Tuesday, June 27, 2006

03.5 Universal Magic and School Specialization

artwork by klaus scherwinski; copyright mephisto magazine; used without any permission whatsoever;
see http://www.klausscherwinski.de/ for more

I'm not sure how I feel about the five universal spells in the PHB. Prestidigitation feels like Transmutation magic and arcane mark is very close to conjuration magic. Because of their usefulness to all mages, they are certainly in the universal college for this reason. But, thematically, they belong in other schools. I don't think it's worth time arguing about it, but DMs might want to consider placing these two spells in "real" schools of magic.

On the other hand, read magic and identify are vital components of the game and should be universal. A mage who can't read a scroll or spellbook is SOL. Maybe this will stop people from making divination their "opposed" school (see below).

I do prefer the old method of magic item identification (drink the potion) over identify, though. However, the modern PC wants to identify his magic sword so he can get back to killing orcs.

The other three, limited wish, permanancy, and wish certainly need to be universal. They are so vital to the game, that if one college couldn't get them or one had more access to it than another, it would be unbalancing. For that matter, I like the idea of removing limited wish from the list and making wish this uber-hard to get spell... perhaps even the only 10th level spell in the game, as though it were the ultimate quest of every mage in the world. Perhaps specialists treat it as a 10th level spell, but generalists can get it at 9th, once they know a spell from each college and each level.

Just an idea.

For the record, I don't like the idea of PCs being allowed to choose their prohibited schools when selecting a specialty. It's just too easy to make abjuration and divination "off limits." I like the old method of specific schools opposing each other. But, perhaps its this mentality of choosing divination that has led to TWO school opposing everything.

Silly power gamers.

Okay. Not much else to say about Universal Magic, but I do want to address, die rolling in d20 very quickly.

One of the most important design axioms of 3rd edition was to make high die rolls good and low die rolls bad.


No more question about what to roll when, etc.

Good concept. Solid "spirit of the rule" thinking that helps DMs to make good decisions in a pinch.

Although I'm not sure it's written anywhere in the books, but I read it in an interview about the design of the game.

Sadly, this "spirit" falls apart in two places.

Well... one place, twice... percentile checks.

Rolling low with a percentile check is a must. You have to score UNDER the percentage chance of a thing. Miss chance, concealment, augury spell casting, and so on. There aren't many instances where a percentage roll is required, but they are in there.

Sadly, a d20-based game does not need a percentage chance for anything. And in fact, since a d20 is nothing more 5% increments, converting your tired old percentile dice into a working 1d20 is just the thing gamers need to make their math lives a little easier.

So. First we make all miss chances a 1d20 roll and rolling high means you HIT what you were trying to hit.


Second, we change all the spell related percentage rolls into spell caster checks. This includes spells, like dispel magic, that already have a roll associated with them.

The new rule on their use is very simple.

1d20 + caster's level + modifiers. These modifiers are derived from feats, special abilities, and the spell level of the target spell or the caster's level (which is subtracted from the spell casting).

Whenever a spellcaster is casting a spell that requires a d% roll, it changes to a DC 15 + spell level roll. So, in the case of augury, while the chance to discern anything with the spell initially diminishes, the caster is more likely to cast it at higher levels. By 15th level, the spell only fails on a roll of a 1, unless the caster is trying to unearth something beyond his realm of knowledge.

But by 15th level, you're dealing with die rolls and bonuses that ramped up and beyond the scope of the game anyway, so what's it really matter.

No comments: