I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Target 18 spells (B/X)

I've been playing around with Target 18. And, well, it kinda works for spells too.

This is how you do it: no spell slots. Instead, roll 1d20, add your MU level, and try to get 18 PLUS spell level (e.g., 19 for magic missiles, 22 for fireballs, etc.). 

Success means you cast the spell and keep it (with some special effects on a natural 20). Failure means you cast the spell and forget it. A natural 1 might create potential disaster.

(See Alternate Magic for spell mishaps, critical successes, corruption, chaos magic, etc. Most of this is included in the first 10 pages, so you can check it in the preview for free).

Art by Rick Troula - The Displaced.

You can add Int/Wis/Cha modifier if you wish (unless you're already using it for extra spells, since they don't really affect spellcasting under the usual B/X rules).

In any case, MUs learn one new spell per level, and don't have to "memorize" them - nor can they change it in the wild.

This is a bit harsh for MUs (and clerics) at higher levels, but slightly better for low-level casters. I still do not think they'll be weak compared to fighters, etc. And high-level MUs can cast los of magic missiles instead of using darts... with a small chance of failure.

A note on clerics: I have written extensively about them (here is one alternative) and I'm treating them as  a "2/3 caster", which means they get two spells for every three levels and add a smaller bonus to avoid losing them. They do not get access to all spells, but they can choose any while in camp; they are just slightly worse magic-users with different spells, better armor, faster advancement, better weapons, and turn undead.


  1. I love these hacks, and their departure from the Vancian...

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I've been looking for alternatives to Vancian for a while... really like how this one turned out.

  2. Back in the day, I departed from Vancian Magic immediately and never looked back. I wanted my system to be cohesive and operate across the board with parallel patterns to make GMing and the play experience both easily understandable and consistent for all actions the PCs might take. So my Magic System parallels my Skills System in terms of methods. Both use a Difficulty vs Skill Level mechanic. In the case of Mystic Powers however, there is one distinction that pertains. Mystic Powers cost points to cast. These points are called Mana Points, (aka Mystic Points), and represent the mystical energy available to the character, and parallel Hit Points (aka Life Points) mechanically. So physical combat goes against Hit Points while mystical combat goes against Mystic Points. Mystic Points are used to cast mystic powers (spells or miracles). Additional points can be put into the mystic power to boost some of its properties, such as Range, Duration, Damage, etc, depending on the definition of the particular power.

    This point system of course is not unique after all these years many game systems have adopted it. However, I think that at the time I created it in 1978 there may not have been any systems like it yet, though perhaps there were and I simply didn't know about it (only having played my fellow GM's homebrew systems, mostly). That said, this system has been solid and practical, and we've had many decades of fun with it, and I have no regrets. Vancian struck me immediately as unwieldy, and annoying. I was happy to leave it behind, and still am.

    1. Interesting stuff! This is similar to what I'd try to do much later... I'm amazed at the amount of homebrew that existed in the early days of D&D (see these, also from 1978):


    2. Yes, in 1978 it was a "thing" in our town among the GMs that you could not use the TSR Gygax rules, but had to create your own rules as a right of passage, and for several very good reasons:

      1. House rules can not be Rules Lawyered
      2. TSR's business model was to publish RPG books, which meant that they would change the rules periodically, which none of us with plans for long term worlds wanted.
      3. House Rules can solve some of the fundamental flaws and weirdness of the original rules.
      4. House Rules can adapt and flex with the GM's world ideas as they come up.
      5. Creating House Rules give the GM a chance to shape their game in accordance with their own ideas (such as creating a magic system using Mystic Points).