Thursday, January 19, 2012

D&D Wizard Spell-Learning Times Through the Editions

As a follow-up to Tuesday's post on Magic-Users learning higher-level spells, it occurred to me that there are no guidelines in M74 Extended for how long it takes a Magic-User to learn new spells. So far in our game, it's been handwaved that a few 1st level spells can be learned in about a day of study. Now that we're getting a little higher in level, it bears researching the precedent in the game. 

And it gives me an excuse to flip through my newly-acquired B/X booklets! (Like I really needed an excuse...)

My 1980 Moldvay Basic book had very little to say concerning the learning of new spells, other than the fact that on gaining a level, a magic-user or elf gains an extra spell in their spellbook. 

Cook's 1981 Expert Book goes a little deeper, saying that "when player characters gain a level of experience, they will return to their masters and be out of play for one 'game-week' while they are learning their new spells." Interesting. At low levels this is one spell, and after sixth level elves and magic-users get two spells per level.

The Mentzer Companions didn't give me a whole lot to work with in addition to what was already offered, though I did find it quite entertaining that a wizard, after attaining name-level and either building or seizing a tower, is generally expected to build a dungeon nearby, and that monsters would move into the dungeon, and furthermore, adventurers would show up to take the monsters' treasure! 

Anyway, I'm going to jump ahead to AD&D 2E (Revised), because that's the next edition of Players' Handbook I have available. There is no mention here of a length of time to learn a new spell. What is interesting, however, is the Intelligence table. It offers several important bits of information for spellcasters, primarily the maximum level of spell they can learn and cast, their chance to learn any given spell they come across, the maximum number of spells they can know per level, and, with superhuman intelligence, what level of Illusion spell they are immune to. 

Now, this next observation may sound a bit rules-lawyerly, but nowhere in the Players Handbook does it say that a magic-user must be able to cast a spell to be able to learn it. Maybe it's supposed to be obvious, I don't know. But it seems to me, with the rules as written, that a 2E magic-user could find some high level spells and learn them (if she made her "chance to learn spell" roll) well before she was actually able to cast them. Which is just a bit odd to me. I definitely don't like the static "chance to learn spell" percentage roll, which is supposed to be for any spell of any level. Wouldn't a high level wizard have a pretty easy time learning a low-level spell? 

Now, in the 2E Revised DM Guide, it gives a guideline of 2 weeks per spell level for researching new spells, which is quite different from learning an existing spell, which is given on p. 62. "The standard amount of time required to prepare a spell book is one to two days of work per spell level of the spell being entered."

Excellent. That's actually useful. That information probably should have been in the Player's Handbook, but at least I found it! 

On to 3E. "The process (of copying a spell into a spellbook) requires 1 day plus 1 additional day per spell level". This information was in the Player's Handbook, and remarkably easy to find. 

Easy enough. Similar to the 2E. 

And 4th Edition, just for grins. Spells are split between "powers" and "rituals". Wizards automatically gain both powers and rituals as they level up, without needing to find the spells or be taught them. If a 4E wizard wants another ritual beyond what is already handed to him, he can buy it or find it and copy it into his spellbook. This process takes 8 hours for rituals level 1-10, 16 hours for rituals level 11-20, and 24 hours for rituals level 21-30. 

Now that's a radical departure if I ever I saw one. 

So, what does this mean for our fledgling Microlite74 wizard who just found a mysterious spellbook in a treasure trove? I think we'll ignore Type IV's severely shortened timeframes and go with what was established before. So, here's my houserule for Microlite74 wizards learning new spells. 

If the spell is of a level the magic-user would normally be able to cast, she can learn it without a problem. This takes one day per spell level. This time is halved if the magic-user has a higher-level instructor. 

If the spell is of a higher level than the magic-user would normally be able to cast, she can attempt to learn it at the risk of misfiring it (see previous post). This takes two days per spell level. This time is halved if the magic-user has a higher-level instructor. 

Higher-level magic users will typically request payment of about 100 gold pieces per level of the spell being taught. This is completely up to the DM. Some magic-users have been known to ask for favors, for certain tasks to be completed, of for rare alchemical reagents, either in lieu of or in addition to the gold payment. Most magic-users will be reluctant to teach spells that are a higher level than they believe the student can handle, as the risk of misfire or backfire is often not worth it. The price, in this case, should rise significantly. In this case, some clever teachers will ask for a favor first, often in the form of some dangerous task that could give the student enough experience to rise to the proper level to cast the spell. 

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