Teleportation

Right, this is the second and penultimate post in my series of ‘problem spells in D&D’. Teleportation is a problematic part of the game for the GM. It’s not as bad as Divination (which we’ll get to later) but it can place unnecessary barriers to some perfectly good and enjoyable adventures.

I’m not trying to undermine the potency of the characters, but I don’t think that teleportation has ever been sensibly addressed in the D&D rules (well, not until fourth edition). These proposed changes are flavourful, and actually create new roleplaying opportunities instead of closing them off. They also opens the door for access to limited teleportation at lower levels than the third edition game previously permitted. I think they make more sense.

So have a look and see what you think:

Teleportation Spells

The rules I propose for Teleportation take something of a lead from the fourth edition game. I quite like the idea of even low-level characters blipping around a single combat with low-level teleportation, while I think long distance teleportation needs to be curtailed somewhat. It should be possible to cross vast distances at mid-levels, but only very high level casters should be able to do so at a whim.

My feeling is that teleportation is very dangerous. You’re stepping out of this reality into the Astral Plane and crossing the intervening distance in the blink of an eye to instantaneously arrive at your destination. A bit like the way hyperspace works in the old Star Wars RPG, you have to be sure of your route through the Astral Plane to your destination. You don’t want to crash into an astral whale, or zip through the lich-queen’s boudoir. After all, teleportation isn’t like dusting crops.

The less familiar you are with the destination, the more dangerous the journey becomes: the more likely it is that you’re deposited somewhere you don’t want to be, or that you suffer physical damage (as part of you appears somewhere, and the rest of you appears somewhere else), or you may even find yourself shunted onto the Astral Plane. As far as teleportation is concerned, planning is absolutely everything. This is how I see the scope of teleportation spells:

Low-level spells: Teleportation spells of 4th level or lower (which includes dimension door) can’t transport you further than you can see. The range of these abilities is reduced to line of sight. You can’t use them to transport onto the other side of a closed door, or if you’re blinded, or if it’s too dark to see. You can use them to transport through a window (as you can see what’s on the other side).  These rules leave the door open to introduce some nifty fourth edition classes like the Swordmage, as well as making certain third edition prestige classes (Shadowdancer) more attractive.

Mid-level spells: Spells of levels 5 to 7 allow you to teleport sight unseen, but in order to use them you have to lock on to an existing teleportation circle. Teleportation circles are magical items that are designed to be the sending and receiving points of teleportation magic. Think stargates for want of a better analogy. Any spell caster can use the teleport spell to travel from where they are, as long as the destination point has a teleportation circle. Teleportation circles are coded with runes (gate addresses). If the caster doesn’t know the runes for a particular circle then he cannot teleport to it. Casting a spell from a random location to a teleportation circle takes several minutes to cast. However, if you’re teleporting between two existing circles then the spell is cast as a standard action. And yes, characters can build their own teleportation circles using the rules for constructing magic items.

High-level spells: Spells of levels 8 and 9 are required if you want to teleport ‘off the grid’. If you want to teleport to a location you cannot see, and the destination is not a teleportation circle then you’ll need a spell of at least 8th level to get there. Teleporting off the grid is dangerous, and becomes progressively more dangerous if you are less familiar with your destination. There is no ‘teleport without error’ or similar spells in the game any more. Even high level casters, who teleport off the grid will run into trouble.

In principle, these limitations seem perfectly fine to me as a GM. There’s a slight loss of utility from teleportation at low levels, and class abilities such as Abundant Step (yes I’m think of monks, INdran) may need to be slightly rethought. Let’s start off with my (mostly new) description of the Teleportation sub-school:

Teleportation: A teleportation spell transports some or more creatures a defined distance without having to cross the intervening space. Low level spells require line of sight to function, while mid-level spells must be anchored to an existing permanent teleportation circle. Only spells of the highest level allow you to travel without such permanent circles, and cross planar boundaries.

The temples of many major religions, important wizards’ guilds, and large cities have permanent teleportation circles, each of which has a unique set of magic sigils etched or inlaid into the ground. The exact sequence of sigils matters, because you’ve got to match it if you want to teleport there. The sigils aren’t any more complex than remembering a string of letters and numbers. As characters advance, they will learn new sets of sigils.

Unlike summoning spells the transportation is (unless otherwise specified) one-way and cannot be dispelled. Using teleportation to flee an opponent never provokes an attack of opportunity. Being grappled, restrained or otherwise immobilised doesn’t stop a character from teleporting as long as the caster can still cast magic while restrained (using for example the Still Spell feat) and the casting time of the teleportation spell doesn’t make such escape impractical. Assuming this is true then:

If the thing doing the restraining is a character or if it is fixed in a particular place then teleportation will free you from its clutches. If the restraint can travel with you then it does. So you can teleport out of maw of a purple worm, or from mannacles chained to a wall; but you can’t teleport away from your bonds if you’re tied up (they come with you), and you can’t teleport away from the effects of a hold person spell.

Teleportation is instantaneous travel through the Astral Plane. Anything that blocks astral travel, also blocks teleportation.

