How to think about the Burn Die
MAGIC is a wind, a frequency, a field of energy that flows through the world and its magic-users.
MANA, the main element of magic, can be disparate in certain regions, and fill other places to the brim. The way that mana, spells, and wizards interact is sometimes volatile, and the quantity of mana in the air and the wizard’s skill dictates this the most.
This mechanic serves to aid players visualize how magic works in the ICRPG game.
Player-Characters now start with a red HEART (for Hit Points) and a blue Heart (for Mana) with a value of then (10) each as per the regular rules.
For a magic-less warrior character this might seem weird and useless, but magic items are bound to the blue heart.
A new lever
In ICRPG, the Game Master decides what the Target Number will be. With this homebrew rule, he also dictates what the BURN NUMBER will be. The Burn Number is usually represented as a D6, the BURN DIE, well in view of all the players.
Usually, the Burn Number changes according to the location of the PCs: portals to fantastic places, legendary items, and mythical creatures usually clock the Burn Die up, while nature, constructs, and clerics commonly reduce the Burn Number.
|Burn Number||Potential interpretations|
|1-2||Subtle paranormal phenomenons or discreet Imp servents skulking around.|
|3-4||Incredible spells still dissipating or an ancient, magical construction.|
|5-6||A heavy curse that bends reality or a mighty entity at work in the region.|
When a PC casts a spell, the D20 result must not be equal or below the number on the Burn Die. If the D20 result is equal or below the Burn Number, then the spell blows up in the face of the character!
Even on a success? Maybe not: the player rolls another D20 (without a modifier) and if the result is above the Burn Die, then the spell does not blow up.
The Mana resource
The Burn Die is a type of DYNAMIC DIE: when a spell blows up in the face of a PC, roll the Burn Die and substract the new Burn Number from the failing wizard’s blue Heart total. The new Burn Number displayed on the Die is the number to avoid when rolling a D20 to cast spells!
If a spell-caster’s blue Heart drops to zero (0) he can not cast spells until he fills it back up. And to fill a blue Heart, a wizard must do so at a leyline or a Mana pool!
The privilege of wielding a magic item comes at a cost. First, a hero must attune to its frequencies by either:
- Paying the Mana cost. It depends on the item. Sometimes that cost is paid in different manners, like over time or at all at once. Consider how difficult it might be to pay that cost for someone who has no mastery of Magic.
- Rolling against the TN: on a success, the character and the item are attuned, but roll into the Burn Die and something dire might happen.
Consider what other costs a magic item may have, perhaps the adventurer must spend Mana just to wield it in battle or keep it at his belt…
About the Backfire table
You don’t need one, the spells and magic items interact with volatile Mana in the air or the source of magic in the area. So, when a spell fails, you can just rule the result on the fly, relative to the wizard’s surroundings, or write it down in your prep.
For example, a Fireball spell won’t miscast the same way Wood Shell will, and they won’t miscast the same way twice around a Well of Infinite Wisdom or through the Hell Gate. Remember, playing with Magic and the Laws of the Universe is incredibly dangerous!
If you want a dial for the intensity of a backfire, you can use the Burn Die again!
|Burn Number||Potential interpretations|
|1-2||On a failure, tell the player what’s about to happen and allow him to throw away, drop, or keep the spell. The spell will usually implode, explode, or momentarily crack reality. If the PC is lucky, the spell might just dissipate.|
|3-4||On a failure, you could allow the player to make a Saving Throw. If the spell explode, it will be violent or on a bigger scale. Otherwise, this is the stage where miscast happen most often.|
|5-6||On a failure, the PC is helpless to stop what comes next… Corruption, paralyzing visions, ethereal guests, depending on the spell it might just change the wizard~|
Push the mechanic beyond it’s limit, use a variation to show your players how dire a situation is, Magic is a vast and changing thing so feel free to represent that during the game!
- Burning Wards: A great villain is gathering items that add more Burn Die to the game during the final battle.
- Backmagic: a location is devoid of magic until something bad happens, spell-casters can not cast spells, and remove the Burn Die from play until that bad event happens. What else happens when this event is triggered?
- Wild Magic: for a particular location or situation, make up a table for the Burn Die. Every number on the burn die has general modifications to apply to spells cast as long as it’s in play.
- Spells: some spells may clock up or down the Burn Die, while other spells may require that the Burn Die be at a certain amount to be cast.
- Blue loot: allow the players to gain more blue Hearts during the course of their adventures. Each Heart could act as a treshold!
- Unstable power: some magic items become unstable when the Burn Die reach a certain amount. Better watch out!
- Empower Effort: the Burn Die raise Effort numbers, making the battle deadlier!
Please ask questions and criticise with the intent of helping me be more clear and precise about this rule! Thank you very much!