Prototype Play Test Release 2 – Magical Struggles

This is a second in the prototype series, working toward the creation of a Magic system for use with All Us Gamers and specifically for the Adventure Cycle.

This prototype relies on The Inner Core rules, On Aptitude, The Book of Struggles, the injury system in the Combat Toolkit and the spell system from the previous prototype article.

As with the previous prototype chunk, this is unlikely to be the final form of these rules. When the magic plugin for the adventure cycle is released much of this will probably have changed. This is just the current direction that development is taking. Play tester feedback may change it.

Play testers, and a commenter on Facebook, have noted some appearance of complexity in the previous spells notes. Feedback is useful and is so noted. There is already a partially streamlined version and the visual chart in particular is undergoing some tidy up and enhancement to make the fairly simple step of working out a spell casting needed, and its cost, quite obvious with no mental gymnastics required. That will be re-published in a while.

On the To Do list:

0 complexity spells.

Spell Specialisations:

  • Imposition – Getting others to agree or be obedient by overcoming their Will.
  • Enchanting – imbuing things with magical properties and Will of their own.
  • Life – spells that alter or effect living things.
  • Transform – change living and material things to different forms.
  • Knowledge – spells about knowing and informing.
  • Force – spells of physical force to hold, lift, push, or break things.
  • Elemental Force – Manipulating, creating and dispersing elemental material.

Please send detailed feedback to stranger@strangeflight.com, along with your full name as you would like it to appear on my acknowledgements list in the about page (https://allusgamersrpg.com/about/).

This release is about giving characters the ability to interfere with the casting of spells, and of spells that have been cast and are being maintained by focus. A sorcerer can detect spell casting and focus, and may attempt to take over the spell to either close it down or redirect it. Other sorcerers may join in the struggle over a spell to help out either side.

Detection of Spells

When a sorcerer is casting a spell, or actively managing a spell including using focus to sustain a spell, another sorcerer may detect the spell if all of the following apply:

  • the effect of the spell is, or will be, in line of sight of the detecting sorcerer.
  • the detecting sorcerer has at least 1 aptitude in the specialisation for the target spell, or 3 aptitude in the sorcery profession.
  • the detecting sorcerer has at least 1 available Willpower.

Effect of Detection

If there is currently no struggle over the spell, the detecting sorcerer may initiate one against the caster.

If there is a struggle in progress over the spell the detecting sorcerer may join in on one side or the other.

If the detecting sorcerer has no focus available then they don’t know the exact spell being cast, the target of the spell (if any), who is casting it, or their amount of available Willpower.

If one focus is available to the detecting sorcerer then they will know the spell and its target.

If two or more focus are available to the detecting sorcerer then they also know who the spell caster is and how much Willpower they have available.

Struggle Complications

During a magical struggle the complications have these effects:

Savage – a psychic punch – exhaust 3 Willpower as if required for a spell cast.

Painful – a psychic shove – exhaust 1 Willpower

Soft – miscalculate – DN +2 for 1 moment

Setback – fumble the powers – DN +2 for 3 moments

To continue participating in the struggle each moment a sorcerer must have either control of the spell or at least 1 available Willpower.

Pre-Cast struggle

A pre-cast struggle is when the struggle begins before the cast action is resolved. The struggle will be to go ahead with or prevent the spell, or to control the spell from the moment of casting.

If a pre-cast struggle begins within one minute of the time before the casting action is resolved, then the first struggle moment is at the time of the casting action, otherwise the struggle will run in six second moments.

Prior to the cast action itself an advance means either the caster may continue to attempt the cast or the opposition blocks the cast and it must be restarted if the caster still wants to cast the spell.

At the time of the cast, an advance by the caster means the spell is cast at the level of success the caster just achieved. An advance by the opposition means the caster must expend the base Willpower for the spell but the opposition may cancel the spell or take the spell over act as if they themselves had cast the spell. Only one person may be the caster.

If the struggle has not advanced at the moment of casting then the casting is delayed for a six second moment and the struggle goes another round.

If the caster runs out of the necessary base Willpower before the spell is cast, then the spell cast halts immediately with no effect.

