Monday, June 12, 2017

Staffs and Wands

[To accompany the discussion of crafting magic weapons I probably should include those magic weapons used by spellcasters (in particular mages who externalise their sorcery). And yes, I'm intentionally using staffs to differentiate a wizard's staff from a stave, which is either a physical weapon (such as a quarterstaff) or something that hols up the tent. Not that when wielding in combat a want or staff is generally jabbed like a spear, rather than wielded using martial skills more suited for a weapon. Despite it's innate magical power and form, Monkey's Golden Wishing Staff is a stave, not a staff – intended for physical and not magical mayhem.]

Staffs and Wands

Staffs and wands in my game are tools used to help a magic-user cast spells, and are thus much more akin to magic weapons than they are the magical pistols and rifles of normal D&D. And they can also be used as physical weapons – a staff is considered a d6 weapons (which means that a magic-user without a Strength bonus needs two hands to wield it effectively), and a wand can bw a d4 weapon (although most non-combat mages will prefer a lighter wand that does less damage because they don't intend to hit anyone with it). [Note that there is an automatic -1 damage modifier for non-mages attempting to use a wand or staff in physical combat, or a mage attempting to use an unattuned wand or staff.]

Warmages (the military mage which is the standard template equivalent to the D&D magic-user) traditionally use staffs rather than wands (in fact the possession of a staff is an almost certain sign you are dealing with a warmage). For one thing, it is a heaver weapon, and thus more suited to the rigors of physical combat and can bear up better to the strain of being used as a focus for military magics. Lastly, but not least, it puts some distance between the magic-user and an opponent in melee. Warmages may still use wands though, and they are often used as sidearms, for when the presence of a fully-powered battlestaff might not be socially acceptable.

General Abilities

Spell Focus

The primary use of a wand or staff is as a spell focus. This allows the mage to apply the magic bonus as a penalty to the saving throw of the opponent against ranged magic. So a +3 magic staff gives opponents a -3 saving throw against spells targeting them. It also increases the combat range of a mage's spells from short range to long range.

Note that wands and staffs are not at all like guns; they are not point and shoot devices. The action is more akin gathering the energies in the staff and then physically hurling them at the target – the more flamboyantly the better (as with all magic). Wands in particular are wielded more like one would wield the handle of a whip. The upshot of this is that a mage needs freedom of movement to properly use a wand or staff.

Embedded Spells

Spells may be permanently embedded in a wand or staff when it is constructed. This requires the presence of a mage who knows the spell when the item is researched. This can reduce the effect Spell Point cost for casting the embedded spell by the magical bonus of the wand or staff. For example, if the spell magic missile is embedded into the a +1 magic wand (a rather common choice for a relatively low level wand), then the magic wan can be used to cast the spell magic missile as if it were a cantrip (at a cost of 1 SP). Note that the cost of casting the embedded spell cannot normally be reduced below that of a cantrip by this modifier.

The problem with using the full bonus of the wand or staff on a single spell is that means the wand is entirely dedicated to that spell. In the above example you have created a wand of magic missiles. If you apply a lesser bonus to each spell embedded in the wand or staff, then you can fit more spells within it. Note that if a wand is dedicated to an elemental energy (generally +3 or greater magic weapons) then this may reduce the cost of casting the embedded spells further.

Non-adventuring mages may often use a variety of low-powered special purpose wands for dedicated magical purposes, but the adventuring maze generally prefers to avoid the possible confusion and encumbrance of multiple wands. However, these special purpose wands can come in handy for non-mages that can use sorcerous devices (such as the Tomb Robber). For example, consider the possibilities of a wand of knock...

Special Abilities

Note that wands and staves are considered to be magic weapons and thus follow the same general progression of abiitities as other magic weapons:

+0 Magic Wand or Staff

This is an "ordinary" magic wand. It allows the mage to cast battle magic at long range and to be used as a weapon. but that is about it.

Note that the best magic wands are purpose-built for a specific customer (although no specific recipe is required for this). Otherwise it is a case of the mage adjusting themselves to the wand, rather than the wand being suited for the mage. The degree of adjustment required for a chance-found wand can be used by making a reaction roll on 2d6 (with a penalty equal to the bonus of the wand). The wand must be "persuaded" using spellcraft until it becomes an "ally" in order to unlock its full powers, making one adjustment roll each month of use. [Although in actual fact the wand is not being persuaded but rather the mage is adjusting themselves to the idiosyncrasies of their new toy.]

