Two Years of Magic Words in ORWA

My games use a system called “Magic Words,” which replaces how Magic Users get their spells. Basically, instead of learning fully formed spells, MUs learn individual words. During downtime, they can put some of their words together in whatever arrangement sounds best to them. Whatever they end up with is the name of a spell their character has created. Then, in between sessions, I come up withe some suitable effects for a spell of that name. I’ve been using the system since I came up with it back in 2015, and I love it.

Last year, I posted a list of all the spells my ORWA players had come up with so far. And, in the year since then, they’ve come up with a whole bunch of new spells, so I figured it was time to turn them into another post.

This year, my players used the words they found to create several spells that are well established staples of the game. Stuff like Mage Armor and Feather Fall. Obviously I can’t really take credit for writing these spells, but I’ve included them here anyway since my versions are slightly altered to scale with the player’s level, and to include spell failure results.

The words my players had to work with this year were: Hold, Missile, Portal, Fairy, Ball, Spider, Fire, Feather, Fall, Cling, Balance, Gas, Cloak, Dog, Form, Sleep, Magic, Person, Rock, Web, Mage, Glare, Animate, Armor, Corpse, Imbue, Teapot, Hate, Blood, Ape, Pain, Fist, Cone, Cold, Star, Spectral, Snake, Pierce, Execute, Moose, and Time.

Spider Ball

Causes a tiny rift to form between this world and the spiderverse. The rift appears at an empty spot within the caster’s line of sight. Spiders from the other side pour into the rift, and become trapped there. This pocket of spiders becomes denser and denser, until it explodes outwards in a 20′ radius. Spiders will completely cover every surface without that space, and any living creatures therein must save versus Poison from the thousands of spider bites they receive. On a failed save, anyone with 4 fewer hit dice than the caster will die. Others within the sphere who fail their save will take 1d4 hit points of damage per level of the caster. Anyone who succeeds on their save takes half damage.

After the explosion, the rift will close. The spiders who burst through will remain, and slowly find their way out of the immediate area over 1d6 turns. Until then, anyone who enters the 20′ radius area where the spell was cast will need to make a save versus poison as if they had been within the blast’s range. (Though they get a +4 on their save.)

Aside from the deathly deathiness, this spell is also very scary and will scare people.

Failure:
1. The spell functions normally, but bad luck, none of the spiders are poisonous. Still creepy as fuck though.
2. The spell functions normally, but is centered on the caster.
3. The spell functions normally, but is pathetically small. Only those within a 5′ radius are affected.
4. The spell functions normally, but you’ve accidentally connected to the slugverse, rather than the spiderverse. Slugs fly everywhere. Their mucen is slightly acidic, and deals 1 damage to everyone within the area.

Mage Armor
Causes spectral armaments to appear around the caster for 1 minute per caster level. This armor is completely non-encumbering. At first level, the spectral armor improves the caster’s armor rating by 1. This amount increases at every odd numbered level (2 at level 3, 3 at level 5, 4 at level 7, etc).

If the caster wishes, they may instead cast this spell on an ally. However, it’s much more difficult to maintain, and will require the caster’s attention in order for the armor to persist. While doing this, the caster may move, but can take no further actions, and must always remain within 1000′ of the spell’s target.

Failure:
1. Functions normally, but only provides +1 to armor class.
2. Functions normally, but only lasts for 1d4 rounds.
3. Functions normally, but creates an unintended warp in the mystic fields around the caster. While the spell is active, they cannot cast any other spells.
4. Functions normally, but the target is a randomly determined creature within 30′ of the caster.

Feather Fall

One human sized creature or object per level of the caster may be induced to fall through the air as slowly as a feather (about 5′ per round). This spell includes anything the target can carry. If the caster wishes to effect heavier creatures or objects, they count as multiple spell targets. So if a level 2 caster wants to cast Feather Fall on a horse, they may do so, but it would count as 2 objects, and they would not then be able to cast it on themselves. (They could, however, ride the horse, since the horse can easily carry them).

This spell can be cast with an instant utterance, quickly enough to save the falling target if the fall is unexpected. However, if initiative is in effect, it must be observed.

