Category Archives: Magic Words

Weird Cleric Magic: Oddities

Augustine of Hippo was kind of a douchebag

The Glory from God system as established before now stands perfectly well on its own. If the stuff that already exists is all you want to play with, that works great. But, if you’d like the magic to be a little more chaotic, you can play with these casting oddities, which add an element of risk and reward to players considering rolling more dice than they need to in order to cast a spell.

When dice are rolled to cast a spell, if any of those dice share the same face, the player must roll on the oddities table. Which number is showing doubles determines which of the tables below the player must roll on. Each set of doubles must be resolved, so if a player rolls 4 dice, and they roll two 3s and two 4s, then they must roll on both of those tables.

In the event that the player rolls triples, treat that as rolling two sets of doubles of the same number. So if a player rolls three 1s, they must roll on the 1s oddities table twice. They must likewise roll three times for quads, four times for a quintet, and so on.

There are essentially three types of oddities. Good things, bad things, and things which may be good, bad, or irrelevant depending on the specific situation in which they occur. The subtables for lower numbered doubles are weighted more in favor of bad things, and the subtables for higher numbered doubles are weighted in favor of good things.

It should be noted that the success or failure of a spell is determined before any dice are rolled on the oddities table. Nothing that happens on the oddities table can change the fact that the spell did or did not succeed. (Though it can lower or improve the spell’s efficacy if the spell did succeed).

Snake Eyes (Double 1s)

  1. You have made a deeply offensive error in your casting. Your god curses you. Roll a random curse.
  2. Your interference in this matter has come to the attention of a rival god. Your deity and this one are now struggling for influence over this place, and clerical magic from either one of them will be blocked until the contest is resolved. (1-in-6 chance each round. 50/50 chance whose god will win.)
  3. Though it may not be immediately apparent to the caster, their religious superior (currently deep in prayer) has been told by god that the cleric is a disappointment. In the coming weeks they will be called before this superior, and it will be demanded that some failing in their character be corrected.
  4. The caster briefly experiences a nirvana-like state in which they cease to exist. To others, it appears that they simply disappear. They reapper 1d4 rounds later, with no memory of what they experienced, save for a vague sense that they ultimately proved unworthy of some great gift.
  5. The caster’s appearance changes slightly, and permanently. Their nose gets a little wider, their hair changes color. They grow taller or shorter, thinner or fatter. In rare cases they may even change gender entirely. The specific alteration is decided on by the referee.
  6. A special zeal was noticed in your casting. The spell goes off as normal, and is 50% more effective than it ought to be.

Double 2s

  1. Your faith is shaken. Treat this spell as though it were one level higher for the purposes of determining which spell dice are lost.
  2. The caster realizes they have made an error, and must seek penance. (1. They must go without food for a week, suffering any penalties that entails. 2. They must self-flaggelate, dealing 1d3 damage, each morning for a week. 3. They must publicly announce their sin to their companions. All of their hirelings have their loyalty reduced by one. 4. They must spend one entire haven turn in prayer, undertaking no other activity. )
  3. The caster has been deceived! The prayer they just uttered was taught them by a demon, and is deeply offensive to god. They may not attempt to cast this spell again until they’ve spent a week in prayer learning the proper version of it.
  4. Everyone in a 30′ radius feels their hands twitch and spasm, and they drop anything they’re holding.
  5. All animals within 100′ of the caster stop whatever they’re doing and kneel down in reverence to the god whose presence they are in. They will accept no commands until a turn has passed.
  6. A nearby NPC who is neutrally or better disposed towards you is inspired by your faith. Your reaction with them increases by 1, and they want to learn about your god.

Double 3s

  1. The white hot fire of your god exceeds your own zeal. Your holy symbol becomes too hot to touch. You must either drop the holy symbol (and cannot cast until you recover it) or take 1d4 damage.
  2. The vulgar nature of your god has disgusted some NPC. Their reaction to you is lowered by one.
  3. A nearby source of water becomes holy water.
  4. Nearby plants flourish and grow into their most vibrant selves, or wither and die, whichever is more appropriate to indicate your god’s presence.
  5. Your god grants you a moment of foresight. You’re meant to step slightly to one side. Next round you have +2 AC, and if you are hit, the damage taken is halved.
  6. Guided by the wisdom of a saint, a random skill is raised to 6-in-6 until it is next used.

Double 4s

  1. You are struck blind for 1d6 turns.
  2. The caster begins speaking in tongues. They babble nonsense that occasionally brushes with religious themes at the top of their voice for the next hour, and cannot say anything else. This doesn’t prevent them from casting spells.
  3. Everything the caster says echoes loudly, as if they are speaking with a dozen voices at once. This lasts for 1d4 hours. During this time they are incapable of whispering.
  4. The cleric’s body appears to catch fire, but no harm is done to them. The fire is not hot and does not burn anything, but provides light equivalent to a large bonfire. The fire slowly dwindles to nothing over the course of 1 exploration turn.
  5. If the spell cast was beneficial, the wearer gains the mark of the god. Anyone who loves the cleric’s god will do that person favors for 1 month. Conversely, if the spell was harmful, the target gains the mark of the god inverted. Anyone who loves the god will shun this person, and pelt them with stones, for 1 month.
  6. A soft veil of light descends over the cleric’s allies. They all get a +1 benefit to whatever their next roll is.

Double 5s

  1. The power of the spell knocks you off of your feet and you land flat on your back.
  2. The target of a beneficial spell becomes notably more attractive. The target of a harmful spell becomes notably less attractive.
  3. The earth shakes with the casting of the spell, felt by people up to a mile away.
  4. Along with the spell, a bolt of lightning strikes down from the sky dealing 1d6 damage to whomever the caster wants. They are branded with some appropriate passage from the god’s holy words.
  5. The cleric is affected by the serenity of being so close to their god. Their next reaction roll gets a +1 bonus.
  6. Your faith is strengthened. Return a lost die to your pool, or add an extra one for the day if one has not yet been expended.

