Detect Magic

Provided a PC has access to the School of Divination aspect then it makes sense that they might create an advantage using their spell-casting profession to uncover magical aspects in a scene. Those aspects may describe the lingering effects of spells, the presence of prohibitive magic in the form of wards or even the state of the weave itself when wild magics run unchecked.

In situations as described above a create an advantage action will be called for with passive opposition providing the difficulty. If the aspect being uncovered is particularly unique, then the Dungeon Master might be applying the Bronze Rule and treating the magic as being akin to a character, with multiple aspects and stunts. This makes a lot of sense in the case of high-level wards – prohibitive magics programmed to respond in specific ways to trespassers. In Faerûn every mage worth knowing employs a sigil as a kind of occult signature. If used for warding purposes that sigil may be reinforced by a number of charged glyphs, each one working in concert to contribute to a powerful ward.

Of course if the Player Character has access to the Detect Magic spell as described in the Freeport Companion then there may be no need to go to the dice but even if a magical aspect is revealed it’s effect may continue to influence and affect the scene: just like any other game or situation aspect. How to remove that aspect will be decided between players and Dungeon Master.

For some inspired ideas describing magical wards and traps see this page over at the Alexandrian blog: http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/12909/roleplaying-games/thought-of-the-day-disarming-magical-traps

For the Bards!

Stinging Rebuke (Aristocrat):  Your quick wit and sharp tongue, not to mention your general demeanour allow you to attack causing mental stress in situations that would normally preclude this action, e.g. where language barriers exist or amidst the chaos of the battlefield.

This stunt costs a fate point to use and lasts for one whole scene or conflict.


 

There you go, a Christmas present of sorts for the rogues out there. On a similar note, for Dungeon Masters looking to turn up the heat on mages it is worth remodelling this stunt in order to outfit monsters and foes who specialise in haranguing magic-users on the battlefield, e.g. a pack of goblins with the Magehunter stunt.

Wearing down a mage’s mental stress track can be an especially nasty tactic considering that many sorcerers and mystics depend on it as a resource when casting spells. In fact, as mentioned previously it’s worth looking at ways to present mental stress to players as part of the toils of adventuring in order to reign in magical powers. Accepting stress is a valid interpretation of a minor cost. For more examples of how mental stress can come about as a by-product of adventuring see the rules on Insanity in the Freeport Companion.

Counterspells

A further clarification on the rules described in the Magic & Damage section:

‘You may launch a counterspell, providing active opposition to any spell being cast that you are aware of regardless of the cost demanded by that specific magical effect.’

If a stunt gives you permission to employ a counterspell you are simply providing active opposition to an action that creates a magical effect where normally no active opposition would feature. As stated, the mage attempting to cast the spell will be forced to roll dice, actively opposed by a player or Dungeon Master even if he wasn’t using the create an advantage action. So, for example, if a mage is attempting a summoning spell that costs a fate point he will be forced to roll dice aswell if opposed by a mage with the ability to counterspell.

The DM should provide exceptions for certain magical effects where sensible, for example when magical items like scrolls and wands are in use. In the case of magic missiles and the like the counterspell should allow the target mage to make a defend action with his spellcasting profession rather than Acrobat.

This of course isn’t the only case where a mage may be faced with active opposition. For example a pack of frenzied Gnolls who have chosen to gang up on a priest might create the aspect Gnolls Breathing Down My Neck!, which the priest would have to overcome before casting any spell. The DM may rule in this case that removing the aspect will be actively opposed by the Gnolls.

Spellcraft – Converting D&D’s classic spells to Fate

Globe of Invulnerability:

You may cast the following spell once per scenario. An immobile, faintly shimmering magical sphere surrounds you and as many as three others, excluding any magical spells or effects that do not cost at least one fate point to cast. So, for example magic that affects one or more zones in any exchange must make special exception for those sheltered within the Globe of Invulnerability, including the Anti-Magic Field spell. The globe may be dismissed by a hostile mage, as per the rules in the Magic & Damage section but it will automatically cost a Fate point to attempt this. Additionally, the globe carries the aspect Fading Fast.

