Creating Interesting Spells

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I love systems that generate interesting spells, but I really like spells that are very different. After a couple thoughts, I'll share my very rough draft system. The first part is similar to ACKS, but using addition instead of multiplication. The second part is where I try to make something different. The goal is not to re-create the standard OSR spell book, the goal is to encourage players and referees to create unique (or at least uniquely named) spells.

On an OSR blog years ago, I read about a spell that uses campfires to teleport as an emergency exit. You didn't know where you would appear; you may walk out of a campfire of your sworn enemy. I want to make spells like that, but feel the need for some kind of random table or generator to make something that feels different.

Yet, there is a part of me that takes comfort in something more methodical and/or procedural. I want to know that summoning a blue dragon is a higher level spell than summoning two orcs. Transforming into titan should be the stuff of arch-mages, not 8th level wizards.

Still, where's the fun in finding out how to summon flumph or two? I want to summon black tentacled trees that hurl themselves at a foe only to explode into a million splinters that surround the victim and trap them inside the trunk when it reforms. Where are the spells that hurl screaming skulls or cause a black ziggurat to erupt from the ground to have a huge skeletal figure on a six-legged horse emerge to uttering a centuries old curse?

For the math/procedural side of me, I worked out a way to create some straightforward create an object spells. I also worked out a simple summon creature set of spells. I have notes somewhere for damage spells, protection spells, and transformation spells. For the next few posts, though, I plan on providing an OSR Boring Spell as a template to do some crazy things with.

To make the spells interesting, I want to apply a series of tags inspired by my study of classifiers. As I looked at various languages, the classifiers covered a weird range of objects. There is a classifier for objects shaped like coins. Another one for things that come in small rectangular boxes. In Thai, I found over 100 classifiers and those were the most common ones. Using these classifiers as weird descriptors, I began to think of more evocative spells. By evocative, I mean they feel like magic and not like plug and play spells from D&D.

Here is an example slightly modified from something I posted on G+:

I start with a spell that does 6d6 damage to an area at a range of 240 feet. Under my system, this is a 4th level spell. If I can add four tags to the spell, I can get it down to 3rd level.

Colors and energy types can be used to describe the spell, but can't be a part of the four to lower the spell level. Example tags that can be part of the four include:

Stedu: objects with heads or shaped like heads.
Xanto: having to do with elephants
Orne: things in pairs
Xance: having to do with the number five or hands
Ciska: Sentences or inscriptions.
Julne: having to do with nets
Siclu: having to do with whistles our whistling

Some other tags just to add flavor:

Fargi: pertaining to fire
Blaxun: pertaining to the color green

With these tags, you could create a spell that launches ten flaming green whistling heads at a spot determined by the spellcater doing 6d6 fire damage to all within the impact area.

The tags used are: stedu (heads), xance (five), orne (pairs), siclu (whistling). These lower the initial spell to third level.

For flavor, fargi (fire) and blaxun (green) were added.

Still with me? Well here's where I open up for feedback. Below is a link to all the tags/magic words I have so far. The plan is to take a boring spell and apply at least four of these tags to create interesting spells. The Google doc is editable, so feel free to add. Just make sure to write your name so I can give you credit.

editable magic words google doc

More as this develops. Man it feels good to post again. ūüôā

More on the Cargo Generator

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I mentioned earlier that I had created a cargo generator for a White Star module that I am creating. As I mulled over it after work, I came up with a bonus table to generate Alcoholic beverages.

Here are two generated results:

Hrosian Brandy is made from a fruit similar to plums that is midly sweet and 8% alcohol by volume. It is faint yellow in color and served at room temperature.

Snentian Ale is made from a fruit similar to peaches that is very dry and 48% alcohol by volume. It is deep green in color and served ice cold.

Tweaks are required, but let me know what you think.

Fear and Loathing in Middle America

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Yes, I'll pay the Joesky tax.

I rarely post about personal things outside of my son and last year's fundraiser. Today I was really frustrated with a lack of progress on various projects. I thought about why I stopped doing commercial work years ago. At that time, I was all talk. All I could generate at the time were ideas, not finished products. I fell into the same cycle over the past two months and was unfortunately feeling sorry for myself.

After some encouragement from Matt Stater and Chris Stieha its past time to quash that noise. Just to drive the point home, my son tonight told me that he wants to make more games with me.

