D&D 1E Why do Wizard hot dogs come in packages of 9, but Cleric buns come in packages of 7?

Gradine

Final Form (she/they)
This question popped up in another forum of an absolutely precious newbie playing the OG Infinity Engine games and asked the eternal question: why do Cleric spells only go up to level 7? Why not 9 like Wizards? And obviously WotC agrees with their point, but that doesn't actually answer the question, does it? Why was it done that way? Game balance? Cleric hatred? Some obscure and unknowable aspect of the late Gygax's mind?

My (admittedly surface-level) scouring of Google came up empty; many acknowledgments that this was the way things were, 9 levels to Wizards, 7 to Clerics. None answering the burning question: why?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

aco175

Legend
It could have something to do with racial level caps, but humans could advance all the way up. It could also have something with the XP needed to advance each level. 1e had different charts for advancement where you could be a 3rd level thief before a mage got to 2nd.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
My interpretation was that cleric spells only go up to seven while wizard spells only go up to nine because wizards are supposed to have the most powerful spells, compared to their clerical counterparts.

The idea here is that the two spellcasting progressions, one ranging from levels one through seven and the other ranging from levels one through nine, don't cover the same range of power. Spells of eight and ninth level are supposed to be stronger/better than spells of seventh level and below, regardless of whether those seventh-level spells are on the cleric or wizard spell lists. And only the wizard gets them.

So why is that? Because the wizard has virtually nothing else besides spells. Clerics have better Hit Dice, a better attack progression, can use better weapons and armor, etc. So they don't get the strongest spells as a trade-off, and wizards do.
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Tim the Magic User: My spells all go to nine. Look, right across the board, Time Stop, Wish, Bigby's Crushing Hand, nine, nine, nine and...

Karnak the Cleric: Oh, I see. And the other classes' spells go up to seven?

Tim the Magic User : Exactly.

Karnak the Cleric: Does that mean the spells are better? Are the spells any better?

Tim the Magic User: Well, it's two better, isn't it? It's not seven. You see, most spell casters, you know, will be casting spells at seven. Illusionist, druids, clerics... all on seven here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on seven when you're casting your best spells. Where can you go from there? Where?

Karnak the Cleric : I don't know.

Tim the Magic User : Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?

Karnak the Cleric : Put it up to nine.

Tim the Magic User : Nine. Exactly. Two better.

Karnak the Cleric : Why don't you just make seven better and make seven be the top number for all the classes and make that a little more powerful?

Tim the Magic User : ..... These spells go to nine.
 


Chainmail, the miniatures game that was a precursor to D&D, has wizards but no clerics. They have 14 spells, most recognizable as modern-day wizard spells, in 6 levels of complexity (which seems to be a modifier to the spell rather than a property of a spell itself). There are no clerics.

Going back to the earliest D&D rules, the D&D white box, we actually have cleric spells up to 5 and magic-user spells up to 6. The table even has a line showing the lack of cleric spells at level 6, indicating Gygax and Co. at least noticed this. Interestingly, clerics get 5th level spells at level 7, whereas magic-users (as they were called in 1st edition and earlier) have to wait until level 9, finally getting 6th level spells at level 12. Clerics also have no more than 6 spells per level, whereas magic-users have as many as 14 sometimes.

From the original description of Clerics: "Clerics gain some of the advantages from both of the other two classes (Fighting-Men and Magic-Users) in that they have the use of magic armor and all non-edged magic weapons (no arrows!), plus they have numbers of their own spells. In addition, they are able to use more of the magical items than are the Fighting-Men." They're an archetype now, but they were the original gish class!

So, the short answer is: they're not supposed to be as good magic-users as magic-users.
 

Lidgar

Legend
Tim the Magic User: My spells all go to nine. Look, right across the board, Time Stop, Wish, Bigby's Crushing Hand, nine, nine, nine and...

Karnak the Cleric: Oh, I see. And the other classes' spells go up to seven?

Tim the Magic User : Exactly.

Karnak the Cleric: Does that mean the spells are better? Are the spells any better?

Tim the Magic User: Well, it's two better, isn't it? It's not seven. You see, most spell casters, you know, will be casting spells at seven. Illusionist, druids, clerics... all on seven here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on seven when you're casting your best spells. Where can you go from there? Where?

Karnak the Cleric : I don't know.

Tim the Magic User : Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?

Karnak the Cleric : Put it up to nine.

Tim the Magic User : Nine. Exactly. Two better.

