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Lysander
2009-07-05, 12:59 AM
A homebrew idea to limit the power of spellcasters. The premise is that magicians do not create spells out of nothing, instead they channel ambient magical energy. Different areas have varying levels of ambient magic, and the stronger the local magic the more powerful the spells it can support.

Each part of the world has a magic level from 1 to 9. In some places the same magic level covers hundreds of miles, in other places a different magic level exists every few feet. Most magic levels remain constant, but a few areas having shifting magical levels, some random, others following heavily studied and reliable schedules. Casters can automatically sense how strong the ambient magic is in the immediate area. Detect Magic will reveal the level of every area within a mile.

A spell can only be cast in an area of ambient magic equal to its spell level or higher. So a level 7 spell can only be cast if the ambient magic is level 7, 8, or 9. A few rare places in the world are known as Ley Lines, and allow the casting of epic spells. Powerful magicians constantly battle for control of the Ley Lines.

Charged magical items carry stored energy however, allowing wands, staves, and scrolls to be used in areas even if the local magic couldn't normally support that spell. A spell with an ongoing duration will still function if it moves into an area too magically weak to cast it in. Triggered spell-like abilities of creatures and magic items will not function if the ambient magic is too low for a spell of identical effect, but ongoing passive effects will function. Artifacts are fully functional in all magic levels.

How Ambient Magic Level Can Help Your Campaign

1. Prevents wizards from teleporting the party everywhere and skipping travel and adventure. Teleport would only work in level 5 or higher areas, so to teleport they would first need to journey to a level 5 or higher area.

2. Prevents wizards from instantly destroying powerful creatures and bypassing obstacles in low magic areas, providing a strong need for non-magical characters.

3. Makes multi-classing a more logical choice for spellcasters.

4. Explains why wizards don't run the world. Their powers only give them absolute control over scattered areas.

What to Avoid
Don't make your casters useless. Allow them and give them warning to prepare lower level spells in place of their higher unusable spell slots. Then while the fighters kill the giant monster your wizard can't do much harm to, throw lots of smaller enemies at them that they can blast with weaker spells. Don't overdo it though with little monsters. Make the challenge interesting. Give them falling boulders to divert with Telekinesis, enemies to delay with Hold Portal, creatures to mislead with illusions. The idea is, instead of your caster just shooting something and calling it a day, making them puzzle solvers who have to use their magic to save the team from a vast and diverse array of challenges. One solution to some challenges will be to figure out how to reach, or how to lure enemies to, an area where their more powerful spells will work.

Designating Worldwide Magic
The DM should pick the average magical level that covers any given kingdom in a nondescript place. Magical creatures are more likely to reside in levels of higher ambient magic, so a monster infested dungeon should allow more powerful spells than a farm in the middle of nowhere. Cities and castles are often built in the extremes, either in areas of high magic or areas of low magic depending whether the residents fear magic or utilize it. Some areas have natural cycles - for example a city might have average magic most of the year, then have wizards flock there from all over to cast their spells during an annual one week peak of high magic. Other places have magic that varies by season, or even from day to night, or dependent on weather. Other magical areas move across the land like storms, increasing or decreasing a place's magic while they pass. In those places magical forecasters are highly valued.

Optional Rules

Here are a few variant rule to customize Ambient Magic as needed:

1. Some areas have different ambient levels for different schools or types of magic. One area might allow very powerful conjuration spells, but thwart high level necromancy for example. Another might favor druid magic but suppress other divine and arcane casters. This makes things a lot more complicated and requires a lot of thought on the DMs part not to unbalance things.

2. Varying magical levels are very well known. Knowledge Arcana checks can tell them the magical levels of different areas of the world and find local hotspots, and maps may exist that carefully chart out the different magical levels like a topographic display.

3. Delayed spell casting - Allowing spells of any level to be cast in any zone, but require one additional hour or minute of charge time for each level that the spell exceeds the ambient magic. This is if you want your players to have access to all spells and limit their power in combat only.

4. Specialization rule - Casters can perform spells of their specialized school that are one level higher than otherwise allowed by the ambient magic.

5. Dead zones - Have zones that only allow level 0 cantrips, or zones that suppress spellcasting entirely.

6. Creature dependency - Magical creatures require magical areas to live. Every day they are in an area too weak to support them they take con damage or lose hitpoints, or simply operate with a penalty to certain stats. This requires assigning different magical levels to each creature you intend to use.

