Knowledge (The Planes) from third edition has effectively been folded into these other knowledge skills as follows:

Abberant: Planar lore on the Far Realm; Monster Lore on creatures classified as aberrations (aboleth, mind flayers, beholders etc). Characters with Survival as a class skill use their ranks in Knowledge (Aberrant) or their ranks in Survival – whichever is less – to endure and survive in the Far Realm. Also the key knowledge for Pact Magic (warlocks).

Ancient: Planar lore on the “outer planes” of Aduro and Barathrum as well as the Astral Sea. Monster Lore on the Ancient races: demons, devils, angels, rakshasha, genie, rilmani, eladrin, guardinal and so forth. Characters with Survival as a class skill use their ranks in Knowledge (Ancient) or their ranks in Survival – whichever is less – to endure and survive in the outer planes. Knowledge (Ancient) is not connected to a spellcasting tradition.

Draconic: Planar lore on realms connected with dragons such as the Maw of Io, Mausoleum of Chronepsis and the Walk Between Worlds. Monster Lore on dragons and draconic races. Characters with Survival as a class skill use their ranks in Knowledge (Draconic) or their ranks in Survival – whichever is less – to endure and survive in the planes indicated above. The key knowledge for Arcane magic (wizards, sorcerers).

Elemental: Planar lore on the elemental planes/elemental chaos. Monster Lore on creatures that hail from those planes. Characters with Survival as a class skill use their ranks in Knowledge (Elemental) or their ranks in Survival – whichever is less – to endure and survive in the planes indicated above. Note that Knowledge (Elemental) is not linked to any spellcasting tradition – at least, not at the moment.

Fey: Planar lore on the Feywild and other seelie and unseelie realms (like the Greymere). Monster Lore on the fey and related creatures such as fomorians. Characters with Survival as a class skill use their ranks in Knowledge (Fey) or their ranks in Survival – whichever is less – to endure and survive in the Feywild. At the GM’s discretion Knowledge (Nature) may substitute in the more mundane parts of the realm. The key knowledge for sonorists (phonomancers, bards).

Nature: Planar lore on the world of Iourn (i.e. the natural world). Monster Lore on natural creatures that inhabit Iourn even if those creatures are fanatastic and would never been found on Earth – e.g. horses and bears, but also pegasus and owlbears. Characters with Survival as a class skill use their ranks in Knowledge (Nature) or their ranks in Survival – whichever is less – to endure and survive in the natural world. Nature is the key knowledge for primal casters (druids, rangers, healers).

Undead: Planar lore on the Shadowfell and the Land of the Dead. Monster lore on all manner of undead creatures as well as the deathless. Characters with Survival as a class skill use their ranks in Knowledge (Undead) or their ranks in Survival – whichever is less – to endure and survive in the Shadowfell. Knowledge (undead) is not connected to a spellcasting tradition.

Other Knowledge Skills

Architecture & Engineering: The ability to design, build and manage complex structures and pseudo scientific machines. Architecture and Engineering will get a make-over in HD&D making it more relevent, and aligning it to classes such as the Artificer as well as all those wonderful gnomes from Walhoon.

Geography: The ability to navigate from A to B with or without a map. Teh arrangment of countries, trade routes and general understanding of your physical place in the world. Geography also tells you about modern cultures, demographics and social issues – but not necessarily about a country’s history.

Geography comes “pre-specialised”. You must choose a geographical locale as the focus of your knowledge. This might be a very tight focus (e.g. Uris), or a very broad focus (Iourn). The DC of checks is based on breadth of the subject. Geography checks to find something in Uris will be easier if you have Knowledge (Geography of Uris) than Knowledge (Geography of Norandor). However, it would be much harder to find your way around Timberlake. Normally selecting a continent would be appropriate (e.g. Urova, Hadrada).

History: Knowledge of stuff that happened. Like geography, the skill comes “pre-specialised”. You must choose a particular region, continent or time period in which to specialise. Like Geography, checks in your area have an easier DC, but beware of making your study too broad.

Nobility: This skill gives you an understanding of heraldry so you can recognise various standards and banners. You can recognise nobles, and know how the hereditary system works. This is also the skill you would use if you wanted to know the local laws and other conventions of society. Nobility should be specialised in a particular country. You can still roll on this Knowledge for other coutnries but the DC would be higher.

Religion: You have a understanding of the theology and practices of a single religion or pantheon (such as the Moon Faiths). You can make a Religion check to discover information about other religions, but at a higher DC. Religion is also the key knowledge for Divine spellcasters (clerics, paladins).

Anything Else?

Any skill not covered by the skill list that is not obviously a craft (making something) or a profession (performing a service) is probably a Knowledge skill. There are, therefore, a near limitness number. However, the above twelve are the ones I intend to make firm use of in the game. Think carefully before taking Knowledge (Knitting Patterns).


