Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Tools of the trade: About magic users (1)

Contrary to fighting types, casters are usually very weak at first, and dominate the battlefield at the end of the campaign, if they manage to survive. So, here's to starting casters.

In SFK base rules, spells are learnt trough experience, like skills. This represent the caster progressing in his art and being able to use it in new ways. This method (which principal virtue is, as always, its simplicity) has four drawbacks:
  • first, most casters divide up their experience between MP and spells, which means they have few or no skills, which make them all very look-alike.
  • It's a bit weird when a character suddenly knows how to do something out of thin air, especially something as complex as magic.
  • As the fighting types don't buy their weapons and armours with XP, they kind of progress faster, which is not very fair.
  • finally, let's be honest, casters don't really know what to do with their money, which can be frustrating when the whole party spends one entire game session in a market.
So, in order to make things more to my taste, I have to change the way casters learn spells, and to do that, I have to introduce a “new“ item: the grimoire.

What is a grimoire?
The term designate, to be precise “any item upon which is written the casting method for a spell”. This article will assume, for readability’s sake, that we are talking about a book, but A caster with his own “magic stenography” may use almost anything as a grimoire; his coat, his own skin, his staff, even his dog… As long as he is able to read himself afterwards. Which brings us to a very important notion: some grimoires are written to teach, and other to work, some for others and some for self. A private grimoire will be very difficult to use for anyone but its owner. As before, we will assume through this article that grimoires are meant to be read.

A grimoire can come in two forms: a book, containing several spells, or a folio, containing one single spell. In most of Norynn these will come as paper, in the form of a book or booklet; but some people will use rolls of papyrus (in the Cauldron, for example), or even stone, clay or wax tablets (usually “monsters”, but some pict tribes in the Baronies still do clay tablets).

A Folio will always contain one single spell; Beware, this is no spell scroll. A spell scroll contains a cast but held version of a spell, which can be unleashed by reading the command line written on it. A Magic folio contains the complete version of a spell’s casting method, and as such, is only usable by a magic user. It is also important to note that it can be used several times. Its cost is 5 X [Spell’s TN] gold (more or less 20%, depending on the shop’s standing).

A Spell Book contains D3+2 spells, in their complete form. It is at least [total TN of the spells inside] pages, but could be a lot more, depending of the concision, precision, language and handwriting used. Its cost varies: 5 X [total Spell’s TN] gold, plus [pages] / 5 Gold (for the binding work).

The role of a grimoire is, of course, to expend one’s knowledge in the Art, and to broaden the starting heroes’ spell library. It has inconveniences of its own:
  • It is destructible; If it falls into water, or if its left in the rain, the ink will bleed and it won’t be usable anymore. Fire will destroy it pretty quickly also (it doesn’t need to be completely burnt to be unusable). And of course it will wear with time.
  • It is possible to lose it; A wizard who lost his spell book cannot cast the spells in it anymore.
  • It may be cumbersome, if it is really big; as a matter of fact, if a hero ever tries to cast a spell from a big spell book, say 10+ spells, it will cost him one full turn just to find the spell he needs.
Using a grimoire
Well, a caster may own several grimoires, but he can only have one at hand at a given time; it can be chained to his belt, or in a pocket. If he carries several, the others are in his backpack, which prevent from using them in combat. It may be a good idea to have a card to represent each grimoire, to avoid mix ups.
When a caster tries to cast from his grimoire, he does as usual, with the following exceptions:
  • It takes 3 rounds to cast a spell from a grimoire, because you have to read along;
  • when casting from a grimoire, the TN is at +1, because of the chances of misreading.
  • Spells from a grimoire may be ritualised for the TN to drop, as usual.

Learning spells from a grimoire
Each time you cast a spell from a grimoire, successfully or not, you make a cross on the side. When you have 5 crosses, you know the spell – not by heart, yet. But enough to take only 2 rounds to cast it, and no more penalty to the TN. Once you have 10 crosses, you know the spell by heart and may add it to your known spells. You now cast it like any other spell, and do not need the grimoire anymore.

Since each wizard has his own version of the spell, experience is not transferable; if you change grimoires before you successfully learn a spell, you must start again if you find it in another grimoire.

NOTE: if you want to use this rule, you should delete the xp version of spell learning altogether. Alternately, you may want your casters to expend 1XP when they have 10 crosses to actually learn the spell. This can be done at the moment of the tenth mark, or later.

Changing spells from a grimoire
Each wizard has his own casting style, adapting known spells to his own way of doing things, so you won’t find two People of the Art casting exactly the same spell. When you Know a spell by heart (it is written in your spell list) and have it in writing (in a book or folio), you may continue to make crosses; this represent your wizard taking notes and commenting in the margins.
Every five crosses, you may rewrite the spell (see rules below) with one modification of your choice (the duration, the effect, add something, remove something…) of course with the DM’s approval, and succeeding in a MEN (TN9+) roll. There is no limit to the modifications you can make on a spell, but after 5 of those, the spell becomes “[your hero’s name] ‘s [name of the spell]”.

Example: Elebon the wizard is working on the elemental negation spell, which doesn’t really fit his needs as it is:
Elemental Negation (Void, TN10) Defines a circular zone three metres in diameter. None of the selected element can get inside the circle. Lasts 5 rounds. 

So five crosses, he makes the effect zone square; five more crosses, he makes it last 7 rounds, then 10 rounds 5 crosses later. And again, He reverses the effect for the selected element not to leave the square;  in five more crosses, for a total of 25 crosses, he will reduce the TN by 1, to obtain his own version of the spell:
Elebon’s elemental cage (Void, TN9) Defines a square zone three meters wide. None of the selected element may leave the square for 10 rounds.

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