In Honor of Tolkien Reading Day
Tolkien Reading Day is an annual event occurring every March 25th devoted to the literature of J.R.R. Tolkien. As one of the masters of heroic fantasy, Tolkien is a primary inspiration for this Kickstarter, and to honor him I'd like to share a game mechanic in homage.
He chanted a song of wizardry, / Of piercing, opening, of treachery / Revealing, uncovering, betraying. – The Lay of Leithian in The Silmarillion (J.R.R. Tolkien)
Spellsinging is an alternative way to perform magic that is more fluid and flexible than traditional spellcasting. Spellsinging was inspired by the magic of Middle Earth, as used by Tom Bombadil and Lúthien Tinúviel; the magic of the Kalevala, itself based on traditional Finnish spellsongs; the magic of the Greek hero Orpheus; the magic of Blue in the Apprentice Adept series; and more. It could also represent other fluid types of spellcasting, such as the Wheel of Time’s channeling. The following rules explain how spellsinging works. The Elven Spellsinger class in these rules is built on these mechanics, but the Judge may convert other classes to spellsingers if desired.
Spellsingers perform magic by spending spell points (SP) rather than by expending daily spell castings. The spellsingers’ use of spell points gives them the flexibility to choose to cast a large number of low level spells, a small number of high level spells, or any combination in between. The number of spell points that a spellsinger has is determined by his casting progression and level of experience, as shown on the Spell Points Per Day table.
Spellsingers recover their spell points in the same way spellcasters recover their daily spell castings, by spending eight hours resting without interruption and one hour concentrating on prayer or study. Spell points can only be recovered by resting once every 24 hours. However, in some circumstances spellsingers can recover spell points more quickly by tapping ambient magic (see p. XX).
Like other eldritch casters, a spellsinger’s spell selection is limited to the spells in his repertoire. A spellsinger’s repertoire can include a number of spells up to the number and level of spells listed for his level, increased by his Intelligence bonus, and functions exactly like an arcane/eldritch caster’s repertoire in all respects. Spellsingers can cast spells that are not in their repertoire, however, by extemporaneously singing spells (see below).
Each spell costs a certain number of spell points to sing. The higher the level of the spell, the more points it costs. The Spell Point Costs table describes each spell’s cost. When a spell is sung in combat, the spellsinger must announce the intention to sing the spell prior to initiative being determined at the beginning of a round. Spell points are spent when the intention to sing the spell is declared. Should an opponent successfully deal damage to the character or if the character is required to roll a saving throw and fails prior to casting a spell, the spell is disrupted and the spell points are wasted.
Like a traditional spellcaster, a spellsinger must be able to move his hands and speak freely in order to work magic. A spellsinger cannot sing spells if he is gagged, his hands are tied, or he is in an area under the effects of a noiselessness spell. (A spellsinger who possesses Quiet Magic proficiency can sing spells quietly by subvocalizing, but still cannot do so if under noiselessness.)
Except where otherwise noted, a spellsinger must have the intended target of a spell within visual range while singing a spell. If after beginning to sing, a spellsinger loses his ability to move his hands and speak freely, or loses his line of sight on the intended target, the song is disrupted and the spell points are wasted.
Just as a skilled musician can improvise a musical composition, a skilled spellsinger can extemporaneously sing spells from outside his repertoire. When a spellsinger decides to extemporaneously sing a spell, he may choose an existing spell from outside his repertoire, or design a new spell using the Spell Power Guidelines in Player’s Companion. Spellsingers may wish to work up some possible spells for likely circumstances or needs in advance.
In order to include any given effect in his extemporaneous spell, the spellsinger must already have one or more spells with the same basic effect(s) in his repertoire. In order to include any given element (earth, fire, etc.) in his extemporaneous spell, the spellsinger must already have one or more elemental spells with the same basic effect(s) in his repertoire.
EXAMPLE: Arwen would like to extemporaneously sing a blast spell that hurls a bolt of fire that deals damage. Unfortunately, the only damage-dealing blast spell in her repertoire is fangs of the earth, which is an elemental earth spell. She could extemporaneously sing other damaging-dealing earth blasts, but she cannot extemporaneously sing a damage-dealing fire blast.
Apart from the restriction on effects and elements, the spellsinger may otherwise design the spell with any desired parameters of range, target, duration, and saving throw. An extemporaneous spell may even be of a higher level than those known by the caster, although higher level spells will be quite difficult (or impossible) to successfully sing.
In order to successfully sing an extemporaneous spell, a spellsinger must make a spellsinging throw. If the extemporized spell is being sung in combat, the spellsinging throw is made on the spellsinger’s initiative number. The target value for the throw is based on the caster level cross-indexed against the spell level, as shown on the Spellsinging table below. Modify the roll by the spellsinger’s CHA modifier. Add +1 to the spellsinger’s roll for each rank of Performance (singing) or Performance (chanting) that the character possesses. If the spell is tapping a place of power, apply an additional -4 penalty. If the throw succeeds, the spell has been successfully cast and immediately takes effect. If the throw fails, the spell has been miscast; all of the spell points expended on it are lost to no effect. A natural roll of 1 always fails and may cause a mishap. Roll again: If the second die roll is equal to or less than the level of the spell, a mishap occurs.
