Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Magic World 2: Rolling a Sorcerer

Magic World Character Generation Part 2: Let’s Magic this one up

For my second character example we’re going to aim specifically for a magical PC. I’m designing with a specific theme in mind, something my wife might jump on (since we’re now planning a Tuesday night game she can attend, hosted at home where our progeny, the semi-feral pre-linguistic gnome can be wrangled safely without unleashing him upon the game store). She likes elves, and she likes elves who can do cool magical things while still poking holes in monsters with swords. Ergo….swordmage.

Swordmages are a common theme in fantasy…..Elric was one, as was Wagner’s Kane. The Grey Mouser was handy with blade and magic. You don’t really see many “wizards without any sword-fighting talent” until D&D appeared on the scene, actually. Even Gandalf could hold his own with a sword if he was desperate enough! Still, there was enough association between “good spell caster =/= good fighter” in the old days of fantasy gaming to make it a tough meme to quit.

Luckily today we’ve seen that meme largely evaporate, and Magic World, along with its grand daddy Runequest have always been about the ability to do things like play sword-friendly spell casters.

In Magic World playing a nonhuman is as simple as rolling the stats listed in that creature’s entry, after gaining GM permission, of course. Elves tend to be slight of build (so STR is 2D6+2 and SIZ is 2D4+4) but exceedingly intelligent and dexterous (INT is 3D6+6 and DEX is 3D6+3).

I’ve determined that my forthcoming MW campaign is going to either use Sarvaelen, which I’ve been developing in the blog but haven’t used for actual play yet…or more likely it may use my Warlords of Lingusia setting, which is functionally built on a very, very old campaign setting founded in the old days of gaming, and therefore is especially conducive to the default level of classic fantasy assumptions MW provides for. Since I know my wife loves elves and such, we’re looking at (most likely) the Warlords campaign. That, however, is neither here nor there with regards to Magic World, which does include its own default setting in the back to get GMs who don’t have about five hundred pounds of their own campaign settings to haul around a quick start.

So our new PC will be Serosante, an elven swordmage out of the domain of Yllmar. He’s a wood elf (Sylveinurien in the campaign vernacular) and therefore fits the default elven stats perfectly (my campaign’s silver elves would need a bump up in SIZ, being taller than humans, for contrast). I go ahead and roll the following:

STR 9, CON 17, SIZ 11, INT 14, POW 17, DEX 12, APP 13. Wow! Some nice stats, actually. His POW at 17 means he knows 3 levels of spells innately, so even if I don’t push him down a sorcerous career path he’ll be gifted with minor magic. He’s a bit tall for his kind, and very physically fit.

Elves in MW gain no special features such as in Runequest, where they gain lifesense. Likewise, elves in MW are conventional elves….they are not plant people ala Glorantha. The elvish description is great; MW’s elves have eyes just like the elves of my Warlords of Lingusia campaign, so I take that as a sign I am on the right track with adapting my setting to MW for the forthcoming campaign. All I need to do to modify elves for my setting are to add low-light vision to their list of options. I could go especially retro if I wanted and retcon it to infravision….hmmm. We’ll stick with lowlight vision.

Serosante’s derived characteristics work out as follows. Since he’s part of the more fantastical world of Lingusia, the optional heroic HP rules are in effect now:

Damage Bonus is 0, so he’s no hard hitter but he’s not a wimp either. His heroic Hit Points are 28, which is much better than the 14 it would be for a regular non-heroic campaign setting. He has 17 Magic Points, a very nice total. His roll scores are: Effort 45%; Stamina 85%; Idea 70%; Luck 85%; Agility 60%; Charisma 65%. Serosante is a bit clumsy by elven standards, but his stamina is astoundingly good for an elf.  Finally we have skill category modifiers, which are Physical +5, Communication +7, Knowledge +7, Manipulation +6, and Perception +9.

Serosante’s distinctive features are next, of which he’ll have two, thanks to an Appearance score of 13. I’m partial to rolling randomly, so here goes: 2 (facial hair) and 7 (speech). Since these are positive traits thanks to a good appearance, I decide to pick “mystic designs cut in close-trimmed hair,” moving it from the chin to his actual head since he’s an elf, and elven males don’t grow beards like humans, dwarves and other hirsute lesser folk. On speech I’m going to pick “soft but commanding,” which sounds about right. He speaks softly, but carries weight in what he says.

