d100 Reasons the Wizard is more than they Seem

Buff WizardThere’s a world of difference between being a mere “Magic User” and being a Wizard. A Magic User has retained their humanity. They’ve learned to force some spells into their brain, but they’ve yet to completely abandon everything of love and decency in the pursuit of greater magical powers.

Being a Wizard takes more than gaining levels in a class. It requires a disregard for decorum, ethics, or even one’s own safety. Any Wizard your party encounters out in the wide world will have the standard accouterments of a Magic User, that is true. But they’ve also made deals with creatures whose mere description could strike a man blind with fear. They’ve subjected their bodies and their souls to experiments no sane person would wish upon their worst enemies. They’ve learned truths mortal man was not meant to know, taken apart their own minds and reassembled them from scratch, and have grown bored with puzzles that lesser men could spend their whole lives deciphering.

There’s more going on there than a d4 hit die and a list of spells.

So if your party encounters a Wizard, roll a few times on this table. Note that all of these are meant to be taken as inherent powers that the Wizard has. Any wizard of such significant experience likely has a number of magical oddments secreted about their person as well.

  1. Phenomenal physical strength. This Wizard can hurl great boulders or punch through stone walls with their bare hands.
  2. This Wizard’s head is bald, and covered with dozens of eyes. Not only can they see in every direction, but each eye can emit a beam of burning light at whatever it looks at, dealing 1d4 damage.
  3. If standing in water of at least waist-depth, the Wizard can suffer no wounds. They draw vitality from the water, and have an effective fast healing of 100.
  4. The Wizard’s arms can stretch out, as though they were made of some elastic material. They can reach up to 100′ away from their bodies, bend their arms in any direction they require, and do not lose any of their strength regardless of how far their arm is from their body.
  5. Rather than carbon monoxide, this Wizard exhales a poison gas to which they are immune. In the open this effect is mild and not worth mentioning. However, if a character is in an enclosed space with the Wizard for longer than 1d4 rounds, they must begin making a save versus Poison each round. Each failure results in a temporary -1d4 to a random ability score.
  6. By manipulating the fabric of time itself, the wizard has managed to create a bubble in which future technology can exist. The Wizard may carry any number of future oddities: a gun, a smartphone, a drone, lightweight bulletproof armor, etc. If the Wizard dies, all this technology will realign with its proper time frame. From our perspective, it will simply disappear.
  7. The Wizard cannot die a natural death, and will live until some mortal harm befalls them. They may now have already lived for centuries, or even millennia.
  8. The blood of the Wizard has been replaced by a pressurized gas that ignites when it contacts the air. Any puncturing or piercing wound against the wizard will result in a gout of flame. A 30′ cone, dealing damage equal to the Wizard’s remaining health to anyone within its area. Save versus Breath for half damage.
  9. The Wizard’s skin cannot be cut by any means, unless they are willing. It may still be bludgeoned, but it will not break. Slashing or piercing weapons deal a greatly reduced amount of damage because of this.
  10. Gravity does not appear to affect this Wizard. They drift, keeping near the ground by a mechanism from which they can easily detach if they wish to float freely. They have become skilled at bouncing off of walls, leaping out of range, and otherwise using this affliction to their best advantage.
  11. After performing more squats than you could ever fathom in a time-stopped pocket dimension, this Wizard can now leap up to 100′ in the air. Regardless of how high they fall from, they will never suffer any damage from a fall. Even if they were to fall from orbit, assuming they had some way of surviving entry through the atmosphere.
  12. The Wizard can cast spells “by ear,” as it were. If they have an empty spell slot of sufficiently high level, and they see a spell cast, then that spell will appear in their empty spell slot. They can cast it as normal, or keep it until later to inscribe into their spellbook without any difficulty.
  13. By looking at a person, this Wizard gains an intimate understanding of that person’s religion, probably knowing even more about it than they do. The Wizard often uses this to impersonate deities and prophets. A few hours after losing sight of a person, knowledge of that person’s religion fades.
  14. The Wizard is accompanied by a (1. Close Friend, 2. Lover, 3. Devoted Vassal, 4. Magically bonded slave) who is a (1. Minotaur, 2.Succubus, 3. Horned Devil, 4. Giant, 5. Dinosaur, 6. Dragon)
  15. The Wizard has absolute mastery-level experience in a completely unrelated career, which they spent decades in prior to pursuing the mystic arts. (1. Sailing, 2. Politics, 3. Fine Arts, 4. Natural Philosophy, 5. History, 6. Engineering, 7. Beast Taming, 8. Metalcrafting)
  16. Sleep is completely unnecessary for this Wizard, and they are filled with a nervous energy that makes even their downtime insanely productive. This has allowed them to train a second class without impacting their Wizardly pursuits. They get all the benefits of their second class, which has roughly half the number of levels that they have in the Magic User class. (1. Cleric 2-3. Fighter 4-5. Specialist 6. Something weird. Like one of the custom classes on this site.)
  17. The Wizard’s speech has a magical charge, making any command they utter have the force of a Command spell.
  18. Magic Missile scrolls are tattooed up and down each of the Wizard’s digits. They are able to cast the spell 10 times per day without expending any of their spell slots on memorizing it.
  19. The Wizard has already undergone 99% of the process required to become a lich. Their phylactery already exists, and the only thing left is for them to die. They’re in no hurry to do it, but when they do die, they’ll just be reborn as a lich.
  20. The Wizard’s beard is not made of normal hair, but of (1. Tentacles, 2. Snakes, 3. Insectile Legs, 4. Ooze, 5. Fire, 6. Prehensile Hair). There are 1d4 tendrils from here which are long enough to make attacks. If the Wizard is of a feminine persuasion, then instead of a beard this effect sprouts from her (1. Underarms, 2. Bush, 3. she just has a beard anyway, 4. She has this instead of boobs) Under no circumstances may head hair be used.
  21. The Wizard is (1. Resistant by half, 2. Immune, 3. Absorbs half, 4. Absorbs fully.) any damage which might reasonably be attributed to (1. Fire, 2. Cold, 3. Acid, 4. Electricity).
  22. By suffusing their body with the ectoplasm of numerous spectral infants, the Wizard is able to turn their body incorporeal at will.
  23. The Wizard’s appearance is fungible. They can alter it to resemble any human they choose, or create an entirely new appearance for themselves out of scratch.
  24. Under numerous aliases, this Wizard controls numerous organizations. Everything from local governments of seemingly unimportant towns, to big city guilds, to organized crime, to mercenary bands.
  25. The Wizard exudes pheromones with similar effect to a Charm Person spell. Anyone who can smell them must save.
  26. From their sleeve the Wizard can pull any nonmagical, nonspecific object that would fit in a sleeve. So for example, they can pull out a watch to check the time, but cannot pull out a magical watch that stops time, or your father’s watch that you just said you’d pay a fortune to have back.
  27. The Wizard has eithera 16′ long prehensile penis that can entangle and compress victims to death; or they have a pair of acid-filled tits which can spray in a 15′ cone at will. Which one the Wizard has is irrespective of their gender.
  28. The pores of the Wizard ooze a kind of gooey oil which makes them incredibly slippery. The Wizard uses this to slid around as though on skates, escape any bonds ever put on them, and to swim with incredible speed.
  29. Environmental concerns are of no concern to this Wizard. They can breathe under water, self-heat themselves in a blizzard, and self-cool themselves inside a volcano. This safety from the elements includes any magically imposed environments, but does not protect them from area of effect spells.
  30. A gem is embeded into the Wizard’s tongue. If they stick out their tongue while standing in a brightly lit area, a prism of color will refract out of the gem. This light eill envelope and contain everything in a 15′ square. The square may be placed anywhere within 20′ of the Wizard’s location.
