Sneak Peek: Magia Nova: Il Novissimo Metodo Didattico delle Arti Magiche

Oh, the joys of writing something purely for D&D. I’ve been working on a word/runic magic system for a while and while I was at it I though I could just spin off one of its subsystems. I also took the occasion to make a book with all the S&W Whitebox spells, but organized by level and not in alphabetical order.
Yeah, I know, de gustibus non disputandum but there is clearly a WRONG and a RIGHT way, and the alphabetical sort is a pain in the ass when you’re trying to allocate slots and need to check spell details across the level. Which is much a much more common scenario compared to, say, check spell details across the spells starting with the letter S. If you need to find a spell by name, an analytical index will do.
Hence Magia Nova! The principle of this new didactic method is a blah blah taxonomic approach blah blah system of mysticism blah blah correspondences blah blah great pedagogy blah blah left hand, right hand blah blah. Ok, enough babble. The whole point is that the Magic User will learn Arts and Elements instead of single spells.

Four are the Arts:

  • Creo for Creation
  • Disfo for Undoing
  • Sento for Perception
  • Cambio for Change and Control
Four are the Elements:
  • Foco for Fire and therefore Magic
  • Aria for Air and therefore Spirit and Perception
  • Aqua for Water and therefore Life
  • Terra for Earth and therefore Matter

The casters start by knowing an Art and an Element and will progressively get better at casting spells and gain more Arts and Elements. In due time they will fully master a specific type of magic, and summon elemental spirits.

This is the spell list as it is now:

Screenshot 2016-04-17 at 17.40.45

Stars and question marks are safely ignored (they are notes for me). Some of those gaps might be filled, and things rejigged, but that’s the gist of it.

You will find a resemblance to Ars Magica by Tweed and Rein-Hagen. The resemblance is indeed there, but.

First, I love Ars Magica. Gangs & Bullshit owe a lot to it. Also Chthonic Codex. But Magia Nova is a different beast. Merely identifying spell groups with 2 words (or two runes, which is exactly the same) is the extent of the copying. They picked Latin, I picked oldy Italian.

I could have picked English. I didn’t for two reasons: the first is that picking premodern Italian makes it peculiar even for Italians, the second is that it’s better to have domain-specific terms for game elements. If your GM says you’re stunned by someone’s display of wealth, they probably do not mean that your character can only move slowly this round. They just used a turn of phrase which happens to use a word that means something different from a metagame perspective: you’re outside of the game and you use words to describe it that do not mean the same to people in the game. For game terms choose words you would otherwise not use to avoid confusion (no, not the spell).

Second: this whole thing started though with a different approach: create a taxonomy, and see how to allocate existing D&D spells to its subdivisions in an interesting way, rather than coming up with a system and creating new spells fitting in it (which is I guess how the Ars Magica spellbook was developed).

There will be a new, alternate Magic User, the spellcasting rules, the spells sorted by level (with some new spells), a handful of new monsters and, possibly, a few magic items. I have no idea when this will be ready, but given most of the spells come straight from the book it won’t take long.

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The Flying F*ckers of Morrowind

The best things about Elder Scrolls games, especially the early ones in the series, is wandering the countryside and finding ancient tombs and similar bullshit, or shipwrecks with diamonds in the hold, or vampire castles, or the flying f*ckers of Vvardenfell.

Oh no wait

Not the flying f*ckers again

Please stahp

the flying f*ckers

the flying f*ckers, image courtesy of Actionyurt

Flying F*cker of Vvardenfell

They only want to eat your face.

S&W: HD 1, AC 2 [19], damage 1d6, special: infravision, surprise with a 1-5 on a d6, damage x2 on a backstab, treasure: hell no.

AFG: Level 1 animal, light armour, Sneaky, Flying, Nightvision

Gangs & Bullshit – first playtest

I love crime fiction. The kind of bullshit that happens in crime fiction is of the highest quality.

All my games get to what you’d call “domain game” really soon. Somehow my players settle in an area and start to infest the local society and violence and bullshit starts happening at an incredible speed. The point of the domain game is not to have a fief, but to play the game, that kind of politics that hilariously degenerates in threats and violence.