Boxcars (Double 6s)

  1. A lack of zeal has been noticed in your casting. The spell works as intended, but is only half as effective as it ought to be.
  2. All damage taken and dealt by anyone this round is halved.
  3. A flash of insight allows the cleric to ask the referee one yes-or-no question, and receive an honest answer. This must be done immediately, and cannot be saved for later.
  4. An angel of god comes down and participates in the combat for a single round. They’re astonishingly effective. No one sees it except the cleric, everyone else is just a little baffled as to why something completely unexpected just happened.
  5. The spell is considered one level lower for the purpose of determining which dice are removed from the dice pool.
  6. The spell goes off twice, affecting the intended target, as well as a second target indicated by the caster.

And that concludes my foray into tinkering with Clerical magic. At least until I’m able to test the system a bit, or have some new idea. I hope you enjoyed it! Next week, I’ll be presenting you with a piece I am immensely proud of: Better Magic Wands + d100 Magic Wands. This is easily one of the best things I’ve written in the last couple months, and I cannot wait to share it. If you’re interested, it’s already available on my advance feed for anyone who pledges $5/month to my Patreon campaign. Hint hint.

Trying out Glory from God: The Past Gods

Saxo GrammaticusNote:This post is presented to you by the generous people who support my Patreon campaign. Normally I only update once a week, but thanks to your pledges, I’ll now be able to throw in one extra update each month. If my pledges keep going higher, I’ll eventually be able to move to a full two-posts-per-week schedule! So if that’s something you’d like to see, check out my PatreonWe now return to your regularly scheduled bonus P&P article:

The goal is to make cleric magic weirder. To create a better counterpart to the Magic Words system used by Magic Users in my games.

So far we’ve established the broad stokes of how the system is going to work, and how spells will be created. We’ve also created a kind a template for how gods can be presented in a useful, gameable way, as well as a fun table of oddities to make casting a little less predictable. Now we need to work up some examples to turn all of that theory into a reality. I’ll probably write two or three of these so I can really start to get a sense of where the system’s strengths and weaknesses are.

I’m going to be playtesting this system in my ORWA campaign, where I have one cleric who is playing a techno priest.  (Unfortunately, this player had real life obligations, and had to leave the game after only three sessions. But I wrote all of this before that happened, sooo….) Given that, it only makes sense to write up The Past Gods, who are worshiped by that sect. They’re not a very traditional deity, given that they’re sort of a pantheon of nameless entities that are worshiped as a single deific force. But if the system can’t handle weird, then it’s not a very good system.

The Past Gods


Domains

  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Lost Knowledge

Mythology

The past gods were the normal men and women of an advanced age now past. They gave us all of the many technological wonders humanity once enjoyed, and which humanity lost when it descended into a sinful, ignorant subrace. The past gods still hope that we can return from our fall, and so they bless us with samples of the technological wonders that will await us if we follow them.

Laws / Taboos:

  • Technology should be acquired and preserved. Even broken technology is sacred. In other circumstances, property should be respected. However, all technology belongs to The Past Gods, and so taking it in their name is not theft.
  • Technology should be understood through The Technology Support Rituals. To try and understand technology on one’s own merit is to presume equality with the humans of old, and this is an insult to The Past Gods. (This is a stricture of the church, and not one imposed by the gods themselves.)

Spells (All 1st level)

For the purposes of all spells here, “Technology” refers only to devices which are now beyond common human understanding in the setting. So a flashlight, a gun, or a cellphone would be considered technology, but a spade or a crossbow would not.

Abjuration (1 round casting time)

“And the biting current was altered, and brought to rest in the right place.”

The next time the targeted character would suffer electrical damage, that damage is grounded and does them no harm. The effect lasts for 2 exploration turns per caster level, or until it has been expended.

“For mechanisms work only by the will of the Past Gods, and not against their servants.”

The target becomes completely incapable of activating mechanical devices, either intentionally or not. This includes tripwires and pressure plates which might cause a trap to be sprung on them. Similarly they cannot open a lock or fire a gun, as these are also mechanisms. The effect lasts for 2 combat rounds per caster level.

Command (1 round casting time)

“Cease your function, blessed tool. You are in the hands of the enemy.”

An indicated piece of technology within 30′ of the caster ceases to function. It cannot be repaired for 2 exploration turns per caster level.

“The hooting screech, guardian of the net’s bounty.”

To cast this spell the caster opens their mouth, and from their body comes an inhuman sound. A series of high pitched screeches, mixed simultaneously with beeps and white noise. The sound is so cacophonous that nothing requiring sound can function within a 30′ radius of the caster. No speech, nor any spell casting either. This effect also blocks any special effects that use sound to function, such as Hideous Laughter. The spell lasts for up to 1 round per caster level, though the caster must maintain the spell with their full attention if they wish for it to last longer than a single round, and thus cannot take further actions.

Blessing (1 exploration turn casting time)

“For the sinful man, answers remain always elusive.”

This curse prevents the target from discovering some specific piece of information by any means. Even if it is directly told to them, it will fall immediately out of their heads like the name of the 99th person you’re introduced to at a party. Even if they try to exert all of their effort to paying attention when they are told this information, they simply cannot learn it.

The spell is cast on some written example of the forbidden information. The first person to read the ensorcled text will become the spell’s target, and they will remain subject to it until Remove Curse is cast.

“She did rise, as though held aloft by a rotor of blades.”

With the cacophonous sound of helicopter blades, the target of the spell rises into the air. There are no physical rotors, merely the sound of them. The beneficiary of the spell can travel in any direction at a rate of 30′ per round, up to 100′ in the air. The effect lasts for 2 exploration turns per caster level.

Divination (1 exploration turn casting time)

“You will know them by their form and by their function, for they are blessed.”