  • An "enemy" wand cannot be used at all. However this level of result is generally only possible if the mage killed the proper owner of the wand (directly or indirectly) and took it as a prize. In this case the reaction roll should have a negative modifier equal to the original owner's Charisma score (representing force of personality).
  • A "hostile" wand applies it's full magic bonus as a penalty to it's use as a spell focus. Embedded spells and special abilities cannot be used.
  • An "unfriendly" wand gives no bonus to it's use as a spell focus. Embedded spells may be used, but with no reduction in the cost of the spell. Special abilities generally can't be used.
  • A "neutral" wand gives no bonus to it's use as a spell focus. Embedded spells can be used at reduce costs. Special abilities are generally not accessible.
  • A "friendly" wand provides it's full magic bonus as a spell focus. Embedded spells can be used at reduce costs. Special abilities are generally not accessible.
  • A "sympathetic" wand is fully unlocked, but attunement will regress if the wand is not used.
  • An "allied" wand is permanently attuned to the mage.

Needless to say beginning characters generally have to put up with a cheap second-hand wand that may need further adjustment.

+1 Magic Wand or Staff

This is a masterwork wand or staff (and as a result is likely also to be considered an artwork in and of itself as a result, increasing the cost of the wand by the workmanship and decoration).

It is common to find specialised wand of this level that carry a single embedded spell as special purpose wands. For example, a dowsing rod is just such a wand with the appropriate detection magic on it (these are one category of wand where the Spell Point cost can actually be reduced to zero (0).

+2 Magic Wand or Staff

Like other magic weapons, a +2 magic wand is something greater than itself, and can develop special abilities not unlike those of magic weapons. One such special ability that is frequently built into the staves used by battlemages is that of Battle, which allows the magic bonus of the staff to be applied to physical combat as well as magical combat (and raises the damage die of the staff to that of the Magic Die of the user (uch a staff radiates destructive magical energies when wielded).

Spell-storing is another popular ability, giving the user of the staff the ability to precast spells into the staff and invoke them at will (costing only a single SP to cast). Not only does this count as a cantrip for casting speed, but the mage will presumably have recovered from the strain of casting the spell by the time it is activated.

Any of the other special and basic abilities available to magic weapons generally are also possible.

+3 Magic Wand or Staff

Like other magic weapons this is where a magic wand or staff acquires discrete mechanical abilities. For example a wand might be attuned to specific elemental energies (eg, a wand of fire) which makes using the wand to cast these magics easier (lowers the SP cost). This also affects the spells embedded in the wand (which must be associated with the elemental nature of the wand).

Another common ability at this level is Spell-turning which allows the wand or staff to effectively parry, deflect, reflect, and/or absorb the energies of the incoming spell (or even the actual spell itself).

+4 Magic Wand or Staff

Being associated with the Superhero Tier these are legendary items (albeit less powerful ones). The Staff of Power (note the singular "the") from D&D is probably the canonical example of the abilities possessed by a typical +4 Magic Wand or Staff. However all are really unique items at this level of power, and much of their nature will be determined by the intent involved in their crafting. They are also quite likely to be entangled artifacts.

+5 Magic Wand or Staff

These are the legendary items that can shake the world (or at least a Kingdom). The Staff of Wizardry from D&D is probably the canonical example of a +5 magic staff, although they are not simply repositories of spells that may be cast. For example the one-way anti-magic shell provided the Staff of Wizardry is a known unique ability of this magical weapon.

[Sometime this century I will manage to concisely describe the Title Nobility. I hope. Draft number 16 just hit the bit bucket. The problem is all the interesting historical variance (both temporal and cultural) that I keep wanting to add side notes. And really, it should just be a simple generic description – except generic is so bland. <sigh>]

Saturday, June 10, 2017

On the Crafting of Magic Swords

[Still having a bit of difficulty getting the next part of the Aristocratic Caste lecture to say what I want it to say, so I am offering up this sacrifice to the Gods of Blog.]

One of the basic ideas in my current D&D campaign is that everything is magic. That is magic is all around you and accessible with hard work. One of the consequences of this is that Craftsmen can make magic items. In fact in my game, only Craftsmen can make magic items. A magic-user could enchant an item and make it magical, but that enchantment would not be permanent and could be dispelled - or simply wear off with time and be forgotten. A Craftsman created magic item has its own essential identity which cannot be changed by magic.

The particular type of Craftsman that can make magic swords is the Weaponsmith. As with all Craftsmen, the magical bonus table is used to determine the type of magical item they can forge. Note that is is common to refer to the Class or Rank of a magic weapon rather than the bonus (so a Magic Weapon of the First Rank is a +5 weapon).

Weapon Rank
11 – 12+5Weapon of the First Class
9 – 10+4Weapon of the Second Class
7 – 8+3Weapon of the Third Class
5 – 6+2Weapon of the Fourth Class
3 – 4+1Weapon of the Fifth Class
1 – 2+0

Note that if the Weaponsmith has an odd level they only have a 50% chance of making a wepoan of the desired potency. Note that this 50% chance is actually resolved by a Dexterity test in the case of a Craftsamn with known attributes, such as a player character with teh Weaponsmith expertise.

The Ordinary Tier

Ordinary people in my game have 1 to 4 HD (or are 1st to 4th level). This applies to Craftsmen as well, so Craftsmen of level 1 to 4 are reasonable common. In fact the Commoner Caste has specific title for these levels, which explains their status:

Guild Level Title
5Guild Master
4Guild Officer

So to combine these two table into one statement:

  • An apprentice has a 50% chance of making a +0 magic sword.
  • A journeyman can making a +0 magic sword.
  • A master has a 50% chance of making a +1 magic sword.
  • A guild officer can make a +1 magic sword.

This helps expalin the nature of these "magic" swords.

+0 Magic Swords

Now the ordinary tier also applies to magic items as well. While they may be called magic items they are not remarkably magical and don't have any extraordinary magical powers. This is especially true of a "+0 magic sword" which provides no magical bonus and his no innate magical abilities. In other words a "+0 magic sword" is a perfectly ordinary sword.

+1 Magic Swords

A +1 magic sword is a particularly fine magic sword, which generally has no other magical properties. It is in fact the definition of a masterwork sword, and a would-be master is required by guild rules to have forged a masterwork weapon before they can be admitted to the rank of master. Because it has no overt magical abilities, a naked +1 sword does not need a recipe in order to be crafted.

Because of the time and expense required to make a masterwork weapon, they are usually directly commissioned from the Weaponsmith themselves. In addition they are also normally considered artworks in and of themselves, so the price is increased by the quality of the craftsmanship and the value of the ornamentation. They are as a result often considered heirloom treasures, and make excellent rewards for warriors who have distinguished themselves in battle.

A special category of +1 magic swords are the exotic materials weapons. These are swords made outof exotic materials such as silver, copper, bronze, brass, cold iron, gold, mithral, platinum, orchicalcum, crystal, unicorn horn, terrasque shell, bulette hide, or other alien and exotic metals. These do require recipes to forge correctly (although a recipe is only required for the Weaponsmith to master a material, not for each individual weapon).

While a +1 magic sword is not inherently magical, it is easier for magic to reside in such a masterwork weapon and the greater the possibility that the weapon might even "awaken" and assume magical attributes on it's own (particularly when carried by a hero).

The Heroic Tier

The heroic tier is levels 5 through 8 and this is where the magic really begins to happen, both for characters, adventures, and items. Magic items of the Third and Fourth Class are almost always overtly and noticeably magical, and are accompanied by magical special effects when used.

Bane Swords

Technically bane swords are +2 Magic Swords except that everyone knows how to make them (or at least the cursed variety anyway). The presence of the curse lowers the difficulty and expense to that of a +1 magic sword. [I use the idea from 13th Age that a cursed item is flawed magic item and not an intentional trap. That is if the player is willing to put up with the disadvantage of the curse they can have a much more powerful magic item than it would be normally possible to make. It was such a nice idea I adopted it for everything, although truth to tell, the banes swords had this disadvantage for decades in my games).]

A bane sword in D&D terms is the standard +1/+3 vs [a specific type of creature] sword. It is traditionally made by performing the final quench of the sword in the still living creature or essence/blood of the creature. If you can make a +1 magic sword you can attempt to make a bane sword. If you use a specific recipe you can automatically produce the required weapon. If you don't, you can still attempt it with a Craftsman test, and there is a strong chance that you won't quite get the effect that you desire if tour intent wavers. For example quenching it in the body of a slave might produce a +1/+3 vs Humans, +1/+3 vs Slaves, +1/+3 vs Males, or even just a +1/+3 vs People Named Travor.

The curse of the bane sword is the tangible apathy towards the targeted creatures that affects both the bearer of the sword and people they encounter. The result of this antipathy is that the bonus against the specific creature is applied as a negative modifier to all reaction rolls (including the initial encounter reaction roll). Thus any creature of the indicated type is more likely to react negatively to a party where one of the members is wearing a bane sword. If the sword is actually drawn this antipathy is doubled.

There are also greater bane swords which are +2/+5 vs a specific creature. These are cursed +3 magic swords (equivalent of +2 magic swords as far as crafting them is concerned), which do require specific recipes to make. The manufacture of a greater bane sword also requires the inclusion of physical materials from the targetted creatures, and also binds the spirit of the creature used to quench the blade into itself. This always gives greater bane swords a personality, albiet a twisted demented and overall a not very nice or sane one. Self-hatred is the watchword for a greater bane sword. Greater bane swords almost always develop extra magical abilities related to their nature.

The evolution of bane swords is restricted to slaying and doom swords.

+2 Magic Sword

A +2 magic sword appears to be a fine masterwork weapon, but when held, it has gives a sense of being something greater than it actually is. Most +2 magic swords are named by their makers or users, which helps focus this potential into something more concrete. "Naked" +2 magic swords are actually pretty rare and actually more difficult to make - the intent of the craftsman tends to "contaminate" the blade to a degree unless exquisite precautions are performed. For this reason naked +2 magic swords need a recipe in order to be made. And they don't tend remain virgin for long once used.

The special abilities that a +2 magic sword tend to develop are not generally overt (in the same sense that slaying, sharpness, and life-stealing are overt). Instead they tend to assist the warrior that uses them in subtle ways. A weaponmith may imbue a +2 magic sword with a special ability with an appropriate recipe, or they can hope that naming the weapon will bring forth the appropriate ability. Possible abilities include (but are not limited to): increased saving throws against specific things (double the magical bonus is usual, so +4 vs poison or +4 vs petrification are valid abilities), increasing an attribute bonus by the magical bonus for a limited time (+2 Strength Bonus for 10 turns once a day), the ability to automatically sense creatures objects or even intents (sense ambush or alignment would be valid abilities), and so on.

They may also include martial art abilities. They may allow the wielder to use the martial art ability without actually knowing the ability, or may automatically use the ability themselves.

A +2 magic sword may also tend to develop a number of more limited abilities as well, such as the ability to understand a spoken tongue, actively detect things (either by a subtle awareness, dowsing, or glowing in the presence of the thing), see the invible, affect the immaterial, or protection against a eleemntal force (+4 vs fire).

These abilities may or may not have a Spell Point cost to activate.

[The root source of these special abilities are the special abilities for intelligent weapons tables (particularly from John T Sapienza Jr excellent article in Different Worlds 4), although I must stress that unless a magic weapon's spirit is magically awakened or it has a spirit magically bound into it a weapon is not intelligent. However all magic items do have a purpose (at least initially), so magic items may have an effective ego that can resist fulfilling this purpose.]

Holy and Unholy Swords

If the Weaponsmith is spiritually pure and performs the appropriate rituals they can transfer this purity into the blades they make. Similarly if the Weaponsmith is spiritually corrupted they can transfer this spiritual corruption into the blades they make (in fact it would be extremely difficult not to).

The basic holy sword tends to be a bane sword against the supernatural, except the accompanying "curse" tends to inspire supernatural to flee rather than attack. In addition the supernatural will suffer an automatic morale penalty equal to the bonus of the sword and a Demon Hunter (or similar class with the Banish Supernatural ability), may add the bonus to their attempts to banish the supernatural. Because of the difficulty of manufacture they get no benefit from having a "curse" (especially since the "curse" isn't really a curse), and may only be made by a craftsman in a state of spiritual purity (and probably one that is actively blessed to boot).

