View Full Version : Weaker Magic (spellcasting) world

2013-08-09, 12:46 AM
Hey, folks. Been a while since I've been rules heavy, but I feel like I need to give my players an actual number, because reasons. They can't just accept an idea without seeing it with their eyes

So, in this Material Plane, things have gotten pretty bad. The plane itself creates Arcane (as well as unknown magics) from it's own life force. More like Ley lines that all magic gravitates towards Divine magic comes from the gods. And the deity is as strong as their believers. More followers, stronger god.

More to the point, the plane is running out of life force and therefor Arcane type magics are waning. There is plenty of low level energy, but not enough to support a lot of high level users. General idea, the highest level spells on the planet are level 6 and only by a handful of the highest level people in the game (lvl 18)

Now, Divine type magics strengths are directly proportional to each other. The more believers a god has, the more strength they get from their prayers/sacrifices, etc. Yet a god may also have a few followers, but whom are very powerful. Avatars, basically. The strongest of all Diviners on the planet would be level 18-19 and would be casting level 6 spells and a few highest users casting at level 7 spells

Now, spells are obtained normally, so I would like my players to stop achieving higher level spells, while still maintaining a firm hold on their position in terms of effectiveness. My solution was to try multiclassing/prestiging into other similar classes to continue gaining new access to spells, feats, abilities, and so forth. They can continue down their same path, or branch off somewhere new without penalty. They will continue to gain spells known/day as per their original class.

More notes, this is a game where we are trying many solid, house rules and this new idea for spell casting. So, there are other house rules here at play that help balance out the huge disconnect between high tier classes and most other classes.

But, if the game was standard 3.5 PHB, what level would you feel comfortable at cutting out access to higher level spells to your party? In a low magic campaign where spells higher than level 6 are basically unattainable? I'm honestly just going for a fall of "fantasy age" where the great heroes of old are all dead now and even magical beasts are becoming increasingly rare. Magical races and other non-human races are being overrun with humans and just get bred outin the end the magic comes back by the pc's giving themselves up to restore a magic awakening. Gods return their interest in the mortal realm and other planes feed energy back into the material plane. Magic is back.

2013-08-09, 09:25 AM
Why do you have so much random stuff in spoiler blocks?
As to your question, people usually find that E6 works well, as the first game-changing spells really start to happen with 4th level spells. Certain higher level spells are available only through feats (such as break enchantment).

If you don't want to do E6, much the same effect could be obtained by requiring multi-classing before 4th level spells (or equivalent) come on line. If you give your spellcasters a bard's progression this would allow single classed progressions up to level 9. If you are OK with 4th level spells but not 5th's, then the limit is even later. Again, feats would allow the occasional upper-level spell.

Do you allow Tome of Battle? Having stronger mundane characters is a way to divert players away from playing spellcasters.

You might want to have some alternate rules for high level NPC's. Stuff that keeps them away from adventuring, but makes them available if the party really needs a high level spell. There are any number of ways to do this, but the easiest would be a variation of sanctum spell - they are level 18 wizards in their tower, and level 6 wizards outside of it. (And maybe they get xp by making magic items on commission: the PC's bring them treasure, and get custom built magic items in exchange.)

2013-08-09, 01:34 PM
Sorry, forgot how the spoilers look here! I'm used to them just being blacked out and I know my players come here too.

I was thinking that characters, as a rule of thumb, wouldn't be able to progress into a spellcasting class after 3-4th level spells. Being level 1, I doubt they would feel the effects of a low magic world anyway. Magic is just a really powerful tool, but it's one on its way out the door.

The books allowed were really just core books. PHB, DMG, and the Complete series (after much discussion.) There certainly will be magic items and higher level spells, but using them will come at a cost. Since magic is drawn from deitys or the plane, and they are both weakening, it might have to take energy from the caster. So, maybe our cleric can normally only cast one level 3 spell, but by sacrificing temporary CHA(or fitting stat) dmg they can recast a spell.

I run games more like a story-teller and less like a dungeon master. At the behest of one gamer, we still use a map, but it's pretty lightly used. It's just a rough representation of the area, because we try to live the experience more than move minis around a table. Rules are just meant to be bent here, where normally a jump check and attack check are two very different actions, but jumping off a stair to attack is perfectly acceptable. Just taking into account their Dex and what exactly they want to do.

Either: they make a skill check followed by an attack roll, or we just gauge if it's possible and state the actions instead.

