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Spellcasters as gods. Lower magic, grim Hellfrost?

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  • This topic has 16 replies, 7 voices, and was last updated 8 years, 7 months ago by Enno. This post has been viewed 3238 times
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    Hello everyone! I’ve been away for awhile, and you’ve gone and changed the forums on me. 🙂

    I’m looking at maybe trying a Hellfrost campaign again, since I love the setting so much. After my first forays into the setting going a little wonky, I’m trying to recalibrate my expectations.

    One of the big things I ran into in my previous game was that I had this vision of Rassilon as a grim, dark-ages place where survival was a struggle, and the encroaching cold was a powerful, life threatening force. What I found out while playing the rules as written was that spellcasters blew a huge hole in my expectations.

    I was trying to run a game as if it were A Song of Ice and Fire, and by the time the characters were just Seasoned (and earlier) I had a handful of superheroes flying through the air, throwing fireballs and lightning bolts, conjuring 10-mile blizzards, summoning food and warmth for their entire retinue…it put a damper on verisimilitude when most of the NPCs were concerned with gathering enough food to survive the coming winter.

    Now, part of my problem there was I had at least two players who were avid min-maxers and took care to squeeze every advantage the could out of the system (one was a frostborn elf hrimwisard who would have been killed on sight in many civilized areas, but the game was in a frontier wilderness and he was nigh unto godlike in his powers), and in a new game those two would likely not be present. But still, I’ve realized that the rules behind Hellfrost don’t necessarily support the kind of genre I imagined. It’s a high fantasy setting with a Norse Dark Ages trapping, and if I run a new game I will take that as an expectation.

    All of that said, if I wanted to do a more grim and gritty version of Hellfrost, what’s the best way to tweak to rules to do so? Do I disallow Arcane Backgrounds, and just let especially pious people use the rules for favored gods? Is there a good way to limit the power of spellcasters and magic? Reducing their power, or somehow making it more difficult to be a spellcasting superhero in the game world?

    What are your suggestions?


    IIRC we advised you the last time you use Tricks and Tests of Will more extensively, to break the dominance of your spellcasters. Disrupting ones spells is spoiling ones day, especially when you are in the heat of a battle and don’t have the time to recast your spell combos…

    Playing a lot Deadlands Noir lately, i learned that it takes just a few tweaks to make a setting grittier – especially for the trigger-happy… eeh … casting-happy characters.

    Just introduce the following non-genre specific setting rules, that would fit a Hellfrost Noir IMO:

    • Blood & Guts: Characters can spend Bennies on rerolling damage rolls.
    Remark: Yes, even Extras could do that with GM bennies or if their are commanded by Wild Cards with bennie sharing edges.
    • Critical Failures: Whenever a character rolls snake eyes, he can’t spend a Benny. He’s stuck with the result!
    Remark: That would increase the chances for the more grimmer effects of the Siphoning.
    • Gritty Damage: Whenever a Wild Card suffers a wound, he rolls on the Injury Table. Injuries sustained this way are only cured when the wound is healed (magically or naturally).
    Remark: That would increase the importance of healing balms and magic in the world. And it would increase the longer lasting effect of any wounds on characters. Now your normally relatively frail spellcasters would be well advised to stay in the second row or back, despite all their protective magic. IF their magic gets disrupted in the heat of the battle, they are in a whole new world of hurt.

    High Priest of Hoenir & Champion of Qedeshet


    I have a suggestion though it may not work for all.


    I am borrowing a rule from Beasts and Barbarians. In this setting magic is rarer and characters are expected to be more carousing warrior thief types. In B&B only one player in the group can have an arcane background. We do not have any faith casters in our group but I would limit it to one of those as well. So one AB and one priest/paladin. Now this may not work for every group. Some may feel it unfair or what have you but in a mature group it can work. You still end up with a powerful caster but the rest of the group has to more or less protect him when the fighting gets tough. In encounters with enemy casters the party magic user is typically targeted as soon as he casts bolt and the enemy caster is aware of him.

    We started with one caster by coincidence as only one player wanted to play a spell caster when we started out. Now that they have seen how powerful magic is with no power point limit I do believe more would have considered playing casters. I like the one caster rule and think it helps make the amount of magic the party has less over powering. I suspect this approach may not work for all groups but it works for us.

    TAG Wiggy

    Lots of things you can do, in addition to Enno’s suggestions.

    * Introduce the rule from SWD that all Maintained spells automatically end if you fail a casting roll. Once those Maintained spell penalties begin to stack, casting becomes more risky.
    * Nothing stops you saying “one spell user per party.”
    * Limit the New Power Edge to once per Rank (or 20 XPs after Legendary).

    Triple Ace Games Creative Director


    I have another one I have seen suggested and have thought about. Instead of an unmodified one being required for a siphoning it could be that any one causes it. So if a caster is maintaining two other spells (so casting at a -2) even a three will result in a siphon. You could make this even more concerning if you want to include that a result of one on the wild die can cause a siphon as well.


    Nice idea. That would drain a spellcasters bennie supply, and compel them to max out their spellcasting ability, in any way possible.

    High Priest of Hoenir & Champion of Qedeshet


    IIRC we advised you the last time

    Enno, yes, I thought I remembered asking a similar question last year, but couldn’t dig it up today – presumably because the old forums are kaput. I appreciate your willingness to reiterate for me 🙂


    By the way if you go to the forum main pace you will see a link to the archived forum.


    Good to know! Thanks!

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