MAGEBLADE! the adventuring natural philosopher and Extra Resilience optional rules

Mageblade healing is somewhat inferior compared to other recent fantasy RPGs, so here are a couple of optional rules that help help with party resilience, but not their overall strength.

Better Life through Surgery: The first one is simply to increase the Surgery healing from 1d4 to Focus. I’m not sure if the focus should be the surgeon’s, the patient, the highest of the two or the lowest of the two. My gut feeling tells me that it should be the surgeon’s: there are good arguments for any of those amounts, but all Focus amounts in the game scale related to the active character, and I do not want to trow off people with that one weird rule that works completely differently.

This makes Surgery a better skill, and hopefully there will be more skill options soon for an educated adventuring person.


from vixen vintage:

Because I really want to play this ->

… but with goggles, guns, grenades and a grappling hook.

I want to play a character that is a gentleman and a scholar, and while the book has Surgery, Engineering, Exotic/Dead Foreign Languages, Research, Diplomacy, Gather Information and Bullshit, and Climbing and Swimming are definitely an educated person’s kind of outdoorsy activity.

Of course there are more, like Pharmacy, Geography and Law in MB!: Silk Road and Sailing or Piloting in MB!: Tales of the Wind, and stranger things in MB!: Vyrnaccean Science.

The second rule is somewhat similar to the short rest concept from recent games like Into the Odd and possibly D&D (but I’m not sure, I played 4E and 5E a grand total of three times).

Resilience: a character can spend two turns after an encounter to get a proper rest. They can then recover 1d6 hits if they have been wounded or 1 mana if they spent any. Each character can rest this way Focus time per day.

This is great for everybody, without making characters stronger. It stared as only healing 1d6, but adding the mana option gives other classes some more occasions to shine. It mostly get around the problem of the five minutes adventuring day in the following ways:

  • front line people get some healing, so last for more encounters
  • mageblades get extra blademagic and devotions, so can use them in more encounters
  • rogues get even more mana to spend as luck, for extra shenanigans
  • casters get extra mana, which is great for extra malevolence and magic shields, but still does not let them spam the same spell over and over again: the hard limit of 1 cast per spell per day is still enforced.

Also, the extra mana means more attempts at saves. And nobody wants to fail those!


Mageblade: Wealth & Allowance

Adventurers need to replace or acquire adventuring items such as spikes, rope and arrows pretty much after every expeditions. When the loot is small, deciding where to allocate that wealth is interesting, but after a couple of adventures, if the adventurer survives, they’ll hopefully be flush with cash. And at that point, where’s the interesting decision in spending 1 or 2 coins on a rope or a crowbar?

To avoid accounting too much for all these small things, Mageblade introduces the Allowance. If the party acquired a non-negligible amount of wealth, the Allowance lets each PC refill or buy some items for free before their next foray. The initial version of the rule is that the total allowance for each character is 5% of the character’s wealth, with a maximum of 1d6 objects.

For example: Timmy, a character with 100 coins, between adventures has an allowance of 5 coins which can spend on 1d6 objects. Rolling a 4 they buy 6 torches (1c),  a pole (1c) and a bundle of 20 arrows (2c): they’d have another item to buy, but they ran out of money.

Another example: Zurgo the Zauberer, owning 10000 coins in gems and gold, has an allowance of 500c. Rolling a 3 they buy a heavy armour for a henchman (400c) and 3 vials of blessed water (2 x 25c): they’d have another 50c but they ran out of items.

The second version of the rule, the one we are going to playtest is:

If you got treasures in your last foray, you get 1d4 objects for free, their cost depending on your wealth.

PC’s Wealth Tier Object Max Item Cost
nothing 0 no freebies for you! 0
50c 1 1d4 tier 1 objects 1c
150c 2 1d4 tier 2 objects 3c
500c 3 1d4 tier 3 objects 10c
2500c 4 1d4 tier 4 objects 50c
20000c 5 1d4 tier 5 objects 400c

What about bundled consumables, like torches, arrows, pythons? If you have not completely run out of these, a single item will restock them.

Is this going to break the game? not really, it would take 20 adventures with no loot whatsoever for the character to dilapidate their wealth.

Why rolling? to give them a decision: they can still buy things and spend money, but the whole which free swag are you going to get this adventure is just too attractive not to think about.

Why not handwaving it? because it requires GM headspace, while a small subsystem where PCs get freebies after an adventure is a small and cute way to give stuff to players while minimizing downtime.




Mageblade: a new class

The Mageblade is a magic slayer with a wicked blade, a mystic bridging the arts of steel and magic. Most are trained by one of the Ordo Mysterii for years and released on secret missions, or on an journey of interior growth, or they left or escaped from the order, or for some other imperscrutable reason, often many of these reasons at the same time. They are relentless and, when using their athame, a magically bond blade, can clad themselves in steel, use spells and strike true.

The Mageblade is a new class in my MAGEBLADE game. They are somewhat inspired by clerics, and are part Lone Wolf with Kai powers, part sword saints, part mystics fighters.

What’s important about them, to me, is that they replace a cleric class that was straddled between casting, healing and fighting but plagued with a very weak faith element, despite the name. The Mageblade needs no devotion to the divine, but the lack of devotion to their Ordo Mysterii might prove lethal, as retribution for defectors and betrayers strikes hard.

This is the version for your Old School game, the MAGEBLADE version has slightly different mechanics. 

Mageblade – Old School

HP, Saves, Hitrolls, XP: as Cleric

Ironclad: Mageblades can use any weapon, armour and shield.

Athame: Each Mageblade has an athame, a mageblade. The athame is a magic blade (dealing 1d6 damage in melee), wrought from cold iron by the Mageblade, and then enchanted and bound in a week-long process. The athame is magic, but it is powerless when not wielded by its creator. Mageblades can deliver touch spells making an attack with the athame. Furthermore, athames have an important power:

  • Empower: Mageblades can empower their athame. This takes just an instant (so it can be part of a melee attack or a spell) and charges the blade with magic and makes it glow like a torch for 10 minutes. While the charge lasts the athame gains a +1 hit bonus, +2 at level 5, +3 at level 9. The Mageblade can discharge this energy to power a Blademagic: doing so drains the charge. Mageblades can empower once a day; if they want to empower they blade more times they can do so by spending any unused spell.

Blademagic: The Mageblade can discharge their empowered athame to activate one blademagic. This can be done as part of a melee attack, or just before casting a spell or doing another action. The blademagic usually lasts until the next dawn, unless specified. If a Mageblade activates a second blademagic while one is still active, the first automatically terminates, but they still have to empower the second separately to activate it. So it’s possible to, in a round, charge the athame, hit in melee, and discharge the athame to power a blademagic. Mageblades start knowing 1 blademagic and learn a new one at level 6 and one at level 12, with their availability depending on their Ordo Mysterii. This is a list of some sample blademagic:

  • Rend: the athame becomes a conduit for delivering raw power into wounds. After a successful hit roll the Mageblade can discharge the blademagic into the wound, dealing 1d6+1/2 level extra damage. This terminates the blademagic.
  • Bane: the athame is ensorcelled with energies antithetical to the essence of a specific type of being. The Mageblade adds focus also when dealing damage in melee to a type of enemy. There are multiple banes, and they must be learnt and activated separately: Undead Bane, Demon Bane, Animal Bane, Spirit Bane. Tales mention other banes (including Cephalopod Bane and Human Bane), but do not mention where to learn them.
  • Arc: the athame forms wide circles of lethal steel. The Mageblade can attack 3 different enemies in melee each round. Duration: 1 turn.
  • Dance: the athame is let into the air as it starts to dance, bob and spin mid-air. The athame can be set to attack a given close enemy: it attacks with a hit bonus equal to the PC’s focus, and has AC 5 [14]. If hit, it’s not damaged but loses its next attack. If it is not set to attack anybody, it blocks attacks giving +2 to the AC of the Mageblade. Duration: 1 turn.

Devotion: Mageblades can learn a single devotion, a ritual specific to their order. Each Devotion can be used by discharging their athame. Some sample devotions are, depending on the Ordo Mysterii:

  • Conflict Praxis Orders: Turn/Control Undead/Animal/Spirits/Demons: pick any one combination depending on how the Conflict Praxis order is aligned.
  • Blood Dragon Order: one of the Maenad Powers
  • Thaumagram Orders: one of the Dodecathaumagrams

Magic: Mageblades have some limited spellcasting ability. Depending on their Ordo Mysterii they either cast spells like a Magic User or a cleric of 2 levels less. Mageblades can cast spells in armour but only if they wield their athame. Mageblades do not automatically gain a spellbook or new Magic-user spells. If they cast Cleric spells they gain all cleric spells normally and their athame doubles as holy symbol.

Some orders, like the Thaumagram Orders, often eschew teaching blademagic to focus more on spellcasting: the Mageblade will not learn any blademagic, but can cast spells as Cleric of the same level.



Mageblade: development notes

So, I had a few days off and I started to flesh out a bit more Mageblade. Mageblade is meant to be some sort of D&D retroclone, except it’s not really cloning anything.

To put it a bit in perspective: I stripped down S&W Whitebox to the point where there’s not even the experience points tables, saving throws or classes left there. At the moment it’s there just to act as framing.

Then I started building. I decided that characters get numerically better at doing their thing using one single scale: the Focus Bonus. For Fighters, it applies to hit rolls. For Casters, more effective spells. For Mageblades, hit rolls with their athame (a bound blade) and saving throws. Here’s the advancement table, which is shared by all classes.

Advancement Table

Level XP Needed Hit Dice Focus Bonus
1 0 1d 3
2 1,000 2d 3
3 2,000 3d 4
4 4,000 4d 4
5 8,000 5d 4
6 16,000 6d 5
7 30,000 7d 5
8 64,000 8d 5
9 125,000 9d 6
10 250,000 10d 6
11 400,000 11d 6
12 600,000 12d 7

So a level 3 fighter has +4 to the hit roll, and Casters always have +0. While this might seem a bit odd, consider that magic do not gives bonus to hit or to AC, so plate mail and shield is pretty much the non-plus ultra. Said that, there will be magic barriers, giving AC equivalent to armour. This follows my “eschew numeric modifiers” philosophy: I’m trying to do everything without numeric modifiers, except where I use the Focus Bonus.

You might have noticed that there are only 12 levels, but players get to roll 12 hit dice. To avoid tears, HPs are rerolled at every level, and the new amount is kept only if better than the previous. If not, the new HP total increases by 1.

Characters get also skill points, a handful spread from level 1 to level 12. Each class can spend them in specific things: Fighters can get Stances and combine them to make combos (yeah, combos, you read well), Casters and Mageblades learn disciplines and magic schools. Learning requires teachers, and more exotic skills require cooperation if reclusive or exclusive or simply crochety masters.

Mageblades also learn new blademagic, which is some kind of battlemagic channeled through their athame during melee. An example of blademagic is Bane: there are many Banes to be learnt, one per creature type. When a Bane is active, the athame becomes deadly to that creature type and deals extra damage equal to the Focus, so for example if a Mageblade of level 5 activates Undead Bane their athame will deal +4 damage to undead. Other blademagic lets the mageblade attack many enemies, animates the athame, or just deal extra damage.