Monday, January 30, 2017

Backfire Table for Invested Spells

One of the features of the magic system in DragonQuest is the Backfire Table.  Attempt to cast a spell with too little skill and you may end up with a backfire which can have a variety of negative effects from the mildly irritating to the completely incapacitating.  It's not easy being an adept in DragonQuest but not just adepts can cast spells.  The non-adepts can loose magic spells that have been invested in items.  These can also backfire but, to me, many of the backfire results don't make much sense in the case where the spell is cast from an item.
Many of the backfire results cause various debilitating effects on the casting adept such as blindness, deafness or even total amnesia.  This more or less makes sense for the adept who is channeling the energies of the flow of mana through his own body and mental abilities.  The wielder of an item invested with spells however is merely uttering a trigger phrase and releasing energies stored there by the investing adept(s).  The wielder isn't shaping or channeling the energies beyond selecting a target for the spell whether it is meant for harm or benefit.  A recent event in a game session made me start thinking about having a separate backfire table for invested items and so here it is
As an image file (png).
Or you can download the PDF from the Downloads page.

Thoughts?  Too harsh or not harsh enough?


  1. I like the flow but suggest adding some FT loss across most effects to make it a bit more harsh.

    1. There is one in there that causes FT loss but in general it doesn't make a lot of sense for the wielder to lose FT as they aren't expending any in the first place. The wielder doesn't contribute anything beyond saying "abracadabra". That's why there are 5 entries (24% overall) that drain additional charges much like the original table took away FT. Note that the last 3 (7%) fire off all remaining charges. That would be pretty harsh if it was 10 charges of Hellfire.

    2. Phil effect 01-05 needs something. Do you really mean unconscious or knocked down? If you mean unconscious what are the rules for regaining consciousness.

      This paragraph here is a lead in: In regards to existing Adept backfire table effects are misfired casting effects not simple failure to cast. Certain effects might even effect allied party matters despite the caster's original intent to fire the spell on an enemy. In summary, the caster in this case the wielder of the investment item is not in control of any misfired effects (and your table already reflects that). Not sure that it matters that the wielder *personally* did not expend FT to initiate the spell in the first place.

      Will draw an analogy that you are free to reject of course. If I fire a musket it may misfire. There are a variety of unfortunate events that might occur. A more minor unfortunate event might be to personally suffer damage by other means such as in the way of burns to the face.

      I am not suggesting that a misfire lead to a catastrophic explosion of the invested item leading to mechanical damage of its wielder. But I would have no problem with the wielder suffering minor damage in the way of burns or a shock effect. If magical backlash per your table can cause unconsciousness per effect 01-05, why cannot magical backlash also cause some minor physical damage?

      We have held off on furthering discussion of my Investment Token idea and your thoughts here are giving me the idea that it might dovetail into your thoughts here on this new backfire table. Maybe provide some protection against effects of this table (ala the Greater Summoning shields).

    3. Yes, I mean unconscious on the first one. Same rules as for when someone is knocked unconscious with a sap. ;) Which is to say, it's up to the GM. Many of the backfire effects have no explanation of how they can be mitigated and so I would go with a Healer of R1 (headaches) or better could wake them up or even a SotM adept possibly. Or even just smelling salts.

      I agree with your analogy and that is more or less what I had in mind while constructing the table. Basically a a backfire represents a failure in a piece of equipment. Some things, like say a musket, could potentially have more serious failures than say a super-soaker would be capable of having. To my way of thinking, a wand which has 10 charges of Hellfire @R10 in it has a lot more potential for a serious backfire effect than one with Walking Unseen in it. To handle backfires for different categories of spells would add unneeded complexity so I didn't try to deal with that much like the original table.

      My first thoughts going in to this were to include some actual damage results like you suggest that would be the results of minor burns or shocks but I just wasn't feeling it given the extreme variability of the power levels and/or type of spell that might be in an invested item. So with that thought I went back to treating invested items more along the line of the "equipment" being damaged or reduced in functionality by the backfire. So the wielder is not as likely to be damaged unless a actual damage-dealing spell has reversed itself onto the wielder. There is however a pretty good chance that the particular invested item will be less useful or entirely unusable in my table. I may rethink it and include some effects like "Item overheats and burns wielder for 2 FT".

      Going back to your previous post, I wasn't reading your suggestion for removing fatigue as being from damage but as in just lost energy much as when an Adept casts a spell. So now I'm wondering if you (or others) have considered the Fatigue loss from the original backfire table (01-25%) as being from damage? Myself, I always just considered it a loss of energy/willpower that is needed to summon/control the mana used to create the intended effect. This of course is the problem with a system that uses the same Characteristic to represent both the ability to take (or avoid) damage and also the character's reserve of energy for casting spells. Things are left a bit vague. Adepts don't take damage from casting a spell. They just get tired.

      Speaking of catastrophic explosions... That is exactly how we did it back in the old original DnD days in the mid-70s. Break a wand with 10 charges of fire ball and everybody in range took 10 * 6d6 of damage. Looking at a TPK? Then screw it. Take the bad guys out with you. Just have one guy left to scrape up enough bits of people to get them resurrected.

      Good feedback Lonny.