Making Magic Dangerous
I like it when magic is dangerous to cast… That the players know that their character is messing with forces beyond their full comprehension, but the ability to wield that power is beyond the risk. It’s one of the reasons I’m so fond of Dungeon Crawl Classics.
Aside for those unfamiliar with the DCC rules: When a wizard casts a spell they must make a spell check (rolling a d20 + Intelligence modifier + level) to hit a target number. For level one spells the base success rate is a DC of 12. The higher the caster rolls, the more awesomesauce their spells is. However should a caster roll a 2-11 the spell is lost for the day… Should the caster roll a 1, they suffer corruption, misfire, patron taint, and etc.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying also has possible terrible things happen should the caster fuck up their spell check. This played a huge inspiration for me (and I hacked from WFRPG 2e) for my own OSR hack.
I just started playing the new Dragon Age: Inquisition game (which I’m really fucking enjoying at the moment) and once again shit is going on with the Fade (the realm of demons, magic, and dreams) and it is tearing open, letting demons and spirits come into the physical world… That got me thinking that I really would like that kinda thing in my 5e game… I don’t want to PUNISH my casters (this isn’t Hubris after all) for being what they are… but I want a REASON for witchhunters to be after them… I want a reason (aside from flinging fireballs and cleaning off the blood on their clothes with Prestidigitation) for the common folk to fear them…
The amount of space between the material plane and the other planes is a thin barrier unseen by the mortal eye… When someone messes with magic, be it arcane, divine, or nature they risk tearing open that barrier and unleashing unwelcome guests unto the world.
Each time a spell is cast the % chance is increased and a roll must be made to see if the barrier gives way. Consult the tables below for the increase per spell level.
|Spell Level||Percentage Increase|
|Divine and Nature Spells|
|Spell Level||Percentage Increase|
Should the barrier be ripped open, it allows spirits (malicious or friendly), demons, nightmares, and elementals to cross over into our world and roam free until killed, convinced to return, or banished. Roll on the table below to see what comes out of the barrier. Use your favorite Monster Manual for the stats on the monster.
|What Emerges From the Barrier|
|Roll 1d100||What Emerges|
|1-15||A dream that causes all in a 30’ radius to become staggered for 1d3 rounds (-4 to rolls or suffer Disadvantage) unless a DC 14 Will/Wisdom save is passed.Mephit- 1) dust; 2) ice; 3) magma; 4) mud; 5) smoke; 6) steam|
|16-30||Roll 1d8- 1-2) 2d6 skeletons; 3-4) 3d4 zombies; 5) shade; 6) wraith; 7) shadow; 8) ghost|
|35-40||Lesser demon- CR no greater than 2|
|41-45||Lesser devil- CR no greater than 2|
|46-50||Lesser celestial being- CR no greater than 2|
|51-55||A wave of healing hits the party, restoring 3d8 HP|
|56-57||Elemental- 1) fire; 2) water; 3) air; 4) earth; 5) lightning; 6) ice|
|58-60||Roll 1d4- Even) Spirit Naga; Odd) Bone naga|
|62-65||Magic emerges- 1d6 lightning bolts shoot out of the void, each doing 3d6 damage (roll targets randomly). DC 14 Reflex/Dexterity save for half damage.|
|67-70||Roll 1d4- 1-3) 2d2 Fire snakes; 4) Salamander|
|71-80||A guardian spirit emerges from the barrier and casts a protective spell on all cater allies. This absorbs the damage from the next successful attack or spell. Effect lasts for 24 hours or until the sun rises, whichever comes first.|
|81-85||A wave of fear envelopes all targets within a 1 mile radius of the tear in the barrier. This functions like the Fear spell. The effect lasts for 1 minute or until a successful Wis/Wisdom save is made.|
|86-87||Demon- CR from 3-6|
|88-90||Devil- CR from 3-6|
|91-92||Celestial being- CR from 3-6|
|93-94||A horrid dream emerges from barrier and attacks the caster- As phantasmal killer cast by an 8th level wizard.|
|95||Major demon- CR from 7-12|
|96||Major devil- CR from 7-12|
|97||Major celestial being- CR from 7-12|
|98||Demon Lord- CR 13 and above|
|99||Arch devil- CR 13 and above|
|00||Paragon celestial being- CR 13 and above|