EXAMPLE: Arwen, a 9th level elven spellsinger with CHA 16 and one rank of Performance (singing), is on a scouting mission when she spots a huge encampment of kobolds, ripe for destruction with a magical blast! Unfortunately, her only blast spell is fangs of earth, which will deal a lot of damage to a small number of targets – the opposite of what she needs. She decides to extemporize a spell that can deal a small amount of damage to a lot of targets. She consults the Player’s Companion to design her extemporaneous spell. She decides on a 4th level eldritch spell dealing 2d6 points of damage to all targets in a 30’ diameter area of effect, with a 150’ range, instantaneous duration, and saving throw allowed for half damage (base cost 27 x 0.25 x 5 x 1 x 1 x 0.75 x 1.5 = 38). The 4th level spell costs her 5 SP. The target value for her spellsinging throw is 12+. She gains a +2 bonus from CHA and a +1 bonus from Performance (singing), so she’ll need a 9+ on the die. The result of Arwen’s roll is a 14, so she successfully sings the spell.
Extemporaneous spellsinging can be a powerful tool, but it requires a significant degree of system mastery from the player and Judge to use. In general, extemporizing spells is intended to allow a spellsinger to flexibly apply what he knows, rather than extemporaneously cast what he does not know. As magic is fickle and no mere mortal can always comprehend its workings, the Judge may veto or re-design any extemporaneous spell at his complete discretion where necessary for balance and fun.
When a spellcaster casts a spell, he uses his personal power to draw on and manipulate the much larger stores of power that are available (to those with the talent) from ambient divine and elemental sources. Spellsingers do this, too, but they have the additional ability to draw on those ambient sources directly whenever they are within places of power. This is known as tapping power and allows the spellsinger to cast certain types of spells without using his own reserves.
In order to tap a place of power, a spellsinger must first attune to it. Attuning to a place of payer takes 8 hours and requires a successful magical research throw. Only one creature can be attuned to any given particular place of power, and each spellsinger can only be attuned to one place. If a new creature attunes to a place, the prior creature’s attunement is a disrupted.
Once the spellsinger has attuned to the place, he can tap its power to pay for the cost of some spells sung within it. The amount of spell points available each day depends on the size and rank of the place of power, as shown on the Ambient Power table. Round to the nearest whole number, rounding 0.5 up. Places of power that are larger than 9,000 square feet should be treated as multiple adjacent places of power. Spell points drawn from a place of power cannot be stored or used to “recharge”.
Spell points from a place of power can only be used to pay for spells appropriate to the place’s type, as shown on the Place and Effect Type table. The spellsinger must make a spellsinging throw when casting a spell using a place of power. The target value for the throw is based on the caster level cross-indexed against the spell level, as shown on the Spellsinging table. Modify the roll by the spellsinger’s CHA modifier. Add +1 to the spellsinger’s roll for each rank of Performance (singing) or Performance (chanting) that the character possesses. If the spell is extemporaneous, apply an additional -4 penalty to the throw. If the throw succeeds, the spell has been successfully cast and immediately takes effect. If the throw fails, the spell has been miscast; the place of power’s SP are expended to no effect (other than some showy elemental special effects, perhaps). A natural roll of 1 always fails and may cause a mishap. Roll again: If the second die roll is equal to or less than the level of the spell, a mishap occurs.
EXAMPLE: Arwen has found the Sky of the Earth, a resilient edifice of elemental earth that is 100’ in diameter (7,850 square feet). After attuning to the edifice, Arwen can tap it to cast elemental earth spells costing up to (7,850 / 2000) 4 SP per day – enough for, e.g., four 1st-level spells, two 2nd-level spells, or one 3rd and one 1st level spell. She will have to make a spellsinging throw each time she sings a spell using the place of power’s spell points, however.
When a mishap occurs, the spellsinger must roll 1d10 on the Spellsinging Mishaps table and suffer the effect listed in the column matching the degree of mishap. The degree of the mishap depends on the level of the spell that caused the mishap. If the spell was 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level, a minor mishap occurs. If the spell was 4th or 5th level, a major mishap occurs. If the spell was 6th level, a catastrophic mishap occurs.
And that's how spellsinging works! The Heroic Fantasy Companion includes one class built on spellsinging, as well as rules for converting arcane casters in ACKS to be spellsingers.
Check back tomorrow for more updates, and don't forget that if we reach $20,000 by the end of the 26th, we'll be adding a hardcover and a hoodlum class to the books!