22 Sessions

It’s been more than a year since I started a “real” campaign, the first such attempt at such since a short-lived attempt to run through Castle Ravenloft back in… 2009? 2010?  Anyway, I’ve played plenty since then, and before as well, but mostly in the “Sliders” setup, and as often a player as DM.  But now I’ve passed the one-year mark (sort of), so I thought I’d do a recap of where we’ve gotten so far.

  • Sessions played: 22
  • Hours per session: 4
  • Estimated total play time: 88 hours
  • Characters created: 6
  • Characters/players lost: 2
  • Characters killed: 0
  • Distance traveled: 1,332 miles (approximately)
  • Time elapsed (in game): 63 days
  • Levels gained: 7
  • Max character level: 3
  • Monsters killed: 17
  • Monsters fled from: 2
  • Non-monster enemies killed/incapacitated: 11

We try to get together every other week, but as we are all working adults, sometimes that gets interrupted by work, kids, hospitalizations, what have you.  So though we’ve been going for about a year and two months, we’ve not quite gotten to a year’s worth of sessions.  Along with the having kids to deal with, our sessions usually net about 4 hours of actual play time.  Between commutes, dinner, and the bedtime routine, anywhere from 1-2 hours are “wasted” on non-game stuff every night.  And now that one of our company has moved out of state, there are technical connection issues to deal with as well.  I was a bit surprised to count it all up and only get two “work weeks” of game time.

Also over the course of the year we’ve fluctuated in the number of players available.  One of our number had to drop out due to work conflicts, another stopped playing because of poor communication of the game’s goals on my part.  So far no one has died (though a few have come close, almost every fight it seems someone nearly dies), but I hope think that will change eventually.  Gotta make these people feel it, you know?

The party started in Canterbury, Kent, England, but quickly moved to Dover, Calais, then Amsterdam after a storm hit the ship, Hamburg, then overland up through Denmark, across the water from Fredrikshavn to Gothenburg, up through Uddevalla, Fredrikstad, and finally Oslo.  After about a week in Oslo they set off to Hogevarde Mountain, back to Oslo, and have now trekked up to a small settlement called Hovringen.  It’s been quite a journey, and taken more than three months.

The level gain is rather slow, because these folks aren’t getting into fights four nights out of seven.  There’s been conflict, sure, and plenty of fights, but my XP is assigned on combat damage dealt and received, and on loot gained from fighting.  So far they haven’t made the effort to get up to their waists in blood.  Also, two of the current characters are multiclassed, which means they need a lot more XP to gain a level than a single classed character.

It’s interesting, having played less than a year’s worth of sessions we have come so far and yet it seems like not terribly far after all. Looking at the time played, we might get just as much game time in by meeting for one Saturday a month, all day.  Something I’ll bring up to the group next game.

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Horseriding Mishaps

So, I imagine that a lot of PCs ride around on horses at least some of the time.  They are great for quicker long-distance travel, and make excellent platforms to fight from.  But, when was the last time one of those fantastic horses stepped in a hole or threw a shoe?  Horses shouldn’t just be a maintenance-free battle car, there is a reason that only nobles kept horses in the time period most games take place in.  Horses require care, lots of it.

First, the food.  Horses need to eat a lot, and frankly, the grass growing around the roadside just isn’t that great of quality.  Sure, it can keep the beast going through the day, but he also needs some real nutrition to maintain fighting trim.  Oats are called for, or some other “supplement” feed.  Every day.

Grooming is also rather important to keeping horses happy and healthy.  Removing parasites, detangling matted fur/manes, checking for sores under the saddle and straps, each should be done every day to prevent disease and pain in your beast of +1 fast travel.

Now for the meat of the matter.  Riding through difficult terrain.  Taking your horse “off-road” may seem like it would be a natural thing to do, after all, horses are animals, and animals wander all over the place, right?  True, animals go everywhere, but an animal is really suited to one kind of environment, and horses are great on the steppe.  Or they were, when they were smaller, more agile, and used to dealing with untamed grassy flatland every single day of their lives.  But nowadays, and in the days of your PCs as well, horses are bred, kept, trained, and pampered to maximize their usefulness to the human population.  Warhorses are heavy and powerful to cause as much damage as possible on the battlefield, riding horses are lighter (so they eat less), but strong enough to carry a person.  Draft horses are used for carrying or pulling loads along roads.  And each of them are raised in paddocks and trotted out to the pasture for training and exercise.