As holy swords get more powerful they increase their bonuses and defences against the supernatural, and may gain explicit powers, such as undead and demon slaying, magical immunity, and even the ability to dispel the supernatural.

Unholy weapons have no standards as to the nature of their magics, but they are always Corrupt and will transfer that Corruption onto anyone that willing uses them. Anyone holding an unholy weapon will know at once what it is, as will anyone in it's presence if it is drawn. Most people will react negatively to the presence of a corrupt weapon (unless they themselves are corrupt). Fortunately the Gods despise corruption and an unintended corrupt weapon will eventually decay and dissolve (unless magically protected from doing so). Unfortunately Demons often offer Hell-forged corrupt weapons to those who are willing to use them (sometimes even with no strings attached save for the fact that it is a corrupt weapon). [Note that in my current campaign the Demons are at war with the Gods, so that the objective is not the corrupting of souls but rather the supplanting of the Gods. So unholy weapons of this nature don't tend to be spiritually "booby-trapped."

Unholy weapons often have other curses upon them as well, that reduces the effective cost of the magic weapon further, especially if provided by Demons (it's not so much that Demons are cheap-skates but their ability to bring such items into the world unnoticed by the Gods is limited). Reducing the magical "cost" of the weapon means it is less likely that the intrusion will be noticed by the Gods and stopped. The entry of a true Abhorrent Weapon into the world would literally shake the very fundament (physically and spiritually).

The basic unholy +2 magic sword usually has the overt magical abilities of a +3 magic sword because of the nature of the curse. In addition it may be able to draw on the power of it's corruption directly. Because being corrupt is automatically a case of being spiritually wrong (as far as the world is concerned) the powers that an unholy sword manifests also tend to be spiritually wrong. For example it might be a poisonous sword or soul-destroying. Wounds inflicted by the sword may not naturally heal, always bleed (causing hp loss each round), or be immune to magical healing. Or simply be more vicious (remember we are basically looking at +3 magic sword abilities here).

+3 Magic Sword

When most people think "magic sword" they are generally imagine a magic weapon of the Third Class or higher, because these weapons are overtly magical. They are frequently forged of exotic materials that you would not normally consider workable (such as the flames of the blacksmith's forge or a shard of ice from a mountain glacier, a beam of light, or the spittle from a bird), or include rare and costly materials that can only be obtained by quests (this is included in the costs of the raw materials to make the weapon - the only way to gather the required worth of raw materials is to include these exotic materials in the making of the weapon).

Needless to say making a +3 magic sword requires an appropriate recipe as well as the raw materials.

A +3 magic sword generally has an overt special power/attribute that affects things struck by it. For example it may slay a specific creature type, burst into flames or lightning, be a frostblade, do increased damage. It may store spells, or confer flight, lifekeeping or regenerative abilities on it's user. A sword might even be able to be used to attack an enemy at range!

Slaying Weapons

The most common form of +3 magic sword are the slaying weapons. Note that slaying weapons are much more specific than most bane weapons. Whilst a bane weapon is happy with being +1/+3 versus dragons a slaying weapon must be a +3 weapon of blue dragon slaying. On the other hand a +4 magic weapon of Doom is capable of targeting a group, and a +5 magic weapon of Death is capable of targeting everything.

If a target creature is injured by a slaying weapon then they must make an immediate Saving Throw against Death, with a penalty equal to the damage they have taken and the bonus of the weapon. Failure indicates the immediate death of the creature, regardless of the damage taken. Note that the creature is dead, not mortally wounded and likely to die unless there is a magical intervention; Raise Dead is not sufficient magic to actually restore the creature to life - you must reach beyond the Veil. Some slaying weapons also destroy the soul, preventing resurrection entirely. They are generally one class more costly. Which means soul-stealing weapons that affect everybody must always be cursed in some way, and even then are First Class weapons (usually named Godkiller and Stormbringer and the like).

Don't take risks when fighting an opponent armed with one. The presence of a slaying blade is usually sufficient to cause an immediate morale check in an opponent that can be affect by it. Like with all magic swords (unless they are create with the subtle ability) tend to announce their major function to all who are present when drawn. So people who are vulnerable to a slaying weapon are aware of the danger when one is drawn in their presence.

Slaying swords are a common progression for an awakened bane sword.

