Sunday, July 17, 2022

Campaign Retrospective: Wizard College review & Heleologos Academy Graduate GLOG Class

The GLOG wizard campaign/playtest has concluded, or rather, I burnt out on it due to, as one player put it, "There was hecka Standford Prison Experiment level of Role Acquisition with our player base". Even so, a lot of valuable information was gleaned from the ~14 weeks and ~42 sessions I ran for the three sub-groups. I've roughly updated the original document post to reflect those design changes.

The general principle was a wizard college, recently burned by sea raiders, was being restarted, run by the Headmaster Great Doctor Ogudugu/Dread Sorcerer Ugudugo in a Jekyll/Hyde scenario that a past campaign engineered. The players were set to defeat 5 wicked wizards terrorizing the land, recover lost secrets, and train students in WIZARDRY, and they accomplished about half the tasks set before them, as the campaign ended about half-way through the year time limit. The players were split into several groups, which were roughly the goody two shoes, mustache twirling villains, and morally ambiguous middle ground. This immediately led to us vs them mentalities developing. I think future 'same campaign, multiple groups' will have to be clearer about it not being a matter of 'sides' so much as 'manageable player group size' if the groups are occupying the same fictional space and thus prone to interacting, directly or otherwise.

Class wise, the group consisted of a
Cauliflowomancer (custom by player)
Alchemist (custom by player)
Hellknight
Many Wizards
Telemancer (Two of them, though due to shenanigans only one really used the base spells)
Somnambulist
Fey Wizard
Toxinist (Dropped campaign early)
Relic Seeker
Geometer
Lenguamancer


The players engaged in a fair bit of ridiculous wizard shenanigans including, but not limited to
-Accidentally causing triple tsunamis with meteors, wiping out a magic sandcastle and putting coastal settlements into crisis for weeks
-Creating a Pig Cult and awakening pigs to citizen status
-infested campus with, at various times- boreholes, clay pigs, frost imps, mimics, intelligent trees
-Reawakened a volcano
-Hastily cooled the lava off with storms of soapy water
-Turned a pirate wizard captain away from evil via the use of jekyll/hyde potions
-Set up a secret teleport circle to the mainland
-Hired two Ogre Magi onto the payroll so they'd stop eating people

Some thoughts that emerged in play, in no particular order. There are many small changes (like mutation for 1 day instead of 1d6 rounds) that have been retroactively implemented into the prior 'tl;dr' post, as I hope to spare anyone using those rules some of the troubles that afflicted my campaign.

-Spellbreeding procedures are fun, moreso than typical spell research rules. Slapping some extra limitations on how often they can be used should mostly solve the prime problem I encountered where 'sit in tower and do spell research' was more rewarding than actually adventuring.

-GLOG classes, more specifically spell lists, seem to be very self contained, without an implicit understanding of learning new spells. While that's fine especially for shorter-lived campaigns, I think a lot of gaps between 'AD&D spellcaster progression along 20 levels' and 'GLOG caster progressing along 4 levels' exist and may need filling.

-GLOG spells that depart from the lowly realms of [sum]=damage formula and attempt to emulate spells in the level 3+ range may need additional limitations even beyond that of 'but what if you roll a doom.'  Prime offenders are summoning spells, transformation spells, 'death' spells, teleports, and many things with permanent effects. One design flaw I exposed with certain spells was similar to the issues I had in Esoteric Enterprises- if short term resources (MD) can be used to solve intended long term consequences (mutilation, mutations, curses, death, etc) and the only limitation upon those spells is the threat of more long term consequences, the long term effects become nothing but pointless busywork that eats up a day of MD at worst, and the intended limiter of the spell becomes irrelevant.

