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My homebrew - Weird Spells

Posted: Sun Mar 01, 2020 12:48 am
by Chompy
I’d like to share a bit more of the mix-up of 1st, 2nd and homebrew I've been running. Hopefully it’ll be useful/interesting to other folks, plus I'd be interested to hear any feedback and suggestions. I don't own every 2E rulebook yet, plus I've not been on the forum super long, so if this has already been talked about or there's other takes on the same thing to go read somewhere please let me know!
Rather than just lump this homebrew rambling in one giant posts I thought I'd pick and choose and give them each their own thread - once in a while, so hopefully I don't spam the place...

Spells! I do know there’s some rules now about spell schools, so what I’m about to talk about may be an inferior version of that. Basically, the idea here is to add some colour and variety to the spells used by players and NPCs. I’m one of the people who likes the AFF system because it’s simple, so this was an attempt to make spellcasting broader without making it any deeper.
Personalise Spell and Combine are no longer cast on the fly, but instead these are treated as the creation of a new spell. Customised spells can be learned, taught and created by NPCs and Heroes alike. But it’s not possible to personalise or combine already customised spells, only classic ones.
Here’s the idea:
The spells listed in the rulebook are classic spells. They are the spells you learn studying in Salamonis or the Forest of Yore, for example, or get taught by a strict tutor your rich parents hired. This is reflected in their very direct names and lack of unnecessary effects – the Light spell makes Light, the Levitate spell makes things levitate. Very practical and utilitarian.

Any spell that was created by personalising a classic spell, or combining two classic spells, is a ‘weird’ spell. They usually have flashier effects that might intentionally disguise which of the classic spells it actually is, and a much more informal name, eg:

The Wailing Wall (Fog) [3]
The fog created by this spell appears to have ghostly faces floating in it, silently crying out.

Mighty Golden Hammer (Breach) [3]
Before impact, the target appears to be struck by a giant glowing golden hammer.

Mayal’s Gaze (See Through + Glowing Eyes) [4]
The caster’s eyes glow for the duration of the See Through effect.

The casting costs are worked out the same as it would be using Personalise Spell (+1) or Combine (+2). This means some custom spells are actually awful in terms of effect versus casting cost. Maybe that’s why those teachers disapprove so much?

The big advantage of this is variety in terms of magic, without having to work out and balance a whole new set of unique spells. It might even be that two identical weird spells have different names because more than one person had the same idea. Though I do make sure not to explicitly state the component spells of any spell that the heroes haven’t learned – it’s up to the players to recognise the effects and come to a conclusion on what exactly the spell is doing. Consider also that without seeing a demonstration first and passing a magic roll to recognise it they might end up paying a sackful of gold to Jorg to learn his 'Fearful Pitch' spell only to find out it’s just (Darkness + Fear), the same as the 'Night Terror' spell they already know...

There’s another advantage to me in that I get to come up with particular spells for my villains simply by combining or personalising a few classic spells, and coming up with interesting names for them. It keeps the players guessing at exactly what is being cast. If there’s a villain group, I’ll usually come up with one set of spells that they each use a few of. Sort of like how a militia may all use the same type of sword, all the mages in the ‘Cult of Wedling’ might use a handful of particular weird spells. Find a spellbook on one of them and now you know what spells the others might be throwing at you so you can prepare appropriately.

I also make sure to come up with some spells whenever there are neutral or friendly magic users in an adventure that have a suitable background. And of course, even though they’re weird spells, I still re-use a lot. After all they’re being taught like regular spells, so the more common ones will crop up often. Truly unique spells are still rare. For the heroes, it means spellcasters get their own version of finding that rare sword or magic shield, or fancy set of armour. In that maybe they find a scroll with a particularly potent weird spell. Or find a spellbook with a few spells they’ve never seen before. Or find a travelling mage who will teach them an interesting spell if they [insert quest here!] for him first.

I’ve got the cost of creating a new weird spell, and the time it takes, to be three times the same as if the heroes were learning the resultant spell - and they have to know any spells that they’re combining. This hasn’t been tested yet since nobody has yet got around to wanting to make their own spells, so I can’t say if it’s too high or low. It may be easier to rule out spell creation for heroes entirely, as something that takes “years of experimentation” or the like - which is something I considered and could go either way on. But the idea is it would take a lot of experimentation and effort to come up with something new, and so encourage the heroes to seek out new spells and leave the spell tinkering to people that want to stay at home all day messing with magical energies.