One more skill to have a look at, that is vaguely connected to magic and to knowledge and that is Alchemy. In version 3.0 of the game, Alchemy was its own skill, and this will be revived in HD&D. Fourth edition handled alchemy very well in my opinion. Here are my thoughts on it:

Alchemists are the students of an ancient non-magical tradition. The most accomplished have mastered powerful archaic formulae; they create effects that most wizards would struggle to match.

Identification: You use this skill to identify poisons, chemicals or other strange agents and substances. If you have ranks in the Arcana skill, then you can also use Alchemy to identify magical potions, or other magical consumables.

Each attempt to identify a substance requires one hour and the use of the tools of your trade: beakers, burners, assorted chemicals and other laboratory implements. Although adventuring alchemists often carry such items with them, use of a large purpose-built laboratory is usually preferred.

The DC of the check to identify a substance varies depending on the substance and is set by the GM. Most substances would require an Alchemy check at DC 15, but the difficulty may be much higher for extremely rare or obscure items. Refer to the DC for Knowledge skills in this regard.

Because you expend resources when you identify a substance, each attempt – whether it is successful or not – will cost you 1 gp in alchemical supplies.

Creation: Anyone with ranks in Alchemy can use the skill to identify substances as described above. However, if you want to create your own alchemical items, then you must also possess one or more of the Alchemist series of talents: Alchemist (Basic), Alchemist (Expert) or Alchemist (Master). These are available at levels 1, 11 and 21 respectively.

Actually, at the moment I don’t know whether we need three talents for this or just one. It really depends on how we choose to hand the magical item creation rules in HD&D. This is a topic for a later debate, and has little bearing on the skill itself.

Armed with ranks in this skill, and the Alchemist talent(s) you gain access to a number of alchemical formulae that enable you to create a large variety of non-magical supplies such as tanglefoot bags, sunrods, alchemical fire and alchemical silver.

Alchemical formula work in a manner similar to creating magical items, which is why we are using the Talents system. I’ll use Talents for magic items as well. The fourth edition rules present alchemical items in the same manner as magical rituals and I think that they work rather well.

Retry: If you fail in an attempt to identify a substance you may try again as long as you still have some of the substance left to test. A second attempt will cost another 1 gp in materials. When using an alchemical formulae no result is truly a failure, but the effectiveness of the finished article is diminished by a poor check result. If you wish a better result then you would have to conduct the ritual again, paying all the necessary costs at each stage.

Special: A fully stocked alchemical laboratory grants a +2 circumstances bonus to all Alchemy checks. Tinker Gnomes gain a +2 racial bonus to Alchemy. 


Right: that’s weapon skills, magic skills and knowledge skills covered. In the next post we’ll look at everything else.

27 thoughts on “HD&D: Knowledge and Magic Skills

  1. Neil,
    This isn’t so much a comment of spellcasting more a comment on empowering Martial Characters.
    Lets be honest – how many Fighter type character do you know that actually walk around with weapons from multiple classes. Not many – most Fighter types can use Daggers, Bows & a Melee Wpn class of choice…. Brack: Dagger, Bows & Axes, Elias : Daggers, bows & Swords…

    My point is that is generally 3 skills…. not too far away I would hazard from – Spellcraft, Arcana & Knowledge …. so I wouldn’t worry too much about empowering the martial characters. Look at it like this.. If a fighter wants to be able to use many weapon types – they would need to practice in many weapon types – making it difficult to be and expert in all of them (spreading the skill point around) however if they want to be good in only a few, they can be better as they can practice more in a tighter field.

    I think that the balance of Martial skills groups vs Magical skills looks pretty spot on to me.

  2. Neil,
    Me again. Got to the bottom now…. Alchemy.
    2 points.

    1. Are you going to make damage checks to PCs carrying “in the field equipment” in the event of “falling” or “surprise attacks” where they cannot shed their packs (lets forego the issue of emcumbrance here for later).

    2. You place a 1 gp cost on the use – this is only of ANY relevance if you actually start making money, its weight, and its use relevant to your environments…….Hard cash has been something of an irrelevance to the LoL for a while now. This also goes for cash as spell components! (I know I may well be crippling myself here – but it’s been nagging away at me for a while…. Kaylas could never use the “stoneskin” spell because of the material components required – but this hasn’t seemed to occur/been overly relevant in other situations).

    You may now put me back in my place.

  3. Hi Jon. Thanks for your comments.

    1) I don’t see that I would call for that sort of thing any more often than I do now. If a Artificer or an alchemist falls off a cliff with his travelling lab then it might be appropriate. On the whole, if we create a character class that relies on equipment like this, I don’t the PC to be paranoid that all their expensive stuff is going to get broken or nicked at the drop of a hat. It doesn’t really work to the good of the story.