7. Target limitation - Targets must also be in a high enough ambient magic. For example this would prevent you from teleporting into any place with less than level 5 ambient magic.

8. Duration limitation - Spells with ongoing durations are suppressed in areas of lower ambient magic, as in an anti-magic field.

9. Charged Item limitation - Charged items use additional charges in areas with a lower ambient magic than the spell, perhaps one extra charge for every level the ambient falls short. Scrolls may simply not function.

10. Magic Item Limitation - Magic items have their magic temporarily suppressed, or weakened, in areas they could not be crafted in.
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Thoughts?

DMBlackhart
2009-07-05, 01:18 AM
Im far to tired to nit pick through it to give any real advice, but I do want to say how brilliant of an idea this is. (Don't worry, I read it in full). And i must say, it is a brilliant idea. I now want to run a campaign making heavy use of this.
Edit: A bit of semi-helpful advice. Based on your "Extended Casting time" thing if the spell is more powerful then the ambient magic allows, I suggest something slightly different. Perhaps more powerful spells cast in lower level areas will function like wild magic or even become nulled ( or any other meta magic effect.) (depending on how much higher the spell is to the ambient level add more effects.)

Milskidasith
2009-07-05, 01:25 AM
This is an epic-level idea. I really can't say much more.

Also, would there ever be areas of such low magic only level 0 spells could be cast? (Magic level 0)? And also, what would the penalties be for trying to cast a spell that is too high level? Would it simply fail, or would there be some kind of backlash effect?

Lysander
2009-07-05, 01:36 AM
Also, would there ever be areas of such low magic only level 0 spells could be cast? (Magic level 0)? And also, what would the penalties be for trying to cast a spell that is too high level? Would it simply fail, or would there be some kind of backlash effect?

I imagine it would simply fail and waste the spell. There just wouldn't be the sufficient energy to pull off that effect. Level 0 and totally dead zones should be VERY rare, but might exist in places as natural curiosities or as damage from ancient magical wars. But even there you'd still be able to use wands and scrolls.



Edit: A bit of semi-helpful advice. Based on your "Extended Casting time" thing if the spell is more powerful then the ambient magic allows, I suggest something slightly different. Perhaps more powerful spells cast in lower level areas will function like wild magic or even become nulled ( or any other meta magic effect.) (depending on how much higher the spell is to the ambient level add more effects.)

I actually don't like the extended casting optional rule since I think it detracts from the overall idea of magical limits. But it's useful if a DM wants casters to be able to teleport or regenerate anywhere, or cast other high level utility spells, while restricting their power in combat.

PairO'Dice Lost
2009-07-05, 12:01 PM
I ran a campaign where the world had something like this, though it was based on the seasons and celestial bodies rather than geographic locations. I find it works rather well to let the noncasters shine.

One thing that I've found helpful is making charged items use up more charges if they're in an area that can't support them. If they work as normal, casters will find high magic areas, make staffs of their favorite spells, and keep teleporting and plane shifting and scrying and such as they usually do.

Lysander
2009-07-05, 11:00 PM
I ran a campaign where the world had something like this, though it was based on the seasons and celestial bodies rather than geographic locations. I find it works rather well to let the noncasters shine.

One thing that I've found helpful is making charged items use up more charges if they're in an area that can't support them. If they work as normal, casters will find high magic areas, make staffs of their favorite spells, and keep teleporting and plane shifting and scrying and such as they usually do.

That's a good idea. I'll add it as an optional rule if you don't mind.

Of course letting them cast powerful spells via staves and such isn't necessarily a bad thing. They'll be hesitant to waste charges aka money/xp, so usually charged items will just serve as an insurance policy in case the battle starts going poorly. It depends how hard you want to go on the players.

PairO'Dice Lost
2009-07-06, 07:39 AM
Of course letting them cast powerful spells via staves and such isn't necessarily a bad thing. They'll be hesitant to waste charges aka money/xp, so usually charged items will just serve as an insurance policy in case the battle starts going poorly. It depends how hard you want to go on the players.

It isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you put the bad guys in an AML 4 location expecting no teleportation, and they have a staff of teleport right now, that lost XP won't help them survive. :smallwink:

Basically, it helps reinforce what you're going for--less powerful magic is better and more reliable. You can have your staff of magic missile and get 50 shots pretty much anywhere, but you might only get 5 or 6 shots of meteor swarm, so pick your battles very carefully.

