No More Vanician Magic


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One of the biggest issues that I see is that Vanician Magic is largly still being used im this edition. It is a system that was developed in the 1970's as one of the first magic system and is overly complicated and does not make sense. Due to these factors, most groups put alternative versiins in place where a spell only has to be memorized once. Vanician Magic also creates a high barrier to entry for new players and will hit you in your income.

It is simpler to have all the spell casting classes know and/or be able to prepare a certain number of spells.

All classes should be able to heighten current spells available to a higher slot. The spells have been rebalanced in this system and can accomidate this.

It is also good that cantrips are unlimited cast and scale, just as a weapon can be attacked with limitlessly and scales in this system. It would be a balance issue that punishes players for no reason if it wasn't this way.

Degrees of success as is is pretty awesome and lends more variety to outcome.

Here is a funny read that puts how ridiculous Venecianabic is:
https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/VancianMagic


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Isiah.AT wrote:
Due to these factors, most groups put alternative versiins in place

Do they? I haven't really heard mention of anyone doing it. Honest question. It's also not something I've seen players struggle with, though I guess those who do might just be the people who pick spont casters, so maybe?


I’d say it’s a small barrier to entry, since it’s not the way that magic works in most popular fiction. But it’s been a part of D&D and related properties for so long that it’d be weird to change it now. I do prefer the system the arcanist uses for wizard magic, but I guess it’s not for everyone.


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Gug on the Silver Mountain wrote:
Isiah.AT wrote:
Due to these factors, most groups put alternative versiins in place
Do they? I haven't really heard mention of anyone doing it. Honest question. It's also not something I've seen players struggle with, though I guess those who do might just be the people who pick spont casters, so maybe?

My first group used besm's dynamic casting system. It's honestly pretty broken and a lot of rolling, but it's really fun, and feels more like how magic in an anime or fantasy novel might work. I've heard of a lot of groups using true sorcery, or converting vancian to psionic mechanics. I think saying most was an overexaggeration, but a lot of people definitely aren't crazy about prepared casting.


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I so wish the Arcana Evolved (Monte Cook) spell system were still being used in a supported FRPG.


Lol don't type fair sized post on your phone. It is Vancian Magic. As far as people using it in this edition, I would not know. I was referencing other systems that have used it.

Granted, any game with roots in D&D is going to have Vancian Magic in some form. Example being spell slots.

Don't get me wrong, magic in general is resource management.


Joe Mucchiello wrote:
I so wish the Arcana Evolved (Monte Cook) spell system were still being used in a supported FRPG.

A fair amount of people had been using a magic system similar to 5e since 2e.


Isiah.AT wrote:
One of the biggest issues that I see is that Vanician Magic is largly still being used im this edition. It is a system that was developed in the 1970's as one of the first magic system and is overly complicated and does not make sense.

It's magic: no system makes sense.

Isiah.AT wrote:

Due to these factors, most groups put alternative versiins in place where a spell only has to be memorized once.

Do they now? Any hard numbers. Consdering how it's still going strong after 40 years it can't be too badly off.

Isiah.AT wrote:

Vanician Magic also creates a high barrier to entry for new players

Really? How is it harder than, say, psionics? Or Ars Magica's system?

Isiah.AT wrote:


It is simpler to have all the spell casting classes know and/or be able to prepare a certain number of spells.

That is what Vancian casting does.

Isiah.AT wrote:


Here is a funny read that puts how ridiculous Venecianabic is:
https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/VancianMagic

Any point that has to be made with TV Tropes is instantly suspect, and the actual page doesn't make any good arguments for your position.


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Vancian magic's main point is that spells are fire and forget. It makes no sense. It is also worth ppinting out that just because something is funny or a trope doesn't mean the argument is suspect or wromg. Both are commonly used to make valid points.


Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Isiah.AT wrote:
One of the biggest issues that I see is that Vanician Magic is largly still being used im this edition. It is a system that was developed in the 1970's as one of the first magic system and is overly complicated and does not make sense.

It's magic: no system makes sense.

Isiah.AT wrote:

Due to these factors, most groups put alternative versiins in place where a spell only has to be memorized once.

Do they now? Any hard numbers. Consdering how it's still going strong after 40 years it can't be too badly off.

Isiah.AT wrote:

Vanician Magic also creates a high barrier to entry for new players

Really? How is it harder than, say, psionics? Or Ars Magica's system?