The spell ends immediately when the subject stops falling.

Failure:
1. Falling speed is only partially reduced, falling damage is rolled with d4s – 1, rather than d6s.
2. Spell can only be cast on a single target (though, heavy targets are allowed).
3. The rate of the fall is actually increased, and falling damage should be rolled with d8s instead of d6s.
4. Spell functions normally, but lasts for 10 full minutes, without stopping when the target touches ground. This makes them susceptible to being blown away by a light breeze.

Imbue Magic
Imbue magic is used to create temporary magic weapons, which last for 1 minute per level of the caster.

For each caster level, the magic user may imbue an existing weapon with a +1 to hit. These bonuses may be combined in a single weapon, or divided among multiple weapons. So a level 5 magic user can imbue a single sword with +5 to hit, or may imbue 5 swords with +1 to hit each, or any combination in between.

Failure:
1. Imbues the chosen weapons with penalties, rather than bonuses.
2. Spell functions normally, but the bonus can only be used against a single target, which must be designated by the caster.
3. The caster is filled with rage, and may not perform any action other than making unarmed attacks for the next minute.
4. The caster’s fists gain all of the bonus. Unarmed attacks can be made as 1d6, as a magic weapon.

Animate Dead
This spell energizes the faint memories of life that cling to the corpses and skeletons of people, allowing them to move and act in a gross mockery of their former existence. Because the entities inhabiting these bodies are chosen by the caster, these undead are under his total control. However, the faint memories of life retained by the corpse or skeleton constantly struggles with the invader introduced by the caster, a conflict that drives the host corpse or skeleton to destructive urges. The animated dead will always interpret any instructions in the most violent and destructive manner possible. They will also prefer to attack those that they knew in life, no matter their former relationship with the person in question. The bodies remain animated until they are destroyed.

When the spell is cast, the caster may divide a number of hit dice equal to their own among the corpses they wish to animate. At least one hit die must be spent on each corpse that is animated, making it a simple 1 hd creature with basic motor skills, that can obey commands from the necromancer. Additional hit dice may be spent to increase a creature’s hd at a rate of 1-to-1. Hit dice may also be spent to grant the undead creatures special abilities, at a rate negotiated between the caster and the referee.

For example, upgrading a zombie so that it can speak, wield a weapon, or move as fast as it did when it was alive might cost 1 hit die. More devious abilities, like energy drain, cost two. Adding special abilities does not increase the actual hit dice of the undead.

Intelligent undead can be created with this spell, by spending hit dice to give them that ability. However, intelligent undead cannot be commanded by their creator the way unintelligent undead can.

The bodies being reanimated must be touched for this spell to function.

Failure:
1. Spell functions normally, but every corpse animated by this casting immediately attacks the caster.
2. A paladin, or similar character is nearby, and detects the evil casting. They charge in to stop it.
3. The death energies backlash, and the caster’s hit points are immediately reduced to 0.
4. The undead are created normally, but their only interest is in forming a band, and playing music.

Snake Form
Over the course of 1 minute, the caster transforms into a snake that is 5′ long, + 5′ per level.

As a snake, they re-roll their hit points using d12 hit dice instead of d4s. If they are not currently at max hp, then roll a group of d4s as well. Take away a number of d4s whose showing faces can fully contain their current damage. Then, remove a similar number of d12s, to determine the character’s current HP.

While in Snake Form, the caster cannot cast spells, carry items (including clothing), or speak. They receive a bonus to their attack roll equal to 1/2 their hit dice, and their bite deals 1d8 damage. (upgraded to 1d10 at level 7, and 1d12 at level 14)

The real point of this form is to grapple, as the snake’s d12 hit dice make it a superb grappler. If a character is grappled, the snake can automatically deal 2d8 damage to it each round (2d10 after level 7, 2d12 after level 14)

Transforming back into human form also takes 1 minute of time.

Failure:
1. The caster becomes trapped in the body of a normal, boring garden snake for 1 hour.
2. The spell functions normally, but the character doesn’t receive any boost to their hit points.
3. Conan the Barbarian appears to kill the caster.
4. Instead of transforming into a snake, the caster just sheds a thick layer of dead skin, which they become tangled in for 10 minutes.