So long as the caster does not move from their spot, they gain a sort of technology-detecting vision. They may turn round if they wish, but cannot take any steps away from where they are when the spell is cast. Any technology that falls within their field of view will glow a slight shade of red. The caster is also able to determine the function and condition of the technology from the shade and vibration of this red aura. This doesn’t aide so much in diagnosing what needs to be repaired about a broken piece, but does allow for quick determination of what is working and what is not.

“Of my companion I did ask: call my phone, so that its location shall be revealed unto me.”

When cast, the caster identifies a piece of technology. It must be a general type, rather than a specific item. “An xPhone Universe 6SS” is an acceptable identification. “My cell phone,” is not.

The caster then knows the precise location of the closest instance of the described device. So long as the caster does not move a muscle, they can track any movement of the device. Once the caster moves, the effect ends.

Prayer (1 watch casting time)

“Though beset by magnets, the machine did boot.”

The cleric can order any broken machine to work for 1 turn per caster level. The caster does not control the machine, nor does the machine necessarily have access to its full range of functions that might require additional working bits. (Guns may be forced to work, but they will not produce bullets. Computers may be forced to boot, but they will not necessarily be able to display the data you wanted.)

“That which transpires here must stay here for all time”

The cleric consecrates an area of a 30′ radius, which lasts for 1 day per caster level. Everything that transpires within this space will be forgotten by those within it when they leave. Even the caster will have no recollection of what they said or did while within the consecrated space.

Ritual (1 haven turn casting time)

“From the gods’ mind, creatures were given life who held no form.”

This ritual requires that the caster have access to a computational device, such as a computer, or cell phone. It also requires 300 credits of computational resources.

When the spell is complete, the caster will have created an artificial intelligence. This new AI is an NPC like any other, with its own will, personality, and traits. It is able to move throughout computer systems with greater flexibility and understanding than even the most adept human user could achieve.

In thanks for giving birth to it, the AI will perform any 3 tasks the cleric asks of it without question. After this, it considers its debt to be paid, and will not accept commands from the cleric any longer. However, unless it has been made to act contrary to its personality, the AI will remain friendly with the caster, and may be willing to provide favors or services like any other friendly NPC would.

“Man and machine became one when man first came to rely upon shelter and fire. We now take one further step on that most ancient of paths.”

This ritual requires the cleric to have access to a piece of technology that currently works, as well as a willing subject. The cleric can perform the ritual on themselves if they wish.

The working technology is merged into the character’s body in whatever way the caster describes. The device now draws energy directly from the person’s body, and no longer requires batteries or any other power source. Further, the subject is now able to use the technology via thought. Depending on where the technology is placed, its function may be limited as logic would dictate.

If the merged technology is a gun, ammunition is still required as normal.

 

Weird Cleric Magic: Gods

Weird Cleric Magic - GodsIn exploring the Glory from God system, we’ve outlined spellcasting, and discussed spell creation. Now we’ve got to talk about the stars of the show: the gods themselves. Since their individual flavor is so important to spell creation, we need an effective means of creating, recording, and communicating that flavor. We need a divine character sheet.

What we don’t need is any numbers. Whether or not the god is killable is immaterial*. The only purpose we’re concerned with here is preparing a creative aide for divine spell creation. If the referee is making a 1st level abjuration spell, what form will that spell take? Will the god bestow their protection by raising a wall of earth? Or will they temporarily turn the target incorporeal? Or will they place a shimmering shield of light that deflects attacks? These three spells could have dramatically different impacts on the game. So how do we decide which one to use?

I’m going to provide tables in this post, because it feels like a meatier contribution, and I like writing tables. But they’re just here if you need them. If you’d rather come up with this shit on your own, more power to you. It’s probably what I would do.

*Though, in point of fact, killable gods are awesome. I’m fully in support of the idea that most gods are terrestrial creatures. Perhaps they are beyond any means of death we understand, that’s part of what makes them divine. But there is some way to end their existence.

Domains

Domains are the most simplistic abstraction of a god. They are a single idea, often expressed with a single word, which indicate the god’s sphere of influence. When we say that Ares was the god of War, or that Eros was the god of Sex, we are referring to these god’s domains.

Each god should have between 1 and 3 domains. This is not a hard limit, and gods may have as many or as few domains as you wish. But, too many domains can create an unfocused divinity. If the goal here is to gain a strong sense of the god’s style, then it’s best to keep the list short.

If you want to keep the system light, domains could be the only thing on a divine character sheet. It provides plenty of information on its own, and you’d probably be able to use it to generate spells without too much difficulty.

d20 Domains (Even)

  1. Life
  2. Death
  3. Knowledge
  4. War
  5. Wisdom
  6. Love
  7. Trickery
  8. Lies
  9. Pain
  10. Light
  11. Darkness
  12. Stone
  13. Agriculture
  14. Winter
  15. Summer
  16. Sex
  17. Leadership
  18. Wealth
  19. Forgiveness
  20. Vengeance

D20 Domains (Odd)

  1. Nature
  2. Civilization
  3. Craftspeople
  4. Fear
  5. Snakes
  6. Bears
  7. Birds
  8. Sailors
  9. Fire
  10. Earth
  11. Wind
  12. Water
  13. Mathematics
  14. Strength
  15. Competition
  16. Law
  17. Chaos
  18. Neutrality
  19. Armageddon
  20. Revelry

 

Mythology

If you’re interested in adding a little more texture to your god than a sampling of individual words can offer, myths are a good second step. A myth is the god’s own story. It doesn’t need to be a fleshed out narrative–in fact if it is, I’d say you’re probably over-thinking things. Each myth should be a single sentence, maybe two.

There are three kinds of myths: Myths of Birth detail how the god came to exist. Myths of Events tell a short story that takes place in the past. Something which the god did, or something which happened to the god. Myths of Occupation refer to an ongoing phenomenon which the deity claims responsibility for.

No doubt a hundred deities claim responsibility for pulling the sun across the sky each day, this need not be a problem. Each could be a single aspect of the same deity. Perhaps all of the deities are lying, simply making grandiose claims to followers who don’t know any better. Or, it could be human error! 1,000 years ago some high priest of Yubbles the Sky Bear got into an argument with a cleric of Zandar the Memeist about whose god was better. Both of them started making shit up, and the gods aren’t petty enough to bother with correcting their misled followers.

Myths of Birth

  1. The god was born of a deity and (1. Another Deity, 2. A Mortal, 3. An Animal, 4. A Mythical Creature, 5. A Natural Object, 6. A Crafted Object.)
  2. The god was once mortal, and earned their divinity.
  3. The god emerged fully formed from (1. A Mountain/The Earth, 2. The Sea, 3. A Great Fire, 4. Another God, 5. The Sky, 6. A Tree)
  4. The god was created by another god by some means other than standard reproduction. Perhaps in a forge, or by weaving, or glass blowing, or pooping.
  5. The god emerged in response to some phenomena, such as the fury of a battle, or the fear of a refugee people.
  6. The god has always existed. There is nothing before them.

Myths of Events

  1. The god played some role in creating humans, or helping them advance.
  2. The god created some well known animal or monster.
  3. The god created some well known object with an unknown origin.
  4. The god was betrayed by a friend or servant.
  5. The god fought a great battle, and won, lost, or reached a stalemate.
  6. The god is the first to invent some artistic medium.
  7. The god is responsible for giving some order to the universe which did not previously exist -or- for removing order which once did exist.
  8. The god founded a kingdom.
  9. The god held a great revelry.
  10. The god established some important ritual. Like lunch. Lunch is an important ritual.

Myths of Occupation

  1. The god is responsible for something that happens constantly, like the passage of time, or the the air we breathe, or the flowing of water.
  2. The god is responsible for something that happens often, like the rising of the sun or moon, the coming of the tides, or the changing of the weather.
  3. The god is responsible for something that happens on a slow timescale, such as the changing of the seasons, or the movements of the heavens.
  4. The god is responsible for something that happens rarely, but unexpectedly. Like natural disasters, economic collapse, or invasion by a foreign enemy.
  5. The god is responsible for something that happens naturally, but on no fixed schedule, like birth or death, artistic inspiration, or the coming of the tax collector.
  6. The god is responsible for maintaining something that happened long ago, such as giving humans free will. Alternatively, the god is responsible for something that has not yet happened, but which will happen, such as the end of the world.

Laws, Proscriptions/Taboos

Most gods come with associated rules they expect you to follow. It’s a bummer, but hey, it’s a small price to pay for not getting smote, amirite?

I don’t imagine rules would have any particular impact on spell creation, but they would go some way towards making a god feel a little more real if they were enforced on clerics of that god. Like domains, I’d recommend between 1 and 3 to keep things simple and manageable.

The real key is to make rules which don’t affect the rest of the party. It’s better for a rule to be completely trivial than for it to become a hindrance for the party members who decided against rolling clerics.

  1. Cannot wear any knots in their clothing, including wrapping knotted rope around themselves.
  2. Must always spend some amount of money on sacrifices.
  3. Cannot initiate combat against someone who has done them no harm.
  4. Must always spend some amount of money helping the poor or improving the community.
  5. Cannot engage in any sexual relationship.
  6. Must always offer comfort to any who seek it, even those who have wronged them deeply.
  7. Cannot be seen naked by anyone.
  8. Must always defer to others in non-religious matters.
  9. Cannot speak their own god’s name.
  10. Must always remember to attribute all good things to their god.
  11. Cannot witness devotions being paid to any other god.
  12. Must always spend time praying on a frequent periodic schedule.
  13. Cannot tell a lie.
  14. Must always lie.
  15. Cannot look upon or touch a dead body.
  16. Must always perform specific funeral rites.
  17. Cannot eat any but a specific sort of food.
  18. Must always keep themselves clean, and wearing well maintained clothing.
  19. Cannot bathe.
  20. Must always announce when they fart–with neither pride nor shame.

Spells

Spells shouldn’t be recorded in advance, they are created one by one as the cleric prays for them. But these spells are not simply the gifts bestowed on a single cleric, they are the god’s repertoire of miracles. If ever another cleric chooses to worship this god and prays for a spell, there is an 80% chance they will learn a spell from the god’s already-existing repertoire. Otherwise the spell will be created as normal.

Evolution through Play

What I’d really like to emphasize about divine magic in my games is that there’s a second party involved in casting. An NPC that happens to be divine. Clerical magic isn’t like wizard magic, where the caster is manipulating the fabric of reality through the sheer power of their art. Clerical magic is done by drawing upon a personal relationship with an NPC. By petitioning that NPC for favors.

Clerics are not free agents, vaguely attached to an alignment. They have willingly subjugated themselves to a higher authority. In a sense, the cleric is a slave. A very high status slave whose master is beyond earthly concerns, but a slave none the less.

Given that, it is only natural that the god will grow and develop through play the way any other NPC does. Each time some new interesting facet of the god is discovered through play, it can be added to the character sheet, and later be drawn upon when creating new spells.

Next week, we’ll explore the divine character sheet by writing up a sample, complete with a few spells. If you enjoyed this post, consider checking out my Patreon campaign, and helping me produce more posts like it!

Glory from God: Creating Spells

Vulcan at Work

In The Glory from God system, the referee takes on the role of the cleric’s god, and creates all of their spells for them. Because of the time required for prayer and meditation before a new spell is granted, only one spell per cleric will ever need to be created per game session. Creating a single new clerical spell in this timeframe should not, I think, overly strain the referee’s creative abilities. My own experience with the Magic Word system has shown that creating a new spell is generally the easiest aspect of session prep for me.