I’ve been wanting to run a proper crime organisation game for years. What kept me is a horrible feeling tied mostly to these two blokes pictured here.

Giovanni_Falcone_and_Paolo_Borsellino-2

In 1992-1993 the Sicilian Mafia cranked up the aggression level and started a bombing campaign (google translates okish). They managed to kill a couple of judges, politicians and destroy museums. I was in school back then, and vaguely knew about the existence of Cosa Nostra, the Camorra, the ‘Ndrangheta and the Sacra Corona Unita, but living in a small town in the north of the country their power was not as evident, as their tendrils there were not as strong. One of the my pizzerie caught fire remarkably often, and during trips to the South we had to pay protection money to park the car on the side of the road, but otherwise there was not a lot of crime going on.

The bombing season started because of many reasons, but my favourite (least favourite) is that the heads of the Catholic party in Sicily stopped being as pals with the crime bosses as they were before, and important criminals started to go to jail more often.

This was weird. The State does not fight back strongly, because organized crime means money, and money means corruption, and corruption means, literally, taking one’s money, and therefore power, and giving some as a tribute to someone else that is powerful already, so that they use their power against someone else.

If it sounds like organized crime paying protection money, or countries paying tribute to the Empire, or states paying federal taxes, or you paying taxes, is because it’s exactly the same act. Tributary and tributee enter a beneficial relationship, as ancient as giving a goat to feed the warriors so the reavers from the uplands don’t steal all your goats.

But the change of the political class due to, er, many reasons but mostly because it’s complicated, meant that the powerful were not as powerful, and in power now there were less friendly people.

The State answered with strength, some people started to be brave and stop paying protection money, and the situation started to improve. But elsewhere the crime syndicates made great progress, and nowadays their tendrils reach far apart, not only in historical bases like the US East Coast, but also in the rest of Europe, and are doing business with South American and East Asian crime syndicates.

The mixture of organized crime and conniving politics fucked my homeland too much, and as an expat it is really painful. Because I literally left. And here I am, ten years after and a thousand miles away, praising the effort and ultimate sacrifice of two judges, one of them botheringly right-wing, and all other victims in that war.

Because I am, like my homeland, a complicated mess.

So for years I wanted to run this game about wealth, and power, and threats, and corruption, and shady deals, and turf fights, blades in the night, burglaries and barbershops, real thugs and city watch thugs, firebombs in the night and pies filled with meat of uncertain origin.

All of it for power, the kind of power that despises other power and wants only to make it go away, so it can have more power, all of it, and demand everybody’s respect and tribute.

But the topic made me too sad, and it’s been doing the same for years. I never thought I’d manage.

I managed earlier on this month. It was fucking glorious.

2015 - 1

The name of the game is Gangs & Bullshit

Because all the PCs are in a gang, and there’s a lot of bullshit going on. There are other gangs, and in general they all are not too keen about each other. Because they have power, and are not afraid about using it, and that’s fucking disrepectful.

I’m putting together some kind of playtest package.

[resources] Oh god, it’s full of spells!

A while ago someone on G+ asked for some alternative spellbooks, as in “I need a bunch of new spells”.

Thing is, I love spell and the arcane in RPGs, and I bought a bunch of related books. I even wrote and published a few.

So, here’s the list, in no specific order:

  1. The Great Net Spellbook – the first “noncanon” supplement we brought into our game. Things went wild. It impressed my teenager self to no end. A bunch are boring, a number are utterly overpowered, all are somehow wonky and quirky and a labour of love.
  2. The Pangean List of Spells – a tagged list of rewritten spells, great interface, a bunch are new.
  3. Kellri’s Spell Reference – As far as I know, all spells from that famous advanced fantasy game.
  4. Arcane Abecedary – I can’t describe this with less than 7 words:”wampus wampus wampus wampus wampus wampus wampus”
  5. Weird Thaumaturgy – Someone on g+ made a public thread asking for non-canonical, non-boring spells. I put together the document with some rough cut and paste but I did not finish it because reasons.
  6. Theorems & Thaumaturgy – a boat of spells, classes, items… PWYW
  7. Space Age Sorcery – the tin says, the book does
  8. The Basic Illusionist – Fancy a few illusion spells? what about about 8-score? 159 illusion spells and paraphernalia.

