... now with 35% more arrogance!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


In addition to doing a project for someone, I've been sick the past couple days, which has sucked away a lot of my energy. But since a holiday is coming up and I'll be busy with family, I wanted to make one or two posts before the end of the week. And I had an inspiration: there's a thread on Dragonsfoot about casting magic at less than full power -- 13th-level wizards casting Transmute Rock to Mud as if they were 3rd level, for more precise effects, for example. Some in the discussion have raised the issue of whether this counts as meta-magic.

I'm not fundamentally opposed to the idea of meta-magic, but I don't like the implementations I've seen:
  • skill rolls, possibly with penalties for specific effects;
  • feats, which enable preparing/memorizing modified versions of spells.
In fact, I don't much like the kind of modifications allowed in either system. Enlarged, Extended, Maximized, Quickened spells... none of these fit in with my concept of of the way magic spells should be handled. First, things like damage or value of bonus should be defined by the spell's level, period: no bonus damage dice or saving throw penalties for a spell prepared with the Munchkinized meta-magic feat. Things like casting time, range, area of effect, or duration should be standardized around caster level, caster type, and spell effect/type. I wouldn't even allow researching a double-range Fireball spell, for example; if you want to double your range, double your level.

What should be modifiable are qualities instead of quantities. Take for example Protection from Evil, which comes in a personal and 10' radius version. Or Charm Person versus Charm Monster. Blink, Dimension Door, and Teleport. These are the kinds of variants I prefer in a spell system. And what I think should be modifiable by meta-magic are variable effects. For example, I could see modding Protection from Evil on the fly to protect against Good and Evil and unaligned (neutral) simultaneously -- basically, turning it into the AD&D Armor spell. Or modding the LBB Charm Person so that, instead of causing instant friendship, it causes "delayed friendship" with regards to a single instruction, basically eliminating the need for a separate Suggestion spell. Area effect attacks could be modded to be selective -- a Friendly Fireball spell that allows allies to avoid all damage on a successful save, instead of half the damage.

But how would I implement such mods, if not with skills or feats?

Material components.

The original spells did not require material components at all, with a few obvious exceptions (Magic Jar.) But I've heard rumors of an old spell mod system based entirely on material components. I would let magic-users research or experiment with material components to create variant spell effects. There would be no need to prepare the variant in advance -- an MU with Charm Person memorized could either cast that spell or crush a certain gem after showing it to a target in order to transform the spell into a suggestion.

Some components would be obvious to the DM, while others could effectively be randomly determined. For "obvious", the random effects of Reincarnation could be narrowed to a specific type of creature by using a piece of a creature of the desired type; similarly, Invisible Stalker would be the generic extra-planar creature summoning spell, modifiable using other creature parts.

I'm sure I'll come back to this subject later to expand the idea.

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