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Monday, December 8, 2014

Dungeon Spell Level

Brendan S made some comments on G+ and on my post about weird side effects of magic in deep dungeons. They are worth expanding on.
  • In some sense, this is a spell roll, but you only need to make it in the special case (so less hassle)
Indeed, I was thinking about adding a note on spell failures or fumbles when casting from scrolls. If the spell level is too high for the caster to use, roll on the table. The spell would still work unless the roll was 2 or less, but the 1 in 3 chance of getting cursed should make casters think twice about using high-level scrolls except in emergencies.
An optional twist: extra powers from a Chaotic taint or lucky enhancement will have an effective level of Spell Level/2 when triggered by a scroll “fumble” unless the dungeon level is greater.
  • The roll depends on context more than character power, which is in keeping with the dungeon or setting focus of megadungeon and hex crawl (that is, exploration) campaigns
  • The deeper you go, the more you need to use powerful magic for the results to be stable
In other words, character power matters only for access to high level spells. A spell’s level has to be at least equal to the dungeon level to avoid the chance of a curse. This creates an interesting dilemma: save all your spells as long as possible, or unload your low-level spells before you get too deep to use them safely?
It doesn’t matter as much for high-level magic-users with a stockpile of Remove Curse scrolls. These are the people who will be experimenting with the mystical nature of the dungeon, instead of worrying about delving too deep.
  • It explains, using a mechanic that occurs in play, how magical and cursed items are created and why they are associated with dungeon adventuring
I probably didn’t talk enough about the accidental magic items or enchanted features like fountains, statues, thrones, and the like. A sorcerer on the 2nd dungeon level tries to set up an alarm system by casting Magic Mouth on a gargoyle statue; one of the possible side effects is that the statue may be imbued with a 1st or 2nd level spell, for example it might cast Darkness to extinguish torches. The original sorcerer has no control over what the additional power is, or how it is used, at least not without further research. The accumulation of weird cursed features may actually be the reason that the dungeon is abandoned by its creators and overrun by monsters.
I’ve been planning some posts about dungeon features, although perhaps the ones I had in mind will be hard to explain even with the dungeon depth weirdness roll. I want to explore the cliche of the trick dungeon feature that casts random results on people.
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