    2) I agree. There’s a line that needs to be drawn in regard to equipment, money and player wealth. I haven’t been consistant with this and I believe that I need to be. On the other hand I don’t want to run a bean-counting game where all the players feel the need to cross off 1cp every time they buy an ale.

    My idea at present is to create a sort of upkeep tax for each character. If costs them a certain amount of gold to subsist. Any expense beyond that needs to be paid for with cold hard cash. It needs a lot of working out. D20 Modern used something similar, I’ll take a look at that. Basically, I want money to be a factor in a campaign, but I don’t want it to become a chore to keep track of.

    This is also true with spell components. Usually, a wizard would be able to afford the little stuff but have to find the cash for the more expensive components and foci.

  4. Neil says:

    Just read the magic skills bit and it seems pretty fair to me, though the proof will be in the playing!

    A magic user needs a talent to cast spells but fighters do not need a talent to use weapons, however they can have various talents to improve their ability, correct? I agree with Jon that generally speaking fighters need a melee weapon a ranged weapon and maybe one other, this fits in well with the magic user requirement of knowledge (a bit odd but I can see why you have done this), spellcraft and arcana (why change the meaning of these but not of feats?).

    Not sure about the alchemist as presumably all they do in real time is analyse things and throw nasty stuff at people! All their skills are in the preparation of said nasty stuff.

    Well done!

  5. Neil…
    more thinking….
    Have you considered that your ability with magic (your skill in spellcraft) could be linked with the need for material components, akin to the eschew materials feat from previous editions. So for example when your Spellcraft reaches 5 you can cast 1 level spells with the need for components, 10/lvl 2 ; 15/lvl 3 etc

    Just thinking outloud again.

  6. To answer your questions:

    Over the thirty levels of non-epic play, all characters receive 21 talents. In order to get access to ninth level spells, a wizard must spend 10 of his 21 talents on spellcasting. He can do what he likes with his other 11, including augmenting that spellcasting, acquiring a familiar and so on.

    Fighters don’t have to spend talents to use their abilities. So they get all of the 21 talents to spend on being better fighters. Usually this would involve getting an extra attacks, doing more damage that sort of thing.

    Think of alchemy as an alternative to creating magical items. Alchemist isn’t a character class in its own right, just something else that existing classes can do on the side.

  7. Jon:

    Keeping track of components is a pain, which is why (by-and-large) we’ve never really bothered about it too much. How much bat guano do you carry around with you on a regular basis?

    We could eschew materials as a factor of the Spellcraft skill. It’s something to think about when we do get to that stage. Of course, material components are one of the ways to distinguish the difference between wizards and sorcerers (one uses components, and the other doesn’t). I’ll keep it in mind.

  8. Mechanically this all seems very workable. I have a few issues with what it means for characters though.

    1) Spellcraft seems a bit of an empty skill. The appropriate Knowledge skill is just as important for spellcasting but also has lots of other uses. I understand that it is supposed to be the technical skill for spellcasters but it feels like an obvious game mechanic, rather than an actual worldly skill. I think it needs to incorporate further uses, like Jon’s idea for eschewing material components (although I personally like material components as they add colour) or as a requirement for feats. Is it really necessary, or could Arcana fill it’s place? Maybe three spellcasting skills are needed for balance? I’m happy to keep Spellcraft but not in it’s current, bland form. It seems superfluous.

    2) All spellcasters of one type having to have the same Knowledge skills is still a problem for me. In certain cases I’m quite happy to go with your ideas (Primal casters, Sonorists, Warlocks – but see below). However, I don’t agree with Bards all having knowledge of Fey, or with Wizards and, especially, Sorcerers with their knowledge of Dragons. Mechanically I can see why you’re going this way and thematically it makes sense, but only in terms of magical theory. Bardic music is developed from Sonorism which is related to Fey magic, hence Bards should have Knowledge Fey in order to sing their songs and keep the system balanced. I don’t see this working in the world though. Very few sages and the occasional Bard might know this link between Bardic magic and the Fey, but it’s far from common knowledge and not relevant to day to day Bardship. What your average (or even a really good) Uris Bard would need to know about Pixies, Sprites or the Greymere in order to cast spells, I can’t comprehend. The same goes for Wizards and Dragons, as previously mentioned (and I appreciate the efforts you’ve already made to assuage my doubts on this).

    3) Sorcerers get their own section in this post as they are a special case. We all know Sorcerers need a serious re-vamp as they’ve got a bit confused on Iourn. I’ve always had a big problem with them having to do any book learning at all. There should definitely be facility for Sorcerers to become as learned as Wizards, but that’s not what they’re about. The point of them, is that magic is natural to them and they don’t have to learn it at all, it just explodes out of them. To have an academic skill as a requirement seems entirely wrong to me. So does tying them to dragons. I know we’ve had an emphasis on draconic sorcery in the game, mainly due to Elias and his family, but the first 3rd ed PHB suggested that Sorcerers could have been descended from Fey, Outsiders or other magical creatures as well as Dragons. I’ve always seen Sorcerers in this way so, unless you unequivocally state that Sorcerers come from Dragons, I would argue that Knowledge (Draconic) is no more appropriate than any other esoteric knowledge.