Isiah.AT wrote:


It is simpler to have all the spell casting classes know and/or be able to prepare a certain number of spells.

That is what Vancian casting does.

Isiah.AT wrote:


Here is a funny read that puts how ridiculous Venecianabic is:
https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/VancianMagic

Any point that has to be made with TV Tropes is instantly suspect, and the actual page doesn't make any good arguments for your position.

Magic is actually logical and formulaic in d&d derived systems. Why spells do very specific things.

Swords worked for thousands of years until guns were invented. Just because something is old doesn't make it good. Kinda like using horses as a main form of transportation in a city.


I don't get your complaint now - first you say that the magic system doesn't make sense, then you say it does. Huh?

But why does another system do this better?
You can certainly make systems that are more flexible and do stuff differently, but I fail to see why these are inherently better. All it does is make something different. Fluff-wise, Vancian casting has been part of the various D&D game worlds since forever and changing it into something new requires a serious change in the game worlds. Look at some of the FR books that had to say "magic works differently now" to reconcile the changes, and they had a nigh-apocalypse that actually made the changes make some sort of sense in setting.


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Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:

It's magic: no system makes sense.

Lots of magic systems make sense(though pathfinder's isn't one of them.) Sense making = internal consistency, not necessarily just from following the rules things seem to follow in reality.


Joe Mucchiello wrote:
I so wish the Arcana Evolved (Monte Cook) spell system were still being used in a supported FRPG.

That was a fun magic system. I would not be surprised if it didn't have some measure of influence on 5e via Mike Mearls, who did freelance work with Malhavoc Press.


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I also don't like Vanician spells at all.
I'd like to use a bigger spell point pool and let pc to cast spells through costing points


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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Disliking Vancian casting is entirely a flavor argument. It is not an overly complicated system.

List of things that have been harder to teach new players than Vancian magic in PF1e:

1. What triggers attacks of opportunity, and when a 5 foot step is a good idea.

2. How to add up an attack roll.

3. Iterative attacks.

4. Natural attacks.

5. Multiclass BAB and saves.

6. Hardness.

7. Calculating cost of gear.

8. Arcane spell failure and the various spell components.

9. Combat maneuvers

10. Feat selection.


Corwin Icewolf wrote:
Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:

It's magic: no system makes sense.

Lots of magic systems make sense(though pathfinder's isn't one of them.) Sense making = internal consistency, not necessarily just from following the rules things seem to follow in reality.

How does it not makes sense?


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Add me to the list of people who are really upset to see that casters *still* have to prepare a single spell multiple times if they want to cast it more than once. I'm definitely one of those GMs who houserules that away at the very get go, and that was *before* P2 placed such drastic constraints on how many spells we get at each level!


Isiah.AT wrote:
Joe Mucchiello wrote:
I so wish the Arcana Evolved (Monte Cook) spell system were still being used in a supported FRPG.
A fair amount of people had been using a magic system similar to 5e since 2e.

5e magic is a subset of the full AE spell system. In addition to heightening spells, spells could be diminished, laden (cast one spell with 2 slots for added effect), cast with templates (a better metamagic system), etc.

PF and now PF2 are the only systems clinging to the old memorization ways.


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I'd like to chime in here too that Vancian casting, especially PREPARED vancian casting like wizards, is such a barrier for entry. The number of times I've had people ask if they really had to prepare a spell more than once to cast it more than once.

It's archaic, clunky, and doesn't resemble magic from anything these days except itself. It's called Vancian, but it's really just D&D magic at this point. Except even D&D itself has loosened it up in 5e.

I hardly expect this to CHANGE, but vancian casting is the biggest blessed bovine in the game at this point.

Also, Undercasting for spontaneous classes was turned down apparently due to decision paralysis, but prepared casting, where you need to prepare each and every spell you want to use each and every day in the right amounts gets to stay? But I guess wizards have that quick preparing feat now, so that's nice. Pity about people who can't get it.


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I'm always a bit surprised to see people railing against "Vancian magic" by saying that's not how magic works in fiction. Really we rarely see the same spell or effect repeated in multiple instances in most works. How do we know that Vancian magic is not at work? We don't. It's just an assumption that smart players make because they don't like the term for whatever reason. How many spells does Gandolph cast? How many are cast in infinite progression? Doctor Strange? Harry Dresden?


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

i'm 100% on board to tear the vancian wall down


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Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Corwin Icewolf wrote:
Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:

It's magic: no system makes sense.