  31. Any (1-2. Man, 3-4. Woman) encountered by the Wizard will instantly fall in love with them. There is no save involved, and they will wish only good things for the Wizard, seeking their approval. Any creature without gender is immune to this effect.
  32. The secret of human construction is known to the Wizard. Over the course of about a week, they are able to fully construct an adult human from component elements. These humans are independent, but obviously most of them accept that they owe some notable debt to their creator, and choose to serve the Wizard. Several of these will accompany the Wizard.
  33. There are actually 2d2 Wizard’s minds contained within this single body, shared due to some catastrophe while traveling the outer planes. Each of the minds possesses a full spell list, ready to cast. The body can only cast one spell at a time, probably.
  34. The Wizard is able to run as fast as a galloping horse, and never tires of their exertion in this regard.
  35. The Wizard is able to move objects telekinetically, without any limit on how frequently or how long they can do so. They can move up to (1. 10lb, 2-4. 80lb, 5-6. 200lb), (1. Slowly, but with great precision. 2. Slowly and clumsily, 3-5. With great speed, but still clumsily 6. With great speed and precision)
  36. The Wizard’s hands can be detached, and will then animate to act as the Wizard’s servitors, with the ability to fly. New hands will grow on the Wizard’s stumps after about 1 turn. The detached hands will wither and die after 1d6 turns.
  37. The Wizard is possessed of Superman-style Super-Breath. Hurricane force winds as cold as a blizzard. They can do this as often as they’re able to get a really deep, satisfying breath. So, at most, every 2d4 rounds, and never if they’re exhausted from heavy physical activity.
  38. The Wizard has an Omega Gaze. They may use it once per 10 minute turn, and it will follow its target until it strikes them without fail. The beams deal 2d12 damage, but a save versus Device will reduce the damage by half.
  39. A powerful creature owes the Wizard a favor, and will come to their aide when summoned (1. Djinn, 2. Vampire, 3. A titanic intelligent lion 4. An elder dragon.)
  40. Like an ioun stone, a tiny door orbits their bodies. At will they may use their hands to pull the door wide enough to step through. It leads into a pocket dimension where they store numerous weapons and treasures. Many of these can easily be removed merely by reaching into the door while it is in its miniaturized state, so that the Wizard is never truly unarmed.
  41. Stones speak to the Wizard, and respond to his questions. They cannot act on the Wizard’s behalf, but they know much of what happens around them.
  42. The Wizard knows they are in a game, and is annoyed that they’ve accidentally wandered onto the main stage. They know all of the rules of the game, and would like to extricate themselves from the spotlight as soon as possible so they can go back to whatever they do when no one is imagining them. Considers it an insult to speak to characters, and will speak only to players and to the referee directly.
  43. For a brief moment the Wizard achieved godhood a few years ago. They were knocked back down to earth by a pantheon unwilling to accept such a pompous little mortal into their midst; but they retained one minor vestige of their divinity (1. Invulnerability to hit point damage, 2. They know everything that more than five people in the world know. 3. The ability to shape their environment to suit their will 4. The ability to un-make anyone who blasphemes them in their presence.)
  44. This Wizard has already evolved beyond their physical form, but are still muddling about in their physical bodies. Death would release them to achieve some higher form of existence. Flip a coin to determine if the Wizard knows this.
  45. Each time the Wizard says a character’s full name, they gain 1 point of power over that character. This information is kept secret, though players might notice the creepily deliberate way their names are being repeated. At will, the Wizard may activate this power. Each point of power deals 1 point of damage, and if a character is killed in this way, they become an undead servant of the wizard. They fully retain their faculties, but must obey the wizard’s commands as their body slowly rots. The Wizard must know a name before they can speak it, and when spoken, it must be audible to the target in order to count. After a day, if they are unused, points of power fade away.
  46. The Wizard may bilocate. While doing so, they exist fully in two different places at once. If one is destroyed, it does not matter, because the other is no less of the whole. When the two instances of the Wizard come together, they may combine, and thus the single Wizard will have lived a pair of simultaneous experiences.
  47. Fire obeys the Wizard, and will spread in the direction they indicate. It may also take on shapes, flare, smoke, or smoulder at the Wizard’s behest.
  48. The body of the Wizard is like a magical sponge. It draws all mystic energy into itself. While in the presence of this Wizard, no magic items or magic spells will work, save those that the Wizard is channeling their own energies into.
  49. The Wizard is posessed of many of the properties of spiders. They are able to spin webs from their fingertips. climb walls, move with great speed and agility, are much strong than they ought to be, and have incredibly accute senses. This Wizard is spider-man, is what I’m saying.
  50. No creature can bring itself to act violently against the Wizard, for any reason. If the Wizard acts violently first, then whomever in the area has the strongest save versus Magic may attempt a save. If they succeed, then they can act violently, and whomever has the next weakest save versus Magic may attempt a similar save. So on and so forth, until someone fails a save, at which point no one else may attempt one.
  51. This Wizard stands 9′ tall, with the strength and constitution of a weight lifter. They’re an imposing figure, with the maximum hit points that they could possibly have given their level and hit dice.
  52. Anybody with any manner of noble pedigree believes they have fond memories of this Wizard. Upon seeing this Wizard for the first time they will remember when the Wizard used to perform little tricks for them, and when they stood up to an angry parent on the noble child’s behalf. These memories will never fade, and The Wizard finds it quite easy to get any favor they need from the upper classes.
  53. The name of this Wizard is very powerful. They dare never let anyone know it, for if someone knows their name, they become immune to the Wizard’s magic.
  54. This Wizard tricked and slew god’s own messenger. They stole the throat of this semi-divine creature, and now a tinge of blue and white glows beneath the skin of their neck when they speak. Everything they say is completely captivating. Every joke riotously funny, every speech moving, every poem will move an audience to tears. Their words always have the best possible effect that was intended.
  55. They have vision which (1. Freezes people in place, 2. Turns people to stone, 3. Turns people into their mind-slaves 4. Switches souls with the target). The effect can be avoided with a save versus Magic. This ability may be used (1. Every round, 2-3. Every 3rd round, 4-6. 1d6 times per day)
  56. The Wizard’s feet never touch the ground. They fly everywhere effortlessly.
  57. The wizard is able to grow to the size of a titan (20-30′ tall), or to the size of an insect at will.
  58. The Wizard is permanently able to speak with (1. Plants 2. Animals 3. All languages of the common races 4. The dead). To the Wizard, being able to speak to these things has become second nature.
  59. Every race sees the Wizard as a member of their own race. Be they human, house cat, goblin, dragon, giant, or anything else.
  60. This Wizard is able to transform into a (1. Lion, 2. Eagle, 3. Hammerhead Shark 4. Ladybug 5. Iguana 6. King Cobra) at will.
  61. This Wizard can transform into a pool of liquid at will. They can move around so long as they are going downhill, or on a more-or-less even surface. The puddle can also shape itself however it chooses. So it can become a thin strand to slid across a tightrope, so long as that tightrope doesn’t go up.
  62. Wherever they are, the Wizard always seems to have a fine manse just over the horizon. This manse won’t be there unless the Wizard is approaching or occupying it, however. Each manse is different, filled with fine luxuries, accoutrements, and servants, all of which are real and could potentially be removed from the premises before the manse ceases to exist again.
