Magic & The Freeport Companion

Magic stunts in Freeport  can be a little restrictive to start with, there are prerequisites needed to qualify for many spells. Starting mages may seem comparatively weak with little of the colour or versatility you might expect from such a character. What I tried to do was create a selection of stunts that would represent ‘archetypal’ mages – with each stunt branching into a series of related stunts representing signature spells we might associate with that archetype. This might seem overly generous, you’re getting a bag of stunts for the price of one – however, there is always a cost associated with each signature spell and there are strict rules restricting how often it’s used.

Sometimes, in order to cast a spell on the current exchange a mage will simply take one shift of mental stress, meaning they’ll be ticking off one box. This could have led to the profession Mystic becoming overpowered (a high rating will grant you additional stress boxes), so to balance this out I specified that a high rating in the profession Scholar will grant access to an additional stunt, providing a choice between the trigger-happy sorcerer and the studious wizard whose learning has opened up new spells for him to master. Additionally the Dabbler in Magic stunt allows players to appoint Aristocrat as their default spell-casting profession, capturing the flavour of bards and eldritch knights.

Also each stunt allows the PC to invoke one particular school of magic with each school functioning just like a character aspect. So I narrowed down the roster of schools to the classic eight, being careful to make clear distinctions between the parameters of each school, something that the designers of D&D never had to worry about, e.g. curative and restorative spells in the Player’s Handbook can be found categorised as belonging to the evocation school and the transmutation school among others. For aspects to really work in Fate they need to be clearly defined so that everyone at the table is clear as to what they can and can’t do. So abjuration is clearly defined as being protective and defensive and transmutation covers all mutative effects on the body, including rapid healing and regeneration. Keep these distinctions in mind as Dungeon Master. The schools of magic are potentially powerful aspects through the use of fate points. Consider what a player can do by declaring a story detail attached to the school of conjuration for example. Treated with care this can bring a lot of colour to games. Unusual magics are common enough in the realms so this should be a boon rather than a problem.

The stunts provided here are just examples of what you can do and I’ll be adding more in the future. Always consider the impact that a signature spell can have on the game and apply sensible restrictions. Magic can be fun but it shouldn’t leave non-mages feeling left out. There are many more classic spells available on the D&D Wiki SRD or the free .pdf of that game’s basic rules and you can use the examples here as a reference for any conversion attempts, not to mention what’s already in the Freeport Companion.

Perhaps the most important thing to consider with magic is that the schools are in effect aspects and sometimes the best way to describe a spell is by invoking that aspect. Is there any need for a Web spell if I can just invoke the school of conjuration to create passive opposition at +2 to hinder pursuers coming down that hallway? Equally with a spell like Spider Climb doesn’t it make more sense to spend a fate point and declare a story detail where I get to scuttle up that wall and over the ramparts because I have the School of Transmutation aspect? Encourage players to develop their own stunts and signature spells if that’s what they want but bear in mind the threat of over-kill! Try to have a good idea regarding what options you want to be available to PCs and how often.

 

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A Baldur’s Gate Trilogy

“Baldur’s Gate is a city divided by walls…walls that cut the Gate into three distinct cities: The rich live atop the bluffs protected from the bourgeoisie clinging to the slopes by barriers that literally prevent the middle class from rising above their stations, and beyond the protection of the city’s walls its many outcasts live with no law but the daggers of thieves.” – from Murder in Baldur’s Gate.

 For your gaming pleasure – three scenarios that make up an epic story-arc revolving around the famed city of Baldur’s Gate. If you have ever wanted to run a swords & sorcery themed Fate game, now’s your chance. You’ll find the scenarios at the bottom of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. There’s more than an occasional nod to French literary classics like A Tale of Two Cities or even The Three Musketeers; not to mention Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar stories – with their colourful characters and cut-throat thieves’ guilds.

You’ll find they’re compatible with all of your 5th edition books like the Player’s Handbook or the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide if you play D&D. In fact, you’ll find that the 5th ed. write-ups for spells and monsters are easy to emulate using the guide-lines on this blog or those found in the Freeport Companion.

Uluvathae! (fortune bring you joy – in elvish).

Improving Spells with Milestones

Be sensible when awarding milestones to players, particularly those who may access powerful stunts. Force players to be economical, particularly when looking to expand their magical capabilities.

In the case of significant milestones that would normally permit a player to increase a profession’s rating by a point you could also allow that player to improve an existing magical stunt, either adding a new signature spell available to that archetype or improving a spell. So, for example a spell that would normally only be usable once per scenario becomes available once per session and so on. Be careful when allowing players to increase shifts of damage attributed to spells and respect game balance.

Of course a major milestone will grant a player a bonus fate point which can be immediately spent on a new stunt, which might allow that player to complete the roster of signature spells available to them or indeed add a new mage archetype providing they have an aspect that justifies it. Just what amount of gold is necessary to buy these milestones will be determined by the Dungeon Master and campaigns can vary from one group to another. It’s also worth making temporary fate points available which may be bought during play – these points vanish from the refresh pool as soon as they are spent.

The Monk

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Let’s try to recreate the monk class from the Dungeons & Dragons game by developing some appropriate stunts. As you might expect many of these stunts build on the Acrobat profession. Other attributes of the monk might be expanded with character aspects, high-lighting the use of ki (or inner energy), mastery of the elements and of course devotion to martial arts. You may also wish to add a magical stunt – see the drop-down menu under the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

For more on the monks of Faerûn see the following pages:

http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/Monk

http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/Special:Search?search=monasteries&fulltext=Search

Sample stunts are as follows:

Crouching Tiger – Once per exchange, you may ignore initiative ranking and choose to initiate an attack whenever a creature declares that it will attempt to physically harm you, though you may only respond to that particular threat.

N.B. You must declare use of this stunt prior to any dice being rolled.

Deflect Missiles (Acrobat) – At the cost of a fate point you may choose to defend any or all non-magical missile attacks in your current zone as one defend action, enjoying a +2 bonus. You must declare your intention before any dice are rolled and your subsequent action provides passive opposition for the remainder of the exchange.

Flurry of Blows (Warrior) – Your fists count as a medium weapon and deal 1 bonus shift of bludgeoning damage on a successful attack.

Hidden Dragon (Warrior) – When you successfully make an unarmed attack with Warrior, you may reduce the stress dealt by 1 to gain a boost even if you did not succeed with style. However, that boost only rewards you with a re-roll not a +2 (requires Flurry of Blows).

Martial Artist (Acrobat) – Provided you are wielding a finesse weapon you may make attack actions using the Acrobat profession (requires Peaceful Warrior).

Peaceful Warrior (Acrobat) – Provided you are not wearing any armour or shield you enjoy two free boosts per session which may be invoked on any Defend action.

Step Of The Wind (Acrobat) – You gain a +2 whenever you attempt to vault objects or leap to any higher level available.

Walking On Water (Acrobat) – You move unimpeded across one zone featuring water provided you are not also attempting anything more complex than a free action.

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.