Idea: Living Spell

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0769

Here’s a cool Wednesday idea for your game sent to me by Aramax over at Strolen’s Citadel.

What happens when a spell goes awry?

Perhaps it’s a miscasting? Maybe a foe warps three simultaneous effects cast upon him. Maybe it’s a research mishap.

Of the many ways spells could change and twist unexpectedly, a few will result in becoming living, possibly sentient things. They become monsters.

For example, Roaming Fireball.

This flying orb of devastation constantly seeks the nearest source of fire and consumes it. It begins as a 6d6 creature and can hurl small balls of 1d6 damage fire. Each minor fireball it hurls depletes it by 1d6. Consuming fire recharges it. Consuming large fires makes it grow beyond 6d6. Once it grows to 12d6 it undergoes mitosis and becomes two Roaming Fireballs, each at 6d6.

You can turn any spell into a Living Spell. Think of all the possibilities!

Aramax has 30 ideas for you over at Strolen’s (an awesome site, by the way, and worth your time poking around and joining).

A Simple Format For Living Spells

Here’s how you might approach turning spells and technologies in your game into Living Spell monsters, hazards, and NPCs.

Step 1. Origin

Decide how the Living Spell was created. Use the origin story to theme manifestation and impulse.

Step 2. Manifestation

How does the spell manifest in your game? What properties does it have? Do you want it to be interactive like a monster, or something passive like a hazard or trap? What’s its appearance? Are there any conditions on if and when it appears?

Step 3. Impulse

Stealing a page from Dungeon World here, give your Living Spell a drive, a purpose, an instinct, or a behaviour. This helps you roleplay and GM the spell.

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Living Spell Example: Locke Mist

Let’s use the Open Locks spell to illustrate.

Origin: Locke Mist was spawned in a dungeon by a Wild Magic mishap. The apprentice who cast it unwittingly unleashed the party’s demise, as the Living Spell kept resetting locks behind the explorers, ultimately trapping them as they attempted to flee back to safety.

Manifestation: Appearing as a hazy silver cloud, it can activate or deactivate any lock it touches.

Impulse: It’s territorial and likes to play with people, locking them in and out of things.

From here you can leave this as-is for a fun dungeon hazard, or you can turn it into a full-on NPC with quests and encounters.

This simple stat block of Origin, Manifestation, and Impulse is intended to get you the basics quick and build on later as desired.

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Living Spell Challenge

I have a new challenge for you. The last one for the Intensify Encounters Method, using a Google Form, worked great. Lots of ideas were contributed, you got instant access to everyone’s submissions, and feedback to me was positive.

So let’s try this approach again.

Using my simple three-step template, make a Living Spell.

Share your Living Spell here: Create a Living Spell