Magic on Iourn

In order to protect themselves from the coming war against Karatath, the githyanki and their phaerimm allies sealed the Astral Plane. This made all Teleportation and Summoning magic impossible. To further shore up their defences, the servants of the lich queen also went about severing all the Astral Conduits that conduct the souls of the departed to the Land of Dead. In turn, this made all resurrection magic impossible.

But this is no longer the case. The goddess Lolth has stepped in, and used her power to reknit the Weave. The Astral Plane has been reopened. Teleportation and Summoning spells are working again. There are no Astral Conduits left, so resurrection magic still doesn’t work  as there’s nothing for it to work on. Rest assured, we’ll be looking into that particular sticky wicket during the next adventure. But magic has been restored. Everything is back to normal.

Or is it?

I have been dropping some heavy hints in the League of Light campaign, that the new Weave is not quite the same as the old. Magic may work slightly differently now. This is because it was my intention to introduce a brand new magic system during the next Retreat. It was in fact my intention to have HD&D up and ready to go by this April. That seems like a ridiculous goal now.

Anyway – HD&D will not be ready within the next eight weeks, but we are still going to be entering an adventure where the magical weave has been restored. Therefore, for the sake of narrative consistency and, dare I say, verissimilitude, I need to impose a new HD&D-inspired paradigm on magic, even if we aren’t actually adopting the mechanics yet. Which is why this message is taking the form of a blog post and not an e-mail. I need some ideas.

Why Change?

Let’s start with a little back-ground. The magic system as presented in third edition, Pathfinder and the current Iourn houserules bugs me somewhat. Because we operate a free-casting system (based on either spell points or fatigue) we are faced with problems that the original designers of the game did not envisage. Namely the fact that characters can cast the same spell again and again and again.

Normally, I don’t have a problem with this. If the fire priest can stand there and lob fireball after fireball, then that’s fine – it’s in his idiom after all. The problem comes from those spells whose entire purpose in the game seems to be to circumvent fun. As a GM, and as a player, I think it’s far more satisfying to piece together clues and work out what is going on, than just cast a spell and receive an answer. I think it’s far more colourful to physically travel from one location to another than just use Teleport as a perpetual shortcut. Divinations and Teleportation magic really, really bugs me. It certainly has its place, but when it becomes the go-to solution for every encounter and plot contrivance, then we have problems. I don’t want to have to contort a perfectly good adventure to take into account the fact that someone knows the Find the Path spell.

HD&D should solve these problems. Increasing the casting times for divination magicks, tying long range teleportations to magic circles (as in fourth edition) and using a Recharge mechanic for spells instead of spell points will make a big difference. But we’re not there yet, so I want to introduce a temporary system we can layer over the spell-casting system, until we do get there. Here are my thoughts:

Recharge Magic

Now is not the time to introduce a recharge mechanic into the game. It’s a controversial enough decision for HD&D and I don’t think that it will work in third edition. For the Recharge Mechanic to work it has to go hand-in-hand with numerous feats and class abilities that play off it. That mitigate, or allow characters to take advantage of it. We’re not going to have time to do any of that, so this isn’t really an option.

This means that wizards, druids and clerics will still be using spell points, and sorcerers will still inflict nonlethal damage on themselves when they cast spells. Nothing will change on this front. This also means that wizards will still need to select their spells for the day in advance. However, as we don’t currently have any PC wizards in any party that I’m currently running, I think we can gloss over this.

Availability of Spells

Another virtue of HD&D is going to be the limitation it imposes on the number of spells known by clerics and druids. While both classes can eventually learn as many spells as they like, their starting spells and the extra spells they get for gaining levels is much lower. This avoids a druid reaching a new spell level and suddenly adding an extra eighty spells to his spell-list.

Again, we’re not there yet. And as a result, I think we’re going to have to leave PC spell lists unchanged for the time being. I’m not going to do anything to restrict the spells that anyone in the party currently has access to. When we introduce HD&D we’ll have to look at this again, but for now we’ll leave things as they are.


I think the easiest way to deal with divinations is simply to increase the casting time. The casting times of all zero and first level divinations can remain unchanged. Casting detect magic with a click of your fingers all seems well and good to me. However, all divinations of second level or greater will have their casting times increased as follows.

If the spell takes a standard action or a full round to cast, it will instead take ten minutes. If it already takes ten minutes, then it’ll take an hour. If it takes more than an hour, then it will take eight hours minimum. These are just guidlines. Here’s how things would pan out from the divinations in the Player’s Handbook:

Casting Time – 1 action or round: Comprehend Languages, Detect Animals or Plants, Detect Chaos, Detect Evil, Detect Good, Detect Law, Detect Magic, Detect Poison,  Foresight, Guidance, Know Direction, Moment of Prescience, Read Magic, See Invisibility, Speak with Animals, See Invisibility, True Strike

