mercurial magic

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modus666
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mercurial magic

Post by modus666 » Sun Jun 10, 2012 9:30 pm

i like the idea behind unique manifestations for each spell for each wizard.

however.

some of the results from the mercurial magic table can be just plain outrageous. i mean... i KNOW magic is supposed to be unpredictable... but my player looked at me like i was crazy when i told him that "yes... every time you cast comprehend languages, toads rain down to such an extent that its dangerous."

has anyone come up with any alternative home rule systems or options that they could recommend?

one thing i considered was after determining the result allow the mage to pick the result on either side up on down from the result rolled, giving the character SOME control. does that seem reasonable?

yes i know its up to the judge/me.

i'm just wanting a little feedback before the guy running the two elves with crippling downsides to all his spells table flips on me.

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by tovokas » Sun Jun 10, 2012 9:55 pm

It's true that some of the results are essentially 'spell-killers' - where the costs are so high that casting the spell is simply impracticable. This might make sense for a very powerful spell with earth-shattering effects, but if one of your close buds bites it every time you cast magic missile, it's gonna get messy. ;)

A few options off the top of my head:

1) A simple solution would be to allow them to roll twice and choose their favorite.

2) Make mercurial magic optional player by player. If your player wants the flavor, go for it. But if you know a particular player will balk at it, simply don't roll for it. This might be particularly useful for new players that haven't acclimated to the DCC vibe yet.

3) Re-roll any roll below 25 or above 75.

4) Only add mercurial magic for 3rd or higher level spells

I'm sure there are lots more options out there!
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Re: mercurial magic

Post by caveman » Sun Jun 10, 2012 10:18 pm

...or mercurial magic could happen on a failure, but not on a successful casting. "Doh, the toads again. Need to get that pronunciation right."

I've had the same issue. Specifically, for a Cantrip spell, an elf must deliver a soul to his patron. Whoa.

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by Ravenheart87 » Sun Jun 10, 2012 10:29 pm

Or extend the use of spellburn to avoid harmful effects of mercurial magic.

"Oh Axzharashlagoth, demon lord of ponies and all things beautiful, turn these evil falling frogs to petals!"
"Okay, cut down half your leg."
"Well... Damn, I hate frogs..."
<chop>
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Re: mercurial magic

Post by TheNobleDrake » Mon Jun 11, 2012 12:58 am

I have been considering some alterations for the mercurial magic system... I love it, but it has had some moments that made it feel a little too "heavy" in delivery... specifically when a Wizard managed to have someone he knows die every time he casts read magic, and an Elf can only invoke his patron while submersed in water.

Consideration 1) the way Luck modifiers apply tends to make it so that having a high luck score means more change of what I call "double fudge day" - you roll decently high, expect a favorable result, and end up rolling again twice with a lower average result... and it nets you a pair of detrimental effects on one spell.

I've been thinking about having a Luck bonus allow changing the result by up to (10 x Luck modifier)% in the direction of the player's choice, allowing the lucky player to sway the results a little towards something desirable or more tolerable than what was rolled.
Inversely a negative Luck modifier would allow the Judge to sway the result to the same degree towards something a bit more malign for the spell.

Consideration 2) re-rolls for theme - simply allowing a re-roll, or Judge's choice to save time, if the mercurial effect rolled doesn't really "fit" the spell... like read magic resulting in some burst of fire surrounding the character would be re-rolled since it would otherwise limit the spell to only actually being used on magical writings not susceptible to the fire damage caused by casting it.

Consideration 3) allowing each wizard or elf to roll 3 mercurial effects and choose one that applies to every spell he casts.

This, despite being a pretty significant chance of pure power-boost if a great roll comes up, is the way of handling the situation that I am leaning towards suggesting to my players first should they start to grow unsatisfied with the current by-the-book system. I like the idea of having less numerous effects for the player to consider the impact of in order to cast a spell, and that it creates a common "theme" to the spells cast by the character despite their individual manifestations

Consideration 4) My own mercurial chart with none of the "well.. that makes that unlikely to ever actually get used" effects... which is probably more work than I actually feel like doing anytime soon.