Post-Cast Struggle

A post-cast struggle occurs after a spell has been successfully cast and before its effects cease to be actively managed due to spell duration or focus. The goal will be to maintain or take control of the effects of a spell in progress, or to shut the spell down.

The default struggle moment is 6 seconds.

On an advance by the sorcerer currently in control of the spell they may direct the spell behaviour. If they need available focus but have run out then the spell dissipates.

On an advance by the opponent then control of the spell changes hands and the opponent may direct spell behaviour. Again, if they need available focus but have run out then the spell dissipates.

If the struggle continues then the spell proceeds on autopilot, not directed by a sorcerer specifically. If the controlling sorcerer has run out of focus and it is needed to sustain the spell then the spell dissipates.

Prototype Play Test Release – Weather Spells

A prototype part of the magic spells rules. Play test it. Full rules will be released on DriveThru as usual.

This is a first in what I hope to be a series. When developing parts of All Us Gamers I generally restrict revealing work in progress to those people I directly play test with. However the body of players around the world has grown, and this chunk of work is quite large and sprawling, so its time to start releasing playable prototype fragments for anyone to pick up and try out.

This prototype relies on The Inner Core rules, On Aptitude and the injury system in the Combat Toolkit.

This is unlikely to be the final form of these rules. When the magic plugin for the adventure cycle is released much of this will probably have changed. This is just the current direction that development is taking. Play tester feedback may change it.

Additional pre releases may include the 0 complexity spells and magical struggle rules, where competing sorcerers may try to dismiss, divert or subvert each others spell casting.

If you do try this out please send detailed feedback to stranger@strangeflight.com, along with your full name as you would like it to appear on my acknowledgements list in the About page.

This release is about giving characters the ability to cast weather spells. A considerable amount of the magic infrastructure will not be appearing here.

The aim is for a weather sorcerer to be able to call on specific spells, like casting a tornado into existence, when the prevailing weather is right. If the weather is not right then the sorcerer can spend will power on altering the weather to windy, and then throw the tornado. Also multiple sorcerers can work together in series, one shifts the weather from still to breezy, another takes it from breezy to windy and then a more masterful sorcerer can take the breeze and build a tornado from it.

Casting spells is an action, so subject to dice rolls normally. However the rules for taking extra time to achieve a result, found in On Aptitude, should be used quite often by sorcerers to avoid the downside of failure when there is no urgency or pressure on the base casting time.

Lets start.

  1. Spells A spell is the method by which a character may impose their will on matter, energy and the will of others at a distance.
  2. Sorcery Characters may have a profession of Sorcery. It will provide for lots of actions eventually, including initiating magical struggles, but here it is only of help with providing aptitude for casting spells.
  3. Force Magic Characters may have a specialisation of Force Magic. That is for providing specialist aptitude for spells that impose the characters will on matter and energy.
  4. Force Magic Spells There are many spells planned to work with the force magic specialisation, but for now I’m only providing three weather related spells. The existence of well defined spells is important for play. In an Adventure Cycle open table network only the published spells can be allowed. This does not mean that play groups at dedicated tables cannot allow the creation of new spells. When they do they should use the published spells as guidelines for the style, scope and power of any new spells they invent. Spells also have to be learned and memorised by characters but the methods for that are not part of this release. Assume the character knows all the spells shown here if (and only if) they take the Force Magic specialisation.
  5. Castings Specific spells enable a broad collection of ways to cast spells. The castings that are detailed are guidelines. It is expected that players may come up with other ways to cast the spells that their characters know, and the GM can adjudicate with the existing guidelines in mind. Castings have a complexity (minimum of 1). (Consider what would happen if summon hail was combined with tornado as a mixed casting. Its not detailed here. A GM should work with players to adjudicate such things)
  6. Will Power Characters have a reusable resource, called will power. Its total is Determination + Presence + 3 x the level of Sorcery + the level of all spell specialisations (in this case only Force specialisation exists). A future profession of Mysticism will exist that provides some will power increases as well, but that is not part of this release.
  7. Cast Action Each casting is performed as a specialist action that will exhaust some will power. Being a specialist action the character not only needs to know the spell but must have at least 1 aptitude level in either force magic or sorcery. They may have 1 skill level in one and none in the other however. Having no aptitude in Sorcery produces a -2 aptitude for the action, as does having no aptitude in Force Magic specialisation.
ResultSpell Effect Activated?Will Power CostCasting Time
Incyesnonex1
Xtrayesx1/2x1
Scsyesx1x2
Failnox1x1
Misnox2x1
Disnox4x1
  1. Cast Action Will Power Cost When a spell cast action is made the character must have the base will power points available. The base will power required is based on the spell complexity. When the spell is cast the player checks the result at the end of the base casting time. The will power points become exhausted at that time, depending on the results in the table above. If the result causes the exhaustion of more will power than the player has available, then exhaust available focus as a substitute. If focus also becomes totally exhausted and there are will power costs still to be paid, then the caster takes a minor wound and the will power is considered paid. Will power loss occurs immediately on casting. Extra casting time called for will then engage the character in the casting task until it completes, at which point the spell effect may be enacted if the activated result is ‘yes’.
Spell ComplexityWill Power FormulaWill Power Cost
10+11
20+1+23
30+1+2+36
40+1+2+3+410
  1. Cast Action Difficulty The difficulty of a cast action is 12 + 2 x spell complexity. Beyond this prototype there will be ways for the spell caster to reduce the difficulty using rituals, scrolls, wands and other adjuncts. For this version assume that the spell caster has obtained a -2 adjustment on the difficulty somehow.
  2. Concentration Some spells allow concentration to be used to maintain some effect in an ongoing manner. A character can concentrate on as many spells as she has available focus points. Concentrating does not exhaust any focus. If, after exhausting some focus the character is concentrating on too many spells the character will have to stop concentrating on some of the spells. Concentration, once released or broken, cannot be regained. A new spell is cast instead. (Future magic struggle rules will allow concentration on a spell to be stolen so someone else manages the spell, or even voluntarily handed over. This is not in this release)

