Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This Might Sting a Bit

There has been some noise on the blogs lately about how much magic sucks in D&D. And by proxy how magic-users suck as well. Forgetting a spell after its cast makes no sense. The spell levels don't match character levels. You can't scale the magical effect up or down. Why do I have to waste a spell slot on Read Magic? Well, (pardon my bluntness) Waa, Waa,Waa. I say deal with it babies. Everyone who has played or will play D&D should do one thing first. Read Jack Vance's The Dying Earth. The way magic is presented in the book is what the D&D system is trying to replicate. Magic is not science, it is not technology and its not even an art. To summarize here is a few brief points on Vancian magic for those of you who haven't read the book (no story spoilers).
  • Magic is a dying practise, there were once 1000's of spells now only about 100 are known
  • Each magician jealously guards their spells and writes them down in a unique code
  • Memorising a spell is like putting a ethereal creature in your head and casting releases it
  • Even the most powerful mages can store only a handful of spells in their head
  • The greater the experience of the magician the greater power of and number of spells
  • Casting a spell requires only a few words and simple gestures ( ie no time at all)
I would say to try incorporating some of those ideas into the background of your game before deciding that the magic system sucks. Never mind balance. Just make it interesting.


  1. I pretty much agree, although I'd make an exception for rules changes to reflect different settings or genre feel. For example, to get more magic happenin', I'd allow 1st level MUs to create scrolls for spells they know. I'm even toying with a cantrip system, because that allows more magic to happen without increasing the power or changing the Vancian dynamic.

  2. To be fair, D&D generally is pretty poorly thought out from tip to tail. Complaining about any of it makes no sense. just play a better game instead if it bothers you, says I.