No more spell memorization - Crazy Prediction of the Day 3

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Especially for high level characters, stopping the gameplay to go through the entire PHB and select just the right spells for the day is a "fun-killer" Negotiating with your fellow players about who won't get a death ward spell, because you don't have enough slots for the whole party, takes away time from telling the story or fighting the monsters.

The "Vancian" spell memorization only models one subset of fantasy fiction (Jack Vance's) and does not easily change by house rules to match other styles of magic. The Sorcerer was a start (you pick your spells each time you level), but the flexibility of the spell caster took a big hit. Despite this hit, the only way to speed in-game decision-making is to move choices about spell selection to a time that does not interfere with gameplay.

Thus, I predict that daily selection of your spells will be completely removed. All choices will either be made with your character gains a level, or it will take much longer than a few hours to retool your spell list.
Actually, its already been confirmed that the bulk of a spell casters spells will be abilities with 'at will', 'X per encounter' uses. But their biggest guns will still be 'X per day' and since they siad that the Vancian magic would be 'mostly gone' (the key word being 'mostly') it is safe to assume that THOSE abilities will be memorized, I think.

So you are partially right.
Minor quibble, but aren't spells in the most recent edition prepared rather than memorized? That is, a cast spell is unavailable because the mystic process has been completed, not because it has been forgotten.
Minor quibble, but aren't spells in the most recent edition prepared rather than memorized? That is, a cast spell is unavailable because the mystic process has been completed, not because it has been forgotten.

Still not enough. I've never heard of an example in fantasy fiction that uses this model for regular spellcasting.
Still not enough. I've never heard of an example in fantasy fiction that uses this model for regular spellcasting.

Fantasy fiction as a genre doesn't have a universal method for spellcasting. I agree with the point though, it is time that the bulk of memorized/prepared/whatever spells left the game. Since this seems to be the direction that the developers are taking Fourth Edition, I am perfectly happy about it.

I do, however, like the idea of some things still being memorized. It allows for more customization within an individual spellcaster's daily life. If everything were just x/encounter or y/day or at will then I imagine that wizards would end up looking far too much like sorcerers with a very limited selection of spells.
If some things are still prepared daily from a very large list of any spell the wizard could get his hands on it means that he can be different from day to day and rather different from the wizard in the next tower over
The problem I have with "preparing" is that if there is a limit there should be a flavor reason given. Otherwise it's very had not to ask "Why not just prepare a whole huge bunch of spells, like making a bunch of molotov cocktails?"
Didn't the Amber series have spells that were prepared? Not the pattern/shadow powers the princes mainly used, but the arcane-presto-type magic on the side. The mage weaves the majority of the spell, but leaves out a couple key items, like the name of the target and range to it. The spell happens when the mage speaks the missing parts, and happening dismantles the weave. The complexity of the weaving and time required to maintain it prevents "loading up."

Granted, I'm going by what I've read in the old Amber diceless RPG rules as opposed to the novels themselves, but that's still a precedent of a sort.

But still, yes, whether it's called memorized or prepared, I'm happy to see that model phased out in favor of a "strain/drain" metaphor.
Minor quibble, but aren't spells in the most recent edition prepared rather than memorized? That is, a cast spell is unavailable because the mystic process has been completed, not because it has been forgotten.

Different fluff for the same mechanic. With the new system, I think the fluff may still be there, just the mechanic will be different.
I bet Wizards still have to prepare spells.

However they wont "forget" their spells. They automatically regain the same prepared spells per-encounter, per-day and at-will. Unless they decide to prepare different spells.

Thus the Wizard gets the best of both worlds: Nonvancian spellcasting AND the celebrated spell versatility.
Thus the Wizard gets the best of both worlds: Nonvancian spellcasting AND the celebrated spell versatility.

That sounds pretty good, really. I like the favor of the wizard looking over his spellbook, deciding what to commit to memory. His mind can only hold so many spells at once.

However, I think wizards should be able to pull out their spellbooks and select something else. Or perhaps read the spell directly from the book.
This sounds a lot like the spellcasting system from Everquest (you select a limited number of spells to memorize each day, but can cast those spells any number of times using your mana).

I think the DDO wizard also uses a similar casting system, but I cannot be sure (someone confirm or deny this).