Okay, everyone clear on the rules? Let’s have a look at a few of the more obvious teleportation spells. And just for INdran, we’ll have a look at a revised Abundant Step as well:

Dimension Door

Conjuration (Teleportation)
Level: Arcane 4, Divine (Journeys) 4, Song 4
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: line of sight up to 400 ft. + 40 ft./level
Target: you and touched objects, or touched willing creature
Duration: instantaneous
Saving Throw: none and Will negates (object)

You instantly transport yourself from your current location to any spot that you can see within the range of this spell. You can bring along objects as long as their weight doesn’t exceed your maximum load. You may also bring one additional willing Medium or smaller creature (carrying gear or objects up to its maximum load) or its equivalent per three caster levels. A Large creature counts as two Medium creatures, a Huge creature counts as four Medium creatures and so forth. All creatures to be transported must be touching one another, and at least one of them must be touching you.

Amazing. The first spell description I’ve ever written that is shorter than the original. As you can see, the spell can no longer transport you through solid objects, or into areas that you cannot see. A blinded caster or one wearing a blindfold can’t use this spell at all. Characters with eye-patches can only teleport half as far (just kidding). To slightly balance things, I have removed the caveat that casters can take no further actions on the round they dimension door. I don’t remember ever enforcing that rule anyway.

Adbundant Step (Su)

At 12th level or higher, a monk can slip magically between spaces as if using the dimension door spell. Using this ability is a move action that consumes 2 point from his ki pool. His caster level for this effect is equal to his monk level. He cannot take other creatures with him when he uses his ability.

Wow. I think I’ve only just read the Pathfinder version of Abundant Step for the first time today. In third edition the monk can use dimension door as the spell once per day, at a caster level equal to half his monk level. In Pathfinder… he can use it multiple times per day by spending kipoints, he can use it as a Move action instead of a Standard action and his ‘caster level’ is his full monk level and not half his monk level. Hasn’t this already been upscaled enough? To be honest, I think it has.

So sorry INdran, I’m not changing Abundant Step, the above text is identical to the Pathfinder rules. I looked, I thought and I decided against it. I hope it’s some small comfort that we now know why Zookie didn’t escape the Walhoonians.

Teleport

Conjuration (Teleportation)
Level: Arcane 5, Divine (Journeys) 5
Casting Time: 10 minutes (see below)
Range: touch
Area: 10 ft. radius
Duration: 1 rounds/5 levels
Saving Throw: none and Will negates (object)

You create a shortcut across the fabric of the world, linking your location with a permanent teleportation circle somewhere else on the same plane. With a step, you can move from one circle to the other. As part of performing the ritual, you must sketch out a 10-foot-diameter circle in various chalks, inks and powders. Some wizards use ominous candles, but this is purely an affectation. This temporary teleportation circle must exactly match the permanent teleportation circle at your destination. It disappears at the end of the spell’s duration.

You must know the unique sequence of runes and sigils that corresponds to the portal to which you are trying to connect. When you learn the teleport spell you will also discover two or more sequences of sigils (at the GM’s discretion). Other sequences can be found, stolen or purchased. Having a sequence of sigils does not guarantee entry through the destination portal, as some portals can still be warded. If this is the case, then the teleport spell fails and the caster is aware that warding is in place.

While the portal is open, any creature that enters the circle at the origin point instantly appears at the other location, along with anything the creature holds or carries. Any number of creatures of any size can use an open portal; the only limitation is the number that can reach the circle before it ends.

The conjured portal is opaque: you cannot see what is on the other side. It is also provides two-way transportation. Anyone on the other side of the portal can come through to the caster’s side given sufficient time. However, environmental effects at one end of the connection don’t affect the other end, so you can’t open a portal at the bottom of the ocean and flood your current location.

Teleport can link to any permanent portal on the same plane of existence. It cannot cross planar boundaries.

You can use a permanent teleportation circle as the origin point for this spell. This saves the caster having to draw his own temporary circle on the ground. If a permanent circle is used as the origin point then the casting time of this spell is reduced from 10 minutes to 1 standard action.

Shock, horror. The above is very closed based on the 4e ritual, linked portal. Hopefully, it’s all fairly self-explanatory. Teleport stops being a ‘get of jail free’ card for spellcasters of ninth level and higher. If they want to escape via teleportation they need to have ten minutes of peace and quiet while they inscribe their ritual. “No, I can’t help against that dragon, I’m busy with my teleportation circle. Just hold it off another 98 rounds and we can escape.”

There are other magicks that get around this limitation. Word of recall still exists in the game, and functions as ever it did. What is more important for me, is that teleport can’t be used as a means to blithely blip across the planet just because the character is feeling contrary. No more teleporting from your bedroom down to breakfast; no more teleporting to the shops just because it’s raining… and no more teleporting to the unknown village instead of walking through the undead infested moorland.

Plane Shift

Conjuration (Teleportation)
Level: Arcane 7, Divine (All) 7
Casting Time: 1 hour (see below)
Range: touch
Area: 10 ft. radius
Duration: 1 rounds/5 levels
Saving Throw: none and Will negates (object)

This spell functions as teleport with the exception that the magic is solely used to cross planar boundaries. You can’t use plane shift to travel to a permanent teleportation circle on the same plane, but you can use it to travel to a specific teleportation circle on a different plane of existence.