    4) Warlocks. You have tied them to Knowledge (Aberrant). Is this a deliberate decision to connect Warlocks to the Far Realm and Aberrations in general? That is fine by me, but it’s a radical move as Warlocks, are far more commonly connected in D&D with Infernal powers. Cyr, and possibly Clara, could be seen as Aberrant type Warlocks but they seem to be exceptions rather than the rule.

    5) Introducing Alchemy in a big way gets a big thumbs up from me.

    So this all leads me to the conclusion that I would ditch the requisite Knowledge skills for casting and just have Arcana and Spellcraft. I think they do all the necessary jobs for a sound magic system and the Knowledges just muddy the waters. Many characters would take appropriate knowledge skills anyway, but they wouldn’t be railroaded into specific ones. This would also make Spellcraft more important as it is the only skill needed for casting spells, and would make Knowledge skills more important for actual knowledge as they wouldn’t be as universal.

    Sorry for throwing a spanner in the works, especially as you’ve got Neil on board! It started as ‘a few issues’ but turned into much more as I was writing.

  9. Hi Daniel (you have been busy this evening!)

    1) As presented above, Spellcraft is the raw ability to draw on and manipulate the Weave. It’s sole application is in the casting of magic. However, it will play a role when we come to metamagic. Altering with a metamagic feat or talent (haven’t decided which yet) makes the spellcasting more difficult, and therefore has an impact on the Spellcraft roll. Does that make it seem less superfluous?

    I don’t want to lump Spellcraft and Arcana into the same skill. I think there’s a case for Spellcraft to be a separate skill; and yes this case may well just be based upon the game’s mechanics rather than the world view, but that doesn’t make it any less valid.

    2) You definitely have a point with bards. They don’t understand their heritage or where their power comes from. Instead of Knowledge (Fey) we could link their spellcasting to the Perform skill instead.

    You ask why a sonorist would need to know about the habits of pixies and sprites, or a wizard about dragons, in order to cast spells. Remember that the knowledge skills are broader than just monster lore. They also include an element of planar lore in them, which means a knowledge of how the plane interacts with the Weave. Certain magical traditions are inherently bound up in the planes, the creatures that live on them, and the way the Weave interacts with both.

    3) I know that there has been plenty of published material linking sorcerers to a non-draconic heritage. The Pathfinder game makes a big thing of this. However, I don’t remember saying at any point since 2000 that this was the case on Iourn. I think that every instance of sorcery and sorcerers are linked to a draconic ancestor.

    I am wary about opening the flood gates surrounding the origins of sorcerers. On Iourn there have been very distinct traditions of Blood and Song. On the one hand you have the magic of the dragons which became sorcery, which became wizardry. On the other hand you have the magic of the fey, which became sonorism, which became bardic magic. Do we want to blur that line?

    Of course, nothing has been said in the Iourn canon that closes the door on other types of sorcerer. We’ve just nevere seen any in game. Given the close relationship between dragons and Iourn it perhaps isn’t surprising that draconic sorcerers are more common than any other type. Certainly, wizardry is directly decended from the sorcery cast by draconic sorcerers.

    I think it’s completely appropriate for sorcery to have a Knowledge skill linked to it. Knowledge doesn’t need to be about book learning. A Knowledgeable sorcerer knows more about himself. It’s only the sorcerers to open their mind to these things that get to advance in levels. Of course Knowledge (Draconic) is only appropriate if the sorcerer is decended from dragons. If they gain their powers from different types of ancestors then a different knowledge skill would be more apt.

    But you are right, sorcerers definitely need a revamp. Marc suggested that sorcerers don’t have spells at all. Instead their have “powers” of one sort or another. That would be an interesting way to go. We could then have one suite of powers for draconic sorcerers, one for infernal sorcerers and one for fey sorcerers. Do we want to go down that road?

    4) Good point. Knowledge (Aberrant) would only be appropriate for star pact warlocks. Fey pact warlocks would need Knowledge (Fey) and infernal pact warlocks would need Knowledge (Ancients).

    5) Glad to hear it.

    My thoughts in using Knowledge skills to cast spells is that it helps to individualise each spellcasting tradition. If you really only need Arcana and Spellcraft, then what is to stop someone multiclassing willy-nilly and picking up spellcasting talents of a variety of classes.

