Thursday, October 4, 2012

Conan DM Screen, Chainmail, and Casting Spells

Some of you may have checked out some of the campaign resource tabs which I have been trying to get updated. The stumbling block in getting them completed (that is in addition to me not blogging) has been me working and reworking how I want magic to work in Saedom. If you had taken a look at the old tab for magic, you would have seen some rules which took inspiration from many sources.

A week ago I was digging around a used book store here in Lawton when I uncovered something kind of neat. I had never seen or even heard of anything like it before. It was a DM screen (?) for use with the old Chainmail rules. The pics on it have a very Conan-esque feel.

I did a little research on the rules as they are presented on the screen. Much of what we think of as D&D has some root in Chainmail. While looking for information on the rules, generally, and specifically referring to how magic would be used in play and how they could be applied to D&D, I found this great post by Jeff Rients. I do read Jeff's Gameblog in Google Reader but I must have missed this post. It is a pretty great post. I had been looking to implement a mechanic similar to this. The Conan screen and Jeff have pointed me in the right direction for what I want to do with magic and spellcasting. I am going, just like Jeff did, to lift the base DCs right off of the table.

Much of the content that you will see below is quite similar to the information contained in Jeff''s original post. The system is pretty simple:
1. Make a spellcasting check by rolling 2d6
2. Add and subtract appropriate modifiers (Tables B, C, D)
3. Compare the result to the appropriate column on Table A (below)

Table A:
2d6 Roll            Spell Effect
2-5                    Fail (Spell Lost)  
6-7                    Delayed 1d3 Rounds (Spell Lost)
8-9                    Success (Spell Lost)
10-12*              Success (Spell Saved)
* For results of 1 or less and 13 or greater, consult Spell Fumble/Overpower Tables

Table B (Ability Score Mods):
Use Standard Mods

Table C (Caster Level Mods):
Caster Level     Modifier
1-3                  +1
4-6                  +2
7-9                  +3
10-12              +4
13+                 +5

Table D (Other Modifiers):
Use of Material Components          -3 to +3
Use of True Name                             +5
Spell Burn                             +1 per Point Burned
Spell Level                                  -1 per Level
Spell is Canon (Priests)                      +3
Spell is Heresy (Priests)                      -3
Previously Cast (Priests)      -1 per Previous Casting

The results from Table A (above) should have pretty obvious effects. Arcane spells that are lost must be re-memorized or learned anew; when they are saved they may be recast. Look for the spell fumble and  overpower tables to come in a future post. I plan on modelling these on the tables which spellcasters use in DCC to determine the  more extreme spellcasting results. I really love the manner in which spellcasting in DCC can go crazy, yielding amazing results. The problem with DCC's system is that each spell requires its own table to determine results in addition to having other, unique tables which apply to wizards and priests. My goal is to bring the fun that DCC's magic system  delivers to magic without requiring so much  work, i.e. shuffling from one table to another.

The additional rules and explanations below are simple and are designed to add a bit of flavor to the game... to give magic its own place in Saedom:
-Wizards cast arcane spells and cantrips to produce arcane effects while clerics use their prayers and orisons to mete out punishment on sinners and dispense blessings to the faithful.
-Priests need not prepare their prayers and orisons ahead of time like a wizard. Priests may choose to spontaneously cast any prayer or orison which is available to them, but they take a -1 cumulative penalty for each prayer or orison previously cast that day. 
-A caster may choose to memorize and/or cast any spell at a lower level rather than a higher level spell which he is allowed. e.g. Baz (a 3rd level wizard) chooses to memorize 3 first level spells rather than 2 first level and 1 second  level spell. 
-A caster may enlist vessels (other casters) to help him memorize extra spells of any level which he is already permitted to cast. The caster and the vessel must be of similar class. A vessel may only "store" one extra spell, and may not memorize any of his own spells even though he may be of high enough level to memorize many spells. Thanks, Mule for the inspiration.
-To memorize spells or to make prayers available a character must spend time either studying, meditating, praying, etc. each day. Typically this time is in the morning of the party's day, thus freeing up spells for use later in the day. Casters must use an amount of either arcane or divine components (chalks, colored sands, sacred oils, etc) to aid them in the process. These items are consumable, though it should take quite a while for any given amount to become useless. It requires 10 gp worth of materials to memorize, or make available, one level of spells or prayers. e.g. Baz (a wizard) cast 2, 1st level spells during the previous day. He must have 20 gp worth of components to help him relearn those spells. To replace an uncast a spell a wizard must study. Clerics must meditate or pray to make available any spell slots that they might want to use during the day. 
-Spell books. The combination of the Vornheim City Kit (by Zak S.) and this post by Jeff Rients have inspired me to take spell books to the next level. As in the post by Jeff, arcane tomes are more than just books full of spells... they are books about magic and the universe; they have specific formats, holding specific spells which might not be found in other volumes. Take the following book: Ancient Cryptomancy by Phandal. It contains the following spells: sending, wizard mark, secret page, and sepia snake sigil. Additionally, it contains a wealth of knowledge concerning cryptography and the points at which magical "language" becomes a code which is "simply" used to unlock and manipulate the powers of the universe. 
-Magical duels will be handled by simply comparing the total modifiers which each caster has to their spellcasting checks, then adding the difference to the stronger caster's spellcasting check and subtracting the difference to the weaker caster's check. The "countering" caster will only succeed in casting a spell when he successfully rolls an overpower result because his spell is actually cast on the opposing caster's spell. 

So, in conclusion: I have updated my magic tab. Please let me know what you think of these rules.


  1. I really like the idea of making a spell book something more than a container for spells. Give them themes and 'special knowledge'. Make me then something to consult like a bard using 'gather intelligence'.

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