Archive for the ‘Eberron’ Tag

The Fate Roll: Handling Initiative In A Split Party   1 comment

I had a curious situation this last Tuesday: I had a 3.5 gaming group where nearly every player had a character who would be in an entirely different place, doing different (though related) things at the same time.  I wasn’t sure how best to handle this… my instinct said that they should just roll initiative, but initiative wasn’t really a good story-excuse for ordering; initiative is about who can get the upper hand, about who’s faster, and about who’s wily enough to get the drop on other people.  And I didn’t want to just make it a “roll off” where everyone rolled a d20 and the number on the die was your order; one of the subtle brilliances of initiative is that it has an automatic tie-breaker, wherein those who get the same “score” can still check sheets and determine that even in a tie, one player would logically be faster than the other (though this can still lead to more ties, causing a roll-off, but that only has about a 1 in 400 chance of occurring, and then only between characters with identical Dexterity scores.)  So I wanted a Dexterity tie breaker, even though Dexterity was pointless.  Clearly I needed another stat… but all the stats were seemingly useless.

Enter the Fate Roll.  Borrowing some ideas from a few different games, I had the players add their Wisdom and Charisma scores together and divide by 2.  Wisdom tends to model your awareness of the world around you, and Charisma tends to model your self-assertion within that world, so it seemed logical that those two things might be related to a character’s ability to manipulate their own fate or destiny or what have you.  (This was probably way too much math to demand of my players; going with a Wisdom or Charisma score was probably enough, but dangit once I was committed to the idea I was gonna do it, no matter how many players had to double check what I was asking.)  This number would then be rounded down to derive a “Fate Score”, a sort of seventh ability score that could represent Luck or Fate or whatever.  Then a simple roll off to determine order of group.

As it turned out, the order was a decent one.  Everyone only had two “turns” for the entire session, but each turn represented an hour of in-game work.  In the current game, I’ve set things in Eberron and I’m using the Alabaster Cup tournament as presented in the book Complete Warrior.  It’s set in Karrnath, and many of the players joined the tournament while a few others chose not to.  The previous events have included Archery, an Obstacle Course, Wrestling, and Jousting, and the players have been trying to keep the campaign’s villain from winning the tournament since (in my version of the tournament) the winner has historically been able to ask for a “reasonable favor” from the monarch of whatever nation the tournament is held within.

All of those previous events, as you can probably imagine, didn’t really require much of a change to the order; people either did things at the same time (like in the archery tournament), in a turn-based fashion (such as the obstacle course), or they were randomly assigned placement in a bracket (like in wrestling or jousting.)  Hunting is the next stage, though.

One of the real benefits of doing it this way is that I was able to involve the players who weren’t in the tournament, who have been good sports the last few session while the action hasn’t really focused on their characters.  I grouped them together as a sort of security detail to watch the forest, and I’ve had them work as a group to discover an ominous figure who they know to be working with the campaign’s villain, apparently working with rival packs of Winter Wolves and Worgs.  They don’t know the reasons why,  yet, and they opted not to attack the figure in the forest or his wolves, but they were able to advance the story itself rather than wait for the other players to “be done” with their hunting.

Anyway… this in’t a hug revelation, and it could have been handled in a fashion as easy as me saying “Okay guys, we’re gonna go around the table from me, clockwise, to figure out what order you go in” but I liked having an actual reason. for it.  Take care, all!

Magical Mondays: Zombie Robots?!   Leave a comment

Five Nights

This week’s Magical Mondays is late because I’m under the weather. It’s a horrible thing, really, being sick. I’m shambling about, moaning and seeking out the brains of the living. And speaking of symptoms of the common cold, let’s talk a little bit about the undead. Specifically, undead and machines.

I’ve been playing a lot of Five Nights at Freddy’s lately, and there’s a lot of talk among its fandom about the nature of the game’s antagonists. In the first game, there are strong (and practically creator-confirmed) suggestions that the animatronics are possessed or haunted in some way, possibly by the ghosts of children. The most grisly of possible interpretations of the game is that the children were murdered and their bodies were hidden in the animatronics, who then gained some sort of hatred of security guards. The sequel introduces more animatronics… but some people are a little less certain that the new animatronics are possessed as well. Sure, the Marionette might be, but what about Toy Chica and Balloon Boy?

The other fun thing about the sequel is that the animatronics from the original game are there, but they’re in a state of so much disrepair that they look frightening. The classic Bonnie is basically an empty, face-less shell that wanders the pizzeria, its metal exoskeleton and exposed endoskeleton giving it an almost hooded “grim reaper” appearance whenever it arrives in your office (as it certainly will), and the classic Chica has been stretched and restructured to the point that she looks like some sort of terrifying scarecrow monster. As game designers, it’s good to ask ourselves about what these monsters represent. They’re broken down robots who’ve had murdered, likely angry victims in them. Are they crazy robots who keep malfunctioning? Are they angry spirits haunting robots to seek vengeance? Are they a new form of life, like Frankenstein’s Monster? For story purposes, does it matter? I think it’s important for the game master to know for sure, of course, but… will the players notice or care? If you want to introduce something like that to your games, how would you handle it? Let’s spin this from a hypothetical gaming scenario, to a real gaming scenario that’s come up:

Warforged Titan

A really interesting conversation happened on the Giant in the Playground’s 3.5/Pathfinder forums when someone asked if a necromancer could raise constructs from the dead. The basic answer was no, but the question of living constructs was brought up and instantly divided people into a number of camps. There were those who said absolutely not, those who said of course they can… and among those who thought it was theoretically possible, the question of methodology came into play. Can the spell Animate Dead do it? Do the Warforged of Eberron, by far the most well known Living Constructs, qualify as having “corpses” when they die? If they have corpses, do they have “skeletal structures” required for becoming skeletons or zombies? A lot of good questions were raised.

As you can probably expect if you’ve read most of my Magical Mondays posts, the camp I favored was the one that suggested “just going for it” if a GM had a good story in mind that required undead Warforged, and most of the friends that I told about the argument agreed with that. One of my friends, though, brought forth a story-based concern: one of the fundamental aspects of a player playing a Warforged is that it’s a creature that, according to basic Eberron lore, doesn’t appear as an undead. A player is, effectively, “safe” from zombification or becoming a wight if they choose to be a Warforged, and trying to find a good reason to introduce undeath to living constructs can cheapen a player’s choice to play as a member of the Warforged race. It’s a reason based on personal preference, sure, but it’s a personal preference that can make a player regret certain choices, much like how I felt cheated when I learned that most popular fairy tale potions couldn’t be made with the Brew Potion feat. I pointed out that I’d never use undeath on a player of a Warforged, of course, and that I’d have it be some plot driven device (such as a rare schema or eldritch machine that a mad wizard was using to see if immortality as a construct could be obtained by using undeath as a doorway to being a living construct.) So, I maintain that it’s good to have these stories, but my friend’s point stands: do we risk cheapening the experiences of a player by introducing this possibility? We might, and that’s a risk that a GM should be aware of before introducing their robot ninja zombie pirates.

