Part of my deconstruction of Spell Law was to come up with simpler rules for various alchemical processes that could be more easily used “in game”. One of the appeals of original RM was the framework for creating magic items, but the time and effort involved in making items needed to occur outside gameplay. The alchemist was better as an NPC or the spells should have been shifted to Closed lists (like the detailed healing spells lists in the Channeling Realm).
What sort of alchemical processes could be simplified to be usable in actual game play?
- Simple Alchemical Formulae or Devices: acids, grenades, glues, glow lanterns etc that can be made in hours or a day.
- Single use simple embedded items: charms, candles, elixirs, salves, lotions, oils, powders that are consumed when activated.
- Basic constructs: drones, miniatures, robots, engines, machines that can be powered and controlled.
With #3 above in mind, one of my favorite new spells lists is “Automaton”, a Closed Essence list I created as part of my BASiL project. My intent was to create a very simple and flexible spell list that allowed for basic automata: motive power (movement), direction (control), and agency (sensory data). Basically simple robot capability with a few lines of programming code.
All of my BASiL spell lists include 1-2 pages of GM/player notes that provide more detailed direction on use and limitations but I didn’t include those in my file uploads to date. I’ve had a few questions about this list and we’ve grappled with some in game usage with one of my players so I thought I would dive deeper into the list as I envision it.
- First, the list isn’t just limited to a “robot” or stereotype anthropoid construct found in RM “Creatures and Treasures”. This spell list could function on any mechanical or compound device: a propeller, pulley, wheel axle etc.
- The spells do not create structural integrity or range of motion–functionality must be built into the object or target. For instance, animate dead might create a skeleton undead and it’s assumed that the spell “binds” the bones together into a coherent form again. These spells do not do this: cast on a stone statue it wouldn’t imbue flexibility or fluidity to solid stone. However, this spell could animate a corpse. A GM will need to adjudicate some items. For instance its conceivable that a paper origami dog has flexibility to move it’s legs, neck or wag it’s tail.
- The strength and durability of the target is not improved or increased by this spell. (The paper dog would be destroyed if it got wet, a glass rod would still shatter if exposed to hard surface or torque).
- Tasks and Triggers should be seen as simple computer code. “And”, “If” and a few word sentence. This spell does not impart sentience or even basic A.I.
- Animate has a duration, otherwise it could create a perpetual motion machine or free work. Because of this duration (and perhaps spell list accessibility) it isn’t practical for a primary drive system in skyships, airbarges, paddle boats etc.
- Animate spells are constrained by the size of the object powered–not by the size of the moving part only. So you can’t use a Animate I to power a TINY engine to drive a 120′ warship. Basically I’m trying to tie in concepts of HP & torque into the RMU size framework.
One of my players has really been clever with this spell list and while occasionally he pushes it’s use, I feel the size and duration limitations balance it out well and make it useful for in game play.
You can download the list here (Peter still haven’t figured this file thing out yet)