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Old 05-30-2012, 10:18 AM   #10
Peter Knutsen
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Europe
Default Re: Different critical spell failure tables

Originally Posted by Refplace View Post
Never done it by location but have done one by college and tradition.
Fair amount of work and the players didn't really get much out of it.
You could also just go ahead and improvise results based on the roll.
The world is as it is because of the way magic works, including the likelihood of critical casting failures, and the variety of more or less likely outcomes of a critical failure that can occur.

The decisions of - at least - tens of thousands of NPCs are strongly influenced by this, both day-to-day decisions, and larger life decisions.

Social norms evolve, influenced in part by empirical knowledge of what can and can't happen, and how likely it is to happen.

For instance in those parts of my Ärth setting where spell magic is most common, the Keltic lands and the two civilized Caliphates, there is a custom that when you are about to cast a spell, you must make a warning gesture so that people can choose to step away from you if they so desire.

A casting Fumble cannot cause actual damage to bystanders. This is known to not be able to occur at all (a Fumbled roll on trying to activate a magic item ability, however, can lead to a dangerous explosion - two different but related kinds of magic). Most Fumbles affect the caster himself, maybe with a temporary penalty to further casting (sometimes in the form of Noise, astral turbulence that can be calmed quickly with meditation, but which will dissipate naturally over time), or a temporary or permanent loss of the ability to cast spells from one "College" or a themed group of "Colleges", or even all spells, or rapid aging.

The reason people may choose to step some distance away is that sometimes Fumbles do affect one bystander, and this being more likely the closer the bystander is to the caster. One effect has a range of 4 meters, another rarer one of 6 meters. There may be a super duper rare one with a range of 8 or 10 meters (50% chance of either) but if so it is so unlikely to occur (much less than once in a billion rolls) that it may never have occured as of the present world time (late 10th century), and so is the subject of controversial speculation.

These, the so-called Fumble Lash-Outs are not physically dangerous, but can cause cosmetic changes such as a hair or eye colour or sex change, usually into something naturally occuring (a natural pigmentation for the race, or at least for the species), but sometimes not (e.g. blue hair), or in rarer cases a species change (figuring out an objective way to randomly determine the species, while at the same time achieving great variety, is a bit of a challenge!), and in rarer cases still a species hybridization. These effects usually last for some hours or days, in rare cases longer, sometimes very long (years, possibly decades), or are permanent. The longer the rolled duration, the harder they are to revert prematurely.

One NPC once turned his cat familiar into a human-cat hybrid with a Fumble Lash-Out, and that has ended up as a significant element of his backstory.

Another NPC, somewhat overconfident (in his youth - he has since outgrown that), permanently lost his ability to cast spells from the Shadow "College", due to an avoidable Fumble (a spell that he tried to cast in a way he didn't have to). Since Shadow spells were and still are highly useful for him, as a spy and agent (complementing his main speciality of Illusion spells nicely), he ended up spending part of his non-renewable magical resources (Essence) on creating a magical item that can reproduce a few of the most useful Shadow spells.

All that is possible only because the magic systems of Ärth are known and well defined. In advance. You cannot have that with an ad hoc anything-goes approach.

Rules aren't only for player characters. Rules are for worlds. The world is the rules.
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