Saturday, April 14, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Magical Mishaps (Haste)

Samurai Jack by Genndy Tartakovsky

One of my favorite things about Vancian magic is the way a spell can irrevocably backfire on its caster, in the case of Cugel this was more poetic justice than anything.  The way I've been modeling Vancian Spells Redux is to have a backfire built into individual spells.  Some will do the opposite of what you want, others will will do something similar to what you intended but may loop you into another adventure (such as the Sleepwalker / Dreamwalker divide).  Others are simply silly and based around the double entendre in the spells name.  The "Unexpected Sorcerous Slug" for example, allows the caster to suckerpunch an attacker with an invisible and extendible phantom limb.  If the spell backfires the caster is transformed into a giant slug for the rest of the day.  Talk about results!

Today though I want to talk about how GM's and Judge's can get creative with magical mishaps.  Going beyond what's hardcoded in the rules text.  Today we're going to talk about Haste.  A spell that has varied much over the years but whose basic premise is the caster moves faster and acts faster.  In this case we are going to assume that a Haste spells allows the user to move more quickly through time, a temporal spell.  You'll see why this is important in a little bit.

A while back I mentioned an Inquisitors Sword one of my player's had acquired.  I handle magic items as something that needs to be activated.  In this case the Inquisitors sword needs to disrupt a spell being cast, at which point it begins sealing magical abilities and feeding off their energy.  There have only been a few spell casting encounter so far and the player who holds the blade is mostly a dedicated archer so the chance for it to activate has been rather low.  That will change soon as the true Temple of Elemental Evil is rapidly approaching and cultists will be popping up left and right.  Until then though I have been making a conscious effort to include spell-casting enemies.  In my games anyone may cast a spell (incidentally there is no magic-user class) provided they have a decent enough intelligence and the scroll to use it so its a bit easier to toss spell casters into any mix.

In their next encounter I have placed an Assassin under the guise of a friendly wanderer.  The encounter is along the road and is mostly non-random.  He is actively trying to kill one member of the party so if the party takes a completely off roads way towards their next destination he will likely track them down before that.  His goal is to kill the Double Agent character who betrayed his former bosses.  To do so he would like to get him alone, although his skill and  spell may prove more than enough to strike down all three of them.  Still, the cautious assassin is the longest lived one and he is going to try and get the Spy alone first.  This is good because this particular assassin is a melee specialist, hiding a sword in his walking cane, which will force the spy to engage in swordplay thus increasing the odds of the sword activating.

If the assassin does not end the fight within the first stroke, he will pull out a scroll and begin reading the incantation.  Scrolls and spellcasting go off at a later initiative giving the player plenty of time to try and interrupt it, if he succeeds in a Wisdom check he can even identify the spell.  Here is a contingency plan I have in case the player decides to attack the scroll rather than the caster.  This is where the Magical Mishap comes in.  Should the scroll be severed mid-cast its energy contained within will go supercritical and a self-sustaining reaction will occur, rather than hasting the assassin it hastes the entire area speeding them all through time. That small patch of woods is going to leap forward in time, randomly.

  • d6 to determine the unit of time
    • 1 Seconds
    • 2 Minutes
    • 3 Hours
    • 4 Days
    • 5 Weeks
    • 6 Your choice
  • 3d6 to determine the amount of time moved forward
There are a few ways to treat the outcome.  Perhaps they age rather than being shunted forward in time.  Perhaps those within the field (and enter it) are moving at a snails pace until time has synced up.  How I will be treating it though is that each combatant will perform what they intended to do before time resets and they start over and over again.  This loop will continue until time has moved forward at which point they emerge from their bubble and their fight concludes.  If either combatant has a decent Intelligence they can study their opponents moves and think up a strategy best to defeat them.  As a DM I can describe the Assassin's fighting style, the PC can then use this in any stunts or maneuvers he exploits.  Providing a flat attack or defense bonus based on their Intelligence modifier is not out of the question either.  Another possibility is to have the two fight out their battle multiple times (in the time loops), and the one who won the most is the one who survives.  In any event if the two mortal combatants are gone for an extended period of time (3d6 weeks) then the area will be described as hazy and the fauna within seems to be aging and growing at a rapid pace.  If his companions enter the time field they too will trapped in the time bubble and will wait until the required time has passed.

Then there is the last factor.  The magic eating sword.  Instead of shunting them both forward only the assassin is accelerated into the future.  The DoubleAgent's sword however is vibrating at incredible speeds, blurring and distorting the shape of the weapon.  The sword now moves faster than the eye, if the Assassin returns in a matter of minutes or seconds he will be facing a terrible swift sword and will likely lose his life.  If not the sword will eventually quiet down, the group will move on and the assassin will return hours, days or weeks later without a scroll and the trail likely gone cold.  So many possibilities from one Magical Mishap.