Monday, July 30, 2012

White Box: Playing Card Magic

This magic system replaces Vancian magic and interacts with the Tempo/Milestone rule discussed earlier.  If a character opts to adopt Playing Card magic, they lose the benefits of Action Points.  Instead of gaining Action Points, characters draw and use Playing Cards which represent various spells.  Spells are originally obtained and gained throughout an adventure exactly like Action Points (i.e., start with a number equal to Tempo and gain at Milestones throughout).

My baseline "class" for S&W WB is the Cleric.  I have built all classes around the cleric XP, HP, BHB, and ST charts, so use those charts for this variant caster.

SUITS:  Suits represent "schools" of magic as well as various classical elements.

  • Hearts (Water):  Healing; white magic
    Major Effect:  The target immediately regains 1d6 HP per [potency] and the caster regains 1 HP per [potency].  This increases to 2d6 at level 4, 3d6 at level 7, and 4d6 at level 10.  The caster may target themselves or another creature within range.
    Tapped Effect:  At the start of each turn, the caster gains 1 temporary HP per [potency].  This increases to 2 HP at level 4, 3 HP at level 7, and 4 HP at level 10.  These temporary HP do not stack and go away when the tapped effect expires.
  • Diamonds (Earth):  Wards; white magic
    Major Effect: Create a magical barrier that affects 1d6 per [potency] spaces in a contiguous barrier.  The barrier persists until the aftereffect is expended.  Any foe who hits the magical barrier must immediately stop their movement, although movement may resume the next round.  Undead, conjured, summoned, or other otherworldy creatures take 1 HP per tier per [potency] damage when forcing their way though the barrier.  Missile attacks from enemies through the barrier receive -1 per [potency] to hit.  Allies gain a +1 bonus to saving throws per [potency] against effects from the other side of the barrier.
    Tapped Effect:  Gain +1 AC and +2 on saving throws per [potency].
  • Clubs (Fire):  Smite; black magic
    Major Effect: Deal 1d6 HP damage per [potency].   This increases to 2d6 at level 4, 3d6 at level 7, and 4d6 at level 10.  This damage must be allocated to one target who may save for 1/2 damage.
    Tapped Effect:  Deal +1 damage per [potency] with all weapons.
  • Spades (Air):  Enchantment; black magic
    Major Effect:  Move any creature 1d6 paces per [potency].  This effect must be allocated to one target who may save in order to cut the forced movement in half (round down).  Targets may be allies who can choose to forgo a save.   If the campaign permits, vertical movement (i.e. flight) is permitted.
    Tapped Effect:  Move any creature 1 pace per [potency].  The target may save to negate all forced movement.  The target may change each round but must be within range.  Targets may be allies.  If the campaign permits, vertical movement (i.e. flight) is permitted.
    Variant:  Instead of outright forbidding flight, the DM may require each movement to end on a firm surface.  One can imagine huge leaps and bounds more easily than levitation.
CARD TYPES:  The type of card (number or face) affects its potency and quality.
  • Numbers (2-10):  These are the "bread and butter" of a wizard's spell book.  They are useful as they are often easy to cast due to lower target numbers.
    Effect:  The number of columns of symbols represents the potency of the spell.  For example, the four of diamonds has a potency of two as there are two columns of diamonds.
  • Aces High:  Basic aces are simple "cantrips" easily mastered by most wizards.  However, there are more advanced versions of these spells available.  The character may treat an ace as a low card (potency 1/casting cost 1) or a high card (potency 4/casting cost 11).
  • Jacks:  Represents Sulfur, the aggressive and offensive aspects of magic.  The power of Sulfur invokes mighty forces which are simply unmatched by any other known spells in raw power.Casting Cost:  The casting cost is 11.
    Potency:  5
    Special:  Range is equal to 6d6 + INT modifier + LEVEL/3 + 1.  While this card is in effect, gain +2 on casting checks for any other cards of the same suit or for any other knights.
  • Kings:  Represents Salt, the resilient aspects of magic.  Salt makes the caster a bastion on the battlefield, a fixture to which friends will rally and foes will recoil.
    Casting Cost:  The casting cost is 11.
    Potency:  3
    Special:  The caster conjures a powerful aura which moves with the caster.  All creatures within 2 paces (about 10 feet) at the start of the caster's round may be affected by the suit's effect (caster's choice to avoid friendly fire for friends or buffing foes).  The King of Diamonds effect creates a mobile 10' bubble of protection that moves with the caster.  Roll 2d6 instead of 1d6 and take the more favorable for all duration expiration checks for spells of the same suit as the king so long as the king in play.
  • Queens:  Represents Quicksilver, the most destructive and flexible aspects of magic.
    Casting Cost:  The casting cost is 11.
    Special:   Consider the card to be potency [3].  Healing (hearts), smite damage (clubs), and forced movement (spades) may be allocated to multiple targets (1d6 per target minimum) within range.  Wards may be split into multiple areas (1d6 per area).  The tapped affect can benefit both the caster and two targets within range (determined at the start of each turn).  You may "split" the major effects (but not after effects) of any other cards of the same suit as the queen so long as the queen remains in play.
RANGE:  Many magical effects are personal buffs.  Unless otherwise noted, the maximum range for other spells in paces (5') is equal to 2d6 + INT modifier (usually +1 or -1) + LEVEL/3 (round down) + 1 or line of sight, whichever is more restrictive.  Note that LEVEL/3 + 1 is often referred to as "tier" and is used for many other effects throughout the game, so it should be a familiar and readily available number.

