HD&D: Recharge Magic

There’s always opposition to everything I put on this blog. Sometimes I don’t understand it (bows! crossbows! energy damage! aargh!), but there are times when I agree whole heartedly with the concerns raised. The recent discussion on Magic in HD&D is one such example. I fully appreciate where Jon and Marc are coming from on this. My proposals will reduce the versatility and therefore the potency of spellcasters. They seem artificial restictions, and not an organic part of the setting.

This post is designed to mollify those concerns and attempt to convince you that my ideas are for the betterment of the game. If they don’t convince you then please feel free to suggest some alternatives. After this post has festered for a week or two I’ll post a new poll and we’ll have a firm idea where the magic system is going. I would encourage everyone who has played a spellcaster in the existing system to have their say. We should garner opinions from all those clerics, druids, wizards and sorcerers out there.

Where Things Stand

At the moment, spellcasters are divided into two broad categories: those who know how to cast spells by dint of application and study, and those who are born with the ability. Wizards, Clerics, Druids, Psions and Bards fall into the first category, while Sorcerers, Mystics and Wilders fall into the second. 

Wizards, Clerics, Druids, Psions and Bards all have spell points. Each spell has a spell point cost equal to its level, and casters can cast any spell in their repetoire whenever they like as long as they have the spell points to pay for it. Of these only wizards still need to prepare spells in advance – and this method is also freer than the official third edition rules. A wizard can prepare any spell in his repetoire as many times as he likes as long as it is within his spell point limit. So a ninth level wizard with 60 spell points could choose to prepare a fifth level spell twelve times if he so choose.

Sorcerers and their ilk cast spells in a similar fashion but have no spell points. Each spell inflicts nonlethal (aka subdual) damage equal to its level. Sorcerers can continue to cast spells as long as they are conscious. Healing effectively restores their ‘spell points’. Unlike more studious casters, sorcerers have a firm limit on the number of spells they can know. So, although sorcerers could feasibly blaze away with their spells all day they do not have the versatility of a wizard or a druid.

I’ve been using a spell point system since my first Darksun campaign in 1993. The rules for sorcerers were added to the mix when third edition was launched in 2000. As you can see, I’ve been using these rules for a significant amount of time. They are tried and tested. However, I don’t want to use them for HD&D. My reasons for this are twofold:

The first reason is mechanical. Spell Points are fiddly – especially for wizards. I hate the mechanic of preparing spells in advance, it’s just too much hassle for players and far too much hassle for GMs. Because I don’t run a great many ‘encounters’ per day, there comes a point when characters never run out of spell points. This point is not reached at a high level, usually it’s around level nine. The mechanics used by sorcerers are also problematic. I’ve never really been happy with them.

The second reason is more of an aspiration. After so long using spell points, I want to try something else. I want to get away from the book keeping that spell points represent, and create a system that is elegant and seamless. The spell point mechanic is a but clumsy, and I’m sure that we can come up with something that is better. As numerous supernatural abilities in HD&D will use the recharge mechanic it seems appropriate to use that for spells as well.

Magic in HD&D

In HD&D, spellcasters will continue to be divided into the same broad categories highlighted above – .i.e. those who know magic because they have studied it (like wizards and clerics), and those who are born with the inate talent (like sorcerers). The recharge mechanic I am going to reaffirm in the rest of this post is designed for use by the former type of spellcaster. Those casters who need to study dusty tomes or be instructed by enlightened masters will use recharge magic. Instinctive spellcasters will use something else.

What is the something else? Well, I don’t know yet and I’d rather not use this post to pontificate on it as I sense it will derail the discussion. Suffice to say that a number ideas are on the table at the moment ranging from radical to familiar. Let’s climb one mountain at a time.

An Explanation of Recharge Magic

There are those fortunate enough to have been born with the power to wield magic. This ability is usually conferred by heritage or bloodline. The presence of a dragon, godling or other powerful entity on some branch of the family tree is enough to impart an instinctive mastery of the weave. For such creatures plucking the strings of Lolth’s creation is as simple as taking a breath. The precocious ease in which they can master even the most complex incantations is both baffling and vexing to the rest of us.

For those not born with the Gift, the only road ahead of us is filled with years of sweat, toil and tears. Mastering magic by the power of one’s intellect and determination rather than fate-given talent, is extremely difficult. Such spellcasters never truly know magic in the same way that an instinctive caster does. We do not have the same freedom to freely cast our spells. Each magick in our repertoire must be carefully prepared and pieced together. The uncast magic we hold in our minds is a fragile thing. Once cast it is lost to us, until we have the time to remartial our thoughts and focus on the spell again.

Some wizards and clerics can hold onto the pattern in their mind even after a spell is cast, but these talents are far from common and certainly not universal. Even if you could find a spellweaver capable of such a feat, they most certainly could not do it for all the spells they knew. They will have specialised themselves in the casting of particular magic spells. Such application is at the expense of other areas of study they might have developed.

Elgath of Uris, Brightday 205 LE

In game terms all clerics, wizards, druids, psions and bards have to be taught spells. They may teach themselves (by gaining levels or researching new magic), they may employ tuition or they may simply steal what they need. Remember that gods do not grant spells to their clergy: they grant power. Clerics have learned how to use this power to manipulate the weave and cast magic spells. Divine spells are, therefore, the purview of clerics and churches just as primal spells are invented by druids and their ilk. The spellcasting tradition does not affect the mechanics of spellcasting. At least not as far as this article is concerned.

After each extended rest (eight hours of sleep, or four hours reverie if you’re an elf) a spellcaster must prepare his daily spells. This requires an hour’s uninterrupted meditation, study or prayer. Wizards need to consult their spell books during this period, and only have access the the spells they have read over during this hour. It doesn’t matter how many spells there are in a character’s repetoire, an hour is all that is required to prepare them.