Psionics has the erudite, which works off a similar principle (you can cast any power you know, and you can know a lot of them, but are limited to X unique powers/day).

4e might see a similar concept - the wizard chooses a limited number of spells to prepare, which he can then use at-will. Or perhaps he can cast any spell he wants from his spellbook, but cannot cast more than say, lv/2+1 unique spells each day.

Basically, I don't think they will do away with the memorization system entirely. Maybe revise it to allow for greater flexibility, but some incarnation of it would still remain.
Still not enough. I've never heard of an example in fantasy fiction that uses this model for regular spellcasting.

There is one example of true D&D Vancian casting in fantasy literature, but the pro-Vance people out there aren't going to like this. It's Terry Pratchett. Rincewind, for one, couldn't get any spells to stick in his mind, largely because of the impact of the Spell from the Octavo. Other examples include The Last Continent - '"I assume you prepared appropriate spells?" "At three in the morning? For the beach?"' - and Soul Music - "a pocket full of spells and a well-charged staff will see you through these things nine times out of ten" - with the latter making near-specific D&D joles about staves (charges) and the Spell Component Pouch.
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There is one example of true D&D Vancian casting in fantasy literature, but the pro-Vance people out there aren't going to like this. It's Terry Pratchett. Rincewind, for one, couldn't get any spells to stick in his mind, largely because of the impact of the Spell from the Octavo. Other examples include The Last Continent - '"I assume you prepared appropriate spells?" "At three in the morning? For the beach?"' - and Soul Music - "a pocket full of spells and a well-charged staff will see you through these things nine times out of ten" - with the latter making near-specific D&D joles about staves (charges) and the Spell Component Pouch.

But Discworld is very low magic. If I remember one book correctly it takes a certain amount of time to prepare a spell in proportion to how good it is. Most of the magic stuff is either ritual, a magic item, some sort of natural ability of a magical creature, or some specific bestowed ability that is really just a plot device. With the fighting ability of Cohen Discworld would actually be modeled better with Iron Heroes.
To reiterate, the prediction is: The daily selection of your spells will be completely removed. All choices will either be made with your character gains a level, or it will take much longer than a few hours to retool your spell list.
What me and my players do is set a list of spells usually prepared, just swap one or two spells if you need it for that day.
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It always kinda baffled me why they'd base their magic system around a series of books no one has ever heard of.

Why not base it on more popular works of fiction like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Final Fantasy, Earthsea and such?

Although I understand why it's a nice model from a game mechanics perspective, from a fluff perspective it's just...dumb.

People don't start making a mage thinking "Man, I want to make someone that's like a wizard from one of Jack Vance's books!". It's more like "Stop distracting me! I'm trying to figure out how to summon Cthulu with these rules. Who the hell is Jack Vance anyway?"
It always kinda baffled me why they'd base their magic system around a series of books no one has ever heard of.

Why not base it on more popular works of fiction like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Final Fantasy, Earthsea and such?

Lord of the Rings is low-magic. Final Fantasy started towards the end of 1E, and Harry Potter towards the end of 2E, so vancian spellcasting predated both of these. Earthsea was relatively new still when D&D was first being developed; though Earthsea's magic system is rather unique and would make for a cool magic system.

I was going to write that with 4E ,Wizards are doing what you suggested and making the magic more like recent popular works. After thinking about it, I'm not sure if they are.

Does anyone know of any other fictional magic systems that have at will, per day and per encounter (or per every minute or so) spells ?
Does anyone know of any other fictional magic systems that have at will, per day and per encounter (or per every minute or so) spells ?

Most fiction, that I have read anyway, usually has magic work EXACTLY as often as is convenient for the plot. You don't generally have that luxury in a game.
Why not base it on more popular works of fiction like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Final Fantasy, Earthsea and such?

Because then they'd be hearing even more "They are trying to make the game JUST LIKE HARRY POTTER !!!1!!one!!!" whinges than they are now, only this time there would be some base for it.
LoTR was fairly low-magic - Gandalf, supposedly a very powerful mage, cast a lightning bolt as his most powerful spell?
But Discworld is very low magic.

