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Words of Power for Simpler Games

Thanks and a Link to Recap

I owe a debt to both Keith J Davies and CTP from Giant in the Playground. CTP provided a wonderful guide to WoP in 2013. Keith shared a lot of good thoughts to my post on MeWe. Unfortunately, there is not a good way to link to my post there. (There is no API for posting, either, but that's a story for another time.)

My previous post on the Words of Power system is here.

Keith Always Has Great Ideas

Keith brought up a very good point that the HERO System does a very good job of building powers and could be a useful guide. He suggested changing the Effect Words around Acid, Fire, and Lightning to have certain advantages and limitations. This allows a spellcaster using those words to think carefully about the words being used and not just make Fireball with Complications spells. Here's what he said:

So, lightning might have armor-piercing (in D&D/PF, perhaps a bonus to the save DC), acid is uncontrolled (i.e. does damage for a brief time after the initial attack... fire could work here, but acid arrow exists as precedent), fire might be inherently explosive (does diminishing damage around the target... or in this case, is always an area effect -- small, unless overridden), and so on.

Limitations, lightning might have a side effect or backlash (caster takes damage), acid... dunno offhand, fire might have decreased accuracy (always uses the grenade tables), and so on.

I really like this for a number of reasons. One is that keeping a larger number of Words to use creates more interesting combinations. Another is that by saying that an energy has advantages and drawbacks, the system as a whole encouraging more thoughtful spells and provides a real choice to compare specializing in an energy type or using all of them.

I Do Not Always Have Great Ideas

One of the goals of using Words of Power as some kind of framework to create spells is to make it simpler. However, the system is not difficult now and I've been given advice that would make building certain spells interesting. I'm also concerned that making effects simple makes spells bland. This conflicts with another goal to make spells interesting.

So in the face of so many good things, I'm going to attempt to go a different path.

I love spells that go beyond different ways to damage a target or targets. However, I want to start with them because they feel easier to explain. I'll get into relative values and spell levels later; bear with me to work through the effects. The effects will be fairly generic at first with an ability to specialize and fine tune the spell later.

The Energy Spells

To simplify the Effect Words that center around damage, I generalize damaging spells to 1d6 damage per spellcaster level (max 10d6). Wall spells do 1d8 damage plus the level of the spellcaster to anyone running through the wall (Max 10 points).

This provides two effects words instead of 10: Energy Blast and Energy Wall.

I also want to add another, Energy Weapon. This creates a weapon that does 1d4 damage and lasts a number of rounds equal to the spellcaster's level. The shape of the weapon is irrevelant, it provides a way for a spellcaster to create a temporary magic item that can help the caster or anothe member of the party to temporarily do a specific type of energy damage.

I'll talk about boosts later, but I did want to mention that one of the Meta Words will boost an energy spells by increasing the die type. I plan to use Keith's Dice Progression. (I told you he has good ideas.)

The Change/Enhance/Modify Spells

The Change effect words in WoP focus on partial or full transformations into a beast. The type of beasts are not stated, but based on the effects available to choose, it is obvious that there is a serpentine form, an avian form, and a feline form. Change spells can also increase Armor Class and grant abilities like trip, swimming, darkvision, etc.

To simplify this, the limitation of a partial or total transformation spell effect can only use a creature actually encountered, not researched, but the spellcaster. I'm not ashamed to say that this was inspired by the Wild Kratts. Despite tons of research, the brothers gain no creature powers without fur, feather, or some small sample of an animal. (They traveled in time to gain the powers of a Dodo bird, but that's another story.)

The original WoP has three change effects, but I will name them Modify spells instead and there will be five.

Modify Body Gain the Strength, Dexterity, Constitution or one physical characteristic.
Modify Mind Gain the Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma or memories.
Modify Shape Gain the form, not the special abilities
Modify Soul Be transformed into the target with special abilities
Modify Ability Gain a special ability of the target

Again, there must be an encounter with a creature and a sample taken before these take effect. If your 3rd level spellcaster survived getting a sample of a dragon, congratualtions.

Part Two Coming Later

I'm over 1000 words, so I'll leave off here. More about Divination and Armor spells next time.