Pondering Spell Books

This post will just be some free writing. I like to do this now and again, it isn’t edited and will probably tend to wander all over the place, but it does help me think about things that bother me. That said . . .

Wizard: by Adam Brown
Spell books in AD&D are left rather ambiguous, it is stated that all mages have them, but for the most part, they are forgotten about. The wizard gets blasted with dragon fire, forced to swim through diseased water, burgled in the middle of the night, or any number of unpleasant misadventures and his book is none the worse for wear! Of course, it has to be this way, doesn’t it. In order to function as a character, the mage must cast spells, and if we keep taking his book away it would be no fun at all. Sure, we can create a situation from time to time where a thief takes it away and he has to go get it back with only the spells that he has in his memory at that time, but this story would get old really fast if done all the time.

There are two kinds of spell books, the regular spell book, filled with every spell that that mage has collected through the years, and the traveling spell book, which is the book (or books) which a mage takes with him when he goes adventuring. Did you notice what just happened there? The rules just created a book that the wizard doesn’t have on him, so where is this book? If a mage is 3rd level, would he even have enough spells to make getting a real spell book worthwhile? When is he supposed to get this book, and where, exactly, is he supposed to keep it? This thing is a collection of his life’s work, how is he supposed to keep this thing secure in a very unsecure world?

There is another clue later on that says that at 9th level, a mage can build a tower. I think that it is safe to assume that this is when he takes a break from adventuring and constructs THE spell book. Much like the fighter, who must design his own fortress, if he wants to attract followers, and think about how to defend it from attack, the wizard has to do this as well, which sounds like a lot of fun! Of course the tower (which doesn’t really need to be a tower at all) provides him with labs and libreries so that he can begin making his own magic items, and creating spells which are unique to that wizard. Since the game is a cooperative one, the mage can opt to construct his tower in another PC’s fortress. Of course, he can do this at any time, but he won’t be able to achieve the full benefits until 9th level.

There are rules set in place for how to construct the master Spell book, so we won’t go into them here. Instead, we’ll shift our attention to the other problem . . . does a character already have his first spell book? According the rules, he does! It is part of the background of the PC as to where this book came from, thus it is up to him how he got it, maybe it was a gift, maybe it was stolen or found someplace, who knows! But the fact is, that he’s got it. It must, then, be assumed that this book has duel functions; it is both a traveling book, and a spell book. The rules define how many pages a book contains, and it is up to the DM to decide exactly what is in there. The book can already have spells in it, which the player can’t access or understand until he is of the appropriate level, these are his free spells that he gets every time he gains a level. If this is the case, and the book is already full of spells, then once he acquires a new spell, where does it go? It must go in a traveling spell book, which he doesn’t have. Again, these rules are defined. If this method of play is being used, then technically, the wizard cannot cast that spell until he has purchased a traveling spell book, which is expensive, but hey! What else is he going to spend his money on? Of course, this leads to further dilemmas; the wizard may lack the ability to properly create this book, as it is considered a magical item. Maybe he must seek help? Return to his former master, or seek the aid of a mage capable of doing this work for money or a favor, which is doable.

Now he has two books. He’s got the spell book, and a traveling spell book. All players know that this game is about misfortune, and just because an item is enchanted doesn’t mean that it isn’t subject to destruction, even a magic sword+4 must make saving throws from time to time, and eventually, it is going to lose; but we are talking about a book here! True, it does resist normal wear and tear, but the wizard who seeks adventure is always in peril, thus, his books are exposed to peril. If both of these books are destroyed, then our wizard has become a normal guy who must start collecting spells again from scratch, which would suck! I’ve never heard of anybody putting a player through that, nor even an NPC. There must be some way that the wizard is keeping these books secure, and it must be easy enough for even a first level mage to accomplish. Perhaps it is a cantrip? That would be the best way to do it, however the PHB doesn’t have a spell that can accomplish this, not to mention the fact that in order to cast a cantrip in 2nd edition, requires a spell slot, which sucks, and begs for a house rule to save the day.

