Thursday, April 21, 2011

Adventurer Player Species: Dwarves

As a break from Spells today, my pass on Dwarves as a S&S ODDesque species.  Note: not basic hihos/stunties from OD&D via tolkein and disney, thems been done to death. So, short version, I wanted something other than scots accented mini-Vikings we get exposed to in setting after setting. 

My own thinking is this:  D&D and LOTR/Hobbit have gotten us used to the idea that dwarves are basically just short curmudgeonly humans.  In fact, even in toleins creation myths, we see the dwarves are much more akin to elves: elemental sprits, created for a purpose, embodying the creative spark while being the epitome of certain elemental traits.  Elves are grace and beauty, spirits of air and water; dwarves are endurance and persistence embodied in the earth.
Inspired by a variety of sources including Terry Pratchett and James Maliszewskiand and probably others who envision and presented a different mold for the dwarf.

Also known as Dwarves or Kobolds, Svartalfar are the descendents of earth spirits that have traded much of their power for the ability to remain free-willed and active on the material plane.  Svartalfar are descended from kobolds –earth spirits able to move thru matter much as a fish does, but having very limited ability to influence or manipulate it.

Ages past, some Kobolds became so enamored of the gems and precious minerals of the earth, as well as the possibility of creation, that they became material themselves, albeit with some remnant of their elemental heritage. Svartalfar (or Svarts) are their descendents; and are material creatures, with most of the material world’s limits, but unusual rules and abilities.  They have retained some of their ancestors’ resilience and endurance, and all, if not more, of their lust for wealth and craftsmanship.  They are still attuned to the deep earth in wars that are mystical and amazing, and are always more comfortable living underground as did their forefathers.

Svarts are genderless, but reproduce when a group of Svarts enact a particular and secret ritual which brings forth a new adult Svart from the combination of their physical material, their wealth, and the surrounding earth.  The Svarts in the ritual are physically diminished, and generally impoverished (more wealth equals less physical loss, but there is always some of both) so they increase their numbers very, very slowly.

They have a long lifespan, and are far more resilient to the slings and arrows of the material world than purely mundane inhabitants.  They are also secretive, few in number and fiercely possessive.  Their magical nature allows them to see in total darkness, intuit depth, find gems and raw metals by smell and taste and spot things hidden in and by stonework, and generally note slopes and changes in construction and the natural forms of the earth.

Their tools are primarily raw metal or stone, but when crafted by a Svart, exceed the quality of the most cunningly built or alloyed tools of mankind.

All non-magical physical attacks against Svarts do half damage and are at -2 difficulty; this does combine with any armor effects, although only Svarts that associate with the outside world will wear such. Magic, especially that of the Fey is dangerous to the Svartalfar, and such weapons and attacks take not difficulty, and do +1d6 damage.

Finally, all Svarts are under an unbreakable geas –they may never renege on a deal or an oath, nor forget vengeance for a slight.  They may lie, fantasize, imagine, and whatever, but once they agree to a deal, swear an oath, or call for vengeance, the terms must be followed exactly and completely.  .  Note that a Svart cannot be released from these under any circumstances except completion.  If the partner dies or the exchange becomes impossible, the Svart will continue trying to complete it, slowly going mad and becoming an undead spirit in constant torment.  One must remember that Svart are neither stupid nor naive and they have developed many ways to interact with the world that do not call this geas into effect. For instance, elaborate contracts with escape clauses are insisted upon for the simplest deals, and, a vengeance oath may be simply to “see the person dead, if not by my hand “.  Still, they can be tricked, fooled or mislead by their pride, strong emotions and tempers.

A less fantastic origin for the Svart is as a further evolved Homo Neanderthalensis, driven to live in desolate and underground realms by the faster breeding human races, and selecting for a reduced stature in addition to the typical stocky Neanderthal frame.

