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Where should I refer to finding the exact rules for the starting spells of magic-users, clerics, druids and illusionists?

I'm not sure whether or not these spells start off ready-to-go or require additional materials, meditation, studying etc. I've heard there is a division between "known" spells and spells that can be "learned."

Explanation would be appreciated!

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

The AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide (1979) contains information on acquiring spells on pages 38-40. It's... complicated, but, in short, clerics and druids get any low-level spells they want, and initial magic-user and illusionist spells are acquired randomly.

Clerics & Druids
Clerics and druids cast any spells they want of up to 2nd-level spells, but petition servants of their god for 3rd- through 5th-level spells and their god directly for 6th- and 7th-level spells. The cleric, then, casts whatever low-level spells he wants and can cast whatever high-level spells his god gives him... if any. Gygax emphasizes that a cleric must be in good standing to get those 3rd-level or higher spells and might have to perform penance to receive what he wants--or anything at all--if he's not.

Magic-users & Illusionists
Magic-users and illusionists both have books, and magic-users' books contain the spell read magic that magic-users always already know. Illusionists don't use read magic, so it's not in their books--they have a unique, secret magical language they use instead. Beyond that, both classes then determine their starting spells randomly.


Gygax says that "[i]f your campaign is particularly difficult" players can select maybe 1 or 2 spells, or maybe even get an additional random roll. But that should be the exception not the rule. Those spells initially recorded are known and count toward the character's maximum number of spells per level as determined by the character's Intelligence score (AD&D Player's Handbook (1978) 10).

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One option that I used at times, and with reasonable success, as a variant on Gygax's advice for mages and illusionists was to allow multiple rolls and then selection from among the items rolled. This allowed some player choice (happier player) without simply giving them carte blanche (happier GM). – Stormhound Apr 2 '14 at 15:31
@Stormhound That's a nice house rule I've never thought/heard of before. – SevenSidedDie Apr 2 '14 at 15:37

First level Clerics and Druids can pick any spells from their respective lists. Probably done to balance the fact that their selection have few offensive spells and each class involves following a religion.

On DMG p.39 there is a chart that you can use to determine the initial spells of a starting Magic User. The page explains the procedure; the end result being the magic-user has Read Magic plus 3 or 4 additional spells.

Illusionists have a different procedure that results in 3 initial spells.

Minimum Known Spells and Chance to Learn Spells work as follows.

Magic users and illusionist write down spell in a spell book. The spell book is required to be present in order to memorize a spell. A magic user has a limited number of slots in use to memorize spells. Once cast a spell (or another spell) can't memorized in its place until the magic-user has rested for a period of time. This is given on page 40 and applies to all spell using classes. The spell book is required to be present to study from in order to memorize spells.

Intelligence affects the ability of the magic-user/illusionist to scribe spells into his or her spell book. A spell can be either independently researched or copied from a scroll or spell book. When this occurs you roll your chance to learn spell. If you succeed you copy the spell into your spell book. If you fail you don't and can't memorize that spell as it beyond the character's understanding.

You keep track of both the spells that the magic-user failed to learn and succeeded in learning. If you run through all the spells at a particular level and you did not manage to copy the minimum number of spells then you reset the failures and the character gets to try until he fills his spell book with the minimum number for that spell level. There is a maximum number of spells as well per spell level also based on intelligence.

Spells may require material components to cast. This is found in the Player's Handbook in the description of various spells. There are codes of V,S, and M which stand for Verbal, Somatic (hand gestures), and Material Components. The spell text will list the required components.

In practice, most AD&D referees will only require material components when they are of significant value or rarity. Like the Magic User 9th level spells Shape Change which requires a jeweled circlet worth 5,000 gp. Most AD&D referees in my experience look at the Verbal and Somatic requirement to handle specific situation like when the spell caster is tied up or gagged.

This of is all explained with additional details on pages 38 to 40 of the Dungeon Masters Guide and in various sections of the Players Handbook.

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I find this to be a complete explanation, (for magic users at least)

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Welcome to the site! We ask that users not simply post links to information because the links could stop working. While it's OK to have the link, for this answer to be acceptable you would need to edit it to include a summary of the linked article. – Oblivious Sage Jan 15 at 18:05

Interesting. My DM for AD&D has only ever done it a home brewed way. Basically if you are a class that uses magic you get one chosen first level spell, then the rest are rolled randomly. It's worked out really well and has come into some funny situations where a Mage has blinded a ogre by casting light on its nose so everyone could get away.

It's usually somewhere on the table of contents in the AD&D handbook where the rules for giving out spells are. If not I'm sure you can come up with a house rule for it? After all D&D is about being creative (unless you are a rules lawyer who prefers mechanics over fun).

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