I have always felt that magic users/spell casters in most RPG's that I have heard of, and in AD&D 1E that I have actual experience in, was a bit limiting, especially in the early/lower levels.
It just kills the fun of being a magic user/spell caster. It's like, here I get to have all these cool magical abilities and I get to use one spell a day. Woohoo. Not.
The other characters in the party are like "why did we bring this lame duck again?", "Are you sure we couldn't have found a useful, higher level magic user?"
I have read a fair amount of fantasy fiction in my life thus far. Maybe not as much as some, and, quite likely, much more than others. I think it's fair to say that on my scale of "fantasy realism" that one spell a day just isn't realistic for this character.
Oh yes, I know the arguments. You don't want magic users getting to be too powerful and just blowing whole game modules out of the water. That's not fun either. Yes, I get that and I agree with it. At the same time, I think the pendulum went too far in the opposite direction in trying to make sure it doesn't happen.
For starters, magic users/spell casters dedicate their entire lives, typically, to their endeavors. Magic use is not a hobby or even a job. It's everyday life. These people don't just memorize spells, incantations and the like, they absorb them, internalize them. They become so ingrained into their memories that it would be akin to an instinct in using it. To forget these spells would be akin to forgetting how to tie your shoes, or even worse, how to use the bathroom.
Master magic users drum minor spells and enchantments into their apprentices heads by making them use the spells for repetitious menial tasks. The manual labor of the wizarding world. Once you've done the spell a few hundred times or more, the odds are, you won't forget it and you really don't even have to think about it to carry it out. It's like breathing now.
Spell mastery is the name of the game. Getting it to the point where you you don't have to think about it to use it. It's like a weathered gunfighter picking up a gun. He just knows it by feel. Doesn't even have to look at to know what's right and not right with his weapon.
Now then, at what point does a magic user/spell caster get to that level of experience? Level 1? Level 5? Level 15?
From material in the AD&D books, a level 1 magic user/spell caster is someone who just "graduated" from their apprenticeship. They know all the Master had to teach about magic in general and many common spells as well. The only thing they really need to learn is more spells and their master has (as most magic masters do) that the best teacher for spell accumulation and "real life" usage is ...real life (so to speak).
Now, think about it. Here is a person who has spent the last several years of their live immersed in nothing but the pursuit of magic. Almost to the exclusion of all else. They have been able to repeatedly perform numerous tasks and work daily and multiple times a day at the demands of their Master.
Using magic is far from new to these people. Their goal is life is mastery of the next spell. Not just usury, but total mastery. This person is really only going to be able to perform only one spell a day now that they have "graduated"?
I think not.
Yes, magic has rules, magic has requirements. Magic has repercussions. Magic has limitations. No argument there.
My "level ground" on the subject comes back to "spell mastery". The thing magic users practically live and die for. They have been trained like a soldier, to the point of instinct, that using a spell is not enough, it MUST be mastered, for a number of reasons.
Once a spell is thus "mastered" it is there for good. It's theirs, they own it, so to speak. It's use is further limited only by the spells material and physical requirements.
So, all those pre-level one spells. Those called "zero level" or "cantrips", that would have been the spells drilled into them by their masters through droning repetition? All those spells are gone now? Forgotten? Limited somehow by graduation?
I think not.
They worked far too hard for those spells to not be usable for them. It is a serious dis-credit dealt to magic users just starting out on their adventuring careers.
Thus, I was led to the system I discussed who knows how long ago in another post here.
Basically, cantrips/zero levels spells are wide open. They can use them at will, as often as they need them. Those are the spells they have worked the hardest on in recent history to master. They own those spells like no others yet.
Each new spell MUST be mastered. Until it is mastered, it is limited to one use per day/per study session as the books call for.
I am revising this next part from the original because I believe I was too lax the first time, over-correcting the pendulum swing, as it were.
Once a spell is mastered, it is theirs, they own it. Committing spells to memory is what they live for. So how many times of studying/performing a spell is required for "Mastery"?
Well, level 1 spells and beyond are obviously more complex and require more resources than zero level cantrips. They take more energy out of a magic user/spell caster. At the same time, as has been said before, these people are made for this task. It's not the same as some farmer who found a spell scroll and decides to read it.
Anyway, to "master" a spell, 10 times? 100 times? 1000 times?
Actually, I now think 50 is the number. Studying/performing a spell 50 times is enough to master it, making it usable at will. Until then, it's use is as specified by the existing tables.
I think 50 keeps them from becoming too powerful too fast yet allows the point of being a magic user/spell caster to shine through.
So, what do you think? Keep it nice now, remember, it's just a game. Civility is the example.