Thursday, September 27, 2012

Magic-User Master Spell Book Contents

Independent Magic-Users apprentice with a master who is unaffiliated with any of the large magical organizations. Most of the mechanics for such Magic-Users are in an earlier post, but this post deals with important information about the master that was not included in the previous post: level, intelligence and the contents of the master's spell book.

Master's Intelligence: 2d4+10 (12-18)
Master's Level: 2d8+4 (6-20)

Spell Book Contents

First Level Spells:
Determine spell quota by dividing INT by two (round up). This is the number of first level spells the Master's spell book will contain.

Automatically include Read Magic. Count Read Magic as the first spell towards reaching the quota (unless it is a zero-level spell in your system).

If your first level spells are divided into Offensive, Defensive and Miscellaneous spells, roll on each table in turn to select spells until the number of spells is met. Re-roll spells that are selected more than once.

If they are not divided into separate lists, roll to select spells until you have reached the quota. Re-roll spells that are selected more than once.

Second Level Spells and Higher:
Subtract one from the spell quota of the previous spell level and roll on spell list until quota is met, re-rolling spells that are selected more than once. Repeat for each spell level until the maximum spell level for the Master's level is reached or quota is lowered to zero.

Example 1:
For this first example, we'll use the LotFP (Deluxe) spell lists and Magic-User class. Note that LotFP doesn't divide first level spells into three separate lists of offensive, defensive and miscellaneous spells. Also, note that while this master is able to cast up to ninth level spells, she's only actually acquired spells up to sixth level. I'm rolling a d20 for each of these spell lists, since each of the LotFP spell lists I'm rolling on have 20 spells (higher-level spell lists have less).

Master's Intelligence: [1,1] 12
Master's Level: [6,7] 17

Quota: (12 divided by two) 6
Maximum Spell Level: 9th (but we're not going to get there)

First Level Spells:
Read Magic (automatic)
[17] Sleep
[18] Spider Climb
[20] Ventriloquism
[6] Floating Disc
[4] Enlarge

Second Level Spells:
[9] Invisibility
[1] Audible Glamor
[12] Locate Object
[3] Continual Light
[15] Phantasmal Force

Third Level Spells:
[19] Suggestion
[12] Hold Person
[11] Haste
[20] Water Breathing

Fourth Level Spells:
[1] Charm Monster
[19] Wall of Ice
[15] Protection from Normal Weapons

Fifth Level Spells:
[3] Chaos
[16] Telekinesis

Sixth Level Spell:
[11] Legend Lore

Example 2:
For this second example, we'll use John's excellent Vancian spell lists, but only roll up the contents of the spell book through spell level two, since levels 3-6 work the same as level two. Note that John's spell lists count The Arcane Cypher (read magic) as a zero level spell and split the 30 first level spells into ten offensive, ten defensive and ten miscellaneous spells (so two rolls of "1" are fine, since they are rolls on different lists).

Zero Level Spell:
The Arcane Cypher (automatic)

First Level Spells (rolling 1d10):
[1] The Charm of Appersonation (Offensive) 
[1] The Apotropaic Circle (Defensive)
[10] Tenser's Floating Disc (Miscellaneous)
[4] The Importunate Insult (Offensive)
[6] The Howling Rune (Defensive)
[3] The Call to the Unseen Servant (Miscellaneous)

Second Level Spells (rolling 1d30):
[15] The Pattern of the Immanent Sublime
[20] The Spell of Barring and Broaching
[22] The Spell of the Imponderous Bounty
[9] Leomund's Escalatory Escape
[5] Hornung's Deleterious Deflector 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mechanics for Magic-Users of the Order of the Green Hand

Much of this post will build on my previous post on the Order of the Green Hand. I'll try not to repeat too much, and I'll put a bit more history into this post than my previous posts.

