Friday, March 18, 2016

MAGICIANS: THE MAGICKING: THE RPG

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a very good novel that you should read. I have been wanting to run a game based on it (Austen pastiche in moody Napoleonic-era Britain; wicked fairies, whimsical magicians, intrigue, kidnapping, murder) for quite some time; my setting Pernicious Albion is me turning it into a D&D game. I have been wanting to run something more true to form, but it's a bit tough. Magicians operate in quite a different scale than most people; one of my favorite parts of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a footnote where the author tells us Spain considered demanding reparations for one of the main characters after he rearranged a fair chunk of its geography.

Ars Magica and Fate are obvious solutions, but I'm not too hot on actually running them. This is a bullshit hack, but its starts to get at the feel I'm going for.

Character Creation
Make a 5th edition character. Pick human as the race, and do not pick a class. You are all Magicians.

Magicians start with 10d6 Magic dice. This represents the strength of their sorcery. They can temporarily lose Magic dice through exertion, but they can never have more than their maximum.

Magicians do not have a set list of spells. Each time they cast one, they determine what it does by assigning dice to its Duration, Range, Area Of Effect, and Intensity. Each category must have at least one dice, and can have up to 5. The total number of dice assigned to a spell cannot exceed a magician's current Magic dice.

Once a magician has determined a spell's effects, they roll all of the assigned dice.
  • When a dice comes up 6, the magician removes it from their pool of Magic dice until they take a long rest.
  • If a number of dice greater than a magician's level come up 1, the spell is a botch. Something happens, and it is related to the spell's effect, but only incidental to what the magician wanted to happen.
Casting a spell does not expend Magic dice unless they come up a 6. Unless the spell is a botch, the spell always works, even if the magician loses or runs out of dice.

The following charts state how many dice a magician must assign to a given category in order to achieve a given effect. All spells use the same Duration, Range, and Area Of Effect Tables, but no two spells use the same Intensity table.

Most of the tables are self explanatory. Area Of Effect details the size of the area effected around the actual spell. Intensity (each Intensity table is listed with each spell) details the greatest creature, object, or concept that can be affected by the spell. If a magician has an Area Of Effect that encompasses an entire city but an Intensity of "a torchfire" when casting the spell It Burns, they could put out every candle in town. If Intensity ever seems to encroach on Area of Effect, just use whichever the magician has placed more dice in.

DURATION
1d6 A moment
2d6 A day
3d6 A week
4d6 A month
5d6 A year and a day
RANGE
1d6 an arm's span
2d6 a stone's throw
3d6 shouting distance
4d6 within sight
5d6 out beyond the horizon
AREA OF EFFECT.
1d6 all within an arm's span
2d6 all within the range of a thrown stone
3d6 all within shouting distance
4d6 all within sight
5d6 all to out beyond the horizon

Spells
There are, of course, far more spells than this. Magicians start with 3.

Utterance of Black Feathers
Allows a magician to perform feats of manipulation, transformation, summoning, and destruction pertaining to crows.
INTENSITY
1d6 one crow
2d6 thirteen crows
3d6 a murder of crows
4d6 crows to cover a field
5d6 crows to blacken the sky
Breath of the Holy Earth
Allows a magician to call forth, direct, and banish wind. (+Alex Chalk gets credit for this one)
INTENSITY
1d6 a draft
2d6 a breeze
3d6 a gust
4d6 a gale
5d6 a whirlwind
It Burns
Allows a magician to enkindle, throw, extinguish, shape, and otherwise manipulate flame.
INTENSITY
1d6 a torchfire
2d6 a campfire
3d6 a bonfire
4d6 a funeral pyre
5d6 a housefire
Fingers of Night
Allows a magician to create, shape, and banish darkness

INTENSITY
1d6 a shadow like that of a passing cloud
2d6 the gloom of a thick forest
3d6 night, just as the last of the sun is leaving the sky
4d6 a moonless night
5d6 a darkness heavy enough to be felt
Greatest Folly
Allows a magician to ignite, strengthen, diminish, and twist feelings of affection.

INTENSITY
1d6 Delight
2d6 Friendship
3d6 Infatuation
4d6 Craven Obsession
5d6 Love


Really should put up a setting sketch, but I'm tired and don't feel very good so eh. Tomorrow maybe. Here's some pictures of magicians.

the Lackaday Twins (not actual title, by John Singer Sargent)

John Pharoah, Ursurper to the Northern Throne (not actual title, from El Shaddai)

Lord Umberlin of  the Bells (not actual title, from etrian odyssey)
Claude the Gaul, wanted in 10 counties for violating the course of history (from Persona 5, not actual title)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

contrarian alignment and extra spell schools

New schools for Brendan's spells without levels. (Spell duration is caster's level by default.) It's more Dark Souls-inspired stuff.

I've been wanting to play around a little bit with subclasses and Spells Without Levels (or Wonders and Wickedness, the quite good book complication). Gating certain spell schools behind alignment seems like a good and simple start, but requiring a sorcerer to learn from an NPC is another good option.