Lots of magic systems make sense(though pathfinder's isn't one of them.) Sense making = internal consistency, not necessarily just from following the rules things seem to follow in reality.
How does it not makes sense?

Off The top of my head, silly arbitrary things like scrolls burning up for no reason when someone copies the writing on them into a spellbook. however, copying from a spellbook doesn't cause the page to burn up. Both a scroll and a spell book page are ink on paper. No internal consistency there.

Of course, now that I think about it, I can't really think of any more major examples, So maybe it's just scrolls that don't make sense.


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I much prefer the 5e way of doing things. Coming from 5e to this, it feels like I ended up in the stone age.


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Brother Fen wrote:
I'm always a bit surprised to see people railing against "Vancian magic" by saying that's not how magic works in fiction. Really we rarely see the same spell or effect repeated in multiple instances in most works. How do we know that Vancian magic is not at work? We don't. It's just an assumption that smart players make because they don't like the term for whatever reason. How many spells does Gandolph cast? How many are cast in infinite progression? Doctor Strange? Harry Dresden?

First off, since none of these characters ever say 'darn if only I had prepared X spell today', claiming that it IS vancian is more outrageous than saying it isn't. If you wanna say they're vancian, you'll have to present some proof of that. Also, Dresden I know specifically is explained as NOT being vancian.

"I didn't prepare this today" doesn't come up anywhere in most examples of fiction, and the ones it does are Vance, derivatives, or D&D.

"Well it COULD be vancian!" is reaching so hard you might as well be stretch armstrong.


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Corwin Icewolf wrote:
Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Corwin Icewolf wrote:
Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:

It's magic: no system makes sense.

Lots of magic systems make sense(though pathfinder's isn't one of them.) Sense making = internal consistency, not necessarily just from following the rules things seem to follow in reality.
How does it not makes sense?

Off The top of my head, silly arbitrary things like scrolls burning up for no reason when someone copies the writing on them into a spellbook. however, copying from a spellbook doesn't cause the page to burn up. Both a scroll and a spell book page are ink on paper. No internal consistency there.

Of course, now that I think about it, I can't really think of any more major examples, So maybe it's just scrolls that don't make sense.

Exactly. This isn't Vancian casting.

For the record, since some people don't seem to understand what Vancian casting actually is: it is magic being divided into discrete packages (spells) which must be specifically prepared ahead of time and are used up when cast.
Spells themselves are not Vancian, spell levels are not Vancian, spontaneous casters are not Vancian, and writing magic in books is not specifically Vancian.


Gug on the Silver Mountain wrote:
Isiah.AT wrote:
Due to these factors, most groups put alternative versiins in place
Do they? I haven't really heard mention of anyone doing it. Honest question. It's also not something I've seen players struggle with, though I guess those who do might just be the people who pick spont casters, so maybe?

When I was in my 20s, our groups tried all sorts of alternatives to Vancian magic - spell points, skill rolls with different difficulties, etc. In the end, we kept coming back to it because in the end it wasn't the most ideal but it still worked consistently. I think the tweaked Vancian systems that PF1, PF2, and D&D5 came up with all work well enough for their respective games that most people I know don't really care to go exploring for something else. In D&D5, we saw the optional spell point system in the DMG, and didn't even so much as blink to acknowledge it. As we got older, our tolerance for "fiddliness" and "radical systems" changed.


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ENHenry wrote:
As we got older, our tolerance for "fiddliness" and "radical systems" changed.

Honestly I've gone the reverse. While it doesn't sound like I've played as long as you, I played spontaneous casters, could never STAND prepared ones, and now I'm well and truly spoiled by Spheres of Power.

I can't go back now. It's too late for me.


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DeltaPangaea wrote:
ENHenry wrote:
As we got older, our tolerance for "fiddliness" and "radical systems" changed.

Honestly I've gone the reverse. While it doesn't sound like I've played as long as you, I played spontaneous casters, could never STAND prepared ones, and now I'm well and truly spoiled by Spheres of Power.

I can't go back now. It's too late for me.

Agreed. For PF, I tend to only play Spontaneous Casters, or Martials, though I stick pretty firmly to non-3pp material, but outside of PF, relevant to the options Henry listed of Spell points, modified Skill rolls, and Vancian, I have some experience with those in HERO system, where they allow for you to build spells in each manner, more or less, and I never have wanted to go with vancian over Spell points or Skill rolls. Now, for PF2e, vancian is a necessary evil, in my mind, given how much it's tied to the lore of Golarion, but for preferred magic systems, it doesn't even rank, for me.


