For the two generations of gamers who have grown up since D&D was introduced, and for whom the arcana of D&D are second nature, it is difficult to explain just how weird and alien the Jack Vance inspired, slot based magic system was for those of us who encountered it as adults. In the early days, the as-written system spread virally from Lake Geneva, and everyone else read the rules, decided that they couldn't actually mean what they seemed to mean, and concocted some kind of point based system. I was introduced to the game shortly after a clearly written explanation had come down from TSR, but the group that introduced me to the game still thought the as-written rules were stupid, and taught me their house rules. They DID explain the "official" rules to me as well, but I had no more interest in playing them than they did.
Over the years, the magic system has been the main thing that has kept me from playing D&D. I was just not able to rationalize the system; it went contrary to pretty much everything I knew about the way the brain worked. I wasn't really fond of the tactical implications of the system, either, but that was a lesser concern.
The other day it occurred to me that my problem was largely one of nomenclature. By making a small change in the way I conceptualized the system, it suddenly made sense. It also made those strange, one use only scrolls make sense as well.
The rules always spoke of "studying" and "memorizing" spells. But what if what is really going on during that preparation time is that the spell (which is ultimately ceremonial in nature) is actually being cast, and that all that remains to release the spell on demand is a short trigger phrase or gesture. The slot system than becomes a recognition of the wizard's ability to maintain more and more complex partially completed spells under control and ready.
There are some interesting corollaries to this. First, it divorces the entire spell casting process from any concept of energy altogether; spells are bought with TIME (One hour per spell level?). And because energy is no longer part of the concept, the "times per day" idea also needs to be thrown away. A wizard can cast a first level spell, then prepare and cast another one an hour later, assuming the right circumstances. There is also the very real possibility that a wizard with a full complement of ready spells might be something of a time bomb; his discipline is all that is keeping those ready spells from going off, and a good rattling might just launch them prematurely, or at least cause them to dry-fire. The question can also be raised as to whether the SLEEP with all of that going on, though a high level wizard would pretty much have to, given that it would take him days to recharge his full complement of spells.
I am still not sure I would want to PLAY a wizard under these rules, but I no longer have trouble suspending my disbelief in the world.
Sanity optional are us.
GaryCon IV ( http://garycon.com/index.php )is going on as I write this, but I had to settle for single long day there, on Friday, 3/23. I was scheduled to play Titan (a board game, described here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titan_%28ga
I got to the con at about 10:20, breezed through registration, and was at the table by 10:25; Ernie was still doing a rules overview for the newbies (which is not to say I was an old hand, but I knew the basic mechanics well enough: Chutes and Ladders with bloodshed). I drew first blood by negotiation, then went back to my usual tactic of keeping my head down and letting the other guys cripple each other (which isn't a great strategy in Titan, since the game awards combat experience). I initiated one odd combat where my goal was to sacrifice my troops while NOT killing my opponent's weakest piece, and maybe killing one of his quality pieces; I failed, but it was a near thing. Later, someone attacked one of my stacks with his titan stack, and I beat him, which took him out of the game and pushed me into first place. Two of the other players then announced that they had games to play at 4:00 PM, which left us in a two player game. The other player looked over the board and conceded, which made Ernie unhappy; he had wanted the game to actually play to a conclusion. Ah, well. Still, it was great to catch up with Ernie, whom I had not seen in nearly a year.
I retreated to the hotel restaurant, had some (surprisingly reasonably priced) supper, finished the book of the day, and then went off in search of my 6:00 PM T&T game. There I met our GM, Mike Holcomb (Mmartin the Mensch of Trollhalla) and two other players, Otto and Eli. I pulled my T&T hat our of my pocket and set it on the table; I normally wear a T&T shirt, and the hat, at cons, but this was GaryCon, and I was spending much of the day in the company of Ernie Gygax, and flying the T&T flag at Ernie's table seemed rude. At a T&T table, however, the more T&T logos on display, the better (Mike was wearing a T&T logo shirt). Otto and Eli took a couple of Mike's pregen characters, a female elf wizard and a male hobb rogue respectively, and I pulled out a version (tweaked to Mike's specs) of my basic con character, Plimsoll the elf wizard. I spent some time playing with a goblin accent (which was really supposed to be Jagermonster, and ended up sound like a mediocre impression of Arnold Schwartenegger, but went over pretty well).
The game went well, after a fashion. There were two deliberately unwinnable fight scenes involving paratrooping trolls and orcs with tear gas, which we of course did not win, and some other challenges where we did much better than Mike expected. The high tech orcs and para-trolls had no missile weapons, and Otto's elf wizard was able to foment suicidal strife in their ranks. (She was less than reliable with third level spells, but she had a dance talent and a charisma of 30.) The big boss fumbled on a critical perception check, and our band of inept heroes were able to drop him before he called out his host of undead uglies. All told, we had a couple of flashes of brilliance and a few bits of critical luck, and managed to defeat an adventure that really should have creamed us. Mike was flabbergasted. Good times.
After that game wound down, I headed over to Ernie's castle, where I watched strangers (two of whom had been imported from Italy for the con) drink grappa, and eventually we played a game of "Can't Stop", an old dice game. And then I wandered home sometime around 1:00 AM.
This was my second time at GaryCon. The facility is great, the staff is excellent (it consists of a mixture of TSR old guard, all of whom were GenCon staffers at on point or another, and Luke Gygax's military buddies, who UNDERSTAND organization). All told, I had a great time, and am glad I made the effort to attend.