Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Letter "M" Addendum

Sorry about yesterday's abrupt cut-off. I was really put off my writing by the day's events. And unlike, say, another mass shooting that might fire me up scribble some vicious rant or other, yesterday was just a sad feeling of helplessness...I mean whatcha' going to do? Ask for better protection of historic monuments? I don't think the Parisians were short on contingency plans and procedures. So as a sentimentalist and armchair historian I just needed a bit of a breather to refocus my brain.

SO...just to finish off my thoughts on the Karameikos "Magic Guild" before I move on to the next topic: I like B/X's restrictions. Personally, I prefer them to be MORE restrictive, which is why I've moved to the same house rules you'll see with other DMs about not allowing magic-users to memorize "multiple copies" of a particular spell. Unlike 5E designers who want to go the opposite way (with mages firing lasers at will like some cartoon villain), I want wizards to use every spell in their repertoire and be forced to make tough choices. Magic is powerful, and it needs to be treated respectfully.

Now how to change Karameikos so that its magic guild retains the B/X spell restrictions yet remains mechanically useful to the players? Well I suppose you could increase the number of "Teldons" (i.e. wizard mentors) that are teaching at the guild. But that doesn't work all that well with the background as written: here's a mage, past his prime and "retired," who had to be enticed to live in this backwater country and badgered (by his buddy the archduke) to start a guild. Would it be right to have multiple such persons building what amounts to a "magic university?" I can see that kind of Hogwarts set-up in Glantri, but not Karameikos!

Sure, over the last two-three decades, Teldon might have trained a few students up to a level when they could act as teaching assistants, especially for the newest guild recruits. Problem is that this doesn't solve the basic problem (a lack of variety in spells to teach) because any student of Teldon would be limited to knowing (and teaching) the same spells as Teldon. Unless you want to say that they'd engaged in extensive magical research over the years, broadening the guild's inventory. While that's one way to go, and well within the B/X rules, as has been (recently) pointed out elsewhere the whole concept of magical research is a bit of a sticky wicket.

[Alexis's posts need a whole 'nother series of posts regarding the cosmology of magic, but that will have to wait till a later date]

However, if you are going to throw magical research into the mix, you might as well leave Teldon as is (after converting him to a B/X wizard, natch): a doddering old man, only capable of teaching the basics of magic to apprentices and the (few) spells he happens to know. Make players do their own "magical research" rather than have readily available teachers eager to dole out precious knowledge. For me, this is a more "B/X-style" solution: I've always felt an underlying assumption that PC magic-users are supposed to outgrow their master(s) and be forced to rely on their own research. Would a wizard with a tower (not to mention several apprentices) continue to "go back to her masters" every time she leveled up and needed to acquire new spells? Wouldn't these Secret Masters eventually see the PC wizard as a rival (or a potential candidate to join their circle?)?

In my B/X Companion, I suggested that magic-users might acquire new spells by stealing another wizard's spell books. I regret that thought now...it's a hold-over from AD&D concepts. It's not that it doesn't jibe with B/X; the B/X description of the read magic spell would seem to suggest such a possibility. I just prefer spell books to be DIFFERENT from "specially prepared" magic (spell) scrolls. That being said, if you like the idea of magic-users learning spells from other wizards' tomes, another option would be to have Teldon possess a library of dead wizards' spell books. Even though Teldon can't use them, his collection could be useful to young magicians seeking other magic? Maybe?

Ugh, no. The more I think about it, the more I don't like that idea (though it makes me wonder what IS the use of a dead wizard's spell book in a B/X campaign?). I mean, what is a spell book anyway? I'm not so sure it's anything more than the freeform scribbling of the demented mage's mind, tapping into his (or her) own subconscious. It doesn't appear to be actual words or "formulae;" B/X magic-users have no minimum Intelligence requirement and can practice magic even as an illiterate (intelligence 5 or less), suffering only a penalty to earned experience of -20% because of the character's low prime requisite.

[the whole idea of literacy in D&D is a little weird. The chance of being literate (an Intelligence score of 6+) is 206 in 216...more than 95% literacy rate. 16th century literacy in England (per Thomas More) was about 40%...I'd imagine it was probably less in earlier centuries, at least post-Roman Empire. I know it's a non-issue in AD&D, where Intelligence is learning ability "outside knowledge of the written word" (i.e. literacy and Intelligence aren't linked)...but again, I'm talking B/X]

Another option to expand magical learning for PCs would be to locate other mages around Karameikos...wizards that a player must seek out for training. Bargle is an obvious choice (and who knows what training at his hands might cost a character), but don't forget there are two elven communities in Karameikos as well...and as all elves in B/X are magic-users, it seems reasonable that a character on "good terms" with the elves, might manage to find some instruction from these creatures.

Of course, characters starting in Luln should have access to a magic-user...first level characters have to learn from somewhere, and beginning PCs are notoriously allergic (in fatal fashion) to overland travel. Don't know what an adventurer based out of Castellan Keep will do upon leveling up...I suppose she could request training from the Castellan's "advisor" (the only magic-using character in B2, the advisor is a 3rd level elf with the spells charm person, read magic, and web). But again you have the problem of all magic-users/elves ending up with the same spells in their books.

*sigh* I suppose what I really, really want to do is (*ugh* Again!!) attempt an overhaul of the magic system. Not just to make it work with Karameikos...these kind of issues will come up in any B/X setting!...but just to make it work, in a way that makes sense. I doubt it would be anything close to what Alexis suggests...neat as this is, it throws off my particular balance of "complexity" versus "playability." But spell research costs ARE a load of hooey, especially in B/X (OD&D costs are more appropriate). And anyway, there're no guidelines are price lists for "guild dues" provided in GAZ1, BECMI, or B/X...all that shit needs to be worked out even as I figure the logistics of traveling to a site of training.

But that's not something that can be solved in an A to Z post.

"Teach us some magic, please!"

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