With that in mind, NagaDemon is coming and it is time to finish some projects. I've tested a couple of them while some other projects are just let's see what sticks. More importantly, I've got a partner in crime to make stuff and a group of folks to playtest anything.

Here are some thoughts leading up to a new race. The uplifted dolphins are a fun race/class for a game. Want to have more fun, ponder my son's question:

What if the dolphins could make their own bubbles and float into the sky? Why not into outer space?

One of these days, I'll finish Spelljammer for White Star and these dolphins will be in it. (No, I haven't read the Uplift War, but my wife has.)

Anyway, after reading a G+ post about Talislanta and thinking about Pars Fortuna, I figured it's time to have my own "No Elves" one-shot game. The group is up for it and it will give me time with the boy. Since we have the uplifted dolphins, here is the symbiotic sword and armor race for Swords & Wizardry.


Paragons live as animated swords and suits of armor. Because they are usually seen together, humanoids considered Paragon Swords and Paragon Armor as members of the same race. This is not true, Paragon Armor live in entirely separate communities than Paragon Swords. Paragon Armor is self-animated by the community the live in. Each community will animate a chosen blacksmith suit of armor to create more suits of Paragon Armor. After the lifeless suit of armor is created, the community will engage in a ceremony to animate the new suit of armor. Suits of armor never change size, but are considered mature at four years of age. Most suits of armor last for twenty to thirty years in normal circumstances. Communities of Paragon Armor conduct trade with the neighboring towns or villages offering services as night guards in trade for metal.

All Paragon Armor that is not paired with a Paragon Sword dream of returning to their homeland to disperse into their family and friends.

Paragon Swords, exist as a race of philosophers incapable of moving on their own more than ten feet a day. Although the community does not require food, it does require a suitable shelter. Each Paragon Sword community has one shelter, or deliberation hall, of about 20 to 30 members. Every community requires a number of their own to leave the deliberation halls and journey in the outside world to avoid madness. Those chosen for this journey are paired with a Paragon Armor.

Once paired, the sword becomes the brains that control the armor. However, the personality of the armor is not destroyed. Instead the two paragons keep each other company. The sword provides teaching in philosophy and the animated armor provides knowledge of humans, manufacturing goods for trade, and general information about the outside world.

The PCs that play a Paragon represent a paired sword and armor.

Limited Object Animation: Paragon swords have the ability to control and move their paired Paragon Armor. Once per day, a Paragon Sword can animate one object up to the weight of a suit of leather armor. This ability cannot be used to animate a normal or non-Paragon sword.

Throw the Sword: Paragon Swords can launch themselves ten feet once per day. They attack with a -2 penalty, but do 1d8 damage.

Poison Immunity: All Paragons (armor and swords) are immune to poison.

Breathless: Paragons do not breathe and do not require air. As such they cannot be suffocated and are unaffected by any gaseous attacks.

Immutable Bond: Paragon Armor will only use its paired Paragon Sword, forsaking all other swords of any type. They can collect any other weapons and use them, but will carry only the Sword that comprises the pairing.

Tests of Purity: Paragons can integrate magic helmets and magic shields into their armor at a risk. When attempting to use a magic helmet or shield, the character must make a successful saving throw or lose all sanity for 1d8 rounds.

Classes: Player-Character Paragons may be Fighters only.

In campaign worlds with psionics, a paired Paragon Sword and Armor may advance to 8th level.

Non-player Paragons are unpaired. Paragon Swords can defend themselves using illusions, but having only one attack per day. (Paragon Swords lose their illusionist abilities once paired). Paragon Armor acts as a 2HD creature that does 1d6 damage with their gauntlets or weapon. Paragon Armor that is not paired with a Paragon Sword will not wield any kind of sword or blade.

Personality: Paragon Swords are impracticable and aloof. They have little understanding of the world of men. They are loyal to ideals and principles and seem to be unemotional creatures.

Paragon Armor come across as mild-mannered, hard-working adults that are not prone to say very much. They are loyal to their friends (humanoid or Paragon) and value industriousness.

A paired Paragon Sword and Armor can appear at rare times almost schizophrenic due to internal squabbles between the two Paragons. Otherwise, they will blend in with the human population almost perfectly. Mankind has grown accustomed to small hamlets where "ghost armors" live.