Saturday, October 4, 2014

Curly Horns and Counter-Spells

It will probably come as little surprise to readers that I fall into the camp of preferring "real world" armor and weapons in my RPG over the fantasy arms and armor depicted found in many of the commercial RPGs being published these days. I mean that's really "old school," right? And I'm (kind of) one of those "old school guys?" At least, when I'm not doing silly things like talking about how to chop saving throws.

For me, it's not about having a more "realistic" world, it's just a matter of aesthetic preference: I want armor (and weapons) in my game to look practical and functional, not like something out of Star Trek (do half-orcs still use "double-axes?" I don't see them in the 5E Basic PDF).

However, the same aesthetic does not apply when it comes to wizards. Wizards don't wear armor and don't (usually) use many, so there's no reason for anything they wear to be "practical" or "functional." For me, wizards should be as eccentric and flamboyant as possible. Well, maybe not "as possible," but definitely they need more than a single color robe and a pouch of spell components.

Even if magic in the game is limited or understated. Hell, especially if magic in the game is limited or understated. Wizards need to be able to rely on their reputation and their appearance even more than their magic...they don't want people challenging them or requiring tests of their magical might. Why? Because their magic IS limited. Whether it's a finite number of spell slots or spell points or fatigue levels or whatever, nearly all RPGs place some sort of limiting factor on the use of magic. If they didn't, I suppose they'd take over the (fantasy) world, right?
I dig on curly horned hats.

So a certain amount of intimidation (or outright flimflammery) should be cultivated by the wizard. An air of both mystery and panache. Magic might be understated, but the wizard himself (or herself) should never be! Unless you're trying to escape a good ol' fashion witch-burning or something.

[do you use the Spanish Inquisition in your D&D campaign?]

With this in mind, I am strongly considering including a new (and abbreviated) random hat table in the new heartbreaker. I wrote yesterday that it can be difficult to convey mood, but things like a selected list of backgrounds or appearance/description options can help, depending on their specificity. Whereas my previous hat table (the one you find in The Complete B/X Adventurer) is both large and (quite) whimsical, this one will be short and focused...after all, it's a very, very small part of a simple (basic) fantasy adventure game.

[a little update...the tables are all but completed since starting this post and they look pretty good!]

Hmmm...the section on counter-spells is getting pretty long. I'm going to throw that in a separate blog post. Sorry!


  1. Damnit, I know that the horned headpiece may be de riguer, but today's stylish wizard may opt for the stailess steel skullcap...
    Excalibur - Merlin's Magic Spell:

    1. @ Leicester:

      Oh, the hubcap hat is definitely "on the list." I'd call that one iconic.
      : )