On the Effects of Magic, Cantrips and Rules

This series was originally published in April of 2014.  This is part of an effort to update and archive these posts on the "Links to Wisdom" wiki. It is also available for a free download at DTRPG.

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

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