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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.

Swords & Wizardry Spell Spreadsheets and More

Some time ago, I posted a S&W Spell Database in a spreadsheet shared through Google Drive. I've finished my work on them, so here they are. One spreadsheet for Clerics, one for Magic Users, and one spreadsheet that has all spells Both Arcane and Divine.

Here is some explanation to what the different worksheets mean.

The Cleric spreadsheet has many worksheets, the first one is named Total List.

This is a list of all the Cleric and Druid spells, with descriptions. Spells that have tables in the description were translated as best as possible, but some of the tables had to be left out. This worksheet is a straightforward list ready for folks to analyze, adjust, and add. It also serves as a database to do a mail merge into a Word document.

When I add spells to a particular campaign world, I make them common in a specific area of the world. Adding a column to denote a specific area of the world, I can not only make a list of spells available, but generate a list of potential scrolls that might be found as treasure in a specific geographic area of the world.

If you have Priests of Different Mythoi, you can add a column for the various deities/pantheons and have a ready resource for player handouts. The possibilities are endless.

The next three worksheets break out the spells by the three types of spellcasters in the S&W Complete rules. For Clerics and Druids, there is an extra column for Spheres. Spheres group spells together by a common theme. If a spell has more than one Sphere in the column, it belong to each sphere listed in that cell. For example, the Cleric spell Animate Object, is in the Summoning and Creation Spheres.

For Magic-Users, the worksheet adds a School column. This shows the 2e school or schools that the spell belongs to. Yes, it's on the Cleric Spreadsheet.

For all three of these tabs, I used the compendium of Wizard and Priests spells downloaded from dragonsfoot. When I cross-referenced the spells, I made no assumptions on where they belong. In other words, I didn't assume that a spell with the word Animal in the title would be in the Animal sphere. This was all done strictly by the compendium. This doesn't mean that I made no errors, just that I wanted these lists to be as close to a Swords & Wizardry to 2e cross-reference as I could. I did make one change here from standard S&W - if a spell is both a Cleric and Druid spell, it is listed as the lower of the two levels.

The next tab on the Clerics spreadsheet is labelled Spheres. If a spell is in more than one Sphere, it is listed twice, once for each Sphere. For example, the Animate Object spells is listed once as belonging in the Summoning Sphere and listed on a separate entry as belonging to the Creation Sphere. This worksheet allows for easy creation of spell lists by Sphere.

Until you reach the Statistics worksheet, the next set of tabs are the lists of spells by Sphere; each Sphere has its own worksheet. They are listed by order by level and there are some simple statistics on number of spells, average level of spells, and the standard deviation of spell levels for that Sphere. The Statistics worksheet shows the statistics of all the Spheres in one place.

I also included some work on assigning each Sphere a point value. If this looks like Players & Options from 2.5e, I'm not going there. This is intended to be preliminary work on creating Priests of Different Mythoi, but only the referee uses this system for worldbuilding. If you can use this work to build something, let me know. I'll flesh this stuff out in future posts.

The last worksheet, of course, is the OGL.

The Magic-User Spreadsheet is setup much the same way, except that Schools are used instead of Spheres. The Complete Spreadsheet has both the Cleric and Magic-User spreadsheets inside it.

Why do all this?

Primarily to provide tools to other gamers. Selfishly, it is because I like to create custom classes. To that end, I plan on adapting the system Keith Davies invented to Swords & Wizardry. From there, it will fit in with a class building system that I hope to finish one day.

Alternatives to Spell Lists

Talysman over at The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms wrote about Clerics without Spells almost a year ago. As is his talent, he can produce a simple mechanic that sounds intriguing and fun to play. It's fascinating the almost complete lack of bookkeeping required. Roll 2d6 + (2 * (Cleric Level - HD effect)) >= 9.

Read the post to get the details of the categories as well as the follow-up post with some clarifying details. Really good stuff.

Being a 2e fan, I began to mull how this could work with the idea of Priests of Specific Mythoi. For example, some Clerics do not turn undead, but incite battle rage (God of War). Some Clerics get a Druid-like shape-changing ability.

Under my proposed system, a cleric would choose any six categories. The original categories are: Command, Defense, Disease, Dispelling, Healing, Warning. My additional categories are:

  • Resistance:  Cleric is granted an automatic saving throw against certain types of attacks, energy or a specific class of spells for a number of turns equal to the Cleric's level. Resistance to Posion is a 2 Hit Dice Effect. Resistance to Fire, Cold, Lightning, Acid, and Sonic energy is a 3 Hit Dice effect. Resistance to Psionics is a 4 Hit Dice effect. Resistance to a class of Magic is a 5 Hit Dice effect.
  • Shapechange: Cleric can change into any non-magical, non-planar creature up to the Cleric's level divided by 2 in Hit Dice. For example, at 1st level, a Cleric could change into a fox on a successful roll while a 14th level Cleric could change into any type of bear on a successful roll.
  • Passage: Cleric can travel at normal rate regardless of terrain or physical condition. Examples include, underbrush, forest, sand, ice, snow, wind and more. Forest, hills, deserts, snow and rocky/broken areas are a 2 Hit Dice effect. Wind, mountains, jungles, swamps are a 3 Hit Dice effect. Ice is a 4 Hit Dice effect.
  • Communication: On a successful roll, the Cleric can communicate with any creature or plant. This can only be attempted on an individual creature or plane once. If the attempt fails, it will never succeed, regardless of level advancement and/or number of attempts. The effect lasts for a number of hours equal to the Cleric's level.
  • Favor: The Cleric can grant bonuses to saving throws, Armor Class or attacks to an individual. The Hit Dice effect is twice the bonus. For example, a +1 to Saves is a 2 Hit Dice effect. A +3 is a 6 Hit Dice effect. The effect lasts for a number of rounds equal to the Cleric's level.

The rationale for Resistance to certain categories of spells deals with a bias against mages in my campaign world. The reason for the psionics separation is again a campaign world thing. Psionics are the only form of magic available to those that want to use magic. Mages are like d20 sorcerers in that they were born with the ability.

For a couple of the categories, I had to make a table and I'm looking for a way around that. The other option, of course, is to rework the entire system to use the basic mechanic in ACKS. Hmmm.

For weapon choices, I would allow a few weapons that do d4 and two weapons that do d6. A missile weapon can never do more that d4 damage.

It also occurs to me that I could do the same thing with mages using spell types as categories. But if that happens, it will be another post.

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