20 September, 2010

What Accession, Pandelume?

The first thing we house-ruled in our Moldvay Basic game back in 1981 was wizard magic. None of us had read Vance, and the otherwise excellent Moldvay book was singularly reticent in providing a convincing argument for use'n'lose spellcasting. Thus, our initial attempts were overwrought and forgettable. Forgettable because.. well, I can't remember what we did.

Years later, I read The Dying Earth. I finally got the magic system. Not only did I get it, it was cool. It was intriguing. I could not only see why Gary had used it, but actually agreed with him.

So why tweak it? I'm a tweaker, it's what I do. The spells used by Turjan are arguably more powerful (iirc) than those available to the players of the Moldvay game, or any version in the earlier levels. It stands to reason that more powerful spells could easily have this effect on the mind, but should they all? Light? Magic Missile? Actually, I think that can be perfectly acceptable (as long as the DM provides appropriate accompanying flavour,) but the fact remains that the beginning wizard is severely limited in his options when compared to his comrades.

Although this can often be worked round when playing in-person, it's particularly a problem when running a game over a message board. A single day, to examine just one factor, can last upwards of a month in real-world time.

Thus, on the third week of play, along with the induction of the other week-three house-rules I detailed yesterday, I put up the following:
As of today, all magic-users may employ cantrips. These are minor magical effects, usable without recording any related formulae within the spellbooks of the thaumaturge. Neither do they take up any specific space within the mind of the mage.
Cantrips are not so much specific spells, but rather a general minor magic, which effect is determined at the time of use. The effect may cause damage, but no more than 1d2. It may also cause the recipient to make an ability check or saving throw to avoid some inconvenience, such as dropping a held item or tripping. Any attempt to affect the items or clothing of a target, such as igniting a flammable material in the possession of another, will also allow the victim a saving throw vs. spell to entirely negate the effect.
In most cases, no more than 5 pounds of weight can be moved, and generally only to a maximum distance of 10 feet. It can affect a flat area of 10 square feet or less, or a volume no more than a cube 1 foot per side. Most effects will last no longer than an hour, with some lasting only 1 turn. However, extremely minor effects, such as a subtle change in colour, might last indefinitely, as would the removal of dust, grime or dirt from an object or individual.
Cantrips may be used only once per round, and then only if enacting the magic is the only action taken. Sustained effects, such as floating a small object, may be maintained as long as the magic-user can continue concentration.
The variety and nature of the effect is limited only by the imagination of the employing wizard.
We'll see in the coming weeks whether this will cause any problems, and I'm including in that any sense of an alteration in the tone I'm trying to shoot for with the game.
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