Making Spells & Creating Schools of Magic

Let’s take a little walk through homebrewing, I know I preach alot about how after running games for so long you really need to try it. It brings a freshness to the game both for you as a DM and for your players. Throwing them off a little, surprising them and re-engaging them into your game and world. I’ve done some light run through of homebrews I’ve done and even given you all starting points via things like my Ghost Haunting rule set. Today though we are going to be tackling homebrewing spells & I’ll include the most extreme version of that I’ve ever done – essentially creating a whole school of magic complete with spell creating rules. Yes this level of extra is a normal thing for me in case that wasn’t obvious at this point.

You’ve played 5e and you can’t quite find a spell that does what you need. Time to homebrew you up a spell. Now there are some pretty quick and easy ways to do this if you don’t want to fiddle with the mechanics too much or at all. Well lets first look to the Dungeon Master’s Guide for rules on Creating a Spell:

When creating a new spell, use existing spells as guidelines. Here are some things to consider:

  • If a spell is so good that a caster would want to use it all the time, it might be too powerful for its level.
  • A long duration or large area can make up for a lesser effect, depending on the spell.
  • Avoid spells that have very limited use, such as one that works only against good dragons. Though such a spell could exist in the world, few characters will bother to learn or prepare it unless they know in advance that doing so will be worthwhile.
  • Make sure the spell fits with the identity of the class. Wizards and sorcerers don’t typically have access to healing spells, for example, and adding a healing spell to the wizard class list would step on the cleric’s turf.

All of this is very sound advice, otherwise they wouldn’t have put it in the book. Now lets start with the basic version using this as our guideline. I’m running a Hansel & Gretel-esque story arc complete with my own Hag and her magicked candy house. Clearly, I need some fun new spells to go along with all of this sugar debauchery happening. Given our Hag’s propensity for wanting to fat up the kiddos before she pops them into the oven. I want it to be something that causes an immense hunger that the target can’t seem to satisfy. We want them stuffing their little faces till they pass out and then waking up to stuff them some more.

It triggers when a kid starts eating on her house so its obviously a ward spell. Our best cousin to our spell would be the glyph of wardinga 3rd level abjuration spell. To remind you here is a little snippet-

When you cast this spell, you inscribe a glyph that later unleashes a magical effect. You inscribe it either on a surface (such as a table or a section of floor or wall) or within an object that can be closed (such as a book, a scroll, or a treasure chest) to conceal the glyph. The glyph can cover an area no larger than 10 feet in diameter. If the surface or object is moved more than 10 feet from where you cast this spell, the glyph is broken, and the spell ends without being triggered.

The glyph is nearly invisible and requires a successful Intelligence (Investigation) check against your spell save DC to be found.

You decide what triggers the glyph when you cast the spell.

Before we get too far gone on this though lets define what we want our spell to do exactly.

  1. We want the candy house to be the thing holding the ‘glyph effect’.
  2. Taking a piece or eating it triggers the effect.
  3. Failed WIS save gives unsatiable hunger. Possibly while also draining your HP each round till you are unconscious, so non-lethal damage.
  4. Fatten up the eater for that good good Hag home made kidsarole.

Seems easy enough. None of our building blocks are overly complicated. For flavoring, I do like the idea of the spell having to be ‘baked in’ as it were. But that is really more for dramatic flair and doesn’t affect the outcome. Our final product comes to a head with the ravenous ward.

Ravenous Ward

3rd level, Casting Time 1 hr, Range – Touch, Components – V, S, M*, Duration – Until dispelled or triggered, Save – WIS

When you cast this spell you weave its ward into a sweet or baked good that unleashes its magical effect when broken or consumed. When triggered the target must make a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw or be consumed by an unending hunger that causes the target to be unable to stop from eating more. Consuming more of the ravenous ward after a failed save will result in 1d6 psychic damage. Once the target reaches 0 HP they pass out from a sugar crash.

*sweets or baked goods

Okay yes its a bit of a silly spell but it goes to show how easy it is to do something like this to fit your game. You don’t always have to go full ham on from scratch though, I could have easily just added the ravenous ward as an option to the existing glyph of warding. That would have also let me possibly have my player’s learn it if they really wanted to. I mean think of the chaos they could create with it, of course they’d want it.