Divine casters who know this spell usually only know the sigil sequence to travel to a particular location on the home plane of their god (although there is nothing stopping them learning other addresses in time). Arcane casters will discover one sigil sequence when they learn this spell, and will probably go out of their way to discover more.

As with teleport you can use an existing permanent teleportation circle as the origin point of this spell. This reduces the casting time down from 1 hour to 1 minute. Planar travel is more complex than travel on the same plane.

Plane Shift does more or less what it says on the tin. It is slightly less dangerous now (as at least you know where you’re going to turn up – but you are once again limited to appearing at an existing permanent portal. Divine casters also see a level increase from 5 to 7, which I think is in keeping with the utility of this spell – as well as the levels where I would like to see it become available.

Teleport, Greater

Conjuration (Teleportation)
Level: Arcane 8, Divine (Journeys) 8
Casting Time: 10 minutes (see below)
Range: touch
Area: 10 ft. radius
Duration: 1 rounds/5 levels
Saving Throw: none and Will negates (object)

This spell functions like teleport with the exception that your destination does not have to be a permanent teleportation portal. Teleporting ‘off the grid’ is extremely dangerous, and becomes more dangerous if the caster is unfamiliar with his destination.

If you use greater teleport to reach a destination that is not a permanent teleportation portal, the you must have some clear idea of the location and lay-out of your destination. The clearer your mental image, the more likely the teleportation works. To see how well the spell functions, then roll 1d100 and consult the following table. The definitions are given below.

Familiarity On Target Off Target Similar Area Splinched Adrift
Very familiar 01-95 96-98 98-99 100
Studied carefully 01-90 91-94 95-97 98-99 100
Seen casually 01-85 86-90 91-95 96-99 99-100
Viewed once 01-75 76-84 85-90 91-96 96-100
False destination 01-50 61-90 91-100

Familiarity: Very familiar is a place that you where you have been very often and feel at home. Studied carefully is a place you know well, either because you can currently physically see it, or because you have been there often. Seen casually refers to places that you have seen more than once, but with which you are not very familiar. Viewed once is a location that you have only seen once, or only seen by scrying. False destination refers to a location that does not exist. The caster may have been fooled into thinking the location was real, or he may be trying to teleport to a known location that no longer exists.

Note that you can’t use greater teleport to visit a place you haven’t seen at all – you cannot define “Princess Jasmine’s bedchamber” or “the nearest hawthorn bush” and hope for the spell to work. Such attempts result in an unavoidable mishap (GM discretion). Scrying unseen destinations first before teleporting is the wisest course of action.

On Target: You appear where you want to be. Rejoice.

Off Target: You appear safely at a random distance from the intended location, and in a random destination. The distance off target is 1d100% of the distance that was to be travelled. The direction is determined randomly.

Similar Area: You arrive in an area that is visually or thematically similar to the target area. Distance isn’t a factor in this dislocation, the spell simply homes in on the most similar alternative location.

Splinched: Not of all of you reaches the destination, and the body parts that do are often twisted beyond all recognition. Take 1d10 damage and roll again on the table. Unlucky rolls could result into you being repeatedly splinched to death.

Adrift: The spell casts you loose in the Astral Sea. It’s up to your ingenuity and the GM to work out how you get home from here.

Interplanar travel is not possible with a greater teleport spell: the start and desintination point must be on the same plane of existence.

Greater teleport is, as you would expect, a more powerful version of teleport. It uses the same mechanics, and the same need to create a portal but now you don’t have to teleport to a permanent teleportation circle if you don’t want to. If you do, then you might have a mishap, and this is the point where the spell description lurches back to third edition and makes use of the table that appears in the third edition version of the spell (it’s the same in Pathfinder, by the way).

The table is not quite the same. I’ve juggled some of the conditions, and altered the probability of them happening . I have also introduced an “adrift” category so the spell can jump you in the astral plane if you get it wrong. And yes, the term “splinched” comes straight out of Harry Potter, but until the English language comes up for a verb that means “physical trauma as a result of a botched teleportation” then I’m happy to borrow the term from J.K. Rowling.

Plane Shift, Greater

Conjuration (Teleportation)
Level: Arcane 9, Divine (Journeys) 9
Casting Time: 1 hour (see below)
Range: touch
Area: 10 ft. radius
Duration: 1 rounds/5 levels
Saving Throw: none and Will negates (object)

This spell is similar to plane shift except that it is based on the greater teleport instead of the teleport spell. Greater plane shift allows travel between planes of existence, without the need for the destination to be a permanent teleportation circle. However, such jumps require a roll on the table presented in the greater teleport spell description.

Not much to say here. This is the planar equivalent of greater teleport and works like a combination of several of the spells that we have already seen.

True Teleportation

Conjuration (Teleportation)
Level: Arcane 9, Divine (Journeys) 9
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: personal
Duration: instantaneous

Using this spell, the caster can instantaneously transport himself to a designated destination on the same plane of existence. No lengthy preparation for the spell is required, the caster simply wills himself to be somewhere else and disappears.

If the target destination is a permanent teleportation circle then the caster arrives safely with no chance of mishap. If this is not the case, then the caster must roll on the potential mishap table found in the description of the greater teleport spell.