    You could have a seventh level character (probably played by Marc) who could cast first level wizard spells, first level druid spells and first level cleric spells. Without tying the knowledge skills to spellcasting, then that character’s ability to cast spells from all those traditions is exactly the same. He need not even have ranks in Draconic, Nature or Religion to do it. And that feels wrong to me. I think they should be railroaded into selecting the skills appropriate to their choice of talent.

    It could be that this whole “you either use ranks your in skill X or skill Y, whichever is less” milarky is horribly cumbersome, and needs to be excised from the game. I’m not convinced of how well that will play in game. But I would like to find out. And I do think what without tying spellcasting to something beyond Spellcraft and Arcana, then it becomes a little flavourless.

  10. Jon says:

    I.) I agree with Daniel – matching book learning to magical traditional is clunky and limiting.

    2. I agree with you that there needs to be a controlling mechanism to Marc and his multiclassing (although – frankly I don’t see what the issue with cherry picking is – if you want to limit it maybe you should reimpose the XP reduction on multiclassing and just not tie it to race, say each classs beyond 2 classes (non prestige) incurs a 5% XP penalty – that’d slow people down).

    SO I prospose the following – perform, dance , knowledge all have flavours – why not spellcraft.

    Why should a Sorcerer be able to identify the casting mechanism for a clerical spell? etc.

    You can easily make each tradition need a different flavour of spellcraft and lump the theory into the knowldges…then each time you multiclass you have to expend skill point in your new traditions spellcraft – thus slowing down the multi-classers again.

    3. I have never felt Ravennas magic is tied to dragons – more to a nutty bunch of renegade wizzards

  11. My replied to Jon:

    1) Knowledge skills aren’t necessaily “book learning”. Druids will have high ranks in Knowledge (Nature) but they didn’t learn that in a book, they learned it through first hand experience. I think the better argument against using knowledge skills like this is that the mechanics could be clumsy. However, if we don’t tie magic to a knowledge base that reduces the number of skills required by spellcasters from three down to two.

    2) It’s not so much about controlling mutliclassing, I just don’t want a situation where a character could be casting ninth level cleric spells without any ranks in Knowledge (Religion). I know that it wouldn’t happen to any half-way decent roleplayer spending his skill points wisely, but it just seems like a bit of a loophole in the rules to me.

    Do these rules force characters to take Knowledge skills they otherwise wouldn’t? Should I be more trusting of players to make their own choices.

    As for your proposal: it’s a decent idea, Jon, although you’re slightly confusing the new definitions of Spellcraft and Arcana. Arcana is the skill used to identify spells being cast. Spellcraft is the skill of casting spells.

    Now the logic behind a sorcerer being able to work out what spell a cleric is casting, when he can’t cast divine magic himself, is that the sorcerer is not looking at the cause, but the effect. All spellcasters manipulate the Weave, and that manipulation leaves tell-tale traces. A druid casting Flame Strike, and a wizard casting Flame Strike use a different means to work the Weave, but if you look at the results, it still looks like Flame Strike.

    That explanation was put in place to explain the vagaries of the third edition mechanics. It also helps to explain when detect magic or dispel magic cast by any class, work on the spells of every other class. Now, we don’t have to keep this explanation for HD&D, but I’m inclined to as it’s what we’ve always done and I’m keen to hang onto a degree of continuity between 3rd Ed and HD&D.

    Which is all immaterial to your actual point, which was to do anyway with the link to knowledge skills and instead give each spellcasting class it’s own version of spellcraft. Presumably we’d have Spellcraft (arcane) for wizards, Spellcraft (primal) for druids, Spellcraft (divine) for clerics and so on and so forth.

    I like this idea. It would certainly be simpler to do it this way than the way I intended. It may also go some way to answering Daniel’s concernt at Spellcraft on its own is a bit flavourless. When I get the chance, I’ll put together a poll about this and see what people say.

    3) Yes, well Ravenna’s a bit special in all meanings of the word. I think there’s room on Iourn for sorcerers of a non-draconic origin. However, they make up a small minority.

  12. This from Jon:

    My counter argument to point 2 is as follows.

    If the cleric in question had not done enough book study they shouldn’t have been promoted through the church – (ie they shouldn’t be allowed to advance to the next level) – the same for wizards etc.Therefore you make the the requisite knowledge skills a requirement for certain levels of the character (say above 10)

    So like the requirement of a high enough Intelligence for wizards to cast certain level spells there should be study requirements for each tradition which kicks in at higher levels…..so a jobbing Cleric (lets say Nicos) can get by on their base knowledge for so long but to truly rise through the ranks they must put in some book time.
    Same goes for the Druid (wandering around in nature) wizards (noses into dusty tomes)…. but what about sorcerers – as Daniel says they are not “book worms” like wizards – they don’t need have a Theological doctrine to understand they don’t need tread the paths of untold forests and talk to trees ….. what makes a sorcerer a sorcery – I know – Knowledge Sorcery! (the study of why sorcerers are such – their history and how to extract and channel the best from within themselves) – contemplative and based on experience and discussion with other sorcerer (For example Derriac teaching Ravenna)

    I posit the theory – All sorcerers can cast spells based on their Charisma (for example 16 = so sixth level spells – yes?)