What happens when you take an animal that has known prepared surfaces all it’s life, and then make it run through wild forestland, over rocks, up mountains, across plowed fields and through deserts?  It’s not going to go so well.  Walking is one thing, of course, but running?  That’s a thousand pounds of horsemeat hurtling along at 25 mph on spindly little legs with not much time to look where each one is being placed.  There’s a pretty decent chance something bad is going to happen to a horse being put through that obstacle course.  Which is where the following table comes in.

Riding HazardsFor each minute spent travel at above a trot (The four speeds of horses being “Walk” “Trot” “Canter” and “Gallop”), roll a percent chance according to the terrain type.  If the chance for a mishap is rolled, then roll a d20 to see what kind of mishap occurs.  Feel free to adjust DCs and checks to suit your game.

Galloping through the woods is not something that is not normally done, and it should feel just as risky as it is in real life.  Please note, however, that galloping on a road is a different matter, as those surfaces are “prepared” in that they are generally well suited to foot and wheeled traffic.  Horses are used to roads, that’s why roads exist.  If it’s raining or the roads are otherwise less suited to traffic than normal, you can roll for the cropland mishap.

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I’m resuming my “serious” campaign today.  I’m excited.  It’s been a month now (we paused for my wife to recover from having a baby(!)), and we’ve only “skipped” two sessions (since we go every other week or so), and we played our regular (weekly) Sunday night Sliders game for two weeks now, but it still feels like forever.

I’m excited.  I’m excited to get back into the world.  I’m excited to see what my players do in my world.  We wrapped up their first dungeon in my world rather nicely just before the baby came, so there aren’t any loose end that will take getting used to hindering re-integration.  A fresh start, the players with shiny new levels (in most cases), and flush with new-won gold.  Ready to set off again towards their goal.

I didn’t even do a whole lot to gear back up, just checked the weather and refamiliarized myself with the terrain and current events.  But it’s been a while since I’ve really been inside the workings of my world, and I realized I miss it.  So I’m excited to get back in.  Just a taste is enough to get me hungry, apparently.

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Let’s talk about murder for a minute.  Not, like, actually killing people, but about the word.  In several recent discussions online about gaming in general and D&D in specific, the word “murder” got thrown around pretty loosely.  Typically in the context of characters killing enemies (and usually taking their stuff).  It seems like the term “murder-hobo” is a favorite of a lot of people for the characters their players run, or imagine other players run.  But I’d like to remind everyone about the importance of precision in language (especially in discussions of morality (perceived vs. absolute) and alignment.  Words mean things.  And even if a large portion of a population agrees that a certain word means something slightly different than the rest of the population, we would do well to return to the established meaning of the word and not be so blase about declaring certain actions to be thus or so without understanding what thus and so might imply to someone who doesn’t share the “group definition” of the word.

Murder.  What does this word mean?

noun: murder; plural noun: murders
  1. the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.
verb: murder; 3rd person present: murders; past tense: murdered; past participle: murdered; gerund or present participle: murdering
  1. kill (someone) unlawfully and with premeditation

Ok, that’s pretty clear.  At least it is to me.  But it would appear that a large portion of the gaming community has a more liberal definition of murder.  And I don’t mean applying the term to the killing of sentient nonhumans.  No, most of the usage I have seen has had the implication that killing of any kind is murder, which when looking at the definitions above, is simply not the case.

But what does it matter, you ask?  Isn’t this all just semantics and kind of pointless?  Maybe.  But then again maybe not.  When you start throwing heavily charged words around in a casual manner, you begin to have two effects on the world at large.  First, you desensitize some to the usage of the word, and dilute it’s precise meaning so that the word no longer carries the meaning that it once did to an audience.  Second, to others you extend the meaning of the word beyond it’s original bounds so that it includes other cases which are not actually covered by the word to be associated with the ramifications of the word.

Stop all that linguistic claptrap, you!  Say what you mean in plain English!

Ah, yes. Very well.  To murder someone (you cannot murder something), it must be an unlawful, premeditated killing.  That is a very serious crime, and is only undertaken by twisted individuals, however permanent the twisting might be.  To kill enemy soldiers during war is not murder.  To kill a criminal who has been sentenced to die is not murder.  To kill an animal is not murder.

