This probably won't endear me to the OSR community, but I kinda hate D&D magic.
All right, "hate" is a strong word, but I've played a lot of fantasy role-playing games, and I'm not exaggerating when I say I liked the magic systems in every single one of those games better than D&D's. This is the reason why practically every D&D setting that I think up gets moved to a different RPG when it really starts to take shape: the assumptions inherent in the D&D magic system rankle me. (My idiosyncratic Freed Lands setting, which will probably never see any actual play at a game table, was originally intended for Castles & Crusades. But now that it's taken the weird shape that it has, it would hypothetically use BRP or RuneQuest II.)
Anyway, I'm resisting that urge this time around. I'm not going to rip out the so-called "Vancian" spellcasting system for this one - frankly, it's just too much trouble, and I'm intentionally trying to make something that's recognizably D&D. Cosk is set up for a relatively traditional old-school adventuring model, so I want to keep the races and classes recognizable, for the most part. (No trisexual lizard people or egg-laying naked mole rat dwarves this time around.)
Still, even after I make my peace with Vancian magic, I still have beef with another weird idea D&D introduced. I'm talking about the cleric/magic-user split.
Accounts from people who played with Dave Arneson when D&D was in its nascency say the cleric wasn't one of the initial character types. The class was introduced when somebody wanted to make a character who could take down a vampire PC who had been causing a lot of trouble. Beyond the interesting fact that player vs. player infighting wasn't frowned upon, I'm intrigued by the idea of how the game worked before this Van Helsing character class was introduced. Was there magical healing at all? Resurrection spells? Turning the undead? Man, the undead must have been scary as hell without the cleric's turning ability.
At some fundamental level, I don't get the cleric. Apparently, sometime between its introduction at Arneson's table and the publishing of the original Dungeons & Dragons game, the class morphed from its Peter Cushing undead hunter roots into some weird, heavily armored, spellcasting healer-guy that can only use blunt weapons. I know the edged weapon prohibition was based on some historical individual whose name slips my mind, but D&D's cleric isn't exactly a strong fantasy archetype, at least at the time it was published. It's certainly become one thanks to the game's wide-ranging influence on the genre, but that's beside the point. (I can't help but wonder what would have happened if it was the vampire class and not the cleric that made it into the little brown books.)
I'll cut to the chase. The idea's pretty simple: I'm considering taking the cleric spells, giving them all to the magic-user, and dumping the cleric class entirely. (Since I'm using the Advanced Edition Companion for Labyrinth Lord, people who really, really want to make a crusading warrior-priest can make a paladin.) There's something appealing to taking the magic-user - the class that would later become known as the wizard - and giving him all of the magic, making its name more accurate in the process. The magic-user would be the character class that uses magic.
Given some of the truly crazy stuff the magic-user as written can already do, I can't imagine that letting them heal people is going to break the game, mechanically or thematically. I don't want to be rash, though. Despite years of playing D&D on and off, I'm far from an expert on the minutia of all those spells. I'll admit that I have no idea how this would actually work in play, but I'm sure I'm not the first to think of this. (In fact, I think James Maliszewski has discussed trying this very idea, but I'm not sure if he ever has, as I know he's not as big a fan of sweeping rules changes as I am.) So, if anybody out there has tried this, or something similar, how did it work out?
(And since I am using the Advanced Edition Companion, what do I do with the illusionist and druid spells? Give them to the magic-user too? And how would this affect the elf class? Hmm.)