19 June 2016

Magical Staves of the Known World (Includes the Casting Times & Components system notes on Staves!)

New enchanted staves for your Magic User PCs, and some thoughts on Basic D&D's 'evolving' rules on charges for a staff.

As you may have noticed, the different editions of the Basic Rules have different notes on how many charges a staff has:

Original D&D (Book 2, Monsters & Treasures): 200 charges (2d100/2d% when found)
Holmes Basic: 100 charges (1d100/d% when found)
Moldvay Basic: 10 charges (1d10 when found)
Cook Expert: 30 charges (3d10 when found)
Mentzer Basic: 10 charges (1d10 when found) Implied but not clearly stated
Mentzer Expert: 30 charges (3d10 when found)
Mentzer Companion: (DM's option) 40 charges (4d10 when found)
Rules Cyclopedia: 30 charges (3d10 when found) and DM's option 40 charges (2d20 when found)
"Challenger" (Post RC) Basic: Not stated. This 'edition' also (erroneously?) states that staves are only usable by clerics, so I consider it irrelevant for this topic

To reconcile these differences, I simply use 4 classifications of staves:

Minor Staves have 20 charges, 1d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Standard Staves have 30 charges, 2d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Major Staves have 40 charges, 3d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Epic/Legendary Staves have 100 charges, 10d10 remaining when found, purchased or traded. Consider also that many Staves of this magnitude would be considered proper Artifacts, and governed by the different rules for items of that type, explained in the Master Rules.

The different classifications of stavess otherwise function as described in the relevant rule book. Roll d%/d100 to determine which class of staff is found:

d100   Staff Classification
0-25   Minor
26-70  Standard
71-95  Major
96-00  Epic/Legendary

When a PC or NPC wizard is creating a staff, minor staves halve the time and money required to complete the task, and major staves double the time and money required. In addition, the DM may require the creator (or her PC customer) to procure a rare, exotic or magical material to be used in the creation of a major wand, sometimes requiring a side quest by the party.

Epic staves are the stuff of legends, created in the distant past or on the exotic planes of the Immortals and otherworldly beings. Such items are beyond the ability of mortal magic users of the Known World to create. Again, many Staves of this magnitude would be considered proper Artifacts, and governed by the different rules for items of that type, explained in the Master Rules.

It is important to remember that the classification of a staff has nothing to do with its powers, it reflects only the number of charges the staffis capable of holding.

For all types of staves, unless specifically noted in the description of the item, each use of one of the staff's powers costs one charge, and a staffmay only be used once per round. Note that in both the Moldvay and Mentzer basic rules, in the general notes on all magic items with charges, it clearly states that unlike other (advanced or d20ish) versions of D&D games, in Classic D&D, charged items may not be recharged. Though many DMs will surely houserule and override this, I will present this material in compliance with "canon" rules-as-written. In any case, even if you do bend the rule and allow PC or NPC magic users to recharge staves, Epic/Legendary staves may never be recharged, for the same reason they cannot be created by mortals of the Known World.

Finally, for those who followed my earlier blog articles on spell casting times and material components, here are the promised notes on expanding that material with staves. Rods and other items for clerics and other 'divine' spellcaster PCs will be covered in the articles specific to those items, forthcoming.

"Spell Staff" - The use of a staff to channel spell power while casting a spell is fairly ubiqitous in the fantasy genre, in the film versions of the Lord of the Rings saga, the wizards appear almost helpless without their staves in hand. If permitted by the DM, a PC magic user may construct a special staff that allows her to collect and store unused spell energies to quickly empower spells later on.

The creation of such a Spell staff takes 1d4 months and requires 500gp worth of exotic and esoteric materials (such as rare wood, exotic bone or even the hairs or sinews of magical creatures) per maximum level of spell the staff will be able to empower. In other words, a level 1 Spell Staff's energies may only be used to empower 1st level spells, while a 5th level Spell staff can empower 1st through 5th level spells. Remember, opting to create a minor or major variant of the Spell staff will either halve or double the cost in both time and materials.

