Dice Roller for Orrex's Net Libram of Random Magical Effects

Written by sdx1 on 2018-05-29. Adapted from Orrex.

Click to roll

About the Libram

All content on this page, including the spells and the following paragraphs, are adapted from Orrex's original document. Ideally, the DM is supposed to look up the effect based on the player's roll, but I recommend that the DM does the roll if this tool is used.

First things first!

This list describes 10,000 Chaos Bursts, which may be thought of as eruptions of disorder resulting from poorly controlled magic use. The reader is encouraged to substitute more a mellifluous term in place of "Chaos Burst" if so inclined, but that ís what I'm calling them

What's changed in this edition?

I’ve made an effort to omit references to copyrighted materials, including proprietary spell names. Generic effects such as “fireball” or “teleport” still pop up in the list, but these effects are so commonplace in fantasy that no single source can truly claim ownership of them.

Over time it occurred to me that version 1.20 includes hundreds of target-affecting Bursts very likely inappropriate and useless to gaming. Too many Bursts affect the target’s spellbook or his familiar, or they involve subtleties of the target’s perceptions; I concluded that most Bursts probably won’t be triggered against magic-using targets, so any Burst that plays upon such a target would miss the mark. Also, since PC’s don’t usually have access to an NPC’s thoughts, it would often be pointless to make the target think that he’s directly in line for the throne (especially if the target is an orc or troll soon to meet his demise). Better to make the target-affecting Bursts more immediate or visible for the greater enjoyment of the players.

Writing this edition, I deliberately included a handful of pop-culture references, in-jokes, and a few items of generic commentary. In the whole list there are probably fewer than a dozen, so they shouldn’t be a big deal during play. They’re all still playable despite their subject matter, but if they really derail your game, then roll that Burst again.

What hasn't changed?

My wit remains just as dazzling, of course, and it shines from every single entry on the list. Beyond that, other features remain basically the same as in the original edition.

Once again I have used the pronouns "he," "him," and "his" throughout the list, but this is intended to save space rather than as a commentary on sex as it pertaisn to chaos bursts. As before, one shouldn't infer a "boys only" attitude from this; female spellcasters can unleash chaos just as readily as their male counterparts.

Another aspect that is largely the same is the description of area-affecting Bursts; the list still uses the terms "nearby," "here," "in the area," and the like. If a range is not specified, the Gamemaster should assume an arbitrary distance large enough to be interesting but not so large as to be world-shattering. unless otherwise stated, all area-affecting Bursts should be assumed to originate from or center upon the intended spell's intended target point. The terms "target point" and "spell's target point" are used interchangeably.

Why do Chaos Bursts happen?

Some would suggest that casting a spell is analogous to going to a faucet for a drink of water. A conventional mage is like a normal person. He holds his glass beneath the spigot, turns on the tap, fills his glass to the desired level, and turns off the top. Simple, efficient, and orderly. However, the wild mage doesn't work that way. Instead, he smashes the spigot with a hammer, tries to catch as much water as he wants in his glass, and then tries to reseal the ruptured faucet. Complicated, inefficient, and chaotic. And very likely to get the wild mage soaked in the process. So it is with magic. Instead of opening a precise channel for magical energy, the wild mage tears a gaping hole in reality and hopes to get a paritcular effect. If he can reseal the hole, great. If not, the result is a Chaos Burst.

What happened to the spell I tried to cast?

In the previous edition I suggested that the intended spell be allowed to function unless directly contradicted by the Burst. I now feel this approach to be floawed and propsoe an alternative: the chance that a spell succeeds despite a Burst is equal to 10% per caster level minus 5% per level of the spell. Thus a 5th level mage who triggers a Burst when casting fireball has a 10% per caster level minus 5% per level of the spell. Thus a 5th level mage who triggers a Burst when casting fireball has a 35% (that is , (5 x 10) - (3 x 5)) chance to succeed. Otherwise, the spell fails and is lost from memory. Feel free to devise similar methods as you see fit.

Can conventional mages cause Chaos Bursts?

Sure! In addition to Wild Magic regions, normal mages can cause Bursts if they are disrupted during the casting of a normal spell. Though unlikely at low levels, higher-power spells can wreak havoc if not properly cast. To represent this, consider that a miscast spell has a percent chance equal to the square of one plus its level to cause a Burst. That is, a 1st level spell has a 4% (1+1)2 chance, but a 9th level spell has a 100% (9+1)^2 chance. This can be modified by the mage’s level or some similar value, as determined by the GM.

Do I get a Saving Throw?

This is up to the GM, but I’d suggest against it for the most part. Unless the effect or the player’s resultant griping will fatally disrupt the campaign, let the chips fall where they may. Most Bursts are, after all, reversible, so even the most cantankerous player could be soothed by an interesting quest to remove the Burst’s effect. Comparatively few Bursts cause instant death, so there is little to fear except inconvenience. If someone is expressly protected against an effect, like bursting into flame, then the Burst can be considered negated.

The description didn’t give a duration. How long does the effect last?

In general, if no duration is specified, then a Burst should be considered permanent until dispelled. Alternatively, it may be appropriate for a Burst to persist for as long as the intended spell would have done, or one round per caster level—whichever is greater. A third possibility is to roll dice to determine the Burst’s duration in turns, hours, days, weeks, or whatever. Yet another option is to assume that the Burst will last until some apparently random condition is met, (a brief list of possible conditions is provided at the end of this document). However, if a Burst has an explicit duration, then it should be assumed that nothing short of divine intervention or a full Wish can cancel the effect before that time. Similarly, if a Burst has an instantaneous duration but a permanent effect, such as 1d10 of the target’s fingers vanishing, then the effect can’t be Dispelled per se; the target might be Healed, but there is no lingering magical effect to Dispel, so other remedies must be sought. As in the previous edition, any effort to dispel a Burst should be considered at least as difficult as an attempt to dispel magic cast by a mage twice the level of the caster who triggered the Burst.

