Friday, January 4, 2013

Alternate Rules: Caster Level & Misfire Chance

So magic is wild and unpredictable in Hekinoe, and it effects changes upon the user. 

Hmm, just had a thought. I'm always bothered by all the Fell Heritage and Warped Flesh feats. The reasoning for them is that magic does weird stuff to living creatures. It is why Fallen, Soulless, and Rankethlek don't have to take Warped Flesh feats if they are spellcasters, they're not living creatures. However, the weird thing is that all these nasty fleshwarping mutations do beneficial things. If I could do it over again, I'd keep the Warped Flesh and Fell Heritage feats but not make the Warped Flesh feats mandatory for spellcasters at first level, but I'd also try to implement some sort of taint system. Not sanity like in Jason's campaign, but taint where you start looking icky and being icky and maybe get an icky aura that makes normal folks vomit and sends animals scurrying away from you. All this icky would not be beneficial to you, the point is that there is a cost to sorcery and that cost is icky and unreliable. I dunno, never really thought about it before, and that isn't what this post is about anyway.

Back to the matter at hand, magic is wild and unpredictable in Hekinoe. There are various places where if functions in a more stable fashion or in a completely stable fashion like in Orcunraytrel, but there are also areas where it is completely bat shit crazy uncontrollable to the point where the rate of misfire percentages you find in The Known World Campaign Book are doubled or tripled. Casters in these areas, to my mind, would possess a greater amount of control, skill, and luck to wield magic without dying messily.

My thought is that a caster growing up and learning magic in a more wild area would have an easier time casting spells in a more stable area. For instance, Karl learned magic in The Known World. Granted, magic became easier to control between The Rebellion Arc campaign and the aborted Psychogenic Fugue Arc campaign, but only by shaving 1% off the misfire chances, so it isn't really a big noticeable change. So Karl grew up in The Known World where magic is tough to control and he diligently learns to do so. Then he goes to Orcunraytrel where magic is apparently stable and does not do things like give extra limbs and huge eyes and that sort of thing. By comparison, magic is easy in Orcunraytrel. Since he has all this experience controlling spells with great difficulty, wouldn't he have more energy and focus to devote to his sorcery now that it isn't trying to knock him around and slip out of his control?

What I'm am thinking is that a caster from a higher unreliability area who moves to an area with a lower unreliability area shaves additional percentage points off of his misfire chance. Don't have the exact system worked out yet, but nothing extravagant, and there will always be that no lower than 1% misfire chance rule regardless of where you are casting a spell (except in special cases like Orcunraytrel). A caster from an area with a misfire chance the moves to an area that has no misfire chance, like Orcunraytrel, adds a +1 to his caster level. Finally, a caster who moves from a low misfire or no misfire chance area to an area with a higher misfire chance, increases his misfire chance by a small amount. There would also be feats you can take to kind of work off that excess misfire chance so you could simulate your character becoming accustomed to the wilder magic of an area. Or maybe traits, traits might be better. 

Fucking magic. I hate magic. Psionics are better and cooler. I'd take a Soulknife over a Magus any day of the week. 


  1. I like this idea, although I am not sure why you hate magic. Maybe we can discuss this one time or something.

  2. I dunno, I'm on the fence with this one. If you look at a lot of fantasy novels and such, the trend is that wizards are few and far between ... yet when it comes to our games, they're a dime a dozen. I kinda wish casters were rare like Bayaz from Joe Abercrombies works. Without getting on my soapbox once again, it's tough when a caster in pathfinder can at higher levels replace almost any class available with their spells. Why do I need a rogue when I can just cast knock? That being said, it's hard to have a fantasy setting without some form of magic.

    Maybe another angle is to limit the types of spells a magic user can pick. If this were my game this would be hella DM intensive, but since you're an intense DM ... I'm sure you could tackle this.

    I do indeed like psionics because there is very little overlap of the existing "core classes". They bring a new element to the game, but their powers aren't such that they could work-around aspects of the scenario ... because magic!

    1. My goal with The Known World was not necessarily to make it low magic, but instead make it industrialized so there is an alternative to magic for non spellcasters. I get what you are saying Lance, high level casters break the game. My misfire system was designed to help combat that and also make psionics more prominent (not that that worked). I'm also working on a system of taint right now based off of some corruption rules in Heroes of Horror that should further weaken spellcasters. The post appears next Friday I believe.

      I don't have much interest in weeding out specific spells, beyond weird good and evil and law and chaos ones. Obviously stuff tied to alignment has no place in my campaign setting, the same goes for stuff involving planar travel or protection from various planar entities. Magic breaks the laws of physics, that is what it is there for, so I don't really feel right saying a Wizard can call down meteors from the sky but not unlock a door.

      I will say I very much enjoy the low magic nature of Abercrombie's stories, with actual magic kind of relegated to a very select few demigod like casters. The problem is that that naturally limits survivability and lengthens recovery time for non-spellcasters. I mean, you can create a doctor class or something, but if they do more than what good rolls in the Heal skill can do, they're basically doing magic and breaking the laws of physics and that sort of thing. It's easier to just include spellcasters. Plus, what exactly is their place in the adventuring group outside of healbot? I mean, you could give them some sort of anatomical strike like a sneak attack I guess, but that feels like a forced effort to make them useful beyond post-battle operations.

      I don't think your statement about overlap with psionic and core classes is entirely accurate. Look at the Soulknife, basically a Fighter with the equivalent of a sneak attack ability and magic weapons that he never loses and can be upgraded as he levels. Psions can also manifest the breach power, which is the psionic version of knock. The Vitalist class also replaces any need whatsoever for any sort of arcane or divine healing. I know you've said you'd prefer a Cleric over any other healer, but the Vitalist is the king in my book. Also, who needs the Stealth skill or invisibility spells when you can just erase your presence from the sight and mind of targets with cloud mind? It in fact works better than invisibility, as it affects the mind and basically blots you out to any sense the targets have. Which is a lot more useful than invisibility.

      I generally think psionic classes are far superior to their arcane equivalents, but I think the reason they're used less frequently is because they're completely alien to most players and it isn't quite as simple as just memorizing X amount of spells for the day and casting them as needed. They require a little bit more math and bookkeeping to play. Their powers are much more versatile as well. Wizards get fireball, which is a classic spell loved by all (except Binwin Bronzebottom, heh), but psions get energy burst which is the equivalent of a fireball (albeit one centered on you) that can do any type of damage you like.

      TL;DR: Magic blah, psionics good, but ultimately pretty similar outside of thematic elements, like you can wear full plate and don't get magic missile or Bigby's clenched fist.