The Spells

Weather spells deal with the natural weather conditions, sub conditions and particular events. There are three weather spells: “Air”, “Water” and “Fire and Ice”. Important details about the spells appear on the chart on the last page.

Dealing with the Main Natural Conditions

On any given day the weather will consist of one “Air”, one “Water” and one “Fire and Ice” condition. (Natural conditions are identified by a light grey background behind the name) Natural conditions are considered regional, an area roughly out to 50km distant from the spell caster. A spell caster may cast a local transition (expanding out from the spell caster for 1km).

A mage who knows the appropriate spell for the condition can transition the existing weather condition to another along the lines on the chart between the conditions for the spell. So the spell of air can transition still air to a breeze, and it requires 1 will power base cost. The weather spell of fire and ice can transition from a warm day to a heat wave with a base cost of 2 will power.

If the caster is making a local adjustment to the weather the base cost applies and the spell cast base time is 2 minutes. When the spell is complete the weather change finishes its transition, the caster may then concentrate on it to maintain the condition, or begin casting another transition which will also hold the current weather in effect. When the caster is no longer concentrating or transitioning then the local weather will drift back to the surrounding regional weather, taking 2 minutes per transition.

If the spell caster has a local condition in effect they may then cast the transition to that condition regionally, at the same complexity that would be required for the local transition and a base casting time of 15 minutes.

Regional transitions may also be cast directly, at 1 extra complexity for the transition cost marked on the chart, and base casting time of 10 minutes.

When regional weather has been set it will change naturally for the season. If the weather produced is unseasonal then it will drift into seasonal ranges, taking 1 hour per transition. Concentration or an additional transition casting can be used to prevent the weather drifting naturally at the regional level.

Note that some conditions can only be produced by casting at a regional level as shown on the chart. In addition some conditions can be produced locally but if not changed to regional or held in place by concentration they will rapidly dissipate.

Example

The weather is Breezy, Clouds, Mild Day. A caster wishes to make a local transition to overcast. That has a complexity of 1, a base cost of 1 power and 2 minutes to cast. The difficulty would be 12 + 2 = 14, however for this prototype we subtract 2 so it stays at DN 12. The sorcerer has 1 skill level in Sorcery and 1 in Force Spells. That means there are no specialist skill losses to aptitude and they cast with an aptitude of 2. They roll dice and get a success result, so they spend 2 power and the casting time is 4 minutes.