When created, a spell staff has no charges, per se, but now has the capacity to hold up to 30 'spell levels' worth of energy (20 or 40 for minor and major staves, respectively). Each day, a magic user may opt to spend any unused spell 'slots' from that day by chanelling them into the staff, thereby 'charging' it. Aside from the unused spell, the magic user must succeed in an ability score check (d20 less than or equal to INT-1/spell level) to trasnfer the spell energy into the staff. Once charged, the staff's energy may be spent to cast a spell on the fly, as explained in the casting times article here on the blog, without invoking the initiative penalty normally associated with doing so. The magic user must still spend a daily spell slot to cast the spell! The staff's charge is spent simply to provide the boost of magical energy needed to compensate for not having the spell fully memorized and ready to go. Each level of the spell being cast drains one charge from the staff, so a magic missile spell drains one charge, while a fireball would drain 3 charges.

Although a Spell staff may only be used to empower spells equal to or lower in level than its own level, higher level spells may be used to 'recharge' it, so a magic user with an unused 2nd level spell at the end of a day may use that spell to reload 2 charges into a level 1 Spell Staff.

Obviously, the Spell staff is one of the rare exceptions to staves not being rechargable. If the DM is not using my optional rules for on the fly casting, casting times and material components, this item is rather useless in the campaign.


New Staves

"Stone Staff of Mirabilis" (Unique Item, standard staff)
SPOILER WARNING: This item assumes that the events in the (revised Green Cover edition) adventure module B3: Palace of the Silver Princess have transpired and been brought to a successful conclusion; in other words, Haven is freed from Arik's curse and most of the folk of that land and Princess Argenta's palace have been restored to life, with one exception, it is assumed that the palace magician, Mirabilis, did not recover from being petrified and perished. If you plan to use that adventure in the future in your campaign, wait until afterward to introduce this item, or change the background to suit events in your campaign story.

When the curse of the vile immortal Arik fell upon the valley of Haven, only the courage and swift actions of heroes freed the land and restored the doomed citizens of Princess Argenta's court from eternal petrification, but no hero is perfect, and a small handful of the folk of Haven perished during that sad affair. Lady Argenta's trusted court magic user, Mirabilis, was one of those lost souls.

Shortly after the heroes defeated the minions of Arik and broke the curse, Mirabilis's apprentice, Shaylee, returned from an errand in Velders, a small town on the border with Glantri that she'd been sent on by her master a few days before the curse struck. Shaylee was horrified to find the broken shards of stone that had once been her mentor, and gathered them all for an honorable burial in the palace cemetery, saving only one small sliver of stone, from what had been her master's heart, to craft into a magical staff to help prevent anyone suffering a similar fate in the future.

The staff Shaylee created is made from oak and stands a full 7 feet in length, beautifully carved with images of flowers and subtle runes related to peace and protection. The head of the staff appears crafted of stone, in the (literal, anatomical) shape of a humanoid heart, a striking contrast to the beauty of the rest of the staff. The staff head is actually the petrified heart of a medusa, purchased by Shayla for a small fortune from a band of adventurers who had slain the gruesome creature in some lost ruins in the Malpheggi swamplands. Embedded unseen into the wooden shaft just below the headpiece is the sliver of stone from Mirabilis's heart.

PCs who visit Haven, or one of the nearby towns (The original, orange covered version of the B3 module contains a map of Haven and its surroundings, on the western border of Glantri. This document was included in the free pdf library on previous incarnations of the Wizards.com/dnd website, and may still be available via dndclassics.com or other online sources.) may hear the troubling rumor of thieves and assassin's loyal to the cult of Arik who returned to Haven to finish their work. Though most of the cultists were killed or captured during their unsuccessful mission, a handful escaped, taking the stolen staff with them! Recovering the staff from the small band of brigands is left to the DM to work out, but if the party does recover it and returns it to Shaylee in Lady Argenta's court, she will be eternally grateful and reward them with what minor scrolls or potions the DM decides she has access to. In addition, since Shaylee herself hasn't the heart of an adventurer, she will insist that any apparent lawful or neutral PCs keep the staff, to use it in battling the wicked monsters of the world that employ petrification magic.

