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.

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