The Order of the Green Hand was originally founded by a Sorcerer (think Carcosan Sorcerer, but with the ability to cast any spell as a ritual; we'll get to Sorcerers later in this series) who discovered the Ritual of the Green Hand and numerous low-level Magic-Users from the various Magical Academies who were disillusioned with the zero-sum culture, constant infighting and politics of the Academies. The Order, then, is based on the idea of cooperation and mutual aid. All of the Magical Academies found this idea dangerous both because it shook up their comfortable world and because they recognized that Magic-Users cooperating together, and with Sorcerers, would be much more powerful and effective than the Academies, divided as they were by petty squabbles. They hunted down as many of the early members of the Order as they could, coordinating their attacks on a single night of purging, known as the Night of Green and Red. Most members were killed, but some escaped; most that escaped lost their spell books and were only able, at a later date, to copy the spells they had memorized (and not used during their escape) onto new spell books. A very few members of the Order were able to abscond with a few higher level spells; to this day, the Order's spell books are skewed towards many low-level spells and few high level spells.

The Magical Academies continued to hunt the Order, citing the Order's connection to sorcery to the authorities and expending considerable political capital to convince them to ban the Order and eventually founding an order of Purgators to stamp the Order out of existence. The Order eventually found safe havens, however, in the good graces of kings, lords and city-states which did not have Magical Academies within their territory and desired reliable access to court mages, advice and magically capable agents. Eventually, the Order became established enough that the Academies no longer challenge it openly outside of their own cities (which the Order still has not been allowed to establish a presence in) and the Purgators have dwindled in number and their ranks are now filled with more Assassins than Paladins. The Order, as it has gained power, forged an alliance with the Assassin's Guild to combat the Purgators, who violate the Assassin's strict insistence on their own monopoly on assassination.

As described in my original post, members of the Order have access to many shared resources at the Order's many dormitories. One of these resources is the dormitory spell books. Whenever a member of the Order discovers or obtains a new spell, it is copied into the dormitory's two spell books. Every month the dormitories send one of their spell books on to the next dormitory in a set rotation and once the new spell book arrives any spells that one book has but the other does not are copied into the book that does not have them. In this way, the number of spells available to a member of the order is constantly, if slowly, growing. Mechanically, every month there are (1d6-4) new spells of (3d6-9)th level. (No new spells if either roll goes below 1.)

Despite the enmity between the Order and the Academies, the methodology of their practice of spell-casting is basically the same; after all, the founding Magic-Users of the Order all came from the Academies. The relative inexperience of the founding members was balanced out by their practice of mutual aid as well as the desperation of the early days of the Order, so members of the Order today are able to cast spells just as well as alumni of one of the Academies, save that they don't specialize in certain spells like the Academies do. Like graduates of an Academy, members of the Order must check against their Intelligence scores whenever attempting to learn a new spell; failure means that the spell may not be learned at the member's current level, but a new attempt may be made each level until the spell is successfully learned.

In the methodology of magic outside of casting spells, however, the Order owes much to the Sorcerers within its ranks. Ready help and teaching from Sorcerers enable Magic-Users of the Order to cast rituals of one half their caster level. In addition, members of the Order may copy spells they have not mastered into their spell books and may cast them as rituals, something alumni of the Academies are not able to do. In addition, members of the Order benefit from Sorcerous training in the crafting of magic items; mechanically, they craft them as if they are one level higher than they actually are and as if the laboratory they use is one increment more valuable than it actually is.

Higher-level members of the Order often take administrative positions within the Order, helping to run a dormitory, manufacturing magic items and protecting and advancing the Order through diplomatic and political means. At least one of these members will always be on duty in each dormitory to give help and advice to any members that need it, though they will be most knowledgable about magic and local politics and generally ignorant about other subjects. (If a PC is a member of the Order, when the PC established a stronghold, it will be, or will at least include, a dormitory.)

Each dormitory possesses a modest library and laboratory, serviceable but nothing like the libraries of the Academies. Tables for determining the their value, as well as the mechanical benefits of staff of the dormitory, will be forthcoming.

Finally, it should be noted that Sorcery, that is, the casting of rituals by those without the capability to memorize spells, and especially the casting of rituals which cannot be memorized as spells, has never lost its stigma. The continued presence of Sorcerers within the Order is a secret, even if it is suspected by many. Low-level Magic-Users in the Order are not told of the presence of Sorcerers within the Order and Sorcerers of all levels are aided in passing as Magic-Users. Once a Magic-User has reached fourth level (also the level where one no longer must surrender magic items to the Order, and when the hands turn green), the Magic-User is told of the membership of Sorcerers and introduced to the dormitory's book of sorcery, which contains all the rituals the Order possesses (mechanically, three kinds of rituals will be in the book of sorcery: rituals for which the Order does not have the spell, since rituals may be cast from spells, but spells cannot be cast from rituals as the ritual "write-up" contains less information than the spells do; rituals that may not be cast as spells at all, such as Carcosan rituals; and, finally, the ritual write-ups for all the spells that the Order has, including all the information necessary to rebuild actual spells, as back-up).

When first given this information – the membership of Sorcerers, the reality of Cthuloid beings, the possession of horrible Carcosan rituals by the Order – the Magic-User must roll at or under Wisdom or go catatonic (and unplayable) for d100 days; this same risk is repeated the first time the Magic-User attempts to study a Carcosan ritual (so it is in the PC's best interest to study one at the first opportunity so that this risk doesn't have to be run when time is of the essence).

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Airship Jumper Test

In my series on the DMG, I've commented a few times about Gary's very adversarial approach to refereeing and how it would be totally inappropriate of me to bring that into the games I run with the players I run them for. I don't begrudge Gary his adversarial style (only his apparent belief that all games should be played this way) since it seemed to work well with his players, who are reputed to have been shameless power-gamers; after all, they kept coming back to play, which I hold to be the first test to see whether a referee is doing a "good enough" job.

Part of the reason why I try not to be hard on Gary on this point is that, while I've never had players who engaged in or initiated adversarial play styles in my games, I've talked to players who do look at D&D as primarily a contest of wits and will between players and referees, so I know they exist. When dealing with these kinds of players, Gary's adversarial DM advice starts to make sense!

I bring this up because the recent OSR definitions posts going around include the terms "railroad" and "sandbox," and that reminded me of a conversation I once had with a friend who definitely falls into the "adversarial player" category. For some reason we were talking about airships in D&D and my friend told me that I wouldn't want him in my D&D campaign because he would "mess it up."

I asked him how he thought he would be able to do that and he replied that, while flying in an airship, he would have his PC jump out of the airship, without a parachute or any other velocity retardant, just to watch me scramble to save his PC so that the plot could continue. He didn't seem able to fathom my explanation that, in that scenario, I'd just let his PC die; I went on to explain how I didn't consider myself responsible for writing a plot or ensuring that the plot was actually carried out, but I'm not sure whether he got that or not. I'm actually interested in running a game or two with my friend as a player, just to see how many PCs he'd kill before realizing that I wasn't going to save any of them; I think I'd find that very entertaining.

My point, though, is that our difference in play style and assumptions about plot and the preservation of PCs became clear in the differences between the reaction he expected a DM to take and the action I would take. I think this is actually a pretty good litmus test for whether a campaign is a "railroad" or a "sandbox."

(Keep in mind that litmus tests are helpful, but also pretty crude, devoid of nuance and can result in inaccurate results; to mix metaphors, another way to look at what I'm proposing is that it is a "rule of thumb," a generalization, not a "one size fits all" definition that takes every possible way to run a campaign into consideration.)

If a player in a game (willingly or unwittingly) makes the PC do something that will result in death (or perhaps just merely will result in a result other than that expected by the referee) how does the referee respond? If the referee allows the PC to die without interfering, the game is probably a sandbox game. If the referee scrambles to return the PC back to the referee's expected plot line, the game is probably a railroad game.

Or, to put it more succinctly:

If you save a PC that just jumped to certain doom because you want to save the plot, it's probably a railroad. If you let the PC die, it's probably a sandbox.

Now, I think it's important to remember that the issue of "sandbox vs. railroad" isn't binary but is instead something that can be plotted on a spectrum between the two poles of "sandbox" and "railroad." All the same, this test, I think, provides an easy, quick, if crude, way to determine which pole of the spectrum a campaign or play style is closer to.