  63. The Wizard can breathe just like a dragon can. Roll to determine the type of dragon their breath emulates: (1. Red, 2. Black, 3. Blue, 4. White, 5. Green, 6. Something really weird).
  64. Each morning the Wizard removes a book from under their pillow. The book is always different, describing whatever new challenges the Wizard may face that day. It does not describe what will happen, only what is in the Wizard’s path. The information in these books looks very much like the referee’s notes, and the character sheets of any characters present at the session.
  65. This Wizard is permanently invisible, and must wear full-body coverings to appear visible.
  66. All (1. Ravens, 2. Frogs, 3. Porcine Creatures, 4. Spiders 5. Human children 6. Moles 7. Chickens 8. Ferrets) will obey the Wizard’s mental commands.
  67. The Wizard may travel up to 2 miles with every step they take if they so wish.
  68. The Wizard’s saliva is a pleasant narcotic. Their body produces it in perfect amounts to keep them high, and if they want they can spare some spit now and again for other people. They are a really, really good kisser.
  69. A serpent of exceeding wisdom lives inside the Wizard’s butt. It tells them things. Amazing things.
  70. The Wizard has a low-level mind read active at all times, allowing them to sense the surface thoughts of everyone around them.
  71. This Wizard has so many kinds of vision up in their eyes. X-Ray vision. Night vision. Far-vision. Micro-vision. So many visions.
  72. This Wizard is currently living through this day for the third time. They can avoid 2d4 mistakes. Anytime the referee feels that the Wizard has made a mistake, they can reverse time to when that mistake was made, and make a different choice.
  73. Randomly determine a member of the party. Secretly, the Wizard is that character’s parent.
  74. If someone looks into the Wizard’s eyes, they are incapable of telling a lie.
  75. The Wizard is an absolute master of seduction, is exceptionally good at sex, and knows how to make just about anybody feel appreciated and respected the morning after as the Wizard takes their leave. There’s nothing magical about this, they’re just a really amazing lay.
  76. The Wizard currently carries a magic item of world-altering significance. The sort of thing that might serve as the Mcguffin for a huge adventure. The Wizard had no plans to use this item today, and may never have intended to use it. They might intend only to study it, or even to destroy it, but if the day goes poorly enough for them…
  77. Accepting employment contracts from this Wizard is a trap. It places the employee under a nearly unbreakable spell of servitude which can only be broken if the Wizard can be tricked into saying  “eleven.”
  78. The Wizard is currently astral-projecting themselves from an unknown location. They’ve been doing so for so long that their spirit has grown a new physical body around itself, and they’ve forgotten where their true body is. If their current body is killed, they will be snapped back to their actual body’s current location. Note that their current body need look nothing like their true body, and they may even be a different age, gender, or species.
  79. At will, the Wizard can place themselves, and anyone within 60′, inside of a pocket dimension. This dimension lasts for as long as anyone is inside of it, and looks exactly like whatever area was in a 60′ radius of the Wizard when the pocket was created.
  80. 10 tiny polyps grow on the Wizard’s body. If cut off and cast to the ground, these instantly grow into naked, burly warriors ready to defend the Wizard with their lives.
  81. The Wizard has adhesive spit. It’s remarkably sticky, instantly hardening, and tough enough to hold the short side of a brick to a wall.
  82. The Wizard has acidic urine. They can only use it if they’ve had enough water, but it’ll melt pretty much anything.
  83. The Wizard has explosive poop. It detonates roughly 20 seconds after it is excreted, and thus must be thrown quickly to avoid self-harm.
  84. The Wizard has a 4-in-6 chance to have the perfect potion for any situation on their belt. These are never general potions, like healing potions or Giant’s Growth potions. These are bizarrely specific. Stuff like “Potion of Manacle Breaking,” “Tincture of odorless farts,”
    and “Shark repellent.”
  85. This Wizard has business cards which they hand out to everyone they meet. If anything interesting is said within “earshot” of the card, it appears in a little notebook the Wizard carries, which they read through each morning over coffee.
  86. A large portion of this Wizard’s brain has been replaced with a crystalline structure from another world. The crystals are hyper-logical, and view the world through a vastly different lens. The Wizard themselves still displays emotion, as their brain is not completely gone, but the crystals provide them with lightning-fast thinking when processing logic or mathematics, as well as a perfect photographic memory.
  87. The Wizard has fused themselves with a water elemental. Their body appears just like any normal example of their race, but objects pass harmlessly through it, leaving only ripples behind. They may move and act with all of the abilities you would expect from a water elemental.
  88. With a wave of the hand this Wizard may reinvigorate the life in items made from wood. Any within his presence will begin to grow branches and sprout leaves, becoming unsuitable for whatever purpose they originally had. The Wizard’s own equipment is made of metal, bone, ceramic, etc so as to avoid this becoming an issue.
  89. This Wizard cannot be affected by foreign substances. Poisons have no impact, but neither do intoxicants. The Wizard was quite fond of a night of boozy revelry prior to this alteration, and views it as a poor trade.
  90. The wizard has rearranged their own internal anatomy. They are immune to critical hits, sneak attacks, and any form of non-magical medicine.
  91. Whoever kills this Wizard is actually the one who dies, for when this Wizard is killed, their mind transfers into the body of their killer. The only thing this Wizard really fears is death by accident or old age.
  92. If this wizard touches you, your skin will display a black spot. Anyone who sees this spot will know you are marked for death and that no one can be prosecuted for killing you. No judge will convict them, and indeed, they will be entitled to all of your property for doing the world a favor by getting rid of you.
  93. At will, this Wizard may ignite their index finger as if it were a sparkler. They can then write and draw in mid air, and the images will not disappear until they snap their fingers.
  94. The fey folk once danced for weeks while this Wizard played a jig on the pipes which nearly exhausted them to the point of death. But the fey were satisfied, and as a gift they gave the Wizard tremendous luck. Any rolls made in relation to the Wizard must be rolled twice, and the result more beneficial to the Wizard is taken. This goes for attack and damage rolls made by OR against the Wizard, as well as rolls on random tables, ability or skill checks, and any other kind of roll that might occur.
  95. Any body of drinking water which touches this Wizard’s lips is turned to a sweet wine.
  96. Any damage dealt to this Wizard by the direct action of an individual is also dealt to that individual. So if you deal 4 points of damage by stabbing this Wizard, you take 4 points of stabbing damage yourself. If, on the other hand, you tie the Wizard to a chair inside of a building, and then light the building on fire, you will take no damage. Just don’t be dumb and push the wizard into the fire once it’s started blazing.
  97. This Wizard can control the weather with simple gestures of their hands, guiding the wind to blow in a given direction with a given amount of force, calling down rain or hail, and even bolts of lightning once a storm has really gotten going.
  98. This Wizard eight long tentacular arms, ending in normal human hands, growing from their back parallel to their spine.
  99. The Wizard has partially fused themselves with a creature they were experimenting on. They’ve taken on some of the physical attributes of this creature, as well as gained some of its talents. (1. Hare, 2. Tortoise, 3. Falcon, 4. Bear, 5. Dog, 6. Iguana.)
  100. The Wizard “bounces” as if they are made of rubber in a cartoon. Weapons bounce off of them, they can shoot themselves high into the sky by “cannon balling” at the ground. A fall can never hurt them. They can even attack and deal serious damage by bouncing themselves at an enemy.

