D&D General Who Invents Spells, and How Old Are They

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I've never thought about, but it is an interesting question. Thank you for asking! I think @EzekielRaiden' s answer seems pretty good. However, I know I want a book of spells with detail lore for each spell. That sounds interesting.
If I may...what answer was that? I don't want to take credit for something I didn't do, and I honestly don't remember weighing in on this one!
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Quickleaf

Legend
I recall running a two-shot game (it was D&D lite, kinda 5e inspired) focused on a runaway mage PC trapped in a city with hunter-mages pursuing him, where there was discussion of Melcantor's Flagrant Fireball having just been used in a recent battle as a "never before seen" and "unusually controlled" expression of fire magic that had the city officials terrified. I used it as backdrop to explain why the city officials were capitulating and bending over backwards to appease the hunter-mages, because the officials were terrified of the potential for such magic to start a great fire in the city. Mucking with the spell origin story really added a lot to the tone of the game.
 

MarkB

Legend
There are other questions to consider. When we talk about inventing spells, the way it's usually visualised is a wizard spending months or years of research and experimentation in their tower, but what about spells for other classes?

  • Are all Cleric and Paladin spells powers granted by their deity, or can individuals of these classes conceive for themselves new ways of channelling their divine connection?
  • Do druids or rangers research new ways of interacting with nature?
  • Can a bard compose a new spell in much the same way they'd compose a new melody?
  • As a sorcerer grows in power, can they find new ways to channel their innate arcane powers that none have conceived of before?
  • Do a warlock's specific spells derive entirely from their patron? Could they collaborate with their patron to find new ways to manifest their power?
And beyond that, what does the invention of a new spell mean for casters of other disciplines? Can a wizard learn a spell that was invented by a bard, or a druid come to understand a spell first mastered by a cleric? Or, having seen the spell in action, would they then need to research it themselves in order to create a version that was adapted to their discipline?
 



doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
It gets to the fundamental question of what magic spells are, what wizards are, and how much or little like science magic is in any given D&D world. Is there a big library somewhere with all the spells ever developed? Do wizards go to not-Hogwarts and that's why they all know all the same spells? Are spells (generally) easy and safe to cast because they have been tested and tweaked for centuries?

Personally, I think it would be fun if all spells were unique to specific casters. If you gathered up a bunch of 3PP magic books you could probably do it, too. Every wizard and warlock manipulates the forces of "magic" in their own way and creates their own spells. Throw in some sort of spell check and failure consequence and it would feel very different from regular D&D magic without necessarily screwing up the balance of things (and maybe balance out casters a little bit). It's probably too much, but it is fun to think about.
I really like that, and in fact that is the model for spells in both my fully homegrew game, and the SRD based conversion I'm working on, where types of magic are skills and spells are codified complex uses of those skills, often in combination. Essentially, while there are standard skills provided as examples, most of a PCs spells will be custom made by the player, using Research Endeavors (a specific kind of downtime activity).
Since spellcasting in D&D is based on The Dying Earth, I would default as a DM to its presentation in that book for any setting details I introduce related to the origins of spells. I.e. that the known spells were discovered and invented over the course of history through scientific experimentation and mathematics. Of course, if a player with a spellcasting PC has different ideas about the origins of their spells, then I'm more than happy to defer to them.
Yeah I really like to let players decide how their magic works and what it looks like.
I recall running a two-shot game (it was D&D lite, kinda 5e inspired) focused on a runaway mage PC trapped in a city with hunter-mages pursuing him, where there was discussion of Melcantor's Flagrant Fireball having just been used in a recent battle as a "never before seen" and "unusually controlled" expression of fire magic that had the city officials terrified. I used it as backdrop to explain why the city officials were capitulating and bending over backwards to appease the hunter-mages, because the officials were terrified of the potential for such magic to start a great fire in the city. Mucking with the spell origin story really added a lot to the tone of the game.
I love stuff like that. That's aewsome.
There are other questions to consider. When we talk about inventing spells, the way it's usually visualised is a wizard spending months or years of research and experimentation in their tower, but what about spells for other classes?

  • Are all Cleric and Paladin spells powers granted by their deity, or can individuals of these classes conceive for themselves new ways of channelling their divine connection?
  • Do druids or rangers research new ways of interacting with nature?
  • Can a bard compose a new spell in much the same way they'd compose a new melody?
  • As a sorcerer grows in power, can they find new ways to channel their innate arcane powers that none have conceived of before?
  • Do a warlock's specific spells derive entirely from their patron? Could they collaborate with their patron to find new ways to manifest their power?
And beyond that, what does the invention of a new spell mean for casters of other disciplines? Can a wizard learn a spell that was invented by a bard, or a druid come to understand a spell first mastered by a cleric? Or, having seen the spell in action, would they then need to research it themselves in order to create a version that was adapted to their discipline?
This is exactly the sort of thing that lead me to treat spellcraft the way I do in my own games, where spells are primarily invented by people in the world.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Ideally every spellcaster should have (at least) one unique spell that they don't particularly feel like sharing, save among their close associates and allies. The knowledge of this spell will get out of course, like any new tech, either due to reverse-engineering or outright theft, the same way innovations spread in our own world (since magic users have access to near-instant methods of communication).

