How would you handle a Wizard learning spells outside of leveling up?

How would you handle a Wizard learning spells outside of leveling up?

How would you handle a Wizard learning spells outside of leveling up?

Say the Wizard in your game enjoys exploring old ruins and libraries, studying ancient (and some times forbidden) magics. How would you let the player roll play their character learning all these spells, without limiting them to only being able to take one while leveling up?

If a character’s goal is to learn all the magic in the world, it doesn’t make sense for them to only know 13 spells or whatever.

12 thoughts on “How would you handle a Wizard learning spells outside of leveling up?”

  1. Are you asking how the wizard might obtain new spells in the fiction? Or how obtaining new spells in the fiction fits in with advancement? Or something else..?

    The rules for advancement (under the heading “Character Change”) explicitly say advancement is “both prescriptive and descriptive. […] Descriptive means that when the character changes in the fiction the player should change the character sheet to match.”

    So it’s no problem for the rules if you get a new spell in the fiction and start using it.

    How would you get the new spell? You could Spout Lore to find out, or perform the Ritual move to find out where ancient forbidden spells are, or use your Wizard Tower Library Card if there’s such a thing in your setting. Not in mine: All the unknown magic would be in dungeons and other places of deadly peril.

    If I somehow missed the point, please feel free to elaborate. I hope this helps!

  2. The GM offers an opportunity, with or without a cost. “The evil wizard is powering up a spell, Alastair… It’s gonna hurt and he’s preparing to lob it at Unferth. You could interrupt now — buuuuut you’re pretty sure if you let it happen and observe, you might be able to learn the spell that way. What do you?”

  3. If it’s a matter of how to get them in the fiction, the possibilities are endless: Maybe they have to eat death cap mushrooms and steal them from Death’s list of forbidden lore. Maybe they have to summon up Mephistopheles, or some other spirit, and broker a deal. Maybe the world is rife with talking animals and fairies in disguise who would give the wizard new spells if the wizard took notice of their plight and showed some moral initiative. Maybe you buy old codex fragments from the beduins who found them in sealed earthenware jars—and then sort out the actual magic from the dirty jokes, superstitious wart cures, and apocalyptic religious texts. Maybe you can just eat the brain of another wizard and steal his spells. Maybe you have to learn them from dragons or other ancient fiends. Et cetera. Think dangerously.

  4. I think the easiest solution here is to provide a blank sheet on to which you can write new spells. How you work out costs or balance If you care about those things for the increased usefulness in more situations for the wizard is up to you. Alternatively if the spells don’t endanger anyone, just use fiction, make them up and have them work.

  5. Entry 15 on the treasure table is: “All the information needed to learn a new spell and roll again.”

    From there, I think it’s just the GM move of “offer an opportunity (with or without a cost)” or “tell them the requirements and ask.”

  6. Magic is such a large subject that it should be impossible to learn it all.  However, Ritual allows you to do almost anything (but at what cost).  Following the fiction you can create a special Wizard Move as a level up for the character.  Here is one whirl at it:

    Advance for 2-5 levels:

    Knowledgeable Mage:  When a Wizard takes some time, a day at least, to study magic and use an extensive library he may add to his magical knowledge and take a spell out of his spell book and replace it with a new spell.  roll+Int

    On a 10+, the Wizard is successful and gains the new spell and “removes” out of his active spell book a spell of his choice.

    On a 7-9: The Wizard gains a new spell but at the cost of losing a random spell out of his spell book.

    On a 6-: The Wizard is not successful in gaining the new spell and suffers some sort of magical accident.  -1 Ongoing to casting spells until he has had at least a day to “straiten out” his spellbook.

    Then at the 6-10

    Flexible Mage: (Requires Knowledgeable Mage)

    The Mage is now so Knowledgeable about Magic and spells that he can improvise or modify his spells on the fly.  Often times this is a simple matter of turning a fireball into an iceball but can be more extensive.  The new spell must be of the same level as the one modified.  A Cantrip cannot be modified into an effect that a 1st level spell or higher could be.


    On a 10+: The spell is successful

    On a 7-9: The magic is almost uncontrollable, Take 1d6 Manna burn damage and expose yourself to magical dangers/

    On a 6-: Magical Backlash, the spell that was cast is the original spell but the Wizard uses up more components and does 1d6 damage to themselves.

    Of course this is just a couple of Moves, that I created on the fly. My suggestion is to Taylor it to your game better.  There is nothing saying that you cannot create new Moves to have as Advances for your players.

  7. Matrix Forby I’m not sure I agree that “Magic is such a large subject that it should be impossible to learn it all.” Surely that depends on the nature of wizardly magic, which is for the player of The Wizard to determine?

    (And after all, The Cleric has the full gamut of cleric spells to choose from every day and it doesn’t break the game, so if The Wizard made a priority of actively trying to fill their spellbook with every wizard spell I would see no reason to stop them.)

    It was never clear to me from the DW book whether Adam and Sage just assumed Wizards could copy new spells into their spellbook outside of levelling up or not. In D&D it worked like that – you automatically add spells to your book when you level up, but can also copy any scrolls or other spellbooks you find as well (and there were a bunch of rules around how that copying worked, which DW doesn’t bother with because they’re not very interesting).

    Certainly, the whole baseball-card-trading wizard trying to find other wizards in town to swap spells with and grovelling through libraries is a big part of my experience of playing a wizard in D&D, so any wizard I played in Dungeon World would definitely be interested in doing that too. Alas, I’ve only GMed the game.

  8. Robert Rendell I can see your point. With a Cleric, they are given their spells by their god and pray for them.  The spells are also different than what a Wizard has.  Also, from a class perspective it is a sort of “nitch protection” why I don’t really think that making a wizards spells almost like a cleric’s spells in how you can swap them out.  Now, certainly, I would have it where you can change out your spells to form a different spell book in a downtime circumstance. But I do see your point.  A Wizard in D&D 2nd to 3.5 could get new spells for their spell book as treasure or through research or what not.  Or even from copying a scroll into the spell book (using up the scroll but being able to memorize the spell later).  Since DW is about fun and about the simple narrative, I think that as a GM, I wouldn’t limit the wizard into ONLY getting spells through level up but it does look like that is what limits the Wizard and by appearances, I feel that they meant for new spells to be added to their spell book ONLY when they level.   Hence, why I thought making a new pair of advancements would be a good solution so that a Wizard could “tweak” their spells and have some extra flexibility beyond simply a new spell.

    By the way the request was worded, I felt that a better solution would be to provide some extra zing due to knowledge rather than simply allowing new spells to be taken.  An additional offering for the player.  But, then my intention was to simplify things by keeping the same spells with some tweaks such as tags, rather than coming up with spell after spell for the player to haver for his Wizard.

  9. Matrix Forby Your post gave me an Idea, that maybe he can find old spell books and such out in the world that he can bring along, and when he prepares spells he can just choose which book he wants to use. Then when he levels up, or after a ritual or something he can bring them over to his main spell book.

    One thing you have to remember though, just like Clerics, Wizards are limited in the amount of spells they can actually bring. So it doesn’t matter if they have 20 different level 9 spells, they can only use one at any given time.

  10. Well, hey, that’s why we have this forum: Sharing Ideas.  I hope it enriches and enhances the fun of your game for both the players and GM.  After all, if it isn’t fun, why would we play?

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