Dungeons & Delvers: Chaos Magic

Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book (which as of this posting is the Deal of the Day at DriveThru) has two types of wizards.

The first uses a Mana system with mostly random costs. For example, Burning Hands costs 1d4 Mana. Only spells that I figure wizards will just cast and re-cast until they get a low roll have set Sustain costs (such as Mage Armor).

If you don't have enough Mana, you instead start losing Vitality and Wounds, and if you're reduced to 0 Wounds the spell doesn't even go off. This makes magic unpredictable and dangerous, but on the upside your spells are learned talents, so you don't need to consult your spellbook to use them.

The second--which we published in one of the Appendix D issues--uses an actually Vancian system, where you prepare x spells in advance (right now one per level), and after you cast them have to take the time to prep them all over again.

It takes 10 minutes to prep each spell, and spells are written in your spellbook. You need to consult it every time you prepare spells, but they're more reliable and there's no chance that you'll accidentally knock yourself out (or maybe even die if you're particularly unlucky).

While working on the Alignment rules for Black Book, I started going through various wikipedia articles on Stormbringer (since that was one of the inspirations for alignment in Dungeons & Dragons). One article explained that basically magic in Michael Moorcock's novels draws upon the forces of Chaos, and that magic "breaks the laws of nature".

This got me thinking of a third spellcasting model that's kind of like a mashup of the first two. In this one wizards don't have spell slots or Mana. Instead they can safely cast x number of spells in a given time frame (like a kind of Chaos threshold), probably level + Intelligence since clerics have a similar limitation. They'd be able to cast spells beyond this limit, but this would cause one of two things to happen (not sure which I prefer):

The first would require a kind of spellcasting check. The truenamer class from 3rd Edition's Tome of Magic had a similar mechanic, but instead of the spell merely not working on a failure, something bad would happen to the wizard and/or to the surrounding area (which could include other creatures). Probably a roll on a single casting-mishap table, because it would just be unshaped Chaos energy going wild.

The second would require the wizard to make a saving throw, and if he fails then gets damaged/penalized/mutated in some way. Here I think I could just reskin the lingering injury table: you could get temporary and permanent mutations/penalties, and the more you fail the more likely you are to get permanent bad stuff.

In either case the check or save DC would continue to escalate with each continued spellcasting attempt, until the wizard takes a long rest and then the Chaos threshold and spellcasting DCs reset to whatever they are normally.

What do you think? Would you play this sort of wizard, either as one of many options or if it was the only option?

You can now get a physical copy of Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book in whatever format you want!

It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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