Now they decide to expand the local effect to regional. Complexity is still 1. Difficulty is 12, base power cost is 1, casting time base is 15 minutes. Again they get a success so this will cost 2 power and take 30 minutes.

The total power cost has been 4 and it has taken 34 minutes.

If they had decided to go directly to a regional transition from clouds to overcast the complexity would be 2, base power cost would have been 3 and base casting time 10 minutes. On a success that would have been a total power cost of 6 and a casting time of 20 minutes. There is a lower chance of failure overall since there is only one action check, compared to the two checks the other way. On the other hand the two step casting might only fail at step two, leaving the local weather to leverage again.

The Secondary Conditions

Main weather conditions may have secondary conditions. So a still main condition may have a mist or fog secondary condition, and an overcast main condition could have rain or snow secondary conditions.

Creating or removing a secondary condition works just as the castings for the main conditions. However secondary conditions are additional to the main condition, not a replacement. Also secondary conditions depend on the main conditions they can transition from. If the main condition changes to one they could not be created for then the secondary condition also dissipates. So a downpour needs a storm in progress and snow needs wither overcast weather or at least clouds.

Also note that there are main conditions in the fire and ice spell area that can determine if secondary conditions in the water area are valid. So for drizzle, rain and a downpour, it must NOT be a freezing day or a Heat Wave. For dusting of snow, snow and a blizzard it must be a freezing day.

Example

Its a cloudy, but not overcast day. The weather is freezing. To summon snow is a complexity 2 casting under those conditions. To make it snow locally only, base power cost is 3 and base casting time is 2 minutes. To go direct to regional the complexity becomes 3, base power cost is 6 and base casting time is 10 minutes.

Weather Indoors

Note that some spell casting can be done to change the conditions inside an enclosed space like a building or cave system. In such a setting then local is considered to be whatever room or chamber you are in and regional is adjoining spaces. This allows a sorcerer to summon a mist inside a dungeon, create an air blast in a room with windows open to a breeze outside, or a splash if the weather outside rainy and the splash can be brought in through a nearby opening.

The Events

Events are consequences of natural conditions pushed by will power to an extreme of effect or unexpected development. Some are momentary, others may linger naturally after the sorcerer has summoned them.

From a role play perspective these are the main game.

The events are:

Air Blast

Avalanche

Fire

Fire Storm

Flash Flood

Flurry

Mud Slide

Regional Flood

Snap Freeze

Splash

Summon Hail

Summon Lightning

Tornado

Air Blast

Summon a strong gust of wind, capable of knocking over a strong and well balanced human.

Line of sight

Requires access to moving air such as the Breeze condition.

Base casting time 6 seconds.

Duration 6 seconds or concentrate to hose around.

Living targets may save or be knocked over.

Tables and chairs etc. may be thrown about 5m and act as non-lethal projectiles.

Avalanche

Cause a large build up of snow to cascade destructively down hill.

Line of sight

Requires at least a small build up of snow which can be amplified.

Base casting time 30 seconds.

Duration as long as it takes for the avalanche to find its resting point.

The progress of the avalanche may be guided somewhat by the sorcerer as long as they maintain concentration.

The snow from a tree can be dropped on targets near it and built to a non-lethal attack that will probably constrain the targets for a moment.

Small amounts of snow can be built into a downhill cascade that will knock targets off their feet and carry them along some distance causing non lethal damage. The spell amplifies the amount of snow and ice in the avalanche.

Larger volumes can be turned into destructive slides that will smash building, cause highly lethal damage to living targets, carry them along great distances and probably bury them, itself a deadly situation.

Fire

Cause some tinder to catch fire using a small lightning spark from dry air.

Line of sight

Requires dry and combustible material and at least warm, dry weather condition.

Base casting time 6 seconds.

Duration as long as the fire has material to burn

The caster may constrain or accelerate the spread of the fire as long as they concentrate.

Fire Storm

Cause a small fire and then whip up flames and burning embers into a wall of flame and sparks.

Line of sight

Requires dry and combustible material and at least warm, dry weather condition. May transition between a fire and a fire storm.

Base casting time 30 seconds.

Duration 1 minute without concentration or a natural source of flammable materials.

