Using AD&D to fix my problems w/Vancianism

Last night I broke out the AD&D1e PHB, and read through it for ideas relating to how I might redo D&D for myself.

I reread up on spellcasting, as originally devised for AD&D.  I stumbled across a solution to my own two greatest dislikes of it.

1) "Forgetting" spells.
2) Fixed spell selection.

For a class with high INT requirements, the notion that spells are 'forgotten' after casting has always bothered me.  For the same character, they "know" a spell, and yet don't, having to "memorize" it each day, and being beholden to a certain rest period to recharge.  It never felt logical for a high Int character, or met with the concept of what a wizard truly was, in my view of fantasy.  The loss of the spell is linked to the intellect, yet does not function as I relate to a solely intellectual function.

I learned a bit last night that put that to rest for me.

1) As written, there is no prescribed rest period for regaining spells.  AD&D has as written that the mind must be fresh, and the body nourished.  This does NOT speak to a time period or circumstance in specific to accomplish these conditions.  It does require that you spend time memorizing each spell by slot (to the tune of 30 minutes per spell level--Yikes!).  So, in theory, a 1st level wizard could wake refreshed, mem a spell, cast it, and owing to still being 'fresh of mind and body', spend the time again to memorize one again, and ka-zap, cast another spell.  Horribly impractical for a dungeon crawl, as the arduous nature of the crawl (climbing running, shouting, fighting, etc.) would pretty much kill the 'fresh mind and nourished body' concept, and makes much more sensible the requirement for a rest and a healthy meal.  If you revert to this requirement, spells are no longer 'daily' resources. 

2) This mind-body connection brought to my mind a very different notion of what is required for spellcasting.  A focused mind is indeed the key component, (and the relaxed 'nourished' body is required to prevent distractions from your focus).  What this rested mental state allows is the sharpness of focus required to harness the internal reserves of magical energy and make it ready for spell casting.  Once gathered, the energy cannot simply be 'held' in formless state like a reservoir however.  Without locking this energy in place, it would dissipate as the activities of daily life would disrupt the reservoir.  Where focus is most required is in locking this enrgy into place, and in a form which can be released later to effect in the world (which is much the point of the practice in the first place).

The 'power' is thus not a "memorization" of things such as incantations and gestures that one "forgets", it is a the "filling" of one's self with magical energy (or gathering of personal power if you prefer), the pre-shaping of that energy into it's form upon release, the securing of that dangerous energy against disruption as you go about your day (which is why you set of the triggers which enable it's release in the form of words and gestures--so you don't accidentally fireball the local fruit shop when you casually point at it).

So, thus, under the right storytelling conditions, spells are no longer 'daily' resources, and "memorization" becomes "focusing", retaining the same mechanic, yet overcoming the handicap of 1970s explanations for a thing that I have always struggled with, and simultaneously freeing the restrictions that make the 5MWD such a fixed-in-stone proposition with spell slots in their modern form.  You need the personal calm and health to be suitably 'distraction free' (to include pain of injury potentially), and time (potentially a few hours).  Your casting day slows down, but does not end because your 2 1st level spells have been discharged.

Options: If one was to wish to have spells not be pre-fixed then simply allow the spell energy (slot) to be allocated to a specific school, or ignore the spell energy being bound to form at all.  This distinction however, draws the line Sorcerers from Wizards.  Wizards require the focus to spell-specific, sorcerers do not, but nor do they need to study the internal meditation practices that wizards do.  Wizards view their own practices as "safe" and "responsible", and sorcerers as dangerous because sorcerers take less care to safeguard others against the power they can wield.   Sorcerers can improvise, whereas a wizard unleashed a pre-fixed spell with pre-determined results.

Wizards need spell books because these contain the mental focusing techniques required for each spell's form, and without it, have no 'guidebook' to follow, and may miss a crucial step in safeguarding the energy from accidental discharge.  While a wizard could memorize a specific spell harnessing technique after some time, and no longer require a spellbook to prepare it in advance, or learn how to have lower level spell energy focused into an 'at-will' collection, these would be options off the main path of Wizardry norms.  Possibly the purview of Specialist wizards.

I see a wizard as expanding and improving available spell energy with experience.  This has two effects: increases the overall pool of magic enrgy avaialble, but also enables the wizard to more often utilize small 'scraps' of residual energy at will (or perhaps set aside for such purposes) in the form of the 'cantrip' (and to greater effect).  So the at-will/cantrip spells should be usable and numerous, increasing slightly in power and variety as you level up.  Feats would allow you to improve on or bypass the usual restrictions for focusing, improving casting, and so on.