However, Glory from God lacks one of the great strengths of the Magic Word system: limitations. Limitless creativity is a paralyzing curse. If your player comes to you and says “I want to create the spell Pummeling Spiders,” it’s easy to come up with some rules for how that spell works. If your player comes to you and simply says “I need a new spell,” then the sheer ocean of possibilities can cause the process to be a great deal more difficult. So we need some limitations. Not “rules,” per se, because if you ever feel like ignoring these limitations for some reason, then go for it. But we do need guidelines to light a clear path forward when a new spell is needed.

First, determine the spell’s level by rolling 1d6. Remember that even the most powerful spell can be cast by a 1st level cleric, so the spell level is not a gauge on how high level the player must be before they gain access to the spell. It is merely an estimate of how often the cleric will be able to use a spell each day, before they start losing spell dice.

If you’re making a 6th level spell, then you’re making a big blowout spell that the player will only be able to use a handful of times. If you’re making a 1st level spell, then they’ll probably be able to cast it a ton. Spells of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th level are just gradations on this scale.

When it comes to the actual content of the spell, there are two big guidelines to consider. The first is the cleric’s god; the divine entity that is ostensibly the one actually creating the spell. What is that god’s style? Their domains, their mythology, their will? The characteristics of the deity should provide the referee with a good sense of what sort of spells that god would grant to their clerics.

This begs the question: what should we know about a god before they’re ready to be used in play? The answer to that is beyond the scope of this post. Next week, I’ll go into some detail on what all we should know about a god. For now, just imagine we’re working with a god who is already familiar to you. Someone like Zues, Thor, or Vecna.

The second guideline is the magical school of the spell. There are six schools, and the referee is encouraged to determine which one they will use randomly. The schools are Abjurations, Commands, Blessings, Divinations, Prayers, and Rituals. Each school is tied to one of the four abstracted units of game time, which is how long the spell will take to cast. So only the first two types of spells could be cast while in combat, while the other four types each require a significant period of calm in order to work.

Abjuration – A Combat Round: Abjurations are protective magics, and are always cast preventatively rather than restoratively. They usually have either a very limited duration, or a very limited scope. For example, one abjuration might be used to protect the target from all damage for 1 round. Another abjuration might protect the target from a total of 1d8+1 incoming damage, and remain in effect until that damage has been taken.

Clerics cannot reverse spells of their own volition, but their god may choose to grant them a reversed abjuration. These either make a target unusually vulnerable, or remove a protection that the target would normally have. Reversed abjurations may cause a target to exude a tasty scent that attracts monsters, or may cause their saving throws to be rolled twice, with the worse result being taken.

Examples of abjuration spells from the core LotFP spell list include Invisibility to Undead, Resist Cold/Fire, and Spell Immunity.

Command – A Combat Round: Commands impose god’s will on the world. They are perhaps the most dramatic of the gifts granted to clerics, and their casting must be declared with great force and confidence. Commands do not harm directly, though their results may lead to harm.

Examples of command spells from the core LotFP spell list include Turn Undead, Heat Metal, Sticks to Snakes, Hold Person, and of course, Command.

Blessing – An Exploration Turn: While abjurations protect targets from harm, blessings grant their target new strengths. Strengths which belong to the beneficiary of the blessing for their duration, and may be used at the target’s discretion. Blessings may raise one of the target’s ability scores, grant them some expertise, or cause their blade to burn like fire.

Blessings typically last much longer than abjurations. While the latter might last only a few moments, a blessing can last hours, or even a full day, and in rare cases even longer than that.

Like abjurations, gods may opt to grant reversed blessings, often referred to as curses. Curses weaken their victims, or burden their victims with some struggle .

Examples of blessing spells from the core LotFP spell list include Enlarge, Water Walk, Protection from Evil, and obviously, Bless. An example of a curse might be Geas.

Divination – An Exploration Turn: Divinations allow characters to learn information they would otherwise not know. Some spells grant this information directly, the casting of the spell causing the answer to simply appear in the cleric’s mind. Others are more open ended, allowing the cleric to access a means of learning that they would not normally have.

Examples of divination spells from the core LotFP spell list include Detect Magic, Locate Object, Speak with Animals, Speak with Plants, and Speak with Dead.

Prayer – A Watch (4 Hours): Prayers allow tangible gifts to be requested of god. Prayers can consecrate holy ground, or raise a building from raw stone, or cause a feast to manifest itself. Prayers can also lead to events that might be regarded as exceptionally fortunate, such as running into a band of friendly soldiers out in the wilderness.

Examples of prayer spells from the core LotFP spell list include Create Food & Water, and Swarm of Locusts

Ritual – A Haven Turn (1 Month): Rituals are complex affairs, and often require more than a simple casting. There’s money to be spent on incense and animal sacrifices, sacred dances to be performed, a congregation of faithful that must be gathered. Not all rituals are so elaborate, but no ritual should be taken lightly.

While prayers may be used to magically summon something permanent and mundane (like a building), rituals produce permanent magical effects. They create clay golems to protect the faithful, or place permanent blessings over a settlement. Rituals are also the only way that most clerics will ever produce any healing effects. They might be used to advance the rate at which a group restores their hit points, or to mend broken bones, cure diseases, or remove curses.

Examples  of ritual spells from the core LotFP spell list include Cure Disease, and Remove Curse

These six spell schools are useful, but it is important not to overstate their importance. These are guides, meant to direct the referee’s creativity in a vaguely useful direction. They are not strict categories into which all spells can neatly be divided. Players need not even be aware of the schools at all, they have no bearing on a spell’s function after the spell has been written down.

A final word on spell names. As a means of making clerical spells yet more distinct from MU spells, it may be entertaining to give them more scriptural, or prayer-like names. Something that sounds as though it was memorized from a holy text. “6 Word Stories” might be a good rule of thumb. So rather than “Detect Magic,” the spell might be called “Jerome revealed their mysticism before god” The spell description looks the same, but the name of the spell has a more biblical flair.

