Sunday, April 26, 2009

Being thinkative

I happened to be looking through the Basic edition character sheets today (long story). Anyway, when I go to the spell lists section for M-U's and clerics, I was struck at how few and simple the spells were in B/X. And that gave me an idea.... I think I'm going to steal those basic spell lists, and use them for my campaign. Each level has about 6 spells (maybe 8) that are readily known, and these are what you're going to have a chance to learn when you want a new spell. And they will be VERY basic spells. Anything else, and the mage has to do some wheeling, dealing and journeying. Anything with a person's name in it will be EXTREMELY hard to get ahold of. I haven't thought about how this will work with clerics yet... I'm thinking of leaning more towards the idea of clerics spells are less spells, per se, and more prayers/invocations/rituals. This, there will be some commonly known prayers
, but for others, you would have to consult with a higher up in your church (because some of those rituals will be more like heretical witchcraft, don't you know). In both cases, he more you invoke magic/the power of the deity, the easier it is to tap into this resource, which would explain how magic-users or all stripes advance. I now realize that this is subconsciously a lot like rituals from 4ed, but since I haven't read 4ed, and don't know how they work, I'm blissfully ignorant. 8)

Not only do I feel this puts the "umph" back in magic, but I can tinker with the magic limitations too. Instead of having mages memorize spells, I can more easily swtch to a spell point type of system, because if you only know 3 first level spells, you shouldn't need to constantly rememorize them. It makes magic much more "organic", which I don't think is necessarily a bad thing. It also makes sense that if a cleric knows the prescribed prayer for a certain situation, then they should be able to use it any time. I have't quite figured out a rationale for prayers yet... I was thinking of something along the lines of you need to invoke the proper words for the deity to take notice. I might allow clerics to try and invoke prayers ("spells") without knowing the proper prayer, but having a HEFTY chance of failure.... or perhaps the chance of offending said deity with your presumptuousness, and never being able to invoke that prayer again.

By the way, I'm thinking this all out loud, because it helps me visualize my ideas. 8)

So, for mages....there would be six basic spells in every level, representing the most common manipulation of magic. I'm thinking, straight coversion of spells, with a first leevl spell costing 1 point, a second level spell costing 2 points, etc. Then, I just convert the spell table, by adding up how many points the available spells per level would equal. So, while it means you may be able to cast stronger spells earlier, or MORE stronger spells, the drawback is A) you would have to spend more time tracking down the spells you would want to use, B) you would likely end up casting fewer spells per day, if you cast more higher level spells, and C)I would think that your master would not reveal higher-level spells until the appropriate time (ie. if a mage doesn't usually get access to say, 4th level spells until say, level 7, then any 4th level spells he has beofre level 7 will have to be ones he finds on his own.... he won't learn the invocations for the 6 regular spells until 7th level). I think this might work... it's pretty straightforward.

In other news, I'm thinking of starting my campaign by using the Retrn to the Keep on the Borderlands in the Yeomanry. I have the text document that "fixes" the keep to make it a little more useful, and when I was reading it, something caught my eye. The reference to turning Nergul into Nerull is fine, but instead of making Erishkital a demon queen... I'm going to change her into the Raven Queen. It works, and maybe I can do something usefull with that down the road. I'm going to use her as a heretofore unknown minor goddess of death, make her real obscure. Just for fun, mostly.

Time to start writing down all these house rules... I've already decided I'm going to test-run the campaign with some old gamer friends n the summer, work the kinks out, and then run it in the fall with the group I want to indoctrinate. 8)


  1. I'm late to the party... as usual. (I let things get behind me and I run a month late on my copious old-school feeds in Google Reader.) Also, forgive me, this is a really long post.

    Anyway, for a while I've had a problem with the cleric. To that end, I've been thinking about making the cleric's spell casting based on channelling. It makes them somewhat akin to a sorcerer, but a little different. To this end, I would define a number of saints, spirits, godlings, entities, prophets and what have you for each religion. Each of these spirits may or may not exist in a living, functional sense; that's open to interpretation. They definitely exist in the philosophical sense as an entity that has a following and meanings through their stories, legends, precepts and teaching.

    These patrons can grant powers based on their sphere of influence, interests and the like. For example, there may be a patron saint of hospitallers that grants the use of different healing spells at each level, a mother figure of protection that provides buff and "protection from X" spells, or perhaps a given archangel of divine retribution may grant some more directly combat-oriented spells. The granted powers may not necessarily be spells; they may be supernatural powers instead (such as the shapeshifting of a druid, or the laying of hands and aura of protection from evil of a paladin).

