A Magical Choice [WoED20]

A few weeks ago, I introduced my initial concepts for a World of Ere d20 game I’m working on. This week, we’re going to talk about a specific corner of the section of the game: magic. Specifically, how the Spellcaste class works.

But first, let’s talk about how magic itself is going to work.

As you might recall, every caster is going to cast from a pool of spell points and have a list of spells known. The basic casting is going to be centered on the ‘energy’-based casting from the series. Every caster, at first level, gets an Affinity toward one of the energy types (psi, viatae, nekras, vox, flaer, akua, vin, ere-a, or ferif) and knowing a Fundamental spell-casting pattern (Creae, Zome, etc). If you have an Affinity for a spell’s energy and know the relevant Fundmental, you can pick that spell as a Spell Known when you level up. Otherwise, you need to spend a feat to learn it as a bonus spell. Having a Fundamental gives you a ‘free’ power with each Affinity you have while sometimes, having an Affinity to a different energy let’s you use your known spells in different ways. For example, having flaer affinity lets you remove the heat from your akua spells, creating ice and effects with cold damage.

Anyone can take a feat and gain an extra Affinity or Fundamental.

The basic spellcaster just goes up the ladder, gaining free Affinities and Fundamentals as they level, becoming a master of many types of spells, but being limited by the basic knowledge or simply not having the right inate traits, miss out on specialized powers. For that, we have special feats that can only be taken at the first level of the spellcasting class. These fundamentally change how the character works even if they do continue to gain spells as normal. As a placeholder, I’ll be calling these Spellcasting Legacies and the ones I have in mind are as follows:

Priestly Mysteries

Characters who take the Priestly Mysteries feat still get their basic Affinity and Fundamental like any other spellcaster, but in place of the progression of more Affinities and Fundamentals, they gain access to Prayers. Prayers tend to be more esoteric than energy spells, doing things like affecting luck, healing non-injury effects, summoning and conjuring constructs. They can also curse, bestowing negative status effects, or bless, bestowing positive ones. Priests that want to be good in physical combat have a few self-buffing options, but if they really want to get good, they’ll need to multi-class into combatant.

Bardic Philosophies

Characters who take the Bardic Philosophies feat automatically gain Affinity with psi energy… but they can fake others. Be commanding the power of the Well of Souls, bards get access to the stuff of Creation, gaining access to a spell list called Words and Songs. These include many buffs for themselves and allies and are aimed to improve other class features the character gains from multi-classing into Combatant of Skill-user, or these themselves are improved by such.

For example, the Song Weapon Dance has a 1 round/caster level duration and grants a +4 bonus to AC against attacks made as reactions against you as long as you used a Weapon Technique on the previous turn. Apprentice Charlatan on the other hand, lets you choose an energy and for its duration, you are treated as if you have an Affinity for itβ€”this means things like getting bonus powers from your own spells, or fulfilling requirements of certain magic items.

Mastering psi and the discarnate energy also makes bards the kings and queens of illusion. All [Illusion] spells are on their spell list regardless of Affinity.

Elemental Savant

Born with an unusually strong Affinity to a single element, characters who take the Elemental Savant feat forgo gaining any other Affinities ever again in favor of becoming, very, very powerful with the ones they have. They gain free metamagic feats for their chosen energy, plus unique abilities. For example a Psi Savant can mindscan an area as a standard action, discovering where every thinking mind is within a given radius and Flaer Savants are fire resistant at level 1, growing more resistant as the level up.

Shapeshifting Master

Specially trained and focused, the Shapeshifting Master trades their initial Affinity for access to Forms, a special class of spells that involve transforming their bodies. They can forgot further Affinities or Fundamentals for advanced Forms, such as the ability to alter their body chemistry to make poison or gain breath weapons.

Shapeshifting masters, unless they take more feats to gain other Affinities, are primarily melee warriors, using shifted weaponry and superior mobility in combat. If they do gain new spells, they can become among th emost versatile characters in the game.

Example Spell: Digital Spear turns your hand into a piercing wepaon that does 1d8+1 damage per 5 caster levels. You may attack with that spear immediately after casting the spell. If you do, the target is flat-footed.

