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Friday, June 30, 2017

Highlander Mage

Sorry about the huge gap in posts, but I have some non-D&D projects that eat up a lot of my creative energy. I have, however, been thinking about a couple things, one related to the materialistic spell points system, or rather to a comment from davfergus about spell-casters using high-level magic-users as a power source. He’s primarily describing something that sounds vampiric, but he made a side comment comparing this to Highlander, and I thought that might be a more interesting idea.

Under an optional rule, high-level magic-users can cast spells of 1/4 their Max Spell Level (1/8th their character level) without using mana resources. For convenience, we’ll call these Highlander Mages. Any M-U of 8th level or higher is a Highlander Mage and can cast 1st level spells without using mana, as long as they have at least 1 spell ball; they actually do “use up” the spell ball, but use so little arcane essence from the ball to cast low-level spells that it’s not noticeable. Wizards of 16th level and higher can cast 2nd level spells indefinitely, and those of the amazing level of 24 can cast endless 3rd level spells.

Unscrupulous spell-casters called Mageslayers can get a temporary boost to their spell-casting abilities by ritually beheading a Highlander Mage. The boost is only temporary: 1 day for every character level of the Mageslayer, so low-level Mageslayers get little benefit. But during this brief boost, the Mageslayer can cast low-level spells as if they were the same level as their victim.

The downside, which might not seem like a downside at first, is that there is a chance that a Mageslayer will actually increase in level at the end of the boost. Roll 1d6: if the result is less than or equal to the effective “free spells level”, the Mageslayer gains 1 character level.

Example: A 5th level Mageslayer beheads an 8th-level mage and is able to cast 1st level spells for free for 5 days. At the end of the 5 days, A d6 roll of 1 means that the Mageslayer is now 6th level. Whether the Mageslayer’s experience points increase as well depends on how the GM interprets XP. I use a house rule for level drain where XP are never subtracted, only levels, and drained levels can be recovered quickly, so for me, it makes sense not to add XP for a level boost, either.

So, Mageslayers who regularly kill Highlander Mages will probably reach 8th level earlier than usual and become Highlander Mages themselves, suddenly becoming a target. Mageslayers are thus rare, since they tend to wipe each other out, just like the immortals in Highlander.

In fact, the cultural setup helps explain the age-old question “Why haven’t wizards taken over the world?” There are perhaps many low-level magic-users, because beheading M-Us of levels 1 through 7 is useless. Mageslayers are rare, not just because of social pressures and threat of punishment, but because mageslaying is a dangerous game: they have to hunt victims who are more powerful than they are, and high-level Mageslayers tend to kill each other off. Highlander Mages in general are very rare, either because they are a temptation to Mageslayers or under suspicion as Mageslayers themselves. The few that do exist are paranoid recluses.

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