Magic Words Don’t Need No Spell Levels

Ritual MagicSpell levels. What are those about?

I maintained spell levels in the Magic Words system because I wanted to make the system as compatible as possible with existing spell lists. If you craft a 3rd level spell with the words “Fire” and “Ball,” I want that spell to function exactly as you thought it would. The point of Magic Words was never to get rid of the classic old spells. The classic old spells are great. I just wanted to encourage more magical creativity.

Almost immediately I recognized that spell levels were going to be the most complicated part of putting the system into practice. What really is the difference between a 3rd level spell and a 4th level spell? If I were to create a new spell of middling power, and asked you to assign a level to it, would you know right away what level it should have? I would have to think about it, compare it to spells on the core spell lists, and ultimately hazard a guess as to what level it ought to be. I wouldn’t even be very confident in my guess.

And I’ve already got years of experience with the D&D magic system to contextualize what the various spell levels mean. I have no idea how a newcomer would even begin trying to assign levels to newly created spells. It’s a system that basically requires the user to already be an expert before they even attempt to use it. That’s not inherently a bad thing, not everything needs to be accessible to newcomers. But if a game system isn’t going to be accessible, then I need a good justification for it. I need to be getting some cool benefit in exchange for the assumption of expert-level knowledge.

Delineating spells by level is hardly a cool benefit.

So Magic Words doesn’t use spell levels anymore. All spells exist on an equal footing, and could be learned by even a 1st level Magic User. Some spells might be better or worse than other spells, but that’s just magic. Not every spell is created equal, but that doesn’t mean the good spells require any greater ability to cast.

Removing spell levels does introduce some new problems for the Magic Words system which we gotta tackle.

  • If every spell is available at first level, then how do we prevent a high level Magic User from having a repertoire of weak, useless spells?
  • How would this system handle really powerful spells that are totally inappropriate for a first level character to have access to?
  • If we’re not using spell levels anymore, that means we’re not using the “Spells per level” chart which tells us how many spells a magic user can cast per day. So how many spells can a magic user cast per day?

Lets tackle each of those individually. There’s a TL;DR at the end.

How do we prevent a high level MU from having a repertoire of useless spells?

Taking our cues from the LotFP Playtest booklet, we just need to include more variables in spells that are dependent on caster level. So instead of a spell dealing 1d6 damage, perhaps it deals 1d6 damage per 2 caster levels. Tons of elements in a spell can be made variable: the time it takes to cast the spell, the duration of the spell, the range of the spell, the number of targets the spell effects.

Variable elements don’t need to be limited to numbers. Take, for example, a spell which causes people to become confused and choose the targets of their attacks at random. This spell could have a note that if the caster is above level 5, then the victim of the spell has double the normal chance of attacking their allies. As another example, the traditional spell “Invisibility” might automatically become “Greater Invisibility” if the caster is beyond a certain level.