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by Colin » Mon Jun 11, 2012 2:35 am

TheNobleDrake wrote:3) allowing each wizard or elf to roll 3 mercurial effects and choose one that applies to every spell he casts.
A fun spin on this is to have the Player make the percentile roll, but then have the option of "flip-flopping" the result. So, if they rolled 69, for example, they could take that result, or 96.

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by bill4935 » Mon Jun 11, 2012 4:15 am

modus666 wrote: i mean... i KNOW magic is supposed to be unpredictable... but my player looked at me like i was crazy when i told him that "yes... every time you cast comprehend languages, toads rain down to such an extent that its dangerous."
I see your player's problem: his spell is mislabelled. That's not a comprehend languages spell, that's a Summon Toads spell. Since it's probably going to be useful only when the wizard is surrounded by Toad-God cultists who need to be impressed/awed, if I were DM I'd make it more likely that this wizard finds another spell (that his mind can comprehend and withstand casting) during an upcoming adventure, so that he's not suffering the burden of a useless spell for very long.

Although he might be happy he's got it when the players encounter a tribe of starving lizard men.


Has anyone read the fantasy novels of "Ethshar" by Lawrence Watt-Evans? Wizardry is chaotic in that world, and improperly cast spells can have wildly bizarre results. Actually, thinking of the jar-opening cantrip that summons a good-sized demon to wrench the lid off the jar with its tentacular limbs, even some of the normal, successful spells were bizarre. The novel With A Single Spell is ALL about a wizard with one minor spell using it (and its side effects) to great advantage in his adventures.

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by modus666 » Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:37 am

Colin wrote:
TheNobleDrake wrote:3) allowing each wizard or elf to roll 3 mercurial effects and choose one that applies to every spell he casts.
A fun spin on this is to have the Player make the percentile roll, but then have the option of "flip-flopping" the result. So, if they rolled 69, for example, they could take that result, or 96.

Colin
that all sounds well and good till they roll nothing but 11, 22, 33, etc lol

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by Colin » Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:41 am

modus666 wrote:
Colin wrote:
TheNobleDrake wrote:3) allowing each wizard or elf to roll 3 mercurial effects and choose one that applies to every spell he casts.
A fun spin on this is to have the Player make the percentile roll, but then have the option of "flip-flopping" the result. So, if they rolled 69, for example, they could take that result, or 96.

Colin
that all sounds well and good till they roll nothing but 11, 22, 33, etc lol
Sometimes fate doesn't give you a choice; sometimes you *have* to feel the pain. ;)

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by Raven_Crowking » Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:48 am

TheNobleDrake wrote:I have been considering some alterations for the mercurial magic system... I love it, but it has had some moments that made it feel a little too "heavy" in delivery... specifically when a Wizard managed to have someone he knows die every time he casts read magic, and an Elf can only invoke his patron while submersed in water.
I consider these things to be a feature, not a bug.

In your examples, an imaginative player can make his Wizard a "Chatty Kathy" who gets to know everybody. I mean, literally everybody he can. He needs the most Friends on Facebook, 'cause he keeps losing them. Or perhaps he befriends nobody but the man he truly wishes to die, who is so powerful that he can be defeated in no other way.

For Invoke Patron, with characters that have more than one Patron, I would roll a new Mercurial each time, so that the result is specific to invoking that specific patron. Can only summon Straasha when submerged? Try obtaining the patronage of Filyeet as well!

Consider also how the really bad results are the result of low Luck at the time the spell is learned. Take that away, and the Wizard is less likely to consider Spellburn and more likely to simply burn Luck. Does this mean that some spells are unlikely to be cast? Yeah, probably. But, given how game-changingly powerful spells can be, this is more flavour than anything else.

Finally, want the chance to change your Mercurial Magic roll? The game already gives you an answer: Quest For It!

The scenario I am currently working on for Purple Duck Games is a quick answer for Judges who have players that want to Quest For It. In Through the Cotillion of Hours, characters have a chance to petition Somnos, the Dreaming God, for some specific favour....if only they can reach him before the thirteenth chime rings!

