Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Magic Stuff!

Magic Stuff
Shadow of the Demon Lord has spells, as you saw last time, but what about magic treasure? Are there enchanted swords, cloaks, and other objects? Sort of. Magical objects are a staple in the fantasy genre. Frodo & Bilbo had the ring. Arthur had Excalibur. Arawn had his Black Cauldron. Agni had his wand of Universal Fire. It goes on. At one point, I had rejected the idea that the game would have such things as “magic items,” but I ultimately came back to it after recognizing that enchanted objects do have a place in dark fantasy. Such things can be mementos from previous stories, oddities that can hinder as much as they help. They can also operate as world-building tools for GMs and players alike. For these reasons and others, I use three broad categories for magical widgets: consumables, enchanted objects, and artifacts.

A consumable is a magic device that has a single use. When you use it, you consume the magic from it. In the case of potions, you literally consume the object. In the case of incantations, you consume the magic by reading the script aloud. Player characters can typically purchase consumables, though their availability depends on their rarity. For example, you’d have to travel to a large city to find a philosopher’s stone.

Here are two examples of consumable items found in the equipment chapter:

     Repair Oil: A thin, amber oil causes fractures in objects to close and repair any damage done to it. You may use an action to smear the oil on an object or a creature that is a construct within your reach. The oil takes effect at the end of the round in which you applied it. The object heals 1d6 damage or damage equal to its healing rate if it is a construct.

     Death’s Heralds: A white, powdery substance contained inside a wax paper packet, the powder is made from the eggs of a rare moth found in the Underworld.
     You may use an action to attack with the powder by blowing the contents from the packet into the face of one living creature within short range. The target must make a Strength resistance roll with two complications. On a failure, it becomes impaired for 1 minute. If it’s already impaired, it takes 2d6 damage.
     At the end of each round until the effect wears off, the affected creature must make a Strength resistance roll. On a failure, the creature takes 1d6 damage from the hatching eggs and burrowing larva. A creature incapacitated by the damage dies and its body vanishes.
     In addition, each time a creature takes damage from the death's heralds, a cloud of black moths spreads out in a 1-yard radius from a spot in the creature's space. The cloud remains until the end of the next round and it totally obscures its area.

Enchanted Objects
Enchanted objects are not generally for sale. Instead, they are  found in the world. They are worth whatever the NPC or PC is willing to pay for it. Enchanted objects are things of minor magical power that persists. A glass box that glows when touched, a wand that sprays liquid flames, or a bone scimitar that glows blue when brought to within short range of a troll are all good examples of such items.
            In the core book, the game presents a set of tables for quick generation. One table gives you an idea of what form the object will take. The other tables describe the object’s magical power. The GM can pick or roll dice for random generation.
            Here’s the form table:

Enchanted Object Form
1d20           Form                         Examples
1                 Light Armor              Robes, soft leather, hard leather
2                Melee weapon          Sword, staff, or spear
3                Jewelry                     Ring, necklace, bracelet
4                Furniture                   Chair, mirror, rug
5                Sculpture                  Statuette, idol
6                Coin                           A copper penny
7                Tool                           Hammer, scales, wrench
8                Clothing                     Hat, cloak, shirt, shoes
9                Instrument                Lute, drums, flute
10               Container                  Bag, box, chest
11               Inscription                 Tome, scroll, clay tablet
12               Implement                Wand, crystal ball, knife
13               Technology               Pocket watch, pistol
14               Game or Toy             Cards, dice, doll
15               Accessory                 Key, monocle, scabbard
16               Vehicle                      Cart, rowboat, wagon
17               Religious                   Holy symbol, book, beads
18               Weird                        Mummified hand, gallstone
19               Ranged weapon        Longbow, crossbow
20              Heavy armor            Chainmail, plate & mail

And here are a few entries from the effects tables.