Alternatively, some spells could function based on a difference in hit dice between the caster and the target. Consider a spell which causes the target to make a save, or die of a heart attack. If the spell only works on targets “With 3 or more fewer hit dice than the caster,” then the spell grows in power as the character levels. Simply by virtue of the fact that they will encounter more targets who fall within the spell’s description.

How do we handle spells too powerful for a first level character to have access to?

In my current campaign, my players hope to get a space ship one day. When they do, they want to place a time-dilation effect over the dead earth, and fast-forward its geological development to the point where it again becomes habitable. If I wanted to include this spell in my campaign, I don’t see a good way to make it variable. I suppose I could create really slow, really small time dilation bubbles that grow in both size and rate of acceleration. But that feels like unnecessarily shoehorning a cool idea into a limited system just for the sake of consistency.

Any number of spells might feel “too big” to allow easy access: summoning Godzilla, making a Wish, creating human life in your vats. These spells can be restricted by making them rituals, and rituals have all sorts of nutty requirements. So while the spell itself can be learned by a first level MU, actually casting it requires resources beyond the meager means of any first level character.

For example, lets take my world-scale time dilation bubble. The MU in my current campaign could, if they had the appropriate words, research that spell right now. But, if they want to cast it, they’ll need 3 months of continuous casting time, 300 virgin sacrifices, and 100,000 gold pieces worth of ceremonial accoutrements. Not to mention that some good guy somewhere might take umbrage to all that virgin sacrificing, and try to stop them.

Magic in my games tends toward inherently evil, or at least amoral. Magic Users proceed at their own risk, the referee cannot be held responsible for the loss of your soul.

How many spells can a Magic User cast per day?

I was stumped on this question for awhile. My first instinct was to check Wonder & Wickedness. Brendan’s spells are levelless, and designed to be compatible with the standard game. That’s the same thing I’m trying to do here! I figured he probably came up with a good way to resolve this.

According to W&W, Magic Users can cast a number of spells per day equal to their level. If they want, they can try to cast more than that, but they risk spell failure (more colorfully referred to as catastrophes in Brendan’s words). This struck me as all wrong. That’s way too few spells per level! It smacks of what I was talking about the other day when I introduced spell failure into the Magic Words system. It makes casting feel too punishing.

At this point I figured I’d hit a dead end. Time to innovate! I came up with some functional possibilities, but none of them were elegant. I was just getting frustrated when it struck me that I should reference the rules-as-written spells-per-level table to get a baseline idea of how many overall spells an MU of each level can cast. All I would have to do is convert all of the MU’s spell slots to first level, add them up, and see how their overall number of spell slots increased at each level.

At levels 1, 2, 3, and 4, a Magic User has…a number of spell slots equal to their level.

Apparently Brendan had the same idea I did.

After level 4, the rate of spell acquisition increases at a weirdly explosive rate. At levels 5 and 6 the MU has one more spell slot than they do levels. Every level after that, the gap widens by 1. At level 7 you have 2 slots more than your level, at level 8 you have 3 slots more than your level, at level 9 you have 4 more than your level, and at level 10 you have 5 more than your level.

This seems backwards to me. The game at low levels is a much more tightly designed experience. A big concern about higher level play is that the texture of the game gets lost beneath all of the player’s growing power and wealth. Many referees struggle to keep up with it, so why would the growth of spellcasting ability accelerate at higher levels?

Apparently Brendan’s solution is not so austere as it first seemed to me. Particularly when you take into account the option to cast beyond the strict limits of your ability at the risk of spell failure. So casters could prepare a number of spells per day equal to their level, and cast them without risk of failure. If they wish they can cast unprepared spells (or recast expended spells), but doing so risks spell failure.

I realize this is nothing more than a lengthy way of saying “I’m just gonna copy Wonder & Wickedness.” I considered saving you the time of reading this, and myself the time of writing it, by saying so up front. However, given my reaction to the W&W rule, I think the thought process that led me to adopting it is valuable. I doubt I’m the only person who saw “1 spell slot per level” and thought it was too restrictive to be fun.

TL;DR: What I’m changing about Magic Words.

  • Spells no longer have any spell levels associated with them. Every spell can be learned by a 1st level Magic User.
  • The majority of spells should have elements that are variable depending on the caster’s level, so that they become more powerful as the caster levels up.
  • Some particularly powerful spells can have ritual requirements that place them beyond the ability of most low level casters to actually perform.
  • Magic Users may prepare a number of spells per day equal to their level. These spells may be cast freely, without any risk of spell failure.
  • Casters may cast spells not currently prepared, or re-cast a prepared spell that has already been expended. Doing so risks spell failure.

Magic Words: Spell Failure

A SorceressHere are two things that are super awesome:

Neither of those things has ever shown up in one of my games. Here’s why:

  • Most systems that include spell failure, in my experience, make it a common risk of any casting whatsoever. It makes playing a Magic User dangerous to the point that it’s entirely unappealing.
  • DCC’s individualized Tables of Spell Results mean that every spell’s description is in excess of a page in length. Not only does this make writing new spells a creatively exhausting chore, but it means that you need a huge stack of reference material at the table. I don’t like the idea of needing to search for page numbers every time a spell is cast during play. That’s part of the reason Magic Words appealed to me in the first place.

So how can we take these two super cool things, throw in a dash of the new spellcasting rules from the LotFP Playtest booklet, and create a good spell failures system for Magic Words?

Magic Words: Optional Spell Failure Rules

Magic Users may cast spells entirely as normal so long as they are unrestricted and free from distractions. This means the Magic User must:

  • Take no damage during the same round that they’re casting.
  • Have no Bleed, Internal Bleed, or Pain. (Using Courtney’s “A Table for Avoiding Death.”)
  • Have full use of their arms, legs, and voice.
  • Are willing to cast in an entirely obvious fashion (excepting spells which specifically state that they can be cast subtly).
  • Are no more than Lightly encumbered.
  • Are not suffering from malnutrition, sleep deprivation, or other forms of exhaustion.

Within those limitations, there is no chance for a Magic User’s spells to fail. If the caster wishes to, they can risk spell failure by attempting to cast outside of those limitations. Such as when:

  • They have taken damage during the same round they were attempting to cast a spell.
  • They have Bleed, Internal Bleed, or Pain.
  • Their arms, legs, or voice are restricted and unavailable for use.
  • They wish to cast a non-stealth spell stealthily.
  • They are more than lightly encumbered.
  • They are suffering from malnutrition, sleep deprivation, or another form of exhaustion.

