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Tag Archives: Editions of Dungeons & Dragons

[Labyrinth Lord] Spellslot System

Spellslot System (aka The Even-more-Vancian-and-a-bit-Pratchettian System)

When Magic users gain experience they gain a better understanding for the workings of magic and wizardry. Their mind becomes more capable of holding more and more spells of smaller sizes, or spells of larger size.

Magic users basically can exchange the spells they have memorized in between levels in a ratio of 2:1, meaning two spells of a lower level are worth 1 spell of the next higher level, and the other way around. This can also be used over multiple spell levels.

Example: So, the sorceress Linda (2nd level) just found a scroll with a second level spell and dutifully copies it into her spellbook. The next day she and her companions are in an area in which this spell might come in handy, so she does not memorize her two first level spells, but one 2nd level one instead.

Spells are fickle beings, a sort of memetic daemon that exists only to fulfill it’s use and then disappears (which is why magic users have to relearn their spells every time they have cast them). They also are a bit jealous of other spells and want to be treated right. A magic user can only ever safely learn a single spell once a day (so only one of each kind of spell) and it might feel cramped if the magic user doesn’t have a slot for this kind of spell yet. If this is the case the magic user is in Overcast state, which is a bit like carrying around an unsecured weapon. If the spellcaster fails any save during this time or loses hitpoints 1d4 spells are released randomly. If the fail is critical then all the spells are randomly released. In this case the GM decides what exactly happens.

Example: Linda prepared a web spell that was over her limit. The she and her companions are surprised by a couple of crafty kobolds shooting darts at them. The wound was only small, but smarted like hell.

“Ouch!” says Linda and loses concentration. All of a sudden glibbery white mass is sprouting all around her and her companions and keeps them from moving. Now they can hear the hollering and whistling of the kobolds as they prepare another volley of darts, and there is no way to run from them…

Random Spell Release Table

  1. all the spells just disappear in an explosion of shining light *poof*
  1. all the spells hit the spellcaster and everybody around (both friends and enemies), random determination of who gets hit by what
  1. half the spells hit everybody, the rest just disappears without any effect
  1. the spells cause 1d6 imps to appear out of thin air. They will hang around for another 1d6 hours and play the most imaginative and dangerous pranks possible
  1. the spells manifest themselves as magic daemons and linger around
  1. The spells manifest themselves as magic daemones and wander off somewhere else


This small creature looks like a whirl of energy, somehow similar to the spell it technically is. It gets bigger with spell level and can be baited onto a piece of paper and pergament, creating a scroll, or captured in a jar. If it attacks it will just use the spell it is made of as an attack and disappear into nothing.

The Sweet Spot

Over time I found out something about roleplaying groups: There is a certain sweet spot in the size of a group. It’s roughly around 4 to 5 players. Less and the work of the DM becomes more tedious because players will have the constant need to bounce of from the GM in order to find their place in the gameworld, more and all the calculating and numbercrunching for all the characters bogs down everything. I don’t know how that latter thing goes with the rules-light systems I now espouse (Traveller and OD&D), but in Shadowrun and D&D 3rd it was a horror playing with more players. And I played with a lot of players sometimes.

My prime venue back then was the local youth club, of which I had been voted the leader through charisma and sheer awesomeness (the awesomeness partly being that I was the first in the group to have a car). But a lot of the guys there were geeks and so a lot of time went into playing RPGs, mostly D&D 3rd edition (which just had come out) and trying to edge in a few plays of other systems. I think the largest group I had back then was in Shadowrun though, with about 10 people sitting around the table, some of them newbies. It was horror. And I decided to never try that again. I now now that older games used to be played with much larger groups, I still don’t think I ever will cross the 7 or so again.

The sweet spot, it turned out over time, was with four players. And so far I haven’t had a really bad game with four players, if they were more or less in the game.

Of course that sometimes was a challenge, considering that some of the games were interrupted by lengthy discussions on the best pizza to order, bets on wether anyone would try the snails from the restaurant’s menu, and then later getting the pizza and stuffing us with it. Not with snils though, those for some reason were always sold out. Which leads to two different questions: 1. why were they on the menu if they never were available -and- 2. If they were available and really just always out, who in town ate so many snails to deplete the restaurant’s freezer?

I wonder about gaming food sometimes. Some people seem to have taken up the philosophy to not eat and drink anything on the table, while others (me included) like to drink some wine, beer, or mead on the side. And have a nice filling meal before or during the game.