...barbeque.
Error error error.
Discworld is actually very HIGH magic, it's just that the wizards don't go around blowing themselves up anymore - and it appears there isn't as much variance and magical protection around.
...
Which is sort of understandable. If you'd use magic for, say, healing... well, then the part of you, you used magic on, would BE magic. And that's rather volatile. Discworld magic is more... MAGIC than the deterministic science-like magic in DnD.

LoTR was fairly low-magic - Gandalf, supposedly a very powerful mage, cast a lightning bolt as his most powerful spell?

Low-key, not low-power. But, basically, yeah. I take it you're not that familiar with LoTR?
Low-key, not low-power. But, basically, yeah. I take it you're not that familiar with LoTR?

I admit I only read 1 or 2 books, but I believe my understanding should suffice.

For example, it is stated that Gandalf is a powerful wizard, yet the book offers no empirical evidence to prove this. He hardly uses any magic in the game. Thus, there is no way of ascertaining just how strong he really is relative to dnd rules. For all we know, maybe casting flares and lightning bolts is all you need to be termed an archmage.

Perhaps their magic revolves around 1 or 2 spectacular magic effects which then leaves you shagged for the rest of the day, but in the very least, I still don't see that happening. Even that daylight spell he used against the orcs - it is not sure if he actually cast it, or he simply waited until the sun rose or something.

Could I have some scenarios where he really displays some magical might?
For example, it is stated that Gandalf is a powerful wizard, yet the book offers no empirical evidence to prove this.

Why do people keep repeating this myth? Gandalf demonstrated great power many times. The best example, of course, is his fight with the Balrog. It lasted days and devastated the surrounding area.

To drive off the Nazgul, he produce flames to match the ancient signal fires. Similarly, he set a hilltop ablaze in while the Fellowship fought Wargs. When he returned as Gandalf the White, he easily disarmed Gimli and held Aragorn's sword motionless in his hand.
The best example, of course, is his fight with the Balrog. It lasted days and devastated the surrounding area.

But if I recall correctly, he did not fight the balrog with magical might. He broke the bridge with his staff and they both fell in the chasm. Likewise, their titanic battle which lasted days didn't really involve large volumes of magic being exchanged (or at least, I do not recall it being made a great deal of).

To drive off the Nazgul, he produce flames to match the ancient signal fires.Similarly, he set a hilltop ablaze in while the Fellowship fought Wargs.

How big was the conflagration? Else, I think a fireball spell might have sufficed. You certainly don't need a meteor swarm to set a few trees on fire.
Same for the fight with the Nazgul. True, he held off 5? of them, but where is the mention of his powerful magic?

I do not deny that Gandalf is very powerful for all his achievements. What I am disputing is his prowess as a wizard. For all we know, he could have a ton of outsider HD in addition to his few wizard lvs, to explain his martial might. The magic he uses certainly does not even come close to simulating the epitome that are 9th lv spells in dnd.

When he returned as Gandalf the White, he easily disarmed Gimli and held Aragorn's sword motionless in his hand.

I think those can be achieved with low lv spells in dnd. :P
Maybe you gain access to different schools on your feat tree and then get certain ones at will, some of them per encounter and some of them once per day.
Also a lot of the magic in Tolkien is the ability of these various elder spirits and gods to rally armies of men, elves, orcs, or whatever to mythic battle. Think super-bards. It's kind of (and by kind of I mean more or less exactly) like the way the individual clashings of the mythic heroes in the Iliad push and pull the tides of the whole battle leading up to the point where Achilles' war-cry drops a legion of Trojans to the ground.

It's more curses, wards, weirdings, hauntings, and presence. Stuff that makes for better literature than 4d6 of damage.
There is one example of true D&D Vancian casting in fantasy literature, but the pro-Vance people out there aren't going to like this. It's Terry Pratchett. Rincewind, for one, couldn't get any spells to stick in his mind, largely because of the impact of the Spell from the Octavo. Other examples include The Last Continent - '"I assume you prepared appropriate spells?" "At three in the morning? For the beach?"' - and Soul Music - "a pocket full of spells and a well-charged staff will see you through these things nine times out of ten" - with the latter making near-specific D&D joles about staves (charges) and the Spell Component Pouch.

Well, yeah. It's pretty blatantly just mocking how D&D magic works.

Notice that it's because they have to go through this kind of rigmarole that despite being *theoretically* the most powerful people alive, the Wizards of Unseen University exert almost no influence to speak of on city politics (and almost never actually appear in the books about Vetinari and the Watch, therefore) and are noticeably less *actually* powerful and important to affairs on the Disc than their Witch counterparts.
I admit I only read 1 or 2 books, but I believe my understanding should suffice.

For example, it is stated that Gandalf is a powerful wizard, yet the book offers no empirical evidence to prove this. He hardly uses any magic in the game. Thus, there is no way of ascertaining just how strong he really is relative to dnd rules. For all we know, maybe casting flares and lightning bolts is all you need to be termed an archmage.

Perhaps their magic revolves around 1 or 2 spectacular magic effects which then leaves you shagged for the rest of the day, but in the very least, I still don't see that happening. Even that daylight spell he used against the orcs - it is not sure if he actually cast it, or he simply waited until the sun rose or something.

Could I have some scenarios where he really displays some magical might?

The Hobbit describes how Gandalf at one point when cornered by a whole bunch of Orcs planned to leap down, blast them with fire (taking out the first half-dozen or so) and then lay into the rest with his sword.

It wasn't a very good option, though, and it was implied that whatever his powers were they weren't the kind where he could instantaneously and easily blast his way out of an outnumbered, cornered position when surrounded by skilled warriors. He was not, in other words, the equivalent of a D&D level 20 Wizard.

Which is good, because having that kind of character walking around in LotR would've made the whole thing ridiculous.

Nonetheless, characters *are* portrayed as being able to do relatively powerfully magical things throughout the series. Elrond commanding the river to flood using his Ring. Ancient Elves doing things like raising wards and barriers along their borders. Ancient Kings of Men doing things like binding the souls of all the Oathbreakers to become the Dead Men of Dunharrow with a curse. Etc.
...barbeque.
Error error error.
Discworld is actually very HIGH magic, it's just that the wizards don't go around blowing themselves up anymore - and it appears there isn't as much variance and magical protection around.
...
Which is sort of understandable. If you'd use magic for, say, healing... well, then the part of you, you used magic on, would BE magic. And that's rather volatile. Discworld magic is more... MAGIC than the deterministic science-like magic in DnD.

It's been repeatedly said in the Discworld series that the point of Unseen University is to collect all the Wizards into one place and set them up in a system that would keep them eternally competing with each other to learn new uses of magic and such rather than actually *using* magic.

No one purposely set it up this way, but this is how it ended up evolving, because actually trying to *use* magic to accomplish things out in the world nearly always leads to things going horrifically wrong for everybody, especially the person using it. That's what magic is like -- wild, unpredictable, not nice.

That was the whole point of Sourceror. If you remember way way back to the prehistoric days of The Colour of Magic, there's some backstory given about how once whole civilizations were run by magic until they destroyed themselves in terrible conflagrations, after which the Old High Ones (beings who existed before the gods and are far more sensible than they are) purposely set all kinds of arbitrary boundaries on magic so that it would be impossible for such things to happen again.

That's the only justification I've ever heard for spell preparation in D&D, by the way -- that Mystra set it up that way to limit Wizards' power.
That's the only justification I've ever heard for spell preparation in D&D, by the way -- that Mystra set it up that way to limit Wizards' power.

Then you never read the Vancian explanation.
Magic is so foreign that it must be forced into he mind.
When a spell is used the energy released wipes that particular memory from the mind, so the magic must be re-memorized.
Simple
Effective
and
Reasonable
For example, it is stated that Gandalf is a powerful wizard, yet the book offers no empirical evidence to prove this. He hardly uses any magic in the game.

...The.... Game?
Never-the-less, do not forget that there are several implications on the use of magic not applicable by default on DnD.

First of all, the whole "Power Corrupts" thing is taken much more seriously. But we'll ignore that.

Second -- flashy magics can be detected by other casters and powers. With Sauron around, if he'd used any powerful magics, he'd been suspect to the middle-earth equivalent of Scry-and-Die.

Third, unless absolutely necessary, Gandalf spared his strength. There are a few battles which last for several DAYS. A DnD mage would have most likely nova'd, gone into a safe place to rest, and come back to see the place he was in overtaken and destroyed while he was getting his eight hours of nappy-time.

