Monday 25 May 2015

Spell Acquisition for Campaigns with Specialist Wizards

I've been doing a bit more work on The Complete Elementalist, and have been putting some thought into how specialist wizards can coexist in campaigns alongside each other. Here's an extract, with some thoughts on how to handle spell acquisition and treasure placement in campaigns with multiple types of specialist wizard, each with distinct spell lists.

Spell Acquisition
This section contains optional guidelines for Labyrinth Lords on the subject of how elementalists (and, by extension, other wizardly characters) may gain access to and learn new spells.

Basic Games
For games in the vein of the traditional Basic rules, the following guidelines may be used:
* Elementalists begin the game knowing read magic, one randomly selected spell, and one spell of the player's choice.
* The number of spells an elementalist can know (i.e. record in his spell book) is limited to no more than double the number that he can memorize. For example, a 5th level elementalist can memorize two 1st level, two 2nd level, and one 3rd level spell. Such a character could have at most four 1st level, four 2nd level, and two 3rd level spells in his spell book.
* Upon gaining an experience level, if the elementalist does not already have spells available to learn (e.g. from scrolls or captured spell books), he automatically acquires knowledge of one new spell, selected randomly from a level of the player's choosing.

Design Note: In the original Basic rules, magic-users and elves were limited to knowing one single spell at 1st level – not even read magic was “free”! – and could never record more spells in their spell books than the number they could memorize each day. Personally, while I find this system charming in its simplicity, I feel it is too restrictive and use the system described above in my own games. Other groups may, however, prefer to stick with the original rules.

Advanced Games
Advanced era games are more generous with the number of spells known and may use the following guidelines:
* Elementalists begin the game knowing read magic, two randomly selected spells, and two spells of the player's choice.
* The number of spells an elementalist can know (i.e. record in his spell book) is limited by the character's INT (see the AEC).
* Upon gaining an experience level, if the elementalist does not already have spells available to learn (e.g. from scrolls or captured spell books), he automatically acquires knowledge of one new spell, selected randomly from a level of the player's choosing. This spell must be learnt according to the normal rules for spell learning, again dependent on the character's INT.

Placing Spells in Treasure Hoards
The basic Labyrinth Lord rules describe a single type of arcane magic, usable by magic-users and elves. The Advanced Edition Companion and other books, such as this, add further, more specialised wizardly classes: illusionists and elementalists. These new classes acquire new spells in the same means as the standard magic-user: by finding spell scrolls in treasure hoards. When it is determined that a treasure hoard contains scrolls of magic-user spells, it is thus desirable that spells usable by specialist wizards also be (at least some of the time) present.

One approach is to multiply the number of spells present in the hoard (as indicated by the treasure tables) by the total number of wizardly classes in the campaign, then to give each spell an equal (random) chance of being taken from the list of each class. For example, in a campaign with magic-users, elementalists, and illusionists, the number of spells found in a hoard would be multiplied by three and each spell would have a 1 in 3 chance of being taken from the standard magic-user list, a 1 in 3 chance of coming from the illusionist list, and a 1 in 3 chance of being from the elementalist list. The Labyrinth Lord ensures, in this way, that the balance of spells available to characters of different spell-using classes remains fair and consistent.

Note that, as some spells are shared between the different classes, these guidelines will, in fact, slightly increase the number of spells available. It is also worth bearing in mind that, even if an adventuring party discover scrolls of spells that they cannot cast themselves, such scrolls still have value and may be sold to or bartered with NPCs who can put them to use.

Thursday 21 May 2015

Making Camp: Part 2

Following on from yesterday's post, more optional camping procedures. (I'm skipping ahead a bit here, past the phase of setting up camp, to the rules for resting.)

The campsite set and any evening camaraderie complete, the party settle down to sleep. Each PC must make a rest check -- a CON (bushcraft, survival) check -- modified by the various factors listed below, to discover whether a good night's rest was achieved.