The caster may constrain or accelerate the spread of the fire storm as long as they concentrate. It does not need more than the initial combustible materials to maintain its size, but does need new material to grow.

Most beings will need to make a determination save to move through a fire storm, saving against lethal damage at DN 12 as they step through. On a fail or worse then anything combustible they are wearing or carrying catches fire and adds to the size of the firestorm.

If the sorcerer is concentrating they may part the fire storm for one creature at a time to pass through safely.

Flash Flood

Cause a large volume of water to cascade through an area. It will erode a small path, knock over and carry items up to carriage size.

Line of sight

Requires rain or a downpour at the source of the flood.

Base casting time 30 seconds.

Duration as long as it takes for the flood to find a resting point or to spread out enough to lose its force.

The progress of the flood may be guided somewhat by the sorcerer as long as they maintain concentration.

The water from a pond can be caused to flow out at targets near it and its flood built to a non-lethal attack that will probably knock the targets over.

Streams and dry riverbeds can be built into a rushing torrents that will knock targets off their feet and carry them along some distance causing non lethal damage. The spell amplifies the amount of water in the flood.

Larger volumes of water, and smaller flash flood spell castings, can be turned into destructive slides that will smash building, cause highly lethal damage to living targets, carry them along great distances and probably drown them.

Flurry

Throw a flurry of snow at a target making it hard for them to see, possibly confusing their sense of direction, and disrupting concentration and coordination of a delicate task.

Line of sight

Requires snow or a dusting of snow. In a blizzard or gale it won’t hold and is ineffective.

Base casting time 6 seconds.

Duration 6 seconds after concentration ceases.

The flurry may be moved about at twice human running speed by a concentrating sorcerer.

Flurries can be used to douse small flames like candles or lantern lights.

Targets will need to make DN 16 saves.

Mud Slide

Cause a large build up of sodden earth to cascade destructively down hill.

Line of sight

Requires at least a small build up of mud which can be amplified.

Base casting time 30 seconds.

Duration as long as it takes for the slide to find its resting point.

The progress of the mud slide may be guided somewhat by the sorcerer as long as they maintain concentration.

The mud from an overhang can be dropped on targets near it and built to a lethal attack that will probably also constrain the targets for a moment.

Small amounts of loose mud can be built into a downhill cascade that will knock targets off their feet and carry them along some distance causing lethal damage. The spell amplifies the amount of soil and water in the mud slide.

Larger volumes can be turned into destructive slides that will smash building, cause highly lethal damage to living targets, carry them along great distances and probably bury them, itself a deadly situation.

Rock beds and tree roots will hamper mud slides, making the cast more difficult. Trees may end up coming along for the ride, making the slide more deadly.

Regional Flood

Bring about a flood in a region around 6 meters deep.

Region about the sorcerer.

Requires rain or a downpour, and will collect in valleys. Various key outlets for the water may become magically blocked or constricted by trees and boulders.

Base casting time is 2 hours.

Duration is 8 hours after the sorcerer has cast and ceased to concentrate.

Such floods are very destructive, ruining crops, damaging buildings, drowning people and livestock. Use real life flooding as a guide.

Snap Freeze

Cause a target to become frozen. This is lethal to living things and preserves food stuff. Small ponds and buckets of water may be frozen solid.

Line of sight

Requires a blizzard for lowest complexity, otherwise a cool to freezing day will do.

Base casting time 6 seconds.

Duration is as long as it takes for a target to naturally thaw in the conditions present.

Saves against this casting are at DN16, best of health or determination. Any level of success results in non-lethal damage only. A fail gives the target hypothermia (incapacitating injury). Miserable failure and disaster both result in the target freezing to death.

Splash

Gather a litre or so of water and hurl it at a target.

Line of sight

Requires rain, or a downpour.

Base casting time 6 seconds.

Duration instant.

The water flies at the target and can knock objects from someones grasp, topple items of shelves and douse flames like those in a fireplaces or on a torch. The splash can also hurl rainwater into a waiting receptacle like a bucket.

Summon Hail

Produces hail that can injure and break things like windows and pottery.

Visible area around the sorcerer or a specific 20m radius area in line of sight.

Requires a storm.

Base casting time 6 seconds.

Duration 30 seconds after the sorcerer has cast and ceased to concentrate.