Unpleasant and undesirable, yes.  Murder, no.

So why do I bring this up on a blog about gaming?  Because in several discussions (mostly involving alignment), any sort of killing is often deemed murder.  Enemy combatants.  Aggressive, dangerous monsters.  Unintelligent animals.  Adventurers routinely go about killing creatures such as these.  But to do so is not (usually) murder.  In the same way, characters who make a living by killing these threats to society are often cast in a light where they are at least as dangerous to society, and often more so than the creatures they dispatch!

If you use alignment in your game, do not be caught in the trap which tells you all killing is murder, and therefore evil.  It is very possible for a Good character to kill creatures, even many creatures, in a just manner.  In a medieval style setting, death is a constant threat which is often faced.  No one was under the illusion that pacifism was a viable option.  Even if you didn’t do the killing, the armies of the king did the killing on your behalf, to keep you from being killed (or worse) by those who desire what you possess and are willing to murder you to get it.  And you were darned glad of it, too!

Yes, yes, I’m getting there.

Be that as it may, yes, killing is obviously undesirable if it can be reasonably avoided.  Having cause to take a life should be a profound source of sadness, if only at the need for it, if not also for the extinguishing of sentient life.  But sadness at a necessity does not make the necessity inherently evil, or even wrong.

Life is too complicated to give us the luxury of using a single word.

Them’s my two cents.

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Play Type Survey

So I’ve spent some time putting this little quiz thing together.  It’s kind of like those stupid little personality quizzes you see on the facebook, but actually legit.  I was inspired by the Angry GM‘s articles on the different types of fun, so I created this thing out of my own brain to find out what my players actually want from the game.  Feel free to share it around.


I’m an Explorer, if you were curious.

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Maybe It’s Me

Something that bugs me when I’m reading other DMs or GMs is when they talk about “the story you want to tell.”  Now, this may just be me, but if I want to tell a story, I just sit down and write it.  I don’t invite four friends over and make them jump through hoops to guess what the final resolution to my epic, earth-shattering doomsday scenario will be while carefully ensuring that they complete all the necessary steps to prevent said doomsday scenario.  Thataway lies a-holerey.

Now, I’m not saying that all DM-originating plots are necessarily railroading plots, nor am I saying that epic, world-threatening cataclysmic events are a terrible plot choice.  What I am saying is that there is a risk for something very similar to railroading to occur when the DM has envisioned a grandiose story arc that will take the characters from 1st level to 20th and drastically alter the foundations of the society that spawned them.  I am also saying that the “Ragnarok Scenario” gets kind of dull and uninteresting when you do it more than, say, once.

I present these two facets of RPG gaming together because so often I see them bound up in each other.  “Fund my Kickstarter for this awesome new campaign arc!” “Here are some ideas to invest the players in your campaign idea!”  “Get your players to write backstories so you can make them personally responsible for the villain that will destroy the world!”

See, the thing about a doomsday scenario is that it leads to (usually) one solution.  The good guys have to win.  They have to.  If they don’t then the world is destroyed, which is kind of a letdown.  I say usually because I suppose there are the kind of folks out there who would let the world be destroyed by whatever evil force was trying to make the planet part of a sandwich after the PCs fail to achieve some goal that would have thwarted the bad guy’s plan.  Where do you go after that?  Roll up a new world, I suppose.

But what happens after the good guys thwart the world-destroying evil?  Do they go build castles and rule nations that pop up in the now-sparsely populated areas devastated by the big bad?  Or do the credits roll because there’s nowhere to go after you’ve gone all the way up?  I tend to think it’s the latter.  Epic campaigns to save the multiverse are exhausting, and there’s always the issue of what to do next.  Players burn out on that sort of thing really fast.  And if you pull out another doomsday device for the next campaign, and the next, at what point do the players start to think, “Gee, this place seems to get threatened with total annihilation fairly frequently, what is up with that?”  Or worse, they think, “Man, I just saved the d–n world last month.  Can’t I just do some exploring for a while?”