Svartalfar  have notable END(+2) but weak SOC(-2).  All Svartalfar have two levels of the trait natural armor (2 points) and slow metabolism.  All noted benefits and limitations (especially as regards deals and oaths) also apply to characters  Svarts all have Trade(mining)-1 such as and mineral composition/stability of underground works. When chargen is complete, add 1 level to any Trade(metalsmith),Trade (jeweler) and profession (Miner) skills received. . and can use them  to intuit non-standard information; when  when underground Miner can be used to assess depth, slope, and traps and secret constructions; Metalsmith or Jewler can accurately determine value, identify magic spells, composition by taste, and history by extensive  observation.  When using the skills in standard fashion, assume that all tasks times are reduced by half, and all effects for success are increased by 2.  theses specifically are cumulative with normal skill options.
Chraracters may choose careers from Fighter, Other, Noble or Commoner. Svarts count total terms as halved for aging, but are limited to five terms of chargen.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Adventurer: Sorcery and superscience, Spells !

Behold the first part of the spell lists for adventurer !  I wanted to try to limit the absolute number of spells so the book isn't 50% by weight spell listings, as seems the case nowadays , most OSR excepted .  Partly for ease of use, partly because I found out that spells are infinite and infinitely divisible.  In short once you start increasing the granularity of spells, it's hard to stop before you hit the Matryoshka limit, and you have "Summon fiendish extraplanar undead lesser chaotic arcane familiar (psionic)" to worry about, or at least write up.  So, my goal with the spells( in addition to recasting ODD into Traveller , kicking and screaming as needed) was to reduce spell granularity wherever possible.  My goal was to get by with no more than  just Chainmail's list of combat spells, plus non-combat spells as useful and needed.  Obviously, I had to cheat, but having the limit was a Good Thing (tm).  Still, the spell writeups take up about 1/6 of the total page count of all three books, so that's a win as far as I want to assess it. And so, read on !
(and comment fer crimminie's sake !  I mean, you cant even write "I think that breaking laws should be illegal" on the forums without generating a 20 page morass of flames, baiting and assorted bannable soapbox wanks....)

Magic Spells  

Magic spells are spells cast by practitioners of the magical (some say dark) arts.   They rely on the knowledge and willpower (or ego) of the mage to interact with the magical essence and flows of the world, and energy from the platonic world of ideals. 
Magical spells are organized into four circles, more or less going from weakest to strongest: cantrips, Dweomers, Sorcery, and Wizardry  Some spells are only included in one circle, others are in all.  When the same spell appears in all four circles, it will generally have different effects depending on the circle it is cast from.  Thus, a wizard casting Curse would specify the circle it is being cast from, for instance, Dweomer.
Note that regardless of such a spell being in multiple circles, each circle variant  is only available to mages with knowledge of the appropriate circle spellcasting skill. 
Thus, a spellcaster can cast bolt, but only using the appropriate spellcasting skill. As a result, a mage may know from one to four versions of bolt, depending entirely upon which of the spellcasting skills he has learned.

Magical Spells:
Circle (Difficulty) and Cost
Cantrip (+0)
Dweomer (-1)
Sorcery (-2)
Wizardry  (-3)
Fey sight
Dimension Door
Light and Dark
Ethereal form
Anti-Magic Shell
Concealment /detection
All seeing eye
Elemental Passage
Gift of tongues
Dispel: Cantrip
Dispel: Dweomer
Dispel: Sorcery
Dispel: Wizardry
Wall :  Night and fog
Wall: Elemental
Wall : Adamant
Hold: Prestidigitation
Hold : Mage’s Hand
Hold: Sorceror’s Reach
Hold: Wizard’s Grasp
Circle : Impediment
Circle : Abjuration
Circle : Protection
Circle :Sanctuary
Curse :Hex
Curse: Burden:
Curse: Malediction

Spells of Multiple Circles

Whereas most spells are distinct and associated with only one circle, several are part of families of related spells spanning multiple circles.    These are noted by sharing a general name: Dispel, Wall, Hold, Circle, Curse

Protective circles
Depending on the casting level, a circle of protection blocks or hinders the indicated type of creature, being or force from crossing the circle, or acting across the circle in any active manner. This would include missile attacks, elemental effects and damaging side effects of blocked creatures, but would not include conversation, or simply having a mind rending appearance. Hindered types must pass a STR test to cross the circle, and take noted damage regardless of success or failure.  Magic spells cast by the indicated type that cross the circle add a -3 difficulty modifier. 

