Game Day Session 2: DM FAILURE



Game day, Session 2 was horrible on my part. I had one goal, and that was to playtest a mass combat system that I had floating around in my brain for several months. We had some loose ends to tie up; the party was chasing the surviving orcs which I had set up as an old-fashion gulch shoot out. We really needed miniatures, but I refused, and instead ended up having to describe the same battlefield 4 times per round, it turned into a giant mess, and nothing but a hack-n-slash session where I was rolling for 30 orcs who couldn’t hit anything unless I rolled a 20. I got bored, of it. My intention was to slowly introduce more powerful orcs, but we started play with 12th level characters, a level that is way outside of my comfort level. The result was chaos and no challenge whatsoever.

I had expected eight players and only five showed. I really messed up with one character who I thought for sure was going to be there, so I pregenerated an awesome character, and gave him information that the party needed to continue the story. . . I know better, I do! I just really thought that he would show up, so when he didn’t, I had this DM character on my hands that I really don’t want to play. I reduced his active hit points to bare minimum, and then got ready for the next encounter, which in my head was awesome! It was going to be a chase through the Stonelands, I had 20 horses, each with two orcs. One orc shooting a bow, the other armed with a lance. I still didn’t want to use miniatures because I didn’t have them ready, so I set up the dry erase board to use magnets and such, and once I was finished, I started the encounter and between the Ranger and the Cleric, they used only two spells to wipe my entire army out before they could even engage them. . . WHAT!?!  The spells, these 12 lvl spells are kicking my butt and I can’t plan for them! I am totally in over my head, if I had started the campaign at 1st level, then I could grow as a DM with the characters, but then I would had lost my story, but I should had started the party off at first level, because now I have no idea how to prep for them, but we have reached a decision, the players are going to write down complete spell lists so that I can have a chance at properly prepping for them. They want to play at the best of their abilities, and so do I. We haven’t played at this level for years, and I have never DMed a campaign this high before. Yes, I know how to do it, but I am just overwhelmed and have become a slave to the story.

There comes a time when you are just too irritated to contenue DMing, you know that what you had prepped isn’t going to work, and you are on the spot. I was sick of throwing dice, and the spells defeating large armies anyway, so what the hell am I supposed to do?

I wanted to quit, but we only get to play once per month, so the show must go on, as crappy and as pointless as the show might be, the horrible thing MUST go on! But I did say, screw it. No role-playing, lets just jump right into the action! I want to play test the battle system I came up with.

Now according to my story, I had given the players the option going south to a major city, or east to a border town, and they chose to go east. My orcs were set to begin their take-over. The major army was taking the major city to the south, to use as a base of operations for further conquest, and a smaller weaker army had to prove themselves worthy of joining by taking out this border town and enslaving the population to work in a mine that they had taken from mindflayers. The Black Network is still cooperating with the orcs and had done an excellent job providing intel on exactly how many troops were protecting the bordertown (850), so they were supplied with a sufficient number to take it, (1,200), I had originally set up a third aid to the orcs consisting of a mountain giant acting as a catapult, and protected  by ogres as he bashed the wall down with bolders, but I nixed it because I wanted to test the battle system which couldn’t support that.

My original plan was to have the players use armies represented by poker chips, and use the hit vs. ac method pulled from the 2e Battle System, which has mechanics that are beyond our level of play. We’ve never played mass combat or war games beyond the board game RISK. While we were playing the scene with the mountain giant, we also determine what is happening at the gate by doing theatre of the mind battles with pokerchips, but by this point I didn’t want to do that at all, so I nixed the mountain giant and started setting up an orcish army using the poker chips. It didn’t work, it was just throwing even more dice and we ended up stopping the game and having a huge brainstorming session where we are home-brewing our own mass combat game.

We aren’t grognards, we need a game that grows with us so we are going as basic as one can go. I’ve got 5 different colors of chips to represent 5 different kinds of troops that can be on the board at once, and while my original idea was to eliminate movement rules, that has proven to be impossible. Over all it was a very productive night, but not in the way that I had intended. I fell on my face, which happens, but I did get the players to tell me exactly what we want to do.

SO! I am modifying the story. The orcs have taken over their half of Cormyr and want to take over the other half, which should happen in a wave. The players are beyond this phase of the game, and instead are going to investigate the Mine of Sorrow and try to figure out what is going on and close the mine. At the mine, the orcs are going to be of much higher level, I’m scrapping the level limits put upon them by the core rules. This game will be much easier to prep as it provides a better structure. Last game was just get to town and defend it, and there was no real way for me to even put it into danger. I had prepped two different armies and, well, I’ll quit whining.

