Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Crude Magic

The idea of a teleport spell that doesn't cleanly and efficiently move you from point A to point B, but instead swaps chunks of the ground you are standing on got me thinking what if spells in general were more clunky?

How about a magic missile that requires you to carry around a full-size golden arrow and then throw it at your target to activate the spell.  Afterwards you have to go retrieve the thing.

This is similar to requiring material components or making spells more ritual-like.  But I'm also interested in making them weirder, and not so clean and science-like.  

Maybe putting creatures to sleep means your party will be awake all night because the sleep of your own party was used in an exchange. 

To charm someone you need to get them to eat some food you prepared (that sounds familiar did I blog about that before?).

To read languages means you gain the ability to use that language like a native but can only speak that language for the duration.

To shrink yourself creates a pile of fatty, excess meat that awaits your transformation back to normal size.

To fly actually summons two invisible angels that pull you about on invisible cords.  You must speak the language of the angels to navigate or there is no telling where they may decide you need to go.

Continual light requires clenching a bit of coal and fat in your fist, continuously.

Okay, got to get back to work.  Leave your examples of weird, messy, unexpected versions of traditional D&D spells below.


  1. Kind of like material components, extreme version...

  2. A lot of AD&D's magic rules are like that, from expensive or hard-to-maintain material components, to spell saves and magic resistance, to outright % chance to fail in some cases (like teleport, where the unlucky wizard might find him- or herself buried underground).

    The funny thing is, people like to house-rule these away, then complain that wizards are "too powerful".

    1. Good point about the away-house-ruling ... I did that some years back. When I think about it, I didn't understand, back then, how important it was for the game that wizards had to aquire the material components for the spells, and that therein lies a motivation to go adventuring, searching for treasure, gold, and special ingredients.
      I guess, I failed. :(

  3. The sleep spell thing is actually very funny. I might knick that for an NPC wizard (Olvgart) working crude magic who travels with the PC party. Insomnia for free :)

  4. I like these. We have a few house-rule cleric spells in my game, because we have two clerics and a druid so there are a lot of those:
    Create Food- every cleric conjures a different kind of food. One of ours summons fish, the other mushrooms.
    Cause Disease- I had everyone throw out disease ideas and made a d30 table

  5. Thanks, everyone. Yeah, I guess they mostly make things harder on the old wizards. I think I was more interested in spells being unexpected. Maybe this is all just a slightly different approach to fairy-tale like spells.

    Or maybe it's me reacting to knowing the traditional spells so well and wanting spells to be more mysterious. Hmm, maybe a way to to this is to have multiple versions of spells that do the same thing but in different ways. Sort of touched on this in the Vancian spell ideas post-- some could be more efficient, some could be easier to cast etc.

  6. Like your theoretical magic missile, the actual spell spiritual hammer requires the cleric to have a warhammer which disappears when thrown.

    The shillelagh spell requires the druid to carry a cudgel.

  7. Summoning works on the bumming principle. You can bum a cigarette or a quarter off a stranger, but someday someone will bum one from you, and you ought to be prepared for it. Likewise, if you summon a celestial badger, you've joined the circle; don't be surprised if the next week you find you've randomly popped off to the other side of the planet at the call of some entity needing assistance.

  8. becoming summonable is a lovely idea. The caster should know before they enter the ring that this is a cost. Make the decision to use magic difficult.

    I've been reading Paolo Greco's and Sham's _Another Fantasy Game_ and it's got some delightful spells and magic items - including a magic focus for storing spells that just happens to be a 6' tall, 1 ton standing stone. Not so big you couldn't load it on a cart, but big enough to restrict your choices on how to use it - big enough to force you to bring the fight to a battleground of your choosing.

  9. Great comments, thanks!

    @Darnizhaan: I'd forgotten that spiritual hammer, but that's probably what made me think of throwing the arrow.

    @RMDC: YES!! That's exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. I love that it doesn't necessarily make the spell less powerful, or harder for the caster to use, but . . . messier. Awkward. I'd love to randomly roll that the wizard was summoned to fight to protect a badger family or something.

    @Richard: I'm always interested in things that can make locations worth revisiting. Something more than loot a dungeon and never go back. That could be a post. Though now I'm getting the tickle that I've written about that before.

  10. I'm reminded of the Wampus Country spell list, that has a lot of material components and gestures and consequences of this kind.