Finally, a nod to the great teleportation spells of the past. By the time a caster reaches this level, it is right and proper that he should be able to blip around the map at a moment’s notice. However, notice even this powerful spell only has a range of “Personal”. The caster can’t cast it on others, and neither can he bring anyone else with him. Otherwise this is the same spell (give or take) as the old 5th level teleport spell.

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27 Comments

  1. indran

     /  4 February, 2011

    i am confused. are adopting pathfinder rules for abundant step or not? if not, expect my next comment to be a major backlash!!

    Reply
  2. Panic not, INdran. We are adopting the Pathfinder version of abundant step.

    Because I have reduced the power of dimension door I temporarily considered making abundant step better. However, reading the description, I decided to leave it as it is.

    Reply
  3. Stavros

     /  4 February, 2011

    In my games I added hideous Experience costs to teleporting and that prevented anyone using it unless they really really had to. I think that a grid of fixed circles and the long casting time are much better.

    My only criticism is that I don’t think the mishaps on greater teleport are harsh enough. No caster able to cast it will be remotely worried by 1d10 damage. Perhaps 1d10 damage for every 10 miles travelled.

    We just need a concrete reason why Karataths hordes of spellcasters with the capability and devils that have similar spell-like abilities don’t just take the risk. Say conservatively there are 1000 such individuals with the ability in the forces of darkness. They would then scry Jotans point, and the homes of all of the league of lights leaders and chief allies. 750 of them would arrive immediately. Of the remaining 250 that were off target, the 200 that were off target, in a similar location or splinched would try again immediately and most would arrive ten minutes later. The 50 that are lost to the astral plane are acceptable losses to assassinate the chosen and the heads of each nation in the league thus winning the war. Even if there were only 100 evildoers with the capabilities, I think it would be enough to win the war.

    Reply
  4. Stavros

     /  4 February, 2011

    Plus there are a number of spells, abilities and magic items that allow re-rolls on anything. It would allow you to drastically reduce the odds of failure.

    Plus I would say that to use a teleportation circle you need to have visited it in person. Otherwise a malificent would build their own circle in Uris and message the coordinates to the axis of evil the moment that they cross the girdle

    Reply
  5. danielrust

     /  5 February, 2011

    Well, personally I don’t have a problem with teleporting at all. I’m running a highish level game at the moment and the fact that the party don’t have a decent means of teleporting is causing me to significantly curtail the scope of the scenario I’m presenting.

    However, I don’t mind if you want to alter how it works on Iourn. That’s the kind of campaign world specific alteration that it is well within a GM’s right to make. The magic circle aspect of teleport is flavourful and works perfectly well. It’s only in worlds with significant numbers of high level characters and monsters that it’s a problem. The threats and NPCs on Iourn (and Forgotten realms and the like) are very powerful and numerous and that is what makes life difficult for the GM.

    Two points. Firstly, by making Dimension Door and similar spells reliant on sight you are making them far less useful. I don’t know why you dislike teleporting to the other side of a door, but if you are going to take that away I don’t think it’s a fourth level spell any more. It’s essentially a means of travelling fast in one round or getting up or across a chasm/cliff etc. I think it’s far worse than Air Walk or Fly. It’s probably a third level spell now at most, possibly second. Even Levitate with its longish duration is comparable.

    Secondly, what’s the rationale behind splinching? It makes no sense to me. Yes, a mishap is possible in the core rules, but getting your body ‘scrambled’ doesn’t seem to make sense if you are just travelling very fast through astral space. It’s not like Star Trek where your body is broken down and reformed the other side. You just travel very fast along a prescribed route. Why would your arm go a different route? Maybe you hit something on the way and come out with a bruised knee? That’s the only thing that could possibly make any sense and even then it seems stupid. Teleporting to a similar location is a far greater threat and should be enough to put people off doing it too much. (In a game Marc ran, Dan Coleman’s character was never seen again after teleporting some loot out of a defeated dragon’s lair and rolling ‘similar location’ on the journey back. The dragon in the similar lair was very much still alive and not happy about the intruder.) Why should an 8th level spell be that dangerous though? It should be pretty powerful or it just isn’t worth taking.

    I don’t think i agree with Steve’s though that you have to have visited the other circle in order to use it. It would be utterly pointless. Also, foiling a malificent plot to establish a new circle could have some scope for an adventure. Thinking about it though, building a circle in Uris then crossing the Girdle would be an epic journey. If the circle can’t be compromised in that time, the forces of good (and neutrality) aren’t doing their job.

    Reply
  6. Raza

     /  5 February, 2011

    now that i have but more time, here are my thoughts

    dont like teleport as a spell when it breaks the fun out of adventuring but can be useful at times especially for the chosen getting from place to place to build the alliance…so, teleportation circle is an OK compromise…

    i am with Daniel with regard to dimension door…i am not sure what is the fuss about teleporting beyond what u can see…it is a 4th level spell and it is not game breaking…

    right now for my honest opinion to neil….neil, i think you are spending way too much time tinkering on things that are not so much a problem…i fear what seems like fun things u could do with spells, are now limited…need to draw a line somewhere as in the end it is a game…as long the systems allows the GM to run his plot with game breaking, we should leave it as it is…

    so for one, let dimension door stay as it is in the book…

    Reply
    • It’s not about perfection, INdran. It’s about making the game playable into epic levels. All the epic level play I’ve been involved in has become extremely silly and high-powered with magic basically capable of doing anything to any one. A spell point system exacerbates that still further.

      Summoning and Polymorph spells need some revision to make them work sensibly and not slow down play. Teleportation and Divination spells just need revision full stop. At high levels you might as well not bother to adventure, cast three spells and you’re done. If we want a satisfying conclusion to the Iourn campaign, then I don’t want the finale to be an NPC spellcasting waving his fingers around and everyone going home for tea. And I’m sure that you don’t either.

      Some of the changes do lead me down unexpected paths (like Dimension Door), but if I don’t follow everything through to its logical conclusion, then the whole system is diminished.

      There’s still plenty of scope for bending the rules and doing surprising things with spells. I don’t want to be as prescriptive as fourth edition is. However, we do need to inject a little sanity into the proceedings. Just a little.

      Reply
  7. Raza

     /  5 February, 2011

    apology i realised a lot of misinterpretation of my text as i typing in a rush…

    basically, chill, it is a game after all…stop trying to perfect it!!

    Reply
  8. Will

     /  6 February, 2011

    Teleportation is one of those abilities that can be either infuriatingly game-breaking or somewhat pointless.

    With Dimension Door, the biggest problem i’ve always had with it is the blind dungeon bypass: The range on DD is quite long and the lack of line of sight allows players to just go “I teleport 800 feet thataway.” Sure they’ll usually end up inside a wall, but for that they suffer a measly 1d6 damage and get shunted 100 feet to the nearest safe location (and there usually is one), if that’s still no safe location, it’s another 2d6 damage (still peanuts) and the nearest safe location in 1000 feet.

    Basically, DD allows players to just ignore large chunks of the game world at a relatively low level for very little cost (the psionic version is even worse) and there’s nothing much you can do about it; having the entire dungeon built out of teleport-resistant materials is highly implausible and making up a nasty area for the players to get shunted into is just bad form.

    Personally, i am a -huge- fan of 4e’s way of handling teleportation: ‘Simple’ teleportation spells are short ranged and require line of sight, making them a supurb way to rapidly zip around in combat and avoid getting pinned by enemies or ending up where you don’t want to be. The teleportation circles still allow for long-distance travel, but no snappy fingers and you’re on the other side of the planet.

    It does vary however; i’ve also had games where teleportation wasn’t an issue at all, but usually those are the more ‘exotic’ games with the PC’s running around somewhere like Sigil or one of the various elemental planes. In more ‘mundane’ games, teleportation can be really, really annoying.

    And, of course, if long distance ‘snap your fingers’ teleportation is available to any mid-level caster, as Stavros said; it becomes hard to justify why the Forces Of Evil(tm) havn’t just teleported into whatever city is annoying them and set it on fire (or used a Locate City bomb).

    Reply
  9. Will

     /  6 February, 2011

    On a related note; i would personally let Monks use LoS Dimension Door for 1 Ki Point, if only because the idea of a Monk blipping about the battlefield and teleport-kicking people in the back of the head appeals to me greatly, and the LoS restriction removes pretty much all the problems i’ve ever had with DD.

    Reply
    • That was exactly the change I was planning to add to abundant step. A small recompense for the ability’s lack of utility. Then I though that the changes Pathfinder had already made to the ability made it good enough. Perhaps I should follow my initial instincts here.

      Reply
  10. Hi guys. Firstly, let me address the purely mechanical elements of the teleport spells, and then we’ll get I’ll get onto Steve’s setting-based worries.

    Firstly, I agree with the creators of Pathfinder that an experience point cost to cast spells is mean to PCs, and meaningless to NPCs. From now on, nothing in the game (including dying and coming back from the dead) will result in an XP loss. It’s just kinder that way. I can see how these mechanics would limit characters teleporting, but I don’t want to wield a stick that is quite that big.

    As it stands, the failure chance for greater teleport is already more extreme that the spell description published in Pathfinder and in the third edition books. To be honest, I felt that tightening up on high level teleportation any futher would look as though I was picking on teleporters. I felt I had done enough.

    As for splinching…. well, as Daniel says, a magical teleportation isn’t the same as the transporter in Star Trek. It’s not as if you can materialise without any ears. Maybe it’s better to look at splinching as accidents that may befall the caster as he crosses the Astral Plane. Either slamming into a physical object, grazing a colour pool or travelling through a githzerai barbecue.

    Perhaps, as Steve suggests, I could make the damage more extreme. 1d10 is piffling to the 15th level characters who’ll be using this spell. But what do you suggest? 1d10 per 10 miles could get pretty fatal pretty quickly. If characters trying to travel 2000 miles have a 5% chance of automatically kill themselves then that’s the same as a high level character being hit by one of the old ‘save or die’ mechanics. And those are mechanics that both 3.5 and Pathfinder have tried to excise from the system. So if you’re going to up the damage, then it should be to a discouraging (not fatal) level.

