IN ARCHIMAGO'S CELL – The evil dream (by H. J. Ford)
In a previous post, I briefly discussed spellcasting in Empire of the Petal Throne ; however, I think that a more thorough explanation is warranted in order to address certain misconceptions.
Jon Peterson's Playing at the World is an exhaustive volume chronicling the evolution of role-playing games. However, nothing is perfect. Commenting on Empire of the Petal Throne, Peterson states on page 521:
The magic system, in contrast to Dungeons & Dragons, allows casters to select from a flat list of spells – spells do not have tiers like in Dungeons & Dragons, and thus a first-level priest can just as easily select “Cure Light Wounds” as they could “Revivify”...The accuracy of this statement is wanting.
There are two sources of spells: 'Professional Skills' and 'Bonus Spells'.
Each of the three classes has a distinct list of professional skills. For warriors, the professional skills regard weapon use (e.g., slinger, bowman, spearman, et al.). Most of the 'skills' in the priest and magic user lists are actually spells. In fact, 'cure light wounds' and 'revivify' both appear on the priest list. However, first-level characters do not have access to all of their profession's list of skills. Percentile dice are rolled to determine how many professional skills any given first-level character may have. A roll of 1-20 means, “Choose any 2 skills from the first 3.” A roll of 96-100 means, “Choose 5 from the first 7.” 'Revivify' is the eleventh 'skill' on the priest list; therefore, it is not available at first level. The list is not flat.
Upon advancing to a higher level, a character obtains a new 'skill' from the appropriate list “with the least advanced skill being mandatorily chosen first.” So, a character with the 'Choose 5 from the first 7' result gets five professional skills at first level. When that character advances to second level, she gets the 'earliest' skill on the list among those she does not possess. Such a character cannot get the eighth skill on the list until she has all of the preceding seven skills. Seventh is the earliest level at which a priest may gain 'revivify', and that would only be for the 5% who have a '5 from 7' result. Characters with the '2 from 3' result would have to wait until tenth level.
Aside from professional skills, priests and magic users have access to bonus spells which “are divided into three Groups of increasing importance.” (I posit that “groups of increasing importance” could be referred to as “tiers” without undue strain upon the definition of “tier.”) The 43 Bonus spells are the same for priests and magic users. Thus the professional skills serve to provide specific abilities to priests and magic users of certain amounts of accomplishment while bonus spells allow for a diverse repertoire among individual spellcasters. For instance, 'The Grey Hand' may only be cast by high-level magic users, but 'Door Control' may be cast by priests or magic users as early as second level.
When a priest or magic users attains a new level of experience, there is a chance that the character will learn one or more bonus spells. There is a 'Level of Experience and Percentile Dice Score Needed' table with five rows:
- One spell of Group I
- One spell of Group II
- One Group I and one Group II spell
- One spell of Group III
- One Group II and one Group III spell
If a character gains a spell from a group, any spell from that group may be chosen. Each bonus spell can be used once per day; however, it is possible to take the same spell multiple times, thereby permitting multiple castings.
Spellcasting is not automatically successful. For a 1st level spellcaster, there is only a 40% chance that any given spell will be successfully cast. Starting at level nine, there is no chance of failure. A greater than average Psychic Ability affords bonuses to the chance of success.
Among the Group I spells is 'The Hands of Krá the Mighty': “This spell grapples and squeezes its victim.” Was this the inspiration for the Bigby spells?