Now something harder to do is create a new school of magic. Often I’ve done this because a thought pops into my head that I can’t answer with the schools that already exist. Or because my homebrew world is having alot of custom new spells that don’t fit an existing one but are all similar to each other. Since high school one I can’t stop thinking about is a school of magic created because not everyone experiences sound in the same way, or at all. So what do you do with those verbal components?

Before I go further on my new school of magic from this I just wanted to give a shout out to Mysty Vander and ASL for RPG, who has been working really hard to create signs for the spells that already exist in D&D for hard of hearing and deaf players to use at the table. Check out more about them on their site! I also did a blog post ‘Community Spotlight – The NonProfits Making a Difference‘ that included them in it.

Shout out over, we are moving right along. So in high school my mom was taking college classes to become a teacher and chose ASL as her language credits. I ended up practicing alot with my mom. One of my favorite baby sitters growing up, outside of family, was deaf and I wanted to learn how to better communicate in the future. It was also the time that I was in a regular gaming group with nerdy ass friends. So my brain worm began because I thought my cool ass baby sitter would really enjoy the game. Never got up the courage to introduce them to it though.

In college I played a mute Oracle for the longest time. My DM was super cool about it and we often discussed how a caster could function in Pathfinder 1e with out being able to speak. In that world existed as a form of caster’s sign language as did telepathy so it became a discussion on the complexities needed to cast spells at each level as well as how the caster could clearly convey their intentions. Also if talking to yourself in your own internal monologue of sorts counted cause I didn’t have access to telepathy till later in the game.

Currently I am a hard of hearing adult due to some not so fun in the sun things to do with ear infections and damage. The problem came up again and again thru different things I played. What if we replaced that verbal component with just a more complex somatic component? How would a caster reflect a verbal intent with action?

To be honest I’ll probably end up making this school of magic a suppliment cause it is a chunky boi. But I had to break down what made a spell possible for everyone else, what made a spell different for this school, and what the rules of spells needed to be. That’s something that applies to any school of magic you make. Answer these questions when making a new school of magic:

  1. What is the focus of the school that draws people into learning it?
  2. What are the building blocks of magic they use for their spells? Does it differ greatly from other school? How?
  3. What is the schools philosophy on magic? How someone approaches that big beautiful game of spell casting shifts how they view magic and therefore the world around them.
  4. How is it taught? What, if any, structure does the school have?
  5. What is the difference between a novice and a master?
  6. What are the hurdles or blocks that the school faces?
  7. What are the things the school excels in?
  8. How does your world view the school? How does the school use its powers in the world?
  9. Does your school weave into the lore or your world or buck tradition?

PCs Researching & Creating New Spell

We’ve talked about creation from the DM’s side of things. But we all know that player who wants so badly to create their own spells. To be known for their magic along side the Volo’s and Tasha’s of the world. This can obviously cause some possible power creep problems in your game. Frankly most avoid it for that reason. It can be super fun though.

The biggest thing that you need to agree on DM to Player is the fact that this is an in process thing. If even after the research is done the spell ends up being too OP in practice the DM has to be allowed to dial that back. Its not fair to the rest of the players at the table otherwise. Some of us know players that would howl fowl at the moon over that, don’t give those players this power obviously.

My quick and dirty version of it usually involves 1d6 + 2 hours of intense Arcana study min per level of the spell to try and figure out the possible bits and bobs needed. Then 1d8 + 2 hours of experimentation augmented as more or less depending on how successful their Arcana checks are each hour/experiment. Once they think they have the spell down they still need to master it to get a consistent outcome so I give a percentile roll each time its cast until the can successfully do it X amount of times in a roll, rolling a pure 100% counts as two successes. Then they still need to apply the normal means of learning a new spell based on the their class. It is a BEAST to get thru but if your player wants to make spells they will throw themselves into it during downtime. Also a great way to bleed off some gold from the party by expending material components in the study, experiment, and perfection phases.

Once they’ve figured things out for the most part with what they want the spell to do I like to sit down with the player and using what they were going for during the study and experimentation, take them thru my spell creation rules. That way its all out in the open what the limitations are going to be on the spell. This isn’t my final version cause I do alot of research and numbe crunching later but it lets them know where they will stand at the end of the day. Working this way with my players has really created some die hard characters and fantastic moments of spell reveals to the table at large. 10/10 would recommend.

With that little rambling over with, I’m JustKay your regular DM Dalliance on the web and I’ll see you next post.

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