Memorizing Spells with Assistance

'Conjure Maitz', 30" x 30", Oil on Masonite, ©1987 Don Maitz

Untested house rule for the White Sandbox:

If you can cast spells, you can prepare extra spells when you have assistance throughout the process of memorization.

One assistant of your own level can help you memorize an extra spell of the highest level you can cast. It is common for adventuring parties to help each other in this way.

You need an additional assistant for each level of spell below that. These old magics aren’t as interesting to you, you need more people involved to get excited about these lesser levels of mastery. In the picture to right we see a third-level magic-user who has recruited a dancing twin and an old carpet-scriber to inspire her to focus on charm person when she’d really rather fool around with knock. When she reaches fifth level, she will require one assistant to memorize an extra fireball, two to memorize an extra knock, and three to memorize an extra charm person.

Assistants must be compensated beforehand. At least one of your assistants must be a spellcaster of a level equal to the level of the spell you are trying to memorize. Zero level assistants will help for nothing beyond the services listed below; higher level assistants may be hirelings paid as per the Adventurer Conqueror King System rules, but will also require these services.

Lawful types traditionally cast a spell that serves the assistant’s goals. This must be done within a day and a night before the memorization takes place.

Neutral types traditionally give the assistant a page from a book which they have written or annotated. If the assistant is not happy with the page offered, they have the right to take a page at random from any of the spellcaster’s books; it is thus standard to negotiate carefully beforehand.

Chaotic types traditionally provide the assistant with a helpless living creature of hit dice equal to the assistant’s, and allow the assistant to do with this creature as they wish.

Other forms of recompense are possible, but these are known to satisfy the requirements of the ways of spellcasting.

The goal of these house rules is to further encourage characters to travel with an entourage, like how Gene Wolfe’s wizard-knight Abel accumulates squires and servants, and provide a way for the entourage to be doing interesting things in the preparing-to-go-into-a-dungeon phase of play. Note that if, as in ACKS, memorizing a spell means having it available to cast spontaneously, allowing these extra spells increases the caster’s flexibility but not their overall power level.

Next up: assistance for fighting men to increase their hit dice on similar principles.

7 Responses to “Memorizing Spells with Assistance”

  1. April 12, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Interesting idea. So if a fifth level mage wanted to memorize (or gain extra slots in ACKS), they would need 6 total assistants, 3 of them casters as well? All of them would need the recompense listed above plus expenses? Once you get beyond your hirelings limit the rest of your entourage would need to lurk in camp beyond the entrance to a dungeon?

    Does this work for divine casters as well?

    Very cool idea and another good money sink.

    Oh the neutral cost…is that pages of your spell book?

  2. April 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    @Micah, could you unpack how you counted up the number of assistants? I’ll let you know what I was thinking, but I also want to understand how you read it.

    But yes, all of the helpers need recompense, and yes, it works for divine casters as well. (Having lots of acolytes fits the image of clerics preparing miracles particularly well.)

    And a neutral assistant is going to want a page from your spellbook, right – you probably don’t want them choosing a random one, so it’s up to you to negotiate whether there is a page from another book (e.g. a tome of lore, an atlas of maps, etc.) or a specific spellbook page they’d take instead.

  3. April 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    “You need an additional assistant for each level of spell below that.”

    I read that as if you could cast…oh wait. Ok, if I can cast 3rd level spells I’d need one for level 3 spells and then 2 for level 2 spells and 1 for level 1 spells so maybe 4. Or did you mean a total of 3, one for each level of spells in total?

    The Neutral cost seems really really high, especially using Acks costs to replace your spells. Law and Chaos get it fairly easy by comparison. Also why would a zero level helper want a page from a spellbook?

    Regardless I really like the idea and love the image of a divine taster with acolytes assisting their prayers for more faith.

  4. 4 cr0m
    April 25, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    Tavis, I would really like you to reply to Micah. I’m also a bit confused by your wording of what seems like a really neat idea.