And that is when you’ve lost the suspension of disbelief.  It becomes an exercise in number crunching and dice rolling, maybe with some fine script-reading along the way.  But the conclusion is foregone, because the players have to win.  Your story doesn’t work if the players don’t stop the threat.

And that still applies if you don’t have the result of the PC’s failure being that the planet gets melted down into slag and hammered into a galactic croquet mallet.  Every foregone conclusion forces the players into your plot maze, deep as it may be.  And for a while, your players might love it.  They just might want to replay Frodo’s quest to destroy the One Ring again and again.  But you provide no better service than a video game if that is the case.  D&D offers so much more.

Imagine you are standing in the middle of a field.  Where you were before doesn’t matter.  How you got there doesn’t matter.  You have the supplies in your pack, the knife in your belt, and your wits to keep you alive.  There is smoke from a village on the far side of the trees on one edge of the field, a massive mountain range looms on the opposite side.  You can hear the sounds of the sea and smell salt in the air, brought on a fresh breeze to one side of you, and the sound of strange birds rings in your ears from the other side.  Your future is yours to make.  You can do literally anything.  That is what D&D can offer: Freedom.

That’s what I want from a game, absolute freedom to explore, exploit, navigate, dig, buy, sell, profit, grow, lead, rule.  You can offer the same to your players, if you only give them the chance.  Don’t pull out another script for them to read, let them invent the plot, let them invent themselves.  Let them grow into the kind of characters they desire, not the cardboard cut-outs of your plot devices.  The world can be so big, why don’t you let them run around in it?  If your game offers them freedom, they will return and return and return.  There is no final boss battle, just the next obstacle to their personal goals; and like in real life, failure is always on the table.  Since there is no script, no ultimate victory that must be won, every adventure may be the last.

Tension and drama arise naturally when much is risked. Threaten the characters that have been lovingly built, and real emotions will manifest at victory or defeat.  When personal goals are achieved, elation happens. When tragedy befalls them, actual despair.  Not the simple feeling of self-assurance when the arch-villain is defeated in the glow of just another task completed, but true, actual, glee when the player’s personal nemesis is slain on the field of battle.

You don’t need to threaten the world to get the players invested.  Simply threaten all that they themselves have built.  All you have to do is to let them build.  Someone will always want what others have.  There is always conflict, desire, power grabs, attempted coups, strife, war.  Let the PC’s own actions bring opponents into the field.  Victory is much sweeter when it means something you actually care about is safe.

But maybe it’s just me.

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Use-less Idea

Here’s something I just thought of, and have no use for whatsoever. Yet. It’s really quite elegantly simple, and I’d like to be able to use it for something someday, so I thought I’d throw it out here to see if anyone on the internet has a thought to share on it.

Now, we all know there are 52 weeks in a year.  And we all know there are 52 cards in a (standard) deck.  So if you wanted to, you could assign a single card to each week of the year.  If I were doing the assigning I’d start with the lowest card at the beginning of the year, and work my way up, doing one suit at a time.  Curiously, if you mark the cards down on the Saturday of each week, it comes to exactly three months per suit with no carryover.

My initial thought was to come up with some kind of event which happens at different times to different people about five or six times per year (or perhaps a list of five events which happen at different times), and assigning a card to each individual per the week on which the event occurs.  At the end of the year (at a New Year’s party or some such) the cards collected would be compared and ranked based on poker rules, and the winner of the “hand of the year” should receive some prize or recognition.

The problem I have is that I can’t think of any events which happen at different times to different people reliably several times during the year.  Anniversaries are undesirable, as they do not change from year to year, and would not provide much excitement or variation in the cards “dealt”.  Also, many people have significant annual events around the same times, so there is a great chance that many players could have several of the same cards.

So now I open it up to the Internet Generation.  What events could I use to mark “deal weeks”?  Could another game be invented with this idea?  Does something like this exist somewhere already?  Let me know!

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Change of Plans

You ever hear of DMs talk about how their players don’t do what is expected of them? Me too. I once ran a campaign that was founded on that principle, in fact. Now I’m older, slightly wiser, and I run a different kind of game now.  Everyone who has followed along up until now will know that I run a “DM’s Plot” free sandbox campaign.  Which is great for being ready when the players jump the rails, because I myself tore the rails up and threw them away before the game even begins.  Which leaves it to the players to look around, pick a direction, and go exploring.

