Tuesday, March 24, 2009

casting & fumbling follow-up

It seems that Sunday's post about a possible house rule for variable casting times got the Recursion King's goat:
What is the goal here? To make spell casters even less useful in combat than they already are? If so, you'll definitely achieve that, with mages doing even less in battles than they already do, as they will be stood there, round after round, not contributing anything to the fight at all.

It might be simpler to tell your players that you don't like magic in your campaign - so don't use it!
I tried to articulate my goal Sunday, but I had just woke up and maybe didn't do a very good job of it. Here's the basic deal:

1) Under most incarnations of the rules spellcasters risk losing their spells if they begin casting and are damaged before they are done.

2) My house rules on initiative provide for instantaneous casting, eliminating that risk that MUs must normally account for.

3) Therefore I'm looking for new ways to re-introduce the risk without scrapping my initiative rules.

My proposed chance of fumbling gives MUs a sliding scale of risk that the player controls. I like that. And I suspect that in a properly frantic campaign a spell going awry 1 time in 20 is probably more generous than the usual scenario of the goblins pincushioning the wizard with arrows before he gets his sleep spell off.

Also, I think it might be premature to judge my plan without seeing the fumble chart. Maybe I'll write a draft later in the week.

I think K. Bailey was on the right track in proposing that "instead of tracking the increasing negative modifier, may be easier to say that if you wait before casting, you halve the fumble chance (round down) each round waited." So if you want to throw a fireball you can choose the following options:
Instantaneous casting: 3 in 20 fumble chance
1 round casting time: 1 in 20 fumble chance
2 rounds casting time: no fumble chance
The temptation inherent in faster casting greatly appeals to me. But again, whether a 15% fumble chance is fair or not really depends on how deadly the fumble chart turns out to be. We'll see.

Finally, the suggestion that I am anti-MU really made me smirk a bit. My needs-to-be-updated house rules document allows magic-users way more starting spells than baseline Labyrinth Lord, limited reuse of spells without re-memorization, easy-sleazy scroll creation from first level, and the option of learning to make potions starting at level 2. And just today I got done with the third draft of a one page list of leads for sources of new spells in my setting. If anything, I'm far too in love with magic-users to the expense of other classes.


  1. Ah, well judged against your house rules this is not so bad; I was judging against Labyrinth Lord's mage class as written in the rulebook which is how my group play.

    I still think that house ruling a penalty is a bad idea, and will get a lot of players complaining. Why not approach this from the flip side? You could offer a bonus instead of mitigating a penalty.

    Example: If a mage casts immediately, she gets the spell as written. If she spends a round casting, she can increase the spell's effect (perhaps increasing the number of dice rolled for damage for something like magic missile, or incurring a penalty to the targets saving throw for something like charm person, or increasing the duration of the spell itself for something like summon monster).

    You could provide a different kind of benefit if you don't want to tinker with all the spell descriptions; perhaps each round spent casting gives the mage a 1 in 3 chance of not losing the spell energy from his mind - coupled with no double dipping, this may give you what you are after.

  2. Wouldn't it be simpler just to say spells take a round to cast? On round one you declare your spell. On round two your spell goes off and you declare your next spell (or take some other action). If something damages you between declaration and the spell going off, then you roll on the fumble chart.

  3. The Recursion King: That's a good idea and one I will think about. I'm in no particular rush to try out my proposal so I'll just let it stew for a while.

    Wouldn't it be simpler just to say spells take a round to cast?

    Yes, but then it makes spellcasters much less useful in surprise situations. As it stands now if the party achieves surprise they can get off a spell before the inish roll.

  4. I use recursive initiative (roll once then alternate); my house rule for spells is that if you start casting a spell, anyone **alreading attacking you** (ie they attacked you on their turn) gets a free attack on you; a hit disrupts the spell.

    This 'already attacking you' rule works great for a variety of situations.