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Author Topic: Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?  (Read 4117 times)

Offline dramaman

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Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?
« on: January 30, 2016, 06:14:30 PM »
The 1e DMG has a section on the mechanics for PCs wanting to research new spells. Has anyone every done that? I was listening to dead game's interview with Ernie Gygax and he mentioned his PC researching the original Ice Storm as an alternative to Fireball which had the habit of destroying treasure. Researching new spells makes sense in the pre 1E days when there were not very many spells, but by the time the 1E PHB came out, it contained more spells than our PCs could ever hope to learn and cast. Thus the desire for new spells just wasn't there.
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Offline Dizzy

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Re: Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2016, 07:54:49 PM »
I never have mainly because I almost never play Magic-users, and have never played them to a mid-high level. None of my players ever have either sadly. I wish!

Offline Alex Karaczun

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Re: Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2016, 09:26:13 AM »
I do recall that I had some players in the 80s that did spell research, and that I was okay with it as long as it wasn't just a re-skinning of an existing spell. I'd say that in a decade of play we probably had less than 5 new spells and 1 or 2 new magic items. Unfortunately I lost all of that information, and that is all I remember of it.
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Offline Serian

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Re: Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2016, 11:16:28 AM »
Yes.  In fact, some of those spells made it into Polyhedron, and later into the 2E spell compendiums.

Offline Dizzy

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Re: Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2016, 01:37:56 PM »
Yes.  In fact, some of those spells made it into Polyhedron, and later into the 2E spell compendiums.

Awesome Serian! Did you or your player send them in? Do you happen to remember what they were?

Offline Serian

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Re: Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2016, 07:03:16 PM »
Yes.  In fact, some of those spells made it into Polyhedron, and later into the 2E spell compendiums.

Awesome Serian! Did you or your player send them in? Do you happen to remember what they were?

Those spells attributed to the wizard "Serrel". They were originally published in Polyhedron 63. (I rolled the character in 1984. Holy crap, I am getting old.)
There also were some cleric spells published in Polyhedron 60, though I don't know if all of those made it to the compendiums.

Offline Fjw70

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Re: Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2016, 09:51:45 PM »
I have done any myself but in a group I played with back in the 80s there were no standard spells in the campaign and each spell caster created his or her own spells. We used a spell point system so the DM would decide the cost to cast each spell.

I played a barbarian so I was not involved in this process.

Offline Dizzy

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Re: Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2016, 10:49:50 PM »
I have done any myself but in a group I played with back in the 80s there were no standard spells in the campaign and each spell caster created his or her own spells. We used a spell point system so the DM would decide the cost to cast each spell.

I played a barbarian so I was not involved in this process.

Interesting idea! I'd have to try and run a campaign like that at some point. How did the spell casters react?

Offline Fjw70

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Re: Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2016, 04:25:22 AM »
I have done any myself but in a group I played with back in the 80s there were no standard spells in the campaign and each spell caster created his or her own spells. We used a spell point system so the DM would decide the cost to cast each spell.

I played a barbarian so I was not involved in this process.

Interesting idea! I'd have to try and run a campaign like that at some point. How did the spell casters react?

The casters loved it. It was a very creative group.

Offline Serian

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Re: Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2016, 08:13:44 PM »
Yes.  In fact, some of those spells made it into Polyhedron, and later into the 2E spell compendiums.

Awesome Serian! Did you or your player send them in? Do you happen to remember what they were?

Now that uploads work ... Here are the articles:


Offline Dizzy

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Re: Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2016, 11:16:21 PM »
Yes.  In fact, some of those spells made it into Polyhedron, and later into the 2E spell compendiums.

Awesome Serian! Did you or your player send them in? Do you happen to remember what they were?

