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[Circûmflex] Messing around with spellpoints in an OSR-style system

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This last week I have been sick. With lots of time on my hands I have been working on a version of Labyrinth Lord that is more suited for playing on HârnWorld. By now the whole thing does not look much like Labyrinth Lord anymore. Although it still is pretty close to the mathematical values, and more of a homebrew than an actual new system. I call it Circûmflex, because if you know Hârn, which is like calling something D&D-connected Ampersand.

These posts will be basically meditations on why I decide to do certain things one way or another. Please feel free to comment, especially if you know more about the maths of games than I do (which is not hard).

In any case, one of the things I decided to overhaul was the magic system. I adore the Vancian magic system, I really do. But it just is not a good fit for the setting I intended this to be played in.

So I started to fiddle around with spell points a bit.

One idea that was floating around in various places was that one could just use the number of spells wizards gained per level, and give them a value of points per level, connected to the Fibonacci sequence. I liked that. It made lower level spells cheaper, while making more powerful spells more difficult to cast.

Piety and Mana

To use spells and invocations wizards and clerics use a pool of points each. For clerics this is called Piety, for wizards this is called Mana. Both are determined by the level of the character, modified by the modificator for Wisdom for Clerics, and the one for Intelligence for Shek-P’var.
Mechanically they work almost the same. A spell or invocation of a specific level has a cost in piety or mana. When it is invoked or cast it reduces the amount of points by the set amount. When the pool of points reaches 0 no further invocations or spells are possible until they are replenished.
If the last spell cast would bring the pool of points under 0 the cleric or shek-p’var has to Save against Spell. If this roll fails he/she might incur the displeasure of their deity (cleric), or the spell might misfire (according to GM’s fiat). In any case the cleric/shek-p’var will feel burned out and not be able to invoke/cast again until at least half the pool is replenished.
Piety and Mana points replenish at a rate of 1d8 per night of rest spent in prayer or meditation.

The cost of spells and invocations is determined by the level it has. At level 1 it costs 1 point, at level 2 it costs two points, at level 3 three points, at level 4 five points, etc.

Some notes on that:

  • I renamed spells for clerics to invocations. This is in line with the terminology in HarnMaster, even though in this case it does not make any difference ruleswise. Likewise I used the word Piety, which has an actual value in HM, to denote something completely different. The word Mana does not even appear in HM I think, but I am trying to dress Labyrinth Lord in the right guise, I don’t try to emulate the rules of HM.
  • Wizards are of course Shek-P’var in HârnWorld. Technically Shek’P’var are just the most common and widespread of wizards, and there are quite a few hints towards other traditions, but I will go with that right now.
  • The spellpoint management is actually inspired by older editions of Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye). I don’t know if newer editions still have it (5th edition just came out and I haven’t even seen a book of it yet…), but I felt it might fit the setting well if spells cannot be easily regained from day to day. Mana and Piety in this system replenish at about double the rate as hit points. Which means that spellcasters start pretty strong, but have to keep their resources in mind better.

Ah yes, about that last part…

This is the point when I decided to have a look at the amount of spell points available to my spellcasters. Now, I have to add here that in the previous version of my houserules I decided at one point that all the levels I really needed to think about was the ones up to level 12. In the last few years barely any of my players managed to reach even these lofty heights, and I mean the years since I started playing AD&D 2nd edition back in the 90s.

Funnily enough I noticed something interesting when I calculated the spellpoint equivalents to the usual Labyrinth Lord spell slots: if I calculate according to the Fibonacci sequence I mentioned earlier, with one 1st level spell as 1 point, and 1 6th level spell as 9 points, at level 12 I reached exactly 66.

If I would let that go on further the Quadratic Wizard effect would of course be in full effect. That was one of the things I found was easier to avoid with a soft level limit of 12. But even like that, this is pretty strong, isn’t it? Especially considering that I was already thinking of getting rid of spell books and memorization. Kind of strong for the nominally low-magic world Kethira.

