Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Youth Draining Spells

This post will detail what my methodology is like when I create things, how I like to always have an existing framework, however rickety, to hang any homebrew on. It probably tells you more about me than about D&D.

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So imagine that I want to return negative levels from this:

• There are no negative levels. In place of each negative level bestowed, the victim immediately ages 3d10 years. The victim may immediately roll a fortitude saving throw at the same difficulty as removing the negative level; if this saving throw succeeds, the aging is halved. If the victim receives a restoration spell within 24 hours, the aging is reversed; otherwise, it is permanent.

...to being what they're supposed to be (which I kind of do, I've changed my mind about their badness), but I still want to include spells which prematurely age foes, so I don't have to rely on infinite ciruja plants and resurrection for all my aging effect needs.

My first instinct is to find spells that bestow negative levels, because I've already (sort of) balanced aging against negative levels. But I can find only one spell that permanently bestows negative levels: energy drain. There are several which do so temporarily, including enervation and Fell Drain anything (sonic snap, let's say). So let's briefly analyze:
  • Fell Drain Sonic Snap: 1 temporary negative level. SL2.
  • Enervation: 1d4 temporary negative levels. SL4.
  • Empowered Enervation: 1d4*1.5 temporary negative levels. SL6.
  • Maximized Enervation: 4 temporary negative levels. SL7.
  • Repeat/Twinned Enervation: 2d4 temporary negative levels. SL7/8.
  • Maximized, Empowered Enervation: 4+1d2 temporary negative levels. SL9.
  • Energy Drain: 2d4 real negative levels. SL9.
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I was going to say that if we're casting with a caster level of 12 or more, we could extend the spell to raise its duration to 24+ hours (maximum 30), thereby making it potentially permanent. But these spells all have a duration of Instantaneous, and are thus not affected by Extend Spell. Nuts. Same with Persistent Spell. Nuts.

Permanent Emanation affects only emanations (i.e., cones and bursts), and anyway is [epic] and doesn't affect the spell level. Might be able to fiat that permanency can apply to enervation, but it's not metamagic, doesn't affect the spell level, and costs XP.

Oh well. Let's say this:

  • The difference between twinned enervation and energy drain is real vs temporary negative levels, and 1 spell level. So the difference between temporary and real is 1 spell level.
  • If Extend Spell worked on enervation, it would increase the spell level by 1 and make it permanent at a high enough caster level. So the difference between temporary and real is 1 spell level.
  • If Persistent Spell worked on enervation, it would increase the spell level by 6 and make it permanent under all circumstances. So the difference between  temporary and real is 6 spell levels.
Let's take the average, then, and say the difference between a temporary and a real negative level is 2 spell levels.

We're already several levels of abstraction in, and we'll get even more abstract before we're done, because there's simply very little to compare to. That's okay; I just want there to be some basis, however remote, for what I'm doing.

Okay, so, applying this psuedo-metamagic thing that makes temporary negative levels into real negative levels:
  • Realized Fell Drain Sonic Snap: 1 negative level. SL4.
  • Realized Enervation: 1d4 negative levels. SL6.
  • Realized Empowered Enervation: 1d4*1.5 (but let's pretend, as long as we're abstracting, that a roll whose possible results are 1,3,4,6 is a 1d6, so) = 1d6 negative levels. SL8.
  • Realized Maximized Enervation: 4 negative levels. SL9.
  • Realized Repeat Enervation: 2d4 negative levels. SL9.
  • Energy Drain: 2d4 negative levels. SL9.
Spells higher than level 9 don't matter and are ignored.

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So now we have a kludgy, hacked-together, abstracted sense of how many negative levels it's appropriate for a spell of a given level to do:
  • SL4: 1 NL
  • SL6: 1d4 NLs
  • SL8: 1d6 NLs
  • SL9: 2d4 (or 4) NLs
Long ago, we made calculations and concluded that one negative level ≈ 14.6 years. So if we wanted to create a line of spells that drain youth, we could convert:

  • SL4: 14.6 years
  • SL6: 1d4 x 14.6 ≈ 36.5 years
  • SL8: 1d6 x 14.6 ≈ 51.1 years
  • SL9: 2d4 x 14.6 (or 4 x 14.6 ) ≈ 65.7 years
We could come up with a straightforward years/SL number, but spells are exponential in power, not linear: a level 8 spell isn't just the same as two level 4 spells, and a level 4 spell isn't just the same as two level 2 spells, and so on. We need a more complicated formula.

At this point, I vaguely remember from high school algebra how to tell my graphing calculator to do this, but I don't know how to tell Excel or Google or anything else to do it. To the fresh batteries cabinet to bring my graphing calculator back to life!

I asked it for a quadratic regression, because I couldn't remember what a quadratic regression is, and it gave me a terribly ill-fitting one. Then I asked it for an exponential regression, and it gave me one that fits very well: y=5.199*1.335^x, where y is years drained and x is the spell level.
  • SL0: 5.20 years
  • SL1: 6.94 years
  • SL2: 9.27 years
  • SL3: 12.4 years
  • SL4: 16.5 years
  • SL5: 22.0 years
  • SL6: 29.4 years
  • SL7: 39.3 years
  • SL8: 52.5 years
  • SL9: 70.0 years
Certainly not terrible. But hm: I kind of don't want there to be a cantrip that can age a person at all, and I kind of want the lowest level aging spell to take 1 year. So I'm going to finesse the numbers a bit and wind up with...
  • SL0: 0.50 years
  • SL1: 2.54 years
  • SL2: 5.32 years
  • SL3: 9.14 years
  • SL4: 14.4 years
  • SL5: 21.5 years
  • SL6: 31.4 years
  • SL7: 44.8 years
  • SL8: 63.3 years
  • SL9: 88.5 years
...good enough!