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Okay so stupid question.

What are systems that have spell casting and don't have Vanician magic? This isn't an insult or anything just that my own experience is minor with only 2 other systems and those were so far long ago and no spell casters that I don't know how they limited them.

I just hear "No Vanician" and think "Okay so how is Magic Limited in that system. I mean are they balanced to cast spells all day?".

I'd like some place to start with for alternate examples. I tried GRUPS but... that's something weird. I see HERO system so I might look at that. But I think I saw that a few years ago and I just thought it looked like GRUPS just in a different flavor.


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Shadowrun uses drain, you take and roll to resist stun damage when you cast spells.


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shadowrun magic system is by far my favorite, it just makes perfect sense to me. so I do believe that you can create a magic system that is logical or at the very least is consistant within the rules of the world.

except for the wierd DCs, i thought there was a nice backbone to the 3.5 epic magic system.

D&D magic system has never really made sense, it's functional, but yeah it doenst make a lick of sense.


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MerlinCross wrote:

Okay so stupid question.

What are systems that have spell casting and don't have Vanician magic? This isn't an insult or anything just that my own experience is minor with only 2 other systems and those were so far long ago and no spell casters that I don't know how they limited them.

I just hear "No Vanician" and think "Okay so how is Magic Limited in that system. I mean are they balanced to cast spells all day?".

I'd like some place to start with for alternate examples. I tried GRUPS but... that's something weird. I see HERO system so I might look at that. But I think I saw that a few years ago and I just thought it looked like GRUPS just in a different flavor.

In d20 you have psionics, there's a vancian to psionics homebrew conversion somewhere. I know a lot of people don't like psionics but I find it more elegant and balanced overall, even if there are some problem powers.

You have besm d20's dynamic spellcasting, though I don't know where you'd find it legally since the publishing company that made it croaked. Anyway besm put fun and concept ahead of game balance every time, So you'd have to look elsewhere if you wanted a balanced system. It uses drain damage when they cast spells, they kept the wizard's unlimited spell slots allowing the wizard to cast any spell he knows. Sorcerer is still limited, but gets drain resistance to a certain amount. Clerics have all their spells, the balancing act for them is that all their spells take a round to manifest.

There's true sorcery, which has spell effects as skills you can put ranks in. I'm not sure I entirely remember how it works, but iirc you might have for instance detect magic as a skill and be able to cast arcane sight with that skill when you have enough ranks to meet the dc. There was drain in it as well, sorry I can't remember better, I'll see if I can find my pdf of it for a better summary.

There's spheres of power, which has an SRD wiki at http://spheresofpower.wikidot.com tbh it reminds me of a kineticist with spell points being used instead of drain, the way you get one basic ability with each sphere, and can expand on it with other abilities.

Those are the big ones I know of.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

It is weird to me how so many people think Vancian style casting doesn't make sense. I can understand not preferring it, but the system gets to right it's own metaphysical rules on how magic works.

The actual magic is far too complex or consuming to be performed on the go, and instead A wizard when preparing for the day casts these spells and stores the completed spell within their body/soul until they execute a much simpler more basic spell (or the completion of it) to trigger it's release and final casting. People might not like this method but it makes perfect sense. For Spontaneous casters the magic is simply already written in them on a permanent (semi-permanent i guess) or fundamental level, and thus simply needs the final casting and magical energy release. (Why Bards are spontaneous with this explanation... well they were not in DnD2e, but w/e it works)


Lady Melo wrote:

It is weird to me how so many people think Vancian style casting doesn't make sense. I can understand not preferring it, but the system gets to right it's own metaphysical rules on how magic works.

The actual magic is far too complex or consuming to be performed on the go, and instead A wizard when preparing for the day casts these spells and stores the completed spell within their body/soul until they execute a much simpler more basic spell (or the completion of it) to trigger it's release and final casting. People might not like this method but it makes perfect sense. For Spontaneous casters the magic is simply already written in them on a permanent (semi-permanent i guess) or fundamental level, and thus simply needs the final casting and magical energy release. (Why Bards are spontaneous with this explanation... well they were not in DnD2e, but w/e it works)

Basically, until 4e d&d there weren't any rules for a wizard taking the time to cast them slowly if he wanted to.