So you wouldn’t think that there would be any rapid plan changes to throw me off, would you?  Well, these are human beings we are talking about, and sometimes they change their minds about what they are doing.  So they did.  Not in a huge way, but I thought that they would sit around in Hamburg for a while while they waited for a ship that was bound for Oslo came in to port.  Turns out they are tired of sea travel (Three thunderstorms in a week isn’t too much is it?), so they bought some horses, tack, feed, tents, and set out north through Denmark to find a cheaper ship, as well as run into some adventure along the way.

That’s all fine.  But I thought there was going to be more time spent dealing with things in Amsterdam.  But our friendly neighborhood Sorcerer-Assassin decided that it wasn’t worth it to explore the house/shop of the butcher he was supposed to scare into silence after he found a notice from the town council declaring it to be vacated and handed over to the Honourable Guild of Butchers.  So they set sail, weathered two small storms (the third was a big one which forced them into Amsterdam for repairs) and made it into Hamburg.  Once there, they made contact with the harbormaster and arranged for passage on a small ship that was due in to port in about six days.  Then they decided to buy some horses (which were cheap), some saddles, (which were not), provisioned up (in theory) and set off.

Which, like I said, is fine.  They are totally entitled to do that.  In fact, I am happy for them.  Because they chose this whole trip of their own accord.  Going to Oslo was their idea.  I believe their intent is to meet relatives.  They probably will, by the way.  Eventually.  But I was not expecting them to take the land route.  Which means I hadn’t looked closely at maps of the area, explored the territory, seen what kind of terrain is between Hamburg and Frederikshaven.  I thought it was going to be a week of chilling in the Big City, maybe being mugged again, and then another week (or so) on the sea.  I didn’t expect to transition into a land-based adventure so soon.  Thankfully, however, I have a few tools that helped me out.

First is my Agglomerated Monster Index Sorting Suite (or AMISS for short).  When it’s actually complete I’ll post a copy somewhere for y’all to use.  Using that, I can sort monsters by CR, Climate, Environment, Type, Subtype, Name, and Weight.  It’s pretty handy when generating random encounter tables on the fly.  Which I did.  Second is Google Maps.  Since my world is Magical Earth circa 1550, I can Google up the distance (and walking time) from just about anywhere (Hamburg, say) to anywhere (Frederikshaven?  I haven’t even heard of Frederikshaven!).  So that’s nice.

Point being, being prepared for the unexpected with quick, useable tools I was able to roll with the change in plan no problem. Although I’m curious to see what they do to deal with that shade they ran across on the road north…

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Truly Non-Vancian Magic

Credit where credit is due: the train of thought that inspired this bucket of madness left the station from this post from Crater Labs. Check that out, then come back here.  It may make more sense where I’m coming from.

First, a definition: Vancian magic is a form of magic based on the existence of spells that must be prepared in advance, for specific purposes, and that can be used a finite number of times.

This is a very handy formula for RPGs which include magic, and that is why D&D (and almost every other RPG on the market) uses it.  But it has limitations.

In order for any system to be (at least in my opinion) truly non-vancian, all of these criteria must be avoided. Otherwise you are still casting the same old spells but using mana points or something instead of casting X spells per day.  And really it isn’t the finite number of times things that I want to get rid of, it’s the advance preparation of specific applications of magic that I want to change.  Because who want to be the guy who can deal 10d6 fire damage to everything in a 40ft sphere, but who can’t get the freakin’ magical stairway to move because there isn’t a spell called “Elminster’s Escalator Energizer?”

So I have invented a framework that will allow this kind of spellcasting, and I present it to you here.  First, the basics, and I will hit you with a few classes later (as I get them finished).

One who has the ability to manipulate matter and energy outside of normal, rational human means (primarily through physical effort) is a Magic-user.  There are many ways that individuals come by this power, and many way that they might channel it.  It is an inborn talent, primarily, not one that can be learned.  In that way magic use is similar to the Force. Unlike the force, there is a wide range of uses that magic may be applied to.

The three most common types of magic user are the Arcanist, the Called One, and the Elementalist.

All of these casters have a “sixth sense” which allows them to manipulate cosmic energies on a small scale.  There is a constant stream of energy flowing through the material plane, and magic users are able, by ritual or by right, to reach out and grab a handful.  Their ability to control and divert the stream depends on their experience and their mental acuity.  Arcanists manipulate the flow of those energies through the material plane to produce effects on the material plane.  The Called contact their divine representative through this channel and together they channel the divine energy aspects to wreak weal or woe on those around them.  Elementalists harness the flow of energy directly and bring it into the material plane.

Arcanists are those who have a high intelligence, and can recognize patterns that others may not notice.  Through study and experimentation (as well as the natural talent required to manipulate super-natural energies), the arcanist can manipulate conditions both physical and metaphysical to harness the thaumaturgic energies of the cosmos.

Hedge-mages are a subset of arcanists that have studied the methods of the arcanists, but lack the insight to create new magical effects on their own.  They have the natural talent required to manipulate energies, but must do so through rigorous training in the harnessing rituals and can only produce limited effects.

The Called are those who have been chosen by a supernatural entity (commonly called a god) to perform some task on the Material Plane.  They receive power through an agent of this supernatural entity.  While pursuing the assigned mission, the power they are allotted is very great, and as a reward for devoted service, they Called are granted a portion of their power for the pursuit of their own personal ends.

The pious are a subordinate class to the Called, who are given knowledge of specific rituals to be performed at specific times for specific purposes.  They often oversee the worshippers of the gods, and assist in the celebration of holy days.  These rituals are often limited in scope, but not always.

The Elemetalists are the third most common form of higher caster.  They draw their power from the cosmos itself, combining the five elements in various ways to perform magical feats.  They possess genetic material which links them to the elements of the universe and allows their manipulation.

Spell Points and Magic Use

There are 8 factors that affect how many spell points a particular manifestation will cost.  These are duration, power, range, focus, casting time, preparation, familiarity, and number of casters.

The caster may choose to expend more SP than they currently have, but at severe personal risk.  There are two options to perform this act.  First, a caster may simply invest up to 1/4 their current HP worth of SP into any given spell.  After the spell is cast, the caster then takes 1d6 damage for each spell point gained in this way.  Second, the caster may inflict damage upon themselves immediately before casting by drawing blood, and for each point of damage inflicted, an extra 2 SP are gained.  Unused points are lost.


By default, passive spell effects last for 1 minute, and aggressive spell effects act instantaneously and then dissipate.  Extending a spell for longer than the base duration will cost a number of spell points based on the table below (units are 1 minute for passive spells, 1 round for active spells)

Units: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Points 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55

In addition, active spells will cost the number of spell points devoted to increasing their power each round/minute they are active.

Focus Elements:

Rude Fine white sand, poured out as spell cast Extends spell duration 1 unit
Adequate Quartz crystal on a fine silver chain Doubles SP used to extend spell duration
Superb Perfectly spherical polished moonstone Triple  SP used to extend spell duration
Sublime Polished sunstone Quadruple SP used to extend spell duration


Spells which cause damage to opponents start at a base of 1d4 damage for HP damage, or 1 point when influencing abilities.  Those which cure damage or augment abilities begin at 1d6 HP or 2 points of ability scores.  Increasing these values costs 1 point per die type or ability point.

The base saving throw for spells is 10 + Ability Modifier + Spell Points/3.  Increasing the save for a particular manifestation costs 1 spell point per point of save.  Decreasing the saving throw reduces the spell points required to cast the spell by one per point of save.  You cannot decrease the saving throw DC to less than 10 in this way and still save point costs.

Focus Elements:

Rude chunk of granite increases damage by 1 die category
Adequate guano and charcoal dust increases damage by 2 die categories
Superb Jade bladed dagger adds 3 to save
Sublime 12 sided polished crystal deals 4 points of ability damage


The default range of a spell is touch or personal.  Increasing the range costs the points indicated per range increment.

Close is 25 feet plus 5 feet per two caster levels.  (1)

Medium is 100 feet + 10 feet per caster level.  (1)

Long range is 400 feet + 40 feet per caster level.  (2)

Local range is 1600 feet + 160 feet per caster level.  (3)

Regional is 1 mile + 1/10 mile per caster level.  (5)

Baronial range is 4 miles + 1/2 mile per caster level (8)

County range is 16 miles + 1 1/2 miles per caster level (13)

Duchy range is 64 miles + 6 1/2 miles per caster level (21)

Country range is 256 miles + 25 miles per caster level (34)

Empirical range is 1024 miles + 100 miles per caster level (55)

Continental range is 4096 miles + 400 miles per caster level (89)

Focus elements:

Rude 3 flight feathers 1 free range increment
Adequate preserved whole wing 2 free range increments
Superb 2 polished crystal lenses 3 free range increments
Sublime Gold spyglass with diamond lenses 4 free range increments


Casting spells requires concentration.  Utilizing different focusing techniques can make spellcasting less taxing on the caster.  It is assumed that all spells are cast with verbal and somatic components. Focusing energies through these mental foci are a basic technique that may be eschewed.  Forgoing the verbal component will increase the spell point cost by 2, and forgoing the somatic component will also increase the spell point cost by 2.

Channeling spell power from the flow into the material plane can often be facilitated by using a properly aligned material focus.  Using a focus reduces the number of spell points required to enact the spell.  There are two kinds of focus:  Seed foci, and Effect foci.

Seed foci are related to the school of the spell being cast, and come in 4 qualities: Rude, Adequate, Superb, and Sublime.  Each school has it’s own focus material, and each level of quality is increasingly rare.

Quality Reduction Max SP Break Chance
Rude 20% 10 90%
Adequate 40% 20 75%
Superb 60% 30 60%
Sublime 80% 40 45%

Reduction:  Percentage of spell points that using the focus reduces the spell cost by.

Max SP:  The maximum spell points of magic that the focus can be used to channel at one time (after the focus reduction).  Channeling more than this number of spell points (after the reduction) will risk breaking the focus.

Break Chance: If the Max SP is exceeded, this is the chance that the focus will be ruined by channeling the spell.  Sorry

Effect foci relate to each of the spell effects, and also come in 4 qualities: Rude, Adequate, Superb, and Sublime.  Each effect has a different focus requirement, and allows a “free” extension of the particular aspect of the focus.

Only one focus may be used for each round of casting time.

While there are foci listed under each effect, these are guidelines, and other objects/materials may be used as foci at the DM’s discretion.  Foci serve as elements to aid the mind of the mage as much as tap the thaumflow.

Casting Time:

Base casting time is considered to be 1 full round, to gather the energies of the thaumflow and direct it into useful effect.  Reducing the amount of time to cast to a single action doubles the spell point cost of the spell.  On the other hand, extending the amount of time it takes to cast the spell will decrease the number of points required to cast the spell.  For each full round the casting is extended by, it will cost two fewer spell points, to a minimum of 3 spell points per casting.  If the casting gets interrupted at any point during an extended casting time, the caster may choose to release the spell in it’s incomplete form (effects adjucated by the DM), or lose the spell and invested SP.


A caster may prepare beforehand any number of spells by recording them in a specially prepared book, much like a standard wizard’s spellbook.  The spell point cost for these spells is 3/4 what it is normally, and is spent (all except 1 point) at the time of preparation (usually just after waking, though it may be at any time of day, as long as an hour is taken to prepare).  Thereafter, the caster is able to spend the final point and cast the spell as a standard action.  One focus may be used for each prepared spell.


Most casters find themselves falling into patterns of utilizing the same effects over and over again.  The mental effort of calling these effects into existence becomes less and less with increased practice, much like muscle memory aids in physical tasks over time.  The reduction in spell point costs is given on the chart below:

Number of previous castings: 1 2 4 8 16 32 64 128
Total reduction in SP costs: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Max time frame: 1 hour 4 hours 16 hr. 2.5 day 10 day 42 days 6 mo. 2 year

Number of previous castings: the number of times you have cast the exact same manifestation (whether successful or not) in the given time period.

Total reduction in SP costs:  the number of SP you may reduce the cost by if you have cast the same spell the requisite number of times in the given time period.

Max time frame:  The length of time that the given spell effect has an impact on your mental pathways.  With more use, a spell makes more permanent pathways, but after time those paths fade as the mind of the caster learns and grows.

