Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Playing With At Will Powers - Can it be Throttled?

Personally, I think the whole challenge and enjoyment of playing a spell caster in older editions of D&D is the management of limited spell resources. I also think it's fairly obvious Monte Haul - er, I mean Monte Cook is paying lip service to the whole Vancian Magic schtick.

So, here's my thought - what if At Will Powers were "throttled" down? What if they weren't able to be consistently used round after round? What if At Will was actually Limited?

Say your at will power is Horrible Gamer's Breath (stay with me). Your first use in an encounter is automatically successful. The next attempt requires an ability check (INT if a wizzie). Pass the check, it goes off and you can try again next round at -1 penalty to your check. Fail, and you can't try again until the next encounter. Penalties reset at the end of the encounter.

At Will with limits. I could actually live with this I think ;)


  1. To each their own, but unlimited powers, even slightly limited unlimited powers takes away from not only the challenge of the game but the enjoyment.

    There were children's books that explained this. I remember the one about jam, can't remember the title. But you keep stuffing the players full of jam and they are quickly going to get tired or plain sick of the game, and jam.

  2. I like your idea, and I had been considering something like it as well. This is basically similar to something Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG is supposed to do, right? Minus the random roll chart for every spell?

    The only thing I worry about is book keeping. Meaning, you need to either make sure those MU players are keeping track of this sort of thing, or do the tracking yourself as the GM. At least, that's how I see it.

    Also, question: what level spells can be used this way? Is this just for lower level spells, or for all levels of spells?

    Bottom line: I could live with this too. I know everyone is going off about how pure Vancian magic promotes resourceful and creative play, problem solving, etc. But is giving MUs a bit of flexibility or more magical potential really that damning? Of course, this sort of also comes down to style of play you want in your games. To each their own, eh?

  3. Here's your at will power - throw a dagger, throw a dart, sling stone, pull someone from danger, watch the back of the party, read a scroll, throw some oil. There are your at will powers :)

  4. Jason and Yak - I like my Vancian magic as is. I was thrying to think of a version of at At Will Power I could tolerate ;)

    Drance - Think 3e's Warlock's Blast Power. Figure max 1d6 damage. Not for anything more powerful than that.

  5. One spell that I don't have a problem converting to 'at will' is Read Magic. Has anyone ever actually prepared this as one of their daily spells? In my experience it was only ever used back in town, which takes it out of the spell management loop anyway, so why not make it at will?

  6. I posted an adaptation of the special effects for memorized spells that touches on this subject at

    Basically, a wizard can partially cast a memorized spell (1st level only) that is much reduced in power. The downside is that there would be a chance the full spell would be cast instead - wasting the spell if the caster did not really want to use it at that time.

  7. If memory serves, in Red Tide the Shou Witch class has an "at-will" witchfire attack that she can use as long as she has 1 uncast spell left. Once she's cast all her spells for the day, no more free ranged magic attack. It's a pretty good solution.

  8. I agree with Jason Zavoda. But as long as it's not in the base magic-user or wizard class I'm fine. Give it to the battle mage or warlock or whatever, and then groups that are into that can include it and those that are not can avoid it without drastically rewriting any of the classes.


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