During this period, the complex incantations and eldritch formula of the spells are sealed into the caster’s mind in the form of a pattern. How these patterns are understood and visualised differs from tradition to tradition, and even from caster to caster, but the rules for each are mechanically identical. The patterns remain in the caster’s mind until the spell is cast. At the point of casting, the spell is broken and the pattern that held it is in tatters. This means that the spell cannot immediately be cast again.

A character cannot prepare the same pattern twice. If he attempts to prepare a spell that he already holds as a pattern in his mind, the new pattern simply replaces the old. It does not sit side-by-side. Cunning spellcasters have found numerous ways around this limitation, but all of these  methods are specialisations. They are variations from the central theme of recharge magic.

Once a spell has been cast, the caster requires peace and quiet to refocus his mind and repair the patterns in his mind. This is not as arduous a task as preparing the patterns in the first place. A short rest is all that is required to repair and re-prepare all the patterns in a spellcaster’s mind. A short rest is defined as at least five minutes of uninterrupted and peaceful study, prayer or meditation.

A caster can continue meditating and repairing patterns all day if they wish. However, after an extended rest (or any period of sleep or unconsciousness that lasts longer than an hour) they must prepare all their spells from scratch again. During the period of restfulness the patterns held in the mind have completely dissolved, and so the process of preparation needs to begin anew.

Some spells are so simple that the pattern is never lost from the caster’s mind. These cantrips or orisons are always available to casters. If you look at the cantrips and orions from the third edition game, you have a fair idea of the scope of these sorts of spells. Spells such as these are At-Will magicks.

Further Limitations to Spellcasters

In addition to the general limitations that are part and parcel of the recharge mechanic, all spellcasters have a further three restrictions on their magical prowess. All of these can be overcome with patience, planning and forethought.

Spell Availability: All casters start with a selection of first level spells. At each subsequent level they automatically gain one new spell of any level that they can cast. However, this is still a very small number of spells. If the caster wants to learn any more then they must be bought, stolen, taught or researched – and that must be done in game. Cultivating a spell list is something a character works on throughout his career. Although there is potentially no limit to the number of spells a character can know, getting to that stage will be difficult and (hopefully) rewarding.

Components: Some spells have complicated or expensive components. Sometimes these components will be so obscure or esoteric that obtaining them will be a quest in and of themselves. Such spells are rare, and those spells that do have such components will likely have significant, campaign-altering effects.

Casting Time: The most powerful magical spells now have lengthy casting times. Completing a ritual to scry on a foe, or link to a teleportation circle may take many hours. The spell is not cast, and the pattern lost, until the spell is actually cast. You don’t lose the pattern if someone interrupts the casting of the spell (although you may have to start again).

A Critique on Recharge Magic

The recharge mechanic is a very different way of adjudicating and limiting the power of spellcasters. It means that we cannot play spellcasters in quite the same way as we have before. In the present system a character can fall back on their favourite spells. Arvan can hem in errant githyanki with Walls of Thorns until the cows come home, Nicos could cast fireball after fireball until the bad guys fell down. But it is not just offensive magic one has to consider: the humble cure spells are also affected. Although a cleric or druid will be able to heal everyone eventually, they can’t have as profound an impact in the middle of combat as they used to.

Which might altogether be too much for some of you to bear. While I hope that the purple prose above does enough to convince you that this isn’t an arbitrary restriction – that recharge magic can be made to make internal sense within the game world – it is still a restriction. And it may well be a restriction too far.

In the comment thread of the last post, Marc said that he felt the restrictions imposed here were similar to the ones imposed by fourth edition. He felt frustrated that 4e didn’t give him the option of selecting the same encounter power twice, and allowing him to use it more than once per encounter. Now, it’s perfectly true that 4e’s encounter powers are the spritual forbears of HD&D recharge magic. I won’t try and conceal that. It’s also true that spellcasters are generally limited to casting any given spell once in any given fight. However, I would argue that this is not quite the same thing.

For one thing, you are limited to a maximum of four encounter powers in 4e. In HD&D there is no limit to the number of spells you can know. In 4e you can’t use the same encounter power twice in the same encounter. In HD&D there are many ways you can cast the same spell twice before taking a short rest. I’m not trying to create a system that penalises spellcasters in unfounded and frustrating ways. As I said in my last post: spellcasting is still king. Wizards, clerics and their ilk will still command substantially more potent abilities than fighters or rogues.

Recharge magic narrows the gap between spellcasters and non-spellcasters where it needs to be narrowed, and keeps it wide where it should be kept wide. It’s in the interest of the setting and the game to retain the conceit of the all-powerful spellcaster who can level mountains by flexing his pecs. Recharge magic does this, but limits the overcasting of powerful and game-breaking magicks.

Breaking the Rules

I have mentioned above there are ways in which a caster can overcome the restrictions imposed by recharge magic. Jon has urged me to be more specific, so I have taken a stab at a first draft of talents, feats and items that allow characters to cast spells more than once before they have to take a short rest. In the context of the game, these characters can hold onto the patten of the spell for a little longer before it is ripped to shreds.

Have a read and see what you think. These entries are short on flavour and big on mechanics (the finished articles would be more polished), but they should give you the gist.


