Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Magic Tone

Magic becomes one of those especially tricky areas where you can really define your game and the setting. There are multiple ways to go with this, but for today I just want to talk about tone.

D+D here again rears its rather pretty little head. There are two ways stylistically to approach this:
- In Basic D+D, you had the generic spell list. You get the basic spells, but no particular flavor. The list doesn’t evoke the sense of the world.
- In AD+D, you had this funky list that included your ‘basics’, but also added all sort of interesting permutations- Bixby’s spells always had something to do with a big hand appearing and smacking you around, for instance. There was more variety here, even though I never saw the majority of these spells ever used in play- Fireball? Every encounter. Melf’s Acid Arrow? Not if I can help it. However, Melf and his acid arrow gave the game a texture and depth that I loved.

I have only so much space to work with (I can’t see the initial list being longer than 20 spells total for the core rules), but I have two ways to go:

1. A generic list of spell applications that allow you to ‘build your own caster’.
2. A handful of sample spell books from different magic energies. You’d have ‘Chandar’s Book of Flames’ alongside ‘Heldack’s Arcanum’. You’d get the two or three most common ‘textbooks’ that students of magic would study; the rare stuff will come later, but here’s where most magicians cut their teeth.

Right now, I’m leaning towards the latter. You can end up with a nice variety of spells in one of the three ‘sample’ spellbooks, allowing heroes to start with a common book, and add more spells to their repertoires as they grow.