James Maliszewski Returns!

2012. That’s the year James Maliszewski posted the last Grognardia entry, one of the best old-school renaissance blogs ever, and no doubt the very best of its time. Over the course of almost 5 years, Grognardia won the reputation of being the reservoir of all wisdom in the world, concerning old-school games, a reputation that stands.

And today, almost 8 years later, there’s a new Grognardia entry. And you can see time hasn’t passed in James’s style, he can still make interesting reviews that help people understand and decide.

Long Live Grognardia!

Making spell acquisition weird again! (updated)

Magic-users in Lamentations of the Flame Princess get new spells pretty much the same way as in any basic/expert set and OSR.

  • Transcribing it from a scroll, making the scroll useless.
  • Transcribing it from another spell-book, the source remains magical.
  • Research.

Of the three, research is the most demanding but also the most rewarding, the other two are not particularly interesting, much less dark, and I like my LotFP dark, even darker.

So I’ve been toying around with different takes to make the acquisition of spells weird again, and here’s the idea I like the most.

Spell Transcription

Copying a spell from any source—scroll, spell-book, ritual tattoo, scrawls on an asylum wall, magic wand, IOUN stones, or anything—to their own spell-books, deletes the spell from the original source. This simple modification changes the game, because no magic-user is willing to part from their arcane property, although some of them might be interested in exchanging.

To get new spells, a magic-user needs to capture spell-books (or other sources of spells). He can then transcribe the text and mystical scribbles into his book, or he can tear off the page and sew it to it (which is faster but dangerous). Under these guidelines, a magic-user can remove the tattoo from its wearer (including the skin, of course) and add it to his spell-book.

Spells contained in unwritten sources, like magic wands or other magic items, can also be “transcribed”.

For simplicity, the mechanical procedure is the same as regular transcription, following the procedure described in Rules & Magic (pp. 80 and 82). The in-game procedure, though, is different. The magic-user needs to remove the spell from the source (written or otherwise) and “paste it” into his own spell-book. If he has special inks, paper and other materials, the procedure is faster (as described on pp. 82 and 83.)

Casting non-transcribed spells is dangerous

If a magic-user casts a spell from a scroll, or from (a page torn from) another spell-book, or by reading the scribbles on a wall, it is considered risky casting (see the Weird Magic System from Vaginas Are Magic or Eldritch Cock). If you are using regular spells (from Rules & Magic), use the common miscast table, unless you want to create a specific miscast table for each spell your players acquire.

Casting spells from magic wands and similar items, is not considered risky casting; the downside is that the magic-user cannot attach wands to his spell-book.

Other consequences of using magic

Concerning sorcery, James Maliszewski said that “the wages of sin are far worse than mere death (…) the loss of one’s humanity, the ability to connect to other men, is terrible curse.”

All magic-users are of chaotic alignment, meaning their loss of humanity. Also, when a magic-user casts a spell (successfully or not), he rolls 1d100, and in a 1, he reduces his Charisma by one point, representing the gradual loss of his ability to connect to other people.

See this random table of simple corruption effects.

What other diabolists think (update)

Some wizards and devil worshippers have their own ideas, and I will share them with you:

“I’ll add one (idea) from personal experience playing LoTFP as a Magic-User earlier this year. My guy was a bit deranged. He worshiped an evil frog god and liked to gut animals and people in the hopes he could discern spell formulae from their entrails. This almost always did nothing except for a few notable cases where he accidentally unleashed horrible, disfiguring curses upon himself. He was quite mad so he persisted in this suicidal endeavor until the inevitable premature end to his adventuring career occurred.” -CrippleHook, on Reddit

This pushes my notion that spells are kindasorta living things… caged into pages or wands or whatever. Not to be duplicated by mere scribbling.
It also encourages casters to hide/disguise their grimoires. IIRC Earthdawn wizards had grimoires in all sorts of peculiar guises… like a teapot where you brew tea and read the leaves to learn spells stored in the pot.

What about if the original spell is in the form of a baroque sculpture or in the architecture of a room… would the transcription require a three dimensional aspect as well? -Ernesto Plasmo, LotFP group on Facebook

To Ernesto’s question I replied that in my opinion, the spell is intangible, like a spirit or energy; the sculpture is not the spell, it’s its home, but your spell-book can be its new home if you convince it to move (that would be the “transcription”). The idea of making a 3D repository is cool, though. The magic-user needs to choose carefully which spells to bring with him, he cannot pack all of them.”

You have any ideas you want to share?