Serpents and Sewers: Magic

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Basic Rules

In Serpents and Sewers, the spell slot system was successfully cleansed. Instead, a magical system which is closer to the description of magic in most fantasy novels and which also makes more sense is used, based on spell points and skill checks to use the powers. Over all, magic is a lot weaker than before, a pure necessity to crate a heroic atmosphere for a fantastic scenario.

Serpents and Sewers does not use a fixed number of spell slots. Instead spellcasters get a number of spellpoints which can be distributed among his or her spells. Every spell costs as many spell points to cast as its level indicates. Metamagic abilities that increase a spell’s level also increases its cost in spell points. Casters who have to prepare their daily spells still afford to do so. Three spellpoints can used to cast three level 1 spells as well as one level 3 spell. Every spell takes his level of spellpoints to be casted, cantrips or other Level 0 spells do not require any spell points and can be used as often as wished.

The number of spellpoints a character has depends on his or her class, and is determined the same way as the character's hitpoints. Like hitpoints, a character's number of spell points, sometimes called spell energy or spell energy pool, increases by level.

The more powerful a spell is, the longer it takes to cast it and the more complicated it is to do so- spells do not succeed automatically anymore (which was an extremely anti-climatic concept and one of the worst ideas in vanilla D&D).

To cast a spell, the required spell points must be channeled first. Spell energy channeling is a standard action, because a caster has to concentrate on the energies he is going to transform in the spell. The amount of spellpoints that can be channeled per turn depends on the character’s experience (and the energy control class feature). A character, who only have the basic energy control can only channel one spell point per level, while a veteran mage can channel up to four spell points. The casting time of any spell depends on its level and the experience of the caster. The Quicken Spell Feat doesn’t exist.

After channeling a spell, a caster can actively casting a completely channeled spell as a move action, but is not required to do so immediately. A spellcaster can keep a limited amount of spell energy under his or her control, which is also limited by the caster’s experience (again represented by the caster’s energy control class feature). This maximum of controllable energies describes also the limit of the spells the caster can use. A novice spellcaster with basic energy control has a maximum of spellpoints he can keep under control equal to his key ability’s bonus. With greater control both more powerful spells can be used and more spell energy can be kept after being channeled. Even though a channeled spell can be hold for a short time, this time span is still limited. A channeled spell’s energy starts to dissipate after a (15 – Spell energy) minutes. The stronger the spell is, the faster it disappears.

Example: A novice wizard with an Intelligence score of 16 and basic energy control can cast spells with energy costs of 3 or lower. He can cast three level one spells and keep them ready until he needs them. The most powerful spells he can cast are level 3 spells, but doing so would take him three standard actions to channel the required spell energy.

The more spells a spell caster keeps ready, the more limited he becomes with additional spells he wants to cast, because of the spell energy control limit. Still, a better caster can use more spells and keep more spells ready at the same time. Still, a character can try to ‘overcast’ himself and use stronger spell energies than he can keep under control. These increase the DC of the spell casting check by +5, and require an additional Will Saving Throw. If the latter fails, the spell deals 1d6+Spell energy non-lethal damage to the caster and the caster is fatigued.

Spellcasting needs a Concentration check to be successful – spellcasting is a straining activity and requires a strong mind and clear determination. The DC of these checks depends on the spell’s complexity - More powerful spells are more difficult to cast. The DC of the Spellcasting checks can be found in the table below. A character can invest additional spell energy to facilitate the spellcasting process; each additional spellpoint reduces the DC of the concentration check for the task by two points.

Spellcasting DC Table

Spell Level Standard DC Overcast DC Blood Magic DC Ritual DC
0 10 - - -
1 15 20 17 10
2 20 25 22 15
3 25 30 27 20
4 30 35 32 25
5 35 40 37 30
6 40 45 42 35
7 45 50 47 40
8 50 55 52 45
9 55 60 57 50

Spellcasting Failures

If the check fails by 5 or less points, the spell is just not casted and the caster can try again next turn with an additional and cumulative penalty of –1 to the check. If the check fails by a margin of 5 or more, the spell is fizzled and the invested spellpoints are wasted. Armor Check penalties are applied to these checks, but the Arcane Spell Failure Chance plays no role anymore (divine spellcasters are effected by armor as well as arcane ones). A character can take 10 / take 20 on the spellcasting check like for any other skill. In combat though, a skill roll is always necessary. Different to other skill checks, spellcasting checks automatically fail on a natural 1; even worse, the spell effect comes into effect with the worst possible result for the caster, e.g. damage dealing spells who hit the caster or one of his allies instead of the original target. Spellpoints are gained by advancing in a spellcasting class. More experienced spellcasters have a larger reservoir of spellpoints and therefore are able to cast more spells. A spellcaster who run out of spells can only cast cantrips or other level 0 spells until he found a way to regenerate his spell energy.