    Adherence to the word of the patrons can only grant those abilities that they are charged with, and depending on the cleric's level of devotion, higher levels of spells may be granted. Further, each figure demands service to their goals and the religion as a whole, so that builds in duties for the cleric (prayer at the same time every day, rituals like self-flagellation, vows of poverty/silence/service, service in the church a proscribed amount of time), and also, as the cleric increases his devotion he may take on aspects that mark him as a follower of that spirit (for instance, the archangel of divine retribution uses a sword; perhaps his clerics lose the skill to use any weapon but a sword; maybe adherents of the the protective mother become more effeminate over time, or must swear a solemn oath to protect the defenseless).

    At each level, the cleric chooses a new patron to follow, or can choose to increase their level of devotion to a divine figure, thus granting them more powerful spells or powers. With each of these choices, the cleric may walk a finer line to meet all the demands of their patron figures, and also they may lead to moral choices for the character (and player!). After a while, it may not be possible to be a cleric that adheres to the hospitaller saint and archangel of holy wrath due to their conflicting demand on their religious practice, and choosing to perform tasks honoring one or the other may result in having to perform penance to the other to regain powers and/or spells, etc.

    I imagine there would be rules to set lower limits on what level a character must be to advance to levels of devotion for some saints (so you don't see fourth-level clerics with raise dead), and also perhaps a system so that when you meet inevitable conflicts between your patrons, perhaps you can choose a new level of patronage for each two that you trade in; basically, you have a crisis of faith and adjust your views. There may even be a level of proving yourself to the new patron where you get a basic, introductory power or orison to use in your journey to aid you, but the choice stuff is left until you gain a level.

    (Continued below)

  2. (Continued from above)

    Basically, at first level a cleric chooses to be a patron of a pantheon hero that entered the underworld to fight the god of death and his minions. This grants you turning ability, but you have no spells or powers while he's proving himself and being initiated into the mysteries of the sect. This isn't really different than normal.

    At second level, this changes. The cleric has proven himself and gains an additional power from the ascended hero: the ability to smite the undead and otherworldly entities (+2 damage against undead or extraplanar entities, and ability to hit those requiring silver weapons), but to do this he must take on the duty to never touch a corpse at rest (not even with a weapon, pole, etc). He's definitely more of the fighting-Templar type at this point, but he then also chooses to revere a spirit that his temple worships, known as The Lightbringer. The cleric may speak an orison that grants him the ability to make a ball of light appear in his hand three times per day in his outstretched hand for a turn each time, and must follow whatever duty The Lightbringer may impose (must awaken before dawn each day for prayer, say).

    On third level, The Lightbringer grants the base power that she grants her new priests, and the cleric will choose a new path. Our player has decided to model this character after the knights Templar, and decides to take another level from the ascended hero to grant the next round of powers, which will be granted upon gaining ANOTHER level, and perhaps fulfilling some requirements/duties, or even a geas, walkabout or great task.

    I think it lends a lot of flavor to the cleric. However, I think it might make playing a cleric a bit of a hassle unless you limit your campaign to something like a thinly-fictionalized version of the Catholic church and perhaps some pagan gods. If you want to simplify this and use the standard Vancian magic system, perhaps you could play it this way: the spell list is broken up between a number of the divine patrons, perhaps with some overlap. The cleric still has to choose his divine patrons, which he gets to choose a new one every two or three levels. With each patron comes two duties, two proscriptions and access to the list of spells that patron can grant. If the cleric stops keeping up with the duties or breaks the proscriptions then they lose access to some or all of that patron's spells. It's the 80/20 solution; 80% of the flavor with 20% of the rules.

    If you really want to mix it up to be closer to swords and sorcery, just have a ton of "spirits" out there. A priest is basically a vessel or medium that can channel the powers of these entities. Since these entities may not care about the priest proving themselves, there may not be a level worth of "waiting period" as above, but a given priest can mix-and-match spirits, sometimes with weird results.

  3. Also, as an aside... if you're going with spell point pools and not making players adhere to the spell levels they may learn, why not just assign spell points to each spell and leave it at that? Then you can tweak the spells slightly (maybe you want a fireball to be four spell points for some reason, or whatever) without altering their spell level for other game reasons.

    Also, if you did that, then the spells could still be granted on a circle basis. "You have graduated to the second circle! I shall teach you one of the following spells, initiate!" It'd be your six second-level spells that are commonly known, but perhaps the player has been using a third and a fifth level spell all along, just blowing all his spell points casting just that one spell each day.