I’ve been reading Dungeons & Dragons books from the end of the ’80s – meaning the Mentzer edition, to be exact. They’re full of freaky shit that makes little sense, but is certainly thought provoking. My favourite is the Crucible of the Blackflame, the halfling racial artifact that has the minor power to repeal entropy alongsides its actual function of producing cloth that flies. Apparently the racial purpose of the demi-humans in D&D is to create kites that fly without a wind and take decades or even centuries of slave labour to create. Quite random stuff, that.
Anyway, reading all this old D&D material has turned my mind upon the Vancian magic system of D&D. I like the Dying Earth stories of Jack Vance a lot, but I never really appreciated the magic system of D&D – what works in a book won’t necessarily work in a game that has quite difference concerns, anyway. When I was younger I was actually quite adamantly opposed to D&D style magic because of its utilitarian nature – in my fantasy adventure roleplaying and reading magic was a mysterious, powerful force that would basically be a big deal whenever it made an appearance. Many people also dislike the somewhat counterintuitive memorization system with spell levels and such, preferring different sorts of mana systems – this is not the case with me, though; a homogenous pool of magical energy has never provided interesting detail to my play, so while it certainly has made appearances in my games, the solution was always a cludge.
After playing the Mentzer edition of D&D and reading the related books I’m starting to think that I could perhaps make a Vancian magic system palatable for my own D&D gaming. Let’s see what such a system would look like: Read the rest of this entry »