Also, it must be noted that many Bursts produce a beneficial effect in exchange for a heavy price; if the price is negated, then the benefit should also be negated. For example, fit he cater becomes immune to disease by cutting off his thumbs, then he should lose that immunity if his thumbs are restored.

Some of these are cool, but some are just downright silly. What gives?

That’s how it goes. The list is designed to add interesting elements to role-playing, not simply to blow the caster out of his boots or to turn the target into a puddle of goo. Sure it's nice that the target shrinks to 1/12 his height, but isn't it somehow more satisfying to have the caster think that all other magic users are out to get him? There are, to be sure, a bunch of powerful results, but these are ultimately less entertaining than the good role-playing required by some of the others.

What about Bursts that just don't make sense?

Effects with invisible or inappropriate results should be kept secret by the GM (at least from the characters) to preserve the mystery and danger of wild magic. If a fish has its feet enlarged or an aerial servant has half of its body turned invisible, the players should be told that nothing seems to happen. Such a statement could as easily mean a red dragon is now stalking the party but is not yet nearby. Likewise, a delayed effect should not be revealed until it occurs; if the caster is to turn into a duck under the next full moon, let him find out when the time comes.

How's it arranged?

It's still broken into three main categories: those affecting the caster, his possessions, or his allies; those affecting the target, his possessions, or his allies; and those affecting objects or creatures in the surrounding area or the area itself. Also included in that last category are Bursts that implicitly affect neither the caster nor target but which lie in wait for some triggering effect to occur later. In addition, I've added a few really high powered results near the end of the list, and these are at least global in scale.

There seems to be some duplication here!

Upon reviewing version 1.20, I found that duplication was much more widespread than I’d originally realized, and I felt that this shortchanged the reader. Some will object that the current list still has a lot of thematic repetition; many Bursts involve the target disgorging some unlikely item or the caster befalling an awkward fate the next time he opens a door. Sure, these are broadly repetitive, but each result is sufficiently distinct, in my view, to count as a separate effect. In contrast, I know of at least one gaming system that touts its rulebook to contain over two thousand spells, but upon inspection one finds twenty variations of fireball, of lightning bolt, of polymorph, etc., until the list dwindles to around forty or fifty truly distinct spell effects. With this list, I think the variance is much greater.

What else is this list good for?

While intended for determining Choas Bursts, the table serves equally well in generating the effects of a Wand of Wonder or any similarly chaotic magical disaster. If the rolled BUrst refers to an "intended spell effect," then the GM should determine how this applies, either choosing a spell at random from the character's repertoire or simply rerolling the effect.

What about Gamemaster's option other than that?

GM's option should be exercised only if a Burst would so imbalance a campaign that it becomes unenjoyable. In an attempt to introduce a real quality of randomness to wild magic, this table presents a broad range of effects. In modifying a die roll in favor of one outcome or another, the Gm runs the risk of excluding randomness from the game. Therefore, I recommend that the resultant effect be used without modification whenver possible. I elaborate on this point a little later.

Additional Notes on the Adjudication of Chaos Bursts

Nothing is gained by excessive literalism in interpreting a Burst result; if a Burst calls for the caster’s waterskin to be filled with squid eggs, but the caster carries a canteen, then by all means make the Burst affect his canteen instead. This isn’t a blanket justification forarbitrarily zany interpretation of results, but it should make the Bursts more generally applicable.

Careful handling by the GM still makes all the difference. Many Bursts have no immediately discernible effect; it would be a great loss to the players to reveal the nature of the effect before it is actually manifest in the course of play. For this reason, spells whose primary purpose is to identify a Burst prematurely should be forbidden, or at least tightly constrained. Sure, a full Wish spell might work, but anything less than that should have at best a very low probability of success. The same goes for “Dispel Chaos Burst” or the like; if the whole point of wild magic is to embrace the dangers and benefits of chaos, then where’s the fun in establishing a bunch of safety nets and escape clauses? Such fail-safes should be avoided. Or let your players try to use them, each time triggering another Burst until they catch on and abandon the pursuit.

However, if you’re feeling particularly charitable, and if a Burst has an ongoing effect likely to result in a character’s speedy demise, you might allow the player to roll against the character’s intelligence to get a sense of what’s going on. For example, if the character is to lose one hit point per round until he says his name, a successful Intelligence check might inspire him to introduce himself to someone nearby, preferably just moments before it’s too late! Don’t apply this method if the Burst’s effect is simply delayed; it should only be used when a character’s death is imminent.

Along those same lines, if the victim’s perceptions, alignment, or beliefs are altered, then while they persist the player should proceed as if these alterations are complete and natural for the character. That is, if a Burst causes its victim to believe that his hands are made of candy, then he won’t want to be convinced otherwise. This is similar to magical alignment changes in the official game; the victim completely adopts the new alignment as if it’s his true inclination, and he won’t seek to alter or undo the change.

This list sucks even worse than the last one! Who do I bitch to!

I received quite a bit of email feedback about the list v1.20, and I’m grateful to everyone who took the time to contact me. One of the most common criticisms dealt with the inclusion of technologies that, to some people, simply seemed out of place. In this list, I’ve reduced the incidence of anachronistic objects and Bursts in the hope of diminishing that error.Comments and critiques are still welcome, of course. Send them to orrex@excite.com. I can’t guarantee that I’ll reply, but if there’s something you really need to get off your chest, feel free to drop me a line.