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Now, some fiddling to match these numbers up with dice... Consider this chart:




The coloured numbers indicate how many of that size die would be needed to average out to approximately the desired number of years. They are colour-coded: red is most accurate, orange less accurate, yellow even less accurate, and blue least accurate of all. We could just use all the red ones, substituting for orange ones when there isn't a red one at that level, but that winds up with an ugly and inelegant progression of 1d10, 2d8, 4d6, 4d10, 7d8, 10d8, 6d20, 16d10.

Imagine we want to use all the same size dice. If so, you can clearly see that the d8 column is the most accurate.

But I don't want to use all the same size dice, because I'm biased against rolling large numbers of dice at once. We could, oh, say, start at d4, and bump up a die size every time we'd be rolling more than 6 dice at once. Then let's smooth them out a little when the die size would jump 2 at once, or would stay the same for 3 levels in a row.

Instead, we will consider that many spells vary in effective based on caster level. Oho! Everything suddenly got really complicated all up in this joint.

Let's pretend that the average caster has a minimum caster level of twice the spell level, minus 1. Then let's cap each spell's effectiveness at, oh, let's say, approximately twice that. Let's aim for the spell reaching its target effectiveness halfway between when it can first be cast and when it caps out.

To simplify slightly, the SL2 version can just be a flat 1d4. And let's just skip a couple spell levels where they make it particularly awkward.

So let's go with this:

SL1: 1 year
SL2: 1d4 years
SL3: 1d8 years per 4 caster levels, up to 3d8
SL5: 1d8 years per 3 caster levels, up to 6d8
SL7: 1d8 years per 2 caster levels, up to 12d8
SL9: 1d8 years per caster level, up to 24d8

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Negative levels automatically take effect, but you can save against them becoming permanent 24 hours later. Moreover, the relevant spells and abilities always call for an attack roll. So let's have, oh, let's say the ability to defend against it with a Fortitude save. No need for any of that touch or ranged touch stuff.

But then the question arises: why would a character ever cast any of these spells? If your target is already old, or you use the very high level ones, it might kill them. Otherwise, you might advance them an age category or two. I suppose 1, 3, or 6 irreversible damage to three ability scores is nothing to sneeze at. Even so, the level 1 and 2 versions will never do enough aging with one application to actually advance the target an age category.

So I'm thinking one of two things: either you gain X temporary hit point for each Y years you drain, or your age is reduced by 1 for each Y years you drain.

I don't really want youthening to be so easy, so I'm inclined towards the temporary hit point thing. Usually, you get 5 temporary HP per point of thing you do, but this does a somewhat greater number of points of things, so I'm inclined to say one per one.

Let's next consider what spell lists this line is appropriate for. Let's go with... Cleric, Blackguard, Blighter, Dread Necromancer, Hexblade, Mortal Hunter, Sor/Wiz. The classes with only 4 levels of spells don't get the weakest or the strongest one.

Soooo...

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Youth Drain, Least
Necromancy [Evil]
Level: Clr 1, Blighter 1, Dread Necromancer 1, Sor/Wiz 1
As youth drain, except the target ages only 1 year.Material Component: Any manmade object greater than 1 year old.

Youth Drain, Lesser
Necromancy [Evil]
Level: Clr 2, Blackguard 1, Blighter 2, Dread Necromancer 2, Hexblade 1, Mortal Hunter 1, Sor/Wiz 2
As youth drain, except the target ages only 1d4 years.
Material Component: Any manmade object greater than 5 years old.In addition, you gain 1 temporary hit point for each year the target loses. These temporary hit points last for 1 hour.

Youth Drain
Necromancy [Evil]
Level: Clr 3, Blackguard 2, Blighter 3, Dread Necromancer 3, Hexblade 2, Mortal Hunter 2, Sor/Wiz 3
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Short (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target: One living creature
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Fortitude negates
Spell Resistance: Yes
You point at your target and years evaporate from their lifespan. They age 1d8 years per 4 caster levels (maximum 3d8 years). This is never beneficial to the target.
In addition, you gain 1 temporary hit point for each year the target loses. These temporary hit points last for 1 hour.
Material Component: Any manmade object greater than 10 years old.

Youth Drain, Greater
Necromancy [Evil]
Level: Clr 5, Blackguard 3, Blighter 5, Dread Necromancer 5, Hexblade 3, Mortal Hunter 3, Sor/Wiz 5
As youth drain, except the target ages 1d8 years per 3 caster levels (maximum 6d8 years).Material Component: Any manmade object greater than 25 years old.

Youth Drain, Grand
Necromancy [Evil]
Level: Clr 7, Blackguard 4, Blighter 7, Dread Necromancer 7, Hexblade 4, Mortal Hunter 4, Sor/Wiz 7
As youth drain, except the target ages 1d8 years per 2 caster levels (maximum 12d8 years)Material Component: Any manmade object greater than 75 years old.

Youth Drain, True
Necromancy [Evil]
Level: Clr 9, Blighter 9, Dread Necromancer 9, Sor/Wiz 9
As youth drain, except the target ages 1d8 years per caster level (maximum 24d8 years).Material Component: Any manmade object greater than 250 years old.

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