Spellcasting Options

Blood Magic

A spellcaster can take additional strain and use his own blood to empower a spell if his spell power resources are already spent. Doing so means that the spellcaster spends hitpoints instead of spell energy points to sustain his spells. This offers an additional risk – the spells are harder to cast, so the DC of any spell is increased by +2, and if the spell fails, the spellcaster must make a Fortitude check, where the DC is equal to the DC of the casted spell. If the save fails, the caster suffers an additional d6 of damage and is fatigued.

Ritual Magic

Spellcasters can decide to cast a spell slow and carefully, trying to make sure that nothing negative happens. A spell cast as a ritual takes his spell level in minutes to perform and reduces the casting difficulty by 5. A ritual requires additional materials for the casting the spell, and always require material components with costs equal to the spell levels x2 in gp.

Defense Spellcasting

Defensive Spellcasting doesn’t exist in Serpents and Sewers.

Spell Resistance

The listed spell resistance values –10 are used as an additional penalties to the spellcasting check. A spell resistance below 11 has no significance for the game.

Spellpoint Regeneration

Spellpoint regeneration is dependant on the spell caster’s form of magic. The different traditions offer different ways to regenerate magic.

Divine Magic

A divine spellcaster like a cleric or a druid regenerates 2d10 + his main ability bonus per hour of meditation, contemplation or religious ritual (this does not include sleep). Higher Level of Energy control increases the amount of regenerated spellpoints per hour: +0 for basic energy control, +3 for advanced control, +6 for complex energy control and +9 for perfect energy control. For example, a 1st level druid with Wisdom 16 would regenerate 1d10+3 Spell points per hour of meditation. This regeneration is doubled on ‘holy places’ of the caster, like temple of the worshipped god, Druid glens or a place of pilgrimage.

Arcane Magic

The Spellcaster needs to rest to regenerate his or her powers. With a full night’s rest, the spellcaster regenerates 3d12+ his main ability Bonus. Higher Level of Energy control increases the amount of regenerated spellpoints per hour: +0 for basic energy control, +3 for advanced control, +6 for complex energy control and +9 for perfect energy control. A 3rd level wizard with Intelligence 14 would regenerate 3d12+2 spell points per night. An arcane spellcaster does not regenerate any spellpoints if he does not sleep enough, but he can create so called arcane tonics to further the regeneration of her magical powers. To create these arcane tonics, the arcane spellcaster must succeed in a craft (alchemy) check (the DC is equal to the number of regained spell points) and spend 5 gp per regenerated spell energy point on the substance. Arcane tonics are used just like potions and instantly regenerate the according amount of spell energy points. An arcane spellcaster can only use effectively arcane tonics she has created herself; the arcane tonics of other spellcasters are only 1/10 as effective as self-created tonics are – therefore, arcane tonics are rare. If ever sold. It takes about half an hour to create an arcane tonic.

Misceleanous and Minor Changes

The Wild Magic Feats do not exist. The Eschew Materials becomes a sorcerer class trait instead of a freely accessible feat.

Spells that seriously mess up the social structure or economy of the game or are just incredibly unbalanced are stoned to death while they wet their pants. These spells are banned from the game for a good reason. This include: Create Water, Create Food and Water, Fabricate, Wall of Iron, Greater Teleport, Overland Flight, Ropetrick, Mage’s Magnificent Mansion, Baleful Polymorph, Polymorph any object and the equivalent mass versions of these spells.

Spells who are known for their imbalance and which are not on the above list are somewhat weakened, e.g. with reduced durations or durations dependent from the invested spell points.

The Duration of the spell Alter Self is reduced to 10 rounds/level. The duration of Polymorph is reduced to 1 round/level- Both spells are considered to be one level higher than usual.

The Range of the Teleport spell is reduced to 10 miles per caster level, +10 miles per additional invested Spell point. There is no more powerful version of this spell than the basic teleport spell (wizard 5).

The Spell Freedom of Movement helps only against magical or supernatural effects, but not against purely physical ones. Explicitly, the spell does not protect against grapples.

The Spell Heroe's Feast does not summon the food but enchant already existing food. Change the spell’s school to transformation.

The maneuverability while under the influence of a Fly spell is determined by the flying person’s Dexterity. With a Dexterity of 10 or lower, the maneuverability is clumsy and increases by one step for every 5 points in the ability score. All forms of flying magic require strong concentration, adding +10 to all spellcasting DC’s and –2 penalty to all attack and defense rolls. The standard Fly spell (wiz 3) is the epitome of flying magic; more powerful versions of this spell don’t exist.

There is no specific Divine Metamagic. Divine Casters can learn and use metamagic feats just like anyone else, but due to the different way how Turn Undead works, abilities based on the substitution of this are not implemented in the game.

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