    At low levels of Knowledge Sorcery / Level – they waste so much of their power because they can’t refine it – they don’t have a good enough grip of the sorcerers technique.

    As they Gain levels / Understanding of Sorcery – they channel their power better, wasting less (gaining more spells) and can channel their power into greater effects (Higher level spells).

    Then as for the other Spellcasting classes they would need a certain level of understanding in Knowledge Sorcery to get to higher level spell….

    Jon (waiting to be shot down – but hopefully a good disccusion!)

  13. My reply to Jon:

    Fair points, but I don’t think it needs to be that complicated. The process you describe, or wizards reading through dusty tomes, clerics reciting their litanies and druids talking to pot-plants all boils down the same thing: experience. As characters gain levels they are considered to have studied, researched, contemplated or prayed enough to gain access to the next batch of powers and abilities.

    The requirement to cast more powerful magic is to be of a high enough level to cast that magic. In HD&D it also involves selecting the appropriate talent; and in order to select that talent you will need to have the required ability score of a certain level: 10 + Level of the spell. So yes, a sorcerer still needs a Charisma of 16 to cast sixth level spells.

    However, what you highlight here is the obvious difference between sorcerers and every other spellcasting class. The thing that wizards, clerics, druids, paladins, rangers, healers, psions, psychic warriors, warlocks and swordmages all have in common is that they learn their spells. The power comes from widely difference sources, but they still have to learn how to use it. Sorcerers don’t a formal learning process. The power comes naturally to them.

    Looking at it that way, then you don’t necessarily need a Knowledge skill associated with sorcery. And to take it another step, you don’t need spells at all.

    If we assume that spells are merely the formalisations of magic that lesser classes (i.e. wizards) use to cope with forces they cannot comprehend, why do sorcerers need that crutch? Well, maybe they don’t. These magical powers are not disciplined or rationalised. Ravenna may be able to throw a bolt of lightning, but it’s not a Lightning Bolt spell, not in the same way a wizard would understand it.

    The fourth edition sorcerer equates wild magic with sorcery. “Spells” can have unexpected effects for both weal and woe. Maybe we should look at going down that road. Sorcerers don’t have access to the ten spell-casting talents that other spellcasters have. Their talents grant them thematic magical abilities that they can further customise with additional talents or feats. It’s certainly something to think on.

    At the moment, I’m considering divorcing Knowledge skills from the casting of magic entirely. The knowledge (or tradition) of magic falls back on Spellcraft, but there’s a different Spellcraft for each tradition of magic. The skill Arcana remains unchanged.

    Sorcerers don’t cast spells. They have powers and abilities (gained through talents) that may look like spells, but that function very differently. As sorcerers gain levels they find themselves able to master more powerful abilities. However the casting of these abilities still comes off Spellcraft (or an equivalent skill) so they’ll need to keep high ranks in that if they want to remain effective.


  14. Jon says:

    It’s definitely something to consider – it sounds good on paper….but I have reservations

    My concerns in distilled form are as follows.

    1. Does it not move sorcerers more towards warlocks?

    2. Are sorcerer not merely wizards who do not require the arcane framework of a formulated spell. Therefore they are still using words and gestures – they still tap the weave and create the spell in the same “arcane” way that the wizard does (hence they also have the arcane spell failure from armour!) – it’s just being a natural at it they don’t need a framework.

    3. Isn’t creating a whole new set of powers for Sorcerers just complicating things to another level – and increasing the whole amount of work you need to put in. And won’t you just find that you create a power and then immediately reference it back to a spell…. if so why bother.

    4. How do you keep the verasimilitude (I’ve been waiting for a chance to fire that one back at you – even if I can’t spell it!), does Ravenna suddenly stop being able to cast lightening bolt or true strike…..?

    I’m currently playing neverwinter night 2 (based on 3.5) and the difference between the sorcerer and the Wizard is easy to see. I have to plan the spells I want for my wizard companion before we go into the next encounter – but he has more choice, qty & greater power. The sorcerer doesn’t need any planning – but has less spell choice, less power and less qty – ie runs out of the high power natty spells much quicker!

    Why deviate from this principal – Sorcerer are Natural Magicians – The Harry Potters if you like, Wizards are more your Hermione Grangers. What we’re discussing here is about knowledges….. Do you have any objection to a sorcerer casting 9th level magic with out having studied a knowledge, just having worked it out for themselves? if not….where’s the issue? This helps make the distinction between sorcerers and wizards.