Age is next. As it turns out there aren’t a lot of guidelines about starting age for elves in here, so I’m going to default to my campaign setting’s assumptions, which is that wood elves mature around age 70-80, give or take a few years. I’ll just roll the base age (17+1D6) and add it to 70. I get 92.

Following age we have culture and then occupation. Wood elves in my setting are especially suited to the “band” culture and so it’s a no-brainer.  As I get three +10 picks among culture skills, I choose Move Quietly, Nature and Swim. The suggested occupations include shaman, which is suitable to wodo elves, but I am still envisioning a more classic swordmage, one who perhaps left his tribe to study sorcery. Maybe he was studying to be a shaman, but in the course of a vision quest he was granted a sword which he would learn to master and meld with his magic?  

Magic World encourages the design of customized occupations. I could make a swordmage occupation, sure, but as I see it “swordmage” is what this guy became, likely from doing something else. I could combine two occupations, as well….but I think I’ll just go the straight route, and pick a single occupation which in turn I can supplement with additional skills appropriate to sword fighting. Since Serosante’s cultural background suggests shaman, we’ll go with that.

As a shaman Serosante gained an additional 1D6 allegiance to his ranks in shadow, balance or light. I see Serosante as conflicted…..so I’ll take a moment to figure out his allegiance, choosing Shadow 25,  Balance 15 and Light 5, rolling 1D6 and getting 4, which I add to Shadow for a total of 29.

As a shaman I pick the following skills: Insight +40, Physik +40, Potions +20, Track +40,  Nature +20, Oratory +20, Fast Talk +20,  and for his +60 I’ll apply it to the “and one other specialty” skill, which I will make….him being a swordmage and all!....so I choose scimitar, the ideal weapon for an elf of his strength and stature (STR and DEX 8 requirement). A scimitar is a Weapon Class 2 weapon, so that +60 (on top of the base chance of 15 the scimitar grants) will make him a formidable swordsman right out the gate.

As a shaman with a base POW of 17, Serosante gets 3 levels of spells for being gifted and 1D6+3 for shamanic training. A quick roll reveals 8 additional levels, for a total of 11 levels of spells known.

Now that we have Serosante’s occupational skills, let's pick his four supplemental skills, of which one gets +40 and three get +20.  We can use this to balance out his “useful skills” for being a swordmage-type. Dodge is the first obvious one, we’ll give it the +40. For +20 let’s buff up Sense and Listen, and finally +20 to Ride so he doesn’t get thrown in combat too often.

Serosante starts with 5D100+100 bronzes for being a shaman, which gives him a total of 422 bronzes. We’ll snag a scimitar (175 bronzes) and a suit of soft leather (100 bronzes) to get him started.

Now for the good part…..magic! Or, sorcery, to be more accurate.

Spells in MW do not require skill checks to cast; you invoke them with the payment of magic points, and the target may attempt to resist the spell, using his or her POW score to overcome magic. This means that for Serosante, against an average opponent with a POW of approximately 10, he has a 35% advantage when using offensive magic.

 In MW you can’t learn magic unless your character’s POW is 16 or better, but there are options. Some suggested options for the GM include lowering the minimum POW, making the entry requirement a combination of POW and INT, or simply removing a minimum requirement entirely (the Runequest method). Like other BRP-based engines, your INT score does set the limit on how many spells you can “have in memory.” This generally works as follows: your grimorie is where you keep all your spells, but you lock a certain number of them in mind, and can cast from those. To access spells not in memory, you need to lose them and study your tome for the new ones. Yes, even in BRP/MW there are shades of Vancian casting rules. Note that at character creation the number of spell levels you start with is (usually) lower than the number you keep in memory. 

The rules also suggest tinkering with spell maximums, pointing out that elves with magical affinity in a setting could have INT+POW as a maximimum number of spells in memory. I like that, so we’ll make it so. This comports with an old notion that elves in my setting have a form of eidetic memory.

