I for one think Vancian magic is very evocative of sorcery as a dangerous and difficult undertaking, particularly well-matched with early editions of the game and low magic campaigns in any edition, and even more so combined with house rules to underscore the riskiness of magic use. Here for example is the wizard Mazirian preparing his spells:
...when black night lay across the forest, he would seek through his books for spells to guard him through the unpredictable glades. They would be poignant corrosive spells, of such a nature that one would daunt the brain of an ordinary man and two render him mad. Mazirian, by dint of stringent exercise, could encompass four of the most formidable, or six of the lesser spells....[He] made a selection from his books and with great effort forced five spells upon his brain: Phandaal's Gyrator, Felojun's Second Hypnotic Spell, The Excellent Prismatic Spray, The Charm of Untiring Nourishment, and the Spell of the Omnipotent Sphere. This accomplished, Mazirian drank wine and retired to his couch.And here is the varlet Cugel, struggling to apprehend the spellbooks of a captive wizard
One or two of the workbooks he found susceptible to his understanding. These he studied with great diligence, cramming syllable after wrenching syllable into his mind, where they rolled and pressed and distended his temples. Presently he was able to encompass a few of the most simple and primitive spells, certain of which he tested upon Iucounu: notably Lugwiler's Dismal Itch. But by and large Cugel was disappointed by what seemed a lack of innate competence....[A]ttaining even a single spell was a task of extraordinary difficulty. One day, while applying a spatial transposition upon a satin cushion, he inverted certain of the pervulsions and was himself hurled backward into the vestibule.These illustrations also bring to the fore Vance's colorful, devious and witty spell names. Prismatic Spray borrows directly from Vance, but similarly named spells have been a part of the game since AD&D, which inscribed the early players and characters right into the rulebooks: Bigby's Interposing Hand, Rary's Mnemonic Enhancer, Tenser's Transformation, Otiluke's Freezing Sphere. Named spells had died out by the time of the Third Edition, if not sooner, and the game is a little grayer, a little more pallid without them.
Then again, the game is the players and not merely the rulebooks. With that in mind, I propose a revival of Vancian magic, in name if not mechanic! Whatever version of the game you play, if you want to give your spellcasting more pomp and panache, just after the cut I have the chart for you!
Vancian Spell Generator
d 4 & 10 100 100 1 able abecedarian abyss 2 admirable abhorrent affliction 3 advanced adamant agent 4 altogether aggravating aide 5 atypical ambivalent arrival 6 awesome antic augury 7 basic anxious aura 8 best audacious bauble 9 better augmentative blade 10 certain auspicious bolt 11 clever beatific boon 12 common bedeviling brio 13 competent benevolent bubble 14 compleat cacophonous cage 15 decent celeritous charm 16 ersatz chimerical chuckle 17 excellent concordant cloud 18 flawless consummate command 19 handy coruscant complaint 20 ideal crepuscular conceit 21 least cromulent cube 22 lesser delirious dart 23 major dispiteous deceit 24 mighty dithyrambic delay 25 minor divagating demand 26 original dolorous diablerie 27 perfect elaborate ditty 28 potent empyrean diversion 29 proven enduring dodge 30 rare enervating globe 31 simple enigmatic doom 32 splendid excruciating dweomer 33 strange expansive exchange 34 sudden felicitating eye 35 superb flamboyant fetish 36 superior fortuitous fever 37 terrific friscalating figment 38 true fulgurant finger 39 unusual fulminating fit 40 wondrous gratifying fright 41 hermetical gaze 42 ignescent glance 43 impedimental gloom 44 improbable hand 45 indomitable hex 46 indurate hint 47 inexorable image 48 irascible inquiry 49 iridescent insult 50 legerdemainic itch 51 lissome jest 52 lurid jig 53 malign jinx 54 melancholy languor 55 mesmeric leap 56 metamorphic malison 57 mordant mirage 58 multipotent moment 59 mutable net 60 mystifying notion 61 nullifying oath 62 numinous oddment 63 obstreperous odor 64 ostentatious pattern 65 ungainly peeve 66 peripatetic phantom 67 pernicious reproach 68 perseverant retreat 69 persnickety roar 70 phantasmagoric rune 71 phlegmatic scold 72 picayune scourge 73 grandiloquent sigil 74 risible sleight 75 prestidigitative spark 76 propitious sphere 77 pugnacious spray 78 puissant swoon 79 arrhythmic syllable 80 redolent talisman 81 redoubtable tide 82 remarkable tool 83 ruinous tower 84 salubrious trick 85 sanctimonious trifle 86 sanguinous vapor 87 scintillant vault 88 sedulous verve 89 splenetic vibration 90 staggering vigor 91 tenebrous visage 92 theoretical vista 93 trenchant wall 94 truculent ward 95 tumultuous web 96 undulating weird 97 vexatious whimsy 98 vitriolic whisper 99 volant wink 00 zealous word
While the chart works just fine as a random generator, it can be a bit tin-eared. I find it works best with a mix of random rolls and selected words. Alliteration is encouraged, as is a visit to your favorite thesaurus or rhyming dictionary. And terms can of course be mixed, matched, inverted and perverted as you like. Enjoy!
SEE ALSO: The unique spells of Mostin the Metagnostic
SEE ALSO: Wouldn't you just know it: after the time I spent on my own generator...after going just about blind plugging terms into huge blocks of html to build the table...I discovered someone else had done it already, and done it better. Chris Pound's Language Machines can give you random name lists from Barsoom to Sumeria, with stops in the Cthulhu and Pokethulhu Mythoi en route. And his Dying Earth Spell Generator is superlative.