-Material components must be quested for, not bought, or town becomes a more important locale than the parts of the game where adventuresome things happen. While sending known mercenaries or retainers on quests to retrieve goods could be fine, allowing the sort of impersonal transaction of magical goods for mere coin turns things in a "Industrial Magic Revolution" direction pretty quick once you ask 'why aren't NPCs doing this too.'
Powerful spells that burn through ingredients, then will require more questing or shenanigans to acquire more of, is one such limitation upon glog spells.

-Gold Costs for 'lesser' components is potentially fine when it's just a kind of abstract purchase for baseline functionality of something, like crushed pearls or gold-dust infused ink. The sort of thing that makes magical efforts expensive and unable to be infinitely replicated by say, a printing press, and attaches to coin for xp economies easily. Small gold prices for certain spells can limit them effectively when they can pretty much always be cast in session, but cannot be cast every day for a month with your spare MD to bring about some effect without incurring financial problems.

-Limiting casts of a spell to be within a certain time frame (the main example being a teleport that could only be cast once every 24-[sum] hours) helps encourage single large casts rather than smaller 'spam' approaches that bypass miscast/dooms/mildly inefficient MD use. This is to some degree just reinventing the wheel of classic Vancian D&D casting though.

-Minimum MD investiture- When used as a 'you might get a doom' drawback, this may become a toothless warning if players avert their doom or treat their character as a pawn rather than a character.
I think it becomes more interesting if the MD investiture is not merely a 'doom' threat but a 'how do I get to 6MD' problem. If nothing else, requiring a minimum MD investment means it eats up more MD than usual.

That's most of my thoughts on my deep dive into a GLOG style magic system this campaign. All in all I'm not sure I've made a proper bridge between 'you get some random spells from your glog class and level 4 is the cap' and the level-based power scaling of an AD&Desque wizard.
But such a bridge is worth building I think, because while GLOG casting is cool, it doesn't match well with certain monstrous bestiaries math-wise or long term campaign stability if every level 4 wizard gets to break reality and then die of a doom.


-While it is certainly possible to run three days a week, it is less plausible to be able to keep abreast of required prep for three groups in the same world if they stray from existing prep and goals and truly start to turn into 'three separate campaigns.' So being more clear whether campaigns are more ordered railroads or sandboxes is something I'll communicate more.

-While considerably more work, I think the central megadungeon of a campaign requires more careful level design than what most online generators are capable of. Filling a Donjon-generated dungeon with appropriate fills doesn't solve the general weirdness of the layout, so there's not a lot of rhyme or reason when it comes to exploration, nor are there things like 'giant bridged chasm spanning 3 layers.'

-I forgot to include weather mishaps, which led to players marching through rain like soulless automata. Adding things like slipping and falling (annoying in plains, deadly in mountains), inventory items(like spellbooks) becoming moldy from leaks and soaks, frostbite, avalanches, and so on  are important.

-Milestones have decent potential for non XP based advancement I think, but I think they have to be tweaked for each campaign. I was kicking myself for not including the campaigns 'story goals' as milestones and instead using a more generic list- that would have helped keep things focused.


HELEOLOGOS ACADEMY GRADUATE SPELL LIST


  1. Arzhangs Astonishing Automatic Laundry
  2. Forecast
  3. Celestial Trumpeters of Elsewhere
  4. Animate Glass
  5. Lily's Mysterious Mastermind Mining Minions 
  6. Fulgurous Fairy Dismemberment
  7.  Great Storm of Pig Awakening 
  8. Extremely Warm and Legally Distinct Cutting Surfaces of Nanci 
  9.  Borehole
  10.  Immovable
  11. Lolilores Merely Human Tongue
  12. Matterhorns Champagne Fairy


  1. Arzhangs Astonishing Automatic Laundry
    R
    : 30' D: Instant
    Cleans [dice] targeted outfits with soap and water, then hangs them to dry on most appropriate area within range. If said outfit is currently being worn, the wearer gets a save to avoid their outfit being stripped, but will still have the outside soaked and scrubbed.

    A necessity for keeping robes fresh and the student body tolerable in the jungle heat. While it has combat applications, experimental castings to remove knightly armor  is kept secret from said knights.

  2. Forecast
    R
    : sight; T: the sky D: Next Week
    You know what the weather prediction is for next week. You can shift the predicted results on the 2d6 weather table roll up to [Dice] amount (or whatever seems appropriate given weather rules.

    After seasons of pestilential rain, the staff demanded the headmaster end the floods, and this tradition continues to this day, ensuring the headmaster of the school is responsible for addressing foul weather.

  3.  Celestial Trumpeters of Elsewhere
    R:
    Sight T: The sky D: [Dice*2] Hours
    A host of musician-spirits are called from an appropriate afterlife to perform. The glowing host illuminates equivalent to moonlight and traverses the sky similar to a meteor, spectral tunes drifting down below.

    This spell is mostly used as entertainment for outdoor court parties, though during the Enlarge Wars it frequently became an enabler of night raids and signal flares, and is far from a mere parlor trick.

  4. Animate Glass
    R:
    Touch T:Glass Item D: [Dice] Tasks
    Animates a piece of glass. It has max HD equal to [dice*2], but this is dependent on the size of the glass. After the tasks expire, if not commanded to become inert, it will behave as its form implies- glass birds fly around and peck at seeds, stained glass monks may preach, etc etc.

    This spell, developed in Ynn and later refined with golem-crafting principles, is popular due to aesthetic appeal, limited usage, and utility in stained glass window repair. There is rumored to be a very unsafe version known as Glass Demon bound in the cooled lava of the volcano, a necromatic corpse-and-glasspane horror mishmash derived from the soul of a murderous quicksand nymph vitrified and called forth.

  5. Lily's Mysterious Mastermind Mining Minions
    R:
    Shouting distance T:Patch of mud, soil, or shit D: [dice] days
    Summons [sum] demonic, imp-like creatures, commonly called knockers or borehordelings, who are equipped with mining helmets, shovels, and pickaxes. While loyal, they are tragically stupid, cowardly, greedy, and generally useless, but they can still accomplish anything [sum] idiots could do in [dice] days with that gear.
    Each minion can dig through about 85' cubic feet of very soft rock/earth, 65' of soft rock, and 30' of hard rock in a days work.

    The ironic name has led many a wizardly building project to go awry, but the additional labor force is helpful... if supervised.

  6. Fulgurous Fairy Dismemberment
    R: 50' T:
    Ear, finger, or similar small bodypart D: Instant
    This spell takes the form of a small, lightning-shrouded,blade-brandishing fairy who removes small bodyparts on a failed save. It is cast as a Cantrip, so all invested dice are set to 1 instead of rolling.
    The wound is cauterized by lightning so bloodloss is not an issue, and there is a -1 to save per point of metallic AC + metal item worn.

  7. Great Storm of Pig Awakening
    R:
    Sight T: Sky/Ceiling D:[sum] hours
    Magical rain falls from sky/ceiling for the duration.Pigs in the rain gain human level intelligence.

    This spell, while mostly included due to the Three-Tusk pig cult, is nonetheless handy to water crops, disrupt travel, and produce water in dungeons.

  8. Extremely Warm and Legally Distinct Cutting Surfaces of Nanci
    R: n/a T: Self D:[sum] round
    Summons a mystical mirage-heat blade of reflection that hits as a longsword with +[dice] to hit and damage worth of fire damage. It deals double damage to anything you love. This is battlemagic, which means that you may cast and attack with the summoned weapon in the same round.

    Additionally, the blade may be used to reflect 1 incoming attack per round, with a 50% chance of success... but if a reflect attempt fails, the attack automatically hits the wielder, and/or a save is  automatically failed.
    Reflected attacks preferentially target anything the attacker loves and deal double damage or effect to them, or returns to the originator for normal damage/effect by default.
     One effect may be chosen upon cast per [dice]
    -Gaze Attacks
    -Melee Attacks
    -Ranged attacks
    -Hostile spells
    -Fear Effects

    This spell, more commonly known as the Ruinous Flameblade, is said to have been drawn from the torment of those who died in the burning of the library, and is strictly forbidden from being cast in the library, lest the flames return.