As the argument continued in the Giant in the Playground forums, someone eventually pointed out that an Eberron book introduced a from of “sort of” undead creatures called Woeforged, that are “sort of” undead the same way that Warforged are “sort of” alive. Looking like rusted and erroded imitations of their Warforged bretheren, this is apparently a secret that the Necromancers of Karrnath keep to themselves. They originally assumed that they were some new faction that The Lord of Blades was working on, but… it’s hard to say for sure since their existence seems to fall outside of The Lord of Blades’ MO. They’ve only been encountered in the Mournlands (naturally), and it’s hard to say what sort of things might’ve happened there.

Some people argued that this was a definitive sign that undead Warforged could exist, something that opposed specific wording in other Eberron books that opposed this concept, but others pointed out that the description of the Warforged merely called them “sort of” undead, and that they reacted positively to negative energy. This could very easily just be a case of a Warforged taking the Tomb Tainted Soul feat, a feat that allows a person to gain benefits from negative energy and be harmed by positive energy (in fact, apart from the fact that these Warforged seemed to be unusually rusty and broken down, that feat would explain everything.

The argument is still going, and will likely taper off without one side getting a definitive answer, but the question of the Woeforged’s nature persisted. I joked that I was tempted to make several stat blocks for Woeforged that were identical except for their creature type (and suggested a new creature type, “Reanimated Construct”) and was surprised to see someone post interest in it.

I’ve not made stats for Woeforged yet… something I’m tempted to do… but I *have* made a template for Woeforged that people can use in a pinch. I want to point out that I have no legal claim to D&D, Eberron, Warforged, or Woeforged and if Wizards of the Coast ever want to make their own then that’s definitely the stat to use (also, I’m not an expert at making stat blocks; while it’s true that I do a lot of homebrewing, I generally just do enough for the purposes of my own games.) However, feel free to use this, such as it is, for whatever purposes you wish:

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“Woeforged” is an acquired template that can be added to any Living Construct referred to as a Warforged in its stat block or description, or any Construct referred to as a Warforged in its stat block or description (referred to hereafter as the base creature.) A Woeforged has all the base creature’s statistics except as noted here.

Size and Type: The base creature’s size is unchanged. The base creature’s type is honestly up in the air, but feel free to pick from Undead, Construct (Reanimated Construct), Construct (Living Construct), Construct, Undead (Augmented Construct), Construct (Augmented Construct (Living Construct)), Outsider (Native), or Aberration.

Armor Class: The base creature gains a bonus to its natural armor class as if it was a zombie.

Special Qualities: A Woeforged retains all of the base creature’s special qualities, and gains those described below:

Undead Traits: Sure, why not? If nothing else, it loses its Constitution score.

Erroded Soul (Ex): A Woeforged gains an immunity to all mind-affecting effects and any effect that requires a Fortitude save unless that effect would work on objects or is otherwise harmless. It gains bonus hit points as if it were a construct of the appropriate size, and becomes disabled when it reaches zero hit points. Unlike a construct or undead, it isn’t destroyed until it drops to -10 hit points.

Unholy Fortification (Su): A Woeforged is more closely tied to its physical structure, and gains an immunity to cold damage, such as from Chill Metal. However, the unholy energy lingering within it means that it is subject to turning damage… usually. When subjected to a turning effect, there is a 25% chance that no turning damage occurs. If a turning check is successful and would destroy the Woeforged, it is instead reduced to zero hit points and it becomes inert until it gains more hit points.

Sort-Of Undead (Ex): The Woeforged is treated as undead for all spells that harm the living but hurt undead. However, it takes half as much benefit as an undead creature truly would. (As such, an Inflict Light Wounds spell only heals half of its damage.)

Abilities: As noted above, the Woeforged loses its Constitution score. If the base creature has class levels, the Woeforged’s Intelligence is unchanged; otherwise, it is mindless and loses its Intelligence score. (Unless you want a ravenous pack of wild monsters or something, then go ahead and make it mindless even if it has class levels. Knock yourself out, kiddo.)

Feats: If you’ve chosen not to change the creature’s type and think the entire concept of the Woeforged just makes more sense if a Warforged has the Tomb-Tainted Soul feat, give it to them as a bonus feat, though the changes from Sort-Of Undead override any benefit of this feat. However, the Woeforged can still qualify for any other feats or prestige classes that require Tomb-Tainted Soul as a prerequisite if you go this route.

Challenge Rating: Increase the base creature’s challenge rating by… oh… let’s say… 1.

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Now, again, this is a really general thing, and it’s just something off the top of my head. One thing I regret is that I didn’t put in any custom abilities, something like the wight’s ability to create more wights by killing them, a ghost’s ability to possess things or walk through walls, or a vampire’s ability to mesmerize with a glare. It’d be nice to have some sort of unholy ability that might seem horrifying to constructs but might be less so to humanoids. If (and when) I ever unleash this in an Eberron game, I’d probably try to make each Woeforged a custom entity.

As for its creature type… who can say? I had a specific creature in mind for each of the creature types I suggested, one who’s origins reminded me of the Warforged in one way or another (the Outsider (Native), for instance, is justified by the Dwarvish Ancestor monster, a sort of living statue that’s possessed by the spirit of an ancient dwarf hero, something that might fit if the Woeforged are made by calling the spirits of fallen Warforged from Mabar to reinhabit their bodies.) Ultimately, I’d have to wait to see the story before I made the final stats.

Hey, if not all demons are outsiders, not all hags are monstrous humanoids and not all Nagas are aberrations, we really do need to look at what the creature’s origin and purpose turns out to be. That’s all for this week’s Magical Mondays, and I’ll see you next time!

Magical Mondays: Magical Contracts   Leave a comment

Little Mermaid Contract

It may not be fitting with a Halloween theme per se… who thinks of legalese when thinking of spooky ghosts and goblins, after all?… but there’s something decidedly sinister about a magically binding contract.  A deal with the devil, whether literal or metaphorical, is one of the most terrible things to have hanging over the heads of a player.  Some of the terror of such a contract may come from it being a little “too close for comfort” for some people… in real life, there are many people who have contractual obligations that seem to haunt them forever… and as such, the issues involved with these kinds of things might not always be fun for players.  So, I’d advise caution here before unleashing it on players.

