Friday, August 31, 2012

Independent Magic-Users

I'm going to spend the next few posts detailing the different affiliations and organizations Magic-Users can be involved with in my campaign (ignoring for the time being that I'm not currently running games).

Today's post is about independent Magic-Users, those Magic-Users who neither attended an Academy of Magic nor belong to the Order of the Green Hand, but, in much the way Gary outlines in the DMG, apprenticed with a Magic-User of at least 6th level and, having completed the apprenticeship, struck out alone to make a life for themselves. Below are the mechanics I've come up with; they necessarily include flavor to explain how they work, but I'm holding off on explaining non-mechanical flavor until another time.

Independent Magic-Users receive individualized attention and their education emphasizes exhaustive comprehension of magic. Especially intelligent independent Magic-Users have a small chance to be directed to a master who can teach them to understand magic well enough that they don't need spell books and instead permanently memorize a smaller number of spells (in the manner of the Order of Trehaen from The Majestic Wilderlands); Magic-Uses with Intelligence 17 have a 1/6 chance and those with Intelligence 18 have a 2/6 chance. Magic-Users who qualify for this are allowed to refuse.

The Magic-User automatically receives a spell book with four spells from the Magic-User's master upon completion of his apprenticeship. To determine whether, and for how long, the master will continue to aide and guide the Magic-User, roll 1d4 and add the Magic-User's Charisma bonus. Any result above zero represents the level after which the master will consider the Magic-User to be completely "on his own," when the master will no longer provide free help in usual circumstances. During each level the master continues to help his apprentice the master will send the Magic-User on a single quest.

Until the master considers the Magic-User to be on his own the master will send randomly selected spells to the Magic-User each time the Magic-User levels up. When the Magic-User gains access to a higher rank of spell slot, the master will send four spells; when the Magic-User levels but doesn't gain access to a higher spell slot, the master will send a single spell. The master will also provide guidance and advice if consulted and has a 75% chance to agree to answer questions in the manner of a sage for free.

Magic-Users who don't require spell books receive as many new spells as they have newly gained the ability to memorize (usually only one). They are allowed to choose from their master's repertoire (which, in all cases, should be determined beforehand; I haven't figured out exactly how yet, but plan to do so and include it in a future post).

All of this ends when the Magic-User passes the level rolled above; though the relationship may still be friendly and close, the Magic-User isn't getting any more free lunches. Rolling a low number, or below zero, should not necessarily be interpreted as having a poor relationship with the master; the master may simply be too busy or think too highly of the talents of the Magic-User to "coddle" him with spells and assistance.

Spells given as gifts to the Magic-User by the master are the only free spells independent Magic-Users receive; they do not automatically gain any spells just by leveling up. To acquire more spells, they must trade for them, research them or obtain them in the course of an adventure.

Because of the intense, high-caliber nature of their study of magic, independent Magic-Users automatically are able to learn any spell which they use Read Magic upon and have an appropriate spell slot for; unlike other Magic-Users, they do not need to roll to check whether they comprehend a new spell when they try to learn it.

In addition, independent Magic-Users are able to attempt to "catch" spells as they cast them, retaining them in their spell slots. Attempting this is optional and success is determined by making a save (versus Spells if you're not using S&W), modified positively by caster level and negatively by spell level. Fumbles occur on a roll of 1 for the top three spell levels.

Independent Magic-Users are, with good reason, a distrustful lot that generally keep to themselves, but they will occasionally interact with each other to trade knowledge. While a Magic-User is a certain level, he will be approached as many times as his level by other Magic-Users seeking to acquire a spell he has (once while first level, three times while third level, nine times while ninth level, and so on). The referee should roll on the lowest die that goes higher than the Magic-User's level (1d4 for first and third level, 1d10 for ninth level, and so on); this determines the level of the NPC Magic-User that approaches the Magic-User.

The PC Magic-User may propose any price in money, spells, magic items and quests for the spell in question. For most prices, the referee should make a reaction roll for the NPC; any neutral or positive result signifies acceptance of the terms. Referees should use judgment and automatically accept exactly fair offers (such as a strict trade of spells of equal level) and automatically reject only the utterly unreasonable and actually impossible offers; NPCs of the same or higher level than the PC will not accept quests. If the NPC refuses an offer, further negotiation is possible: the PC may make 1d4 further offers (which must be better than all previous offers to be considered), rolled on the reaction table as before, before the NPC walks away.

If the PC gives what the referee rules to be a "fair" (not necessarily "exactly fair," but very close) trade to an NPC of lower level the first time an offer is made, a second reaction roll should be made. If a positive reaction is rolled, the NPC has not merely congratulated himself for finding a good deal and moved on, but has noticed and appreciated that the PC made a fair offer and will seek to build a relationship of some kind with the PC. How this is done is left to the referee's option, but might include further offers of trade, sharing important information, offering to pool resources, offering charter membership to any organization the NPC starts, or applying to become a henchman.

If the referee rolls the most negative reaction on this second reaction roll, the NPC perceives the PC's fairness as weakness and pretends to pursue a relationship, as above, with the PC, scheming all the while to destroy the PC and profit thereby. This will, ultimately, result in the entire party's lives being put in danger.

Because of their deep understanding of magic, independent Magic-Users are able to research spells more effectively than other Magic-Users. For spells the referee rules are not too obscure to be discovered in this way, the Magic-User may spend time in libraries of sufficient value and size (probably double the value that gives the highest bonus to regular research in whatever rule-set you're using) researching a particular spell, hoping to piece together the formula for the spell. At the end of the period of research, the Magic-User gets a single percentile roll to have discovered the spell; the chance to have discovered the spell is the number of days spent researching divided by the level of the spell they were researching. For example, if a Magic-User spends 75 days researching a third level spell, the Magic-User will have a 25% chance to have discovered it.

Finally, in my campaigns all spells may be cast as rituals that take ten minutes per spell level to cast and cost the spell level squared multiplied by ten gp in components to cast, but rituals do not need to be memorized and do not take up spell slots (much as in The Majestic Wilderlands). Rituals approach magic without trying to understand why anything works the way it does and so do not come naturally for independent Magic-Users, but they make up for this with the depth of their understanding of magic. Independent Magic-Users may cast rituals of any level up to one third their caster level.