    Maybe (and I’m thinking as I type) the damage could equal the character’s Bloodied Value. This – in my system – is the negative hit points you can go below zero before death. It’s your Con modifier or 25% of your total hit points – whichever is more. So a failed splinching role always results in a significant (but not fatal) damage to the travelling character.

    Of course, this definition of Splinching doesn’t track with the rationale that you might strike something when travelling through the Astral. We could say that teleportation is physically arduous, and that splinching represents the body’s inability to survive such travel.

    Steve, I think Daniel’s right about teleportation portals. If you have to have visited a portal before you can use it, then teleportation becomes utterly useless.

    Daniel: I hadn’t considered that these changes would reduce the utility of >dimension door to the point at which I would need to lower the level. You may be right, it may be better suited as a 3rd level spell now than 4th. I think it’s still on a par with fly though. It’s certainly no less powerful than that. I’ll give it a think.

    I agree with Will that 4e has taken a far more sensible approach to teleportation than third. Bypassing large portions of a dungeon has never been a problem for me, but the ability to get into and out of otherwise inaccessible (or at least jolly-hard-to-reach) locations is not something I think that characters should be able to do by snapping their fingers.

    And as I said, but limiting the utility of low level teleports, you can make teleportation more widely available than it is now.

    Reply
  11. Now, all about Iourn.

    Steve, the problem you’re highlighting here is what always happens when we take an element of D&D and extrapolate it to its logical end. When dealing with a force as large and as powerful as the servants of Karatath, then it seems quite likely that he’ll have quite a few people on staff capable of casting greater teleportation.

    However, to me the question is not how we reduce the potency of teleportation, but how we sensibly address the protective spells actively stop telelportation from working. It’s an arms race.

    In my version of the spell, Greater Teleport has a 75% chance to be on target if the teleporter can scry his destinaiton. If he can’t scry, then he can’t visit somewhere he has never gone before – even if it is described to him. Therefore the best protection from teleportation is spells that defend against scrying. And these spells are all much lower level than the teleport spells.

    You don’t think that King Galahyde or any of the Chosen’s other allies have magicks in place to guard against scrying? Such spells don’t work against the Nerra (that’s what makes them so useful) but against conventional remote viewing or clairvoyance spells, they’re the bee’s knees.

    You might say that Jotan’s Point or Gelpahina doesn’t have this sort of protection. To which I would say: doesn’t it? The Chosen may not be thinking about these things, but people like Alberdark and Misgon certainly do!

    Looking more specifically at the tactics of Karatath….. you need to be 15th level minimum to caster greater teleport (or 13th level if you’re a specialist conjurer). So yes, there are plenty people in Karatath’s army who can muster that sort of power. They can open teleportation portals lasting a few rounds to any location – and they don’t have to step through themselves. Sure they could dump a small force in the Norandor countryside if they wanted. Gather an army behind enemy line slowly, and carefully.

    Well, they can once the war starts. At the moment they can’t with any great effect. Not only has teleportation only just started working again after a long absence but also, it’s impossible to teleport from one side of Belsinor’s Girdle to the other. Admittedly, this isn’t a plot point that’s come up for about seven years in the campaign, but it’s still true. If Karatath’s forces want to teleport with impunity around the Northern World then first of all they have to get past the Saldarím.

    Again, that’s why an alliance with the Nerra was so important to them. The Plane of Mirrors would have allowed them to bypass this eventuality.

    Once the Enemy’s forces are in the Northern World, then teleportation magic will make pinning him down problematic. Or course, the Chosen have allies with access to greater teleport as well.

    I think in practice, many 15th level casters will have important roles to play in any combat. While some may be tasked with building an army secretly, I think most will have better things to do.

    I will also add that building your own teleportation isn’t a straight forward thing. You’ll need to be at least 15th level again, and it’s quite a time consuming and resource heavy process. Building one in secret, in the heart of an enemy city, would be extremely tricky.

    Taking all that together, I don’t think that enemies appearing in the heart of the League and wiping it out is any more likely, than members of the League doing the same to Karatath. Which is not to say it isn’t a cause for concern of course.

    Reply
    • Will

       /  7 February, 2011

      To be fair, you could reasonably argue that a single high level caster could mask himself against scrying, teleport to the nearest possible location to whatever city is targeted for poking (just outside the area masked by scrying), have him fly up as high as he can and then line-of-sight teleport with Dimension Door towards the target. Once he’s close enough to see the city, he bamfs back to his buddies and grabs as many friendly high level casters as he can teleport, then he pops back to where he was and they all get to see the city, rinse and repeat a couple of times until all your casters can see the city and you can now pop back there any time you want.

      The initial approach would probably take a day, tops, the showing enough people the city would take maybe an hour, tops. All in all, that is really bugger-all warning of an impending invasion (typically you’d get weeks, months or even years warning.)

      In this particular case, i’d suggest taking a look at some of the teleport interdiction type spells. I remember there was one lowish level one that caused all teleportation to be delayed by 1d4 rounds and another slightly higher one that delayed teleportation for slightly longer and warned the caster of incoming teleporters. It doesn’t seem unreasonable that a large city could buy some form of wide-range teleport warning and interdiction to cover the city and surrounding countryside, delaying any incoming ‘unregistered’ teleporters by anything from a few minutes to a few days and warning the people in charge that they have potential invaders.

