As my work on HD&D continues apace, I am now turning my attention to spells and spell descriptions. I have collated the spell descriptions from the 3.5 edition SRD into a single Word document and I’m going through spell-by-spell converting them into HD&D. I’m not entirely sure how many spells there are, but the document is 121 pages long and weighs in at about 108,000 words.
Fortunately, I’m only looking at spells of levels zero, one and two in this pass through the list. Although that’s still more than a hundred of the little bleeders, if I make sure to do a handful every day I should be able to work my way through and still have time to finish playing Mass Effect.
One of the things that has occurred to me as I work through the list, is that the spells have to be classified correctly. Third and fourth edition have an unending litany of schools, subschools, classes, descriptors, domains and the like that they use to classifiy spells with. I’ve touched on this issue before on the blog, but I’ve changed my mind on a few things and I just wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of my plans for spells.
Tradition and Character Class
The easiest way to categorise spells is by character class. These are Wizard Spells. These are Bard Spells. These are Cleric Spells – and so on, and so forth. Back in first edition AD&D spells were categorised by class, this was simplified in second edition with just two lists: Wizard and Priest. Third edition went nuts on this sort of categorisation, with a single spell appearing on multiple class lists – often as a different level spell. Fourth edition took this a step further, but 4e powers don’t compare very well with spell system in HD&D, so we’ll put that to one side for the moment.
In drawing up the spell list, I have begun to wonder whether we actually need to identify which class can cast which spells. Do we need to know that Detect Magic is a “Bard 0, Cleric 0, Druid 0, Paladin 1, Ranger 1, Sorcerer 0, Wizard 0” as third edition states. Is all we really need to know which magical tradition it’s from?
In HD&D there are five main magical traditions: Arcane (wizards and sorcerers), Primal (druids and rangers), Divine (clerics and paladins), Psionic (psions and wilders) and Sonorant (bards). Is it not simply enough to label a spell by its tradition, then all classes that use that tradition cast the spell at the same level?
For example, rather than calling Stoneskin a “Cleric 6, Druid 5, Sorcerer 4, Wizard 4” spell isn’t it better to label it “Arcane 4, Divine 6, Primal 5”. It may not seem like much of a difference at this stage, but as HD&D grows and more obscure classes are thrown into the mix then this approach will greatly simplify things.
My thoughts stem from the question: why does a ranger need his own spell list? why doesn’t he just share the Primal spell list with the druid? The ranger would still only be able to cast spells of levels 0 to 4, and he’d get access to those spells later in his career than the druid, and the HD&D rules for spell acquisition mean that he wouldn’t have a heap more spells than he has under third edition. It would just make things easier, don’t you think?
The same rules would apply to paladins. Why have a paladin spell list? Why not get him to share the cleric spell list? Some of you may baulk at the seeming lack of diversity between clerics and paladins, but remember that in HD&D there is no single Cleric spell list as there was in third edition. All the spells are divivded between 47 different Spheres of influence (as in second edition). Each cleric picks a handful of spheres to draw spells from depending on the portfolio of his god. Paladins would do the same. “I’m a paladin, so I have access to the Protection, Healing, Order, War and Strength spheres”, for example.
Within each tradition a spell would have the same level. So if Acid Fog is a seventh level spell for a cleric with access to the Elemental Water sphere, it is also a seventh level spell for a cleric with access to the Weather sphere. It need not be a seventh level spell for Arcane, Psionic, Sonorant or Primal casters (if they can cast it at all).
I think something has to be done to simplify the relationship between class, spell and spell level in HD&D. Third edition got a little bit too complicated for my liking. Classifying spells by tradition instead of character class seems like a good idea to me. Does it seem like a good idea to you?
Schools of Magic
The eight schools of magic still exist in HD&D. All spells are therefore classified as either Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy and Transmutation. And yes, Wizards will still be able to specialise in these areas.
However, I am excising the subschools as I think they add an unnecessary layer of complication. They also come into play extremely infrequently. The third edition subschools printed in the PHB were Calling, Creation, Healing, Summoning, Scrying, Charm, Compulsion, Figment, Glamour, Phantasm, Shadow.
