Spell Failure

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A quick system for spells that go south

In our modified spell-casting rules, it is entirely possible to mis-cast a spell, fail in an attempt to conduct spell research, or make a terrible mistake whilst creating an enchanted item. The Spell Failure table provides a roster of possible outcomes to such failures.

Spell Failure Table

Unless otherwise noted, the Spell Failure table is generally consulted whenever a spell check roll fails. Results in italics are specific to failures during the spell research process. In all cases, caster refers to the character making the spell check roll.

2d10 Roll Result
2 Dimensional rift sucks caster and those in 20′ radius to another plane (50′ radius)
3–4 Caster safely but randomly teleported 1d4 miles (1d8 miles) away
5–6 Caster succumbs to paralysis for 1d4 hours (1d6 days)
7–9 Spell works, but focus/target is nearest ally (desired range is 1/2)
10–12 Spell works, but duration/damage is halved (desired duration/damage is halved)
13–15 Spell works, but caster is spell focus/target (desired range is 1/3)
16–17 Caster in stupor; all rolls penalised by -2d4 for 1d4 days (1d8 days)
18–19 Attempt summons 1d4 hostile planar monsters of DM’s choice (1d6 monsters)
20 Caster absorbs spell energy; loses 50% of maximum hp value (25% hp loss)a

a. This is not a permanent loss, as such damage can be healed. However, because the value is based on the caster’s maximum hit points, this result could prove fatal if the caster has already sustained significant damage.

The table above contains suggestions only and can be modified at the DM’s option. One possible alteration is to make separate tables for clerical and magical spells; another is to further separate results that pertain only to spell research.1

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1. If the Spell Failure Table is modified, it is highly recommended that the results follow a bell curve of possible die results. Mild failures should appear at the curve’s centre, and more serious calamities should be represented toward the extremes. This will help ensure that, while certainly significant and of consequence, spell failures do not cause unfair disaster to the party or the campaign.

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Erin Smale

Erin Smale is the author of the Chimera RPG and WelshPiper.com, a sporadic, rambling blog that provides tips and tools for the time-challenged game master. He lives in secret along the New Jersey coast with his ass-kicking wife Kim and astoundingly cute dog Bella.

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