Number of Casters:

Any number of casters of the same training may join together to cast more powerful spells.  The combined spell points of all casters may be used to power the spell.  Default casting time is one minute per caster involved, to allow each to synchronize their mind with the other caster’s minds.  The mind of a caster is necessarily unique, and to coordinate the energies of multiple minds is a sensitive and time consuming effort.  Reducing the casting time may be done, however, by increasing the cost of the spell by 10% for each minute the casting time is reduced by.  Casting time cannot be reduced to below one minute for a multi-caster spell.

Focus Elements:

Rude Chalked/drawn circle with lines equally spaced connecting the positions of all casters 10% reduction of SP Requirement or lower time reduction to 5% per minute
Adequate Nonpermanent physical circle connecting all casters 20% reduction of SP requirement or lower time reduction to 3% per minute
Superb Permanent physical of base material (wood, iron, water filled trench, etc.) circle connecting all casters 30% reduction of SP req. and lower time reduction cost to 5% per minute
Sublime Permanent physical circle of precious materials (silver, gold, gemstones, etc.) connecting all casters 40% reduction of SP req. and lower time reduction cost to 3% per minute

Regarding the reduction of SP costs: Whole points are deducted first, and then percentages applied to the resultant number, in order from greatest to least.

Categories: Discussion, Rules | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Combat Experience and Levels

My current XP award system is based solely on combat experience.  Damage dealt and damage received gain XP.  Loot gained from combat also awards XP.  The numbers aren’t important for this discussion, because I want to discuss what levels are, and what they do for characters.  They mostly work, but with a combat-based XP system (one that gives different awards for different contributions, no less) there are (it has been pointed out to me) certain shortcomings.

My first and biggest point is this:  going up a level makes you more effective in combat.  You get more HP (resistance to dieing from attack), you get better saves, and you get a better attack bonus.  You get better at combat.  You get better at not letting the other guy stick his sword in your belly, and get better at putting yours into his.  This does not come from talking your way out of fights, this does not come by way of picking locks and running up walls.  Training and sparring only go so far.  You do the same sword drills as the 50 year old grizzled veteran fighter.  You have read all the training manuals.  You have the same head knowledge as the other guys as to the physics of the whole “killing other people” business.  But until you have been on the field of battle, surrounded by madness and blood and death and fear, you will never become better at it than those who live there.  You must experience combat to survive combat, to win combat, and to get better at not getting killed.  Your sword arm must know exactly how to maneuver the blade to slide between the plates of armor on the other guy, and it must do so in a timely manner.  You must learn to lean away at precisely the right time to turn that killing thrust into a glancing blow. War is a crucible. That is why I really like the XP-for-damage model.

However, there is a problem.  In 3.5, there is a certain aspect to characters called “skills.”  Many of you are familiar with this concept.  Leveling up also gives you a certain number of skill points, so that you can get better at doing things other than killing things.  By now you should be able to see my dilemma.  What about those characters who don’t do so hot at combat, but do other awesome things like pluck some strings attached to a bit of wood which makes strangers throw coins at your feet?  How does killing things while denying those same things the opportunity to do the same to you make you a better lutist?  Answer:  Realistically, it doesn’t, and I agree, shouldn’t.

So I’ve come up with at least part of a solution.  I plan to remove the skill point portion of leveling up from the “combat level,” and make it a category of it’s own.

That sure dropped a boatload of silence on the audience, didn’t it?SkillUse

Moving along.  Using skills, unlike combat experience, is much less intense.  You can practice to get substantially better at those things. In fact, many of the skills are meant to represent things that are practiced to improve.  Some of them, I would argue, are not so much (how do you teach yourself to hear better?), but for the most part they are.  How does this translate into a “noncombat level,” you ask?  Like so:  For each successful use of an appropriate skill (list to be given later), you place one tally mark next to that skill.  When you have accumulated enough tally marks (for the sake of argument let’s say seven), you get a +1 experience bonus to that skill.  Now, erase all those tally marks.  To get another bonus, you will need 8 successful uses of the skill (7 + the current experience bonus). See table.

Now, it doesn’t have as much bite as a level, but it does reflect a more realistic model of skill development.  And that’s kinda what I am going for.  I hope I’m getting closer.  So anyhow, now skills get better as you use them, and that independently of combat levels.  Combat wins combat expertise.  Skill use wins skill expertise.

But now it’s your turn.  What more could I do to make it better?  (Players in my campaign especially invited to comment)

Categories: Campaign, Discussion, Rules | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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