2017/03/11

OSR: Elementalist Wizards

I decided not to outline the details of the Wizard Schools in my campaign until they came up in play. I wanted to see what the players, completely new to the genre, would do with them. The only school that's been defined so far is the Elementalists. They're based on this post from Goblin Punch. Hopefully I've added some interesting aspects to a fairly stock concept.

Elementalist Wizards

Le Pater, Alphonse Mucha

Elementalist Wizards speak to and rely on elemental spirits. They are a wild bunch, disreputable and windblown. They are trained in the Great Tower of Elderstone at great expense. In rural areas, they are beloved as rain-bringers and flood-calmers, but they are also run out of town or hung following forest fires and earthquakes. This is not always ignorant superstition. Attracting the attention of powerful elemental spirits is very dangerous.

Thomas is currently paying off his debts to the Great Tower. He knows two spells: Dissolve and Anklecrusher. If you have the right kind of sight, you would see Dissolve as a tiny green acid elemental with a sword, and Anklecrusher as a flatfish-like stone elemental made of fingers.
Perk: +3 to Save or Defense vs Elemental damage. No bonus against non-damaging effects.

Would this apply to being struck by lightning? Certainly. But what about HP loss due to frostbite? Or acid sprayed by a slime? I'd say yes to both. Frostbite is caused by tiny elemental spirits nipping at your flesh. Slimes naturally generate acid elementals.

Drawback: Cannot cast fire spells if wet. Cannot cast water or ice spells if dehydrated. Cannot cast earth or acid spells if you are not touching the ground. Cannot cast air or lightning spells if you do not have line of sight to the sky. 

The school's drawback is quite intuitive. The lightning and air spell restrictions do mean that a wind-based mage isn't much use in the dungeon, but only exclusively Wind-based spell on the core list is Wind Scythe, which I'll cover later.


Cantrips:  1. You can sense the potency and disposition of any nearby elemental spirits by meditating for 1 hour.
2. Summon a flame the size of a candle's by snapping your fingers. Cannot be used to deal damage.
3. Meditate for 1 hour to gain a new Save against any poison or damaging effect.

I'm rewriting (1) to read "You gain Elemental Vision for 1 hour by meditating for 1 hour."

Elemental Vision: your training allows you to anthropomorphize elemental spirits. The ground appears to be made of interlinked stone bodies. A campfire is a jolly spirit devouring logs. Clouds appear as fat naked people rolling through the sky. You can speak to the spirits - you always could, anyone can - but when you are attuned like this, they are more inclined to listen. They won't obey you, and they may be hostile, but they may also offer advice, tell tales, demand offerings, or simply ignore you.


It seems more evocative. The old version just told the player what they could guess already: water spirits in the bog, storm spirits in the clouds, etc.

(2) is very, very, very useful. Relighting lamps or campfires is now less of a concern. I ruled that the flame only exists for a few moments, so it's not a continual light source, and it has to appear within 10' and line of sight, but it's still a cantrip that instantly makes the Elementalist a beloved addition to a party.


(3) Is a minor cantrip. Most poisons will kill you in under an hour, but the "damaging effect" line is deliberately vague. Mummy Rot, a broken heart, or roasting in an oven might be covered.
Mishaps:
1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24 hours
2. Take 1d6 damage
3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then make a save. Permanent if you fail.
4. Soaked, or dehydrated, or flung upwards, or buried.
5. Deafened for 1d6 rounds
6. Wild elemental spirits flee your body for 1d6 rounds. Everyone within line of sight must Save each round or be stunned
The first 3 mishaps are the same for every school. (4) is entertaining and vague. I'd say that the effect should be the opposite of the elemental type of the spell. If you cast control water and got this mishap,  you should be dehydrated. If you cast wall of fire, expect to be soaked. (5) isn't terribly dangerous but will hinder tactical coordination. (6) is going to be entertaining to narrate, but it affects enemies as well as allies. It's line of sight based as well. If you mishap on top of a tower, everyone is going to stop to watch the fireworks.