The fact that not all spells are created equally could indicate that spellcraft is a continuous process, as magical researchers are constantly refining and improving spells to be better. You can take it as historical fact that fireball used to do 5d6, until someone figured out how to boost the influx of elemental energies without blowing themselves to kingdom come (which is also, incidentally, why fireballs no longer insist on filling 33,000 cubic feet of space).

Divine spells are easy; their power level is decreed by the Gods, and no doubt every so often there's a big Godsmoot where they all hammer out how much power to grant their worshipers (in 2e, the Tome of Magic discusses this with regards to the new Spheres and Quest spells); they are granted as needed, and taken away when not.

How old spells are depends on how static they are, but since there are canonically very old spellcasters running around in most D&D settings (Mordenkainen, Acererak, Keraptis, Vecna, Elminster, Fistandantilus), we can assume that either A) most spells are the product of a golden age of sorcery in the distant past, or B) long-lived casters are constantly refining their own spells to keep them "up to date".

Player characters are too active and busy to engage in magical research, as it takes time and money, which is why they just use the best spells available to them, but if you gave them a few years off of downtime, they'd be throwing around spells with their names plastered on them, because Wizards have infinite capacity for pretense.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
There are other questions to consider. When we talk about inventing spells, the way it's usually visualised is a wizard spending months or years of research and experimentation in their tower, but what about spells for other classes?

  • Are all Cleric and Paladin spells powers granted by their deity, or can individuals of these classes conceive for themselves new ways of channelling their divine connection?
Both as far as I know. The spells come from the gods.

5e PHB: "A cleric might learn formulaic prayers and ancient rites, but the ability to cast cleric spells relies on devotion and an intuitive sense of a deity's wishes."

While a wizard might spend 10 bazillion gold on research and rare ingredients before possibly succeeding at a new spell, the cleric might spend 10 bazillion gold on rare incense to aid in meditative prayer and going though old tomes in the temple before possibly being granted a new spell by his god.
  • Do druids or rangers research new ways of interacting with nature?
Probably something similar to clerics.
  • Can a bard compose a new spell in much the same way they'd compose a new melody?
Probably closer to what the wizard does. Researching old books and lore on bard songs.
  • As a sorcerer grows in power, can they find new ways to channel their innate arcane powers that none have conceived of before?
They get their spells intuitively and are more limited in the number that they know. I would allow new spells to be gained, but perhaps after a time of reflection on who and what they are. Maybe there would be a gold cost for something. I don't know.
  • Do a warlock's specific spells derive entirely from their patron? Could they collaborate with their patron to find new ways to manifest their power?
I'm sure they can.
And beyond that, what does the invention of a new spell mean for casters of other disciplines? Can a wizard learn a spell that was invented by a bard, or a druid come to understand a spell first mastered by a cleric? Or, having seen the spell in action, would they then need to research it themselves in order to create a version that was adapted to their discipline?
This is a DM's call. Spells appear on multiple lists, so it's possible for sure. Whether a wizard could invent a wizard version of cure wounds or not is up to the DM, though.
 

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
I usually dont use the spells in the PHB as ''spells'' in fiction: they are a description of the effect produced by expending a spell slot on a custom/personnal/setting specific spell.

ie: Wizard Bob in my game doesnt cast ''Fireball'', he cast ''Invoke the Sovereign Pyre'' as spell creating the ''Fireball'' effect, designed by the cultist of Imix somewhere in the Hordelands and who found its way to his spellbook when he traded his best shoes and a nice bottle of chianti for it.

So even is 2 spellcasters have the same spell effects loadout, they dont necessarily have the same spells in their books.
 

jgsugden

Legend
In my Homebrew setting this stuff is generally answered: There was a wizard that exhisted long ago that created magics far beyond what anyone ever had before. At that time an elderly human wizard might be capable of reaching 5th level, and an ancient elven wizard might spent a millenia to perhaps reach 9th. However, this human wizard managed to be the first spellcaster capable of casting 9th level spells. He was so far beyond everyone else in capability that they literally 'wrote the book' of magic about him and his spellcasting abilities. His name? Archmage. The book? Librum Magicum. (Yes, I was about 11 when I came up with it). That book is the text by which spellcasters learn of magic now (tens of thousands of years later). Any spell in the PHB is attributed to him or one of his students.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top