A wizard can hide a single book inside of a tiny pocket universe which is only large enough for that book. Perhaps it is just a function of the Spell book that the player was given? It could be inconvenient; maybe it is only accessible once a week or once a month. This would help the wizard protect his master spell book until he can have a real library constructed. Of course the simplest answer would be that there is no pocket universe, the wizard rents a secure room from a more powerful wizard in which his equipment is secured . . . for the most part. This would make long, one way journeys impossible, or at least limit play as the wizard must maintain a residence someplace, which seems to be implied by the rules. Perhaps another solution is a return to the cantrip idea, but involves a small trunk? The wizard could rent a magic space from some big city, high magic themed store where he is given a key and can summon the trunk at will? The more money he pays, the larger the space he has available to him, and security would be the best that the famous wizard running it could provide. I really like that idea!

Now we can go back to the traveling spell book. If the mage has access to a magical vault, would he still need to carry around his traveling spell books? We can say yes, by limiting how many times he can access his magic vault, and the paranoia of having the secret word found out by a thief, he’d still prefer to keep some spells handy. These travelers books are subject to the rules provided, and while their loss would be expensive, it wouldn’t force the player or the NPC to start over from scratch. Once a new spell is added to the traveling book, at some later date, provided he has a master spell book that isn’t already filled, he can permanently add it to his collection.

Now, there is an optional rule found in the PHB in the Intelligence Ability Score table that says that there is a Maximum number of spells which a wizard can ever have in his spell book, which sounds stupid to me and makes no sense. I know why it is there, in 2e we want all of the wizards to be unique, and I don’t want to run into a world where all of the wizards are the same either, that part of it makes sense, but why couldn’t you collect every spell that you are able to capture? Perhaps this rule simulates talent? How many spells that a mage is really good at casting. A wizard is able to master only so many spells per level, the rest, he can still cast them if he chooses too, but the spell is limited. Perhaps it has a chance to misfire, or it is cast at a lower level of ability to simulate the wizards dislike or unfamiliarity with the spell? It isn’t one that he likes, and he isn’t all that good at casting it, but he can still cast it, if he needs to.

Spells in my game are acquired from different sources. Of course you’ve got the auto learned spells from your master spell book, but you can add spells to your books from captured or found scrolls as well. The third way takes a bit more work but can be a very special addition to your game, Captured Spell Books!

Oh, look at that. I’m all out of time, well; I think I know what my next project is going to be for next week. As always, this post isn’t done until you’ve had your say in the matter. How have you handled these situations? Did I get something wrong?


Brooser Bear said...

Historically, Grimoires, or withes' spellbooks were a big, big deal. They contained the sum of the wizard's knowledge. They were locked, literally, and with magic, trapped with spells and curses. Spellbooks contained the sum of the wizard's knowledge and also exercised the hold on the wizard's soul, for all of the magic supposedly came from the devil, and the devil took possession of the wizard's soul through the exercise of magic and casting of the spells. Therefore, wizards spellbook functioned like cursed items - it was always in wizard's possession, it could be given away or thrown away, it always came back to the wizard, it would make itself appear at the most inopportune moment so as to denounce the wizard to the inquisition, and quicker death meant the quicker possession of the soul by the devil.

Historically, mathematics had the function of magic in the ancient and medieval world. early mathematicians functioned likew wizards: They would learn by apprenticeship, by hook and by crook various applications, functions, and techniques, that would allow them to do basic engineering, statistical analysis, figure out appreciation and depreciation, volumes of harvests, proportions of ingredients in early industrial processing, property measurements, etc, along with the tyical pseudo-scientific apolications of astrology, numerology, fortune telling, etc.

Early mathematicians worked on theories, and they kaept their own notebooks, scrolls, etc. which they went to great lengths to protect from other mathematicians and often early mathematicians wrote in code, kept the locartion of the master notebook a secret, etc.