      If you think about it, something like that makes pretty reasonable logical sense; if you’re talking about civilisation that has grown up with teleportation as a fact of life (even only a fact accessible to the rich and powerful) then at some point some wizard is going to have sat down and invented some way to actively counter teleportation, rather than merely prevent it via anti-scrying measures. Once that method was achieved, some form of governance and\or ritual would be built around it.

      Or, to put it another way; in the same way that physical walls and border patrols prevent unwanted enemies just wandering into your country, astral walls and astral patrols (or shields, or whatever) prevent unwanted enemies just teleporting in.

      Reply
      • Divert Teleport is a 7th level psionic power. Its power is commensurate with its level – lock onto an outgoing or incoming teleportation and send it anywhere you like. Into the heart of an active volcano, for example.

        These spells may need a little tidying up as well, but I think that if the ground rules for teleportation is solid enough I should be able to rule on a case-by-case basis without rewriting the entire magic system.

        Anyway – you’re right. Powers that block teleportation, fool, relocate or otherwise incommode travellers will exist.

      • Will

         /  7 February, 2011

        A quick search reveals the spell i was thinking of is in the Spell Compendium and is called “Anticipate Teleport” I don’t know if it’s an SC original or comes from another source, but it ‘s a third level Wiz\Sorc spell with a casting time of 10 minutes, a range of 1 willing touched creature and an area of 5ft radius/level. Duration is 24 hours.

        The effect is pretty simple; any teleportation spell or effect including all spells with the teleportation descriptor are ‘anticipated’m aking the targeted creature instantly aware of the exact location the teleporting creature will arrive, the creature’s size and how many other creatures and their sizes are teleporting with it. The teleporting creature is also delayed by 1 round and the teleporting creature does not percieve this delay.

        It doesn’t affect someone trying to teleport -away-.

        It also comes in a Greater level 6 flavour, which has the same function except it identifies the arriving creature(s) by type and delays them by three rounds. Note that in all cases, the teleporting creatures have no awareness or perception of the delay.

        I remember i had an antagonist Wizard with a bunch of Teleport\Anticipate Teleport traps he used as stasis cells, allowing him to easily maintain and transport extremely dangerous and intelligent creatures without worrying about elaborate incarceration methods.

  12. Raza

     /  6 February, 2011

    Ok I like the idea that teleportation prevents karatath’s army teleporting into battle in a blink of an eye and kick us hard and then disappear. Yes I agree I want to see a more non game breaking end to the iourn.
    Btw dd for monks using one ki point? Think that is balanced btw now that you are reducing the potentcy of the spell anyhow.

    Reply
    • Yes, a reduced cost for abundant step may be justified with the changes I have in mind. That said, I’m slightly reluctant to change something I haven’t seen in play at all. Let’s see how the Pathfinder monk operates for a couple of sessions and then decide.

      Reply
  13. Stavros

     /  6 February, 2011

    I don’t think that physically travelling to a particular circle before being allowed to use it would make the spell pointless. It just allows a lot more scope for adventures. It would mean that the first time the party go to a location they have to travel through all of the GMs challenges and flavour text. However, when they get there they add the circle to a list of ones that they know. From this point onwards they can zip back and forth as they choose, meaning that they don’t have to repeat all of the obstacles. It stops teleport being used offensively, but it would still be very useful for saving time and repeating travel over areas that might be a long way apart and have already been explored.

    Reply
    • You make perfectly reasonable points, Steve.

      Presumably, under this system we would be saying that the combination of runes and sigils (the ‘gate address’ of the portal) is too complex and nuanced to be rendered as a series of character. A wizard must study the portal, must attune himself to it, before it can be used.

      I think that this can be perfectly justified in the context of the setting. But then, I think that my original idea can be perfectly justified as well. Therefore we have a choice between which of these options we would prefer. They are two different takes on Teleport.

      Adventuring to find a portal could be flavoursome. But then, adventuring to find a sigil sequence to unlock a portal that can only be reached by teleportation is also quite exciting. What do we all think on this point?

      Reply
      • danielrust

         /  6 February, 2011

        Ok, maybe it wouldn’t be pointless but I think it’s an unnecessary restriction. Teleporting to a specific circle shouldn’t make adventures any less exciting. Take the adventure in the lands of the Erewhoi. Would that have been more fun if we had a three week sea journey? Again? I think teleporting will still be pretty unusual except at high levels. And if you can only get to specific locations, that still gives plenty of scope for overland travel.

        I think there is a time and a place for adventures that involve trekking across known parts of the world. Level 14 is rarely that place though. Teleportation doesn’t help you in unknown lands so all you’re cutting out is journeys across known civilisation. At mid to high levels that isn’t a big deal.

      • Will

         /  7 February, 2011

        The “Must visit before using” type of teleportating circle is typically seen in computer games, often action RPGs like Fallen or Gothic. It’s usually used pretty much as Stavros said: You get a teleport area in each major hub, you activate the hub and then head out into the countryside to do whatever quests you picked up in the hub, once you’ve finished them instead of walking all the way back to the hub, you pop a teleport and bam, you’re home again.

