CaSE #18 : Spells and Magic.

How common is magic use in your campaign setting…and how are spellcasters and the business of magic viewed by society in your realm:

  • Is magic a rare phenomenon, viewed with awe and caution ?
  • Is magic a common, day-to-day part of life in your realm ?
  • Are spellcasters revered as great and powerful beings; seen as normal in context of the realm; or are they strictly controlled and regulated ?

Spell acquisition won’t be an issue for Divine spellcasters, or for Sorcerers who innately possess Arcane spells.  Wizards, however, will need both a starting set of spells, and a way to obtain more as your campaign progresses.  If there are Wizards characters in your party, or there may be down the road, let your players know how one learns new spells for his or her spell-book.

Players who decide to play a Wizard (or Sorcerer or Divine caster, for that matter) should know up front if their character will be treated with hostility and suspicion, barely noticed, or subject to persecution or strict rules and laws.  Or if certain Schools of magic, or forms of deity-worship, are illegal or forbidden in the territories where the party will spend most of its time.  By default, spellcasters in D&D are not uncommon nor are they held to any specific codes of conduct.  If your campaign will treat magic differently, explain this before the game starts.

A DM has a lot of options for presenting magic and spell acquisition, tied largely to the setting in which you present your story.  Some questions to consider for your campaign:

Is magic controlled ?  In your realm, are spellcasters subject to royal decrees or local ordinances forbidding certain types of magic spells (Necromancy as a great example), or the trade in written spells or certain components for “illegal” schools of magic ?  Do Magic Guilds or literal Schools of magic control the trade, study, and practise of magic spells ?  Is control over spellcasting accomplished by the monopoly over certain spell components ?  How easy or difficult will it be for a Wizard character to access spells and components, given these possible preconditions ?

Where can spells be obtained ?  Assuming there isn’t heavy regulation on magic in your realm, where then might a Wizard find spells to add to her spellbook ?  Some or any of these may provide a source of new spells, at your discretion :

  • General shops or marketplaces
  • Specific magic shops
  • Magic-Guild houses
  • Magic Schools
  • Through a mentor or trainer
  • Spell scrolls or spell-books found in “treasure drops” off slain enemies
  • Town libraries or archives

What about spell components ?  Spells that have a Material component will require something as a “fuel” for casting.  How and where a spellcaster may find these components is one question to decide – if they can be scouted in nature, scavenged, or purchased at a shop.  Another issue for the DM concerns how spell component use is recorded and tracked by the character.  As in the previous CaSE post, this will come down to attention to minor details.

Some DM’s assume that a character regularly obtains a large quantity of cheap components for a small, perhaps monthly outlay of a couple gold pieces.  And for more expensive components, spellcasters will buy these ‘a la carte’.  Then there are some DM’s that want to micromanage and demand that players have an exact inventory of all eyes of newt and powdered silver that a character has on-hand to cast spells.

It would serve your players well to understand how Necromancy, in particular, is received in your campaign’s realm.  Society’s reaction may be an indifference towards Necromancy, viewing it simply a “science of death”…or your campaign setting may see Necromancy as a forbidden art, detested in all forms.  The reaction could vary from region to region in the setting.

For Arcane casters starting at higher levels for your advanced campaign…Sorcerers face an interesting advantage in being able to choose a host of Known Spells all at once, complimenting their lower level spells with higher level ones and vice-versa.  And a disadvantage of not being able to swap out a Known Spell and replace it with something different as they could have at certain levels (unless you grant them that option after a few adventures’ worth of experience with your campaign).

Wizards could technically have found any number of spells in their career before the start of your campaign.  How many they have in their spellbook of any given level, and if these spells’ costs to buy or obtain count against their starting gold, may fall under “starting equipment” and be valued accordingly.




About d20horizons

D&D player.
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