  5. April 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Thanks for the reminder!

    On assistants: I was thinking that it was like this (let’s assume a ninth level magic-user, able to cast 5th level spells):
    – Memorizing an additional 5th level spell requires one assistant of your own level, because this is your highest level spell.
    – Memorizing an additional 4th level spell requires two assistants – one extra for the difference from your highest.
    – Memorizing an additional 3rd level spell requires three assistants – two extra (5 – 3 = 2)
    – Memorizing an additional 2nd level spell requires four assistants
    – Memorizing an additional 1st level spell requires five assistants

    In retrospect I’m not sure it makes any sense to make it more difficult to add your lowest level spells, except for the nice idea that your oldest spells are the most boring to have to concentrate on.

    On pages from books:
    The idea is that a Neutral mage might be benevolent – “here, you will enjoy this page of erotic etchings of nymphs and satyrs, with my notes on where they might be found, O zero-level helper” – or might be conniving, offering a page from a book of false treasure maps, but that either way it was based on a contract. It’s based on the idea that spellcasters have lots of books around in addition to their spellbook. Both this and the Chaotic one would benefit from having costs of ordinary books and creatures worked out.

  6. 6 Adam
    April 27, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Tavis, I might consider completely reversing the number of assistants needed–a single assistant for level 1, 2 for level 2, etc. This would mean that a low-level magic-user can get full assistance from one buddy (maybe not even an apprentice), but a ninth-level magic-user needs a whole school of assistants, with apprentices and apprentices of apprentices, in order to get the bonus high-level spells and mid-level spells. If the design is to make high-level wizards not bother with low-level bonus spells, it works, but… except for the amusement value of the boredom argument, I don’t think it gets you much.

    On a different note: One of the things I really dislike in systems using Law-Neutral-Chaos as their core ethical conflict axis is using the labels “Law-Neutral-Chaos” but defining them to mean “Good-Neutral-Evil.” There’s nothing wrong with running a game where good versus evil matters. And there’s nothing wrong with running a game where the conflict is between Law and Chaos. But if you say the conflict is between Law and Chaos, it should feel like Law and Chaos, not Good and Evil. When Chaos is defined as wanting helpless living creatures, presumptively for sacrifice or abusive domination, and Law is defined as exchanging a helpful spell–that sure sounds like Evil versus Good. If it’s really about Law versus Chaos, I’d expect to see Lawful magic-users “traditionally receive assistants through bonds of loyalty, fealty, apprenticeship, or slavery; many Lawful magic-users provide their assistants with defense, magical assistance, training, or the like in exchange for their assistance, often with explicit contracts. Others enslave their assistants, binding them to service.” Chaotic assistants might be motivated by curiosity, ever different and changing experiences, or a lark, or might want to participate in the orgiastic and hedonistic wildness of a Chaotic assistance session (with consequent expenses for high-quality drugs, music players, or whatever).

    Too often Law versus Chaos is presented as Lawful Good versus Chaotic Evil. There’s nothing wrong with that axis of conflict, but call it what it is, and if you want a shorthand, Good versus Evil is much pithier and more accessible than Law versus Chaos. Law versus Chaos only actually adds value if it’s not about Good versus Evil, just about Law versus Chaos.

  7. April 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    @Adam: Since high-level spellcasters are the ones meant to be employing henchmen by the rest of the game anyway, your revision is superior.

    About Law and Chaos, I’m thinking here of an Anderson/Moorcock reading, in which a Faerie Queen might make a servitor’s enslavement delightful, or Elric might set free his gift-creature with a bleak musing on his cruel heritage. In general I find pith and accessibility lead to arguments about alignment. Some mystification about what the terms actually mean – like how Good and Evil are defined only through what spells do – helps leave room for individual groups to find an interpretation they like or write off the whole business. I prefer a fuzzy and inconsistent approach preferable to a rationalized, clarified one. This is definitely a matter of taste, however, and one could adopt Good and Evil as the terms here or design other systems to express different visions of alignment.

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Past Adventures of the Mule

April 2012

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