        It makes teleportation a defensive ‘go home’ button like the Hearthstones in WoW, rather than an offensive ‘go here’ button. Whether or not you want to use teleportation like that primarily depends on what kind of game you’re running i guess.

  14. Jon

     /  7 February, 2011

    Neil,

    Only skim read.
    But I like it.
    2 points. and if either have been mentioned above then sorry – only skim read you intro…

    Teleportation circles under your rules would become commercial ventures.
    They could be used to fund magical research and move goods/services around the globe. I think you should consider this.

    They could also easily become targets for Militaries attack.
    Militarily – if you control the circle but force of arms – you can create a beachhead and control the flow of people in/through them.

    Reply
    • Hi Jon. I think it’s possible that teleportation circles could be very lucrative for the right people. However, I’m not sure that it would be a particularly common enterprise.

      Firstly, there aren’t many people around the globe with the know-how to create teleportation circles. Some of those that do (which frighteningly includes Ravenna, next level) may want to build circles for money. However, I suspect that by 15th level most wizards have already established themselves with sufficient income or patrons for their needs.

      However, you might have groups of lower level individuals who find themselves in possession of a teleportation circle. These organisations (guilds and so forth) would only need a 9th level wizard to make the circle work. Suddenly, mercantile trade via these portals seems extremely likely.

      Except that unless you know greater teleport the portals are only really good for incoming travellers. That means you need a 9th level mage in the field to teleport goods to your circle. And once that 9th level mage has arrived, he can’t just teleport back to where he came from. For the business to be truly lucrative, then you need two teleportation circles and a 9th level mage at each end.

      So such enterprises aren’t impossible. And some probably exist even in Norandor – but they won’t be common at all. They wouldn’t even begin to replace non-magical trade. I would see it more as a specialist niche, that makes certain individuals a great deal of money.

      Militarily – you are right. If Karatath did (for example) take the Girdle and repurpose one of the thousands of teleportation portals along its length, then all he would need would be the right address to gain access to Norandor. I can definitely see malficents seeking out such portals and trying to take control of them.

      Of course…. you can bet that the Arcanum Incognita keeps a close eye on this sort of activity. They might even tax guilds using them. So you’re in a situation where either the Arcanum Incognita knows all about the portal and would act to protect it, or you have an underground network of contraband porals that the AI doesn’t know about, but are kept so secret that it would be hard for the Malificents to find them either.

      Reply
      • Will

         /  7 February, 2011

        There are plenty of money rackets an enterprising Wizard can get his grubby mitts into before 15th level :P

  15. indran

     /  7 February, 2011

    further thoughts,

    would it be possible to maintain an active teleportation circle with concentration instead of the 1 round/5 levels…

    and secondly,

    why should teleportation enable two-way travel because i believe the one way travel creates more interesting dimension and opportunities?

    ok i threading on the realms of stargate and gate travels….if you know it is a one way spell, then you can lob fireball over the other side without others knowing or doing anything about it…also, a concentration check to maintain a teleportation could prevent enemies from other side from coming over, or a battle of concentration to see if the teleportation circle can be broken by the person on the other side…also creates new dimension like extending message/scrying spells between destinations that normal spells cant travel the distance….

    i personally like the idea that the 9th level spell is instantaneous and doesnt allow you to carry anyone with you…because i can see Karatath using it to move his force across the seas to the northern world.

    i may miss this but how many circles have been created for teleportation? is this a canon-fodder (i.e. claims that it already exist) or are the AI out there now creating circles all over the globe to allow teleport?

    Reply
    • Hi INdran. I have to say that I quite like the idea of a limited duration on the teleportation circles. Any longer than 2-4 rounds, and the spell becomes a little on the powerful side. And as I’m doing away with Concentration checks across the board, we’d have to find a different way of regulating things.

      Making the portals one-way as opposed to two-way is an option. It would reduce the utility of the portals still further, though. I’ll just underline that unlike the 4e spell, the conjured portal is opaque. This means that any spell requiring line of sight (which includes most evocation magic) can’t be cast through the portal. You could cast fire trap on a glass vial and toss it through, though.

      On the matter of the proliferation of portals on Iourn…. there are several ways that we can go with this. I would probably choose the route that preserves the narrative integrity of the setting. I would say that up until the point when Lolth rewove the Weave (a few weeks ago) teleportation magic didn’t need these teleportation circles. However, this is not to say that in the history of Iourn, teleportation magic has never needed teleportation circles.

      I would say that ancient teleportation circles still exist throughout Urova and all of Iourn. These circles date from a time when the Weave worked differently. These circles need to be rediscovered and remapped by contemporary Iourn society.

      That means that right now, there are no teleportation circles in the temples of the Moon Gods, unless those temples predate the religion, and are so ancient they were built on the foundations of a much old structure.

      What is also means is that powerful wizards and clerics who realise that has happened, realise that new circles need to be constructed. Few will have the knowledge of how to do so, and therefore the teleportation network will grow slowly over the coming months and seasons. In the short term, greater use will be made of ancient existing portals that might not be in the most convenient of places.

      Reply

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