Familial Spells (Metamagic Talent)
You have trained your familiar to hold spells on your behalf.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Spellcaster, Summon Familiar talent
Area of Effect: Your familiar
Effect: When you prepare your spells, you are able to store some spell patterns in the mind of your familiar. You can then summon and cast the magic from your familiar’s mind as if it were your own. Your familiar must be present during the hour you prepare your spells. During this period you store spell levels equal to half your level in your familiar. You must select specific spells to fill this spell level pool.
    Once the spells have been stored within the familiar, they can be recalled and cast by the wizard. The act of recalling and casting a spell takes the same amount of time as if the caster was casting the spell himself. If the spell is cast as a standard action, then it only takes a standard action. In order to recall the magic, the familiar must be within arm’s reach of the spellcaster. Once the stored spell is cast, the pattern is destroyed and the spell cannot be recast. If either the spellcaster or the familiar takes an extended rest, the stored patterns dissolve normally. A spell cast using this talent originates from you, and not your familiar.
    For example, Manacus is an eighth level wizard. He can store up to four spell levels in his familiar every time he prepares his spells. He chooses to store fireball (a third level spell) and magic missile (a first level spell) in his owl familiar, Otot. At any point before Manacus’s next extended rest he can recall and cast the spells from Otot as a standard action, because the casting time of both spells is a standard action.

Favoured Spells (Metamagic Talent)
You are particularly skilled in the casting of certain magic spells. You can cast these spells more frequently than your contemporaries.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: Select a number of spells you know. The total levels of the selected spells must not exceed your level or your related ability score modifier (whichever is less). You may cast these spells twice before having to take a short rest. At each experience level you can reallocate these spell levels, selecting a different selection of favoured spells.

Signature Spell (Metamagic Talent)
You are renowed the world over for your skill at casting a particular spell. 
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Spellcaster, two metamagic feats, 21st level
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: Choose a single recharge spell that you know. The spell becomes an At-Will spell, and can be cast without the restrictions imposed by recharge magic. Additionally, you may modify this spell with a single metamagic feat without affecting the spell’s level. The casting time of the spell remains the same. You must still provide any components that are required each time you cast the spell.


Additional Favoured Spells (Metamagic Feat)
Your skill at casting the same selection of spells multiple times is heightened.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Spellcaster, Favour Spells talent
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: Gain additional levels of favoured spells equal to your level or your related ability score modifier, whichever is less. For example, a wizard with an Intelligence of 18 could have eight levels of favoured spells as long as he was level four or higher.
Special: This feat can be taken more than once. Each time it is taken add further additional favoured spells equal to your level or related ability score modifier.

Critical Recollection (Metamagic Feat)
A particularly potent magical attack allows you to retain the pattern of a spell in your mind.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: Select a magical tradition. When you score a critical hit with any spell from that tradition, the pattern of that spell is not destroyed and you may cast the spell again before taking a short rest.

Distant Familial Spells (Metamagic Feat)
You have a particularly strong link to your familiar, allowing you to recall the spells stored in its mind at great distance.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Spellcaster, Familial Spells talent
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: The range at which you can draw magic from your familiar increases to 10 feet per caster level. You must still be able to see your familiar in order to draw and cast the spells stored within it.

Enhanced Signature Spell (Metamagic Feat)
You are able to perform even greater wonders with your signature spell.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Spellcaster, Signature Spell talent, 21st level
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: You may apply up to two metamagic feats to your Signature Spell without increasing the spell’s level.
Special: You may select this feat more than once. Each time you take it you may apply one additional metamagic feat to your Signature Spell without increasing the spell’s level.

Heightened Familial Spell (Metamagic Feat)
You are able to store more spells in your familiar.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Spellcaster, Familial Spell talent, 11th level
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: When you use your Familial Spells talent you can assign a number of spell levels equal to your character level instead of half your character level.


Repeat Spell (Metamagic Feat)
The spell you cast is automatically cast again at the beginning of your next turn.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect:A repeated spell is automatically cast again at the beginning of your next turn. No matter where you are, the secondary spell originates from the same location and affects the same area as the primary spell. If the repeated spell designates a target, the secondary spell retargets the same target if the target is within 30 feet of its original position; otherwise the secondary spell fails to go off. Applying the Repeat Spell metamagic feat to a spell increases the effective level of the spell by 3. If you are unable to cast spells of that power, then you cannot apply this metamagic feat to the spell.

Split Ray (Metamagic Feat)
When you fire a magical ray, you can target two foes instead of one.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Requirement: Must cast a spell that takes the form of a ray.
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: When you cast any spell that takes the form of a ray (e.g. disintegrate, ray of frost, finger of death) you can split that ray so that it affects two targets instead of one. The range and the effect of both rays are the same as if the spell was only focused on one target. You must make a separate attack roll on each target. Applying the Split Ray metamagic feat to a spell increases the effective level of the spell by 2. If you are unable to cast spells of that power, then you cannot apply this metamagic feat to the spell.

Twin Spell (Metamagic Feat)
You have the ability to simultaneously cast a spell twice at the same target.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: You can twin a spell. Casting a spell altered by this feat causes the spell to take effect twice on the area or target, as if you were simultaneously casting the same spell twice on the same location or target. Any variables in the spell (such as duration, number of targets, and so on) are the same for both of the resulting powers. The target experiences all the effects of both powers individually, so you must make an attack roll for both spells.  In some cases, such as a twinned charm person, failing both saving throws results in redundant effects (although, in this example, any ally of the target would have to succeed on two dispel attempts to free the target from the charm effect). Applying the Twin Spell metamagic feat to a spell increases the effective level of the spell by 3. If you are unable to cast spells of that power, then you cannot apply this metamagic feat to the spell.


The recharge system gives minor magical items a new lease of life. Potions and scrolls were largely pointless in a spell point system. Recharge magic changes all that:

Potions: Potions can be made from any spell of third level or lower. Imbibing a potion is a free action as long as you have the potion in your hand, otherwise it is a move action. The caster level is set by the maker of the potion. Any deliterious effects that would normally affect the caster of the spell also affect the imbiber. The spell affects the imbiber normally. If it is an attack spell of some sort, the attack must be launched by the imbiber immediately.

