Seeking the Form

June 22, 2017

So, we’ve already explored why magic in D&D, traditionally, is basically madness given form. The big reason for this is there’s no design format or structure for where spells go, what they do, and how powerful they are for each spell slot. In order to fix this, make my job easier as a designer, and empower players to make their own spells I’m giving each school Spell Forms rather than just spells directly, then building spells out of those rules. It’s like a video game designer first creating level creating tools or something similar then using those to build the elements of the game.

We’re going to start with the Universal school, things all Arcanists have access to intuitively. These are raw forms, things that are born out of feeling rather than direction, and are unrefined. When an Arcanist moves into their specialty, they start learning more structured forms that are informed by their schooling; Warlocks learn to shape their spells using the Forms granted by their patrons, Wizards learn to refine these basic forms into highly technical and specific forms, and even more esoteric spell casters learn even stranger systems.

So what is the Universal school’s Spell Forms? I’ve previously called these Engrams, for those of you keeping track.

These are going to be blocked out in a pretty simplistic way that’ll have more of a visual design sentiment added in when I get to something like blocking out an actual book, if that becomes a thing.

[Form Name] – [School], [Action Speed], [Damage Type Options], [Spell Point Cost]



So, to explain some of the new things here; Damage Type Options and Spell Point Cost.

Spell Point Cost is simple; it’s the number of spell points, or historically spell slots, it takes to use this Spell Form for a spell.

Damage Type Options are the kinds of energy that can be fed into this form; Fire, Acid, Thunder, Lightning, Cold, Physical (Piercing, Slashing, or Bludgeoning), Force, Poison, Psychic, Necrotic, Radiant, Axiomatic, Chaotic. This list may change over time, but this is the D&D damage type list currently accepted as complete. Elemental covers all but Physical, Psychic, Necrotic, Radiant, Axiomatic, and Chaotic. Alignment covers Necrotic, Radiant, Axiomatic, and Chaotic. Physical is, of course, Physical. Finally, Psionic covers the Psychic damage type. Adding an energy type is free for the spell’s construction but if a spell is being “created on the fly” it adds 1 to a Spellcraft check to create the spell in the heat of combat.

The simplest is Bolt;

Bolt – Universal, Instant, Elemental, 1

The caster forms a concentrated ball of energy and flings it at their opponent. The ball can have any real form but always has rough edges from new casters. The caster imagines a simple form, like a stone or ball, to create the form in their mind before casting. Bolt does 1d4 damage when it strikes and uses the caster’s Ranged Spell bonus to attack.

Enhancements; Auto-Strike (1 Spell Point) – automatically hits the target but damage cannot be enhanced, Enlarged (1 Spell Point per die code) – the ball is physically larger and does more damage when it strikes.

Spray – Universal, Instant, Elemental/Physical, 1

The caster holds their hands out and sprays raw magical energy from their fingertips. When an energy type is added, the raw magic is instead formed into small shapes or gusts and sprays of the energy type used. Examples include a gout of flame, a spray of icy wind and ice crystals, or a torrent of small knives. This is the simplest form for most new casters and does not require much of a Form in the mind to create the raw magic version (typically doing Force damage) as it just requires holding their hands up and pushing the energy through their body. The Spray hits a cone that begins at the caster and reaches out 15 feet. The Spray hits for 1d6 to any enemy that it hits and the caster’s Spell Reflex bonus to attack or uses a Reflex Save on targets if using Saves.

Enhancements; Widen (1 Spell Point) – Instead of having a cone targeting 1 Square/5 feet infront of the caster they instead can target 2 Squares/10 feet wide infront of them but the cone reaches just as far. Lengthen (1 Spell Point) the cone reaches 1 Square/5 feet farther. Both Widen and Lengthen can be used multiple times, up to the Character’s Arcanist levels for the total of both Enhancement’s uses added together. Lasting (2 Spell Points) – the spray can leave behind an ongoing effect based on the damage type – bleeding, burning, chilled, etc – that does 1d4 damage on the following turn with a simple Save to negate; if not using Saves the caster makes an Ongoing Spell check. This ongoing effect lasts as long as the character’s Arcanist levels or until it is resisted.

Disk – Universal, Full Action, Physical/Force, 1

The caster creates a disk of energy in an empty space infront of them. The shape of the disk is up to them, and it can hold 275 pounds (or 125 kilograms) per Arcanist level the character possesses. The Disk acts like a cart and can follow the caster across any form of terrain but cannot fly or float. If it crosses a space more than 10 feet deep it immediately dissipates. If the carry weight is exceeded, it also immediately dissipates. The disk has a Move of 6 Squares/30 feet.

Enhancements; Weaponize (2 Spell Points) – the caster can create a harsh edge on the disk and use it as an environmental weapon. Attacking with it uses the Spell Melee bonus and strikes for the Character’s Arcanist levels in d8s of damage of the type that the disk is formed from. Float (1 Spell Point) – allows the disk to move up to the Character’s Arcanist level times ten in feet up or down without dissipating as part of its Move.

Blade – Universal, Swift Action, Elemental/Physical/Alignment, 1

The caster creates a blade that extends from their hand, like a knife or sword. The shape and design, as well as its orientation, is up to the caster’s imagination but it cannot extend more than 3 feet from the caster’s hand. This is a blade of magical energy and functions as if the caster is already profficient with it in terms of attacking with it and will perform like a finely crafted weapon of whatever design the caster has imagined. The blade does 1d8 damage on strike and uses the Spell Melee bonus to attack.

Enhancements; Empower (1 point per change) – the blade can either grow longer by up to 1 foot per point or adding a second blade for 1 point (plus another point per foot of length if also making that blade longer). If a second blade is made it can also be used to attack using the Two Weapon Fighting Rules. Shield (0 to 1 points) – the caster can instead summon a shield that adds their Intelligence Bonus to their Physical Avoidance while the shield exists. The caster can also create a shield in addition to their blade for 1 point. The shield opperates as any other shield does and is a weapon with 0 attack and the Intelligence Bonus as defense. Serated (1 point) – the blade can leave behind an ongoing effect based on the damage type – bleeding, burning, chilled, etc – that does 1d4 damage on the following turn with a simple Save to negate; if not using Saves the caster makes an Ongoing Spell check. This ongoing effect lasts as long as the character’s Arcanist levels or until it is resisted.


So let me know what you think!

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