So, a lot of the old school takes on spells are reformist in nature. They take as given the lists and general powers of spells as laid down in OD&D and tweaked over successive versions of the game. Sleep is always level 1, fireball level 3, clerics have bless at level 1 and so on. Within this framework there is maybe an attempt to tone down some of the more out of kilter powers, or drop a few spells (like Know Alignment) that prove to be fun-killers in play.
Of course, there's a label hanging over any attempt to completely remake the spell system. I'm conscious of the danger of coming up with a Fantasy Heartbreaker, as much as someone trying to recruit for the ideal Tom Petty backup band.
(Okay, that was a bad simile.)
So, which way to go? Take the basic spell list and just add and tweak a little? Or completely rip the structure down from top to bottom?
Point: Much of the appeal of old school gaming is having a very simple lingua franca of concepts - classes, levels, abilities, d20 to hit.
Counterpoint: Players who are into spellcasters and magic-users in particular don't mind having to pore through a spell list, learning the minute pros and cons of a set of spells they may not have committed to memory. With this in mind, why not have the spell list be something completely new? The quick starting group can always just roll up, say, 3 or 4 spell choices from a list, point out the appropriate pages in the spell manual, and have the caster's player study up on those in between stops on the trek to the first adventure.
Hmmm. I'm leaning toward the revolutionary option. Damn the torpedoes ... as Tom Petty would say.
Researcher in social science and appreciator of hexy wargames, role playing games, interactive fiction, board games, and CCGs. I've learned a lot doing design and rules editing work on the side for the Legend of the Five Rings CCG. But this blog is mostly about other things.