And sorcerers just waking up one day with new spells in their head is weird. It sort of makes sense in true vancian magic where spells are quasi entities that are basically chained up in the caster' s mind I guess, but I'm not sure that's how it works on Golarion


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MerlinCross wrote:

Okay so stupid question.

What are systems that have spell casting and don't have Vanician magic? This isn't an insult or anything just that my own experience is minor with only 2 other systems and those were so far long ago and no spell casters that I don't know how they limited them.

Ars Magica casters can basically cast spells all day, but they have to roll to see if they can cast the spell successfully, and see if they can avoid fatigue. Fatigue gives nasty penalties to rolls and too much leaves you unconscious. Then you have botching, Warping (magic warps your very being, leaving you more prone to bad stuff), and Twilight (basically higher level of magical existence that you get stuck in when you botch really badly).

Mage: the Ascension can cast all day long so long as they don't botch their rolls. They do have to worry about Paradox, which means you don't want to use magic and certainly not the flashy stuff.

L5R shugenja are basically sorcerers, except their spell slots are tied to their Rings (combination ability scores) and they have to roll to see if they succeed.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Corwin Icewolf wrote:
Lady Melo wrote:

It is weird to me how so many people think Vancian style casting doesn't make sense. I can understand not preferring it, but the system gets to right it's own metaphysical rules on how magic works.

The actual magic is far too complex or consuming to be performed on the go, and instead A wizard when preparing for the day casts these spells and stores the completed spell within their body/soul until they execute a much simpler more basic spell (or the completion of it) to trigger it's release and final casting. People might not like this method but it makes perfect sense. For Spontaneous casters the magic is simply already written in them on a permanent (semi-permanent i guess) or fundamental level, and thus simply needs the final casting and magical energy release. (Why Bards are spontaneous with this explanation... well they were not in DnD2e, but w/e it works)

Basically, until 4e d&d there weren't any rules for a wizard taking the time to cast them slowly if he wanted to.

And sorcerers just waking up one day with new spells in their head is weird. It sort of makes sense in true vancian magic where spells are quasi entities that are basically chained up in the caster' s mind I guess, but I'm not sure that's how it works on Golarion

Golarion uses a "vancian styled" version of their own fluff, not a copy of the Vanian system, simply inspired by.

Technically, you could do a partial preparation with remaining spell slots that were unfilled, "Long casting" is using that rule and then immediately releasing the spell, using some of the energy you possess that was not yet shaped in to a spell (spell slots). This is basically as described on pg.218 of the PF1 core rulebook under prepared spell retention (I supposed they are stored in the mind specifically). Very Similar description is provided in other Dnd core edition books.

The sorcerer doesn't "just wake up" knowing the spell as much as the wizard wakes up with 2 more spells magically in his book, or the next day any class " just has" a class feature. This is the part of the game where you apply some of the roleplaying element in its namesake, and is discussed in the DMG/Game mastery guide of many editions on how to play it out as opposed to have it just happen. However it is true many play a style that ignores all of that and skips right to "you have it"

The sorcerer likely pushed their limits in actual adventure and recieved some kind of inspiration to dig deeper in their bloodline and find new potential or possibilities now that they have expanded the capacity of their magic. (Or w/e fluff you go with)

Scarab Sages

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Just to voice an opinion for paizo to see, I would love for 2e to break free from vancian magic. I mean, we've got spell points and "powers" already now, take it a step further and make all spells use a spell point system.

You gain a pool if spell points equal to your level plus casting score. First level spells cost 1pt, 2nd level spells cost 2, ect. At level 3 you could have 7 spell points just by having 18 INT, this leads to the ability to cast 2 2nd level spells and 3 1st level ones, just like the current system.

Wizards can cast any spells in their spellbooks while sorcerers have limited known spells but receive 2x their CHA modifier as bonus spell points from their increased ability to draw the magic out of their bloodline with raw force of will. This makes wizards far more flexible than a sorcerer, but the sorcerer can cast what few spells it knows far more often, hopefully useful to the encounter.

Grand Lodge

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Brother Fen wrote:
I'm always a bit surprised to see people railing against "Vancian magic" by saying that's not how magic works in fiction. Really we rarely see the same spell or effect repeated in multiple instances in most works. How do we know that Vancian magic is not at work? We don't. It's just an assumption that smart players make because they don't like the term for whatever reason. How many spells does Gandolph cast? How many are cast in infinite progression? Doctor Strange? Harry Dresden?