Now that uploads work ... Here are the articles:
Awesome thanks! Glad that worked

Offline Shiftkitty

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Re: Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2016, 01:58:57 PM »
I never did spell research by the book. Usually the player and I would knock heads between games and decide what it would take. If it was similar to an existing spell, it was probably going to be pretty easy. If it was whole new spell, well, that often took a bit of time at the local burger joint.
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Offline sgtslag

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Re: Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2016, 10:42:54 AM »
I play 2nd Ed., but the concept is the same, basically.  I require MU's to build a Spell Research Library.  If they find someone else's Library, they can add those books to their Library.  The Library is rated by Level:  4th Level Library is good for researching all spells up to 4th Level; a 9th Level Library is good for all spells, 1st through 9th Levels -- adding more books to a 9th Level Library is possible, but it has no bonus for 9th Level spells; however, using a Library rated higher than the spell level they are researching, can increase the percentage chance of success, to a limited point.

I also made up rules whereby each book's author had to be checked:  some MU's are tremendous teachers, while others may be good at research, but they cannot teach you how to break out of a wet paper bag [they are brilliant, but they cannot teach...]!  Each MU needs to test for each individual book:  Chance to Learn Spell = Chance to understand the book's author well enough to use the book in their Library.

There is a product, on RPGNow.com, which has random tables for generating book titles, subjects, and authors.  I was elated when I found it!  I've been creating book titles, and authors, since I downloaded this product.  It is actually quite fun to make up book titles, using the known NPC names, as authors.

When an MU conducts Spell Research successfully, they get to add their notes to the value of their Library (in other words, they get to publish their notes in books, which circulates their name, and gives them a small income for the books sold -- if they choose to share their research with others...  It can also mark them as a target, depending upon their magical area of expertise (real, or implied by the title).  This makes for great role playing/plot line opportunities.

I've had cleric PC's suggest divine spells, as well.  Those are much easier to 'create':  they write up the spell the way they think it should be (level, sphere of power, etc.), and I review, and make adjustments, as I deem fit.  Then, of course, I decide if their deity will approve it, or not.

One player created Improved Thought Capture:  instead of just pulling the strongest thought out of the air around him, this spell allows him to review all thoughts in the area, and select the one thought he is interested in, to fully capture.  I bumped the level up by three -- it is normally a 1st level spell, which I find ridiculously low...  He has used 1st level  Thought Capture to successfully identify a main villain, much sooner than I had anticipated; he has also used the regular, 1st level, Thought Capture, to pick the villain's brain (after a close encounter with him), and learn his motivations much sooner than I had planned...  Still, it makes for incredible role playing opportunities.  One time we played without him, and one of the other players exclaimed, "We need [Character's Name] here, NOW!"  They were desperate for information as to what was going on, and without the ability to cast the first level spell, Thought Capture, they feared they could not learn the vital information they needed to save their King from being assassinated (they managed to succeed, but it was much more difficult than they hoped it would be...).  It was great fun for all of us.

The purpose of Spell Libraries is to quantify the process of Spell Research.  It also makes it fun for all of us (the Players get to create a title for their books, sell them, gain fame, and possibly a target on their backs...).  It also makes the world seem more real to them:  they find research books authored by NPC's they know, which makes the NPC seem to have more depth, as well as more believable; if they found a copy of one of their books, I think it would make them feel quite proud, as well as making the game world more real to them.  All good things, in my book!  Cheers!
« Last Edit: February 10, 2016, 10:53:10 AM by sgtslag »
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Offline Shiftkitty

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Re: Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2016, 09:37:08 AM »
That sounds great! I'm going to steal it. How about an author who may be able to convey his thoughts in writing well enough but is so far off-base with his magical theory that the book is worthless, even dangerous? Maybe he's a frustrated would-be mage who decides to publish without even testing his spells?
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Offline sgtslag

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Re: Spell Research - Anyone ever done it?
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2016, 12:46:08 PM »
Never thought of it...  That has some interesting RP potential -- especially if the author is still around, and still causing trouble/killing off young mages with his dangerous works?  Great idea!  Thank you!  Cheers!
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