The Stone Staff has the following powers:

Functions as a quarterstaff +1, +2 vs creatures with an innate ability to petrify opponents, such as a Medusa or Basilisk. This aspect of the Staff functions for any wielder, regardless of class, though only a MU or Elf (or variant PC class capable of using MU items) may use the other powers.
May cast Flesh to Stone, as the spell, once per day, costs 2 charges, requires a touch 'attack', target is entitled to a save vs P/P to avoid.
May cast Stone to Flesh at will, costs 1 charge
The staff's abilities all become inert once the charges are spent.

Note: The astute reader might recognize this as a Known World adaptation of the White Staff of Meldorf, from Teutonic myth, as it appeared in the Role Aids rpg supplement Fantastic Treasures, vol. 2 (Mayfair Games, 1985) My apologies to the source myths for any liberties taken in this adaptation.


Staff of Lordly Magic
In the days of Alphaks I, Imperial court wizards held lofty positions of power and influence in the imperial government of Alphatia (and still do, to a lesser degree), and many would craft mostly ceremonial staves of great beauty and grandeur to denote them as high mages of the empire. Though the practice of creating staves like these has long since fallen from general use, a few of these ancient staves are known to yet exist, scattered throughout the Known World over time.

The wielder of a Staff of Lordly Magic inspires feelings of respect and admiration in those around her, with the following game effects:

+1 to wielder's CHA ability (18 max) when the staff is actually held
Verbal Understanding - By spending a charge, the wielder of the staff may speak with any one creature within 10 feet of her for 10 minutes, regardless of shared languages. Treat this as the 1st level MU spell Read Languages, but applied only to verbal, not written, communications.
Charm Person - As the spell (treat as 8th level for spell variables), costs 2 charges
The staff's abilities all become inert once the charges are spent.

These staves are highly sought after by current Alphatian magic users, who will sometimes pay as much as 5000 gp for an example with charges remaining (Half that for minor versions of the staff, double for major versions. No known Epic/Legendary examples have ever existed.)

17 June 2016

Magical Wands of the Known World (formerly: Casting Times & Spell Components part 3)

New enchanted wands for your Magic User PCs, and some thoughts on Basic D&D's 'evolving' rules on wands.

As you may have noticed, the different editions of the Basic Rules have different notes on how many charges a wand has:

Original D&D (Book 2, Monsters & Treasures): 100 charges (1d100/d% when found)
Holmes Basic: 100 charges (1d100/d% when found)
Moldvay Basic: 10 charges (1d10 when found)
Cook Expert: 20 charges (2d10 when found)
Mentzer Basic: 10 charges (1d10 when found)
Mentzer Expert: 20 charges (2d10 when found)
Mentzer Companion: (DM's option) 30 charges (3d10 when found)
Rules Cyclopedia: 20 charges (2d10 when found) and DM's option 30 charges (3d10 when found)
"Challenger" (Post RC) Basic: 10 charges (1d10 when found)

To reconcile these differences, I simply use 4 classifications of wands:

Minor Wands have 10 charges, 1d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Standard Wands have 20 charges, 2d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Major Wands have 30 charges, 3d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Epic/Legendary Wands have 100 charges, 10d10 remaining when found, purchased or traded

The different classifications of wands otherwise function as described in the relevant rule book. Roll d%/d100 to determine which class of wand is found:

d100   Wand Classification
0-25   Minor
26-70  Standard
71-95  Major
96-00  Epic/Legendary

When a PC or NPC wizard is creating a wand, minor wands halve the time and money required to complete the task, and major wands double the time and money required. In addition, the DM may require the creator (or her PC customer) to procure a rare, exotic or magical material to be used in the creation of a major wand, sometimes requiring a side quest by the party.

Epic wands are the stuff of legends, created in the distant past or on the exotic planes of the Immortals and otherworldly beings. Such items are beyond the ability of mortal magic users of the Known World to create.

It is important to remember that the classification of a wand has nothing to do with its powers, it reflects only the number of charges the wand is capable of holding.

For all types of wands, unless specifically noted in the description of the item, each use of one of the wand's powers costs one charge, and a wand may only be used once per round. Note that in both the Moldvay and Mentzer basic rules, in the general notes on all magic items with charges, it clearly states that unlike other (advanced or d20ish) versions of D&D games, in Classic D&D, charged items may not be recharged. Though many DMs will surely houserule and override this, I will present this material in compliance with "canon" rules-as-written. In any case, even if you do bend the rule and allow PC or NPC magic users to recharge wands, Epic/Legendary wands may never be recharged, for the same reason they cannot be created by mortals of the Known World.

