Thursday, February 7, 2013

Do You Write Up Campaign Specific Spells?

One of the hardest things to tweak in an OSR ruleset (original or close) is the spell lists. Sure, you can remove spels from the available selection, but do you ever add new spells?

I ask, because in general, when I see new spells in an OSR adventure, they are rarely there to be added into the PCs hands, and accurate spell level / power is largely irrelevant. It's when you write up a spell for the players to actually use, that you realize how hard they are to correctly balance.

I wrote up a couple of cleric / druid spells last year and posted them on the blog. They were well received, but they weren't really adventuring spells (which is what occupies actual spel lists - non-adventuring spells could be a whole 'nother post).

Do you write up spells as a DM for your players? Do you allow or even encourage your players to write their own?


  1. Yes it's a very easy way to modify the magic system

  2. In Tavis's Whitebox game, spell research became a major activity for the Magic Users after about level 3 or 4. We would propose a spell idea, and then Tavis roll for research, and the investment on a 2D6. If the roll was low, then it failed, and investment was lost. If it was high then the spell would be mostly want we proposed. Usually though the roll would be in the middle. At which point Tavis would come back with a couple of options- like the spell is weaker then planned, the spell is full strength but has a significant flaw, the spell has a weird side effect... or the Magic User can keep working and roll again in the following session with a bonus to the roll.
    I think the advantage for Tavis was that he didn't have to invent a spell whole cloth, but instead look at a spell the player came up with and impose changes on the spell to make it more balanced.

  3. I wrote this specifically with the idea of spell creation (in OD&D) in mind:


    I have even encouraged my players to research and create spells; however, only one has ever been used on a regular basis in my campaign (a cleric spell that forces an opposing side to make a morale check regardless of hp and casualties).

  4. I am very lucky, all the players over the years that have/are playing MU's or Clerics have come up with their own spells, some of them migrate into other games but in general they stay PC/game specific

    It gives the spell/prayer hurlers something to do with all the loot they get!

  5. My dream game would include only made up spells. The ones in the books are pretty boring.

  6. That's actually one of the ways I differentiate various magical traditions in the 10th Age: Sure, some wear red robes and chant in a particularly weird way, but the real thing to worry about is that Scarlet Wizards know a spell that can shoot the air full of flaming embers that wind this way and that, or that Green Wizards can command flocks of birds.

  7. For D&D-like games? no.
    For my modern supernatural games? yes.
    Games like Call of Cthulhu and Kult practically beg you to do it.

  8. I use this for all my spells. They're mostly just renamed and tweaked versions of existing spells, but some are my own creation. I don't think balance is all that important - actually I rather like some spells being more powerful and desirable than other spells of the same level. And it's not like the OD&D/AD&D spell lists were ever balanced. For player-written spells, I follow the DMG's advice - the players can write new spells, but I won't suggest it to them and it's at considerable in-game cost.

  9. I have a whole book of deity specific spells for Old School Hack (updated for an upcoming Fictive Hack release.) I love making magic that is specific to the setting.

    In D&D? No.

    World Between was a lot of fun to make spells for; that's a D&D setting adapted to Fictive Hack.

  10. I enjoy giving out custom spells as treasure for defeating NPC wizards, so absolutely! I've got a series of posts queued next week which is just spells I got while fiddling with the ACKS Companion's spell creation rules.

  11. I do for DCC, because there is a very limited number of spells, and anytime something super rad occurs to me I can put it in the spell but at such a high number that the spell has to be a crit and have spellburn


Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition