Monday, December 13, 2010

Chaos Magic: An Alternate Form of Spell Casting for Magic-Users and Elves

I'm going to have a bunch of house rules for my Lamentations of the Flame Princess game, which will hopefully be starting in the new year.  I discussed the thought of an Insanity system last week, but my first published house rule isn't that.  It's my alternate take on Magic-Users and Elves.  They have to be chaotic, thanks to their connection with Arcane Magic.  The definition of the Chaotic alignment (From the LotFP Rules book) is such:

The howling maelstrom beyond the veil of shadows and existence is the
source of all magic. It bends and tears the fabric of the universe; it destroys
all that seeks to be permanent. It allows great miracles as reality alters at
the whim of those that can call the eldritch forces, and it causes great
catastrophe as beings we call demons and elementals (and far, far worse)
rip into our reality and lay waste to all. Everything that is made will be
unmade. Nothing exists, and nothing can ever exist, not in a way that the
cosmos can ever recognize. Those who are Chaotic in alignment are
touched by magic, and consider the world in terms of ebbing and flowing
energy, of eternal tides washing away the sand castles that great kings
and mighty gods build for themselves. Many mortals who are so aligned
desperately wish they were not.
With this, it doesn't make sense to me that Magic Users and Clerics would follow the same rules for casting spells.  I looked to my more recent "favorite" fantasy game, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and how they handled magic with Tzeentch's Curse.  I also looked back to the AD&D 2nd Edition Wild Mage from Tome of Magic and looked at what that class had to offer.  What I came up with is strongly influenced by those sources.  Bear in mind, this has not been tested.  There will no doubt be many tweaks over the next year as I use this.  I am posting it to get some feedback.  Let me know what you think.

Chaos Magic

The traditional Vancian system which governs magic in the most classic of fantasy role-playing games is very structured.  You prepare ahead of time what spells you can cast, based upon an orderly progression.  This seemed a little antithetical to the concept of magic being inherently chaotic.  What I am proposing is an alternate set of rules to govern spell casting for Magic Users and Elves.  Chaotic Magic is all about choice and free-will with a lack of control.  As a spell caster gains power, less powerful spells will be easier to control, but the newer, more powerful spells the caster learns will not always work the way the casters intend.
"What did you DO, Ray?"

Spell Points - The Basis of Choice

Spell casters will draw power from a pool of Spell Points.  Spells cost a number of spell points equal to their spell level--1st-level spells cost one point, 2nd-level cost two, etc.  The number of Spell Points available to the character are based upon what they would normally be allowed to cast according to the rules as written.  A 1st-level Magic User would have 1 Spell Point to cast his one 1st-level spell and a 10th-level Elf would have 39 to power the 4/4/3/2/2 column they've got.

Spell casters learn spells by copying from other spell books or scrolls.  At the Referee’s option, spell casters can also learn spells from exposure to the vast infinity of the cosmos, be it madness or extraplanar contact or whatever he decides.  1st-level spells can be learned by 1st-level characters, 2nd-level spells by 3rd-level characters, 3rd-level spells by 5th-level characters, 4th-level spells by 7th-level characters, 5th-level spells by 9th-level characters, 6th-level spells by 11th-level characters, 7th-level spells by 13th-level characters, 8th-level spells by 15th-level characters, and 9th-level spells by 17th-level characters.  A spell caster can cast any spell from his repertoire, provided he is high enough level to learn the spell and has the required amount of spell points.  The referee can rule that some spells require components and ritual which may prohibit the regular and repeated casting of certain spells.

When a spell is cast, there is a 50% chance that the spell will not function as it was intended.  This chance is decreased by 5% for every level above the minimum to cast that spell.  A 3rd-level elf has a 40% chance of losing control of a 1st-level spell, while a 11th-level magic user can cast such spells without worry.  If the spell goes out of control, roll 1d6 per level of the spell cast and consult the following table:

Table 1: Spell Control Failure Table (1d6/level of spell cast)
1-3 If the spell has variable effects by level, roll 1d6.  The effective level of the spell is one higher on an odd roll, one lower on an even roll.
4-6 Roll once on the Minor Chaos Effects Table
7-9 If the spell has variable effects by level, roll 1d6.  The effective level of the spell is two higher on an odd roll, two lower on an even roll.
10-12 Roll once on the Minor Chaos Effects Table
13-15 If the spell has variable effects by level, roll 1d6.  The effective level of the spell is three higher on an odd roll, three lower on an even roll.
16-18 Roll once on the Minor Chaos Effects Table
19-21 If the spell has variable effects by level, roll 1d6.  The effective level of the spell is four higher on an odd roll, four lower on an even roll.
22-24 Roll once on the Major Chaos Effects Table
25-27 If the spell has variable effects by level, roll 1d6.  The effective level of the spell is five higher on an odd roll, five lower on an even roll.
28-30 Roll once on the Major Chaos Effects Table
31-33 If the spell has variable effects by level, roll 1d6.  The effective level of the spell is six higher on an odd roll, six lower on an even roll.
34-36 Roll once on the Major Chaos Effects Table
37-39 If the spell has variable effects by level, roll 1d6.  The effective level of the spell is seven higher on an odd roll, seven lower on an even roll.
40-42 Roll once on the Extreme Chaos Effects Table
43-45 If the spell has variable effects by level, roll 1d6.  The effective level of the spell is eight higher on an odd roll, eight lower on an even roll.
46-47 Roll once on the Extreme Chaos Effects Table
48-49 If the spell has variable effects by level, roll 1d6.  The effective level of the spell is nine higher on an odd roll, nine lower on an even roll.
50-51 Roll once on the Extreme Chaos Effects Table
52-53 If the spell has variable effects by level, roll 1d6.  The effective level of the spell is ten higher on an odd roll, ten lower on an even roll.
54 Roll once on the Extreme Chaos Effects Table

Table 2: Minor Chaos Effects Table (1d10)
1 Any food or drink within 10 feet of you spoils (milk curdles, fruit sours, meat begins to go bad, bread becomes stale)
2 You are illuminated by a faint glow for a number of minutes equal to 1d6 per level of the spell cast.  This does not cast light more than a few inches, but will make you highly visible in dim and dark environments.
3 Take one point of damage as the forces of chaos coarse through you to power the spell with a bit of your own life force.
4 In a brief moment of awareness for what you are doing, your bowels and bladder empty, ruining your clothing.  Depending on the environment you are in, this can have social effects as well.
5 The voices of the souls who have become one with the winds of chaos scream out, their unnatural lamentations filling the air with considerable volume.
6 You begin to bleed from your nose, eyes, and ears.  This causes no damage, but lasts until you make a successful Constitution check and could have effects on your clothing, as well as other social effects.
7 You suffer from a horrible case of pins and needles, giving you a -1 on all checks for the next 1d6 minutes per level of the spell cast.
8 Roll 1d6.  Your eyes (1-2), ears (3-4), or mouth (5-6) seal shut with a strange film for 1d6 minutes per level of the spell cast.  If your mouth is sealed, you cannot speak, eat, or drink.  The other results give you a -2 penalty to checks that use the appropriate sense.
9 The referee can choose an effect from this list or make an equivalent effect up themselves.
10 Roll on this table one more time and apply the result to the family member geographically closest to you.

Table 3: Major Chaos Effects Table (1d10)
1 The chaotic energy you use to power this spell is particularly virulent, causing 1d4 points of damage per level of the spell cast to you.
2 The chaos powering your spell moves directly through your brain, infusing it with insight to the unnatural and alien nature of reality itself.  Gain one Insanity point.  Make an Intelligence check as well.  If you are successful, the referee will add one randomly chosen spell of a level equal to or lower than the spell you just cast to your repertoire.
3 Your stomach cannot handle the energies you are dabbling with.  You begin to vomit uncontrollably for 1d6 rounds per level of the spell you have cast.  In this time, you vomit far more than you could have held in your body and are unable to do anything while you are vomiting.
4 Chaotic sprits pick you up, shake you around like a rag doll and throw you 5 feet per level of the spell cast, damaging you appropriately.
5 Roll 1d6.  Either your hair (1-2), finger and toenails (3-4), or teeth (5-6) immediately blacken and fall out.  If you have already lost your hair, nails, and teeth, then roll again on this table.
6 An entity from beyond possesses you for a number of rounds equal to the level of the spell you’ve cast.  The referee will control your character and act in accordance with the entity he sees fit.
7 The chaotic energy powering your spell is such that your clothing ignites in flames.
8 Roll once on Table 2: Minor Chaos Effects Table and apply that result to every creature within 25 feet of you.
9 The referee can choose an effect from this list or make an equivalent effect up themselves.
10 Roll on this table one more time and apply the result to the family member geographically closest to you.

Table 4: Extreme Chaos Effects Table (1d10)
1 You are attacked by a group of lesser creatures of chaos (referee’s choice) equal to the level of the spell cast.  They appear within 25 feet and move to immediately attack you.
2 Every creature (including yourself) within 25 feet is struck by the powers of chaos, resulting in 1d6 damage per level of the spell cast.
3 In thanks for unleashing a spell of this magnitude on the world, the Powers of Chaos offer you a group of servants.  A number of lesser creatures of chaos equal to the level of the spell cast arrive to do your bidding for a number of rounds equal to the level of the spell cast.
4 Roll 1d6.  As the powers of chaos rip through you, your skin is either (1-2) bleached, (3-4) blackened, or (5-6) made very alien (DM’s choice of the consistency).
5 Roll 1d6.  The powers of chaos break your (1-2) body (Constitution), (3-4) mind (Intelligence), or (5-6) soul (Wisdom).  Reduce that attribute by 1d6 for 1d6 hours.
6 The chaos powering your spell moves directly through your brain, infusing it with insight to the unnatural and alien nature of reality itself.  Gain 1d6 Insanity Points.  Make an Intelligence check as well.  If you are successful, the referee will add one randomly chosen spell of a level equal to or lower than the spell you just cast to your repertoire.
7 A great maw opens up beneath you, drawing you into the Realm of Chaos.  If the referee is lenient, you are merely prisoner there.  Until your allies come to find you, however, you will need to roll up a new character.  If the referee is a bastard, roll up a new character (maybe this one can be a Fighter). 
8 Roll once on Table 3: Major Chaos Effects Table and apply that result to every creature within 25 feet of you.
They just don't make metal like they used to.
9 The referee can choose an effect from this list or make an equivalent effect up themselves.
10 Roll on this table one more time and apply the result to the family member geographically closest to you.

Let me know how these look.  I know it's a dramatic re-write of the game, we've all been playing for quite some time.  I'm looking for constructive feedback on the mechanics of what I've written here.  Oh, and when I was looking for art for the blog, I found these guys: