Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Personal Magic Weapons

This is a little something I really liked while we played the German Midgard RPG back in the day. Everytime a character's main weapon dealt a critical hit the player had, at the end of the session, the chance to give  a small part of his soul into the weapon (and make it a personalized magic weapon). To that end the player had to roll a d100 on a table similar to this one (I changed it a bit for D&D):
d100      Effect
1-93      no effect
94-95     +1 to hit against enemy slain*
96-97     +1 to hit
98-99     +1 to damage
100       personal effect related to the incident and a re-roll** 
*Happens just the one time and against the enemy the weapon was used against when the critical hit occured. It stays fixed on that type of enemy and may only increase if a another critical hit against that type of enemy is cast (and the d100 comes up with 94 or 95).  
**The second time this happens, it increases the first effect, the third time the weapon will get a name and there is a 40% chance (minus CON) that the weapon takes a great part of the character's soul after the owners death (the effects do not vanish in that case). This chance will increase by 5% every time this comes up again.
The results stack, of course. And the magic works only if the owner is wielding it. If the owner dies and the weapon has no name yet, all powers it had are gone. If the bonuses stack to a +5 all in all, there is a 5% chance for every +1 to remain in the weapon (now usable by everyone wielding it).

I like to let the players make the roll (it's something they are looking forward to). But if you roll it as a DM, it might have some positive aspects, too (just from a narrative perspective, I guess).

It might be a good idea to involve clerics in this a bit, like encouraging some rituals or weapons cults to increase the chance to "load" the weapon with pieces of the owners soul (character smites foe with mighty 20 + cleric makes a fuss about it = +1 to +5 on d100).

It's not much, but the players liked it quite a bit. And in the long run, they might have a very personal magic weapon they can call their own. With a history and all that.


  1. This also bears thinking about, and even in general terms - background magic or similar could imbue various items over time, according to certain criteria. It might not even be magical in some cases, more a layer in the character's perception overlaid on the item.

  2. Yes! You're right. I was thinking down that road, too. A nice way to individualize magic items would be to let setting relevant areas with strong magic "build" their own magic items (or, like you put it, have an overlaying effect on items). This would lead to magic users seeking those places to manipulate that effect, for example. Magical laylines could be a way to start establishing a sandbox (infrastructure, hot spots). If you combine that with recognizable magical sigantures, you might have a nice CSI: D&D thing going! But it's not unproblematic. Detect Magic would become much more important and complex in a game and you'd have to change it towards something that could distinguish those signatures (maybe in combination with Read Magic or Divination or good old research...). As a side effect, the question "Who killed those people with a Fireball?" would change to "Which evil wizard uses this signature?". And I'd really like to have something like this in my game.

    1. This kind of investigation is underused I think, in that people seem to see it more as a staple of a given system, Call of Cthulhu say, or WHFRP, but there's no reason it couldn't be played up elsewhere, like general D&D, and no reason it can't be developed to make it easier to plug and play. The cluecrawl maybe, or even a themed noirbox?

      But the arcane ideas here are what could make it. The idea of locations creating items and imprinting them and this being a fingerprint, and a caster having a signature. That could breathe new life into certain aspects of the game. The value of Detect Magic would go up if the amount of magic available as a result was higher and if the use of magic in this way got out of hand.

      I think we need to work on this a little more. I'll give it some thought for sure. It's another good example of a thing evolving through the back and forth.

  3. Very nice! Let's do this :) I love the term "noircrawl" and I'm very interested to see what you'll come up with the signature ideas. I hope I'll be able to whip something together the next 24 hours.

    1. It's on then. I've had some more vague thoughts on it too, ideas to play around with. It could be useful to work from the basic building blocks up, starting with a mechanism for energy entering items and for the signatures, as well as ideas on what a world in which magic, or magical machination, was so common would look like.

      How might the landscape change, in terms of population distribution? Could sources of power become as important as wells or walls in where settlements appear? What unusual patterns of behaviour might there be? What niches could emerge, economically for example? What new spells and items might be developed to fit an opportunity, or to deal with it?

      We don't need to answer all of these questions, or any of them, but they might be good prompts and inspirations. Once we start posting on it, people might jump in with new bits and pieces, and that could lead to things moving in new directions. Also, it might be best to keep the project relaxed and open in terms of obligations and time scale, so we don't feel presured or burdened, to let our imaginations run wild, even over many weeks or months.

