Monday, January 10, 2011

For Vancian Spell systems: Signature Spells

Playing with the idea of Signature Spells in various Vancian spell systems.

A Signature spell is one that once memorized can be cast up to three times per day.

I Am thinking that Magic-Users (and not clerics) gain 1 Signature Spell per spell level.  So they can have a First Level Signature Spell, a Second Level One and so on.  They could not gain this spell till the level after they gain the spell.  So if a Magic-User wants to use Lightning Bolt as a signature spell, he would need to take the spell at 5th level (the first time he can take a 3rd level spell) and then make it his signature spell at 6th level.

He could not take lightning bolt at 5th and then make Fireball (another 3rd level spell) his signature spell at 6th.

I don't think it would terribly upset play.



Pulp Herb said...

I like it, especially in the context of Moldvay and the limited spell selection (1 per spell of that level you can use).

I might extend it to require the spells be related (and allow player creativity on that point).

Higgipedia said...

I like this. I'm not sure it'll fit with my house rules for MU/Elf magic, but I'm stowing it away anyway.

Anonymous said...

If you're using something like the 3.5E D&D system or Pathfinder, spells/day, just behind the flexibility brought about by having a larger spell selection (and horribly unfair spells), are what cause arcane casters to be so strong.

For example, the wizard with 3 casts of ice-themed ray/touch spells [lets say, frost ray/chill touch/shivering touch (lesser)/shivering touch] is much more versatile in the early levels than the one who has to devote multiple slots to that particular spell at the expense of utility spells like rope trick. Similarly, the social-wizard would have have much more staying power with an additional free 2 casts of enchantment school spell x per day per time prepared.

I would say that the player should have to make a trade-off in order to gain access to this type of benefit, like how PHB II's alternate class features worked (player gave up some class features to receive these alternate ones). Maybe spell versatility for increased spells/day in the vein of the sorcerer concept, giving up a spell slot in order to designate a 'signature spell' or making that spell cost 2 spell slots to memorize/prepare rather than one (you do get 3 casts).

Of course this is all postulation given the 3e system If arcane casters are underpowered in whatever system you're using (or everyone is playing one), go right ahead.

2eDM said...

Anon, I think you're forgetting that a signature spell would be something a wizard is known for. The balancing factor in this case is going to be that when he goes up against enemies that are expecting to fight the caster, the enemy already (partially) knows what the caster likes to use and will plan accordingly. Using your example I believe their are some cheap potions or scrolls that could be used to lessen(or nullify) the added ability of the frost ray mage.
It is a cool idea though, greater customization to bring out the personality of the wizards. I would definitely make it so the spells have to be related in some way.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I just stated up a couple of sorcerers with my son. A fire-based one and a frost-based one. We are going to try these out soon.

Anonymous said...


The point is efficiency. Getting 3 spells for the price of one with no drawback is kind of unfair (to non-wizard players), considering that arcane-casting classes are upper tier already(in the D&D 3.5E/PF system). Unless the player is bad (and is playing with other players who optimize more heavily or has a cruel DM), or this is a feat (which was not mentioned), the game master should probably consider either a mechanical (anything can be a drawback by DM fiat after all) drawback to the benefit or a buff to other non-wizard players (to keep them relevant/appease them). As I mentioned before, if everyone is a wizard, it doesn't matter, because it's fair for all the players.

5stonegames said...

I think its overpowered myself with the exception it might make an OK feat in 3x with say the prerequisite of Arcane Thesis

I'd allow a spell to be swapped on the fly instead, 1 per slot

Timothy S. Brannan said...

In regards to 3.x, I guess I had this more in mind for Basic and 1st Ed AD&D than anything else.