Casting Time – 10 minutes: Arcane Sight, Greater Arcane Sight, Augury, Detect Secret Doors, Detect Snares and Pits, Detect Scrying, Detect Thoughts, Discern Lies, Find Traps, Locate Creature, Locate Object, Prying Eyes, Greater Prying Eyes, Rary’s Telepathic Bond, Speak with Plants, Status, Stone Tell

Casting Time – 1 hour: Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Commune with Nature, Divination, True Seeing

Casting Time – 8 hours: Analyse Dweomer, Commune, Identify, Contact Other Plane, Discern Location, Find the Path, Legend Lore (much longer if you do not have the item or creature to hand), Scrying, Greater Scrying, Vision


Teleportation magic can be divivded into two categories: short range and long range. Short range teleportations, like dimension door, continue to function normally with one exception: the range of these spells are limited to line of sight. This means you cannot dimension door to somewhere you can’t see, even if you know it very well. Equally, you can’t dimension door if you’re blinded, or in an area of total concealment or darkness. Casting time for dimension door is unchanged.

The Teleport spell must be directed to an existing teleportation circle, and you must know the ‘code’ to access that circle. What this means is that teleportation magicks are going to be a lot less common until churches, guilds and PCs create their own stable portals. The casting time for teleport is increased from 1 standard action to one hour.

Greater Teleport can still send you anywhere. You don’t need to arrive in a pre-existing teleportation circle. However, if you don’t aim for such a circle, then the chances of you incommoding yourself or getting lost in transit is much greater. Use the table for the Teleport spell when you try and teleport ‘off the grid’ with a Greater Teleport spell. The casting time for Greater Teleport is also increased to one hour.


In the HD&D system, there is no distinction between Summoning and Calling spells. Everything you summon comes from somewhere else, and if it dies as a result of your summoning then it is really dead. That’s a concept that can easily be introduced now. HD&D will also limit the number of different types of creature you can summon, by requiring casters to know a different spell for each type of summonable creature. “Summon Dire Rat” is a different spell to “Summon Dire Ape”.

Introducing that is more problematic, so we’ll just ignore those changes for the time being. We’ll just assume that casters know all the different spells they require should any Summoning come up.

Raising the Dead

At present this does work. This isn’t because it couldn’t work, but because the souls of the dead need to be drawn back to their body through the Astral Conduits; and these conduits don’t exist any more. Once this matter is solved, then resurrection magic will function once more. However, there will be a few alterations:

At the moment the game has Raise Dead (5th level), Resurrection (7th level) and True Resurrection (9th level). That will change. We’ll get rid of True Resurrection altogether, and the other two spells will move to levels 6 and 8 respectively. Clerics will have to be eleventh level before they can raise the dead, not ninth as it was in third edition.

Nextly, a physical link is always required to raise the dead. This means the body or (in the case of Resurrection) a part of the body. Even a disintegration spell leaves ash behind – that is enough for Resurrection. The spells coax spirits back from the Land of the Dead to their bodies. If the spirits didn’t go to the Land of the Dead in the first place, then they cannot be raised. This means that these spells don’t work on elves, outsiders or other entities. If the spirits have moved on from the Land of the Dead to their place of final rest, or Oblivion, then these spells will also prove ineffective.

In a character did not have unfinished business or an heroic destiny then they are unlikely to tarry in the Land of the Dead. This means (as in fourth edition) that it’s unlikely that raising the dead will work on most NPCs. They are just not significant enough. Dead means dead. Characters that have a place in Fate’s plan (including all PCs, obviously) can always be raised if it is within the power of the spell to do so. However, as in third edition, characters cannot be raised against the will of the player.

It is possible that other spells may prove effective in reviving outsiders and elves. However, these spells would not commonly be available to player characters.


And that is about it. Some minor changes to the way that certain spells work should be sufficient to invoke a different feel to the Weave, but without adopting all the concepts of HD&D when they aren’t ready to be implemented. I would appreicate your comments on this.

12 thoughts on “Magic on Iourn

  1. Neil,

    If you make true strike a 10 minute cast you may as well take it put the game.

    I don’t have a problem with longer casting times – but I think you have to cast an individual eye over each spell rather than applying the larger “by cast time” brush…….

  2. You’re right of course – the bit about taking spells individually, not the bit about your inability to type. I did go through the entire PHB and assign increased casting times accordingly.

    So True Strike remains a one-action casting. The ninth level spell Foresight is also cast in one round, as it would be pretty useless otherwise. And spells like Find the Path see their casting increased from three rounds to eight hours.

