Monday, 25 May 2015

Spell Acquisition for Campaigns with Specialist Wizards

I've been doing a bit more work on The Complete Elementalist, and have been putting some thought into how specialist wizards can coexist in campaigns alongside each other. Here's an extract, with some thoughts on how to handle spell acquisition and treasure placement in campaigns with multiple types of specialist wizard, each with distinct spell lists.

Spell Acquisition
This section contains optional guidelines for Labyrinth Lords on the subject of how elementalists (and, by extension, other wizardly characters) may gain access to and learn new spells.

Basic Games
For games in the vein of the traditional Basic rules, the following guidelines may be used:
* Elementalists begin the game knowing read magic, one randomly selected spell, and one spell of the player's choice.
* The number of spells an elementalist can know (i.e. record in his spell book) is limited to no more than double the number that he can memorize. For example, a 5th level elementalist can memorize two 1st level, two 2nd level, and one 3rd level spell. Such a character could have at most four 1st level, four 2nd level, and two 3rd level spells in his spell book.
* Upon gaining an experience level, if the elementalist does not already have spells available to learn (e.g. from scrolls or captured spell books), he automatically acquires knowledge of one new spell, selected randomly from a level of the player's choosing.

Design Note: In the original Basic rules, magic-users and elves were limited to knowing one single spell at 1st level – not even read magic was “free”! – and could never record more spells in their spell books than the number they could memorize each day. Personally, while I find this system charming in its simplicity, I feel it is too restrictive and use the system described above in my own games. Other groups may, however, prefer to stick with the original rules.

Advanced Games
Advanced era games are more generous with the number of spells known and may use the following guidelines:
* Elementalists begin the game knowing read magic, two randomly selected spells, and two spells of the player's choice.
* The number of spells an elementalist can know (i.e. record in his spell book) is limited by the character's INT (see the AEC).
* Upon gaining an experience level, if the elementalist does not already have spells available to learn (e.g. from scrolls or captured spell books), he automatically acquires knowledge of one new spell, selected randomly from a level of the player's choosing. This spell must be learnt according to the normal rules for spell learning, again dependent on the character's INT.

Placing Spells in Treasure Hoards
The basic Labyrinth Lord rules describe a single type of arcane magic, usable by magic-users and elves. The Advanced Edition Companion and other books, such as this, add further, more specialised wizardly classes: illusionists and elementalists. These new classes acquire new spells in the same means as the standard magic-user: by finding spell scrolls in treasure hoards. When it is determined that a treasure hoard contains scrolls of magic-user spells, it is thus desirable that spells usable by specialist wizards also be (at least some of the time) present.

One approach is to multiply the number of spells present in the hoard (as indicated by the treasure tables) by the total number of wizardly classes in the campaign, then to give each spell an equal (random) chance of being taken from the list of each class. For example, in a campaign with magic-users, elementalists, and illusionists, the number of spells found in a hoard would be multiplied by three and each spell would have a 1 in 3 chance of being taken from the standard magic-user list, a 1 in 3 chance of coming from the illusionist list, and a 1 in 3 chance of being from the elementalist list. The Labyrinth Lord ensures, in this way, that the balance of spells available to characters of different spell-using classes remains fair and consistent.

Note that, as some spells are shared between the different classes, these guidelines will, in fact, slightly increase the number of spells available. It is also worth bearing in mind that, even if an adventuring party discover scrolls of spells that they cannot cast themselves, such scrolls still have value and may be sold to or bartered with NPCs who can put them to use.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Making Camp: Part 2

Following on from yesterday's post, more optional camping procedures. (I'm skipping ahead a bit here, past the phase of setting up camp, to the rules for resting.)

The campsite set and any evening camaraderie complete, the party settle down to sleep. Each PC must make a rest check -- a CON (bushcraft, survival) check -- modified by the various factors listed below, to discover whether a good night's rest was achieved.

