Lazlo COS Pathfinder - Low Magic
What are the implications of a low magic setting compared to a normal d20 campaign
Look here for the original article.
• The campaign uses the slower progression XP chart, with a max level of 13th (10th for NPC’s). There are no 0 level spells, and 6th level magic is the campaign hard cap.
• Masterwork, exotic or alchemical items are far more common than actual magic items. Magic potions have been replaced by alchemical ones almost entirely. Rods & Scrolls have been removed from the campaign, and wands and staves have been reworked to no longer store spells, but rather add bonuses to casting specific types of magic (such as a + 3 DC on Fire based spells, etc). Ref the Magic Items section for more details.
- Magic items do not radiate magic. (Gandalf did not recognize the One Ring even though it was the most powerful magic item in the world.)
• Enchantments are not nearly as “flashy” as other campaigns, and in fact many times the wielder of an enchanted item may not even realize they possess one. IE; The elven long bow simply possesses a great range (distance), or the katana is very sharp (Keen), or the blows of a dwarven war hammer deal devastating critical hits (+ 4 crit confirmation).
• Magic items are not available on any form of open market (thus the elimination of the WBL system) and are never simply handled like a mundane commodity. Magic items are the rarest of the rare, and are given as gifts by kings for completing suicide missions or taken as the spoils of victory from powerful enemies.
The Wealth by Level system (WBL), all Magic item creation feats and abilities and the Use Magic Device skill are all BANNED within LCM Campaigns.Treasure is calculated at 1/2 the parties level.
- Look closely over the campaign demographics as this section speaks in some detail about how common are magic items, or classes / levels of given types, etc.
• Raise dead and other forms of resurrection magics have been completely removed from the campaign. Death is permanent, however not common. Instead such moments are best used for dramatic role playing, near death encounters, and good opportunities to make any changes to one’s character. Death brought about by blatantly foolish actions however receive no such second chances.
• Spell-casters are mistrusted, arcane ones especially so.
• An LCM campaign is one with a small economy. Thus the most common coin in the market is silver, with wealthier types (like nobles and successful mercenaries) having a few gold or the rare gem on hand. The majority of the wealth commonly carried by nobles is in the form of jewelry, where as the majority of wealth among mercenaries and adventurers is in their equipment. Reference: Campaign Economics
• Because saving throws, ACs, HP, etc are generally lower, creature encounters will tend to be lower CR levels and more commonly are “physical threats”, such as a giant, or group of orc raiders attacking a village vs a pack of Undead Wraiths or a horde of demons.
• When a “supernatural” threat is encountered (such as an incorporeal wraith) the special defenses and immunities of such creatures will be lowered or removed. A dragon’s immunity to fire might simply be adjusted to energy resistance 5 – 10, or a wraiths immunity to physical attack is augmented by fear or vulnerability to fire or cold iron / silver, etc. The Damage Reduction (DR) of such creatures have been changed to DR / magic to reflect it idea of magic as a rare thing and more capable of injuring some of these tougher monsters. The effectiveness of certain more common items, such as holy water, against demons / undead has also been increased to account for the lack of magic items to combat such foes.
• Spell Resistance (SR) is a mechanic which has been completely removed. It was replaced with energy resistance, bonuses to Saves, etc.
• There are certain powerful creatures which are an absolute TERROR to fight. Dragons for example come quickly to mind.
Here are a few “Do nots” when dealing with Dragons:
- Many of them are natural flyers, so do not expect them to land unless they have to.
- Do not expect them to land on the ground, instead they tend to favor areas that are high up (roof tops, ridge lines, etc) and thus still grant them a height advantage outside of melee range.
- Some dragons swim, or burrow underground.
- Do not expect them to play fair. They won’t. If fighting them were easy, everyone would be doing it.
- Do not expect them to be honorable foes. They have no issue with one dragon fighting you, while another is burning down the orphanage.
What you should expect:
- Expect them to make use of what might be considered “dirty tactics” such as dropping things on you while they are flying.
- Expect them to snatch people off the ground and drop them to their deaths high above.
- Expect them to use magic (silence and darkness are often times even more effective than fireball for screwing up party tactics).
- Dragons love armies, and tend to hit large groups with area of effect spells, breath weapons, etc. This does not help army morale, FYI.
- Expect them to make use of breath weapons from a distance in order to allow them full tactical advantage with such a weapon.
- Expect them to set fire to the entire town and create mass chaos
- Dragons routinely patrol their territory and will stalk and attack anything they consider to be a threat. This includes (but is not limited to) you.
- When you go hunting dragons, the dragon is not the only thing being hunted.
- It is not unheard of for dragons to hunt in small groups of 2 – 3.
- If you divide your party, expect the dragon to pick which one it considers the weakest and single out that individual for a full assault.
Treating such powerful creatures like dragons, wraiths, etc as simply dumb animals, walking xp packs, or “mobile treasure dispensers” is destined for imminent heart ache, and the generation of new characters. You may wish to remember that when such creatures were fought in the Lord of the Rings, the party ran more often than they chose to stand and fight.
So won’t Spell Casters as PCs Unbalance the Game?
No, and here is why:
1) While their spells are harder for NPCs to resist, the number of spells they can cast is more limited due to the lack of disposable spell power like scrolls, wands and potions.
2) All spell casters run out of spells. Smart ones save their spells until the right moments, and instead make use of other class skills and group tactics.
3) Spell-casting PCs will have to spend a considerable portion of their spells on buffs, utility spells and healing because they don’t have the resources normally available to them. This directly means they have fewer spells available to them to be used for offensive power….or fewer for defensive and utility applications. Either way, you simply don’t have enough spells to get it both ways.
4) Casting spells generates a form of magical “sonic boom”. The more powerful the spell, the louder the boom and greater the distance it can be felt. This is a cumulative effect based on how many spell levels are cast within a short period of time (up to 5 rounds). A party full of casters who unload their entire magical payload is guaranteed to attract a lot more attention than what they want. The types of creatures that can feel the sonic boom are ones which are magical (such as a Dragon, or Wraith) or casters themselves. Your average commoner will still have no clue.