  3. Also if summoned creatures die if killed in battle, it would be a matter of time before we see the R.S.P.C.Summoned.A. hunt down spell casters…

    i like the idea of toning down spellcaster’s power, but it still doesnt help that the sorcerer is still a lot crap (sorry Jon) than the druid/cleric as it is in the system?

    and just to add, i dont see why most of these rules cant be implemented on DnD 3.5 instead of waiting for HDnD…ok i give this will take time but most of the things discussed above is rather trivial in alteration but requires a good thought of before taking on a decision….

    also note, specialist spellcasters, especially the Diviner are going to be crippled in battle, ok given they are crap at battle anyway, this just got a lot worse…

    the thing is i do nothing 3.5e was greatly unbalanced system…it is the spell point system that makes 3.5e unbalanced and that’s the house rules…if we go back to the original rules as in the PHB, the game would be a lot more sane? or balanced… :)

  4. sorry the last paragraph didnt make any sense

    “the thing is i do not think 3.5e is greatly an unbalanced system…it is the spell point system that makes 3.5e unfair and that’s the house rules and not the system…if we go back to the original rules as in the PHB, the game would be a lot more sane? or balanced… :)”

  5. Hi INdran. To take your posts in order:

    1) You need a Teleportation circle at the destination end. You can cast Teleport from anywhere, but you can only appear inside a pre-existing circle. That’s the way it works in 4e, by-the-by.

    2) All the specific rules I outlined above will be implemented in version 3.5. We won’t wait until HD&D. However, stuff like Recharge Magic is just too much hassle to implement evenly and fairly without completely overhauling the system. And as HD&D is already an overhaul of the system, I don’t want to do very similar work twice.

    Limiting spell lists is possibly something we could do in the existing third edition games, but I’m not sure I really want to go down that road just yet. I don’t want to change the League of Light characters unnecessarily.

    3) The Diviner was never really a combat character. And if he was, it wasn’t because he could cast Commune in ten minutes rather than eight hours.

    4) No, these amendments don’t stop the sorcerer from being “crap” compared to other spellcasters. That’s definitely something that needs to change, but it’s beyond the scope of what I want to achieve with these minor rules changes. The sorcerer will get a complete overhaul, but it’ll be another year or so in coming.

    5) Agreed. Using spell points inherently imbalances the game. However, the published system is just so bad that I would never consider using it. Plus I don’t think that the published system is any saner than what we have.

  6. Jack says:

    Here’s a thought …

    If teleport is instant then it works. However, if teleport takes 3 seconds (ie a standard action), then the position your teleporting too will have moved becuase of the speed of the earths rotation … chances are the character goes splat in the core or gets sucked into space … either way you no longer have a teleport problem.

    Of course, there are ways round this. Firstly, a character with an Int of 30+ is probably smart enough to re-compute tradjectories and such like. Secondly, if you know where your starting, where your going and what the rotational speed is you could probably use charts to calculate the trip … hence a very long casting time.

    What do you think? Same goes for time travel, you’d not only need to know when, but also where that when was in the earths orbit!

    Of course, this assumes your world isn’t on the back of a giant tortoise or such like …


  7. Hey Neil

    I think that there isn’t a lot of point in changing teleport to use teleportation circle grids if you don’t do the same with greater teleport. You are just delaying the problem by two levels. Faust could still teleport near the chosen but half a mile up in the air to avoid hitting anything if the teleport errors, and would then fly after them and lay the smack down. I think teleportation circles are a good move but I think they should be for all long ranged teleporting, across the board, no exceptions. I also think that you should only be able to teleport to a circle that you have physically been to. That way the world doesn’t immediately shrink when a party member gets the spell. The group would still have all of the flavour of travelling to a new location the first time. They could then teleport back and forth to the location as they choose without the GM having to repeat the narrative.

    In the game I ran I also had to tweak the magic system because of all of the broken spells. I just added an XP cost to every spell I didn’t like and that did the trick. The PCs drastically cut their use of such spells and stopped using some altogether. I think your suggestions on divinations, summoning and raising the dead all sound good though.

  8. Hi Steve,

    Something that Marc and I were discussing, is that the changes imposed on magical spells shouldn’t entirely remove these options from the game. Powerful spells should be able to teleport where they like. Using Greater Teleport to go “off the grid” seems appropriate to me.

    And it would be delaying the teleportation issue for four levels, not two. As a wizard could teleport at level nine (minimum), but not use greater teleport until level thirteen (again, minimum).

    Another thing that we need to consider is that (ultimately) the descriptions for many of these spells will be rewritten. Greater Teleport won’t have the same error table as Teleport does now when it’s an HD&D spell. These spells (and the divinations) will function differently as well. Arguably, to work in the new system, they have to be somewhat rewritten.

    The changes I’m proposing now are just stop-gap measures. They’re no perfect, and they may seem pointless. They’re just in keeping with the more fundamental changes that are around the corner. At least, that’s how I see it.

  9. Hey Neil

    Personally, I think free teleporting around the world adds virtually nothing to the game and to the story, other than complications. What if Frodo could just teleport to mount doom? If you definitely want to keep greater teleporting off the grid, the error probability has to be significant to even the most powerful characters. Perhaps a small chance of being sent to another plane or disappearing into the void forever?

    • I guess teleporting is a legacy issue from previous editions of D&D. It’s always been there, so if I take it out completely is the game still D&D? I could definitely be persuaded to excise it, but I’d take a little convincing. Rather than saying something is impossible, I’d rather say that it’s very difficult.

      Some serious repurcussions for failure and a higher level than seventh might combine to make greater teleport more palatable. Early days yet, though.

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