View Full Version : Spell Lists: rule variant and discussion question

2013-10-24, 02:44 PM
I'm preparing to run a fairly sandboxy campaign, and I'm trying to incorporate a system of "unlockables" for some character options. That is, there are a lot of feats, prestige classes, and spells that are not immediately available just because we have access to the books-- they must be discovered, sought out or otherwise earned through roleplay. In addition to being (to my sensibilities) a more flavorful option, this gives me the opportunity to weed out a few of the more broken spell options and hopefully keep the Tier 1 casters from breaking the game too quickly.

The system hinges on one baseline rule: Casters have automatic access only to the spell list provided in the book in which the class was first introduced.

This means Wizards, Clerics and Bards only have automatic access to their spell lists provided in the Player's Handbook, whereas the Hexblade and Beguiler have access to their original spell lists from Complete Warrior and Player's Handbook II, respectively. The one major exception is casters who are listed as using another class' spell list, such as the Spirit Shaman who casts spells from the Druid list. They use the list as provided in the appropriate book for the caster class they are emulating (i.e., the Spirit Shaman casts spells from the Druid list in the Player's Handbook, and does not include additional spells introduced in Complete Divine).

As they progress through the world, casters will gain the opportunity to learn new spells, usually through encountering other casters or tomes of magic, and possibly through other means as well. It's ultimately the DM's decision which spells to introduce and how. But once the player has "unlocked" a spell option, how the character adds the spell to their list depends on the type of caster. I've identified three different types of casters for these purposes: Book-Based, Knowledge-Based and List-Based.

(I'm going to spoiler these next few paragraphs because it's a fair bit of dry text and the spoiler block breaks up the monotony of the page a bit)
Book-Based casters are Wizards, Wu Jen and Archivists (there may be more, but those are the only three I'm aware of). These characters choose their initial spells and the "free" spells earned at each level only from their original spell lists, without exception. Any spells they "unlock," can be scribed into their spell books in the standard way (with all requisite spellcraft checks and expensive inks and whatnot), provided it functions as a spell for their class and they have sufficient level. (As an additional rule, to prevent these three classes from outdistancing other casters, I may rule that Wizards, Wu Jen and Archivists can only unlock spells they find in written form.)

Knowledge-Based casters are those that have a "Spells Known" progression, such as the Sorcerer, Bard and Favored Soul. These characters have the simplest option: when they unlock a spell, they simply add it to the list of spells they can choose as Known spells. They can then choose it as one of their Spells Known the next time they learn new spells of that level.

List-Based casters are those who either prepare or spontaneously cast spells from a set list that doesn't change with their level. These casters include Clerics, Paladins, Warmages and Dread Necromancers. This group also includes casters who retrieve spells, such as the Spirit Shaman. In order to learn an unlocked spell, they must "forget" a spell from their own list, whereafter they can no longer prepare it or cast it spontaneously. For example, a Druid who unlocks the Phantom Bear spell (Druid Level 9) chooses to replace the spell Storm of Vengeance on her 9th-level list with the new spell. Thereafter, she can prepare Phantom Bear just as she does any other 9th-level spell, but can never again prepare or cast the Storm of Vengeance spell. Casters who have an Advanced Learning class feature may choose to gain unlocked spells using that feature, rather than replacing existing spells on their lists.
By using these rules rather than just adding unlocked spells to class lists willy nilly, I hope to keep the casters closer in power to one another. With powerful list-based casters (clerics and druids, especially) I might further restrict their spell lists by giving them a number of spells of each level they can know rather than their whole initial list (maybe 15-18 1st-level spells, down to 9 or 10 9th-level spells). It would be up to the player which of the spells available to Clerics they want on their list.

As I said, I would hope that one outcome of this system would be to reduce the gamebreaking power of the most powerful spellcasting classes by restricting their access to non-core spells. I was also hoping to get some feedback on gamebreaking spells in core that I could help control by either removing them from the game entirely or by relegating them to "unlockable" status. Wish, Limited Wish and Miracle (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=307140) are right out, but (and here's the discussion question) what else can core casters do without?

I should be clear, it's not my goal to rob Tier 1 and 2 casters of the fun of being godlike paragons of unspeakable power... it would just be nice if I could keep them from breaking my setting by looking at it funny.