Resting Modifiers
For every extra hour spent searching for a campsite: -1
Sleeping in unsuitable site: -4
Location modifier: Varies
Bedroll: +2
Participating in a watch shift (up to two hours): -2
Cold (autumn or spring): -2
Extreme cold (winter): -4
Campfire (if cold): +2
Wet (including snow): -2
Disturbing sounds (howling wind, thunder, or babbling spirits, for example): -1
Soothing sounds (a waterfall or bubbling stream, for example): +1
Sleeping in light armour: -4
Sleeping in medium armour: -10
Sleeping in heavy armour: Automatic failure
Good cheer: +2
Discord (arguing, grudges, etc): -1
Hearty fare: +2
Meagre rations (includes dried trail rations): -1
No supper: -2
Awakening during the night (per occurrence, not including watch shifts): -1
Encounter during the night: -3
Sickness or poison: -2
Wounded or fatigued (less than half hit points): -1
Elf (requires less rest): +4
Halfling (lazy): -2

(Character personality traits such as "sensitive disposition" or "can sleep through anything" are generally indicated by the CON score but the referee may apply additional modifiers if deemed appropriate.)

Failure of the rest check has the following effects:
  • Cannot memorise spells. (The lenient referee may allow the character to attempt to memorise spells, with a save versus magic, per spell, indicating success at memorisation.)
  • -1 penalty to all attacks, saves, and ability checks. This is not cumulative over multiple nights without rest, but lasts until a decent night's sleep can be had.
  • Hit point recovery halved.

Sleeping in the Daytime
A party may choose to travel at night and sleep during the day. This incurs a -3 penalty to rest, unless the characters are accustomed to this routine (have been following it for at least a fortnight).

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Making Camp: Part 1

Some procedures for camping in the wilderness.

Finding a Campsite
The first step in camping for the night is to find a suitable location. Depending on the terrain being traversed, this may not be trivial. Searching for a site takes one hour. This is assumed to be a part of the evening phase, when the party is beginning to settle down to rest.

First, the referee should make a density roll (a percentile roll against the density rating of the hex being travelled through). Failure indicates that the terrain does not yield any location suitable for characters to lay. A site with space to crouch or lean, where it may be marginally possible to sleep, can always be found. This entails a -4 comfort modifier (see rest, below).

Secondly, the party must make a WIS (bushcraft, survival) check to determine the number of different locations which present themselves. The character with the highest chance of success should make the roll on behalf of the group. Success indicates that two locations have been discovered; the party may choose between them. Failure indicates that only a single suitable location can be found; the party must either camp in this place or start searching anew.

If the party is unsuccessful or unsatisfied with their attempt to find a campsite, they may repeat the procedure, entailing another hour of searching. Each repeat attempt incurs a cumulative -1 comfort modifier, when the party eventually get to sleep, due to the extra time spent exploring.

Forest Campsites
Each terrain type requires its own table for camping locations. As an example, here is a table suitable for use in forested areas.

1. Dry, sandy ditch. Party must sleep in a line.
2. Mossy glade. Soft ground grants +1 to comfort but dampness incurs a -1 penalty to fire building.
3. Clearing beside a pathway. Increased chance of encounters.
4. Pleasant glade. Spoor of a random monster is present. Increased chance of encounters. (If an encounter occurs, it is 50% likely to be with the creature indicated.)
5. Flat, stony area beside a stream.
6. Clearing criss-crossed with gnarly roots. -1 comfort modifier.
7. Beautiful glade with a single large tree in the middle. (33% chance of the tree having some noteworthy feature; roll on the table of strange trees.)
8. Cosy, fern-filled depression. +1 comfort.
9. Sandy outlook atop a cliff. Encounter distance is doubled.
10. Small glade crossed by many small paths. Chance of encounters increased.
11. Mushroom-riddled glade. Roll on the fungi table to determine their qualities.
12. Verdant dell hidden between large rocks. Chance of encounters reduced.
13. Muddy banks of a pool. -1 comfort due to dampness. There is a 1 in 4 chance of the pool possessing special qualities (roll on the table of strange waters).
14. Among a cluster of fallen trees. -1 comfort due to the inconvenient trunks.
15. Cramped glade, only sufficient space for 1d4+2 humans.
16. Narrow ledge beside a deep gorge. -1 comfort due to fear of rolling off the edge while sleeping.

Post-Amble: Skill Checks
The text above uses a broad notation for skill checks which can be adapted to several different game systems as follows.

Basic: For games without any kind of skill or proficiency system (e.g. old-school Basic D&D and clones), all checks are resolved with an ability check on 1d20. A result of equal or lower than the ability score indicates success. The roll may be modified (-4 to +4) by the character's background. The referee should judge, from the player's description, whether the background experience (or lack of!) warrants a modifier to the check.