  15. My answers are distilled in a similar fashion:

    1) Yes, this probably would move sorcerers closer to warlock mechanics, but only slightly. It really depends how we do warlocks. 4e warlocks are much more spellcasters than their third edition equivalents.

    2) Firstly, spell failure is not going to play a part in HD&D. Secondly, sorcerers are not wizards who don’t require the same framework; wizards are a group who created a whole new tradition of magic to copy sorcerers. I think that makes a difference to how we think of sorcerers. Their power doesn’t need to work the same way as wizards. Wizardry is just the best version of sorcery the plebs could create.

    3) Yes. It would be more work. And yes, the powers would have to be based on spells so your observation has merit. I guess the trick would be finding a mechanical difference that made wizards and sorcerers very different to play at the table. If it was done well, it could add a lot of flavour to the sorcerer, and not just be a waste of time. It might also be a way of distinguishing between the many sorcerer bloodlines.

    4) That’s the rub, isn’t it. We owe it to the integrity of the game to give Ravenna the same (or very similar) suite of powers than she had before. Of course, it’s still quite possible to do that.

    The plan with HD&D is to remove many of the restrictions on the wizard. So he won’t be preparing spells in advance any more, and his big schtick won’t be that he has access to far more spells than the other classes. With that in mind the distinction between sorcerer and wizard found in Neverwinter Nights (and 3rd edition in general) can’t be the distinction we use in HD&D.

    If we do away with tying knowledge skills to spellcasting then I have no objection to sorcerers being about to cast ninth level spells without having studied a knowledge. Of course, they probably will have: they’re very useful skills.

  16. Then Jon said this:

    Why does making a knowledge a prerequisite for a class level become complicated.
    If you “called” a level 11+ Cleric a prestige class and compared it with other prestige class which have skill requirements (for example Shadow thief of Amn needs ranks in Hide and Move silently – and I’m sure Alarius needed certain skills to become an Ardentte Diletante )

    It’s no more complex than that – to get to next level of Cleric you must fulfill entry requirements.
    So for example (Cleric)
    Lay Preacher : Level 1-10 ; Wisdom 10+
    Cleric : Level 11-15 ; Wisdom 10+ ; Knowledge (Religion) 8 Ranks
    Priest : Level 16-20 ; Wisdom 10+ ; Knowledge (Religion) 12 Ranks
    Bishop : Level 21-25 ; Wisdom 10+ ; Knowledge (Religion) 16 Ranks
    Cardinal : Level 26-30 ; Wisdom 10+ ; Knowledge (Religion) 20 Ranks

    I’m not suggesting these as definite number, merely as a working example of the principal.

    This means that you need Arcana and Spellcraft (tradition) for the basic levels
    You then must fulfill some knowledge requirement to progress in this class any further. Not complex – not even close to complex.

  17. No it’s not complicated, but placing a prohibition on rising in level unless you have a specific skill doesn’t sit very well with me. Perhaps a better way to do it, and have the same effect, is just include ‘x’ number of ranks in the relvenent knowledge skill as a prerequsitie to the spellcasting talents.

    In order to for a cleric to be able to cast ninth level spells you would need to be 29th level with 14 ranks in Knowledge (religion). That could work just as easily.

  18. Jon:

    Neil, I guess you’ve covered this elsewhere so if so sorry.

    If there is no spell failure – what’s to stop Wizards toting around in full plate for the AC bonus?

  19. Jon, I’m not sure I have answered this elsewhere to be honest.

    Firstly, there’s nothing stopping a wizard putting on a suit of leather armour, and I would probably expect to see that as quite a common precaution for low level wizards.

    While anyone can put on a suit of heavier armour, getting the most out of it is another matter. Proficiency in various kinds of armour are represented by talents that are largely only available to the sort of characters that wear the armour (fighters, paladins, warlords). So unless the wizard has a high strength and multiclasses into a martial class he’s probably not going to be able to pick up the talents required to use the armour particularly well.

    Plus even if he was so inclined, the wizard has other things to spend his talents on (powers that make him a better wizard). He probably isn’t going to bother.

    Add to this that armour costs money. Plate Armour requires significant wealth, and wealth is (largely) dependent on level. By the time a wizard could afford a set of full plate, he probably has a selection of spells that means he doesn’t need it.

    At least that is my hope.

  20. Jon’s reply to the comment about using knowledge ranks as a prerequisite for the spellcasting talents:

    I think that is perfect – matches your requirement for study to the power levels….It also means a cleric who only has Wisdom of say 15 doesn’t need (if they don’t want to) to increase their religion knowledge to 14 ranks as they can’t cast 9th level clerical spells anyways.