So, Midlands magic is as follows: Midlannds cosmology does not allow for the scientific method (or else Midlands would have been industroialized a long time ago). There are still natural laws in accordance to which Midlands universe functions. Magic Users must use their philosophy, knowledge, and observation to understanding those cosmological concepts, anf the application of those concept to produce a tangible result in the real world is known as a spell. Since they often work in isolation, Wizards must come up with their own systems of notations, terminology, and schematics to write down the ideas and techniques that make up individual spells.

M<idlands Wizards DO NOT get new spells, when they leveol up. They just improve their spell casting capacity, but they must pay a lot of money to Wizards Guilds and other lone wizards to be taught magic or be tutored in their undserstanding of magic. Of course, Wizards also like to take the spell books from vanquished wizards, or torture them for the location of tgheir Master Book. Towers and Lich's cabinets make great targets for the rogue and the fool hardy wizards. Wizards Guilds do not approve of such violence, and will judge robber Wizards severely. Being progressive, as they are, Wizards Guilds do not kill the rogues, but treat them much more humanely, by lobotomizing them into idiocy.

RipperX said...

Awesome comment, Brooser! Thanks for taking some time out of your day to write that up.

The irony of the Satanic Panic is that Gygax didn't believe in anything like that, it was all just fiction. The 2e PHB says that wizards didn't exist, when they did. Before science, there was magic. How many of our "modern" drugs were products herbalist shamanism? Mathematics and sacred geometry are still in practice today, a barbarian looking at the Roman arch would have to assume that it is occult in nature. People take all of this stuff for granted, but one mans magic is another mans science. The arch can be recreated, thus it has lost its mysticism. The pyramid is evidence of mathematics believed to be beyond the people who had constructed it, yet there it is! I do believe that there are lots of scientific principles which have been lost through the ages, many on purpose. It is a very interesting subject!

Unknown said...

Really great free writing and pondering. The mage will always be my favorite class/branch and the whole mythos behind them and their spells, spellbooks etc (I also greatly enjoyed the last post about scrolls). Keep it up, because now, the practicality of the mages spells and books is something I will work more with, in my future adventures!

RipperX said...

Thank you for the nice things that you have said. It is really appreciated! I find wizards to be a very difficult classes to play. It involves creative thinking and a lot of luck. Successful wizard players really have to think outside of the box and see things in unusual ways, of all the classes, the wizard demands creativity. You will note that DMs don't really talk much about how wizards have used spells creatively all that often. A wizard, even at low levels can really screw up a game! So it requires a really creative DM too. I know lots of evil little wizard tricks, but you won't find me talking about them. Spell use is almost as occult in nature as the real thing!

Unknown said...

I agree - I once made a gnome mage based around "Affect Normal Fires" and ran around with a torch/lantern like staff that was my source for all my spells. Pretty neat! But yeah, with magic and spells (especially the arcane variant), everything is possible, and so you gotta prepare for EVERYTHING! :D

While not particularly creative, I once created a spell for a evil wizard I called "alter intestense" which scaled as I levelled from being able to cause nausia, to turn a person inside-out.

Unknown said...

Oh and do please share some of your devious use of magic! ;)

Brooser Bear said...

That was why I broke with Vancian Magic of traditional D&D - to have Magic Users (and thieves, and fighters, etc) more to do by way of interacting with adventure via their class.

Unknown said...

How did you go about that, Brooser Bear? Go with a completely different system than DnD or did you simply alter/modify the current magic-system? If so, in what way?

Any ideas to give my fighters anything "creative" as spells? I highly encourage my players to think up their own abilities and features and then we will work out a system for what they want, but if they aren't bringing anything to the table, I'd like to give them some, and not just in form of magical items with features, but something they had trained in and felt like a permanent achievement.

RipperX said...

I never do this, I strive to keep the classes as separated as possible, and the reason is simple. First and foremost, this is a cooperative game. Each player should bring something unique to the table. If a player wants to be good at fighting and still cast spells, then he's got to be a cleric. Granted, there are always exceptions to the rules, but on a basic level, in order for the game to function at its best, I feel that the class limitations should be closely observed.

Brooser Bear said...

We differ on this, Ripper - If the Magic User has the Stats, I don't see why s/he can't learn to use the light crossbow and a sword. Armor is a different story.

Martin, making fighters more interesting. Select a bunch of non-weapon p0roficiencies and make them available only to straight fighters. Mine include Armorer at half cost, Endurance (Forced Marching), Battle Sense (ability to move and fight in formation, also ability to discern, what is happening on the battlefield, Weapon Specialization is for fighters only, Rangers get to learn land mastery - learning to live off specific environments - Forest, Plains, Mountains, by living and working in a specific environment. I also modified the combat rules to make it more historically and tactically accurate - Defending warrior is HOLDING a piece of ground, if you have a sword, and he has a spear, you have to close the distance, before you can strike the spearman, so long as the spearman hits, swordsman fails to close the distance. The fighter class is built around that, and there is really a LOT to it to make it fun. Different medieval weapons had different had different field tactics associated with them, totally lost in the abstract D&D rules. Historically, there were no Magic Users, or Clerics, or Rangers acting in the skirmish as they do in D&D, but there WERE Knights and Men at Arms, who spent their lives searching for that better fencing technique, that better armor combo, seeking out useful melee weapons and fencing instructors and that better sword. My approach to making more interesting play for players is built around that lifestyle. There is no limit on how many spells a Magic User can have or what s/he can cast, but a Magic User must actually learn ancient languages, in which spells from various schools are written, there are skills concerning theoretical knowledge and casting technique, which Wizards must learn and perfect. Investing time, gold, and skill-points in. Every spell in wizard's sellbook is actually gained in the course of the game. You don't get a new spell when you level up. At best, you must spend time and money to learn a new spell from another wizard, make sure the teacher is not a quack, the spell really works, as to gold? You must adventure or find a paying gig. Careful not to get Wizards' Guild or another wizard on your tail. You can kill another Wizards and take his spell book, spend fun time in game decip0hering it and getting new spells out of it, but how about NPC wizards trying the same with you? Kidnap you and torture you for spells? See the adventuring possibilities out of the pursuit of Character Development. In Medieval Europe, Germanic Knights traveled to Spain living hand to mouth to learn the breakthrough killing strikes. Why not player characters crossing your world? Think about Thieves selecting guilds or guilds selecting them? Some guilds might be a bunch of dudes hanging out, not taking much gold in dues and not teaching much, other guilds will seek to subjugate not just the Thief character, but also the rest of his group, other players. Think modern gangs... Think of a guild setting up a player not willing to follow suit or trying to turn the p0layers into assassins by hook, gold, or trickery.

Other skills available only to Fighters: Belaying, Fighting Blind, Alertness, Fortification Engineering, Siege Weapon Crew, Iron Will (ability to fight to death while others will go into shock and collapse, a real life skill), Ambush Sense. Then you get skills in common with Hunters and Rangers - Tracking, Hunting, set snares, Outdoor Survival. Good source books to make your fighting class more interesting would be Player Option Combat and Tactics, and the Complete Book of Fighters. To get ideas for to make a ranger character play interesting, consider reading about real world tracking, and adding it to your play. Tracking in real world is known as Signcutting, there are books and magazines dedicated to this craft.

Unknown said...

Ripper, you misunderstood I think; I don't want to just grant warriors some mage or priest spells but special "moves" they can do, more in line with how Brooser says it. Maybe the fighter uses a shield, so I want to develope a shield-move for him like shieldbash, so it's not just stats on the sheet. While I will always allow my players to try and do whatever they want (with different success), having a specific move, will probably make the player feel he has more options in combat rather than just attack.
I try to encourage my players to play and FIGHT creatively, so it's not just the dice-roll-grind.

And thank you for sharing your great knowledge, Brooser! I like having my casters be casters and fighters be fighters to keep their unique features unique, and each player work off each others strengths, but you've given me a lot of ideas to give non-magic users more to think about in a fight!

Brooser Bear said...

When adjudicating combat, rather than thinking about special moves (let the players worry about them), I think that it's better to figure a way how to accurately apply game mechanics to player actions. Let's say that a player (or an Orc) decides to use the shield to shove the enemy off balance. What would be the in-game consequences for the next round? Pole arms with hooks were used to pull the knights and other riders off horses. How would you adjudicate that if the player with a pole arm decides to use it historically? There is a vast amount of knowledge on medieval field tactics, don't try to cover them or teach them to players, let player figure it our, you just come up with your own system of resolving the more intricate nuances of single combat in the game. There is a lot that is outside the purview of the common gamer. Spears were for beasts, swords were for men. Curved blades were for killing enemies who wore no armor. Thrusting weapons were for armored opponents. Pole arms, rakes, etc were used to disarm swordsmen. You might ask why. If a Princeling went on a killing spree in the village, you can not kill him without dire repercussions, but you can disarm, tie him up and turn him to his father for a beating after he sobers up. So, a few peasants with improvised pole arms could disarm a swordsman. Two men at arms with pole arms. Pole arms fueled peasant uprisings. Pole arms in peasants' hands held people in place, when they were buried alive or burned in their homes. Higher game of combat for D&D.

Regarding spells. Only spell casters can cast them in my game. It takes a lifetime of learning. Here is a question, though - In a world where gods exist, who is to say that gods don't hear the prayers of non-Clerics for miracles? What if one of the multitude of deities was to grant a small miracle to a believer? How would you express THAT in your game?

Unknown said...

I'm not sure what you mean with that last sentence. How would I express that? It would certainly be possible, and not something I would be against if it made for a better game.

I really like your detailed weapon-description and your reference to real medival times - it makes the setting more grounded, and less "fantastical", romantic and heroic. I think the latter is bound with clichés and the more gritty and detailed and real medical world springled magic and gods.

Definitely something I will try and incorporate into my worlds - make it more lived in, believeable and try and inspire my players to work with the details and traits of the different weapons rather than just numbers on a sheet.

Brooser Bear said...

The point of that last sentence is that nobody in D&D considers that in a Universe inhabited by many living gods, ANY prayer by ANYONE can potentially be answered! That certainly breaks the monopoly of the Clerics on Clerical spells.

I done away with spell levels in part. Spell levels as an indicator of complexity are still there, but it will take a fifth level wizard about six weeks on his own to learn the 3rd level Fireball spell (this is really when Magic Users can get that spell according to D&D rules), with a reasonable chance of success. A first level Magic User can also learn the Fireball spell, but it would take him or her six months, of full time study under a Wizard who truly mastered that spell, to possibly learn that spell, and the maximum chance of success would be 8%. Six months of study, fail the roll, got to study another six months ad infinitum. Very difficult, but not impossible.

I set the Clerical magic to work similarly, but fundamentally different. A Cleric has a basic chance that his or her prayer will be heard. If they practice the faith, then a successful prayer results in a spell. When praying for a miracle, a higher level spell that Cleric's current level, the Prayer's chances decrease logarithmically. A Cleric can try to pray for a resurrection, with astronomically small chances of success - a 1st level Cleric will have to roll 01-14 on percentile dice 4 times in a row! A non-Cleric believer with an average WIS will have to roll 01 4 times in a row to resurrect a slain buddy. In a world populated by hundreds of thousands and millions, miracles will be a daily global occurrence, but for the player characters? And since most players tend to think in terms of D&D rules, none will even bother!

