Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Chainmail style spellcasting checks for Wonder & Wickedness

In my last post I discussed requiring the Magic User to make a roll to cast spells, using a modified cleric turn unread table as the mechanic. Whilst I was happy with elements of this it unfortunately came with one major flaw - it works best with the traditional D&D spell list. However I reaaallllly want to use the spells from Wonder & Wickedness, which are level-less and wouldn't really work with that method (see my brief review of W&W or hit up Necropraxis).  I'd recalled seeing mention in the past that Chainmail made use of a casting check and a quick google confirmed this to be the case, plus a bunch of posts about adapting it for D&D by a number of OSR heavyweights: Jeff Rients, Brendan S (here, here & here), and Courtney Campbell, plus some other good stuff here and here. I mixed and matched bits from most of these and came up with a version that I think should work quite well with W&W's spells. 

How it works

First, if you aren't familiar with Wonder & Wickedness I'd suggest reading up a bit on it (hell go buy it, its fricken awesome). 

As per traditional Vancian casting the Magic User prepares a number of spells per day in their memory (say level + INT). However the casting of the spell requires a casting check - if the spell is successfully cast it is not lost from memory, however each successful casting accumulates Arcane Stress, making further checks harder. The Magic User may elect to wear and cast in armour, however the casting check is penalised.  Further, the caster may elect to incur Spellburn, suffering hit point damage to increase the likelihood of successful casting. The uncertainty in casting is balanced by increased flexibility and the potential to cast more spells than via the normal class progression. Rather than the number of spells that can be prepared per day, Arcane Stress and hit point loss through Spelburn become the primary resources for continued spell casting.

Casting check: 2d6 + Casting Bonus - Arcane Stress - Armour Casting Penalty + Spellburn

Casting Bonus: +1 per caster level + Intelligence bonus 
(I would recommend using the B/X modifiers for 1d6 and 2d6 rolls: INT 3: -2, INT 4-8: -1, INT 9-12: no modifier, INT 13-17: +1, INT 18: +2)

Arcane Stress: -1 penalty to casting that accumulates with each successful casting. Arcane Stress may be recovered by a nights rest 

Armour Casting Penalty: penalty to spell casting equal to AC bonus from any worn armour/shield

Spellburn: caster sacrifices their vitality to increase the power of their casting - nominate number of hit points to burn and receive the same number as a bonus to the casting check

Wild Surges

In addition to the total casting check, the natural dice roll also effects what can happen, representing the vagaries and risks inherent in wielding magic.  Any roll of doubles indicates a wild surge of magic

Roll is doubles (odd):  caster suffers backlash - regardless of casting result caster incurs 1d4 (exploding) points of Arcane Stress and any Spellburn is doubled

Roll is doubles (even):  caster channels surge - regardless of casting result caster recovers 1d4 (exploding) points of Arcane Stress (this can result in a temporary positive Arcane Stress modifier which is retained until spent or the caster's next long rest)

Spell Catastrophes

In some circumstances the caster may lose control of their spell and rolls on the Spell Catastrophe table (in Wonder & Wickedness) for the matching spell school. Spell catastrophes occurs when:

  • Casting check result is: Failure (Major) or Failure (Minor) and Arcane Stress > Casting Bonus
  • Casters hit points are reduced to 0 whilst casting (including from Spellburn)

Favourable and unfavourable casting conditions

If the DM deems that the conditions for casting are particularly favourable or unfavourable they may rule that the caster has advantage or disadvantage on their casting check. 

Favourable conditions: 

  • Caster is in a calm environment, has surplus time and can read from their spell book. 
  • Caster has access to special material components (big ass diamonds, captured souls, eye of gargantuan undead newt), special casting location (conjunction of ley lines, earth node) or special casting time (triple lunar eclipse, solstice / equinox) 

The caster may roll 3d6 and take their preferred two rolls for their casting check.  Wild surges are also less likely, occurring only on double "1" or "6"

Unfavourable conditions:

  • Caster has been damaged (not including spellburn) or interrupted whilst casting - a casting check which was originally a Success (delayed) applies the new result.
  • Caster has lost spell from memory but wishes to attempt casting it again
  • Caster is attempting to cast a spell they do not know but have access to from a spell book

The casting check is rolled using 3d6 with the worst two rolls applied. Any roll of doubles other than a "6" is considered a backlash Wild Surge result. 

