Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Joy of Basic D&D & Magic School

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of ALL editions of D&D.  I have played them all, and all to a significant degree.  But my start, and in many ways, my true love is Basic D&D.  B/X flavor in particular.  With the D&D Rules Cyclopedia now out in POD I am going to take some time to go back and play some of the D&D that I played the least; BECMI.

I have had some ideas for various "Basic" games over the years.  I want to take my 4e Campaign and reboot that as a BECMI one, but instead, I morphed it into a 5e one.  I still want my War of the Witch Queens to be a B/X adventure, but it really could become a BECMI one since I really would love to take advantage of all 36 levels that BECMI offers me.   But in truth, I had no idea what I wanted to do until this morning.

A couple of posts on Facebook in various "old school" groups has new players, maybe ones more familiar with Post-TSR D&D, lamenting that Magic-Users/Wizards only get one spell at 1st level.
While this is familiar ground for old-school gamers, I do sympathize with these players.
Some of this for me goes back to the 4th Edition games. In 4e a 1st level wizard is quite competent with a number of spells they can use right off the bat.  In a way, it is what you would expect from a graduate from a magic school.  But in other ways, it also makes a less compelling "story".  4e Wizards might be closer to Harry Potter, or Harry Dresden, but they are not close to the Luke Skywalker model of the new adventurer with plenty talent but no training.
This train of thought got me thinking about Basic and BECMI in particular as a means to "grow into" 4e.  A lot of my analysis was on how much magic and "Combat power" a single wizard has from levels 1 to 6 in BECMI and compare that to 4e.  The goal was to have levels 1 through 6 to be training and then levels 7 to 36 map roughly onto 4e's levels 1 to 30.  The math is not perfect, as to be expected, but there is enough wiggle room that I liked it.

Well. I am not doing 4e now.  But the idea of levels 1 to 6 as "training levels" still appeals to me.

So my plan now is this.  I am going to create a magic school (long overdue really) and the characters are all magic users.  They enter the school at age 13 at level 1 and spend the next six years working towards graduation witch each year being the next level. They will graduate at age 19 at level 7 to start adventuring.

I have a lot of ideas of what needs to happen, but I also need to figure out how to fill up 80,000 xp worth of experiences that fit with a school environment.   Along the way, they can pick up specialties (Necromancy, Enchantment and so on).  Students will take classes in languages, finger position, and diction in addition to ones on Magical Theory and Thought.  I also see students working on magic items and potions.  This is where all those magic items and cursed items come from.

I am also going to borrow heavily from The Complete Wizard's Handbook for 2nd Ed. I am also going to borrow some ideas from theGlantri books, GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri (Basic) and Glantri: Kingdom of Magic (2e).

I *might* even set it all in Glantri, but I am also kind of wanting to set in my new campaign setting of West Haven.  Setting it in Glantri though has a lot of appeal to me.

Obvious sources for this are the Harry Potter books and movies, but also the Magicians books and TV series, the Magic schools from Charmed and Wizards of Waverly Place, various comics like the X-Men and Teen Titans and Miskatonic University.

I am going to give this one some serious thought, there is also so much material for this out there.


Fabio Milito Pagliara said...

My idea is that when we left behind 1st/2nd edition we got the wrong turn

in 1st edition you needed 15' to recharge spell and you could do it only once a day, at high levels you needed 2-3 days to fully recharge so you would go for item or to be stingy in spell casting.

from 3rd edition you recharge all your spell in one hour or less

what if we chose another way? like you can recharge a fixed number of spell slot each day independently from your level, say 9-15 spell levels a day, but this is good also for low level mages that can recharge that 1 spell more than once a day

this would work both for cast and forget (like insted of forgetting spells you just lose the charge of the spell but not the spell) and sorcery type magic

Bruce Heard said...

And when I'm done with Calidar's CAL2 On Wings of Darkness, you'll have another approach to wizardry, which goes beyond what Glantri accomplished 30 years ago. =)

Alan Shutko said...

Other resources, because this is also an idea I've been toying with forever:

Path of the Magi by Sean K Reynolds

College of Wizardry by Bruce Cordell

Redhurst Academy of Magic, late of Humanhead Studios

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Those are good resources! Thanks, Alan and Bruce!

Sean Robert Meaney said...

Rolls up an NPC...

Nebh: neutral magicuser; level 12; 12hp; S9, I13, W9, D10, C9, Ch8; spellbook: 1st-6th level spells. Not particularly an exceptional student, he created a first level spell and got rich off selling scrolls. Filled his spellbooks by purchasing spell scrolls from other students.

Nebh's condensation (1st level spell)
Range: 10'
Duration: 1 round
Effect: pulls 1 cubic inch of water from the air per caster level.
Casting the spell causes moisture to gather in a sphere in the air at a distance up to ten feet. It can be drunk, directed into a container, or allowed to fall to the ground.

trollsmyth said...

This sounds like an awesome project! Best of luck with it. :D

Antonio said...

@Fabio note that BECMI also allows a spellcaster of any level to regain ALL his spells in one hour. It's quite easy to rationalise: as your experience increases, the simpler spells get memorised faster than higher level spells, so that they occupy an ever decreasing fraction of memorisation time.
The 1e and 2e rules for memorisation are fun, but they are by no means necessary.

@Tim note that it's actually "by the book" that all magic-users of less than 7th level must have teachers of 7th level or higher (see Mentzer's Player Basic book, p. 38).

Francois said...

Yuo can also have a look at the Schooled in Magic series by C. Nuttall.
I enjoyed it greatly.

JB said...

Funny you bring up The Magicians as I've been re-watching it (well, actually catching up on season two) in anticipation of a post over at Ye Old Blog.

Glantri has a LOT of neat, interesting ideas, especially with regard to magic schooling, but I find it to fit much better with the "flavor" of BECMI/RC than with B/X. My second stint running BECMI (back in the early 2000s) saw the campaign mostly set in Glantri, and it was partly due to this that I actually got turned off from the system...though I admit the specific quibbles elude my memory at the moment.