Also there is no longer a “Universal” school of magic. All spells belong to one (and only one) school of magic. I think the Universal school was only introduced to allow specialist wizards to access fundamental spells like detect magic and read magic. Well, that’s not an issue in HD&D as the rules for specialists will be completely different.
As I mentioned above. There is no single cleric list of spells. Instead there are 47 different Spheres, that players use as building blocks to create their own spell list. This will work better than the unique spell lists I tried to come up with in third edition, which were fine in principle but too much hassle to put together in practice. This time there is a Sphere called “All” which mops up fundamental spells that all clerics should have access to. The full list of spheres is as follows:
All, Animal, Celerity, Change, Charm, Community, Creation, Destruction, Elemental Air, Elemental Death, Elemental Earth, Elemental Fire, Elemental Life, Elemental Water, Entropy, Freedom, Frigidity, Healing, Hope, Journeys, Justice, Knowledge, Light, Love, Luck, Madness, Magic, Moon, Oracle, Order, Pestilence, Plant, Protection, Rebirth, Shadow, Strength, Strife, Summoning, Sun, Torment, Trickery, Tyranny, Undeath, Vengeance, War, Weather and Wisdom.
The list is derrived from the many Spheres in the second edition game, and the Domains of third edition. Obviously, it is closely based upon the needs of the Iourn setting. The six “Elemental” spheres marry up with the six Moon Gods. Because there are no alignment rules in HD&D I have done away with Good, Evil, Law and Chaos as specific spheres of deific influence. Although, you will notice others that can be thematically applied to various deities.
I have also gone out of my way to rename any spheres that had the same name as spell Descriptors (which I’m getting to next). That’s why the Spheres are called “Elemental Fire” and “Frigidity”, and not “Fire” and “Cold” respectively.
Just for old-school D&D players, clerics will have Major or Minor access to each sphere. Major access lets them cast spells of any level. Minor access only lets them cast spells of Levels 0 to 4. That will allow us a little more diversity when drawing up spell lists for individual faiths. For example, we can make healing magic more widely available, without handing out resurrection spells.
Descriptors are keywords that unite disparate spells that have similar effects. These are the same keywords that I apply to talents and feats, so if there is a rule that says a Monster is immune to effects of ‘Descriptor X’ then the immunity applies equally to all of a character’s abilities.
Descriptors were introduced in third edition and carried over into 4e. They’re a darn good idea. Although it was sometimes confusing in third edition when a Domain and a Descriptor had the same name. As stated above, this is no longer the case. This is the list of descriptors that I’m starting with:
Acid, Air, Cold, Darkness, Death, Earth, Fear, Fire, Force, Language-Dependent, Light, Lightning, Mind-Affecting, Necrotic, Polymorph, Radiant, Teleportation, Thunder, Water
If there is a mechanical case for their inclusion, I may reinstate Good, Evil, Chaos and Law as descriptors. Evil on Iourn will be handled with a variant of the Taint rules presented in books like Heroes of Horror. Creatures of Aduro (the Light) will be infused with the stuff of tangible ‘goodness’ for want of a better word. While the presence of Taint will be detectable to certain spells, I’m not sure if we need to balance the equation by having Good, Law and Chaos equally detectable. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.
Depending on how the work on Psionics goes, I might include the desciptors Psychometabolism, Psychokinesis, Psychoportation, Clairsentience, Metacreativity and Telepathy. Again, we’ll see how that goes.
So in HD&D, spells will be classified in the following ways:
- Their tradition: Arcane, Divine, Primal, Psionic or Sonorant. Divine spells will be further divided into the 47 Spheres.
- Their level: spells may have different levels in different traditions.
- Their school: all spells are included in one of the eight schools of magic.
- Their descriptors: most spells will also be tagged with one or more descriptors.
While not a million miles away from third edition and Pathfinder, this is a somewhat streamlined way of doing things. Have I gone too far? Would you prefer to see each obscure character class keeping its unique spell list? Time to decide.