As for lore, these weird spells would be frowned upon by the more classically trained and uptight, since it isn’t the ‘correct’ way of casting those spells. On the other hand casting classical spells out in the wild might make others who know magic think you’re a bit of an academic who isn’t used to the rough life. They’re also less fancy looking, so may be less likely to impress the locals. So the spells starting Heroes and NPCs know depend on their background. For example, if a hero was taught magic by their uncle who ran away from home to start a magic curiosity shop, their spellbook might have more custom spells than classic ones. Or a barbarian hero might know several spells unique to his tribe and related to their particular culture with not a classic spell in sight. A student fresh out of Salamonis, nothing but classic spells.

Anyway, that’s the idea I’ve been running with. Using Combine and Personalise to create custom spells to add flavour and variety to casting without having to come up with unique spell effects and somehow balance that with casting costs and durations and suchlike. Then using this to create unique 'loot' and pools of spells for various factions and backgrounds. If I share any adventures with weird spell lists in them, at least now you'll know what that's about even if you don't agree. :P

Re: My homebrew - Weird Spells

Posted: Mon Mar 02, 2020 9:29 pm
by LordArioch
The Wailing Wall (Fog) [3]
The fog created by this spell appears to have ghostly faces floating in it, silently crying out.
Very cinematic kind of spell! What effect does it have mechanically in the game? Morale effect? An actually audible wailing, moaning, keening would be far better than a silent wall IMO.

Re: My homebrew - Weird Spells

Posted: Tue Mar 03, 2020 2:31 am
by Chompy
Mechanically, no difference to a standard Fog spell as it's just a minor illusion added to it... unless AFF has added some morale rules I've forgotten about.
Though I would have any characters act more afraid of it were I the Director (or really getting into my role as a Hero). Any heroes (or their players) who don't know exactly what the spell is might be more wary of it than they would at seeing a more standard bank of fog rolling in anyway, since who knows what it might do if you get too close. Combining a Fog spell and a Fear spell could give the effect you're after more mechanically though, along with personalising it for the visual/audio effect. There's a very similar example in the 2nd Edition rulebook detailing how Personalise Spell traditionally works:
...allows a spell to manifest in a particular way. Thus a Fear spell may appear as dark shadows that swirl round the target inducing terror, and a Restrain spell may appear as golden chains wrapped around the victim...
Also I did accidentally imply in my original post that Personalising a spell is always +1 but this isn't the case, as in the rulebook it's said it can go as high as +6 depending on the effect.
Despite being a rank 1 spell, there may be an additional +1 to +6 magic point cost depending on the extent of the Personalisation. This additional cost is decided by the Director based upon the specification of the player.
So something like:

Swirling Horror (Fog + Fear) [4]
Truly Wailing Wall (Fog) [4]
The fog created by this spell appears to have ghostly faces floating in it, wailing and moaning.

The latter having +2 points spent on the personalisation effect to add the auditory effects rather than the simple visual illusion.

You could go all out designing a very strong spell...

Choria's Horrific Wailing Wall (Fog+Fear) [6]
The fog created by this spell appears to have ghostly faces in it, wailing and moaning.

Re: My homebrew - Weird Spells

Posted: Tue Mar 03, 2020 2:48 am
by LordArioch
FOG: -6 to physical activities (incl. melee, hand-to-hand).
A new spell should have something to make it functionally different, or at least add to what is BtB/RAW.
As for a quick-n-dirty morale rule:

All non-heroes drop whatever is held or carried, turn and rout as far as possible from the wailing fog. (This way any "normal men", "0-level" characters in the party turn tail in terror, leaving the baggage behind).

I like the idea of some kind of morale check for the Heroes (with a bonus, perhaps). I'm not sure if it would be SKILL + a "WILLPOWER" Special Skill + 2d6 against a set difficulty number, or LUCK. I know morale checks for PCs is an intensely unpopular subject in most circles, but I'm not trying to win a popularity contest. :)

Re: My homebrew - Weird Spells

Posted: Wed Mar 04, 2020 10:36 am
by Eddie
really if the spell is identical to an existing spell in effect it should just cost the same.

i like the idea of variant spells that look different but are mechanically the same, however i think this is more useful for NPC's or baddies because it circumvents player knowledge to an extent.

actually it's more effective against players who know more and less effective against the lesser knowledgeable players who don't know all of the spells anyway.

so is meta gaming the meta gamers to the point they're at a disadvantage for their metagaming an issue or not?

think that's a philosophical rabbit warren and the answers will vary depending on group.

Re: My homebrew - Weird Spells

Posted: Thu Mar 05, 2020 12:30 am
by Chompy
The idea for this, for me at least, did originally spring from trying to give a particular villain group some unique spells using the rules for +1 to +6 personalisation. Since they were all part of the same group they all had the spells personalised in the same way. And at that point it was a short step to thinking, "why wouldn't this be its own spell?" New members of the group get taught it in that particular way... and follow that on to spells in general throughout the world. Then factor in that heroes who defeat the mage and raid their magical workshop to find their spellbook always want that flashy spell they were using... and I ended up with the rules for weird spells that I've been using since. :D

I did leave the mechanical differences out of the original post since I was worried that it was already long enough. But extending personalisation to the effect itself is absolutely something I've done, though more for the rarer spells as I'm always concerned that changing a spell too much might result in something that's far too strong or can be used in a particular way to very much derail adventures.