Finally, for those who followed my earlier blog articles on spell casting times and material components, Here are the promised notes on expanding that material with wands. Staves and items for non-magic user PCs will be covered in the articles specific to those items, forthcoming.

"Spell Wand" - The use of a wand to channel spell power while casting a spell is fairly ubiquitous in the fantasy genre, especially since the popularity of the Harry Potter novels. If permitted by the DM, a PC magic user may construct a special wand that allows her to collect and store unused spell energies to quickly empower spells later on.

The creation of such a Spell Wand takes 1d4 weeks and requires 200gp worth of exotic and esoteric materials (such as rare wood, exotic bone or even the hairs or sinews of magical creatures) per maximum level of spell the wand will be able to empower. In other words, a level 1 Spell Wand's energies may only be used to empower 1st level spells, while a 5th level Spell Wand can empower 1st through 5th level spells. Remember, opting to create a minor or major variant of the Spell Wand will either halve or double the cost in both time and materials.

When created, a spell wand has no charges, per se, but now has the capacity to hold up to 20 'spell levels' worth of energy (10 or 30 for minor and major wands, respectively). Each day, a magic user may opt to spend any unused spell 'slots' from that day by channeling them into the wand, thereby 'charging' it. Aside from the unused spell, the magic user must succeed in an ability score check (d20 less than or equal to INT-1/spell level) to transfer the spell energy into the wand. Once charged, the wand's energy may be spent to cast a spell on the fly, as explained in the casting times article here on the blog, without invoking the initiative penalty normally associated with doing so. The magic user must still spend a daily spell slot to cast the spell! The wand's charge is spent simply to provide the boost of magical energy needed to compensate for not having the spell fully memorized and ready to go. Each level of the spell being cast drains one charge from the wand, so a magic missile spell drains one charge, while a fireball would drain 3 charges.

Although a Spell Wand may only be used to empower spells equal to or lower in level than its own level, higher level spells may be used to 'recharge' it, so a magic user with an unused 2nd level spell at the end of a day may use that spell to reload 2 charges into a level 1 Spell Wand.

Obviously, the Spell Wand is one of the rare exceptions to wands not being rechargable. If the DM is not using my optional rules for on the fly casting, casting times and material components, this item is rather useless in the campaign.

NEW WANDS
These are standard Classic D&D items, a couple of which are tied to the Known World setting. Don't need to use my Casting & Components stuff to use them!

"Wand of Panic" - When used, this wand causes extreme fear and dread in the target creature. If the target fails a save vs. RSW, it will panic and immediately flee from the wand's user via the most direct route available. After 1d4 rounds, the panic fades a bit, and the creature may once again approach the wand's user, but after a failed save, subsequent saves against the same wand are made at -2.

Non-Intelligent creatures, constructs, mindless undead, and similar monsters are unaffected by the wand, and a Remove Fear spell will instantly nullify the wand's effects, including the penalty to subsequent saves.


"Wand of Paranoia" - Conjuring within the targets mind visions of whatever it is he fears most and leading him to mistake the creature nearest to him as the object of that fear, this wand causes a target who fails a save vs RSW at -2 to immediately attack the nearest creature (PC, NPC or Monster) to him for 1d3 rounds, or until that creature is slain. The DM should determine which creature, enemy, ally or neutral, is closest if miniatures are not used.

A Remove Fear spell grants the affected creature a second save vs RSW, without any penalty, to remove the effect of the wand.


"Wand of Intense Magic" - This wand is used in conjunction with spellcasting, and causes the spell cast to be extra-potent, causing a -2 penalty (or -10% to magic resistance or anti-magic) to any saves against it. At the user's option, two charges may be spent, doubling the potency of the spell to provide -4 to the save (or -20% MR or AM).


"Wand of Reach" - This wand similarly empowers spells cast while it is used, allowing the range of the spell in question to be doubled. Only spells with an actual range are so empowered. Personal, zero-range spells and those requiring the caster to touch the target may not be so enhanced.

