Thursday 28 December 2017

The Gifted - Freeform OSR Magic

Because people keep asking how to do it in the chats I frequent, here's my take. It's strongly inspired by the Old World Of Darkness rules for mages, psychics/sorcerers and changelings.

The class itself represents characters with magical power, but little training. They create magical effects through creativity and instinct rather than through application of distinct spells. These are your latent psychics and self-taught hedge-witches. Think Carrie, Scanners, etc.
The skeleton of the class (saves, weapons allowed, XP totals, and so on) are just like the magic user in your system of choice, except that the Gifted does not use a spellbook, cast spells or have spell-slots.
A first level Gifted has a single Aspect and a single Process. Each time they gain a level, they get another Aspect of Process.
The gifted combines Aspects and Processes to create Effects. Each day, they can safely create as many effects as their level. Thereafter, they can continue creating effects: each such effect they create permanently reduces their lowest attribute by 1.

Aspects are the areas of the world that the Gifted can influence through magic; things like 'fire' or 'writing'. A Gifted can only affect something directly if they have the relevant aspect. For example, a mystic with the 'wood' aspect cannot throw people about to damage them, but they can throw wooden objects at them to damage them. The full list of Aspects is:

  1. Fire (the flames themselves, the things that are on fire require the aspect of whatever is burning).
  2. Emotions (the basic feelings people have such as fear or greed. The emotions can be directed towards a particular focus, such as causing a fear of spiders, but more complex sentiments cannot be created).
  3. Metal (metal objects, either raw ores or worked items such as locks and chain-mail).
  4. Wood (either still in a tree, or worked into objects such as a boat).
  5. Writing (which covers diagrams and illustrations in written works).
  6. Flesh (including meat, and the living flesh and bones of animal life. It can, however, only affect the biological body of the subject.).
  7. Water (including ice and mist).
  8. Darkness (lack of light, shadows and supernatural gloom. Nothing metaphorical).
  9. Animals (natural animals like wolves, not supernatural ones like hydras).
  10. Treasure (gold, gems, works of art and anything else where the most important thing about it is how much money it's worth).
  11. Stone (including worked stone - even cement - and rock in its natural environment).
  12. Senses (the five senses, and any esoteric senses monsters might have such as echolocation. Only raw sensory input can be affected).
  13. Weather (including fog, rain, lightning strikes and so on).
  14. Plants (including living and dead ones, but not those worked into something else such as a rope made of hemp).
  15. Clothing (anything worn, including armor, jewelry, clothes and so on).
  16. Decay (the processes of rot, entropy and degradation. Only applies to those processes which occur naturally as a function of time).
  17. The Dead (dead people; corpses, their spirits, and the aftereffects of their death).
  18. Memories (things people know or remember, but not physical recordings).
  19. Connections (the links between things, perhaps emotional, legal or causal).
  20. Devices (complex objects such as locks, crossbows and so on; things with several interdependent moving parts).

Processes are what the Gifted can do with their magic; the verbs to an aspect's noun. The processes available are:

  1. Manipulate (cause fine movements, adjustments and re-positioning in: the kind of thing done with tweezers, probes, needles and scalpels).
  2. Hurl (dramatically and potentially violently move something about, such as throwing it across the room. Delicate manipulation is not possible).
  3. Create (cause a sample of it in its raw for to spring up from nowhere).
  4. Grow (cause it to become bigger, more potent or more active for a duration)
  5. Reduce (cause it to become smaller, less potent, or less active for a duration).
  6. Ward (requires two targets, and the aspect to affect each. The first target cannot affect, harm or influence the second for a duration).
  7. Detect (become aware of examples of the aspect, even hidden ones).
  8. Understand (gain greater knowledge of something that the Gifted is already aware of).
  9. Hide (remove it from perceptions or awareness, for a duration). 
  10. Summon (bring it to the Gifted from a distant place).
  11. Shape (make broad changes to it's form, direction and function. Delicate manipulation is not possible).
  12. Fuse (combines two things into a single whole; the Gifted must have the appropriate aspect for each).
Creating Effects
To create an effect, the Gifted simply states what they want to achieve, and which Aspect and Process they want to use to do it. For example, in order to hurl a firebolt, the Gifted simply states that they wish to use Create and Fire to do so.
The GM determines if the effect is possible and makes sense. They may wish to clarify the player's intent, or suggest a modification if the effect doesn't make sense. Once this is done, they choose any mechanical effects the Effect has, and apply it just like if a spell had been cast.
If the Effect does not work, then the player's action is wasted, but it doesn't use up any effects-per-day.
The GM's decision is, of course, final. After the intended effect has been stated, the player has little to no control over how it manifests.They need not be consistent with previous effects created; after all, the Gifted has little control over their powers, and are operating on instinct rather than study.

The specific mechanics for different types of effect are given below. It is up to the GM which, if any, they apply to a given effect.

The amount of damage dealt by an Effect depends on the Gifted's level, as given on the table below.
  1. a d4
  2. a d4
  3. a d6
  4. a d6
  5. a d8
  6. a d8
  7. a d10
  8. a d10
  9. a d12
  10. a d12
  11. a d12
  12. a d20
After level 12, the damage dice remains a d20. The dice size cannot be greater than a d20. The dice size below d4 is d2, and the dice cannot go lower than this.
If the source of damage allows a save to resist or avoid it, then the dice size is one higher.
If the source of damage requires a roll to hit, then the dice size is one higher.
If the damage is 'tacked on' to an existing attack (such as an arrow that is on fire), then it happens if and only if the original attack succeeds, and the dice size is one higher.

If the damage is to effect multiple individuals, then the dice size is one lower. The maximum number of targets is gen in the table below. To target multiple individuals, a single effect must be created that encompasses all of them in its area (such as a fireball); Area Effect maximums might restrict this.
  1. two targets.
  2. three targets
  3. three targets
  4. four targets
  5. four targets
  6. five targets
  7. five targets
  8. six targets
  9. six targets
  10. seven targts
  11. seven targets
  12. seven targets
The maximum number of targets does not increase beyond 12.

Healing damage is treated just like dealing it.
Curing poisons, sicknesses and so on is more complicated. The Gifted must understand how the problem works (so, for example, that a paralyzing poison works by causing all the muscles to tighten at once), and create an Effect to counteract that. This may require magic (spells or effects) or close examination of the patient. The GM may need to suddenly come up with exactly how the problem functions.

Duration is applied where a temporary modification is made. Duration lasts in rounds (for combat and similar high-speed situations), turns (for effects relevant to room-by-room exploration), days (for things relevant to travel or interacting with society) or years (for the longest durations). Which to apply is a matter of the GM's whim. The effect lasts as many rounds/turns/days/years as the Gifted's level.

Range is how far away the target can be. For fine manipulation, the range is one foot per level. For rough manipulation, the range is one yard per level. For broad cross-country effects, the range is one mile per level.

Mind Control
A victim can never be forcibly compelled to do or think a particular thing, although their emotions, perceptions or memories might be affected to push them in a certain direction. The upshot of this is that the victim always gets a roll (perhaps a save, or perhaps roll-under-intelligence, or whatever seems appropriate) to resist, wriggle out of, ignore or suppress any attempt to mind-control them. This only applies to what they do; they still feel, perceive or remember what the Gifted wants automatically, they just manage to grit their teeth and ignore it rather than being compelled.

A victim who would be rendered useless, helpless or otherwise utterly disadvantaged by a transformation gets to make a save of some kind to resist it. This only applies to creatures; inanimate objects don't save.

Areas of Effect
An Effect cannot target particularly large areas or things. If the GM wishes to restrict the size of the effect or thing affected, then they can do so, but they don't have to.
When Area of Effect is limited, the area can be as many feet across as the Gifted's level.

Seeing into the past or future are treated the same, except that the future cannot be known for certain, only the most likely outcome.
Specific details such as exact numbers or specific wording can be seen as many turns in the future/past as the Gifted's level.
Accurate details such as appearances and detailed sequences of events can be see as many days in the future/past as the Gifted's level.
Rough details, such as betrayals, cause of death and so on can be seen as many years in the future/past as the Gifted's level.
The Gifted will only see things directly relating to the aspect they are using to divine. They other matters will need another Effect (using the appropriate aspect) to look at.

Thursday 7 December 2017

LotFP Bards

One class that a lot of people seem to want to run in oldschool games that often doesn't have a published version is the bard. It's seen various incarnations over the years, from the multiclass thief/fighter/druid weirdos of AD&D, to the minor-spellcaster skill monkeys of 3rd, to the wizard-like full caster of 5th.
I'll be completely frank, and say that I don't like the idea of 'magical music' that pops up a lot. It seems somewhat more flippant in tone to what I want from my games. So, whilst performance is an element of the character, I see knowledge as being far more fundamental to the class's function. The bard is the person you bring down the dungeon with you because of their hidden lore, so that they can identify the things you find down there. With this in mind, I'm OK giving them some magic-like abilities that reflect their depth of knowledge.
Bards should, to me, be a fairly squishy class that relies on foreknowledge and trickery rather than brute force. No spell slots, but useful tricks. I also like the idea that a bard levels up quickly, representing the way they learn fast.

The bard, then, uses the same framework as the Specialist; the same saves, hit-dice and XP progression. They also get as many skill-points as a specialist, but can spend them on different skills.
Rather than the specialist's skills, they get access to the following: Architecture, Languages, and Sleight of Hand all work like the Specialist's equivalent. In addition, they get the following skills to pick from: Identify, Leadership, Legend Lore, Manipulation and Read Magic.
Manipulation covers the bard's ability to leverage their social skills to avoid fights. It starts at 0-in-6. For each point in Manipulation, reaction rolls to the bard are 1 point better and enemy morale rolls are 1 point worse. Manipulation only applies when the bard can make themselves understood (although it doesn't depend on language); against wild animals, mindless undead and so on it doesn't function.
Leadership covers the loyalty the bard can instill in their followers. For each point in it, improve the loyalty and morale of the bard's followers, hirelings, retainers and so on by 1.
Identify and Read Magic both start at 0-in-6 chance. Using the skill takes a turn, and if it succeeds the Bard casts the spell in question. If the roll fails, the bard can't use Identify or Read Magic on that subject again.
Legend Lore also starts at 0-in-6. It allows the bard to cast Identify, taking as much time as if it were cast normally. Where the casting time is more than a day, this represents extended research; the bard is visiting libraries, consulting scholars and tracking down rumors. This requires the bard to be in an urban area; in the countryside or wilderness there simply aren't enough collections of knowledge for the bard to consult. If the roll fails, the bard gets no knowledge, but can try again; the only cost is lost time.
Although the Identify, Legend Lore and Read Magic mimic spells, they are not magical abilities and are in fact perfectly mundane, the result of the bard's extensive knowledge.

The result of this is a character who has advantages to the social aspects of the game, and who can innately access the kind of knowledge other characters would rely on magic to achieve. They don't cast spells by singing or anything like that (because that would be silly). However, a bard who's put points into Read Magic can cast from scrolls as easily as a magic-user or elf.