On the Effects of Magic, Cantrips and Rules

An interesting wizard is a themed wizard.

The original magic-user had a very limited spell list with spells that were very focused on utility in a dungeon.

The original magic-user only had 8 first level spells, 10 second level spells, and 14 third level spells.They have 12 fourth level spells, 14 fifth level spells and 12 sixth level spells.

This gives them a grand total of 70 spells

A magic user in a second edition game has access to over 2,174 spells.

So how do the effects of magic help solve this problem? They introduce costs into being a wizard. Yes, they also give the wizard "extra power" but they do so unilaterally, meaning, also while you are walking through town or the dungeon, not just in combat.

Do you have protection from evil memorized? Congratulations on leaving a trail of chalk dust through the dungeon. Memorize water breathing? drooling next to the fighter while he talks with hobgoblins is going to weird them out. Do you have Wall of Fire prepared? Enjoy your walk through small villages with exclusively wooden buildings.

It can be a lot to keep track of, so the suggestion is to only allow the effects from the highest two levels of spells the caster knows. Upon reaching fifth level, the caster only has the effects of magic from second and third level memorized spells. This keeps the effects to under a dozen, meaning they are track-able.

This can work well in a game with specialist wizards who have limited spell lists and generalist Magic-Users. Generalists can learn any spell, but specialists can only learn spells from very specific limited lists of 8-10 spells a level. Specialists however can use or exhibit only the side effects from preparing spells when they wish due to their mastery and control, whereas generalist mages always exhibit the side effects.


Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.

Wizards of any sort may do any of the following at any time:

  • Touch someone to cause an involuntary bodily reaction at any time on a failed saving throw vs. paralyzation. (fart, bletch, blink, nod, yawn)
  • Produce a small lighter sized flame
  • Chill an object smaller than 1 cubic foot to 40 degrees. 
  • Clean one man-sized creature or smaller, or one 10' x 10' x 10' cube or smaller. Cleaning the cube takes the magic one turn.
  • Summon one diminutive vermin or insect
  • Kill one tiny vermin or insect
  • Control up to 1" of hair growth or removal.
  • Cause one object on his person to appear in his hand or an object in his hand to disappear off his person.
  • Travel while hovering 1" off a solid surface for up to 10'
  • Repair or mend small (minute) breaks or tears
  • Warm or cool an area by 10 degrees F.
  • Perform minor changes on small objects (change the color of parchment, turn a diminutive bat into a diminutive bird). These changes last from 1 day for very minor (color) changes, to 1 turn for subtle changes, to 1 round for drastic changes.
  • Open or close a regular door. Levitate objects weighing 1 pound or less within 10' of the caster
  • Cause a soft chime to ring
  • Animate diminutive objects for 1 turn

Hack & Slash 
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  1. I always believed that a character's strengths make them cool while a character's flaws make them interesting. I feel the same with classes, and I love it when a class offers an achilles heel. It gives the player something to roleplay around. It gives the GM a tool to introduce dramatic situations to the PC. It gives the designer a release valve to take larger risks when designing the class. As a result, I really like your effects of magic series.

    I love cantrips (from Pathfinder). While they're not very strong, they encourage you to be creative with them. In addition, it lets your wizard keep being a wizard even when they're out of spell slots. I always thought it was a nice touch with setting design, too. Wizards that flunk out of wizardry school often start a business using their cantrips. For example, using the cleaning cantrip to start a cleaning service or laundry business.

    I really like the floating cantrip you made!

  2. This is the category of things that made Gandalf who he was. The larger stuff came into play so infrequently (and aside from coming back from the dead, it was such minor stuff in terms of game mechanics), it was this sort of effect that guaranteed people knew he was A Mighty Wizard.

  3. I really like how concise and useful these are; I've linked your article here https://daimon-games.blogspot.com/2018/10/better-spells-at-level-one.html as an example of cantrips house-rules.


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