With Thoth’mora taking his dead twin sister’s head to gain the knowledge within, I figured it was probably a good time to actually finish the spell research rules I’ve been vaguely thinking about since I first made the Maleficar rules.
The LotFP spell research rules require you to take a wild guess at how long it will take and spend that much money before the Referee makes a random roll to find out how long it will actually take, and if you didn’t guess high enough you lose all your money and waste all your time and get nothing. Oh and if someone interrupts you to bring in a tray of tea and biscuits you also lose everything and have to start again.
Which is BORING.
So, here’s what I’ll be doing.
[Basic things to know about my magic system first: Spells are not memorised, you get a random amount of spell points to use each day called Cataclysm, spells use an amount of Cataclysm equal to their level, and when you try to use more spell points than you have left you make a 3d6 Cast the Bones roll to figure out if it works, or how badly things go wrong.]
- The basic time required to learn a new spell is FOUR WEEKS, regardless of spell level.
- This can be done while adventuring, not an issue, because Maleficar are sketchy weirdos who would be thinking about this shit like all the time, waking up at odd hours, stopping suddenly in caves with looks of “of COURSE!” on their faces, and also forcing the whole party to take a month of downtime every time the wizard wants to learn a spell is super, numbingly boring.
- You get one shot to learn each spell, no second chances honey.
- Roll 3d6 + your level, vs. 3d6 + spell level, and look up the variance on the table below.
Now unless you roll quite low, you’re pretty much always going to learn the spell, we’re just finding out how well you’re able to use it and what additional things you might have to do to cast it.
Before rolling, you can do things to vary your chances.
- STUDY MORE/LESS;
If you spend 1-3 weeks less than normal, re-roll your highest dice and take the lower result for each week you dropped.
[Why would you want to do that? Well maybe an army of demon-possessed plague rats is on the march and you’d really like to learn Cloudkill before they get here.]
If you spend 1-3 weeks more than normal, re-roll your lowest dice and take the higher result for each additional week.
- THROW MONEY AT THE PROBLEM;
Spending 100sp per level of the spell on experimental components and research material and good drugs will allow you to re-roll any dice with a result lower than the opposing roll’s lowest dice, and take the higher result. Spending double that amount will also allow you to roll an extra d6 if you end up with any doubles.
You’re likely to only find sufficient quantities of that kind of thing in cities or freakish communes though, so even though you can research spells out in the wild, it’s still easier in the comforts of home.
- STEAL SOMEONE ELSE’S;
If you possess a deciphered version of the spell, remove the highest dice from the opposing roll.
[Quick additional rule because if someone wants to walk around with Maleficar skulls hanging off them I’m good with that: If you have a deciphered version of a spell in a spellbook or skull or otherwise, but haven’t actually spent the time to learn it yet, you can cast it while reading from its source if you Cast the Bones.]
- BE INDUCTED INTO THE MYSTERIES;
If you undertake a journey/perform some esoteric ritual specific to the magic you are trying to learn, as per Tom’s ideas on magic, you may re-roll each dice of the opposing roll, and leave the lower result.
|3d6 + Maleficar level vs. 3d6 + Spell level|
|Beyond +12||(as below, plus)
The spell may be cast spontaneously, it seeps from your very being, no word or motion is necessary, no time.
You are permanently marked by small manifestations or physical anomalies relating to the nature of the spell.
|up to +12||(as below, plus)
Casting only requires half as much Cataclysm, rounded up.
|up to +9||The incantation is absorbed within your brain, you can cast it from memory.|
|up to +6||You require access to your spellbook, casting takes an extra Round.|
|down to -6||(as above, plus)
There are additional requirements to cast the spell. Match the numbers on your dice to the Demands of the Void table. Demands are only duplicated if you rolled a double or triple.
|down to -9||(as above, plus)
There is a complication in learning the spell, match your roll to the Thaumaturgic Complication table.
|down to -12||You fail to comprehend the spell, and open the way to something else. The next time you cast a spell of any kind make a Cast the Bones roll with a penalty equal to the level of the spell you were attempting to learn.|
|beyond -12||(as above, plus)
Your ineptitude causes a zone of arcane madness and manifestation for d6 days, with 6 being permanent.
