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Thursday, September 3, 2020

Conceptual Magic: Area of Effect

Delta’s blog had a post recently about the Massmorph spell analyzing the way the spell stats and description have changed over the various D&D editions. Fine detective work, but it got me thinking again about what I’ve called “conceptual magic”, defining spell duration, range, area of effect, and other such details not as stats, but in terms of concepts: the spell lasts as long as a candle remains lit, or is cast at the point where a thrown talisman lands, or affects everyone who hears the magic words. If that summary is too brief, feel free to check out these other posts on conceptual magic:

Anyways… Delta is more concerned with a very mechanistic wargames approach to magic, so it’s very important that the number of people turned into trees by Massmorph should match the area of effect. If 100 people can’t fit into the radius of the area of effect, that’s a serious flaw.

How would area of effect be determined in a conceptual spell?

The base area of effect is either the caster’s self or one person or object the caster can see and gesture towards. Hostile spells would specifically require a touch unless the range is modified (something I’ll have to think about for a future post.) To broaden the area of effect, the caster needs to use a concept that describes a larger area:

  • Cast a spell while marking a circle using sand or charcoal. When the circle is complete, everything within the circle is affected. Larger circles affect more targets, but take longer when casting the spell.
  • Cast the spell while burning incense or something that produces a lot of smoke. Everyone who breathes or is touched by the smoke is affected. Larger areas of effect require larger fires and more material to burn.
  • Cast a spell with a spray of oil or wine. This could be done either by opening a flask and flinging its contents out, or with a brittle gourd or a hollowed-out eggshell filled with liquid. Only those splashed by the contents are affected.
  • Cast the spell while throwing a small incendiary device, like flashpaper or a smoke bomb. Basically, a cross between the smoke option and the spray/splash option. Only those a few paces from the explosion would be affected.
  • Cast the spell while brandishing a torch or candle made of special material. Affects everything the light touches. Hostile magic requires a magical ingredient, like a candle made from the tallow from the fat of a unicorn. Non-hostile magic only requires mundane ingredients, like sprinkling the torch with common powders prepared in advance by the magician before lighting it.
  • Cast the spell while shouting through a horn or trumpet. Only those in front of the caster within the range of the sound are affected.

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