Mastering Epic Levels part 3

Okay, now, we’ve reclaimed the favor of the dice, adjusted the combat to deal with more dangerous heroes, it is now time to look at magic. Anybody that reads this blog regularly can tell that I’m very stingy with magic. If a DM isn’t careful then things can get silly, however, magic used properly lends a sense of spice and mystery to any campaign. I’ve played magically dead campaigns, and had tons of fun! But even in a magically dead campaign world, there will still be some magic out there. The key to magic in High Level Campaigns, is learning how to control it.

Managing Magic

I think that we’ve all been is a situation where if we don’t give the PCs some magical swag, then they aren’t going to survive our story. Or, if they feel that they aren’t gaining anything, then we need to give in and toss them something cool. The best of us give plus swords to 1st level fighters, because we want to pit them up against interesting monsters, and give them a fighting chance. The key to making a character stronger through magical means, is to give them items with a limited amount of uses. Permanent magical items are dangerous for your campaign! Yes, we do want to give them out, but we also want to make sure that the characters have earned it.

Handling Quest Items

For managing Magic, we need to first discuss what is off limits with the players. If you got crazy with the magical items, then you’ll need to pull back some, talk to your players and set limits with them. If an item was a quest item, something that took them several games to get at great personal risk, then this is, of course, off limits. This item should have a personal history all its own, and be unique for that character. However . . . There are exceptions.

Some items are so powerful that they corrupt the hero . . . This is good! This is the kind of stuff that we want to use, because it will force the player to, at some point, get rid of it. Magic is like a drug, it becomes addictive, and some magical items will perform as desired for a very long time before a curse is revealed, perhaps it will stop causing damage to a specific alignment, such as lawful characters; or it could alter a wizards spells, forcing all magic cast to act as wild magic. It could be anything! Even something crazy, but we do want to kind of tailor it to a specific item. Maybe a ring of protection starts forcing the player to fail a saving throw to gain any benefits of healing magic? Or a Medallion of ESP becomes uncontrollable, and won’t stop functioning, forcing the Player to roll his own initiative with a +10 bonus because he is out of it and in his own little world.

At one point, all of this magic stuff was required by the PCs in order to remain in the game, you just have to ask yourself how much of that stuff really is needed now, and ask the PC how they would feel about taking it away in the interest of the game, if they are unwilling to give it up, then you can just have them store the magic item, but generally if a story is cool enough, and the loss of it wouldn’t bother them all that much, then they shouldn't be too hurt. Just don’t take their favorite items, that would make anybody mad!

Thou Shall Covet Thy Neighbors’ Swag

When we limit magical items, it instantly makes all of it worth more then when this stuff is readily available. We want to remove the Magic Items within the rules, and hopefully, in a way that furthers the story.

Examples of this is when employing NPC’s such as sages or high level officials, they may request payment in the form of a Magical item. Villains can demand ransom of magic swag, and anybody who sees a magical item could be tempted to try and steal it . . . They need not be evil, just simply experiencing a moment of weakness. Even a Dagger +3 can give an NPC enough cash to be able to keep food on his table for an entire year! That temptation will always be there, especially if the hero in question is flaunting it. Even the heroes non-magical items would be up for grabs, “COME!!! This is a book once owned by the great wizard Jonis the White! It could hold great magic secrets! 4,000gp, final offer.”

Destroying Magical Weapons
It is also preferred to set up situations where magical swag would be subjected to a saving throw. AGAIN! Don’t destroy a players favorite item, unless they do something stupid with it. Magic Swag is up to the same rules that apply to their lives. If they risk them unnecessarily, then they will lose them!

A technique of forcing saving throws on an item could be something as simple as quicksand, or as complex as a naughty but powerful imp who’s taken an interest in them, and polymorphs any weapon that they draw on him to something crazy, like flowers or a stinky fish.

Magic & Monsters

I already touched on this in part 2, however we also can stand some more comment when controlling magic. DM’s are pretty good about rolling treasure during prep, and not doing it after the monster’s been slain, however at this point it is highly recommended that during High Level campaigning, NOTHING be random about the treasure. Look at the monster, and give it magical items that will actually help him out. He is going to be aware that he will be in for the fight of his life, and by the time that the fight is over, he should have no expendable magic left, he is going to use all of it during combat. He’ll use his healing potions, and every last charge of the ring of spell turning you gave him . . . Or at least he sure as heck will try to! Combat can get crazy and chaotic, and we don’t want to cheat by making all of his magic swag useless if the PCs did take him out quickly, but for the most part, if an enemy knows that it is going to lose, then it will quickly use every resource available to him, if this isn’t happening and High-Level characters are still collecting wands with tons of charges left, then you aren’t running your monsters as efficiently as you could be.

Setting Legal Limits on Spell Casters

We can easily contain and control magical items, but what about magical class’s? It’s common knowledge that if you let a PC Wizard have his way, then they will become war machines of mass destruction. We MUST know the rules when dealing with them, and worst of all, we must enforce the rules.

Spell Prep

Just so you know, I’m not making any of this stuff up. It’s all in the PHB, and we DO need to enforce this rule because players hate it and will do their damnedest to ignore it. What rule am I speaking of? The rule that states that a spell takes 10 minutes to memorize or meditate on, per spell level. This rule requires that a 6th level spell would require first 10 hours of good sleep, and an entire hour of memorizing before the wizard can cast the spell. This rule applies per spell, thus if an 18th level wizard wants to acquire all of his available spells to memory, he’d be required to endure about 23 hours of memorizing his spell books. Therefore it would not be in a wizards best interests to throw away spells on things that can be acquired easier through normal methods. We also have to watch casting times, some especially high level spells take hours to cast, they wouldn’t be all that efficient in a dungeon setting. Wizards should also be encouraged to create their own scrolls, this would lower the time spent memorizing them. An unused spell is always memorized until it is cast, thus he has to limit how he spends his spells. These spells should be written on a separate piece of paper and shared with you, that way you can help him count what spells he’s used and what is saved.

Spell Effects

Another thing that you have to watch out for is for creative spell casting. Magic is not a technology, it only serves one function and one function only, thus it only does what it says that it does in the PHB and it doesn’t do any more then that. If a wizard wants to create a different spells, then there are rules for this as well, however it is up to you to interpret what spells mean, and they only mean exactly what they are listed as. A knock spell can’t be used to push an enemy down, it only works on locks and doors, a dig spell only works on earth, not dragon flesh and so forth. BE A STICKLER!!! Of course we don’t want to punish players who chose to play Wizards and Clerics, we just want to set a limit to their power within the limits of the game itself. YES!!! When a Wizard casts a high level spell, them make sure that it is damned cool!!! But in order to replace it, they’ve got to spend up to 90 minutes memorizing it.

When Magic Gets Silly

Magic Items should NEVER be sold on the open market. We want to give the wizards new spells, and High Level campaigns are all about working the options. My personal style on Spell Components is that I only enforce them when the wizard is attempting to learn the spell, after that, take for granted that the wizard will supply the components and ignore the rule, however the initial accusation of the needed elements could be an adventure all of its own. Should we have in place a “Magic Shop”? That is up to you, however it should be hidden and only accessed by worthy, and TRUE Wizards, with prices that reflect this.

If everybody is running around with Holy Avengers+5, and riding around on flying carpets then your world is unbalanced. Wizards without limits would absolutely destroy any world, and completely remove the need to have adventurers around in the first place! The heroes of our world should be unique, which we will discuss tomorrow.


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