How many Spells is enough?

BriH touched on this with his high level adventures but a very high level spell caster is highly likely to have every open and closed list and every base list to the max. Obviously the rules in play can affect that. I am playing my lay healer in a game where almost everyone in the world has at least some kind of magic and every family has a spell caster.

In that game 10 ranks in learning a spell list is enough for automatic success and you can learn lists in parallel. You can learn one list for every powerpoint/level you gain. The GM also allows you to add your stat bonus to the spell gain roll if the chance is not automatic.

To put that in perspective due to background options I have 4 power points per level and a total stat bonus in PR of +50. At 1st level I had 7 spell lists and I am learning 4 more for next level.

If that sets the tone for the character going forward then by the time I am 6th level I could have every open, closed and base lists to 10th level. By the time I am 12th level I will have all lists to 20th. By 21st level I would have my 10 base lists to 50th level.

My character is exceptional. I pushed my PR to 100 with a background option and then rolled the skill at magic and got a further +25 bonus. Even without those extreme odds any pure caster should have nearly all the lists to 10th level long before they get to that level themselves.

In the game I run I am stricter on spell list acquisitions. You get +5 per rank and there are no bonuses to the roll. That is the RAW with no options in play. The intention was that a 10th level caster should have in the region of 8 lists. I wanted magicians to have fire law OR light law OR wind law not everything right across the board.

The problem with too many lists is that it gives you too many spells. Just from a playing perspective if you have 400 spells to choose from and many of them are stackable to create new effects then very few players or GMs will know all the options. I have always loved low level spells. Many of them have the effect based upon RR failure, like sudden light. So even though it may be a low level spell it can be devastating in the hands of a higher level caster.

Another objective of limiting the number of lists being learned is that a party with two magicians now do not necessarily have two of everything. The casters have very different lists and what lists you buy is an important strategic choice.

In my game it also promotes spell research as adding spells to your existing lists does not cost DPs in the RAW game.

I am finally zeroing in on the house rules I would like to fomalise for an alternative for Spell Law. I have touched on this many times in the past.

I am most definitely getting rid of all three realms. There is now simply just ‘magic’.

My lists are no longer linear progressions. Lists are now more like three dimensional cubes. In one dimension they still go from 1st to 50th. But I am bringing in HARP scalability so each spell can have a depth. I also allow multiple spells at the same level so lists can have a thickness to them.

A first level character starts with a couple of sentences to describe the list of their own devising.

The next step is that the player chooses a first level spell from a pool of all the first level spell to fill the first slot. Every slot may hold a spell of that level or lower. So in theory if there were two first level spells you wanted but no second level spell then you can take one as your first level spell and one as your second. Spells do not have names anymore, just effects. When the player adds a spell to their list they create a name for that spell. The names and the spells must fit the description at the top of the list. The GM can veto any spell on any list.

The point is to avoid a single list with fly, invisibility, fireball, lightning bolt and regenerate on it. Essentially characters could recreate fire law as a list or lofty bridge but slot in a few of the other related spells such as Sunfires into Fire Law or some of the channeling movement spells. More interesting though is mixing some of the barrier law spells with the other ‘wall’ spells from base lists all over Spell Law.

All the lists created by a single character should have a single theme of concept to them. So if you are “Pyromancer” then any fly spell would have you carried on fiery wings, teleport would have you leave in a column of flame and so on.

So far this is all untested at the game table. I hope I have given enough detail of how this would work.

My question is… If you really could pick all the spells on every list, now many lists do you think you would want as a spell caster?

P.S. My warhorse and I are travelling today and competing all weekend so you may have to wait for replies to comments as I could be a bit busy.

9 thoughts on “How many Spells is enough?”

  1. Too funny! I was drafting my sunday post on virtually the same topic. Ill post it up anyway as a topical theme to compare and contrast viewpoints.

  2. My general tendency is to say that you can never have too many spells, but my strongest influence is D&D (and I always liked having new spells and magic items in modules). In that system, and those derived from it, it doesn’t really matter how many spells you have in your spellbook, there’s a limit to how many you can learn per day. So you might have, in extreme cases, several hundred spells to choose from, but you’d have to pick, at most, a few dozen of those to actually use. I think there are also less cases of spells stacking with each other too.

  3. What are you competing at? Good luck whatever it is.

    Our campaigns rarely go beyond level 10, so the number of spells isn’t as much of a problem for us, but I agree there sure are a lot of them. One of the differences between RMU and RM2 is that RMU allows you to buy spells individually (though perhaps RMSS was more like RMU in this respect? not sure). I actually prefer this method, because the randomness of RM2 spell list acquisition always seemed a bit unfair to me, and you also ended up buying a lot of spells you wouldn’t use — at least not for many more levels. A level 1 Magician isn’t going to be casting level 10 spells anytime soon.

    One affect of the change though is that you can now buy spells horizontally rather than vertically: a level 1 caster won’t have a single list with spells from 1 to 10; she will have maybe the first and second level spells from one list, the first and second level spells from another, and maybe the first level spells from four more lists. That makes for a much larger number of castable spells at level 1. So the RMU system greatly increases the flexibility and practicality of the spells casters get. Overall, I like that, because low level casters needed a boost.

  4. I am at a mounted archery competition. Korean style today. Tomorrow is Hungarian and Turkish style events.

    Hurin, my RMU playtest has had very little PC magic. Have you found casters using the rmu learning process leads to characters cherry picking spells, just learning enough of invisible ways to get invisibility, just enough lofty bridge to get fly and so on?

    1. Yes, though I don’t see that as an exploit; you can’t skip any levels of the spells so you have to buy them in sequence. When I level up my RMU Paladin, I take the best possible spells from whatever list I can. I currently have: Cursebreaking to level 2, Holy Arms to 4, Holy Healing to 6, Holy Shields to 3, Holy War to 3, Inspiring Ways to 4, Open: Sounds Way to 1 and Closed: Symbolic Ways to 2.

      An off topic question, now that I know you are an archer: if you had your choice and were shooting arrows on foot, which would you say had more range and penetrating power: an English Longbow or a Turkish/Mongol Composite Bow? I’ve heard people argue about which would shoot further and which would penetrate better. I’ve always wondered.

      RMU has eliminated the Composite Bow table, and just made the Composite Bow a Shortbow with better range. I think that does disservice to the composite bow — especially a Turkish or Mongol Composite bow — but I am no expert in that and would love to hear what someone who uses these weapons regularly would say.

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