Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised: Introductory Guidelines

Well, the "maybe" I postulated a few weeks back has become a "definitely". In fact, an almost-finished-draft "definitely".

My main goals with this revised edition are firstly to reformat the book as A5 (my preferred format nowadays) and secondly to improve the thematic consistency and usability of the content. One thing in particular that I wanted to improve over the original edition of Theorems & Thaumaturgy were the guidelines for integrating all the new spells and classes into campaigns. To that end, I've written several pages of ideas and optional rules which will, hopefully, really help clarify the different approaches which are possible and their pros and cons.

Here's the complete text of that section, as it stands. If anyone has any feedback, please feel free to comment! (The formatting below is a bit odd... The cut & paste from the document apparently didn't work that well.)

Using This Book

You Now Have in Your Possession Over 200 New Spells

This is a book, primarily, full of spells. Hopefully, after having a browse, you'll feel inspired to start using all this new material in your campaign, but how to go about this? That depends primarily on whether you're starting a new campaign or already running one. Below are some guidelines for each of those situations.

If you want to integrate this material in an existing campaign, the two most obvious approaches are:
  • Introduce one or more of the new classes (elementalist, necromancer, vivimancer) as members of a school of wizardry from a region which the players haven't explored. These wizards may be directly encountered by the player characters (as friendly, neutral, or antagonistic NPCs) or may be spoken of in rumours or adventure hooks. Once the new classes are known to exist in the setting, they become available as an option for any future player characters that are created.
  • An alternative way to use this book is simply as a resource for new spells. If you want to follow this approach, simply ignore the classes and their spell lists and make all of the new spells available for use by standard magic-users (or druids, clerics, illusionists – as you wish). New spells can easily be introduced by putting scrolls or spell books in the hands of player characters: as gifts from mentors, as rewards for missions accomplished, or discovered in the treasure hoards of defeated enemies.
For Labyrinth Lords who are starting a new campaign, two further options are available:
  • The new classes in this book may simply be added to the roster of choices available to players when creating their characters at the start of the campaign.
  • When preparing for a campaign, it is also worth considering that an excellent way of imparting a specific and novel flavour to the milieu is to alter or restrict the classes of adventurer which exist (and thus the classes from which the players may choose when creating their characters). A very interesting potential, then, is to imagine a world where standard spell-casting classes do not exist, being replaced by one or more of the classes from this book. A world where vivimancers are the only type of arcane practitioner, for example, takes on a very different tone and has very different possibilities than a world dominated by the standard fireball-slinging mage. Or, perhaps, the wizards of a certain kingdom may all be known to be necromancers, while the neighbouring land only allows the practice of imperially sanctioned elemental magic. This kind of approach can really breathe new life into the game.

The Elementalist, Necromancer, and Vivimancer Classes

Each of these three new classes is presented in its own section. However, no mechanical details (e.g. saving throw or to-hit charts, prime requisites, lists of allowed armaments, etc.) are specified. It is assumed that these classes perform and advance in exactly the same manner as the standard magic-user class, with the one (albeit major) difference being the replaced spell list.

A Note on Spell References

In the spell lists for the new classes, the symbols (C), (D), (I), and (MU) are used to denote spells drawn from the standard cleric, druid, illusionist, and magic-user lists, respectively.

Specialist Wizards in the Campaign

The basic Labyrinth Lord rules describe a single type of arcane magic, usable by magic-users and elves. The Advanced Edition Companion and other books, such as this, add further, more specialised wizardly classes: illusionists, elementalists, necromancers, etc. In campaigns with multiple different types of arcane spell-caster (i.e. wizards), it pays to give some thought to how they inter-relate, both in terms of their place in the society of the imagined world and in terms of how the classes interact with each other on a mechanical level. This section discusses some issues around the latter point; the society of your campaign world is in your hands alone!