Gandalf channels his magic more than he casts it in any fashion similar to Vancian. In fact, from the books and movies, he is more like the next two. (With the added bonus of being an angel)

Doctor Strange (in the comics) goes and checks his tomes to make sure he doesn't mess up a spell, or to try and figure out how to cast them, not because he forgets them. He is often seen casting spells like "the Crimson Bands of Cytorak" multiple times. In the movies he just keeps moving energy around (which is exactly what the Ancient One described magic as).

Harry Dresden's magic is EXPLICITLY described as not being Vancian. It actually drains the caster and can actually cause them to pass out if they put too much power into it, unless they can draw from a different source (like in Storm Front). In fact, casting a couple of powerful spells has nearly killed Harry.

Personally, I think Playtest HAS a better magic system already built in. Two of them actually. Powers could EASILY be expanded to cover ALL spells that a mage would use on a regular basis. Rituals would cover those spells that are EPIC in nature (Wish, Miracle).

How would it work in practice?

I would say that Bards would add their Stat Mod each level. Druids and Paladins could probably do the same. Clerics and Wizards might add their mod+1 each level. Sorcerers would likely add their stat mod+5.

Reasoning: Bards, Paladins and Druids have a great deal more going on than just spells, but I could see Druids being moved to the same category as Clerics. Clerics and Wizards get a great deal of flexibility in spells, being able to have more spells they would have access to. They just don't have as much raw power to keep casting them ad nauseum. Sorcerers have a limited number of spells they know, but they are power houses able to keep casting when other casters can't, unfortunately, that spell they can cast may not be the one they need.

Rituals are great, read up on them if you haven't. I would say that Bards, Clerics, and Wizards should have greater access to these based on the nature of the three classes.

Those are just my thoughts. Feel free to disagree.

Edit: Dang it, zer0darkfire snuck in and said what I wanted to in a slightly more succinct fashion.


zer0darkfire wrote:

Just to voice an opinion for paizo to see, I would love for 2e to break free from vancian magic. I mean, we've got spell points and "powers" already now, take it a step further and make all spells use a spell point system.

You gain a pool if spell points equal to your level plus casting score. First level spells cost 1pt, 2nd level spells cost 2, ect. At level 3 you could have 7 spell points just by having 18 INT, this leads to the ability to cast 2 2nd level spells and 3 1st level ones, just like the current system.

Wizards can cast any spells in their spellbooks while sorcerers have limited known spells but receive 2x their CHA modifier as bonus spell points from their increased ability to draw the magic out of their bloodline with raw force of will. This makes wizards far more flexible than a sorcerer, but the sorcerer can cast what few spells it knows far more often, hopefully useful to the encounter.

I'd be cool with this, although I feel like Sorcerer should have a BIT more than just an extra 4-5 points.

And letting wizards cast any spell they have in their book feels like a bit much. Maybe leave their preparation thing in place, but harshly limit the amount they can have prepared at once? Like X points worth of spell level. I dunno. Mostly just yeah, an extra 4-5 points isn't enough, that's not even one cast of higher level spells.


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DeltaPangaea wrote:
Brother Fen wrote:
I'm always a bit surprised to see people railing against "Vancian magic" by saying that's not how magic works in fiction. Really we rarely see the same spell or effect repeated in multiple instances in most works. How do we know that Vancian magic is not at work? We don't. It's just an assumption that smart players make because they don't like the term for whatever reason. How many spells does Gandolph cast? How many are cast in infinite progression? Doctor Strange? Harry Dresden?

First off, since none of these characters ever say 'darn if only I had prepared X spell today', claiming that it IS vancian is more outrageous than saying it isn't. If you wanna say they're vancian, you'll have to present some proof of that. Also, Dresden I know specifically is explained as NOT being vancian.

"I didn't prepare this today" doesn't come up anywhere in most examples of fiction, and the ones it does are Vance, derivatives, or D&D.

"Well it COULD be vancian!" is reaching so hard you might as well be stretch armstrong.

Agreed, though I would say you can also throw in Pathfinder fiction, too. In all the books, we never hear a character complain about not having prepared enough uses of this or that specific spell. We have characters either know a spell or not (a la Sorcerers). We have characters that are supposed to be divine casters; in which case, the novel treats practically every spell they can cast as something they can spontaneously cast (there's never a point where any divine casting character says "Oh darn, why didn't I pray for XXXX today?"). The closest we have to Vancian is still more Arcanist/5E, where the character either prepared the spell or didn't, he never says anything to the effect of "Oh darn, I only prepared that spell once; why didn't I prepare it twice?".


