Monday, 10 December 2018

Trading Spells

Rules Cyclopaedia pg44 “By ancient tradition—of necessity and common sense—magic-users are loathe to trade spells among themselves. “

Many RPGs say that player Magic Users are reluctant to trade spells. But why? So I started to think of some possibilities for house rules to limit spell trading.

Magic is personal and jealously guarded. A wizard would normally never teach another how he cast a particular spell, because it would weaken the effect of his own magic. Too many people on your network slows it down.

1. So similarly, teaching apprentices a spell, damages the effectiveness of that spell. All spells that are shared, now function at half power. Each shared spell has half range, duration and damage. If a master  taught an apprentice his version of Lightning Bolt, then the range would be 90ft and cause 1-3 damage per level.  Likewise, if the apprentice (or the master) had a unfortunate fatal accident, the Lightning Bolt spell would revert to a fully powered spell.

2. So in this world, players usually gain spells through research. If a player finds a scroll, the player would still have to do the research (at half cost/time) to make their own version of the spell. But even then, it actually taps power from the original source. Learning from a stolen fireball scroll written by the wizard Moe the Merciless is extra dangerous, if Moe suddenly finds his own fireball is now half powered. Otherwise, scrolls work the same as usual.

For PCs, it is combat mechanics. Trading spells increases party survivability. Tactically it is a good idea for each of the party magic users to be able to cast fireball. Swapping spells between characters is the easiest way to achieve this. PC wizards make their gold by adventuring and not dying. Not by having a monopoly on a spell. Spell casters who pool their knowledge, are more valuable to the party then those who don't.

However, Spell books in a campaign can quickly become identical. I think there is more role playing in enforcing some penalties for trading between spell casters. That may be what some of the original books were getting at. Every spell caster in the party can have magic missile. They just can't get it the easy way by trading spells with each other.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Death Magic

A party of 6 Adventures meet an evil 1st level wizard with a sleep spell.

Chances of a Total Party Kill:

1st level Adventurers 2d8=84.39% TPK
2nd level Adventurers 2d6=72.23% TPK
3rd level Adventurers 1d6=16.67% TPK

This spell is a problem. There is no saving throw against a sleep spell. A sleep spell is death magic. A wizard that knows sleep is one of the most dangerous encounters a low level party can have. D&D modules B2 "The Keep on the Borderlands", B4 "The Lost City" and B10 "Night's Dark Terror" all have Magic Users with sleep spells.

There have been attempts to limit the deadliness of the sleep spell over the years. Menzner (1983) and The Rules Cyclopedia (1991) limit sleep spells to a 40x40 ft  area. The miniature rules for D&D in Swords & Spells (1976) restricts sleep to a 10 ft diameter.

Possible solutions:

1. Impose restrictions. Reduce the area of affect. Whether it is 40x40 ft or 10 ft, limit the range. Everyone, friend or foe, within that area is affected.

2. Create a new version of sleep that allows a saving throw. Hold person and charm person spells have saving throws. Even death spell has a saving throw. Both characters and monsters would benefit from having some chance of resisting a sleep spell.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Strengthening the Basic D&D Magic User.

Low level Magic Users have only a few spells. Once all the spells are cast, their contributions to the party can be very limited. Here are some options to increase Magic User proficiencies/fun in a campaign. Three are by-the-book, the last is a house rule.


1. Scroll creation at 1st level:

Holmes pg 13. “Magic users may make a scroll of a spell they already "know" (i.e. have in their magic book) at a cost of 100 gold pieces and 1 week's work for each spell of the first level, 200 gold pieces and 2 weeks for a second level spell.”

2. Move and Cast:

Gazetteer 3 pg 59. “Agility Training: This allows the magic-user to roll (d20) under his Dexterity to be able to cast spells while moving. This can only he done at a normal walking pace; riding a mount or dodging attacks imposes a severe penalty on the ability check (DM's discretion, a -1 to -10 to the Dex score. depending on circumstances). If the attempt fails, the spell is lost.”

3. Combining Spell Levels:

Gazetteer 3 pg. 59 “Spell Combination: This technique allows the student to mix his spell levels in any combination, so long as the total spell levels memorized do not exceed his capacity. For example: a level 4 magic-user normally casts two 1st level spells, and two 2nd levels (for a total of 6 spell levels).With this technique, he can choose to memorize six first level spells. Or three second levels, or any other appropriate combination.”

Casting House Rule by Finarvyn/Firebee:

Free cast-power point system. All types of spell casters are allowed to free cast. They don't need to choose spells beforehand. Magic Users/Elves are limited to the spells in their book.

Just total the spell slots you have available per level and that's your power pool. A first level spell is worth 1 point, a 2nd level spell is worth 2 points and so on. Then any spell you cast, deducts that level from the power pool (i.e. a 3rd level spell uses 3 points). You are still limited to the maximum number of spells your character can cast. So a 4th level MU would have 6 spell points and could cast a total of 4 spells.

To make the system a little more fun, give each player a plastic gem for every spell they can cast, and a plastic coin for every spell point. When they cast a spell, they simply give the DM a gem and the appropriate number of coins. It's a pretty easy way to keep track of spells and spell points.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

The Problem with Thieves

There is a lot that really helps to Nerf the Basic D&D Thief. Thieves are as weak and fragile as Magic Users and are slow to develop any real proficiency in Thieving. A 6th Level Thief will fail the majority of skill rolls. What makes it worse, is that other classes can often have Thief-like abilities.

A 1st level Dwarf can find traps more easily than a 5th level Thief (35% vs 30%).
A 1st level Halfling can hide in a dungeon better than a 5th level Thief (32% vs 30%) or in the woods better than a 11th level thief (90% vs 85%).
A 4th Level Cleric with a Find Traps spell can discover traps more reliably than a 14th Level Thief (100% vs 99%).
A 3rd level Magic User with a Knock spell is more skilled  in opening locks than a 14th Thief (100% vs 99%).