Casting Spells From Other Spell Lists

It is important that the Labyrinth Lord consider to what degree characters of the different wizardly classes are able to use spells from the other spell lists. Traditionally, in Advanced era games, the two types of arcane spell-caster – illusionists and magic-users – practised entirely different kinds of magic and, apart from a few areas of overlap, were unable to cast spells from each other's list.
Characters of each of the classes presented in this book are designed to be competent adventurers in their own right, with a different balance of strengths and weaknesses when compared to classical magic-users. They are able to stand on their own and do not require access the standard magic-user spell list. Some Labyrinth Lords may, however, prefer there to be less strict boundaries between the different types of wizard, with some possibility of casting spells from each other's spell lists. If this is allowed, it will clearly increase the power of each class to a significant degree, as they will gain access to a broader selection of spells and types of magic. Some possible approaches in this direction, listed in ascending order of permissiveness, are described below. Whatever is decided, this should always be a two-way decision – standard magic-users must be treated in the same manner as all other types of wizard.
Fallible scroll-use: All types of wizard may cast scrolls of spells from other spells lists (for example, a magic-user may cast an illusionist scroll). They are unable to learn these “foreign” spells but have sufficient arcane knowledge to be able to activate magic encoded on scrolls. When casting such “off-list” spells from scrolls, there is a 10% chance of failure per level of the spell being cast. Failure indicates that the scroll is wasted or (if the Labyrinth Lord wishes) causes some kind of backfire. In this way, low-level spells may be cast fairly reliably but high-level spells will remain the sole province of the appropriate specialist.
Reliable scroll-use: Off-list scrolls may be cast without risk of failure. This allows the boundaries between the different types of specialist wizard to be blurred slightly, but only in the (presumably somewhat special) situation when magical scrolls are acquired as treasure.
Limited learning: In addition to allowing foreign spells to be cast from scrolls (either with or without a risk of failure), another possibility is to allow wizards to also learn a smattering of them – one per level of spells which can be cast. (For example, a 7th level wizard may cast spells of up to 4th level. Using these rules, she could thus learn four spells from specialist areas not covered by her standard spell list.) This system allows wizards to diversify their spell repertoire and have a few tricks up their sleeve, while maintaining the clear separation between the different types of specialist.
Reduced chance to learn: This is an option for games where the advanced “chance to learn spell” rules are used. Wizards may cast foreign spells from scrolls (as above, with or without a risk of failure) and may also attempt to learn an unlimited number of off-list spells, but with a reduced chance of success. A penalty (-25%, for example) is applied to the chance to learn foreign spells. The Labyrinth Lord may also stipulate the additional requirement of a period of research (one week per spell level, perhaps at a cost of 250gp per week). Under this system, it is likely that wizards will end up having a significant number of off-list spells in their spell books, as their careers progress. This is the most flexible system before the boundaries between different wizardly classes are collapsed completely.

Placing Spells in Treasure Hoards

It is assumed that all classes of wizard acquire new spells in the same means as the standard magic-user: by finding spell books or scrolls in treasure hoards. Ideally, then, the number of spells discovered which can be cast by each type of wizard should be (roughly) balanced. When it is determined that a treasure hoard contains scrolls of magic-user spells, it is desirable that spells usable by specialist wizards also be (at least some of the time) present.
One way of handling this is to multiply the number of spells present in the hoard (as indicated by the treasure tables) by the total number of wizardly classes in the campaign, then to give each spell an equal (random) chance of being taken from the list of each class. For example, in a campaign with magic-users, elementalists, and illusionists, the number of spells found in a hoard would be multiplied by three and each spell would have a 1 in 3 chance of being taken from the standard magic-user list, a 1 in 3 chance of coming from the illusionist list, and a 1 in 3 chance of being from the elementalist list. The Labyrinth Lord ensures, in this way, that the balance of spells available to characters of different spell-using classes remains fair and consistent.
Note that, as some spells are shared between the different classes, these guidelines will, in fact, slightly increase the number of spells available. It is also worth bearing in mind that, even if an adventuring party discover scrolls of spells that they cannot cast themselves, such scrolls still have value and may be sold to or bartered with NPCs who can put them to use.

Spell Acquisition

This section contains optional guidelines for Labyrinth Lords on the subject of how wizardly characters may gain access to and learn new spells.
For games in the vein of the traditional Basic rules, the following guidelines may be used:
  • Wizards begin the game knowing read magic, one randomly selected spell from the appropriate class spell list, and one spell of the player's choice.
  • The number of spells a wizard can know (i.e. record in his spell book) is limited to no more than double the number that he can memorize. For example, a 5th level magic-user can memorize two 1st level, two 2nd level, and one 3rd level spell. Such a character could have at most four 1st level, four 2nd level, and two 3rd level spells in his spell book.
  • Upon gaining an experience level, if the wizard does not already have spells available to learn (e.g. from scrolls or captured spell books), he automatically acquires knowledge of one new spell, selected randomly from a level of the player's choosing.
Design Note: In the original Basic rules, magic-users and elves were limited to knowing one single spell at 1st level – not even read magic was “free”! – and could never record more spells in their spell books than the number they could memorize each day. Personally, while I find this system charming in its simplicity, I feel it is too restrictive and use the system described above in my own games. Other groups may, however, prefer to stick with the original rules.
Advanced era games are more generous with the number of spells known and may use the following guidelines:
  • Wizards begin the game knowing read magic, two randomly selected spells from the appropriate class spell list, and two spells of the player's choice.
  • The number of spells a wizard can know (i.e. record in his spell book) is limited by the character's INT (see the AEC).
  • Upon gaining an experience level, if the wizard does not already have spells available to learn (e.g. from scrolls or captured spell books), he automatically acquires knowledge of one new spell, selected randomly from a level of the player's choosing. This spell must be learnt according to the normal rules for spell learning, again dependent on the character's INT.


  1. If/when I finally get around to finishing The Advanced Illusionist, I may poach much of this (with attribution, and after discussing it, of course).

    1. It would be an honour! Get in touch when the time comes and we can discuss :)