- There's not enough randomness. When a wild mage casts a spell there's only a 5% chance of getting to roll on that awesome table of random magical happenings (which is what it's all about, as far as I'm concerned, for a player who's chosen to play a wild mage). Otherwise the only "wild" element is that the spell might manifest as if it was cast by a magic-user of a level or two higher or lower. For a lot of spells this makes no difference.
- It's too complicated and not fun. Who wants to spend time working out fiddly things which change due to a spell being cast as if by a 3rd level instead of a 2nd level magic-user?
Another aspect to consider is that if one wanted more random results more often (as I do), then a single d100 table is going to wear thin pretty soon. Of course there are huge d10,000 (I think?) tables of random magical happenings out there on the internet, which could be used instead. I've been thinking of something else, however.
What about if (a bit like in DCC RPG I suppose) each spell had its own table of results? A table with a few dozen random results for each spell would probably be enough.
So here's how I thought it could work:
- Wild mages can memorize twice the number of spells normally allowed. (Crazy optimisational techniques allow them to stuff extra spells into their brains, at the expense of accuracy.)
- Each spell has a 49% chance of working "as written", and a 50% chance of coming out warped in some way.
- There's also a 1% chance of something just totally weird and unrelated happening (see your handy d100 / d10,000 / whatever table of random magical happenings).
- So, when a wild mage casts a spell the player rolls d100. If it comes up 00 then something weird happens. All other even results mean the spell works as normal. All odd results mean that something, well, odd happens.
To test out this idea, to see if it feels even feasible, I thought I'd have a go at writing a table of random results for a single spell. To that end I chose one of the least "sexy" spells on the 1st level list: the humble hold portal.
(Entries marked with a - mean that the spell's normal effect does not occur, and is completely replaced by the described effect. Entries marked with a + mean that the listed effect occurs in addition to the spell's normal effect. Unless otherwise specified, the normal duration of the spell applies.)
1 - The caster's mouth is magically held shut.
3 - The caster's eyes are magically held shut.
5 - The portal is blasted by magic and destroyed.
7 - The portal is magically held open.
9 - The portal momentarily becomes a dimensional gate and releases a hostile monster of 1d8 HD.
11 - The portal is covered in cobwebs.
13 - The portal transmutes into a gelatinous cube.
15 - All portals within 30' fly open and a blasting wind and insane cackling laughter fill the area for the duration.
17 + A tiny golden key appears in a random location within 20'. It can open the portal.
19 - A wooden bar appears, nailed across the portal. It is painted with red and yellow stripes, and the phrase “ACCESS DENIED”.
21 - A face manifests on the portal and will attempt to discourage anyone from passing through.
23 + Each creature attempting to open the portal may make a save vs spells to be successful.
25 + The portal is affected by a probabilistic instability – its existence varies for each creature viewing it (50% chance of either existing or not existing). Creatures for which the portal does not exist can pass through it freely. Those for whom it exists are barred, as per the normal effects of the spell.
27 + A letterbox (marked “MAIL”) appears in the portal. It can be opened normally.
29 + Glowing writing appears on the portal, stating that only a certain type of creature may enter (1. elves, 2. goblins, 3. undead, 4. dwarves, 5. wizards, 6. lizards). This is true.
31 - The portal is locked by a mechanical lock, which appears in its construction for the duration. It can be picked normally by a thief.
33 - The portal is overgrown with thorny plants. Can be cleared in 1 turn.
35 + A face manifests on the portal and will grant access to anyone who can solve a riddle it poses.
37 + The portal belches forth a vomit of slime and debris, covering all within 20'. It then closes and is held as normal.
39 - The portal is concealed by a phantasm which makes all who see it ignore it. Any creatures which already knew of the portal's existence may save vs spells.
41 - A phantasmal door appears next to the targeted portal.
43 + A skull appears, chained onto the portal. It pronounces the doom of any who approach the portal.
45 - Two guards (1HD, AC 5, long sword) are summoned for the duration. They will attempt to prevent anyone from passing through the portal.
47 - Anyone passing through the portal is overcome with: 1. cosmic ecstasy, 2. terror, 3. sorrow, 4. existential angst, 5. carnal lust, 6. blood lust.
49 - The portal leads into an illusionary meadow.
51 + For the duration, the portal's surface changes into a mirror which reveals invisible or ethereal objects/creatures.
53 - The portal acts as a dimension door to a random location within 360'.
55 - The portal screams when opened or closed.
57 - The portal is held open, but a sheet of magical flame appears, filling its aperture. Passing through causes 1d6 damage.
58 + The portal flickers with (harmless) arcane fire of odd colours.
61 + The portal shudders and vibrates.
63 - The portal vanishes entirely and permanently. It is replaced by a section of blank wall.
65 + When the duration ends the portal acts as a dimension door to a random location within 360'. This effect lasts for 6 turns.
67 - The portal becomes a gateway to another world.
69 - The portal is concealed by an illusionary wall.
71 + The portal flickers with arcane fire of odd colours. The fire causes 1d3 damage to anyone touching it.
73 - The portal is blasted by magic and destroyed. In its place appears a wall of force.
75 + The words “TRY YOUR LUCK” appear on the portal. Anyone attempting to open it must roll 1d6: 1. the portal opens, 2. affected by sleep, 3. affected by cure light wounds, 4. affected by confusion, 5. teleport to the other side of the portal (which remains held), 6. blinded for 1d6 turns.
77 - A dimensional loop manifests, causing anything which moves through the portal to end up where it came from.
79 - The portal is consumed by a howling dimensional void, which remains for the duration. Anything put into it is irrevocably destroyed.
81 + Anyone touching the portal is electrocuted for 1d4 damage.
83 - The portal metamorphoses into a mimic.
85 - The portal is covered in sticky strands, as per the web spell.
87 + Sturdy iron bars manifest to augment the spell. The bars are permanent.
89 - The words “DEATH TO ALL WHO PASS” hang above the portal in sinister glowing script. Any who pass through must save vs death or die.
91 + All portals within 30' are held.
93 + A symbol of fear manifests on the warded portal.
95 + A monster of 1d8 HD is summoned and guards the portal.
97 - The targeted portal is affected by arcane lock.
99 - All portals within 30' vanish entirely and permanently. They are replaced by blank walls.
I conclude that it does feel like a feasible system, though would be very time-consuming to write the required tables for all 105 basic Labyrinth Lord spells! Who knows, maybe something I'll work on slowly.