On the other hand I was toying with another idea: why not give spellcasters a roll for their spell pool that is equivalent to their hp pool?

Well, ok, because people might hate not having a clear level progression, and because bad rolls happen (although I do have an idea to mitigate that) and because it would benefit some people but not others. But other than that?

I actually did see something similar in Das Schwarze Auge. True, there the system actually started with 25 or so “astral points” and leveling added to that, but DSA always was a bit of a slugfest with all those points. So lets say we start with a mana pool of 1d8 for shek-p’var, and 1d6 for clerics. This still might be too much actually. This would give an average of 4.5 points, plus Int-mod. At the top of the range this might mean a wizard could have 11 spells a day on first level. Hmm. Nope, not good.

Ok, lets go with 1d6 for both. this would give an average of 42 points, a minimum of 12, and a maximum of 108 spell points on level 12.

I gave the Shek-P’var a requirement of Int 9, so no negative modifiers should be possible. After all one needs to be at least able to read to study old musty tomes of arcane secrets. No Int 3 wizards in this system. Sorry.

Ok, a super-genius wizard who can spam 12 level 6 spells on level 12. A bit over the top, but doable. On the other hand even someone with the worst possible kind of luck and no modifiers should be able to blast off at least 12 spells at once.

In this case it actually might help that either of these wizards only get back a maximum of 8 points per day.

Luckily, there are some limitations for both clerics and wizards in this setting. Clerics only have access to a limited pool of spells. Some of the spells, sorry, invocations, might be downright useless from an dungeoneering point of view (which is okay, there aren’t that many straightforward dungeons in the setting anyway). There is not really a reason to invoke “Marriage” for example, except to replenish piety points. And where do you find a willing couple in the middle of the dungeon anyway?

Ah yes, that latter one is an actual invocation from HarnMaster Religion. There it of course makes a lot of sense. The clerics in HarnMaster are not only walking hp-fountains. In fact a lot of the gods don’t even have healing invocations. But doing some good work like baptising new adherents, and performing weddings for others, actually increases the piety for the priest. This would not actually have much sense with the usual Vancian magic, it does make more sense if clerics have to replenish their piety somehow.

Wizards actually have it a bit better, at least in higher levels. The Pvaristic system the setting has actually keeps wizards from having access to all the cool spells at once. A shek-p’var starts as a specialist in one of six convocations. This means he for example only has access to water-aspected spells. But shek-p’var can attune themselves to the other convocations the more experience they have. So over time they can gain access to all convocations. Or they just stay a specialist in their field. Whatever floats their boat.

 

 

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[Labyrinth Lord] Spellslot System

Spellslot System (aka The Even-more-Vancian-and-a-bit-Pratchettian System)

When Magic users gain experience they gain a better understanding for the workings of magic and wizardry. Their mind becomes more capable of holding more and more spells of smaller sizes, or spells of larger size.

Magic users basically can exchange the spells they have memorized in between levels in a ratio of 2:1, meaning two spells of a lower level are worth 1 spell of the next higher level, and the other way around. This can also be used over multiple spell levels.

Example: So, the sorceress Linda (2nd level) just found a scroll with a second level spell and dutifully copies it into her spellbook. The next day she and her companions are in an area in which this spell might come in handy, so she does not memorize her two first level spells, but one 2nd level one instead.

Spells are fickle beings, a sort of memetic daemon that exists only to fulfill it’s use and then disappears (which is why magic users have to relearn their spells every time they have cast them). They also are a bit jealous of other spells and want to be treated right. A magic user can only ever safely learn a single spell once a day (so only one of each kind of spell) and it might feel cramped if the magic user doesn’t have a slot for this kind of spell yet. If this is the case the magic user is in Overcast state, which is a bit like carrying around an unsecured weapon. If the spellcaster fails any save during this time or loses hitpoints 1d4 spells are released randomly. If the fail is critical then all the spells are randomly released. In this case the GM decides what exactly happens.

