Friday, April 01, 2011

Fight On #1 Cover to Cover - Part 5

Flexible Sorcery
variants by Jeff Rients, with Jason Cone and Calithena
This article describes three ways that the de facto Vancian magic system with rigid spell lists and memorization could be extended or enhanced. The suggestions are labeled Spontaneous Magic, Counterspelling, and Magical Duels. The three are not mutually exclusive - any campaign could use none, some or all the ideas.

The first idea is Spontaneous Magic. There is nothing gamebreaking here, just a small addition that can help with the flavor of a campaign, and give the creative yet another tool in their arsenal of tricks.

The idea is that a mage who can make major magic (spells) should also be able to perform some minor magic, like cantrips. Thus, a mage who has memorized Sleep could make people yawn, a mage who has memorized Fireball could light a torch. However, if the mage had cast Sleep, he would lose his yawn-inducing ability until he had re-memorized it.

My first reaction was "this is neat". But I don't think I would use it in my campaign, as it puts too much of a burden on the DM. It gives a whole new class of rulings that the DM must make, and then needs to keep track of so he can be consistent. I might try it if my players insisted on it, but would put the onus of bookkeeping on them.

The second idea is Counterspelling. This is definitely a fantasy trope - the enemy wizard starts casting his spell, and the party's wizard desperately tries to stop it. It has also been missing in most D&D-based games.

The basic mechanic is for a mage to announce he is counterspelling, and then roll 7+ on 2d6 to stop the spell. There are assorted adjustments to account for mage levels, spell levels, and sacrificed power. It then gives rules for how often NPC's and monsters will choose to counterspell.

The idea looks interesting, and I might try it in my campaign, but I would have to adjust the parameters during play-testing. It looks too easy for the counterspeller. I would think it would shift the mage class from being primarily offensive, to primarily defensive against powerful monsters or NPC's. Since your Fireball spell will be burned by the counterspeller, you are unlikely to use it - instead you will just stay in reserve waiting to dispell the opponent's spell.

The third variant proposed is the Magical Duel. Again, that is another staple of fantasy fiction missing from the rules. Who doesn't like a good wizard duel?

The mood is set by an amusing illustration showing various cartoony outcomes of a duel. It could have been omitted with no loss of impact, but it is not useless either.

The basic idea of a wizard duel is that it must be mutually consensual. The duellists then each roll 2d6, apply appropriate modifiers, and the difference between the two rolls is looked up on a chart that gets severely worse as the gap in the two dice rolls widen. Here are two examples of results, one mild, one less so:

- Smoke pours out of loser's ears. Loser takes one point of damge
- Loser catches fire, taking d4 damage each round for d4 rounds

I would allow this in my campaign - it can't be forced on an unwilling player, it gives them another tool, and also more rope to hang themselves.

All told, this was a good article, with interesting idead

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