Making Cleric Magic Weirder: Glory from God

Pope Julius II in Armor

This may be a controversial thing to say in the OSR right now, but I don’t hate clerics. I’ll happily grant that healing magic is bullshit, but I’d rather rehabilitate the class than remove it altogether.  Glory from God is an attempt to create a clerical counterpart to the Magic Words system, drawing on the Petitions of Brendan S., and the spell casting dice pools of Courtney Campbell.

The first step in accessing clerical magic is to choose a god to worship.  The god may be selected from the existing pantheon of the referee’s world, or may be created by the player.

To learn a new spell, a cleric must spend time in meditation, prayer, and study. They pour all of their energy into gaining a deeper understanding of god’s will. Only after time and sacrifice will a spell be revealed unto them. One month and 1000 money should be a sufficient amount of devotion to earn a new spell.

The player of the cleric has no role whatsoever in determining the nature of their spells. Divine spells are not created by the clerics who cast them. These spells are gifts from god, presented fully formed to the clergy which earned them. Even if the player was allowed to create their own god before play began, they cannot now exert any influence over the way that god functions. The player is like a meta-divine-watchmaker in this respect.

Clerics may attempt to cast any of the spells they know at any time. There is no need to memorize specific spells in the morning, nor is there any strict limit on how often a cleric may cast each day. Theoretically they could continue to cast indefinitely if the dice (by which I mean god) continue to favor them.

The cleric’s favor with their god is represented by a pool of six sided dice. The size of their pool is equal to 2d6, plus an additional d6 for each cleric level. So, 3d6 at first level, 4d6 at second level, and so on. Possessing powerful relics, or a richly appointed holy symbol may allow the cleric to expand their die pool slightly.

To cast a spell, the cleric rolls as many dice from their pool as they wish. The results are added together, and the total is compared to the chart below. Then, any individual dice which show a number that is less than or equal to the level of the spell being cast are removed from the die pool until the next day. Thus, casting higher level spells will exhaust a cleric’s favor more quickly. There is also a risk/reward element to choosing how many dice to roll for each spell. More dice means a greater likelihood of success, but it also creates more opportunities for dice to end up removed from the dice pool.

How God Responds to Your Petition:
1-2:
God is not listening. The spell fails.
3-5: God is disinterested. The spell goes off at the end of the next round, after all parties have acted.
6-11: God acknowledges your faithful service. The spell goes off immediately
12+: God is pleased with you. The spell goes off immediately, and any variable effects are maximized.

Optionally, the referee may allow clerics to purchase consumable items such as holy water or incense to assist in their spellcasting. A single use worth of these items is encumbering. When used as part of casting a spell, these consumables allow the cleric to “fudge” one of their dice by 1. Using this method, dice may even be raised above their maximum face value. So a 6 rolled on a d6 may become a 7, allowing the cleric to retain that die in their pool even if a 6th level spell was cast.

That covers everything that the player need worry about directly. While the system may seem daunting, it is worth pointing out that players will only need access to 3 pieces of information at the table:

  • Their spell list. Presumably they would already have this anyway.
  • The size of their dice pool, which would be a very simple thing to record on the character sheet, or to recalculate if it is forgotten.
  • The 4-entry table for interpreting the results of a spell casting check.

If this is all that interests you, then this is all you need. Referees can use any means they prefer to create their spells, giving clerics whatever flavor suits their campaign world the best. For my own purposes, though, I would like to see cleric magic relegated to a very specific niche, distinct from the magic user. A niche without any healing in it whatsoever.

I’ll detail more thoughts on clerical spell creation in my next post.

Magic Words in Practice: One Year of Magic Words in ORWA

Ronnina the Magic User
Ronnie’s art of Ronnina, the Magic User

From inception, my ORWA campaign has used the Magic Words system. The game only has one magic user in it, but that M.U., named Ronnina, and played by my brother Ronnie, has been around since the very first session on January 6th 2016. Ronnie has been one of the game’s most consistent players, being present for nearly all 40 sessions of the game to date. That means I have something I don’t often get to share: practical data about the functionality of one of my game systems.

In the past year, Ronnina has gathered the following words: Cold, Fist, Blood, Imbue, Animate, Web, Magic, Dog, Balance, Star, Feather, Fairy, Missile, Cone, Pain, Hate, Corpse, Glare, Rock, Sleep, Cloak, Cling, Fall, Fire, Portal, & Hold.

With these, she has created the following 13 spells. Each of these spells has gone through some revision over time, as edge cases arise, and rulings are needed. Some have been buffed a bit here, others have been nerfed a bit there. A certain level of imprecision, and a constant need for fine tuning, are at the heart of Magic Words.

Fire Portal
Opens a portal in any surface which releases a gout of flame from some unseen place. The flame covers a 10’x10’x10’ space, and deals 1d6 damage, +1d6 for every 3 levels of the caster. The portal must be cast on a surface, and is one-way, nothing can travel from our side to the fire side. For each caster level, the distance the fire reaches from the portal increases by 10′. This does not increase the size of the portal, merely the how far the fire can travel from the portal.
If a space is not large enough to contain the full force of a fire portal, it will, the flames will follow the path of least resistance.

Alternatively, the spell may be cast to grant the caster the ability to conjure five smaller portals over the course of a 12 hour period. These smaller portals deal no damage, but are sufficient to light a candle, or burn a rope.

Failure:
1. The portal sucks all fire from the room.
2. Fire blasts from the caster’s nostrils, dealing no damage but being very painful.
3. The surface the portal is cast on catches on fire and is destroyed, even if that would not normally be possible.
4. The caster goes temporarily deaf for 1d4 hours.

Star Fire
A touch range spell which buffs one willing target for 24 hours. While the spell is active, any time the character successfully improves an NPC’s reaction, they gain one point per level of the caster. These points may either be spent to recover a lost hit point, or to add a +1 to any die roll. Points may be spent individually or in groups, at the discretion of the spell’s target. If used to improve a roll, the use of points must be declared before the roll is made.

