Monday, October 6, 2008

A New Take on Spell Slots

In response to a comment posted elsewhere about the differences I saw between magic-users, clerics, and druids, I explain that each had a different relationship to Nature/Reality. Druids act as intermediaries between the mortal world and Nature. Clerics act as intermediaries between the mortal world and the supernatural realm of the gods. Magic-users, on the other hand, attempt to bend Nature to their wills -- to master and control it. The reason why MUs pay a price for their magical knowledge is because Nature doesn't "like" being warped to serve the whims of mortals and so does its best to destroy any mortal that attempts it. The problem is that, Nature, being impersonal and insensate in the mortal sense can't just snuff out meddling magic-users, really instead on the slow and scatter shot approach of destroying their bodies and minds, one piece at a time. After all, Nature is good at waiting.

Anyway, in my post about the druids, commenter richardthinks makes an absolutely brilliant connection: what if the constant re-memorization of spells is another minor way that Nature tries to foil the use of magic? I rather like this suggestion and think it works nicely with several thematic/stylistic elements I'm planning to import into my campaign setting. There are some kinks that still need to be worked out and this approach does require that, fundamentally, all magic functions more or less the same way, but D&D already assumes that anyway. The benefit of this approach is that it adds a flavorful gloss on the game mechanics that doesn't change the way the game works. That's a big deal in my book. Bravo.

8 comments:

  1. On this approach the druid and the magic user are natural opposites. I imagine that druids would feel a certain amount of disgust and anger towards the practice of wizardry.

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  2. A little off-topic, but I thought I should share.

    Back in my run of Temple of Elemental Evil, I made a connection to the way spell memorization works and the single-use of spells. I then decided to interpret magic in my D&D games as working as such: a "spell slot" is a metaphorical scroll that the spellcaster "writes" on by memorizing spells. As they gain in experience, their minds become stronger and better attuned, effectively giving them more "pages" (or, more space in their minds) on which to record their spells.

    I think my players thought it mostly to be useless fluff, but I found it incredibly interesting to imagine it that way.

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  3. This might also explain the presence of cursed magic items too (which surely must also be an affront to Nature). Every now and then a permanent magic item will "snap" and flip to a cursed state as nature erodes its magic.

    The time scale is so variable and possibly long for any given item that this will probably never happen to an item an adventurer carries. Probably never..

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  4. I imagine that druids would feel a certain amount of disgust and anger towards the practice of wizardry.

    That's pretty much what I had in mind :)

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  5. Every now and then a permanent magic item will "snap" and flip to a cursed state as nature erodes its magic.

    I like this idea a lot.

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  6. This sounds vaguely similar to what they were doing with Dark Sun. The only difference is that magic "could" be powered / enhanced by drawing extra energy from all life in the surrounding area. Some magic users of ill repute and questionable morals did just that and drew life w/out compunction. They became known as Defilers.

    It's been a lot of years since I've looked at that setting so I could be way off base here, but the ideas were kinda cool.

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  7. Every now and then a permanent magic item will "snap" and flip to a cursed state as nature erodes its magic.

    I like this idea a lot.


    This is interesting, especially when you consider certain natural cycles in our own world. For instance, the switching of the Earth's polarity that occurs approximately every several thousand years, or intervals between sunspot activity. Even a lunar cycle or planetary alignment could be enough to affect a 'magic' item.


    Lunar cycles affect werewolves, why couldn't they also affect a magical sliver crossbow bolt that's meant to kill one?

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  8. This sounds vaguely similar to what they were doing with Dark Sun.

    I suppose it does. I hadn't really thought about that until now. Of course, Dark Sun has a strong pulp fantasy feel to it, so it's not surprising. It was one of my favorite 2e era settings, even if most of the products for the line were less than ideal in my opinion.

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