Dungeons. Dragons. Graph paper. Funny dice.

When magical research fails

In original D&D, as described on page 34 of Men & Magic, magic-users and clerics can conduct magical research to invent new spells.

The player proposes a new spell, and the referee assigns it a spell level. The character must conduct research for a number of weeks equal to that spell level, and spend a minimum amount of gold pieces based on the spell level.

Spell Level Research Weeks Min. Cost
1st 1 week 2000 GP
2nd 2 weeks 4000 GP
3rd 3 weeks 8000 GP
4th 4 weeks 16,000 GP
5th 5 weeks 32,000 GP
6th 6 weeks 64,000 GP

At the end of the research period, there’s a 20% chance of success. The player can spend more money to increase the odds, gaining an additional 20% for each multiple of the minimum cost spent.

What happens if that roll fails? Men & Magic doesn’t say, so roll d6:

  1. Review previously collected research data for another week to correct a flaw in your calculations. It’s unnecessary to expend further research funds, but the odds of success will be the same as before.
  2. This line of research hit a dead end, but you’ve narrowed the possibilities. After d6 weeks of additional research, your odds of success increase by 20%.
  3. You nearly found the answer, but your laboratory lacks the proper equipment to conclude the research. Spend an amount equal to the minimum research cost to purchase the new gear, and you will have the answer within a day. Of course, someone could liberate the equipment from the laboratory of a rival spell caster….
  4. The problem is more obscure than you anticipated. Spend the minimum cost in gold and weeks again. Your chance of success increases by 20%.
  5. Your hypothesis is flawed. Modify the spell description, and start from scratch.
  6. You will never succeed researching this spell without further experience. Try again after gaining a level.


Anonymous, June 5, 2011 at 6:33 PM

This is great Paul, I like it.

Telecanter, June 8, 2011 at 1:17 PM

Very, very nice. I’ve copied this and intend to use it if my players ever get around to spell research.

The only change I’ll make is flipping it, so rolling high is good.

Simon Forster, June 16, 2011 at 6:26 AM

I like this too. Simple and effective.

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