Researching New Spells
So, this is my core system for researching spells. To say this could use some feedback is an understatement. Researching spells is something I want rules for, and sometimes you just have to write them yourself. It also forced me to look at the structure of Wizard spells in 5th Edition more closely. These rules are assuming there are more restrictions on learning new spells than are currently in place in D&D, but they should work fine with the current system, as well. With all that preamble out of the way…
Someone in human history had to say, “hey, this fire stuff is damned useful. Maybe we should learn how to…you know.. use it?” We don’t know who that is, but that person has to have been there somewhere. Myths tell us gods(or titans) gave us fire and showed us how to use it.
Similarly, someone had to be first to say, “Hey, I bet I can use this stuff, and this hand gesture, and this phrase and..BOOM!” Magic. The gods could be the source on this. There are stories. Elve’s are an older race, and probably showed the humans how things are done, but they learned it from someone. Maybe dragons? Maybe gods?
For many wizards, the goal is to place their name on the arcane world. Here are some rules for that.
Starting note. Spell development is deliberately written to be expensive. This is a permanent change to the arcane world. It is harder and more expensive than making a magical item. It is the work of a lifetime for even particularly capable mages. Mages living 1000 years might only make 4 spells. Maybe not even that much. It is supposed to be a long term goal, not a single between game action. The gods can make spells faster, but gods cheat.
Second starting note: Creating a new spell should be done in concert with your DM. Tell them what you want the result to look like at the end. They will help shape it to make the spell fit into their game. DM fiat trumps any rules, even ones written by me.
Scope and Effort
First step in making a spell is deciding the scope of the project. Is the caster creating something new from whole cloth, or are they trying to recreate something that existed but they didn’t have access to it? What level of spell is it? What school of magic is it? What tools does the wizard have to create it? These all will affect the cost in time, money and effort.
The process of making the spell comes in steps. At each step, you will make an Arcana check to determine if that step is completed successfully. If you fail any step, you will have to start over from the beginning, unless some element specifically counters that. The material cost is listed in gold, but that is an abstraction for the cost of the actual materials. The real materials can be mundane as gold and salt, to exotic things like dragon blood. DM’s may give extra material as rewards. For example, if you slay a dragon, the DM may say you can harvest 5000 gold in dragon parts for your spell research.
Establish the overall form.
This is the stage where you define the level and school of the spell. This is where the basic form the spell will hold is defined. This is easier if you are trying to recreate a spell you know exist, but do not possess. The wizard must be high enough level to cast the spell to craft the spell.
Cost by School (Cantrips are equivalent to first level spells for this purpose).
Abjuration: 2000 gold/level of spell
Conjuration: 5000 gold/level of spell
Divination: 10000 gold/level of spell
Enchantment: 2000 gold/level of spell
Evocation: 2000 gold/level of spell l
Illusion: 1000 gold/level of spell
Necromancy: 2000 gold/level of spell
Transmutation: 5000 gold/level of spell
Universal: 20000 gold/level of spell l
If the Spell is known to exist, a couple of factors change on this stage. First, if you pass this stage and fail a later one, this stage remains and does not need to be redone. The second effect is that the cost of this stage is halved.
Cost in Time
The first stage takes a month of effort per level of the spell. This can be done in installments, so if you do not have 4 months of downtime to work on the spell you can spend one month at one point, and pick up where you left off later.
(Example: Fireball is Evocation. That is 2000 gold/level of spell and 1 month per level of spell. Fireball is 3rd level. That makes it 6000 gold and 3 months.)
Checking for success
To check for success, you must pass an Arcana check with a DC 15+ the level of the spell. Having an arcane lab, or wizard’s college available will grant advantage on this roll. If the roll fails, the monetary cost is still expended.
(Example: Fireball, being third level, would be a DC 18. )
This stage is all about determining some of the specific details of the spell. These are the components of the spell, the duration, the effects, the targets and the range. This is the meat of any spell research.
It is structured much the same way the first stage is. Each element you define determines the cost in materials, in time, and may affect the final roll to see if you succeed at this stage.
Casting time: The base for this is 1 action. This casting time can be increased to 1 minute, or 1 hour. Increasing casting time decreases cost.
Casting time costs:
1 action 10,000 gold/level of spell and 1 month/level of spell.
1 minute 5,000 gold/level of spell and 1 week/level of spell
1 hour 1,000 gold/level of spell and 1 day/level of spell
(Example: Fireball is 1 action to cast. That would be 10,000 gold/level of spell and 1 month/level of spell. Fireball is 3rd level. That would be 30,000 gold and 3 months added to this stage.)
Duration: Duration is similar to casting time in its effects on the research cost, but it is inverted. The longer the effects of the spell last, the more expensive it is to develop. There is also a wider range of possible durations, from Instantaneous (most Evocations have this duration) to Till Dispelled.
Base cost of setting Duration 1000 gold/level of the spell and 10 days per level of spell. The multipliers are listed below.
