Friday, January 29, 2010

Magic Spells - Spell Improvements

The last Spirit of Greyhawk post covered both the Basic Properties of Spells and a look at the three categories of Spell powers. This post lists out the Spell Improvements that are currently available when designing spells. Most of these should look familiar as Improvements from Spirit of the Century.

Unless otherwise stated, each Spell Improvement increases the casting difficulty by +1.

NOTE: As this list shares much in common with creating magic items, my hope is that the list will effectively serve as Improvements for spell as well as for magic item creation.

Additional Compels

Caster can trigger free compels more than once. NOTE: This may need some review with respect to the treatment of "fragile" aspects.

Alternate Useage

Alternate Useage has the ability to allow skills to function more like you would expect in the High Fantasy genre.

Example: While the Power of a Healing spell might be to allow someone to use their Magic Skill instead of Physik skill, this Improvement would be needed to avoid any physical restrictions on time required for healing, maximums, or other non-magic things like requiring bandages and whatnot.


ERRATA: This entry was changed slightly--the original post had an important note left out.

This improvement allows the benefactor of the magical effect to be considered as having a weapon of some kind. It is important to note that this is different from being able to cause damage. If you are considered as being "Armed", you could also use the weapon to defend.

So damaging spells DO NOT allow that opportunity unless you have this advantage. So the benefactor gains the ability to attack, or to allow its possessor to attack, with Melee or Missile as if he/it possessed a weapon of some kind. Examples include a scarf that can be used as a whip, a potion that imbues the wearer's hands with supernatural hardness, or a spell that creates a sword of fire.


Target is granted armor-like protection. How that's expressed is up the spell (and potentially spell aspects).

+1 = Light Armor
+2 = Medium Armor
+3 = Heavy Armor

Aspect Addition

Add an Aspect to the target.

Normally, the aspect will be "fragile" (i.e., can only be tagged once) for a +1 on the difficulty. The aspect can be upgraded to "sticky" (can be tagged multiple times) for the duration of the spell for an additional +1 on the difficulty.

Normally Spell aspects last only as long as a spell's duration, in order to allow for negation-related effects. In other words, if you want to cast a permanent aspect addition, you would likely need a permanent duration spell. However this would be open to a certain amount of interpretation.

Here are some examples:

  • "Aspect: Flying" on a spell of magical flight would last as long as the spell's duration (A sticky aspect).
  • "Aspect: Prone" lasts until the target gets up (A fragile aspect)
  • "Aspect: Target on Fire" granted via an instantaneous spell like Fireball might last longer than the spell itself, though actions could be taken to remove it. (A fragile aspect, that might last much longer than the Fireball's "instantaneous" duration.)


The spell has some manner of sentience and is able to act independent of the caster in a very limited fashion. Often, this means that the spell gains a skill, the rating of which is equal to the total number of effects the spell possesses. This effect can be taken multiple times to either bump up a single skill or acquire new ones. How this all shakes out depends greatly on the item in question, but odds are only mental skills will be appropriate.

For example, a sword containing the bound spirit of a demon might have its own Alertness skill, or Lore, of which the wielder can make use. Athletics, however, would be a tough sell, because the sword simply lacks a means of locomotion. Despite the sentience, the item can't act independently of its owner; it requires a command or prompt of some kind to activate. More specifically, if the caster is rendered unconcious during the spell's duration, this improvement is of little value. Note that this basic concept can also be more or less created using "Upgrade", below, although it'll be quite different in practice.


Prerequisite: Conscious.

Like Conscious, but the spell is capable of basic reasoning, and can interpret simple commands. As the name implies, the spell can act independently, even if its owner is unconscious. Limited movement is possible, even without a means of locomotion, as is speech or some other form of communication with its bearer. Depending on the nature of the spell, it can even have physical skills such as Melee, although these will always be defaulted to Mediocre (in other words, having the skill at Mediocre lets the item use it at all).


Technically, this isn't an effect on the item, spell, or potion, but on one or more of its effects. For example, a Delayed shocking blast explodes a few minutes after the mage casts it instead of immediately. The mage decides the length of the Delay when he casts the spell. Currently there is no extra cost for delaying something a longer period of time.


Like Delay, Trigger postpones the effect(s) of a spell, item, or potion, but unlike Delay, the determinant isn't time, but a specific event or contigency. If you want to get pedantic, nearly every product of Alchemy has a trigger: drinking the potion, applying the oil, etc. But that sort of thing doesn't count as an effect; this is different.

For example, you can consume a feather-weight potion now, but it won't activate until you experience a sudden fall. That's the Trigger. Similarly, the shocking blast above could be cast with a Trigger of "when someone opens this door."


This is the "It's much bigger on the inside!" effect — something that looks small, but which behaves as if it weren't. Examples include a pouch that holds as much as a warehouse (Bag of Holding), a dagger that does as much damage as a greatsword, or a hut that can sleep a small army.


The inverse of Miniaturization: Sometimes you just need something to be big. This effect is used to alter an item for circumstances when size will truly matter, such as a weapon that can’t possibly damage its intended mega-monster target without being very large, or a house-sized carriage pulled by dozens of horses that’s able to transport a huge number of passengers.

Upgrade - General

The Improvement gives a +1 bonus to any effort using it (usually only to one skill, if the device or potion supports the use of multiple skills). This improvement may not be taken more than once per affected skill.

Examples include a magically sharp sword, an amulet that imparts arcane knowledge to its wearer, or a potion (or spell) of strength.

Upgrade - Specific

Similar to Upgrade - General, but instead of applying a +1 bonus to the entire scope of a skill, Upgrade grants +2 to a specific usage of it.

A troll-slaying sword, for example, might get an extra +2 when used against trolls. a ice spell might grant a +2 bonus against creatures who are fire-based (like a salamander, or a fire elemental).
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