Next game we’ll play an old fashioned hex crawl, that hopefully leads to a classic dungeon. I’m going to throw all I can at the party and see what sticks. Episode 2 was a bust :/

2nd Edition Dungeon Master Guide: Book Review



In 1989 the very first book was released that heralded in the 2nd Edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, that book was product 2100 Dungeon Master Guide. Now I am going to do my best to keep my word count down, but it is hard, as I am very passionate about this book; but I promise that I will do my best to be fair.

I bought my first copy of the DMG back in 1994; at the time I had the reprints to choose from, or this copy. Now, technically, I wasn’t a DM yet, but the gaming store that I shopped at had only one copy of this specific book in stock and they wouldn’t be getting anymore, so I picked it up. I didn’t read it! But I did own it. Once I decided to start learning how to become a DM, I finally cracked it open and have used the very same book ever since.

Back in the day, the players weren’t allowed to read the DMG, they were told that this was because it had secrets that were best learned through play. The soundest way to become an adequate DM was to play, and play, and play! You’ve got to have a really good working knowledge of the Player’s Handbook before you can be competent enough to start calling a game, and let me tell you; your first one is a nightmare. Thankfully, the more you do it, the more you learn and the better at it you become.

This book is one of three books that are required to play the game. The other two are the Player’s Handbook, and the Monstrous Manual. The physical specifications of the DMG are that it is a hard cover book, which has put up with a lot of abuse through the years and is none the worse for wear. A couple of my corners are dented in from dropping it, or having stuff hit it on the shelf, but the colors of the beautiful cover art are just as bright as the day that I removed the shrink wrap.

I love the paper that it was printed on, it is strong enough to last for years and years, yet it wasn’t so shiny that it didn’t take ink from making permanent notations inside of it (a complaint that I have with more modern printing practices). The binding is super-heroic: it has held perfectly all these years later, which is something that I can’t say about original AD&D books, and, most importantly, the book lays flat and keeps the page that you have it opened too for easy reference.

THE GUTS

I’m not going to go through all of the chapters, this blog in itself is a huge love letter to this book; but I will share my basic thoughts and feelings in regards to it. Quite often this book gets a lot of heat because people say that it isn’t complete, and it isn’t. 2100 specifically wasn’t written to replace the original Dungeon Master Guide written by Gary Gygax, it was meant to simply update many of the mechanics, but at the same time be complete enough so that the user doesn’t necessarily need the Gygax DMG. Me, personally, I use both books, with a preference to the 2nd Edition during play as my 1e DMG requires much more love and care because it is trying to fall apart. For the most part, I’ve mined what I really love from the 1e copy and transferred it into a binder that I can abuse and use during prep, but like I said, for the most part, I stay with the 2e copy.

People also complain that it doesn’t have the huge wealth of knowledge that the original contained, and it doesn’t. A few chapters of the Gygax version appeared as their own books, which expanded the ideas that he created into fully formed products. Whether this is a good thing, or a bad thing I’m not going to judge, everybody has their own opinion on the subject. The fact is that there is a ton of information in this DMG! This is one of the books that I read regularly, and even though I’ve read it cover to cover many times, I still find new stuff hidden inside of it.

While I’m not going to break it down into chapters, I will tell you some of my favorite points in the book, but first, what I don’t like.

CON

There is way too much advice in this book for my taste.  They made it a point not to make an instruction manual, as the user only needs to read that once and then, ever after, it is a waste of space. While the advice that it does give you is extremely helpful, once you get it, then you got it. The first three chapters of the book seem to contain, mostly, advice for new to intermediate level Dungeon Masters. There is some good mechanics hidden in there, but more often than not, you don’t look at it anymore.

There also seems to be more effort put into describing weird magical items than anything else. There is a lot of stuff in this book that was left vague and caused more questions from the reader that were never ever answered, meanwhile they’ve got the full stats for weird stuff that chances are, you are never going to give to a pc, ever.

PRO

I love this book, and while some of the chapters are extremely wanting, there are chapters that I really love! Specifically, the NPC section, from generating personalities, to defining jobs and how to determine success or failure for NPC skills, and how much one should charge for services is always helpful and entertaining.

 Combat rules are better detailed in this book than in the PHB, it wasn’t just recycled text, almost everything in this book is unique to it. Creative thinking is the greatest tool that a PC has at their disposal, and this book tries to help you judge such attacks which were purposefully left out of the PHB.