Doom of the Elementalist:
1. Take sufficient elemental damage to reduce you to zero HP. 
2. Each time you cast an Elemental spell, Save or the spell flies out of control. If it likes you, the effects might not be too bad. 
3. The elements turn against you. Expect 1d4+4 powerful spirits to arrive shortly. In the meantime, fire chases you, stones seek to crush you, the earth trembles, and lightning bolts plunge from the sky.
(1) is not the worst Doom. It's very much a warning shot. (2) starts to bring in the "wild" aspects of the Elementalist. Your spells, more so than other schools, have minds and wills of their own. Cast ice breath, and the ice elemental might decide to go around freezing your potions and the local water supply. The longer you keep a spell in your spellbook (spell jail), the less likely it is to listen to  you. (3) is very dangerous. Powerful elemental spirits could include "the hills" "a major volcano" "ancient underground coal bed fires" "the local chain of lakes" etc. They have friends, and they'll call on them. You made a diplomatic blunder. You asked too much.
This doom can be avoided by journeying to a powerful elemental centre and pledging yourself to the spirit within, or by visiting pure vacuum or the deepest shadow.
If you want to avoid the wrath of a powerful elemental, find a more powerful elemental to protect you (and, by extension, your friends). Alternatively, visit a place beyond the elements. Shadow and vacuum can cut the ties that let elementals identify you.

Spell List:

In Goblin Punch, spells are creatures. They're spirits that live in a wizard's brain and burst out, doing their duty and then taking a brief vacation. Elementalists are very close to their spells. They name them and treat them like pets. After all, if a conceptual acid elemental lived in your brain, you'd take care of it too. It's possible that your spells breed, or age. Maybe your circle of frost spell is carried by the children or slaves of your wall of ice spell.

For spells with [element] listed, you can choose the element. If you'd generate a duplicate of a spell with the [element] tag as you gain Wizard templates, you may either reroll the spell, or choose a different element. There's no rule that says you have to be consistent in your element choices, but it will probably happen naturally.
1. Circle of Frost
R: self T: [dice]x10’ radius D: 3 rounds
All creatures in area take 1d4 damage, Save vs Reflex for half. Everything that fails its Save is frozen to whatever surface they were touching. Boots are frozen to the ground, keys are frozen in their locks. Creatures are usually immobilized from the boots down unless they were playing in a fountain or something. Attempting to break loose is a free action that can be attempted once per round, and requires a successful opposed Strength test. The ice has a Strength of 10 + [dice]x2.
This spell doesn't do much damage, and it doesn't grow in power at higher levels. At maximum power, it's still just 1d4 damage in a 40' radius with a Strength of 18. The main advantage is that it affects all targets. Creatures with 1HP, like goblins, are not going to like this spell. I'd also allow it to create a very dangerous bridge over calm water.
2. Control [Element] (Elemental) Pick one of the following elements. Control Rain is a bit of an odd exception, but it was too good not to include in this list. I'd say the effects increase more or less exponentially. At 4 [dice], Control Earth should let you dig a moat or build a hill, like a proper crazy wizard. Control Air at 4 [dice], could push a small fleet of ships, or summon up the North Wind itself to freeze an army.
Control Air  
R: 50’ T: a gust of wind D: concentration 
Control a gust of wind within 50'. At one [die], use wind to (a) clear away fog or gas, (b) extinguish a fire no larger than a torch, (c) blow all the papers off a desk, (d) with concentration, provide enough of a breeze to power a tiny sailboat. Each [dice] you invest increases the effects.   
Control Earth
R: 50’ T: a bucket’s worth of earth D: concentration
Control a small amount of earth within 50'. At one [die]: (a) excavate a bucket's worth of dirt, (b) smooth and fill the same amount, (c) causing the earth to quickly swallow a small item, or quickly swallow a non-resisting person, chest, or signpost, (d) exhume something at the same rate, (e) knock over some hobo's shack with a tiny tremor. Each [dice] you invest increases the effects.

