Thursday, March 18, 2010

Game-Fu 8: This Is Where the Magic Happens

All the attention I've been giving Leftovers lately has put my Game-Fu entry on the back burner, but all that had better change pronto because this thing ends Sunday night. So late last night, some time after uploading the new version of Leftovers and updating the site, I sat down to tackle the one bit of fluff that hadn't been mechanically defined: magic.

I don't see magic as coming up a lot during the course of play, which may sound like a weird thing to say about a game in which the protagonists are fairies. But the expectation is that they'll be spending most of their in-game time in the real world, as mortals without the innate magical ability they normally enjoy in their natural habitat. However, when magic happens -- and there's nothing to say there can't be stories that take place partly or wholly within the Fairy World -- I want it to feel distinct from the stuff they do in the World of Man.

To reiterate how characters are defined, in the mortal world they have a number of blessings, probably three, categorized as either Body or Mind. In the Fairy World, they also have three blessings: The Blessings of the Mind stay the same, representative as they are of who the Fairy is on the inside, but instead of Blessings of the Body they have an equal number of Blessings of Magic. Magic is the realm of direct confrontation in the Fairy World, much as Body is in the mortal world. Fairies don't throw punches -- they throw illusions. They charm minds. They summon dragons.

Each category has five discrete blessings. I was going to make this totally freeform, but you always run the risk of someone picking a blessing like "Awesome!" or "Super-Soldier!" that either doesn't work with the tone of the game or is way too broad. So here are the Blessings of the Body and Mind, with examples of the kinds of things they cover:
  • Blessings of the Body:
    • Strong
      • Physical strength
    • Nimble
      • Agility, manual dexterity
    • Alert
      • Senses, reaction time
    • Hardy
      • Physical resilience, endurance, ability to withstand punishment
    • Attractive
      • Pleasing appearance
  • Blessings of the Mind:
    • Wise
      • Intuition, empathy
    • Well-Spoken
      • Personal interaction, persuasion
    • Clever
      • Intelligence, problem-solving
    • Brave
      • Courage, resolve, discipline
    • Cunning
      • Trickery, deception
Characters start with either two Body and one Mind, or the reverse. (I'm kind of dying to have an option for random character generation, but I'll cover that later.) When you're trying to do something, roll 3d6 plus 1d6 for each blessing that's relevant to the situation. The GM's the final arbiter on what qualifies as "relevant," but they're pretty self-explanatory.

For example, if your blessings are Strong, Hardy, and Brave, and you're chasing after a fleeing fairy through the mean streets of Fresno, you could reasonably roll 4d6, IMO -- the standard 3d6, plus 1d6 for Hardy. Chases are often as much about endurance as they are about speed. Strong? That's more about breaking things than speed -- sheer speed is the purview of Nimble. Brave? While it does take a certain amount of courage to even visit Fresno, let alone run through its streets, it isn't especially relevant to a chase.

Now, if your blessings were Nimble, Alert, and Cunning, you might be rolling 6d6, since all of those (to me, anyway) are pretty applicable to a chase: Nimble for speed, Alert for noticing which back alley he's ducked down, and Cunning to anticipate and outsmart him.

Anyway, it's a different story for Blessings of Magic. There are five of these as well (Conjure, Glamer, Summon, Shapechange, and Enchant), but what you can do with magic is limited to the blessing(s) you have. If you don't have the Summon blessing, you can't summon things; without Shapechange, you can't turn into a bear. And so on.

Every type of magic works a little differently, but still along the same mechanical principles used in the rest of the game: effort (the total of the kept dice in your pool) and effect (the number of un-kept dice).

  • Conjure
    • Create objects out of thin air
    • Default difficulty: 9
    • Spend effect to conjure larger, more useful, or more valuable items
      • 1 Effect: Small, useful handheld item of no special worth (+0 dice)
      • 2: Large as a tree (+1d6)
      • 3: Large as a house (+2d6)
      • 4: Large as a castle (+3d6)
  • Glamer
    • Create illusions
    • Spend effect to create larger or more convincing illusions
    • Default difficulty: Magic Rating for NPC target, or 9 +3/Magic blessing for PC target
    • Difficulty to see through illusion = 9 +3/effect spent.
      • 1 Effect: Size of a man
      • 2: Size of a tree
      • 3: Size of a house
      • 4: Size of a castle
  • Shapechange
    • Change shape
    • Default difficulty: 6
    • Spend effect to change into more powerful forms or extend the duration of the change
      • 1 Effect: Size of a man, one additional blessing appropriate to the form
      • 2: Size of a horse, two additional blessings
      • 3: Size of a tree, three additional blessings
      • 4: Size of a dragon, four additional blessings
  • Summon
    • Call forth supernatural beings from the aether -- or from, y'know, next door
    • Default difficulty: 9
    • Spend effect to summon more powerful beings or extend their stay
    • Every summoned being has at least one blessing and one curse. Indulging the creature's curse lets the summoner spend Misfortune.
      • 1 Effect: Creature has one blessing, stays for one day
      • 2: Two blessings, one week
      • 3: Three blessings, one month
      • 4: Four blessings, one year
  • Enchant
    • Charm, fascinate, implant suggestions
    • Default difficulty: Magic Rating for NPC target, 9 +3/Magic blessing for PC target
    • Spend effect to enhance the strength of the enchantment or extend its duration
    • Record amount of unspent effect. When the target is given an objectionable order, spend an effect to have him do it. Otherwise, he snaps out of it. I.e., you need at least two points of effect to really charm someone: one point to charm him for an hour, and the other to make him do something during that hour. Unobjectionable orders -- anything the target might reasonably do under his own volition -- don't require the enchanter to spend any effect.
      • 1 Effect: One hour
      • 2: One day
      • 3: One week
      • 4: One month
I'm throwing around this phrase "Magic Rating" pretty casually without having mentioned it until now. Basically, I want this to be a players-make-all-rolls game. The opposition has ratings for Body, Mind, and Magic. When you act against an opponent, you're going for the relevant rating -- Body Rating for physical attacks, etc. These range in increments of three from 6 (a very low rating, easily beatable with 3d6) to, say, 18 (not a guarantee even with 5d6). I'll go into this more in the next post.

Note that a default difficulty of 9 is especially easy to obtain considering that you'll be rolling at least 4d6, not including any relevant Mind blessings or Fortune spent on the roll.

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