I strongly believe that, rather than allowing multiple rolls or choices (for that way optimization lies!) let the PCs do something to change the way things are! Let them find the Wheel of Fate and spin it, or disturb the Well at the World's End so that all Mercurial Magic results are changed within the campaign milieu. Let them seek out the demon lord of toads and make a compact so that he prevents the toad-rain from falling whenever that spell is cast.

But do consider making new tables every so often, so that unpredictable results can still occur as your game progresses. Just try to make the bad as bad, and the good as good, as the random result for a given value on the original table.

Have fun with it, and encourage your players to do likewise. How they deal with their Mercurial Magic results is up to them; it is not something the Judge needs to fix for them.
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Re: mercurial magic

Post by TheNobleDrake » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:14 pm

I completely agree with you Raven_Crowking.

As I did say, I love the mercurial magic system - all of it, even when trying to cast a "simple" spell manages to be some dangerous gambit the wizard must enter into.

I actually get quite sad to hear a player say "okay... I'm going to cast magic missile, and I will spellburn 2." or when the Elf in party decides to throw a javelin instead of risk his enlarge spell with a -1 base spell check modifier... I want them to go big, play epic, and love it even when the result is something like "that 10 points of spellburn manifests as a demon taking part of your soul hostage - which it says it will release once you have done a favor for it, but your spell obliterates your opponent in the meantime" or a misfire with corruption.

Luckily, my players are starting to seem more like they are getting used to the ideas - one player is excited for a week to pass in play so that his brand new crab claw is finished forming - as opposed to my worry that they will start to grow weary of all the "random bad-stuff" as it might be perceived.

Also "Quest for it" is what I feel is the absolute best suggestion ever made in an RPG book - especially since it means that I, running the campaign, can have the player write even more of the story than I have before. My group are already trying to figure out exactly how and when to go on quests to restore their physical bodies to their pre-repeated-near-death-experience scarred states or improve them even beyond... the Halfling in particular is missing his 13 stamina now that it has been beaten down to 9,

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by larsdangly » Wed Jun 13, 2012 7:31 am

There are a lot of ways for the dice to be cruel to you in DCC, and mercurial magic is one of them. I have to say, at this stage I think it is most fun to just go with it. Maybe it feels like a 'spell killer' to get the rain of frogs, but how about thinking of it as a 'scene maker'?

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by ScrivenerB » Wed Jun 13, 2012 7:38 pm

Actually, this one's easy. In this case the frogs are what read the magic to you, in intelligible but rather croaky words.

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by bholmes4 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 8:17 pm

ScrivenerB wrote:Actually, this one's easy. In this case the frogs are what read the magic to you, in intelligible but rather croaky words.
You just blew my mind with awesome. :shock:

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by Ravenheart87 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 10:13 pm

ScrivenerB wrote:Actually, this one's easy. In this case the frogs are what read the magic to you, in intelligible but rather croaky words.
Dude, that's so f*cking DCC! Someone give him a beer, now!
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Re: mercurial magic

Post by IronWolf » Thu Jun 14, 2012 5:10 am

larsdangly wrote:There are a lot of ways for the dice to be cruel to you in DCC, and mercurial magic is one of them. I have to say, at this stage I think it is most fun to just go with it. Maybe it feels like a 'spell killer' to get the rain of frogs, but how about thinking of it as a 'scene maker'?
I agree. Lots of ways for cruel things to happen from various table rules. It seems to me the fun factor is to accept them as they come and have fun with it! I mean even 3d6 for ability scores in order can feel cruel to those of us used to point buys and such, but it has been a blast just letting the dice fall as they may. I intend to do the same for mercurial magic.

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by Colin » Thu Jun 14, 2012 5:27 am

ScrivenerB wrote:Actually, this one's easy. In this case the frogs are what read the magic to you, in intelligible but rather croaky words.
You, my friend, are awesome. Have an Awesome Point. :)

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by dunbruha » Fri Jun 15, 2012 6:06 am

Has anyone considered rolling on the mercurial magic table each time a spell is cast (instead of having a fixed mercurial result for each spell)? Granted, some of the results would not be applicable (e.g.,#72--chain casting), but it might be fun to have a really variable magic system--you never know what is going to happen when you cast! And it would eliminate the problem of having a spell that is rarely used because of a severe mercurial result.