Thus, there is no way of ascertaining just how strong he really is relative to dnd rules. For all we know, maybe casting flares and lightning bolts is all you need to be termed an archmage.

The thing is, there are no mages as per DnD in the world. Elves have their own form of, essentially divine magic. There were five mages in the world: Gandalf the Grey, Saruman the White, Radagast the Brown and two with blue robes, whose names I don't recall. There was magic, and people who knew how to work with it, but no real mages. It can be presumed that the five who came from the west, taught some people.

Could I have some scenarios where he really displays some magical might?

Well, you won't get any "he used this spell here" spots, as that's not how the story was told. Do you truly think he used physical power to break the bridge? DnD-wise, he might have used Shatter, perhaps, except for the flash of light.

Power-wise, remember that the Balrog whom Gandalf faced, was most likely, probably the second most powerful being in the books, after Sauron. ( Remember, Balor == Balrog, with name changed due to copyright issues. ) Gandalf becomes equal or stronger after his ascension, though.

If you want a DnD-like equivalent, in his final encounter with Saruman, he says: "Saruman, your staff is broken" which breaks his staff- which is presumably a magic item - possibly even an artifact. That is the equal of a high-level Power Word spell.


Well, yeah. However, plenty of magic in Discworld, just not in constant use that much. The early books have some Wizardly conflicts and Sourcery had some more.
Gandalf was not a wizard.


…he was a celestial/angel holding back.
...The.... Game?
Third, unless absolutely necessary, Gandalf spared his strength. There are a few battles which last for several DAYS. A DnD mage would have most likely nova'd, gone into a safe place to rest, and come back to see the place he was in overtaken and destroyed while he was getting his eight hours of nappy-time.


The thing is, there are no mages as per DnD in the world. Elves have their own form of, essentially divine magic. There were five mages in the world: Gandalf the Grey, Saruman the White, Radagast the Brown and two with blue robes, whose names I don't recall. There was magic, and people who knew how to work with it, but no real mages. It can be presumed that the five who came from the west, taught some people.


Well, you won't get any "he used this spell here" spots, as that's not how the story was told. Do you truly think he used physical power to break the bridge? DnD-wise, he might have used Shatter, perhaps, except for the flash of light.

Power-wise, remember that the Balrog whom Gandalf faced, was most likely, probably the second most powerful being in the books, after Sauron. ( Remember, Balor == Balrog, with name changed due to copyright issues. ) Gandalf becomes equal or stronger after his ascension, though.

If you want a DnD-like equivalent, in his final encounter with Saruman, he says: "Saruman, your staff is broken" which breaks his staff- which is presumably a magic item - possibly even an artifact. That is the equal of a high-level Power Word spell.

1e took heavy inspiration from LotR. It is possible to guess Aragorn's level based on the 'magical' abilities he displays and 1e ranger's ability to use crystal balls was lifted wholesale from the trilogy. Halfling fighter level limits were based largely on how useless the hobbits still were by the end of the adventure.

Elves were toned down considerably but retained a long life span and could not be raised from the dead because they had no souls per LotR (Silmarillion). The magical abilities of dark elves took heavy inspiration from the dark elf in the Silmarilion.

Gandalf was a different matter. For starters, he was an Outsider (a maiar spirit possibly equivalent to some kind of archon?) so many of his abilities would be innate and 'at will' abilities. No doubt he also had a few levels of wizard to help him out too.

The Witch King of Agmar had magical abilities in life that were independent of his ring I think but generally
It is possible to guess Aragorn's level based on the 'magical' abilities he displays .

Of which there are none.
I personally feel that Aragorn should not be a dnd ranger, IMO. He is a LoTR ranger, but if you wish to stat him out in dnd, I feel that his stats would be better represented by lvs in paladin instead, because many of the abilities granted by a ranger are not reflected in his exploits in the novel.

Maybe a few lvs in ranger for track and certain "wilderness" skills, but other abilities, such as his warhorse, how he repels the undead and treat's frodo's sword wound seem better represented by the paladin's mount, turn undead and lay on hands/remove curse abilities. But maybe that is just me.:P

And I do digress...:embarrass

Gandalf was not a wizard.


…he was a celestial/angel holding back.