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My biggest gripe with Vancian magic is that it's built around daily usage, which causes everything else in the game to also run on uses-per-day, which I don't think is good for balance or narrative. I'd prefer to not have to stop and nap mid-adventure.

MerlinCross wrote:

Okay so stupid question.

What are systems that have spell casting and don't have Vanician magic? This isn't an insult or anything just that my own experience is minor with only 2 other systems and those were so far long ago and no spell casters that I don't know how they limited them.

I just hear "No Vanician" and think "Okay so how is Magic Limited in that system. I mean are they balanced to cast spells all day?".

I'd like some place to start with for alternate examples. I tried GRUPS but... that's something weird. I see HERO system so I might look at that. But I think I saw that a few years ago and I just thought it looked like GRUPS just in a different flavor.

There's a variety of ways, but a big part of it is to not make the spells way more powerful than everything else like it is in D&D. Useful and versatile with unique capabilities, sure, but not necessarily better at killing dudes than your party tank, and costing build points or other chargen resources that the muggle PCs will use to have broader mundane skillsets, better combat abilities, etc.

A few people have mentioned Shadowrun, which uses Drain. Casting a spell forces you to roll to resist stun damage. The more power you put into the spell, the more damage you have to resist. You can cast above your usual power limit, but then the damage changes from stun to lethal. A mage that gets too cocky may end up bleeding from the eyes and nose.

In Star Wars Saga Edition (the greatest of all D20 games) it cost a feat to have 1 + Wisdom modifier Force Powers, and you could take the feat multiple times as you leveled up to get more Force Powers. You could use each Force Power once per encounter. You could get back a used Power by spending a Force Point (which only refreshed when you leveled) or through special abilities you'd chosen or by rolling a natural 20 on a Use The Force skill check. How powerful they were depended on your Use The Force check (a CHA based skill, no dump stats in Saga) so it would increase as you went up in level but nowhere near as rapidly as spells in D&D do.

There's a bunch of systems like BESM and Savage Worlds that use Energy Points, Power Points, Mana, etc. It's a lot like the Spell Points optional rule: different spells cost different numbers of points, and you can decide which of the ones you know you want to cast more or less of. At least in those two systems, the rate at which you recover points is slow enough that it's basically the same thing as per-day usage.


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Honestly I don't like Vancian either.

Vancian not being in Starfinder allowed that game to just do so many QoL things for the Technomancer and Mystic that can't be done in 2e as they would make the Wizard feel underpowered.


I don't entirely get this thread. They make an option for Vancian haters. It's called the sorcerer. It works pretty well...?

I'm pretty sure everybody posting gets this point, so what is the real beef? People want more spells known? They'd rather have an int-casting sorcerer? Just curious.


Friendlyfish wrote:

I don't entirely get this thread. They make an option for Vancian haters. It's called the sorcerer. It works pretty well...?

I'm pretty sure everybody posting gets this point, so what is the real beef? People want more spells known? They'd rather have an int-casting sorcerer? Just curious.

Sorcorrer is non vancian sure but it still uses the DnD magic system which is an outlier compared to many spell systems in the genre, known spells and spell slots. Something like a spell points system better models casters who slowly run out of steam and can do either a lot of little things or one big thing. Something like spheres of power where you put together magic spells on the fly picking from known effects helps model a different thing as well. Also the generalist thing. The spell lists are broad so DnD style spellcasters end up with a very broad array of powers this isn't good for building a super focused character.

Obviously these can be worked around using the standard spellcasting but it's still odd and people are interested in different options.

Personally I'll probably just use Spheres of Power or maybe spheres of power 2e if I want to mixed it up.


Melkiador wrote:
But it’s been a part of D&D and related properties for so long that it’d be weird to change it now.

It is worth noting that Vancian magic has not been a part of D&D for a little over 10 years.


PF1 is more D&D than 4e, so it's never gone out of style.


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We use spell points. Just count up all of your total spell levels and then cast as you wish. If you want to cast tons of first level spells fine or a few high level instead. Spontaneous casters could cast whatever, prepared casters casted from their prepared spell list. It did give prepared casters more flexibility, but it was no big deal.

Scarab Sages

DeltaPangaea wrote:


I'd be cool with this, although I feel like Sorcerer should have a BIT more than just an extra 4-5 points.

