The Best In Old School Roleplaying

The Best In Old School Roleplaying
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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Power: A New Attribute For Swords & Wizardry!

The following is an excerpt from a forthcoming booklet that I've been working on for Swords & Wizardry. The book, "Gateway to Adventure: Sorcery Supplement," focuses on my Sorcerer class explicitly, but the attribute can be used by anyone in any S&W or OSR game!

Optional Attribute

My Optional Rules contain several optional attributes that have been created or harvested from various sources and honed to fit the game. Power was chosen to be presented for this work as it is directly related to the nature of magic.


Roll 3d6 for your character's Power score. A high Power level means that your character is in tune with the subtle forces of magic, ley lines, power source and the barriers and veils between the many planes of existence. As an optional attribute it is not the prime attribute of any class. The Power score might also measure the power of the character's mystical aura.

There are several ways in which the Power attribute can be applied in the game. The first of these is as a modifier to Saving Throws vs. Magic, per the Power Table below. This may be because the aura of the character is strong and deflects the magic being used upon her or because the sixth sense of the character picks up on the magic being used, causing other defenses to begin working.

Second, since power measures a character's sensitivity to magic, the referee might rule that an attribute check might be able to be made to determine magical auras, as per the Detect Magic spell. This might only apply to those with a high power score, or it may merely require a check. The way in which such a check is made is up to the referee. It may entail rolling lower than the character's ability score using 3d6 or 1d20. Furthermore, as a house rule in the creation of this attribute, the power of the magic in question is taken into account. The “level” of power of the magic is deducted from the score of the detector and this creates the target number to roll in order to perceive the magic. For example a character with 15 Power has a chance to detect an assassin that has been rendered invisible. Mind you that the character will not innately know that there is an invisible assassin, but will know that something magical is afoot. We will presume that the spell Invisibility was used on the assassin. Invisibility is a 2nd Level Magic-User spell. Thus the referee subtracts 2 from the character's score of 15. The target number to beat will be 13. The player is told to throw 1d20, but not told why. 13 is rolled on the nose. The character realizes that something magical is afoot, and that roughly where it is, but not exactly what it is.

In the same example we can make things more interesting. The referee might rule that more information is gleaned, via the character's Power for each number below the target number that is rolled. Let us assume that that a 9 is rolled instead of a 13. The referee might now rule that the character is also aware of roughly how powerful the magic at hand is. Presuming that character roles lower, let's go all the way to a natural 1 on the roll, the referee might even give insight as to what spell is afoot!

A referee might also rule that highly sensitive characters, that is to say those with a high Power score, might also suffer in the presence of very powerful magic, if they are not used to it's presence. If this is the case a saving throw might be required when such a character is exposed to magic equivalent to spells above 6th level. Ill effects for failing such a save may result in anything from being momentarily stunned and unable to act for a round to seizures that might result in the loss of multiple rounds and potential damage.

The third function that Power can be used for is to retrieve a spell that is cast. As is known, arcane magic functions by trapping a spell in the brain of the magic-user. The spell WANTS to be released. When the spell is cast it's effects take place and it is gone from the magic-user's mind. It is possible, using one's power, to retain a spell as it is being cast, allowing it's effects to take place, but effectively pulling it back into the mind of the magic-user.

A spellcaster may attempt to retain a number of spell levels per day equal to her caster level. At the time of the casting the magician must make a Power check less the spell level. If the check is made the spell is retained and may be cast again that day. If the check is failed the spell is lost as normal. If the check is failed the attempt still counts against the casters retaining attempts for that day. To give an example: a 3rd level sorcerer may attempt to retain three 1st level spells or one 1st level spell and one 2nd level spell.

Table: Power
Save vs. Magic Modifier
3 - 8
9 -12
13 - 18