The Vancian MIII Spellcasting Engine for Old School Rules Simulators

What follows is open-source, completely non-proprietary stuff. If you post about it (and I'd be flattered) or even use it (which would be awesome), please link back to Gorgonmilk. It's less a complete system than a bunch of related ideas at this point.

VMIII Fundamentals
  • Spells are complex magical formulae that must be transferred to the magic-user's memory in order to be triggered later.
  • Spells are acquired through game-play. They are found, purchased, stolen or created.
  • The memory of a magic-user can be abstractly represented as a series of cells. (See chart below.)
  • A first level magic-user can memorize and cast only first level spells; a second level m-u can cast and memorize first or second level spells; and so on with mastery achieved at ninth level.
  • A spell's level indicates how much of the magic-user's memory is required for it to be memorized. For example, a third level spell requires three cells, while a seventh level spell requires seven. These cells must be adjacent to each other. (See chart below.)
  • Theoretically, a spell can remain in a magic-user's memory permanently.

      The Memory Cell Chart
      • The numbers running along the left side of the page correspond to the magic-user's experience level. Each level grants the magic-user five more cells of storage until he/she reaches the maximum at 15th level. A fifteenth level magic-user has 75 cells of storage, not including the five marked "LT" which stands for Long-Term Memory. That's equivalent to seventy-five first level spells or eight ninth level spells with some space to spare.
      • When a spell is cast (successfully or not) it is erased from the Chart.
      • Long-Term Memory is normally not used for spell storage. However, if a magic-user's need for storage space is dire, he/she can sac an LT cell at a cost of 1/5 his/her total experience points and add it to his/her overall spell storage. Once a spell occupying Long-Term Memory is cast, the cell(s) revert back, and another 1/5 total XP must be spent to use an LT cell again. 

         Example: Voor-Hing the Mage

        Yggoa, the Crystal Bark
        • Yggoa is a psychoactive agent that expands the memory. It is highly addictive. Long-term use leads to the formation of mnemonic cavities that permanently impair a spell-caster's overall ability.
        • The drug is harvested from a rare crystal tree type that is difficult and expensive to obtain. These plants are for the most part cultivated by powerful foreign cartels. When a tree reaches maturity, its crystalline bark is carefully stripped and ground into the fine, luminescent powder called yggoa. Often the pure powder is "cut" for market with an additive called jinth that increases its addictive qualities.
        • When a magic-user uses a single dose of yggoa, he gains access to 1d8 memory cells that would normally be beyond his experience level. These cells are always adjacent. After the spell(s) occupying these cells is cast, they revert back to their inaccessible state.
        • Each dose used in this way carries a 5% cumulative chance of causing a mnemonic cavity to form. A cavity destroys one of the magic-user's normally accessible cells. The particular cell is randomly determined by the DM, who will black it out with a marker. The magic-user then returns to 0% chance of mnemonic cavity formation, but every dose of yggoa thereafter increases the risk to 10%. New cavities are always adjacent to the original, or adjacent to adjacent cells thereof. These can even extend into Long-Term Memory. LT cells lost in this way deduct 1/5 total XP each. Additionally, the magic-user loses one point of Constitution for each LT cell lost this way. Once all LT cells are lost, the magic-user can no longer increase in experience.
        • Extreme yggoa use leads to a total black-out of normally accessible memory cells. In these cases, magic-users become totally reliant on yggoa to memorize spells.
        • Yggoa-addicts often appear gaunt and listless. Their eyes are often rimmed with a green discoloration.
        • Withdrawal is taxing on the Constitution. Following the grace period of three doses, every new dose of yggoa has a 1-in-4 chance of causing a habit to form. Habits require daily intake. One point of CON is permanently lost each day without a dose of yggoa. Habits can be broken by cure disease and various esoteric treatments.

        Coteries and Collective Memory
        • A coterie is composed of an Archmage (20th level magic-user or higher) and four to twelve cohort-mages.
        • Each member of the coterie shares his/her accessible memory cells in a common telepathic network known as a Memory Pool.
        • The Archmage alone adds spells to the pool and it is he/she who grants a cohort access to specific spells.
        • Coteries notoriously dominate the merchant trade and accumulate vast wealth in this way to devote to their clandestine agendas.


        1. Really cool stuff! :)

          I love the kind of tactile element of the mental cell map, and the way it reinforces the idea that spells are actually somehow stored in the magic-user's brain!

          And it is very interesting how similar your 'yggoe' is to my 'memory dust'!

        2. Thank you, Gavin! I'm hoping that the players take to it.