Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sola Scriptura III

Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers

Chapter 3: Spells

This one is an even shorter chapter. As its short introduction gets out of its own way, so shall this one:

Clerical Spells. The three bullet points remind us of what GURPS Magic says about clerical spells: they use Power Investiture instead of Magery, they’re affected by sanctity instead of mana, and they don’t have normal prerequisites. What’s new here is that they’re in a six-level list. I’ll jump to some notes on the list:
  • This is the normal faux-Christian stuff straight out of Men & Magic.
  • There aren’t many general-purpose fighting spells. There are some: Flaming Weapon, Sunbolt, arguably Curse. Storm could be badass, but it takes a minute to cast. We’re not talking about much. Flaming Weapon needs a weapon; Sunbolt needs the Innate Attack skill. I think Flaming Weapon is almost wholly because of the tales about the flaming sword guarding the Garden of Eden, and Sunbolt is … dunno. Jesus is the light?
  • There are plenty of healing spells. One issue with GURPS is that the cleric needs to spend points on the spells, keeping many of the esoteric ones away. In D&D, if you didn’t have Speak with Plants memorized, wait until the next day, and hope the tree didn’t walk somewhere. A Cleric might want to have a few points set aside so he can quickly learn stuff like Restore Sight if there is suddenly a need.
  • There are plenty of spells for dealing with Abominations in the Eyes of Iehouah: Turn Zombie, Affect Spirits, Astral Block, Entrap Spirit. 
  • There are a few spells for dealing with NPCs (Truthsayer, Gift of Letters), some buffs (Might, Magic Resistance), and some logistics (Watchdog, Create Food). Healing still takes center stage, but I’m big on logistics, especially if there are two Clerics in the party.

Druidic Spells. The big kicker for druidic spells is that they’re weaker when a Druid isn’t out in the wild. If a Druid goes into town or into a dungeon of worked tunnels, he takes penalties to his spell casting. If your game doesn’t feature much overland travel or it’s abstracted, a Druid is a lousy character choice.

Anyways, notes on the list:
  • This is a total nature boy, Ric Flair-type list. I’m not a wrestling fan, so will someone illuminate me as to what the hell that Nature Boy shit is, anyways? Other than that stupid “Woooooo!” Moreover, I don’t get how that’s nature, either.
  • How did I get to talking about a pro wrestler? I’ve watched it maybe four times since junior high. Back to roleplaying, where the story doesn’t follow a script unless it’s a railroad.
  • You can group the spells in the list into animals, plants, and elements, and you can put the last into the four elements, mostly. The weather stuff straddles water and air.
  • No, there are no healing spells. The nearest is Neutralize Poison. Don’t ask again.
  • There are some straight offensive spells—Lightning, Spider Silk (aka Web), Windstorm, Rain of Nuts. I wouldn’t go wild on them. Or nuts on them? Either way, it sounds like a stupid pun that I wasn’t trying to make.
  • Shapeshifting comes at Power Investiture (Druidic) 4, and the variants come at Power Investiture (Druidic) 5. I have a sneaking suspicion that you want those.
  • I’m not sure I’d rely on this spell list too much. I think the Druidic Abilities in next chapter are a bit more interesting.

Wizardly Spells. First, the Ghost of Dungeon Fantasy Future would point out Pyramid #3/60: Dungeon Fantasy III has the article “Wizardry Refined,” which clarifies and further tweaks the Wizard spell list. I thought I’d get that out of the way first.

Mostly, Wizard spells are spells that aren’t exclusively Cleric spells (Healing), exclusively Druid spells (Animal, Plant, Weather), or those flat-out forbidden for game balance reasons (Enchantment, Radiation, any Teleport spell). There are still plenty of spells for the Wizard. Pretty much all blast ‘em spells, mind control spells, buffing spells, illusion spells, zombie spells, most logistic spells.

No, they can’t cast Shapeshift or Spider Silk, which are pure Druid spells in this game. D&D fans upgrading might get a little upset over this. Another one left out is Scroll, which is an Enchantment. It doesn’t have Enchant as a prerequisite, but the mage reading the scroll pays the FP cost, so I’m not sure it would break anything.

I wonder if anyone has run Dungeon Fantasy without the Cleric and just let the wizards heal. I know Gary Gygax didn’t use the Cleric in the original Lake Geneva games; it comes from Dave Arneson, who made it to counter the vampire Sir Fang. The horror movies on Sunday mornings on WTCN-11 also inspired Arneson. Anyways, the class is a little unfocused, getting its healing to have something to do down in the dungeon. Just getting that thought off my brain.

At the end, there are three changes to suit the genre—Create spells last only a day, Enlarge costs more, and Invisibility works like D&D (lasts until you strike) to keep Wizards from upstaging Thieves. I should note that two of the changes involve spells that don’t only bend the laws of nature, but break a big one—creation ex nihilo. (I’ve long known Create Earth was an ungodly broken spell, and others have said the same about Enlarge.) One thing I’d do if I revised GURPS Magic for the hypothetical Fifth Edition would be to make sure spells like this are not easy. More my take on magic than anything else.

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