For the purposes of this spell, “Improving an NPC’s reaction,” refers specifically to raising the results of an initial reaction roll (2-12). This is commonly accomplished with the converse, Perform, Grovel, Honor, and Threaten social actions.

Failure:
1.The target’s skin glows orange, but they gain no other benefit.
2. The target grows massive breasts for 24 hours.
3. The spell works as normal, but any time a reaction is lowered the target takes 1d6 damage.
4. The caster becomes face-blind for a week, and cannot recognize anyone.

Hold Fire
The caster’s hands gain the ability to pick up and hold fire for 1 turn per caster level. Doing this requires a pre-existing source for the fire, but does not extinguish or diminish that source. Once held, the fire can either be thrown (range of 10′) or used  as part of an unarmed melee attack. In either event the fire deals 1d4 damage per two caster levels. If the damage rolls in the upper 50% of its range, then the target has caught fire and takes another 1d4 damage per caster level the next round. This continues so long as the damage rolls in the upper half of its range.
Failure:
1. The caster believes the spell worked correctly, and is compelled to place their un-protected hand into the first fire they encounter.

2. The caster makes themselves particularly vulnerable to fire, and will take +50% damage from it.
3. The caster’s hand muscles lock up into a fist shape, and the hand is entirely useless for anything but punching for the next 1d6 turns.
4. The caster becomes transfixed by fire. If they see one, they must stare at it until someone yells at them. Minimum one full combat round.

Magic Missile
A missile of magical energy shoots forth from the caster’s fingertip and strikes a target within 60′ + 10′ per level, dealing 1d4 damage. The missile strikes unerringly, even if the target is in melee combat or has cover/concealment. Specific parts of a creature cannot be singled out.
The caster is able to produce a number of missiles equal to their level. The full force of this barrage may be directed at a single target, or divided between multiple targets, as the caster desires. Missiles must be assigned to targets before any damage is rolled.

Each of Ronnina’s magic missiles look like tiny cartoon, jet-propelled missiles.

Failure:
1. The spell functions normally, but each missile is assigned randomly to a non-caster in the area.
2. The spell works as the caster intended, but only a single missile is produced, which deals 1d4 -1 damage.
3. A number of small glass pellets fly out of the caster’s fingers, plonking against their targets but dealing no damage.
4. A bouquet of flowers appears in the caster’s hand.

Animate Blood

A volume of blood is animated into an ooze like creature. The creature has one hit die, plus one additional hit die for every 3 caster levels, (3, 6, 9, etc). The ooze moves slowly, at only 90′ (30′), but is immune to piercing or slashing damage. (Bludgeoning damage, however, can be very effective at scattering the blood, and works normally). If not destroyed, the creature lasts for 1 hour per level of the caster.

The blood ooze attacks by exciting the blood within the victim, causing it to rush and clot irregularly. This deals 1d4 damage if the creature has 1 hit die, increasing up the dice chain each time the hit die increases. (1d6 at 2 HD, 1d8 at 3 HD, etc).

If cast on the living blood within a person’s body, that person is entitled to a Save versus Magic. On success, the casting failed, and no ooze is created. On failure, the ooze begins to run rampant within the victim’s body. They immediately take damage of a die type appropriate for the ooze’s hit dice. On each successive round, the victim may again attempt the save. If they fail again, they must again take damage. On their first successful save they will vomit up the blood ooze. Both victim and ooze will require a round to compose themselves before they can act normally. If the victim dies before a successful save is made, then the ooze exits of its own volition, and can act immediately)

Failure:
1. The caster mistakenly animates their own blood.
2. The spell instead animates the target’s snot. If there is no target, reroll.
3. Everyone within 60′ of the caster must save versus Magic or be afflicted by a bloody nose which takes friggin’ forever to stop.
4. The caster sets fire to the hem of their robes (or dress, or pants, or other lower body covering).

Animate Cloak
Causes a cloak (or cape) to become animate, moving and acting according to the caster’s verbal commands. The cloak moves by levitating, but cannot move in any way that would be impossible for it to move if it was attached to someone with arms and legs. It cannot fly, leap over melee, or squeeze itself through small spaces.
If the caster wishes, the animated cloak may attempt to visually emulate a moving human figure. As it has no limbs of its own, it can only really be effective if the target of the deception is at some disadvantage. This is used to best effect if it is dark, or if the cloak is at a great distance from the one being tricked.The cloak rolls stealth to succeed in this deception. The chance starts at 1-in-6, and improves by 1 at every 3rd caster level, and for each significant detriment to the target’s perceptions.
The cloak may also attempt to entangle the caster’s foes in combat, preventing them from taking any action. To do this, it grapples as a fighter of the caster’s level, but deals no damage. The target of the grapple must be appropriately sized. Any creature too large to wear the cloak, cannot be effectively grappled by it.

Animated cloaks have have 2 hit points per level of the caster, and last for 1 hour per level of the caster.

Failure:

1. The cloak attempts to grapple its own caster until it is destroyed.
2. The cloak becomes intelligent. It’s animation becomes permanent, and it leaves.
3. The spell functions properly, but is cast as though the caster were first level.
4. The spell cast is actually “Self-cleaning and folding cloak.”

Spectral Dog
Summons 1 dog per level, for a total of 2 hours per level. The dogs are translucent creatures of light and smoke, but solid to the touch. They look, feel, and act just like normal dogs, but have no scent. They will obey simple commands from the caster, but are not well trained enough to do anything fancy. “Sit,” “Heel,” “Fetch,” and “Sic ’em” are pretty much the extent of their abilities.

Each dog has an armor rating of 12, 1 hit point, and a +0 to their attack rolls. Each dog starts out dealing 1d3 damage with their bite. At level 5, this increases to 1d6. At level 10, it increases again to 1d8, but does not increase any further than that.The dogs may act for the first time on the round following the one in which they were summoned.

