Categories
Commentary, Electrum Pieces, Microlite 20, Swords & Wizardry and The Black Hack

2020 Hopes

Around the holidays, I was able to post quite a bit about magic systems and a few other things. I've been quieter within the past 2 weeks, though, because I have been writing offline quite a bit. As a result, here are the things I hope for in 2020:

Words of Power Series

I plan to finish these up pretty soon. Mostly because this set of posts leads into the next project.

Regional Magic Book

I have been trying to generate D&D-ish magic systems for years. Once, I even created a system based on the Paydirt footbal game. I have finally managed to create a series of systems that different from each other, yet can inform each other. These systems include systems that feature gematria, alien scripts, spontaneous casting, spell building, artifact hacking, found magic, and more.

I've mentioned some of the systems before like salt magic, spontaneous casting, and gematria. I found that making any individual system work came from making them interrelated. I have a campaign world that explains why they are different and common threads that make them all related. It's been a long, ground-up world building that I hope is useful to others, at least for mining ideas, if nothing else.

The document should be ready for testing in Feburary and out in PDF in the Spring for Swords & Wizardry. (I would love to have it for OSE, but there are conventions is S&W that appeal to me.) If I am lucky, a month later will have a 5e version. I have one more magic system to tweak before working on editing this month.

Eye of the Needle

Using M20 Spacecraft as a starting point, I want to finish this setting in the Summer of 2020. A lot is already written, but I need to finish the trading system. This will be less of a priority than the regional magic book, but one it is a passion project for me as I love the central location in this setting, a hole in the ground that takes you to another planet.

EPiC Engines

I have written this Black Hack & SAGA-inspired game that uses only a deck of cards. I stopped work due to 52 Fates, a system that just works differently in many wonderful ways. That said, I still want to give this to the world. I had so much fun making and testing this.

No time limit on this, but if I can get other projects completed, this is a document that just needs some editing and tweaking of the magic system.

Itch.io

I plan to make some non-traditional games with all kinds of wild ideas on my nascent itch site. (No link because, well, no content.) I have a bunch of half-finished games that use odd dice combinations, tokens, and custom cards.

Tyrian Purple is an example of the types of things I want to post there. It doesn't have any custom components, pro se, but it is a competitive card game that playtested well. I still want to simplify bartering, though.

2020 Plans

Those are the plans. As I mentioned earlier, I will finish the Words of Power series of posts. The podcast will fire back up with little bits of goodness here and there. I also plan to post more on 5e as my kids want to play it. So far, I have all manner of sidekicks and creatures inspired by their adventures.

Categories
Basic Fantasy and Electrum Pieces

Six and Twenty Rune System by Keith Mathews

I mentioned a rune system in my last post, so I received permission from the author to talk about it in detail. Please read Keith's post here. I'll return to my thoughts on the Words of Power system in a later post.

In the Basic Fantasy facebook group, Keith Mathews posted about a rune system he developed to make magic require experimentation to gain new spells. The idea is that a wizard using this option is not a part of a formal school, but more of a hedge wizard or DIY dabbler.

Before going into the details, if you are unfamiliar with Basic Fantasy, the key thing to know for this system is that the game has six spell levels. There are supplements that add 0 level and 7th level spells, but the standard game has six.

The System

Six and Twenty is not Keith's name for it, it's mine. The system is based on six runes. Using three of the six generates a spell. This creates a possible 120 permutations, each permutation is a spell. To make tracking easier on the GM, the runes are numbered 1 to 6. There is no effect or keyword tied to a rune, it is only the sequence of the three runes used that determines the spell.

The first rune determines the spell level, the next two determine the spell. If I choose the runes 1,4,6 I have a 1st level spell with whatever spell I assign to it. The system provides for 20 spells for each spell level. Considering that BF has 68 Magic-User Spells (and 48 Cleric spells, if you want to include some or all of them), there's plenty of room to add in your own spells. Keith also suggested that you could also make some of the permutations 'bad spells' that create a magic mishap. For example, using 3,4,2 in sequence will always generate a poisonous smoke bomb centered on the caster.

I created a chart of the 120 permutations grouped by spell level and began to fill in the 1st level spell spaces with BF spells.

Starting with 1st level BF Spells

I decided that I didn't want to use Cleric spells or make the other slots magical mishaps. Instead, to add to the weirdness and the sense that magic is dangerous, I'm going to use Space Age Sorcery by Hereticwerks (it's free). It also has only six spells levels on its spell lists, so it should fit the system perfectly.

Here's my updated list:

Now with Added Space Age Sorcery Spells

If you're not familiar with Space Age Sorcery, here is the description for the Melt spell:

Caster gains the ability to liquify metals and alloys on touch, affecting up to one pound per level. This spell can be used to sculpt metal into new shapes, should the caster have some aptitude or talent for such things. It can also be used to inflict 1d4 damage per level on metal-based lifeforms, golems, robots and the like, or to make spontaneous modifications to the hull of a ship, etc.

Some spells cause cranial swelling, alien globs, and even weirder things. It's just the thing to convey that magic is dangerous and strange.

Once I fill out the other possibilities, I have a list of 120 spells that PCs can discover. Again, encourage the PCs to experiment with the runes to discover what each combination can do.

You may have noticed that I had a column for DM Name. Per Keith's suggestion in his post, I plan to let players name the spell based on the description that I provide to them. For my own sanity, I have the name listed in the books while still providing a chance for players to own their spells.

Final Thoughts

This is a fun system to play with. Feel free to use other BF supplements to add Druid or Illusionist spells. If you use other supplements that add 7th level spells, you could add them into the entries for 6th level spells or create a special 7th rune that activates only for high level wizards.

Let me know if you want my full list.

Categories
Electrum Pieces and Swords & Wizardry

Chart Based Spellcasting

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.