Circle of impediment Blocks non-corporeal beings.  Hinders beings that are strongly good or evil or under enchantment (hidden, charmed), or intend harm to those inside the circle: damage for passing (success or failure) is (effect+1) Duration: IV

Circle of abjuration Hinders undead or summoned creatures, or a specific named person. (“Todd Spengo”) Blocks animals and non sentient creatures. STR test required to pass damage for passing (success or failure) is (effect+1) +d6 Duration: III

Circle of protection Completely blocks elementals, or hinders a class of beings (elves, lizard men, the Dutch). Damage for passing (success or failure) is (effect+1) x 1d6 Duration: II

Circle of sanctuary Blocks Demonic beings, or any hindered at lower casting levels. Duration: I

 Multiple circles can and may need to be drawn; each casting level only applies to one of the stated types of being.

Dispel Magic
These spells can negate any spell within that circle with a duration longer than instant. The difficulty is equal to that of the spell being nullified. To cancel the spell, the dispel roll must be successful, and the final effect must exceed the effect of the target spell.

Mystery spells cannot be dispelled by magical spells.  The Gods don’t take kindly to mortals interfering with their whims.

After the final roll is calculated, the dispeller may increase the effect by expending END according to the above sacrifice table.

If the caster of the target spell is present, he may also attempt to reduce the final effect by expending END as per the above table.  If both opt to do this, each round the two casters bid their expenditure secretly; the final bids are revealed at the end of the round, and the spell is dispelled or not as determined by the final Effect. Each caster takes the appropriate magical damage and applies effects accordingly.

Walls add a -2 additional difficulty modifier to any spells, melee or missile attacks thru them, (-4 if specifically opposed) and block LOS.  Walls also block specific classes of beings or items based on their nature.  Unless otherwise defined, walls are 1' thick, opaque and can be cast as planes or cylinders with outer surface area up to X sq feet. 

Night and fog Blocks LOS; DEX test to avoid falling if passed through. Duration: V

Wind Cancels earth walls; blocks all normal missile attacks, but does not block LOS. Passing thru causes 2+effect d6 damage. Duration: IV

Elemental wall.  Choose one of:     
§         Earth Cancels air walls. Opposes all physical attacks (melee or missile) Passing thru requires a 3d STR test and taking (1+ effect )d6 damage regardless of success or failure Duration: II

§         Ice opposes blasts and fire based effects: Cancels Fire wall.  Passing thru requires a 3d STR test and taking 2+effect d6 damage regardless of success or failure Duration: II

§         Fire cancels darkness spells that overlap, opposes bolts, and ice and cold.  Cancels Ice wall. Passing thru requires a 3d STR test and taking 2+effect d6 damage regardless of success or failure if not. Duration: II             
Wall of Adamant. Choose one of:
§         Stone is a physical masonry wall, 2' thick.  It has no magical properties or auras, and resists any attack, spell or attempt to cross as an equivalent normal wall would.  It does not cancel or become canceled by other walls. At the end of the spell, it disappears. Duration: IV

§         Phlogiston:  treat as a stone wall that is invisible and also affects non corporeal beings or objects. Duration: III

Prestidigitation, Greater and Lesser Mage Hand, and Invisible Servant
These spell allows the mage to manipulate move and generally affect objects without actual physical contact.  Essentially, it creates an immaterial and invisible tentacle emanating from the mages body, with a normal human hand on the end.  Its length range and lifting capacity is dependent on effect.  The spell acts as if it is a material object with regards to intervening objects (i.e. it must reach around over or under, not through any blocking object).  May only affect material objects.  Attempting to use a skill via this spell (such as using a sword) are allowed but at -2 due to general unfamiliarity.

