Chart Based Spellcasting

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This post uses a chart that is not obviously reduced down to a simple formula. I say that because you have to give it to Delta. He broke down the Turn Undead table causing me rethink this post. Once you realize that the Turn Undead table is basically rolling 5+ on 1d6, it didn't seem worth presenting the original tweak. It felt like redoing the 2d6 spellcasting class presented earlier.

Where's the fun in that?

Still, I have created a Turn Undead based caster before here. It's not a tweak like my previous posts, but it's there for anyone that wants to use it.

To use a table, the challenge was to come up with a table that was not easily reducible to a simple die roll. After quite a few experiments and lots of research, I attempted to use a drop table or the original FASERIP table.

The drop table is not a bad idea, but my lack of art ability makes this a rather unattractive option. The FASERIP table (and the ZeFRS and 4C variations) were interesting, but it introduces column shifts and basically still feels like a percentage roll. Redoing a percentage roll is too much like another previous post.

So I looked for a chart in any game I have that wasn't so obvious. Despite the fact that it requires custom dice, I ended up choosing Paydirt, the American football simulation game. One reason for the choice was the ability to make something visual within my limited artistic abilities. The main reason was that it was different.

Blah, Blah, Blah, we saw the chart as the featured image.

Using a custom chart means, of course, that I am beyond making small tweaks, but introducing a new mechanic that doesn't exist in any S&W or OSR clone I know. I still plan on using the spell table to be a check on this spellcasters' power, but more on that later.

The link to the chart is here: Spellcasting Paydirt The top row represents the level of the attempted spell. The leftmost column represents the possible dice roll results. Roll the dice, look down the first column for the result and then look right for the level of the spell attempted. Green means success, red means failure. If you choose to use them, purple is a major success and black is a major failure.

Paydirt used some truly funky die. The dice for the chart use the custom dice rolled for offensive plays.

The offensive dice are:
Black die: 1-2-2-3-3-3
White die: 0-0-1-2-3-4
White die: 0-1-2-3-4-5

The Black die was the tens digit and the White dice were added together to get the ones digit. Because of the zeroes, the results range from 10 to 39. When you do the math, the results do not make a simple curve, so looking at the chart does not provide likely probabilities at first glance. Only seven of the twenty-nine cells for a 9th level spell are red or black, yet these are the most difficult spells to cast (about a 50-50 chance). First level spells have eight red or black cells, yet they are the easiest to cast (about a 90 percent chance).

The other appeal of these charts, are that there is some ability to make designs without affecting the odds of successful spellcasting. (If there is interest, I'll make a few.) I thought about using these to represent astrological charts. Let's say a simple die roll (1d6 or 1d8 determined by the number of charts made up) determines which chart is available. The charts wouldn't be too different (although that could be fun, too) but interesting enough that a player is not always trying to roll in the 30s.

Like the other two classes in earlier posts, a spellcaster using this chart is still an unreliable spellcaster. Spells are not guaranteed in the same way as the traditional S&W Magic-User. We could have them make magic items that increase their reliability. We could also have them make potions to guarantee the spell is cast. You can certainly mix and match the special abilities of the previous classes, but let's do something a bit different.

Going with the idea that these spellcasters use astrological charts, let's add in a dash of numerology. At every even level, roll the custom dice to add a magic number to add to the character sheet. Results are cumulative. An 18th level spellcaster would have nine magic numbers. When casting a spell, rolling a magic number results in success. No matter what the result says on the chart (good or bad), rolling a magic number is a standard success, not a major one.

Still, the spellcaster may get no benefit from the magic numbers, even at high levels. Instead of adjusting the XP Chart, we'll add another minor ability, a small hex ability.

This hex ability uses the custom chart to determine success. Roll 1d8 to determine which column to use and roll the custom dice to check the result. A character's magic numbers can also be used to determine success.

On a successful roll, chosen targets within a 20 by 20 foot area are struck with a saving throw penalty for three rounds. If the 1d8 result is 1 to 4, the penalty is -1. If the result is 5 or more, the penalty is -2.

Again, not a tweak, but with a new mechanic, an astrologer or numerologist class with some interesting abilities. Even with the hex ability based on the Prayer spell, it is a class that is still weaker than a Cleric and on par with a standard Magic-User. The choice of a standard Magic-User is still a good one as the M-U always successfully casts whatever spell he or she wants. Want something different? Well, not as reliable, but fairly interesting without being overpowering.

As for a type of magic item that can be found, it could be a gem, a stone, or other kind of object inscribed with a magic word. The word provides another magic number for this class to use on a one-time basis. If you have a houserule that allows all M-U to create scrolls, you can use a similar rule for the creation of these magic words. The cost is 1d8 * 100 gp and take 1d8 days to create. A spellcaster can only use one of these items per spell attempt.

A more powerful magic item cover a group of ten rolls. Specifically, these gematric perfections would make rolls 10 to 19, 20 to 29, or 30 to 39 into successes, regardless of what appears on the chart. The cost of these items would be 4500gp and could be used only once. Unlike the lesser magic item, this expensive magic can be stacked.

In the next few posts, I'll talk about the interchangeability of the four classes and new types of magic items that affect all of them. The goal of this series of posts is a modular system to create interesting NPCs or classes. More soon.

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