Magic-user versatility within a strict Vancian interpretation (now that’s a lame title if I have ever seen one.)

This post grew from watching a video by Aaron the Pedantic (Twitter: @cha_neg) I saw recently, where he mentions things he (as a new guy with that edition) likes about AD&D, second edition. One of them is the Vancian system of magic, with its well-known memorize & lose style of spellcasting. He believes that the restrictions imposed by such a system are a good thing, as they encourage more thoughtful gameplay rather than just “cast whatever you want.” But, paraphrasing from memory, he says that the system is “At the start of the day you pick up which spells you will memorize…”

Although that is, indeed, how most people play and how Vancian magic is usually explained and understood, the goal of this post is to explain that there’s (or could be) more to it than that, and that I believe (whether it was intended or not when the rules were written) that Vancian magic is very versatile if one follows the memorization process as explained in the Dying Earth books, which implies dropping the assumption of “at the start of the day.” Maybe this might help dispell the idea that Vancian magic is broken or doesn’t work in games, which might be of the reasons later D&D editions ignored it. The point is that people who claim such things are not exactly wrong, for Vancian magic can be unnecessarily restrictive, but I believe this comes from a mistranslation from the books to the games or a too gamey implementation of its logic. Also, I don’t believe my reinterpretation requires new, strange rules because what I’m going to say is implied, yet rarely noticed, in the rules themselves. It might be common-sensical for some people.

Continue reading “Magic-user versatility within a strict Vancian interpretation (now that’s a lame title if I have ever seen one.)”

Level Inflation is a disease even clerics can’t cure.

I recently read a Twitter conversation about high-level cleric characters in D&D and their effects on the game, and I thought about writing something on that. But as usually happens, I can’t tell the difference between things I have already written or just things I have thought about, because as it turns out, I already had a post about this very same thing. But it was in my drafts folder, from July of 2016, unpublished. For reference, this is the tweet that triggered memories of that three-year-old dusty draft:

So here it is, with some minor variations, the post I wanted to write three years ago but never did for some reason:

Continue reading “Level Inflation is a disease even clerics can’t cure.”

Your magic-slinging protag may have ruined magic (unless you’re Jack Vance—then you’re cool.)

Get Mythic, by Amatopia, commenting on a Twitter thread about the decline of a “mythical” feeling in fantasy. The gist of the idea, at the risk of simplification, is that contemporary fantasy has a materialistic feeling. It lacks “a richness, a whiff of the unearthly that permeates everything. Magic is the best word to describe it.” Wonder, awe, whatever you want to call it. Essentially the opposite of a setting where magic has been reduced to supernatural engineering or a form of energy manipulation described by a language (both by the narrator and characters) analogous to the one ushered by the scientific revolution.

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Armor as a weapon

Originally, in this post, I explained a small modification to the known AC system used in D&D up to advanced second edition. My goal was to reintroduce something that was lost when the game migrated from wargaming to RPG, but then, as a final afterthought, I made some calculations and discovered that, well, my changes made little (although not insignificant) difference. Preceding a post with a disclaimer like “what you are going to read may not be as useful as it seems” is probably not the best hook, but I still believe there are a few interesting bits here and I may also have unwillingly solved an ancient argument about AC vs. damage reduction that sometimes still rises from its grave (spoiler: there is surprisingly little difference in the long run unless you make a completely different system from scratch.) Besides, I’m a believer in the idea of publishing negative results, even if they are not as eye-catching as positive ones.

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You are (probably) doing it wrong: Hit points, literature, and D&D.

This will the first post in a series where I will address a gaming topic that has intrigued me for a long time, the suspicion that one of the games many people love (Dungeons & Dragons) has been seriously misinterpreted even by some of its most ardent followers. In other words, that you have been playing or -at the very least- interpreting it wrong. If nothing else, that at least there is another, and better, way to play it. As the title says, it’s a probability, not a necessity.

Some of you reading this may be grognards with a lot of practical experience with this stuff, and because I know some of you are also very interested in the literary side of D&D (and, as you will see, this is as much about books as about games,) your opinion and criticism would be greatly appreciated. You may consider many of this stuff “obvious,” but from what I have seen and read, I suspect it’s not for the majority of people.

Continue reading “You are (probably) doing it wrong: Hit points, literature, and D&D.”