Example: Linda prepared a web spell that was over her limit. The she and her companions are surprised by a couple of crafty kobolds shooting darts at them. The wound was only small, but smarted like hell.

“Ouch!” says Linda and loses concentration. All of a sudden glibbery white mass is sprouting all around her and her companions and keeps them from moving. Now they can hear the hollering and whistling of the kobolds as they prepare another volley of darts, and there is no way to run from them…

Random Spell Release Table

  1. all the spells just disappear in an explosion of shining light *poof*
  1. all the spells hit the spellcaster and everybody around (both friends and enemies), random determination of who gets hit by what
  1. half the spells hit everybody, the rest just disappears without any effect
  1. the spells cause 1d6 imps to appear out of thin air. They will hang around for another 1d6 hours and play the most imaginative and dangerous pranks possible
  1. the spells manifest themselves as magic daemons and linger around
  1. The spells manifest themselves as magic daemones and wander off somewhere else

Spell

This small creature looks like a whirl of energy, somehow similar to the spell it technically is. It gets bigger with spell level and can be baited onto a piece of paper and pergament, creating a scroll, or captured in a jar. If it attacks it will just use the spell it is made of as an attack and disappear into nothing.

[Labyrinth Lord] Easy Multiclassing

The only game I found which handled multiclassing in an elegant and simple way was D&D 3.X. And I had my gripes with that as well, the least being that it demanded a complete rewrite of the system and it’s classes to be feasible.
That was… a bit over the top I guess. But well, the game was a success, and despite the bloat rather playable.
It doesn’t work with the older editions though. In the older editions we have the awful concepts of dualclassing and multiclassing, which both kind of work, but are so artificial I wish they wouldn’t. So this is my way of fixing the whole mess for my games. It’s not an easy system for the characters. It punishes people for focussing too much on one career path, but that is actually quite ok I guess. The more someone advances in a class, the harder it is to learn something new. At a certain point it becomes more feasible to just start over again.
Requirements: this should work with race-as-class classes as well, but of course the requirement here is that the character has to be the actual race to take up a race class.

Divergent Classes
Characters can gain levels in up to 2 other classes after they already started a character if they 1) fulfill the requirements and 2) pay XP amounting to the highest level threshold among all the classes. So a character gaining a level in a new class will have to pay XP as if he was gaining a new level in his original class.
The characters uses the best abilities, saving throws, spells, and attack rolls available to him.
[yes, that means if a level 10 fighter wants a level of thief he has to pay 480,000 XP for each level of thief until both his careers are the same level]

Example: William the Wizard is a level 5 magic-user. He travels through the wastelands with his companions, fights quite a bit with strange creatures, and in the evening he lets Fred the Fighter teach him some martial arts. When the time comes to gain a new level William’s player decides that William might need some fighting prowess if he is to survive the wilderness. So he gains a level of Fighter. If he decides to level up his Fighter levels instead of his levels as Magic-User he will continue to pay XP as if he was levelling as a Magic-User, until the cost of the next level of Fighter is higher than that.

Synchronous Classes
Characters whose levels of classes are the same may level both classes together after gaining enough XP for both classes.

Example: William the Wizard is now a Fighter and a Magic-User of level 5. He decides that this is exactly what he is, a fighting mage, and decides to pursue this path of advancement. It’s harder for him now (he has to gain experience for both his careers) but the benefits are larger (he can roll twice for hit points after levelling).

Dual Classing
Characters can change careers and level in another class for the normal cost of advancement from level 1 on. For this the lose all the benefits gained by their previous class (including saving rolls, spells, and hitpoints), as they now focus exclusively on the new class. They gain the old abilities again after they reach the level of their previous class with their new class. After this they can level according to the above rules.

Example: Fred the Fighter learned a lot during his time teaching William. After teaching him a long time he gained some appreciation for the arcane arts. So much actually that he decides to learn magic for himself. When they reach the next city he searches out the local wizard and becomes his apprentice for a while. After a few months the wizard has taught him everything he could teach him, and Fred goes forth, searching for new opportunities to get better in his new craft.