Saturday, June 26, 2010

OD&D Magic Champions Style Part 9

I haven't been posting much this week for two main reasons. I've been trying to tackle a tough spell category and I've been watching the World Cup. I've been watching this sporting spectacle since 1982, my wife grew up in Europe (thus likes football, not American football) and my father-in-law is in town. Thus, the World Cup is on, whether any one wants it or not. I can't really explain why I love this event so much. I don't watch soccer at any other time. I rankles my innate sense of justice every time the referee messes up a call (which is often — just see the disallowed goals for the U.S. this year). More so than any other sport, it is dominated by a few teams (only two finals in history haven't included Brazil, Germany or Italy and both included Argentina). Despite this, I find it a beautiful spectacle that is tremendously exciting to watch — especially in the Group Stage. Plus, it is only once every four years...

Change Environment

I have been dreading doing this particular category since I conceived of this project, because it is a tangle of mechanics that forced me to make several choices. The first was to remove Purify Food & Water, Create Water and Create Food from this list. All three spells had consistent mechanics between themselves, but did not translate well to the rest of this category. The remaining spells:
Light (1)[1]
Creates a circle of light with a 3" diameter. Not equal to full daylight. Duration = 6 + caster level turns.

Continual Light (2)[3]
Creates a light where ever the caster wishes in a 24" diameter circle. Duration = until dispelled. Range = 12" Cleric version is equal to full daylight, Magic user version is not.

Water Breathing (3)
Makes water breathable. Duration = 12 turns. Range = 3"

Telekinesis (5)
Objects up to a weight of (200gp x caster level) may be moved by mental force. Duration = 6 turns. Range = 12"

Transmute Rock to Mud (5)
Transmutes any kind of rick into mud up to 30 square inches. Movement through mud is reduced by 90%. Reversible. Duration = permanent until dry (3d6 days). Range = 12" Takes 1 turn to take effect

Cloud Kill (5)
Creates a poisonous vapor in a 3" diameter cloud that is deadly to all with less than 5HD. Duration = 6 turns (may be dispelled by strong winds). The cloud may be moved 6"/turn with the wind. SInks to the lowest possible level.

Lower Water (6)
Lowers the water level of a river or similar body of water by 50%. Duration = 10 turns. Range = 24"

Part Water (6)
Parts 10' deep water. Duration = 6 turns. Range = 12"

Move Earth (6)
Moves hills and/or ridges. Takes 1 turn to take effect. Duration = 6 turns. Range = 24" Terrain is moved at a rate of 6" per turn.

Control Weather (6)
Can change current weather into any of the following: Rain, Stop Rain, Cold Wave, Heat Wave, Tornado, Stop Tornado, Deep Clouds, Clear Sky.
Here are some of the mechanics suggested by these spells:
  • Duration: 6+ caster level turns / Permanent until dispelled (or natural forces deteriorate the spell effects).
  • Area Effect: 3" diameter / 24" diameter / 30 sq in. (Mtn/lake/river.)
  • Range: none. 3" / 12" / 24"
  • Effect: Minor Change (light) / Major Change (has mechanical affect — daylight — that affects a certain category of creature).
The problems begin with Continual Light. It has a greater area effect (+1 level), greater duration (+1 level), greater range (+1 level) and for clerics, it has a mechanical effect with full daylight (+1 level). All told, continual light ought to be at least a 4th level spell for Magic Users and a 5th level spell for Clerics! Since the main difference between Light and Continual Light is the duration, I must either bump up Light to meet the other mechanical differences or bump down Continual Light. Since bumping up Light makes it far more powerful than I think anyone would care for, I will choose to do the latter. This eliminates one step in the Area Effect mechanics. This brings us to the Cleric version, which is the equivalent to full daylight. This affects game play mechanically in that creatures who take penalties for being in daylight are affected as well as being deadly to creatures like vampires. In order to maintain the Cleric version of Continual Light, there have to be two levels of effects. Light as a minor environmental change that can affect gameplay (characters can see in darkness) but doesn't have a mechanical effect (-1 to hit) or is deadly to a certain type of creature. A major environmental change would have one or both. If both, the said categories are small. If one or the other, they categories of creatures can be larger.