Material components and casting talismans 

Whilst it can be assumed that some form of material component may be involved in casting, this system opens the possibility of "special" components which increase the likelihood of successfully casting a spell. Rare and expensive components and corrupting or illegal rituals (e.g. sacrifice) could be used to grant a bonus to the casting check. This could also achieved by the crafting of minor one use magic items (magic items which provided a permanent bonus would bring a significant power boost and would be better perhaps tied to certain schools or even individual spells). I haven't thought too much about specifics but there is a lot of potential here for adding flavour, providing adventure hooks and offering more options for magic users to spend their hard earned (stolen) cash on. 

Maleficence and Spell Defence

Wonder & Wickedness includes the option to expend any prepared spell for Maleficence (generic damage dealing spell) or Magical Defence (protect 1 person / caster level from a damaging spell effect). These would be still be available using this system. Consider them to be the same as any other spell only they do not need to be prepared and cannot be lost from memory following a failed casting check. An option for Magical Defence would be to modify the casting check by (level of caster attempting to defend - caster level of attacking spell).

Changes from inspirational material

In Brendan's system Arcane Stress occurs on a failed casting check. I've changed this to on a successful casting for two reasons - so as to not double penalise failed rolls (arcane stress + lose spell from your memory) and also because in Brendan's system once bonuses to casting check get to a certain point the check will not ever be failed

Spellburn was inspired by DCC,  however I have simplified it to hit points rather than ability scores (as this just makes more resource pools to keep track of)

Given Brendan is the author of W&W and has also tinkered a lot with 2d6 casting rolls, Im very curious as to what he may have done with them for W&W.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Magic User spellcasting using the Cleric Turn Undead table

OK, so an idea occurred to me a while back and has been bouncing around insisting that I spit it out. What if the Cleric's turn undead table was borrowed to use as a spellcasting table for Magic Users. The HD of undead would reflect spell level, and the check result would determine if the spell was cast correctly. 

This is not a particularly original idea. 

I'm not sure if it first occurred to me after reading it elsewhere, but I do know that I have come across the same idea in similar forms on OSR blogs previously (the only one coming directly to mind is this one for using the table for Cleric "Miracles")

OK, so what does it look like...

(this is an edit from the table I originally posted which started the progression on level 1 as 9/11 which was perhaps a too restrictive for the poor MU)

I've adapted the Cleric Turning Table from Dyson Logos's Magical Theorems and Dark Pacts, because it slows down the progression somewhat and introduces a Destroy result as a roll earlier than it would normally become available.

How does it work...

  • The Magic User must roll ≥ target number on 2d6 to successfully cast a spell.
  • The Magic User pays a hit point cost for any spellcasting attempt, regardless of whether the spell is cast successfully or not. I'm planning on using this system with the Akratic Wizardry / Crypts & Things "Colours of Magic" system which uses the below costs:
    • White Magic: 1HP + 1HP / spell level. 
    • Grey Magic: 2HP/ spell level. 
    • Black Magic: 2HP / spell level & corruption. 
(Edit - this is probably too costly for uncertain spellcasting. I would modify this to either a lower cost [say 1HP/spell  level] and/or only charge the cost for successfully casting [and possibly for casting fumbles]. The idea is to provide a limiting factor against the automatic success at higher level and also to make a use for the Destroy result, which I've used as no cost casting))

  • The target numbers in parenthesis are the chance of casting spell with no HP cost. The magic User makes a single roll and takes the most favourable result. 
  •  A roll of  “2” indicates a fumble whilst spellcasting  -  roll again on the table.
    • If the Magic User succeeds at casting on the second roll the spell simply fails.
    • If the Magic User fails the second check they incur a spell mishap - I haven't generated a table for this but there are plenty of good ones floating around (Necropraxis and Last Gasp Grimoire in particular)
  • An “A” result indicates the spell may be cast automatically without rolling. If the Magic User wishes they may still roll to attempt to cast the spell at no cost, however this carries the risk of a fumble.

Why use it...

  • I'm not particularly a fan of the Cleric and will likely remove it as a playable class - so if I'm going to kill it I might as well take its stuff.
  • I dislike risk free / automatic spellcasting and haven't found a replacement system that works satisfactorily yet.
  • Whilst it introduces uncertainty, risks and hit point costs to spellcasting it also provides the opportunity with some luck to cast more than your usual daily allotment / higher level spells than normally available.