Like many other people in the RPG world, I've been reading through the new D&D Basic PDF. I might write some more detailed thoughts on it at some point, but broadly I'm discovering that there's really a lot to like about this new edition of everyone's favourite game. (Obscure as it may sound, I am totally in love with the "downtime activities" section, for example.) The only major gripe I've come across so far is, unfortunately, the wizard spellcasting system. Now, I've not played a game using these rules, so my concerns may be purely theoretical, but I find the rules of wizardly magic confusing and mishmashy -- an unholy mix of at-will, Vancian fire & forget, and spell points. Not immediately to my liking.
Chatting with some people on G+ about this, I realised that a major gripe-element for me is that I don't have a good in-game rationale for the new spellcasting system, unlike the trad Vancian approach, upon which one can read volumes, both in the D&D canon and in the _Dying Earth_ books. In comparison, the new system seems somehow groundless.
Until this morning, when the following slight twist on the Vancian approach came to me. I think this explains all of the intricacies of the 5e system:
Wizards are able to contact and control a particular type of vorpal
known as dweomers (or, in common parlance, spells). These disembodied
entities, which natively inhabit dimensions orthogonal to our own, exist
in many forms, the most significant distinction between the types being
their rank (or level). The lowliest dweomers are known as cantrips,
while others are ranked from the first to the ninth level.
peculiarity of dweomers, when compared against other vorpals, is their
symbiotic relationship with the minds of mortals. A dweomer can take on a
quasi physical form, manifesting as a byzantine complex of modulations
in the neural structure of its host. This symbiosis comes about in one
of two ways.
Firstly, a dweomer may take up permanent,
cooperative residence in a magician's mind. Typically only dweomers of
the lowest rank (cantrips) are open to this deep symbiosis, but very
experienced magic users possess the force of mind to join with more
powerful vorpals also. Once bound in this way, dweomer and magician are
Secondly, and more commonly, a dweomer may be
temporarily and forcibly bound, by the speaking of its true name. It
thus remains in the magician's mind until he or she sees fit to release
it. (The true names of myriad types of dweomer can be found recorded as
intricate sequences of arcane characters which magicians store in their
In both cases, the magician may arouse a resident
dweomer by the performance of a series of gestures and vocalisations to
which it is sympathetic. The arousal of a dweomer in this way causes the
manifestation of a supernatural effect -- magic.
Two further facts bear mentioning.
nature of the neural modulations caused by the presence of dweomers in a
mortal mind is such that only a limited number of the entities may be
resident at a time. The mind simply cannot handle more without permanent
rupture. (Though note that, as a magician increases in power, his or
her mind becomes accustomed to the presence of vorpals and is thus able
to accommodate more of them.)
Dweomers which are bound by force
exert a constant strain on the magician, as he or she battles to keep
the vorpal in place. Every time such a dweomer is aroused, the
magician's tether on it and all others which are confined lessens. If a
magician were to lose complete control of a dweomer during the process
of arousal, the consequences would be dire -- complete neural
disintegration being the most typical fate. Thus each magician learns
the delicate balance of the frequency with which he or she may arouse
entrapped dweomers, using periods of rest to regain control over the
volatile other-dimensional entities.
Take that, 5e magic system.