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by Ynas Midgard » Fri Jun 15, 2012 6:34 am

Personally, I would not do that for two reasons. First, that would make spellcasting a somewhat slower procedure (spellcasting roll + mercurial magic roll). Second, it would make use of that table more often, which means that the party members get to know each and every result in less time - that my players don't read the rulebooks means every random table I use may surprise them as long as there are entries which haven't come up in actual play.

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by Bilgewriggler » Sat Jun 16, 2012 7:29 am

Raven_Crowking wrote:In your examples, an imaginative player can make his Wizard a "Chatty Kathy" who gets to know everybody. I mean, literally everybody he can. He needs the most Friends on Facebook, 'cause he keeps losing them. Or perhaps he befriends nobody but the man he truly wishes to die, who is so powerful that he can be defeated in no other way.
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Re: mercurial magic

Post by imperialus » Sun Jun 17, 2012 7:44 am

Raven_Crowking wrote: In your examples, an imaginative player can make his Wizard a "Chatty Kathy" who gets to know everybody. I mean, literally everybody he can. He needs the most Friends on Facebook, 'cause he keeps losing them. Or perhaps he befriends nobody but the man he truly wishes to die, who is so powerful that he can be defeated in no other way.
If you think about it a wizard with that would make a pretty badass assassin. He goes to the target, convinces him to be his friend (I wonder if charm person would work for that?) and then goes off casts whatever spell has this side effect and wham, his 'friend' dies. Of course he would have to be the biggest A-hole imaginable to everyone else he meets but you could sure take it in some interesting directions.

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by bholmes4 » Sun Jun 17, 2012 12:41 pm

Couple thoughts:

1. I think the range for "no change" needs to be increased. Currently only 20% of spells have no mercurial effect attached to them. I think this needs to be closer to 50% and I am considering expanding the table for this. I just think the "cool"/weirdness factor of mercurial magic is kind of removed when it happens 80% of the time. There are already interesting manifestations attached to the spell descriptions themselves and it feels like too much at times.

2. A way to adjust the mercurial effect could be considered if the player really hates his roll (ie. permanently reduce luck or rolling for corruption).

I haven't thought this out much yet, more just brainstorming ideas at this point but eventually it's something I plan to tackle.

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by shadewest » Sun Jun 17, 2012 12:55 pm

bholmes4 wrote:Couple thoughts:

1. I think the range for "no change" needs to be increased. Currently only 20% of spells have no mercurial effect attached to them. I think this needs to be closer to 50% and I am considering expanding the table for this. I just think the "cool"/weirdness factor of mercurial magic is kind of removed when it happens 80% of the time. There are already interesting manifestations attached to the spell descriptions themselves and it feels like too much at times.

2. A way to adjust the mercurial effect could be considered if the player really hates his roll (ie. permanently reduce luck or rolling for corruption).

I haven't thought this out much yet, more just brainstorming ideas at this point but eventually it's something I plan to tackle.
Letthe player nullify mercurial magic by spell burning a point or two. If you want to be looser but riskier about it, let the player downgrade the speck check result one level. No mercurial side effect, but not as potent a spell, either. This needs to be declared before the spell check, because it greatly increases the chance of a misfire.
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Re: mercurial magic

Post by Troy812 » Sun Jun 17, 2012 4:49 pm

love the Mercurial effects of magic...
It really give a nice dark atmosphere to the game and reminds players that spells aren't just ... free magic...

However, if I was going to be a pushover, I guess I would allow a Wizard to re-research his spell when he gained a new level and allow him/her to re-roll the M. E.

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Re: mercurial magic

Post by maldoror » Fri Jun 29, 2012 8:05 pm

I reroll mercurial magic until the results are interesting based on what the spell is or who the player is.
I immediately ditched any "spell killers', this game is hard enough. But I thought the one that might accidentally cast the spell every turn was awesome when it came up for "enlarge". I've also used rerolling and having the player pick the one they like the best.

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