Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Toward One Understanding of Spellcraft

The magic system in my Thunderhall/URFAD rules is not straying too far from by-the-book, especially taking the Holmes Basic Set into account. I’m particularly interested to see how my new rules for spell book sizes and costs work out:
There are two types of codices commonly used for spells. The first is the daybook, which is about 5.5” x 8” and costs 5 gp per 16 pages. A spell in one of these will occupy 4 pages per level. Above 128 pages these get less and less durable and 320 pages is the max. The second type is the tome. These run from 9” to 12” wide by 12” to 16” high. The cost is 20 gp per 16 pages, and a spell will occupy 1 page per level.
Will this be a fun little resource-management quirk, or will it be a fiddly impediment to getting on with things?

But with the spells themselves I think I’ve changed things up quite a bit more. I hadn’t any idea of posting this stuff online so I kept no records of changes I was making, but I do know that I went through and tweaked most, and completely rewrote some, of the spell descriptions.

One of the main things I worked to avoid was caster level increasing the power of the spell. While there is an argument to be made that the magic-user’s level may represent a better ability to control or efficiently wield a given spell, that is trumped by the idea that the spells themselves are entities. Call it an essentialist view of spellcraft: Spells have their own natures, beyond whatever caster has evoked them, they exist in-and-of-themselves outside of the constraints of anyone’s or anything’s capabilities.

The result, if I recall correctly, is three spells with effects that vary based on caster level: Animate Dead, which may affect more targets for Necromancers (thematic tie-in) and Wizards (and really there is a dice-determined variable effect anyway, so this isn’t so different); Charm Person, which has different durations (in-game I think I’d interpret this as the subjects of more power magic-users being less likely to mentally break free from the charm); and Charm Monster.

Beyond that I’ve added a few spells, nerfed or slightly beefed up others, and eliminated some. Anyone familiar with modern implementations of OD&D may recognize a Dan Collins/Original Edition Delta influence in my rule set—Target 20 system used for combat with same attack bonuses as his three classes, also using it for saves (but in a different way), and a general tendency for easy-to-remember rules over tables and matrices (e.g., my thieves abilities, in spirit, since the dice, chances, and progression are all quite different).  And the point of that last sentence is that many of the spell changes are indebted to Delta’s “Spells Through the Ages” research. The great example of that is the “elimination” of ESP, and the introduction/revision of Move Object (a lesser Telekinesis, which, and I believe this is in true OD&D fashion, I decided I must have after watching an episode of Merlin), Telepathy, Clairaudience, Clairvoyance, and Telekinesis. Similar is my revised Suggestion spell (still underpowered as a third-level spell, but I’m fine with that: magic is not linear!) and its introduced cousin Urge (corresponding more to later interpretations of Suggestion as a powerful brief-duration spell).

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