Sunday, December 20, 2015

Spells in The Arduin Adventure

Art by Stephen Fabian

A common misgiving of the (early) D&D magic system was the 'Vancian' paradigm wherein a magic-user must 'forget' a spell upon casting and then re-memorize the spell before it could be cast again.  (Of course, contrary to the notion of 'forgetting' a spell, a given spell could be 'memorized' more than once.)  Different 'spell point' systems were devised as alternatives to the unsatisfactory Vancian method.  In The Arduin Adventure, Dave Hargrave employs a system of 'mana points' for magic magik spells.  However, in The Arduin Adventure (hereinafter ArdAdv), mana points do not obviate the 'forgetfulness' imposed by the Vancian philosophy, but merely act as an adjunct.

In ArdAdv, there are two types of magik:  Thaumaturgical (cast by Mages) and Priestly (cast, appropriately enough, by Priests).  When a mage memorizes a spell, he (or she) must invest an amount of mana specified in the spell's description.  At any point after the spell is memorized, the mage can cast the spell by speaking a trigger phrase.  All thaumaturgical spells take a combat round to cast.  (Apparently, material components are not required.)  “Once used,” the rules tell us, “mana takes 10 hours to 'recharge' to working level.”  Does this mean that if a mage casts a one mana point spell, he (or she) regains that point ten hours later?  If a mage uses half of her (or his) mana points at once, will all of those points will be available after ten hours?

Priestly spells (sometimes called “rituals”) also have a mana cost, but spells need not be memorized.  Mana is expended when the spell is cast.  Priestly spells take an entire minute to cast:  “This is because priestly magic also requires proper obeisance (kow towing) to the god in question and certain rituals (variable according to the spell).”  Priestly spell listings do not describe the particular rituals to perform, so it is safe to assume that – for game purposes – ritual activity is not distinctive.  Regardless, casting a priestly spell during a combat situation would not seem to be a feasible option.  Presumably, mana expended via priestly spells is 'recharged' in a fashion similar or identical to how mages recover mana.

Mage characters begin with a number a mana points equal to their Intelligence plus five points as a result of training:  “A mage must spend years learning his craft, either as an acolyte with an already established mage or at a 'College of Magik.'”  Priest characters begin with a set amount of fifteen points of mana.  Both types of character gain three additional points of mana for each experience level gained.

Rather than spell level, ArdAdv uses the term “order of power (or OP).”  The highest 'order of power' to which a mage has access is equal to half of the mage's experience level, rounded up.  So, through the second experience level, a mage only has access to 'first order' spells; starting at the third experience level, a mage can use 'second order' spells, etc.  The rules do not comment upon the schedule by which priests access successive orders of power.  One could assume that priestly 'spell progression' uses the same formula that applies to mages.

Each mage has a 'book of power' in which the mage writes his (or her) spells.  For each order of power of the spell, at least three pages are required.  There is no other mention in ArdAdv about pages in mages' books.  It takes a mage an amount of time to memorize a spell equal to thirty minutes for every order of power of the spell.  Memorization time is “reduced by half per (experience level) earned over the (experience level) needed to cast the spell.” 

For both thaumaturgical and priestly spells, ArdAdv presents four orders of power – enough for eight experience levels.  There are 32 thaumaturgical spells and 29 priestly spells.  In general, the ArdAdv spells are reminiscent of their D&D counterparts, but typically with suitable name changes.  For example, instead of “Silence 15' Radius,” ArdAdv has “Sound Wipe”; instead of “Web,” there is “Tangle Trap”; and instead of “Mirror Image,” there is “Multiple Image.”

Aside from spells, priests have spell-like abilities.  They can “Turn Away” undead:
Priests have a 10% chance of success for each 10 HP less than 100 the undead have.  Thus, a priest has a 100% chance versus 10 HP undead but only 10% chance versus 100 HP ones.
Evidently, a priest's experience level does not modify this chance.  Also, “A priest can 'Lay on Hands' to heal those of his faith.”  (To use this ability on a character not of the priest's faith, the priest must succeed with “a 'God Reaction Roll' see if the priest's patron deity will allow this to happen.”)  It is quite taxing for a priest to 'Lay on Hands,' but all wounds (other than fatal) will be completely healed.  (This ability is distinct from the healing spells to which priests have access.)


  1. Perdustin,

    Although this is not a new discussion, I'd like to comment and suggest that putting in some proper citations (author, book, page) would be helpful here. My understanding was that the Hargrave's Manna based system eliminated the need for "memorizing spells" that were "forgotten" after use. It was silly and made no sense. I blame the lack of historical understanding and imagination of Gygax for that system. AG and C&S (chivalry and Sorcery) never had those flaws, which is why we adopted an Arduinian manna based system in our game so long ago.

    Now, it has been 35-years or more since I first read the AG books—and probably 25-since I looked back at them, although some "old" friends and I are planning a reunion and a big game in a few years—but I used them almost every day as a kid and I could cite book, page, and location on page, from memory, of almost everything in any of the three original books.

    The idea of forgetting spells simply made no sense. Moreover, Rune Weavers and Star Powered Mages seemed to have enhanced abilities that a system based on "memorizing spells" did not fit. So if you could point to the passages that support your ideas here, that would be helpful and "may" bolster your claims.


    1. Please allow me to cite the Arduin rules.

      Page 25 of 1980's The Arduin Adventure states, “As the mage speaks the 'trigger phrase', the mana powers the spell and the spell is gone from the mage's memory.”

      Page 149 of 2002's The Compleat Arduin Book I states, “Each spell must be memorized once for each use.”

      I fervently hope that these direct quotes may somehow lend a modicum of legitimacy to my claims.