The material component is a small, spherical gem of some value that shatters upon the spell’s expiration.

*

You have just read a conversion of the classic Lesser Globe of Invulnerability spell from the freely available Dungeons & Dragons System Reference Document. This is a stock spell that would have been a go-to for any forward thinking mage with a copy of the Player’s Handbook. However like many of D&D’s classic spells, the finer details necessitate the use of special rules. The key feature of this spell is it’s ability to preclude the effects of low-level spells on the area contained within the globe. Specifically the spells precluded are 4th level and lower.

Now, since the rules of FotFR (and probably most Fate games of this ilk, including the Freeport Companion), don’t feature exhaustive spell lists segmented according to level we have to rework the key features of this spell. We do want to capture the spirit of the original spell so let’s consider the intent behind the magic – the globe excludes the effects of all magics of limited potency. In order to replicate this approach we can decide that in FotFR these low-level magical effects will be considered to be any that do not cost at least one fate point to invoke.

Similarly, many spells in the Player’s Handbook specify a duration that is tied to the caster’s level. There being no equivalent to this mechanic in Fate we simply attach an aspect to the spell’s effect – Fading Fast. An experienced mage will likely have a big pool of fate points to draw from, enabling him to keep the spell ‘up’ for longer.

The key thing to bear in mind here is that there is no need to be too technical. Like the example above, if there is a vulnerability inherent to the spell such as a time limit then the simplest way to represent this is with an aspect. The players may need to create an advantage to learn of this aspect although as DM you could rule that any PC mage with some schooling in the Art will be aware of this aspect anyway.

In Fate of the Forgotten Realms each signature spell is accessed through a stunt describing a particular brand of mage. These stunts are known as Mage Archetypes. Like the branching effects detailed in the Skills & Stunts section of the Fate core system, each stunt will branch into a series of signature spells (often hand-picked by the player), reflecting the theme of the archetype.  There are many examples in the ‘Dungeon Master’s Guide’ accessible on this site but players and DMs are encouraged to create their own Archetypes, possibly reassigning signature spells from this site or incorporating new spells. Owing to the protective nature of the Globe of Invulnerability it would seem that the Guardian stunt would be a natural home for this spell.

So, what can I defend with…?

When developing the rules for this hack I didn’t really clarify what professions could be used for the defend action and specifically, in what context. Apologies. Some of the uses may have seemed obvious, e.g. using Acrobat to defend against Marksman but other situations may have left players and DMs puzzled.

By default Warrior is used to perform attack actions with melee weapons. It does not normally permit defend actions, this is the preserve of the Acrobat profession which governs manoeuvrability. Warrior rates proficiency with armour, an extra which in turn grants free invocations on defend actions (so there is a tangible benefit to the defend action under this profession).

If the PC is an experienced or well-trained fighter he can always select the Man-At-Ams stunt which allows her to use the Warrior profession to make defend actions against melee attacks. See the Professions section in the Dungeon Master’s Guide for the full description.

Just as with the skills described in the core rules, some of the professions allow you to defend against attempts to harm your mind or damage your resolve. Mystic would typically be employed to defend against attempts to charm (Aristocrat), deceive or provoke (Rogue). Or, if the action is calling for active opposition you might find your character employing Aristocrat to defend against Aristocrat in a negotiation over a business matter. Equally it might be a case of using Rogue versus Rogue where two characters are bluffing each other in a card game.

Wealth & Milestones

Looting of dungeons and forbidding tombs is such an integral part of old school swords & sorcery games that it would be remiss not to give this activity it’s proper place within Fate of the Forgotten Realms. No doubt inspired by the opportunistic tomb raiding of pulp fiction heroes like Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Gary Gygax’s Dungeons & Dragons game rewarded players who discovered treasure with a mechanical reward where pieces of gold (or their equivalent in gems and curios) translated into experience points allowing player characters to level up.