      For now, I can post a system for assigning signatures to casters and items - I have something based on relationships I can adapt for the purpose, but I need to find the post. It won't be the final word of course, just a suggestion for adaptation, or a stepping stone on the way.

      I'll aim for the 24-hour mark too.

    2. A couple more ideas. Maybe we should think of it less as a campaign type than a campaign aspect, a major campaign theme to be plugged or fed in to a larger campaign concept. That way we can focus on individual tools rather than worry about complete consistency or a whole system, at the beginning at least.

      I'm also thinking that type of magic source could vary. For example, maybe one source of power enhances, while another mutates, while a third does both. That could be as simple as rolling 1d3 times on a 1d6 table, either for the world or a given source, e.g.:

      Source Effect (1d6)

      1 Decay
      2 Reversion
      3 Transformation
      4 Enhancement
      5 Enlightenment
      6 Ascendance

      This is just a sketch of course. Each of these aspects could do something different to an item present for long enough. Enhancement might be as simple as the thing becoming +1 etc. for its type, whatever that type is. Enlightenment could mean it becomes increasingly sentient and/or tends increasingly to a certain aligment. Transformation could mean mutation and major weirdness.

  4. Okay, I like that a lot. The way I see it, we could easiely start with the locations ans maybe find a way to adapt it to existing settings after that. I had some thoughts about it, too and I think they fit with yours. Let's see:

    - Magic is strongly connected to INT, so if we start by assigning ability score to regions (maybe 100 miles per hex?), we'd have an indication how strong the magic in every given region is.

    - A hexfield has 6 sides (for this idea I'd say 3x2) and we could use that to our advantage. If we assign the the numbers 1-6 to either two sides, we could use the results of the 3d6 per region as coordinates.

    - There are more variant results possible with the 3d6. A rolled 6 could allow a reroll, the result of the reroll fits with your d6 table above and could be added to the result ( so higher results than 18 are possible). Pairs and triples could have an impact, too.

    - Now we have magical focal points and laylines assigned. To give regions ability scores could have legs, I think. WIS, for instance, could indicate holy sites, CHA beautiful landscapes, STR could be, depending on how high the results are, mountains, CON could be, the higher the result, the more fertile the land. Stuff like that and all with coordinates. With that we have now indications for population, where strong magic is, etc..

    As I mentioned, just a few ideas. Gope this comes out okay (I'm using a snart phone right now...). And sorry for the spelling mistakes...


    1. It came out right, and it's a very interesting way of approaching it - very inventive. It has a lot of potential too, way beyond what we're talking about here. This is getting wonderfully expansive already.

      So far then I'm seeing these initial elements:

      - Generation of a magical geography based on your system above
      - Types of magical effect, possibly following the d6 table
      - Signatures, which I can adapt from a related mechanic

      ... and more vaguely...

      - Trends and possible features flowing from this kind of world
      - Spell variants and/or new forms of magic

      For now I'll post an introduction to the general idea and link to this discussion so we can see what people think and whether anyone wants to get involved. It may be there's something out there already which is similar, in which case we might decide to do things a little differently, and there could be some useful feedback on the specifics of the tack we're taking or particular elements.

    2. I'll go with the working title of 'noircana' for the themed toolkit concept, which gives us the adjective 'noircane', maybe for 'noircanecrawl'. The final title might even be something other people will decide as the idea evolves and hopefully takes on a life of its own.

  5. "snart phone" :-D I miss my home computer right now...


  6. Sounds like you're both well on your way to a very interesting magic sub-system. I'd consider using all the possible attributes, not just INT in relation to magic, as that will open up a lot of options down the road, especially use you start developing the Ley-Lines and alternative modes of accessing and manipulating magical energies. I would also suggest considering that term 'magical energies,' as a plural one. Have either of you looked into Geomancy yet? I've found it fairly useful for sorting out some of the peculiarities of the interactions between Ley-Lines and various specific Terrain Features. Good stuff. I like where you're going with it.

  7. Thanks for the feedback, GJ, I'll definitly check out Geomancy. And I think both ideas compliment each other: having ability scores to get the lay of the land AND using them to specify the focal magical points. The magic happens, so to speak, as soon as the regions are connected. And it's like the land forms/influences the magic of the land. Reminds me of Wee Free Man by Pratchett!

    @Porky - I really like the term Noircana. I'd steal it if I weren't involved already... So I'll put up a post about building regions with ability scores and some connectors to the impact of magic in specific regions (using your d6 table). The history of those points could be another factor, but you're right, this is getting expansive already.

