Some Houserules About Magic

Send to Kindle

Here are some things that will appear in the Next Big Project. Specifically, this information covers altering the Intelligence attribute table and moving one thing to the character sheet. Once that information is on the character sheet, there are ways to use the Saving Throw mechanic to cover learning new spells, creating scrolls and more.

On the Intelligence table in S&W, there are columns for maximum spell level, chance to understand a new spell, and min/max spells understandable per spell level. At first, it may seem odd to move the maximum spell level from Intelligence Table and move it to the Magic-User advancement table, but we'll see more about that in the Spell Points system in a future post. In theory, the min/max spells understandable column, a magic-user with INT 15 has a cap on the number of 1st level spells that can be understood. His or her spellbook will never have more than 10 different 1st level spells. In game play, though, I never remember to check this table. So, I removed it entirely.

The big change is making the chance to understand a spell a saving throw.

What are the odds of understanding a new spell on the spot, while in a dungeon and spending very little time studying it? Roll 1d20 greater than or equal to your Saving Throw + Spell Level. For example, a 4th level magic-user attempting to learn a third level spell spontaneously has to beat 15. But wait, 4th level magic-user cannot cast a third level spell! Understanding, in my sense of the game, is different than casting. Once a spell is understood, it can be copied into the magic-user's spellbook and kept for study. Casting the spell requires a certain amount of skill and determination.

My analogy for this is being able to understand a blueprint for building a dog house. I can understand what is required, I know how big the pieces need to be and how all the pieces fit together. The thing keeping me back from building the doghouse is a lack of skill with the tools to cut, measure and align the pieces. I'll get there one day, but right now, I am limited as a carpenter.

Take the same situation and allow the player to spend money on materials and time on study and the bonuses add up. Spending 1000gp or 1 day's time will add +1 to the roll. Regardless of the money spent, the amount of time spent in study is a minimum of one day. This means our 4th level magic-user can spend any combination of money and time that add up to +14 to gain an automatic success. At lower levels, the magic-user will require more time than money, but at higher levels, the magic-user will be able to pay the money. It may not seem like it, but the money adds up at higher levels.

The effect of all of this is that a magic-user may have an extensive library, yet be able to cast a limited number of the spells. Even if the spells is successfully understood, the maximum spell level that can be cast (remember that I moved this to the Magic-User advancement table) limits what he or she can actually cast.

Now Add Emphasis

The emphases system that I mention quite a bit around here, adds more variety. Remember from my previous post, that the spells listed in S&W Complete are considered Eldritch Magic. Anyone with an Intelligence from 13 to 16 will automatically have an Eldritch Magic emphasis of +1. For an Intelligence score of 17, the magic-user has an Eldritch Magic emphases of +2. For a score of 18, an emphasis with a +3 bonus.

Taking our 4th level magic-user with an INT of 15 that is attempting to understand Darkvision (a third level spell), he or she gets a +1 emphasis bonus for attempting to understand an Eldritch Magic spell. The bonus also applies for time and/or money spent . In other words, if the magic-user decides to wait until out of the dungeon to understand a spell, the bonuses stack from the Eldritch Magic emphases, the money spent (if any), and the time spent.

Now let's say that our 4th level magic-user has an emphasis of +2 on Darkness based spells. The magic-user gains the +1 bonus from the Eldritch Magic emphasis and the +2 bonus from the Darkness emphasis. Just like before, the combined +3 bonus also applies to spending time and/or money to understand a spell. The same magic-user attempting to understand a Fireball spell, however, would only gain the +1 bonus from the Eldritch Magic emphasis. Fireball can be creatively described in a lot of way, but not as a darkness type of spell.

To make this even more interesting, let us say that a GM adopts the Max Spell Level numbers I place on the Magic-User Advancement table.

Level Max Spell Level
1 0
2 0
3 1
4 1
5 1
6 2
7 2
8 2
9 3
10 3
11 3
12 4
13 4
14 4
15 5
16 5
17 5
18 6
19 6
20 6

Created with the HTML Table Generator

Using an emphasis bonus to the Max Spell Level value of this table determines the highest level spell a Magic-User can cast. Going back to our 4th level Magic-User, he or she can actually cast the Darkness spell, but not the Fireball spell. The Max Spell level for a 4th level Magic-User is 1. With an INT of 15, the bonus allows him or her to cast 2nd level Eldritch Magic spells, but up to 4th level Eldritch spells that deal with Darkness. Unless the GM adds custom spells, there are no 4th level Darkness type Eldritch spells.

Next time, the spell point system.