Memorized spell management: rapid spell selection and tracking


Advice


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Here's my problem: it takes too long to select spells from my spell book, track them, and pass those spell lists off to others in case I have to leave a game early (e.g., this weekend, the power went out at home).

Let's assume that I already know what spells I want. The issue is not selecting spells, but getting those selections recorded in seconds rather than minutes. This includes completely changing out spells that were memorized the previous day, which means I need a system for un-marking previous spells as well as rapidly marking new ones.

I am serious about seconds. I can easily delay the game and I don't want to do that. To date, I've been working with general-purpose spells and only a handful of change-outs for specialized needs because that is fast, but we're at a point (CL9) where that is not a good strategy because our encounters require spells tailored to what we are doing and facing.

Right now, accounting is the barrier to game success and I am making mistakes.

Here's what I've tried that doesn't work for me. I recognize that what does or does not work for me is not the same as what does and does not work for other people.


    1. Pen and paper. Too slow. Too much flipping. Takes too long to review the list of what I have memorized. Gets messy fast. Checking boxes requires erasing. Re-writing from scratch takes too long.

    2. HeroLab. It's awesome in general and I love it. But spell management is DOA. Too many mouse clicks, too much clicking and flipping between tabs and screens, and too much scrolling. It takes too long.

    3. Spreadsheets. Marginally better than #2. It's a great hammer, and a lot of the world can be forced into nails, but this isn't one of them. I've not found a good way to automate spell selection in a way that I can do it quickly. But, I don't think I've exhausted this yet.


What looks promising:

    1. Spell cards. This would solve just about everything. If you use these, how do they work for you? What are the drawbacks? I don't want to pre-judge based on my assumptions.

    2. Another program that isn't HeroLab that does spell management better. I don't know what that program is. Maybe you do.

    3. That thing I don't know about that you are doing. Tell me about the thing!

Help!


I've personally used spell cards and I think they work out pretty well. The 2 "big" issues that I have come across:

1) I need a way to organize the cards for switching them out. I use one of those index card cases with index card tabs to keep them in order alphabetically.

2) I had to make a couple of "extras" for spells that I frequently prep multiple times a day. I suppose it's not needed because I could just have a sticky note or something telling me what I've used, but I prefer to have the thought "it's in my hand, so I can use it". If it's a spontaneous spell (like clerics with Cure spells), I have them on different colored cards and just put down another card of the same spell level to represent the loss of the prepared spell.

Neither of these are really big problems, but they added an extra cost on my end, so not the most budget friendly solution. I would also like to warn that it didn't cut down much on spell prep time, but it definitely keeps the game moving, especially if you have all the key info of the spells on each card (target, duration, saves, etc.).


Oh! 1 more beneficial thing about the spell cards! If the game has to end mid adventuring day/battle, you can just take the cards you haven't used and shove them off to the side until next session.


Thanks, Link. Do you have a preferred source for spell cards? Printing isn't an issue, though flexibility on layout would be helpful.


One of the things I have done with my prepared casters is to setup lists of spells memorized. Create a list of spells based on what the situation is. Have a base list of spells memorized and then create one for different types of scenarios. Maybe something like, general spells, traveling spells, downtime spells, combat spells, social encounter spells, town spells. You could also have lists based on specific creatures and environments. So if the campaign is heavy on undead have an undead list. If a lot of your campaign takes place underground have an underground list.

Use a spread sheet with each list being a separate tab. Each time you change your spells simply copy the tab and make any changes you want and rename the tab current spells. This may seem like a lot of work, but not only does it make spell selection faster, it makes it more efficient. By creating the list in advance you can actually take time to think out what spells will be more useful in the situation. This gives you a chance to really think what spells work in the situation and plan out strategy based on what you will be facing.


Mysterious Stranger wrote:
One of the things I have done with my prepared casters is to setup lists of spells memorized. Create a list of spells based on what the situation is. Have a base list of spells memorized and then create one for different types of scenarios. Maybe something like, general spells, traveling spells, downtime spells, combat spells, social encounter spells, town spells. You could also have lists based on specific creatures and environments. So if the campaign is heavy on undead have an undead list. If a lot of your campaign takes place underground have an underground list.

This is basically what I do. I've got lists for "general adventuring", "travel", and "research." I also generally have one or more flexible slots per spell level, and a list of things to fill those slots with. I put this sheet in a plastic sleeve, and can use a dry erase marker to mark off spells (either ones that have been cast, or ones from the "flexible" list that didn't get memorized.)

For spell trading, I have my spells typed out and separated by spell level. Source is listed, in case the other player doesn't have the right splatbook, and I've got a column for whether the spell can be learned by an alchemist or magus. Just hand the sheets to the next guy, and they can fairly easily look for what they want.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I prefer printing my spellbook.

Wheldrake is now a 12th level wizard, and between the spell listings themselves and the stat blocks for summoned creatures, I'm up to 6 pages. Each spell is a single line, with most of the relevant details included in the line.

To select spells for the day, I pencil in empty squares on the selected spells, then put a slash through the box when the spell is cast. I also have extra boxes for pearls of power, and for scrolls carried.

Spell cards would be too fiddly, I think. With this system, I can select spells for the day rather quickly, less than a minute I think. It's easy to see at a glance which spells are available for casting. Having so many pages is a slight inconvenience, but if I tried to abbreviate the list any further (say to fit all the levels on a single page) then I wouldn't have space for the relevant info for each spell, and would have to spend a lot more time on my turns.