Scrolls:  Scrolls are precast spells written on expensive vellum with exotic inks. Any spell can be turned into scroll, and any spellcaster can make a scroll. Reading a scroll takes the same amount of time as casting the actual spell (usually a standard action).

Spell Storing Devices: Some devices are enchanted to hold levels of specific spells in a manner similar to the Familial Spell talent. In HD&D it is likely that spell storing devices will hold less spell levels then we currently see in the game. Somewhere between 1 to 9 levels of spells would be most appropriate.

In Conclusion

Well, there you have it. The talents, feats and items I have listed to bypass the limitations of recharge magic are but a selection; I am sure you can think of many more. The question is do these measures go far enough? Are these abilities nothing more than the proverbial finger in the dyke?

The test of any new rules set is in the playing. Personally, I would be happy to play a wizard under these rules. Or at least that’s what I think now. Someone out there might have a better idea that completely knocks my socks off. So, over to you.


27 thoughts on “HD&D: Recharge Magic

  1. Neil,

    Thanks for putting the meat to the bones.
    With the feats and the talents I can see how this could work.

    I am (at this juncture) more than happy to give this mechanic a go.

    I am concerned though about limiting spell storing devices…..
    Currently my device (20 levels) can hold 3 big & nasty spells + 2 magic missiles – as my caster level goes up then the overall qty reduces even further.

    9 seems awfully low – 3 fireballs. Frankly 9 magic missles at higher levels seems more cost effective. No “to hit roll” and reasonable damage….

    Not strcitly on topic, but I would be interested in your thoughts for porting characters from 3.5 -> HD&D ; how will you adjust spells known and magic devices etc?

  2. Because everyone had so many spell points in third edition, items like spell storing rods, potions and scrolls were less useful. Yes, they help Ravenna no end, but if you’re not a sorcerer then the utility of these items is small. HD&D’s recharge magic makes these items profoundly useful: they become must-have accessories for the mage about town. This means they need to be less potent, or they will dominate the game.

    That said, I picked the numbers you refer to out of the air. We can argue the details later, its the principles that are important.

    I am hoping that characters should convert from 3.5 to HD&D relatively smoothly. The general mechanics are almost identical between the two. The characters retain the same level. After we recalcualted your ability scores it would just be a question of selecting the feats that most ressembled the feats you already had, and the talents that most ressembled your existing class abilities. It’s possible that some characters (perhaps Elias) may not have the awesome range of different abilities that they currently enjoy. I can’t say for sure yet.

    Magical devices should be easy too. A ring of strength or ki straps should do much the same thing (and work the same way) in both editions. Magical weapons like Usslus might lose their plus to hit, but retain the flavourful elements. Ravenna’s spell storing rod might store less spells. The quickening ring would probably be unchanged.

    As for ‘maximum spell levels known’… well that depends on what we do with the sorcerer doesn’t it? They may not have a maximum number of known spells. They may not have spells! That is something to think on.

  3. Given spell storing items would become must-have items for magic users, would it then follow that it would be easier for magic user to create or obtain these items?

    Following on from that wouldn’t magic users then start creating or obtaining sets of spell storing items and loading them with spells for particular occasions. E.g. a belt holding a rod loaded with fireballs, another loaded with lightning bolt, another full of magic missiles, etc?

  4. Certainly all magic users would want to have spell storing items. However, I don’t see there being a proliferation of such items.

    The creation of magical items in HD&D is dependent upon knowing the right spell. That means that the availability of spell-storing items is controlled by how difficult the spell is. If it is (for example) a sixth level spell, the number of wizards on Iourn proficient enough to cast it would be small.

    Combined with the general principle that magic items are never available for sale, then demand is always going to outstrip supply. It’s more likely that powerful organisations (such as churches) would keep a number of spell storing items and lend them out to adventurers for specific quests.

    Plus you have to question how useful spell storing items are. I think you would quickly reach saturation point. Once you had two such items you would probably never need any more as you own powers would recharge before the next threat.

  5. Neil,

    Does the creation on magice Items cost experience (IMHO this always seemed and atificial mechanic) or just Time?

    If just time – then if all that is required to make items is the correct spell – surely any enterprising wizzard would open up a business selling magic items ; contrary to what you might want, this I feel is the natural extension – in the setting money makes all the difference ; and being able to provide people with these items for financial profit seems the natural way forward – And I have never seen why this caused you so much discomfort. It is a normal consequence of business.

    For example wizzard want 2 spell storing rods. She has the spell.
    She needs magical components to the value of 2000 GP for each item.
    But she can only afford to make one rod.

    So she buys the components make the rod ; sells the rod for 2750 GP (time & labour) giving 750gp profit. If she repeat this 3 times giving her enough money for the components for the 2 rods she want to make for herself + some spare cash.

    This is business. This is how it would work.
    So I really do beleive that magical items would be sold in the world as an extension of the mechanics you are instigating…….

    And when I say sold – I don’t per se mean in your traditional shop style – possibly more of a commission style. But I cannot see why selling magical devices for profit to enable you to be able to make other magical items is so unreasonable?

  6. Creating magical items does not cost experience points. It is an artificial mechanic (although damn effective at limiting magical item proliferation).

    Now, let me get my soap box.

    I’ve been uncomfortable with the idea of magic item shops and buying and selling such devices as I believe it cheapens what should be unique and special items. I understand what you’re saying, but I think that the economics of the magical economy might work slightly differently.