Karnak the Cleric : Why don't you just make seven better and make seven be the top number for all the classes and make that a little more powerful?

Tim the Magic User : ..... These spells go to nine.
rock band GIF
 

Orius

Hero
I suppose it helps to look at more than just cleric and wizard, though I should say magic-user here.

Look at the casters from Supplement 1 through 1e. There's cleric, druid, illusionist, and m-u. All of them, with the exception of m-u, go up to 7 spell levels. The m-u goes 9 levels probably because it's supposed to be the most powerful of the casters, like @Alzrius said. The m-u is also pretty much just the magic specialist, while the cleric had a balance between combat and casting ability. So traditionally the wizard is the exception, not the rule.
 

Yora

Legend
For some reason, AD&D does seem to believe that you can never have any two tables in the game that are matches of each other.All classes and anilities need to have tables that are slightly different in their numbers. Consistency must be avoided at any cost.
 


James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
One thing to consider is that Cleric spells and Magic-User spells aren't 1:1, sometimes it's really more like apples to oranges. Clerics can Animate Dead as a 3rd level spell, Wizards get it as a 5th level spell. Gate is a 7th level Cleric spell, but a 9th level Magic-User spell.

In most respects, it's hard to compare the two spell lists, because they are doing very different things. Even if you compare offensive magic, it's hard to ignore 7th level Cleric spells like Earthquake which affects a large area and doesn't even offer a saving throw; a medium-sized character just has a 1 in 6 chance to not instantly die.

And then there's Druid spells, which really muddy the waters, like Creeping Doom, which can theoretically deal 1000 points of damage!
 


GreyLord

Legend
Chainmail, the miniatures game that was a precursor to D&D, has wizards but no clerics. They have 14 spells, most recognizable as modern-day wizard spells, in 6 levels of complexity (which seems to be a modifier to the spell rather than a property of a spell itself). There are no clerics.

Going back to the earliest D&D rules, the D&D white box, we actually have cleric spells up to 5 and magic-user spells up to 6. The table even has a line showing the lack of cleric spells at level 6, indicating Gygax and Co. at least noticed this. Interestingly, clerics get 5th level spells at level 7, whereas magic-users (as they were called in 1st edition and earlier) have to wait until level 9, finally getting 6th level spells at level 12. Clerics also have no more than 6 spells per level, whereas magic-users have as many as 14 sometimes.

From the original description of Clerics: "Clerics gain some of the advantages from both of the other two classes (Fighting-Men and Magic-Users) in that they have the use of magic armor and all non-edged magic weapons (no arrows!), plus they have numbers of their own spells. In addition, they are able to use more of the magical items than are the Fighting-Men." They're an archetype now, but they were the original gish class!

So, the short answer is: they're not supposed to be as good magic-users as magic-users.

This is what I would have said.

To reiterate what you said, in the Original you had Fighting-Men and Magic-Users. The class that incorporated both were Clerics. They weren't supposed to be as good of fighters as Fighting-men, and were not supposed to be as good of Spellcasters as Magic-Users. They were the middle of the two different types of characters.
 

This is what I would have said.

To reiterate what you said, in the Original you had Fighting-Men and Magic-Users. The class that incorporated both were Clerics. They weren't supposed to be as good of fighters as Fighting-men, and were not supposed to be as good of Spellcasters as Magic-Users. They were the middle of the two different types of characters.
They can heal, though, which Magic-Users can't, which wound up making them the third point of the archetype. Interesting how these things develop.

I also remember reading they were invented to fight a player's vampire character called Sir Fang.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I also remember reading they were invented to fight a player's vampire character called Sir Fang.

Yes.


Going back to seriously address the OP ( @Gradine ). I've been thinking about this for a while, as I don't recall ever seeing a definitive answer to this question. What I do want to stress (as someone who was familiar with the era) is that it just seemed natural at the time.

I'm going to speculate a little, from a few different thoughts.

First, Gygaxian D&D (OD&D and 1e) wasn't about standardization. Things were created organically through the accretion of rules, and not through some kind of master attempt at balance with a lot of modern playtesting. So I don't think that anyone really sat down and was like, "Hey, some casters go to 7, and some go to 9."

That said, it is certainly true that Clerics (and Druids) were good in combat. Unlike the pathetically weak Magic User, Clerics (and to a lesser extent, Druids) were your second-line fighters. Their spells shouldn't be as powerful as Magic Users. In addition to just going to 7th level, they didn't have the utility or breadth or signature combat spells (fireball and lightning bolt and magic missile and sleep) that Magic Users had.