Prestidigitation Range: (effect +1) x d6 inches Weight: (effect+1) ounces. Duration: IV

Lesser mage Hand Range: (effect+1) feet, Weight: (effect+1) pounds Duration: II

Greater Mage Hand Range: (effect+1) yards Weight: (effect+1) stone Duration: I

Wizards reach (effect +1) x d6 yards Weight: (effect+1) hundredweight Duration: (effect+1) seconds

Range: within hearing, and LOS.
Duration: based on circle
Test to avoid:  3d vs. INT to for no effect
Curse is the basic  means by which magical spellcasters harm others.  When successfully cast, allocate effect points to duration and result.  Note that once successfully cast,

Range LOS + hearing
Duration: Table IV
Tagrets: Table I
Adds a negative DM to the target or targets next roll.  Allocate effect points to the result (negative DM for the duration or until dispelled .

Range LOS + hearing
Duration: Table V
Targets: Table I
Caster can sacrifice End for effect.
Reduce  a targets skill by the spells effect/2  (minimum 1) on all uses for the duration or until dispelled.   

Range LOS + hearing
Duration: Table VI
Targets: Table III
Caster can sacrifice End for effect.
Reduces a specific physical stat (STR, DEX or END) by the effect, to a minimum of 1 for the duration or until dispelled
Caster can sacrifice End for effect.
Casting this spell at more than one  target makes it HIGH RISK.

Range LOS + hearing
One of two effects: Trial effecting a single target, or Tribulation effecting (potentially) many targets.

Trial: Imposes  a negative DM equal to effect  all rolls the target attempts for duration or until dispelled.
Duration: Table VI, Targets  1.  Caster can sacrifice End for effect.

Tribulation  HIGH RISK This acts as Burden, except that the caster may allocate points on  target table VII, Caster can sacrifice End for effect.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Aventurer: Spells and Spellcasting preview

To keep things moving along, I'm going to post sections of the next book I'm working on (Sorcery and Supercience) every so often .  First up: Spellcasting rules (actual spell lists later)!

Spells and Spell casting

In Adventurer, spells are specific things that are summoned and controlled, and used instrumentally.   They may be the invocation of strange spirits, constrained demons, or perhaps localized pocket universes. They are NOT innate powers of a spellcaster; rather, the spellcaster summons and controls the spell.  In short, the spell, not the spellcaster creates the effect.

Training in spellcasting involves mastering the creation of spells and the proper operation thereof.  This involves the use of mystical and rare components, specific arcane gestures, phrases as well as precise timing, and astrological concordance, to name but a few components. The spell is thus created, which takes up residence within the spellcaster, to be expelled (cast) at will.  Casters vary in their ability to contain spells, and all spells fade out after about one day if unused.

Spells then, operate very much like modern rounds in a weapon, which must be obtained, preloaded and specified as to type.  Similarly, once fired, spells are gone. Unlike a revolver (for instance), spells can be fired in any order, can be of various sizes and power, and a given chamber in the cylinder cannot be reloaded in any given day. Spells are bullets, the caster is the gun.

There are two basic varieties of spells:  Magical and Spiritual spells. While the procedure to use a spellcasting skill is the same for both, the need for preparation, the costs of success, and consequences of failure are very different.

Magical spellcasting skills are regular skills that allow a caster to use his willpower and secret knowledge combined with his physical and mental strength craft to specific magical spells.  Spiritual spells are those cast by priests, using the power of their deity and the casters faith and are thus differ from magical (Gnostic or Goetic) spells in important ways.

Spellcasting procedure

A Magical spellcaster prepares spells at the start of the day and must preallocate all spells to be cast during the day. 
  • A spellcaster must preallocate all spells to be cast during the day.
  • Spell capacity in any given day is determined by the casters intelligence and skill.
  • Spell capacity is equal to or less than 1/2 INT * the highest level of any one spellcasting skill
A spiritual spellcaster may cast any spell he has access to without prior preparation, and may continue casting until he fails, at which point spellcasting abilities are lost until a day and a night have passed.

