Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Caster - A magic-user for Swords & Sorcery Settings

Still rolling off of my excitement (and bitter denial) I continue to attempt to port some of the logic of Arame’s world into the terms of gaming. In this case the general practice of magic in Arame’s sword and sorcery world.

A quick note before continuing: I introduce a new mechanic (for me anyway) called sanity (see real original). A character’s sanity is nothing more than the character’s wisdom score. Once that wisdom score is brought below 5 the character is considered utterly insane and becomes an NPC under the Referee’s control.

To recover sanity(Wisdom) the character needs to abstain from the use of magic for one month for every point of Wisdom he is attempting to recover. No character can ever recover more than their starting score of sanity (Wisdom).

One final quick note (I promise), ignore the “races permitted” section as I purposefully put in the different cultural races from the currently existing Arame stories. They do not, in any way effect how anyone can play as a Caster unless that person is, of course, attempting to run a game in the Arame story world (which would be utterly awesome!).


The Caster
Magic is very rare; very few people in the world know it or know of it as a real thing and not a superstition. Those who know magic do so at great personal risk because the forces arcane are hash masters and could easily kill any who attempt to use it.

There is no difference between arcane, natural or divine magic and people who have been casters have gone by many titles, including wizards and priests. However, despite the power coming from the same source there is a fundamental difference in the forces used and channeled, the more violent the spell, the more dark the intent the more it weighs on the caster’s soul.

Prime Attributes: Wisdom + 15 (5% Experience Bonus)
Required Attributes: Wisdom + 13
Hit Dice: 1d4
Weapons permitted: Dagger, Staff
Armor Permitted: None
Races Permitted: Numbar, Robathen, Zulan
Arcane Gift: Ability to move and manipulate arcane forces.
Eldritch Bolt: A sickening bolt of unfocused magic that can deal 1d4 of damage to one target.
Mage Sight: +2 Bonus to all saving throws regarding detection or understanding of the arcane.

Caster Abilities
Enslave Demons – Casters, after the 10th level, have the ability to ensnare and enslave demons to their wills. However, the enslaved demon is a reluctant servant and the Caster must succeed a saving throw – the demon’s hit dice every day or risk setting the creature free. See Table Below for details.

Table 1 – Enslaving Demons
Caster Level
Demon CL 10 11 12 13 14 15- 17 18- 19 20
6 10 7 4 4 4 S S S
7 13 10 7 7 4 4 S S
8 16 13 10 7 7 4 4 S
9 19 16 13 7 7 4 4 S
10 20 19 16 10 7 7 4 S
11 - 20 19 13 10 7 7 4
12 - - 20 19 13 10 7 7
13 - - - 20 19 13 10 7

Turn Undead – Casters can turn undead creatures due to their innate understanding of how the forces arcane work. See the table below for details.

Table 2 – Turning Undead
Caster Level
Undead CL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9-14 15-20
1 10 7 4 T T D D D D D
2 13 10 7 T T D D D D D
3 16 13 10 7 T T D D D D
4 19 16 13 7 4 T T D D D
5 20 19 16 10 7 4 T R D D
6 - 20 19 13 10 7 4 T T D
7 - - 20 16 13 10 7 4 T D
8 - - - 20 19 16 13 10 7 T
9 - - - - 20 19 16 10 7 4
10 - - - - - 20 19 13 10 7

Casters have three ways in which they can access and control magic. The first is through study and copying the spells they learn in their spell book. The second is by using spells from another person’s spell book or through the use of scrolls with spells written on them. The final way is from memory, with no book or scroll to focus the raw arcane forces the Caster is trying to make manifest.

When a Caster wishes to cast a spell he or she must roll a saving throw equal to their wisdom score. If the Caster is casting from their spell book they incur a -1 to the roll plus a negative modifier equal to the level of the spell. If the Caster is casting from a scroll or another’s spell book he incurs a -2 plus a negative modifier equal to the spell level. If the Caster attempts to cast a spell by memory alone a -3 modifier plus a negative modifier equal to the spell level is incurred.

A Caster incurs further risk in the types of spells that he choses to employ. Spells that are considered to be “dark” or evil have a 75% chance of harming the Caster’s soul and inflicting a loss in sanity (Wisdom) equal to the spell’s level. While this makes spell casting easier, it also drives the character closer and closer to insanity (a wisdom score of 5 or lower).

If the Caster succeeds the saving throw within normal range the spell goes off like normal. If the Caster succeeds with a natural 20 (a critical) than the spell has twice the effect it would normally have.

If the Caster fails the saving throw within normal range one of the effects listed below occurs. If the Caster fails with a natural 1 (a fumble) to the saving throw than the magic burns out their mind and they are effectively brain dead.

Table 3 – Spell Failure Results
Dice Roll (d10)
The spell fizzles and is burned away
Another unintended spell goes off affecting everyone in the encounter
The magic-user forgets how to read or cast magic for 1d4 hours
The spell fizzles away
The energy of the magic backfires causing the magi-user 1d4 damage.
The spell blows-up in the magic-users face causing double its normal effect

Casters & Culture
Most of the peoples of the world have certain individuals or sects that have through study, bargains, or family lines gained access to the forces arcane. Some examples are as follow.