  9. Borehole

    [R]Touch [T]1 person or section of floor [D] [sum] Turns, permanent on 4+dice

    A perfectly circular hole is bored. In a person, this hole leads to their dreams. On a dead person or undead, it leads to a nightmare realm. In a structure, the hole leads down 1 level. If there was not anything below, a dungeon is spontaneously created. The hole closes after the time is up, but any generated realms remain, and the nightmares beneath will likely maintain an exit for their monsters.
     
    Due to an infestation of these nightmare wisps and general good use in dungeon delving, this spell became prominent in Heleologos as well as in Saresare.
  10. Immovable
    [R]Touch [T]1 item [D] [sum] Rounds
    Holds an item in place as per an Immovable Rod. Items held by others get a save.

    While Mr. Daurondo had a variety of obscure frog-based curses, this contribution was deemed more generally appropriate to the curriculum.
     
  11. Lolilores Merely Human Tongue
    [R] Depends on air/water currents [T]Metal/Magic [D] Until recast
    Allows the caster to taste the air and locate metals and/or magic. By tasting the air for something you have smelled before (such as gold, magic smells, etc) you can follow it like a bloodhound, or at least become aware of the nearest item.

     Derived from the multiple dragons the Academy defeated, this spell mimics their uncanny ability to sniff out treasures. During the enlarge wars, it was also used to follow troop movements and avoid ambushes.


  12. Matterhorns Champagne Fairy
    [R]Touch [T] Water [D] Permanent
    Another Ynn-derived sorcery, this perpetually soused fairy transmutes enough water into champagne to get [sum] people tipsy. That contains a very faint featherfall effect- for each point of drunkenness, the inebriated takes 1 less fall damage.

    Drunkenness Rules- Each point increases critical hit/critical failure range by 1. After your first 'free' point, drunkenness in excess of your CON bonus forces a save vs poison, failure indicating blackouts, passing out, and general alcohol poisoning and uselessness.

1 comment:

  1. A common design flaw in GLOG spells — so common that I'm not sure it's a "flaw" as much as it's a personal preference of mine — is that they lack a reason for a wizard to cast them with 2MD instead of 1MD twice.

    Consider the hypothetical spell "Translate Book", a touch-range and concentration-based spell which animates writing supplies (paper, pen &c) to translate and transcribe [sum] pages of a targeted book at a rate of ten minutes per page. As written there is no reason for a caster of this spell to ever, ever cast this spell with more than 1MD and risk mishap. Its outcome is exactly functionally identical when cast with 1MD twice sequentially as when cast with 2MD. I will call these spells "temptationless", as they don't tempt a player to push his luck.

    It's not a terrible crime for a wizard to have one or two temptationless spells; we might consider these spells to be equivalent to 1st-level spells in Vancian systems, or beefier cantrips. Some ideas can't really be scaled. But when I see a wizard school which has *several* such spells, I wonder why it has to be a GLOG wizard school at all, instead of some OSR system without this fiddly magic-dice-pool business.

    Obviously any spell which *doesn't* have a [dice] or [sum] element to it is temptationless, and the magic dice pool in that case serves only as a less predictable spells-per-day rule. But just adding [sum] or [dice] to a spell's description doesn't make it temptationful. Consider the "Translate Book" example above.

    Corollary: a spell that deals [sum] damage or heals [sum] HP is *not* a temptationless spell, because there's a very good reason for a wizard to cast it with multiple MD: they're using it in combat and only get to cast one spell per round.

    I'm now realizing this comment is kind of tangential to your point, but I started to complain and then kept complaining. I'd be interested in reading more of your thoughts on how to improve the GLOG's spell library.

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