View Full Version : A low magic campaign

2006-10-04, 06:39 PM
So, my first organized campaign (apparently I was notes and mechanics intolerant) and I've decided I'd like to make it grim, gritty, medieval and as low magic as possible.

I have used the called shot and maiming rules from Grim n Gritty (check www.grimngritty.com), but it's magic that;s been bugging me. See, the chars won;t be getting ANY magic items and there are no spellcasting classes to use for npcs that won't somehow ruin the power balance.

Are there any low-magic core classes out there? Is binder a good option?

What about monsters? Will characters be able to stand up to monsters without the necessary magical backup?

2006-10-04, 06:49 PM
Two things:

1) Don't. use. called shot. Trust me on this one.

2) Adept NPC class only gets up to 6 level spells, and not very many. Let someone gestault an adept-fighter/rogue/expert whatever.

Fax Celestis
2006-10-04, 06:49 PM
Binders are not "low-magic." In addition, your players will be pwnt by monsters equal to their CR without gear.

2006-10-04, 07:37 PM
Binders are right on par with all other classes in terms of "mageyness". They can spew flames, toss around supernatural spell-like abilities, and the like. I'd suggest creating some classes (priest, arcanist, etc) that can achieve minor magical abilities, such as feats of luck, or bursts of insight. Something that can definitely be explained away, logically, by science (none of the Jesus science, either). In this way, it just looks like a character has learned some tricks, or developed their abilities beyond human potential (or whatever races you use).

If you want a low magic campaign, you will have to stay away from certain monsters that can only be defeated by magic. ANYTHING with damage reduction requiring magic items to get around it is obviously bad. Things that can only be hurt by magic or similar things is a bad idea (like a troll that will only heal the crap out of itself unless they have a VAT of acid, or a bonfire handy).

You might wanna look at some of the stuff from Ravenloft; its low magic, but might be too gothic for what you are looking for.

2006-10-04, 08:20 PM
In fact I am currently looking up at ravenloft, but there isn't a very low magic mechanic basis. The powers checks seem to be a hindrance.

I have already excluded all magic-vulnerable creatures. I have also changed their damage reductions with other factors, for example 10/moonlight, or 5/reflection. Creatures can also be repelled by non-spellcasters through other means, such as mundane fire, symbols etc.

I thought I could use a maigc system like the one on Call Of Cthulhu d20, where everybody can cast spells, albeit with a price on their integrity. Problem is, one of the PCs has already chosen the generic spellcaster class (Unearthed Arcana).

2006-10-04, 08:45 PM
I thought I could use a maigc system like the one on Call Of Cthulhu d20, where everybody can cast spells, albeit with a price on their integrity. Problem is, one of the PCs has already chosen the generic spellcaster class (Unearthed Arcana).
The CoC magic system is good for CoC, but they've added a lot of D&D-type spells in CoC d20. If you want the real thing, check out BRP CoC ;D

One thing you can do to reduce the "D&D-ness" of the magic system (without swapping it for something entirely different) is to focus more on the less flashy spells - e.g. enchantments, abjurations, divinations, etc. The higher end (and thus more rare) would include necromancy and illusion. Out and out prohibit evocation, and most transmutations. You'll have to go through the spells with a fine-toothed comb, and dole them out as "forgotten lore" or something similar in the most miserly way you can imagine.

This may let you have more of the mood you're looking for, while still letting your PC play a spellcaster. Add to that a superstitious populace who might blame their milk curdling on the "warlock" who's in town, and that'll make your PC even more subtle with what he/she does.

However, as many people have already mentioned, much of the D&D system is balanced assuming that you will have ready access to magic, magical healing, and will be carrying magic items. If this will not be the case, you may want to look into variants like class defense bonuses from Unearthed Arcana. You will also have to be very careful balancing your encounters - your PCs will be less powerful than their level might normally dictate.

2006-10-05, 12:02 PM
There is an easy way and a hard way to do this, depending on what you prefer.

Hard way: Any of the above suggestions, particularly creating new classes. That is the best way to get EXACTLY what you want, though it will take considerable work. Isolating types of spells is also a good idea, but ultimately a level 7 is a level 7, no matter how you cut it.

Easy way: This doesn't work for all flavors, but it's a nice idea and, most importantly, relatively painless. Remove Clerics, Druids, Sorcerers, and Wizards from your lineup. Any class, in fact, that goes up to 9 level spells, or is a primary caster. Get rid of them all. Now you're left with Rangers, Paladins, and Bards. Bards get spells up to level 9, but most of their stuff is pretty 'safe' - illusions, enchantments, etc. No real big destructive blights on the land. But, hey, you can tone them down, too, if you want. Or remove them outright (you don't lose much, though you will now have no arcane casting class).

Your end effect here is that Rangers overtake the Druid role, Paladins overtake the Cleric role, and Bards overtake the Wizard/Sorcerer role. Certainly, you no longer have the cloistered archaic merlin type, but that's just a sacrifice for the 'easy' method.

Alternatively, you can add Wizard/Sorcerer/Druid/Cleric back in as Prestige classes, rearranging their class benefits and spell progression, limiting it however you see fit. I guess that would be my 'intermediate' suggestion between 'Easy' and 'Hard'. But mostly, I like the Easy way.

Too bad it's not always flavor appropriate. :-/

EDIT: Oh yeah, and CRs are going to be inaccurate with low magic.

2006-10-05, 01:17 PM
Pay special attention to the Monk in low-magic campaigns. Some of their abilities get pretty darn close to magical (Wholeness of Body at 7th as a self-healing spell).

2006-10-05, 01:58 PM
There's an easier way: Use a system other than D&D. Making D&D low magic requires more work on the parts of the DM and players than simply learning a different system. D&D just isn't meant to be low magic.

2006-10-05, 05:10 PM
DnD is fine for low magic. There are tons of campaigns designed specifically for this, and several books.

Also, look into Incantations as your sole source of magic. Just restrict them to a class called "Incantationist", make Incantationist a more complex Expert, and bam, you've got a setting that screams low-magic. In fact, incantations make more sense for 'realistic' magic, because they take so long to prepare. They're very reminiscent of wizards who couldn't cast fireball, but would draw huge summoning circles out of chalk. It does wonders with low-magic.

2006-10-05, 11:42 PM
Try using psionics as they major supernatural force rather then magic. Especially in small quantities psionics are strange, subtle, and often have very little visible effects. That way what supernatural effects you do include don't completely change the feel of the game.

2006-10-06, 09:42 PM
if you have complete warrior, it explains how to run a low to no magic campaign.(the only thing people seem to remember from CW is the samurai class, which they think is really bad)

question, is it possible to make a psionic sword? as in a +1 sword created with psionics?

2006-10-06, 10:57 PM
Yep; psionic characters can make items. Their items are slightly different, though.