Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tossing Magi A Bone

Wow. That last post went over remarkably well with the one player who uses a magic-user in my games. Considering that Luke actually came down harder on my "week-to-week house rules," I'm tempted to not even throw this up on the blog...but I have a few minutes before I bundle Diego off to the Greenwood Seafair parade. Here goes:

One of my few whiny complaints regarding B/X is its use of "languages" and the ability to speak languages. There are multiple things I dislike about the system (personally, I would prefer something similar to D6 Star Wars's "language" skill roll, using INT as a modifier...but I digress). Mainly, though, its silly that Intelligence, more than even Charisma, feels like a "dump stat" for PCs.

At least, for those that don't have it as a prime requisite.

There are advantages to having at least an average Intelligence (literacy...helpful for treasure maps and certain magic items), but I'd hesitate to count "bonus languages" as one of those advantages. The number of languages is so few (compared to, say, AD&D) and the number of possible languages so great (goblin, hobgoblin, and bugbear are all separate, for example) that the ability to communicate is more a spin of the roulette wheel than a crap shoot.

And who really wants to talk to an orc anyway?

So here's what I was thinking: for magic-users and elves, Intelligence provides a bonus to both spells known and spells that can be cast as follows:

9-12 .....No Bonus
13-15 .....One bonus 1st level spell
16-17 .....One bonus 2nd level spell (if 3rd level or greater)
18 .....One bonus 3rd level spell (if 5th level or greater)

All bonuses are cumulative (of course).

Again, this is a bonus both to spells known (i.e. the spells in one's spell book), and the number of spells that can be cast each day. It provides the wizards with a little more choice and some extra "tactical options" (so they're not limited to stocking that sleep spell all the time). And I don't think it's a "game breaking" bonus; just a little something at the lower levels to help out.
: )


  1. Seafair parade, eh? I was wondering what was up with all the drumming.

  2. Do you use reaction rolls? I would think speaking ogre would be benefit if you promised the ogre 1/2 of the manticores treasure if he helps you out, then the party can double cross him after the dirty deed is done.

    With nobody caring about languages, and your group considering cha a 'dump stat' I wonder if you're under utilizing some rules to aid in treasure aquisition...

  3. @ Antion: Yep. I'm not a huge "parade" guy, but my wife likes 'em and I like to support the folks showing off their marching skills.
    : )

    @ UWS: I use Reaction rolls all the time...they are one of my "go to rolls." However, the PCs haven't found all that many ogres (a total of 1 in 13 sessions).

    I suspect that will be changing soon.
    ; )

  4. Wis works for clerics why not Int for MUs. There may be a benefit other than spells for high Int for classes other than MUs.

    If you go with LotFP maybe some pips for skills. Maybe EXP gain for all classes. You are smart enough to learn quicker from your successes and mistakes?

    I was always tempted to split INT a bit. You have cunning and then you have book smarts. A savage may be smart but not book smart, but cunning and tricky and dangerous nonetheless.


  5. This way, I'd have two Charm Person spells fail per session instead of one.

    I'd prefer something more along the lines of Int bonus as penalty on save vs spells, i.e. smarter magic users cast better spells not more spells.

  6. @ Fumers: Mmm. Nope.

    Again, the idea here is to give you more options...take something BESIDES charm person as your bonus spell.

    Spells become more powerful with higher levels (for example, charm monster can be used like charm person but carries a hefty save penalty). Intelligence doesn't "power" spells; it aids in comprehension (XP bonus) and models knowledge and memory (extra spells in spell book and in memory, respectively).

  7. Fluff arguments about how well the rules model the imaginary world never work for me. You can argue anything either way going that route. It's game play that matters.

    My bummer about the game is how often the spells fail. Having more spells addresses that indirectly, but I'd rather have a Charm Person work the first time given how slow combat goes. Games where the combat actions are more decisive run faster.

    If you want MUs to have more options, throw out a wand or something. No rule change necessary.

  8. @ Fumers: Working on the wand thing. You still need to find 'em though.
    ; )

  9. Why not just start MUs with more than 1 first level spell they can cast per day? 2 or maybe even 3 at first level would give them options, and not require the "high INT = more spells" rule.

    In my basic games, I adjusted the first level spell tables to start at 3 for magic-users, and I thereafter had at least a few players willing to play a MU at low level.

  10. I was toying with the idea of granting MUs the ability to cast magic missile at will. It scales the same and damage is the same however it is a missile attack and requires a to hit roll like a ranged attack possibly modified by INT.

    No longer are low level MUs a cast and go to dagger mode. They can use a little magic every combat.

  11. @ Ed:

    I'd prefer to tie it to their Prime Requisite. Otherwise there's little incentive to not have a burly wizard with a low intelligence.

    @ Anathematician:

    Magic spells aren't so common in my campaign world that magic-users have this kind of capability...this is akin to shooting lasers out of your hands or something. Other missile shooters (e.g. archers) have to track arrows/ammo. I'm not going to let MUs just toss magical arrows around like there's no tomorrow! Sheesh!

  12. Well I did say I was toying though I admit the suggestion of adopting it was there.

    OK lets take it down a notch then.

    Maybe give MUs 1 extra magic missile per combat as a freebie. Maybe make the MM consume ammo! Cast it all you want until you run out of obsidian fragments or something.

  13. Dude, d6 Star Wars language rule... that still rates among my favorite language rules of all gaming. I don't think it would be inappropriate for some fantasy games, either. I remember in one of the Jack Vance novellas that one of the characters (Cugel, I think), tried communicating with someone in a foreign land using a "broad dialect." To me that was a Language skill roll in action.
    (Of course, you could also argue that it was an example of "Common" in action...)

    I let my Magic-Users have Read Language like a Thief, only they get it right at first level. It seems appropriate to have wizards able to comb through ancient writings and decipher stuff. Of course, one of the bones I throw M-Us is that they often have random chances to know crazy ass lore that the rest of the party wouldn't necessarily know.

  14. @ Ryan: I want my wizards to speak a ton of languages, just like Gandalf...elf, dwarf, eagle, goblin, Mordor, etc. I think this is modeled best with a "language roll." I've been tinkering with that for my space game...I'll post it here for B/X sometime as well!

    ; )