Animate Armor
When cast on a foe, they are entitled to a saving throw versus Magic. On failure, their armor will begin to resist their actions. For each piece of armor they are wearing, they will suffer a -1 to any rolls they make which require them to move their bodies.

When cast on an ally, the animated armor will levitate every so slightly off of their bodies, removing its weight from their shoulders. Characters in this condition do not suffer any encumbrance from their armor.

Animate Armor can be cast on a number of targets equal to the caster’s level. It lasts for 1 hour per caster level.

Failure:
1. The effects for friend and foe are reversed.
2. Instead of becoming animated, the armor is simply empowered, offering twice the normal amount of protection.
3. Instead of becoming animated, the armor simply disintegrates.
4. The caster’s own clothing becomes animated, pulls itself off of their body, and runs away, never to return.

Flame Cloak
If cast on a friend’s clothes, the clothing ignites in a cool fire that will not burn them. It will absorb an amount of fire damage equal to the caster’s maximum hit points, after which the clothing will fall off the wearer’s body, leaving nothing but ash.

If cast on a foe, they are entitled to a saving throw versus Magic to resist. On failure, their clothes burst into flames, dealing an amount of damage equal to the caster’s current hit points.

In either case, the spell requires that the caster touch the target’s clothing.

Failure:
1. The friend and foe results are reversed.
2. The caster’s own clothes ignite, destroying anything they’re carrying, and reducing them to 0 hit points.
3. Sparks fly out of the caster’s fingers, but nothing else happens.
4. The caster’s pockets are suddenly filled with Red Hots candies.

Mage Portal
Requires the assistance of at least one other person in order to cast successfully. The assistant does not need to be a caster themselves, but they must be a willing participant.
The caster must be within line of sight of their assistant. When casting is complete, both caster and assistant will open their arms wide, creating a portal which leads from one to the other. Objects can pass through these portals instantaneously. If either party moves, or is injured, the portals fail.

At level 4, the caster (but not the assistant) can move half speed while holding open the portal. They may move outside line of sight with their assistant, and the portals will not be effected.

At level 7, the caster (but not the assistant) has a 2-in-6 chance to maintain the portal if they are damaged.

At level 10, the caster (but not the assistant) can make normal move actions while holding the portal open.

At level 12, the caster (but not the assistant) has a 3-in-6 chance to maintain the portal if they take damage.

At every 2 levels after 2, the chance to maintain the portal after taking damage increases by 1-in-6.

Failure:
1. The caster and their assistant instantaneously switch places. There is no other effect.
2. Objects passing through the portals have a 20% chance to come out the other side mangled and broken.
3. The spell functions normally, but the assistant must make a saving throw versus paralyzation or be turned to stone.
4. The caster’s side of the portal has a vacuum effect, pulling any small objects nearby through it.

Mage Form
An illusion spell which causes the target to look like a wizard. While in this wizardly guise, the target will be able to perform the most minor of magical feats: creating illusory lights, picking cards out of decks, etc. Target gets no saving throw.
Failure:
1. The caster grows a beard, 1′ long per level.
2. Mage form is cast on everyone.
3. The target looks like a fierce, muscle-bound barbarian.
4. The target physically switches places with a real wizard somewhere in the world.

Magic Web

Allows the caster to create a web, up to 10’x10′. The potential size of the web doubles at every level that is a multiple of 5. So 20’x20′ at level 5, 40’x40′ at level 10, etc.

If anyone casts a spell while the Magic Web is between them and their target, the spell will become ‘caught’ in the web. A cocoon of strands will wrap around it, and the spell will not go off as intended. Later, the magic user who placed the Magic Web may collect these cocoons, and return the trapped spells to their lab. There, the spells can either add a value of 50 money per level of their caster; OR, the spells can be dissected and destroyed, allowing one of its magic words to be learned.

Spells cast by a caster who is higher level than the one who placed the magic web only have an X in 6 chance of being caught. Where X is equal to 6, minus the difference in the two caster’s levels.