However, if you know your audience… or if you’re just interested in giving some new options to legally minded PCs… feel free to use some magical contracts in your game.  I’ll begin with a talk about the form that these contract stories take, and conclude with a few d20 appropriate rules and suggestions for using them in your own game.

Let's Make A Deal

1) Making the Offer

The first step is, of course, someone offering a deal.  A magical contract doesn’t have to be nefarious, but the suggestion is that it usually is.  If you’re looking for a good story hook, remember that old business standard: you have to give something to get something.  And it can’t be something unrealistic.  Asking a player to be a traitor to their party won’t work (well… unless you’ve got one of those players…), and you’re less likely to get a paladin or cleric to turn from their deity (doing so is good for showmanship’s sake, but generally that’s going to be a different kind of story where the focus is on perseverance rather than on temptation).  It also doesn’t have to be a literal devil… a nefarious wizard or even a shrewd merchant with access to the supplies required to make a magical contract can play the part quite well.  (The latter option is great if you want to make player’s wonder if someone might be supernatural without ever confirming it.)

Here’s a story pattern for how to present a contact in this fashion: first, have the offer made.  Definitely make it be a rewarding thing to accept, even if you know that the player won’t sign it (and if they will, that’s great.)  Have the deal offerer depart, and offer the deal perhaps once more, again expecting it to be denied.  Finally, have a completely unrelated disaster or threat arrive.  Make doom absolutely certain… and then have the deal maker appear again to save the day, in exchange for acceptance of the agreement as written.  It may be tempting to pull a Darth Vader here and let them know that the agreement has been modified, but I don’t recommend it most of the time; the players will already feel hedged in enough.  For a fantastic example of this, I recommend watching the third season of Community.  The trope is a bit cliched, but Community managed to execute it flawlessly.

Discworld Eric

2) The Terms

Next, the terms of the agreement can come into play.  This is the part where the character can reap the benefits (and likely experience the downsides) of the deal.  Not much to say here, except I recommend that as a GM you have whoever offered the deal be reasonable about the interpretation of the terms of the contract.  For starters, you don’t want to get into a semantics debate with a PC, it’ll eventually break character.  Second, it’ll remove this figure’s credibility if you ever need a scenario like this to play out again.

The simplest way to do this involves a magical compulsion effect.  Something like the Lesser Geas spell if you’re playing D&D or Pathfinder might work, but it doesn’t need to be limited to that.  Players might find themselves carrying out actions as specified without much idea about why if they didn’t read the contract carefully enough.  If you wish to treat this like a spell effect and the question of saves comes up, point out that a saving throw is something that a player can always choose to fail.  If the players still ask about it, smile like the shrewd manipulator you are and ask them what they thought was happening when they signed the contract.  Effectively, they chose to fail this particular save when the contract was signed.

Escape Clause

3) The Escape Clause and/or Unfortunate Ramifications

Generally, don’t make this situation last more than a few sessions.  Have terms of contract completion or an escape clause that the players can remember, discover, or encounter.  Alternatively, very powerful magic might be able to break the contract, but… in the words of Ursula, the contract should be “legal, binding, and completely unbreakable.”

There’s no in-rules reason for why a Lesser Wish or Miracle couldn’t dispel this… so if the players dedicate a good amount of energy to acquiring such means let ’em have it… but that kind of thing can go outside the spirit of the story.  Whatever you do, though, don’t keep the player in an uncomfortable situation for too long.  They’re playing a game, after all, and shouldn’t have to stress over things like that.

Deal Or No Deal

Ultimately, this kind of story’ll be a lot of work.  Remember, though, that the players should either have a way out of the contract to work toward, or a way of fulfilling the contract.  And, of course, the other party of the contract should have to keep their end of the agreement as well…

Now then, there are three ways to present a magical contract like this: a spell, a magical parchment, or magical ink.  I don’t recommend letting players have a Magical Contract spell, but for the purposes of players dispelling a casting of it you can treat it as if it’s a third level spell.  Also, the spell only really works with the willing consent of the target, and probably requires a handshake (or at least participation from the one agreeing to the contract.)  Basically, you can’t trick someone into a magical contract (though they needn’t know that it’s magical.)

If you’re using Magical Parchment or Magical Ink for the purposes of a Magical Contract, I recommend using an Alchemical Secret.  And this is something that a player can use (as opposed to spells, which can be cast frequently.)  Here are the stats I’d use:

Indenture Sanguineous
CL
 5th
Price 3000 gp
Description
This Alchemical Secret allows for the creation of Magical Contracts.  By infusing ink with your own blood, you can either create vials of ink or contracts that are magically binding.  A standard Indenture Sanguineous bears a market cost of two third level potions with a twenty percent discount (2 X 3rd level spell X CL 5 X 50 = 1500 gp, 1500 – 300 =1200 gp).  Generally, there is little difference between creating a contract or having a vial for the sake of making a contract.  However, a vial allows you to sign a regular contract and turn it into an Indenture Sanguineous (using up one tenth of the vial’s contents and preventing the vial from being used to draft an entire contract.)  If you create an Indenture Sanguineous as a vial of ink, you need the Brew Potion feat.  If you create an Indenture Sanguineous as a contract, you require the Scribe Scroll feat.  If either party violates the terms of the contract, they will either receive the effect of a Lesser Geas spell (no save) until they work to complete it, or must immediately fulfill the terms of the contract (as if under the effect of a Dominate Monster effect (no save)).  If the effect cannot be completed, the effect resolves itself over a number of days as with a Lesser Geas spell (CL equal to that of the contract.)  Whether in Ink or Contract form, an Indenture Sanguineous may either generate an Enchantment or Necromancy aura, depending on the methods used by the caster (worked out by the Player and GM.)
Construction Requirements Brew Potion, Craft (Alchemy) 5 ranks, Spellcraft 5 ranks, and either Profession (Scribe) or Profession (Barrister) 5 ranks.  Crafter must succeed at a DC 28 Craft (Alchemy) check to learn this secret, using the standard rules for item crafting.
Cost 1000 gp for raw materials; replaces 3rd level spell known
Failure Chance 5%

Alternate Lore: As always, I suggest that a GM consider lesser known applications of Alchemical Secrets.  For instance, I might allow a more powerful version of this to act like a 5th level spell with a caster level of 9 to replace the Lesser Geas spell with a Dominate effect (no save).  A GM should carefully weigh the potential issues of this (or other) new use for the Secret.  (And remember, using a 5th level spell would require another Alchemical Secret to allow brewing 5th level (Epsilon Tier) potions.)

