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Hippogryph Codex: Dealing with Too Many Spells

hippogryph system

One of my major problems with the D20 Legacy Game is that there are far too many spells. We get “lesser” and “greater” versions of some spells. There are numbered summoning spells, each purported to be progressively more powerful. Variations that affect the caster, one other person, several other people. Attack spells with a range of touch, a ray, a cone, and a ball. At the heart of these are a small handful of spells. The rest are just tweaks.

All of which makes sense in the context of classes, levels, and a wargaming mindset. Or it would, if spells leveled up. You don’t graduate from Burning Hands to Scorching Ray to Fireball.  Duration doesn’t increase from a round to several minutes to eventually permanent. At least, not consistently. It all depends on how the individual spell is written, and whether the effects change based on the caster level.

As I’m writing this there are 36 spells in the Hippogryph Codex. The doesn’t seem like much, but at the same time it feels like too many. I feel like I can turn some things into optional effects for other spells. All of them come down to effects without descriptors. A spell that deals damage is the same whether you plug in fire, cold, or acid. Since it’s not a levels-based system, the player can adjust things like range duration, and number of targets.

Having a small list and allowing players to have control over the special effects makes the mechanics more manageable. It keeps the system consistent, keeps the size of the book down, an actually opens up possibilities. You can get creative with the names. Call the Protection From (Electricity, Self) spell “Angrokar’s Lightning Bane” or whatever. The only thing you need to write down is the base spell, and define everything else when you cast it.

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Dancing Lights Press publishes creative aids and story games that embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation. The spotlight belongs on the creativity of the players as they converse and collaborate on plot, worldbuilding, and character development. Roleplaying is an activity, not a book. Our titles are merely part of the delivery system.

1 thought on “Hippogryph Codex: Dealing with Too Many Spells

  1. I think that the most fun I had was when I adapted Isaac Bonewits’ “Authentic Thaumaturgy” to Mongoose Publishing’s Legend, replacing its somewhat arcane magic systems.

    It was freeform. Characters knew what they could do with confidence (ignite a small flame up to ten metres away, for instance, or nudge an NPC’s reaction to a more positive result).

    The challenge was to go beyond their comfort zone, such as to ignite a flame fifty metres away, or to take an existing candle flame and increase its intensity to produce a flare like burning magnesium for a few seconds, or to convert an angry mob’s reactions from near-hostilities to welcoming acceptance).

    Same rolls, just increased difficulty.

    And all the time, the players were taught that a spell is a process, not a thing.

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