A Magic Web lasts 12 hours for every 5 caster levels.

Failure:
1. The caster is just wrapped up in a cocoon of webbing, which lasts for 12 hours for every 5 of their caster levels. They will need help to escape.
2. The caster becomes very confused by the wording of the spell’s effect. This magical confusion has the same effect as being totally blackout drunk.
3. The caster has an emotional breakdown, and sobs in a corner until someone comes to console them.
4. The spell functions normally, but the web is woven so poorly that only spells cast by characters of level 3 or lower can be caught in it.

Magic Teapot
Causes any smallish liquid container to grow legs or wings. It will deliver its contents directly anywhere it needs to be delivered–whether into someone’s mouth, their wounds, or to the top floor of a 300 story building, or into the middle of the desert.
Range of the spell is 25′ per level of the caster. Once the container is animate, it can go anywhere, and will persist until its contents have been delivered or destroyed.
Failure:

1. The container explodes, scattering its contents.
2. The spell functions normally, but it also turns the liquid into a deadly poison.
3. The spell functions normally, but it also turns the liquid into boiling water.
4. The spell functions normally, but it dramatically reduces the effectiveness of whatever the liquid is, to the lowest imaginable effect. Determined by the referee.

Form Person
Allows the caster to create something kind of like a human. Casting the spell requires 1 month, 25,000cc, and access to a laboratory with creation vats. The resulting creature is shaped like a human, looks like a human, more or less thinks like a human, but has a completely flat personality, and is completely loyal to the caster, to an unnatural degree.
No matter how well-prepared the conditions for casting the spell are, the spell always has a failure chance.
Failure:
1. Creates a psychopath who hates its creator.

2. Creates a heap of pus and meat that is totally useless.
3. Creates a creature with 1 hp, and a 2d6 at best in all its stats.
4. Creates a complete body, but it’s entirely lifeless. A vegetable.

Missile Magic
(Distinct from Magic Missile)
Can be cast to duplicate a spell the caster already has prepared, and attach that spell to a missile of some kind. (An arrow, a bullet, or even a stone if it is thrown). This does not deplete the other spell. Only missile magic itself is depleted.
Wherever the missile lands, the duplicated spell will activate as if it had been successfully cast there.
Failure:

1. A random spell from the caster’s spell list is assigned to the missile, instead of the one the caster selected.
2. The referee picks the least advantageous entry from the spell list to be assigned to the missile.
3. The duplicated spell IS used up.
4. The arrow immediately leaps up to attack the caster, dealing whatever arrow damage would normally be.

Sleep
Causes a magical slumber to come upon creatures with hit dice equal to or fewer than the caster’s.
If the caster wishes, they may cast it at a specific creature, and so long as that creature does not have hit dice greater than the caster’s, they will be effected. If the caster attempts to target a group, then the creatures with the lowest hit dice will be affected first. The caster cannot prioritize who in a group will be affected.

Sleep lasts d4 adventuring turns, and has a range of 30′. It does not affect undead, constructs, or other creatures which do not naturally sleep. Hitting a sleeping creature awakens it, but noise will not.

There is no saving throw against sleep.

Failure:
1. Make the targets hyperactive instead, giving them a sort of Haste effect.
2. The spell reverses back upon the caster, putting them to sleep instead.
3. Restores 3 hit points to each person who would have been affected. They feel like they just had a good night’s sleep!
4. The caster’s hands fall asleep. It takes 1d4 rounds to get the pins and needle feeling out of them, and until that feeling is gone, no spells may be cast.

Imbue Time

This spell is cast on a jar of water, and requires one adventuring turn to complete. During the casting of the spell, the caster is technically in a sort of temporal stasis, where they are physically, but not mentally, present. When the spell completes, it will seem to them as though only a moment has passed.

At a later time, when the water is consumed, the imbiber (whomever that may be) will jump back in time to whenever the caster cast the spell, and will remain there for the duration of the casting. So if the water was imbued at 5am, and the water is consumed at 8am, then the consumer will jump back in time to 5am for 10 minutes.

Note that consuming water imbued with time does not transport a person spatially, only temporally.