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I recommend going back to the Alchemical Secrets article to remind yourself about how they work, but for a quick refresher: these are things that you can craft to learn.  Wizards add them to their spellbooks, while spontaneous arcane casters have the secrets replace a known spell (which is why the secrets have spell levels, representing the level of “effective spell” they take up in terms of spells known or book space.).  I don’t have a good rule for divine casters who use them yet, but lately I’ve been leaning toward having divine casters with access to their entire list at a time as requiring extra spell slots to cast them (I’ll get back to you on that.) Basically, a result of successfully crafting the secret is gained knowledge rather than gaining an item.  Wizard’s get the secret added to their spell books, making them most convenient for that class.  However, once a person has completed crafting, they must roll a percentile die.  If they don’t roll higher than the percentile, then their attempt to learn the secret has failed and the materials are wasted (but no spells are lost to spontaneous casters if this happens.)

Also?  I just want to say that I’ve never used this Alchemical Secret with any Gnomes of House Sivis in Eberron, but man that’d be awesome.

Anyway, that’s all for this week’s Magical Mondays.  Come back next week when I’ll conclude our Month of Creepy Topics with (unless I lose track of the time) a few suggestions for a magical, Halloween capable adventure.

Magical Mondays: Branding the Brew (and Beyond)   Leave a comment

Potions

In this week’s Magical Mondays, I’d like to ask how you differentiate the mechanical terms for items within the story.  If you’re playing a D&D or Pathfinder game, you almost certainly know what you mean by a “+2 Sword”, or a “Cure Light Potion”.  And your players obviously know enough to be able to buy these things, or identify them as such when discovered using skills, abilities, spells or paying other people to figure it out.  It’s pretty obvious that your characters don’t say “I’m tired of my sword being a +1 sword… time to make it a +2 sword!”  We don’t really have any pointers for what your characters might say, though… it’s glossed over in the rules, and it’s glossed over by most players and game masters.

This is fine.  You don’t need to know every detail of a fantasy world, there comes a point where too much information can stop the game from being fun.  However… if you’re looking for a good way of making the world feel more magical, this is the kind of gap in the world’s lore discussion that you can exploit.  And one of the easiest ways to exploit them?  Brand it.

potion store

Branding Potions

Potions will be our first stop, because potions are one of the most frequently purchased items for small parties (ignoring the argument among optimizers about what the most efficient method for healing is.)  It can be assumed that spells really do have names like “Cure Light Wounds” or “Cure Serious Wounds”, but even among those spell names there can be variation.  What makes Cure Light Wounds different for first level potions and fifth level potions?  Here’s a few different options.

Borvo’s Spring           Cures 1d8+1 points of damage, 50 gold.  Made from holy water drawn from enchanted springs.
Medicine By Minerva Cures 1d8+2 points of damage, 100 gold.  Brewed overnight with a special blend of rare herbs.
Healer’s Delight          Cures 1d8+3 points of damage, 150 gold.  A simple mixture, seen as the industry standard.
Soldier’s Courage      Cures 1d8+4 points of damage, 200 gold.  Military grade health, made by clerics of deities of war.
Macheon’s Mixture    Cures 1d8+5 points of damage, 250 gold.  A very rare mix, made by the master healer Macheon.
Bitjet’s Blood             Cures 1d8+1 points of damage, and delays poisonous effects for one hour.  175 gold.  Made from the blood of a primal type of monstrous scorpion, very rare.

Note that the Bitjet’s Blood potion actually has two spell effects.  I get the price from first calculating the full price of the second level spell, and then fifty percent more than the first level spell (both spells cast with a caster level of one in this case.)  The effects of these different potion names can be deduced with a DC 15 Knowledge (Arcana) check or a DC 10 Bardic Knowledge check if the potions are labelled.  Now, in a fantasy setting like Greyhawk or Faerun, massive chains of stores selling one “brand” of potion aren’t very common, so the odds of finding a bottle of Borvo’s Spring when you’re on the other side of the continent from where the adventure started are slim.  To identify potions from their brand names in a region you don’t travel to often, increase the DC by 2.  To identify potions in this way in a land with an incredibly different culture (such as medieval England-ish characters going on adventures in lands like Russia, Africa or Australia) increase the DC by 5.  (At a certain point, it may be easier to just identify the potion through traditional means.)

Don’t think that you need to create a potion for every possible caster level gradient, either.  The Jump spell, for instance, effectively has three different tiers of power.  At first level, it grants a +10 bonus on Jump checks (or on Acrobatics checks in Pathfinder), while at fifth level it grants a +20 bonus and at ninth level it grants a +30 bonus.  Theoretically, a sixth level version of a Jump potion is better than a fifth level version because it will last six minutes instead of five (and because it’ll be incrementally more difficult to dispel), but all you really need are those three tiers for the Jump spell in a standard Magic Shoppe.  I mean, is it really worth fifty more pieces of gold for just one more minute of having a +20 bonus to jumping?  Maybe in some very particular cases, but for the most part an extra minute here or there won’t make too much of a difference.

(This isn’t truly necessary for the rest of the article, but it’s a quick thought.  People curious about the economics of games like D&D may appreciate the opportunity for capitalistic greed in a case like this.  An unscrupulous 7th level caster could sell a potion at the 5th level cost and still make a profit.  In an economically driven campaign setting like, say, Eberron, a game where item recognition and brand naming *does* come up a lot, this could be used unscrupulously.  A merchant could sell “superior” Jump potions for 250 gp when it costs 175 to make instead of the standard 125 to make.  It’s a smaller profit margin that gets more favoritism from the public, forcing the other potion maker to either reduce price, close up shop, or find a way to get a higher caster level for the Jump spells.  This kind of economic research isn’t usually in the scope of D&D games, but for a mystery setting there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes number crunching that could lead to intriguing situations.)

sword in the stone

Branding Weapons

So, what’s the difference between a +4 weapon and a +1 weapon?  (3, of course, but that’s a joke for another forum.)  The quick answer is that the better swords will look, well… better.  Knowledge (Arcana) checks are still useful, of course, but this may be an area where wizards with Knowledge (History) will pay off.  First of all, that sort of check may help someone to recognize a sword by its maker.  The legendary Ulfberht swords may be all the rage in one land, while Masamune swords will be the toast of the town in another.  It’s kind of like saying that a violin was made by Stradivarius; it might not be magical, but you know that you’re holding something special.  If you have a good name for the weapon maker (be it Lunarin the elfish axe smith, or Hrothgimar the dwarfish sword maker), you’re going to start off with the knowledge that it’s going to mean something to the players.  After that, descriptions of what was done to it can help a lot.

