Tag Archives: rules revisions

Cantrips in OSR Games

I’m a massive fan of cantrips. In roleplaying/D&D terms cantrips are low–usually zero–level spells that mages have and can cast without using any of their spell slots. These aren’t big powerful spells, they’re small little cool things that various magic-users can do by harnessing their innate arcane mastery, for example: lighting a candle.

Unfortunately cantrips aren’t really a things by default in my beloved OSR games and, whilst I’ve seen a few implementations of them in various books, none of them have really captured my imagination or made me want to include them in my games. With my CSI: Great Lunden (you can see the player handout I did here) game starting in a few weeks (yikes – that came round fast) I wanted to have some way to represent cantrips in the game that was going to be easy and not require a whole slew of new mechanics.

Cantrips are one of the things I really enjoyed about 5E D&D, effectively there’s a list of 0-level spells you get to pick from, each with some really minor effect but–since they don’t cost spell slots–you can just keep on using them. I love this because it means that your mages (especially a low level) is still going to have some magic stuff they can do even when they’ve blown through their two magic missile spells (or whatever is in their arsenal).

Since we’re running LOTFP for our Midderlands game there are only three spell-casting classes that I really need to concern myself with:

  • Cleric
  • Elf
  • Magic-User

Elves and Magic-users both utilise the same sorts of spells so I really only need to focus on Arcane and Divine spells, so I decided to dig out my 5E PHB and have a look at some of the cantrips available for those two types of magic.

Arcane Cantrips

Basically the arcane cantrips seem to fall into the following rough categories:

  • Inflict a small amount of damage.
  • Make a really weak illusion.
  • Create illumination.
  • Send small messages.
  • Perform magical tricks.

Divine Cantrips

Divine cantrips seem to run along the following lines:

  • Create illumination.
  • Giving allies a small bonus to dice rolls.
  • Repair objects.
  • Inflict small amounts of damage.
  • Perform small, wondrous signs.

At first I considered just adding some additional spells to the existing list for LOTFP but I don’t really see a massive benefit to adding yet another thing for the player characters to track in the game. Then it occurred to me that I could just create a list of minor magics that PC Magic-Users and Clerics could just do (since most of the damaging stuff is less effective that using a weapon anyway).

My Cantrip Idea

So, for my Midderlands game, I’m considering allowing Magic-Users and Clerics to perform effects from the following lists at will:

Cleric Cantrips

Clerics may perform one of the following effects as their action per round, doing so does not cost any spell slots, however casting the cantrip must be their only action, they may not move or do anything else taxing.

  • Cause an object to shed light in a 20′ x 20′ radius (the light can be coloured as desired). This effect ends if the Cleric creates a light on another object or dismisses it as a free action.
  • Repair a single small break or tear in object (this cannot restore magical functionality to broken arcane items).
  • Make their voice boom three times as loud for 1 minute.
  • Cause flames to flicker, brighten, dim or change colour for 1 minute.
  • Cause harmless ground tremors for 1 minute.
  • Create a sound (such as a rumble of thunder) that originates from a point of your choice within 30′
  • Instantaneously cause an unlocked window or door to burst open or slam shut.
  • Alter the appearance of your eyes for 1 minute.

Magic-user Cantrips

Magic-users may perform one of the following effects as their action per round, doing so does not cost any spell slots, however casting the cantrip must be their only action, they may not move or do anything else taxing.

  • Cause an object to shed light in a 20′ x 20′ radius (the light can be coloured as desired). This effect ends if the Cleric creates a light on another object or dismisses it as a free action.
  • Throw a bolt of magic energy at a person, make a ranged attack, if successful the target takes 1D6 damage.
  • Magically move an object weighing no much than 10 lbs 30′.
  • Repair a single small break or tear in object (this cannot restore magical functionality to broken arcane items).
  • Create an illusionary sound or image of an object within 30′, the illusion lasts for 1 minute or until dismissed. Images have no substance and are easily determined to be false if examined, objects created must be no larger than a 5′ cube.
  • Create a harmless sensory effect such as a puff of wind or faint musical notes.
  • Instantaneously light or snuff out a candle, torch or small campfire.
  • Instantaneously clean or soil an object no larger than 1 cubic foot.
  • Chill, warm or flavour up to 1 cubic foot of non-living material for 1 hour.
  • Make a colour, mark or illusionary image appear on a surface or object for 1 hour.
  • Create a non-magical trinket or illusionary image that fits in your hand and lasts until the end of next turn.

