And so, as inevitably happens, we reach Day Seven in this look at the free Basic D&D pdf. Even though it’s Version 0.1 and far from the document it is destined to grow to be, there’s still so much we haven’t covered. When this erstwhile and oh-so-promising tome reached the glorious 1.0 stage we will revisit it and dedicate another week to go over the new shinies found within.
We’ll end this week with a look at How Magic Works.
There are currently two spell-casting classes in the game, the Cleric and the Wizard, and they both work in very similar ways. The 1st level Cleric has access to 3 Cantrips and the full level 1 Cleric spell list, plus any additional spells granted by the Divine Domain. This is one of the spheres of influence of their patron deity (or pantheon, if you’re a pantheistic Cleric), with just the Life Domain currently included. At 1st level the Wizard only has 3 Cantrips and 6 1st level spells in their spellbook, and access to additional spells requires research, cost and seeking out Forbidden Tomes from dangerous locations. The Cleric has it easy, frankly.
Regardless of base Class, spell-casting works the same. Cantrips are your easy-to-use at-will (to coin a 4th Edition phrase) spells that you can use repeatedly. Compared to 3rd Edition and below these are surprisingly useful. Fire Bolt does a non too shabby 1d10 damage on a ranged attack hit, and Thaumaturgy can be a game-changer if you want to intimidate a whole Goblin tribe. Don’t under-estimate the power of this Cantrip!
The Cleric can prepare (or memorize, if you prefer) a number of spells equal to their class level + Wisdom bonus, while the Wizard can prepare their class level + Intelligence bonus. From those prepared spells they can cast whatever they want, limited by their number of spell slots. For example a 2nd level Wizard with INT 16 can prepare 5 different spells, and can cast 3 1st level spells from those; this could be the same spell 3 times, or any combination. Spell slots are regained after a long rest. Which is nice.
Clerics gain additional spells from their Divine Domain, and these are always considered to be prepared and don’t count toward the Cleric’s limit on number of prepared spells. Wizards can regain used spell slots (up to half their level, rounded up) during a short rest, so a Wizard should always have access to more than their Cantrips if they plan their break times accordingly. I like this arrangement; it feels less mechanically artificial than Fourth Editions at-will, per-encounter and per-day power structure, but still keeps the tactical elements in place for those Classes which need it.
Generally speaking spells are either things you have to save against, or get hit by. Other than those spells which affect allies or the environment, spells either require a save (DC = 8 + proficiency bonus + Wisdom or Intelligence bonus) or a to-hit roll (attack roll = proficiency bonus + Wisdom or Intelligence bonus). It’s quick and simple, and works extremely well in play. I don’t normally play a Wizard because they’re too complex for my little brain, but I love the Basic D&D wiz. It’s become my favourite class already.
One clever little twist to spell-casting is the use of an arcane focus. This could be an orb, crystal, rod, staff, wand or (for the Cleric) holy symbol that acts as a replacement for material components when casting spells. That’s a flavourful and character-driven way to have wands and staves in the game and give then a minor thematic incentive. Do you envisage your Wizard gathering and worrying about spell components as you travel, or fancy playing a wand-wielding teenager from an exclusive public school? How about playing a Mountain Dwarf Wizard who channels his spells through an ugly blue crystal, or an elf who wields a branch of the One True Tree? It’s all there wrapped inside this simple, almost trivial, little rule.
That pretty much represents everything how I feel about Basic D&D. The rules are simple, almost trivial. It’s minimal, elegant and neatly put together but still with enough room to breath and create your own vision for the game. As a game unto itself it is terrific, and I predict it has a wonderful future.
As a framework for your own creations, it’s unparalleled.
I quite like it. Hope you do too.
Till next time!