Thursday, October 30, 2014

BoL - "Flavor Text" Magic

My system of choice for my current campaign is the great Barbarians of Lemuria (BoL for now on). It's a fantastic system (you may read my review here) for swords & sorcery action.

Now, while I love BoL's standard magic system (it's perfect for those EHP and cultists you love to dismember), I also like to tinker... I've already managed to create kind of rune magic system for BoL, but this time I wanted to do something different. Keep reading.

What is magic? When you answer that question you define how you want your magic system to be. I'm considering the following alternative: magic is simply flavor text.

Why do that? Because, depending on how you treat magic, that's what happens. Let's see some examples:

-The sorcerer casts a spell to hit a foe at range.
-The sorcerer creates a magic blade and strikes his enemy.
-The sorcerer charms the guard into letting him pass.
-The sorcerer opens a lock by touching it with his wand.
-The sorcerer levitates over a chasm to reach the other side.
-The sorcerer shapechanges himself into a wolf.


Picture the scenes above. Done that? Good. Now consider this:

-The warrior hits a foe with his bow.
-The barbarian strikes his enemy with his might axe.
-The cunning maid uses her appeal to convince the guard to let her pass.
-The rogue opens a lock using his tools.
-The acrobat tosses a rope to the other side of a chasm and uses it to cross it.
-The sorcerer shapechanges himself into a wolf.


Except for the last example, everything the sorcerer did was just something another competent hero could do, only using magic! What was magic in those examples? Just flavor text. Just a catch-all term for the action.

That said, how to deal with those cases (I'll let the last example for later)? How to codify the system?

First of all, in order to use sorcery (magic, conjurations, whatever), one must have a few ranks of a Sorcerer (or something like that) career - even 0.

Then remember that BoL uses Attribute + Combat Stat to resolve combats and Attribute + Career to resolve other actions. This is important! I've onsidered at first to use the Sorcerer ranks in combat and it became completely unbalanced (a Sorcerer would devote all his combat points to Initiative and/or Defense, using sorcery to attack and defend blows). Don't mess with it.

So, how will this work? Simple.

When in combat, the sorcerer will use the standard stats assigned on Initiative, Melee, Ranged and Defense (or Brawl, Melee, Ranged and Defense if you use Legendary or older rules). He may describe the magical effects of his actions, but it's simply flavor text. Sure, he can't be disarmed or spend his last "arrow", since everything is created by magic... Or you can use the following rule:

When using magic in combat, if the caster rolls doubles and the number rolled is over the double of his Sorcerer career rank, the spell cast was the last his Resolve could muster... Additional castings will result in 1 LB loss until he spends a few hours resting/meditating/fasting...

So, a hero with 2 ranks in Sorcery will begin to lose LB to cast spells after he rolls double 3s, double 4s, double 5s or double 6s. A 4-rank Sorcerer would suffer such effects only after rolling duble 5s or double 6s.

What about using magic outside combat in order to perform tasks other heroes could do in mundane ways? Attribute + Sorcerer rank, magic is just flavor text and the risk is the same as above. Just consider this: if a rogue picking a lock would take 10 minutes to be successful, a sorcerer using magic to open that lock would need a 10-minute casting time (chanting, tracing runes) to conjure the spell. Remember: this is just flavor text!

So, magic is flexible? Yes. But using too much magic may result in LB loss. And, additionally...

...rolling a Catastrofic Failure may result in severe backlash. A random table could have interesting results here.

Ok, I got it. Magic is flexible, is considered flavor text, and have a few risks... But what about attempting real magic effects, like the shapechanging you mentioned?

I'm glad you asked that. Again, this is simple. Remember those Hero Points you've hoarded for being a great player, allowing everyone to have fun and creating memorable scenes? Use them!

A Hero Point can be spent by a Sorcerer in order to conjure real magic. It's simply a way to have narrative control of the scene for a moment - i.e., just another flavor text, only more powerful.

Okay, I think this is it. If you have any questions or comments, please join the discussion. Also, I'd love to see your random backlash tables.

Post-scriptum: You can also use the standard BoL magic system. It would represent a ritualistic approach to magic, while the flavor text would be just an improvisational style.
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