One other thing this does is make scrolls more useful--a scroll's a scroll, with no extra charges, so you're guaranteed 1 use per scroll regardless, whereas wands and staffs quickly become more desirable in most games, leaving scrolls for only the occasional weird spell you think you might not ever use.

Ashtagon
2009-07-06, 12:46 PM
For spells such as teleport and others that have the effort span distances where the likely targets/destinations may be in different areas of ambient magical strength, you should probably specify that the ambient level needs to be sufficient in all areas touched by the spell, otherwise, teleport is a rather nasty way to send a strike force with no counter-strike possible.

GreatWyrmGold
2009-07-06, 07:25 PM
Cool idea.
Perhaps even useful.
Spellcasters either suck, are at normal rockingness levels, or are somewhere in the middle.

Iferus
2010-02-14, 05:02 AM
I have decided to use this in my campaign. I have added these rules:


Knowledge (Dungeoneering) can be used to estimate ambient magic levels of indoor areas now or at a given moment in the future. The result of the check reveals a range of levels it might be. See the table below.
Retry: none. Also, retrying for other points in time will never yield better results.

Knowledge(Geography) can be used to estimate ambient magic levels of outdoor areas now or at a given moment in the future. The result of the check reveals a range of levels it might be. See the table below.
Retry: none. Also, retrying for other points in time will never yield better results.

Knowledge (arcana) and Knowledge (religion) provide a synergy bonus to Knowledge(geography) and Knowledge (Dungeoneering) for the purpose of estimating ambient magic levels.

And I have decided to put some physics in it:


Casting an epic spell temporarily taps the ley line. A shockwave will go through the ambient magic field, and after finding resonance, the ley line restores. This will take 2d6 turns.

Raw Magic:
Throughout the world, there are sources of raw magic. Raw magic just sprouts in areas underground, at the surface or even in the sky. Raw magic can be harvested, but without proper care it simply radiates its energy to fuel flora and magical fauna alike. In its harvested form, it is a highly valuable trade good.
Raw magic is available only on the material plane: it is generated by the slow collision with the shadow plane (which will be complete in about three hundred million years). As-is, it is a swiftly evaporating substance, that may only be absorbed by biological matter. Foetuses that happen to absorb raw magic are born with sorcerous talent. Harvesting raw magic is done by completely engulfing the source with algae when saturated with magic, these algae start glowing slightly. After having been dried, these algae turn black. Hard as rock, a standard unit of raw magic is about the size of a piece of rabbit dung. Often it is made to resemble said dung, because of security reasons. Raw magic can never be supernaturally created. Products of raw magic, such as magic items, can.

Ambient Magic Level:
A source of raw magic that is not being harvested radiates magic. The environment may act as a lens and focus this energy to power the local ambient magic level. Areas attune with age, so older areas (ancient forests, ruins) will do this significantly better. Ambient magic levels superimpose, and the removal (by harvesting raw magic or by casting an epic level) will send ripples of the ambient magic level across great distances.

Yora
2010-02-14, 07:30 AM
I think you can really get your players pissed off with this if it's used too randomly and constantly keeps them from doing something useful. But if handled carefully, I also agree that this can improve the game imensely.

I guess the hard thing is how to set the limits so you get a balance between restrictions and opportunities. A 12th level wizard will notice no difference between a level 6 zone and a level 9 zone, while designating too many areas as level 2 or 3 will soon get frustrating for higher level spellcasters.
But building a city of warriors in a level 2 zone to defend it against spellcasters, or an archmages fortress in a level 8 zone for massive magical boss battles sounds like too good a concept to not use it.

Not to hijack this thread, but what about this variant for psionic campaigns: Special areas provide a bonus or a penalty to the maximum number of power points you can spend. In a -4 area characters would lose access to their two highest power levels, while in a +6 area everyone can go nova.

EdroGrimshell
2010-02-14, 09:58 AM
Love it, could be useful for my anima system (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=141798)

Betagold
2010-02-14, 11:34 PM
I like this. I definitely like this. I might end up using it in a new campaign I'm running.

Shpadoinkle
2010-02-15, 12:36 AM
Well it's certainly an interesting idea, but... I don't think I'd ever use it. Honestly, I'd rather buff fighters to be able to compete with casters most if not all of the time than restrict casters in a largely arbitrary fashion.

mroozee
2010-02-15, 01:47 AM
It is a good idea. I've seen it done with divine magic (where each deity's power is dependent upon the number and proximity of their followers).