6                The object radiates menace. Creatures within 5 yards of it have a complication for Willpower resistance rolls made to stop or resist being frightened.
7                You can use an action to place the object on any surface you can reach. The object stays there, no matter what, until you touch it and use an action to pick it up.
8                The object changes color to match its surroundings perfectly.
9                The object vibrates slightly when within 100 yards of a troll or giant.
10               You can use an action to extinguish all flames within 10 yards. You can use the object three times. You regain expended uses once each day when you douse the object with water.
11               The object turns green when within 10 yards of a poison.
12               You can use an action to cause all doors, containers, and other objects that can be closed or opened within 10 yards of you to close or open as you decide. The object has three uses.

An artifact is an enchanted object with a story. These items tend to be more powerful, have a drawback, and may benefit the entire group. Here’s an example artifact.

Blood Moon Medallion
A disk wrought from reddish metal and embossed with a skull-like visage on the front, the medallion hangs from a rusty chain that catches and pulls the hairs from the neck of anyone wearing it. When inspected in moonlight, the medallion gleams with baleful light.
     Raise the Dead: Once each night, you may use an action to choose a pile of bones or a corpse of Size 1 or smaller creature that you can see within short range. The target becomes a skeleton or a zombie until it becomes incapacitated.
     Upon creating a skeleton or zombie with this artifact, make a Willpower action roll. On a success, you fully control the target until dawn, at which point the skeleton collapses into a pile of bones or the zombie falls down to become a corpse. On a failure, you gain 1 insanity and the target becomes hostile to you and your companions until it becomes incapacitated.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Spells, Power, and Rank, Oh My!

When you cast a spell in Shadow of the Demon Lord, you produce a unique magical effect. To cast a spell, you must have either learned it or possess it in a written form as an incantation. If you learned it, you must also have at least one casting of the spell that is expended when the spell takes effect. Here is how spells work.

Power and Rank
Power describes the amount of will, knowledge, and magical energy a character can harness. The game assumes all creatures have 0 Power. Characters may increase their Power from the paths. Players that choose magician or priest for their novice path at level 1 increase their Power by 1.

Power does two things. First, it tells you the highest rank spell you can learn. (I’ll explain ranks below.) Second, it tells you how many castings of a spell you have for any given rank. At Power 1, you have 1 casting for all rank 1 spells you know. At rank 2, you have 2 castings of rank 1 spells and 1 casting of rank 2 spells. It goes on from there. A table in the Magic chapter shows you how castings increase. Rank 0 spells, minor spells, have unlimited castings.

Learning Spells
Your path tells you when you can learn spells and how many spells you can learn. You can choose any spell you like when you learn a spell provided the spell’s rank is equal to or less than your Power and you have learned the rank 0 spell from the tradition.

Let’s say you have Power 1 and your path lets you learn two spells. You can learn up to rank 1 spells. If you wanted to learn a rank 1 spell from the Air tradition, flensing wind for example, you would first have to learn the rank 0 spell, direct wind, from the Air tradition. Once you learn direct wind, whenever you learn a spell, you can freely learn spells from the Air tradition.
In short, to learn spells from any tradition, you must first learn the rank 0 spell from that tradition.

Casting a Spell
A spell is a set of instructions. When you would cast the spell, you expend 1 casting of the spell and then follow the instructions to resolve its effects. Here’s an example spell.

Unspeakable Choice
Black Magic Attack 1
You use an action to cast this spell on one creature within medium range of you. The target takes 2d6 damage. If the damage would incapacitate it, the target may choose a creature friendly to it that it can see. The target reduces the damage it would have taken from this spell to 0 and gains 1 corruption. The creature the target chose then takes damage equal to one-half its Health.