You are truly blessed as a DM, if you have players with enough dedication to being fighters, that they will go out and research relevant weapons and tactics, but what you need to do as a DM and a story teller, is to have a deeper knowledge than they do. A good thing to do would be to have a good line of communication with players before the game, and if they introduce a new element into the game, you get a chance to do your own research and incorporate it into your game mechanics.

Regarding fantastical, romantic, and heroics. All these things are not opposed to realism and grittiness. Even true innocence, naivete, and idealism can at times withstand contact with disillusionment, corruption, failure, and banality of the everyday. Heroic is something that people can rise to on occasion, if they don't give in to their weakness. Believe me, as a DM and a good story-teller, you can present such a vivid picture of combat and other dramatic events, that your players will show their true colors, and you will see your players inner heroes and cowards. Romantic is often misunderstood. When we talk about Romantic love, it is that extra dimension of two people sharing a mystery, co-existing on the edge of the unknown. When the term first came out, it meant the thinker's fascination with the unknown, the mystery of nature, the forces of the oceans, rugged mountains, unknown continents, which men can not control, and the desire to explore them and learn their mystery. Romantic is the sense of mystery, you feel sometimes, when looking at a landscape, a painting, or anything else. Romantic is the sense of the unknown you feel when looking at the edge of the forest at dusk. Today, the term Romantic actually means and is closely associated with Romantic Love. Fantastic is something else. I love truly alien, and the elements of the truly alien, mysterious and an unknown world is the reason I set Midlands in D&D, despite the grittiness and realism of the game, which makes the fantastic and unknown in it terrifyingly more so.

Unknown said...

Do you have a specific table you use when working out the chance of success on miracles? Even if homebrewn, it would be nice to have as inspiration.

But it makes perfect sense, and it's definitely something I will introduce/discuss with my group; It's kinda like how everyone can in theory use thief-skills, the chance of success is determined by the base-race-skill chart. Thiefs just have a nack for improving them.

RipperX said...

If anybody can cast priest spells, then what is the bonus of playing a paladin or a ranger? Asking for gods help is a pointless task, not even the cleric is doing that. Priest spells require complex rituals, occult words of power, and spell components; not to mention more faith and conviction in ones abilities than is possessed by the average Joe.

If one is doing the bidding of a deity, and they it has proven to be to difficult, this would imply that the deity was wrong, and chose a champion poorly, the victory must go to the deities opponent, as they won fair and square. To intervene after the game has begun is cheating.

To a deity, it is all just a game. You win some, you lose some, but there are rules, and if these rules are broken than they have opened themselves up to be judged themselves. What keeps the gods in line? It must be assumed that a god is above them, and requires them to all act their parts. Humanity knows nothing about this entity, this keeper of balance, but it is there. An evil god who refuses to do his part to keep the balance will be replaced.

Brooser Bear said...

Ripper, Miracles performed by lay men in no way make Clerics, Rangers, and Paladins redundant. Did you notice the layman's chance for getting a miracle? In Midlands, a 1st level Cleric with WIS 16 has about 30% of casting a Cure Light Wounds spell, with each successful casting it gets easier, with chances of success approaching 100%. A faithful layman has a chance of casting a Cure Light Wounds as a Miracle of 1% + WIS bonus, or between 1% and 4% with a WIS 18. This chance does not improve with experience.

To cast a HIGHER level spell, odds decrease LOGARITHMICALLY. For starters, I made Spell Lever = Level of the character who can get that spell. Thus a 3rd level Fireball is really a 5th Level Spell, while 7th level Clerical Resurrect spell is really a 16th level spell, since in D&D you have to be a 16th level Cleric to use that spell.

To cast a Resurrect Miracle, a Priest's chance is 30/2 do it 16 times, to get an astronomically tiny chance of about 5 in a million. Roll 6d10 and let 5 dice be zeroes, and one, designated ones, be five or less. 1st level Cleric's chance of pulling off a Resurrection Miracle. A layman with no wisdom bonus has a 1% chance halved 16 times in a row, roll 2 or less on 7 d10, the rest of the dice being zeroes.

