Houserule musings on magical mishaps and sorcerous obsessions [BoL]

Here’s a rule possibility to lend a little more danger and risk to magic use.  Calamitous failure when casting a spell results in a mishap, the severity of which depends on the Magnitude of the spell being cast.  Random mishap tables (subject to adjustment) are listed here:

Cantrips/1st Magnitude mishaps (d8)
1: caster’s skin glows bright color for 1d6 hours
2: caster emits foul stench for 1d6 hours
3: caster blinded for 1d6 turns
4: caster unable to speak for 1d6 turns (must use mime, charades to communicate)
5: spell has opposite effect (or is reflected back at caster or ally)
6: psychic backlash – unable to cast spells for 1d3 hours
7: psychic backlash – random Attribute temporarily reduced to -1 for 1d6 hours ((does not include Attributes already at -1)
8: psychic backlash – suffers 1d3 damage

2nd Magnitude mishaps (d8)
1: caster struck blind, deaf, or mute (roll d3) for 2d3 weeks
2: caster emits foul stench for 2d3 weeks
3: caster suffers temporary random Flaw for 2d6 weeks
4: caster suffers permanent minor feature change (small horn nubs, forked tongue, cat’s eye pupil, extra finger, etc.) — may affect APP
5: psychic backlash – caster plagued with powerful hallucinations (visual, auditory) for 2d3 days
6: psychic backlash – unable to cast spells for 2d6 weeks
7: psychic backlash – suffers 1d6 damage
8: psychic backlash – random Attribute temporarily reduced to -1 for 1d6 days (does not include Attributes already at -1)

3rd Magnitude mishaps (d8)
1: caster struck blind, deaf or mute (roll d3) for 2d6 months
2: caster suffers permanent random Flaw
3: caster suffers permanent major feature change (clawed hands, all-black or glowing eyes, tail, horns, skin covered with scales, etc.)
4: caster’s magic use is sensed by Hounds of Tindalos (or other demonic entity), who will arrive in 1d3 weeks to claim the caster’s life
5: psychic backlash – suffers 2d6 damage
6: psychic backlash – permanent loss of 1 Mind, temporary reduction of another random Attribute to -1 for 2d3 weeks (does not include Attributes already at -1)
7: psychic backlash – caster plagued with powerful hallucinations for 2d6 weeks
8: cosmic energies transport caster into another dimension


I never played TSR’s Conan RPG back in the day or its more recent retro-clone ZeFRS, but I did read through the latter’s rules a few years back for a PBEM campaign that never took off.  If you haven’t checked out ZeFRS, you should — I’m not suggesting that anyone forsake BoL for other pastures, but since the two games tread similar paths you may find bits to borrow, adapt, steal, etc.  One such thing I really like in ZeFRS was the idea of an Obsession trait for magic-using characters:

Obsession is a measure of how fixated the character is upon gaining new magical knowledge. Every time the character has the opportunity to acquire more magical power, he must make a resolution check against his Obsession rating. On a Heroic (red) result, the character gives in and will do whatever he must to gain the power.

Obsession can be worked around, but never ignored; if it possible to sate the character’s lust for magic without harming his friends, he will do so. But if injuring or betraying them can’t be avoided … well, sometimes a magician just has to do what he has to do… (ZeFRS Core Rules, p. 37)

Practitioners of sorcery and alchemy in Zhontaar have a similar thirst for knowledge and power, and will subject themselves to considerable risk to acquire tomes, scrolls and artifacts that will further their research.  In play, the conflict between one’s desire for magical knowledge (especially if an object is nearby) and the willingness or desire to act in the common interest could be mechanically played out like this:

  • The PC must roll Mind plus his combined Magic and Alchemy scores.  If the roll succeeds, the sorcerer will disregard any options other than pursuing (at least indirectly) the object of knowledge.
  • An additional possibility to consider is having characters with a Magic or Alchemy Career of 3+ take a special flaw — “Obsessed with Magic” — that would come into play in appropriate situations.

Still works in progress…


One response

  1. Pingback: No 15 minute adventuring days in Telengard « Swords & Dorkery

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s