---The above two wands were created in part to satisfy players with a background in 3rd edition/d20 and later editions and variants of D&D who are fond of 'meta magic' feats which allow tinkering with the ranges and other variables of spells by the caster. Given the limited charges of most wands, and the fact I have intentionally left out a wand that flat out increases the damage caused by a spell, I don't think they unbalance the game too much, and let the magic users have a little fun for once---


"War Wand" - Created by human magic users for use when their daily spells were used up, these wands grant one of the following boons, chosen at the time of activation, to the user for 1 + user's level rounds:

+1 to all to-hit rolls
+1 to Armor Class
+1 to all damage rolls

Only one boon may be active at any time.


"Eirak's Frost Wand" (Unique item, major wand) - Eirak the white was a self styled 'frost mage' from Noslo island, in Ostland. Adept at blending into the snowy terrain during winter raids with his band of brigands, Eirak lamented being easily seen when tromping through dungeons or out on rare spring and summer expeditions. After years or research and trial and error, he created the wand that bears his name, to hinder those who would see the face of their foe.

Eirak's wand creates a 20 foot diameter cloud of wet, icy mist anywhere within 100 feet of its user. Any flame based, non-magical light sources within the cloud are immediately extinguished, and more importantly, any creatures within the mist cloud who rely on infravision to see must make a save vs. RSW or be blinded for 1d6 rounds by the sudden shift in temperature around them.


"Andreja's Coffin Spike" (Unique item, minor wand) - The young magic user known only as Andreja is a newcomer to Specularum, having fled the terror filled rumors of Vandevicsny village. Having seen her family killed by the restless dead that stalk that sleepy town, Andreja now lives and studies magecraft in the city, hoping to gain the knowledge and power to rid her home of its undead scourge. Sadly though, her prized possession, a self made wand she calls Coffin Spike, has been stolen!

If the PCs are in Specularum, they may be approached by Andreja, seeking help in recovering her wand from the thieves who robbed her of it, otherwise they might come across the wand in any usual fashion as the spoils of conflict in their adventures.

Andreja's wand is aptly named, having been crafted from an ash stake once used to destroy a vampire near Vandevicsny. The wand must be activated by touching the undead target, requiring a to-hit roll against the target creature (though AC is calculated at 10 - magic and dex bonuses, if any. Armor is ignored for this 'attack'.) A successful hit deals the creature 1d8 points of damage per hit, using one charge. A failed attack roll means no charges are spent.


"Wand of Introspection" - These wands are rumored to have been created by the mischevious but kind hearted pixie folk of the Alfheim woodlands. The fact they tend to be only 6 or 7 inches long gives credence to that rumor (though that size would still make them a staff to a pixie who wielded one). While causing no direct harm to a creature, and designed merely to incapacitate a foe long enough for the fey folk to escape, the lingering effect of the wand's magic could put a target creature in temporary grave danger.

The target of this wand must succeed at a save vs. RSW or be overcome by feelings of peace and introspection, causing her to simply stand (or sit, or lay, if already doing so), smile and ponder how great and wonderful life on Mystara is. The victim becomes oblivious to everything around her except for actual damage to her person, which immediately ends the magic's effects. While in the trance, though, she suffers a -2 penalty to all saves, loses any dexterity bonus to AC, automatically fails any ability check and is incapable of any actions up to and including combat. The trance ends after 1d10 rounds, or upon physical HP damage to the victim.


"Wand of Procrastination"
- The target of this wand's magic suddenly becomes lethargic and unmotivated unless a save vs RSW is made. If the save is failed, the target automatically waits till the last possible moment to take any actions, causing him to automatically go last in initiative order for 1d6 rounds after which the magic fades.

26 March 2016

A Basic Approach to ... Casting Times & Material Spell Components 2 (of 3)

Magic-users and Elves aren't the only characters in the game who cast spells, of course, Clerics get important spell abilities when they reach 2nd level of experience. Somewhat unlike the former casters, the Cleric's spells are critical to the success of the entire party, healing and protecting the Cleric's allies when things get tough.