In any of those circumstances, there is a 2-in-6 chance that any spell the Magic User casts will fail.

When a spell fails, it’s not just a fizzling of impotent magic. The player must roll to determine unintended magical effect occurs. These possible effects are unique to each spell, and are created by the referee at the same time the spell is originally drafted. Obviously, this adds to the amount of work the referee is responsible for, which is the primary reason I’d treat this rule as optional. However, my own experience running a weekly campaign using Magic Words has shown that the work involved in creating new spells is so slight as to be negligible. I don’t anticipate this addition to substantially tax the creative abilities of any referee.

A 1d4 table of failures for each spell should be sufficient. More might be entertaining, but I think they would be superfluous. In LotFP, spell slots are not so numerous that a magician can fire off a spell during every round of combat. Spell failure won’t be common enough that you’ll get bored with 4 different failure options. But neither is it so few that players can easily plan for how spell failure will play out if it happens.

Note that there is no obligation for the referee to make the spell failures logically connected to the spell they are associated with. They can be, but it’s by no means necessary. After all, the logic of magic is indecipherable. A failed fireball causing time to jump backwards 10 seconds may seem random, but that’s only because you’ve got a tiny limited human brain. If you really understood magic, you’d get it.

Putting my money where my mouth is, here are spell failures for the first set of Magic Word based spells I drafted way back in the day.

Stars of Indirection

The first person who is touched by the caster after this spell is cast becomes cursed. Any attempt to use the stars as a means of navigation will return a false result. The navigator will believe they have read the stars correctly. But any attempt to travel based on that navigation will lead in a random direction. This curse lasts one month, and a save versus Magic negates the effect.

  1. The stars still misdirect the target; but instead of leading to a random direction they lead to a great treasure. If the magic user owns any such treasure, that is what they are led to. Otherwise the treasure is random.
  2. The target sees the night sky as completely black and devoid of any stars. As this is something others can easily confirm as false, they will probably realize they’ve been cursed very quickly.
  3. The light of the stars burns the skin of the caster for the next month, dealing 1d4 damage for each hour spent under their light. Remove Curse will remedy this effect.
  4. Cartoon stars begin to orbit the target’s head, spinning and twinkling.

Star Fighter

If cast during combat, a target within 100′ will be perceived as impressive by everyone who sees them. Even a bungling commoner with a sword they don’t understand how to use will be perceived as a peerless warrior. Weaker foes will become intimidated and may flee or falter before the Star Fighter. More ambitious opponents, meanwhile, will be drawn to the Star Fighter as a means of winning glory for themselves. This effect ends after the Star Fighter spends an adventuring turn out of combat. If the target wishes, they may make a save versus Magic to resist the spell’s effect.

  1. The target gains +2 to their attacks, but are not perceived any differently by others.
  2. The target must save versus magic, or begins acting in a buffoonish manner, as though they’re intentionally trying to do a frankly offensive impression of a mentally challenged warrior.
  3. The target is engulfed in blue flames which do not burn them. In darkness they take a -2 penalty to their armor class.
  4. The target becomes insubstantial for the next hour, and is completely unable to interact with (or be affected by) the material world.

Star Seat

A throne made of the night sky is summoned for 1 hour. Anyone but the caster attempting to sit in the throne will cause it to dissipate into a cold mist. When the caster sits on the throne, they perceive themselves to be miles above their own body, looking down at the world from the heavens. From this height, it’s impossible to discern any details. However, it can be used to make an effective map of the area within a 10 mile radius of the caster. The caster will also be able to see any sufficiently large phenomena, such as a town being on fire, or an army on the march. While sitting in the Star Seat, the caster will be completely unaware of anything happening to their body, including hit point damage.

  1. The caster sees a false image of what is below them. Nothing they see is remotely accurate.
  2. The caster sees an accurate image of the landscape as it was 24 hours ago.
  3. The caster becomes trapped in the Star Seat, and cannot leave it until the spell runs its course after 1 hour. Any attempt to remove them by force causes 1d10 damage.
  4. The star seat works in reverse, sending the perceptions of whomever sits in it deep underground. For as long as they sit, they see nothing but darkness, dirt, and stone. (Unless there’s something to see down there).

Seat

A single human or human-like target must make a save versus Paralyzation or immediately sit down and remain seated for 1 turn per caster level. If there is a chair within arm’s reach, they may sit in that, but otherwise they must simply sit on the floor. Swimming, flying, or climbing targets don’t simply fall to whatever surface is beneath them, but may move themselves along the most expedient course to a seat that is not lethal to them. So long as the target’s butt remains in constant contact with a horizontal surface, they are otherwise free to move and act.

  1. Any chairs within the vicinity of the caster catch on fire, even if they are made of a material that is not typically flammable.
  2. The caster sinks up to their knees in the ground.
  3. The caster turns into a chair for the duration of the time the spell would be in effect.
  4. Time stops for the caster for 1d6 rounds. The world around them moves forward normally.

Seat of Indirection

This spell is cast on a chair or other sitting place, and lasts for 1 hour per caster level. Anyone sitting in that seat is more easily fooled than normal. They are not charmed, they are merely a little more gullible than they would normally be. If using the social system presented in “On The Non Player Character” by Courtney Campbell, treat this as a +2 to social action rolls. +3 if the social action is Gamble.

  1. The chair is actually a Seat of Skepticism, and whomever sits in it is unusually obstinate. Use the opposite modifiers you would have used if the spell was working properly.
  2. The chair is actually a Seat of Discomfort. Anyone who sits in it will constantly shift around, offer awkward answers, and excuse themselves to return home at the earliest opportunity.
  3. The chair is actually a Seat of Wit. Anyone sitting in it will be unable to do anything but offer “clever” responses to anything that is said.
  4. The chair is actually a Seat of Bad Faith. Everything someone says while sitting in this chair is a lie.

Indirect Fighting

A willing target within 30′ is able to attack indirectly for 2 rounds per caster level. They may use any weapons or techniques they possess to attack someone within 30′ of themselves, without actually touching them. On a successful attack roll, the target takes damage normally. The target doesn’t receive any AC bonus from dexterity.