Creatures hit by the hail can make DN 16 saves against non lethal damage.

When concentrating the sorcerer can get the hail to make lethal or damaging attacks against specific targets in line of sight every 6 seconds.

Summon Lightning

Lightning spears out from the storm to strike a target.

Line of sight.

Requires a storm.

Base casting time 6 seconds.

Duration instant.

Creatures hit by lightning make a DN 16 save against lethal damage using the best of health or agility. If the save is a failure or worse they are also knocked unconscious after being thrown 5 meters in a direction the sorcerer chooses.

Tornado

Create a tornado of destructive power that can be moved about as desired.

Line of sight.

Requires Windy or Gale conditions.

Base casting time 6 seconds.

Duration 6 seconds after ceasing to concentrate.

The tornado is 5m in diameter at its base.

The tornado may be moved by the caster at double human running speed.

The tornado will hurl creatures it strikes 10m away, requiring a DN 16 lethal damage save.

Small structures like test and thatched huts will be knocked over or shattered.

Loose objects struck by the tornado will be hurled about and may be hazards in their own right.

Download this as a PDF :

Big Combat Toolkit Playtest

The toolkit has been through a few tests. This dungeon adventure was the first to really have full context.

We played online, using Roll20, Discord and the Dice Roller.

The adventure is written up as a session report at RPGGeek.

A lot was gained, testing that the mechanics RAW flow properly, and that improvising over the top of them doesn’t break anything. It not only worked well but it was a very fun RPG session.

Doing the Dice Engine on Roll20 II : Macros

I explained how easy it is to do the handful of d20 rolls for the Dice Engine on Roll20, but with macros you can make it even easier and get it to help with remembering the relationship between aptitude and the number of dice to roll.

A macro is just a stored instruction with an easy name. In this case we are going to make macors with the names a0, a12, a35 and a6p. These represent aptitudes of 0 (a0), 1 or 2 (a12), 3, 4 or 5 (a35) and 6 or more (a6p). When you invoke them they will roll the correct number of dice for the aptitude they represent, plus the wild dice. Note that you use the same macros for negative aptitude, you simply treat the results differently by removing excess high dice, instead of excess low dice.

To make the first on, go to the collections tool.

Click the collections icon

Then press the +Add button next to the heading “Macros”.

In the dialog give the name “a0” and in the actions pane type “/r 5d20”.

Save it. Mission accomplished.

In the chat screen type “#a0” and press return/enter twice. Dice should roll!

However having to type all that is still too much of a nuisance, so go back to the collections panel. Next to the macro you should see a check box for “In Bar”. Check that on and you will have a nice little button to press.

Do the same for the following macros:

a12 -> /r 6d20

a35 -> /r 7d20

a6p -> /r 8d20

And then you have a nice collection of quick dice rolls and can focus on just playing your game.

Doing the Dice Engine on Roll20

I play test the All Us Gamers system online using Roll20 and Discord.

Roll20 does not have any specific support for All Us Gamers so how do I do it in a convenient way?

That’s easy. Roll20 allows you to roll dice in the chat using this sort of notation. /r 6d20. That reads “roll six dice. The dice are 20 sided.”.

“What about the wild dice?” you ask. Simple, the first result is the wild dice.

Here is an example.

In this instance the aptitude was a negative value for a specialised task, so 5 dice at disadvantage (keep the 4 lowest numbered after rolling them) with a difficulty of 12, and the wild dice with the usual difficulty of 10.

The notation to summon this is “/r 6d20”.

Five dice plus the wild dice on the left.

So the wild dice ( a 6 ) fails. Of the five other dice I keep only the four lowest, so one of the 20 results is discarded, leaving 17, 14, 10, 20. Against a DN of 12, only the 10 becomes a fail dice.

So I have two fail dice and three success dice. I spend one of my precious focus points to re-roll the fail dice against the DN of 12.

The notation to summon this is “/r 2d20”.

Two fail dice are re-rolled.

Remember, the wild dice is gone. Once it becomes a fail dice or a success dice its just one of the gang, so to speak. So against the DN of 12 only the 16 is a success, taking the success total to 4. That is an extra success result. Huzzah!

Next, lets make handy macros