Monday, March 10, 2014

The Skinny on Spell Casting

The Skinny on Spellcasting

Introduction by Dean Wellbrook Accomplished Spelunker, Exorcist and Member of the Local Wizard Watch

Wizards, Sorcerors, Warlocks and Mages all present a clear and present danger to the sensibilities and vitality of the common man. Whether it’s warping reality or summoning terrifying beasts from the nth dimension, there is nothing these slippery spellcasters won’t do to get their fix. Fortunately for us mind-our-own-business common folk, most of these bathrobe luddites manage to expire all by their lonesome. Whether it be a jaunty spell gone mad, a creature they cannot contain, spontaneous implosion or collapsing beneath the weight of their own hubris we can count on their population remaining a stagnant few. You may be thinking, “If they’re just going to take care of themselves then why pay attention?” Excellent inquisition! First off, never pay attention to them or you may be driven mad, and not just by their long-winded erudite diatribes. These Mages are, however, capable of unleashing great and powerful energies with but a few gobbled words provided they have memorized them ahead of time. These Magi recite the spell in the morning and withhold the final incantation until they need it, at which point all hell breaks loose—sometimes literally!

Experienced spell-slinger, be they Magus or possessing of the Magic-User [Trait], have available three slots with which to prepare and memorize three unique spells from their existing scroll collection. The simple [Cantrip] armament of the vociferous hedge wizard is a placeholder for any Cantrip when memorized while the most [Formidable] spells in a Magi's arsenal runs the risk of [Insanity] when memorized. (Un)fortunately, once memorized a spell can be unleashed in an instant, surprising even the most cautious member of the Wizard Watch Society. After releasing this world-shattering spell from within the labyrinths of their mind, the spell is seemingly forgotten and the Wizard must spend time committing to memory a spell in between [Scenes].

Of course, some fools (such as yours truly) without the proper training via chosen Class or Trait are unable to memorize a spell for instantaneous obliteration, but we can try and suss out the mechanism of action for a scroll ourselves. This requires the mental faculties capable of intriguing insights and powerful [Revelation] as well as an Intrepid Spirit. Regardless of who you are and the training you have endured, when it comes to casting from a scroll there is a minimum [Revelation], required to cast or memorize a spell safely, 7 for a Cantrip, 10 for a Lesser and 13 for a Formidable spell; plus 1 for each time the scroll has been used, which means most scroll-seekers are always on a quest for that pristine parchment..

Now if the Wizard is unprepared and unlucky (most fortuitous for us) then they must deign to unravel one their scrolls. Here we are, just trying to till our fields while some fellow in a smoke jacket pulls out some parchment that spills down to his ankles and begins blubbering in some sort of netherspeak. The process is long, drawn out and leaves them utterly [Defenseless] until they finish casting at the end of their turn a full round later. This time period is rife with interruption from the enterprising knowledge-buster. If the Magi sustains a Wound in this period, the spell is immediately disrupted and a [Magical Mishap] may occur. Some spells have built-in descriptions for exactly how they can go stunningly wrong. The “Unexpected Sorcerous Slug” for instance will, instead of sucker-punching a foe with the force of an ox, turn the uninitiated caster into a giant slug, mind the salt. Most of the time the effects are harmless and the GM is encouraged to make flowers spray out of the sky, lagomorphs mysteriously appear and small trinkets go missing but turn up in the unlikeliest of places. Of course, this is only possible if you were foolish enough to let them continue speaking and waving his hands. Some of these tricky devils can still fire-and-forget a spell even when bound. One Rule is for certain: the magic user must be able to see their target and their words must be spoken or else their magic is null and void.

There is one thing you have to watch out for if you do see one of them rattle off some arcane soliloquy from one of their log-sized scrolls. Wizards long ago gave up on spellbooks due to their incredible weight and penchant for turning sentient. Should they come across an obstacle they cannot overcome through normal or memorized means, they unroll a scroll without a care in the world. “Surely magic will solve this!” Should this fool use a scroll more than it can withstand then it has a chance to catch fire; most forest fires are in fact caused by arcanists. Fetch your pitchforks!

Each scroll, long enough to put a herald to shame, can contain three cantrips, two lesser spells or a single formidable spell and is weighty enough that a collection of 6 or more is enough to overburden even an ox of a man. A scroll has a maximum number of uses before it becomes a fire hazard, typically 5 times for a Cantrip scroll, 3 times for a Lesser scroll and once for a Formidable scroll.  The caster keeps note of how many times the spell has been cast and once it is past the threshold of safety, they must roll an Intrepid Die and beat the number of times it has been used or the scroll catches fire. Aside from a few precocious researchers transcribing inscriptions deep within a dungeon, most magic users come into possession of a scroll through ill-gotten gains, magical muggings which means the GM randomly determines how often the scroll has been used with a d6 which is clearly evident on its worn frame.

Some of you may be thinking, “Why not just make an arsenal of scrolls?” Well, the fine art of inventory logistics aside, magic is a very fickle mistress. Should a magic user have two scrolls of the same spell in his possession, words become twisted and maddening, and attempting to read let alone use one will require a [Discipline Save] to avoid going [Insane]. For this reason most Arcanists after spending the d6 weeks to perfectly scribe a scroll stash it away in the most hidden caches to retrieve later on, unless some crafty adventurer gets to it first!

Speaking of casting spells, I’m sure you are well aware that you need a permit from the local Wizard Watch Consortium before you can go magicking up the place. When you decide to take that fledgling step it might be helpful to know a few mechanics. Most spells offer a Saving Throw to mitigate and sometimes negate the effects of a spell. The Danger Level for the target’s Saving Throw is equal to your relevant Prime Ability Score. A save that requires Guts is keyed off your Vigor and one that requires Reflexes would use your Agility score, which encourages the average warlock to eat a balanced diet and avoid letting their head get too big, Tetsuo. Naturally, not everyone will be so well balanced, so the enterprising magician may substitute their Prime Ability Score with a toss of Intrepid Dice. This can quickly become costly, but remember: most blokes do not have Saves as strong as the atypical wielder of eldritch power. The duration for most effects are typically rather short unless otherwise specified. A number of spells require constant [Concentration] which drains 1 HP for each round the spell remains active. Splitting one’s mind and maintaining concentration on multiple spells is certainly possible and far too reckless, which is why it is heavily recommended by your local Wizard Watch

Designer Notes:
This section started off as an in-universe writing exercise for fun but quickly blossomed in it's own right.  After reevaluating the essentials I managed to cut this section down to two pages.  Spell slots as the foundation were the first to be trimmed down to be simple and manageable.  In addition there was an excess of insanity and brain melting checks that would bog down play.  A few other defects were combined or left out entirely.  For instance, Magical Mishaps were originally for any scroll-casting in combat which then changed to formidable only.  Mishaps for non-formidable spells would be rather boring or inane, later this was revised that Mishap occuring when being wounded rather than further punishing a Formidable spell casting.  These changes were made to speed up play and encourage fun which coincides with my design ethos.

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