So going back to the various types of Fog + Fear spells I've been using for examples. What I would almost definitely want to do to make the spell more interesting is something like have the Fear part of the spell affect anyone who touches the fog itself. Rather than the standard activation of just choosing one target. Perhaps with a limit on the number of people it can affect - just the first person, or the first three, or maybe relate it to the points put into the casting as some other spells do. So the spell can be cast with an extra point spent for each additional two people that it can affect. There's definitely a lot of creative ways that the classic spells can be combined.

Swirling Horror (Fog + Fear) [4]
The Fear component of this spell affects only the first person to touch the fog itself.
Though an additional two people can be affected for each additional point spent when casting.


Bridge Burner (Breach + Sentry) [4]
The Breach spell activates only when the Sentry spell is triggered.

Generally the costs are higher even for small changes, because I like to think of them as less efficient than the classic spells, but there's no reason not to just lower the costs of any spells you're putting together so long as you're the Director. If it takes good spellcrafting to keep casting costs low it could even be that a particularly sought after spell is absolutely identical to a particular some other spell... but has a lower casting cost. A bit like finding a magic sword that gives you +1 to your combat roll. It's the same, just better.

No Frills Gills (Gills) [3]

Re: My homebrew - Weird Spells

Posted: Thu Mar 05, 2020 8:11 pm
by Eddie
a combination of spells that would be interesting is one that does not allow a Luck Test (say Force bolt) with one that does allow one (like Fear)

then if someone fails they take damage and flee, but if someone passes they just take the damage.

some combinations would make no sense to be very expensive: Death Animate for example should not cost 16 magic points: a spell which kills and animates as an undead is less useful because if you can throw a Death Spell around the second part is likely pointless. although funny.

it could be quite powerful if they had to pass tests to avoid each part: fire bolt and fear combi spell would be 2 tests for Luck (for a player) and burn their reserves very rapidly indeed. against monsters it would be less powerful, creating another spell that is really very different depending on who uses it.

i like the idea by the way, just ruminating ideas for different approaches with this idea.

Fearful Illusion: creates and illusory bridge and makes them scared enough to run across it!

Re: My homebrew - Weird Spells

Posted: Thu Mar 12, 2020 8:56 pm
by Chompy
I don't want to post up the full spell list my current bad guys are using just yet in case my players spot it at some point, but I still think it's fun to come up with new ideas. :P

Death spell is one that I'd not thought to combine, though it could be interesting especially with what you mention about combining those with luck tests and those without. Since the death spell has no saves at all, it could perhaps get weaker from combining it... which might offset making it stronger in other ways. Say, a combination of Death with Starry Orb: Anyone that fails their intelligence roll or luck test on gazing at the Starry Orb is transfixed, and swiftly drops dead on the spot. The death spell is weaker because it now has a roll to avoid the effect, but now it can potentially affect multiple people so long as they're all within 3m. A whole adventure could spring out of hunting down a particularly nefarious wizard who managed to cast in in a crowded location or royal court, perhaps as part of a coup. Maybe they were a hired assassin, or they had such a grudge that they spent years planning their revenge and working on the spell as their masterpiece.

Dimwit's Demise (Death+Starry Orb) [16 + caster ages 1 year]
Anyone that fails their intelligence roll or luck test on gazing at the Starry Orb is not only transfixed, but then swiftly drops dead on the spot.

Another idea using powerful spells:
Spectral Kidnapper (Assassin's Dagger + Teleport) [16]
The ghostly hand summoned by this spell does not hold a dagger, but will instead attempt to grab hold of the target. Anyone grabbed will be instantly teleported to the location chosen by the caster.

Though it occurs to me that last one could be abused by setting the location to say, inside a volcano. So er... maybe it should be...

Spectral Kidnapper (Assassin's Dagger + Teleport) [16]
The ghostly hand summoned by this spell does not hold a dagger, but will instead attempt to grab hold of the target. Anyone grabbed will be instantly teleported to the location where the spell was cast.

You could still dig a hole filled with spikes under where you cast it, in the time it takes to find your victim, but at this cost it's more of a villain spell anyway. So I'd have them arrive in a cage in the middle of the bad guy's lair and figure a way to break out, maybe. Though kidnapping a whole adventuring party could be quite difficult as it would require multiple casts, once per victim. Though having the spell used on someone else important to the heroes so they have to go on a rescue mission could work, or perhaps an evil group has several wizards each cast it on a different party member.