    In order to create a magical item, you need the following:

    1) Power: you must be high enough level to cast the relevent creation spell. Creating magic items is only for mid to high level characters. I don’t subscribe to the third edition principle that anyone from 5th level up could do it.

    2) Knowledge: you must also know the relevent spell of the item you want to cast, or have researched it yourself.

    3) Time: creating magical items can take a significant amount of time.

    4) Money and resources: exotic material components and a great amount of ready cash is also required.

    “Power” and “Knowledge” go hand-in-hand. Taken together, these two factors limit the number of casters who can create any given magic item to a few hundred in the world. All these casters will be important personages who probably have better things to do with their time then set up a shop selling magic items. Certainly, by the time they have reached this level magic can effectively give them anything. They don’t need to start a business to make money.

    “Time” is a big limiting factor on adventurers. If it takes two months to forge and enchant a magic sword, then few campaigns have that sort of down time. Of course, that’s negotiable if you want magical item creation to be the focus of your character.

    “Money” is a significant stumbling block, and here is where the economics comes in. Magic items are ridiculously expensive to make, and even more expensive to buy. If you assume that it costs half the market price in components to make an item (which is what third edition assumes) then the price you would have to charge to break even is still astronomical.

    Say you make a mace of smiting (good for despatching undead). The component cost of that item is 37,812 gp in third edition. That you have to have 37,812 gp in order to make it in the first place; and it means you need to sell it for more than that to make a profit.

    Now, the market price is listed in the third edition DMG as 75,624 gp for a mace of smiting. Most people in the D&D world are on 1 sp per day and have to grow their own food and work in order to live. Who on Iourn has that much money to throw around?

    Answer: Churches. Kings. And perhaps other adventurers if you’re lucky. These aren’t the sort of sales you make every day. Finding a buyer for such an item could take months, maybe years. No wizard can count on making a profit from creating a magic item because the cost of materials are so expensive in their own right.

    The only way I can see it working is if a very rich person commissions a wizard to create an item on their behalf. But the shoe is on the other foot. The customer is seeking out the supplier, not the other way around. Wizards couldn’t possibly count on such commissions. One or two moderately powerful items have a gp value equal to the GDP of a small kingdom.

    In fact, such items are so expensive that they become worthless. They can’t be sold. A shopkeeper or a fence who gets hold of a magic item might sit on it for years before finding a buyer. A shopkeeper certainly couldn’t afford to buy in magic items with a view to selling them on because, even if the supply was there (which it isn’t), there is no demand. It’s all very well spending 20,000 gp on a magic item knowing that it’s worth 40,000 gp to the right person, but if you can’t find that person then you’re business goes belly up.

    If a wizard wants to make any money from magic items he’s better destroying the item and selling on the component parts. There is a ritual in fourth edition that I intend to keep in HD&D called Disenchant Magic Item. Basically you take the item and reduce it down to its rawest components – a concentration of magic called residuum.

    Residuum is a universal component that can be used to cast spells and rituals. If a wizard has a magic sword worth 40,000 gp he knows he can’t sell it. Better to destroy the sword and create 100 vials of residuum that each retail for 400 gp. He knows he can sell that. That’s economics in action.


    My view is that Magical Boutiques (for want of a better term) will exist. They will sell learned tomes, spell components, and residuum. They are also likely to sell scrolls and potions, which are minor magical items and relatively easy (and cheap) to create. Such shops won’t be common, but your average Norandon city would have one or two.

    As for your example…. if your wizard wants to make money to build that second spell storing rod, he’s better off creating scrolls, potions or residuum and selling them. It would take a longer period of time because he would still have to be careful not to flood the market (“I haven’t sold that last Potion of Firebreath, I can’t buy any more right now!”) but it could be done.

    Although it might be easier for him to sell his services as a spellcaster and cast spells for money (divinations, fabrications and so on). I’ve nothing against spellcasters making money from their magic, I just want to try and avoid a magical item economy.

  7. Where do Artifact fall into your plan?

    Could we just render the vathek stones down into residium?

    All this sounds like game mechanics invented to fix other issues.

    My Point (I think) is best exemplified by Gaston/Arex
    He doesn’t want for resources – so he’s likely to spend his time making all the spell storing devices he wants.
    Arex on the other hand (if he were to develop the “Spell Storing Matrix” spell) would struggle for resources – but if he were to be able to get one device made – he would probably continue to use the one until he can sell it on for vast profit and try to make 2 others (likely)

    There is always someone (maybe looking for a magical chair!) with more money than sense – a dabbling petty wizard who is also a count who wants to be able to blast away with magic missiles on bonfire day!

    By restricting the recast time of spells – you force wizard to be inventive – all well and good – but then you seem to want to shut of that avenue of inventiveness because you don’t like the magical shop idea?

    It just strikes me as one rule to try and fix the issues with the previous one.

    Magical stuff is the area I like.
    I’ve played many different systems for magic [Ars Magica, D&D, Shadowrun, TORG (yes I actually understood that magic system!), Rolemaster and others] – and they all have flaws and loopholes, and clever players will always find them and exploit them – This I feel is to be encouraged not ruled against for fear of unbalancing the system – that road leads to the blandness that is (by all accounts as I have not actually played it) 4e.

    I have never understood why you want to limit magical items so greatly (from a rule basis).

    PC almost never have the free time to make the nastier items and you control the prevalence of the items on the bad guys/dungeons etc.

    If you want a control – make a higher level spell called “Enchatment Permanancy” – this fixes magic in and item for ever (making it an Artifact) all other enchanments have a best before date and the enchament fades after a time (you can then set the time at say 6 months) and make the time/cost less.

