So here’s some stuff you can use to make magic users more interesting. Some of this stuff is an elaboration on others’ ideas (“Brains” for example). These can be applied to many first-edition games.
Its origin is lost to time. Its study crumbled with empires past. But the mantra that opens the door of chaos in the mind survives. Called the ‘first spell’, by those who repeat it, the mantra pulls chaotic vapors from space and fill the mind of someone who hears it. The pressure from these vapors must be released and the only safe way is through repeating the first spell or other spells that were preserved through oral tradition or discovered in ruined libraries.
You somehow heard this first spell and its song was stuck in your head. Now you spend your days mumbling to yourself as you search the world for new spells to clear the vapors from your skull.
Magic Users can all read magic at will. “Read Magic” is the first spell. It is long enough and complicated enough to function as a rudimentary language. Magic Users can communicate basic ideas in this “mage’s cant.”
Magic Users can detect magic in the immediate area by concentrating for 1 minute and sniffing, listening and looking. Magic can be detected on a specific item or person only by touch.
The brain of a magic user contains all the memorized spells that are ready to cast. If the magic user is killed by a blow to the head, there is a 50 percent chance for each spell that it will go off on the spot. If the spell requires a target, a random bystander is the target. If it requires touch, then consider any loose brain matter to be a touch.
If a magic user is killed but the head is undamaged, his or her brains can be eaten by another magic user, who permanently learns any spell of the levels he or she can cast. Any spells above allowed levels can be cast once, as per a scroll, but cannot be memorized for later use. A magic user’s brain can be dried out and used by anyone as a ‘spell grenade’ or ground into a powder and mixed with wine as a potion of that spell.
Spell Research, Spellbooks, Scrolls
The art of creating new spells was lost millenia ago. There are a few hundred known spells and variations on spells. All of them were found in libraries, caves, old books, etched in the skin of snakes and in the songs of rare birds.
Unearthing a new spell is, therefore, a major accomplishment for a magic user and something that will forment both admiration and jealousy in his peers. The newfound spell is usually named in honor of its discover, even if his peers futher honor him by hunting him for his brain.
Spells can be written into books and scrolls using any alphabet. A spellbook can be a normal book, a painting, a tattoo, etched on the skin of a familiar or written in tiny letters on an everyday object. A magic user never reveals to anyone what his book is unless absolutely necessary.
When a spell is written on a scroll, any magic user can copy it into her book or it can be cast, even if it is on a spell level higher than allowed for that character. Any other class can also cast a spell from a scroll, but there is a 20 percent chance of backfiring (roll on a mishaps table) and a 20 percent chance per level that the character will be infected with the magic meme and become a magic user permenantly. GMs can decide to switch the player’s class on the spot, secretly or give the option of declaring the character an insane NPC.
Magic Users re-memorize their spells on a daily basis. Some do so by studying their spell book in private. Others might hum a cycle of tunes strumming an instrument. In all cases, they need uninterrupted time.
Spell components are things such as berries, grasses, liquids, small items of various sorts that can be used to supplement the power of a spell. They are consumed in the casting. The magic user is entitled to an OPTIONAL second roll for damage, to hit, on a table and so forth if she doesn’t like how the first one turned out. There is no guarantee the second roll will be better, but it becomes the official roll if the first is not taken. Lists of components and the spells they compliment are almost as sought after as undiscovered spells.
Magic Users have a chaos number. It starts at 0 when they begin as 1st level.
Whenever they cast a spell, their chaos number goes up by the level number of the spell.
A magic missile spell is a first level spell, so that would raise the number by 1.
This number continues to go up as he casts spells until there is a chaos effect.
Every time a Magic User rests to study and relearn his spells, he must roll a d100. If the result is under his chaos number, there is a chaos effect.
If there is a chaos effect, the player rolls 1d10 and adds that to his chaos number. He tells the GM the resulting number.
The GM will look at a table and determine what happens, if anything. There may or may not be anything to tell the player…
The mage’s chaos number is reset to 0.
(I will post some examples of chaos number tables soon).
Magic users have been hunted for centuries in most parts of the world. They live as outcasts either alone or in travelling communities. They have their own customs and laws (or at least expectations). Most magic users travel incognito when in civilized lands. For the purposes of adventuring, clerics and mages are usually at odds but for the purposes of having an enjoyable night of gaming should not be directly at one another’s throats or extorting one another for healing or help.