    1. Ever see John Boorman's Excalibur? "The King is the Land." There's a fairly accessible bit of Arthurian pop-culture that ties into this scheme fairly well. The health and well-being of the King has a direct effect on the Kingdom. A kind of feed-back loop.

      When I mentioned Geomancy above, I meant both Western and Eastern (Feng Shui) approaches. If you can get past the boring dots and lines of the Medieval stuff, there is some interesting stuff there that could be adapted to this system...I've been working on a version of Geomancy for use in conjunction with various terrain types and so forth, but it has been on the back-burner for a while now. Maybe I'll dust it off and finish it now.

  8. I love that movie! To connect this with a realms leading personality is a pretty nifty idea. Something like "To be king of xy, you need to visit (say) the Spire of Enlightenment (magical focal point) and slay the Beast of Surgenhaven (something that disrupts the flow of the land...)". So opposing forces should be a theme and local folklore should be a result. Need to think a little more about it, but that could be the history angle I was looking for!

    Sounds cool, if you feel like it, I'd be very interested in seeing your take on that Geomancy conversion!

    1. I thought that you'd get a kick out the movie-connection. It is a great way to help other people see what you're trying to accomplish. Excalibur is a great visual example of this sort of terrain/energy/locale/personality/being intersection that you're exploring.

      You nailed it in your description. This is a way to give meaning and consequence to those standing stones, old sacred sites, blasted mountain tops, devil's hop yards, and so on. you also get a ready-made set of conditions for how a sorcerer could gain specific powers, the sequence of trials for assuming the mantle of leadership, or the process of king-making, and more...

      Quests grow directly out of this sort of thing, as do adventures, as do special monsters, peculiar situations and wonderfully Zelazney-style politics (see Amber), and more. It also opens up magic item creation nicely--the object needs to be in such-and-such a location, possibly at a certain time, to be properly charged/purified/empowered...and doing something other than that could have all sorts of alternative effects, even poisonous or disastrous ones...which means some new tables could come in handy as guides and prompts to this sort of creative process.

      I'll dig out the manuscript and dust it off. The tables might be fairly handy, if nothing else.

  9. It sounds very cool - I'd also be interested in that conversion. I like where this is going.

    I've sketched out the adaptation for the signatures and just need to type it up, so that should be up this afternoon or evening. I'll keep it fairly general for now, but I can update it as things develop, to tie it more closely into your approach to regions for example.

    1. You see, when you say 'Signatures,'I think of the Doctrine of Signatures, as well as the way that all the various Psychics in the period immediately following the Civil War in the U.S. were often quite radically different from one another, despite the usual trappings and affectations. Whatever gifts they might have had, they all needed to adopt a bit of showmanship to take it on the road. Like a stage illusionist developing a personal style or special trick all their own. Also a person's magic, being shaped by their Will and Ego and so forth very well ought to be as personal as their artwork, penmanship, profile or aura. But this opens up a lot of stuff and has been criticized as taking the spotlight away from the guys who want to dress-up in shiny-suits and go smash ugly-nasties with pointy-sharp things.

      I realize now that a lot of my personal approach regarding in-game magic is quite different from what is apparently the norm...so I had best get some posts written...

    2. That would be superb, even mechanism free, for the inspiration and possible new paths, and for the ideas in themselves. I've just posted a rough framework, but it's all still wide open and a lot more could be fed in or linked up.

  10. Still no home computer, so no post yet. But this is a lot to process anyway. More tomorrow. Thanks for all the input, guys, this is fun!

    P.S.: I'll try and include region creation like character creation. Thinking about land not only with ability scores (topography), but also with class (type of land) and level (history?, power?); so a region with high magic would need fighters for balance, while more magic could mean chaos (like with King Arthur...). Could also work for signatures (or connect with?) And it wouldn't need a new system per se...


    1. Take your time and definitely break it up into parts if that works best. There's really no hurry. Sometimes it's best to let things like this percolate and brew. However you develop it, I can rework the signatures to better fit if necessary.

  11. I'm looking forward to reading your take on the signatures. And I agree, it's best to let something like this sit a while. Especially because it shouldn't be too clonky at the end. Tomorrow I'll have time and all the tools I need and I hope to give some of this ideas form then... The ideal result would be to unite all those great ideas into a fast and easy approach to setting building, with a high adaptability to D&D and consorts. Aiming high and all that :-)



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