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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Last-Minute GM: Spells Gone Wild!

I've been watching the Harry Potter movies lately (not the one in the theater,) so I've been thinking about botched spells. I've thought about them before: mostly, I think botching or fumbling a spell shouldn't be an issue unless a spellcaster is casting under extraordinary circumstances. However, I didn't talk much about what a botched spell would actually do; I was mainly thinking it would either be a reversed effect or a random target, as desired by the GM, which is kind of lame. It could be so much more... and since I haven't done a crazy dice map-related Last Minute GM post in a while, this seems like as good a time as any. Bear in mind these are a rough draft of some ideas...

If a spell is botched, for whatever reason, it goes wild, which not only means that the effect might be completely unexpected, but that it takes on a life of its own, infecting some object or location.

First, make the roll to see if a spell is botched. I suggest using a d6 for an Avoid Danger roll per the new Liber Zero rule on situation rolls. Next, the GM rolls another d6 on the ability dice map; if the spell was aimed at a person or object carried by a person, all the players roll a d6 for each of their characters present in the area, including the spellcaster. Any dice that match the GM's roll indicate that an object on the character's body is affected. Where the dice land means something, the exact meaning depending on the spell's intended target:
  • for spells that target an area, interpret the map as position relative to the caster;
  • for spells that target a person or something carried by a person, interpret the map as position of an object on a person's body, using either the equipment map or the twisted NPC map as a guideline;
  • for spells that target an object not carried by a person, use the equipment map or the property map as a guideline to select a new random target.
If a person is not carrying or wearing an object in the place indicated, the person's body part is affected instead, although this can be limited to removable parts of a person, such as hair; the hair will continue to be infected with the wild magic if it is removed.

Roll a third d6 to determine how the spell is changed: a result less than 4 means no change, greater than 4 means the spell is reversed (or another spell of the same level is substituted,) and exactly 4 means that the spell has an extra, freakish effect. Either roll for a random spell of a random level, as if determining the contents of a scroll, or roll a d6 on the dice map with the following associations:
  • Strength: animal
  • Dexterity: weapon/tool
  • Constitution: plant
  • Intelligence: illusion or light/sound
  • Wisdom: ghost or spirit
  • Charisma: human or humanoid
  • hub: basic material
Apply an elemental effect, based on the die roll, to the form indicated by the position. 1 = Fire, 2-3 = Earth, 4-5 = Water, 6 = Air. This can either mean a transformation, a conjuration, or an enhancement, whatever fits.

Anything infected by wild magic becomes animate and intelligent, at least on the animal level. For all intents and purposes, the object or location is considered cursed. When encountered in the "wild", these cursed objects will cast the spell or effect if an Avoid Danger roll is failed on first encounter. If the object "plays dead" and is picked up or used, make the roll every time it is used. Either Remove Curse or Dispel Magic can be used to remove the wild spell, returning an object or location to normal.

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