100' radius per level of the spell you were attempting to learn.
|Demands of the Void|
|Result||(Individual Dice Results)|
|1-2||The spell drains additional Cataclysm, equal to the number on the dice.|
|3-4||The spell requires a specific component.|
|5-6||There must be ritual.|
|Result||(Sum of Dice Results)|
|14-18||The spell has an Abyssal Side-Effect.|
|11-13||Pockets of black bile open within your mind, roll on Insanity table.|
|8-10||Your flesh is corrupted, roll on Transmutation table.|
|3-7||Part of your body fucking tears itself off, grows extra bits, and wishes your death. It might attack you now, or it might plot your downfall in the shadows. Roll on Body Horror table.|
|1||An inscribed Fetish.|
|2||A raven's wing.|
|3||Finger bone of a peacefully dead man.|
|4||The honey-preserved macerated flesh of the Mellified Priests of the Viridescent Ziggurat.|
|5||The written sentiment of another from time past.|
|6||A Bog's Head Hawkmoth caught beneath a full moon.
(Sickly dark green, the back of their heads resemble the mortifying face of a man left to decay in the waters of a bog, strands hang like muck-covered lichen.
They squeak like scheming mice.)
|7||The fresh entrails of a toad.|
|8||A clump of diseased blood-red moss.|
|9||Dried tentacles of the oily grey-skinned spawn of the leviathan.|
|10||The hair of a harlot.|
|11||A copper piece once held by a priestess.|
|12||Nacreous Milk of the Antelope.|
|13||Mushrooms sprouted from a corpse.|
|14||The ashy pollen of the Widow's Blossom.|
|15||Burning pages of poetry.|
|16||The legs of a Blue-Bloat Bore Grub, dug from the limbs of an Ash Spider Collossum.|
|17||Three rotten sparrow's eggs.|
|18||The tattooed paw of a Bloodmouth monkey.|
|19||The neutralised honey-thick semen of a Jewelled Mound of Ur.|
|20||A sleeping rat.|
|1||Your bare feet covered by water, steam rising from your mouth and nostrils.|
|2||A fistful of hair torn from your head, thrown upon a flame.|
|3||A steady rhythm drummed against something resonant, continuing after you've stopped.|
|4||Obscene symbols drawn in concentric circles around you.|
|5||You must be naked to cast the spell, not a thread touching your body.|
|6||You must swallow a living creature whole.|
|8||A shivering, shaking dance in a mentally-induced fever.|
|9||Hot wax poured upon your head, running down your face.|
|10||The tips of your fingers slit, wrists pressed together and brought to your face to mark a circle of blood.|
|11||Your mouth filled with dirt, exhuming the incantation.|
|12||Let no sentient creature enter your sight, let your eyes never close.|
|13||Plunge your hands beneath the soil, let the worms twist their bodies about your fingers.|
|14||Drink the blood of another.|
|15||Intermittent regurgitation, the pool of vomit churning into a swirling spire that streams back into your mouth at the culmination of the spell.|
|16||A spider held on the tongue, swallowed after casting.|
|17||Urinate in the dust and dirt, take the acidic taste upon the tip of your tongue, spit the final word.|
|18||Take the knife to your belly, spill your vitals, the wound will close when the casting is done.
(Unless you rolled maximum damage, which means you cut too deep, the wound remains.)
|19||Hold your hand in the flame of a candle until the casting is done.|
|20||No blood may be spilt in your presence while the incantation is performed. Make a Cast the Bones roll for every wound you witness.|
…which means there’s going to be different wizards casting the same spell in different ways, maybe even with slightly different effects, questing around for that particular component they need, asking the Fighter if they can borrow a pint of blood, dancing and spitting.
It’s going to be great.
That’s a fine spell research system. I’m stealing it for Apollyon and adding some variables. I like how simple it is, but how it retains a fundamental element of weird and horrible.
Thanks Gus! I’m really glad that it does come across as simple because that’s what I was trying for, without wanting to compromise the extra gooey bits.
Hacked this a bit, to make it more suitable for higher level play – the “3d6 + caster level vs. 3d6 + spell level” turns out to be way too much in the favour of the character.
Using the default caster level for the slot of the spell level being researched works much better, so instead of 3d6+spell level, I’m using 3d6+(spell level*2)-1. Probably could just drop that -1 at the end to simplify the notation without too much of an effect on the end result, but whatever.
Otherwise, it’s fucking brilliant.