These are astronomically small chances for laiety to perform miracles as opposed to Clerics, Paladins, and Rangers praying for spells, have about 1/3 to 1/4 chance of pulling off a spell, and it improves by 1-4 percentage points with EACH SUCCESSFUL USE THAT HAS AN IMPACT ON THE GAME. That's from Runequest. Magic Missile that kills an opponent as opposed to just wounding them, is an example of that.

Martin, the system for figuring out miracle work is as follows. You will need 7d10's, with a single one designated as "Ones". A faithful and observant follower of a religion has a chance of his or her prayers being heard equal to 1 percent plus the number of percent points equal to the WIS bonus. A range between 1 and 4% for a 1st level Clerical Spell being cast as a Miracle. For any miracle that is equivalent to a Clerical spell ABOVE 1st level. Figure out what level Cleric is first able to Use that Spell. Half the layman's base (between 1 and 4 percent) once for each spell level above the first. Thus, Locate Object is a 3rd level spell, but only 5th level Clerics can first use it, so it is a 5th level spell. So, an average faithful gets 1/2, then .5/2, then .25/2, then .125/2 or .0625. Anything left of the decimal point calls for 2 percentile dice or a 0-100 range, .1 chance calls to roll a 1 on three percentile dice, yielding numbers between 1 and 1000. .0625 calls for rolling 6 or less on 4 percentile dice or six or less on the range from 1 and 10,000. That is why it is a Miracle. Let me know if any of it confuses you, and I will explain my madness further!

Ripper, there is no balance in real world! During major battles, there are sectors of the line of defense that have ZERO chances of surviving the fight. WE are talking dozens and hundreds of individuals. Where is balance in that? What are the odds of an infantryman caught out in the open by a tank, a sniper, or a machine gunner? A Miracle, right?

RipperX said...

We have free will, the gods don't. That is all I am saying. I do talk a lot about game balance, and it does tend to irritate some people, but in this case, I mean it in a literal form. I find it relevant here because I don't think that they can just randomly perform miracles, not without a reason. If a random miracle is granted, it may be in a form that isn't expected, and one that can't be traced back to the god. While it wouldn't just Cure Wounds, it would allow the player to find a healing potion.

I do kind of like your idea, if a player is granted a spell, this means that a god or goddess has plans for him or her, later on.

I wouldn't use the dice. 1 in 100 odds? A god would always be granting wishes if he listened to the moans of the entire population. That is what he's got his clerics for.

Brooser Bear said...

Why wouldn't gods have free will? Demons do. My approach to game balance is as follows - Do what thou wilst with your campaign world, with your dungeon, screw levels and balance. Then give the players resources to overcome the killer dungeon you created. If it turns out to be too high level, give the players the opportunity to tap the high level NPC's, who can defeat the high level creatures, but more importantly, leave players enough clues to give them a chance to avoid walking into the dragon's lair unawares.

I think that you miss the point about spells and miracles. Spell is only a rough approximation of what the person, typically an NPC is desperately praying for. We are talking the prayers of the emotional intensity of a little girl lifting up a truck or a large SUV to save her dad. A typical person granted a miracle would have to be a True Believer, who makes daily sacrifices and practices the religious faith that they follow, or an extraordinary person in extraordinarily hard circumstances, or the heroes that the deity takes special interest in/has special plans for.

You have to realize, that I am the bane of power gamers. Most of D&D players are modern people, with the exception of one Cleric who was a devout Christian in everyday life, I hadn't see any other players, who actually role-played a religiously devout character, and most players know about the typical D&D rules, that they don't ***ASK*** for miracles. So, this is largely a mechanic for NPC's.

1 in 100 odds is for a first level spell equivalent. Most miracles are in life or death situations and are on the order of one in 10,000. Gods love an underdog, and innocence is a halo of beauty to all manner of divinities of all stripes.