The Name: The top line of a spell is the spell's common name. You can call a spell whatever you like, though. A caster might give spells learned more evocative and personalized names.
Tradition: The first bit on the second line is the tradition. This is an organizational/sorting keyword, generally, but some creatures have special resistances or vulnerabilities to spells of a particular tradition.
Attack or Utility: The second bit designates a spell as an attack or a utility. It's an important distinction for casting spells in combat. When you use an action to make an attack, you might make that attack by casting a spell, attack with a weapon, charge, or do something else. For warriors dabbling in magic, a warrior at level 5 can attack twice when using an action to attack. So, a warrior might attack twice with a sword or might attack with a sword and cast an attack spell or might cast two attack spells.
Rank: The last bit on the line tells you the spell’s rank. The core game will have spells from rank 0 to rank 5. Future products will expand the ranks up to 10.

The Effect: The effect explains how the spell works. Just do what it says to resolve its effects.

Regaining Castings
Once you expend the last casting of a spell, you cannot cast it again until you regain at least one casting for that spell. Talents from paths may allow you to regain castings during play, but everyone regains all expended castings after they complete a rest. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

On the Road

Hello future! When this goes live, I will be in the thick of a travel week that began in North Carolina, wanders around Seattle in the middle, and ends in South Carolina. Instead of a big sexy write-up, how about a glimpse at the newest version of the character sheet prototype?

Design goal on this bad boy was to reduce the intimidation factor and just present a cool sheet that has the barest necessities with broad spaces players can use to fill in with whatever they want. Comments and feedback welcome.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Magic of the Demon Lord

The “magic” of the holiday season is rapidly receding in my rearview mirror and I’m now seeing road signs for the Kickstarter launch date, which is going to happen in about ten weeks or so. The date will firm up soon. Promise. So without wasting anymore time, let’s tackle another big chunk of the game: Magic.
     The game posits that all magical things, whether spell or artifact, derive their power from the same source. A wizard riding on the back of a war turtle and spraying liquid fire from his fingertips is drawing on the same energy source as does the unhinged cultist who reads incantations from the pages of the Tome of the Nailed Tongue, the devoted healer whose touch causes wounds to close and cures disease, or the wild man of the woods who can talk to birds. Magic is magic is magic. It’s all the same thing.

Spells and other magical bits may draw power from the same source, but they have wildly different effects. After all, compelling the bartender with a spell to give you a drink for free is a bit different from calling into existence a wall of water that wobbles a bit and then crashes down to scatter everything it strikes. To help manage the various effects spells can create, the book sorts them by game effect or theme and shoves them into categories called traditions. Spells that create or manipulate fire tend to belong to the Fire tradition. Spells that deal with demons belong to the Demonology tradition. You get the idea.
     A tradition is more than a wrapper for spells, however. Traditions also provide a look at how the spells fit into the world, describes the kinds of people that learn those spells, and what an individual caster must do to cast the spell effect and what a caster must do to regain the energy required to cast the spells. As well, traditions sometimes deliver special rules that may describe consequences for learning spells from the tradition or weird effects that happen when a character casts a spell from the tradition. For example, Black Magic, Demonology, and Necromancy are all deemed dark magic since their spells tend to make the world a little worse. The desire’s end Black Magic spell detonates a creature’s “junk.” Necromancy spells create undead thralls. Demonology spells rip holes in reality to the Void so that demons can slither free. None of these traditions produce happy effects.
     The current draft has 34 traditions. Each tradition has ten spells. So the current draft has 340 unique spells. The traditions that will make it into the finished product will depend on how the Kickstarter goes, though even if I can only include just a few in the core book, I can deliver the rest via future supplements.
     Here’s a list of all the traditions I have designed so far:

Traditions by Attributes
Intellect                      Willpower
Battle                          Air
Black Magic               Alteration
Conjuration                 Celestial
Demonology               Death
Divination                   Earth
Enchantment              Fire
Faerie                          Life
Illusion                         Nature
Necromancy               Polymorph
Shadow                       Primal
Technomancy             Sorcery
Telepathy                    Spiritualism
Teleportation              Storm
Time                            Summoning
Wards                          Telekinesis
Witchcraft                  Theurgy
Wizardry                     Water