Water Breathing is the next challenge. Since the base of this spell category is Light, all spells must have an area effect, Water Breathing does not. Its 3" range nicely corresponds to the 3" diameter of the base area effect; however, this renders it a 2nd level spell — it has a base duration (12 turns approximates 6 + caster turns) and a Major Effect (water breathing, which has a mechanical effect for a large group of creatures) (+1 level). This opens up the possibility of creating a 3rd level water breathing spell with a permanent duration. Which leads me to Cloud Kill. It has a base area effect, a base duration and a Major Change (+1 level). Even if I add a spell level in order to independently move the spell effect around, that still renders it a 3rd level spell. Now you know why I have been dreading this spell category.

What this tells me is two things: I need to add a level step for the Effect of the spell and I need to allow for a relatively easy way to dispel permanent durations (the spell affects the water not the character, so that once the character leaves that body of water, the spell is dispelled, for example). Thus, for a Major Change there would be two level steps. The first would be a mechanical effect that affects a specific group (i.e. creatures affected by full daylight). The next step would affect a general group of creatures (i.e. non-water breathers or creatures with less than 5HD). This gets Water Breathing up to a 3rd level spell and eliminates the possibility of permanently being able to breath water. This only gets Cloud Kill to 4th level, even with a level added for independent movement. Frankly, I think I am okay with that.

Here are the rest of the spells in this category according to these mechanics:
  • Telekinesis: base duration, base area effect, range 12" (+1 level), Major Effect [general group] (+2 levels), moves independently of caster (+1 level) = 5th level spell.
  • Transmute Rock to Mud: duration = permanent (+1 level), area effect = 30" sq. (+1 level), range = 12" (+1 level) Major Effect [general group] (+2 levels) = 6th level spell.
  • Lower Water: base duration, area effect = river (+1 level), range = 24" (+2 levels), Major Effect [general group] (+2 levels) = 6th level spell.
  • Part Water: base duration, area effect = body of water 10' deep (+1 level), range = 12" (+1 level), Major Effect [general group] (+2 levels) = 5th level spell.
  • Move Earth: base duration, area effect = hill or ridge (+1 level), range = 24" (+2 levels), Major Effect [general group] (+2 levels), moves independently of caster (+1 level) = 7th level spell.
  • Control Weather: duration = permanent (+1 level), area effect = 30" sq. (+1 level), range = 24" (+2 levels), Minor Effect = 5th level spell.
I am actually fairly pleased. There are differences between these levels and their originals, but this is mostly due the the lack of balance in those originals (Lower Water vs. Part Water, for example). In most cases, one simply has to change one mechanic (usually range) to bump the spell up or down to match its original spell level. In the case of Change Weather, I would allow it to affect a specific group mechanically, thus making it a 6th level spell.

Base Spell: Make a minor change in the surrounding environment (light, temperature, etc.). Duration = 6 + caster level turns. Area Effect 3" diameter. Range none.

The following add 1 spell level:
  • Duration = permanent (but can be easily be dispelled)
  • Area Effect = 30" sq./a single small geographic feature
  • Range = 12"
  • Effect = affects a specific group mechanically
  • Spell effect may be moved independently of the spell caster
The following add 2 spell levels:
  • Range = 24"
  • Effect = affects a general group mechanically
Example Spell Air Water
4th level spell. Duration = permanent [dispelled when caster leaves the water] (+1 level), Area Effect = 3" diameter, Range = none, Effect = makes water in the diameter breathable (+2 levels)


  1. Are you going to have a document summarizing all this? This is looking good.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Rob. Yes, God willing, I plan to put this in a single document for general consumption.