Fate handles PC progress episodically so when the DM ascertains that a scenario or story arc has played out PCs are allowed to select new abilities, upgrading skills and stunts and eventually aspects to reflect important changes in that character’s life. There’s not much place there for treasure hoarding and booty. Thematically this is a problem because the realms were designed for dungeon crawling and tomb raiding. This suggests a need for treasure to represent something more than mere story padding.

What we do in FotFR is to imitate Gygax’s old school system to a degree. Instead of having a resources skill we let accumulated wealth represent experience accrued, higher standards of living equating to better care of weapons, armour and magical paraphernalia, not to mention apothecaries and healers to keep the body in fine fettle. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the PC will now be regarded as a highborn and be treated as such, that’s the preserve of the Aristocrat profession but even this score may be improved by ‘buying’ upgrades with gold. So in this case wealth is recorded in material terms, as an Extra. This may even necessitate an expanded character sheet with added sections recording coin and recovered treasure.

As Dungeon Master you will need to set a budget, determining just how many gold pieces will be required to upgrade a skill or stunt or indeed even add a new stunt. Be sensible, take a look at the equipment rosters and cost of living rules in the D&D 5th ed. Basic Rules or Player’s Handbookand use them as a guideline. These rules will invigorate any campaign featuring even the occasional dungeon crawl, instead of the DM setting the pace of change concerning PC’s abilities the players themselves may alternately advance quickly or slowly based on their own luck and daring exploration. That antique chest secluded under mouldering floorboards could see a lucky thief grab a new stunt during her first scenario. Equally a hapless party may see their abilities remain static for a number of sessions should luck prevent them from noticing any of those hidden doors.

Also consider how trinkets or even the odd ancient coin can cause a session to become truly memorable when a player character succeeds with style during some exploration based activity. A boost is not always the best reward for succeeding with style on every action and it can be a little anti-climatic to simply have that player describe themselves doing something ostentatious. Instead, keep a roster of minor valuable trinkets that players can stumble on and acquire whenever they succeed with style – so you manage to loosen those bars on that large sewer grate, getting a Great result your eye catches on a gleaming silver necklace mired in slime. Or even in combat, a thief makes a deadly attack out of the shadows, succeeding with style she also manages to filch that curious looking wristband in the process, her target being none the wiser.

Realistically players should only be able to cash in on these upgrades during appropriate periods, in a location where there are not only merchants and jewelers who will exchange coin for the adventurers’ bounty but also resources where player characters can unwind and actually benefit from the fruits of their exploration. It might be useful in an ongoing campaign to have at least a couple of supporting NPCs who deal with your PCs in this respect. With the right aspects they could become memorable characters in your story and provide the impetus for future scenarios.

Of course not every game using the rules on this site will focus on dungeon crawling so if as DM you need an equivalent to the resources skill from the core rules simply look to the Aristocrat profession. Happy adventuring!

Reigning in Magic

Some of the feedback I’ve been getting suggests that Dungeon Masters are not totally comfortable with the number of signature spells that come bundled with a magic-user stunt, deeming them overly generous. That’s fine and probably a fair assessment.

A simple remedy is to suggest that each mage stunt allows the player to have access to three spells at first with the option of adding extra spells to that list becoming available at minor milestones, provided they find material or training that would explain their new-found accomplishment. If a player wants the complete roster to go with that stunt he can always take it twice, e.g. Conjurer X 2 or pick up the Dabbler in Magic stunt. Either way, the system is still more playable than what’s described in the Freeport Companion.

It is of course not too late to have players edit their stunt lists and conform to the suggestions above if you’re a couple of sessions into your campaign. Fate is very forgiving when it comes to tweaking and rewriting stuff in the early stages.