Spellcasting refers to the ability of the PC to cast spells. During their adventure, PCs may learn and utilize an increasing selection of spells. Even one or two can be useful, while a broad repertoire can be applicable to a wide variety of situations.
Such spells may include:
- Offensive spells, many of which deliver elemental damage.
- Curative spells, which can heal the PC or other beings.
- Utility spells, such as teleportation.
- Beneficial status spells, such as invisibility.
- Spells which impair monsters, e.g. by slowing them down.
- 1 Class considerations
- 2 Acquiring spell knowledge
- 3 Casting spells
- 4 Spell types
- 4.1 Casting range/area of effect
- 4.2 Effect type
- 4.3 Effect duration
- 4.4 Spell magic school
- 5 Spell power
Some classes possess natural spellcasting advantages, whereas others must work harder to hone this craft.
Classes with strong advantages
Wizards, Necromancers, Priests and Druids receive the strongest spellcasting advantages. PCs of these classes are much more likely to find spellbooks as random loot, in addition to learning from spellbooks more easily. Since all four classes share these key advantages, they are actually rather similar in spellcasting aptitude. Any of them can progress rapidly as spellcasters from the very start of the game.
Out of this leading group, Wizards could be considered the most advantaged spellcasters, with the strongest spellbook learning ability of any class.
Classes with moderate advantages
Elementalists are notable for possessing innate knowledge of some offensive spells from the beginning. Uniquely, they acquire further offensive spell knowledge each time they level up. They are also good at learning from spellbooks - but unlike the more privileged spellcasting classes, Elementalists lack any extra chance to find spellbooks in random loot. This makes it harder for them to expand their repertoire, unless they are lucky enough to find a bookshop.
While not possessing the obvious trappings of a spellcasting class, Paladins have a hidden edge: they tend to find spellbooks in random loot more often than most classes. This is a useful bonus, although it is significantly more subtle than the book-finding abilities enjoyed by Wizards, Necromancers, Priests and Druids.
Unfortunately, Barbarians and Mindcrafters struggle badly with spellbook learning. While certain factors could help them to some degree - such as being born under the Book star sign and blessing each spellbook before reading - PCs of these classes may still have a hard time progressing beyond more basic spells.
Spellcasting with (almost) any class
Although most classes do not have notable spellcasting advantages, most do not suffer from heavy penalties either. With planning and persistence, PCs of almost any class can become decent-to-excellent spellcasters.
Various factors can help PCs to learn from spellbooks:
- For heavy-duty spellcasting, the Concentration skill is a virtual requirement. Fortunately, aside from the four main magical classes, eight other classes also train in this skill. Mist elves are also guaranteed to have this skill regardless of class. PCs without Concentration can only obtain it via wishing or as a randomly acquired skill from scrolls/potions of education.
- The Literacy skill is also important, though the PC can acquire it in-game if they are not literate initially.
- The Learning attribute significantly affects the PC's ability to learn spells from books.
- The Book star sign also makes it easier to learn spells from books. Although a Wizard would find little value in this star sign (they are competent book learners already) it can be very helpful for aspiring casters who do not belong to a magically-oriented class.
Spellbooks are scarce for most classes, but there are ways to get more of them:
- The Treasure Hunter talent can be somewhat helpful, as it increases the quantity of random loot.
- Tracts of order/balance/chaos can be converted into randomized spellbooks by dipping them into potions of raw chaos in a DL1 area, such as the wilderness.
- Bookshops can be extremely helpful if found, though there is no guarantee of finding any. If the player really wants one, certain talents can improve the odds by making shops more common.
Acquiring spell knowledge
To cast a spell, the PC must possess spell knowledge for that specific spell. This knowledge can be acquired in a number of ways. In practice, the vast majority of spell knowledge is learned from spellbooks.
Learning from spellbooks
The PC can attempt to read and learn from any spellbook that they possess, provided that they are not blind or in darkness, and are neither stunned nor confused. When the PC does this, a number of turns (equal to the spell's base cost plus three) are consumed by the learning attempt. The PC remains susceptible to the effects of hunger, poison or sickness during this time.
Based on their Literacy, there is an initial chance that the PC "cannot decipher the runes"; if this happens, the attempt ends with no further effect. Provided that the Literacy-based check is successful, the PC will then attempt to learn from the book.
The chance of successfully gaining spell knowledge is influenced by several PC aspects, including:
- Experience level
- Literacy and Concentration skills
- Learning attribute
- Star sign (bonus for Book)
Other factors include:
- Difficulty of the spell being learned
- B/U/C status of the spellbook (bonus if blessed, penalty if cursed)
Successful knowledge gain
If the PC succeeds in gaining spell knowledge, the amount of knowledge gained can be influenced by:
- Learning attribute
- Experience level
- Star sign (bonus for Cup)
- Talents (bonus for Good/Great Book Learner)
The player can try to gain additional knowledge from the spellbook by repeating the above process. However, spellbooks have a limited number of uses; this number is randomly determined for each book and is not visible to the player. Each time the PC successfully gains spell knowledge, this consumes one of the limited uses for that book. When all uses have been consumed, the book disappears.
