Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Charisma and Magic

I’m really not a rules hacker, and am conservative with any tweaks I introduce, but something ChicagoWiz posted the other day got me thinking. Among other things, he proposed a “What if” where magic users were sorcerers and relied on charisma as well as intelligence. It’s a relatively neglected attribute that I’ve always wanted to give more attention. I really don’t want to overhaul the class, but the notion that charisma is taken into consideration with certain spells makes a lot of sense and makes me want to introduce it in my Swords & Wizardry games somehow.

Here’s a list of spells from the core rules that I’m considering combining with charisma in some manner:

MU: Charm spells, Monster Summoning, Suggestion, Conjure Elemental, Geas, Power Words
Cleric: Bless, Speak with (Animals, Dead, Monsters), Quest, Aerial Servant, Holy Word

The first thing that comes to mind is to simply use the typical attribute modifier with any saving throw a monster needs to make. This would be very modest - a +1/-1 thing. In the case of NPCs though, the difference in the spell caster and target’s charisma might be more fun, but it might also dramatically over or under-power the spell. That is, a 16 charisma spell caster casts Geas against a 10 charisma NPC. Forcing the NPC to save at -6 seems harsh. Maybe halving this and rounding makes sense, or I could always scale it somehow.

At first glance, it seems like a minor house rule. It’s a small group of spells where this would be used. I already use the 3d6 in order method for determining attributes, with no rearranging or re-rolls, so it would make overpowering spell casters less likely.

On the other hand, using charisma like this might add some extra flavor into the game and game balance be damned. It makes sense that a highly charismatic magic user would acquire and be predisposed to use spells that depended upon his personal magnetism, just as an ugly witch would have a harder than usual time in charming the rare visitor.

I think this is something that’s used to a degree in 3rd edition, but I’ve never played it and am not familiar with the rules. Has anyone done something like this (or more ambitious) with their own house rules in an earlier game version?


Robert Morris said...

While I have not done so, I might have to look at this. I always liked the idea of charismatic spell-casters, including the witch and the charlatan, and this allows some of that without introducing a whole lot of other things to the mix that might unbalance it. The only change I would make is that if you are using an opposed bonus to determine the modifier, you should use charisma for the caster and wisdom for the subject. I think that is what EGG was getting at with the inclusion of wisdom bonuses for saves in the PHB, and it really makes sense here. Whatever you end up doing, though, let us know how it works out.

ze bulette said...

Thanks Bob, that makes perfect sense!

Unknown said...

On the math of it: Try square roots rounded off. A 6 difference becomes a 2 modifier.
1-2 => +1
3-6 => +2
7-12 => +3
13-20 => +4
21+ => +5

Keeps the progression regular, but not so extreme.

JDJarvis said...

How about no save modifier if victim has score within a point or two of the caster's score. -4 if lower then that range. +4 if higher then that range. Quick easy math and a difference worth bothering with.

Barad the Gnome said...

Yes, charisma is a much more important stat in 3.X. It becomes meaningful to the sorcerer, bard, & paladin; plus it adds to many skills. If you want to 'borrow' any thinking from 3.5, the SRD is widely available if you don't have the books. (e.g. ) IMO - every edition has tidbits worth borrowing. The nice thing about the sorcerer in 3.x, you can fairly easily house rule it to make up many of those charisma based fantasy magical persons to fit your liking.

It has been too long since I played 1E to give any plausible advice on what to do with charisma. Have fun!

ze bulette said...

@DrDrucker & JDJarvis: I like both of these. I was initially thinking more along the lines of DrD, but the ease of JD's approach is probably what I'll try out. It's great to be able to throw a quick idea out there and get feedback like this, thanks.
@Barad: I've been to the online SRD before, not sure why I didn't go there first (just being lazy maybe). I'll have to dig there a little and see if there's anything relevant I can use. Cheers

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