Kali Nassim wrote:
Thanks, Link. Do you have a preferred source for spell cards? Printing isn't an issue, though flexibility on layout would be helpful.

For customization purposes, I sort of made my own for the Druid I have been doing this for. I use Word's custom page size (5" width, 3" height) and margins (.2 around) and have access to a pretty decent printer. Otherwise I was considering using PRJ's solution for my upcoming Arcanist, as it took a pretty decent amount of time to get everything looking how I wanted with word for nearly all of the druids spells up to spell level 6.


I don't know if it has everything but you might try Perrem's Spellbook for making your cards.

EDIT: doesn't have everything but does have a custom card creation tool as well if needed.

Grand Lodge

I have started to use pathbuilder to manage spells. I have found it to be pretty easy even on may shaman that uses multiple lists.


I have a sheet of paper with my spells printed out along with other details (range, save DC, area of effect, etc.), one spell per line. Then I make a little horizontal pencil mark in front of memorized spells, and cross it off when I cast it.

It might get a little unwieldy once you get to a second page, but you can fit 40-50 spells on a page easily enough.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

For wizards, I use a spreadsheet with spells sorted alphabetically by level. The sheet has a few blanks lines for in case I add spells to my book during adventuring but otherwise I reprint it each time I level up.

The print out goes in a sheet protector and I check boxes with a wet-erase marker. Changing my loadout then is as easy as licking a papertowel or dipping it water and wiping down the sheet and checking off the list again. (30 seconds since for my wizards I generally know the spells well.)

The actual spell write-ups are in a notebook or in a word file on my tablet.

I've used spell cards in the past, but the shuffling and reorganizing especially when I was playing multiple campaigns got to be a nuisance so I switched.

Another thing that makes it easier is I generally have my in-town list and an adventuring list, that are premarked in the last column so when I am marking out spells for a day it becomes even simpler and I just have to decide if I'm swapping out specific spells. (Coordinating with other casters in the group during downtime helps as well.)

I also frequently take advantage (at higher levels) of the fact that you can reserve spell slots to be filled in later so if we come to face something that needs a customized magic to get past, we stop in game for a few minutes while the wizard prepares. At the table it takes only as long as it does to say that sentence.

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Clerics make this harder since they have a divine rolodex rather than an actual spellbook. For them, I again have my preset loadouts ready. While the group is investigating and gathering information about what we're going to face, I will research if any of my spells need to be swapped out.

If I'm handing off my character sheet, then I don't worry about having the perfect spell list picked out since it's a rare occurrence. Whatever spells I have selected is what I go from, and tell them that the next day we can swap spells if needed. Generally the other players will take the convenience of having things preselected over the best possible mix.


BishopMcQ wrote:
The print out goes in a sheet protector and I check boxes with a wet-erase marker. Changing my loadout then is as easy as licking a papertowel or dipping it water and wiping down the sheet and checking off the list again. (30 seconds since for my wizards I generally know the spells well.)

I like this a lot, too. I'm going to try both this and spell cards and see what works for me.

Mysterious Stranger wrote:
Use a spread sheet with each list being a separate tab. Each time you change your spells simply copy the tab and make any changes you want and rename the tab current spells. This may seem like a lot of work, but not only does it make spell selection faster, it makes it more efficient.

This worked for me for a while, but I am tracking our caravan (Jade Regent campaign), running the travel map, taking notes in Word, and also managing my character. I already bring two laptops to a session. I am literally out of screen real estate, and have too many spreadsheets running as it is.

It's a good method, though. If I didn't already have too many windows to keep track of, I'd be using it.

Grandlounge wrote:
I have started to use pathbuilder to manage spells. I have found it to be pretty easy even on may shaman that uses multiple lists.

I'll check this out. Thank you!


the easiest thing is what I do, have a spell list and some notation to know what the state of my spell list is at any time. It's a pen and paper solution using just abbreviated names but it covers most desirable spells zero to fifth level on one side and sixth through mythic on the back with various rolls and metamagics.
Color keys separate schools, DC bumps from feats and such, learned, opposed, etc. Pearls of power, arcane focus, school powers have their own lines/areas.
Notation is used for prepared(0), wands(W), scrolls(S), potion(P), active spells(0 with check or /) and expired(0 with X) spells.
The list also lets me target spells to acquire/learn.
I use it for wizards, clerics, sorcerers, bards, druids, magus, etc...
I've posted the basic pathfinder WizSor list as a pdf file on Pathfinder DFW facebook page.

I use a spell reference database for details, but spell cards would also work.


I went the spell card route for today's game and it was wonderful. I ended up creating my own, printed on Avery business cards, because I had more control over the content, specifically:

  • I wrote a script to parse and standardize the text for the spell header fields (using abbreviations to shorten the text, making existing abbreviations consistent, condensing text, etc)
  • Color-coding the cards by spell level (for the target class, in this case wizard), including a bleed off the end so that you can easily see which is which when they are stacked as a deck.

What I need to add are:

  • Cards to represent empty spell slots for a given level
  • Cards that represent multiple memorizations, to be stacked with the spell card (I think a card with the numbers 2 and 3 on once side, and 4 and 5 on the other, which can be oriented to have the correct number right-side up)
  • Cards to represent meta-magic, to be stacked with the target card
  • A card with a table of close, medium, and long range distances by CL.

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