This is admittedly harder since brand-name recognition makes even less sense for the exact nature of a sword… you might know Hrothgimar as a sword designer, but how do you tell his +1 weapons from his +5s?  For this, you’ll need to get creative.  One method I might use would be to describe things in increasing scarcity.  A particular sword maker may always use the position of the Moon to help him make swords, so the +1 items might be made with lunar effects that happen every year, while +5 items might require special eclipses that only happen once every five years.  A “Five Year Blade” sounds more impressive than a “Plus Five”, in my opinion.  If you want a way to describe these items other than with mechanical terms but still want a shorthand for it, you could come up with a progression description (a “Tier Four” sword, or a “Delta Sword” would both describe +4 swords, for instance.)

fantasma magic kit

Branding Sundry Items

The basic suggestions we’ve started working with can help for anything where a player is trying to determine the distinct differences between magic items that generate the same magical effect.  If you have it in your campaign world’s backstory that giants made better time travel devices than elves, then perhaps your bard or wizard will know that the elfin-craft silver hourglass of finely ground sand of purest white will actually have a lower caster level than the oversized, hard to carry hourglass made of coarser stone with tiny pebbles in it.  In other words, the guy trying to sell the elfish hourglass for more than the giant hourglass is either trying to cheat you, or doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.

(Note: I don’t recommend using this kind of detail to trick your players, at least very often.  The goal with this kind of item branding is to fill in the lore of the world and make it seem more wondrous and magical, not to make a player suddenly have buyer’s remorse.  Give the player’s what they’re paying for, unless you want to work in an actual plot about chasing an unscrupulous magic item dealer.)

The other option for this general-purpose branding is that you can use it to weave hints, cues and themes through the story.  How many times have you watched a movie or read a comic book where a certain villain or character or organization had an artistic theme or motif that represented their work?  If your players come to associate a symbol called The Stars Of Icarus as an artistic (or possibly even arcanically essential) element of the world’s greatest flight magic, they may realize that they’re suddenly in for a difficult time if they know that they have to catch a villain quickly… only to have the villain unfold demonic wings that are covered with the Stars of Icarus.  On the other hand, recognizing symbols like that can quickly be a saving grace; if you know that two squiggly lines with an eye between them means “cold” for some reason, that’s probably the hieroglyph you’ll push when the room you’re in locks and begins filling with molten rock.  Once your players start to recognize the “brands” of certain kinds of magic, they’ll start picking up cues on their own, where before you might have had to awkwardly say something like “Well, your Spellcraft check reveals that this is effectively a fire spell as cast by a seventh level caster.”

8bit Caster Levels

Anyway, use in-game reasoning to help your players understand the world and the weapons and potions within it.  Your wizards and bards will now be able to do more than recognize magical effects… they’ll be able to let players know how awesome the world’s history is as well.  And perhaps in time, their own contribution to magical lore and legends will be reflected in the items of others in future games.

Magical Mondays: (Over)Reacting To D&D Next’s Magic   9 comments

Jim Darkmagic

It seemed fitting to let Jim Darkmagic (owned by Mike Krahulik (AKA Gabe) of Penny Arcade fame) be the top image of this post since Jim Darkmagic (of the New Hampshire Darkmagics) was easily one of the best things to come out of Fourth Edition.  What awaits him in the future?  I’m sure Wizards of the Coast will sponsor Acquisitions Incorporated again before too long and we’ll find out.  Anyway, on to the post.

This last week, Wizards of the Coast released the Basic Rules for D&D Next, called 5th Edition by some (though I think WotC is trying hard to make us think of it as an all new form of D&D rather than just the “next edition” of the AD&D that’s been going on for so long). Needing a topic for Magical Mondays, and given my nature for veering into D&D territory on occasion (don’t know if you’ve noticed or not), I figured that I should look into D&D Next’s magic as seen through the guise of the Basic Rules. This is all subject to being updated bit by bit, as is the nature of D&D products, and as such keep in mind that anything I say may be premature. For instance: it’s probably not fair for me to criticize the spell list for not having Wish when I know very well that the Player’s Handbook will probably have it. There were a lot of things that I really, really, really liked about what I saw. There was also one big giant thing that I absolutely hated. I’ll start with that so that I can end on a positive note.

I hate The Weave.

Seriously. I absolutely, positively hate The Weave. It’s one of the primary reasons that I never play Forgotten Realms games. I’m sure there are many people who disagree with me on this front, many people who love The Weave. And these people are in for some great news because according to the Basic Rules, Every Setting Has The Weave Now. They say that it might be called different things in different places, but it’s always The Weave.

 

The Weave In Loom

 

Why do I hate The Weave so much?  It’s honestly hard to say.  I think the primary reason is because it takes some of the richest and most imaginative settings’ magic systems and tops it off with an origin that has this weird sameness to it.  Cleric, Psion, Sorcerer, Druid, Wizard, you’re ultimately just tapping into this artifice to access the “true magic” that you’re not allowed to get at because you’re a mortal.  I can barely tolerate putting all arcane magic under the same definition on a good day, but all magic regardless of origin?  My mind shudders at the thought.  This is similar to the Well Of Furies problem from City of Heroes: in City of Heroes, your character eventually had the chance to become an “Incarnate”.  Now, before you became an Incarnate you declared that your hero (or villain) gained his or her (or its) powers through Science, Technology, Mutation, Magic, or Natural training and abilities.  The fan base recoiled when these options seemed to be trumped by the Well of Furies, which seemed to give you Magical powers whether you wanted them or not.  This was eventually revealed by the developers and writers to not have been the intention; rather, it was meant to imply that the Well was trying to make you achieve a level of power through your regular means, just advanced to the level of Sufficiently Advanced Technology, effectively making it indistinguishable from magic.  The (necessarily) uniform story that put you on this path suggested such a thing (depending on your origin you see a strange thing that represents your powers, be it an unimaginable piece of technology or just a mirror that reflects back at you), but it was missed by many of the players.  Sadly, The Weave doesn’t offer us such an out.  You’re pretty much stuck with The Weave, and the knowledge that even if you call it something else it’s still The Weave.