Monday, September 3, 2012

GameScience Dice: Rolling More True, Kinda

Awesome Dice has a really interesting blog post up about the claims that "sharp" GameScience dice that haven't been tumbled like most other dice produce more even, "true" results. To test that theory, they rolled two d20s, one from GameScience and another from Chessex, 10,000 times each (and double checked by rolling two more 1600 times each) and compared the results. You can go read the article for the specifics, but the bottom line is that GameScience's dice don't roll true enough to be depended upon to act as a high-quality random number generator, but they do roll "true-er" than dice that have been tumbled, with one notable exception: GameScience d20s don't roll 14 nearly as often as they roll every other number, almost certainly because of the "flash" left on the opposite face that sticks out from the die. I've been using GameScience dice for a while now as my personal set (except for my d30, which I haven't seen a GameScience version of); it's nice to have that choice confirmed, but it looks like I need to figure out how to take the flash off of my dice…

[Disclaimer: This isn't exactly a review, especially of Awesome Dice, but I do want to point out that Brian of Awesome Dice is the one that brought this to my attention.]

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Graduates of the Academies of Magic

Today's post is about Magic-Users who attended and graduated from an Academy of Magic. Like yesterday, I'm going to try to save description that isn't related to the mechanical until later; hopefully this will result in a shorter post than yesterday.

A Graduate of one of the Academies of Magic leaves his Alma Mater with a Book of First Level Spells in hand. This book contains all the first level spells that are known to the faculty at the Academy. When sufficient funds are raised, the Magic-User is allowed to buy the Book of Second Level Spells, the Book of Third Level Spells, and so forth; similar to modern university textbooks, these texts are over-priced. They are also basically huge scrolls, so the Magic-User must copy them over into his own spell book in order to be able to memorize them. (The Academies and which spells they have in their spell books are generated using this method.)

Sadly, the Academies of Magic are not solely dedicated to the understanding and use of magic; byzantine politics distract professors and students find it difficult to compete with each other for enough attention and training to fully grasp the principles of magic in a deep, exhaustive way. Because of this relatively more shallow understanding of magic, compared to apprentices of independent Magic-Users, graduates from Academies of Magic might not be able to master a spell upon first casting Read Magic upon it. Each time a graduate tries to learn a new spell, the player must roll at or below the graduate's Intelligence score or the graduate will not be able to master the spell; the graduate may not attempt to learn the spell again until a new level is gained, at which point another Intelligence check is allowed to determine whether the graduate's increased skill, knowledge and understanding have made the spell accessible to the graduate. Note that the graduate will normally roll on every spell in a Book of N Level Spells after buying it. Possession of these texts do not automatically constitute being able to use every spell within; in fact, it's unlikely.

Alumni of an Academy of Magic may pay (100 gp/hour or fraction thereof) to have "office hours" with a professor, who, so far as mechanics are concerned, may be treated as a sage but isn't limited to only serving that function; politics, role-playing, advice-giving and so forth are encouraged. If PCs bring a question or problem, along with new information of some sort, to a professor who specializes in a field related to the question or problem, there is a 1/6 chance that the professor will do the research for free out of gratitude and to encourage the PCs to bring further new information to him.

Each academy specializes in certain types of spells and magic and so graduates from each academy are able to cast certain spells more effectively than others. These will be detailed in future posts about the specific academies.

Each Academy of Magic has an extensive library which is open to all alumni free of cost. Graduates may freely research here, but they must still expend resources as normal when researching spells, since material components are used when figuring out spells. The precise value, and the mechanical benefits, of each academy vary and will be detailed in the future.

Graduates of an Academy of Magic are used to approaching magic in a workmanlike, methodical way that matches better with conducting rituals than the more thorough approach of independent Magic-Users. Still, their less complete understanding of magic keeps them from truly excelling with rituals; like independent Magic-Users, graduates of an Academy of Magic may cast rituals of one third their caster level (with the same component and time costs as well).