 The greatest and most helpful thing in the DMG isn't the secrets which it contains, but is the Index. The Index isn’t just to the book itself, but it also has the pages and topics listed for its companion book, Product 2101: Player’s Handbook. This amazing index saves a lot of headaches, especially if you aren’t sure which book a specific fact is in.

The artwork is amazing, and serves a dual purpose, not only does it inspire the DM, but it also helps him flip through the book and find his favorite sections, providing landmarks of sorts.

JUDGEMENT

As this book is required to play the game, that alone gives it a high grade, while some of the writing is purposefully confusing, it gives you all of the tools that you need to either use this book to make a judgement, or at least, gives you a large enough feel for the game so that you can design your own. For a new DM, the advice is incredibly helpful; it doesn’t leave the user hanging without a sense of direction. No, it doesn’t tell you how to play the game, but discovering out how to do that should always be a personal journey, and besides, there are enough resources out there now for new users of the game to get a really good grasp on things that can either go wrong or what a DM is supposed to be doing with his time.

This book was replaced by a reprinting of it, as well as some corrections made periodically during its own print run, however I have never been able to actually spot what these corrections were, though I admit that I use the last run of it. Though an update is available, I have always chosen to stick with this copy.

I give this book an easy B+. It isn’t perfect, but what book truly is? Yes, many modern users won’t need the advice given, and chose to seek it from online sources, but there is much more to this book than meets the eye.

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?

Rerun: Guide to Scrolls

It has been a busy week again, so instead of writing some sub-par article that I'm not happy with, I have decided to dip into the archives. I hope that you enjoy it! Hopefully I'll be able to sit down and write some new content soon. - RIP

We’ve talked about potions, and now it is time for what most probably is the DM’s least favorite treasure to dish out. No, I’m not talking about flaming swords or Rings of Spell-Turning, no, I’m talking about the dreaded Scrolls! These things are a huge pain in the bottom. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I roll these things up then I pray and plead, and probably whine to the gods of the dice to just let it be a protection scroll, but it never fails. POOF! It comes up a wizard spell or some crap.

There is no easy way to do this. Scrolls are, by their own nature, an evil necessity. It is also kept brief to allow us better control over what spells that our wizards have access too.

Today we’ll be doing a whole bio of these time consuming things, both random and character created, so lets have some fun shall we!

SCROLLS, THE LOW-DOWN

According to the Player’s Handbook:

Scrolls: Scrolls are a convenience and luxury for spellcasters. By reading the incantation written on the pages, the priest or wizard can instantly cast that spell. He does not need to memorize it, have the material components handy, or do any of the things normal spellcasting requires. Experienced and powerful wizards normally spend their evenings preparing such scrolls for their own adventuring use.
Some scrolls are usable by all characters, granting special but temporary protections from various dangers—evil creatures, werewolves, powerful beings from other planes, etc. Other scrolls bear hideous or humorous curses, brought into effect at the mere reading of their titles. Unfortunately, the only way to know what a scroll contains is to silently scan its contents. For scrolls containing wizard spells, this requires the use of a read magic spell. Other scrolls can be read by all. This scan does not cast the spell written on the scroll, but it tells the character what is written there (and exposes him to the effects of curses). Once the scroll is read, it can be used at any time in the future by that character.


Again, nice and straight forward.

SCROLL RESEARCH

Scroll research is one of the most important benefits of the spell casters class. It is probably through scrolls found during an adventure which allows the wizard to find a new spell to add to his spell book, and it is also how the DM can introduce brand new priest spells into the campaign world.

Of course I am assuming that you know how magic works, but for a brief and sloppy rehash, Priests can pray for ANY spell within their spheres of influence, and Wizards can only memorize spells that they have written into their spell books.

With that said, once a Priest is aware of a spells existence, then he can pray to his god to grant it to him, requiring that he has access to that sphere, of course. This is more important to a wizard, however, because if he finds a new spell written on a scroll, he must make a decision: Should he cast the spell, or add it to his spell book?

The wizard must still research the spell, but it is at half the cost and takes half the time as normal, and he still has to roll to see if he can learn the spell. If he succeeds in learning it, then he can add it to his spell book, but either way the spell disappears from the scroll, its magic was spent because the mage had to analyze the effect. Unfortunately, this kind of research can not be completed just anywhere, and never during adventures. You have to have carefully controlled environments to master the effects and record your success and failures accurately.

