So - I don't agree with the designer explanation for why magic spells require a roll to succeed in Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. I mean - if it makes for a fun, wacky game, great, but I'll pass on the table lookups. And as I explained last time, part of the appeal of the traditional magic-user class to its core player type is its heavy reliance on strategy rather than chance.
Is there really a Dying Earth pedigree for random spells? Yes and no. Robin Laws' Dying Earth game has a much more involved analysis of those stories and novels. There, games can work at three levels of magic, each named after a Dying Earth character. The "Cugel" level is named after the famous rogue and similar dabblers in magic, prone to random fizzles and backfires. The "Turjan" level is named after the competent wizard-hero, whose spells work unerringly like formulae. The highest level is named after the wizard of the late novellas, Rhialto, who has mastered Turjan-like magic but deals with even more powerful, free-willed creatures known as sandestins.
|I think he knows what he's doing...|
This last view in particular I consider true to the idea of the cleric or priest. Whether addressing a terrible demon, the spirits of nature, or the Pancreator and heavenly choir, the divine miracle-worker should not go in with the complete assurance that prayers will be heard. To be meaningful, faith requires uncertainty.
I'm OK with "clerical spells" as a simplification, but I just feel that if you're going to involve random elements in spellcasting, do it for classes who are conceived of as bumblers - mountebanks, high-level rogues, gnomes and so on - and to those who deal with faith. And yes, how exactly randomness works for those two should be different...