Numbar – The barbarian tribes of the wild north have a long tradition of shamans, skulds, and seers who act as advisors and healers to the elders and peoples of their tribes. While it is uncommon for Numbar casters to practice magics that are violent or “dark” in nature it is not unheard of. These Casters are shunned by the tribes of the Numbar and care the dishonorable title of Grim.

Robathen – The Robathens have long been regarded as a people dedicated to the scholarly ways and the understanding of the universe. The culture has long had secret cults of Casters usually number in the single digits. While typically benign in their studies of magic and the universe some cults have been lead down darker paths. Typically Robathen Casters are known as Mages and Alchemists.

Zulan – The dark race from the mysterious south is still an enigma to many and all scholars and adventurous types who have traveled to the once closed land of Zula have yet to return (and may never will). The zulan are a highly attuned race of people, and many of their envoys and priests have shown some knowledge of the forces arcane. To date the only name associated with Zulan Casters is Priest.

Table 4 – Caster Advancement
Hit dice (d4)
Saving Throw

Table 1 – Enslaving Demons
Spell Level/Spells Known
Caster Level 1 2 3 4 5
1 - - - - -
2 1 - - - -
3 2 1 - - -
4 2 2 - - -
5 3 2 1 - -
6 3 2 2 - -
6 3 3 2 - -
7 4 3 2 1 -
8 4 3 3 2 -
9 4 3 3 2 1
10 4 4 3 2 1
11 4 4 4 3 2
12 5 4 4 3 2
13 5 5 4 3 2
14 5 5 5 4 3
15+ 5 5 5 5 4

Spell List
Unlike a normal original edition retroclone, like Swords & Wizardry, magic in Arame's world isn't divided into categories like arcane, divine or natural. Instead all Casters can cast any spell. However, some spells are considered “Dark” magic and incur an extra penalty when casting (see spellcasting above). Another thing to remember is that Arame's world is a Swords & Sorcery world, and as such is significantly lower in magical power than a typical fantasy game. As such, no spells exist past the fifth level.

Light Magic
First Level:
1. Cure Light Wounds
2. Detect Magic
3. Entangle
4. Light
5. Purify Food & Drink
6. Shield
7. Sleep
Second Level:
1. Bless
2. Continuous Light
3. ESP
4. Find Traps
5. Hold Person
6. Pyrotechnics
7. Strength

Third Level:
1. Cure Disease
2. Dispel Magic
3. Fly
4. Haste
5. Slow
7. Water Breathing
Fourth Level:
1. Create Water
2. Cure Serious Wounds
3. Polymorph Self
4. Speak with Animals
5. Suggestion
6. Wall of Fire
7. Wall of Ice
Fifth Level:
1. Feeblemind
2. Hold Monster
3. Project Image
4. Rock to Mud
5. Telekineses
6. Wall of Iron
7. Wall of Stone

Dark Magic
First Level:
1. Cause Light Wounds
2. Charm Person
3. Divination
4. Hold Portal
5. Magic Missile
6. Snake Charm

Second Level:
1. Curse
2.Darkness (15 ft radius)
3. Invisibility
4. Knock
5. Phantasmal Force
6. Web

Third Level:
1. Cause Disease
2. Dark Vision
3. Fireball
4. Lightning Bolt
5. Speak to the Dead
6. Suggestion
Fourth Level:
1. Confusion
2. Fear
3. Hallucinatory Terrain
4. Ice Storm
5. Polymorph Other
6. Sticks to Snakes

Fifth Level:
1. Animate Dead
2. Animate Object
3. Blade Barrier
4. Cloudkill
5. Disintegrate
6. Teleport



  1. That looks like a fun class to dig into, and because I have not had the chance play Swords and Wizardry I have one quick question.
    I understand the logic behind the caster having turn undead as an ability , but is there another class that also turns undead? Would this class lessen that other classes role? Or is is this more like a necormancer thing where they should have some effect on undead due to their dark Magic natures..Either way it's darn cool.

    1. In normal Swords & Wizardry there are the cleric and the magic-user classes. The hope would be that The Caster class would replace both the Cleric and Magic-User. If the cleric is still around however, it would lessen the effectiveness of the class as The Caster has access to a lot of the cleric's abilities and Magic-Users abilities.

    2. Fantastic, Just asking, it looks cool as hell, It would be a great option especially in a game with fewer players where a more rounded spell caster might have to carry the load of two other classes. Good show sir.
      I very much want to give S&W a spin one of these days.

  2. "because the forces arcane are hash masters and could easily kill any who attempt to use it."

    Drug lords? Even though it was a typo, not a bad idea.

    Regarding Clerics, perhaps they could be Paladins of the Light magic. Also, you could have Warlocks of Dark magic, similar to the Elf class (in function not form). Elves could be Light or Dark. Druids could borrow from both spell lists to keep the balance between Law and Chaos.

    I like the concept of splitting the spells into opposing factions for a fantasy setting. However, is it the magic spell itself that is blessed/tainted, or how you use it?

    Plenty of the spells on the Light list could be cast with evil intent. Does this also risk the caster's sanity?