Since the rules are not totally clear, many players interpret them to suggest that Clerics get to choose their spells on the fly, not needing to memorize them daily like MUs do. I personally don't like this. Like the Elf, the Cleric gets spells and pretty respectable combat prowess, so why further punish the player who picks a MU by only applying the "Vancian" rule to them? Given that thought, I require Clerics to pick their spells daily just like their MU compatriots, with the caveat that, as in later versions of d20 D&D, they can swap out a prepared spell for a healing spell of equal or lesser level on the fly, provided they succeed on a wisdom check (equal or less than their WIS on a d20 roll) at the time of casting.

But, you might point out, the previous post in this series was all about getting around Vancian spellcasting! Right, and Clerics get similar options.

Clerics* who cast their spells on the fly without daily prayer and preparation suffer the same penalties to their initiative as MUs do; -1 to individual initiative per spell level of the desired spell.

Like MUs, the player may choose to use material components to remove the initiative penalty, in the exact same way as MUs. The only real difference is that in addition to the optional spell component, the Cleric must always have their holy symbol during spellcasting, or the spell fails. Of course, a lenient DM may take mercy on the Cleric whose symbol is lost or destroyed through no fault of their own, allowing them to perform a WIS check, with a +2 penalty to the roll, to cast spells without their symbol, as long as an effort is being made to replace it ASAP.


The power of Gygax compels you!

The required components for each spell are similar in nature to their MU spell counterparts, but the Cleric player who wants to swap out for non-standard components should take their particular deities dogma into account. While a god of nature and peace would be fine with a bundle of fresh herbs being used to invoke a Cure Light Wounds spell, for example, a savage god of war might prefer the heart of a freshly killed enemy. DM discretion rules the day, as usual, in regard to work works and what does not.

Here are my suggested components for the official Basic Rules 1st level cleric spells, to get your creative juices flowing:

SPELL - COMPONENT (Symbolism)
1a Cure Light Wounds - 1 vial of holy water (considered to contain the divine essence of the patron god)
1b Cause Light Wounds - small chunk of metal, wood or stone from a broken weapon (to invoke the now inert damaging potential or bloodlust of that weapon)
2a Detect Evil - the preserved eye of an animal considered in the Cleric's culture to be friendly or "good", like a domestic breed of dog, songbird, sheep, etc (most cultures acknowledge the enhanced senses of animals)
2b Detect Good - as for Detect Evil, but from a bad or evil animal, like a snake, rat or pirahna (same as Detect Evil)
3 Detect Magic - the preserved eye of a cat, raven or crow (these animals have a strong symbolic connection to wizards and witches)
4a Light - a live or preserved firefly (a creature thought to be sent by the gods to guide their faithful in the darkness)
4b Darkness - a preserved wing (or freshly harvested one) of a bat (bats are known to "see" and fly straight in the darkness, after all)
5 Protection from Evil - 1 vial of holy water (to invoke the essence of the god for divine protection)
6 Purify Food and Water - A handful of salt (often used to preserve food, salt is thought by Clerics to have divine properties that drive off rot and decay)
7a Remove Fear - a small children's doll (to recapture soothing memories of home and security)
7b Cause Fear - the preserved head of a snake or other nasty small animal (the fact that most sane folk fear and avoid snakes leads Clerics to believe the gods mark those creatures with a fearsome aura to warn us of their danger)
8 Resist Cold - a chunk of coal or sulphur, unburnt (to invoke the latent flame spirits thought to live within)

I suggest giving Cleric players a lot of flexibility in choosing alternate materials to substitute, as long as the player is making some creative effort to play out the faith of her PC. While some MU types, though not so much Elves, consider magic to be a rather exact science, Clerics view divine magic as the malleable will of their patron god, infinitely adaptable to intent and circumstance.

With these notes and the guidelines from the MU article before them, you should be able to freely add these options to all the spellcasters in your game without too much difficulty or bogging down of play, all that is really required is a bit of creativity and some minor bookkeeping by the players.

*Clerics, in the context of this article, include Druids and Shamans, and any other variant classes (such as an OD&D paladin, perhaps) with similar divine or spiritual magical abilities.

About the only thing left to consider are the classic tools of the trade employed by spellcasters of both arcane and divine backgrounds; wands, staves, prayer beads, incense burners, etc. That will be the focus of the 3rd and final installment of this series, so I'll see you guys next time!