Wednesday, December 22, 2010

a few more Holmes expansion thoughts

In Sunday's post about expanding Holmes Basic, Gameblog reader Gratuitious Saxon Violence (one of the best handles ever, by the way) suggested that all characters gain +1 to-hit every three levels and that superior Fightery could be represented by giving the Fighters an extra attack at the same time.  I like that a lot.  It's very straightforward.

An analogous situation is the Magic Missile spell, which gets more missiles at higher but the details are unspecified.  The easy answer is that Magic Missiles work just like Fighter attacks.  You get a second Missile at 4th, a third at 7th, etc.  A more ridiculous way to do it would be to roll dice.  You get d4 missiles at 4th level, d6 at 7th level, d8 at 10th level, d10 at 13th, d12 at 16th, etc.  Sounds excessive but I kinda like the idea of high level MU's raining craploads of magic arrows down on people.  Especially when in Holmes you have to roll to-hit for all those missiles, something I made a mistake about when running last Wednesday.

I've also given some thought to the eighteen listed but undefined 3rd level MU spells.  Rules for some of them can be found lurking elsewhere in the text:

Fire Ball - have this spell work exactly like the Wand of Fire Ball (i.e. all Fire Balls do a flat 6d6 damage)
Fly - functions just like Potion of Flying
Haste Spell - just like Potion of Haste
Hold Person - as per 2nd level Cleric spell Hold Person
Invisibility 10' - as per Invisibility, but area of effect like a protection scroll
Protection/Evil 10'- as per Protection from Evil, but area of effect like a protection scroll

Infravision and Water Breathing are pretty simple to do.  All you really need are a duration and number of creatures affected.  I'd probably default to d6+6 turns, just like standard Holmes potion durations.  Is there any real reason to grant the effect to more than one person?  I'd extrapolate from spells like Levitation (caster only) or Invisibility (caster or one target).

Monster Summoning I gives you one roll off the first level wandering monster charts, creatures appear and obey caster for d6+6 turns, then leave.  I might limit this spell to dungeons only.  Rather than appearing anywhere in a puff of smoke, these guys just come from around the nearest corner or through a handy door.  At the end of the spell they go back to watching TV or playing tiddlywinks or whatever.

(Speaking of dungeon-only spells, you know what else would be a better spell if limited to just the underworld?  Continual effing light.)

Slow Spell is the opposite of Haste.  Half moves and attacks every other round.  No big whoop.

Dispel Magic is mentioned in the text of a few other spells (as a way to negate Hold Portal or put out Continual Light, for example).  Should it be limited to countering spells that specify it in the description or be more general purpose?  It could cut both ways.  For a campaign setting with a lot of techno-magical crap you probably don't want a single madman (e.g. an standard PC) to be able to bring your civilization down by running around casting dispel on all your lightning trains or undead vending machines or whatever.  For my more pseudo-historical/The Magic Goes Away flavored game, I think it would be neat to have the PCs erasing everybody else's free standing miracles.

So for my game Dispel Magic ought to have a chance to undo pretty much all spells (including negating attack spells as they are being cast), magic items and even things like golems.  I'm thinking the base chance of success could be 50% plus the MU's Int score and level.  Note that the level of the caster of the original magic does not figure into the formula, as I hate having to stop the game to try to figure out who the heck wizard locked the ancient treasure chest in room 24.

It's pretty obvious that Lightning Bolt is an attack spell.  Should it work like the wand-based magical attacks, doing a flat 6d6 damage, save for half?  Should it have an area of effect.  My gut instinct answers are no and no.  The area of effect of a L-Bolt has never sat well with me.  I see it as an unnecessary artifact of the miniatures origin of the game.  In my mind's eye a lightning bolt zaps just one target, unless metal conductivity is brought into play.  As far as the damage output is concerned, I think the lightning bolt could do less damage, say only 3 or 4d6 but no save for the damage.  Instead the target must save or be stunned for d6 rounds.  Failure to save would also indicate the target is smoldering and covered with cartoonish black scorching.

Those are the easiest spells.  I'll tackle Clairaudience, Clairvoyance, Explosive Runes, Rope Trick and Suggestion in another post.


  1. I like the handling of Dispel Magic,
    though how would it work on generic undead such as skeletons? Are they magic and as such can be dispelled back into a pile of bones? Or do they exist in the dungeon because the laws of reality are warped down there?

  2. Anonymous2:39 PM

    I was thinking more like +2 for each character tier (or +2/+1/+2/+1 for the first four tiers).

