Trollgod’s School of Magic by Ken St. Andre

Trollgod’s School of Magic by Ken St. Andre

Trollgod's School of Magic by Ken St. Andre

This article first appeared as a series of posts in the ancient halls of Trollhalla sometime between Edition 7.5 and deluxe Tunnels & Trolls.

Trollworld itself is a magical place. It exudes a force called kremm that bathes the whole planet in magical energy. Lesser wizards and magical creatures are able to store a miniscule part of that force and use it to reshape reality.

That’s magic.

Greater wizards do not bother with storing kremm inside themselves–they manipulate the infinite force of the world directly, and thus can do far more powerful things. Greater wizards are indistinguishable from gods–limited only by their own intelligence and imagination. Fortunately, there aren’t very many of them around, and players will never be allowed to be greater wizards. The greater wizards are NPC manifestations of the Game Master.

Principles of Magic

The principles of Magic in Trollworld are:

  1. If you can imagine a thing, you can do that thing.
  2. The greater the change in reality, the more kremm, intelligence, and dexterity the spell will require.
  3. If you don’t get the magic right, then you probably don’t get the magic at all. You usually don’t wind up with unintended consequences and rogue spells.
  4. (You will notice I said probably and usually. I do things on a simple pass/fail system. Either you succeed and cast your spell, or you fail and don’t cast it. That doesn’t mean that another GM couldn’t look at the world differently and set up a system of partial successes or bizarre consequences for failure, but it isn’t how the rules are written right now.)
  5. Practice makes better. Because there is an INT saving roll involved in each spell now, the player will always be gaining adventure points for casting magic. Those adventure points can be cashed in to raise any attribute, including INT, WIZ, and DEX–all of which will make the player wizard a better magician in time.
    (Note: Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls has removed the need to make a Saving Roll to cast a spell.)

Spell by Spell

While Take That You Fiend is indeed your most basic mage combat spell, in my humble opinion, it is not the most basic spell of all.

Discussion 1: Detect Magic

The basic ability, without which you are not a wizard, is to Detect Magic. This is so basic that we give it to wizards for free. It is like detecting air, an ability that we all have, but if the air changes we notice. If there was no air, we’d notice immediately. If the air is thin, we have trouble breathing. If kremm is low, the wizard has trouble casting spells. If the air stinks, we know it. That is like detecting evil magic. The wizard knows when magic is malevolent and harmful to life. That is what bad magic is. It harms you. If the air carries a delightful aroma, then that is like detecting good magic. Good magic is helpful magic. Everything in between is functional or neutral magic. Neither harm nor help is intended. The magic simply does something.

Trollworld is so full of magic that the wizard detects it all the time, just as we detect air all the time. We don’t think about it, and neither does he. When there is a sudden upsurge of magic, he notices. When the wind blows, we notice it.

Rogues and Warriors may detect magic but not even know they are doing it. Sometimes the magic in a place or object is so strong that even they feel it. Rogues have a Detect Magic spell–it simply focuses their mind so that they notice magic in a way they wouldn’t ordinarily notice it. It costs them concentration and 1 kremm point. If they had stayed in Wizards School, they’d be able to do it for free, automatically.

So, for a wizard to say I cast Detect Magic is redundant. If the G.M. is any good at his craft, he will tell wizardly players when there is magic in an area or object.
One thing needs to be mentioned. Just like incense can hide the odor of something foul or rotten, so too can the essence of magic be disguised or overwhelmed. Imagine a room with 100 magical artifacts in it. Of those 100, 3 of them will actively harm people. 5 will help people. The other 92 will just do stuff. Would our magic detecting wizard be able to immediately zero in on the harmful or helpful objects. No. The overwhelming ambience is functional, not evil. To find the evil ones, he would have to examine each object individually.

Does that make sense to you? The basic rule for T & T gaming is: Do things make sense? Within the context of the world, do things make sense? I maintain that they do.

Discussion 2: Take That You Fiend (TTYF)

When I’m writing T & T fiction, I always describe TTYF as a simple Kill spell. You aim, you visualize or call out your target, and if you make the INT saving roll to indicate you did it right, the target takes damage equal to the caster’s INT.

