Here’s another undead horse that’s been beat to death and back again. But I’ve been thinking about things that have never quite set well with me. And guess what one of those things is?
First I understand the origins of the ability. Really, haven’t you seen any Hammer horror flicks? But what the ability became is kind of annoying. For every other ability it requires preparation. Clerics don’t automatically heal (expect in later editions) or have other nifty tricks. But then turn undead. Yeah, they got that. Plus there’s always this Keystone Cops routine when Undead show up. Everybody runs back and pushed the cleric forward.
Personally, I think one of the best takes on this is from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. It’s pretty simple and works with well with your game of choice. Turning Undead is a First Level Cleric spell. Simple. Of course, there will be some whining but oh well.
Fighter: Why the hell didn’t you pray for Turn Undead!
Cleric: Because I need to keep fucking healing you!
Right now, I’m playing around with all sorts of ideas for a crazy little home brew game and this is the way I think I’ll go. Just want to put that little bit of fear and desperation into the hearts of the player characters. It makes thing more interesting and makes simple zombies and skeletons more of threat.
There’s lots of cool things about playing a Magic-User. Unfortunately, one of those is not having a familiar. Let’s face it. Familiars suck. In Old-School games, the risk generally isn’t worth the reward. In newer (Pathfinder/3.x) games, you many get a little boost but once again I think it’s pretty damned lame. Think about. Master of the Arcane. Summoner of Demon Lords. Here’s my familiar. A Toad. Really? Yes, I know there’s historical precedence on familiars. But screw that. You want to be cool.
This is one of those things that’s just brewing in the back of my head and not yet a complete thought but we’ll see how it goes.
First, let’s ditch all the mundane animals as familiars. Let’s stick to some the more cool ones like the imp, quasit and pseudo-dragon. Brownie is a possibility too but personally, it just never clicked with me.
Here’s some more basic thoughts:
It is what it is. Familiars have all the special powers and abilities according to what they are.
Adviser & Spy: A Magic-User and familiar will have a telepathic bond. The Magic-User can perceived through the senses of the familiar. Familiars should grant a bonus for magical research and the like. Not only should a familiar be able to spy for the magic-user. The familiar will also keep tabs on the magic-user for a powerful demonic/supernatural entity.
Free Will: Familiars should have a bit a free will. Almost like a hireling or a henchman. That means they should also have a personality with their own unusual quirks. Plus they should have their extra spell casting abilities.
Hit Points: At higher levels, familiars tend to get squashed quickly. A quick and dirty method. Familiars have the same amount of HP as the Magic-User.
Losing a familiar: This is where things usually suck. Generally, it ends draining the Magic-User of HP, permanently. This really does nothing to encourage the acquisition of a familiar. Instead, it just gets harder and harder for a Magic-User to replace the familiar. And subsequent familiars become more and more free willed.
So that’s it. A few system-neutral quick thoughts. I’ve got a couple of other ideas rolling around in my head but those are for Part 2.
Spell components can be one of those things that can really add fun and flavor to a game. But they can also end up being an exercise in accounting and needless minutiae that doesn’t add that much fun to a game. And it’s all about the fun. So here’s the the little idea I’m putting together for spell components.
Generic: Normal stuff that picked up at little or no cost. Don’t even bother keeping track.
Common: Items that a character to could pick up for a few coins at a local market. Just have the character spend a few gold every time the go into town. Roughly, a number of gold pieces equal to the highest level of spell he could cast.
Exotic: Specialized things like special herbs, oils, gems or crystals and so forth. Still at this level, no need to keep an exact inventory just a gold piece amount of Exotic Components.
Rare: These are specific items. Here’s where you keep exact inventories. Prices will vary wildly depending on the item. Ingenious players will also start using the bits and pieces of special or particularly nasty monsters for components.
Unique: These are really MacGuffin type items. There’s only one of them in the world. It’s use is powerful and a one time thing.
Now bending this little bit into the rules.
If a spell states that you need X item (like 1,000 GP worth of Diamond Dust) then you still need it.
Generic and Common spell components are just a cost of being a spell caster. Nothing special here.
Exotic: The character uses up the spell level times 10 GP worth of exotic components then spell is empowered by a factor of one in a way that makes sense for that spell. An extra die of damage, -1 to a saving throw, extra duration, whatever makes the most sense. This may cause a little haggling with the DM but players ask before you cast.
Rare: Allows the caster to cast an unprepared spell that thematically fits the component. The caster must know or have access to the spell. Additionally, the caster must successfully make a Saving Throw versus Magic for the spell to succeed. The component is consumed in the casting whether the caster successfully casts the spell or not.
Magic-user, 3rd Level
Range: 30 FT
Duration: 2d6 Rounds (See Text)
Spell Resistance: Yes
The Pit of Despair attacks the target’s self confidence and will to fight. If the target fails his saving throw, this spell creates the illusion of a 30 foot deep pit with mirrored walls. The target sees reflections of himself in the mirrors. These reflections constantly berate him and admonish him for each and every mistake the character has made his entire life. The images will shout each every short coming the character has either real or imagined. This verbal abuse is spawned from the target’s own subconscious. All the target can do for the duration of the spell is to defend himself against the verbal attacks and will probably reveal an embarrassing secret from his past in the process. When the spell’s duration ends, the character’s confidence is still shaken and is at -2 to attacks and saves for another 24 hours.
If the target succeeds his saving throw, he is filled with self doubt and takes the -2 penalty to attacks and saves for the duration of the spell.