Sunday, May 20, 2012

20 Questions, Part 8: A Better Wizard

I found my last entry in this series, which answered the question "Who is the most powerful wizard in the land?", to be pretty lackluster, and, judging by the whopping zero comments on that post, my readers seem to agree. Forgive me, gentle readers, and let me take a second crack at this.

Where does this wizard live? (d8)
  1. A tower out in the middle of nowhere.
  2. A tower in a major city.
  3. A cave out in the middle of nowhere.
  4. On the grounds of a magical school (depending on how common magic is in your setting, this could be anything from just 3d4 apprentices to a huge magical university).
  5. In a shack out in a swamp.
  6. In the depths of the underworld (possibly in a mega-dungeon), where the wizard can study in peace and collect rare components.
  7. With 1: Elves, 2: Dwarves, 3: a benevolent mentor Dragon, 4: the mushroom men.
  8. Nowhere. The wizard is constantly on the move, like Gandalf.
What is this wizard's specialty? (d20)
  1. Movement Magic
  2. Fire and Light Magic
  3. Animation and Disanimation Magic
  4. Time and Gate Magic
  5. Necromancy
  6. Sleep and Charm Magic
  7. Cold and Poison Magic
  8. Fear and Confusion Magic
  9. Elemental Magic
  10. Polymorphing Magic
  11. Liquid Magic
  12. Teleportation, Phasing and Dimension-shifting Magic
  13. Dragon Magic
  14. Runes
  15. Sorcerous Rituals
  16. Alchemy
  17. Illusions
  18. Meta-magic (messing with spell slots, strengthening spells, etc.)
  19. Creating scrolls, wands and rods
  20. Memorizing spells for good, so they don't need to me re-memorized, or some other alternate form of magic (if you don't like this, take wands and rods from #19 and put them here)
What is this wizard's attitude towards adventurers in general? (d12)
  1. Nostalgic: "Let me tell you about when I…"
  2. Grumpy: "Get off my lawn!"
  3. Suspicious: "Who sent you? What do you really want?"
  4. Frustratingly Hospitable: "Have another seed cake? Really, we should finish tea before we get down to business. Do you have a place to stay for the night? I insist you stay the night here."
  5. Eager to sell special (magical?) items (found and/or created)
  6. Eager to buy or order special items (rare components, lost magic items, magic items in the possession of others, etc.)
  7. Annoyed but resigned to periodic visits by adventuring parties
  8. Feigned hospitality, but, unless something changes the wizard's mind, will try to send the party to its doom so they won't come back and annoy the wizard.
  9. Eager for news of the outside world.
  10. Eager to give advice (roll 1d6 each visit: odd, very good advice; even, very poor advice)
  11. Eager to join the party and prove that he is not too old for excitement and adventure. Will be senile and get the party into trouble most of the time, but will come through for the party if they face certain doom. If the wizard hasn't already left the party for plot reasons by the time he saves the party for the third time, the wizard figures he's proven he "still has it" and returns to his abode.
  12. Eager to send the party off on quests that serve the wizard's own ends; doesn't particularly care about why the party showed up and what they want. Will always try to turn conversations back to the quest the wizard has in mind. Will probably refuse to help until one such quest is fulfilled by the party, but even after that is fulfilled the party will need to be very insistent in order for the wizard not to just send them out on another quest.
Whom does this wizard dislike/distrust? Whom does this wizard have a soft spot for? (For each question, roll 1d6 on each table and combine the results. For example, an old chaotic magic-user, a red-headed elf fighter.)
  1. Old (older than expected adventuring age, or whatever you want it to mean)
  2. Young (younger than expected adventuring age, or whatever you want it to mean)
  3. Dwarf
  4. Elf
  5. Rich and connected
  6. Poor and ostracized
  1. Male
  2. Female
  3. Lawful
  4. Chaotic
  5. Red-headed
  6. Fair-haired
  1. Fighters
  2. Clerics
  3. Thieves
  4. Magic-Users
  5. Nobles (NPCs and 7th level or higher PCs)
  6. Peasants (NPCs and 3rd level or lower PCs)
What precautions does the wizard take with those the wizard doesn't trust? (d4)
  1. Magically keeps them from entering the wizard's abode (no save under level 10)
  2. Magically keeps them silent when in the wizard's presence (no save under level 10)
  3. Requires that they surrender all weapons before entering (and doesn't make this mistake)
  4. Nothing immediately, but at the slightest infraction the wizard will administer punishment
What seemingly innocent word/action will enrage this wizard (perhaps after a single warning)? (d12)
  1. Mentioning Age
  2. Mentioning Royalty
  3. Mentioning Religious Hierarchy
  4. Mentioning Magical Hierarchy
  5. Asking about the Wizard's past
  6. Interacting with animals in the Wizard's presence
  7. Mentioning Illusionists
  8. Unsheathing a weapon
  9. A Man speaking in the presence of a Woman (if the wizard is a man, how does he communicate if the party includes a woman? some kind of magic mouth? magical writing? telepathy?)
  10. Mentioning another wizard
  11. Haggling
  12. Not haggling
What will this wizard do to those he is angry with? (Unless otherwise stated, the punishment is for the individual only; not for the individual's companions.) (d8)
  1. Imprison (1d4)
    1. In a cell in a megadungeon somewhere, possibly quite far away
    2. By turning the victim into stone for display
    3. In the wizard's personal pocket dimension
    4. In a prison run by the character's enemies, possibly quite far away
  2. Polymorph (no save if below 10th level, otherwise save at -5). Wizard takes no interest in keeping the result of the polymorph spell (except for result 14) and will happily explain the nature of the result if only the wizard is asked (the wizard must be pressed further in order to reveal certain crucial details for result 17). (d20)
    1. Troll (25% to retain memories and faculties)
    2. Owlbear (10% to retain memories and faculties, still will rage as barbarian/berserker)
    3. Rust Monster (35% to retain memories and faculties, but even so, retains ravening appetite)
    4. Giant Toad (50% to retain memories and faculties)
    5. Kobold (75% to retain memories; thinks like a kobold, whatever that means to the player)
    6. Roc egg, about to hatch (20% to retain memories and faculties)
    7. Mule (100% to retain memories and faculties; 5% to be able to talk)
    8. Griffin egg, about to hatch (20% to retain memories and faculties)
    9. Hippogriff egg, about to hatch (20% to retain memories and faculties)
    10. Unicorn egg, about to hatch (5% to retain memories and faculties)
    11. 3d12 silver coins
    12. Sword (75% sentient, 50% magical)
    13. Beautiful Necklace (worth 2d4 x 1000 gold coins - does the party sell it?)
    14. Large Wide-Brimmed Pointy Hat (wizard puts the hat on and intends to keep it)
    15. Five glass orbs containing Green Slime, perfectly sized for throwing
    16. A small cask containing 10 doses of extra-effective healing potion
    17. A Wand of Sleep/Magic Missile/Cloudkill/Fireball (The wand has as many charges as the character has hit points when fully healed; each charge can be used for any of the four spells, but each charge expended subtracts one hit point from the number of hit points the character will have when/if the character is returned to normal and fully healed. This mechanic should NOT be explained to the players unless they press the wizard for a detailed explanation, although any character able to use the wand who picks it up will immediately know how to use the wand to cast the four spells. If all charges are expended then the wand crumples to dust and the character is lost forever.)
    18. Buck's Hat of Misery
    19. A hangman's noose. Any character hung with it will die instantly, but the character that was turned into the noose will return to normal, fully healed, plus a shift in alignment towards lawful/good if the hung character died voluntarily but a shift in alignment towards chaotic/evil if the hung character died involuntarily.
    20. A fist-sized, smooth, black stone orb. If placed on the high altar of the goblin god, the character will return to normal, except without any possessions, the fee charged by the goblin god.
  3. Expel from the wizard's abode (possibly by teleportation, possibly violently, out a window, etc.)
  4. Blind
  5. Gift with a cursed item
  6. Send them (and their companions) to Carcosa! (Or some other nasty plane/planet more hopeless than their own.)
  7. Geas (related to what the wizard wants/needs; see below)
  8. Nothing… but he'll make all the poor guy's friends suffer! Roll on this chart for each companion.
What does this wizard want/need? (d12)
  1. To be freed; some magical mistake is confining the wizard
  2. To be freed; some magical act of the wizard's enemies is confining the wizard
  3. To be freed; the wizard is imprisoned in some mundane way that gets around the wizard's magic
  4. A spouse
  5. A child (1d4: 1: daughter, 2: son, 3-4: doesn't matter); adoption is acceptable. An adopted party member will get both perks and drawbacks; a party member should only be adopted if it is the players' idea, not proposed by the wizard or an NPC.
  6. Reconciliation with a family member
  7. Proper recognition from the magical establishment
  8. A job as advisor to the monarch
  9. Revenge
  10. A delicacy from the wizard's far-away home-town
  11. The cure to a magical disease the wizard has contracted (spell-slot leeches, slowly turning ethereal, etc.)
  12. A magical discovery related to the wizard's specialty
Why did this wizard put in the long hours needed to become the most powerful in the land? (Note that the wizard may or may not have already achieved this goal by the time the PCs show up. If so, what, if anything, motivates the wizard now?) (d10)
  1. Revenge
  2. The sheer joy and love of magic
  3. As a way to gain recognition and respect
  4. Careerism– a way to gain power and wealth
  5. As an escape from a life of poverty
  6. As a way to forget the pain of life
  7. Driven to solve some personal problem with magical research
  8. Driven to solve some societal/economic/environmental problem with magical research
  9. As a way to express loyalty to and serve some cause, nation or person
  10. As a way to defeat some particular threat (a dark lord, a cult, anticipated invasion, famine, plague, etc.)


