Saturday, July 8, 2017

Spell Research & Spell Aides

I've never been good with adjudicating downtime and spell research. I feel it's probably because most campaigns I've played haven't been very OSR related and haven't really been "out of the action" most of the time, so how to research spells?

Well, you can't make spells too easy or quick to research or else it loses its potency. If a Wizard can just steal a rival mage's spellbook and read it and cast his spells in a few minutes I guess that's fine, but it sort of goes against the whole slowly researching and figuring out magical spells thing that Wizards are supposed to be doing.

There's also this great system over at last gasp grimoire for researching new spells. I love how you can roll high or low and get better or worse spells, with the best possible results basically making the Wizard have the spell as an innate magical ability. It's great flavor, but I think it might be a bit much for my game, especially since I'm not a fan of the whole "cast a spell poorly and you fucking die" sort of thing.

Not a magic sword, it's a Spell Aide.
The more important question would instead be what's a good selection of rules to research spells, especially for a game where spells don't have levels and increase with MU power?

Whenever you find a spellbook, spell scroll (just a one page spellbook, cannot be used like in other games) or an item engraved with a spell (spell aide) you can decode the spell script. This allows you to unravel the web of thought, mental fog, and philosophical style of the individual who made the spells. Decoded spells can be safely stored by Wizard scribes on library shelves without every having to cast it once, in fact people that can't even cast spells can actually decode them as well, it just requires deciphering a lot of babbling nonsense.

To decode a spell, it requires a roll of 2d6 + Wisdom Modifier + ⚡. The ⚡ symbol represents a Wizard's spell power, which increases every odd level starting at level 3. You have to try to get over 7 + complexity. Complexity is basically how many *things* the spell can do.

Spell Complexity Table
  • Every alternate way to cast the spell adds +1 complexity
  • Capable of hitting more then one target +1 complexity 
  • If it has a particularly insane effect, +1 to +3 complexity
  • Duration is longer then one exploration turn, +1 complexity
  • Found the formula on a Spell Aide, +1 complexity
If you fail this roll, you cannot learn the spell from this source. Maybe the ramblings on the scrolls and in the spellbooks proved too strange for you, or requires esoteric foreign methods of thinking you cannot or will not immerse yourself in. Wizards with apprentices may have them decode stolen and captured spells back home while they continue adventuring. It's entirely possible for the apprentice to fail this task, and they may run off or dread their master coming home disappointed by them. It is not wise to anger a Wizard.

Once understood you then actually have to learn the spell. If you are being taught directly, by another Wizard then you no longer need to decode the spell. Learning a spell just takes 1d8 - Intelligence modifier weeks of learning and study to be able to cast it yourself.

Transferring the spell Aide's spell to paper makes it easier to carry.
Spell aides are items engraved with glyphs and cyphers of information that allow you to prepare your spells from them. This is extremely useful if your spellbook is lost, stolen, or incinerated. Obviously smart Wizards would want to have their spells in this form because a spellbook is fragile. Fire or water will usually ruin it.

Spellbooks are still useful by the way, Spellbooks can hold any reasonable number of spells and only take up 1 encumbrance or load point, but items can only hold 1 spell per encumbrance point they use. So you can engrave a single spell on a dagger's blade, two down a longsword, three on the back of your tower shield, etc.

Why all this emphasis on thought and meaning in text? That's just how spells work.


  1. For spell complexity you use "couple of turns" are these combat rounds (6 seconds) or are these exploration turns (10 minutes)?