A Wizard Duel Minigame

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I saw Eli’s post about his entry into the 200 word RPG this year. It inspired me to create a variant.


This game is protected under the Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0 License. This is based on the game Caltrops by Eli Kurtz, found here. I made changes to the theme of his game, the dice used (d6 instead of d4), expanded the rock-paper-scissors mechanic to seven items, and added rules for gaining items over time.


You are two wizards locked in a magic duel. Both wizards must choose whether or not the duel is to the death.

Requires: 2 players, 8d6, 20-60 minutes

Each Wizards starts with seven spells under their command:

  • Stone Fist: Earth Magic; Advantage vs Fire, Blade, and Arid Magic
  • Burning Bolt: Fire Magic; Advantage vs Blade, Wood, and Arid Magic
  • One Thousand Knives: Blade Magic; Advantage vs. Wind, Wood, and Arid Magic
  • Withering Blast: Arid Magic; Advantage vs. Wood, Wind, and Ice Magic
  • Choking Vines: Wood Magic; Advantage vs. Wind, Earth, and Ice Magic
  • Hurricane Wind: Wind Magic; Advantage vs. Fire, Earth, and Ice Magic
  • Shards of Ice: Ice Magic; Advantage vs. Earth, Fire, and Blade Magic

Each wizards secretly chooses a spell to attack their opponent. Both wizards reveal their spells at the same time and determine the number of dice to throw:

  • Standard Spell: 1d6
  • Name and describe a new spell: +1d6 (must be an existing form of magic)
  • Roleplay the duel before casting the spell: +1d6
  • Advantage over enemy spell: +1d6

Throw your dice to start the battle! Whoever rolls highest is the victor, and may describe the battle. The loser may describe their injury.

A wizard with three injuries is defeated or dead.


It strikes me that the game would be simpler with five schools of magic instead of seven. I think next post will offer a five magic base set of rules with two extra schools available as a variant.

What also strikes me is how easily this would be to made into a more detailed game:

  • Vary the power levels of the wizards by changing the number of spells available. Newer wizards would have fewer spells, older ones would have more (or all seven).
  • Provide an alternate wizard that will eliminate the advantage die. This wizard would have an eighth school of magic. It would important to name new spells for both combatants.
  • Provide an alternate wizard that starts with 2d6 for a standard spell at the cost of three additional schools of magic. In a standard game, this wizard would have access to three schools of magic at 1d6 and the specialist school at 2d6. In a game with varying power levels, it could be quite interesting.
  • Add different dice to represent a small advantage/disadvantage. These could be the instruction of a specific teacher, growing up poor, bonds with an extraplanar power, or a host of other things.
  • Provide an alternate combatant whose power is to nullify magic. This could be an anti-magic priest, or wizard hunter. The wizard hunter wins a battle, the wizard loses a spell. Yikes!

It almost feels like an Ars Magica game because the focus is entirely on wizards. Between duels, the grogs and companions help the wizard they serve. It could be fighting non-magical creatures, searching for magical artifacts or ingredients. It’s also possible to add non-magical combatants with different ways to add dice. I could imagine a barbarian that starts with a 1d10 and adds a 1d10 for describing his/her unique hatred for wizards.

I could also see this as a subsystem for a more traditional RPG. S&W could bolt it on fairly easily. I’d use all but necromancy from the d20 schools of magic for the seven forms of magic and use necromancy as the eighth as an alternative wizard. In the Black Hack, this could be the rules for a wizard duel. I’d probably give it a Dog Latin spell name and have characters search for new dueling spells to allow them to get a bonus 1d6 for a new spell.

If you use this game or tinker with it, let me know.

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. 🙂

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.