What about muliiple magic levels based upon school? So an area may be a level 4 for Evocations but a level 7 for Necromancy. Or have these affected like tides so that right now it is a level 3 but tonight it will be a level 4?

If you put in a resource like this, you will probably want ways to attack it directly. I could imagine a spell that takes 10 minutes to cast bumping up the AML by +1 for 1 minute, for example.

Lysander
2010-02-15, 02:46 AM
The main risk I see with my system is breaking suspension of disbelief by making ambient magic levels a little too convenient for the DM. What I think works best is setting strict rules for the world about what causes high magic levels (or at least what they're usually found near) rather than just making it entirely random. Then put the tougher monsters, villains, and the better treasure in the higher magic "expert difficulty" zones

A few possibilities:

-Each continent has a different magic level
-Certain physical features (mountains, chasms, etc.) tend to have higher magic, while others (plains, deserts) have lower magic
-Magic increases as you approach the north/south poles, the equator is almost magicless
-Magic slowly builds up over time in response to concentrated magic use, making cities the center of magic and the wilderness less magical
-Magic is created by life energy, making fertile lush areas, particularly tropical forests more magical than temperate zones, while glaciers/deserts are almost non-magical
-Magic emanates from ancient stationary artifacts (runestones, ancient temples, altars) scattered throughout the world. The location of most of these artifacts are well known
-Magic is a non-renewable resource that depletes over time. Inhabited areas tend to have lower magic because it's already been used up there. Wild untamed areas have an abundance of magic.

etc.

Milskidasith
2010-02-15, 03:20 AM
-Each continent has a different magic level

This would make intercontinental war very problematic. Not a bad thing, just, you know, a thing to point out. It's also probably bad for a campaign if it's this blanketed, because, honestly, who wants to be stuck on an entire continent you can't cast good spells on?


-Certain physical features (mountains, chasms, etc.) tend to have higher magic, while others (plains, deserts) have lower magic

Aww... no Sand Shapers. :smallfrown: Makes adventuring kind of monotonous; mages only go to chasms and mountains, pragmatic parties of noncasters only go to deserts and plains, etc. I guess they might meet up at small hills and deep rivers, maybe?



-Magic increases as you approach the north/south poles, the equator is almost magicless

This is fine, as long as the buildup is enough you can still cast in areas that are warm enough to live in.


-Magic slowly builds up over time in response to concentrated magic use, making cities the center of magic and the wilderness less magical

This kind of leads to the problem of mages ruling the world; all the warblades and such would be hermits. Crazy swordsmen hermits, but still.


-Magic is created by life energy, making fertile lush areas, particularly tropical forests more magical than temperate zones, while glaciers/deserts are almost non-magical

Still no Sand Shapers. :smallfrown: But this is nice, and allows a lot of variation on where you can go while still letting you allow/limit casting without breaking suspension of disbelief.


-Magic emanates from ancient stationary artifacts (runestones, ancient temples, altars) scattered throughout the world. The location of most of these artifacts are well known

Neat.


-Magic is a non-renewable resource that depletes over time. Inhabited areas tend to have lower magic because it's already been used up there. Wild untamed areas have an abundance of magic.

Now the warblades are all stock brokers and mages are crazy hermits. At least adventurers wouldn't have problems, since they generally go to random abandoned area A and kill the lich or something. Again, not a bad thing, just kind of changes the way the setting works on a huge scale.

I also think that "distilled magic" could be handy for the players, to prevent total fiat against spellcasters. It would have to be fairly expensive (let's say... half-three quarters the cost of a scroll of a spell of that level?), but a potion (well, not a potion use) that, when used with the material components of the spell, temporarily let you cast a high level spell in a lower magic area. Good as a panic button or when you really need to cast teleport to GTFO but the evil Warblade just broke the ancient magic altar giving out magic in the area, or something.

Orzel
2010-02-15, 04:26 AM
I've played a game with rules similar to this (basic plot was a near dead zone nation at war with a country loaded with latent magic). Was fun so I automatically love your idea.


My wizard on the other hand hates it.

Mulletmanalive
2010-02-15, 07:29 AM
I think it's demonstrated how good an idea this one is in that it was previously also thought up by Mike Mearls and Gary Gygax. It was part of the Creative Campaigning book which was published circa 1990.

I've not thought of using it in minor locales or in constant flux [both great ideas] but i've been using this since the late 90s when i designed by first setting.

Nice to see that you can't keep a good idea down. Have a cookie!