Control Fire
R: 50’ T: a torch’s worth of fire D: concentration
Control a small fire within 50’ At one [die]: (a) cause a fire to double in size, power, and brightness, (b) create a huge amount of smoke, (c) extinguish a fire no larger than a torch, (d) have a small ember (0 damage) jump 1' off the fire, (e) ignite something that is meant to be burnt, such as a match, cigarette, or fuse, (f) heat up a cup of tea to a pleasant temperature. Each [dice] you invest increases the effects.

Control Rain
R: 1000’ T: self D: [dice] hours
If it's raining, you can make it not rain for 1000' around you. If there's not a cloud in the sky, this spell has no effect. If it's cloudy, you can make it rain for 1000' around you. Most days have a 40% chance of being cloudy. Cannot be cast indoors.

Control Water
R: 50’ T: a bucket’s worth of water D: concentration
Control a small amount of water within 50’. At one [die]: (a) propel a small boat, (b) carry a small item through the water, (c) allow someone to swim at 2x speed, (d) force someone to swim at half speed, (e) splash something no more than 5' away, (f) dry something that is wet, (g) freeze a small amount of water, (h) cool a hot cup of tea. Each [dice] you invest increases the effects.

One of these spells is lovely to start with. It's exactly what an Elementalist Wizard wants to be - a master of at least one element. You might end up with a few of them by the time you gain your 4th template. They scale with level, although I can't be bothered to define how in precise terms.
3. Dissolve
R: 50' T: object or creature D: concentration
Target you stare at takes 1d4 acid damage per round and begins to dissolve. Save vs Con for half damage. Can bore holes in walls, but it only makes a hole 1' and creates a lot of acidic sludge on the floor. [dice]”/10 minutes through stone, [dice]”/minute through wood, cannot affect metal. Heals slimes and oozes for 1d4/round.

This is a strange little spell. 1d4 damage per round with a chance to save for half isn't much, but it's the duration that makes it really dangerous. It's a little tickle of damage but it's continuous, and at low levels, that's nothing to sneeze at. You can also melt locks, hinges, tripwires, or illusions with it.  


4. [Element] Breath 
R: [dice]x20‘ cone T: area D: 0
Does 1d4 damage to anything in the cone. Save vs Con for half damage. Wind or Water breath extinguishes all fires smaller than a big bonfire. Fire breath sets very flammable things on fire. Acid breath bleaches the colour from objects and irritates the eyes.
One of the weakest spells on the list. The main bonus is the cone size. An 80' cone is pretty impressive, but the damage is a bit pathetic. The main goal is to argue for side effects. An 20' cone of fire is going to scare off a lot of kobolds.
5. Stoneskin
R: touch T: creature D: 10 min
Reduce all physical damage the target takes by [dice]x2. The target cannot swim, jump, or run.
A damage reduction of 2 is impressive at Level 1, but bear in mind that swimming, jumping, and running are very important in the dungeon. You might be tied up by goblins. You might drown. Your friends might leave you behind. Alternatively, use this spell to really fuck up an aquatic creature's day or to fix a horse race.
6. Anklecrusher
R: 50' T: [dice]x2 objects or creatures D: 0
Target creature or object is grabbed by the ground itself. Target takes 1d6 damage and is immobilized. Save vs Dex to negate, prone creatures automatically fail. Target is immobilized until it can win an opposed Strength test against the ground. The effective Strength of the ground depends on what it is made out of: Dirt 8, Clay 12, Limestone 16, Basalt 18. This spell has no effect on things that aren't touching the ground.
This spell is circle of frost's brother. It does slightly more damage, but to a limited number of targets, and at variable strength. The main bonus is that it can grab and enfold objects, and that it alters the ground itself for the spell's duration. I'd allow an Elementalist to use this spell to move earth and stone around in a crude way.

That's it for the "starting" spells. An Elementalist will start with 2 of the spells listed above (generated randomly).