Spirit Docent

A piece of the Well of Souls has replaced what would normally by this character’s natural energy reservoir. They can gain no Affinities or Fundamentals. Ever.

Instead, they gain a spirit companion who grants access to Spirit Commands and whose nature determines what spells they have access to. But what’s interesting is that they can also give the docent access to Combatant of Skill-User powers as well, depending on their nature (warrior spirits grant techniques, elementals grants energy-based spells.). Each spirit has a limited number of powers and spells known to convey to the docent, but as they progress, the docent may gain access to more spirits or increase the power of their existing spirit.

This makes spirit docents very versatile, but switching between spirits leaves them vulnerable (full-round action that provokes and attack of opportunity). Basically, a spirit docent can be a competent warrior one moment (thought not as awesome as a Combatant) and then switch to a caster as the situation demands.

Spirit Commands are things they can ask their companion to do that is more longterm than a spell. For example, they can bolster a weapon (giving it enhancements) or armor, possess items, or merge with the docent, temporarily giving them greater combat ability.

Hedge Wizards

Hedge Wizard is actually a line of feats meant for non-spellcasters. It give the character a single Affinity and Fundamental, plus a spell of their choice at first level. Further feats give the character more spells. This allows other characters to dip into the magical side of the game without abandoning their core concept. Bards, Priests and Shapeshifting Masters can also take these feats to represent independent magical study.

Design Philosophy

As I said in the previous post about WoED20, my goal is for 4e modularity. The Spellworker class is going to be designed specifically so that I can drag and drop new stuff whenever I come up with another caster type rather than build a whole new class.

All spellcrafters will have the same progression of spells known and increases in spell points. What will change will be which spells and how many spells they will be drawing their spells known from, and what abilities they get every 3rd and every 5th level.

For basic casters, every 3rd level is a new Affinity and every 5th is either a Fundamental or a Metamagic bonus feat.

There are seven spell levels, by the way with characters starting at 1st level spells and gaining access to a new level of spells every 3rd level. All spells scale with level to some degree, but a 7th level flaer spell like Sublime Fireball is going to be much different from a 1st level Basic Fireball. A characer can also ‘reture’ a spell at every level, foregoing casting it to learn a new spell instead.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, there will be an Epic level add-on where you’ll be able to build Ru as a full Shapeshifting Master still casting 7th level spells. Epic is probably going to include rules for taking two Spellcrafter packages at once among other crazy things.

No I know what some reading this are thinking: ‘another system where magic is overpowered’. Never fear. Why magic is varied and amazing, my goal is to make the other two classes just as awesome and to make multi-classing an attractive option.

Next time I do this though, I’ll be moving away from my magic ideas and on to one of the more fun choices you can make in any DnD style game: races.

Oh, and please excuse the short blog this week. I’m getting a book together (folks in the Stret Team, an email is incomig): Descendants Basic Collection #4, A MagiTech Crisis. Oh, and I’m working on one of those World of Ere Shorts I promised too.

Until next week my friends!

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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  1. So, what kinda stuff can you do with a nekras Affinity? First-level zombies: yes? No? How about examples of non-undead spells?

    • Yeah this is an interesting question. Taking it a step further, what would a nekras savant PC be like?
      I’ve always felt necromancy was pretty weak in D&D. All you get is undead servants that are always just a bit too weak compared to your level to be of much use, and attack spells that allow save for no effect and that every other enemy is immune to anyway. It’s a shame, since there’s nice flavour in playing a good guy with ‘evil’ powers.

    • Good question. First of all, the Affinity is actually for Anima: you get both vitae and nekras. Vitae is life energy and can also be used to disrupt or foster disease/contorl plants. Nekras is the power of entropy and is used to weaken and destroy as well as animate corpses/control shades. The key to nekras is controlled destruction. You start out being able to weaken opponents in various ways, such as attacking thier armor so they’re easier to hit/crit on or killing a few key cells to hurt them. At higher levels, you’ll be disintegrating things, syphoning the life out of them (and into you or your allies) or destroying more essoteric things like key points in time (one high level powers will let you just straight up undo an action as a reaction, burning it out of the timeline.

