Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mutant Spells

This is partially a response to Scrap's post about spell ecology over here.  It's very good.

Spells are creatures, not techniques.  You cannot prepare three copies of one spell (unless you have three copies in your spellbook).  You do not learn spells, you lure them.  They are alive in every sense of the word.

They are like ethereal birds that nest in your spellbook, are loaded into your brain, are fired like a bullet, and then return to your spellbook before dawn.

And so it only make sense that there are species, carnivores, parasites, and mutants.  Let's talk about the mutants.

Whenever you find a random spell, roll a d100.  If the result is 1-20, it is a mutant and you should consult the Random Improvements Table below.

You'll notice that the table actually goes up to 30, but the only way to get results 21-30 is through mutate spell.

Lie Sang Bong F/W 2009
Random Improvements Table

1-2 Improved Effect.  The spell does more of whatever it does.  5d6 damage becomes 6d6, charm becomes obsession.  Roll on the Random Drawbacks Table.

3-4 Improved Range.  The range of the spell improves.  Roll on the Random Drawbacks Table.

5-6 Improved Area of Effect.  The spell affects a wider area, or more targets.  Roll on the Random Drawbacks Table.

7-8 Improved Duration.  The spell improves its duration.  Roll on the Random Drawbacks Table.

9-10 Improved Applicability.  The spell affects a broader category of targets.  Charm person becomes charm biped.  Roll on the Random Drawbacks Table.

11 Recyclable.  After being cast, the spell has a 50% chance of immediately returning to your brain.  Roll on the Random Drawbacks Table.

12 Petite.  The spell takes up a lower level slot.  Roll on the Random Drawbacks Table.

13 Elongate.  If the spell is successful, a weaker version will jump to an adjacent area or target.  Roll on the Random Drawbacks Table.

14 Facile.  You can cast the spell as a free action.  Roll on the Random Drawbacks Table.

15 Hard.  Targets get -4 to their Save.  Roll on the Drawbacks Table.

16 Subtle.  You can cast this spell quietly and without being noticed.  Roll on the Drawbacks Table.

17 Graceful.  You have more control over your spell.  You can create gaps in your fireball, for example.  Roll on the Drawbacks Table.

18-22 New Flavor.  The spell changes elements or orientations.  Fireball becomes lightningball, protection from evil becomes protection from good, charm person becomes charm bird (or perhaps infuriate person), web becomes freedom of movement.

23-24 Spellborn Homunculus.  Your spell becomes a person (read this).  They are neutral towards you.  Roll a random personality and goals.

25-26 Full Sentience.  Your spell becomes fully sentient.  It talks to you.  Roll a random starting personality and goals.  If it is angry at you, it may refuse to be cast.  If it is especially pleased, it may enhance itself in a way that you request.  Spells enjoy being in your brain and seeing out your eyes.  They do not enjoy being in the spellbook, which is much like a jail.  They may request (or plot) their release, or the release of all your spells.

27-28 Breeding.  Your spell has just given birth.  This newborn spell is a weaker version of its parent, but after being cast 5 times it will have grown to adulthood.  Roll a d100 to see if it has mutated from it's parent breed (the same as encountering a new spell in the wild).

29 Spell Fusion.  Your spell has fused with another spell in your head, rolled at random.  Fireball + cure light wounds becomes cureball (which is broken as all hell, but just roll with it).  Charm person + heat metal becomes charm fire (and once you befriend a fire, it will do favors for you).  Cure wounds + cause wounds becomes summon miniature black hole (because that's like dividing by zero or something).  If there is no other spell in your head to fuse with, your spell dies of loneliness.  The dead spell will linger in your head forever.  It will not take up a spell slot, but you will forever be aware of it rotting in there, like an opossum under your porch.

30 Fusion With You.  Your spell has fused with you, probably with your head.  You permanently lose access to that spell slot.  On the upside, you gain some thematic benefit.  Protection from evil might give you a small halo and immunity to possession, or it might invert and give you a ghoul claw complete with paralysis.  If the DM is unable to think of anything more interesting, then you can merely cast that spell 2/day.

Random Drawbacks Table

1-2 Worsened Effect.  The spell does less of whatever it does.  5d6 damage becomes 4d6, charm becomes placate.

3-4 Worsened Range.  The range of the spell worsens.  A helpful spell with a range of 'touch' is reduced to 'self only'.  Reroll if this would reduce a damaging spell's range below 'touch'.

5-6 Worsened Area of Effect.  The spell affects a smaller area, or fewer targets.  Reroll if this would reduce a spell to fewer than 1 target.

7-8 Worsened Duration.  The spell shortens its duration.  If the duration is instantaneous but creates a permanent effect (such as with knock or cure light wounds), the spell's effect becomes temporary.  For example, the door would relock itself and the wounds would reopen after 10 minutes.

9-10 Worsened Applicability.  The spell affects a narrower category of targets.  Charm person becomes charm man or charm dwarf.

11 Hungry.  The spell requires a unique reagent or focusing item.  This item always takes up an inventory slot.

12 Flaccid.  Targets get +4 to their save.

13 Dawdling.  The spell takes one round to go into effect.  For example, a magic missile that wanders around Family Circus-style before hitting its target.

14 Exhausting.  You are stunned for one round after casting this spell.

15 Maddening.  You take 1d4 Wis damage when you cast this spell.

16 Aneurysm.  You take 1d6 damage for every two levels of the spell.

17 Fat. The spell takes up a higher level slot.

18 Fussy.  The spell can only be cast under certain conditions (time of day, environment, etc).

19 Unreliable.  The spell has a 2-in-6 chance of fizzling.

20 Erratic.  The spell has a 1-in-6 chance of going off in a random direction or targeting a random target (including yourself).

John Galliano 2015

New Spell: Mutate Spell

Pick a spell that is in your brain, roll a d30, and consult the Random Improvements Table, above.

It might be better to give the players a couple potions of mutate spell, instead of a spell they can cast over and over again.  A player might decide to cast it a dozen times on his spell and get fucked-up spell. . . but maybe that's a good thing.

DM's Note: Adjudicating This Shit

I intend for this table to be straightforward enough that you can use it on the fly, without prep.

And yet, some of these table results require some fast thinking on the DM's part.  What's a different flavor of knock anyway?

Here's what I recommend.  Make a list of as many options as you can in 10 seconds, and then roll one at random.

So, to use the knock example. . . knock is basically open door, so maybe open hand?  Or open mind?  Or open chest?  <rolls d3, gets a 2> The spell is open mind.  Maybe it's a bit of a stretch, but the spell can now cause close-minded people to reconsider a different viewpoint.  It allows for fresh reaction rolls or Charisma checks.

And if you get really stuck and can't think of anything, just reroll something fresh.  The random table is inspire you and keep the game random.  It's not a straightjacket.

You can also use this to create higher- or lower-level versions of current spells.  What about a level 2 version of fireball that visibly coalesces for a round before exploding?

Bunka Fashion College Cultural Festival 'Knight' 2011


  1. Interesting!

    A note on Cureball, though: since you already said that a spell fused with another in the caster's head, the fusion is probably no more broken than a caster who can already cast both Fireball and Cure spells, so nu.

    1. Being able to cast cure wounds and fireball is just as broken as having an instant, long-range, area healing spell? We appear to have slightly differing ideas of balance.

    2. Being able to cast cure wounds and fireball is just as broken as having an instant, long-range, area healing spell? We appear to have slightly differing ideas of balance.