Does your wizard wish to create a powerful magical item or a potent new spell? What other effects does your priest's favorite offensive spell accomplish? Spells & Magic provides players and Dungeon Masters with expanded rules that are compatible with the Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide, and the rest of the Player's Option line of rulebooks.
Within these pages you will find new spells and proficiencies for wizards and priests, plus further rules on spell research and magical item creation, new options for designing spellcasters, an alternate system of gaining and using spells, and much more.
Use this book to bring out the full power and potential of any spellcasting character.
Player's Option: Spells & Magic (1996), by Richard Baker, is the third book in the "Player's Option" series of alternate rules for AD&D 2e. It was released in June 1996.
Completing AD&D 2.5e. In 1995, TSR rereleased AD&D in a series of three reformatted books. At the same they began a series of "Player's Option" books of variant rules which included Player's Option: Combat & Tactics (1995) and Player's Option: Skills & Powers (1995). Though the first two books in the series were released one immediately after the other, this third and final volume came almost a year later. It would also mark the end of TSR's 2e rules update & revamp, which has been widely called the "2.5e" ruleset.
As with Combat & Tactics, this book largely presents piecemeal rules - this time rules that affect a variety of spellcasters. Unlike the previous books in this series, most of the rules in Spells & Magic are expansions rather than totally new rule systems.
Expanding the Magic Users. The first three sections of Spells & Magic take a new, foundational look at wizards, priests, bards, and other spellcasters. As such, they act as sort of a capstone, expanding, codifying, and sometimes revising rules from numerous previous books for 2e that discussed spellcasters, including Legends & Lore (1990), PHBR3: The Complete Priest's Handbook (1990), PHBR4: The Complete Wizard's Handbook (1990), Tome of Magic (1991), DMGR4: Monster Mythology (1992), and even Player's Option: Skills & Powers (!).
Of those previous books, Tome of Magic is probably the most complementary to Spells & Magic. As such, it was updated to the new trade dress around the same time that Spells & Magic was released.
The Skills & Powers Connection. Player's Option: Skills & Powers contains point-based character creation rules that made it largely incompatible with the rest of 2e. Though not all of Spells & Magic's sections are entirely compatible with Skills & Powers, it does frequently refer to the earlier book, and thus is one of TSR's few published books to expand the Skills & Powers rules.
About Lab Work. AD&D never focused much on what happens during downtime between adventures; thus magic-users in that game rarely got to take on the more creative side of magic: working in labs and creating cool stuff.
Both 1st and 2nd edition AD&D included sparse rules for the creation of spells and magic items. Amusingly, the rules told GMs that players would have to quest to figure out how to make each item - making it a pretty rare element in actual AD&D games (and again, one more focused on adventuring than downtime).
Meanwhile, publications from other RPG companies were considerably expanding the idea of labwork. The Compleat Alchemist (1983) from Bard Games offered up an entire AD&D class that focused on magic-item creation, while Ars Magica (1987) from Lion Rampant was a full RPG that focused on magic-users, including extensive rules for magical work during downtime.
Spells & Magic caught AD&D up with the rest of the industry thanks to its own rules on lab work, spell creation, and magic item creation. These elements would also be much more important when D&D 3E (2000) appeared - an edition of the game overseen by Jonathan Tweet, the co-author of Ars Magica.
About Spell Points. Although Spells & Magic mostly steers away from big, new rules systems - unlike the two previous Player's Option books - it does offer one, and it's a biggie: a system for casting spells using "spell points."
Spell points were one of the first variants suggested for D&D. They arose as early as 1975, when Lee Gold published a spell point system in an early APA; her system was intended to limit the power of spellcasters, as OD&D (1974) didn't make it clear that a magic-user could only cast each memorized spell once. However, even after Gygax clarified that each memorized spell could be cast only once, in The Strategic Review #2 (1975), discussions of spell point systems continued.
Gary Gygax rather angrily returned to the topic in The Dragon #16 (July 1978). There, he started out by deriding the APAs where spell points were being discussed, saying, "APAs are generally beneath contempt, for they typify the lowest form of vanity press." He went on to say that they were full of "sophomoric ideas" and also implied that the writers for APAs didn't have any ability to write and design. Upon finally arriving at the topic of spell points themselves, Gygax said,
[D&D's] 'Vancian' magic system works splendidly in the game. If it has any fault, it is towards making characters who are magic-users too powerful. This sort of fault is better corrected within the existing framework of the game - by requiring more time to cast spells, by making magic-users progress more slowly in experience levels. Spell points add nothing to D&D except more complication, more record keeping, more wasted time, and a precept which is totally foreign to the rest of the game.
He returned to the topic in The Dragon #31 (November 1979), saying that spell points would make magic-users "highly dominant."
Despite Gygax's feelings on the topic, editor Tim Kask included a spell point system in The Dragon #29 (September 1979), saying that it was the first one he'd ever liked. The article's publication clearly reflected the fact that TSR and TSR Periodicals weren't under the same editorial control at the time. The idea of spell points wouldn't be repeated afterward in TSR's books, probably because TSR and Dragon reunified starting in the mid-80s... until the release of Spells & Magic.
Future History. Wizards of the Coast returned to the topic of "spells & magic" in Dragon #242 (December 1997), which most notably includes an article on "The Laws of Spell Design" by Ted Zuvich, which can aid GMs in figuring out what levels new spells should be.
About the Creators. By 1995, Baker had been working at TSR for a few years. Spells & Magic was released the same year as what most consider Baker's masterpiece: the Birthright Campaign Setting (1995).
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.