I've read a lot of different versions of D and D type fantasy adventure games and even when a lot of creativity is focused on other parts of the game, spell research is neglected. If it's even included at all it's almost always some variation of a boring formula of gold pieces and weeks spent during down time. I know some folks like detailing what their characters do during the time between adventures but it is always going to be less interesting than what happens at the table and I want Spell Research to be interesting so what if:
And the inverse:
Spell Research = Adventures
In other words, for Wizards:
Spells = XP
For all Wizard/Magic-User PCs to gain a level they must research, learn, cast and copy into their spell book a spell of the next highest level.
This is what a Wizard is doing every second of every adventure. Scattered about the Mythic Underworld and the rare places above ground there are clues to the possible realities of Spells. These clues are: runes, spellscraps, ectoplasm, odd references in ancient tomes, mystic graphitti, grimoires, other wizard's spell books, scrolls, pixie dust, eye tyrant goo and other creature bits, magic items, etc. when a Wizard finds one of the above the DM may tell the Player that they have gained a x/6 chance of casting the spell. This will usually be 1/6 but could be more especially for rare and powerful items like another Wizard's spellbook. (Read magic would have to be cast of course)
Yes this makes the DMs job a little bit harder which I am normally completely opposed to but I think it will make the game a lot more awesome so buck up and add some things to those treasure tables.
It is assumed that Wizards are constantly obsessing over these weird bits of trash from other universes that they keep buried in the folds of their robes.
Anytime a wizard has at least one clue they may attempt to cast the spell. The first time this will take 1d6 rounds per level and can be attempted once per spell per adventure. Consumable items (potions, scrolls, chthonic cupcakes, etc) will be used up in the attempt.
COPY into Spellbook
Now the spell can be cast per whatever your rules-as-written or house rules about Spellcasting are. Here's an idea for the latter:
To cast a spell a Wizard must do one of the following:
1. Spend Mana equal to Spell Level to cast spell instantaneously
2. Roll vs Arcane Stress
3. Slow Cast 1 round/Spell Level AND using an appropriate Spell Component
(Spell Components have to be written on the character sheet, you can't be like "of course I'm carrying fungus that has been sneezed on by a priest and a butterfly simultaneously I'm a WIZARD..." This is more work for the DM again because they have to come up with a Component for every spell but at least you can make the player keep track of it and you could wimp out and just make it 1d6x100 GP/Spell Level and it wouldn't bother me too much. This post is about making spell research fun and interesting not spell components. I'll leave that for the next guy)
I'm tempted to say that
Level = Mana per Day
that way we can get rid of spell progression charts altogether. This'll also encourage slow casting which sounds exciting and evocative of genre fiction.
I have some other ideas about how Libraries and Laboratories could fit into the above Spellcasting system but that'll have to wait for another post.