Xylarthen, now a spellcaster with INT 10, and Cantrip -3 Sorcery -1 Necromancy -2 can choose up to 15 points of spells per day. (10/2 * (Cantrip) 3)
Note that the actual spells chosen are not limited by the specific skill used as multiplier.

 Spell Casting Procedure
Difficulty and cost
All magical and spiritual spells have a difficulty based on their overall power.  The difficulty of a spell is based on the spellcasting skill and generally maps the relative power and difficulty of the spells associated with said skill. The difficulty is always applied as a DM to any attempt to use that skill.  This is found in the spell listing table as appropriate.

Magical spells (only) also have a cost. Cost determines how much of a spell caster’s capacity is used by memorizing it, and the physical toll of the casting. The basic cost for casting a spell is subtracted as physical damage, and this occurs regardless of success or failure.  Where a spell allows optional costs to be paid, these are only applied if the spell succeeds.  
Spiritual spells only have difficulty . There is no cost to cast spiritual spells successfully.

Casting a spell is a standard skill use. Apply the difficulty of the spell type (if appropriate) , and the level of the appropriate spell casting skill, plus or minus optional or situational modifiers; throw 8+ for success.

There are no automatic success or failure rolls in magical casting.  However, if the dice result is a natural 2,  apply unexpected consequences in addition to costs for success regardless of whether or not the spell roll is successful.   This doubles the cost for a magical spell, and explicitly applies to high risk spells.

Unexpected Consequences
Magical Spell
·         If the spell fails, any associated cost is still paid. if a  HIGH RISK SPELL is attempted, addition and terrible consequences occur.
·         If successful, determine  the effect of the spell, and  apply this as physical damage (in addition to the cost)

spiritual spell
·         If the spell  fails, the caster may not use any more spiritual spells until a day and a night have passed.
·         If it succeeds, determine effect as normal, but apply this as physical damage.

High risk failures
Certain spells of both magical and spiritual origins are designated as high risk.  These are spells of great power that channel particularly corrupt, unspeakable or dangerous forms of magic.  In game terms, these are the dam-buster spells, and in most S&S genres, are terribly dangerous for the caster –which is why the caster doesn’t use them to solve all problems.

Terrible Consequences
If it is a HIGH RISK spell the caster dakes 1d6x1d6 points of damage in addition to the cost, and the lower of the two dice is compared to table V to determine  for how long spellcasting ability is lost.
On a roll of 1 on a d6, additionally, the spell effects or is centered on the caster, not the target.

When a spellcasting roll is successful, the spell is cast with the rolled effect.  This will define much of how the spell manifests.

Many spells, especially spiritual spells, allow the caster to sacrifice Physical points to increase the effect of a successful casting.  Note that unless specified otherwise, this only applies to the effect of a successful casting; points may not be spent to modify the roll for success.

Use the following table to determine the effect increase.

END points sacrificed

Any sacrifice is made after the roll is finalized and the additional modifier is included for all final effect calculations.

Spellcasting damage due to cost or sacrifice
 Damage incurred due to spellcasting costs is treated as if it were damage for all purposes except recovery unless otherwise noted. All damage due to spellcasting is recovered after a nights sleep. 

Note that this is not the same as exhaustion or actual damage, and cannot be recovered by spells, potions or any other effect that allow recovery of exhaustion or physical damage.  Only a spell, potion or artifact that explicitly affects spellcasting costs can be used to recover such points, and they should be very rare and costly to use. 

Several additional modifications to the procedure occur when casting spells in combat.  These apply to when the spell is cast, reacting to spells, taking damage while casting, and aborting spells.  They are discussed in detail in the combat section, under the action option of Spellcasting.