Failure to gain knowledge
If the PC fails to gain spell knowledge, they may suffer a randomly-determined effect as well. This is influenced by the PC's class: magically-challenged Barbarians and Mindcrafters are much more likely to suffer an effect than magically-gifted classes such as Wizards, for example.
The following effects are possible:
- The PC receives a negative status (blind, confused or stunned) for a period of time influenced by the base cost of the spell that they failed to learn.
- The PC loses a random amount of HP between 1 and the base cost of the spell that they failed to learn.
- The PC is teleported, unless the level forbids teleportation in which case the PC becomes confused instead.
- The PC loses one point of Toughness.
- An open pit appears on the PC's current tile, causing them to fall in, unless the tile is unsuitable for digging in which case nothing happens.
- The spellbook explodes, dealing fire damage to the PC and their equipment.
- The spellbook vanishes.
Black tome of Alsophocus
The black tome of Alsophocus is an artifact book from which the PC can attempt to learn random spells, if they happen to find it in their game. Unlike typical spellbooks it has unlimited uses, but it also corrupts the PC in the process, making its utility questionable.
Alternative learning methods
Aside from conventional spellbook learning, several other methods exist for gathering spell knowledge. These methods only deliver small amounts of spell knowledge in comparison to books, and some of them have downsides to be aware of. Still, they can be quite useful - especially for PCs who struggle with book learning.
Potions of wonder
Drinking a potion of wonder grants a small amount of spell knowledge for a random spell (all of them having equal probability); cursed potions remove that amount of knowledge from said spell if the PC already knew it, and grant a single point otherwise.
Wands of wonder
Zapping a wand of wonder grants a small amount of spell knowledge for a random spell, while also compelling the PC to cast that spell immediately.
Babbling mouth corruption
The babbling mouth corruption periodically grants a small amount of spell knowledge for a random spell, while also compelling the PC to cast that spell immediately.
Innate spell knowledge
PCs of certain classes acquire spell knowledge automatically as they gain experience:
- Elementalists gain knowledge in several offensive spells on each level-up.
- Bards gain knowledge in 4 randomly chosen spells upon reaching level 18.
- Healers gain knowledge in Calm Monster, Cure Light Wounds, Cure Disease and Slow Poison upon reaching level 25 and at all subsequent level-ups; they also gain knowledge in Cure Serious Wounds and Neutralize Poison upon reaching level 40 and at all subsequent level-ups.
- Merchants gain knowledge in Create Item upon reaching level 50.
- Wizards gain knowledge in all spells upon reaching level 50.
Once the PC possesses at least 1 point of spell knowledge, he/she is able to cast the corresponding spell. Two methods of casting are available in the game.
Casting from knowledge
The PC uses his attunement to the spell (i.e. spell knowledge) in order to conjure it. This uses up the amount of PP equal to effective spell cost and is considered a standard action in terms of energy cost, i.e. 1000 EP. The spell that was cast is trained (increasing its efficiency; see below) and spell knowledge is reduced.
If a spellbook is in the PC's possession, he/she may attempt to read it. The game will offer a choice of either trying to increase knowledge by actually reading, or using the spellbook to cast its corresponding spell. The latter choice will use up the amount of PP equal to 3x the usual cost, and is performed with an increased energy cost of 3000 EP (roughly equivalent to 3 turns). No spell knowledge is drained this way, but efficiency is never increased.
There are two talents that are oriented on improving book-casting throughput. Good Book Caster will replace the 3x modifier to PP cost for a 2x one, and Great Book Caster will replace it once more for a 1.5x one. This is a significant decrease if the PC is performing book-casting extensively or is aspiring to become an archmage.
Note that book-casting is an effective strategy for PCs who suffer penalties in spell learning, particularly Barbarians and Mindcrafters. A single potion/wand of wonder will allow infinite spell usage, provided the spellbook and enough PP for casting is present.
Casting from hit points
Normally, to cast a spell the PC needs to spend the required amount of power points. If PC's current PP pool is depleted or simply not large enough to cast the spell even when full, the game will prompt whether he wishes to exhaust himself to cast it. If the player chooses to allow this, the PC will be drained of all available power points, satisfying a part of spell cost, and the remainder will be powered by hit points. The PC takes damage equal to 5% maximum HP + 1 per 2 unpaid PP. In addition, the PC loses 9 Satiation per unpaid PP (potentially causing death by starvation), and severely abuses their Willpower, Toughness, and Mana attributes.
