The materialistic spell points system is practically becoming its own series of posts. Here are some useful tables for running magic that relies on “mana balls” to power spells.
Since spell balls or mana balls are physical resources, they can potentially be damaged by the environment. Any magician caught on fire who fails a save should roll 1d6: on a 5+, the pouch or container that the mana balls are stored in also catches fire, and the magician must take action to avoid losing supplies. (This roll can be skipped if, for example, only the magician’s back is exposed to flame, but the pouch of mana balls is located on the front side of the magician’s belt.) Being dunked in water or other liquids can ruin, dilute, or taint mana balls. (A waterproof container can improve the odds, perhaps requiring the same 1d6 check.) In either case, the GM makes a 2d6 reaction roll, keeping the result a secret.
|2d6 Roll||Environmental Reaction|
|2||Ruined, May be recoverable|
|3-5||Tainted or Diluted (Spell Failure Check)|
|6-8||Diluted Effect (Spell Failure Check)|
|9-11||No Damage to Resource|
|12+||Boosted Effect (except when wet)|
Ruined mana balls are unusable, while Diluted are only sometimes unusable, requiring a spell failure check. Tainted mana balls also require a spell failure check, but such spells never fail completely, they instead have unexpected side effects. Boosted effects double the duration or hit dice affected, but not the number of targets or area of effect; the magician must still pass a spell failure check, but if the spell “fails”, it means the boosted effects have expired and the mana balls return to normal. Water or dampness does not boost effects.
(I, personally, would treat smoke/fire damage, water damage, and other liquid damage in different ways. Smoke/fire can ruin or taint mana balls, but not dilute their strength. Water can ruin or dilute, but not taint or boost. Other liquids can do all three.)
In a comment on another post, I brought up the idea of depleting arcane resources in an area. To save on the cost of manufacturing mana balls, magicians can opt to gather resources themselves, scouring the countryside for rare herb, enchanted springs, or arcanely-tainted minerals. However, these resources may be depleted by overharvesting. The next time a magician searches for ingredients in an area that has recently been harvested, look up the 3d6 vs. Int result on the following table:
|3d6 Roll||Arcane Harvest Result|
|3||Last Harvest, no further resources|
|6-8||Depleted, Int halved on future checks|
|9-12||No change in resource availability|
|13-15||+2 on resources found, no other change|
|16-17||Depleted resources restored|
|18+||Exhausted resources restored|
Note that the 3d6 result is being used in two ways:
- roll > Int means no resources found
- roll is crossreferenced with table for effects on future rolls
If a magician with Int 12 rolls a 13, the magician doesn’t find any resources. If a magician with Int 16 rolls a 13, the magician finds +2 gp worth of materials.
The GM keeps track of the resource level (normal, depleted, exhausted, or permanently exhausted.) The player isn’t informed of the current state, but can probably figure out if an area is depleted if they only sporadically recover ingredients from the area. If they never recover resources, but know they have rolled under half their Int, then the area might be temporarily exhausted or permanently exhausted, and won’t be sure of which, unless they do some research with the aid of a sage.
Depleted areas, as mentioned, halve their Int for finding resources. This means that even 18 Int magicians may only find resources 37.5 % of the time. On a future roll of 16+, the area recovers and resources are available again. If a Depleted area gets a second Depleted result, it becomes Exhausted.
Exhausted areas won’t return any resources at all, but may recover on future checks. Last Harvest, however, means that the area is so depleted, it won’t recover for decades or centuries without the aid of powerful intervention (like a wish.) Two Exhausted results does not mean the area is permanently exhausted, though. Only a Last Harvest result will do that.
If desired, this table can also be used when exploring a new area, with the first result indicating the general availability of arcane resources in that area. I prefer to assume, though, that depleted and exhausted areas are actually quite rare and wouldn’t require checking the table on the first roll for a new area.
As suggested previously, I see resource depletion not as a punishment or failsafe against player cleverness, but as a goad to adventure. It gives players a possible explanation for why their characters travel and adventure, instead of just camping out and harvesting one area repeatedly.
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