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Monday, July 31, 2017

On the Fly Spell Research

Carrying on from the starting spells post: I’ve repurposed two columns from the Intelligence table in Greyhawk: Minimum # per Level as the base number of starting spells known, and Maximum # per Level as an optional cap on the number of starting spells (but not on total spells known.

That leaves one column unused: % Chance to Know any Given Spell. This column strikes me as unusable as written, for a couple reasons:

  • Too harsh. Players may have their hearts set on getting Fireball, for example, and their hopes can be dashed with a single die roll, no chance to try again.
  • Too complicated. I don’t want to roll for every single spell, even if I put off the roll until the spell is encountered.
  • Too much book-keeping. I’d need to photocopy at least one copy of the spell list to mark off which spells have been checked, and keep those sheets in my records. I’d rather not.

But rather than using this as a harsh limitation, I could use it as an empowerment. Let magic-users have a chance to decipher a spell reasonably quickly, without the need for research.

I already use Read Magic as a research shortcut, allowing M-Us to learn a new spell from a scroll or spellbook immediately after casting Read Magic. Otherwise, they have to use the spell research rules to learn the spell, which is going to take 1 week per spell level, minimum. But I could give M-Us one chance per spell discovered to figure it out just by studying the actual document for a few hours.

I don’t think I’d use percentile dice, myself. I’d rather just use a d20 vs. Int roll. Success means the M-U learns that spell. Failure means either weeks of standard research, or casting Read Magic if they know it.

I haven’t decided exactly how long this should take, but I’m thinking at least 2 hours per spell level, double that for Int 3-4, half that for Int 17-18. That guarantees that it’s still not the thing you’d usually risk in a dungeon, but it’s still useful for skipping a lot of downtime.

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