RipperX said...

I can't debate what you have said, with the exception of demons having free-will. They don't. A demon cannot help others in a way that is charitable. A demon is compelled to dominate and destroy others, it has no choice in the matter, that is what it has to do. A monster who is Chaotic Evil has to act in a manner that is Chaotic Evil, it is a tool which I enjoy. One could argue that not even a dwarf or an elf is a creature of freewill, to mine, or to create art is an impulse to them that they cannot deny in the long term. Only humans are creatures of freewill, who are able to choose their own destinies and persue pleasures which are unique to them. A man can choose to mine, but a dwarf MUST mine.

Brooser Bear said...

Not every human has a luxury of choosing to mine, or digging a ditch, or working as a bus boy at a restaurant. Often times humans are COMPELLED by the pressures of life they simply MUST work, whatever job they can find, just like Dwarves, who were taken off British Welsh coal miners, some said in Tolkien's age - why, Welsh folks MUST mine, it's in their blood, eh? But you and I know better than that, just like the good folk on the other side of the spectrum simply must make their annual pilgrimage to French Riviera to paint, else they will simply be BORED out of their skulls...

But there is something to what you are saying, and it is tied to Christianity. In Midlands, my own peculiar theology, the human race is the only one that has an option of salvation, the others, they can not remain themselves and have any hope of it. Christianity is available to other sentient beings, but they must perform a FEAT OF SELF RELIANCE to become Christian. Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, the demi-humans generally superior to mankind in terms of their lifespans, are Children of the other gods. To get Christian Salvation or to end the cycle of rebirths, demi-humans must leave the care and protection of their gods, not the gods whom they worship, but their Creators. To put simply, to find Christian salvation, Elves must leave their forests and toil in the fields as peasants, Dwarves must leave their mountain stringholds, give up weapons and armor, take a vow of poverty and abstinence, and survive adversity by wit and kindness. Halflings must leave their comfortable homes, and wander as gypsies in solitude. This all, as well as the demi-human races in D&D stem from Milton's Paradise Lost Epic, and from Christian theology, where the Angels are perfect as they are, and have no hope of growth or improvement, while humans are weak, but have hope and a room to grow, which drove tye devil and a third of angers insane with envy.

Regarding demons and their Chaotic Evil disposition, let's pretend that you are a demon, you get summoned and imprisoned by some fool, who wants you to do their bidding. Let's consider your demonic predicament in human terms: Of course, instead of a pentagram, they bind you with barbed wire and guard tower. Their bidding will be just as shallow - break big rocks into little rocks. I bet you will be inclined to do demonic things in exchange for your freedom, or if you get pushed too far and one of the guards turns their back and falls asleep on you...

Here is another truth - nothing purely evil survives for very long, and evil is weak. Evil is weak, because it fears death and can't see past itself, while good believes in rebirth and has capacity to self-sacrifice so as to guarantee that its offspring will survive. In tbis sense, demons of the Christianity and Occult are a contradiction. Demons are ancient and powerful, and they were often summoned so that those enslaving them can get their knowledge and/or powers, it wasn't really to turn demons into errand boys. So, I am guessing, that there is place we can call demons' natural habitat, where these being grow powerful and procreate, and exist in some other mental state, before they get summoned, enslaved and become known to us as demons...

and it comes when it is summoned, and it does what must be dome, and it lives for its memories, it takes pride in being the one... of the lucky and the chosen and ...

Unknown said...

Some mighty fine points being made here - Will do for great thinking and inspiration to make my worlds feel move alive and plausable, instead of things happening 'just because'.

I also think that "evil" is one of the most misunderstood alignments, and more often the more accurate description would be 'selfish' and 'oppertunistic', which we all have in various degree. My thoughts on alignment is that it is an indicator on where the characters are at right now, but can freely change - characters have free will. There will, however, be consequences for every and all actions.

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