Monday, November 7, 2016

Alternate Divine Spellcasting for the OSR

I've been working on one of my Holy Grails: a Noun/Verb improvised magic system for the OSR, Chivalry and Sorcery's elemental magic and Ars Magica. I co-wrote a similar system for GURPS with Steffan O'Sullivan. This system also takes some inspiration from Whitehack and Freebooters of the Frontier (DW/PbtA), two great freeform magic systems.

Using hit points to power spells come from Whitehack. I decided to concentrate on something simpler than all of magic: Clerical Magic. It has a narrower focus on certain types of spells, making the end result simpler.

So here is my first cut at Holy Words.

HOLY WORDS

Clerics have access to the Holy Words, words imbued with great power. They come from the ancient language of the Gods. By combining Holy Words, the Cleric can create miracles to aid their comrades. Miracles have a cost in hit points (HP). Which Words are accessible to Clerics depends on the deity they worship. Below are the Holy Words for the generic Cleric from the Original Game.

CLERIC HOLY WORDS

Words of Action
BANISH
INVOKE
DETECT
BLESS
SPEAK
PROTECT

Words of Being
WOUNDS
DARKNESS
DEITY
EVIL
PERSON
SPIRIT
ANIMAL
DEATH
DISEASE

Words of Action are verbs; Words of Being are nouns. If you combine an Action Word with a Being Word, then you are making a Holy Sentence, which then turns into an effect in the world, under the control of the cleric. So, BANISH WOUNDS will heal someone, SPEAK ANIMAL allows communication with animals, etc. Not all combinations will make sense (e.g. SPEAK DISEASE).

To create a miracle, the cleric chooses the Words to use, states what effect they want to create within the scope of the Holy Sentence, negotiates with the GM to nail down specifics and the cost in HP, and then pays the cost to create the miracle.

Verb/Noun Combinations to emulate specific spells:

Cure Wounds = BANISH WOUNDS
Light = BANISH DARKNESS
Dispel Evil = BANISH EVIL
Turn Undead = BANISH DEATH
Raise the Dead = BANISH DEATH or INVOKE SPIRIT
Cure Disease = BANISH DISEASE
Commune = INVOKE DEITY
Detect Evil = DETECT EVIL

I would let 1st level Clerics know two random Words of Action and two random Words of Being.

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That's it. I made these fueled off HP, but you could easily give Clerics miracle slots or a Divine Favor usage die (what I'm going to use for The Black Hack) or some other scheme.

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Edited:

After some discussion on G+, I'm adding a list of suggested costs for various types of effects. This are modified from Freebooters of the Frontier, which also has an interesting freeform magic system.

SPELL ASPECTS

EFFECT

COST
Minor
+1/1d6
½ HP
Moderate
+2/2d6
1 HP
Major
+3/3d6
2 HP
Spectacular
+4/4d6
3 HP
Historic
+5/5d6
5 HP

DURATION
COST
Instantaneous
0 HP
d6 usage die (rounds)
½ HP
d6 usage die (turns)
1 HP
d8 usage die (hours)
3 HP
Permanent
5 HP

RANGE
COST
Touch
0 HP
Close
½ HP
Nearby
1 HP
Far Away
2 HP
Distant
3 HP


AREA OF EFFECT
COST
Self
0 HP
One target
½ HP
Close zone
1 HP
Nearby area
2 HP