Learning New Adept Spells

DM Note:  Although MOST of the spells used in Victorian Dreadful (Adept and Mystic) are derived from AD&D 1st, PHB and UA and AD&D 2.0, NOT ALL ARE.  And, more importantly, not all in those books are available AND many, if not ALL, have been changed in some fashion or another.  So don’t waste too much of your time reading those books!  As your character learns the new spell you will be provided with the information you need.  In general you will not be researching a spell by the PHB ‘name’ but rather by the general description of what you are seeking to do with the spell.

You may be wondering how you are going to know what spells exist  to seek out.  As you conduct research on one spell, you will discover hints and clues as to what else you can try and learn.  Seeing another Adept cast a spell you don’t know will give you clues as to what to research.   Finding scrolls and grimoires will provide information.  Keep in mind that you are working in a field that virtually everyone else thinks is fantasy.

Learning a Spell From a Spell Book or Grimoire

For an Adept to learn a spell discovered in a another’s spell book, these steps are necessary:

First: The Adept must use Read Magic to be able to read the spell’s formula and ritual. (Read Magic only lets the Adept READ the spell) A Spell Craft check must be made for the Adept to determine the spell’s level and function.

The Spell Craft check is: DC 20 + the level of the unknown spell – Adept’s IN and Level . (Only if the original owner of the Spell Book is present and willing, and guides the Adept, then the Adept may take 10 or 20 on this check.) (The DM Rolls THIS!)

If the Spell Craft check fails the Adept has no idea what level the spell is or what it will do when cast. The Adept may set the material aside and then review it again after advancing a level. The Adept may do this repeatedly if needed.

Second: Assuming that the Adept comprehends the spell, and it is of a level the Adept may currently use, the Adept may copy the spell into his own spellbook. The translation of the formula into a format that is usable by the character takes a great deal of time and effort on the part of the character. As such it is generally not attempted during the course of an adventure. This takes one day (8 hours) of uninterrupted work per level of the spell. The Adept must then roll a Spell Craft check to determine whether the spell was copied correctly. (The DM Rolls THIS!) A failure means that the spell was NOT copied correctly. The Adept may not take 10 or 20 for this check.

The Adept may then attempt to cast the spell; the normal Spell Craft check applies.

IF the spell was copied successfully, the Adept has a new spell. If it wasn’t copied correctly… See Spell Failure!

If the attempt to copy the spell fails, and the Adept yet lives, he may try again after advancing to the next experience level as an Adept.

Researching a New Spell

The Adept’s starting spells were all learned by research and unless the Adept is very lucky in stumbling across someone else’s notes or some ancient tomes, all of the spells an Adept will ever have will be gained through research.

Research is a slow, tedious, expensive and constant work in progress. Any time an Adept is not involved in some other activity, he or she is curled up somewhere reading, deciphering, contemplating, scribbling notes in margins, charting, writing and drawing his conclusions. At any given moment an Adept has one or more spells in some stage of research.

Research is EXPENSIVE in time and materials. The time reflects the hours and days spent in libraries, museums and used book shops seeking forgotten texts, journals, letters and anything else that may contain knowledge gathered by the Adepts of generations past. In general this is a minimum of 100 hours of Collecting Research materials PER Level of the spell researched. (Characters that spend all their time traveling and adventuring will not be able to meet this requirement unless they are lucky enough to find materials.)

The monetary cost is a minimum of $250 per Level of the spell researched.

Although an Adept may direct research towards particular results it is more common, (especially at low levels) for unexpected discoveries and sudden tangent insights to guide spell research.

Generally speaking, the DM will tell the player what spells the available research materials may allow, The player then decides which of those possible spells he/she will direct time and resources towards learning for use at the next level advancement.

Seeking research materials on a particular spell, that the Adept otherwise has nothing on, requires extra time and money (in addition to the regular costs for the spell.) The Time Spent finding any information is 200 hours above any other research. The cost is an extra $1,000.

In the event that the Adept discovers (captures, steals…) another Adept’s Research Material. (NOT THE COMPLETED SPELL BOOK. See Above for that) The Adept must first make a Spell Craft check to see if the information is comprehensible.

If the Spell Craft check succeeds the DM will tell the Adept what spells are represented in the material and the value of the material in regards to the Research Time and the approximate financial value it represents. Which the new owner will NOT have to invest! The new owner WILL have to make up any time or dollar costs that are lacking to bring the material to completion. If the Spell Craft check fails the Adept may set the material aside and then review it again after advancing a level. The Adept may do this repeatedly if needed.

Spell Level Hours Researching Cost of Research $































An Adept’s Active Research is generally focused on spells that are the MAXIMUM that he is capable of casting. He/she may also compile research on spells that are currently beyond the Adept’s ability; One level higher. The Adept may elect to direct his attention towards a lower level spell if desired.

Example: A 3rd level Adept will focus mostly on 2nd level spells but will have also started compiling notes on a 3rd level spell. However, there is a 1st level spell that the Adept has some materials on and she elects to concentrate some of her efforts on that.

Adept’s Intelligence # of Current Level Spells being Researched # of Next Level Spells being Researched

9 or less



10 – 12



13 – 14



15 – 16












When an Adept advances in level, the Adept may select one of the spells he or she has been researching that is available to the Adept of the new level. The player rolls % dice against the ‘Chance to Learn Spell’ percentage determined by the Adept’s Intelligence. If the roll succeeds the Adept learns the spell and is able to cast it. If the roll does not succeed then the player moves on to the NEXT spell that has been researched. The player continues down the list until there is a success or the player fails to learn ANY of the researched spells.

A failure is not a total loss, the research materials still exist and the Adept may attempt to learn the spell again at the next level advancement. OR, the Adept may invest an additional $500 and 100 hours to enhance the research to date and then roll the % dice again, going down the list as before.

Intelligence Score Max Spell
Chance to
Learn Spell
Max. # of
9 4th 35% 6
10 5th 40% 7
11 5th 45% 7
12 6th 50% 7
13 6th 55% 9
14 7th 60% 9
15 7th 65% 11
16 8th 70% 11
17 8th 75% 14
18 9th 85% 18
19 9th 95% All

Max Spell Level lists the highest level of spells that can be cast by a Adept with this Intelligence.

Chance to Learn Spell is the percentage probability that a Adept can learn a

particular spell. A check is made as the Adept comes across or researches new spells, not as he advances in level. To make the check, the Adept character must have access to a spell book or materials containing the spell. If the player rolls the listed percentage or less, his character can learn the spell and copy it into his own spell book. If the Adept fails the roll, he cannot check that spell again until he advances to the next level (provided he still has access to the spell).

Maximum Number of Spells per Level This number indicates the maximum number of spells a Adept can know from any particular spell level. (Rounded up.) Once a Adept has learned the maximum number of spells he is allowed in a given spell level, he cannot add any more spells of that level to his spell book. Once a spell is learned, it cannot be unlearned and replaced by a new spell.  Zero level spells are treated as if they were 1st level for this calculation.

Example: An Adept with a 16 Intelligence can learn 11 zero level spells, 11 first level spells, 6 (round up) second level spells, 4 third level, 3 fourth, 2 fifth and 1 sixth, seventh and eighth.  A total of 40 spells.

NOTE:  It is entirely possible for two Adepts, researching the same spell effect, to arrive at two different casting techniques.  There may be differences in material components (beyond a Wand) casting times, gestures, etc.  For the most part such differences will have little effect on the end result but are merely a reflection of differences in the source materials used in research.