My point exactly. He is powerful. But he is not a powerful wizard. That is the distinction I am trying to make here.
I do not deny that Gandalf is very powerful for all his achievements. What I am disputing is his prowess as a wizard. For all we know, he could have a ton of outsider HD in addition to his few wizard lvs, to explain his martial might. The magic he uses certainly does not even come close to simulating the epitome that are 9th lv spells in dnd.

Apples & oranges. You simply can't compare the two on an even keel.
I personally feel that Aragorn should not be a dnd ranger, IMO. He is a LoTR ranger, but if you wish to stat him out in dnd, I feel that his stats would be better represented by lvs in paladin instead

Funny you should say that, because I've heard that apparently Aragorn would be a Fighter 1/Ranger 1/Paladin 3 in 3rd edition D&D. Which actually makes sense when you think of what your average 10th level D&D (almost god-like) character can do compared to any member of the Fellowship.

Of course, trying to compare/translate LotR characters to D&D is an exercise in futility – Tolkien was not thinking of THACO while writing…
Apples & oranges. You simply can't compare the two on an even keel.

We can actually. We shouldn't, since they are 2 completely different settings with different "power levels" apparently, but a comparison would be necessarily if any discussion between the 2 is to be a meaningful one.

For example, Gandalf might pass for a powerful mage in middle-earth, but port him over to greyhawk or forgotten realms and his magic will pale in comparison to say, Mordenkainen or the Simbul. In dnd, he might be a wiz5 with tons of outsider HD and divine rank 0, for all we know.

Funny you should say that, because I've heard that apparently Aragorn would be a Fighter 1/Ranger 1/Paladin 3 in 3rd edition D&D. Which actually makes sense when you think of what your average 10th level D&D (almost god-like) character can do compared to any member of the Fellowship.

I would actually stat him higher (say around 10-12 class lvs, maybe even 14), and attribute the disparity to his noticeable lack of magic gear...:P

Anduril might be a +4 or +5 longsword, but that is pretty much about it as far as outfitting him goes...

It is funny, I know I am digressing, but the current spate of discussions seems much more fun than the original thread (and I do apologize to the OP for any threadjacking, however inadvertent), which appears more or less beaten to death already...
But if I recall correctly, he did not fight the balrog with magical might.

Perhaps this passage will change your mind:

I don't know," answered Gandalf. "But I found myself suddenly faced by something that I have not met before. I could think of nothing to do but to try and put a shutting-spell on the door. I know many, but to do things of that kind rightly requires time, and even then the door can be broken by strength.

As I stood there I could hear orc-voices on the other side: at any moment I thought they would burst it open. I could not hear what was said; they seemed to be talking in their own hideous language. All I caught was ghash: that is 'fire'. Then something came into the chamber - I felt it through the door, and the orcs themselves were afraid and fell silent. It laid hold of the iron ring, and then it perceived me and my spell.

What it was I cannot guess, but I have never felt such a challenge. The counter-spell was terrible. It nearly broke me. For an instant the door left my control and began to open! I had to speak a word of Command. That proved too great a strain. The door burst in pieces. Something dark as a cloud was blocking out all the light inside, and I was thrown backwards down the stairs. All the way gave way, and roof of the chamber as well, I think.


A minor magical contest between the Balrog and Gandalf ended with a door exploding and an entire chamber collapsing. Their actual fight left the Durin's Tower and the Endless in ruins. Gandalf messed the place up so much that he couldn't figure how to get back down. (Yes, D&D wizards certainly have more mobility.)

Same for the fight with the Nazgul. True, he held off 5? of them, but where is the mention of his powerful magic?

They drew away from me, for they felt the coming of my anger and they dared not face it while the Sun was in the sky. But they closed round at night, and I was besieged on the hill-top, in the old ring of Amon Sûl. I was hard put to it indeed: such light and flame cannot have been seen on Weathertop since the war-beacons of old.

I think those can be achieved with low lv spells in dnd.

Telekinesis isn't a low-level spell. Besides, he did it all in instant. Quickened telekinesis, easily.
Of which there are none.

Heh - well under 1e DnD some of the skills he displayed in the books could have been representative of magical abilities. Simply using athelas to heal could be interpreted as cure light wounds. Mind you, I agree that most of his abilities could be more easily explained away non-magically under the newer rules.
Of which there are none.

Lay on hands