Wednesday 22 May 2019

Magic-User Rework: Fuck Spell-Slots Get Mana

Imagine a hosepipe.

Binding a Spell is like making a spray gun for the hose, walking back to the tap, turning it on, and calmly walking back to the nozzle to water your plants.

Casting a Spell Unbound is turning on the tap and running like hell to grab the end of the hose before it starts whipping around everywhere, then trying to control the spray with your thumb while simultaneously discovering that the hose is an angry snake.
It's risky but hey, at least you didn't need to waste all that time making a stupid nozzle!


This is about making Spell Slots optional without making a whole separate Sorcerer-type class.
It's also about not having to rewrite all my spells. Who's got that kind of time??

Do you memorise your spells at the start of the day, limiting yourself in exchange for reliability?
Or do you cast spells spontaneously, increasing the risk in exchange for flexibility?

The core of this is basically a straight pull from Logan's magic rules with the Bound Spells thing plugged in. One step closer to stealing every last house rule from Last Gasp!

Core Caster Mechanics

I'm going to focus this article on core mechanics for Magic-Users first, then tell you about the differences between caster classes later.

Mana: You have 1 Mana per level. This is your Mana Pool - your personal magical reserve.
Mana can be used to Bind Spells for safer casting, or left in your Mana Pool to be used for spontaneous casting.
You can still cast spells when you’re out of Mana, it’s just significantly more dangerous.
Your Mana Pool refills after 8 hours of rest.

Spellbinding: This is the equivalent of memorising spells and requires a Spellbook.
Bind each Spell by spending Mana equal to the Spell Level.
Your maximum Mana Pool is reduced by the same amount until the spell is cast.
The Spellbinding process takes an hour of intense concentration. You can create as many Bound Spells as you want during the hour, but you cannot double up on Bound Spells.

Casting Bound Spells: Declare casting as an Action, it goes off at the start of your next turn. You count as Surprised against attacks until the spell goes off.
You cannot cast Bound Spells if you are more than Lightly Encumbered. It's something to do with metal or heavy gear or game mechanics getting in the way of the magic.

Casting Unbound Spells: Requires a Spellbook to hand. Declare casting as an Action, it goes off at the start of your next turn. You count as Surprised against attacks until the spell goes off.

Roll 3d6 on the Chaos Conduit table with the associated modifiers.
Roll an extra d6 for each Mana spent.
Roll one less d6 per spell level.
(If this would ever make you roll less than 0d6, it's an automatic Cosmic Horror result instead)

Success means the spell goes off! Hurrah!
Chaos Burst requires a roll on the best Wild Magic table.
Cosmic Horror requires you to roll on Last Gasp's That Which Should Not Be table.

Chaos Conduit Modifiers:
- Aptitude: Your Intelligence Modifier.
- Encumbrance: -1 per Encumbrance Level.
- Blood Sacrifice: Sacrifice your HP for +1 per point.

Discussion - Core Mechanics

So that's the basic core of the thing, a fairly straight swap to add Spontaneous Casting to standard Vancian Magic-Users.

If you want to do the classic Vancian memorise-at-the-start-of-the-day thing you can do that.
If you want to keep all your Mana free for Spontaneous Casting, you can do that too.
If you're out of Mana and you need to cast something, it's possible!

This also brings in the possibility of memorising spells later in the day if you've got an hour - a bit like casting as a ritual. Facing a riddle door on a mountainside and you've got a couple Mana spare? Bind it into a Knock spell and you'll be saying "Mellon" before you know it!

Bound Spells
Making this a choice means that I can tie existing mechanics and extra perks into having your spells Bound.
Familiars are made from spells now, for instance, and the Muscle Wizard's powers are tied into Spellbinding - their body is fortified by binding spells into their muscles.
There's also the extra bit where someone relying on Bound Spells can leave their Spellbook at home - they only need one to hand if they are to cast spontaneously.

Unbound Spells
Spontaneous Casting is built around the assumption that it's best to match Mana Burn to Spell Level, evening the penalty out. If you don't want the risk, burning even one extra Mana makes the spellcasting much safer, taking you from about 20% chance of Cosmic Horror on 3d6 to a mere 3% on 4d6.
Good odds!

Armoured Wizards
You'll notice that spontaneous casting allows wizards to cast in armour! My justification is that they're shaping the spell around their gear, as opposed to Bound Spells which are much less fluid.
Classic Vancian wizards need to stick to flowy robes, Sorcerer-types can wear a bunch of armour and make up the difference with Mana or blood!

Quasi-Levelless Casting
This is part of my soft move towards all spells becoming scaling Level 1 spells, a la Wonders & Wickedness. This way I can still use the regular spells in the book while any new spells can be introduced at Level 1.

Big Guns for Low Levels
The other side of this is that it means I can let low level spellcasters use high level spells. They'll never use them otherwise if the soft-cap remains at Level 7!
It's just crazy risky if you don't have enough Mana to match the spell level.
As it stands a Magic-User at level 6 could bind a single Level 6 spell - gaining access to such bullshit as Disintegrate and Power Word Kill five levels early. Finally! More than a thin sliver of the spell list is within a Magic-User's grasp!

Probability of Overcasting Success.
In case it's of interest, a Magic-User casting an unbound Level 1 spell without Mana has about a 50% chance of casting it successfully.
Only issue is that of that 50%, most of it is "Success + Cosmic Horror" so you might want to boost it with blood magic if you're not intending it as a Hail Mary.

Lore Reasoning

Magic in D&D is so mechanics-oriented that it forces everyone to invent their own headcanon.
Here's mine.

What is Magic?
Magic is of Chaos - a roiling dimension of infinite energy that lies just beyond our own.
A universe dominated by chaos would be one of infinite randomness and infinite entropy. Chaos is inimical to the foundations of our reality.
Magic-Users constrain this change-energy, imposing order on the Chaos to create repeatable effects.

What is a Spell?
A spell is a three-dimensional shape that can be unfolded into the higher-dimensional form of the spell and trick Chaos into changing reality in an extremely specific way.
Chaos "thinks" it's causing a random effect, but pouring it through the specifically shaped fifth-dimensional portal tricks it into having a single outcome.
Essentially you're tricking it into picking one result from an infinitely long random table.

What is Casting?
Casting is the tricky process of unfolding your three-dimensional net of the spell into the higher-dimensional reality. It takes concentration - least of all since it's functionally impossible to imagine.
If the spell is already Bound this is skilled work but fairly straightforward, like folding an origami crane from instructions.
If you're casting Unbound it is far more tricky, like folding an origami crane without instructions while someone loudly counts down from ten in your ear.

What is a Wizard?
A Wizard is someone who has cracked their very soul in some manner, whether on purpose or by accident. This crack is small enough to let a trickle of Chaos in, suffusing them with Chaotic energy.
Magic-Users channel the energy with their mind, baking the glyph-forms onto their synapses.
Muscle Wizards channel the energy with their body, binding the glyph-forms into their muscles.
Elves are of magic. Magic is in their bones and blood - part of what they are. When they cast spells they're flinging their own innate magical essence out into the world.
And Necromancers use it to drill directly into the Ghost Dimension and use the released energies to bind and coerce the spirits of the Dead.

Chaos Warning

That up there is the main core of this Mana system.
In the next post I'm going to go into the differences between the four Caster Classes in the grand tradition of trying to make casters "feel" different to each other while retaining the same core mechanics.

Magic-User, Muscle Wizard, Elf and Necromancer.
Flexible, Physical, Spontaneous, and Ritualistic.
Watch this space!