    Jon (Dismounting from HIS soap box)
    (this might have been a bit rambling – sorry)

  8. Damn these soap boxes.

    In all editions of D&D artefacts are devices that are beyond the ken of regular magic users. Even the most potent epic casters have no power over artefacts. The Vathek Stones (alledgely being the petrified eyes of the World Serpent) definitely fall into the category. I’m not saying you can’t do something with the Stones, but something as simple as casting a disenchant spell wouldn’t work.

    The Blades of Virtue were also artefacts (of lesser power than the stones, but artefacts none the less). Narramac and Marvollo were able to subtly alter the blades – something that even Karatath thought was impossible. Precedent has been set, but you don’t know how they did it. Anyway – this isn’t the forum for discussing campaign-related matters.

    Getting back to your general point: when I read the rules for residuum in the fourth edition PHB1, I really liked them. I realised that here was a logically sound reason why there is no proliferation in the buying and selling of magical items.

    Iourn has always been a low-magic item setting. I fits in well with a world where great magical power is rare. The Chosen move in rarified circles. Everyone they interact with on a daily basis is exceptional. The reason I want to restrict the proliferation of magic items is not a rules issue, but a setting issue.

    I know it’s been a while since my economics A-level, but I don’t think there’s anything logically unsound in my argument as to why magic item shops don’t exist. Given the extreme cost of creating magical items compared to the wealth of the Urovan or Hadradan economy there simply isn’t the market to sustain such a business. I think all that works perfectly well.

    Am I saying that Arax could never find someone with the readies to buy his spell storing rod? No. It wouldn’t be impossible, but it wouldn’t be easy either. And it might take him years, and it might be worth it. I’m just saying that a wizard couldn’t create magic items with the expectation of being able to sell them on. Economics doesn’t work that way.

    As for Gaston… well he doesn’t have limitless pockets either. Assuming that Galahyde bankrolls his research, the king’s accountant probably keeps a very close eye on everything the archwizard does. Taxes only raise a finite amount of money. There are palaces to maintain, soldiers to arm, wars to fight, ships to build. All of this costs money. If you consider real mediaeval kings had a hard time finding the money for all of this, and they didn’t have to finance a wizard. Creating a potent magic item costs tens of thousands of crowns. Even the richest kings can’t afford to write their wizards a blank cheque.

    Does Gaston have some sort of spell storing device? Probably. Most wizards of his level will have done their best to acquire one. Will he have two? Probably not. He doesn’t really need two, and his resources could be better spend on researching or buying something else.

    If you have a spell storing device then all well and good. If you don’t then magical scrolls actually the more cost effective solution. Yes, it’s easier to recharge a spell storing rod than it is to make a magic scroll, but you could probably make a hundred scrolls for the time and money it would cost to make the rod in the first place. For most wizards, I think that scrolls would be the way forward.

    Although the idea of creating magic items with a sell-by date has some merit.

    Inventive wizards and casters can get around the restrictins of recharge magic in certain circumstances. I don’t think a lack of magic item shops significantly reduces those options.

  9. My Concern is about the size of the items.
    If you restrict the maximum levels to a low number – then a prevalence of matrices become more of a requirement.

    The max # of level at which you cap the size of a spell storing item is directly related to the importance they bear and the prevalence of them.

    To low and wizard types are going to want more than one.
    To high and it gets silly and there is no danger of running out.

    I think some careful play testing on the limits is required.

    My diatribe on shopping relates back to this I suppose – it only become neccessary for more matrices if the one you have is too small to be of any use to you in your current situation.


    Ravenna – she’s got 20 levels now. And this is fine and has been for quite a while now. But its getting less useful – noticeably.

    I can store what 3 disintegrate at the momoent.
    when I get 7th level spells – it’ll become 2 7th level & 1 6th. Which is fine in our more magically proliferate setting.

    In the future – maybe this would be reduced to say 15 max.
    You comment (which I know was arbitrary) about 9 levels max – that means a ninth level caster can have 1 stored spell.

    This ,I believe, would lead to lead to wizard wanting to proliferate their matrices for all their other spells.

    15 levels of spells ; so maybe a 9th Level spell ; and Invisibility & Haste for emergencies seems more reasonable.

    I think that some serious thinking needs to be given to the limit as it feeds directly back through to the concept of recharge magic we are discussing here. (It’s all connected ya’know!)

  10. I don’t know if its a good idea or not – but in the spirit of discussion. And Neil did say if we had any other ideas we should air them.

    Book learners cast using their HP too. But as they are not natural – it costs them double the spells level to cast. But as they are more cerebral they have access to a broader range of spells.

    Natural spell casters manipulate the weave….well naturally – and cast of HP at the spells level – but they cannot maintain the bread of knowledge in their heads – dramatically limiting the scope of the spells they can cast.

    All spells have a std 2 round recharge time limit.
    feats/Talents can circumvent this.

  11. To take your first point Jon:

    I agree. We’ll need to playtest the right level of spell storing devices. However, you need to remember that such a device only really needs to get a character through one fight. Plus, we shouldn’t take spell storing in isolation. A wise high level wizard probably knows a talent to help him recall spells, has a spell storing item and a few scrolls.

    There’s also the possibility of high level spells that you can cast that recall a recently cast spell for you. Second edition had a few of them. They become relevent again in HD&D.

    Anyway – we’ll find a level for spell storing, I’m sure. Although I’m not convinced that Ravenna is the best subject, as she will probably not be using the recharge mechanic anyway.

  12. To take Jon’s second point:

    My opinion is that the system we currently use for sorcerers is that it doesn’t work very well. On the one hand it’s too good: healing magic that restores real and nonlethal damage effectively renews a sorcerer’s spell casting powers in double-quick time. On the other hand, it’s not good enough. A sorcerer doesn’t have many hit points, and if she’s taking damage at the same time as casting spells then she’s out of the fight in very short order.