This weekend there will be another session, and I should prepare something. Or at least think about what I should prepare. But the summer has arrived, it’s swelteringly hot outside and stuffy inside, and thoughts come only in drops, or they pour on the page just like that, but without much connection to actual gaming. The setting to play in I think would be Dark Sun, because I feel like that. But I don’t think my players would like yet another change of direction there. On the other hand the area we play in right now is the Wilderlands, so why not do something about that. I think I read the idea once before, and the Wilderlands of High Fantasy actually have a population lower than the Sahara. Lower than Athas even. And considering I am using the larger measures for the game (one hex = 1 league) that would make a lot of sense. A lot of terrible hidden stuff there in the wild lands I guess. Let’s make something out of that. I think I haven’t played up the danger of the whole area enough lately…

What 3rd Edition did right

Book cover, Monster Manual (revised edition fo...

Well, it's the MM, and the 3.5 version to boot, but bear with me here...

I did play 3rd edition when it came out. Actually it was the game I played the longest, all in all. Despite all the complications it brought it was easy to grasp as a game, it was engaging for the players, it was easy to build adventures with.
It was a definite improvement to the late 2nd edition. That one seemed so convoluted that it just needed something new and spry.
Nowadays of course one can scare me away with 3rd edition, and even more so with 3.5 or 4th, but back then it was a definite improvement in my games. Because there were a few things which 3rd edition actually did right.
I of course get a bit more interested now that I decided to homebrew my own system. My system is basically based on the Moldvay version of D&D, via Labyrinth Lord, but I am taking all the things from AD&D I like as well. And then of course there is the psionics system, which I took from 3.5.
That actually got me thinking. I liked 3rd edition back in the day. What parts of 3rd edition were there which were so good back then?

Unified Experience Table: hmm, that one was neat. There was exactly one experience table and everyone needed the same amount of XP to advance. This of course was intended to simplify things.
Is that usable for me?
God no!
The whole unified table concept sounded nifty, but ended up breaking the classes badly. For them to be able to use one single table they had to tweak the classes as as well, increasing the power of clerics and the likes badly while nerfing others. And of course it never really worked, so even after all this tweaking we still were left with quadratic wizards.
No, no unified table for me.
No Racial Limits: oh, that was a big one. or it would have been if we hadn’t played like that years before 3rd ed. came out. But 3rd edition neatly codified it and made pretty much every race equal in all terms. Humans had a bonus feat instead of the special abilities most races had, but otherwise it worked out well. Of course people were rather slow in taking to some ideas, like half-orc bards and dwarven wizards, but I guess in the end it more or less mellowed out.
Can I use it?
Actually yes. I always felt the racial limits in the old editions were kind of stupid and nonsensical. They did fit the early years of the game, when nearly no game went over tenth level, but they made no sense afterwards. Why would only humans be allowed to level up over a certain level?
I guess it would be easy enough to implement, with level tables going up as far as the player wants to go. Also I already added a “Human” class just for the hell of it.
Dual/Multi Classing: neatly integrated into the class system this system allowed for endless variation in character concepts. Is it usable for me?
It just doesn’t fit the system. It would need a complete restructuring of the level/experience/class system. Which in the end would end up being pretty much 3rd edition’s system anyway. Which would make this exercise in simplification quite pointless.
 Feats: a wonderful way of customizing characters, this might work with an old edition style game, but would add a layer of complexity that I don’t like. Besides, in my game players consequently ignored feats, so I never got into them as more than a nice design quirk. On the other hand, at least one person actually did something with that idea.
Prestige Classes: the whole reason why I got the idea of writing this. prestige classes were classes that one only could take when one already had fulfilled certain requirements. The basic idea which I always found very fitting was that of a knight: knighthood would only be available to someone who 1. managed to have the right set of requirements mechanically and 2. managed to gain the knighthood during play. Then the character would be able to gain levels in this additional class, which would give special abilities the further one advanced in it. In the example with the knight one could for example gain the ability to joust, to write poetry, or to keep additional retainers.
The concept is a neat one actually, and I already tried to put this into a few of the classes I put in my document. Nevertheless it actually might be nice to have a set of prestige or “advanced” classes, that characters can aspire to.
Actually, in hindsight… maybe Paladins would be better as a prestige class?
Wasn’t it already like that in the Rules Cyclopedia version of D&D?
Have to look that up.