Friday, April 15, 2022

d100 - Convenient Cantrips or Minor Magics

Now and again, I come across Referees considering Cantrips as a way of adding a little bit more Magic to their Spellcasters. These are a sometimes-contentious subject because some implementations result in these abilities interfering with or obviating interesting parts of play such as Resource Management. Another common issue sometimes has to do more with Setting conceits, and how they can sometimes transmogrify something treasured or rare into a thing much more mundane or humdrum.

But take heart! Not all sorceries need be showy ones, and the wonder these sorts of “special effects” can evoke can sometimes add more than they subtract from play if we are just a little scrupulous in how they function. When I use these, I like to make sure that there are a few rupestrian rulings communicated to the other players up front, such as:

  • Creative applications are always encouraged, but keep in mind the following limitations:
    • These are Magics that are incapable of producing lasting harm
    • The are Effects that are ephemeral in nature: usually unable to effect permanent change
    • These Crave a measured and controlled Environment (the chaos of a combat situation is often inimical to them)
    • Should you find yourself in doubt, ask instead of assuming. We can try to close gaps or decide with a roll.

Another concern that some Referee’s have revolves around frequency or metering these effects. While I don’t find grafting additional “Slots” or “Levels” atop the existing ones to be a very interesting or elegant solution for this, that’s certainly an option. Tying success to a Check or Roll (especially one that escalates as more are evoked) might work with a bit less book-keeping (potentially with something like a Usage Die governing depletion, the power could be considered quantum after all). The eminently versatile Turn Undead table (with HD being “number cast today”) can also be remarkably recycled as a solution for this. Do bear in mind that some of the entries have their own unusual, built-in, limiters as well though and sometimes these might be sufficient.

When I delved into this prior with my First Level Spell Features a common limiter that I leaned on was “having a specific Spell Prepared.” This makes for an additional, interesting choice for the Caster to contend with sometimes. Occasionally a Cantrip Effect positively proclaims its association with an existing Spell, but others might be a little fuzzier concerning the company they should keep. The dependable “Zippo Cantrip” provided you have Fireball prepared comes to mind. I would prefer not to have my Magic Users have to wait until Fifth Level to avail themselves of this trick though, so it is definitely something that can be seasoned to taste. I suppose one would need to attach each effect to a pertinent (or even random!) Spell on acquisition, as some of the ones below are not as obvious with their allegiances. Or one could simply consider “any spell prepared” to be sufficient for this requirement. I will leave an explicit “how many do they get” up to the individual Referee however, because that is something that seems highly tailored to taste. One option I’ve used before has been 1 + (4 - HP) for those initial outlays (with others uncoverable in play naturally).

Even if more bells and whistles for your Wonder Workers isn’t something you’re interested in, these might make mighty fine “Minor Magical Item Features” as well. Tacking one or two of these onto an item that previously consisted of purely mechanical contrivance is often a fantastic way to make those treasures more treasured and Magic Items feel more Magical, which is something I am obvious fond of (see prior tables where I’ve done this a hundred times each for Blades, Bows, Shields, Footwear, and such).

Always interested in hearing about any implementations that have brought fun to your table!


  1. I'm inclined to want to grant a handfull of these to each gnome or elf or anyone that I want to be fairy-like and full of a light and playful everyday kind of magic. Really neat!

    1. If I want to communicate that an NPC is fairy-like or magical, I could even use this as a "what is the gnome (or whatever) doing?" table. Something like "You come across a small bearded figure in a clearing in the forest. Next to his hut he stands amongst pieces of wood cut to be parts of a chair. You hear him chant 'Finger, Finger, strong as stone, drive this nail into my throne' as he pushes a nail with the tip of his finger into the wood."

    2. Love the little Couplet! For a time, I did have a requirement that the Magic User had to compose a little rhyme like that to cast these and it was a pretty effective limiter (no using the same one twice!) :) I've also been very tempted to tack these onto other Classes as well. A little bit of Hedge Magic with some of these Campfire Cantrips for a much more magical Setting seems like it would very fun!




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