Saturday, October 5, 2019

Spell Organization and Presentation

I know I've blogged about this before years ago, but I'm blogging about it again.

In the old days, spells were presented and described in lists separated by caster class, and also divided into sections by spell level. More modern versions of the game like to just stick them all on a big old alphabetical list.

The advantage of the latter system is that spells listed that way are in a general reference format. Especially when you have lots of classes that cast spells and there is a lot of overlap between the lists, it makes sense to do this. It saves space because spells don't need to be repeated. It's not hard to find that spell. Just look it up alphabetically.

I find though, that playing a spellcaster is more difficult this way. Presenting spells divided up by level allows me to easily focus on the beginning spells that are or could be available to my character without having to flip around through a bunch of random pages to compare my options. The old school way is a better learning tool. The new school way is more convenient for veteran gamers.

I've tended to stick to the old school method even though the games I've produced have really been targeted at veteran players. And I've noticed some other retro-clones go with the newer method of spell entry.

For TSR (West) at the moment I have the spells divided up the old school way. But if a spell is on another class list (Cleric default, then Magic-User) I don't write it up again. I have a note in the list of spells to look it up under the other class/level. Bards don't have any unique spells. Every Bard spell in TSR is either originally from the Cleric or Magic-User list. So it's probably pretty inconvenient for Bards, actually.

In TSR-East, especially with Mudang and Sohei sharing so many spells, I want to avoid this. So I'm going to be splitting the difference in TSR-East, and when I have time, re-editing my TSR house rules document in this way.

Spells will still be divided up by level, but all spells from every class will be lumped into that section together. All 1st level spells from every class will be presented together alphabetically.

There will be a bit of repetition. Hold Person and Dispel Magic, for example, are different levels for Clerics and Magic-Users (and my TSR-East classes). And I'll either have to include them twice or stick notes to look for them at the lower level spell list. I'll probably go ahead and list them twice, since the point is to be able to see all the spells of a certain level together.

Hopefully this will make the spells easy to learn, but also easy enough to reference when needed.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. I wouldn't want to join any illuminati that would admit me as a member.

  2. Yes, I much prefer how spells are presented in the 1e PHB, sorted by class and spell level.