For purposes of damage due to spell casting (only), apply the following effects rather than the normal damage rules.
When END is reduced to zero or less the caster falls unconscious (as per combat) and excess damage is allocated to another stat. 
If both END and a second stat are reduced to zero by the same spell, the caster dies.  Otherwise, the damage becomes real, and requires normal healing.  If all three are reduced to zero, the caster die
Note that the sacrifice rule can explicitly allow the caster to kill himself to increase effect.  If so, the spell takes place, and the caster survives to see the final result, either mocking the victims or decrying his fate, as required.

In many spells, given a successful casting, a caster is allowed to allocate the effect points to variables such as range, targets and damage.  Range and damage are generally a direct relationship, and noted in the description.

Duration is generally determined by referencing the effect allocated with the duration type of the spell (I through VII) on the Duration table.  Spells not using the Duration table will be specifically identified.  Typically they are spells that have an instant and non-lingering magical effect, although the physical consequences may linger on.
The default duration is instant.

Targets are the number of things (loosely defined as beings or items)  that the spell takes effect upon. The final number is determined by referencing the final allocated effect on the appropriate column of the targets table.
The default for targets is 1.

Duration I
Duration II
Duration III
Duration IV
Duration V
Duration VI
Duration VII
1 round***
1 Minutes
1 Turn**
1 Hour
Half day*
2 rounds
2 Minutes
2 Turns
2 Hours
1 Day
3 rounds
4 Minutes
3 Turns
3 Hours
2 Days
5 rounds
8 Minutes
5 Turns
5 Hours
4 days
8 rounds
16 Minutes
8 Turns
8 Hours
12 rounds
32 Minutes
12 Turns
12 Hours
6 +
18 rounds
1 hour
18  Turns
1 day

* Sunrise to sunset, or vice versa.
** Whatever the basic movement turn is: 10 minutes, six minutes etc  
*** Whatever the basic combat round is: 10 seconds, 6 seconds, etc

Targets I
Targets II
Targets III
Targets IV
Targets V
Targets VI






6 +

Avoiding or Reducing Spell Effects
Many spells can be negated or partially avoided by an effort of will, an indomitable intellect, or simply fast reflexes.  Spells which can be avoided or reduced are noted as such. Typically, the roll will be described as a test vs. a stat, attempting to roll a total under the stat in question.   In some cases, a skill may be used, in which case it is added to the stat, rather than the roll.  If successful, the spell will have no or reduced effect for the being in question.  Any being effected by such a spell, whether by direct targeting, or being within the area of effect, may attempt the test. If the test fails, the spell takes full effect.  If an individuals test is successful, the spell is cast, but negated
or reduced for that specific target.

Learning New Spells.

A spellcaster only learns new spells if a spellcasting skill is increased or added. With each receipt of a spellcasting skill a character may choose a set number of spells from the appropriate list equal to INT -6. Each receipt of a spellcasting skill allows choice of another set of spells. If the level is gained in the career resolution, then the player simply picks the appropriate number of spells. Similalry, if the character has increased an existing spellcasting skill, or gained a new one, he becoems eligible for new spells once the skill is permanently increased.  No further spell roll is required, but learning each spell does take take a number of days  equal to  the spells cost +2. Too, the spells must be found or available in sancient magical  tomes and scrolls.  If such resources are not available, the time required is in weeks, instead of days, as the spellcaster develops them from first principles. 
Note that there is no bonus for choosing or learning  the same spell twice.  So don’t.  I tried to have one, and it breaks things.

Note that when spiritual spellcasters gain new spellcasting levels, they gain new spells automatically, with no learning period.

Xylarthen the moderately Bright is a magic User with an INT of 10.  When he first receives the skill Cantrip, he has the spellcasting skill Cantrip -1 and selects 4 spells (INT -6) from the Cantrip list: Detect magic, Hold Portal, Light and Magic Missile.  If he gains Cantrip again, he has Cantrip -2 and chooses 4 more spells: Shield, Locate Object, Knock and Levitate