Wizard and Cleric Spellcasting Failure: How do you handle it?

Wizard and Cleric Spellcasting Failure: How do you handle it?

Wizard and Cleric Spellcasting Failure: How do you handle it? There is nothing listed by the move, so do you just make a hard move that is somehow related to the spell? Any advice or examples? 

25 thoughts on “Wizard and Cleric Spellcasting Failure: How do you handle it?”

  1. I Make whatever hard move I want to make right now. Spell based stuff is of course always cool. But making misscast stuff too often then you are portraying the caster as not a good caster and that is threading on. to beeing a fan of the character anymore.

  2. Yeah, making a hard move based on the effects of the spell is always a good path. You might even consider giving them the effects of the spell, but with unexpected effects or unseen results.

    Such as a healing spell, what if it works, but only by draining the essence of the caster or one of the other characters? A fireball may hit, but explodes in a shower of sparks, lighting the surrounding area on fire. Sometimes it’s just a matter of giving them what they want, but adding a huge cost to it.

  3. Oh man, the 6- on a wizard spellcast is the PERFECT opportunity to ‘turn their move back on them.’ It’s one of your ‘moves’ as a GM. So instead of say, making the spell fizzle, which would make them feel impotent or clumsy or useless (much like Tim Franzke is saying), you can totally turn the spell up to 11. It’ll make them feel simultaneously awful and awesome.

    Fireball? Their very body combusts in roaring flames. Contact spirits? They draw forth the soul of Grim Greg, the Butcher’s Son, a wild and restless spirit, keen for some good ol’ fashion murdering.

  4. If, on a 6-, the caster experiences a crazy effect, does he also lose the spell? If so, isn’t that a “hard, hard move?”. If not, under what circumstances would a spell ever be “forgotten?”

  5. I’m personally not a fan of taking their spells. If you spiced it up, gave them the option of losing the spell or having it backfire, then it’s a hard choice. And a little more interesting. Of course, it’s also a softer move, so that’ll play a factor.

  6. Not trying to be the “Keeper of the One True Way”, but if a spell isn’t lost on a 6- when is it? Arbitrary decision? If so, how does the player ever make a plan with expected results? “You have no spells, what do you do?” is a pretty hard choice.

  7. So, when a Wizard triggers the move ‘Prepare Spells’ they must ‘Lose any spells you already have prepared.’ Additionally, they can choose to forget the spell on a 7-9 of the ‘Cast a Spell’ move.

    And your example Gordon Spencer is actually why I’m against the idea of taking a Wizard’s spell as a hard move. “You have no spells, what do you do?” isn’t a choice, or a hard bargain. It’s pretty much a rhetorical brick wall.

    Just how I see it, though! 🙂

  8. I would only take their spell if I were using the GM move of “use up their resources,” in which case that is all that would happen on that 6-, because that’s a pretty tough thing to do. I actually prefer for the spell to go off and something bad happens as a result– the fireball attracts the attention of a monster, for example.

    I’ve had a lot of players give up their spells voluntarily on a 7-9 because it was, literally, the best possible outcome of those choices. I’ve done it myself, when it’s dangerous to draw unwanted attention, for example.

  9. Kaillan Reukers , not a wall at all, “I draw my sword!”, “Can I distract the orc with this Dungeon Ration?”, “I run like the wind, screaming like a stuck pig”…but as you indicate it’s Just How I See it 🙂

  10. A player once tried contact spirits on the orc warlord they just killed.

    The inital fight was pretty easy so when they rolled a 5, I happily turned it back on the caster by having the orc possess the group’s paladin…

  11. Kaillan Reukers I love the idea of turning it up to 11 in a bad way. Nice. I also don’t like to just take the spell. Seems like a bad choice and doesn’t add any oomph. Stefan Grambart The possessed paladin sounds like a really great fail result. That is pure awesome. 

  12. I always use my Burning Wheel Brain and ask WHY was the player casting the spell in the first place? What were they trying to achieve in the fiction? The answer is their INTENT, and subsequently what I muck with using a Hard Move.

  13. Nathan Roberts can you give an example of using their intent that way? I guess I would assume if you are mucking with the spell via hard move you would probably do something like what Stefan Grambart described with the orc warlord. Or are you talking about something else?

  14. Sure Mike! Say we go with Stefan’s example and I ask the wizard why he is trying to contact the Orc WarLord’s spirit? Lets say the player says ‘so I can find out where his treasure is stashed in the dungeon!’.

    So any hard move I make I try and thwart that intent.

    So I could turn it back on him and say that despite all your gesticulations the orc’s spirit know is intimately tied with you and now knows where your Wizard’s tower is… As the spirit leaves your mind, You have the ominous feeling of dread that an Orc Shaman; advised by the spirits will be leading a warband to your sanctuary soon. What do you do?

  15. Getting back to Tim Franzke ‘s original comment – how do you twist a wizard’s spell back on him and not make him look like a fumbling buffoon? And if you only turn the spell back some of the time, how do you decide when to do so? How can the wizard reliably determine the outcome of a miscast spell if the outcome is variable? I think there needs to be some predictability in action vs reaction so players can determine a course of action. Also, perhaps I am being dense and missing a larger point – so I stand ready to be educated. 🙂

  16. I can remember doing it once because the players where in a bigger on the inside meteor with weird arcane energies. So when the Wizard casts Magic Missile and fails i attributed his misscast to the fact that the energies in that place are all kinds of weird and that he probably figured it out how to prevent that after the spell was cast. 

    (The magic missile went into a wall but it dragged the wizard along, directly into range of a bigass golem)

    I like saying “It’s not you, its just these circumstances” 

  17. AFAIK, a failure on a spell casting roll doesn’t need to mean there was a miscast. The reliable predictability is the same as with any other move; you see that 6 (or less) come up, you know shit’s gonna hit the fan.

    A spell could still be successfully cast on a failed roll, but the result is going to make things worse for the player(s).


    The Wizard casts a magic missile at a retreating bandit, in hope’s he’ll drop the stolen key. He rolls a 5.

    The GM decides that the spell goes off and the bandit is hit; he even drops the key! But it happens to bounce into a nearby sewer grate, completely out of the players’ reach.

  18. Tim Franzke, I like the special circumstances thing.

    I’ll also re-examine my position on this issue and see if there is something I am missing that will add more fun to my game.

  19. Gordon Spencer the same way you twist a fighters fail back on them and disarm them or knock them down. Failure doesn’t make a hero look like a buffoon always, its a necessary part of challenging heroes so they feel like they struggled for their victories. When they finally reach their goals, they feel that much more awesome because of the challenges they overcame. I do agree you have to be careful about how you frame a failure for any class though. You don’t want epic heroes slipping on banana peels and impaling themselves on their own weapons.

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