4. My most recent thought was to trim down the number of spells to a “core” list (if you look at OD&D, they didn’t have many spells per level) and provide spell charts for those. Then, we can make some general rules as to how to create your own spell charts...
I favor this option. I have an antipathy to fat RPG books. A RPG book with "heft" weighs too much.
More importantly, the D&D spell list has experienced an unhealthy growth. As finarvyn noted, the 1974 D&D rules contain very few spells: 70 magic-user spells (of up to 6th level) and 26 cleric spells (of up to 5th level). That's enough. Actually, that's more than enough.
The admirable design goal of the DCC RPG is to emulate the books found in Appendix N. Joseph has wisely noted that the Typical Suspects of the D&D Monster Menagerie do NOT fit Appendix N. The 1,000+ monsters that have become "the old standbys" in D&D feel like nothing other than...bloated D&D. They certainly do not fit Leiber, Howard, Lovecraft, Merritt, and all the rest.
This is equally true of magic spells. The overwhelming majority of the hundreds of spells that are now considered "standard" D&D spells have no analogues in Appendix N. These far too numerous spells feel like bloated D&D and nothing else. As with monsters, D&D has become insufferably self-referential. Crom's devils! May such a thing never happen to DCC RPG.
I'd counsel Joseph to rigidly "hold the line" on the number of spells included in the game book--especially since it will cover characters only up to 10th level. Setting aside the 1974 rules' 6th-level spells (since they can't be cast by 10th-level characters), that leaves only 80 total spells in the original rules than can be cast by 10th-level characters. That's not a bad number, if still rather on the high side. The AD&D Players Handbook has 60 pages of spells. If each DCC RPG spell takes-up an entire page (which is a good thing), I'd say hold the line at no more than 60 spells, and try to include only those spells that are found in Appendix N.What would be ideal:
Ever since I first read James Raggi's Random Esoteric Creature Generator
, I've longed for an analogous book for spells. It would be so cool for Joseph to publish a Random Esoteric Spell Generator
. Referees could use it to help generate new and unusual spells for NPCs. Players could also use it to get their creative juices flowing.
How many times does a spell-caster in an Appendix N book cast a normal, recognized spell? ("Oh, look, he's casting a Passwall spell.") Close to never. The only exception I can think of is Vance's Dying Earth. (And for that matter, the opening pages of The Dying Earth
note that there are fewer than 100 spells extant.) Typically, Appendix N sorcerers are sui generis. I'd like to see that sort of attitude hold sway in DCC RPG. No cookie-cutter magic-users and clerics.
Last note: But what to do with all the spells that Joseph has already converted for DCC RPG, but wouldn't make the cut if my suggestions were followed? Give them to NPCs that are in modules, and publish these spells in the appropriate modules. Thus the spells wouldn't go to waste, and it would reinforce the idea that spell-casters are not "standards" but rather mysterious figures of unknown powers.