Resting Modifiers
For every extra hour spent searching for a campsite: -1
Sleeping in unsuitable site: -4
Location modifier: Varies
Bedroll: +2
Participating in a watch shift (up to two hours): -2
Cold (autumn or spring): -2
Extreme cold (winter): -4
Campfire (if cold): +2
Wet (including snow): -2
Disturbing sounds (howling wind, thunder, or babbling spirits, for example): -1
Soothing sounds (a waterfall or bubbling stream, for example): +1
Sleeping in light armour: -4
Sleeping in medium armour: -10
Sleeping in heavy armour: Automatic failure
Good cheer: +2
Discord (arguing, grudges, etc): -1
Hearty fare: +2
Meagre rations (includes dried trail rations): -1
No supper: -2
Awakening during the night (per occurrence, not including watch shifts): -1
Encounter during the night: -3
Sickness or poison: -2
Wounded or fatigued (less than half hit points): -1
Elf (requires less rest): +4
Halfling (lazy): -2

(Character personality traits such as "sensitive disposition" or "can sleep through anything" are generally indicated by the CON score but the referee may apply additional modifiers if deemed appropriate.)

Failure of the rest check has the following effects:
  • Cannot memorise spells. (The lenient referee may allow the character to attempt to memorise spells, with a save versus magic, per spell, indicating success at memorisation.)
  • -1 penalty to all attacks, saves, and ability checks. This is not cumulative over multiple nights without rest, but lasts until a decent night's sleep can be had.
  • Hit point recovery halved.

Sleeping in the Daytime
A party may choose to travel at night and sleep during the day. This incurs a -3 penalty to rest, unless the characters are accustomed to this routine (have been following it for at least a fortnight).

Making Camp: Part 3

Continuing from my previous posts on the topic of camping in the woods, here are some guidelines for what happens once the party have located a site in which to set camp.

Setting Camp
Characters may engage in various different activities to help with setting up a campsite. The following are typical.

Gathering wood: It is always possible to find wood with little suitability to building a fire (damp, rotting, frozen, etc). Finding decent wood is more difficult and depends especially on the weather. A WIS (bushcraft, survival) check is required, modified by the prevalent moisture conditions. Driving rain, for example, may incur a -4 penalty, while a spell of hot weather may grant a +4 bonus. Each character who goes gathering wood can collect enough to keep the campfire burning for 1d5 hours.

Fetching water: Is assumed to be successful, in a damp forest environment. The referee may optionally declare a 1 in 10 chance of the party discovering a source of strange waters (roll on that table).

Foraging, hunting, or fishing at dusk: These activities may be undertaken as normal during the hours while the camp is being set. The chance of finding anything is reduced by two thirds (due to the limited time available and the gathering darkness). A -1 rest penalty also applies.

Fire building: Given a means of producing flame (e.g. a tinderbox) and a stash of wood (either gathered from the forest by other characters, as described above, or carried in packs), the party may attempt to build a fire. An INT (fire-building, bushcraft, survival) check is required. If only ill-suited wood is available, the roll is penalised by -4. The referee may apply additional modifiers based on the prevalent environmental conditions (an additional -4 penalty is suggested, for example, in snow or heavy rain). If the check is successful, a campfire is started and may be kept burning for as long as there is wood available to feed it.

Resting: A character who lends no help to setting camp gains a +1 rest bonus.

Camp Activities
Once the campsite is established, more restful activities may be undertaken before the party beds down for the night.

Cooking: Given a fire, cooking utensils, and ingredients, someone may attempt to cook a meal. A successful WIS (cooking) check indicates that a palatable dish is produced, granting a rest bonus to those who eat it. A failed cooking check indicates that the meal is edible but distasteful. Very low rolls may, if the referee wishes, denote a ruined meal (burned, spilled, etc) that is utterly inedible. Modifiers may apply to the check based on the quality and variety of the ingredients available.

Camaraderie: Time spent around the fireside with one's companions may, given the correct conditions, lift the spirits and induce restful sleep. A character may attempt to entertain his comrades with music, song, storytelling, jokes, and so forth. This entails a CHA (entertainer) check. Success indicates that good cheer has been inspired in the party, whereas failure may fall flat or even, in the case of very poor rolls, lead to ridicule, argument, and discord.

Planning: The party may use the evening hours to discuss plans for the future. Generally this requires no checks and has no effect on resting, though if arguments occur, the referee may stipulate a rest penalty due to discord.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Making Camp: Part 1

Some procedures for camping in the wilderness.

Finding a Campsite
The first step in camping for the night is to find a suitable location. Depending on the terrain being traversed, this may not be trivial. Searching for a site takes one hour. This is assumed to be a part of the evening phase, when the party is beginning to settle down to rest.

First, the referee should make a density roll (a percentile roll against the density rating of the hex being travelled through). Failure indicates that the terrain does not yield any location suitable for characters to lay. A site with space to crouch or lean, where it may be marginally possible to sleep, can always be found. This entails a -4 comfort modifier (see rest, below).

Secondly, the party must make a WIS (bushcraft, survival) check to determine the number of different locations which present themselves. The character with the highest chance of success should make the roll on behalf of the group. Success indicates that two locations have been discovered; the party may choose between them. Failure indicates that only a single suitable location can be found; the party must either camp in this place or start searching anew.

If the party is unsuccessful or unsatisfied with their attempt to find a campsite, they may repeat the procedure, entailing another hour of searching. Each repeat attempt incurs a cumulative -1 comfort modifier, when the party eventually get to sleep, due to the extra time spent exploring.

Forest Campsites
Each terrain type requires its own table for camping locations. As an example, here is a table suitable for use in forested areas.

1. Dry, sandy ditch. Party must sleep in a line.
2. Mossy glade. Soft ground grants +1 to comfort but dampness incurs a -1 penalty to fire building.
3. Clearing beside a pathway. Increased chance of encounters.
4. Pleasant glade. Spoor of a random monster is present. Increased chance of encounters. (If an encounter occurs, it is 50% likely to be with the creature indicated.)
5. Flat, stony area beside a stream.
6. Clearing criss-crossed with gnarly roots. -1 comfort modifier.
7. Beautiful glade with a single large tree in the middle. (33% chance of the tree having some noteworthy feature; roll on the table of strange trees.)
8. Cosy, fern-filled depression. +1 comfort.
9. Sandy outlook atop a cliff. Encounter distance is doubled.
10. Small glade crossed by many small paths. Chance of encounters increased.
11. Mushroom-riddled glade. Roll on the fungi table to determine their qualities.
12. Verdant dell hidden between large rocks. Chance of encounters reduced.
13. Muddy banks of a pool. -1 comfort due to dampness. There is a 1 in 4 chance of the pool possessing special qualities (roll on the table of strange waters).
14. Among a cluster of fallen trees. -1 comfort due to the inconvenient trunks.
15. Cramped glade, only sufficient space for 1d4+2 humans.
16. Narrow ledge beside a deep gorge. -1 comfort due to fear of rolling off the edge while sleeping.

Post-Amble: Skill Checks
The text above uses a broad notation for skill checks which can be adapted to several different game systems as follows.

Basic: For games without any kind of skill or proficiency system (e.g. old-school Basic D&D and clones), all checks are resolved with an ability check on 1d20. A result of equal or lower than the ability score indicates success. The roll may be modified (-4 to +4) by the character's background. The referee should judge, from the player's description, whether the background experience (or lack of!) warrants a modifier to the check.

Advanced: For games with a roll-under proficiency system (AD&D 1st or 2nd edition, if the optional rules are used), the player should make a proficiency check with the most applicable proficiency or use the rules for making non-proficient checks if no suitable proficiency exists.

LotFP: Replace ability checks with skill rolls as appropriate. If no matching skill exists, fall back on the Basic system described above.

5e: Make an ability check as normal, adding a bonus from any applicable proficiencies. Assume a difficulty of 10.

Part 2 here.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Locket Hex

4th level, Range: 30', Duration: Permanent

A locket, keepsake, or charm bracelet bearing a depiction or token of the subject's true love may be dweomered by this spell, granting the enchanter great control over the subject's heart. The hex may be used in two ways, as follows.

Lock: The locket becomes impossible to open by mundane means. If it is open, it snaps instantly shut. From this moment, the subject's love for the one depicted in the locket becomes possessive, jealous, and paranoid, seeking to lock his love away from the world.

Unlock: The locket becomes impossible to close by mundane means. If it is closed, it snaps open. The subject's love for the one depicted in the locket dissipates like a soul fleeing a corpse.

In either case, smashing the enchanted locket causes the subject to fall into a deep sleep lasting for seven days.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Knife, Fork, and Spoon

1st level, Range: Touch, Duration: One meal

Cast while at sup, this spell acquires the confidence and loyalty of a single knife, fork, and spoon which the enchanter passes his hand over. For the duration of the meal (which can, naturally, be extended by cunning means), the enchanted cutlery observe their surroundings -- the spoon sees, the fork listens, and the knife detects the presence of dweomers. When the meal is concluded, the spying silverware will relay their observations to the enchanter, whispering with tiny, ringing voices in his ear.

Alternatively, the spell may be used to conjure one complete set of cutlery, including utensils appropriate to a meal at hand, per level of the enchanter.