By contrast, a Sorcerer is wilder, and can unleash magic in ways a wizard can't (rather 'chooses never to do').  Not only can Sorcerers cast spontaneously, but they can improvise effects with their spells (possibly the metamagic concept).  They know less spells because they can improvise well enough with the ones they have. 

The 'wild mage' concept (which in the scheme could be either mage or sorcerer) is a character with incosistent focus, or else subconscious intellectual or emotional flaws that corrupt their focus and leave them unable to fully or correctly shape the magic as they store and/or unleash it's form.  It would be this stereotype that the wizard fears and loathes, falling to the assumption that all sorceres risk this outcome without the academic and personal study that it takes to ensure "proper" weilding of magics and the enlightenment it reveals as the end result.

I wouldn't suppose I am the first to have come to this way of reworking vancian magic to make sense, but I thought I would share in case others might find the slight tweaks to concept resolve their beefs as well. 

Its also possible I overlooked this very explanation somewhere in the 20 years I've been playing.  That has been known to happen.  I arrive late to the game sometimes too.

That is really close to my explanation


I saw vancian casters as people who peered into the weave and saw a pattern that for example resembled, [%#^&&#%^#^#%*$#@%] when combined with components, words and gestures produces an acid arrow. The actual code for the spell is never the same because the weave is alive. Technically they don’t actually forget the spell. What they remembered is worthless beyond however many applications they can remember.

I didn’t like that they had a fixed amount of spells to ‘remember’. I enjoy the flavor of a tough elf like caster that can fight better than a commoner so I never had the desire to go nuts with atwill spells or change the vancian mage into some dude that does magic all day at low levels however a perfect vancian caster shouldn’t just possess decent martial acuity they should probably have a spell die. Instead of casting 1 1st level spell before throwing darts they would have d4 1st level spells. Im not sure how that die would scale.

My explanation for the Wild Mage was an individual that guessed the pattern. They studied the ecology of the weave. Their magic is slower but all atwill. Their guess for an acid arrow would have a wide range of success and failure from the most augmented Acid Arrow to an entirely different spell effect that might even reverse back on the caster. I created a starter for a Wild Mage. It needs some levels. Caused a couple laughing attacks after casting sleep and summoning a sleeping dog.

The sorcerer is one of my favorite Next classes. I hope they don’t mess it up. 3e explained the class well but Pathfinder made the class. Triggering magic isn’t an act of study its just an act. It can be tiring. For a sorcerer summoning is like giving birth. Evoking is like throwing a flurry on a punching bag.  

right before the spell lists in the 1st edition players handbook it states that the time for memorizing spells is 15 min for a 1st level spell or 15 min per spell level above 1st such as 30 for a 2nd level spell or 2 hrs and 15 min for a 9th level spell this is after a mandatory 6 hr rest period so you can see that replenishing spells in the field can be time consuming also the rules state that this cannot happen multiple times a day so there are daily limits on spell slots. the daily limit applies to priest spells too but they dont have a memorization time as spells are granted by a god
I'm using AD&D to fix my problem with Next, Playing AD&D- problem solved.
lol im at a similar place if you want dragonsfoot has an active community with chat about things from older editions plus people made adventures and programs you can use to help you out. and id you know where to look you can be like me and have a complete collection of 1st and 2nd edition pdf for free works great on an ipad lol
Mike I am a D.F. er. as was (G.G. btw)I dig that site, p.m. me with your Name over there and i'll keep in touch.
Thanks Mike, I missed the 'multiple times' clause.  I knew it was a time consuming thing, but missed that part. 
no problem its nice to see others appreciate the system that has created some great memories over the past 31 years of my life
It seems to me that switching from a daily system for wizards to an encounter system shouldn't be very difficult. Just take the number of encounters you expect to face in a day, then divide spells by that number. You should average out to same spells per day, but you provide them on a per encounter basis instead of a per day basis.

Certain spells might be broken using this system, for instance long duration spells or any spells with permanent effects. These spells could probably be made into rituals or something and dealth with that way. 
"So shall it be! Dear-bought those songs shall be be accounted, and yet shall be well-bought. For the price could be no other. Thus even as Eru spoke to us shall beauty not before conceived be brought into Eä, and evil yet be good to have been." - Manwë, High King of the Valar
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