Those are the lists I’ve got so far (based on the 5E cantrips), I will probably tweak them or trim the lists down before implementing them in the game. Let me know what you think.

Image used for the article is A Suitable Present taken from the Old Book Illustrations website: https://www.oldbookillustrations.com/illustrations/suitable-present/

Streamlining the WOD: First thoughts

As you may have seen from our previous post I was in a Google Hangout last evening with Marko, Rufus and Chepé; the crux of the Hangout was that I wanted to run a world of darkness game in the future (probably either the V2 NWOD version of Werewolf: the Forsaken or the V2 version of Changeling: the Lost (when it’s released)) but that I feel the rules for the game could do with a real streamlining. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the rules but I don’t feel as though they’ve been majorly altered/re-worked since they were created (understandable since the publisher doesn’t want to alienate their core market) but have just has sub-systems piled on top of the existing rules, making it a little unwieldy in my opinion.

Whilst the discussion on the Hangout turned into something a little more like “how could Fate be used to run World of Darkness“, I very much want to use the core WOD system (or something like it) in a game.

So i’ve decided to create a list of things that I believe will need to be dealt with in my streamlined version of the game:

Things that I want to get rid off

  • Conditions: One of the newer mechanics that I am not that keen on, I love the idea of having conditions that apply to a character and encourage RP but i’m going to be looking for a different way of representing them (perhaps taking a leaf from the Fate aspect system).
  • Humanity/morality score: I’ve never really liked the idea that humanity was tracked on a scale like it is in WOD so i’m going to look for a different way of doing that.
  • Altering the number you need to roll on dice: Certainly in OWOD the GM could alter the number you needed to roll on a dice to make it a success (as well as the number of successes you needed per roll); I don’t think this is as prevalent in NWOD but it’s something I want to get rid of.
  • The massive skill list: One of the things I thing Fate does well, and that i’m taking inspiration from, is that they shortened the skill list dramatically, I think that the list of WOD skills can be condensed down.
  • Merit & flaws: After a suggestion by Marko I think that i’m going to get rid of merits/flaws and have them represented by either something akin to Fate aspects or incorporate them into the background system somehow.
  • Different types of damage: I think this is unnecessary and can be dealt with by just varying the damage level instead or common sense (if a werewolf can’t soak silver damage then just don’t let them, for instance).

Things that I want to keep

  • D10s and the attribute + skill style mechanic: D10s are very much linked with the WOD so I want to keep them and I like the whole attribute+skill mechanic although I may not have it as a dice pool, i’m considering reverting to an attribute+skill+dice roll vs opponents roll/difficulty level style system just to make things a little quicker and less dice intensive.
  • The background system: I love the backgrounds in the WOD, however over they have odd and arbitrary rules attached to them, i’d like to see them incorporated into the dice pool/total; so you might be rolling attribute + skill + background + dice roll.

I’ve also been thinking about the things that i’m going to need to cover in my WOD hack:

  • Supernatural powers: There needs to be some method of representing these that keeps the essential flavour of the powers without unnecessary book flipping.
  • Supernatural weaknesses: Things like a vampires need for blood or a werewolves vulnerability to silver will have to be represented somehow.
  • Morality: Despite me not liking the current rules system, morality is an important aspect of most WOD games and so it will need to be dealt with somehow.

Over the new few weeks/months i’m going to put up a series of posts that discuss my tweaks to the WOD system and hopefully some playtesting as well.