The Burn Die

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#1

Nov. 5th, 2021: Latest version down the thread, go read it! :smiley:

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.

Second heart

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!

Attunement

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~

Interactive Hooks

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!

God Speid! o7


Conjuration - Idea
#2

I really like where this is heading. I need to think on this a while… Nice work!


#3

I, too, love where this is going.

One piece of inspiration that hit me while I was reading: instead of SP limiting the number of spells a mage can cast before a rest, they could increase the burn die (which I would change to a d10). The more a character casts the more dangerous future casts become.

I’d probably work in some recovery mechanic that a mage could use to lower the burn die, representing them letting the magic in the area cool down or wash off of them.


#4

@rpgerminator Thank you kindly!

@Cooksadventures I don’t think that a D10 would be good because casting a spell would become way too dangerous! Also, replenishing your blue Heart is not based on rest but on finding a Mana Pool or a Leyline!

As for lowering the Burn Die, you can definitely find some spells for that, or change the situation to reduce the amount of magic in the air!


#5

This is really good stuff! And since giant foam D6s are easy to come by, easy to implement at the table.


Alfheim Magic vs. Magic (SP/Power) System
#6

Thanks a lot! What do you think of the writing? Is it clear, concise, and precise enough?


#7

You may want to clarify in the passage below that the roll subtracted from the spell caster’s Blue Hart is also the new Burn Die value.

Blockquote 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!

Exactly what a ley line or mana pool is may not be obvious to every reader. These concepts probably bear some explanation.

Next, you may want to clarify your subject here:

Does this mean that any spell won’t miscast the same way twice in the same place, or that any spell won’t miscast the same way as any other spell in the same place, or just that no spell will miscast the same way twice, period? Next the admonition that magic is incredibly dangerous, since not really related to whether or not miscasts are the same or related to the location of the casting, belongs as the header for the next section, in which you talk about the Burn Number as a guide for miscast severity.

This may seem like a lot of criticism, but I think you’ve really done well in keeping the descriptions brief, but understandable. Hopefully, these notes help tighten it up for you.


#8

No that’s fine, that’s what I was looking for, I want to be sure I write it down well! Thanks! :smiley:


#9

Updated! The final draft so go all in on the criticism of the grammar, I want to make sure the readers understand well, before I get art for it and publish it as a PDF! @Runehammer are you open for commissions when that time comes? :grin:

I’m especially concerned about the segment about Attunement because I feel that it is too repetitive? What do you guys think? Thanks a lot for the help!

The Burn Die

How to think about the Burn Die

MAGIC is a wind, a frequency, a field of energy that flows through the world and its 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.

Second heart

Player-Characters now start with a red HEART (for Hit Points) and a blue Heart (for Mana) with a value of ten (10) each as per the regular rules.

For a magic-less warrior character this might seem strange, but magic items are bound to the blue heart. See how here.

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 servants 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, he rolls to cast, and 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? Yes!

The Mana resource

The Burn Die is a type of DYNAMIC DIE. This means that when a spell blows up in the face of a PC, roll the Burn Die and subtract the result from the failing wizard’s blue Heart total. The new result on the Burn Die is the number to avoid when rolling a D20 to cast spells. This randomization represents the tumultuous shift of magic through the area.

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 ley line or a Mana pool.

What are ley lines?

Ley lines refer to straight alignments drawn between various historic landmarks and prominent structures, some natural and other race-made.

Every “Ley” has different uses: some of them keep the spirits trekking along far from villages, while others funnel magic to ritual places. Think of ley lines as rivers that flow forth through the ages, from some prehistoric site to a more recent, rich and intricate location.

When a magic-caster want to expand a ley line by building a structure, or add a landmark to a ley, he must ensure that his addition is lined up straight with the other locations on the opposite side of the oldest site.

The addition must be a seat of authority, a destination, or a zone for rituals, and cannot be moved. Daily, routine rituals must be completed at the location for a year before the ley line becomes stable between the new point and the adjacent one.

And when a spell caster wants to refill his blue Heart from a ley line, he must align his frequencies to the ley’s through a ritual that lasts one hour. During that time, a magic-user cannot do much else, and replenishes one of his blue Heart per hour.

What are Mana pools?

Mana pools are deep, natural reservoirs of physical magic. Magic weaved into physicality can take the form of a shimmering mist, or a liquid with strange properties of your choice.

Mana sources can take the shape of eldritch portals, esoteric machinery, and deep pits of stars, which are hidden and usually belong to someone. Reservoirs usually hold up to six (6) blue Heart’s content of mana and may or may not replenish at a predetermined speed depending on its source.

When a magic-user wants to claim a mana pool for himself he must align its source to his frequencies with a ritual that lasts as many hours as the reservoir has blue Hearts. If the mana pool already belongs to someone, a contest check is required every hour, and the owner can cast spells through the pool as if he were there on every success!

And when a wizard wants to pull magic from a mana pool, either to recharge his blue Heart or to cast spells directly from the source, he simply must have permission from the owner or the guardian. The process of refilling all of a character’s blue Hearts from a mana pool takes ten (10) minutes at most.

Its dangerous to play in someone else’s mana pool, some are unguarded and seemingly open to all, but powerful curses or sickness could smite the unwary and require a saving throw! Don’t fret because the reverse is true; some mana pools instead strengthen the user’s spells.

If a spell-caster wants to enchant or trap his mana pool he may assign as many spells or curses as the reservoir has blue Hearts, as long as he can pay the cost, and a trigger related to an interaction with the mana pool. The pool’s Hearts also act as slots for such enhancements, so it cannot empower or endanger someone more than six (6) times. Those spells or curses are unleashed without a check when they are triggered.

Attunement

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, over time or at all at once. Consider how it might be possible 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. This solution is the realm of bloody and occult rituals…

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. No spell will ever miscast the same way twice. 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 refer to the Burn Die or roll 1D6.

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 character 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~

Related ideas

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! Roll on this list if you need inspiration:

  1. Burning Wards: A great villain is gathering items that add more Burn Die to the game during the final battle.
  2. Backmagic: a location is devoid of magic until something bad happens. Spell-casters can not cast spells in such a place. Remove the Burn Die from play until that bad event happens and make it dramatic when it reappears.
  3. Amulets of protection: special loot could allow a player to confirm for failure rather than have spells explode in his character’s face on a success. Some other loot could bolster saving throws in case of casting failure.
  4. 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 is in play.
  5. 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.
  6. Blue loot: allow the players to gain more blue Hearts during the course of their adventures. Each Heart could act as a threshold!
  7. Unstable power: some magic items become unstable when the Burn Die reach a certain amount. Better watch out!
  8. Empower Effort: the Burn Die raise Effort numbers, making the battle deadlier!
  9. Individual power tracker: instead of a single Burn die on the table, each spell-casters have their own Burn die.
  10. Epic locations: instead of a D6, the Burn die becomes a D8, D10, or even a D12!
  11. I have the power: a magic-caster that grows in power might be able to bend much more than a sliver of a ley’s flow. What would the consequences be of such an act?
  12. Laceration: draining a mana pool opens up a wound to another dimension: what manner of world to explore or invader lie beyond?

Other GM levers