Shadow Well

Fortunately, City of Heroes never had Dark Astoria give us a Shadow Well, or Lord Recluse attempting to make his own… Well… actually, no, he tried that, didn’t he? Lousy Recluse, always being villainous…

My other objection to The Weave comes from the vague feeling that this is somehow related to marketing.  Call it paranoia, but 4th Edition demonstrated that WotC wasn’t a fan of creating material that might not fit in the games of all fans.  Will your Eberron players buy a book about Baator when they have Khyber instead?  Not likely.  (Curiously enough, Baator wound up being placed in the realm of Syberis instead of Khyber when that marketing decision happened, possibly due to Syberis’ stronger association with Law.)  Some settings handled this mandatory uniformity better than others (ironically, the Forgotten Realms may have been the most damaged by such things.  Was the plane of Dwarfhome even referenced in Fourth Edition?)

Enough of my ramblings about this one problem I have with the rules so far, though.  Let’s move on to the GOOD stuff!

D&D Next is taking significant strides toward embracing not only its historical roots but also the flights of imagination that created the game in the first place.  Vancian Magic is, of course, well represented through clerics and wizards who prepare spells in spell slots before casting them like tiny spell bombs.  I’m hard on Vancian Magic on this blog, but let’s be honest: there’s a certain charm to knowing that you “prepared magic missile” that morning.

Players of earlier editions (particularly third) will find that spells look familiar.  A lot of classics are represented (magic missile, fireball, wall of force, etc.) but a number of new ones are worth looking at.  Fire Bolt, for instance, is a cantrip that deals a good amount of fire damage if you make a successful attack with it.  Oh, I forgot to mention: cantrips aren’t expended in this edition, so even if your Wizard runs out of regular spells during a fight there’ll still be some combat options upon which he or she can fall.  (Fire Bolt isn’t the only offensive cantrip, of course, it just seems the most flashy and new.)

The thing that’s really worth mentioning is arguably a holdover from 4th edition (or some of the later elements of third edition): rituals!  Ritual magic is back, and possibly better than ever.  In third edition rituals were usually story specific and hard to find.  In 4th edition, rituals were a specific alternative to spells (and, in fact, many classic spells were removed and reclassified as rituals.)  Ritual spells in this edition share the best of both worlds: you can choose to memorize a spell and cast it as normal in a flash, OR you can not memorize it and take a longer amount of time to perform a ritual that generates the magical effect.  Even if a wizard or cleric doesn’t “have that prepared today”, there’s a chance that they might know it as a ritual, in which case there’s no need to sleep for eight hours (after waking up at dawn and having two or three fights that end in less than an hour.)  So even when the caster runs out of spells, the caster can keep on doin’ stuff.  Sometimes pretty awesome stuff.

Tier Envy

Even better, WotC has simplified some of the mystical, non-rules related aspects of the game.  Clerics can still turn undead, of course, but now instead of looking up a complicated chart and rolling different kinds of dice against the number of hit dice that an undead creature has (and don’t forget its turn resistance), you pretty much just declare that you’re turning the undead and the poor undead creature makes a save to see if it resists.  That’s it.  Even better: advanced clerics can now ask their deities for direct intervention.  Yeah, direct divine intervention.  Do you *need* a deus ex machina in this situation? Well, you’re in luck, there’s a tiny chance that the cleric might just be able to arrange for that to happen.  It can’t be used too often, and before the class capstone there’s a very good chance that it won’t work at all, but still.

Oh, and if you love unanswered mysteries as much as I do: just take a look at the table you can roll on for Trinkets.  That’s just an awesome list of stuff.

Anyway… my reaction to the magic stuff in D&D Next is, ruleswise, almost entirely favorable.  There is the… unpleasantness about The Weave.  Fortunately, I don’t need to incorporate that into any games I run.  It’s annoying that I’ll be working against the official lore when I do so in my games, but it’s ultimately something I can work through.

That’s it for this week’s Magical Mondays, folks.  Seeya later!

Magical Mondays: By Any Other Name   Leave a comment

In your campaign world, what, exactly, do people mean when they say “Wizard”? This can be a good question to ask yourself, because it can help to increase the flavor of your world’s magic beyond the scope of its spell slots.

In this week’s Magical Mondays, we’re talking about the difference between class names and in-world description. Ask yourself, if you play the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons, does the player playing the Thief say “Allow me to introduce myself: I’m a thief”? Probably not; the member of a thieve’s guild might take some pride in boasting about their profession, but a loner character who merely has the ability to find traps and issue deadly strikes from the shadows doesn’t necessarily think of itself as a thief. Third edition is a bit better, but a person identifying him or herself as a “rogue” is probably going to make people assume that you’re someone who needs to be watched closely.

The “rogue problem” is one of the places where the disparity between class name and story title is most apparent. If you have a world like that seen in The Order Of The Stick, this isn’t a problem. In such a world, characters can self-identify as rogues or fighters easily, and in more extreme cases rules such as “saving throws” and “base attack bonus” are measurable laws of physics (or at least biology) that can be observed, tested and qualified. Your world may not be quite as on-the-nose as that, but you might be fine with the world’s in-game culture corresponding to some of the terminology that you use as a player.

On the other end of the spectrum, you can have classes that are identified the way trees are in real life. Trees, unlike many types of plant, are sometimes identified more for their form and function than for their biological roots (sorry, couldn’t resist.) Two trees can be very different life forms, but the classification of “tree” still works if it has a trunk, a crown, and leaves. If you begin defining a wizard the way you define a tree, it opens up a lot of options. All wizards will have spell slots, Vancian spell magic, and a similar number of spells available per day. Just like the biology of a tree, however, the magical traditions behind each individual wizard might be very different from another one.

What follows is a list of names for magical traditions that might exist in your world and corresponding classes from Pathfinder and the third edition of D&D. If your players aren’t expecting this kind of thing, don’t be the jerk who has everyone in town calling the villain a wizard when it’s actually a warlock unless there’s some reason for the confusion. If players expect a word to mean a certain thing, ease them into the possible changes. (As a sidenote, I’d like to say that Magician is one of my favorite words for spellcasters in games. It gives the players no preconceptions about what class they might encounter, without sounding like a “generic spellcaster” title.)