In my experience, it is very difficult to keep a Thief alive. This often results in the Thief cowering at the back of the party, with the Magic User. When a Thief is low level, a 2-16 sword back stab damage is significant. A back stab has the potential to one shot an average opponent. It is extremely important to the party's survival that a Thief back stabs. However, as the Thief levels and is now fighting Giants, the Thief's back stab becomes not as valuable. Back stab damage does not scale in Basic D&D.

The following Thief is a modification of Kutalik's Thief which is based on the LotFP "Thief" Specialist which, in turn, is based on the AD&D (2e) Thief.

Modified Thief

The Thief uses d6 Hit Dice for hit points. When attacking while hidden by Stealth, a 1st level Thief may backstab at +4 to hit and double damage. Triple damage at 5-8 level, quadruple at levels 9-12, and quintuple at levels 13 or above. (AD&D PHB p27)

 All Thief skill rolls are made on a d6. A skill check is successful if it is at or lower than the skill roll. At each new level past first, the thief can distribute points to a skill as they choose. A skill may be not go higher than 6. The GM should decrease or increase the chance of success for easier or more difficult tasks. Skill descriptions are the same as btb with the exception of Stealth which covers both Hide in Shadows and Move Silently. At level 9, the Thief can also begin to use Magic User scrolls. (Kutlaik)

If a Thief has a skill with a rating of 6 in 6, the roll to succeed is made with two dice, and only if both dice come up 6 does the attempt fail. (LotFP p17)

Base Thief Skills
Climb Walls: 4
Pick Pockets/Slight of Hand: 1
Find/Remove Traps: 1
Find Secret Door/Hidden Object: 1
Locks: 1
Hear Noise: 2
Stealth: 1
Read Codes/Maps/Cyphers: 0
Read Magic Scrolls (at Level 9): 3
Disguise: 0 (General. Not a specific person.)

Hit Dice (1d6)
Bonus Skill Levels
+1 hp
+2 hp
+3 hp
+4 hp
+5 hp
+6 hp
+7 hp
+8 hp
+9 hp
+10 hp

Saturday, 24 February 2018

A Gaming Table

I saw an old school table being thrown out and decided to build a gaming table. It will mostly be used as digital battle map for miniatures. The 32” HD TV came from a recycling dumpster, and has a burn mark on the screen, but it doesn't show under most conditions.

12 inch pine shelving was the cheapest lumber. It took 4 boards cut to size or ripped. 

 I borrowed clamps and glued everything up.

After a lot of sanding and some polyurethane, it was done. You can see the brace that will hold the TV in place.  An important tip is to make sure the brace doesn't block peoples' legs.

I tried Maptools and Mote to run the table, but will probably just use Roll20.

The total cost was under $100.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Healing Spells

D&D clerics gain new hit point healing spells at every spell level, except 2nd and 3rd. A 5th level D&D cleric can have a maximum of 2 healing spells out of 4 spells. That's a mean of only 9 hit points healed a day. This makes it extremely difficult for a cleric to heal a badly wounded party. Possible Solution? Creating new healing spells for 2nd and 3rd level could increase the mean to at least 20 hit points healed a day.

BX51 "New spells may be researched by any spell caster."

1st Level 1d6+1 Cure Light
2nd Level 1d8+1 Cure Moderate
3rd level 1d10+1 Cure Intermediate
4 level 2d6+2 Cure Serious Wounds
5 level 3d6+3 Cure Critical Wounds
6 level Cureall

Reasoning: Characters die as a result of losing hit points. That is the mechanism that is baked into the system.  Playing a cleric means trying to recover lost hit points. Other editions of Dungeons & Dragons have healing spells at each level and they seem to function.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Hedge Wizard

I've been thinking about a simple Hedge Wizard class for basic D&D, a wizard that can never use a spell over 3rd level. The wizard could advance levels, but any 4th or 5th level spell normally gained would be changed to 3rd level. That's the negative. The bonus is a Hedge Wizard can use Spell Combination for non-attack spells. All spell slots can be pooled and redistributed among the three spell levels. So a 6th level Hedge Wizard could have twelve 1st level spells ( 2 attack, 10 non-attack) or four 3rd level spells (2 attack, 2 non-attack).

The Principalities of Glantri pg.59 "Spell Combination: This technique allows the student to mix his spell levels in any combination, so long as the total spell levels memorized do not exceed his capacity. For example: a level 4 magic-user normally casts two 1st level spells, and two 2nd levels (for a total of 6 spell levels). With this technique, he can choose to memorize six first level spells. Or three second levels, or any other appropriate combination."

Here are some examples of non-attack spells suitable for combination casting by a Hedge Wizard. This list is limited to detection/tinker/protection spells, instead of illusion based (Invisibility, Phantasmal Force). A Hedge Wizard can still cast Invisibility or Fireball, they just can't use a combination slot to do so.

1st Alarm, Chime of Release, Dancing Werelight, Detect Magic, Feeling Fingers, Identify, Mend, Read Magic,Unseen Servant, Hold Portal, Run, Shield, Feather Fall, Floating Disc, Jump, Spider Climb

2nd Detect Evil, Detect Invisibility, Dexterous Digits, Knock, Preserve, Locate Object, Magnify, Scent Mask, Shatter, Wizard Lock, Protection from Normal Missiles

3rd Clairvoyance, Clairaudience, Expeditious Fire Extinguisher, Dispel Magic, Item, Material, Tiny Hut, Golden Revelation, Marvellous Shield

A Hedge Wizard will never do more damage in combat than a traditional MU. The Hedge Wizard's function is to be more of a swiss army knife than an artillery piece.