Failure:
1. The dogs are summoned normally, but are not “reasonably well trained” at all. They do not understand any commands, and will pursue only their own instincts and immediate needs.
2. A single real dog is summoned.
3. All the spectral dogs have the aspect of pugs. They are completely useless at any task, but will do their best to obey as normal.
4. The caster turns into a Labrador for the normal duration of the spell.

Hold Portal
Magically holds a passage either open, or closed, as the caster wills. It can effect a door, gate, window, or shutter of wood, metal, or stone. The magic affects the portal just as if it were securely closed and normally locked. Hold Portal lasts for 1d6 turns per caster level.

Failure:
1. Holds the portal the opposite way that it the caster intended: open if you wanted it held closed, closed if you wanted it held open.
2. The effect lasts only 1d4 rounds.
3. Instead of effecting the intended portal, the spell effects the caster’s own mouth for the same length of time.
4. Instead of effecting the portal, you affect the mouths of 2d6 creatures, randomly determined.

Cling to Rock
The person or object the spell is cast on will be stuck to the next stone or concrete their body comes in contact with. There are two versions of this spell: one which allows movement, and can be used to climb sheer stone walls without effort. The second does not allow movement, trapping the target against a body of stone. They are entitled to a save versus Magic to resist the effect.

The spell lasts for 3 turns per caster level.

Failure:
1. Which version of the spell the caster intended to conjure is reversed.
2. The caster must save versus Magic or contract some form of lycanthropy.
3. The spell cast is, instead, “Summon,” as written in the LotFP Rules & magic book.
4. The target of the spell transforms into a pebble for the duration of the spell. They are entitled to a save versus Magic to resist.

Cone of Cold
A cone shaped area extends from the caster’s hand, 5′ in length per level of the caster. Heat is suddenly drained out of this area, dealing 1d4 +1 damage per caster level to any living creatures within. Targets may save versus Breath for half damage.

Failure:
1. The cone deals damage equal to the caster’s level, rather than 1d4 + 1 per level.
2. The cone extends backwards from the caster’s hand, striking them, and anyone behind them within the cone’s area.
3. The caster’s hand freezes solid, and must be carefully warmed up again in order to free it. It takes 2 hours of dedicated effort to get the hand free.
4. A randomly determined target within the area of the cone must save versus Magic. On a failure, all heat is drained entirely from their body. Their internal temperature is reduced so dramatically that they are vaporized, becoming a chilling gas which deals 2d4 damage to everyone within 20′ of themselves.

Hold Missiles
The caster raises their hand. So long as they keep their hand up and take no further actions, they generate an invisible sphere with a radius of anywhere from 5′ to 15′, at the caster’s preference. Missiles entering this sphere are halted in mid air, and will remain suspended there until the caster stops channeling the spell, after which they will fall to the ground.
The sphere is able to stop 1 missile per round, per caster level. (Thus it may not be fully effective against automated weapons until the caster reaches higher levels). If the caster is level 5 or higher, they can make a half move action while channeling this spell. If they are level 10 or higher, they can make a full move action while channeling this spell.
Failure:

1. Missiles entering the sphere are accelerated, and deal +1 damage.
2. The sphere functions normally, but also prevents missiles from EXITING the sphere.
3. The sphere functions normally, but is opaque instead of invisible. No one can see in, or out.
4. The sphere functions normally, but the radius expands by 15′ each round, eventually becoming so large that the ones firing the missiles are inside of it, and thus immune to having their missiles stopped by it.

Hold Magic
After this spell is cast, the next spell cast by the Magic user will not go off as normal. Instead, the spell will hold in suspended animation at the first picosecond of its existence. It will remain in this state until the caster activates it with a mental command (or for 1 hour per caster level, after which the spell rots away into nothingness).
When activated by the caster’s mental command, the spell comes to life, and occurs from the same spot it was originally cast from. Activating a spell which has already been cast is a free action.
If the Magic user is level 4 or higher, Hold Magic may be cast as a free action. Thus, only the casting time of the spell that is being held is required. If the magic user is level 8 or higher, the held spell may be “carried” with the magic user. Thus a Magic Missile could be cast, held, and then carried around with the magic user, ready to be activated as a free action at-will.
At first, only one spell may be held at a time. At level 6, two spells may be held. At level 12, three spells may be held. Each held spell requires an additional casting of Hold Magic.

Failure:
1. The spell the caster intends to hold is simply destroyed.
2. The next spell cast is held appropriately, but when it is released, it must roll on its failure table.
3. The hair on the caster’s head immediately grows for 1 exploration turn, cascading down around their body until it reaches the floor.
4. The next spell cast is held appropriately, but its release is out of the caster’s control. Instead, it is a ticking time bomb. There is a 1 in 4 chance each exploration turn that it will go off.

 Magic Glare
Magic Glare may be cast subtly without need for wild gestures or loud speech. If the caster has a reaction of at least Neutral with the target, Magic Glare can be used to shame the target out of a decision they have made. The target is entitled to a save versus Magic to resist this effect. On a failed save, the target will announce their altered decision.
For every 4 levels, the caster may expectantly ask “AND…?” after each time the target finishes explaining their altered decision. For each “AND…?”, the target is entitled to another save versus Magic. If they again fail, they will add provisos to their new decision to make it even more pleasing to the magic user. If they succeed on the save, they’ll just say “And that’s it.”
Failure:

1. The target will realize a spell was attempted upon them, and will have their reaction lowered by 2.
2. The target goes temporarily blank from having someone mess with their mind. They forget the last 2 minutes of their lives.
3.The caster lets out a fart that just…will…not…stop. It lasts for 1 full exploration turn.
4.The target begins to dance. They will continue dancing until anyone mentions that they are dancing, after which they will sheepishly stop.

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