    Arguably the spell storing rod and the quickening ring at the only things that make Ravenna a viable character in the context of the party. I’ve thought this for a while. Without those items Ravenna would be pitiful compared to the other spellcasters.

    However, I will open the point to general discussion. It’s certainly still on the table.

  13. Over in a post on the Instinctive Magic thread, Marc said: P.S. still dislike aspects of recharge magic (and the reproduce talent doesn’t really work more effective to go up a level and have a similiar and slightly more potent spell).

    It seems more appropriate to answer that point here.

    There are two parts to Marc’s comment. The first (I think) is that he dislikes the fact that wizards could simply choose to learn subtly different spells that have very similar effects in game. A wizard who wants to be able to cast fireball multiple times just needs to learn a variation of that spell: acidball, coldball, electricball and so on.

    The second is that he sees flaws in the Favoured Spells talent. That it would always be more effective to learn a similar higher level spell, than being able to recast a spell of a given level twice per ‘encounter’.

    I think if you look at the spell lists in the third edition Player’s Handbook (which is the list I’m going to be basing the HD&D spell list on in the first instance), there aren’t very many examples of duplicate magic. Even if there were, you have to consider that recharge casters still have limited spell lists. Sure, they can have as many spells as they like in theory – but in practice they are limited to one per level, plus as many as they can beg, borrow or steal. Is a wizard going to use his finite resources to learn a very similar spell twice?

    Plus we need to consider how similar “similar” spells actually are. I agree that Acid Orb, Fire Orb, Electric Orb etc are all valid spells, despite the fact they are almost identical except the type of damage they inflict. That’s acceptable. Charm Person and Bernie’s Charm Person (which is exactly the same as Charm Person, except you have to stand on one leg with a parrot on your shoulder) is not acceptable. If the spell is too similar then the patterns of the spell overwrite one another just as if they were identical – with the higher level spell winning out.

    Most of the duplicate spells in the PHB are damaging spells. You can argue that any spell that inflicts hit point damage is a variation on a theme. If you break the spell down to its mathematical components all you have is a range, an area of effect and a damage rating. A tenth level caster can inflict 10d6 damage with a fireball. Well, he can inflict 10d6 damage (or thereabouts) with about two dozen other published spells. Does that really make any difference to the game?

    Perhaps a better response to the observation that the Recharge rules can be circumvented by learning similar spells is simply: so what? Why is it a problem? Why look at it as a fault? Why not see it as a feature?

    Learning a very similar spell takes up some of the wizard’s resources. It’s time and effort he’s not spending on learning a completely new spell, and broadening his repertoire. Any similar spell he learns is invariably going to be something that inflicts damage, and as there are so many ways that spellcasters can inflict damage anyway – it really doesn’t make any difference.

    So perhaps this is simply another way that recharge casters can step around the limitations of recharge magic. However, I don’t see how it is easier than composing a scroll.

    I think that as a safety net, we have to say that every spell needs to be different enough to create a unique pattern. You couldn’t invent a spell called Heal Other that healed a very similar amount of damage to Cure Light Wounds in exactly the same manner as Cure Light Wounds. If you just slap a new name on an existing spell, then for all intents and purposes it is that spell.

    This makes research into new spells all the more exciting. The new spell has to do something revolutionary – something that has not ben done before.

  14. I think that this system is worth trying. It definitely has potential to work well. The feats presented seem good enough to allow flexibility. I think the idea of learning new spells being a time consuming and expensive business should allay Marc’s fears somewhat. I would usually prefer to have a well rounded wizard rather than one with a multitude of orb spells, but I don’t have a problem with Marc’s orb specialist either – he could be quite fun.

  15. Well, the Recharge mechanic is winning out on the poll at the moment (although it’s hardly a glowing endorsement). Personally, I would be very interested to see how this runs. I’d be even more interested to see Marc or Jon run a spellcaster under this system. They have both been the most critical of the concept, and would cast a far more critical eye over its mechanics.

  16. Neil says:

    To the recharge mechanic; I like it but think it is too limiting at the moment. Why not link the time to recharge to power level? That way you could have, perhaps, a wizard casting lots of fireballs, or chain lightnings, as they would only need a round or two to recharge. A powerful spell such as disintegrate however maybe would take 5 rounds or more (the maths can be worked out but I’m sure you get the idea). That way the clerics could keep healing pretty much as normal and the wizards could keep chucking magic missiles or whatever but you don’t have people lobbing off power words ad infinitum!

  17. If you have time, have a look at the Unearthed Arcana’s rules for Recharge Magic over at the d20 SRD. Those rules do something along the lines you are suggesting. A 17th level wizard would take 1d4+1 rounds to recharge a ninth level spell after casting it, but could cast all their 0, 1st and 2nd level spells at will. Certain troublesome spells, have unique recharge times.

    In my version of the rules I have done away with unique recharge times and given the troublesome spells longer casting times instead. Much the same idea, but from a different angle. And it seems more flavourful as well.

    If we introduced this form of scaling, then I don’t think we could quite follow the rules laid down in Unearthed Arcana. But we could try and find something similar that works equally well. Any thoughts?

  18. Neil,

    I like Neils principals to make lower level magic recharge quicker.
    Why not make the recharge time equivalent to the spell level / 2 (round down)..

    so recharge times are

    1st & 2nd – 1 round
    3rd & 4th – 2 rounds
    5th & 6th – 3 rounds
    7th & 8th – 4 rounds
    9th – 5 rounds


  19. I think doing it in the way you suggest, while nice and simple, leads to low level casters being too powerful in comparison to the other classes. I think I would rather see magic getting easier in relation to caster level.

