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Friday, May 2, 2014

A Fist Full of Magic: Alternative Spell Casting for Original and Retro Clone D&D (2nd Draft)

A Fist Full of Magic:
Alternative Spell Casting for Original and Retro Clone D&D
(2nd Draft)

Abstract

Depending on which version of the Grand Ole game that you play, spell magic is divided into two types, Arcane and Divine, and maybe Druidic. There is nothing unique about the spells from each group other than in the manner in which they are prepared. They are all used in the same exact manner, which can boil down to as:

Memorize/Pray -> Fire -> Forget -> Sleep-> Repeat

It is an elegant in its simplicity and execution. Some players and game masters through the decades have lamented it can be boring, rigid, dry and predictable. 

A Fist Full of Magic (FFA) is an attempt to create a spellcasting system that attempts to emulate a more dynamic spellcasting style. This is inspired from games like Advanced Hero Quest, Warhammer Fantast Battle, Blogs and Forums.

The Spell Caster

A Spell Caster is defined as anyone who is able to cast a spell; this includes Magic-Users, Clerics, Druids and Rangers. DM’s may have even more classes who cast spells. All spell casters have an internal “battery” that stores and retains their magical energy. The spell caster draws upon this battery to power his spells. Once the battery is depleted, it has to be recharged by various methods.

Example


Tauzin the Pure and Windjammer break camp and head for the Tower of Osric looking for adventure and treasure. They are full rested and well stocked with magic items and spells
Tauzin (7th Level Cleric): WIS 16 & INT 13
Talon of Bahamut
Potion of Replenishing
Windjammer (8th level Magic-user): WIS 12 & INT 17
Wand of the White Wind
Ring of Mana
Scroll of Dispelling


Spell Memorization

This is one area where the FFA system deviates greatly from the Standard Rules. For the purposes of establishing a baseline I am utilizing the following rules.

Rule #1 - Once you learn it, you own it.
Once a spell has been learned, there is no further need for daily memorization.

Design Note: This rule grants spell casters a lot of flexibility by not having to preselect their spells at the beginning of the day. They can use any spell they know during the course of the day.

No. of Spell and Spell Level Limits

Using the Standard Book Rules, Intelligence would determine how many spells and the highest level spell that a caster can possibly learn. Using the FFA Rules, use the following table for all spell casters:

Score
3 -7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
Chance to Learn
16+
12+
10+
10+
8+
8+
7+
6+
5+
4+
3+
2+
Max # of Spells
7
8
9
10
10
11
11
12
13
14
15
16
Highest Level
4
5
5
5
6
6
7
7
8
8
9
9

Score: Use the attribute the GM thinks best for the class, Intelligence or Wisdom 

Chance to Learn: This is the number that the caster needs to learn a spell. The caster rolls a d20. This can only be rolled once per spell per level. If they fail at one level, they can try again next level.

 Max # of Spells: This is total number of all spells that the spell caster can master

Highest Level: The Highest Spell Level that the spell caster can master.

Design Note: The Max # of Spells is something that is debatable. Should it be more or less? Should there even be a limit? I say there should be. By limiting how many spells, spell casters have to really think about is it really worth learning that spell. What if a spell caster wants to replace a spell they have learned with another?

Example

Tauzin has learned and mastered 7 spells; he can only learn 4 more spells
Tauzin's Spell List - Cure Light Wounds, Detect Evil, Bless, Find Traps, Speak with Dead; Neutralize Poison, Raise Dead,
Windjammer has learned and mastered 13 spells; he can only learn two more spells.
Windjammer's Spell List  - Hold Portal, Light, Magic Missile, Detect Magic, Read Magic, Knock, Invisibility, Fly, Lightning Bolt, Wall of Fire, Telekinesis, Power Word, Kill


Power Dice

At the heart of the FFA system is Power Dice (PD), which represents magical energy. You can call it manna, pixie dust or whatever fits the campaign. All spell casters use PD to cast spells. Some magic items have their own PD also. The number of power dice that a spell caster has depends on the class and level of the spell caster with additional modifiers possible.

Power Dice per Level (S&W)
Class
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
5th
6th
7th
8th
Magic-user
1
2
4
5
7
8
10
12
Cleric
0
1
2
3
4
6
8
10
Druid
1
3
4
5
6
7
9
10
Ranger
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
Class
9th
10th
11th
12th
13th
14th
15th
16th
Magic-user
13
15
18
21
25
26
28
30
Cleric
13
15
18
21
24
27
30
0
Druid
12
14
17
22
27
28
29
1
Ranger
1
3
4
6
8
10
11
13

·         Magic-users with an Intelligence of 13+ gain 1 extra power dice.
·         Druids & Clerics with Wisdom of 13+ gain 1 extra power dice.

Design Note:  The use of power dice (like spell points) makes a lower level spellcaster more powerful by increased spell casting. The casting mechanism described below prevents casters from becoming too powerful.

Example

Tauzin's Total Power Dice = 11
Tauzin is a 7th level Cleric, so he gets 8 PD, + 1 PD for High WIS, +2 PD for the Talon of Bahamut.
Windjammer's Total Power Dice = 17
Windy is an 8h level magic-User, so he gets 12 PD, + 1 PD for High INT, +1 PD for a Ring of Mana, +3 for a Wand of the White Wind.