Wizard
Wizard (duh)
Mage
Arcanist
Sage
Wise One
Spell Weaver

Sorcerer
Sorcerer
Blood Caster
Blood Cursed
Blood Favored
Dragonchild
Witch
Mage
Mutant
Spell Weaver

Bard
Bard
Scop
Scald
Charlatan
Beguiler
Prestidigitater
Chanter

Cleric
Cleric
Priest
Miracle Worker
Prayer Shaper
Faith Caster

Paladin
Paladin (especially in a real-world style campaign with a France analogue)
Holy Knight
Sacred Steel
Knight
Lorefighter
Blessed Brawler

Druid
Druid
Skin Changer
Fey Friend
Wildwalker
Beast Brother

Artificer
Artificer
Alchemist
Tinkerer
Magician
Spirit Waker
Battle Blesser
War Wright
Mithril Maker

Psion
Psion
Psychic
Mind Mage
Mutant
Witch
Thought Taker
Mind Master

Enchanter
Enchanter
Mind Mage
Spellbinder
Entrancer
Witch

Diviner
Diviner
Prophet
Fortune Teller
Soothsayer
Truthwright
Knowledge Maker

Conjurer
Conjurer
Summoner
Mystic Maker
Diabolist (for specializing in summoning fiendish creatures)

 

These are generic titles (though some might fit a given campaign setting better than others). Your own setting might have some campaign specific concepts that would work on their own. It may help to come up with the name (or concept) of a magical tradition before deciding what class represents it. I’m going to use a certain category of magical names borrowed/stolen from games like The Bard’s Tale and books like Master Of The Five Magics.

Thaumatugrist
In Master Of The Five Magics, Thaumaturgy is a school of magic based on two laws, one stating that like produces like, and another stating that once something is together it is always together. Staple abilities include the ability to change a person’s appearance through a voodoo-doll style control of magic and the ability to move some things (or many things) by manipulating something like it, or something that was once connected to it. The best bet for this would be a Transmuter specialist wizard, though you might also make it a Sorcerer who focuses on Transmutation and also has a focus on arcane variants of Cure spells.

Alchemist
In Master Of The Five Magics, the path of an Alchemist is a difficult one. Thematically, the best bet would seem to be a Specialist with a focus on alchemy, though a Magewright might be the better way to go. For a PC class, it’s hard to ignore the Artificer, and a potion-focused Artificer can make a lot of headway.  I wouldn’t urge a player to be an Alchemist of this sort in a game, however; one of the sad rules of Alchemy was that, unlike with real science, the results weren’t always reproduceable.  Your formula might not work the first time, or the second, or the fifth, but if you kept doing it you could, hopefully, eventually make it work.  Players tend to avoid that kind of headache.

Conjurer
In The Bard’s Tale, Conjurers conjure things. The D&D 3.5 Conjurer specialist wizard is, unsurprisingly, an almost perfect fit.

Magician
Now things get a little bit interesting. “Magicians” are the creators of magical items in Master Of The Five Magics, and they do it through long, extended rituals. Similarly, in The Bard’s Tale, Magicians are ones who can magically enhance material that’s already there.  Players of role playing games may appreciate that one of the problems with being a Magician in Master Of The Five Magics is the fact that it costs a ridiculous amount of money. Artificer is the obvious class to turn to, but the focus on ritualized perfection almost suggests that an Artificer who multiclasses Wu Jen would fit the feel better (probably with aspirations toward the circle magic practiced in the Forgotten Realms Thayan tradition.)

Sorcerer
In both The Bard’s Tale and Master Of The Five Magics, the art of sorcery has nothing to do with vancian spells cast through a probable magical lineage. Instead, they are spells that have to do with the mind. An Enchanter is a good model, but for the full flavor you might actually want to go with a Telepath instead. A multiclass Enchanter/Telepath might be perfect. Spell Focus on Illusion for the full ability to make people take damage from things that aren’t there.

Wizard
In what feels like an even greater departure than the Sorcerer, Wizards in The Bard’s Tale and Master Of The Five Magics are a lot like a cross between Conjurers and Necromancers. Their abilities conjure and create undead creatures and demonic entities in these traditions. A Necromancer with a spell focus in Conjuration, or the other way around, would fit this perfectly. The emphasis on having to break the will of some conjured creatures implies that the Binder class from Tome Of Magic might also work.

A good way to get a feel for what kind of names might work would be to invest in a few premade adventures (something made easier than ever thanks to Wizards of the Coast creating the PDF store) and looking at what certain types of NPC are called. A number of NPCs in certain factions in material that WotC released for certain premades and in older issues of Dungeon magazine and Dragon magazine had intriguing titles. One of my favorites, for instance, was the description of Dreadhold Prison in Dragon #344. Two of my favorites from that article include Chainmakers (artificers charged with maintaining the prison’s equipment, traps and construct guardians) and the Lawkeepers (Clerics who dabble in the Dragonmark Heir prestige class so that they can focus on maintaining order in the prison both through divine might and healing and also through their dragonmark abilities.) Oh, and the Wandguard troops of Dreadhold are a really nice “magical guard” concept that could challenge the players without being too capable on their own. Seriously, that article is a great read for this kind of thing; I believe it’s currently available as a PDF through Paizo’s online store. I’m going to conclude this article with a few more “magical tradition” names and some quick guidelines on how you can make them.

Pyromancers
While there *is* a Pyromancer class on its own when I play in Cantadel, a generic Pyromancer that doesn’t rely on my homebrew material is simple. Using an evocationist or conjurer would be easy, but I think I’d prefer a sorcerer who sacrifices one spell slot per level and the ability to have a familiar in exchange for a “fire spell” slot that can be used for a fire spell of any sort of the appropriate level. Unfortunately, these sorcerers can’t cast cold spells without a severe class level penalty.

Fortune Tellers
These are Clerics, usually ones dedicated to deities of chance or luck, with a few levels as a Diviner that allow them to take a level of Mystic Theurge. Never as powerful as comparably studied spellcasters from either the divine or arcane side of things, Fortune Tellers devote a great amount of the spellcasting ability to learning the future. Those who take it as a job sometimes purchase or create crystal balls that are capable of replenishing divination spell slots cast for other people rather than for themselves.

Spell Wardens
Usually Wizards with the Improved Counterspell feat, a level of Fighter and one level in Eldritch Knight, they serve as mercenary peace keeping forces that keep a low profile while offering their services to cities that need their help. They use magic to enhance themselves for physical combat, but keep a number of high-level spells of many sorts (usually necromancy, conjurtaion and evocation if they don’t know what they’re getting into in a day) so that they can intentionally counterspell the spells of rogue magic users. Their mobile bases (very sturdy but otherwise plain carriages most of the time) generally have divination material available to try and give the Spell Wardens a heads up on spells that it would be good to prepare for the coming day.