Instantaneous = X 1
1 Round = x 3
10 minutes = x 4
1 hour = x 5
8 hours = x 6
1 day = x 7
10 days = x 8
30 days = x 9
1 year = x 10
Until Dispelled(or triggered) = x 15
(example: Fireball is instantaneous. The cost to develop the Duration is 1000 gold/level of spell and 10 days/level of spell. It is 3rd level so it would be 3000 gold and 30 days added to the costs of this stage)
Target: Targeting effect determines cost based on if you are targeting individuals and the number of targets, or areas and the size of that area. Targeting self is always easier than external targets.
Self Only = 1000 gold/level of spell with no time increase.
Willing Target = 1000 gold/level of spell 1 week/level of spell
Additional Willing Target = 1000 gold/level of spell 1 month/level of spell
Unwilling Target = 5000 gold/level of spell 2 weeks/level of spell
Additional Unwilling Target = 5000 gold/level of spell 2 months/level of spell
Area effect = 1000 Gold/Level of spell per foot of area measure (radius, wall, line or cone) with a minimum of 5000 Gold and a base time of 1 month/level of spell. These totals are doubled if the area of effect is not started from self range. They are doubled again if the can specify who will and won’t be affected.
(Example: A fireball is a 20 foot radius, so 20,000 gold/level to develop. It is ranged so double that to 40,000/per level. It is third level so 120,000 gold just for the target cost, and three months added to the time this stage takes.)
Range: Range measures how distant the spell can reach. Obviously, touch spells are easier to develop than ones that can hit targets in other nations.
Self: 500 gold/level of spell 1 week/level of spell
Touch: 1000 gold/level of spell 1 week/level of spell
All others are 100 gold/level of spell 1 week/level of spell per 10 feet of range. This caps out at
40,000 gold/level of spell and 6 months/level of spell. The maximum range of a spell is 500 miles, but the cost caps as listed above.
(Example: Fireball has a range of 150 feet. That would be 1500 gold/level of spell and 15 weeks. Fireball is third level. That would mean 4500 gold and 45 weeks of time added to this stage.)
Components: Components used in the casting of a spell are a major element to a spell. It can be a great limiting factor.
A single component spell costs 10,000 gold/level of spell and 2 months/level of the spell to develop.
Two component spells costs 5,000 gold/level of spell and 1 month/level of the spell to develop.
Three component spells costs 1,000 gold/level of spell and 2 weeks/level of the spell to develop.
Rare and exotic material components (blood of a king, an unhatched live dragon egg) requirements are required during research as well, but take the place of gold cost in setting component costs, and cost no time.
(Example: Fireball requires verbal, somatic, and material components. It costs 1,000 gold/level of spell and 2 weeks/level of the spell to develop. It is a third level spell. The cost to set components is 3000 gold and 6 weeks.)
Effect: The effect cost is always the hardest to define. The effects of spells are remarkably varied. The from simple direct damage spells like Magic Missile, to spells that alter the fabric of reality like Wish. When setting the effect, there is no hard guideline. There is no “you must pay this for this many dice of damage” or the like. Instead, look at similar effects tot he one you want, see what level you find them at and use the level alone to determine the cost to set the effect. This is easier if you are recreating a spell that you know already exists, but don’t have details on.
It is time to reiterate that the DM is the final authority. They may decide the effect sought outstrips the level the spell is targeted for. They can arbitrarily decide it will cost more than the formula might suggest. For instance, one might double the cost to develop a Wish spell or half the cost of Acid Arrow. That is certainly something I would consider doing.
10,000 gold/level of spell and 1 month/level of spell.
(Example: Fireball is a third level spell. That would mean a development cost of 30,000 gold and 3 months.)
Preexisting spell benefit:
In this stage, if a spell already exists and the researcher knows its name and some details of the spell, then they can half all costs associated with development. It does not affect failures, however.
Checking for success:
To check for success, you must pass an Arcana check with a DC 15+ the level of the spell. Having an arcane lab, or wizard’s college available will grant advantage on this roll. If the roll fails, the monetary cost is still expended. Failure means going back to the beginning of the first stage. There is an exception for spells that exist in the world already, and you passed the first stage. In that instance, you return to the beginning of this stage.
(Example: In the Defining Aspects of spell development, our researcher expends 190,500 on the monetary costs and a little over 1.5 years of time. The researcher has to hit a DC18 to make this spell.)
The Final Stage:
The first two stages having been successfully accomplished, there is the finalization of the formula and the first casting of the spell. This stage has less moving parts. There is a single point to determine cost. The roll is a bit harder, but otherwise, it is pretty straightforward. This is the point where you have done all the research and now you are just bringing it all together.
Final Stage Costs:
2,000 gold/level of spell and 1 week/level of spell.
Checking for success
To check for success, you must pass an Arcana check with a DC 18+ the level of the spell. Having an arcane lab, or wizard’s college available will grant advantage on this roll. If the roll fails, the monetary cost is still expended. Failure means going back to the beginning of the first stage. There is an exception for spells that exist in the world already, and you passed the first stage. In that instance, you return to the beginning of the Defining Aspects stage.
(Example: Fireball is third level. Researching the final stage costs 6000 gold and 3 weeks of time. The roll required is DC 21. Not that bad all told.)