  21. Jon says:

    Not related to current (and lengthy) discussion – but comment on plate armour prompted a thought.
    It has always irked me that your average bunch of adventurous souls having looted the bodies of their recently vanquished foes can climb into their armour with any great discomfort. I’ve always thought that there should be some kind of penalty until a proper armourer can “adjust” the suit to be a good fit for the new user…..

    I’m sure you have a plan for this…..

  22. I always have a plan!

    My understanding (such as it is) is that padded armour, leather, studded leather, hide, brigadine and chain are ‘off-the-peg’ armours. If you find something reasonably in your size then you should be able to wear it.

    Anything heavier than that – the plate armours – are usually made to fit – so if you scavenge a suit from somewhere then you probably need to get it altered by a local armoursmith.

    There are probably rules for that somewhere in second edition. The Enchant an Item ritual in fourth edition allows you to resize magical armour (although that just stikes me as a rather silly metagame use).

    Anyway, I’m sure we’ll have a rule for it somewhere – even though it’s not something that comes up very often.

  23. This debate seems to have moved on somewhat since last I commented. Generally in a good direction, I think.

    I like the idea of having Spellcraft Divine/Primal/Arcane etc. The different traditions would have different methods of tapping the weave. This also means that prestige classes (or paragon paths or whatever) could be tied to a particular tradition by requiring ranks in that Spellcrafting skill. Clerics and Paladins could move towards a particular prestige class from a different point of view, through having ranks in Spellcraft Divine.

    Having an appropriate Knowledge skill as a requirement for talents works much better than the ‘lowest of Knowledge and Spellcraft’ method. Both skills are then focussed on their main use – crafting spells and knowing things – but are both useful for spellcasters.

    I would prefer the knowledge skills to be more closely connected with ancillary skills and higher level spellcasting, I think. Things like turning undead, laying curses maybe, and old style fourth or fifth level spells. I think characters should be able to learn some spellcasting just through technique and experience and theory should become more important as they get to higher levels. I still wouldn’t want higher level casters to have to max out the knowledge skill to cast high level spells. It seems too restrictive. High ranks is fine but max ranks is too much.

    Having a new method of casting for Sorcerers is quite appealing. I would want to see it as more freeform than other types of casting. Maybe along the lines of White Wolf’s Mage game. Sorcerers could learn various techniques that they could combine to all kinds of different effects. Say, a talent that gives control over lightning, one over speed and one over weightlessness. The talents would improve over levels, so weightlessness would go from water walking to levitation to flight to gravity reversal. These could be adjusted with various feats or spellcraft that could affect a variety of talents, such as allowing multiple targets, wider area of effect, longer duration etc.

  24. Regarding Jon’s idea and the proposed changes to Spellcraft: I’m turning that into a poll. I think I’m a convert, but we’ll see what the great unwashed think of it.

    Regarding sorcerers: what you suggest is evocative but, as Jon pointed out, a lot of work to implement. You also have to consider (as Jon also said) that if all these goofy sorcerer powers are just going to be analogues of spells, why not cut out the middle man and just give them spells instead? I definitely like the idea, but there’s more work to do to balance flavour with practicality. However, if we could reuse these mechanics with other instinctive classes (such as the Mystic and the Wilder) then it could well be worth doing.

    I’ve been looking at the sorcerer’s bloodline powers from the Pathfinder game (Beta release) and I’m really quite impressed with them. If we are assuming that “sorcerer” is just a catch all term from a character who was born with magical power – as opposed to solely being descended from dragons – then the bloodline powers open up some serious possibilities.

    Of course how we’d introduce bloodlines into a talent system is unclear. My initial thought was for bloodline talents to be in addition to spellcasting talents. But if we don’t have spellcasting, then a bloodline could be a series of related talents. Which would open the possibility to sorcerers being of more than one bloodline – 12 in Ravenna’s case.

  25. I don’t want to push you into opening Sorcerers up to all sorts of other sources if you have decided that Dragons are the fount of all sorcery. I can see how that could be the case based on the events of the game so far. I’m very happy for you to rule that on Iourn, that’s where Sorcerers come from.

    I’ve just never seen Sorcerers that way. From first reading the entry in the PHB in 2000, I’ve loved the idea of a fey born Sorcerer. That has always been more evocative to me than the dragon heritage path. Ravenna is a “special case” as we all know but it seems that Elias’ background has coloured what we think of as a sorcerer in the game. He is plainly descended from dragons. Dragons have played a big role in the game and in the history of magic. Wizardry comes from them. I’m happy with that. I can see so many other ways in which magical beings could produce mortal offspring with the strange instinctive powers of a Sorcerer. Fey, Demons, Couatls. Any shapechanging magical being could result in Sorcerous descendants.

    As far as the mechanics go, a complete overhaul might be a bit much. I think it could be re-used by Wilders and Mystics and the like. That makes something new, quite tempting. I’d be interested to hear the ideas that you mentioned Marc had had.

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