Sorcery’s rules are fairly detailed, but are very much rooted in the realm of verisimilitude. These are rules that support what makes sense, which is a good thing. One rule I particularly like (among many) is the creation of a sorcerer’s focus….in the typical example, this is a staff, but non-wooden materials can be imbued at double the cost. This is a good long-term goal for Serosante, unless he is part of a campaign in which a benevolent GM assumes he can access his focus weapon at the start.

To create a focus weapon, Serosante will need the following: approximately 12 weeks of time (this is double what it takes for a staff), around 1,500 bronzes in upkeep/supplies in this period, a Craft (sword) roll –presumably he can either provide a weapon for the enchantment as well, or hire someone to do this if he lacks the skill—and the permanent sacrifice of 1 POW into the weapon. When the ritual is complete, Serosante will have a scimitar which does +1D6 enchanted damage and holds a reservoir of MP equal to his own (16, after sacrificing 1 POW, unless he managed to get his POW increased before paying the cost). He can cast spells in memory using his own MP as well as his weapon’s reservoir.

Time to pick out Serosante’s spells. He starts with 11 levels, determined earlier for being talented (POW 17) and a shaman (1D6+3 additional levels). These are the total spells he knows at the start, and are both in memory and transcribed into his sorcery tome. I’ll be picking spells with a “swordmage” flavor, which is to say….stuff a guy with a sword might cast. Also called, “combat spells.”

Sorcerer’s Razor (a variable level 1-4 spell) is the obvious first choice.  This spell will increase the potential damage by +1 per level of the spell up to the weapon’s maximum (which is 9 points for a scimitar wielded by Serosante, with no damage modifier). A level 4 memorized in this spell means he can guarantee his attacks do a minimum of 5-9 damage with this spell.

Next up, equally useful is Sorcerer’s Strength., which can increase STR by 3 points per level, up to three levels. At level 2 that means his STR would jump to 15, and in turn that means he gains +1D4 damage to his attacks. Sure, he’s using magic to compensate for his slender build, but it means his blade, combined with Sorcerer’s Razor, will deal 7-13 damage with each strike.

Serosante studied as a shaman, so summoning spirits seems appropriate. Summon Healing Spirit seems like a good choice, and it’s a level 1 spell. Even better, Serosante can bind spirits (temporarily or permanently) into objects. Like, swords, for example. Good, the motif continues!

Next is Unbreakable Bonds, which is a rather cool trick, basically a form of hold person. The target can try to resist using its STR vs. the sorcerer’s current  MPs. This can be potentially useful, but less so if the sorcerer is drained. Getting a focus object will make this spell more useful, of course.

We need one more spell. A good utility spell seems appropriate, and Understanding (level 1) is perfect, a modest enchantment which grants 20% in a given language to the caster. This also can be used to negate the reverse spell, called Babble. Understanding is also useful because amidst all the skill points I spent earlier, speaking the common human language (the Middle Tongue in his world) was not among them, so Serosante will need to spend time in the future learning the common dialect unless a benevolent GM grants everyone bonus skill points in additional languages.

There are other good spells to be had, which Serosante will have to seek out and learn. Sorcerer’ Armor, Undo Sorcery, and others would work well with the motif of a spry elven spell blade.

There are actually a lot of interesting spells to choose from, and you could make some interesting and distinctly different choices in terms of flavor. Imagine if, instead of a spry swordmage we had decided Serosante was a foul cultist of the undead-plague god Unarak. His spell selection would instead look more like this: Affliction (4), Befoul (1), and Breath of Death (6). Or perhaps Serosante was actually a warlock, a discreet summoner of demons. He might have Terror (1), Wrack (1), Summon Demon (1), Sorcerer’s Talons (4),  Omen (3), and Pox (1). There are a lot of ways to generate a distinct sorcerer in Magic World, just as it is with Runequest and BRP.