SCROLL CAPACITIES

Scrolls can be no longer then 25 pages long, of course this is a misleading sentence, by pages I mean an equivalent because the scroll is just one piece of paper that is rolled up. Each spell requires an amount of space equal to the spells level, plus an additional 1d6-1 pages.

A scroll may not be completely filled, as it is sometimes preferred by some wizards to hide protective devices and traps which will trigger against those who may steal the scroll from them . . . now who would go and do a nasty thing like that?

CREATING YOUR OWN SCROLLS

Experienced players know what a time saver that this is, and any wizard of 9th level, or priest of 7th level can create them. A character cannot create a scroll to a spell that he doesn’t know, it must be in his spellbook, or previously granted to him by his god in the case of a cleric. Protection scrolls are a bit different then spell scrolls; in order to properly do it, the protective spell has to fall within the purview of the characters art, or current spell list. As long as the wizard knows the spell, he can start fabricating it, all he needs is a few tools of the trade, and you guessed it! They are expensive little buggers.

The Quill: A normal, run of the mill common pen will not do! We are talking about serious magical forces here, and manipulating them demands only the best. Quills can sometimes come from an animal that can cast the spell, such as the tail feathers of a cockatrice is used for transcribing the flesh to stone spell, tips of bone, wisps of hair, the nature of magic is mystery, and the more mysterious one makes it the better. A wizard who hand picks his own quill improves his chances of success by 5%.

The Paper: Again, the scroll must be capable of excepting the magic. Paper is a commodity in most D&D settings, it is worth more then gold! True paper works the best (+5%), hand woven parchment is also preferred, especially among adventuring mages (0% but it holds up a bit better under stress then paper). In a pinch, one can use Papyrus, however the papyrus plant itself tends to taint wizard spells (-5%) OPTIONAL RULE: Spells that effect plants or are earth based gain a 5% bonus when scribed on papyrus

The Ink:The last, and most important ingredient to writing scrolls is the Ink itself! This is where the DM can get creative, as things can be brewed into the ink. Few wizards trust store bought inks, unless the ink is from a reputable source and specifically designed for magical inscriptions. Many wizards demand to have specially made ink for each scroll, and the inks must compliment the spell, for it is in the ink itself that is hidden the components needed to charge the words once they are spoken.

Once all of the ingredients have been acquired, finally the spell caster can begin scribing the spell. The wizard must have their spell books at hand to guide their work, while priests must work on a specially constructed alter, the actual process takes 1 full day per spell level, this includes short naps and bites of food. If at anytime the spell caster gets interrupted while transcribing the scroll, it was all for naught, the entire project is ruined.

After the work has all been completed, the DM secretly checks for success. The base chance is 80%. This number is either increased or decreased by the numbers above for the materials used. The level of the spell is also taken into account, -1% per level is subtracted from the base, however the spell caster gains a +1% per his level. This number is checked with a percentile dice.

Example: Memnock, the 12th level mage(+12%) is making a scroll of 5th level (-5%). He’s using parchment (+0%) and the feather of a griffon which he plucked from the beast himself(+5%)! Giving Memnock a 92% chance of success.

Failure indicates that the spell will fail once it is cast, but the player won’t be aware of this. The scroll will also be cursed in some way, if remove curse is cast on it, the entire scroll will turn to dust. A single scroll can contain 1 to 6 spells, the number determined randomly by the DM. The player can never be certain of the amount of space required, even for the same spell on two different scrolls.

A failed attempt takes up all of the scroll, now naturally a scroll could have spells that worked correctly before the failed attempt, in cases like this, they are normal and only the failed spell will curse the user once it is read.

If you’re reading a scroll that you yourself have prepared then you don’t need to cast read magic to cast it.

SCROLLS AS TREASURE

To figure out the XP value of the scroll, add up all of the spell levels and multiply them by 100. Easy as pie! Of course the hard part is picking out which ones to give to the players.

The scroll itself is usually found in a cylinder or tube of some kind, made of anything that your devious mind can conceive: from Ivory to leather. To make them more of a mystery you can have magic runes or some other kind of writing that the wizard must cast a read magic or comprehend language to open it. If we are feeling particularly mean we can also trap the scroll with symbols, explosive runes, and curses.

Each scroll is written differently, so a wizard can find a hundred scrolls with the same spell and still not be able to identify it without first using read magic each and every time. Once that particular scroll has been deciphered, the mage or cleric can cast the spell at any time that he or she wishes.

It is worth noting that even a scroll map will appear to be unreadable until a the proper spell is used to decipher it (usually comprehend languages). Also, a cursed scroll doesn’t radiate any evil or betray its existence until the spell is read.

The only scroll which can be read by any character without the use of a read magic spell are protection spells, these are immediately apparent and should be identified immediately. Wizards can only use wizards spells, Priests can only use Cleric spells, Thieves, can of course, use both.

SPELL LEVELS

One of those bizarre things that many folks don’t know is that the level of the wizard who wrote the scroll is used to determine what level the spell is cast at, NOT the character casting the spell. Actually, if you think about it, this makes perfect sense! A mage created the scroll for himself, and he can set the casting level as he wishes, this changes the spells characteristics (range, duration, area of effect, etc.), typically, the casting level is set at least 1 level higher then that required to cast the spell, but never below 6th level of experience.

In other words, a 6th level wizard spell is written at 13th level of ability, and a 7th level spell is set to 15th level. This will allow DM’s to make scrolls more powerful by increasing the level at which they are written, but of course this will also effect the chances of the spell failing. Hee hee hee

MAGICAL SPELL FAILURE

A spell which is inscribed at a higher level then the caster has a chance of just fizzling out. There is a 5% chance of this happening per level difference. Thus, a 1st level character attempting to cast a wish inscribed at an 18th level of experience (18-1 = 17; 17 x 5% = 85%) has an 85% chance of failing.

Once a failure has been indicated, we roll again, just to see what happens. There is always a chance that the spell may not just fizzle out, but actually screw up! reversing the spell, or in some other way becoming harmful for the person casting it. Table 112 in the DMG dictates the results.

Caster Level Difference: Reverse or Harmful Effect indicated
1-3: 5%
4-6: 15%
7-9: 25%
10-12: 35%
13-15: 50%
16+: 70%


USING SCROLLS

When a scroll is copied into a spellbook, or read to release its magic, the writing completely and permanently disappears from the scroll, the paper itself wilts and/or is destroyed, a scroll of 4 spells becomes a scroll of 3 spells. No matter what a player tries, a spell on a scroll is only usable once. Of course, there are rumors out there that very powerful mages from ancient times have been able to create scrolls that can be read once per week, now THAT is some powerful magic there, and this could just be a rumor.

CASTING SCROLL EFFECTS

Reading a scroll effects your initiative, thus, one must state that they are going to read a scroll prior to his initiative. Protection scrolls always have the reading times listed in their explanation, thus if you come up with new protective scrolls, don’t forget this in your own descriptions.

A scroll requires only sufficient light to read by, and that the caster can speak normally and freely. Infravision may or may not be powerful enough to read a scroll by, I know in my games standard Infravision of 60’ isn’t capable of reading a scroll in the dark, but 120’ Infravision is.

If the caster is hit by an attack or stops reading for any reason, the spell will fizzle and be ruined, however no adverse effects will ever happen if these events.

PROTECTION SCROLL 101

Protection scrolls can be used together, their effects are cumulative, however the duration will always stay the same. It is also worth saying that these things can never be used as an offensive weapon, if the scroll is intended to ward a specific creature away, and the warded character corners the specific creature, giving him no where safe to flee, then the protective ward is considered to be broken and disappears. I think that every body tries that trick at least once, and it should always fail.

RANDOM SPELL LEVELS

A DM should always set the spell levels himself, however this isn’t always practical. Thankfully Table 90 in the DMG makes things pretty easy to determine randomly, but you’ll still need to pick and choose the appropriate spells by hand picking them from the PHB.

They say that you can randomly chose spells too, however, regardless of how much of a pain in the butt it is to hand pick them, we can better control our games if we insist upon it. Remember, a wizard can always chose to add this into his spellbook, even if he has to save it for months to do it, and if our wizard becomes to strong for our games, well, it is our fault for giving him the ammo to do it.

CURSED SCROLLS

We should be as mean as possible when constructing our curses. Naturally, a 1st level mage can really be destroyed by too mean of a spell, as he probably doesn’t have the funds required to have the curse removed, so these should be as annoying to the victim as possible without actually making it dangerous. Curses shouldn’t ever be pretty, maybe for low level wizards their eyes always glow, reducing their CHARISMA score until they can afford to have it fixed. Maybe natural rain water starts to burn them, or anytime they touch gold it turns it into wood? For high level play, where a fellow character has access to remove curse, these can be dangerous as you can make them.

Of course, devising curses is an art. We have to be careful that we don’t accidentally give them another attack, or a special power such as making metal items that they touch instantly rust, or something along those lines. Players are crafty little buggers, they don’t need help in the gaining new powers department.

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