But to give you an idea of the difference- a MU had 78 spells to choose from between 1st and 3rd level, and 150 spells to choose from between 1st and sixth level. Clerics and Druids could choose between 36 spells between 1st and 3rd level and 66 spells through 6th level.

Looking back, though, the real question isn't about Magic Users ... it's about Illusionists. Illusionists suffered under all the same combat disabilities as Magic Users, they were magic specialists, but they also were capped at 7th level. More importantly, they had even less choice that did Clerics and Druids. Sure, they also had 36 spells between 1st and 3rd level, but they only 60 spells through 6th level. Heck, one of the seventh level Illusionist spells (one of the SIX they could choose from) was First Level Magic User spells .... ;) That's right, you could Alter Reality, or you could gain all the power of a first level MU.

I think that what we see is that there was a de facto cap of 7th level for spellcasters that weren't MUs. This happened in Dragon Magazine as well for the NPC classes- the Incantrix, literally the "anti-MU," was capped at 7th level spells (and couldn't learn their 7th level spell until 17th level, the same time that a MU had 2 8th level spells).

This may also have been an artifact of the separated spell lists- one great advantage of having unique spells lists for each class that each spellcasting class truly felt different. One disadvantage is that ... well, making lots of spells is hard! If they wanted to create a brand-new spellcaster, they'd have to create a lot of brand-new spells. It was easier to just go to 7, I guess.

Like a lot of the early rules, I think that the unsatisfying explanation is ... that's just the way they were.
 

Voadam

Legend
Chainmail, the miniatures game that was a precursor to D&D, has wizards but no clerics. They have 14 spells, most recognizable as modern-day wizard spells, in 6 levels of complexity (which seems to be a modifier to the spell rather than a property of a spell itself). There are no clerics.

Going back to the earliest D&D rules, the D&D white box, we actually have cleric spells up to 5 and magic-user spells up to 6. The table even has a line showing the lack of cleric spells at level 6, indicating Gygax and Co. at least noticed this. Interestingly, clerics get 5th level spells at level 7, whereas magic-users (as they were called in 1st edition and earlier) have to wait until level 9, finally getting 6th level spells at level 12. Clerics also have no more than 6 spells per level, whereas magic-users have as many as 14 sometimes.

From the original description of Clerics: "Clerics gain some of the advantages from both of the other two classes (Fighting-Men and Magic-Users) in that they have the use of magic armor and all non-edged magic weapons (no arrows!), plus they have numbers of their own spells. In addition, they are able to use more of the magical items than are the Fighting-Men." They're an archetype now, but they were the original gish class!

So, the short answer is: they're not supposed to be as good magic-users as magic-users.

This is what I would have said.

To reiterate what you said, in the Original you had Fighting-Men and Magic-Users. The class that incorporated both were Clerics. They weren't supposed to be as good of fighters as Fighting-men, and were not supposed to be as good of Spellcasters as Magic-Users. They were the middle of the two different types of characters.
This model of clerics as half caster gish can also be seen in 0D&D clerics getting zero spells at 1st level (which carried over to B/X).

In the OD&D book 6th level MU spells are the top tier, disintegrate, death spell, geas, reincarnate.

OD&D 5th level cleric spells are the top tier for them with raise dead, quest, commune, and . . . create food.

D&D kept pushing to eleven and resetting the bar with first 9th level MU and 7th level cleric spells, then fully 9th level for clerics as well. raise dead remained 5th level even as the envelope continued to expand to 9th level.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I suppose it helps to look at more than just cleric and wizard, though I should say magic-user here.

Look at the casters from Supplement 1 through 1e. There's cleric, druid, illusionist, and m-u. All of them, with the exception of m-u, go up to 7 spell levels. The m-u goes 9 levels probably because it's supposed to be the most powerful of the casters, like @Alzrius said. The m-u is also pretty much just the magic specialist, while the cleric had a balance between combat and casting ability. So traditionally the wizard is the exception, not the rule.
The Illusionist, however, who has no combat capability and spells that only go to seven, is hosed.
 


James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
The 1e Illusionist's design is insanely bizarre, but I don't know anyone who ever played one. I'm curious what the play experience was like, though I imagine, like illusion spells throughout the game's history, it really comes down to your DM (Illusions being one of the most "Mother May I" elements in the game).
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top