      As for undead summoning… oh my. at first level, you’ll be raising zombie insect swarms and calling in vengeful ghosts.You’ll also have an easily spammable weak skeletal minion spell (As in, you can theoretically raise a skeleton a round to road block your enemies. At higher levels, you can kill and raise minion-types with one shot, or kill one enemy and have them rise up as an undead later–only you have to then get control of them. At the highest level, you’ll be able to pull off massive skeleton armies, or raise up mounds of grave dirt, bind the howling, enraged shades in the area to glue it together, and tool around on your brand new, badass Grief Golem.

      Most summons like that are something you have ot keep feeding power into, but there are going to be ritual type spells you can find/buy to perm a few too. Plus things like skeletal haulers that don’t have any attack skill, but have hours-long durations and a high carry weight. Two words: Bone Palanquin.

      • Can a first-level spellcaster expect to do everything Prestidigitation does, or would you need some time to get the breadth of Affinities needed for all the disparate little things?

        Flaer to keep your coffee hot, akua (which IIRC is the one used for illusions) to change an object’s color… Which energy would you even use to change something’s flavor?

        • Prestidigitation is a free spell for taking the Spellcrafter class. It represents that you can use different energies even if you aren’t good at it. It’s just like how you can take a feat and get a spell you have no Affnity for.

          I love presdig far too much to give it up. Also, Bards get a more powerful one as a level 1 spell.

      • Hmm… I like how the nekras sounds, but are you sure about bundling it with vitae? I assume vitae is the main choice for healing, and if healing comes bundled with strong offense and minions it may be a balancing problem.

        I mean if you compare to flaer for example, which gives you fire, and light, and, umm… let me think… more fire?

        As it sounds, nekras and vitae would do well on their own. Especially if you allow destroying undeads by draining away the nekras that’s animating them.

        • They’re bundled becasue they would otherwise have too few spells per level to be viable choices. Plus, healing isn’t magic-exclusive, so that particular shtick of vitae isn’t enough to carry it.

        • *gasp* You mean “more fire” isn’t the answer to everything?

          Though you might get lightning, too. Is lightning flaer?

          Hm. You should do a blog post talking about the magical energies and their associations. I’d read the heck out of that.

          • That is a good idea!

            As for lightning, as much as I love Avatar and Azula in particular, lighting ain’t fire. You get lighting from vin (stripping ions out of the air). The fun thing about flaer? You get COLD from it by pulling flaer out of targets. That’s why flaer + akua = ice spells.

          • Actually, my reasoning wasn’t Avatar so much as the Bashurra fight. They mentioned the lack of environmental flaer was bad for battle magic, and I figured “battle magic” might involve more than just fireballs.

            Also, I dislike the way D&D paired up the damaging energies with the four elements, mostly because of the Elemental Savant PrC. Turning into an Air elemental shouldn’t make you better at lightning magic, people! Air elementals don’t have any lightning powers!

            So I’m predisposed to think of other possibilities. Heck, you want to screw with people’s minds, make electricity ere-a. It’s the one with magnetism, right? πŸ˜›

          • That’s be ferif. Trough, Ere-a might relate to ‘ground and let you attract lightning.

            Classical elements are hard.

          • Ah, I should specify: I dislike the way D&D handled it, but I have no problem with lightning being associated with air in general. Carry on. πŸ™‚

          • I personally feel air is the right placement for lightning, much for the reasoning in Ars Magica: Lightning strikes are a weather phenomenon, and weather is auram (air).

            Can’t help feeling flaer still seems kind of lame. So in addition to fire you get cold, but that’s largely just another damage type.
            Admittably in gaming it’s often more than enough to just have high damage output, but seems lame compared to, say, ere-a. After all there’s very little one can’t do with a bit of imagination and moving stone around.

          • I admit that flaer is damage heavy. It’s illusion capability is ‘sensations’, which is the weakest one, especially to akua’s light-bending and vin’s ‘sound alteration. It’s the one that alters tastes and scent though!

            That’s why you (typically) get more Affinities though. If you’re a battlemage, flaer is awesome, but ere-a is more mundanely useful and akua and vin more versatile. ferif is less useful because it works best if you’ve multi-classed combatant and can alter your weapons and armor. Vox similarly alters spells or moves things.

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