Monday, October 17, 2011

The Staff Shall be Splintered

A magic-user with a magic staff or wand can choose to use it to absorb an incoming spell, ruining the wand or staff beyond repair.

What do you think?  I imagine it as a last ditch attempt to survive a powerful foe.  I didn't put anything about level because that probably would depend on how rare and dear a magic staff is in your campaign.  If they are hard to come by, it would seem okay to sacrifice one even to a high level spell such as finger of death, and regardless of the level of the staff's owner.

Alternatively, you might let them absorb multiple spells with a chance each time that it will blow up catastrophically, say 25% chance for each spell, though I don't know that those would look like worthwhile odds to me as a player.


  1. Hmm...I'm thinking about how this could work with the rules for personal wands I've been working on. What if there was a % chance per spell level absorbed?

  2. Sounds like a nice idea, especially if you already use the shields shall be splintered rule :)

  3. I like it, but I think for my uses I would attach it to the staff or staves specifically, as opposed to having it be a technique or inherent property.

  4. I agree that this might be a school of magical dueling,a sort of fencing of magic technique might be involved here. Nice ideas in this post.

  5. I might have the first blast drain the item completely. The second blast would shatter it. Just my first thoughts...

  6. I think this should go for all "unlimited use" magic items, actually. Not cloaks or boots maybe, but rings, weapons, shields, armor--sure. It's a good way to get rid of them.

  7. Thanks for the comments, folks. Sorry for the delay, mu home computer is still dead.

    @Theodric: I personally would avoid doing it that way because it might require calculations during play which I'm not good at. Because an enemy spell caster has a level, and they will have multiple spells of differing levels, too much to track.

    @Simon: yes, I like the way that rule has affected my game, meaningful choices surrounding the lowly shield. This wouldn't be quite the same but could lead to drama when an enemy starts fireballing.

    @migellito: That would work, like a brooch of shielding, I like the idea that the player has to decide if they should sacrifice their Wand of Wonder to avoid this attack, though.

    @needles: Yeah, I was thinking it might be the simplest form of the magic duel you see sometimes in literature. Thanks.

    @Jim: could work, assuming the uncharged staff is different than a normal piece of wood. Maybe if you allowed staves to be recharged that would be a meaningful choice.

    @Zak: I agree, I was actually thinking of rings when I wrote this. The only potential problem I see is players remembering they have this option. I figured like with like would be easier to remember. But I may implement the any permanent item clause. Thanks.

  8. You've reminded me of a gripe I have against increasing hp with level. I don't like it on simulation and gameplay grounds.* I've long wondered about getting rid of it (which, yes, means rebalancing the whole damn game). And then I re-read Cugel's Saga and it occurred to me that a class of magic items that worked like save-vs-death chits would fit right in there, and might do away with the need for increasing hp altogether.** Let's call them Scales of Splintering. You can find these or barter for them, but not buy them at the market - or maybe they're crazy expensive. You wear your Scale somewhere prominent: when the bad news hits you, you save in order to interpose it. It takes the cruel blow of fate and is splintered/lost. One of the main motivations for plumbing the Underworld is to bring these back. Of course, powerful NPCs have them, which is why you need to pick their pockets before you stab them in the back.

    ...and like that you have a resource that the PCs have to allocate among themselves. And maybe just occasionally you find a cursed one that works like Spatterlight, and steals your life instead.

    * ie what does it simulate? Yes, the PCs are now "more heroic" and harder to kill, but giants are harder to kill just because they can take more kinetic energy, so it's a mixed metaphor/incoherent. Also, you have to distort the rules like crazy to reintroduce the idea that a high level PC or monster might be killable by a single blow after all, just because you carelessly wrote that out with level-based hit dice. For a fuller discussion of this see my forthcoming monograph: Even Achilles had bad days: on the necessary vulnerability of heroes.
    ** alternative death-dodging mechanism for higher-level characters: your hit points stay the same as 1st level but you get to save vs. death to avoid damage from a blow with a target of damage inflicted minus your level (or something: details hazy). Point is, if an assassin can negate your save then he can kill you, whatever your level.