Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Lost Galmagia: Cantrips and Reversals

I'm fiddling with Magic-User and Elf spells a bit to better suit my ideas for the setting. While I want an Old School style of play, I also want Magic Users and Elves to have more flexibility in play when it comes to their magic. My general idea is that Arcane magic lets you 'break the rules' in a variety of ways, that each spell should have several applications as a tool the players can manipulate, and using one should let you either defeat, or at least make radically easier, any at-level challenge. 

To this end I'm introducing a lot of "0 level" spells, the classic Cantrip idea, where the Magic-User or Elf has all of them in their spellbook and can memorize 3 per day. Many of these are either classic 1st level spells that I don't think reach the requirements I listed above, or AD&D spells I like and wanted to use. 

I also also borrowing a page of 13th age and named the levels for the levels the characters get them - so there are 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th level spells rather than 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th. Any spells past 9th level are idiosyncratically created and not shared - new unique spells is a power for Magic-Users at 9th-12th levels. 

To fill the level gaps nearly all spells now have Reversals: if the caster is 1 level higher than needed to cast the spell (so a 2nd level magic-user casting a cantrip or 1st level spell can reverse it). This shifts some things to slightly higher levels but opens up a lot more options: That second level caster can have 3 Cantrips prepared (all of which could be reversed), and 2 first level spells (each of which can be reversed), for 10 different options, but they only have to make 5 choices at the start of the delve.  

0 level Magic User and Elf Spells

Armor: 8 hour duration, robes act as leather armor (a 3 point improvement in my mechanics)
1st Level Reverse: Curse of the Hapless Target
Rather than protecting himself, the caster can touch an opponent and reduce their armor class by 3 points for the spell’s duration, as attacks are magically guided to the holes in their defenses. The caster has to succeed in a 0 damage, unarmed attack on the target if attempting this in combat; casual contact works outside of combat.

Dancing Lights: lights as torches of other adventuring party. Can be terminated by lighting a lot of candles, a handful of prepared torches, or one campfire. 
1st Level Reverse: Deepen Shadows
Rather than creating places of torchlight, this creates pockets of deeper shadow within existing shade. The caster can use this to make them selves appear more intimidating, applying a -2 to target morale checks to opponents of their level or lower, or to assist hiding: they or any party members trying to stay out of sight within the 20’ radius will receive a bonus to do so at DM discretion. This spell can also be terminated by extinguishing candles, torches, or a campfire. 

Detect Magic: also allows “Identify” if casting in a place of safety 
1st Level Reverse: Magic Aura (but not Nystuls!)

Range: 60' Duration: 1 + level days
When first meeting any creature/group of creatures who share a language with the caster, the magic-user or elf can raise the existence of long standing, magical, Old Empire agreements between the casters race and in hopes of gaining a more favorable reaction. If cast before the initial reaction roll, the caster’s party can make three reaction rolls and take the best one. If cast after the reaction roll, the caster’s side can re-roll and take the better result. This spell emphatically does not work on Giant-Kin (including Orcs).
1st Level Reverse: Ransom
Cast in extremis, this spell also compels anyone who speaks the same language with you of the Old Empire Compacts, specifically of the rules for ransoming rather than killing their foes. This spell will end a fight, give the Party time to tend to their fallen, and depart… at the cost of all their supplies – each party member may retain one item. Those who try to steal back what they lost suffer s Curse.

Unseen Servant: lasts 8 hours in relative safety or 10 turns somewhere dangerous, acts as moderately skilled domestic servant for one house or within 30’ of caster. 
1st Level Reverse: Gremlins
Rather than creating a helpful domestic servant, the caster embodies a handful of non-combative but malevolent spirits that damage one room (breaking crockery, scattering books, overturning furniture, etc.) or a 100’ diameter space outdoors (creating dust storms, knocking down dead tree branches, etc.). Among other effects, inside this counts as an elf for revealing a Secret Door; outside it obliterates any sign of the party’s passage through an area. 

Read Languages
1st Level Reverse: Cryptography
The reverse of this spell allows the caster to write a short missive (one sheet of paper) that can only be read by a) the caster, b) people the caster designates at casting, or c) those using Read Languages. 

Read Magic
1st Level Reverse: Scribe Scroll
The reverse of this spell allows the caster to create magical scrolls. This is a time and labor-intensive event, costing 100 GP and one month per spell level (50 GP and 2 weeks for 0 level spells). 

1st Level Reverse: Muffle Self
The reverse of this spell allows the caster to make next to no noise. Other spellcasting or communication is impossible, but the magic-user or elf gains the surprise abilities of a Halfling or Thief for the duration of the spell. 

I'll post the 1st and 2nd level reversals if there's any interest. 


  1. I really like the spontaneous reversals you're talking about here. And the obvious thought that's gone into what effects should be the reverse of the other.

    Would love to see more of the reversal ideas you've put together.

    1. Thanks! Expect to see them soon-ish.

  2. I also like the flipped spells, and the thought that's gone into them. I realise that not every spell can easily be reversed, but it was one of the little features of early D&D spells that appealed to me.

  3. Rereading B/X i realized how useful that feature was, and that got me started on how to expand on it. I very much want to keep the strategic/logistics questions of M-U spells when you have the time/luxury of multiple planned delves, the "We can't get through this door now, but if we go back to town and Elinal the Enchanter memorizes Knock, we can when we come back" style.
    But that means giving the M-U maximal utility for everything they have in their 'memorized for this delve' toolkit.