CASTING:  To cast a spell, roll 2d6 + INT modifier (usually +1 or -1) + LEVEL/3 + 1.  The difficulty is equal to the number on the playing card.  Casting occupies an entire round.  Casters must remain stationary.  If struck by a foe during the same round as casting a spell, impose a penalty equal to the amount of damage dealt to the casting roll.
  • Immediate:  If your modified roll is equal to the number on the playing card or higher then the spell's major effect occurs at the end of your round.  Play the card in front of you straight up and down and assess the spell immediately.
  • Delayed:  If you fail to cast the spell but are only one short, then the spell is delayed.  Play it sideways in front of you at the start of your next turn.  The "tapped effect" described above goes into effect immediately.  Each round thereafter roll 1d6 at the start of each of your round (no action required).  On a roll of 5-6 the spell activates with its Major Effect; rotate the card to be straight up and down.
  • Fizzle:  If you fail and are two short, then the spell fizzles.  Your turn is wasted, the card remains in your hand, and nothing happens.
  • Negated:  If you fail and are three short, then the spell is negated.  Discard the card and draw another one.  Your turn is wasted.
DURATION & AFTER EFFECTS:  Immediately after a spell completes its major effect, the "tapped effect" goes into effect.  This can also kick in with a "delayed" spell prior to the major effect.  At the end of each combat round in which you have a spell active (i.e. card played, but not "delayed") then you must roll 1d6 as a free action.  On a roll of 5-6 then the card is rotated 90 degrees (tapped); if already tapped, then it is removed from play and the spell expires.
  • Concentration:  You may spend your entire round concentrating on the spell; in this case, roll a casting check exactly as above in addition to the usual 1d6 check.  If either is successful then the spell persists.  Ignore results of "delayed, fizzle, or negated."
SUMMONING  (OPTIONAL SUBSYSTEM): A sub-system for summoning will be introduced in a later supplement.