Water imbued with time lasts for 1 hour per caster level, after which it loses its potency.

Failure:
1. Spell takes 1 hour to cast. Time travel only lasts 1 minute.
2. The water vibrates until the material of the container it’s in shatters, exploding out and dealing damage to the caster.
3-4. A Time Guardian has noticed your tampering with the fabric of reality, and is displeased.

Cone of Time

Everything in a 60′ cone must make a saving throw versus Magic, or become trapped in that moment of time for 1 round per 4 levels of the caster.

Failure:
1. The caster is stopped instead.
2. The whole cone goes backwards, getting the caster, and everybody behind her.
3-4. A Time Guardian has noticed your tampering with the fabric of reality, and is displeased.

 

David’s Painful Sleep

Causes a magical slumber, accompanied by deadly nightmares, to come upon creatures with hit dice equal to, or fewer than, the caster’s.

If the caster wishes, they may cast it at a specific creature, or on a group of creatures. If the target is a group, then the creature with the lowest hit dice are affected first. The caster cannot prioritize who in the group will be affected.

Subjects are entitled to a Saving Throw versus Magic to resist Painful Sleep. Any who fail will be accosted in their slumber by a terrifying dream beast, who will torment them with their own fears, causing them real injury. Each round they will take d6 damage from this creature, and may make another saving throw to attempt to wake up. If they fail, they remain asleep for another round, take another d6 damage, and may attempt another save to awaken.

Painful Sleep has a range of 30′. It does not affect undead, constructs, or other creatures which do not naturally sleep. Hitting a sleeping creature awakens it, but noise will not.

Failure:
1. Make the targets hyperactive instead, giving them a sort of haste effect.
2. the spell reverses back upon the caster, putting them to sleep instead.
3. Restores 3 hit points to each person who would have been effected. They feel like they just had a good night’s sleep!
4. The caster’s hands fall asleep. It takes 1d4 rounds to get the pins and needle feeling out of them, and until that feeling is gone, no spells may be cast.

David’s Spectral Form

The caster becomes completely incorporeal for 2 rounds per caster level. While in this form they have the ability to hover just slightly off the ground. Their visual appearance does not change in any way.

Failure:
1. The caster is stuck in spectral form until they’re able to memorize and cast the spell again.
2. The caster can’t touch things and can move through walls, but is still vulnerable to damage.
3. The caster is affected by double-gravity for the duration of the spell.
4. The caster stops existing for the duration of the spell.

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4 thoughts on “Two Years of Magic Words in ORWA”

  1. I would look forward to these spells:

    Hold Missile– Arrows, etc. are frozen in flight for duration.

    Missile Portal– Doorway becomes a murderous arrow trap.

    Gas Dog– All flee the area around target hound!

    Dog Person– For duration, target hound thinks & acts like a human. (or, cast on a human, target becomes feral & barks!)

    Dog Mage– Pointed hat & starry cape appear on target hound; caster’s spells emanate from hound’s location

    Ape Mage– As Dog Mage, but target ape is terrified by magic, going on a rampage as spells burst forth from him!

    Execute Star– Wreak havoc on astrological prognostications!

    Snake Cone– Slithery fun

    Pierce Time– Reach through a small breach & extract an item from another time

    Sleep Form– Become a person made of swirling sand, able to cause slumber with a melee attack

    and, of course…

    Time Moose!

  2. Time Moose
    Tethers a time moose to the caster. A time moose can travel through time as we might travel down a street, in either direction. Once the spell is cast, the time moose will visit the wizard at various times in his past or future. The wizard may attempt to communicate with the moose and try to achieve some benefit from it, at the discretion of the referee. Subsequent castings of this spell will summon the same moose to this now.

    Failure:
    1. The time moose was doing something important when you summoned it. It is irritable now.
    2. Summoning the time moose creates a flux in the fabric of time, causing events centered on the moose to occur at various and unpredictable speeds, or to occur backwards. This becomes a feature of this particular moose from this point forward (and backwards). Preventing this occurrence would require getting a new moose.
    3. Summon 1d8 time moose.
    4. Summon a time skunk instead (or something nastier)

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