The spell can be cast at higher levels. The cost of the spell increases by the original cost per level, but doubles the effect of the level before it.

Thus, a L1 TTYF would cost 6 kremm and might do 12 points of damage.
A L2 TTYF would cost 12 kremm and do 24 points of damage.
A L3 TTYF would cost 18 points and do 48 points of damage.
A L4 TTYF would cost 24 points and do 96 points of damage, and so forth.

Trollgod's School of Magic by Ken St. Andre

A note on Spell costs

The cost of spells can be reduced or increased by various factors. A L2 wizard casting a L1 spell is entitled to subtract 1 point from the cost of the spell. A L3 wizard could subtract 2 points and so forth. However no matter how much you subtract, no spell can ever cost less than 1 point to cast.

Having a focus, such as a wizard’s staff can also reduce the cost of the spell. A L1 wizard with ‘staff ordinaire’ can cast L1 TTYF for only 5 points. A L2 wizard could cast it for 4 points.

TTYF may also be cast at a higher level with a minor penalty. A L1 wizard could cast a L2 TTYF if he had the kremm, INT and DEX for it. The spell would cost him 13 kremm and do 24 points of damage. He would also have to make a L2SR on INT in order to cast it.

Discussion 3: Knock Knock

Knock Knock is a simple unlocking spell. How many times have we all played games where the game or the GM says something like: “The treasure chest is locked”. And we answer, “I’m a thief. I pick the lock.” And the GM says, “No you can’t pick the lock.” And we say, “I hit it with my axe and break the lock.” And the GM says no you can’t break the lock. You ask, “How can I open the chest?” The GM says you need the key. You say, “Where’s the key.” He says, “Nobody knows. You have to quest for it.” You say “Aaaaaaaggggghhhh!”

Well, T & T gets around all that with the Knock Knock spell. No simple lock should ever frustrate adventurers again–at least not if they have a wizard along.

Imagine your character as a thief. It’s one of the standard forms of hero in fantasy literature and gaming. Knowing a Knock Knock spell would sure be handy for such a character.

Knock Knock spells can be cast at higher levels. They simply have the effect of unlocking more difficult locks. Because once the idea of unlocking things by magic occurs to you, then the idea of locking things by magic should also occur to you. If you had a magical lock, and you didn’t want it opened by a simple Knock Knock spell, you would cast it at a higher level. Higher level magic always overrules lower level magic. Thus, a L2 Locktight spell would stop a L1 Knock Knock spell, but it wouldn’t stop a level 2 spell or 2 level ones cast in quick succession.

Magic Discussion 4: Oh There It Is

In dungeons, and even outside them, things are often hidden. One of my favorite dungeon gimmicks is the hidden door. In fact, I lay awake at night thinking up new ways to hide doors in dungeons. For example, put that hidden trap door in the bottom of a treasure chest, and then cover it with copper pieces. Ugh! Who bothers with copper piece? The fact that there is a secret room directly below might never be discovered.

Unless one casts Oh There It Is. Now hidden or invisible things show up in my favorite magical color–free xp to the first person to correctly say what that color is in T & T terms. Is the room too plain to be of interest? Time for an Oh There It Is spell.

Oh There It Is will also find invisible creatures. You might think there is something invisible in a room when you bump into it and don’t see it. Cast OTII and find out. It’s a very useful spell.

Magic Discussion 5: Call Flame

Wiz Cost: 7
Range: Touch
Duration: Instantaneous
Power Up: Yes. Deals 1 extra die of damage with each level increase.

This spell was added for the 7th edition. Back in the original T & T we were so focused on fighting and killing monsters that almost everything was a combat spell. And yet, the most basic function of a wizard from the dawn of time on is to bring fire to the people. Fire is an inherently magical thing. It’s not solid, liquid, or gaseous–although it’s more like a gas than anything else. Fire destroys, but fire also creates. And yet our wizards in the old days had to be at least 3rd level to cast blasting power of flame. So, the first thing a beginning wizard actually learns is how to Call Flame. How handy. You can do damage by simply reaching out and touching something, and you can set things on fire. I do think it’s the first thing a real wizard should learn how to do.

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Images Copyright Simon Lee Tranter