Elemental Weapons

The next most common form of +3 magic sword are the elemental weapons that are created by forging an elemental energy into the blade. They provide added bonuses against creatures that are affected by the elemental effects (in addition to the normal vulnerability that creature may exhibit to that attack form). Also users of an elemental weapon can apply the elemental effect to targets that they strike. For example targets hit by a flamebrand must save versus catching fire, and targets hit by a lightning tongue must save versus being stunned.

The Superhero Tier

This is the tier of legend featuring characters of the 9th through 12th level. Similarly magic items of the First and Second Class tend to be legendary in and of themselves. The expense and labour required to forge a weapon of this power means that they tend to be functionally unique. Even if created off the same recipe, the results won't be completely identical. For example Mournblade and Stormbringer were both created from the same recipe, but are manifestly different blades. While their primary ability is similar (soul-stealing), their extra abilities are quite different.

There really is no such thing as a "naked" weapon at this level. All the magic items at this level are created for a purpose and are often entagled with destiny (the definition of an artifact). Which means they all have powers appropriate to their intended purpose.

+4 Magic Swords

Magic Weapons of the Second Class usually have primary magical abilities that are lesser forms of Magic Weapons of the First Class. For example, whilst a Magic Sword of the First Class might have the vorpal ability, a Magic Sword of the Second Class might only have the sharpness ability.

Unlike the abilities of +3 swords these tend not to be as clearly mechanically defined. It is possible to create a +3 sword with a purely mechanical sharpness effect, but a +4 sword of sharpness would be able to cut anything. Including holes between dimensions if the user wishes. Or imaginary chains binding gigantic wolves with a taste for one-eyed gods.

The following is an example of a +4 magic weapon:

Tarnished Needle is a +4 magic spear that is capable of performing the Dolorous Stroke against an opponent - which pierces their heart on a successful strike. However the damage it causes is not physical but spiritual, causing a continuing loss of spell points and then hit points until the opponent is completely defenceless and weakened/shattered/tired. And because this wound is spiritual, it cannot be healed by most normal healing magics. It also has several lesser abilities like the ability to ignore armour, that are scarcely worth mentioning.

[Thanks to Weapons of the Gods for the idea/concept of this Class Two weapon.]

+5 Magic Swords

Magic Weapons of the First Class are probably considered artifacts in most games. [Remember that the 12th level of effect affects entire Kingdoms.] So Excalibur is a +5 magic sword, not because of it's incidental abilities in combat (which are pretty awesome in and of themselves), but because it is "The Sword of Victory" and can be used to guarantee victory in any battle when drawn (although the victory may end up being very Pyrrhic if you were never meant to win, but thats the price of using magic - it gives you what you want but doesn't consider the cost).

Tiger Soul is capable of executing the World Breaking Strike - which is capable of breaking anything. Anything struck by Tiger Soul by the World Breaking Strike must make a save versus destruction or be cut in twain. A person. A tree. A castle. A mountain. A kingdom. Roll your natural damage die and compare it to the effect chart for the effect of the blow. Despite the name, Tiger Soul will refuse to break the world itself, even if you do roll high enough.

[Thanks to Weapons of the Gods for the idea/concept of this Class One weapon.]

End Notes: Entangling Destiny and Artifacts

This is a method a craftsman can use to create a magic item with a specific purpose. However like all such events that mess with prophecy it is not to be particularly recommended. For example a craftsman could make a dagger and entangle that dagger with the destiny that it will slay a particular person. If successful (and it's not easy since the effect is 13th level), then the dagger will be the only thing that can slay the person. But it also guarantees that the dagger will eventually slay the person. The dagger has become an entangled artifact.

There are reasons the wizards [wizards are really really high level characters] frown on people messing with time, causality, and prophecy. They generally ensure that they don't get to do it again. And may even unwind the event.

End Notes: Recipes

Recipes are spells for Craftsmen. They may be discovered in ancient texts, bought from other craftsmen, or researched on your own. Once the recipe is researched a magic item may be constructed. Note that if the resulting magic item utilises astral energies the Craftsman may require the assistance of a Sorceror to create the recipe (and vice versa, of course). This is particularly true of Artificiers (the Craftsman that create sorcerous magical items like wands, rings, and statues that turn into giant carnivorous frogs), and less so with Weaponsmiths..