    For example, a wizard who can only cast first level spells finds he has to wait a full 5 minutes for the magic to recharge. While wizards who can cast (e.g.) 6th level spells, find it much easier to cast first level magic, and those spells recharge more quickly.

    However, I think that any variation of the system is going to have a profound impact on the game. It’s all very well to say a wizard has got so many spell points that he can effectively cast whatever spells he wants without running out, it’s quite another thing to say that this spell is free to cast. A wizard with 150 spell points might feel as though he can cast Invisibililty on demand. But if Invisibility is a free power useable at-will, then the spell takes on a very different complexion.

    I’m not saying that this isn’t a better system than the five minute rest, but it is something to think about.

  20. Ok – why not say that only the hardest 3 level of magic are recharge.

    so 1st level spells only stop being recharge when you can cast 4th level spells.

    It restricts the casting but means that Uber wizzards who can blatt of 9th level spells aren’t restricted in the magic missile they can cast!

  21. The tight-fisted curmudgeon in me is jumping up and down on the table yelling “hardest three levels”?? Hardest six levels more like!!

    However, regardless of where we choose to draw the line, this is feasibly a very good idea. It doesn’t address the problem of fire or forget magic for lower level wizards, so some sort of Favoured Spells mechanic might layer alongside this.

    The question is… does it matter that 13th level wizards can cast all their 1st level spells at will, or that 15th level wizards can cast their 1st and 2nd level spells at will, or that 17th level wizards can cast their 1st, 2nd and 3rd level spells at will?

    Does it make them too powerful, and too versatile? Remember the problem inherent in this sort of spellcasting is not spells like magic missile, it’s spells like Cure Light Wounds or Augury. Should we keep some limitation on spellcasting?

  22. Neil says:

    The problem with your casting time idea is that you have also introduced a longer recharge time! If it takes 2 rounds to cast a fireball, for example, but takes 5mins to recharge then the casting time is irrelevant. Either get rid of the casting times and use recharge times or get rid of recharge times and use casting times, not both. You must however make sure that the times are reasonable and commensurate with the power of the spell and the caster. You don’t want the situation where a 20th level cleric can lob off resurrections every round but equally you don’t want the situation where a 1st level wizard takes 5 mins to fire off a magic missile, effectively making it an “encounter power”.

  23. I think we absolutely need to have recharge and casting times.

    Most spells need to be cast as standard actions (as part of the actions a character can take in one round). If the casting time of spells like magic missile, fireball or similar spells was longer than that then the spells would be useless.

    However, you don’t want to give access to all those spells at will. Therefore there has to be some limitation on the casting. As it can’t be casting time, then it needs to be recharge time.

    While I could just say that very powerful spells have a longer recharge time, I don’t think that’s very appealing. Surely it’s more evocative to say that a spell that summons and binds a demon is cast as a lengthy ritual, that requires the correct placement of noxious candles, the drawning of complex runes and precise incantations. That’s better than saying you can cast it as a standard action, but you can’t cast it again for five hours.

    Longer casting times is a way to prevent certain spells being cast at the drop of a hat. I don’t want any character to be able to click their fingers and let off a Legend Lore spell at a passer-by.

  24. Neil says this:

    That is why 4e treated the big spells differently! You do realise that you have just effectively said that the big spells are rituals don’t you? I agree, it is one of the few things 4e got right, the big spells should be difficult to cast and take time and effort, what I was trying to say was don’t using casting time AND recharge time for the smaller spells and that 5 mins is too long for something like fireball, it needs to be commensurate with the power of the spell and the caster’s level.

  25. Right, I’m with you now.

    Regarding the smaller spells… I’m not limiting their casting time and recharge time. All such spells will have the casting time of one standard action. You have to be able to let off an illusion or a magic missile with the same speed that a fighter can swing a sword.

    If you think the recharge time of such spells should be less than five minutes, then that’s a different matter. And one that plays quite nicely into the discussion I was having with Jon above.

    At the moment, my main problem with “relative recharge times” is that they don’t sync very well with my understanding of how magic is supposed to work. By which, I mean how it is perceived by scholars in the game world, not how it is delineated by the game mechanics.

    Of course, we haven’t started playing yet – so you could (rightly) argue that I could just change all that fluff. And of course, I could. But I’d only really want to change it, if I we were changing it to something better.

    At-will magic is very a very dangerous thing to have in any roleplaying game, but particularly in D&D where there are literally 1000s of available spells. Sure, you could argue that a fighter can swing a sword all day, so why can’t a wizard cast magic missile all the time… but I think that cheapens the wizard, and lessens the fighter.

    Look at it this way: if a cleric can cast cure light wounds once per round through all his waking hours then why are there any sick people left in the world? Isn’t the five minute (encounter) rule a fair compromise for low level magic, and casting time a better limiter for the ritual-type spells?

  26. Neil says:

    If magic missile, for example, is going to effectively be an encounter power that means that the wizard will have to have at least 3 similar type combat spells every level (assuming 1/3 HP in damage). Is that realistic? I think you have gone from the sublime (wizards doling out huge damage every round) to the ridiculous (hardly being able to do anything in combat). You say that the reason for variable recharge times isn’t there but it is! You have already set the precedent of having cantrips not disappearing from the wizard’s mind, is it really any great stretch to see how the more powerful the spell the quicker it disappears?

    I remain to be convinced.

  27. I had not considered this. That’s a problem.

    The issue I have with spells that have almost immediate recharge times does not apply to something like magic missile. If it’s a damaging spell and the damage output is balanced by level, then it’s no more destabilising to have the wizard cast them spell as often as a fighter can swing his sword.

    It’s spells like cure wounds, or divinations. We don’t want spells like this cast at will. Hmmm…

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