SPECIALTY CASTERS (OPTIONAL SUBSYSTEM):  Wizards by default are generalists who dabble in all types of magic and those are the ones who have been described here.  Some, however, focus their efforts on specific types of magic.
  • White Wizards:  Gain +2 on all casting checks for red cards and -4 on casting checks for all black cards.  When drawing spells or at any milestone, the player may discard any black card and draw again until they draw a red card.  Most white wizards are lawful.
  • Black Wizards:   Gain +2 on all casting checks for black cards and -4 on casting checks for all red cards.  When drawing spells or at any milestone , the player may discard any red card and draw again until they draw a black card.  Most black wizards are chaotic.
  • Suit Specialist:  Gain +2 on all casting checks for your chosen suit and -4 on casting checks for all other suits.  You may consider any card to be your favored suit but do not gain any bonus or penalty to cast it (for example, a specialist in Hearts may play the King of Hearts and get a +2 bonus; he can play the King of Spades and treat it as a Heart for all purposes but gets no bonus when casting).  If playing with Elements, the character's element and specialty must match.
NON-STANDARD EFFECTS (OPTIONAL SUB-SYSTEM):  Players may desire to cast spells in order to solve problems or create non-standard effects.  Such behavior should be encouraged but limited to prevent the need for excessive adjudication and delays of game.

To create a non-standard effect, rare and unusual components which cost 2 GP (or SP if on a SP system) per level squared.  For example, a fourth level caster will require 64 GP to cast a non-standard spell.  The DM may require spell components to match the suit or provide a discount for spell components which are suit-specific, for example, pearls for water/hearts or fire opals for fire/clubs.

When crafting non-standard spells, the DM and player should consider the following factors.
  • Suit:  This is the most important criterion.  Does the theme of the magic fall within the appropriate suit?  As a guide to suitability, players and DM may want to examine elemental correspondences to the four elements (earth/air/water/fire) (see appendix).  Sometimes it is helpful to use verbs associated with the four elements:
    Earth/Diamonds:  To Keep Silence
    Water/Hearts:  To Dare
    Air/Spades:  To Know
    Fire/Clubs:  To Will
  • Quality:  Face cards have unique qualities.  The qualities of face cards should be considered for appropriateness.  Number cards have neutral or no significant properties.  Face cards also help in constructing a "spell sentence" as the qualities can easily be converted to verbs:
    Jack = Sulfur = Initiate, start, begin
    King = Salt = Continue, maintain, extend
    Queen = Quicksilver = Transform, transition, conclude, destroy
  • Potency:  Exceptional, unique effects will likely require a potency 3 card or better.
  • Replication of other cards:  An expensive spell component should allow one element of another card to be replicated.  For example, an expensive spell component might allow any card to be cast at long range and at +2 potency over normal like a knight.  An expensive spell component might also allow the caster to substitute a different suit for the displayed suit.  Another possibility might be reducing the casting check difficulty.  Such usage is simple and likely will require only one card.
  • Combining Cards:  The most powerful effects may require multiple effects to be combined to form a "complete sentence."
One technique to use is to write a spell sentence with a verb, noun, and direct object ("I [VERB] [TARGET/DIRECT OBJECT]"). For example, say a magician is confronted with strange mystical writing on a fortified door.  He might say, "I understand the wards."  This likely requires a simple spades card (Air = To Know), with potency requirements determining how much of the message is decoded.  He might say, "I sunder the wards" which likely requires a simple clubs card (fire = to will), with potency requirements determining how effective the attempt is.  A diamond (earth) card might be generally useful as diamonds deal with wards generally.  An argument might even be made for a water card, as water is elementally opposed to earth (water erodes stone).

Complicated spell sentences are likely to require multiple cards to spell out everything.  In any event, assuming the caster's intent is clear and the sentence proposed reasonably relates to the spell card offered, the GM should interpret such attempts relatively favorably, although of course specific results may vary.  Even nonsense attempts may have some reasonable chance of success; however, it is rumored that mages who bend wildly inappropriate magic to their wills risk unleashing unknown and terrible forces, tipping the scales of karma to favor one's foes, or otherwise causing paradoxical difficulties.  The DM will have a sure method for adjudicating any questionable spell casting attempts.

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