This post largely assumes you're using Original Dungeons and Dragons or Delving Deeper, but it shouldn't be too hard to adapt to another ruleset.

Contrarian Alignment
Lawful is primordial darkness, an awful and immaculate stillness, the deceased Titan-esque old order of gods, the undead. It is the nature of Dark and Law to be changeless, unending, antithetical to mortals.

Chaos is light and day, the fire of the Sun but also Hell. The new order of gods, as well as demons, are Chaotic; It is the nature of Chaos and Light to be vital, changing, but also temporal. Chaotic creatures might be extremely long lived, but none of them are immortal.

Hexes
A strange and profane school of magic draw from the primordial dark that covered the Earth before time began. Only Lawful sorcerers can learn and cast hexes.
by inoue takehiko
  1. Anaesthesia: one creature must save or lose the use of one of its senses (touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing), chosen by the sorcerer, for the duration of the spell.
  2. Darkness: the sorcerer screams, and all ordinary sources of light (torches, bonfires, lamps, lightbulbs) in earshot immediately extinguish and cannot be relit for the duration of the spell.
  3. Become Hexbeast: a sorcerer twists into a vaguely anthropomorphic and ivory-masked version of one of the following creatures, their face concealed behind an ivory mask. A sorcerer rolls randomly the first time they cast this spell, but afterwards turn into the same hexbeast every time. There is a way to make this spell permanent, at terrible cost. Sorcerers can still cast spells while a hexbeast, and retain their HP and HD.
    1. Ape
    2. Crocodile
    3. Giant Bat
    4. Giant Spider
    5. Wolf
    6. Young Roc
  4. Howl: the sorcerer howls, and all living creatures in earshot must make a Morale check
  5. Summon Phantom: the sorcerer calls forth the ghost of a dead humanoid. This hex requires that the sorcerer know the phantom's name or have one of their dear possessions. The phantom has the same abilities and attributes as they did in life. If the sorcerer has more HD than the phantom, it will serve them loyally for the hex's duration; otherwise, it must be convinced to take a particular course of action.
  6. Elegy: causes an immortal or inhuman being (such as an elf, djinni, vampire, or demon) to save or become mortal for the duration of the hex. They lose all intrinsic supernatural abilities and weaknesses (including damage immunity) and gain all of the advantages and disadvantages of being human.
  7. Excruciate: this hex takes a full round to cast; if the sorcerer takes damage while casting, the spell fails. Upon completion of this hex, all creatures within the sorcerer's line of sight take damage equal to the sorcerer's level in dice.
  8. Ruin: breaks a non-magical and inanimate object that can fit inside a number of cubic feet equal to the sorcerer's level, such as door, sword, statue, piece of armor, or chain link. The nature of the break is up to the sorcerer; the object can fracture, break cleanly as if sliced, or collapse into dust.


Hieromancy
A school of magic taught in temples and churches that calls upon the refulgent power of Heaven.. Only Chaotic sorcerers can learn and cast hieromantic spells.

  1. Command: a number of HD of creatures obey a one word command shouted by the sorcerer. Can be cast upon a single creature with more HD than the sorcerer, but it is entitled to a save.
  2. Taboo: a number of HD of creatures are incapable of performing a one word ban shouted by the sorcerer. Can be cast upon a single creature with more HD than the sorcerer, but it is entitled to a save.
  3. Light: the sorcerer conjures a golden light that illuminates as a torch. It can be directed to float above the palm, head, or weapon of a willing creature. 
  4. Second Chance: rerolls the HD of a single creature. Unwilling targets may make a saving throw to resist.
  5. Creation: conjures an item with a value equal to or less than 100×caster's level, which lasts for the duration of this spell.
  6. Panacea: cures a creature of a poison or disease afflicting them. If the poison or disease is magical, they must succeed a saving throw to recover.
  7.  Prophecy: determines if a particular course of action will lead to Weal, Woe, or Neither within a number of turns equal to the sorcerer's level.
  8. Banish: all creatures of sorcererous, demonic, dark, or generally unholy nature must make a Morale check. If they do not have a Morale check generally, it is equal to 6+half their level.
Pyromancy
Only pyromancers can use pyromancy. Pyromancers have a number of Fire dice equal to half their level, rounded up. This represents the size of their internal Fire.

Each time a pyromancer casts a pyromantic spell, they roll a number of Fire dice corresponding with the size of the flame they are creating or manipulating (e.g. if you are conjuring a torchflame in your hand, roll 1d6. If you are hurling a bonfire-sized flame at a monster, roll 3d6). If any of the dice come up 6, the pyromancer removes them from their pool of Fire dice, and note that their internal Fire has shrunk by a corresponding amount. If their are using fire as a weapon, they also use this roll to determine damage. Enemies may Save vs Breath for half damage.
Level 1: (1d6) torchflame: can fit in the palm of their hand.
Level 3: (2d6) campfire: can fit in a bucket
Level 5: (3d6) bonfire: can fit in the bed of a pickup truck, requires two hands to hold
Level 7: (4d6) pyre: can fit in a bedroom, requires two hands to hold
Level 9: (5d6) conflagration: can fit in a barn, requires two hands to hold
Pyromancers recover all of their Fire dice by resting in a warm, safe place. They can never have more Fire dice than the limit indicated by their level.

Pyromancers can learn the following spells.
1. Bolt: hurl a flame equal to or less than the size of your internal Fire.
2. Extinguish: Put out a flame equal to or less than the size of your internal Fire.
3. Enkindle: make a flame grow up to the size of your internal Fire.
4. Remand: cause a flame up to the size of your internal Fire to unburn something it has consumed.
5. Conflagration: conjure a burst of flame equal to or less than the size of your internal Fire
6. Ancient Flame: cast upon ashes to determine what they were before they were burnt. The size of your internal Fire determines how old the ashes can be:
(1d6) torchflame: a week
(2d6) campfire: a year
(3d6) bonfire: a decade
(4d6) pyre: a century
(5d6) conflagration: an epoch or more
7. Transference: move a flame equal to or less than the size of your internal Fire
8. Black Flame: cause a flame equal to or smaller than your internal Fire to stop shedding heat or light. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

mischief afoot


There is a city where nobody goes,
a city of sepulchers, a city by the sea.

It is ruled by a Sleeping King, bound deep inside the earth. 
He dreams of a great dark kingdom, 
he dreams the dead to life, 
he dreams his people into monsters 
and the day into endless night. 

You have awoken on a beach of black sand. 
The sun sits too red and too heavy on the western horizon, and the waters are cold and dark.
You are in the city where nobody goes, 
you are in the Dream of the Sleeping King.

This place will not abide you, but how will you get out?

LABYRINTHIUM: SAN SERAFIN
The First Stratum

 (an old-school dark fantasy role-playing game setting featuring masked devils, mummified saints, jaguar witches, sybaritic assassin-surgeons, a looming apocalypse, Borgesian horror, and procedures for generating the seven levels of the worst city on earth.)

San Serafín is a procedural urban point-crawl set in a Latin American necropolis, and includes 
  • several Original Dungeons and Dragons-friendly classes, such as animist-priest Mediums and crudely powerful Pyromancers
  • a setting-specific equipment list that assumes newly created characters start out marooned on a desert island
  • rules for salvaging and scavenging with little hope of finding civilization
  • a large cast of eccentric NPCs and unsettling monsters
  • other stuff


Here's a sample spread:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

pyromancer class

A simple shooty-blasty magic class suitable for old school games. Intended to approximate Dark Souls pyromancy without getting too caught up in the specific mechanics of it.

Pyromancer
HP, XP, Saving Throws, and Combat Abilities as a Cleric.

from dark souls
Also called Fire Witches, Children of Chaos

Every pyromancer has a piece of Fire in them. Not fire, but primordial Fire, the bright, smokeless flame from which the djinn were made, a spark of the flame that ignited the Sun.

Pyromancers are invulnerable to ordinary fire and receive a +2 bonus to saving throws versus magical fire and dragon breath. When they do take fire damage, they subtract 1 from each die of damage. they take.

Pyromancers have a number of Fire dice equal to half their level, rounded up. This represents the size of their internal Fire.
Level 1: (1d6) torchflame: can fit in the palm of their hand.
Level 3: (2d6) campfire: can fit in a bucket
Level 5: (3d6) bonfire: can fit in the bed of a pickup truck, requires two hands to hold
Level 7: (4d6) pyre: can fit in a bedroom, requires two hands to hold
Level 9: (5d6) conflagration: can fit in a barn, requires two hands to hold
Pyromancer can use pyromancy to do the following within 40 ft/sling range:
  • conjure a flame the size of their Fire or smaller in the palm of their hand for 1 Turn.
  • hurl a flame the size of their Fire or smaller.
  • extinguish a flame the size of their Fire or smaller.
  • move an existing flame the size of their Fire or smaller to any other spot in range
When a pyromancer uses pyromancy, they roll a number of Fire dice corresponding with the size of the flame they are creating or manipulating (e.g. if you are conjuring a torchflame in your hand, roll 1d6. If you are hurling a bonfire-sized flame at a monster, roll 3d6). If any of the dice come up 6, the pyromancer removes them from their pool of Fire dice, and note that their internal Fire has shrunk by a corresponding amount. If their are using fire as a weapon, they also use this roll to determine damage. Enemies may Save vs Breath for half damage.

A pyromancer can recover 1 Fire die by drinking a flask of oil. Pyromancers recover all of their Fire dice by resting in a warm, safe place. They can never have more Fire dice than the limit indicated by their level.

But What About Fireball?
Magic as practiced by wizards is fundamentally antithetical to fire. Spells like Fireball, Wall of Fire, and so on produces actinic wer-light that burns without heat and smells like burning metal. There is a piece of forbidden war magic known as False Sun that can create true fire, but only the most unsavory of sorcerers speak of it, and even then quietly.