  1. For 2 rounds per caster level, the target may only attempt to harm someone by indirect means. They may attempt to convince the person to consume something that has been poisoned, or they can attempt to fell a tree that will happen to fall on a person; but they cannot force poison down someone’s throat, or directly use a weapon against someone.
  2. The caster’s head turns around backwards and will remain stuck that way until they make a save versus magic. They may attempt one save per day, after today.
  3. Any missiles loosed between now and the same time next round will stop mid air, spin around, and launch themselves at the target of the spell instead.
  4. The target suffers a -2 per caster level to their attack roll on their next attack.

 

 

Cointoss, a 200 Word RPG

CointossSo there’s this contest. In the contest you’re supposed to write a whole RPG in 200 words or less. This struck my fancy because I thought “That wouldn’t take too much effort to attempt!” That attitude is probably why I didn’t win the contest, but whatever.

Cointoss RPG

You are you. You’re in a restaurant waiting for food to arrive. You stand up.

Cointoss can be played anywhere, for any length of time, without any preparation. At the start of a game, you are who you are, where you are, when you are. Then, the imaginary you deviates, and goes off to have some adventure you could never attempt in real life.

You can do anything you could normally do without question. The referee describes the world around you, and determines which actions have a chance of failure. Such actions require a coin toss: heads is success, tails is failure. Some actions may require two successes to work, others may only require a single success out of two tosses. Thus any action may have a 75%, 50%, or 25% chance of success.

Anything is within the purview of these flips. You can check to see if you’ve spontaneously developed superpowers, or if you can get yourself elected president. It doesn’t matter, because no game of Cointoss will ever last long. Eventually the food comes, and the game ends. So get moving.

This is actually an idea I’ve had in the back of my head for awhile now. There was a brief time where I carried a set of dice in my pocket because I liked the idea that I might find some empty moment to fill with D&D. There’s a group of folks sitting around waiting for something, or just being bored together, and I could pull out my dice and say “Ya guys wanna run a quick dungeon?”

But dice are a pain to carry around. They made my pants lumpy, and I was always worried about losing one. And those brief D&D-able moments were never as common as I thought they might be. I gave up on carrying dice around, but the idea stuck with me that I’d like the option of proposing some kind of role playing game in the spur of the moment. It would just require no prep, and no tools that wouldn’t be readily available wherever I go.

I came up with a flip of the coin, the universally available randomizer, very early, but never pursued the idea further than that. This contest was a nice excuse to get it done.

LotFP Class: The Exiled Prince

Edwin of Northumbria
Edwin of Northumbria; an Exiled Prince.

From the day you were born you began preparing for greatness. You were groomed to excel in war, politics, and statecraft. Every hunting trip was meant to hone you into a better warrior. Every day spent with your father was an object lesson in how to be a ruler. You’ve known all your life that someday you would be a king.

Then some fucked up shit happened. Maybe your father was ousted in a coup. Maybe one of your siblings outmaneuvered you at court. Maybe you simply lacked the political capitol to consolidate your own rule after your father’s passing. Whatever the reason, you became an exile. The land you were destined from birth to be the unquestioned master of is now the one place in the world you can never go.

Understandably, you don’t have much of an idea of what to do with your life. You never even considered doing anything other than being a great king. The loss of that future has put you in a bit of an existential crisis. But you’re clever, capable, and broke, so adventuring seems like a good idea.

Exiled Princes begin play with 3d4 * 500 starting money. Obviously “broke” is a relative concept. They have a 1d8 hit die, and save as a Fighter. They advance according to the Cleric’s experience table.

In any major city that an Exiled Prince visits, there is a 1 in 6 chance that a supporter of their dynasty lives there. At the very least, this supporter will be happy to wine and dine the prince. This supporter’s resources may not be great, and they may even be an exile themselves, but they will do what they can within the limits of their own ability, and their own private agendas. Roll 2d4 on the table below to determine what help they might offer freely:

2. They can offer no help beyond shelter and good food while you are in their company.
3. They can indicate a nearby city where a passionate supporter of your dynasty has recently arrived. If you visit, they will no doubt be happy to see you.
4. They are well connected with the local government of this city, and can provide the Exiled Prince with valuable contacts there.
5. They’ve got a beneficial potion somewhere in an old chest, and they’ll send a servant to go fetch it for you. The potion is nothing particularly special, but it’s certainly better than nothing.
6. They have a very fine piece of equipment to give you as a gift. (1. A warhorse 2. A suit of plate armor 3. A well made sword. 4. A piece of art or jewelry)
7. 1d8 * 500 money. This money does not grant any experience.
8. A fighter 1d3 levels lower than the Exiled Prince (minimum 1) is currently in their employ, which they do not presently have any use of. They will place him in your service. This hireling automatically accepts their new employment, and their loyalty is 1 greater than what the roll to determine loyalty would indicate.

Thanks to their extensive martial training, Exiled Princess excel in the use of arms. Any weapon wielded by an Exiled Prince uses a damage die that is one better than normal. A weapon that would normally deal 1d4 damage instead deals 1d6; a 1d6 weapon deals 1d8; a 1d8 weapon deals 1d10; and a 1d10 weapon deals 1d12. This method allows the Exiled Prince to display a greater martial prowess than other classes, while maintaining the Fighter’s unique place as the only class that receives any to-hit bonuses as they advance in level.

When recruiting followers and hirelings, Exiled Princes roll 4d6 to determine whether employment will be accepted, and what their new recruit’s loyalty will be. This still uses the chart on page 51 of the Rules & Magic book. Any rolls over 18 are simply reduced to 18. Whether this greater degree of loyalty is due to the recruit’s awe in directly serving someone of royal blood, or if it’s the fruit of an entire life cultivating the qualities of leadership, the result is the same. An Exiled Prince’s followers are loyal, and many will happily die in service to their lord. Which, in turn, means that having a hireling die in the Exiled Prince’s service does not result in any penalties to future hiring attempts.

Political training gives the Exiled Prince a distinct advantage in maneuvering through social situations. For each level, an Exiled Prince may reroll one reaction die per session. So a 4th level Exiled Prince may reroll 1 die from 4 different reaction rolls, or both die from two reaction rolls, or any combination in between.

While most high level characters might establish a stronghold, an Exiled Prince is entitled to establish a Government in Exile. The Exiled Prince may choose a nation other than their homeland to host this body, and will be provided with accommodations suitable to his station.  The referee should bear in mind that the Government in Exile is essentially a bargaining chip/backup plan for the host government

The Box of Nails

handmadenailsI’m really glad October had so many Sundays in it this year. Writing four spoopy posts has been a thoroughly enjoyable way to get into the Halloween spirit for me.