So Serosante is now complete and ready to go adventuring. What does he look like in the end? We have:

Serosante, Beginning Adventurer
Elven swordmage of Yllmar; male, Age 92
STR 9, CON 17, SIZ 11, INT 14, POW 17, DEX 12, APP 13; HPs 20; MPs 17; Damage Bonus 0
Rolls: Effort 45%; Stamina 85%; Idea 70%; Luck 85%; Agility 60%; Charisma 65%
Skilll Modifiers: Physical +5, Communication +7, Knowledge +7, Manipulation +6,  Perception +9.
Distinctive Features: mystic designs in close-trimmed hair, soft but commanding voice.
Allegiance: Shadow 29, Balance 15, Light 5
Skills: Insight 64%, Move Quietly 36%, Swim 40%, Physik 77%, Potions 27%, Track 59%, Nature 62%, Oratory 32%, Fast Talk 42%, Scimitar 80%, Dodge 69%, Sense 44%, Listen 44%, Ride 60%, Speak Elven 70%
Maximum Spells in Memory: 31 (as an elf; otherwise 14 by default rules)
Spells in Memory: Sorcerer’s Razor (4), Sorcerer’s Strength (2), Summon Healing Spirit (1), Unbreakable Bonds (3), Understanding (1)

Wealth: 147 bronzes
Scimitar (1D8+1 damage; medium length, can parry, WC 2)
Soft Leather (1D4-1 protection; light burden)

Serosante as a Seasoned Adventurer

Magic World has rules on starting characters at higher levels of experience. What would Serosante look like at these levels? Options for veteran, heroic and legendary adventurers are available. For fun, lets take the base character, above, and turn him in to a heroic adventurer. This grants him +2 POW, +2 additional points to other characteristics, and a bunch of additional skill allotments and spell points. Serosante as a heroic adventurer might look like this:

Serosante, Heroic Adventurer
Elven swordmage of Yllmar; male, Age 102 (bumped up to reflect some time aqdventuring)
STR 11, CON 17, SIZ 11, INT 14, POW 18*, DEX 12, APP 13; HPs 28; MPs 17; Damage Bonus 0
Rolls: Effort 55%; Stamina 85%; Idea 70%; Luck 85%; Agility 60%; Charisma 65%
Skilll Modifiers: Physical +6, Communication +7, Knowledge +7, Manipulation +6,  Perception +9.
Distinctive Features: mystic designs in close-trimmed hair, soft but commanding voice.
Allegiance: Shadow 29, Balance 15, Light 5
Skills: Insight 84%, Move Quietly 36%, Swim 41%, Physik 77%, Potions 47%, Track 59%, Nature 62%, Oratory 32%, Fast Talk 42%, Scimitar 101%, Dodge 70%, Sense 64%, Listen 64%, Ride 81%, Speak Elven 77%, Speak Middle Tongue (common) 27%, Speak Orcish 27%, Hunting Bow 36%, Medium Crossbow 51%, World Lore 42%, Navigate 37%  
Maximum Spells in Memory: 32 (as an elf; otherwise 14 by default rules)
Spells in Memory: Sorcerer’s Razor (4), Sorcerer’s Strength (2), Summon Healing Spirit (1), Unbreakable Bonds (3), Understanding (1), Fury (1), Heal (2), Sorcerer’s Armor (4),  Undo Sorcery (4)

Wealth: 210 bronzes
Scimitar-Focus Weapon (1D8+1+1D6 damage; medium length, can parry, WC 2; Magic Pool: 18 pts)
Hard Leather (1D6 protection with helm; light burden)

*1 MP sacrificed to make his focus scimitar

Serosante as a hardened hero has more spell-casting at his disposal, is very nearly a master of the scimitar, and had developed some more worldly skills, the sort of thing most likely picked up while traveling and adventuring. His bonus stat points went into STR, which is not horribly useful, but the image I have is that he practices a lot with the blade, and this is toning him up….but he still needs his sorcery to really hit his hardest.

The experienced adventurer option does not provide any guidelines on increased starting funds, but one might imagine a heroic adventurer having maybe five times the starting wealth. That would mean he started with 2,110 bronzes. That would be enough to pay for his focus ritual to make his scimitar a focal weapon imbued with a reservoir of magic points, as well as the cost of the blade itself from a craftsman of suitable skill (an alternative would have been to put some points into Craft (weaponsmith) but I don’t see skinny Serosante having the muscle power to hammer out blades on a regular basis). Finally he still has 510 bronzes left, enough to buy a nicer suit of armor, although he upgrades to hard leather only, to avoid any physical skill penalties. 

Next: we'll try out some sample combat and other rules with Serosante as our unwitting victim!

(Post-Script Edit Note: realized my copy was missing the STR increase and accompanying modifiers; now fixed!)

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