Friday, May 22, 2009

Of Magic-Users and Clerics: O mighty spellcaster --

Skimming through my copy of the Rules Cyclopedia recently (I forget what it was I was actually looking for; probably the different sorts of landed-gentry high level characters become so I can work on my esper class again), I happened to notice something that struck me as interesting. Making a quick comparison with Labyrinth Lord, I found something even more interesting.

Clerics can be argued to get more spellpower than magic-users, if one looks at the number of spells per level and not just the number of levels of power available.

Now before the torches and pitchforks come after me, let me just say that yes, I know that the 7th-level spell cap for clerics and the 9th level cap for magic-users arguably makes a difference. It's the number of lower-level spell-slots that caught my eye, though, and I can't help but be amused ... all the moreso because the cleric starts off a level behind, with no spells at first level.

The break seems to come between 9th and 10th levels:


CL - 3/3/3/2 (11)
MU - 3/3/3/2/1 (12)


CL - 4/4/3/2/1 (14)
MU - 3/3/3/3/2 (14, different spread ...)

... where the MU keeps adding higher-level spells, but the cleric keeps on adding more slots for lower level spells.

Later on, a few more examples:


CL - 6/5/5/3/3/3 (25)
MU - 5/4/4/4/3/2/1 (23)


CL - 7/6/5/4/4/4/3 (33)
MU - 6/5/5/5/4/4/3/2 (34)

.... where it's trying to even out again, but not quite making it even though the MU has gained a level ahead. The distrubution is still a little weird. (Note that because of BEMCI's 36-level progression, a 20th level MU still doesn't have 9th level spells yet. That's next level.)

Whether or not this is actually of any concern, of course, is the great quality-vs-quantity argument I suppose; whether the gaining of the highest two levels of spells is worth the lessening of spell slots further down the line in the "lesser" levels. I admit I'm mostly commenting on it out of amused curiosity.

Where it gets really amusing is when a comparison is made with Labyrinth Lord. Due to LL's shifting of the cleric progression table to allow for spellcasting at first level, and adjustments for the twenty-level scale instead of thirty-six, the cleric pulls even further ahead -- and surprisingly early!


CL - 3/2 (5)
MU - 2/2 (4)


CL - 3/2/1 (6)
MU - 2/2/1 (5)


CL - 5/4/3/3/2 (17)
MU - 3/3/3/3/2 (14)


CL - 7/6/5/4/4/3/1 (30)
MU - 5/4/4/4/4/3/2/1 (27)

And then we have


CL - 9/8/7/6/5/5/3 (43)
MU - 6/6/5/5/5/5/4/4/4 (44)

... where again the MU pulls ahead in overall numbers, but the balance is sorely lacking. And in the lower levels of the classes, in LL the cleric quite simply has the numerical advantage from early on. Again, whether this is a problem or not depends on one's opinion of means of balance and the quality-vs-quantity debate.

I have to say, though -- as someone whose highest level game ever run was in the vicinity of 9th or 10th before players asked for a reset, I think I'll be sticking with the BEMCI progression lest the magic-users lynch me ;3


Chris said...

Bear in mind that poor old Healbot has to expend many of his spell slots for the benefit of others.

If the MUs want to whine about 'unfair spell distribution' they can try doing without the ever-welcome clerical C*W spells for a bit... ;)

taichara said...


Hehe. ;3

Though I could make the argument (for sake's sake) that in proper ol' D&D, Wally Wizard doesn't have anything else useful to contribute but his spells, so he should at least be given a decent chance at them ~

*ducks flying bricks*

trollsmyth said...

I think the progressions work as-is, because they allow the cleric to cast something besides spamming healing spells all day.

This is a serious issue in LL/Moldvay/Cook, where the most powerful healing spell is 4th level's cure serious wounds. That only restores 4-14 (2d6+2) hit points.

So what you end up with is hit points trickling out (1d6 for most weapons, or d6/d6/d4 for most claw/claw/bites) and then trickling back in with healing spells.

The wild card is magic-user spells. At 6th level or so, when the cleric first gets cure serious wounds, the magic user is tossing 6d6 fireballs and lightning bolts.

To undo the damage from one fireball, the poor cleric has to cast cure serious wounds something like twice for each and every person caught in the area of effect of a lightning bolt or fireball. The cleric, quite simply, can't keep up.

So while, yes, the cleric gets to toss more spells, nearly all of them are still going to be cure light wounds and cure serious wounds.

taichara said...


That's reasonable enough; and as I said, I posted this essentially for amusement's sake (given MUs reputation as the mighty spellcasters, the comparison in numbers makes me chuckle).

Though I have to admit, while I've never run LL/Moldvay/Cook, I personally haven't run into the Healbot cleric problem to quite that extreme. Possibly because of editions played, possibly because many of my cleric players over the years have been hard-arses about healing the party *grins* -- but your observation is definitely a good one.

(question, out of curiosity: in your LL game, do you send or plan to send the PCs up against fireball- and lightning bolt-slinging MUs frequently?)

I reserve the right to be also amused at how quickly yourself and Chris leapt to the cleric's defense, mind ;3

trollsmyth said...


Running into fireball-tossing mages isn't an everyday thing, no, but by the time the party has reached 9th level, it's not unheard of, either. I'd say there's probably one or two per adventure at that point, or other critter tossing out the mass damage (dragons, winter wolves, hydra, etc.).

taichara said...


Sounds good. I was basically asking because I personally don't use them so often (at the higher reaches of my campaigns) out of sheer laziness. Mostly for BBEGs, or right-hand minions of BBEGs.

I dn't like having to select their spells; I get distracted ;3 Especially when dragons work better for the task --

Amityville Mike said...

This is a serious issue in LL/Moldvay/Cook, where the most powerful healing spell is 4th level's cure serious wounds. That only restores 4-14 (2d6+2) hit points.

Just a minor clarification because it's impact on the overall discussion is minimal, LL added Heal to the clerical spell list at 6th level.

Not a tremendous difference to the discussion at hand but it does free up the cleric a bit in the upper levels from the chore of multiple castings of cure serious.

trollsmyth said...

Taichara: After playing a high-level 2e campaign, I find the spell lists of Moldvay/Cook to be nice and easily manageable. But then, I don't keep adding to them like you do. ;)

A. Mike: Thanks for pointing that out. I use Moldvay/Cook, but I believe everyone else is using LL. So far, the differences have been so small, I'm afraid I've gotten lazy and haven't been following through to check stuff like that.

Rae7910819 said...

Personally, I've never played either class, but the distribution of spells does look a bit odd.

taichara said...


Heh. I'd rather keep adding to them to give more variety -- and even with the shorter base lists, I like to vary the spell descriptions and thus still distract myself.

Maybe even more than by adding new spells, in a way, because I'm always redesigning things ;3

eliyes said...

Leo: *macho pose*
(Now that he's a high enough level to cast spells in the first place... ;3)