Casting a Spell

Each Spell has a Target Number that must be met or exceeded in order for the spell to be successful cast. The number of power dice that the caster can expend to cast a spell is limited by the following rule:

Rule #2: The Rule of Six: No More Than Six PD can be expended to power a spell

Spell Thresholds (S&W)

Spell Level
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
5th
6th
7th
8th
Target #
4+
6+
8+
10+
12+
14+
16+
18+

Steps to Spell Casting
  1. Spell Caster declares what spell he is casting and how many power dice he will expend to cast it
  2. Spell Caster Roll the Number of PD and adds them together
  3. If the number is equal or greater to the threshold, the spell is cast, if less than it fails. Regardless of the result the PD are expended.
  4. Other Spell Casters can attempt to Dispel the Spell, if they have Dispel Dice or a Dispel Scroll
Example

Tauzin and Windjammer's are at the doors of the Tower of Osric. Tauzin is worried that the tower’s owner, Gnarly Bones may have set a trap on the doors.
Tauzin declares he is casting Find Trap (6+) using 2 PD. He rolls a 2 and 5 for a total of 7, Success! His spell reveals that there are no traps but the door is locked.
Windy declares he is casting Knock (6+) using 2 PD. He rolls a 4 and 4 for a total of 8, Success! The doors fly open with a mighty boom revealing the entry hall of the tower full of Muttonmen.
Tauzin now has 9 PD left and Windjammer has 15 PD left.

Spell Casting Modifiers

The target number of spell can be lowered by using rare spell components or certain magic items. It can also be raised to other circumstances
  • Caster is moving while casting: +1 to Spell Threshold
  • Caster is falling more than 10’ while casting: +1 to Spell Threshold per 10’
  • Caster is attacked and injured while casting: +1 per Point of Damage taken.
  • Caster is using Spell Components (Optional): -1 to Spell Threshold 
  • Caster is using Magic Item Assistance: Variable


Example
The Muttonmen start throwing spears at the two intruders.
Windjammer declares he is casting Lighting Bolt (8+) using 3 PD.
The Muttonmen attack first and Windy is hit by a spear for 4 points of damage.
Windy now needs to roll 12 or better to cast the spell. He rolls a 1, 3 and 6 for a total of 10, Failure!
Windy now has 12 PD left.

Absolute Power

If rolling three or more PD and Triple Sixes are rolled the spell is cast with absolute power.
  • If Just Three Sixes are rolled
    • The spell cannot be dispelled
    • The spell has maximum effect (damage, healing, # affected)
  • If Four Sixes are rolled
    • The target gets no saving throw if they would normally
  • If Five or more Sixes are Rolled
    • The spell ignore anti-magic barriers and auras
Critical Failure

If rolling Three or more PD and Triple Ones are rolled the spell has suffered a Critical Failure. The DM then needs to roll on the Critical Failure Table. If more than Three Ones are rolled every extra ONE rolled add +2 to the critical failure roll.

ROLL 2d4
EFFECT
2
Spell Fails
3
Expend 1 Extra PD
4
Expend 2 Extra PD
5
Expend 3 Extra PD
6
Expend 4 Extra PD
7
Expend 4 Extra PD & 1 Pt of WIS
8
Expend 4 Extra PD & 1 Pt of INT
9
Quack!
10
Memory Loss
11
Random Mutation
12
Vortex of Oblivion

  • Loss of Attribute – The attribute loss is temporary. A week of bed rest restores 1 attribute point.
  • Quack! – The caster’s spell has backfired and he has been transformed into a  duck. The caster retains his Intelligence and consciousness but in every other way he is a duck. He will remain this way for 1d3 Days. GM’s are encouraged to use other animals.
  • Memory Loss – One of the caster’s spells is erased from his memory. He will have to attempt to relearn by studying his grimoire.
  • Random Mutation – The spellcaster’s body is corrupted by the magic he has failed to control. Mutation will be DM’s preference; I am using the Mutation table from http://talesofthegrotesqueanddungeonesque.blogspot.com/2012/03/random-magical-mutations-table.html
  • Void Vortex – The caster has failed so spectacularly he actual has torn a hole in the fabric of reality. A swirling vortex will appear sucking the caster and everything within 30’ of him into Ahkrast Korvalain, the realm of chaos where they die horribly; there is no save for this.


Regaining Power Dice

All of a Caster’s Power Dice are (re)generated after 8 full hours of uninterrupted sleep. If a full 8 hours of rest is impossible, then 1 Power Dice is regenerated for every two hours of full rest. There are potions that can grant additional power dice. There are also magic items that can grant additional power dice for casting certain types of spells.

  • 8 Hours of Sleep = All PD Regenerated
  • 2 Hours of Rest = 1 PD
  • Potion of Aether = 1d4 PD
  •  Potion of Distilled Aether = 1d8 PD
Design Note: GMs are recommended to adjust these rates as they see fit to meet the needs of their game.

Dispel Dice

All casters have the ability to counter another casters spell. All casters have a number of Dispel Dice equal to:

Caster Level/3 (round up) + INT (M-U)/WIS (Cleric) Bonus

This pool of dice refreshes at the beginning of every hour.

Dispelling a Spell

When a spell is cast and the power dice are rolled note the score rolled. This is the number to beat to counter the spell. The counter-caster if he has not performed an action this round may declare an attempt to counter the spell and can use up to 3 Dispel Dice. If he rolls HIGHER than the Caster’s Roll the spell is dispelled and the Dispel Dice are Expended as our the PD used in the spell.

Design Note: When a caster has run out of PD, he doesn't turn into another torch holder. With Dispel Dice he is the party’s defense against enemy spells
.

The Blood Die (The Nordberg Rule) 

In dire circumstance, a caster may need that one extra PD but does not have any left. He can then declare when he is declaring his spell and number of PD that is also using the Blood Die. He can’t break Rule #2 with the Blood Die. When he rolls to cast the spell, whatever is rolled on the Blood Die, the caster will take that many points of Hit Point Damage.

It is said that evil caster's have mastered a type of casting called Blood Magic using living sacrifices to power spells.

The Allen Rule - The Blood Die can be used for Dispel Rolls