It takes out a fair bit of randomness from the dierolls (sometimes there are far too many things left to a d20 and never enough modifiers (or far too many!)

As for the high level npc's they don't adventure because they are either dying or they're actively involved in something else. The highest level wizard in the world travels to all the now empty dragon's lairs trying to uncover what happened to them all and why the planet is in turmoil. The greatest of all paladins left alive (level 12) has long since retired into old age (62) as a king of the human lands.
One last spoiler :smallwink:
There currently are not any wars, but some races still battle and skirmish on in these last days. The main hook of this story is that the PC's will need to find a way to bring back magic to the world because of a new evil lurking deep below the surface of the world. The Illithid are awakening and feeding off of the mortals, slowly gaining powers from other planes.

2013-08-09, 01:51 PM
I think that adapting the Incantations (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/magic/incantations.htm) system (Unearthed Arcana p174) would be your best bet by far. It is ideally suited to your needs.

Very briefly, you need to pass one or more checks to cast a spell (e.g Spellcraft and/or Knowledge:Arcana/Religion/Planes/Engeneering). DCs for casting spells rise dramatically, but many special circumstances can provide modifiers.

By using this variant, low level spells can be cast by individuals as normal, whereas higher level spells need more advanced casters or more people, longer casting times, expensive components or drawbacks.

This way, for example, a circle of cultist sacrificing the beauty of seven virgins might summon a demon to do their biddings, while the congregations of a continent united in prayer might allow the high priest to stop the volcano from erupting (as long as no one screws things up).

The official rules limit this variant to spells in the 6th-9th level range, but you might feel free to apply this to all and every spell. Make sure that the DCs are set at a level that matches your goals (easy to auto-success at first, hard to impossible for higher levels).

You could represent the waning of magic as a penalty to incantation DCs proportional to the equivalent spell level (or even have an exponential increase: you have to fiddle with the numbers a bit. Doing a complete modifier table will definititely take some serious planning or improvisational skills on the DM's part). PCs' actions and world events may alter those penalties as you see fit.

One side perk that I love about this system is how it fits neatly into the narrative. All of a sudden those 1rs to 3rd level NPCs have something to offer. Mages' guilds make sense. Hunting for magical components is a staple of the genre, but here it takes its rightful place in the order of things. And the rituals, from cultist summons to sealing the gate to oblivion, are a great moment for things to happen (and/or go horribly wrong).

2013-08-09, 08:00 PM
It's certainly a neat feature. I also really like the feel of it, for a less intensive magic campaign. I just feel that if a knight in a metropolitan city makes 250 gp in a years work... then how the heck can magic items be so damned common in the world? Who the heck makes all of these things? Are the markets just saturated with them? If there are so many npcs running around at level 12-16 in every city, how is that world stable? It just seems like magic is a child's play thing.

I like the feel for making magic a more serious matter. A world where heroes live or die by their skill, luck, and destiny. A wand of cure light wounds with 50 charges only costs a level 5 character 2 encounters worth of gp to make. That healing will last them for the next 5 levels... It just doesn't make sense. When a lvl 6 adventuring warrior draws his +1 Flaming Greatsword and smacks his Light Fortified Mithril Shield it gets silly. Did an asteroid made of diamonds strike the material plane at some point???

As far as good old 3.5 is concerned... There are only rules for making magic even more powerful, because, you know, it wasn't enough to begin with! I just want the players to encounter a new style of world where everything isn't just handed to them. Classy riddles, battles of wit, siding with the enemy, long journeys that lead to even longer journeys where players may change their character along the way if they get bored/anxious to try something new. I will be pumping homebrew classes and items all throughout the game. I like using special benefits for my players instead of a set mechanical bonus/penalty.


2013-08-10, 04:05 AM
Provided you were answering to my post (not sure), a few comments:

First of all, I said ADAPT, not ADOPT, the incantation rules. Take inspiration from them but apply them to regular spells, in a way that all but the less trivial spells cannot be taken for granted anymore. This should not be an upgrade, but a nerf.

One consequence of this change is how magical services and items are priced. I mean, by simple market law restricting availability to spells makes prices rise, so that enchantments become prohibitively expensive (or outright out of reach) real fast, because you have to factor in the increased costs (adventuring expedition, loads of skilled workers, time spent) to pass the necessary checks.

As someone already mentioned, E6 is another way to tone down things to a more gritty level of play. You can even combine the two systems. In fact, they go great together. And anything you might want to add after that can be achieved with home brewed feats.