Advanced: For games with a roll-under proficiency system (AD&D 1st or 2nd edition, if the optional rules are used), the player should make a proficiency check with the most applicable proficiency or use the rules for making non-proficient checks if no suitable proficiency exists.

LotFP: Replace ability checks with skill rolls as appropriate. If no matching skill exists, fall back on the Basic system described above.

5e: Make an ability check as normal, adding a bonus from any applicable proficiencies. Assume a difficulty of 10.

Part 2 here.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Locket Hex

4th level, Range: 30', Duration: Permanent

A locket, keepsake, or charm bracelet bearing a depiction or token of the subject's true love may be dweomered by this spell, granting the enchanter great control over the subject's heart. The hex may be used in two ways, as follows.

Lock: The locket becomes impossible to open by mundane means. If it is open, it snaps instantly shut. From this moment, the subject's love for the one depicted in the locket becomes possessive, jealous, and paranoid, seeking to lock his love away from the world.

Unlock: The locket becomes impossible to close by mundane means. If it is closed, it snaps open. The subject's love for the one depicted in the locket dissipates like a soul fleeing a corpse.

In either case, smashing the enchanted locket causes the subject to fall into a deep sleep lasting for seven days.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Knife, Fork, and Spoon

1st level, Range: Touch, Duration: One meal

Cast while at sup, this spell acquires the confidence and loyalty of a single knife, fork, and spoon which the enchanter passes his hand over. For the duration of the meal (which can, naturally, be extended by cunning means), the enchanted cutlery observe their surroundings -- the spoon sees, the fork listens, and the knife detects the presence of dweomers. When the meal is concluded, the spying silverware will relay their observations to the enchanter, whispering with tiny, ringing voices in his ear.

Alternatively, the spell may be used to conjure one complete set of cutlery, including utensils appropriate to a meal at hand, per level of the enchanter.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Ix: Seasons

The environmental cycles in the deserts of Ix do not follow the typical patterns of seasonal variation which are found in the various climes of Earth.

The Season of Winds
The beginning of the Ixian year. For three lunar cycles, the airs of the world are turbulent and violent.

1. Hot, blasting wind
2. Raging, spiralling wind
3. Dust storm
4. Sand storm
5. Descending wind, great heat
6. Special environmental condition

The Season of Bones
For three long lunar cycles, the sun intensifies, as if in an attempt to raze the surface of the world. Water recedes deep underground, leaving the earth parched and barren as bone. In this season, much life perishes.

Water consumption requirements increase by 25%.

1. Scorching heat
2. Withering wind
3. High pressure
4. Deathly still
5. Relentless hot dust
6. Special environmental condition

The Season of Dreams
Before the year's end, the hazy violet moon has cosmological dominance for two cycles, ushering a time of wantonness, willfulness, madness, and the concrescence of dreams.

1. Mirage winds
2. Murky skies, like muddy waters
3. Shadowy haze
4. Howling winds
5. Radiant light
6. Special environmental condition

The Season of Flowers
This season, regarded as the ending of the year, sees the desert winds placated and the fierce heat of the sun soothed. In this short season of two moons, flowering plants bloom, bringing a vibrant gaiety to the desert. (Of course, not all of these blossoms are as benevolent as they appear.)

Water consumption requirements reduced by 25%.

1. Cool breeze
2. Still, warm air
3. Hazy heat
4. Lazy whirlwinds
5. Billowing dust
6. Special environmental condition

(More details on the lunar cycle of Ix and the noted special environmental conditions to come in future posts.)

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

New Vivimancer Spell: Minimus Replication

2nd level, Range: Touch, Duration: Permanent, Casting Time: 3 days

Suspended in a vat of electrically charged nutrient fluid, the genetic material of a tissue sample is distilled and grows, forming a miniaturised clone of the being from which the tissue originated. The clone is mindless, non-sentient, and does not survive beyond the three days over which it develops, but represents an exact physical likeness of its progenitor. In this way, the vivimancer may be able to identify careless intruders or unknown life forms.

Unlike most spells which require a tissue sample, this procedure functions perfectly well on inert biological matter such as bone, hair, shell, teeth, etc.