Underkeepers
One of the reasons for why Undertakers are seen as creepy, the Underkeepers are Necromancers who practice undertaking and taxidermy while also taking the Craft Construct feat. They make miniature flesh golems from the well-preserved bodies of hunted animals to patiently guard their homes. Their “flesh golems” tend to be of much higher quality than others, and many sentimental people who have lost beloved pets (or even family members and friends) have tried to bring them back through an Underkeeper’s capabilities. The Underkeepers themselves generally refrain from pointing out that the golems will not have the same “soul” or “identity” as the original, or that the creature may be prone to explosively violent tendencies. Far less flashy than most wizards, Underkeepers are often difficult to notice at first, but are well prepared for many dangers if they are ever discovered.

 

With luck and some careful application, these names will suggest magical traditions to your players in ways that grant the story depth of character classes without the extra paperwork required. And, of course, a great story can be told.

Magical Mondays: The Most Un-Useful School   Leave a comment

For this week’s Magical Mondays, I’d like to take you down a trip on memory lane.  This’ll be a D&D 3.5 heavy update, I fear; sorry, all you WoD and Cosmic Patrol fans.  Years ago, my gaming group had a regular “thing” involving us arriving and leaving, with little regard to schedule, at one friend’s place over the course of the weekend.  People would just show up at some point on Friday, and maybe they’d leave eventually, some would stay over the night, others would arrive for the first time on Saturday, and son on until Monday ruined everyone’s mood.  Many good times were had by all.  I couldn’t make it to one Friday, but was able to show up early on a Saturday, around 9 or 10 in the morning if not earlier (my memory is a little hazy on the exact time; it felt early, if nothing else.)

When I showed up, I was surprised to see activity.  Two of my friends were loudly debating something about the schools of magic.  Our host was nowhere to be seen, and these two were making points, counterpoints, and reasonable assumptions about magic.  They saw me enter, let their current track of conversation die down, and turned to me.  Then they decided to get my opinion on what has come to be an infamous topic for us:

“What do you think is the most un-useful school of magic?”

Now, theoretically I could’ve understood a debate about the most useful school of magic.  I was still new to D&D, but I had a faint understanding of the eight schools of magic: abjuration, conjuration, divination, enchantment, evocation, illusion, necromancy, and transmutation.  Each of the eight schools of magic has its own theme, and this thematic grouping of magical spells allows D&D 3.5 players to pick and choose the kinds of things that they can do during the day.

I gave my opinion (at the time it was necromancy), and they admitted that it seemed like a reasonable option since necromancy is, in large part, just a mishmash of spells that better belong in other schools with a death theme.  They then began to go in a circle with each other, one claiming that abjuration was the worst and the other claiming that evocation was the worst.  One’s idea of useful was “I can set anything on fire!  I can conquer the world!”  The other’s idea of useful was “I can walk on lava!  Set all the fires you want!”  (My paraphrasing, not their exact words.)

At about this time, I heard a plaintive cry of “NERDS!” from the bedroom.  Apparently, our host was not at work as I had assumed, and was trying to sleep a bit with the loud conversation happening.  (As a side note: it’s possible that everyone misheard his wail of despair, as he insists that he meant to say it more angrily, and prefaced with an expletive that would have let us know exactly what sort of nerds we were.  I’d tell you, but that’d violate the PG/PG-13 rating I put on this blog.  It’s also possible that in his cry of desperation, he was so exhausted from lack of sleep that he imagined saying one thing and not another.  Who can say which version is true?)

As silly as the topic sounds, it actually has a valid application for players, particularly wizards during character creation.  Any spellcaster might benefit from a careful look at different schools, of course.  Wizards, though, have a particular application: specialists.  A specialist wizard (such as an enchanter or a necromancer or a diviner) is a wizard who gains an extra spell every day at every level of spell that they can cast.  “But John,” you say, “that sounds more like a case where you want to figure out which school is the MOST useful, not the LEAST useful!”  And at first it seems like you’re right.  However: specialist wizards need to pick schools to ban.  Effectively, every specialist wizard needs to ban two schools (diviners being the only exception; they only need to ban one.)  Pathfinder changes this a bit by saying that specialist wizards can still cast from the “banned” schools, but it takes two spell slots to do so, meaning that there’s still a bigger cost.  If you can figure out what school is the most un-useful, those two schools might make the most sense to ban.

I decided to turn to the Internet when my sister suggested that I write this topic, legendary as it is within our gaming group.  There are obvious optimization concerns, and who better than the folks at an optimization-heavy board to discuss the issue?  So I went to the Giant In The Playground forums and posted the question.  I had no idea when I did so that the ensuing debate would BURN FOR TEN PAGES before eventually petering out.  There were a lot of interesting opinions, thoughts, and angrily hurled bits of flame.  My old go-to of Necromancy was mentioned here and there, and I anticipated a lot of votes for Evocation.  I was startled to see one of my favorite schools, Enchantment, getting the most votes.  How could this BE?!

Actually?  It was pretty reasonable.  Most of the people didn’t take the basic premise of each school (as I did).  Instead, they took a look at the available spells (both in core books and in the extended options available in other books throughout 3e and 3.5), looked at what spells were available, and compared the numbers of spells in each school with their imagined applications.  Two interesting points came to light that I think both need addressing:

 

1) A school being “powerful” is not the same as it being “useful.”  Necromancy, nowhere near the school with the most raw power, has an undeniable amount of highly situational uses.  Spectral Hand has been a favorite spell of mine for the last year, because it takes a ghostly theme (a hand) and lets you do something with it that other schools don’t (deliver touch attacks at a range).  You can debate who wins in a fight all night long (and into the next morning as my two friends discovered) but that doesn’t really tell you much about what a given school can do in more mundane, day-to-day activities.  Rope Trick, Phantom Steed, Rage, Tenser’s Floating Disc and others are ridiculously useful at the right moment.  If you can figure out a way to turn any given problem into a nail that your favorite class can hammer down, you’ll be doing pretty well.

 

2) It pays to know your DM.  If your DM loves huge dungeon crawls filled with monster fights, you’re going to want to stock up on abjurations and evocations (well… some would say that I’m wrong about that, but you get the point.)  If your DM is more of a fan of intrigue, skullduggery and political exploits, enchantments and illusions might help you to succeed without drawing unwanted attention to yourself.  You can easily use any combination for either of those scenarios, but the fact remains that if you want to fight an army in the Forgotten Realms, explore a lost ruin in Dark Sun, or catch a fugitive spy in Eberron you’ll likely want to pick different things.

 

That’s all for this week’s Magical Mondays.  I’m going to try something risky here: I’ll see if I can get this post to automatically update on its own.  Wish me luck!