7. Protection from [Element]
R: touch T: [dice]x[dice] targets D: 10 minutes / 8 hours
Reduce all damage of the chosen type by 4 for the next 10 minutes. Alternatively, the spell protects its targets from the negative effects of the element (desert heat, arctic chill) for the next 8 hours.
There's not much to say about this spell, except that it will make the Elementalist very popular on long journeys. The effect is caused by summoning little counter-elementals. For example, if you wanted to protect against cold damage, the Elementalist would summon a swarm of tiny fire elementals to warm the hair and skin of their allies.
8. Ignite
R: 50' T: object or creature D: 0
Target object or object takes [sum] damage and catches on fire. Save negates.
This is the Elementalist fireball. It only affects one target, and Save negates it completely, but [sum] damage can become substantial, and ongoing fire damage is nasty. It also doesn't have any conditions. You could set a lake on fire, apparently.
9. Breathe [Element]
R: touch T: [dice] creatures D: 2 hr
Target can breath in the chosen element, in addition to their normal modes of respiration. Clearing your lungs before the spell expires is mandatory. Does not grant you protection from that element, just from drowning in it.
This spell scales very badly with level, but so it goes. Water breathing is quite powerful in the dungeon. I'm not pedantic enough to say that "Breathe Fire" wouldn't protect you from smoke. That seems unnecessarily picky.
10. Wind Scythe
R: 50' T: object or creature D: 0
Apply a melee attack from a slashing weapon in your hand to a target within 50’. If you are unarmed, counts as a dagger (1d6). Gain +2 to Attack and deal +[sum] damage.
This is the Elementalist Fireball Except Better. It's very evocative. The wizard swings her sword and cuts a wall in half. Sadly, you have to be outdoors to use it. Obviously, people and objects in the path of the Wind Scythe but who are not the target will be knocked prone or flung about for dramatic effect.

Emblem Spells are the "classic" spells of a school.

11. Wall of [Element].
I'm not sure what a "Wall of Acid" or "Wall of Ice" would look like, precisely, but I'm pretty sure that I could use 3 walls listed below to figure them out in a hurry.
Wall of Earth
R: 20’ T: wall D: permanent
You rearrange dirt to form a 10’ by 10’ panel per [dice]. You can mold the wall, similar to cutting holes and notches in a sheet of paper. The wall has Defense 2 and [dice]x2 HD. If it is horizontal, the wall must be anchored on at least 2 sides.
Wall of Fire
R: 20’ T: wall D: 1 minute
You summon fire to form a 10’ by 10’ panel per [dice]. You can mold the wall, similar to cutting holes and notches in a sheet of paper. The wall does not block line of sight. It deals 1d6 fire damage to anything that passes through it. Save vs Dex or be set on fire.

Wall of Wind
R: 20’ T: wall D: 1 minute
You summon wind to form a 10’ by 10’ panel per [dice]. You can mold the wall, similar to cutting holes and notches in a sheet of paper. The wall does not block line of sight. Powerful winds will knock small projectiles out of the air and prevent vermin (anything smaller than a rat) from crossing. Ranged attacks that pass through the wall get [dice]x-3 to hit.
The walls are... walls. Area control, damage, problem solving, river diverting, ship-tormenting walls. 
12. Shocking Grasp
R: 0 T: self D: 10 min
You enchant your hand so that it discharges [sum]+[dice]x2 damage worth of lightning into the next thing you touch. Touching an unwilling opponent requires an Attack roll against their unarmored Defense. You cannot wear any metal on the hand you enchant. If you deal more than 12 damage, you and your target must both Save or be flung apart, knocked prone, and deafened for 1d6 rounds.
Handshake of death! At 4 dice, you deal a minimum of 12 damage, average 19, and a maximum of 32. Ouch. I'd probably conveniently forget the "must see the sky" restriction on this spell, simply because it gives the Elementalist the ability to punch a monster and send both wizard and beast flying away, smouldering and deafened.

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