  1. I quite like that. Useful for a city campaign I'm planning on running. I decided to test it out and here is what I got: 6, 6, 5, 321, 313, 3, 2, 8, 8, 9.

    The wizard can be found in the depths of a dungeon, longing to be an advisor to the local monarch, and selling magic to adventurers as a means of expressing his loyalty to the crown. He distrusts male dwarf thieves, possibly because of his fondness for female dwarf fighters. Those that annoy him get sent to Carcosa.

    I think your charts work well for making up wizards in general too. Nice work.

  2. 3, 5, 4, 141, 436, 4, 11, 1-2, 5, 8.

    The necromancer lives beyond the reach of civilization, in a cave, away from the blight of the chaos his magic could not solve. It was an old chaotic fighter that drove him away from his former tower, and he continues to hold a grudge against them to this day. The cave is decorated with several statues of those the old despot sent to kill him.

    He is incredibly lonely now, and will attempt to keep any guests around for as long as possible. His greatest desire is to have a child of his own. He prefers disciplined elven students to his other apprentices, or he did before he was driven away. It has been many years since he had someone to teach.

    If sought out for his services, he will be very firm on his price, and attempts at haggling will drive up the price.

  3. The "What does this wizard want/need?" table is really good, because there are so many hooks there. In fact, more tables of the form "what does X need?" for many different NPC and monster types would be pretty useful.