If an adventuring party is particularly unfortunate, they may come across a hinged wooden box, of rough make, of a size that would be useful for holding a pair of shoes. The box has a simple latch of twine, which is sealed with yellowed wax. An odd sign, pictured below, has been pressed there.

Inverted Chi RhoIf the box is opened, all present must make a save versus Magic. However, only some will be the true target’s of the box’s curse. It falls upon those who have conceded the agency of their actions to another. Men and women who rise in the morning to do the bidding of another, and fall asleep in the evening only when the tasks given them are complete. This is primarily henchpeople, hirelings, slaves, those under the command of a geas, or those who have sold their soul.

All others who fail their save may think that they have been affected by the box’s malice, but they are merely experiencing its rejection of them. They will retch and vomit until they have nothing left inside of them, and then continue for an hour more. They take 1d6 damage, and if your game uses any sort of stress or sanity mechanic, they ought to get a shit ton of that as well.

Everyone else who fails, (the henchpeople, hirelings, slaves, etc.) do not suffer any vomiting, damage, or psychic torment. They are, however, cursed like a motherfucker.

There is a stage of acute radiation sickness that is grimly referred to as the “Walking Ghost Phase.” At this stage, the bone marrow of the afflicted is gone. Their body can no longer produce white blood cells, their insides are melting. They are turning to goo from the inside out, and they feel absolutely fine.

Sometimes they mistakenly think the worst is over, when in point of fact they are already dead. Their body has completely given up and very shortly they will experience an agonizing death. Nothing can be done to help them.

That is how you should consider those who fail their save against the curse of the box. The save they just made was a save versus Death, and they are now dead. But it will be a very long, very interesting death.

Within the box are nails, which the cursed will fixate upon. They become addicted, and like any addict, they have an amazing talent for feeding their addiction. There is, functionally, no way to prevent the cursed character from getting to the nails when it’s time for a fix. They will pick pockets, sneak into locked rooms, bribe, threaten, and fight. Short of encasing the box in cement, dropping it in the ocean, and keeping the addict under lock & key with 24 hour surveillance on the other side of the world, you’ll just have to accept that the addict will get a nail whenever they want a nail.

When they want nails will be whenever they obey an instruction from their employer. They won’t disrupt or delay their task–being of good service is part of the pleasure of it–but as soon as they have a spare moment they’ll go get one of the nails and hammer it into their body. Favorite locations are into their skulls, their ears, their eyes, nose, between their fingers, into their knees, and eventually just wherever they still have room. Regardless of where they are placed, the nails do not affect the abilities of the character. Someone with nails in both eyes can still see, for example. None the less, it is a grizzly sight to behold, and once the nail is in, it grows roots of iron. It can never be removed without completely destroying the body part it is attached to.

With each nail inserted into the body, the addict’s maximum hit points are lowered by one, and a randomly determined ability score (Str, Con, Dex, Int, Wis, or Cha) is raised by 2.

As per usual, no individual ability score can every rise higher than 18. If a nail would cause that to happen, the ability score is instead raised to 18 (if that was not the case already), and the addict rolls on the following table to determine what happens to them:

  1. The addict becomes a pedophile. If children are nearby, the addict will use any spare moment to seek them out.
  2. The addict gains an expertise of 6-in-6 in a randomly determined skill.
  3. The addict becomes a cannibal, and is compelled to feast on the flesh of their own kind anytime it is available. At least once a week, if not more often.
  4. The addict gains the ability to fly anytime they wave their arms as though they were a bird.
  5. A desire for the pleasures of sadism overwhelms the addict. They become fascinated by torture, and will employ it on anyone they have within their power.
  6. Punches and kicks delivered by the addict strike with inhuman force, dealing 1d12 damage.
  7. The addict becomes an unmanageable gossip. Any secrets they are privy to will become common knowledge almost instantaneously.
  8. The addict gains a Fighter’s attack bonus.
  9. The blood of the addict takes on a very particular, very pungent scent. One that can be smelled from miles away by vampires. At least one such creature with 2d4 hit dice will appear each month.
  10. The addict becomes powerfully telekinetic, and can either move small objects with great speed and precision, or move heavy objects very slowly and clumsily.
  11. The addict becomes haughty and insulting to an extent that would be considered untoward even if it was coming from the prince of a wealthy and powerful kingdom.
  12. The addict gains the ability to grown and shrink at will, from the size of a great oak tree to the size of a baby mouse.
  13. The addict is afflicted with incontinence, and will shit themselves frequently.
  14. X-RAY VISION
  15. The addict becomes very fond of the sound glass and ceramics make when they are shattered, and will break any glass they find.
  16. The addict’s carrying capacity is the stuff of legends. Anything small enough to fit in a backpack can be carried without penalty. no matter how much of it there is. If you keep handing the addict bricks, they’ll keep shoving them in pouches and pockets without any strain on their body until you run out of bricks. Even if you disassemble a whole village worth of houses to do it.
  17. The addict addresses every speaking creature that the party encounters in a boorish, sexually suggestive manner. Never in a nice way either. Less “Your hair glistens in the moonlight like the waters of a fragrant meadow” and more “You smell like a dirty fuck, lemme see that asshole.”
  18. The addict refuses any form of compensation for their efforts, and will direct all pay to their employer. Service is its own reward.
  19. The addict’s pleasure from being subservient rises to the level of sexual fetish. They respond with uncomfortable amounts of pleasure when given commands, and can often be found masturbating after being scolded, or told to do something. They seem to think their employer is complicit in their fetish, and cannot be convinced otherwise.
  20. The addict’s kiss can heal 1d6 hit points.

Because this addiction feeds on subservience, it will never occur rto the addict to leave their employer of their own volition. If they are fired, they will demand to be given the nail boxc as severence. They will not take “no” for an answer, and will attempt force if necessary. In that event they will resent being forced to stand up for themselves (in contradiction to their throbbing need to act subservient). This resentment will likely give rise to a merciless thirst for violences worked upon the one who wronged them.

If they are unemployed and have the box, they will immediately seek out a new employer. Any work, for any amount of pay is acceptable. They may even sell themselves to slavery, so long as they retain access to their nails.

Given their (likely) vile disposition and (probably) great ability, employment will be easy to find with disreputable folk.

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Thoughts and theories on tabletop games.