Clerical Spell Progression

Earlier in the week I looked at the spell progression for magic-users across OD&D (O), B/X D&D (B), and AD&D 1e (A). Today, I thought I’d take a look at the same for clerics.  In this case I stopped the comparison at level 10, as that’s as high as OD&D goes, and 11th level is where AD&D starts adding 6th level clerical spells, which do not exist in the other two editions.  Interestingly, I’m just noticing on the AD&D chart that there’s a note that 6th level spells require a 17 Wisdom, and 7th level spells require an 18 Wisdom.  It’s an interesting attempt to try and continue to limit access to these higher level spells, but with the ability score glut the game gets into by this edition, I wouldn’t be surprised if most PC clerics had access to these spells.  Anyway, here’s the chart:

O1 B1 A1 O2 B2 A2 O3 B3 A3 O4 B4 A4 O5 B5 A5
1 1
2 1 1 2
3 2 2 2 1
4 2 2 3 1 1 2
5 2 2 3 2 2 3 1
6 2 2 3 2 2 3 1 1 2 1 1
7 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1
8 2 3 3 2 3 3 2 2 3 2 2 2 2 1
9 3 3 4 3 3 4 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 2 1
10 3 4 4 3 4 4 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 2


Interestingly, in this case it’s AD&D that’s the outlier.  B/X hues pretty close to OD&D, and not just in the fact that it starts 1st level clerics with no spells.  For the first two levels B/X gives a few more spells at higher levels, though the charts are identical up to level 7.  Spell levels 3 and 4 are exactly identical, and then oddly B/X grants fewer 5th level spells.

AD&D, on the other hand, not only starts the progression earlier granting a first level spell at level 1, but it also grants spell levels 2 and 3 a character level earlier.  It grants more of these spells faster, but by the higher levels it tapers off to be equivalent of the other editions.  Let’s not forget though that this is also the edition that grants even more low level spells for high Wisdom scores, which as mentioned before your PC probably has.

Then there’s spell level 4, where everything goes crazy.  In OD&D and B/X for some reason both spell levels 3 and 4 are first granted at character level 6.  I’m pretty sure this always surprises everyone.  It seems very strange to me that one level would grant you access to two new tiers of spells.  AD&D does not do this, rather it grants access to higher spell levels at a steady pace, meaning that by character level 7 suddenly the AD&D spell progression is well behind the other editions.  Fifth level spell access remains behind, with AD&D only granting them at character level 9, and catching up in number to B/X at character level 10, though both are still behind OD&D.

Oddly in this case, I find my personal preference aligning with AD&D of all things.  I like the idea of granting a spell right at first level (an idea even Gary mentions preferring in Cheers Gary), and I like smoothing out the weird bump at level 6.  That said, I also like my level cap around level 14-15, where OD&D takes magic-users and B/X takes everyone.  However if you follow the spell progression talbes of either B/X or AD&D up to that level, you’ll find clerics gaining access to many more low level spells than the equivalent magic-user.  In B/X a 14th level cleric has 6 first level spells, and likewise in AD&D he’s got 6 first, second, and third level spells.  In comparison, the magic-user tops out at 4-5 spells per level.  I can’t help but wonder why?

I’m conflicted here.  I see three options.  Hmm, maybe a poll is in order:

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

4 thoughts on “Clerical Spell Progression

  1. “In OD&D and AD&D for some reason both spell levels 3 and 4 are first granted at character level 6.”
    * You mean OD&D and B/X.

    This is one of the many sore points for me about clerics (abstaining on poll). I can almost live with OD&D with no spells at 1st level: temple acolytes are really just normal men. But with AD&D giving them spells at 1st level (with Wis bonus, usually 3-4), suddenly every most humble acolyte in every temple in the land has miraculous powers. That just breaks it for me (in a world-building sense).

    The Wisdom requisite for high-level spells also resembles Gygax’s mechanics in Sup-II/PHB/UA for allowing demi-humans to surpass nominal class level limits. It’s like a retcon saying “these only appeared like the limits to you because you didn’t know about this advanced rule” — to which I say: Too fiddly and over-clever. Just change the rule if you’re going to change the rule.

    In addition, AD&D also had a rule that your patron deity needed to be a lesser god to get 6th level spells, and greater god to get 7th level spells (demigods gave 1-5 only). I think that’s in the DDG.

  2. Looking for a job as editor Delta? 🙂

    I’ve gone back and forth on the no spells at 1st level thing myself, and finally decided that it really just doesn’t seem to matter all that much to the game, but really does matter to the player of the cleric. As such, I’m totally happy to give them a spell right away.

    Frankly, a lot of AD&D feels “too fiddly and over-clever” to me. There are a few things in the PHB I like, but I’ve never been able to make it through the entire DMG.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.