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Is there a good source for allowing players to create new (non-epic-level) spells, or combining spells?

For example, how can a Wizard research and create a new spell? What if a sorcerer improvises and tries to create an effect for which there is no spell?

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5 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

On p42 and pp95-96 of the 3e DMG there are rules and guidelines for creating new spells. The rules in a nutshell:

  • Access to a library, just as if the character were researching to learn a spell.
  • 1,000gp expenditure per week
  • 1 week per spell level
  • Spellcraft check of 10 + level of spell means the character was successful.

The text notes that creating spells is easy. Assigning a level is hard. The rest of the text is devoted to guidelines for judging level, power, duration, etc.

The guidelines are very good, in my opinion, but require a lot of DM discretion. For the most part, they recommend comparing the new spell with existing spells to determine the level, but there is also advice about certain effects, costs, etc. The section includes a table with recommended damage caps for Arcane and Divine spells by level.

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Mmn, this is largely based on the second editions rules for creating spells, with the exception of cost - in second edition, the cost of researching a new spell was between 100 and 1000 gp per spell level, with the guideline that the GM should set the actual price high enough that the actual amount should be close to, but not in excess of, the researching PC's available wealth. Given the different importance of controlling player wealth level in 3rd edition when compared to 2nd, I've never thought this method translated very well. I can't in good concience reccomend the default ruleset. –  GMJoe Jan 31 '12 at 7:06
@user867, I'm not sure how to parse your comment. Are you saying that the 2e guideline to arbitrarily set the cost was better or worse than the 3e rules I quoted above? –  cr0m Apr 26 '12 at 19:51
@crom I'm saying that the rules you posted worked better in second edition than in third and 3.5. In second edition, player character wealth was not an incredibly important part of game balance. So far as I can tell, the only reason there was a research cost at all was to reduce the rate at which new spells were introduced to the game, thereby reducing the amount of effort and adaptability required of the GM. In third and 3.5rd, player character wealth is important to game balance.(CONT) –  GMJoe Apr 27 '12 at 4:08
@crom The cost of researching an orginal spell is a substantial potion of a character's expected wealth at any level. Since a new spell does not significantly alter a character's power level (assuming that the spell is of an appropriate level for its effect) when compared to other power-increasing things a character could spend money on (e.g.: spells learned from other sources, magic items), this means that a character who engages in spell research will actually be less effective then other characters in the same party. –  GMJoe Apr 27 '12 at 4:12
@crom Of course, your milage may vary. Some groups don't care that much about bang-for-gp, some players don't mind shelling out 500-9000 gp for a bit of extra customisation, and in some settings it might be possible to offset the cost original spell research by selling the spell to interested NPCs. Still, given how easily and often 3.0 and 3.5 are played as numbers games, I can't help but think that a more balanced solution would be to replace some or all of the gp cost of spell research with some other requirement. –  GMJoe Apr 27 '12 at 4:23
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It's not a 3.5 source, exactly, but Pathfinder's "Ultimate Magic" greatly expands on the 3.5 guidelines for spell design. It includes lists of 'benchmark' spells and detailed justifications as to why they should be used as a basis for comparisons, and also describes different categories of spell effects and why they're important from a balance and gameplay perspective.

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Quintessential Wizard II by Mongoose actually has a fairly detailed section on creating spells.

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I find that Encyclopedia Arcane Chaos Magic is perfect for this. You can find a copy on Amazon.

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This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. –  wax eagle Feb 20 at 21:59
While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. –  DuckTapeal Feb 20 at 22:54
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I'm not aware of any official source for this information. My understanding of D&D 3.X is that it was fairly unstructured in it's design, so their are no standards for spell creation. Monster standards were only added in 3.5.

Some things you may want to consider when creating spells for D&D 3.X:

  • Is this spell not out there somewhere? There were dozens of books from WotC for D&D 3.5, many with dozens of spells. The Spell Compendium is a 288 page collection of non-epic level spells, and a great place to look (it does duplicate other books).
  • Spells vary greatly by type. Arcane and Divine spells are very different until the final power levels.
  • How does this spell compare in damage/healing/range/targets/effects to spells of the same level?
  • Does the spell have a natural counter? Most spells in the book have some way to reverse their effects.
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