More will come to mind. Suggest some in the comments.

More on the Challenges Combat system hack: Multiattacks,

On Google Plus we had a small discussion about the last post. Nags were found. Here come fixes.

Multiattacks

The first nag is that if you have multiple attacks per round and your target is hard to hit, you get more penalties. Which is true and a problem. If you use such a system, I advise ignoring all the negative effects from missing the target, but if you want you can keep “deal half damage missing on a 1” and “deal 1d3 missing on a 2”.

The table becomes the following (and it’s what I’m going to use when I run things using a d20 to hit):

When Hitting with a…

  1. or less: 5+ damage (or more), critical wound
  2. +4 damage, medium wound
  3. +4 damage, medium wound
  4. +3 damage, medium wound
  5. +3 damage, light wound
  6. +2 damage, light wound
  7. +2 damage, light wound
  8. +1 damage
  9. +1 damage
  10. Normal Damage
  11. Normal Damage

What About Scarlet Heroes?

Just use the table above, looking up the natural d20 result on the table if you hit. Apply the damage modifier from the table to a single damage die and then convert that to SH damage. I will playtest tonight with a newly rolled Fighter and amend the post with the results.

What if I don’t use d20? The AFG example

AFG does not use a d20. But it has 2 completely different combat systems. The adaptation therefore works this way: the result that guarantees a hit to both newbs and experts is the one that does no extra effects, with other results that are successes only for more experts deal progressively more damage. For example if you use a d6 and you hit with high numbers, 6 will deal no extra effects, 5 will have some extra damage, etc.

5MAIL always uses a single attack per round, so it’s safe to use both negative modifiers on miss and positive on hits:

Miss on a 1: deal 1d3 damage (or 1d6/2 if you’re strict about these things)

Miss on a 4: don’t attack next round

Hit on a 2: +1 damage die, save or trauma (-1 FC for 1d6 weeks) and staggered for 1d6 rounds

Hit on a 3: +1 damage die, save or trauma (-1 FC for 1d6 weeks)

Hit on a 4: +1 damage die, save or staggered for 1d6 rounds

Hit on a 5: +1 damage die

Hit on a 6: normal damage

Some of these results give an extra damage die, to be treated as all the other extra damage dice. If the character knows Secret Fighting Techniques that require activation, they can activate them foregoing this extra damage die.

FIGHTMORE might make you roll for melee multiple times per round. So for the purpose of modifiers just consider the roll used to potentially hit someone and not the defence rolls. If you roll once per round (for example using FIGHTMORE MAYHEM) then just use that roll.

On a Draw, deal damage normally, counter with a shield as usual. On every other result, use the 5MAIL table above. I might release a proper old-style CRT (Combat Result Table, like in old wargames).

Soon from Lost Pages: Wonder & Wickedness

soon

Wonder and Wickedness is Brendan’s Sorcery supplement. It contains:

  • a new magic system with level-less magic and rules to adapt it to your favourite fantasy RPG
  • support for magic duels! like in fiction!
  • seven magic disciplines and a whole lot of new spells
  • scores of catastrophes, for when spellcasting goes horribly wrong
  • fifty magic items
  • and some fine art by Russ Nicholson

I’m going through the last part of the layout. Available in before the end of the year, print version in January. More news soon.

Need for Speech: words have power, Hodor, OG and a new word/rune-based magic system

I started watching Game of Thrones recently, and Hodor got me thinking about magic. In some oblique ways.

RPGs are mostly a discussion. Speech and writing, in their tabletop and PBM incarnations, are almost inherent to the form. This happens because there are not enough physical game tokens to allow expression of all the subtleties of what happens in the game world. For a NON RPG, like the DND 3E miniatures game, the need for speech is absent: it’s possible to move tokens and roll dice and point at tokens, and that’s enough to resolve the game.

Note that this has nothing to do with system completeness: it’s possible to have an incomplete system needing arbitration, where the referee resolves combats by moving, changing, adding and subtracting “bits” from the table, not a word spoken.

Speech at this level is about the world. Players make statements about the world and roll dice, which are about the world. The referee adjudicates and reports the results. So, we are playing, and this is the nature of the game: making statements about the world.

