I've made it clear before that I like terse spell descriptions, as you would find in the original three booklets or Microlite74. My dream would be the one-liner spell list: use a unified range, duration, area and effect system (as I've previously suggested) and a single-line spell description to improvise any spell details you need. So, it seems unlikely I'll be migrating to DCC. But the idea of random effects, with more powerful effects being more likely for higher-level casters, does have a certain appeal. If only there were some kind of universal random spell effect table that could be quickly adapted by the GM to each spell...
I'm imagining something like this: each spell description would include a 1-to-3-word phrase for 4 degrees of success:
- Fizzle: a minor magical effect with limited usefulness.
- Basic: the standard spell effect.
- Extended: a more powerful spell effect.
- Overdrive: a truly spectacular success.
- Charm Person: the target reconsiders hostility and even befriends the caster until betrayal, becoming fanatically loyal.
- Fireball: burning embers fly from the caster's finger to burn those in the target area, setting fire to flammable items and exploding in a shower of ash.
0 = FizzleSo, your 5th level M-U casts Charm Person on an orc and rolls a 2, adding +2 for a total of 4. The orc is charmed if it fails a save, but the standard effect might only last a few hours. If the roll had been a 3, the effect would last as long as the caster didn't appear to betray the orc. Later, the M-U casts Fireball at an ogre and rolls 5 dice of damage: 1, 4, 5, 6, 6. The fireball is normal, doesn't start any continuing fires, and doesn't cause a burst of ash that might choke or blind victims. If the M-U had been 1st level and used a scroll of Fireball, the "fireball" would have just been a spray of embers that wouldn't have affected the entire area, just a single target, although it would have still done 22 points of damage on a failed save.
1-4 = Basic
5-6 = Extended
7+ = Overdrive
This approach would, of course, require rewriting all the spells, plus some kind of guidelines on how to select appropriate effects for new spells. I'm not sure that's something I want to do, but it's interesting to think about.