Sunday, September 2, 2018

Fuck CMDs

The prior iteration of the sword wizard was met with universally harsh criticism such as:

  • Too much of a focus on combat tricks. Even a wizard based off swords shouldn't be this combat focused.
  • Spells are too utilitarian and lack a "hijinks factor."
  • Cantrips, Mishaps, and Dooms are underwhelming.

For the most part I agree, but I would like to take this opportunity to address these critiques and what they mean for GLOG wizard design going forward.

Swords to Sticks is a good example of a bad spell. Its design is very narrow. The intent is to turn a bunch of scavenged sticks into useful weapons for the party, but that's it. Outside of that situation this spell is pretty much useless because swords aren't that hard to come by.

Transmute Metal to Fire is a good example of a good spell. Its design is very open. The intent is simply turn metal into fire. You can turn a regular sword into a flaming sword. You can turn an iron golem into a giant fire elemental. You can turn a cannon into fire, causing the powder charge to explode, which in turn causes shrapnel-shaped fire to pepper the deck of the ship, setting even more things on fire. Or you can just put out an iron door to get to the other side. It has a long range of uses—perhaps maybe too long.

The difference between these two spells is emergent gameplay, or in less pretentious terms, the hijinks factor. This means the spell is sitting in the Goldilocks zone of intended use. It's narrow enough to not solve every problem, but it's open enough to apply to a range of situations. This lets the wizard player get up to a whole bunch of hijinks.

Pure utilitarianism is too be avoided if possible. Buff spells have their place (just look at Mage Armor) but spells like this are more interesting if it has a weird clause. Argyrosis kind of gets this but clings too close to its utilitarian purpose to really be an interesting spell.

Now we get to the hard part.

I don't like Cantrips, Dooms, or Mishaps, or CMDs for short because the latter is too fucking long.

There I said it.

I get why cantrips exist. They're there for the wizard to do something magical when they run out of spells. But honestly there's a bunch of stuff a wizard can do already without them. Grab a bow and shoot something. Grab a spear and hide behind the meat shield. Cantrips just feel like a distraction from the main attraction themselves, the spells.

Dooms and Mishaps I actually like, but I don't like their execution. I feel like they would be better handled on a spell to spell basis, like how DCC does with its spells.

Something like:

What spell do
What spell do if roll Mishap
What spell do if roll Doom

I don't think I piss anybody off by saying I don't like CMDs. I don't think Arnold or Skerples are looking for disciples, and a unified GLOG ruleset just isn't going to happen anytime soon. So I might as well go full pariah.

Anyway this post started good but quickly devolved into a rant. I'm going to finish my earl grey, take a nap, and go to work.


  1. mishaps on a spell-by-spell basis are cool, you can have more thematic effects. more predictable too. maybe one could still use a table for the mishaps, but some results just say that the spell is corrupted in some way? idk.
    i really like the dooms as they are thou. i think they represent more corruption of magic than errors in spells.

    1. Maybe it's that "corruption of magic" angle that I'm missing. Dooms and mishaps to me seem to be another form of player extermination spray.

    2. You might think that, but in my personal experience, most players are very risk-averse. If you tell them up front, "You can play a Wizard, but if you're not careful you'll be doomed to some sort of horrible fate, they tend to listen. In one campaign the Wizard player never cast any spell that was stronger then first level, because he never wanted to even risk a Mishap, let alone a DOOM.

      So in my experience, Dooms are mostly for the DM. I enjoy them, but no player I've ever run with has ever actually triggered one, though some have gotten pretty close.

      But if you don't want to use them, that's fine. It's your system, after all.

  2. I've gotten rid of cantrips for a while now. Some spells can be cast at 0MD, but only slowly and out-of-combat. They replace the fiddly edge-cases that spells provide ("I've got fireball right? Can I light a small fire?"). Dooms are NOT about the spell. Mishaps maybe, but considering that Wizards are capable of dodging Mishaps out of training, that's just what Mishaps stem from - a lack of experience resulting in a spell-backfiring.

    Dooms on the other hand, are about the ultimate fate of a wizard that delves too deeply and too long into the eldritch abyss. If you are an Orthodox Wizard for too long, your spellcasting ability is burnt down to a useless nub. If you are a Sword Wizard for too long... you turn into a sword. Sure.