There is another level of need for speech, which is the speech that happens in game: characters talk to each other. The player of Hodor has problems with that. I played a speech-impaired character once and it was funny and challenging (the system was Fate though, which was the only negative note, because all players and the GM did a brilliant job).

At any rate, Hodor can’t speak. Hodor can act though. Which would be incredibly interesting if Hodor was in a game of Diplomacy.

Hodor is a bit extreme though. Let’s talk about Robin Law’s OG.

Og-Cover

OG is a gem. In OG you character knows how to use 3-8 words. You can unleash the very full panoplia of your extensive vocabulary when interacting with the Referee, but with other players? Stick to your own 3-8 words! If you know only “small”, “stick” and “you” you can’t say many things that do not insult virility. And that’s kind of cool because it’s a game made fun by its special player interaction.

It would be interesting if RPG magic was the same. Incidentally the first fantasy novel I read was A Wizard of Earthsea by U.K. le Guin, which has a system that is basically UG-Magic-University. You learn words for things, so that you can command them. And humans get baptized, so if you don’t know their real secret name you have to use their “common name”, which is what they use in daily life, or just use “dude”.

So, if you want a flexible rulelight magic system, one that is a bit crazy but completely not playtested, enjoy this one:

You MU begins the game knowing INT/3 names for generic things and 1 mana. When a new level is gained,  one new name is learnt and 1 mana per level is gained. You might want to use a foreign language (French? Italian? Lithuanian? Japanese? Kurdish? Finnish? Tsolyáni?) for the special names to stop your character from using them in play. They become game tokens, so you to avoid messups you want to be specific when referring to them. Or you can trace runes mid-air or pronounce the rune names. Whatever. Words have power.

To cast a spell, tell to the Referee ALL the words you are using this round. For example for Fireball would maybe be “big powerful fire blast there”, while Create Fire would be “fire”. Then, using the 5MORE system or rolling under INT or under CHA or trying to SAVE, roll once for every word you pronounce in the round. Consider every word as a different TASK for 5MORE EXPERT purposes.

You need to succeed at every word check to cast the spell. If you fail a roll, spend 1 mana to convert it to a success. If you elect not to spend the mana, all the words you are speaking in the same round get messed up and are all counted as failures. So yes you can take time casting a spell.

When you are done with words, something happens. The Referee will let you know what happens depending on the words that failed. As a yardstick, consider that a comparable D&D spell should have (2 x level) – 1 words. The referee and players are encouraged to write down combination of words of power, and the referee is encouraged to have the same combination of words have the same effect every time. Players should record combination and effects only if their characters have writing implements.

Now, this seems eminently more powerful than D&D. Surely it’s more flexible, and if you’re lucky it gives you infinite free spells at level 1.

But.

Failures.

Bite.

There are two consequences for failures.

The first one is that the caster gets burnt.

  • For each word failed, the caster can’t use that word for 1d6 turns.
  • For each three words failed, the caster takes 1d6 damage OR the caster can spend one mana OR the caster can get stunned. The caster can choose which as they know how to fend off magic power. Stun duration is 1d6 rounds if chosen once, 1d6 turns if chosen twice, 1d6 hours if chosen 3 times, then days, weeks, months, seasons.
  • For each six words failed, something awful happens. Maybe the caster gets whisked away by a gate for a while, or they develop a horrible mutation. I’ll let your Referee adjudicate.

So if a caster fails seven words, they can’t use any of them for 1d6 turns, takes three times a mixture of 1d6 damage or 1 mana damage or stunned for 1d6 rounds/turns/hours, and something horrible happens.

Plus, there is the second consequence. Magic happens regardless. Referee, consider that magic has a personality. And that words have personalities. And that some words don’t like being used close to each other. Let them play. You might even have the words make reaction rolls against each other and the MU to determine if the play nice. Mispronounced words will most probably misbehave at some level, and the caster might even pronounce other words instead of the failed one.

Note that if a spell targets someone, using a generic name (like “human”) grants an additional save, while using the Secret Name forces the victim to reroll 1 succeeded save.

You can learn new words from other people

Note that you can totally use this system as rune magic too.