And letting wizards cast any spell they have in their book feels like a bit much. Maybe leave their preparation thing in place, but harshly limit the amount they can have prepared at once? Like X points worth of spell level. I dunno. Mostly just yeah, an extra 4-5 points isn't enough, that's not even one cast of higher level spells.

So, those 4-5 extra points over the wizard in actual play really feel like a huge difference. I mean, think about level 1, wizard has at most, 5 spell points, which means 5 1st level casts, while the sorcerer is chucking out 9. That would really make you feel the difference between the two styles of caster. At higher levels, say 5 for example, your wizard has 9 spell points now, but the sorcerer has 13, which doesn't sound as big of a gap, but that's at least 1 extra 3rd level spell the sorcerer could cast over the wizard and way more 2nd and 1st level spells if they don't need their highest level one.

Having the wizard being able to cast any spell in their book, but perhaps taking an extra action to consult their book to cast the spell, seems totally fine. They have to have a free hand and take an extra action, but the upside is they should just about always have the perfect spell for the job this way, making them the real "swiss army knife" of a caster, just like they should be.

I'd also suggest that we keep the current idea that some feats also increase your spell point pool and apply it to this magic system. For example, if you are a conjuration wizard and focus heavily on your school feats, you should get rewarded with more spell points as well as the new school powers.


Corwin Icewolf wrote:


There's true sorcery, which has spell effects as skills you can put ranks in. I'm not sure I entirely remember how it works, but iirc you might have for instance detect magic as a skill and be able to cast arcane sight with that skill when you have enough ranks to meet the dc. There was drain in it as well, sorry I can't remember better, I'll see if I can find my pdf of it for a better summary.

For a couple of years, Green Ronin's True Sorcery was my All-time favorite. It was similar to the words of power thing, in that you crafted your spells from different "parts", but it was more that you have different "Talents" such as fire, cold, force, charm, necromantic, etc. (can't remember specific names right now) each learned by taking a feat. You used your spellcraft skill to cast, and each "Talent" had a base DC 10 super-limited effect you could perform. Attributes were modified by adding to the DC of the spell you crafted. For instance, changing something from touch to ranged 10ft. might be +5 DC; adding additional range in 10 ft increments might be +2 DC per 10 ft. Changing from single target to area might be +10 DC; Changing a simple heal effect to a remove disease might be +10 to DC, etc.

So for example, with the force effect, you started with a simple 10 ft ranged attack that did 1d4 damage to one target. dumping the damage dice added +5 DC, extending the range by 50 feet added +10 DC, Turning it into a burst might add +5, increasing from 5 ft burst to 20 ft. burst might be +5 more, etc.

So in the end, you had to roll to beat a DC 30 or so to cast your long-range, area effect Force burst. It did a certain amount of nonlethal damage to you, reduced by a special magic potential attribute, so in the end it was super-complex, super-open to almost ANY magical effect, and simulated the kind of health fatigue drain so often seen in a lot of fantasy fiction. The fiddliness was kept in check by pre-calculating a lot of your more frequently used effects, and your power was kept in check by having the most powerful effects having astronomical DCs to cast. There were costs you could incur to reduce the DC also. It was a lot of fun, but nowadays I don't think I have the stomach for such a modular system, but it's well worth the read for people who like d20 but never want to see another spell slot again.


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"It's that way because I say so, now shut up." -- Gary Gygax, on why the D&D magic system works the way it does.

The Shadowrun system has already been mentioned. Here's a couple more:

Harnmaster: every spell is a separate skill whose "mastery level" ranges from a base (usually somewhere around 15-18) up to 100+ that base. Casting, rules wise, involves rolling 1d100 against mastery level. Casting causes fatigue. You can be too tired to cast a spell, which could cause a critical misfire (not a good thing).

Authentic Thaumaturgy: "A spell is a process, not a thing". What process: that of putting yourself in a psychological places that gives you access to your innate psychic abilities, and it is use of those abilities that allows you to cast a spell. Fatigue is again an issue.

In all the above once you learn a spell, you know the spell. None of this "spell slot" business. In Harnmaster, if you don't use a spell, and neglect to study it to refresh your knowledge of it, over time your ability to use it may decrease (your "mastery level" may drop) but you can't completely forget it (barring something unusual happening).

IMNSHO, any of these three is better than what I've seen in D&D or either version of Pathfinder.

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