All spells in ADOM can be classified by a certain number of general characteristics. The main ones include the following:
- Casting range/area of effect
- Effect type
- Effect duration
- Spell magic school
Casting range/area of effect
The spells of this group cannot be targeted and may only the PC or the environment. They are primarily utility spells, that may buff the PC (Farsight, Strength of Atlas), or otherwise provide him with insight about the game world (Revelation, Identify). The group also includes a number of unique spells that actively the change the game world (Earthquake and Wish).
The spells of this group can be cast either on the PC himself/herself or on any being in the immediate vicinity of the PC (that is, on one of the 8 surrounding tiles). This group includes a broad range of effects, such as damaging (Burning Hands), buffing/healing (Bless, Cure Light Wounds) and utility (Teleport, Invisibility).
The spells of this group require the PC to choose one of the possible 8 directions (and, sometimes, the "down" direction which casts the spell on the current tile). A bolt of energy is launched in the specified direction, traveling in a straight line and affecting everything in its path. These spells are primarily offensive (elemental bolts and Magic Missile) or utility (Stun Ray, Mystic Shovel). Several of these spells conjure a "bouncing" projectile that will be reflected off walls. This feature provides significant tactical advantage but the caster must take care not to inadvertently strike him/herself with the bouncing bolt.
Many creatures have the ability to "shrug off" bolts, negating their effects.
The spells of this group affect a whole area around the PC. The group is primarily focused on damage (Fireball, Acid Ball), but also includes very useful utility spells (Light and Darkness). One outstanding feature of ball spells is that they affect everything in the area and are not stopped by dungeon layout, which allows the PC to reach monsters from behind walls. For all ball spells their effective range is based on the Willpower attribute.
Improved Fireball is a unique spell which can be "thrown" like any missile projectile on the specified tile and will explode as a ball spell upon reaching its destination. Just like missile projectiles, Improved Fireball may not reach the specified tile if it hits anything in its path.
These spells are focused on damaging opponents and include touch, bolt and ball spells. Some spells may not be applied to all monster types, some effects may be resisted or evaded by the monsters (Burning Hands, Fire Bolt, Acid Ball).
The majority of ADOM spells produce an instant effect, like damage and healing. The effect can be applied repeatedly with additional casts.
These spells last for a certain number of turns during which they provide full benefits. These are of the "buff" and "debuff" variety. Repeated castings will not increase the magnitude of the effect, but do increase the overall duration ("stacking" castings). They do not require power points to maintain; the total cost is paid up front just as with instant spells.
Spell magic school
These spells are typically associated with wizardry and sorcery. Arcane spellcasters (Wizards and Necromancers) have a greater chance to find arcane spellbooks and will progress with arcane spells faster.
These spells are typically associated with divine research. Clerical spellcasters (Priests, Druids and Paladins) have a greater chance to find clerical spellbooks and will progress with clerical spells faster.
The effect of the majority of the spells in ADOM is governed by a corresponding sets of formulae. These formulae are typically based on the following values:
- PC's experience level
- PC's Willpower and Mana scores
- PC's proficiency with the spell (or spell efficiency)
- PC's talents
- PC's class powers
The formulae govern the spell duration, radius and magnitude of effect (where applicable) and base casting cost.
Spell efficiency shows the general experience and the degree of attunement of the PC to a certain spell. The only way to increase this characteristic is to cast the spell from PP or HP or use wands of wonder. The progression speed is based on the type of the spell (arcane or clerical) and the PC's Class.
Spell base cost
Spell base cost is generally modified by the amount of spell knowledge, PC's class powers and spell efficiency:
- The base cost will be increased significantly the more spell knowledge dips below 100. Having over 100 points of spell knowledge will allow the PC to cast the spell at normal rates; anything below this level impacts the base cost.
- The spell efficiency reduction is the same for all spells — each 5 levels possessed will reduce the base casting cost by 1 point.
Spell efficiency cannot be higher than twice the PC's Learning score. Actual casting cost cannot be lower than 50% of the initial base cost. A number of special effects will also affect the casting costs:
- On Darknight the cost of spells for lawful characters is doubled.
- On Silvernight the cost of spells is halved for lawful characters, and doubled for chaotic characters.
- Certain special effect rooms increase/decrease casting costs.
- Teleportation spell cost is based on the PC's corruption and the DL of the current level.
- Mana battery corruption reduces cost by 20%.
- Star signs: Dragon combat magic 10% cheaper; Salamander fire magic 20% cheaper; Wand all spells 10% cheaper for neutral casters.
- Class powers: for Wizard and Priest.