    I like the die roll for # of magic missiles idea. It reminds me of the Hail of Doom magic item from 3rd edition Warhammer. Shoot a magic arrow, at the top of it's arc it MIRVs into 3d6 arrows. Always liked that one.

    Monster Summoning is a cool interpretation that I like. Can't wait till someone gets a Gelatinous Cube to show up. Would character get the full entry? i.e. If the Table entry is 2-5 orcs, would 2-5 orcs be summoned? Or would it be one orc? Maybe with 1-4 buddies asking "Hey orc! Where you going? What's up?"

    I always took lightning to be heading to a specific point. Anything getting directly in between, too bad.

    I have a justification for Continual Light not working outside of a dungeon. Or at least not being continual (I assume your objection is the street lighting in the cities question). The description says the light isn't as good as daylight. So, if when daylight comes, it overwhelms and absorbs the Continual Light. when the sun goes down the Continual Light spell is gone. No sunlight in the dungeon, so it sticks around.

    Just a couple of thoughts. Thanks for the compliment on the handle.

  3. JJ: The monster description for skeletons and zombies specifies they are animated by the magic of an evil magic-user or cleric. Taking that as a given would strongly imply that dispel magic (the broader interpretation) works on them. In fact OD&D explicitly states they can be dispelled that way. But I think for my campaign skeletons and zombies are haunted corpses rather than the result of necromantic arts & sciences, so I say nay.

    GSV: +2 every three levels? I'll have to ponder that.

    Monster Summoning I in my version would summon the numbers appearing on the table. All five orcs would respond to the bat-signal.

    It is magical streetlights that are my concern with Continual Light. I totally dig your explanation, though that still allows MUs above second level to light up their own abode's every night. I'm not sure I want that either/


    DISPEL MAGIC – 3rd level MU or Cleric
    Time/ Duration = d6 minutes/ permanent
    Range/ Effect = touch/ one creature
    Saving throw = see below

    This general ritual will terminate the effects of a magical affliction (charm, curse, polymorph, etc.), negate a magical trap (glyph, rune, wizard lock, etc.), or release a character from the power of a cursed magic item even though the cursed item often remains unharmed. This spell will also reverse confusion. Success is not guaranteed, the caster of this spell most roll spell craft skill greater than the DC of the original affliction or spell in order reverse or dispel magic. This spell cannot be cast on an individual more than once per game session or per simulated month of game time. The material component for this spell is a pink tourmaline (100gp).

    DUEL – 2nd level magic user
    Time/ duration = partial action/ d6 rounds
    Range/ Effect = 2” per level/ individual
    Saving throw = primary ability

    Upon spotting an opposing magician or monster gesticulating or speaking arcanely, this evocation will delay and possibly block an opposing magician or monster’s spell. A magic duel is often dramatic, characterized by smoke, flashing lights and eerie music. To simulate a duel, the magician rolls d20 adding his intelligence modifier and compares this result to the opposing monster’s or spell caster’s primary ability score. If this total is equal or greater than the opposing spell caster’s or monster’s primary ability, the duelist has thwarted his opponent’s spell. If this result is less than the opposing spell caster’s or monster’s primary ability than the opponent’s spell is delayed d6 rounds while he is locked in a battle of will with the duelist, but otherwise unharmed. If the duelist rolls a natural ‘1’, then he receives an energy critical hit (no save).

  5. A real reason to grant Infravision and Water Breathing to more than one person? Possibly.

    Water Breathing I'd say yes without hesitation. It might occasionally be used to allow one PC to do something clever, but it seems to me like a spell designed to allow the party to access flooded sub-levels, invade Grendel's mother's cave, and otherwise expand their adventuring options. Which is another way of saying, it empowers the referee to create such areas secure in the knowledge that the party can get to them when the appropriate spell is discovered - or if the players prove to be unreasonable crafty. I personally love making "come back to this later" areas.

    Infravision can be thought of similarly, as it allows the party to operate without light sources for a certain span of time, which in the dungeon means they actually have a chance to surprise monsters. I consider that a feature. However, it would also make sense for a spell that allows only the magic-user to see in the dark, as that's a proper thing for a magical-type to do. You could put both versions in (Infravision and Infravision 10' Radius), or give the caster a choice (with maybe better duration or something if he casts it on just one guy).

  6. GSV: I had the same thought RE: Continual Light, and might even see it applying to magic above-ground generally: there's lots of precedent in fiction for sunlight washing away magic, even if it isn't in Holmes explicitly. And I don't have any problem with wizards lighting their homes provided that they either have no windows in their homes (creepy wizards!) or are willing to refresh the spells every night.